Excuses for no gun safety reform

Yesterday a group from our Northland Brady chapter associated also with Protect Minnesota stood on a busy corner near our Congressman’s district office. We were there as part of Brady’s and other national gun violence prevention groups’ Week-end of Action. The actions were to demand that the Senate come back early from their summer break to pass the laws that the House passed in February- namely the universal background check and Charleston loophole bills. My Congressman Pete Stauber voted against these 2 life saving measures.

Thus we were there, after gathering only one and half weeks ago in a local rally against hate and violence which was a well attended plea for action and to ask our leaders to #DOSOMETHING about the carnage. Several mass shootings in a row have changed the conversation ( again) and more of the public are demanding action.

But now, the House Judiciary Committee will be coming back from recess early to consider several common sense gun bills. The Extreme Risk Protection Order bill and perhaps an Assault Weapons Ban and/or restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines will be discussed.

After standing with our signs on the corner and getting mostly positive honks and waves, we went to Congressman Stauber’s office with a packet of information and a letter stating what we wanted him to do. We ended up having an impromptu meeting with his staffer. It was a good meeting- informative and revealing.

We spoke about all kinds of things as victims, a veteran, a clergy member, several health care providers, a woman of color, grandparents, parents and concerned citizens expressed our frustration and outrage over the do nothing Senate and the lack of votes in favor of bills that would make a difference. In the discussion we made it clear that we don’t believe that any one of these measures on their own will “cure” the epidemic of gun violence. But the fact that we have done nothing for decades has fueled the current epidemic and made it more lethal.

And then we heard some of the usual Republican and gun lobby excuses for why these bills won’t work or why the Congressman doesn’t believe the bills before him are the right ones ( in spite of research showing the effectiveness of them and the overwhelming public support for the measures that passed in the House). The first of these is the idea that we can’t deal with the gun problem until we deal with mental illness. President Trump himself said that mental illness pulled the trigger in the latest mass shooting, not the guns. That is absurd on its’ face but it is also patently not true. It’s not mental illness. It’s mostly angry white men who have access to guns they should not have.

Here’s the truth about mental illness and shootings:

In response, mental health experts repeated what they have said after previous mass shootings: Most people with mental illness are not violent, they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.
“Until we begin to have our political leaders speaking more accurately to these issues, it’s up to us to put the facts out there,” said Arthur Evans, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association.
Evans agreed that red flag laws , also known as extreme risk protection orders, are a worthwhile step. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have such laws, according to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and some have used the laws to temporarily disarm people who have threatened violence.
But Evans and others said terms like “monsters” add to stigma that keeps people from getting treatment. (…)

A country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness, said Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist who published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries.
“If mental illness were the driving factor, we would expect the countries with highest suicide rates to have higher rates of public mass shootings. That’s not what we see,” Lankford said.
Instead, Lankford found, gun ownership per person is the best predictor.
Lankford called Trump’s emphasis on mental illness “too simplistic.”

It’s the guns.

Since our rally last week, another mass shooting occurred in Philadelphia where 6 officers were injured by one man with an assault rifle ( again). The shooter was a man who should not have had a gun in the first place given numerous firearms charges against him. So how did he get that gun? From the article:

The suspect was identified by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as Maurice Hill, 36. Krasner said Hill had an extensive criminal history, including drug, gun and robbery charges. Krasner said Hill should not have been on the streets but stopped short of saying there was any specific failure by law enforcement.

My Congressman is a former police officer. He, of all people, should be more concerned that officers are at great risk when they are outgunned on the streets. This year alone 31 officers have been killed by shooters. 175 have been injured. And yesterday yet another officer shooting occurred where 2 Missouri officers were shot while delivering eviction papers.

And aren’t you tired of other lame and shameful excuses or blaming from Republicans to deflect the reality of our national public health epidemic? They even have memos showing how to respond to constituents such as this one, blaming the left, when we know that most of the politically motivated shootings have come from people with far right political views. In fact, Trump has been mentioned by criminals as a reason for their crimes:

But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

White supremacy, hate crimes and other acts of political violence are American terrorism. We have to face that reality. There is no excuse for not doing anything about this.

And yes, we can stop some of these shooters from getting guns in the first place. If we close some loopholes making it easier for them to buy guns themselves or get them from others who may buy them legally ( and private sales with no background checks are legal in many states, including my own) we can stop some sales. If we enforce straw purchasing laws more stringently, we can stop some guns from going where they shouldn’t. If gun owners safely store their guns, we can stop some of the guns from being stolen and ending up where they shouldn’t. If we pass Red Flag laws, we can temporarily remove guns from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others. If we pass restrictions on ammunition magazines, we can, at the least, prevent shooters from taking dozens of lives at a time in a short time period. If we make sure the ATF can do their job properly with adequate funding and personnel, gun dealers will be held more accountable for bad behavior. If we litigate cases where gun dealers have sold guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them, we can stop some shootings.

It’s a package and it needs to be. But as we discussed at our meeting yesterday, we can’t say criminals won’t follow the laws anyway as an excuse not to pass laws. If that is the case, why have laws at all? People do wear their seat belts for the most part. It’s the law. People don’t smoke in public places. It’s the law. People stop on red lights because it’s the law. If you don’t follow the law, you may become a felon. But we are not a lawless society. That’s no excuse.

And then there was this given as an excuse. We all must work hard to keep illegal guns from coming into our country from the Canadian and Mexican borders. I had to ask again if that is what I heard. This is an excuse. We don’t need to do anything about our own country’s gun laws because the guns are coming across the borders into our country?

I was astounded at this one because it is the exact opposite of what is true. The guns flowing into Mexico and Canada are coming mainly from the U.S because our gun laws are so much weaker than theirs. Check out this article in the Christian Science Monitor about what is actually happening:

American guns bought from vendors in the U.S. and then smuggled illegally abroad are a fact of life across the Americas. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), some 70% of guns recovered by law enforcement in Mexico and sent to the ATF for tracing between 2011 and 2016 were originally purchased from a licensed dealer in the U.S. Some estimates put the number of U.S. weapons smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico at over 200,000 a year.
Mexican officials, in their fight against drug violence, have long pleaded with the U.S. to stem the southward flow of guns. Former President Felipe Calderón famously had a billboard erected in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, that read “No More Weapons,” spelled out with confiscated, destroyed weapons. (…)

That is also despite research showing that when the U.S. assault weapon ban expired in 2004, Mexican municipalities on the border with the U.S. saw a spike in homicides, he says.

“I do see some recognition now that this is beyond drugs, and that guns play a major, major role,” Mr. Weigend says. That includes think tanks, students, and civil society groups speaking out more against the implications of U.S. gun flows to Mexico. (…)

Weaker gun regulations in the U.S. have long undermined Canada’s much stricter rules, as guns get trafficked north. Last week Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said Canada could reduce violence with more money towards stopping guns from the U.S., which he called “the greatest arsenal in the world.”

So no. We don’t have a problem with illegal guns coming into our country from the nations who share our border. It is the other way around. And further, the fact that so many guns make into Mexico and other Central American countries have caused violence there which many are trying to flee to get into our country. And then if they get into our country their lives are at risk here because of the hate and racist rhetoric against people of color fomented right from the top.

It is also part and parcel of our illegal drug problem.

These are flimsy excuses designed as cop-outs. What our Congress members who are beholden to the NRA, as mine is, are trying to do is to deflect the conversation away from the truth. We have a problem with guns in America. Such easy access makes it easier for just about anybody to get a gun.

Minnesotans and Americans ( and this includes Republicans and gun owners by the way) support stronger gun laws. We want our Congress members to represent the majority of people in their districts. Just because the gun rights advocates make more noise does not mean they are the majority. In fact they are a small minority of the constituents all over the country.

There are no excuses. There never have been but now, more than ever, we are sick and tired of the carnage affecting almost all of us.

#DO DOMETHING.

AR-15s are popular

Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, issued a new excuse for why the Senate should not take up a bill to ban assault rifles and ammunition- because they are popular. From the article:

On Fox News on Tuesday, Toomey shared his renewed push for legislation for background checks for gun show and online purchases, but when asked about a ban to assault weapons, he rejected the idea because the firearms were too popular. 

“They’re extremely popular, and so to ban an extremely popular firearm, I’m not going to support that,” said Toomey of assault weapons. “That would be an infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

On Fox News, @SenToomey says he’s not in favor of additional regulations on military-style weapons because “they’re extremely popular, and so to ban an extremely popular firearm — I’m not gong to support that.”

And while assault-style weapons like the AR-15 may be popular with gun enthusiasts, a majority of Pennsylvanians actually want them banned. According to a March 2018 poll from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., 68 percent of registered voters support banning assault-style weapons in the state. 

Of that group, 61 percent strongly support such measures. Comparatively, the 2018 poll said that 27 percent oppose a ban in Pennsylvania. A March 2019 poll from F&M showed that 62 percent of Pennsylvanians support creating more laws that regulate gun ownership, while 35 percent oppose those laws. 

They are popular. They are popular for mass shootings and have been used in many of the recent ones. Isn”t it amazing that we even separate older mass shootings and more recent ones? From the article:

But in all of the latest incidents – Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012; San Bernardino, California, in 2015; Orlando, Florida, in 2016; Las Vegas, 2017; Sutherland Springs, Texas, 2017 -the attackers primarily used AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

If not an AR-15 than and AK-47 or similar type of semi-automatic rifle that can fire off a bullet a second with every pull of the trigger. More people can be killed with these firearms in a shorter period of time. That is the point.

We had a ban on certain types of assault weapons but Congress unwisely let it lapse in 2004 when it sunsetted before it had a chance to really work. I believe that is why we are seeing mass shootings with assault rifles. There is no check on them at all. Just about anyone can buy one- background check or not.

They may be popular amongst those who just like to shoot them for sport. Some people get pleasure out of this kind of sport. Whatever. Maybe they can just shoot them at a gun range and not own one. Why own one of these ( or more as many in America do, actually)? To be ready for an insurrection against the government of course. Or to go out and kill as many people as possible in a short time.

Another mass shooting appeared to have been averted when a young white male ( as it almost always is) showed up at a Walmart ( again) in Missouri all set to go with body armour, an assault rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition:

Police in Springfield, Mo., arrested a 20-year-old man wearing body armor and carrying a loaded rifle — and more than 100 rounds of ammunition — at a Walmart store Thursday. Formal charges of making a terrorist threat in the first degree are now pending against Dmitriy Andreychenko, police say.

He thought he could “fool” people by walking around like this in the store? Not any more. We are all hyper aware and nervous when we see anyone carrying these guns around.

What about at least raising the age for purchase of these kinds of guns to 21? That would save lives.

In Texas people can walk around on the streets with AR-15s hanging from their bodies. Why? No one needs one of these. How do we know if the person means harm or not? We don’t of course.

This is insanity. What have we come to in America? Why have we let the influence of the corporate gun lobby do so much harm to the gun culture and to actual human beings. This is not the America we want. This is not how we should have to live.

In New York City, a motorcycle backfired near Times Square and everyone panicked and started running. Good grief. This is NOT NORMAL.

Well now, the pressure is on. The House is considering coming back into session to pass some stronger gun laws. They passed 2 background check bills last winter but the Senate refused to even have hearings. Until now. When over 10,000 calls get patched through to Mitch McConnell’s office in just a few days by Brady the pressure is on. Other organizations have also been patching calls through. If McConnell does anything about gun safety reform it won’t be because he wants to, it will be because he can’t not do what’s right and what the vast majority of Americans support.

This morning the President boasted about having a good relationship with the NRA:

“They’re really good people,” Trump said. “They’re great patriots. They love our country. They love our country so much. And frankly, I really think they’re going to get on board.”

Great patriots? No.

The way things are going with the NRA I don’t think that was a wise thing to say. But he is, after all, Donald Trump.

The organization is as corrupt as Trump himself. They are all about themselves and not about the public health crisis of gun violence. They don’t care a whit about the shootings as long as they maintain their base and their power and control.

Remember when President Trump told the victims of The Parkland shooting that he would pass a background check bill after that horrific shooting? Remember when the President talked to the NRA the next day? Remember when nothing happened?

Yes, Senator Toomey, AR-15s are popular. So what? As long as that is your attitude, Americans will continue to be killed in large numbers. If you had any common sense at all, you would stand up at long last and do the right thing. We can give you credit for trying after the Sandy Hook shooting. It didn’t work out so well when the NRA said NO. You should have learned your lesson then. What difference does it make what the NRA and its’ small number of gun owners want and threaten to do? They represent a scintilla of Americans.

It’s time for that to change. It’s time for all in Congress to stand against the weak and mythical arguments of the gun lobby. The time is past to publicly recognize that even gun owners and most NRA members want you to act.

Do something.

Guns at the borders

I have written before about how the loose gun laws in the U.S. actually are contributing to our border crisis. Here’s how (from an article in Common Dreams:

The link between homicide and migration is captured in this startling ratio from the Inter-American Dialogue in 2018: In Honduras, a 1 percent increase in homicides drives up migration by 120 percent. (…) But what I had not, and certainly should have, grasped is our nation’s central role in generating fear by allowing a flood of US weapons to continue across our southern border. The flood into Mexico alone includes “[m]ore than 212,000 illegal firearms” from the U.S. each year owing to “straw purchases,” observes the Los Angeles Times. 

Central America is hardest hit.

There, gun laws are comparatively strict, yet “homicide rates are among the highest on earth.” In El Salvador, with the world’s highest rate, almost half of weapons found at the country’s crime scenes are from the U.S. officials here estimate.

And more, from the article, that is pretty significant because it refers to how crime guns used in drug trafficking, homicide and terrorizing citizens in Mexico and other Central American countries come from our very own country:

The country has only one gun store. Located in Mexico City, it is guarded by the army. Seventy percent of guns seized in Mexico were originally sold in the U.S.—most of them in Texas, California, and Arizona according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

“Once in Mexico, these weapons end up in the hands of drug cartels or get shipped to gangs in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador,” says The Associated Press. In Honduras, “armed holdups on public transportation are a regular occurrence, where nearly half of the unregistered weapons originated in the U.S.,” reports the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.. 

“The number of firearms smuggled from the United States was so significant that nearly half of American gun dealers rely on that business to stay afloat,” reported the University of San Diego in 2013.

The author wonders why this is not more widely known. It is simple. The NRA and its lapdog politicians have conveniently sought to blame others for the problem. The outrage over what what was named Operation Fast and Furious, an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives) operation to try to stem the sale of illegal guns used by the Mexican drug cartel to reap terror and violence and allow for more drugs to come into our own country was part of this blame game.

Though the Obama administration, the ATF and former AG Eric Holder are not blameless, trying to understand how guns get into Mexico illegally adding to the violence this was a worthy operation it seems to me:

Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view. The trove of records reviewed by The Trace tell two clear stories: High-volume gun traffickers often depend on a single retail gun dealer for most of their wares. And rarely do those gun sellers face consequences.   (…) “It’s one big operation. You’ve got drugs — cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin — coming up from South America and Central America to the U.S., which is a big consumer. And then you have money and guns going south,” said a former ATF official who worked in Mexico during the period in question. He spoke to The Trace on condition of anonymity because he still consults with law enforcement. “Guns are the tool of the trade,” he said. “People aren’t killing each other with machetes.”

A Minnesota man ( from the above article) trafficked guns he purchased at one gun store in southern Minnesota but he got caught.

Beginning in 2007, a Minnesota man named Paul Giovanni De La Rosa began purchasing guns and delivering them to a business partner who lived near Mexico City. In court documents, he was accused of smuggling more than 100 firearms over the course of 20 trips. The weapons included more than 40 Five-seveN pistols, which are favored by drug cartels because they fire a cartridge that can pierce body armor. After De La Rosa was caught at the Laredo border crossing with weapons hidden inside furniture, he was prosecuted and sentenced to three years in prison. He did not respond to a request for comment sent to his attorney.

Dozens of De La Rosa’s purchases were included in the trove of ATF records reviewed by The Trace. Of the 34 weapons tracked in that dataset, 28 were sold by a single store: Hart Brothers, in the town of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Hart Brothers is now out of business. I wonder why.

From the quote in the above article from The Trace, this is key: ” Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view.”

Brady and The Trace as well as other organizations have received some ATF trace data through a FOIA request. We have known why the ATF needs to be stronger, not weaker as the NRA minions in Congress want the organization to be-because the Republicans pushed through the Tiahrt amendment which passed in 2003. Why would the corporate gun lobby and some members of Congress not want us to know about crime gun traces? We know the answer. Information is not a friend of corruption, greed and illegal activity,

The ATF is vastly underfunded and under staffed on purpose. Thank you NRA and lapdog politicians.

Laying blame at the feet of others is the M.O. used by those who want power and control and are willing to corrupt the conversation for their own selfish agenda. Hating President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder was ubiquitous and overt. Republican leadership did everything they could to discredit our first Black President. They held Holder in contempt of Congress.

And Trump hating and now attacking those who are trying to get to the bottom of his immigration mess at the border is shameless at the least. Rep. Elijah Cummings was holding him and his administration responsible for the horrendous conditions at border detention centers. The detention centers are a stain on our democracy and our history.

Let’s be clear. What is happening now at the border is not the fault of the ATF, President Obama or AG Eric Holder. President Trump, his sycophants in the administration and his Republican minions have made the situation much worse and now, of course, blame everyone but themselves. That is actually how Rep. Elijah Cummings found himself the subject of more of Trump’s offensive and racist Tweets. Comparing Baltimore with the border situation is a shameless way of diverting attention away from the terrible problems created by the Tweeter in Chief.

The Baltimore Sun pushed back in a great editorial piece laying it out like it is. We all must push back on what is happening at the border, what our President is tweeting, and the overt racism and intolerance as well as attacks on entire cities and members of Congress totally unbefitting a President, let alone anyone else.

Finally, while we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner — or ruefully point out that he failed to spell the congressman’s name correctly (it’s Cummings, not Cumming) — we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.

We all must step forward and take responsibility for the terrible situation at the border and in our impoverished cities. Passing strong gun laws would help fix both violent situations at home and in neighboring countries. We can see how guns make it into the Baltimore area but we are not doing anything about it:

“I would say approximately 60 percent statewide of firearms that are seized by Maryland law enforcement are not Maryland guns, that goes up exponentially in places like Baltimore City and Prince George’s County,” Lopez said.

Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Buyers are required to wait seven days after purchase to actually take possession of a handgun. There is no instant background check, and buyers are limited to one purchase per month.

Laws are far more lax in states to the south and west.

In West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, background checks are instant, and there is no waiting period and no limit on how many guns you can purchase at once.

The disparity between gun laws state by state complicates the effort to reduce gun violence, currently an urgent priority in Baltimore.

There is no shortage of supply. (…) “It’s not difficult at all,” Guy said. “Not only are those that are involved in intentionally violent activities have quick access to guns, even those kids that are fearful that if they are not protecting themselves, that they could be another victim, but it’s easy for them to get guns too.”

Passing a federal universal background check law requiring that every buyer is checked out to make sure he/she is not a prohibited purchaser would save lives. That makes common sense. Passing and enforcing straw purchasing and gun trafficking laws would help stop some of the sales of guns that end up in Mexico and other Central American countries. These laws would also prevent some of the trafficking into our major urban areas. Holding irresponsible gun dealers accountable also will stop the practice of selling to those who can’t and shouldn’t get their hands on guns. These same laws would affect violence in our urban centers all over the country.

Immigration, violence, poverty and guns go together. They shouldn’t but they do. President Trump just connected the border situation with urban poverty and violence. In many ways he is right but he doesn’t know it. His intent was to denigrate, attack and criticize and his Tweets have only drawn attention to the atrocious conditions in both places. Plus I’m pretty sure he did not want us all to know that his own son-in-law Jared Kushner is partly responsible for the “rat infested” living conditions in Baltimore. Seriously- you really can’t make this stuff up.

It’s in our hands to affect change. We don’t have to accept what has become an untenable situation. Holding our leaders accountable for their negligence is key to making change happen.

Take action. Not sides.

Yes, Virginia, there is a robust gun violence prevention majority

Posted with permission of a friend who attended the event

Yesterday the state of Virginia had a great opportunity to do the right thing after the mass shooting at Virginia Beach. Governor Northam called a special session to take up common sense gun bills supported by the majority of Virginians.

I just love the spin spun by the pro gun Republicans about the special session ( from the article abobve):

“This was purely a political stunt by the governor to bring us in to try to address gun violence,” Del. Terry Kilgore said. “To truly address gun violence and its root causes, you need to look at it over a longer period of time.”

“Over a longer period of time”? That is the favorite pro gun excuse for putting off dealing with the daily carnage happening all over the country. It’s been 20 years since the Columbine school shooting. Is that a long enough period of time to wait to deal with gun violence? Since Columbine, (given between 30,000 and 40,000 yearly gun deaths,) I took 35,000 average yearly gun deaths times 20 = 700,000 dead Americans. Is that enough for the pro gun lobby before we act?

Anyway, back to majority support for gun safety reform bills, Brady released polling data showing this to be true:

Leading up to the special session, Brady released polling of four key districts – HD 66 (represented by Speaker Cox), SD 3 (represented by Leader Norment), and SD 7 and 8 (encompassing Virginia Beach) – showing that Virginians want to see common-sense gun safety laws enacted in the Commonwealth. The full results can be found here, but highlights included:

83 percent of respondents – including 73 percent of Donald Trump voters – support an extreme risk law allowing family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns if they have evidence that the person poses a significant threat to themselves or others;

62 percent – including 61 percent of respondents in Sen. Norment’s district – support banning the sale of military style semi-automatic assault weapons;

63 percent – including more than half of gun owners – support banning high-capacity magazines that hold over 10 bullets, such as the ones used in the Virginia Beach shooting;

67 percent – including 63 percent of respondents in Speaker Cox’s district – support allowing local jurisdictions to ban guns from public buildings and events and enforce that ban by detecting guns and restricting entry.

The majority of their constituents want them to act.

There were about 1000 gun violence prevention advocates at the planned hearings, many coming by the busload. The NRA, of course, denied and lied about how many people were there. Why? Because that is how they manage to skew the truth to get their way. Never mind public safety and public health. It’s all about power, influence, fear and paranoia.

Before the Republican majority leaders in the House and the Senate unceremoniously adjourned without hearing any bills, Delegate Chris Hurst gave a powerful and passionate speech on the floor before the hundreds in the gallery. Hurst was the boyfriend of Alison Parker, the reporter who was shot and murdered on live TV in Roanoke, Virginia in August of 2015. He ran on a platform of gun safety reform and won election to the Virginia House of Delegates. Please watch his amazingly cogent remarks in support of the bills not taken up by the Virginia Republicans:

Who are these people representing anyway? Not the majority of Virginians. Not the victims of the Virginia Beach mass shooting or their families and friends. Not the memory of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, killed on live TV or their families and friends. Not the next door neighbor who shot himself in a suicide because he was feeling hopeless. Not the families of women shot in domestic shootings in anger over a relationship. Not the kids who grab a parents’ loaded gun left out carelessly and end up dying from the bullets in that gun.

No. They are representing themselves and their fear that the weakened and corrupt corporate gun lobby might turn on them and work against them. Or maybe they actually believe the stupidity of the gun rights extremists who insist that passing any reasonable gun law will lead to registration and confiscation. They won’t, but never mind.

I am proud to know so many people who showed up at the Virginia capital to demand that something be done about our gun violence public health epidemic. They, and we, will not go away. This is not about gun rights. This is about common sense and doing the right thing for families and communities. This is about saving lives, period.

They are cowards:

Brady president and Virginia resident Kris Brown, who witnessed the special session in Richmond in person today, stated,

“Today, Tommy Norment and Kirk Cox revealed themselves as nothing short of cowards. They refused to take even the smallest actions that would honor the victims of the Virginia Beach shooting, not to mention the victims of gun violence in Virginia every single day. Even if the Assembly committees recommend any bills, Norment and Cox have made clear that they won’t take any action until after Election Day. But if these ‘leaders’ won’t enact solutions that their own constituents are demanding, then we’re going to fight tooth and nail for representatives who will. There are 119 days between now and Election Day, and we are going to work every single one of them to ensure that the next time these votes come around, we’re going to see real and meaningful action instead of this shameful nonsense.”

If those in opposition want to make up reasons the bills should not get a hearing, they can keep trying to deceive the public. But the public isn’t having it any more. The public is sickened by the carnage. This is not the America we want. Thanks to lapdog politicians, it is the America we have.

Things are changing. Gun violence is now a top issue in the elections and will be in 2020. Now we know, however, that the NRA allegedly used influence and money from the Russians to get their candidate(s) elected last time. We are watching the NRA. So is the country. There is a new narrative about the corrupt pro gun organization.

Virginia is a microcosm of sentiment and opinions in most other states in our country. Polling has told us for years that the majority is in favor of passing stronger gun laws. So let’s do it then.

We are watching.

Are there stray bullets?

I have been thinking about all of the shootings since I last wrote and shooting anniversaries ( 5 victims remembered one year after the Annapolis Capital Gazette newspaper office). We have a mass shooting every day in America and could be doing a memorial every day as well. This is the sad state of gun violence in America in the week leading up to our nation’s July 4th celebration.

Is there such a thing as a stray bullet? Every bullet shot out of a firearm finds a place to land. Most often they land in the bodies of innocent humans going about their everyday business. Take, for example, the headline of an article in today’s Duluth News Tribune- “Drive-by shooting in St. Paul injures 5“:

The shootings in the Payne-Phalen area happened about two hours after a man was killed in a shooting, also on the city’s East Side, but Sgt. Mike Ernster said police don’t believe the cases are related.

Officers responded to a two-story house at 909 Desoto Street about 10:30 p.m. on a report of shots fired and found four people injured.

Note that there was a shooting homicide a few hours earlier. No doubt we will learn more about this shooting of 5. No matter who they were or what the circumstances, we know that bullets are flying in our neighborhoods and homes, injuring or killing about 100 a day.

These are daily headlines all over America. They are commonplace enough that most people just shrug and move on. In another country, people would be outraged about it and do something about it or have already done something about it so these are not headlines in their media outlets.

We are an America in love with our guns. Other countries have hunters and recreational shooters but do not own handguns for protection. Other countries also do not have a second amendment or powerful and influential gun lobby making the rules for gun ownership. That could change in America because the once powerful gun lobby has been exposed for the corrupt organization it is and is having so many financial difficulties that there hateful and fear mongering NRATV has been canceled. Dana Loesch’s voice will be silenced for the moment and her terrible screeds against those of us who want common sense gun laws and a gun culture that includes gun safety reform will not be heard by the gun rights extremists.

Her lies and deceptions have been influencing the far right for several years and fomenting the people with guns who are waiting for their insurrection moment. From the Media Matters article above:

The morning after the first Democratic primary debate, Loesch took to Fox & Friends to criticize Democratic presidential candidates’ positions on gun violence prevention. Loesch claimed the candidates hide their “confiscation” plans by calling them “mandatory buybacks.” 

The former NRA spokesperson went on to baselessly claim a new Gallup poll shows “there are more people who think that 9/11 was an inside job” and “more people believe the moon landing was fake than actually want gun control.” 

Fake news. Some people can be controlled by lack of understanding and education about issues. Facts actually do matter. Basing policy and public opinion on false information and lies is dangerous to our country. We have a President who lies with almost every word that comes out of his mouth. So to attribute lies about guns and gun safety reform to those who were telling the truth in the Democratic primaries is the height of hypocrisy. So far it has worked for a certain segment of the population who also call themselves patriots.

Do guns = patriotism? No, is the answer. But on July 4th and other holidays like New Years Eve, some people believe they can do whatever they want with their guns and fire them into the air in celebration. They forgot or never thought of the fact that bullets don’t know where to stop until they hit something. Celebratory gunfire takes the lives or injures innocent people every year when stray bullets go up and then, as is inevitable, come back down. My friend Joe Jaskolka, is one of the innocent victims of such a stray bullet.

Joe’s life and those of his loved ones and friends were forever changed by a stray bullet.

Another stray bullet found its’ way into the body of a Minnesota motorcyclist just traveling innocently and trying to enjoy his ride. A reckless and irresponsible gun owner was target shooting nearby not thinking that bullets actually fly around in the area:

Good advice. The funny thing about this statement ( not funny really) is that too often shooters are sure of their targets which is why so many Americans have died from bullets. And the other bit of hypocrisy is that even people who are trained to use weapons such as law enforcement officers and military members frequently miss their intended targets.

And we want teachers to have guns in schools to protect our children? Do we want this teacher to carry her gun in her classroom after pulling it out to threaten someone who got in front of her at a McDonald’s drive through line? I think not.

Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill. They should not be owned, stored or carried cavalierly as they too often are.

We are at our cabin for the week of July 4th. We have heard someone target shooting across the lake and not too far from the road that goes past our lake. We think it is the sound of a shotgun which would be less dangerous to others. But it isn’t even close to hunting season so why be shooting now? But then we do hear the sound of a rifle which means there are bullets flying around that could actually hit someone else. And yes, people have a right to shoot off guns in rural areas on property they own or at gun ranges, But if they are not careful, innocent people could be their targets.

Speaking of innocent victims there have been a number of “accidental” shootings of children by children. Two children were injured in Texas when another got access to a shotgun and shot it, as children will do. Yes, even shotguns need to be stored safely away from ammunition. Or this grandmother whose purse was the “holster” for a concealed carried gun:

Kayden Stuber was staying with his grandmother and aunt while his parents were at work, and according to local authorities, the child went into his grandma’s purse — which was sitting on the bed — and “in some way retrieved, was handling the gun when it discharged,” Greenville County Coroner Kent Dill says. Deputies and emergency responders rushed to the scene, but Kayden was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.

An innocent two year old is dead and the entire family is traumatized. The ripple effect of gun violence is real.

These are American tragedies and not only senseless but avoidable.

The thing is, there are far too many irresponsible gun owners who have been convinced that owning a gun for self defense and maybe carrying one around for protection is a good idea. There is no training required when one purchases a gun for any reason. There should be.

And some states have loosened concealed carry laws to the point where no permits or training are required and want a national law that would recognize the permits from any other state regardless of the regulations.

So far the law has failed to pass. How can any politician even think this is a good idea? Simple- they are lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby.

Our politicians are not thinking through the facts and one fact should trump all others. Passing stronger gun laws is patriotic and will result in a safer America. Stronger gun laws will not infringe on our constitution or gun rights. It will make them stronger as well.

Back to my original thesis- there really are no stray bullets. There are bullets intended for someone else. There are bullets intended for someone loved or known by the shooter. There are bullets that are not locked away from children, suicidal adults, felons, burglars, domestic abusers, terrorists and others who should not have them. There are bullets shot by irresponsible gun owners who think it’s fun to target shoot or shoot into the air without bothering to think about the consequences and where the bullets might land.

Have a safe and happy July 4th however you celebrate. If your celebration includes guns, please use them safely and think about your surroundings. And for goodness sake, don’t let children use those guns or find them lying around loaded. Safe storage of guns saves lives. It keeps small hands from accessing them. It keeps people who are suicidal from accessing them. It keeps people who could be a danger to themselves or others from accessing them.

Being a patriot also means caring enough about our country to care about the safety of its’ families and communities. Being free from shootings is being a free country where we all feel safe in our communities.

The Charleston 9

Today is the 4th anniversary of yet another heinous shooting and hate crime in America. The shooting of 9 innocent people at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston was one of a now increasing number of hate shootings that reveal the racist underbelly of America. The shooter had a gun he should not have had but because of a loophole in the law which we now call the Charleston loophole, he got his gun anyway from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Had he not been able to get the gun from the dealer, he could have gone on-line or to a gun show where guns are readily available from private sellers with no required background check.

Let’s look at more from the above linked article:

Under current federal law, people who buy a gun from a licensed dealer have to go through a background check. The FBI has up to three days to complete this check. But if it doesn’t, gun dealers are allowed to sell the firearm anyway. Many sellers choose not to, but some do proceed with the sale even if a background check wasn’t completed.

ThinkProgress, which obtained data from the FBI, found the FBI in 2018 failed to complete 276,000 background checks within the three-day window. That’s around 3 percent of background checks, out of the more than 8.2 million in 2018 — which is typical, based on data going back to 2014.

The loophole allowed a self-described white supremacist to obtain the gun he used to kill nine people at a predominantly black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. He had admitted to drug possession prior to the gun purchase, which should have prohibited him from buying a gun — but the FBI couldn’t complete his background check in time, and the seller allowed him to buy a gun anyway.

When the Brady law passed, loopholes were a part of the bill, thanks to the NRA. Why sell a gun after 3 days if the records don’t come through? If there is not a problem with the sale, it takes about 3 minutes to be cleared by the FBI National Instant Check System but the run rights extremists want to make sure that just about anyone can get a gun. The result: (See below)

Thousands of people are dead because of our loose gun laws. Mass shootings continue and are on the uptick. So are domestic shootings, suicide by gun and “accidental” shootings. The number of careless gun owners who make deadly mistakes are also increasing. The fact that the majority of our states have loose conceal and carry laws has let that happen.

Congress had a chance to change our gun laws to make sure a White Supremacist like the shooter of the 9 victims in the church in Charleston won’t be able to get a gun. The House passed the bill. The Senate didn’t even have a hearing. Why not?

Ask Senator Mitch McConnell. 90% of Americans want stronger gun laws.

It’s time for us all to let those Republican Senators who failed the country that we are watching and will hold them accountable for their lack of action to save lives. Every day a vote is delayed 100 more Americans die from gunshot injuries.

Never mind. Campaign donations and fear of a failing NRA inform the current U.S. Senate. There is no common sense. There is really no word to describe this failure.

If they care about the victims and survivors, they will act. If not, we will see more shootings like the one that happened 4 years ago today in a small church in Charleston, South Carolina.

I met the wife of Rev. Clementa Pinckney at an event in D.C. just a year after the shooting. She is a lovely, quiet spoken woman. Here are her words almost 4 years after she and her 6 year old daughter hid in the pastor’s office during that fateful prayer meeting:

In the beginning, you’re in denial. You don’t always register when things happen. Especially as traumatic as the Charleston shooting. You just kind of think to yourself, “Did this happen to me?”

To be honest, at first, I was a little in denial that it really happened at all. I can tell you that I immediately went into mom mode to protect and be there for my two girls, which was and still is my first priority. I can remember getting home that night and seeing police cars everywhere in our yard and allowing my girls to briefly look out the window as I tried to explain to them the reality of what had happened.

So many Americans suffer from the ripple effect of gun violence. PTSD is 2 real. And we are failing to treat that adequately as well. Recently 2 Parkland school shooting survivors committed suicide by gun. Living with the trauma can be debilitating and overwhelming without good care.

We are better than this.

In memory:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Sharonda Singleton

Myra Thompson

Tywanza Sanders

Ethel Lee Lance

Cynthia Hurd

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson

Look at their faces. Say their names.

Twelve more

It’s happened again. News programs were interrupted with news of a mass workplace shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Sigh.

Tears. Weeping.

Grief.

Exhaustion.

Devastation.

Cries for doing something.

Statements from gun violence prevention groups and elected leaders who care about lives of innocent people taken in a matter of second.

Brady.

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Statements about the incident- a gunfight. A silencer used. People couldn’t tell how close the shooter was thanks to the silencer. The NRA and its’ lapdog politicians floated a bill to make silencers easier to obtain. But then the Las Vegas shooting happened. And now this.

Extended magazines. More weapons found at the shooter’s home.

Why do we allow extended magazines again? For what are they useful other than shooting as many people as possible in a very short time?

Workplace shootings are becoming more common. What should businesses do? Read this:

There were 1553 firearm workplace homicides during the study period. Robbery crime trended downward from 2011 to 2015. In contrast, non-robbery crimes constituted almost 50% of the homicides and trended upward in recent years. Customers and co-workers were the most frequent perpetrators of non-robbery crimes, most after an argument. While customers and co-workers who commit these crimes were often armed at the time of the argument, some were not and retrieved a firearm from an unspecified location before committing a homicide. Thus, immediate and ready firearm access was commonly observed in argumentative workplace deaths.
Conclusions
Limiting firearm access in the workplace is a possible measure for preventing deadly workplace violence and should be considered as part of a comprehensive strategy for addressing this reemerging public health concern.

Where is common sense?

As the shooting was happening, our local Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter, together with Moms Demand Action and the Duluth Federation of Teachers was holding a Wear Orange kick-off for June as gun violence prevention awareness month.

Speakers were amazing. Two students stepped to the microphone to talk about how it is for students in these days of mass school shootings. A 7th grade girl read a poem she had written after the Parkland shooting. A high school junior spoke of student lockdowns and how frightening they are. He asked where the elected leaders were and cited the large contribution given by the NRA to our newly elected Republican Congressman who voted against the House passed background check and Charleston loophole bills.

Powerful statements from our kids. And adults have failed them.

The Mayor read a proclamation making June 7th gun violence prevention awareness day in Duluth. The city of Duluth posted this on their Facebook page and what were the comments by the insensitive gun rights extremists? She’s taking away guns and rights.

Be quiet. Stop it. No one’s guns will be taken away. Stop trying to scare and intimidate. We are not listening any more. They are a very distinct minority.

The School Superintendent spoke of a near tragedy in one of the Duluth schools when a credible threat occurred and a man was arrested inside of the school. Authorities found guns in his car in the school parking lot.

Shame on those who refuse to move- who refuse to acknowledge our public health epidemic because they are beholden to a failed and corrupt gun rights organization. They are listening to an ever decreasing minority of gun rights extremists.

Former Republican Congressman David Jolly got it right. Our gun laws are broken. If we care about innocent lives and all lives, we will fix our broken system like other democratized countries have done.

President Trump responds to the shooting?

Democratic Presidential candidates are heartsick and furious.

So are we all. The majority of us know that passing stronger gun laws and changing our gun culture will not take away rights to own guns. The insistence that the second amendment means no gun laws allows daily carnage.

A writer for CNN says that we have a cult of guns in America. He is so right:

None of this will stop unless the cult of guns is curbed.
This won’t be easy; the cult has a lot of money behind it. The money pours in from the “devout”: small-time contributions to the NRA that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars each year. This money is used, in our skewed version of democracy, to influence politicians, who are only too happy to be bought.
Our Congress is swamped with men and women, our so-called representatives, who do not represent the majority view, which is that guns must be curtailed.

According to Gun Violence Archive this is the 150th mass shooting of the year. That happened before half of 2019 is over. We still have 7 months for the bodies to add up.

This is NOT NORMAL.

After posting this post I found another post by Shaun King who wrote about how we handle mass shootings in America:

That’s the game we play. To get through dinner, to get through a movie or a game, to get through quality time with our loved ones, we must temporarily suspend our knowledge that people are being slaughtered all around us. We speak of the Wild Wild West as some nostalgic era of the past, but we’re living it. The United States is the only nation in the world that has more guns than people. And it shows. Americans are shooting and killing themselves and killing others with guns at a pace that should be treated as a dire National Emergency. If we just enacted a fraction of the basic standards and norms held by the rest of the world, our nation would be so much safer.

Who have we become as a nation, as people with moral compasses, as people of compassion for others, as people who espouse non-violence?

Who do we want to be? Is this it? Reading names of victims after every mass shooting? Posting photos of those who lost their lives yesterday in “everyday shootings”?

I think not. We are better than this.

At this morning’s press conference in Virginia Beach, the names and photos of the victims were released by the City Manager of the city who said their names in with an emotional voice:

“They leave a void that will never be filled,” Hansen said. 

Too many voids.

Wear Orange on June 7th for gun violence prevention awareness. Wear it for the victims. Wear it for Hadiye Pendleton whose family started the observance of the day. Do your part. Get activated, Make noise and most of all, hold elected officials accountable for their inaction.