A Scarlet Letter

letter A in flamesThe novel, The Scarlet Letter, is a poignant reminder of how public shame can change everything. Even public shame isn’t working for the NRA lapdogs who lap at the feet of an organization that has kept the nation from doing anything about the school shootings, the mass shootings, the domestic shootings, the suicides, the “accidental” shootings, police shootings- you get the picture.

Students from Parkland, Florida, tried to see Florida Governor Scott when they visited Tallahassee but naturally, Scott did not have the courage to see the faces of anguished students demanding action. They started chanting, “shame, shame, shame.” Though the Governor was at the funeral of one of the slain students, one does have to wonder if he would have met with these students. Time will tell. What we know is that Governor Scott has taken a lot of money from the NRA. Many in Congress are in the same group who should wear the letter A on their chests.

A rating of A or A+ means something to the 1.5% of Americans who happen to be NRA members. That’s it folks. A tiny tiny sliver of Americans and gun owners care about the rating from the NRA. So why do our leaders even listen to them?

The times, they are a changing.

We’re not buying it any more.

Governor Scott and many others, are reconsidering their allegiance to the NRA. Are they finally getting it? Time will tell.

Scott has done the bidding of the NRA for years, listening to the strident voice of Marian Hammer, NRA lobbyist who has worked for decades to make Florida one of the most gun friendly states in the country.

It has been suggested that the politicians who receive an “A” rating from the NRA should wear it like a scarlet letter of shame:

I’m not opposed to the Second Amendment (do read the article in today’s Commoner Call on the actual history of the amendment. It ain’t what you think it is). I am a gun owner. I am even a long ago former member of the NRA. And I support those courageous and morally clear high school students demanding reform and sanity. Any democrat — office holder or member — who refuses to stand with those students against the attacks of the right wing extremists and shun the NRA and their dirty money should leave the party. They are beneath what the party should be about. Really, if the party ever wants to rise to power again they have to stop renting out its soul for dollars.

Shame on them all for persisting with their nonsensical, fact-free assersians and fear mongering after 17 students were hunted and massacred like animals in Parkland, Florida. Even their own mouthpiece, Dana Loesch, was no match for those students and parents  who didn’t get the message that we should be polite to these people who have been so responsible for the carnage in America. From the article:

Exactly one year ago, the National Rifle Association excitedly announced that it had tapped Dana Loesch, a conservative commentator and radio host, to serve as its spokeswoman. She had all the right chops for the job: razor-sharp public speaking skills, a devoted online following, and, most importantly, an extensive track record of fervently defending the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

Long respected in conservative circles for her brash political commentary and unapologetic gun rights advocacy, Loesch gained broader attention last year with a pair of inflammatory NRA ads that critics said could incite violence against the organization’s perceived opponents.

But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that Loesch’s role as the public face of the country’s preeminent gun rights organization was truly put to the test. (…)

But her advocacy often spirals into extremes. Her book compares gun control efforts to Nazi and Stalinist propaganda, and she inveighs against what she calls “the tragedy caucus,” a broad assortment of liberal “gun grabbers” who, in her eyes, exploit mass shootings “as a tactic to take away law-abiding citizens’ guns.”

She pretended to be empathetic on the CNN town hall meeting but the very next day, here is what the real Dana Loesch told ardent supporters at the CPAC meeting:

“I want to make this super obvious point,” Loesch said. “The government has proven that they cannot keep you safe. And yet, some people want all of us to disarm. You heard that town hall last night. They cheered the confiscation of firearms. And it was over 5,000 people.”

“I had to have a security detail to get out,” she said of the Sunrise, Fla. event. “I wouldn’t be able to exit that if I didn’t have a private security detail. There were people rushing the stage and screaming burn her. And I came there to talk solutions and I still am going to continue that conversation on solutions as the NRA has been doing since before I was alive.”

Really Dana Loesch? More hyperbole and blame. That is the game they play and they play it well. But we aren’t buying it.

E.J Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post says it just right:

How come only one side of the supposed culture war on guns is required to exude respect for the other? Because the culture-war argument is largely a gimmick pushed by the gun lobby as a way of demonizing its opponents. None of us who endorse stronger gun laws wants to disrupt anybody else’s way of life. And none of the measures we are proposing would do that. (…) What truly alarms the gun lobby is that many steps to curb the scourge of gun violence enjoy broad support, from those who own guns as well as those who don’t. A Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday, for example, found that 97 percent of Americans favor background checks for all gun buyers. While the survey showed the highest level of approval for background checks in some time, it is not an outlier. Background checks have long been embraced by 85 to 95 percent of us. Quinnipiac, by the way, also showed that 66 percent of voters support stricter gun laws, up from 47 percent in December 2015.

We aren’t buying the BS any more. Things are changing.

Yesterday I attended lobby day and a rally at the Minnesota state legislature as a member of Protect Minnesota and the Brady Campaign. It was one of the largest rallies held in recent years at the Capitol. The energy and commitment to change were palpable. Over 1000 people came to our rally and chanted and demanded action. It was reflective of the mood of the general public. Our legislators knew we there as we walked the halls in our orange shirts and visited our legislator’s offices. The day was inspiring for many and most especially for those who had never attended an event like this or darkened the doors of the Capitol.

Two days before our rally 300 Moms Demand Action members had a lobby day. Between us, the message was clear. We aren’t buying the NRA talking points and the BS any more.

Schools all over Minnesota have received threats on social media including my own grandson’s school. This is not OK. This is not normal. One school district was on lock down as they dealt with a threat. How frightening for the students and parents. Even though the threats were not credible, there were a lot of frightened parents and students. Why? Because we all know that the next school shooting is just around the corner at a school near you.

The idea that kids can buy AR-15s, knock off military style weapons is horrifying. It has been for decades but now the tide is turning. The public is fed up and understands the true nature of these weapons. They are not meant for hunting or self defense. Don’t believe the gun lobby or the gun extremists when they tell you that. #WeCallBS. They have gotten away with this for far too long. Their time is up.

The NRA is becoming less relevant as well it should be. Companies are cutting off business ties with this national organization of terror and fear mongering. Soon enough, an organization that represents a tiny tiny proportion of NRA members and gun owners, will fade to exist. We will be better off for it.

Follow the money. For way too long, the NRA’s deceptive claims and partnerships with the gun manufacturers has resulted in their ability to influence public policy about gun violence and kept the country from being able to save the lives of our children.

They can try to blame the “socialists” as did NRA’s Executive V.P at CPAC yesterday. Why listen to this lunatic? Who is he anyway? He represents power and influence which is fast fading away.

But we aren’t buying it.

And our very own President mimics the ludicrous arguments that, in his own estimation ( not based on anything) that 20-40% of teachers should now carry loaded guns in our schools. Where did that come from? And then he amazingly and stupidly pronounced at a meeting at the White House that all of those retired Marines who are teaching in our schools should be armed. Seriously? He is dead wrong. Who are all of these retired Marines? There may be some retired or discharged military members teaching in our schools but I doubt the numbers are what Trump pulled out of his empty hat.

Craziness is all around us.

And we’re not buying it.

Where is common sense? It’s in the halls of our legislatures. It’s in Parkland, Florida. It’s all over our media sources and it’s in American homes and schools. It’s all around us. It will be on March 14th when students will walk out of classes. It will be on March 24th when students will March their lives in DC and all over the country. It will be on April 20th. It will be everyday.

We want action NOW. Not yesterday or tomorrow- NOW.

We’ve had #Enough.

#WeCallBS

#NeverAgain

Listen up- The last school shooting

listenLet’s make the Parkland shooting the last school shooting said one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students interviewed after 17 of his school classmates were slaughtered.

The last school shooting took the lives of 17 Parkland, Florida students and educators and traumatized the entire nation. The injured will recover, some with life long debilitating injuries, others left with only the trauma. We are all traumatized.

The thing is, Columbine should have been the last school shooting. Virginia Tech should have been the last school shooting. Sandy Hook for sure should have been the last school shooting. Our kids are sitting ducks. But ducks are better protected from bullets than kids given that duck hunters must use a plug to prevent a hunter from using more than 3 shots at a time. It’s to sustain the duck population for future hunters.

Who is sustaining the population of our children?

Something is different this time. Teachers, students, parents, law enforcement and the media- all speaking out in stronger and more urgent voices asking the “adults” in Congress to act on behalf of our children.

Insanity is the word that comes to mind.

We are all exhausted but we are not numb and we are not stupid. We understand what is going on here. We get that our loose gun laws are killing our precious human resources and snuffing out the potential of dozens of kids to live a productive life with their friends and family.

Last night 300 people came out for a vigil outside of NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Some of my friends were there.

1000 people came out in Parkland to honor the victims. But without action, none of this matters.

Speaking of the NRA, I can’t even begin to add up the media articles and stories about how much that organization has contributed to the mayhem and carnage. The time has come to turn on the corporate gun lobby, whose profit motive has become the main reason for existence. It is not your father’s or your grandfather’s NRA any more.

Listen to the voices of gun owners and former NRA members.

Listen to the voice of just one teacher:

Don’t tell me teachers should be carrying weapons in the classroom — we’re not police.

It’s our job to assign books, create lessons and lead discussions that make students think critically and help them see the world a little differently: I want them to read “The Outsiders” in my class and remember it when they’re adults and their kids are reading it.

Don’t tell me there’s nothing we can do about guns. Yes, Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms — but it’s not limitless. And we all have the right to live.

Listen to the voice of the Broward County Sheriff:

““If you’re an elected official, and you want to keep things the way they are ― if you want to keep gun laws as they are now ― you will not get re-elected in Broward County,” Israel told a crowd that erupted in cheers.”

Listen to the voice of just one parent:

“Stop accepting blood money.”

Listen to the students. They are our future. They are being massacred in every more frequent mass shootings. But they are fighting back:

“Please, this is the 18th one this year. That’s unacceptable. We’re children. You guys are the adults,” David Hogg said during an interview on CNN.

And well they should. Read this frightening article about real and not so real threats made by students after the Parkland shooting.  My God. What is going on? Where are the adults in the room?

Remember that every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Talk about the influence of even the Russians in our gun violence epidemic in America.

The NRA has a connection with the Russians.

The NRA has connections with our President. The Brady Center went to court to get a white paper written with the help of the NRA presented to the President right before his inauguration.

So can we talk?

Talk about Brady background checks.

Talk about Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Talk about Assault Rifles:

Equally important for a gunman looking to do a lot of damage in a hurry: AR-15-style weapons are fed with box magazines that can be swapped out quickly. The standard magazine holds 30 rounds. Equipped in this way, a gunman can fire more than a hundred rounds in minutes.

The Parkland shooter had “countless magazines” for his AR-15, the local sheriff said. And there is still one more reason the weapons are so popular in states like Florida: They are easy to buy — and for Nikolas Cruz, 19, the shooting suspect, far easier to obtain than a handgun.

The Washington Post goes further about another assault weapons ban:

He calls the results “staggering.” Compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths. (…)

On a scale of effectiveness ranging from 1 (not effective) to 10 (highly effective), the expert panel gave an average score of 6.8 to both an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines, the highest ratings among the nearly 30 policies surveyed. (…) More strikingly, substantial numbers of gun owners supported the measures as well: 48 percent of gun owners in that poll said they would support a ban on assault style weapons, and 44 percent said they favored a ban on high-capacity magazines. A Quinnipiac poll conducted later in the year showed similar numbers.

Talk about research on the causes and effects of gun violence.

Talk about how much money our leaders are getting from the NRA.

Ask all candidates what their plans are for preventing shootings and saving lives.

And yes, talk about the Second Amendment:

Ideally we would also rethink the Second Amendment in an age where firearms are far more lethal than in the 18th century and where we no longer require minutemen to protect our liberties from the redcoats. But it’s not necessary to repeal the Second Amendment. The courts have consistently upheld gun regulations in the past, including a federal assault-weapon ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 and a Maryland ban that went into effect in 2013.

Yet instead of instituting such common-sense safeguards, Congress is moving in the opposite direction. Early in 2017, Congress passed and President Trump signed a bill that revoked an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for mentally ill people to buy guns. Toward the end of the year, the House passed legislation that would force every state to honor concealed-carry permits — meaning that a resident of Oklahoma could pack heat in the District of Columbia or New York City.

And talk about all of these things with common sense conversations and actions.

Talk about the insanity of American gun laws and shootings as the rest of the world is watching this insanity unfold. This article highlights an Australian perspective into our shootings.

Do we love our children as much as we love our guns? That is a very important question that needs an answer.

Make this the last school shooting. Because the last one has started a movement and a conversation that is not going away. The accumulation of bodies and inaction by Congress and state legislatures if finally just too much for a nation that sees more gun violence than any other democratized country not at war. Our kids are the victims of knock-off military style weapons used in war. As one friend said, our children have become war correspondents, live streaming a shooter killing their friends and texting parents as the shooting occurs.

With the help of adults, students are going to take national action as the Women’s March has organized a national student walk-out set for March 14th.

We shouldn’t have to do this. This is an American tragedy.

Listen up Mr. President. Spend more than 6 minutes “listening” to the victims of the shooting at the Parkland hospital. Your tone deaf anemic, robotic statement a day after the shooting did not even mention the word guns or gun violence. Your lack of passion and empathy was disheartening and disturbing. Have a nice week-end on the golf course at Mar-a-Lago.

We are better than this.

We have had #Enough.

Valentine’s Day massacre

heartOur hearts are broken again.

Students carrying Valentine day balloons walked out of a school in Parkland, Florida, unhurt but traumatized. 17 didn’t make it. Others injured. 

They hugged each other and then their parents as they reunited.

An all too familiar scene watched on TV news on a regular basis.

This is an American tragedy. This is at least the 12th school shooting this year, some say it’s the 18th. It’s too many whatever it is. It’s only February 14th.

Only in America do we need to read articles like this about the motives behind mass shootings and school shootings. 

A 19 year old former student who had been expelled got into the school and decided today would be the day to shoot up a bunch of high school kids. He was viewed as volatile and fascinated with guns. He was viewed as a threat when expelled last year. A young white disenfranchised boy/man got his hands on an AR-15 and multiple rounds of ammunition. He wore a gas mask and set off the fire alarm so kids would come out into the hallway.

#Sick

#Notnormal

Not inevitable.

#Enough

Only in America.

Students coming out of the school in a line with their hands up. Parents frantic. Students texting and even taking a video of the actual shooting. Good grief. PTSD for all and everyone should watch that video to see what our kids have to go through on almost a daily basis.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Where is common sense?

The NRA is an arm of the Republican party. What is wrong with them? Do they think this is OK? We keep saying what will it take before enough is enough? We keep offering thoughts and prayers. And yet, they keep taking money from the NRA. They keep supporting the agenda of the NRA. It is a dangerous and deadly agenda.

#Nomorethoughtsandprayers.

We want action. We want to save lives.

Our hearts are broken. Families are broken. Friends will never be the same. They knew the victims. They got shot themselves. They holed up in a closet. They cried. They were frightened out of their wits.

And it goes on and on and on and on.

There are no more words or excuses.

Our hearts are broken.

Nothing to see here….

map of gun deaths
From Gun Violence Archive

Yes. One can apparently buy a rocket propelled grenade launcher in America and keep it at home. That was the case in Minnesota this week as police seized a load of drugs and weapons from a rural home where they were stashed- just in case. From the story:

 

 

A search warrant Tuesday, Jan. 30, led to five arrests and uncovered drugs, nearly four dozen firearms and suspected explosives, including items found in a concrete bunker in the basement.

The items seized from the rural Willmar home included submachine guns, homemade silencers, night vision goggles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Weapons of war in a bunker. What the he%^? Seriously. This is America where homegrown terrorists stockpile weapons and ammunition to be ready for… for…. what? What was the plan here? More from the article:

According to the criminal complaint, Monson had told someone that he had the addresses of a judge, a prosecutor and another attorney and intended to use explosives in or near their homes and vehicles.

The five people arrested face a variety of felony and misdemeanor drug and weapons charges.

Monson faces felony counts of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number, possessing a machine gun and possessing a firearm suppressor. He also faces two felony counts of fifth-degree drug possession and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Jacobson faces two felony counts of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number, one felony count of possessing a machine gun and another felony count of possessing a firearm suppressor. He faces gross misdemeanor charges of fifth-degree drug possession, being a drug user in possession of a firearm and negligent storage of firearms accessible to a child.

Johnson faces a felony charge for possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a violent crime, a felony count of fifth-degree drug possession, and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Quimby is charged with felony and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree drug possession and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

And so,  people who cannot legally purchase or possess firearms, let alone sub machine guns or a rocket propelled grenade launcher, were found in possession of these weapons of war anyway.

And have I mentioned that drugs and guns just don’t go together well? But they are often intertwined making it all the more dangerous.

What could possibly go wrong?

There are Americans stockpiling guns and ammunition with an intent to use them to terrorize other Americans. It is #NotNormal. They are living right under our noses in communities near you.

Could the Minnesota folks from the above article undergo a Brady background check at a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer and walk away with these weapons legally? NO.

This is why we need to insist that all firearms and related paraphernalia require Brady background checks before they walk out of a store or gun show in the hands of someone who will not use them safely and legally.

We could do this. But we haven’t and we won’t as long as NRA and corporate gun lobby legislators control the country. Do these lawmakers think this is OK? They must.  Otherwise why wouldn’t they agree to pass some common sense legislation to stop this lunacy?

It’s beyond explanation of any kind why our lawmakers continue to allow this culture of violence. The gun violence public health epidemic is real. It is taking the lives of an increasing number of Americans on a daily basis.

Let’s check in with the Gun Violence Archive for the body count just in January of this year:  1334 dead and 2404 injured. 23 mass shootings so far in 2018. Look at the chart on the web page and the map I have provided above. Can you see one state where a gun incident has not happened in January of 2018? One month in America.

This is #NotNormal or inevitable dear readers. Most, if not all, of these shootings are totally preventable.

But let me get back to the above story about rocket propelled grenade launchers and other insanity. Where can one buy some of this stuff anyway? Here. and Here. and Here ( “And anti-personnel weapon. And anti-helicopter weapon. And anti-anything-worth-shooting weapon. And we-Afghans-are-celebrating-a-wedding weapon. And… well, you get the point)”. 

I guess this last one does not shoot grenades but some other kind of ordinance. That makes me feel so much better. People playing soldier at home in rural Minnesota should give us all pause. It is happening in every state actually.

The grenade launcher is legal to purchase after Congress let the assault weapons ban expire. There was a reason for not allowing the import, sale or possession of certain kinds of dangerous weapons under the Assault Weapons Ban. But the corporate gun lobby hated that some weapons were not available to the average citizen and so they bullied our politicians to get rid of legislation that could have saved some lives.

What in the world does a private citizen need with a rocket propelled grenade launcher? Is there an answer that makes any sense at all?

In other news of the #NotNormal, there was another school shooting this week in California involving a 12 year old shooter. Yes indeed- a 12 year old shot and injured 4 people :

A 12-year-old girl was booked on suspicion of negligent discharge of a firearm Thursday after a shooting at Sal Castro Middle School left four students injured, authorities said.

Los Angeles police do not believe that the shooting was intentional, spokesman Josh Rubenstein said Thursday evening.

“At this time, the information suggests that this was an isolated incident, involving the negligent discharge of a firearm, where innocent children and a staff member were unfortunately injured,” the LAPD said in a statement. (…)

“​​​Someone decided to bring a gun, I guess someone was accidentally playing around with it,” said Benjamin, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, whose guardian asked that his last name not be used. “They thought it was a fake gun.”

What? “I guess someone was accidentally playing around with it.” There are no accidents with guns. No one should be accidentally playing around with a gun. Period. Let alone a 12 year old child in a school.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy. Who thought it was a fake gun? This is total irresponsibility and preventable. This is #NotNormal not or inevitable.

Also in the news of the #NotNormal is the fact that an engineer sold altered armour piercing bullets to the Las Vegas shooter and is now charged for this sale to a madman who killed 58 people in just one shooting incident. From the article:

Tracer ammunition is built with a small pyrotechnic charge that produces a bright trail of light to allow a shooter to see the bullet’s trajectory during nighttime firing or other low visibility scenarios.

“At no time did I see anything suspicious or odd or any kind of a tell,” Haig told reporters.

The complaint says Haig told investigators that when Paddock bought the ammunition, he put on gloves before taking the box from Haig.

Nothing odd? Except for the fact that a man wanted to buy multiple rounds of tracer bullets that another man was not licensed to sell:

The 55-year-old aerospace engineer did not have a license to manufacture and sell the armor-piercing bullets he sold to Stephen Paddock in the weeks before the massacre that left 58 people dead.

Nothing to see here folks. Let’s move on to the next massacre.

Where is common sense?

 

Big money and guns

Print


The NRA, the Russian investigation, power, money, corruption, influence on elections, Trump and the 2016 campaign. What could possibly go wrong?

If this allegation is true, it shows how far the corporate gun lobby will go to gain and hold on to their influence over our political system. From the article about the FBI investigation into the influence of Russian money, the NRA and the Trump election:

However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.

Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.

We know that Trump attended the NRA’s annual meeting to lie about his support for their dangerous policies. And we know he received a large campaign donation from the organization along with support by way of letting supporters know that they should vote for this unfit man:

A supporter of restrictions on guns before he entered politics, Mr. Trump became a fierce champion of gun rights during his bid for the White House, earning early backing — and $30 million in campaign support — from the powerful lobbying group.

“Only one candidate in the general election came to speak to you, and that candidate is now the president of the United States, standing before you,” Mr. Trump said. “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”

There it is for all to see.

This is simply corrupt and absolutely not OK. We need to keep our eyes and ears open.

The book, “Dark Money” reveals the extent to which this is happening in our democracy, if you can call it that given that money is buying elections and influencing important decisions on behalf of the American people. From the review of the book:

A careful exposé of the libertarian agenda, spearheaded by the Koch brothers, to “impose their minority views on the majority by other means.”

As people who read my blog know, I often talk about how the gun lobby represents a distinct minority of Americans and even gun owners. But their agenda is about money and influence which works against the majority. For decades that money and influence has bought us terrible policies that are dangerous to public health and safety. Such laws as “Stand Your Ground” and ” Constitutional Carry” allow people with guns to get away with murder and for people to openly carry guns in public places where most people do not want them. And if the agenda of passing “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” were to move forward and get the support of the Senate, just about anyone would be allowed to carry loaded guns wherever they go.

These are the wishes forced on us by the minority who have money. Money talks.

Left in the wake of all of this are the victims. But victims don’t talk. Sometimes they have a voice and survivors like former Representative Gabby Giffords, for example, speak as well as they can in demanding common sense in the halls of Congress and state legislatures.

Unfortunately for us, her voice and the voices of others like her are not loud enough compared to the voices of money. Many of our politicians are lapdogs for the gun lobby. I posted this Brady Campaign video in my last post as well. It is still relevant:

Woe unto us if we let the money continue to influence the safety and well being of the public. The bodies are piling up in front of our eyes.

In Minnesota a few days ago, the combination of icy roads, an accident, and guns came together to lead to the death of a young driver:

What happened next was spelled out Wednesday in a criminal complaint that said Weiss, 25, of Rochester, who has a legal permit to carry a gun, shot the teenage driver of the other car at point-blank range when a confrontation flared.

The Olmsted County attorney charged Weiss, who says he acted in self-defense, with second-degree murder in the death of Muhammed Rahim, 17, the middle child of a family that fled Iraq six years ago. The charge is a felony that, with a conviction, carries a potential prison sentence of three to 40 years.

Weiss was arrested and jailed. He has since been released on bail.

Rahim’s passenger told police that he thought Weiss wanted to fight after the collision. He said he and Rahim threatened Weiss and that Rahim even dared Weiss to shoot him. There were no punches thrown, according to police, but Weiss said Rahim shoved him once in the chest.

Incidents like this should not lead to death. This was an accident, a misunderstanding, perhaps some strong words. But if one man had not had a gun, the other would be alive today. And claiming self defense may or may not work here. The victim was unarmed and only ( maybe) had words with the shooter. Is that enough to kill someone?

But Minnesota does not have a Stand Your Ground law. We have fought against it for many years in the face of fierce support by the corporate gun lobby’s influence on some of our state legislators. Would this man be able  to get away with murder with no trial if a Stand Your Ground law was in place?

This is yet another of those “good guys” with guns that Wayne LaPierre so famously and nonsensically said after the shooting of 20 first graders, held up when pretending that only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns:

Sigh.

Sometimes even in states with Stand Your Ground laws, shooters have not gotten away with murder. The case of Jordan Davis, shot in Florida by a gun permit holder because of teens sitting in a car playing loud music, showed that murdering an unarmed person who simply annoyed someone isn’t an excuse.

We are better than this.

The confluence of the Russia investigation into their influence on our 2016 election, with the NRA is an interesting situation. If the findings come out showing that it was, indeed, true, we need to hold the NRA responsible for their actions and expose the truth about dark money and guns.

 

UPDATE:

This New York Times article expands on the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians through the NRA:

It’s important not to get carried away, if only because a scenario in which the Russian investigation ensnares the N.R.A., probably the most influential conservative group in the United States, seems a bit too much like Resistance fan fiction, too delicious to be true. Indeed, if it is true, it has devastating implications for the entire Republican Party, since many officeholders enjoy lavish financial support from the N.R.A. Still, an N.R.A. role in Russiagate would explain a few things, including why the N.R.A. has, in recent years, developed such a close relationship with Russia.

Follow the Money. People are dying. The gun industry profits. Gun laws are loosened. People unfit for office are elected with the help of the gun lobby. Our leaders are afraid to pass laws to save lives and protect us all from senseless gun violence.

The insatiable quest for profits for the gun industry, power and control of our democratic process may end in a very bad way. It would not be a surprise to most people who have come to understand that the NRA is not a gun rights group any more. It is an arm of the Republican party and is run by extremists.

Revelations about mass shootings

revelationIt is not always easy to find out what was in the minds of mass shooters. If only we knew before the massacres of innocent people. But in America, and in the words of many on the side of gun rights, we would rather punish the shooters after the massacre than prevent it in the first place.

 

It’s good to try to assess what went wrong and what went right after national tragedies because that can lead to improvements and prevention. Thus, we now have more information about the Las Vegas shooter:

An FBI special agent wrote in one affidavit seeking a search warrant that “the methodical nature of the planning employed by Paddock, coupled with his efforts to undermine the preceding investigation, are factors indicative of a level of sophistication which is commonly found in mass casualty events such as this.”

Paddock purchased the items used in his attack during the year leading up to it, the FBI said, and a large share of the ammunition and accessories he amassed appear to have been bought online. Federal authorities said Paddock used “anonymously attributed communications devices,” destroyed or concealed digital storage and had at least three cellphones in the hotel suite where he opened fire.

This is possible in America. No other country makes it so easy to access high powered weapons with bump stocks and ammunition to just about anyone who wants it and can come up with the money. This is not normal. It’s not inevitable because we can stop it if we have the will.

Instead we have lapdog politicians all too eager to do the bidding of the corporate gun lobby which throws lots of money and influence in exchange for power and control over our system of gun laws. The Brady Campaign’s video is appropriate here ( from link above):

Coincidentally, a new report was released about the Sandy Hook shooting.

The report is basically a recap of how law enforcement and school officials handled the massacre of 20 first graders and 6 educators. Only in America is this even a thing. Wouldn’t it be great to prevent these shootings in the first place instead of writing about how to respond to them and then a look back at what went wrong? What went wrong was that the shooter had his guns in the first place.

We know how we can fix some of our gun ailments. We could prevent at least some of our mass shootings by passing laws to allow family members to report a loved one who has anger problems, mental health problems or domestic related problems so that guns can be taken from the person. This is called Extreme Risk Protection Orders 

A no brainer. Lives can be saved.

California, Washington and Oregon have passed laws like this and Connecticut already has this law. It is working already.

A no brainer.

Some mass shootings are the result of domestic disputes:

Devin Patrick Kelley, who shot and killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier this month, had been convicted in a military court of domestic violence and should have been ineligible to own a gun. He’s far from the only mass shooter with a history of abuse and violence toward women and family members.

And two observers recently told WTOP that holes in the system mean that authorities are missing chances to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. (…)

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, a reporter for The New York Times, said that underreporting of domestic violence in the military is only one gap in the system that may be putting guns in the hands of people who should be forbidden them by federal law.

study from the gun-safety group Everytown for Gun Safety found that 54 percent of mass shootings were related to domestic violence.

2015 Huffington Post analysis found that 64 percent of mass shooting victims are women and children, whereas women make up only about 15 percent of all shooting victims and children 7 percent. (See a partial list below.)

Indeed, Webster pointed out, the most common kind of mass shooting — defined as one in which more than four people are killed, not including the shooter — is itself an act of domestic violence, “in which the assailant is attacking a family member or a partner or a formerly intimate partner.”

Some of these mass shootings are related to anti-government or extremist positions by people with many guns who exhibit anger and other behaviors that indicate they could be dangerous. This article reveals a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center about domestic disputes and extremists:

Shooting attacks in CaliforniaNew MexicoVirginia and Pennsylvania occurred with regularity in December, resulting in 13 deaths (including three extremists killed by police) and more than 20 injuries. All of these incidents garnered national media coverage, but few reporters shed light on how extremist ideology likely played a role in the suspects’ violent rampages against family members, police, and neighbors.

Domestic violence among extremists is common. Yet, the phenomenon is not well-understood or publicized. In the immediate aftermath of these types of incidents, authorities too often overlook and regularly dismiss connections between the suspect’s violent behavior and his extremist affiliation. Few elaborate on how extremist beliefs may have played a role in the suspect’s temperament and violent behavior – fueling the suspect’s anger and self-justifying violent action. Since mental illness can be a contributing factor in extremist attacks, authorities oftentimes quickly focus on that aspect of the suspect’s behavior, which provides for an easy explanation leading to a quicker resolution of their investigation.

I expressed my concern in my last post about anti-government sentiment, racism, hate and intolerance as exhibited by our President last week. I was hoping that his ramping up of this rhetoric, along with the NRA’s new focus on race, liberals and immigrants, didn’t lead to violence. Looks like it already has.

It’s called insurrection.

This is the America we have, not the America we deserve to have. The very fact that a report has to be written about how to respond to mass shootings is very sad, to say the least.

And an updated count of Americans killed so far by gunshot injuries this year ( it’s only January 14th) ( homicides) is 542 according to the Gun Violence Archive. In my last post of 2 days ago, the number was 436. Yes, America, we have a problem- we are ignoring a public health epidemic right before our very eyes. And we are ignoring it at the cost of human lives.

The thing is, we already know most of this and we have been talking about it for far too long. The time is past for action. We also know that there are things that can be done to prevent shootings and reduce the numbers who are killed. And those measures are supported by a majority of Americans- even gun owners and Republicans.

This is a no-brainer.

Where are those brave leaders who will stand up for the victims and stop the carnage?

Where is common sense?

Profiles in cowardice

cowardiceIt all started when President Trump was elected- actually during the 2016 campaign. It seemed that some of our own leaders had no courage in challenging a man who was obviously and clearly not fit to lead our country. Is it too late for us to correct our terrible mistake after just one year? We will see who has courage and who does not.

The past week has brought us to a new low in American democracy. Our beliefs are being challenged. Our moral courage is being challenged by a man who is unfit to lead us.

I want to talk about how lies and misinformation are leading us to a dangerous and unsafe place.

It turns out that science is actually important to the well being of the world. So is research based evidence about just about everything. In my neck of the woods, the flu epidemic is ramping up and people are getting sick. Unfortunately influenza can cause death. It has and it does. In 1918 it took the lives of millions of people around the world. Warnings are being issued that we would not be prepared for such an epidemic now if it occurred. Are we not a country and a world that sent people to the moon, built a space station, has made huge advances in cures for diseases and in technology and other such forward moving ideas?

I found this article about the influenza season and in general about what it might take to keep us safer from a possible pandemic. Note this from the article:

Washington, at the moment, is not particularly interested in science. Research budgets have been slashed, and more cuts are coming. The government spent only $75 million last year on flu vaccine research. The White House is not interested in developing a universal vaccine, the best solution if an animal flu virus infects humans and then goes viral.

Many are worried. Michael Osterholm, professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and Mark Olshaker, a documentary filmmaker who with Osterholm wrote “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs,” recently sounded a full-throated alarm in the New York Times.

“We are not prepared,” they said. “Our current vaccines are based on 1940s research. Deploying them against a severe global pandemic would be equivalent to trying to stop an advancing battle tank with a single rifle.”

Sigh.

We live in a modern world and country where our very own President and his minions have dumbed down vital government agencies by appointing those who know nothing about the departments they lead. Worse yet, they want to destroy the very departments they lead. (See Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others).

Cutting funding to departments is a trick of those who hate the government. That is the case today. Anti-science sentiment could kill us- and it does.

I am currently reading Dan Brown’s latest book, Origin. One of the main characters reveals some evidence to the world that would shake up the religious leaders and espouse supposed science over religion.

It’s a fascinating read and makes one have to think about what is possible ( or impossible) based on real science and research. Edmond Kirsch, the main protagonist,  revealed his research (posthumously) and his supposed evidence that the world as we know it would end in 50 years.

It’s science based on one person’s tenuous research. It challenges what we know and what we don’t know. But in the end, facts win out. It’s fictional, thank goodness.

So where am I going with this?  Simple. What we need is common sense which is sadly and tragically lacking in the current state of an administration bent on using its’ own #fakenews to attack what they believe is #fakenews. We have a President who lies with every word he says. We have a cover-up by otherwise supposedly intelligent leaders who are supposed to protect us by acting with integrity if something goes awry.

Instead, they are making us less safe by aiding and abetting an administration that will surely implode over its’ own insanity and constant lying and offensive behavior.

Research is important. Facts are important. Science is important. Facts matter.

Since the beginning of this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, 436 Americans have died from gun homicides or “accidents” including 72 children and teens shot and killed or injured. Those are facts. Denying those facts are the corporate gun lobby and some conspiracy theorists, supported by an unstable “genius” sitting in the White House, paid for in part by the corporate gun lobby.

That same corporate gun lobby is making sure that the ATF is underfunded and understaffed so that it can’t do a proper job of monitoring gun stores, gun sales and gun shows in order to make sure there are not bad apple gun dealers selling guns to those who can’t own them. That same corporate gun lobby has made sure that the Centers for Disease Control does not get funding for research about gun violence.

As I have written about previously, there are conspiracy theorists ( one Alex Jones, friend of our President) who claim that mass shootings have not actually happened. And to make matters worse, the NRA foments fear and paranoia in order to encourage loosening gun laws, keep their own power and influence and make sure profits are good for the gun industry. According to the above linked article:

“We’re seeing the rise of a new NRA,” says Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor whose latest book, Gunfight, chronicles the battle over gun rights. “It’s long been committed to a die-hard approach to gun policy; they focused like a laser beam on Second Amendment issues. Now it’s focused on immigration, race, health care. We’re seeing the NRA become an extreme right-wing media outlet, not just a protector of guns.”

Immigration and race are the President’s new focus for his lunatic tweeting now causing a big stir all over the country ( except from the Republicans in Congress and leadership).

Denying real facts and underfunding agencies who are in place because one of governments’ most important work is to protect us from harm of any sort. It should be alarming to us all ( but isn’t to far too many) that this is the way we are going– backwards instead of foreword. It’s downright frightening.

This week has unmasked and revealed the truths that the majority of Americans have known since before our current President was elected. He is not interested in protecting us. He is actually interested in himself. With his unwitting or perhaps cynical lack of the truth and information, he is taking us to a place from which I hope we can dig out.

Lying about everything is taking us backwards and dumbing down the office of the most powerful person in the world. The circling of the wagons in order to win elections is an act of cowardice and cynicism that we haven’t seen ever in America. The list of offenses and behavior by our President is endless but here are just a few:

Attacks on immigrants of color;  outright lying about the outcomes of “tax reform”;  FISA kerfuffle; loosening gun laws and refusing to pass gun policy that is vital to public health and safety; health care debacle; attacking the intelligence and security community; nominating totally unqualified judicial nominees for political gain; attacks on current federal judges for ruling against him; firing the FBI director out of fear of the Russia probe; calling opponents demeaning names; depleting important departments that need to be staffed and funded; proposing off-shore oil drilling ( except in the state that hosts the “winter White House”; outright racism; firing scientists in agencies that rely on scientific research; bating a lunatic North Korean leader; unfounded attacks on the media; proclaiming that his “button” is bigger than the other guy’s “button”; lying about President Obama’s citizenship; claiming that White Supremacists were nice people during Charlottesville racist protests; blaming President Obama as reason for canceling London trip; fomenting about Hillary Clinton more than a year after the 2017 election; obsessing about “collusion” and potentially refusing to meet with the Special Prosecutor; denying that Russian influence in our election may have led to a flawed election and then doing nothing about it to protect the integrity of our democracy.

In a meeting with a few leaders working on a compromise on immigration and DACA, our President demeaned and attacked citizens of Africa and Haiti by using the word “shitholes” to describe where they live and said that he didn’t want Haitians here. Did he remember that today is the 8th anniversary of the earthquake there that killed 300,000 people and left others to leave for a better place to live?

What I have heard today about the President’s words are the following adjectives:

abhorrent….despicable…disgusting…vile…offensive…undignified…unPresidential…repugnant…appalling…outrageous…vulgar…racist…paranoid…lying…profane…deplorable…(Speaker Paul Ryan used the weak word- unhelpful)…lunatic…ridiculous…and many more.

Where are the voices of common sense? Where are the Republicans? They are making apologies for an unhinged President whose tweets are making us less safe and calling attention to his lack of decorum, curiosity, morality, intellectual reasoning, filters, social skills, and understanding of consequences to name just a few.

And the worst of all of this is that he is getting away with it, thanks to the acts of cowardice exhibited by those in his own party, cowering in front of the Emperor who is actually wearing clothes that they can’t see.

Yes, he is an unusual President. That is the least of our worries.

And because this is a blog about the issue of gun violence I will end with just one more of the many incidents that point to the reason we need to educate the public about how easy it is for kids and teens to access guns they should not have and use them either on intentionally or not to harm others.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, some teens were riding around in a car when one of them was shot. They lied about what happened but they didn’t get away with it. The bullet was shot from the back seat of the car by one of the teens who injured another.

Teens should not have access to guns. But they do because we have failed our own children about how risky gun ownership can be. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. We are failing to keep our children safe from senseless injury and death.

This is not normal or inevitable. This is insanity itself. Because we are ignoring science, research and common sense, innocent Americans are dying and being wounded by bullets every day in numbers that are epidemic. Ignore it at our peril.

We must insist on research and science if we care about our children and grandchildren. The fact that some are preventing us from understanding and knowing the truth is an American tragedy.

We can hide but we can’t escape the consequences of purposeful and cynical lying and obsequious behavior by our very own elected leaders. This must change for the future of our country. We are now dangerously close to living in a country described in the novel 1984

Intolerance of “others” and hatred and racism has caused enough trouble in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of hate groups and the numbers are not reassuring given the current atmosphere. Unfortunately for us, our own President is fomenting this and more to others who feel the same way. The most frightening thing about this is that many in his base are the gun rights extremists who may just act out their own fear and paranoia if it’s continuation by our nation’s leader and the gun extremists amongst us is allowed.

Guns and hate never go together. Guns and anger never go together. Guns and intolerance of others never go together. Guns and fear and paranoia never go together.

Stand up and show some courage Republicans. Where are you? You are a profile in cowardice.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

Because this editorial in the Star Tribune is so relevant to what I wrote, I am including it in my post:

Trump’s latest “hate-filled things” have already reverberated internationally. In just a few examples, a spokesperson for the African Union told the Associated Press, “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.” Botswana’s government called Trump’s comments “reprehensible and racist.” And South Africa’s opposition leader added that “the hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent.”

The slight against Africans comes at a time when China, America’s chief geopolitical rival, is making great inroads by investing in — and respecting — numerous nations on the continent. Trump’s comments only make the job harder for America’s already beleaguered diplomats.

How much longer can our democracy withstand the leadership of a man unfit to be in the office of leader of the free world?