Blue Virginia offers hope to the nation

Yes, Virginia, there is hope. After the 2019 elections when gun violence prevention was the top issue and the reason the state turned “blue” the Virginia legislature is taking up long neglected gun safety reform bills.

The first bill passed was to ban guns at the Capitol complex. The question is why anyone feels the need to carry a loaded gun while at a hearing for a gun bill- or for any bill for that matter. If the reason is intimidation, they have failed. The gun safety reform groups are unarmed and unafraid and will not be bullied and intimidated by the “gun guys.”

From the above article:

The policy, which was set to take effect at midnight Friday, pointedly applies not just to visitors, who until now have been allowed to bring weapons into the building if they have a concealed-carry permit. The ban also applies to senators and delegates — even those who are law enforcement officers.

But as a practical matter, Capitol Police Col. Steve Pike said, the policy will not be enforced with lawmakers. Requiring them to pass through metal detectors would probably slow them down as they travel between the Capitol and the adjacent Pocahontas Building, which the ban also covers. In addition, he said, legislators are immune from prosecution during the session, under a law intended to ensure their performance of the people’s business is not impeded.

A practical matter? It seems pretty impractical to me to allow lawmakers to remain armed. For what possible reasons should they be armed now that their constituents are not. “Accidents” have happened. Take this one in Kentucky:

Democratic Kentucky State Rep. Leslie Combs doesn’t think her accidental discharge of a firearm in the state’s capitol building Tuesday afternoon was a big deal. “I am a gun owner, it happens,” Combs told reporters after the incident. 

Combs was apparently in the process of unloading her Ruger 380 semi-automatic handgun when it fired into the floor of the Capitol annex. No one was harmed by the gunshot, so she reported the incident to state police about two hours later. the lawmaker told the Courier-Journal that she has a concealed carry permit, and often brings the gun to work in her purse.  Here’s more from Combs: 

“I was purposely disarming it to put it up because I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to use it any more… I had had it in my purse I carry usually, and I thought I’m going to put that sucker away.”

I say put those “suckers” away permanently. We know what else happens but I will not use the word here. And “it” happens far too often when so called law abiding gun owners are irresponsible with their guns. Even when they think they are responsible, guns are deadly weapons and things go wrong. That seems like a good reason to practice common sense and just not carry the “sucker” around with you everywhere you go.

Sometimes these “accidental” gun discharges end with death or severe injury. I have written about incidents like this many times in this blog. A relative tries to get in the house and a loved one shoots them thinking they are an intruder. Just today a man discharged his gun in a crowded restaurant injuring an 80 year old woman. You can’t make this stuff up. A woman lives to age of 80 and gets shot in a restaurant by a reckless and irresponsible gun carrier. She was lucky and so was the gun owner. What if he had killed the woman? Does anyone want to live with the reality that they killed an innocent person in a totally avoidable situation?

But I digress. A 3 year old finds his brother’s loaded gun in a restaurant and shoots it off. The man was charged with several crimes. A gun fired from a woman’s purse and shot and killed her in a North Carolina restaurant.

The list is endless. Look them up for yourself. These don’t get a lot of attention but they should. Guns carried around loaded in public places are dangerous and should be re-considered. It’s time to change the conversation about the role of guns in public places.

So it was a good first step for Virginia to ban guns in the Capitol buildings in the name of public safety. Next up, other bills concerning public safety and gun safety reform. Today 4 bills passed out of the Virginia Senate. This is cause for celebration and I’m sure my Virginia friends are ecstatic right now as well they should be.

Elections matter.

Let’s take a look at the Virginia Senate bills ( from the above linked article):

The bills now headed for the full Senate would require background checks on all firearms purchases, allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others, let localities ban weapons from certain events and government buildings, and cap handgun purchases at one per month.

All common sense measures and all supported by the majority of voters in Virginia. The majority in the country and in almost all states want to make the country safer from gun violence and one very important way to do that is to pass stronger gun laws. It’s going to happen state by state and it will happen in the country as soon as we vote out those who oppose the public.

Voting with the NRA and the gun lobby is a losing proposition right now. The public is far ahead of some of our elected leaders who are still dinosaurs as far as gun laws go. There is still nonsensical talk about gun registration and gun confiscation as well as taking away rights. But in Virginia as in many states, there have been several high profile mass shootings and other shootings that have called attention to the lax gun laws and the devastation from bullets. The Virginia Tech shooting resulted in the death of 32 and others injured. The shooting of a young Richmond T.V. reporter Alison Parker on live T.V. was horrendous and unspeakable. And the latest was the mass shooting at Virginia Beach killing 12. Virginians just don’t want to get shot nor do they want their loved ones and friends to be shot. They want laws that will prevent and reduce some of the shootings.

And if the NRA and any other gun rights advocate can say how these stronger gun laws will affect their lifestyle, have at it. If they can tell us how doing nothing is saving lives, tell us about it. If they can claim that we are safer now after allowing so many guns to be carried in public places, give us some facts to show that. If they can tell us why they object to everyone getting a background check before purchasing a gun, tell us about it. If they can tell us why the background check system already in place has inconvenienced them and caused terrible consequences for themselves or their families, please step up. I may even print the answers and examine the logic.

I am excited about what’s happening in Virginia. The Minnesota Senate is going to hold hearings on several bills as well:

But the hearing will be held on Republicans’ terms: no votes will be cast and the meeting will be held in gun-friendly Hibbing.

The chair of the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Dec. 19, announced that he would take the panel on the road next month to talk about the plans to require background checks at the time of transfer of a firearm and to allow law enforcement to remove a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.

“Gun friendly Hibbing.” We know where Hibbing is and it is not all gun friendly. We have many Minnesotans for common sense gun legislation living in northern Minnesota and they will be there. But nice try. Sneaking around in small towns to get the “gun guys” out in large numbers is so obvious as to be suspect to say the least.

Criminal background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order bilsl are life saving bills favored by the majority of Minnesotans. 97% of Minnesotans want universal background checks. That is almost unanimous and includes the gun owners in Hibbing, Mn. Of those 75% were Republicans. The Senate Republicans are on the wrong side of the isse.

2020, as I wrote in a recent post, has started out as violent as 2019 ended. Just check out the Gun Violence Archive for the latest information about shootings.

There is hope. There is a change in the issue of gun violence. The NRA is weak, pathetic and corrupt. Our leaders are finally catching up to the public. So I look forward to more progress in 2020 and making elected leaders accountable for their actions. We are not having their excuses any more.

Gun negligence

The other day I wrote a post about accountability with guns. It’s hard to come up with words for the negligence and irresponsibility exhibited by far too many gun owners and gun carriers. Ever since states have allowed for the public carrying of guns we have seen an increase in people who carry either intentionally or unintentionally shooting another person. Florida is where it all started as the state that has served as the cauldron of gun rights laws that have bubbled up into other states.

Gun owners and permit holders have been involved in many incidents of negligent and irresponsible behavior with their guns over the years and I have written about them many times in this blog.

A recent incident in Sanford, Florida, shows why it is a terrible idea for people to be allowed to carry deadly weapons in public places:

Deputies said the weapon fell out of the gun owner’s holster while he was walking through the dining room of the Cracker Barrel at 200 Hickman Circle in Sanford.

Deputies said William Hoback was talking to the checkout counter when his gun slipped out of his holster and fired.

The bullet hit a kettle, which sent fragments flying.

Three people were hit by the shrapnel, including a restaurant manager and Hoback’s fiancé.

You can’t make this stuff up. But almost worse than the incident itself is the response to it by law enforcement:

After Hoback realized what had happened, he apologized and explained it was an accident.

Deputies agreed, so he was not charged.

“This shooting doesn’t appear to be intentional and the conduct doesn’t appear to be so reckless that it would support the charge of criminal negligence,” said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.

Sheaffer said even though the shooting doesn’t rise to the level of criminal negligence, the victim could file a civil lawsuit.

The public has a right to know if the man had a permit to carry and if the restaurant allows people to carry guns inside. Perhaps Cracker Barrel will reconsider any policy they have about gun carriers given this incident. If they don’t, one wonders what the effect this incident may have on their business. Will those injured hold the restaurant accountable for their belief that people carrying guns will do no harm because they are “law abiding” gun owners?:

In recent years, many states have relaxed their concealed carry laws, on the theory that concealed-gun carriers deter crime. But there is no credible evidence that permissive laws prevent or deter crime. In an analysis of states with right-to-carry laws, Stanford researcher John Donohue and colleagues found that states that passed right-to-carry laws experienced 13 to 15 percent higher aggregate violent crime rates, over a period of 10 years, than comparable states.

Don’t believe the NRA and gun rights myths about guns for self defense making us safer. This is why research about gun violence is so important. Facts matter.

Sanford, Florida may sound familiar to you. That would be because it was in Sanford that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in 2012 claiming self defense and then getting away with it.

Look at what Zimmerman is up to now:

Accusing Zimmerman of “revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions,” Crump, Fulton and Martin said there is no credible proof to back Zimmerman’s claims.

“This tale defies logic,” they said, “and it’s time to close the door on these baseless imaginings.”

Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch whose other clients include the conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, made headlines this year when a legal ethics panel recommended that he be suspended for misconduct regarding his actions toward a female client who had refused to enter into a romantic relationship with him.

Again-you just can’t make this stuff up. In case you forgot Jerome Corsi was involved with Trump and the Mueller investigation. There is something very wrong with things in the American gun culture. Up is down and down is up. What a tangled web is woven. The NRA=Russian money influence on the 2016 election=corruption=the NRA’s track towards investigations into its’ non-profit status and financial mismanagement and difficulties.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Florida’s gun death rate is high compared to states that have stronger gun laws though under intense pressure from the students from March For Our Lives after the Parkland shooting, even the conservative Florida legislature and governor responded by passing stronger gun laws.

Florida has been the research center for the NRA’s loose gun laws. It was the first state to pass a Conceal and Carry law and the first to pass Stand Your Ground under the leadership of the NRA’s own Marion Hammer. We can see how that is working out in real time:

(…) NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer has singlehandedly written Florida’s gun laws for the past 40 years and has done more than any Florida lawmaker to ensure that pretty much anyone anywhere in Florida can buy whatever kind of gun he or she wants — including a disturbed teen like Cruz. Hammer’s influence extends even further too: She influences elections by personally instructing NRA members to vote against pro-gun-control candidates. Lawmakers are terrified of her.

In America, lawmakers have let the NRA terrify them. That is why the Dickey Amendment was passed in 1996 and flew under the radar for decades. The public did not know about it and did not understand that a law that actually denied the Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies was passed by those in the pocket of the NRA. Because?… rights.

Just as research has been done on other public health and safety epidemics, it should be done on the causes and effects of gun violence. Because of research on auto accidents, we now have seat belt laws, drunk driving laws, safer roads and fewer auto accident deaths. And gun death rates have now surpassed auto accident death rates. Because of research into the effects of second hand smoke on those who don’t smoke, we have laws banning smoking in public places and healthier communities.

Just this past week, finally after decades of talking about this and lobbying to get Congress to fund research into gun violence, it happened. This is a victory for common sense and for the future of our country’s safety. If even one innocent person’s life is saved because of this research, it will have been worth the money and the research. From this article:

Dr. Robert McLean, the president of the American College of Physicians, applauded the funding bill and said in a statement that “the alarming rate of injuries and deaths related to firearms brings to light the glaring lack of research and data.””For over twenty years, we’ve desperately needed up-to-date research about firearm violence and intervention and prevention strategies to reduce physical as well as emotional injuries caused by firearms,” McLean said.”While $25 million is a great start, it pales in comparison to the amount needed to address this public health problem,” said Dr. Joseph Sakran, the founder of This Is Our Lane, a movement started by physicians in response to the National Rifle Association.For more than two decades, the CDC has avoided firearms research because of its interpretation of the so-called Dickey Amendment, named after the late Republican Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas.

Since 1996 hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from gunshot injuries and more injured. Since 1996 the NRA managed to get states to pass laws that have become dangerous to the average American. Since 1996 the rate of mass shootings has risen and many hundreds of our precious children have been slaughtered. Since 1996 the number of conceal carry (or open carry) incidents and even deaths are on the increase.

This is not the America we deserve or should have. We deserve to be safe from people whose guns somehow fall out of their holsters ( or pockets or purses) and fire off “unintentionally” harming innocent people while eating out or shopping. We deserve to know the truth and get the research into gun violence which has now become one of the top policy issues in our elections.

It is unconscionable that we have let this happen. Our leaders have been complicit in a scheme to normalize the carrying of guns and normalize daily shootings.

It is not normal.

We are better than this.

#Enough

A veritable shoot-out in New Jersey

Remember the shoot-out at the OK Corral? It just happened again in modern day America yesterday in Jersey City, New Jersey. 6 are dead after hours of bullets flying in the streets and people going about their everyday lives taking cover in corners, behind desks or wherever they could get to safety.

Just look at the photos in the linked article of men literally marching down the street in fatigues with their rifles held at the ready to shoot. Does that look like a community going about its’ business to you? Or does it look like a war zone? Almost every day there is a war going on in our country. On the 10th day of the month there have been 10 mass shootings.

This is the NRA’s America. This is the America where elected leaders turn their backs on the carnage. And don’t get me started about what else they are turning their backs on.

Innocent people become targets of bullets every day either purposely or inadvertently- mostly on purpose. And more disturbing is that it appears that the shooting was a hate crime though investigations continue:

An assailant involved in a prolonged firefight in Jersey City, N.J., that left six people dead, including one police officer, had published anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online and investigators believe the attack was motivated by those sentiments, a law enforcement official familiar with the case said on Wednesday.

The official said the names of the two suspects were David Anderson and Francine Graham. Mr. Anderson appeared to have a connection to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy group that tracks such movements.

There you have it. One more hate crime perpetrated by haters, anti-Semites, anti-Muslim men with guns. How many more of these will our country tolerate? How many more will our leaders ignore before they decide to do something. Where do these haters get their guns?

Let’s talk more about violent anti-Semitism a little more than one year after the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh:

But one year after Pittsburgh, that is not the case. From charging that Jewish money controls Washington to saying Jews aren’t truly loyal to America, the use of anti-Semitic slurs has continued across the political spectrum. Anti-Semitic incidents have not abated — nor have other incidents of virulent racism, a fact that is not unrelated.

Data released this week from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism shows that the United States continues to experience record numbers of anti-Semitic incidents; preliminary reporting shows 780 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in the first six months of 2019, almost mirroring the 785 incidents reported during the same period in 2018.

These acts are not just the work of right-wing extremists, nor are they limited to murderous occurrences. They include anti-Semitic taunts and graffiti, and harassment and assaults directed at religious Jews. In the first half of this year, there were 200 such incidents in New York City alone. They form an arc of extremism that is accelerating as hate is normalized and as individuals are radicalized with alarming ease, due in part to the growth and design of social media.

Here we are once again. If you have watched any coverage of this shooting you will here the constant sound of gunshots on the streets of Jersey City. This is insanity itself. One of the dead is a police officer who has been working hard to get guns off the streets of his community. His 5 children are now fatherless:

The fallen officer was identified as Det. Joseph Seals, a 15-year veteran of the department, Kelly said.Seals was part of a statewide anti-violence unit, and Kelly credited him with removing “dozens and dozens” of handguns from the street.”We believe he was killed while trying to interdict these bad guys,” Kelly told reporters, adding, “Once again, this is all being investigated.”The officer who was killed is believed to have been ambushed, according to a law enforcement source.

Sigh. We’ve seen this movie before. Even armed officers are not immune from being shot dead by others with guns.

Here’s the thing. We have too many guns on our streets. Some are legally purchased by law abiding gun owners. Some are legally purchased by prohibited people because background checks are not required for every gun sale. Some are illegally obtained be being stolen, through a straw purchase or by gun trafficking ( where guns are sometimes obtained legally and then sold to illegal gun purchasers).

It’s also one more mass shooting. It’s Dec. 11th. There have been 11 mass shootings so far in December according to the Gun Violence Archive.

There is no common sense when it comes to our gun culture or our gun laws, or lack thereof. And that is our national disgrace, our national nightmare, our national tragedy, our national epidemic of gun violence.

We are truly better than this. If we aren’t shame on us.

Hopeful and thankful

As bleak as things seem right now in our country, I have hope that common sense will win over corruption, gun violence, climate change denial, affordable health care opponents and the many other politically charged issues of our time. In the end, right usually wins but it is going to take a lot of hard work.

Something interesting is happening now. The latest polling on impeachment shows a difference between men and women when it comes to support for it.

And the poll marks the first time that more than 60% of women have said they backed impeaching Trump and removing him from office (61% say so now, compared with 56% in October and 51% in May), even as a majority of men remain opposed to impeachment (53% oppose it).

In my opinion women look at verbal abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, gun violence, the economy, family leave, affordable child care, corruption, health care, freedom to choose, and a myriad of other problems to solve differently from men. That is because they are much more often the victims than men. Inequality has a way of changing your life view. Minority groups of all kinds understand that perfectly well.

The day after President Trump was inaugurated I participated in the Women’s March, sitting on a bus from Duluth to DC and back to make my voice heard. Along with more than a million others- mostly women but also men and children, we let America know that we were not in support of a man who exhibited bullying, boorish, abusive and intolerant behavior during the campaign and still, to this day.

According to what I have seen the Women’s March organization, going strong still after the March in January of 2017. Watch for more in the coming weeks.

Also going strong is March For Our Lives, formed after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2017. Their Facebook and Twitter feeds are active with thousands of supporters. And the members, some whose names are better known than others, have written a plan for Congress to enact on gun safety reform. It is called a Peace Plan for a Safer America. The name of their plan says it all. There is hope when our young people can write legislation for a safer America that is better and more comprehensive than the adults have come up so far.

Gun violence prevention groups are stronger than ever making a big difference in the lives of Americans and also on the political scene. Brady and Moms Demand Action and Giffords canvassed in the state of Virginia in the 2019 recent election that turned the legislature blue. Candidates were endorsed and campaign contributions came from individuals and groups alike. It worked. It is one of the first times the gun lobby has been outspent and out maneuvered. There is hope.

Businesses have stepped up to the plate as they have watched our kids and communities experience horrendous mass shootings. Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault rifles and the business is booming. This is totally contrary to the corporate gun lobby mantra that gun sales are necessary for businesses to make a profit. The corporate nature of the corporate gun lobby is not doing so well with their messaging. Not selling guns sends a message that some people just don’t want to buy them and don’t feel comfortable when a store is selling them.

After the shooting at an El Paso, Texas Walmart, a decision was made to stop selling ammunition for assault style rifles and handguns. ( they had previously stopped selling assault rifles). And open carriers of guns are not welcome in their stores. That is a good move considering how many “accidental” gun discharges have happened inside of Walmart stores. What is it with Walmart stores and guns? There was just a recent shooting at a Walmart in Oklahoma leaving 3 dead. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Other businesses have stood up to the perceived power and control of the gun lobby by saying they don’t want people openly carrying their loaded guns inside. Shoppers really don’t want to see people with guns while they are just running errands, often with their children. Here is a list of those who have decided that guns inside are not a great idea for their business. The logic of the gun rights advocates isn’t making much sense any more since we understand that a gun in a business or school is more likely to be used against those inside than in self defense but never mind- some believe their gun must be at the ready at all times no matter what they are doing. From the article:

“With this world being the way it is, we’ve got to protect ourselves,” said Howard, who worked as a construction supervisor until he broke his back on the job 15 years ago. “I haven’t had to shoot anybody yet, but you never know. I’ve keep a fire extinguisher in my house even though I’ve never had to use it.”

The thing is, the world in America has regular shootings that could not have been prevented by having a gun on your person. The mistake they are making is the assumption they will have time to plan to shoot someone who opens fire suddenly in a public place with absolutely no warning and no time to act. It’s a myth. See my post about this- 16 seconds with a gun.

Health care providers have stepped up to say: #ThisIsOurLane after the NRA had the nerve to tell them that they should stay in their lane regarding gun violence prevention. In other words, don’t talk to patients about the risks of guns to their health and well being. Physicians and other health care providers were having none of it and decided to fight back. It is their lane, of course, but never mind- the NRA doesn’t want anyone interfering in their desire to normalize guns, carrying of guns in public and, apparently shootings.

But some don’t want us to feel hopeful. The NRA and corporate gun lobby keeps pounding the drum of fear and paranoia about any gun safety reform. Gun sales have gone down because Donald Trump, as President, is not going to take away their guns like Obama did. Remember when he did that?

Back to my first thoughts about women wanting the changes we deserve and the nation we ought to have- without fear of being shot, abused, left without economic security, there is discussion in the article about economic prosperity and that Americans are feeling good about the economy while at the same time so many are sleeping on the streets and not able to take care of their families adequately:

In his Thanksgiving proclamation for 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed gratitude for the nation’s turn “to things spiritual” in the previous year. “We can truly say, ‘What profiteth it a nation if it gain the whole world and lose its own soul?’ ” FDR wrote.

That was in the depths of the Great Depression, and Roosevelt was the incumbent. The task facing Roosevelt’s political heirs is to make the case that the same principle applies during times of plenty.

When it comes to gun violence, we have lost many souls in senseless acts of violence. We have also lost our soul in the seeming acceptance and refusal to do anything about the moral crisis and national epidemic of gun violence. Those of us who care about gun violence and have experienced the death of someone close to us have volunteered and worked tirelessly to make change happen. To some extent we have succeeded. The conversation has changed. Just as it did about auto safety and bans on smoking in public places, the majority of Americans get that something must be done.

More states have passed background check, Extreme Risk Protection Orders and other laws that have reduced some of the violence. But we are not doing enough. Decades of listening to the NRA and allowing them to shape the conversation has led to a country where gun violence is actually on the rise and mass shootings are happening with increasing regularity. As that happens the public is becoming more supportive of doing something about it as the lapdog politicians for the gun lobby dig in and stand firm against all odds.

Times are changing. I still have hope. I am thankful for my family- for my grandchildren who so far have been safe from tragedy. My family, like many others, have suffered from suicide, homicide, divorces, and minor difficulties that, in the long term, have made us stronger. We carry on because we have hope and love.

I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all. And I do mean that. For some odd ( and cynical) reason President Trump seems to think us “liberals” are at war with Thanksgiving. Not me. He is making it up to drive another wedge between us. Thanksgiving is no time to do that. Let’s just enjoy the holiday and each other.

This holiday time of the year is difficult for families sensing the missed presence of a loved one or a friend and that empty chair that should have been for their son, daughter, mother, father, grandchild.

We are better than this. We are resilient. We will pass stronger gun laws. I have hope that our young people will lead the charge. And when women are put in charge of things, a different view prevails and we move towards more peaceful solutions to our problems. We will deal with a corrupt President now under impeachment. Our democracy is under attack but so far has held. We must make sure it stays that way. We will resist and persist.

End Family Fire in Minnesota

It’s hard not to despair every day about the deaths due to firearms. Minnesota has had a rough week but then, who hasn’t when it comes to gun violence? I have been asked how I don’t get too depressed or how do I keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally and even physically faced with the involvement with the gun violence prevention movement?

The last question first- my family, friends, faith community, local community and statewide and national gun violence prevention friends keep each other healthy. We mourn. We ring bells. We act. We support each other and carry on in the names of the victims. For what else can we do? Everyone handles the stresses differently. I immerse myself in photography, exercise, reading books, spending time at our cabin and with our family enjoying watching my grandchildren grow into fun and productive human beings. Their sports activities keep us busy. Their school activities- musical and otherwise are an outlet and provide happiness. Travel is also a great way to forget about the violence and the world’s problems.

Now to the first about Minnesota. This week 2 Minnesota law enforcement officers used guns to kill themselves. Suicide by gun. Not uncommon as it turns out. But 2 in one week- unrelated to each other? From the article:

A study released in September found that police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.The rate of 13 out of 100,000 deaths by suicide in the general population rises to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers, with 167 police officers taking their own lives in 2018.

Police officers risk their lives every day on the job. They see the carnage caused by homicides, suicides, domestic abuse, auto accidents and the like. It has to be very stressful to experience this every day on the job. The unexpected happens and officers respond.

Officers also have easy access to guns. When contemplating suicide, if there is an easy way out, a gun is the fastest and most efficient.

So what should we do about this? Police departments are providing officers with ways of handling stress and dealing with their emotional health. It is not enough and more recognition of the serious risks should be discussed more openly. It is difficult for people trained to be tough and authoritative to admit that they have vulnerabilities and difficulties handling their stressful and dangerous jobs.

Brady’s End Family Fire is a program designed for discussion of the risks of guns in the home. No matter who the gun owner happens to me, a better understanding of the actual risks posed when a gun for self protection or used on the job can still cause unintentional or intentional deaths.

So that is the lesson for some Minnesota teens who last week in St. Paul “accidentally” pulled the trigger on a stolen gun and killed a friend. This tragedy was so avoidable in many ways:

The St. Paul Police Department says Jones-Morris was shot Wednesday afternoon at a home on the 100 block of Annapolis Street, near the city’s border with West St. Paul. Police say a 15-year-old boy told investigators he accidentally shot Jones-Morris while playing with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded.

That teen and a 16-year-old boy were charged in the shooting Thursday. The criminal complaint says the 16-year-old admitted to stealing the gun from an SUV last week. Both are being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

“So many people are just broken down and shocked,” said friend Alex Hogg.

How many times does “so many people are just broken down and shocked” have to be quoted in an article about the gun death of one of our teens whose life’s potential will never be reached? This young man was a football and basketball star at his school and had many friends. His personality was a happy one- making others laugh.

Let’s talk about some of the precursors of this avoidable death. The teens stole a gun from a car. That was illegal. What about the “responsible” gun owner who left a gun in his/her car easy to steal? What is his/her responsibility here? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. Teens can’t buy guns. Stealing is one easy way to get one.

Second, teens cannot be responsible with guns. Guns are not toys to be “played with”. Everyone who touches a gun should have some kind of training on how to operate a deadly weapon and the risks of having one in their hands. How often do we hear about people who did not realize there was a bullet in the chamber?

Efforts to safety proof guns have been rebuffed by the corporate gun lobby. Smart guns could save lives and in this case, would have. But the technology is not there yet. My opinion is that if we can create the will and technology to send Americans to the moon and into space, we can develop better guns that will keep us safer.

Safe storage of guns whether in cars or homes would save lives and this case would have. Stronger laws for safe storage and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns would save lives. But we aren’t passing those laws in many places either.

And it doesn’t have to be a law. It’s just common sense really isn’t it? Responsible gun owners understand that their guns are to be respected and gun safety is key to avoid the gun incidents I have written about here. But even in the hands of responsible gun owners, things go wrong. Combined with anger over just about anything, a domestic abuse, a bad grade in school, despair, depression, drug and alcohol use, or “playing” with a gun and/or cleaning a gun, tragedy and heartbreak can be an unfortunate and deadly outcome.

There was one more incident this week in Oklahoma that I want to talk about. Yet another 3 year old found a gun left carelessly in a bathroom in a public place.:

The restaurant, located near May Avenue and Grand Boulevard, has a sign on the door that reads, “No handguns,” but a customer brought one in anyway and left it behind by mistake.

“I got a call from my daughter, and she was quite alarmed.” Dennis Pealor said.

Pealor told KOCO 5 that his daughter’s family was eating brunch Sunday at La Baguette when his son-in-law escorted their 3-year-old to the bathroom.

“Immediately, she points to this item on the toilet paper holder and says, ‘Daddy. What’s that?'” Pealor said.

According to a police report, a semi-automatic handgun was found in the stall. The report states that a 77-year-old man from Duncan used the restroom and left the restaurant, forgetting the weapon was in there.

No handguns allowed but someone who thought he could ignore the law brought his gun in anyway? Why? What is so dangerous about a restaurant? And then he leaves the gun in the toilet stall? Good grief. This is what happens when more people carry guns around in public. We are not safer.

These incidents have become too common place but also had the owners understood the risks of guns by applying the End Family Fire tenets, carelessness that could have led to an awful outcome would be avoided.

And my last concern is about the irresponsible United States Senate for its’ failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act. This has never happened before. Too many women and children lose their lives to domestic violence- and most to firearms. This is national disgrace:

The bill would eliminate the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Of course. The NRA.

For 30 years, Minnesota has been keeping track of the numbers of people who have died from domestic violence:

Known for years as the annual Femicide Report, it started in 1989 as a way to fill in a gap in reporting gender-bias violence against women and girls. There was no other state or national group collecting this kind of data at the time, and to this day no state agency collects comparable data.

“Every month or so a woman, and or her children, and or her partner or mother or neighbor got killed, and it was like a flash in the pan,” said Julie Tilley, who first decided to start collecting the names as a staffer at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

“One of our goals was not only to honor the victims of this horrendous violence but to make this violence visible. It was so clear to us at that time that people weren’t seeing what was happening all around us.”

The Clothesline Project is a visual display of tee shirts designed by family or friends of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. We must make the violence visible. I once found my sister’s name on a tee shirt at a display by the project. It was a very emotional moment for me as I held on to the shirt with her name as the clothesline stretched out with the many other names.

We must say their names and see their faces. It’s the stories of the victims that should change the conversation. That is why I do this advocacy.

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

We all remember the many victims of mass shootings that have occurred in November- Thousand Oaks, CA one year ago on Nov. 7 leaving 12 dead, Sutherland Springs,Texas church shooting 2 years ago on Nov. 5 leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded ( for just 2). Minnesota has seen an upsurge in shooting deaths this year. What will we do about it? That remains to be seen but we have to #dosomething. It’s in our hands to make our kids, teens and communities safer.

We are better than this.

Halloween 2019 was deadly

It was a scary Halloween this year. 4 are dead and more injured at a Halloween party at an Airbnb. Who brings guns to a Halloween party and why?:

“The killings shocked neighbors and residents in Orinda, where homicides are especially rare. The last killing in the small East Bay city about 15 miles east of San Francisco was in 2012, when a man hacked his girlfriend to death with a machete. Before that, the city’s only other homicide this century was in 2002, when Susan Polk killed her estranged psychotherapist husband.

Now that is ghoulish.

But this was yet another mass shooting. It may have been domestic in nature but we don’t know that yet. The thing is, after shootings like this, it is often noted that the community is a quiet community where shootings and violence don’t happen. We can’t say that anymore because shootings happen anywhere there are people who decide to bring guns with them or where people have guns in their homes. More guns means more shootings and we have more guns than ever now which means we have more shootings and more deaths than ever.

In another Halloween shooting a little 7 year old girl dressed in a bumblebee costume was shot by a “stray” bullet meant for someone else as she was trick or treating in the Chicago area. Don’t people with guns know that there are small kids out and about on the streets on Halloween Eve when they decide to bring their guns to the streets to do whatever they do with them? Also if the person who shot the gun was a “responsible” gun owner, why shoot bullets when you know they very well may not hit their target? And why have a target anyway? Why do people want to kill each other with bullets? What’s all the anger about? Why should Americans have to experience this level of violence in their neighborhoods? Why aren’t we doing anything about it?

From the article:

“Obviously the little girl wasn’t the target. We think two gangs were having a dispute and one of them shot at the other,” Johnson told reporters Friday morning. “She just was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

She was actually in the right place at the right time. It was the shooter(s) who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They always are. And further, from the article:

“Those involved don’t deserve to be in our city,” he said. “I’m disgusted but committed to doing everything we can to find the cowards that would engage in a gun battle during the early evening hours while children are trick or treating.”

It’s the guns. These gang members could have had a fist fight and it would not have ended in this kind of tragedy. Even a knife fight would not have ended this way. But they have chosen guns because they know that guns kill. Where is common sense?

The answer is simple. Guns kill people. They are designed to kill people and kill they do at an alarming rate. When Americans are convinced that they need their guns for self protection ( since that seems to be the reason) this is the consequence. A gun bought ( or stolen or bought in a straw purchase or on the streets) is more likely to be used in a shooting of someone you know or love than to be used for self protection.

Unfortunately for that 7 year old who is in critical condition and for the 4 killed in an Airbnb senselessly it’s too late to have this discussion. And until we do something about the shootings it will be too late for thousands of Americans.

But it’s not too late for us to demand that our leaders #DoSomething about gun violence. Apparently President Trump has given up any pretense ( and it was pretense all along) of any further progress towards stemming the tide of gun violence. Shame on him and the Republicans who refuse to deal with the daily carnage.:

“A lot of the people who put me where I am are strong believers in the 2nd Amendment, and I am also,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.Then he argued that any efforts to restrict gun sales would inevitably lead to confiscation of privately owned weapons from law-abiding citizens, although no one has proposed that drastic remedy on Capitol Hill.“They call it the slippery slope,” he said. “And all of a sudden everything gets taken away. We’re not going to let that happen.”

Wrong. This is such nonsense and gun lobby lying and paranoia. What is taken away are people’s lives. And if does not want to alienate his base, what about the loved ones of gun violence victims? Why doesn’t he care if he alienates them? Because……. NRA……. money………he’s a chicken.

The gun advocates often criticize gang gun violence and Chicago for all of the shootings. Yes. Chicago has shootings but their crime rate and gun death rate are down. Other cities are experiencing a lot of gun violence like Minneapolis and St Paul. The thing is, what are these critics willing to do about all of the violence? Don’t they really care that when gang members get guns they kill not only themselves but often innocent victims? They are chickens.

The gang members who shot the bullet that ended in the neck of a 7 year old are chickens. They don’t have a way to solve their problems without hiding behind a gun? Trump can’t deal with gun violence without hiding behind lies and gun lobby deceptions? What are these people afraid of? They have no courage or common sense. They are hiding behind their masks of cowardice and complicity with a small minority of voters, a corrupt NRA and the gun manufacturers. They think they are protecting themselves and their own election chances and reputations. They should be protecting us from daily shootings.

Our voices need to be loud and clear about who are the brave ones and who are the bullies and the chickens. We must call them out for their profiles in cowardice.

Podcasts about gun violence

Brady has started a podcast to highlight the voices and the programs of gun violence prevention. It’s a good way to get the word out to those who support changing the law and the conversation around the role of guns and gun violence in our society. I was honored to be one of the first voices to be able to speak about my story and my experiences over the years. There have been many. You can listen to my voice here.

But let me summarize a bit of what I said:

  1. I have a story to tell and so do the thousands and thousands of other victims and survivors. Domestic shootings take the lives of too many women every day so my story is the story of many.
  2. Telling our stories is important because it makes the deceased victims come “alive” and “tell their stories” so that the public and politicians can better understand the devastation to families and communities from gun violence.
  3. Understanding how devastating it is for families to experience the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets will lead to the changes we deserve to keep us all safer.
  4. Many of us in the movement of gun violence prevention have worked for decades to stop bad bills promoted by the corporate gun lobby, advocate for bills to prevent some of the shootings and in many cases to help pass common sense bills that save lives. We know they save lives because we have the numbers to show it.
  5. After the Sandy Hook shooting, other groups formed and helped to advocate for sensible gun laws and have added their voices and visibility in state houses and Congress.
  6. What seems to have made the biggest change is what happened with the student voices after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Those kids have been relentless and powerful and have given those of us involved for so many years new ways to talk about gun violence prevention. I admire those youthful voices and have come to know them well in my own community.
  7. In Minnesota we have had ups and downs since our chapter formed in 2000 after the Million Mom March. After the passage of the conceal and carry law in Minnesota and the federal sunsetting of the assault weapons ban in 2004 in close proximity, some of the air went out of our balloons. But we have picked up and carried on and stopped some bad bills. We now have new focus after our House passed the background check and Extreme Risk and Protection Order bills in the last session. We will push hard to get them passed in the state Senate in the upcoming session. Senators will have to explain why they would be against bills that would not take away the rights of “law abiding” gun owners. Gun rights and gun violence prevention are not mutually exclusive.
  8. Our country is suffering from PTSD from all of the mass shootings taking place on a regular basis. Our kids certainly are negatively affected by the shootings and sometimes get killed by school shooters. School active shooter drills are causing more distress and anxiety for our kids. We should question some of the programs used and focus on where the shooters get their guns so we can stop them. In the majority of school shootings, the guns come from the home of the shooter. It’a a no brainer to lock guns away safely from the hands of kids, teens and those who might steal them to be used in a gun crime.
  9. One of my heroes in the movement is Sarah Brady who served on the Brady board for part of my terms as a board member. She was a feisty woman whose opinions were made known at meetings. She worked hard with her husband Jim to get the Brady background check bill passed and for that, we are all safer.
  10. What I hope to see in a world where the best will happen is that all purchasers of a gun of any kind must first pass a background check. There is no reason not to do this that makes any sense at all. In addition, we can save lives if we pay attention to the risks of guns for people who could be a danger to themselves or others and make sure that their guns can be temporarily removed while the danger passes. Too many shootings are spur of the moment shootings that happen while someone is under stress, angry over a difficult situation like a contentious divorce that caused my now deceased brother-in-law to shoot my sister. We can make a difference and save lives.

I would encourage my readers to listen to the RedBlue & Brady podcasts. I believe they will provide a lot of insight into the issues and the people who are involved. The stories will make a difference and change the conversation as we must do if we are to make progress.

It is so clear that the majority of Americans want change to happen. The only way the majority will be represented in the halls of state capitols and in Congress is for the voices of those who believe we can save lives with stronger gun laws are louder than the voices of the corporate gun lobby. Remember that the NRA and corporate gun lobby represent a very small minority of Americans and gun owners.

So speak up and speak out. Listen to how we can make change. Get involved and take action, not sides. It’s in our hands to make change happen. Let’s do this.