The Charleston 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are better than this.

In memory:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Sharonda Singleton

Myra Thompson

Tywanza Sanders

Ethel Lee Lance

Cynthia Hurd

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson

Look at their faces. Say their names.

Twelve more

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

Sigh.

Tears. Weeping.

Grief.

Exhaustion.

Devastation.

Cries for doing something.

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

Brady.

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

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

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

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

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

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

Where is common sense?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Trump responds to the shooting?

Democratic Presidential candidates are heartsick and furious.

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

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

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

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

This is NOT NORMAL.

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

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

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

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

I think not. We are better than this.

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

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

Too many voids.

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

Memorial Day warning for Veterans

Every year America celebrates Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day. A little history

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

My family is at our cabin for the week-end preparing for the summer season after the long winter. The dock is in, the pontoon is in, tables and umbrellas are up and the grill has been going. We had a cabin association meeting yesterday. There I heard that a man with a cabin on our lake ( not at the meeting) drove by my next door neighbor’s house and just past the house, he stopped and shot his gun out the window. Really? How stupid and dangerous is that? Another cabin owner, a lawyer, said that was illegal, of course. The next time I talk to him, I will be mentioning this incident and reminding him of my grandchildren and all of the other people he could put at risk with his carelessness.

But back to the point of this post, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are identifying more veterans with PTSD. My brother, who served in Viet Nam, suffers greatly from PTSD and Parkinson’s Disease,both attributed to his service years. It is sad and upsetting that his life is so limited now. He talks of suicide at the Veterans’ Home where he lives. I know that if he were living at a place on his own, he would have tried and maybe succeeded to use one of his guns for suicide. I removed his guns from his house after he moved to assisted living knowing that he could never use those guns responsibly again.

Guns are a risk to our Veterans.

In the wake of an increase in Veterans’ suicides, we can’t run away any more. And, a new study shows that Veterans are not opposed to removing their firearms during crisis times:

In 2016, the suicide rate for male veterans was about 40% higher than non-veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The rate for female veterans was even worse.
Many of those suicides involve firearms, and research has shown that reducing access to means of suicide can help prevent what is sometimes an impulsive act.
And there’s a growing body of research that people like Rolf should be talking about guns – with their doctor.

Lynn Rolf III said rumors that a PTSD diagnosis could endanger his security clearance were one reason he delayed seeking mental health treatment.Chris Haxel / KCUR
“It’s very clear that veterans are at higher risk to die from suicide (than the general population,)” said Dr. Marcia Valenstein, a researcher, psychiatrist and professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. “Veterans with mental health conditions are at even greater risk.”
Many doctors worry their patients will get mad if they try to talk about guns, Valenstein says. For VA doctors working with patients who were in the military, that concern is amplified because veterans are perceived as being more conservative and unwilling to part with their weapons.
Valenstein and a team of researchers surveyed VA patients who had already received mental health treatment. They asked how open the veterans might be to a series of interventions, ranging from basic screening questions and free gun locks to temporarily storing their guns with family members or in a VA-managed program.
The results were surprising: 93% of respondents were open to a low-intensity technique, such as talking about guns with their doctor. About 75% of veterans also endorsed at least one of the more intensive options.
“I think this is pretty clear that this is a positive response from veterans and high-risk veterans in mental health care,” Valensten said.
The key factor, she says: making these interventions voluntary.

We can make the intervention voluntary which may work for some. But for others it could be too late. That is why background checks on all gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders bills are so important to get passed wherever we can. 15 states now have Red Flag laws. They save lives because family members can report that a veteran or military family member ( or non veteran) could be dangerous to themselves or others and should not have access to a gun.

Also remember that the extremist corporate gun lobby does not want health care providers talking to their patients about the risks of guns? Why? Follow the money and influence. According to the NRA, physicians should “stay in their own lane.” Of course talking to patients about risks in their home is exactly their own lane, prompting many physicians and other health care providers to tweet #thisismylane. Really the NRA should stay in their own lane and leave the rest of us alone.

It turns out that many lives could have been saved if the Air Force had reported the veteran who shot up the Sutherland Springs, Texas church and killed 26 and injured 20 in a matter of seconds. From the article:

The service failed six times to submit records to the FBI that would have barred the troubled former airman from buying the guns he used in the November 2017 massacre at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., a Pentagon inspector general’s report concluded.
On at least four occasions during and after criminal proceedings against Kelley concerning domestic violence, the Air Force should have submitted the former service member’s fingerprints to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, the 131-page report concludes. On two other occasions, it should have submitted to the FBI the final disposition report — which states the results of a case, after proceedings occur.

Why? What are they afraid of? As the previous article mentioned, even military health care providers are afraid to bring up the subject of guns. They should be more afraid not to. Part of the reason for this is the current gun culture which scares people into thinking that mentioning the risks of guns to themselves or others might trample on their rights. Good grief. What about the rights of those 26 whose family members celebrate Memorial Day much differently today than they did before the shooting.

And now the families of the victims can sue the government over the shooting. Often courts are the abiters of what makes common sense and what is right no matter what the extremists believe is right. From the article:

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez’s Thursday ruling is a huge victory for the nine families in the case, which allows them to put federal authorities on trial for alleged negligence. Rodriguez dismissed the government’s motion to throw out the case and said the families can begin the discovery process, which allows their lawyers to gather documents and seek interviews with which to make their case.

Victims deserve to be heard and deserve to have some peace after horrific mass shootings like the one in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter should not have been able to get a gun. He got it from a licensed dealer and his name should have been on the FBI’s list of prohibited purchasers. But let’s also talk about how easy it would have been for the shooter to get a gun from a private seller had he been turned away by the licensed dealer.

We have a serious problem in America. Veterans are dying by suicide at an alarming rate:

Veterans are twice as likely as civilians to die by suicide, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday in its latest report on suicide.
Veterans make up more than 14 percent of all suicides, although they account for only 8 percent of the total population, the VA report said. (…) Guns were used in two-thirds of suicides by veterans in 2015. Having access to firearms raises the risk of suicide, experts have found.

Another recent article highlights a suicide emergency among young veterans:

Veterans aged 18 to 34 have higher rates of suicide than any other age group, the VA says in its National Suicide Data Report. The rate for those young veterans increased to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, up from 40.4 in 2015, even as the overall veteran suicide rate decreased slightly, according to a copy of the report reviewed by the Guardian.
Many vets in that age group served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(…) Veterans were also more likely than other Americans to kill themselves using a gun. In 2016, 70% of veteran suicides were by firearm, compared with 48% of non-veterans.

This is serious. Some of our lapdog politicians are shrugging it off because…..????? Rights? Campaign contributions? Drinking the gun lobby’s kool-aid? Whatever the reason, they are negligent. Much like the Air Force was negligent in not reporting a name of a potentially dangerous service member to the NICS database, politicians are failing us and acting as if gun deaths and injuries are just a normal experience in America.

It is NOT NORMAL for so many people to die from bullets.

Background checks on gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders are constitutional. The extreme gun lobby makes up nonsense about the laws claiming all sorts of fake facts leading to fear and paranoia amongst a few who make a lot of noise. We can’t listen to them.

Whether suicide, domestic shootings, gang violence, unintentional shootings, mass shootings, something must change. People can’t even attend a Memorial Day party without being shot up as did 10 in this New Jersey mass shooting yesterday. 9 were injured and one has now dies as a result of a drive-by shooting. Why do we let so many people carry guns around in public? It’s leading to blood running in our streets. Since I wrote my last post, another 3 or 4 stupid and dangerous incidents by “law abiding” gun owners have occurred. They are becoming more frequent. It took time before the result of loosening conceal and carry laws started having consequences.

Please have a safe memorial day and honor those who have died in the service of our country. But as you honor them, remember the ones who have died as a result of bullets here at home. If we are patriotic, we will do something about this national public health and safety epidemic.

Be a patriot.

A Pyyhric Victory

Since my return home from my trip to Greece, the Minnesota House of Representatives has passed an Omnibus Public Safety Bill containing both background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order provisions. The vote happened at about 2:00 a.m. last Tuesday after the gun rights Republicans tried every trick in their tired old bag to weaken the bills. Stand Your Ground and Constitutional Carry- ever favorites of the now imploding NRA were tried but failed. One Representative suggested that, in the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, other things besides firearms should be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. He suggested cars, knives, golf clubs and bats for just a few. Yes. He said that.

He is wrong of course since the other items, except for auto accidents, don’t come anywhere near to killing as many people as guns. But never mind the facts.

This is the first time ever that a common sense gun safety reform bill has passed in a Minnesota legislative chamber. There was a rally on Monday which I attended and at which I spoke, to call attention to the bill and make noise about wanting it to pass. They heard us in chambers and knew we were there. Also there were a couple of obnoxious gun rights guys, dressed in suits can carrying their tripod with iPhone around on it to record the rally. Paranoid as they are, they must find out what we are doing and report it to their fearful followers in case we do something like spread out in the area and start confiscating their guns.

There was a group of students visiting from their school who these guys decided to record without asking permission. Several of us stood between the phone guy and the kids and answered questions about what we were doing. They were uniformly against the gun guys and understood the stakes for themselves when people who shouldn’t have guns use kids in schools as sitting ducks. Listen to the kids.

All in all it was a good day. We spoke with legislators and made our cause known. Speakers were inspiring, including Governor Walz who pulled his pen out of his pocket and said he was ready to sign the bill into law.

It was a Pyrrhic victory and we knew that. It will now be in the hands of a conference committee where the Senate, full of gun rights members, will not vote in favor unless a miracle happens. Why? Great question. No gun registration or confiscation will occur. No legal gun owners rights will be affected. There may be a few minutes of extra time involved in getting a background check from private sellers but so what? Not a reason to oppose. We know the reason. Follow the money and the influence of the corporate gun lobby.

From Minnesota DFL

The Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka declared the bills dead. My sister is dead. Hundreds of Minnesotans die every year. We can’t make them alive again but he can make the bills alive again. We can save lives and stop people from becoming dead in senseless and avoidable shootings.

The number of gun rights advocates calling and emailing the legislators are smaller by percentage than the majority of us who have demanded the passage of the bills. We are the majority but most of us are not single focused or paranoid and care about many things in our lives. To be more exact, the number of NRA members, the ones making the noise, in America compared to the total population is less than 10% of gun owners.

In fact, from the article above, after the Parkland school shooting, 97% of gun owners wanted to strengthen our gun laws. Remarkable. And also from the article:

A question remains. If gun owners across the country like Ware no longer identify with the organization, and polls show that they increasingly support gun control measures, who is the gun rights group fighting for?

Good question. And the other question that I asked on Monday in my speech was of whom are the legislators so afraid? This small group? The biggest problems is that the NRA is now an arm of the Republican party and part of the overall ideological bent of the party. It almost has nothing to do with guns anymore. They are a paper tiger but they have managed to wield a lot of influence anyway. Money talks. Corporations are people.

As the bodies pile up, our legislators will need to explain the real reasons they oppose reasonable gun laws. The archaic thinking that goes with their opposition is going out with those who are clinging to the old world order of mostly white guys having power and control. And when the NRA explodes, the road to victory will happen more easily.

Times are changing. Laws will change. The culture will change. Minnesota will change its gun laws. It may not be this year, though I still am hopeful. But it will change. Gun safety reform is here to stay and will be one of the most important issues of the upcoming campaigns and elections. We are not afraid any more of the “guys with the guns” who believe they make the rules.

Let’s build a wall against gun violence

I say it’s time for a wall. This wall would be an invisible wall around our kids, our schools, work places, in homes, and everywhere people are shot. It should be around people like the Coast Guard member who is a right wing extremist ready to kill as many Americans as possible– but just liberal media and lawmakers. The wall in this case would stop him from shooting people by making sure he doesn’t have guns. From the story:

A 49-year-old Coast Guard lieutenant charged with stockpiling weapons and drugs is being described as a “domestic terrorist” who was planning “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors say Christopher Paul Hasson, a self-described white nationalist living in Silver Spring, Md., was amassing firearms since at least 2017, while cultivating plans to launch a widespread attack on prominent Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and several high-profile television anchors from MSNBC and CNN.

There are hardly words for this kind of thinking. And where was our President, the one who actually has promoted violence at his rallies and who demeans people and attacks the media and liberal lawmakers? What was his statement condemning this?

Would he have commented if the terrorist was targeting him, or Mitch McConnell or Rush Limbaugh? This is a heinous domestic act of terrorism in the works and he says nothing? He wants to build his wall to keep out all of those illegal immigrants who are committing crimes, raping women, shooting people and are generally worse people than our citizens.

We need a wall to keep domestic terrorists from acts of violence against innocent Americans who they hate for whatever reason. But when your own President is encouraging this, perhaps we need a wall around him. We need a wall around his tweets. We need a wall around his angry fallacious nonsensical comments in short segments at cabinet meetings or on the White House Lawn on his way to a rally where he ramps up fear and paranoia.

We need a wall around our current gun culture which promotes the owning and carrying guns by everyone. We need a wall to keep the corporate gun lobby from spewing lies about current legislation before Congress. For example, H.R. 8 which will require background checks on all gun sales has an exception for family member transfers of firearms. Nonetheless, the message coming from pro gun lobby Congress members is the opposite.. They tell us in meetings ( and yes, they have done this) that their father will have to go to jail if he gives his guns to his son. NO. WRONG. This is a myth. But they believe it. We tell them otherwise to set the record straight to break through the wall of ignorance and false interpretations.

Facts matter. They are stubborn things. But in order to change things to get common sense legislation passed in this country and my state, we must get above, over, under and around the wall stopping gun safety reform.

Do we want to save lives or not? That is the question.

The answer is education, changing the conversation, changing the culture and changing the laws. Of course it also means changing our Congress members if they hide behind the wall of power, influence and money of the NRA and the corporate gun lobby.

Yes. We need a wall. It will not be the ridiculous wall that the President envisions and has promised his base. That wall may never happen anyway because of the insistence of our President on avoiding the legal way to get funding for his vanity project. Going around Congress to declare a national emergency was a power grab of epic proportions not seen before.

And yes, it has been mentioned that a Democratic President could declare a national gun violence emergency and start passing laws to make sure we are all safer. Or, God forbid, take guns away from dangerous and prohibited people. The right wing media is already all a twitter with any mention of this idea.

The NRA is sort of like the President in that way. They have grabbed power through lies over decades and fomented myths that got traction until the majority started seeing through them and insisted on the truth. After the Parkland shooting, the students showed us the way to challenge these common misperceptions and how to speak more boldly. And that is what it will take to break through the wall.

Next week the Democratic led House will vote on H.R. 8 and it will pass. The Republican led Senate will be afraid of the wall of myths and influence to do the right thing. They keep their power by allowing themselves to be influenced by a corrupt organization allegedly in concert with the Russians to get Trump elected President.

They will stand behind their wall of ignorance and spineless allegiance to the extremists who demand their support.

It’s time to build a wall around our communities to keep innocent children and adults from being shot- just because. Easy access to guns is the wall of tragedy and violence that has left families bereft and dealing with life long trauma. It’s time to tear down the wall of influence of the corporate gun lobby and the extreme philosophy that took over too many in Congress in the last few decades.

We have memorial walls for military victims. We build walls in memory of other victims. We have walls of flowers and crosses after mass shootings. Some believe we should have a national memorial wall to gun violence victims. There are certainly enough of them to deserve a very long wall- longer than the VietNam wall since more have died from bullets since 1968 than in all American wars in total.

Walls keep people out and they keep people in, depending on the situation. Which do we want?

Change will start next week. It’s way past time but it’s encouraging nonetheless.

We are the majority. We are united against gun violence. We want common sense. We want public health and safety. We want gun safety reform. We want the truth. We want the facts. We want to prevent and reduce gun violence.

Brady background checks- why not?

6 years ago about this time a group from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter braved sub zero temperatures near the location of a gun show. The reason we came out for this in the freezing temperatures was because then, and now, private sellers at gun shows don’t have to do background checks on gun purchasers.

The photo shows our group holding our signs. We asked then and we ask now:

Why would we not make sure that every gun sale occurs with a background check? Since most do, why not all? About 1 in 5 guns are sold without a background check. It used to be more than that but because more states have passed laws to require background checks on all gun sales, we have made it harder for people who shouldn’t have guns to get their hands on them.

One of the interesting things about our protest on that cold day was the man who had been to the gun show and approached our group to talk to us. He claimed he had never talked to “gun control” activists before. Eventually the conversation turned to his worry that if a universal background check bill passed, the government would take his guns ( for sure). He had told us previous to this comment that he was a member of the National Guard. A friend in our group asked if he realized that he actually was the government who would go around confiscating guns if that gun lobby myth ever came to fruition. That was a surprise to him as he had never thought through what it would mean.

We need to make decisions made on facts and evidence, not myth.

Of course requiring the very same Brady background checks on private sales that are now required when purchasing from federally licensed firearms dealers would not result in confiscation. It hasn’t so far as long as the FBI’s National Instant Check system has been in existence- for the last 25 years.There is no logic to this gun lobby argument. But for too long this is what has persuaded our elected leaders to run away from passing a stronger background check law.

And therein lies the problem. There are myths rather than truths around the issue of requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Gun safety reform advocates understand that universal background checks will not cure the entire epidemic of gun violence. But that is no reason not to pass a law. Just as any law doesn’t solve the entire problem it is intended to fix. But we pass strong public safety laws for good reasons. And, as it turns out, most people follow the laws. Those who don’t get into trouble.

We also understand that lax gun trafficking laws, lax laws about stolen guns, lax laws about assault type rifles, lax laws about who can carry guns in public, lax laws about the sale of bump stocks, etc. contribute to the problem of too many gun deaths. Congress passed a law to deny funding for federal research into the causes and effects of gun violence. Congress passed a law to give immunity to the gun industry against lawsuits. Those, too, have contributed to our national gun violence epidemic.That’s why we are where we are- with close to 40,000 Americans a year losing their lives to bullets in the U.S.

That being the case, why would we not want to make everyone do the same thing when it comes to buying a gun? Lives can be saved. Every teacher gets a background check. No exceptions. Every health care provider gets a background check. No exceptions. Every person who works with children in a church or pre-school gets a background check. No exceptions. Everyone goes through the TSA check before boarding a plane- no exceptions. There are good reasons for these background checks. Why have any exceptions for buying a deadly weapons designed to kill people?

On Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee will have an official hearing on H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. This is the first hearing on a background check since 2011. There will be actual testimony about why requiring background checks on all gun sales is a really good idea. There will be evidence. There will likely be victims and survivors.It will likely pass out of the committee on a partisan vote unless a Republican on the committee decides to vote the way his/her constituents actually want. They will be held accountable by their constituents.

Common sense will happen this week at long last. I, for one, will be celebrating the hearing. I am quite sure that the corporate gun lobby will do their best to get their supporters to believe the usual myths about background checks on all sales leading to confiscation or registration. That’s a stupid and ludicrous untrue argument. But they will do it anyway. We will expect it.

Since most people understand that background checks on all gun sales make a lot of common sense, they already support the majority of the committee members. And the majority of the committee members will represent the 97% of Americans who want them to pass stronger gun laws.

Yesterday morning at my church I made an announcement and passed out stickers for members of the church to call our Representative to support H.R. 8. People couldn’t take them fast enough. I ran out. There were gun owners, parents, grandparents, community leaders, health care providers, educators, students, clergy- all who are sick and tired of letting the corporate gun lobby lead the conversation and intimidate their Congress members. They hate the daily carnage due to gun violence.

There are examples every day for the reason why we need to strengthen gun laws in our country.

A few days ago, a man in New Ulm, Minnesota gave his dying wife meth and had a death party for her. Clearly he is a man who should not have had any guns by the account in the article. But nonetheless, several guns were found in his home. The man reported that he had 47 guns, many of which were stolen. If true, why? Also from the linked article:

He has prior convictions for assault and DWI and is on probation for driving after license cancellation. A blood test taken after his DWI arrest in 2014 showed he had used methamphetamine, according to court records.

There really are people who should not have guns. Most likely this man could not purchase guns legally, explaining why most of his guns were allegedly stolen. Though he is under arrest for what occurred with illegal drugs and whatever else went on at his house, having guns accessible seems like a really bad idea. That is why we need stronger gun laws.

I just read this great editorial from the Star Tribune about the efforts of the Minnesota Medical Association to address gun violence. It’s heartening to see that health care providers are speaking out about gun violence as a public health issue. From the editorial:

Many cars now have backup cameras, which might have saved the child, the surgeon said. But when it comes to firearms, where are the technological advances and societal improvements — such as the widespread recognition of drunken-driving risks — that could prevent gun deaths?

The provocative question relayed by McClain provided just the right kickoff to the pioneering Minnesota workshop on gun-violence prevention put on by the state’s medical association. The MMA, which represents over 10,000 state physicians, merits praise not only for organizing it but for channeling members’ passion toward finding realistic solutions to a public health scourge. Beginning the discussion by considering the changes that have reduced motor vehicle deaths both inspired members and focused them on the workshop’s goal — proposing practical reforms.

The MMA has already taken a courageous stance on gun-violence prevention, one that not all members approved of. It issued a statement last March calling gun violence a “public health crisis” and then backed much-needed state reforms — such as criminal background checks on all purchases and transfers or exchanges of firearms. “Failure to intervene in the face of this significant epidemic is not an option,” the MMA said.

Exactly. It is not an option to not deal with gun violence. We have a crisis facing us and something has to be done about it. 

We will be a better country with the passage of H.R. 8. Will the Senate, with a Republican majority, many bought and paid for by the corporate gun lobby, hear a Senate similar bill?  Would the President sign any bill to strengthen gun laws given that the NRA spent more money on getting him elected than on any previous candidate? He owes them. If the Senate and the President want to be in partnership with an increasingly compromised organization they will be held accountable in the end.

Have a good week everyone. I will enjoy watching something positive happen for a change.


Happy 2019

I have no doubt that 2019 will take up where 2018 ended with stupid, dangerous and insane gun incidents in our gun crazy country. The end of this year is full of shootings and gun deaths and general insanity featuring “law abiding” gun owners.

This incident in Florida ( again in Florida) struck me as the “poster child” for what our spineless politicians have bestowed upon us all when they decided it was perfectly OK for ordinary citizens to carry weapons of war around in public places. From the article ( and please check out the video accompanying the article):

According to officials, 60-year-old Robert Miller brought the rifle into the store because he was upset over the price of two packs of cigarettes.
“I’m speechless,” said customer Jacques Momeerhouse. “Do we need all of that?”
The arrest report said Miller had entered the supermarket prior to the incident to buy two packs of Pall Mall cigarettes, but he left because the price was $11 and he only had $10.
Investigators said Miller was so upset about the dollar difference that he grabbed his long rifle and returned to confront the clerk.

You really can’t make this stuff up. And worse, in the video, there were others in the store who seemed to not be too alarmed by the fact that a man armed with an AR-15 was walking around the store making threats. This is exactly what the NRA and the corporate gun lobby wants- to normalize armed citizens in our public places.

I call this the definition of insanity.

There is absolutely no reason for ordinary citizens to be able to carry loaded weapons around in public. The proof is in the pudding. More guns have in fact not made us safer. The opposite is true. More guns have led to an increase in the number of gun deaths which have now surpassed auto accidents in lethality.

It is unsustainable to continue along this trajectory.

As I have noted before, in the midst of the devastating carnage, there is hope that the narrative and the laws are changing and will change. The survivors of the Parkland shooting have changed the way we talk about gun violence forever. We can’t take back what happened last February 14th. It was almost literally the shots heard ’round the world. It’s because those courageous and angry students chose to cry out instead of cringing in the face of the opposition to any common sense coming from the gun rights extremists.

What we know is that we can do something about senseless gun deaths. It is not a hopeless cause as some of the gun rights extremists want us to believe when they say that “guns don’t kill people, people do”, or “if you pass stronger gun laws, the criminals will still get their guns”, or “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” and other inanities that we have allowed to stand for far too long.

Speaking of inanities regarding gun rights extremists, this article appeared in the Denver Post. 

Read carefully. The writer openly proclaims that he does not intend to follow the laws of Boulder, Colorado regarding registering his gun with authorities if he plans to carry it in public. The photo itself is enough to make us all want to cry. A grown man with a long gun slung over his shoulder walking his young child in a stroller down the street. This is just not normal. What is this guy so afraid of that he needs to carry a long gun in public while pushing his baby down the street? This narrative is not popular with the majority of Americans. What we need is common sense if we intend to take back the narrative and allow us all to live in safety without having to worry about some nut with a loaded gun in public corroding our otherwise peaceful day with our families and friends.

We’re not having it. The many families affected by the shooting death of a loved one, whether to homicide, suicide or “accidental” discharge of a gun do feel hopeless at times because many of them, like me, have been pouring their hearts and souls into getting laws passed and changing the conversation about our nation’s public health epidemic.

2019 will bring change and hope. The newly formed Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will take up legislation to strengthen our gun laws. If new laws are passed, a tone is set in the country that we don’t intend to allow the carnage to continue. It also sets a moral tone that in this country, we care about victims and we care about our families and their safety. Laws alone can’t fix our terrible problem with gun deaths but they can set the tone for a kinder, gentler nation that no longer accepts the uncommon wisdom that has set the tone until now.

In Minnesota the newly formed Democratic majority intends to take up laws like requiring background checks on all gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders that will save lives. I look forward to it.

The thing is, when even a provision to ban bump stocks (used in the Las Vegas shooting) is held up by Gun Owners of America ( to the right of the NRA)  it is perfectly obvious that there is no interest whatsoever in saving lives. It’s about them and their power and money. There’s really no other way to look at it. And suing to get their way is their M.O. From the article:

“These dangerous regulations can go much farther than just bump stocks,” Erich Pratt, executive director of GOA said in a statement. “The goal of the anti-gun left is, ultimately, not just banning bump stocks, but, rather, putting ‘points on the board’ toward its goal of banning civilian ownership of all firearms.”

Really? Just another nonsensical statement that is not only not true but totally false. There have been no attempts to ban citizen ownership of all firearms nor will there be. Pratt knows this but it is necessary to continue the narrative of fear and paranoia to keep control of a dying gun rights movement.

So I wish my readers a Happy New Year and a safe and peaceful ending to 2018. It was a deadly year. It was also a year of chaos for our country. In addition to all of the other investigations into Russian influence in our 2016 election and corruption charges, one of them has also changed the image of the NRA forever. There’s no turning the clock back on the corrupt behavior of those whose interest was in influencing an election and maintaining power and control.

We are better than this.

Happy New Year.