Aurora- 5 years later

Aurora-theater-victims-1024x524

 

It’s been 5 years since one of our nation’s heinous mass shootings. Only one of them. We have so many that we can say this in America. And these kinds of mass shootings continue today in spite of the efforts of many and the outright support of the majority of Americans to do something about them.

Sigh……

Aurora, Colorado where innocent people went to the movie theater to see the opening night of The Dark Night RisesThey were excited. They were happy to be at this event with friends and family. They likely bought popcorn, candy and softdrinks and texted friends and family that they had gotten in for the premier showing of a very popular movie.

(I have not nor ever will see the movie)

And then, without notice or warning, a young mentally ill man stepped into the theater through an exit door and started shooting. No reason. He just decided to shoot at everyone and anyone in his sight or even not in his sight. People screamed. Some ran out and got away from the shooter. Chaos reigned. It was dark. It was noisy with gunshots. It was so frightening that is was unimaginable to us and we can’t put ourselves there without getting shivers. No one could have saved the victims or killed the shooter because they were so busy trying to run, hide, save themselves or throw their bodies on someone else to save a life. That is what happens in mass shootings. They are totally unexpected.

But the corporate gun lobby would have us believe the impossible- if only someone had a gun..….. If only. Anyone remember another high profile shooting in a theater involving a “law abiding” gun owner and concealed weapons permit holder shot an innocent man over texting and popcorn?

If only someone had a gun……

Someone did have a gun. The shooter. He was in control of the situation because it’s hard to outrun high velocity bullets shot in rapid succession. The bullets came from high capacity drum magazines purchased on-line by the shooter.:

Mr. Holmes purchased all of his weapons legally, law enforcement officials said. In the four months before the shootings, he also bought 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for a semiautomatic rifle and 350 shells for a 12-guage shotgun, all over the Internet.

No need for background checks or any questions. I mean, doesn’t everyone want a bunch of 100 round drum magazines? Aren’t they necessary for just anyone to own?

The arsenal of weapons carried by the shooter were legally obtained. Guns are easy to obtain in America.

There are really no words for the grief and suffering caused by the deaths of 12 people and injuring of  70. There never are.

No words for burying your child who shouldn’t have gone before you. No words for the loss of a loved one forever taken in a violent and sudden barrage of bullets. No words.

No words for the families re-living the experience at the trial of the shooter.

No words for the lawsuit that found the ammunition company not responsible for selling those drum magazines to a mad man. No words for the family left to pay the company that made the bullets that killed their daughter.

No words for the law that Congress passed to allow immunity from these kinds of lawsuits called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms (aka- the gun industry Immunity law). No words for the idea that one industry should be immune from lawsuits like no other industry has.

No words.

This is America. This is the American gun culture. This is what we have, brought to us by the lapdog politicians who are afraid to speak out against the corporate gun lobby. This is what happens when the gun lobby gets a bill passed to allow immunity from lawsuits against a specific industry- the gun industry. This is what happens when one powerful lobby and industry gets its’ way with power and lots of money.

There is no common sense in any of this.

 

We remember those who were injured and living with the physical and emotional scars left behind. We remember the families and friends who will never be the same again. We remember that a mad man was allowed to purchase a gun and ammunition and take the lives of innocent Americans and we did nothing about it after it happened. We remember that we have done nothing after any of our nation’s mass shootings to prevent the next one. We remember that our politicians are spineless in the face of pressure from the NRA and corporate gun lobby.

We also need to remember that healing takes a very long time and many suffer from PTSD and other mental and physical injuries in the aftermath of shootings like this. All over America, families and friends ( the survivors) have to cope with the aftermath of mass shootings. This article about how Aurora has handled the aftermath mentions the mental health services still available in their community.

The scars are visible and invisible but they are there- all over America, and today in particular, in Aurora, Colorado.

Let’s also remember that the majority of us want to do something about mass and “everyday” shootings that take the lives of 90 Americans a day. And when we all stand up together with loud voices and demand that something happen, something may change. When we elect politicians who put the rights of Americans to be safe from senseless gun violence before gun rights, we may succeed.

How many more will it take?

Today we remember:

Jonathon Blunk, age 26
Alexander “AJ” Boik, age 18
Jessie Childress, age 29
Gordon Cowden, age 51
Jessica Ghawi, age 24
John Larimer, age 27
Matt McQuinn, age 27
Micayla Medek, age 23
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, age 6
Alex Sullivan, age 27
Alexander Teves, age 24
Rebecca Wingo, age 32

 

 

“Liar liar pants on fire”

pants-on-fireWe’ve been lied to. Congress has been lied to. Our state legislators have been lied to.

Someone’s pants are on fire. But what does it mean? Let’s take a look at the meaning of the phrase we use often and more often now that faux news and people in power are lying to keep their power and control over us:

When the lad heard his father’s footsteps, he snuffed the burning cigar as best he could and stuffed it into his back pants pocket. The father opened the shed door and barked at his son to tell the truth about what he’d done. The youngster feigned innocence, saying he was looking for a hook to go fishing with a friend at a promising fishing spot nearby. The cigar in his pocket suddenly sparked into flame. The father spotted the smoke and yelled, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” Then he swiftly turned the boy over his knee and whacked his behind, extinguishing the danger.

The NRA and the corporate gun lobby are lying to us and have been for decades: 

That is, of course the paradox. We are in thrall to a fib of epic proportions that itself relies on two other lies. And because we are captive to all these lies, we are also captive to the notion that as much as we wish someone would do something about all the innocent dead people, our hands are tied by the freedom-affording gift that is the Second Amendment. It is a sick joke of our democracy that after every mass shooting we must tell our children that the Framers gave us this precious gift of liberty, more valuable than their lives, and that we are stuck with it. This is the opposite of freedom. It is slavery by choice.

Most of us who have any common sense at all have understood the big lie for years now. But we have not been able to get our voices heard over the loud noise of the lies. Exposing the lies is key to saving lives and most especially after the election that brought us the “liar in chief” as our next President. Exposing the faux news sites and stories is also key to our American democracy and freedom of the press.

The lies will continue if we don’t make noise and keep agitating for the truth. An article in The Trace, written by someone who grew up with the NRA lies, alerts us to the dangers of these lies:

Rather than critically evaluating articles for their correspondence to known facts, the NRA has long encouraged its audience to dismiss these reports and the outlets that produce them as irredeemably opposed to a cherished way of life. In the NRA’s view, the mainstream media not only fails to reveal the truth, its editors, reporters, and producers are inherently incapable of being honest about gun issues.

Why bash the press? Because it is a strategy that works. Many of the NRA’s members are primed to trade in “fake news” precisely because of the epistemological groundwork the lobby has laid. The price of admission in this pro-gun bubble is no longer merely firearms ownership or enthusiasm for shooting sports. The NRA is speaking to any real American concerned about the intentions of those cold, timid souls in the media who just don’t get gun people, much less bother to know the difference between full-auto and semi.

It’s bad enough that our next President will be a liar in chief. So when @realDonaldTrump becomes President of the United States he will be informed about policy ( or not since he chooses not to be informed) by other liars.

This just can’t be good for any of us. But for those whose concern is that too many people are being shot to death every day in America, it is very concerning.

The truth matters. Facts matter. If we are to live in a fact free country, our democracy will die a slow death and more people will die sudden violent deaths.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has released it’s annual state score card regarding gun laws and numbers of gun deaths. You can click on your own state to see how they came up with their scores. What the report concludes, as have all other reports before this one and many other such reports by other organizations, is that in states that have stronger gun laws, in general there are fewer gun deaths. This is not rocket science. It is the truth. From the report:

The premise of the Law Center’s annual Gun Law State Scorecard is simple. Our legal experts evaluate every state’s gun laws, assign grades, and compare those grades with the state’s most recent gun death rate. Consistently, we see a powerful correlation: states with stronger laws have fewer gun deaths per capita while states with weaker laws have more gun deaths.

2016 brought increased public outcry over gun violence, as well as real progress at the state level, with a flurry of new gun laws passed, including ballot initiatives in three states. But, with 25 states scoring an F for their gun laws, clearly there is so much more work to be done. Use the map above to see how your state stacks up and learn about the steps your lawmakers can take to save lives in 2017.

Laws matter. Truth matters. Reality matters. The culture of guns and gun violence matters. Changing the conversation about the laws and the culture matters.

As the Law Center states, smart gun laws can save lives. We must be smart, not ignorant.

For example,  there is evidence that an increasing number of Americans choose gun ranges to commit suicide. Guns are available there. Maybe they don’t want to go buy a gun or maybe they would be prohibited purchasers making it more difficult. But don’t we have to deal with this American public health and safety epidemic given the evidence? A recent incident is just one of many. A Wichita man went to a local gun range and shot and killed himself:

“I’m sorry for the people that were there. Sorry for my employees that have to deal with it. Sorry for the person’s family. This time of year is a bad time of year. The last time we had this was the day after Christmas,” Relihan said.

Both times, the person used a rental gun.

Yes there is a ripple effect to gun violence. Many are affected and will never be the same, least of all the family members of the victim.

Gun suicides cause over half of American gun deaths. Easy access to guns is the culprit. Guns account for about half of all suicides in America. Other countries experience high rates of suicide by other means but our rate of suicide is high compared to many democratized countries.

Christmas is not always a happy time for many who are experiencing some mental health problems. Family members and friends should be vigilant and not afraid to mention the unmentionable. Is there a gun available in the home? Can the person access a gun easily?

There are laws that can help. Gun Violence Protection ( or Restraining)  Orders for example, allow family members to report that a family member ( or friend) may be dangerous to him/herself or others so guns can be temporarily removed. The person’s name can be added to the prohibited persons NICS list to prevent the sale of a gun at a federally licensed dealer.

But of course, as we know, in too many states, guns are easily available with no Brady background checks on-line and at gun shows through private sellers.

The thing is, we can prevent gun deaths and injuries. Why would we not want to do that? Good question.

Guns are dangerous and risky. They are the only product on the market actually designed to kill people. Facts matter. We can’t let lies inform our public policy about lethal weapons and where human lives are at stake.

What we need is more than a little common sense combined with a change in laws and a change to the conversation about guns. More guns have not made us safer. Period.

What we also need is elected leaders who hear the truth, see the truth, believe the truth when they hear it, reject the lies and innuendos and fear and paranoia coming from the corporate gun lobby.

In the upcoming administration, the gun lobby will have a seat at the table. The country will be led by corporate business billionaires, deniers of the truth, sycophants, campaign donors, conspiracy theorists, Russian friendly folks, second amendment enthusiasts, and others who don’t seem to care about public health and safety. 

That will not bode well for our children, families and our communities.

Please get involved as a truth teller and stand up to make noise when the lies are spewed. The time is past for demanding that something be done to stop the daily carnage of gun deaths in our country. We can’t let the lies interfere with saving lives.

Demand that @realDonaldTrump and his administration and other elected leaders tell the truth.

Lives depend on it.

Let’s get to work.

 

Background checks work

Map pointer with Check mark.Yes they do. Some of my readers think they don’t. I have yet to hear a reason that is based on facts and common sense. These folks do buy guns from Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers they tell me and are willing to submit themselves to the “terribly inconvenient” process of the 3 minute phone call.

Today is the anniversary of the enactment of the Brady Law. Since that day 23 years ago, according to the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence, 3 million gun buyers have been stopped from buying a gun legally from a licensed dealer. That is no small thing. Stopping a felon, domestic abuser, someone who is or has been adjudicated and/or dangerously mentally ill from getting a gun saves lives. One would think that would be a good thing.

But interestingly and inexplicably, those same folks who have submitted to legal background checks are against the very same checks from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or on-line. They try to tell me there is something different about a private seller asking for a Brady background check from a buyer. There is not. In most states that have passed a law to require background checks on all gun sales the private seller takes a buyer to a licensed dealer for the phone call to the FBI’s instant check system.

Easy peasy.

Also background checks do NOT lead to gun registration or confiscation. In the 23 years of requiring gun purchasers to undergo a simple background check, that has not happened.

Another gun lobby myth.

And speaking of myths, there is new research to dispel the one that shooters look for gun free zones where no guns are allowed to carry out mass shootings. That is not true. It’s interesting that when research is actually done, we get facts that can make a difference to our public health and safety. The Trace wrote about it today:

The Johns Hopkins study warns that introducing more guns on campus could have the unintended consequence of risking the safety of the students and faculty that gun-rights supporters say they are there to protect. Research shows that college students are at an increased risk for suicide and prone to impulsive behavior. One report, cited by the authors, found that firearms were the most common means of suicide among males, accounting for for almost a third of suicides by college students of that demographic. College students are also susceptible to risky behaviors — such as alcohol or drug abuse — which have strong associations with increased levels of violence.

This is common sense.  The corporate gun lobby turns common sense on its’ head and makes fiction out of facts. We are, according to this article, in a “post truth” era in our country. Fact has become fiction. Fiction has become fact. President-elect Trump has lied about most everything during the campaign and then taken some of it back telling us this is what he meant in the first place. Black is white. The sky is under us now and the ground is above us.

From the article:

This effect is known as the “illusion of truth” – when you hear certain information so many times, you believe it, regardless of its accuracy. Political lies stay with us not because of their authenticity, but because manipulative campaign strategists understand psychology.

The majority of the time, this information works against our best interest. (…)

Just this week, The Oxford Dictionary sealed our fate by naming “post-truth” the word of the year, defining it as:

“Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The greatest problem of our future is not political; it is not economic; it is not even rational. It’s the battle of fact versus fiction.

Sadly, a Trump victory illustrates that we are no longer able to distinguish between the two.

The above is an opinion piece by Samuel C. Spitale writing for the Huffington Post. I happen to agree with it.

Brady background checks work. But about 40% of sales don’t require a background check. That is not OK. Every person who adopts a pet must get a background check. Every person who works with children in churches must go through a background check. Physicians and accountants go through background checks. There are no exceptions. Why should there be exceptions for the purchase of a deadly weapon designed to kill another human being?

Background checks provide useful information in order to keep us and our children safe from fraud, sexual predators, those who would do us harm, those who can’t and won’t be responsible. That’s a good thing. It’s all about public health and safety.

Let’s make up up and down down. Believe in the facts which tell us that when we restrict access to guns to only those who can handle them responsibly and safely, we can prevent some of the daily carnage from gunshot injuries. If we push the conversation towards gun safety reform- meaning reforming the practices of law abiding gun owners to make sure all guns are locked and unloaded away from the hands of children and teens and to keep them from being stolen and used in a crime. If we talk about the risks of guns to their owners providing the research and the facts that access to a loaded gun can result in an avoidable suicide or accidental gun discharge we can expect fewer gun deaths and injuries. If we talk the facts about gun free zones, we turn fiction into action and keep guns away from places they are not needed or should be.

The facts support the above. It is not fiction or myth that gun violence can be reduced and prevented if we pass stronger gun laws and stand stronger against the myths and fiction as promoted by the gun lobby.

Let’s get to work and deal with the facts. It’s past time to Finish the Job and require background checks on all gun sales.

 

UPDATE:

As always, one of my readers whose comments are not approved by me for various reasons, made a claim that the Brady Campaign is lying about how many gun purchases have been stopped legally since the Brady Law took effect in 1994. Here is the low down on that based on facts from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ( which employs lawyers who do research into gun violence):

Since the enactment of the Brady law on March 1, 1994, through December 31, 2012, background checks blocked more than 2.4 million prohibited purchasers like domestic abusers, convicted felons, mentally ill persons, and other dangerous individuals from purchasing a firearm or receiving a permit to purchase or carry a firearm.1

In 2012 alone, background checks blocked 192,043 prohibited persons from gaining access to firearms,2 including 82,000 felons or roughly 225 felons every day.3

Statistics reported by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence confirm that background checks work and have had a significant positive impact on national crime rates. Before the Brady law was enacted, America’s gun homicide rate was on a dramatic rise, increasing by 55 percent from 1984 to 1993 even as non-gun homicides were falling over this period.4 After Brady background checks were required, however, gun murders began to steadily decline and ultimately fell by 32 percent from 1993 to 2006.5 The rate of robberies and aggravated assaults committed with firearms also decreased by 42 percent over this period.6

Now one can argue that crime rates were on the decrease already for other reasons but surely a law that has stopped felons, domestic abusers and others who shouldn’t have guns made it harder for these folks to get guns that end up used in crimes. So when we combine efforts to stem the devastation of gun crimes, we can save lives. If the folks who want to argue about this have better ideas, I’m all ears.

There is other research to indicate that fewer denials of gun purchases have occurred in recent years. There may be a good reason for that based on this Everytown article:

However, between 2000 and 2013, the share of total background checks denied fell by more than half, from 1.6% to 0.7%. This is consistent with the hypothesis that criminals are increasingly aware that a background check will block them from buying guns at licensed dealers—and are seeking guns from unlicensed sellers online and at gun

shows, where no background checks are required under current law. In a September 2013 investigation of illegal online gun sales, Felon Seeks Firearm, Everytown found that 1 in 30 people seeking guns from unlicensed sellers on the national website Armslist.com had a criminal record or domestic violence history that prohibited gun ownership. This is nearly four times the share of people seeking firearms at licensed dealers who are prohibited and blocked by the background check system. (…)

Seems like a very good case for requiring background checks on all gun sales. And why not? Who will it hurt? Not law abiding gun owners no matter what they say. It will stop those who shouldn’t have deadly weapons and won’t be responsible but will be potentially dangerous.

Resisting a reasonable provision that will save lives is antithetical to public health and safety. If those who resist give some fact-based reasoning to show otherwise, then maybe we can have a discussion. But as long as their only reason is that more gun sales will profit the gun industry and hysteria about guns being confiscated then we can’t have the discussion. Further what is the gun industry going to do now that they have a gun friendly Congress and President? What will they come up with now to scare people into buying guns and being against common sense?

 

On-line gun sales

Live Chat on Orange Keyboard Button.

A new market place has opened up for gun sales since the Brady law took effect in 1994. Like everything else, guns can be purchased on-line. Unlike anything else, no other item for sale on-line rises to the definition of a deadly weapon. I buy a lot of things on-line and I like that convenience. I don’t think any other item I buy on-line requires a background check because a sweater, a pair of shoes, a camera or a rug do not kill people. Guns do.

Armslist.com sells guns on line. I checked out what was available today in Minnesota. Many handguns, hunting rifles and also AR-15s are there for people who choose to purchase guns this way. Some sellers do say they will only ship to an FFL and one must have a Minnesota permit to purchase or carry. That’s good news. But many are sold by private sellers with no background check required. When these kinds of gun sales became available , those in the gun violence prevention movement raised concerns about this new market place for guns. Many gun rights extremists claimed that guns could not be bought on line with no background check. What they thought, or said, was that all guns sold on-line went through sites like Gander Mountain, for example, which has strict policies about shipping the purchased guns to a federally licensed firearms dealer for pick-up. There a background check would be required.

Were these folks in denial, lying or didn’t they realize that sites like Armslist.com allowed private sellers to post their wares and sell with no background checks just as they do at gun shows?  Someone I know once spoke with a reporter from the Star Tribune who said that some of the gun folks told him we were lying when we said this was possible. She directed him to Armslist.com and while on the phone call and asked him to click on Minnesota and then take a look at what was available. He admitted that we were right and the gun folks were wrong.

Radcliffe Haughton bought his gun from Armslist.com with no background check. He was a prohibited purchaser. Soon after the purchase, his estranged wife and 2 other people were dead after he shot them all in a fit of rage over a separation. Several others were injured. From the article:

Haughton was able to buy a gun despite a Milwaukee County judge issuing a restraining order against him just three days before the shooting. The restraining order barred him under federal law from owning a firearm or buying one from a gun dealer.

Haughton sidestepped the federal law by purchasing the gun privately.

Private sellers are not required to run background checks and do not have to follow a 48-hour waiting period, required at the time of the shooting for gun dealers in Wisconsin. The waiting period was intended, in part, as a cooling-off period in domestic violence cases. That waiting period was eliminated in a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker over summer.

The lawsuit says Armslist, and its owners, were liable because they created the marketplace that could facilitate such a transaction.

Facebook allows private groups to buy and sell guns to each other. No background checks are required. The transactions are made, as they are on Armslist.com when the seller and buyer choose a place to make the transaction and the cash is exchanged for the gun(s).

It was just a matter of time before people started getting caught trafficking in guns bought and sold on-line. This Minnesota man is one of them.  From the article:

“Feldman’s actions in this case put firearms in the hands of criminals in the Twin Cities and jeopardized public safety,” said James Modzelewski, special agent in charge of the St. Paul field division for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “[The] ATF is committed to working with local police and prosecutors to identify illegal sources of firearms, and hold them accountable. If we’re going to impact gun violence in our communities, we all need to work together to prevent criminals from getting guns.” (…)

The ATF found evidence linking Feldman’s sales to several handguns used in serious crimes.

The indictment said Feldman regularly bought firearms — mostly handguns — from licensed out-of-state sellers using an online auction site, had the weapons transferred to a Burnsville gun shop where he received them, and then quickly advertised them for sale on another website that facilitates gun sales without criminal background checks.

The allegations span two years, with Feldman’s last sale (of more than 50) coming in January at a shopping mall parking lot to an undercover officer used by the ATF.

His indictment came soon after Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Justice would toughen federal gun control efforts, including a warning that “a person can be [considered to be] engaged in the business of dealing in firearms” even if they conduct transactions only at gun shows or online. Those doing so, Obama said, must be licensed, just like dealers who run their businesses out of a traditional storefront.

Feldman advertised on Armslist.com to sell guns he had earlier bought from licensed dealers online. He first had the firearms transferred to L.E. Gun Sales in Burnsville, where he would receive them after completing required paperwork and submitting to a background check.

So much for the “law abiding” gun owner. He was able to purchase the guns legally, going through a background check himself but then turned around and sold them with no background checks. He was acting as a gun dealer and not requiring background checks. This is why we need background checks on all gun sales. These kinds of transactions help provide crime guns. And we need to enforce these laws, already on the books.

Why do some people believe that it’s OK to sell guns with no background checks? How do they know who is on the other end of the transaction? They don’t. It could be an ex-felon who can’t have guns. It could be a domestic abuser or someone who had been adjudicated mentally ill at some point. It could be a fugitive or a terrorist ( who can buy guns legally in the U.S. and we can’t stop them from doing so, thanks to our lax gun laws.)

This just makes no common sense. The corporate gun lobby continues to resist measures to require background checks on all gun sales. Why? They claim that these kinds of sales will lead to gun registration and confiscation even though the very same background checks that have been in place for over 20 years now have not done this.

The gun lobby is wrong of course. But some of our leaders seem to believe them and the minority of gun rights activists in league with the gun lobby cry wolf any time proposed bills come up.

The times are changing however as more Americans are now educated as to the fact that some gun sales do go without background checks. In fact, about 40% do. So the analogy that seems to work best is to think about going through the TSA checkpoints when traveling by plane. And then think about 40% of people who can just walk through without having their bags checked or going through the metal detector. And this analogy becomes even more scary considering how many guns are found in carry-on bags by the TSA.

So the long and short of it is- in order to protect the public from at least some of the daily shootings, the very least we can do is to require background checks on all gun sales and do what the majority of Americans have agreed is the right thing to do. Why not treat every sale the same? Just like all on-line sales of books, cosmetics, clothing, toys, etc. are treated the same for all, sales of guns should be uniform. No one can buy Sudafed without asking the pharmacist- there are no exceptions.  Many states require controlling the substance contained in Sudafed:

Pharmacy is one of the most highly regulated professions.3 Pharmacists are the gatekeepers of dangerous drugs. As such we are in a position to control access to one of the most dangerous of the drugs of abuse. We are at the end of the protected, closed loop of drug distribution. When it comes to protecting society from the illegal traffic in harmful drugs, we can make a difference. In so doing, pharmacists not only follow the law but fulfill our duty to protect society.

Hmmmm. This is a strong statement. Why doesn’t it apply to gun dealers- even private sellers?

Sales of tobacco products require an ID if a young person appears to be below the age of 18 and sellers can be fined for selling to a minor. Selling alcohol to a minor can result in severe fines as well as jail time. We all know that drugs are illegally bought and sold all over the world and that that is a huge problem in our country. The penalties are stiff if someone is caught and we have put a lot of resources into the efforts to stop drug trafficking but it is still happening.  It’s not easy to stop illegal activity like this but the fact that we are putting up no obstacles to dealing with the sales of guns to people who shouldn’t have them is ludicrous and dangerous.

There are exceptions for selling guns to those who can’t legally own them. It’s called legal private sales with no background checks. Gun dealers are required to be licensed but are not monitored as they should be, by design of the corporate gun lobby.

We are talking about allowing deadly weapons to fall into the hands of people who can’t buy them legally from licensed dealers.

This is the opposite of protecting Americans from public health and safety problems.

As Congress finally comes back from its’ longest break ever, lots of important things will be on their plates but little will happen because it’s an election year and they are afraid of their own shadows. We won’t expect much. But we will be watching to see how Congress will avoid dealing with a public health and safety crisis of gun violence not seen in any other country.

Congress needs to act. Ask them to act. If they don’t ask them why not? And keep the pressure on. We can’t let them ignore the fact that over 30,000 Americans die each year from gunshot injuries. Too many families are devastated daily by the carnage. It’s time for that to change.

#Enough.

Worlds collide

I remember the episode of Seinfeld where the character “George Costanza” chastised Jerry Seinfeld for inviting his fianceé, Susan, to a movie. George was upset because he wanted to keep Susan away from his world with his friends. Here is the segment:

I had an exchange on my last post with one of my readers about the lawful ownership of tanks by private individuals. In my world, the people with whom I associate would find this to be just plain ridiculous and would wonder why in the world anyone would want to own a tank much less the legality of such ownership. One can assume that these tanks are not operational and only for the purpose of collecting them. But again, why?

An article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted this world of tank owning:

When their insurance agent inquired about their plans for the tank, the Neal brothers emailed back, “We are going to use it to take over the world.”
Says Ken Neal, 45: “A tank is cool.”

A tank is also expensive, with good ones going for the price of some houses.

Sigh.

In Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine he asks if the right to bear arms should be extended to nuclear bombs and other such military armaments. Does it? How far can we go with the amendment that was written more than 200 hundred years ago by the founding fathers that are so often “quoted” or mis quoted by gun rights extremists. From the film:

Is this the world envisioned by our founding fathers?

A Facebook friend, involved in gun violence prevention, posted this photo of a quote from the Jefferson Memorial while on a recent trip to Washington D.C.

Thomas Jefferson quote

 

The world has changed since Thomas Jefferson wrote this quote while reflecting on the Constitution. I think everyone can recognize that. Since then several wars have occurred leaving behind new types of arms. ( and by the way, more Americans have died from gun violence just since 1968 than from all Americans killed in wars since the Constitution was written). Now some of these arms ( weapons) are marketed as “common sporting rifles”. AK 47s have been converted to become an ordinary civilian weapon for mass shooters or those who believe the government is coming for their guns.

The inventor of the AK 47 expressed regrets for how his invention has been used in wars and in civilian deaths around the world:

“I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?” he wrote.

“The longer I live, the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man to have the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.”

AR 15s are also used by mass shooters such as at Sandy Hook Elementary school where a teen shooter knew perfectly well that using an AR 15 would inflict as much damage as possible in a very short time in order to kill as many first graders as he could. From the article:

“It’s a favorite among sportsmen, target shooters and competitors,” Stewart told CBS News. “It’s also popular as a home defense platform.”

Lightweight and easy to master with about 30 minutes of instruction, the AR-15 was invented in 1959 for the military, but was modified for civilian use beginning in 1963.

“The AR-15 is America’s rifle,” Stewart said. “You’re going to find more of those in safes at home than you’ll find of any other rifle in the country.”

Civilian use of the weapon is an abiding issue though.

There once was a nationwide ban on such assault weapons, imposed in 1994 following a number of mass shootings in the ’80s and ’90s.

When it was lifted ten years later, gun rights advocates cheered and sales rose.

Now the parents of those first graders and the relatives of the adults also killed in that heinous shooting are suing the manufacturer of the AR 15 because said manufacturer knows that these types of semi automatic rifles originally designed as war weapons that can take large capacity ammunition magazines are actually not common sporting rifles but meant to kill a lot of people in one place at a time in short order.

Worlds collide. The world of gun rights extremists is not understood by those of us who want safer communities and fewer people shot to death or injured by the many guns that are now accessible to average Americans. And vice versa. Was this the vision of our founding fathers? Doubtful. They had the common sense to realize that the world would change long after their own deaths and that the country and its’ Constitution should also change to reflect different times. They set down some principles that have helped govern our country for the last 200 plus years. For the most part they have worked well. But when it came to only white property owners having the right to vote, the new world had to change. Slaves were no longer. Black people were freed and demanded the right to vote. Women decided that they had the same rights as men to vote and demanded that right. It took a long time to get there which, looking back, seems almost surreal.

And so we plod along trying to make the world a safer place and hoping that gun deaths and injuries can be prevented with stronger gun laws to reflect the current world. The internet has provided a new market place for the sale of guns where private sellers can connect with private buyers and exchange guns for money with no background checks. Let’s look at just one of many hidden camera videos of how easy it is to buy any gun on-line.

“When you need the money you need the money.”

Sigh. Follow the money.

The founding fathers did not anticipate this world. When the Brady law was enacted, there was a provision for private sellers to be able to sell collections of guns at gun shows and other places without having to ask for background checks. The world has changed since 1994. Private “collectors” now set up tables at gun shows with the same types of guns and as many sometimes as licensed dealers. And they don’t have to require background checks from buyers. Another Brady Campaign hidden camera video to show the real world of private sales at gun shows:

Colin Goddard (in the video) was shot and injured at the Virginia Tech mass shooting.

Guns don’t fall out of the sky. They are not powder rifles any more. One more video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence to show you what I mean about the changed world of guns since the second amendment was written by our founding fathers:

 

Mass destruction is possible with the weapons developed since the 2nd amendment was written. Weapons designed for military use are now available to citizens. And some gun extremists actually believe they will be at war with their own government. This kind of fear and paranoia is stoked by the corporate gun lobby where profits are the bottom line. And so resisting all common sense measures to stop guns from going from the legal market to the illegal market are stopped by their nonsensical rhetoric.

And so the devastation continues with almost daily reporting of toddlers accessing loaded guns owned by their parents or other relatives who think their rights to own guns apparently don’t come with the responsibility to keep others safe from shooting themselves or others. Domestic shootings continue unabated. Gang shootings are taking the lives of young people of color in our large urban cities. Gun suicides are taking the lives of too many older white men and young (mostly) men and teens.

Worlds do collide. Truth is often stranger than fiction. Just look at the Presidential race if you don’t believe me. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is ramping up the nonsense and fear by making claims that if Hillary Clinton is elected as our President she will methodically order the confiscation of all of the more than 300 million guns in circulation in America. If you believe this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. 

So what now? Will we ever be able to convince a majority of our elected leaders to support the views of the majority of Americans without fear of being attacked by the minority but well funded and mythically powerful corporate gun lobby. Yes, a lot of Americans own guns but fewer homes have guns than in many years. Some Americans own many guns. Yes, a lot of Americans hunt and use guns for recreation but they don’t oppose stronger gun laws. Yes, a small minority of Americans like to carry loaded guns around in public and seem to think they have some sort of constitutional right to do so (can you find that in the wording of the second amendment?) But do they realize that carrying a gun in public is more often to result in incidents like those below than actually using that gun in self defense?

Kentucky concealed carry permit holder discharges gun “accidentally” in hospital.

South Carolina student “accidentally” discharges gun in a school and shoots himself.

3 year old finds gun in Dad’s backpack and shoots and kills himself.

This is the real world. It is not fiction. This is where the world of the gun extremists and gun lobby collide with the world of actual daily shootings that could be avoided and prevented if we put our heads together to make it happen.

Slowly but surely, the public is recognizing that we can do something about the devastation of gun violence in America. As more people are affected by gun violence or are made aware of the truth of the matter, they are joining the many organizations and individuals working to prevent gun violence. And politicians are recognizing that supporting reasonable gun laws that don’t affect law abiding gun owners or take away rights is a winning issue.

We are better than this. Let’s get to work because we’ve had #Enough and refuse to be intimidated by those who make claims that are not true. We may never bring the two worlds together but we can bring the majority who reside in the middle and believe we make changes together to save lives.

 

Guns and bullets odds and ends

odds and endsIt’s been another deadly few weeks in America and in my own state of Minnesota. Let’s review the carnage.

Two weeks ago a young man shot and killed his wife in front of their children and then killed himself in a domestic murder/suicide.

A few days ago another domestic murder/suicide took the lives of 2 more Minnesotans .

A mass shooting killed one and injured 6 in a Minneapolis neighborhood home to many of the awful shootings in Minnesota. From the article:

One person was dead and at least two others were in critical condition after seven people were shot Wednesday night in north Minneapolis, police said.

The carnage, which unfolded just before 9 p.m., added to the grim toll that a sharp escalation in shootings has taken on north Minneapolis this year.

30 shots fired. Are we at war? This may have been gang related. Please see my previous post for what is the truth about gang shootings. Lives lost are lives lost.

Further, until we start admitting that we have a gun problem, we won’t be able to prevent some of the guns from getting into the hands of gang members and other young people in affected communities so the shootings can stop. We have a lot of work to do.

Another shooting just a few days ago in a Minneapolis suburb ended with 2 injured.

The state Senate, however did take a common sense vote when the Public Safety  committee unanimously voted to ban pistols that look like cell phones. This kind of phone was developed by a Minnesotan who thought it would be a good idea. Whatever was he thinking? This idea was even too much for Republicans and gun rights supporters.

A gun carrying parent in South Carolina “accidentally” fired off his gun at his daughter’s swim class. Luckily for him, no one was injured.

“This man was sitting not 2 feet away, and his gun went off,” Kay said, recalling what her daughter told her. “She said he had a huge hole in his pocket.

“Everyone was upset. It could have been a terrible tragedy for many people.””

Sigh.

In Ohio, a man shot himself in the leg at a Chick-fil-A while pulling up his pants in the bathroom.

Oops. This is not the first time I have written about this kind of irresponsibility and stupidity.

A disgruntled and angry employee shot and killed someone at his former place of work in Texas, angry over being fired. Fired? Get a gun and kill your co-worker and yourself.  Only in America.

A Texas concealed carry permit holder decided to help out at a crime scene by trying to stop the first shooter with his own gun. The result? He was shot and killed. So much for defending oneself or someone else with a gun carried around in public.

In Texas again, a customer tried to stop a man who shot at an employee by getting out his own gun and shooting at the man. The result? He was shot in the head but will apparently survive.

A Facebook employee is helping private groups who buy and sell guns with each other get their groups back in spite of Facebook’s policy to remove the groups. Why not? Private sales of guns are such a good idea because the seller has no idea to whom he/she is selling a gun. Domestic abuser? No problem. Felon? No problem. Dangerously mentally ill? No problem.

An 11 year old Alabama boy decided to take matters into his own hands and shot and injured a burglar. He had no remorse and even mocked the burglar.

Sigh.

And then there are those kids shooting themselves and others. Several recent articles have been written about toddlers and guns. This one from the New York Times writes about one week in April. From the article:

Sha’Quille Kornegay, 2 years old, was buried in a pink coffin, her favorite doll by her side and a tiara strategically placed to hide the self-inflicted gunshot wound to her forehead.

She had been napping in bed with her father, Courtenay Block, late last month when she discovered the 9-millimeter handgun he often kept under his pillow in his Kansas City, Mo., home. It was equipped with a laser sight that lit up like the red lights on her cousins’ sneakers. Mr. Block told the police he woke to see Sha’Quille by his bed, bleeding and crying, the gun at her feet. A bullet had pierced her skull.

In a country with more than 30,000 annual gun deaths, the smallest fingers on the trigger belong to children like Sha’Quille.

During a single week in April, four toddlers — Holston, Kiyan, Za’veon and Sha’Quille — shot and killed themselves, and a mother driving through Milwaukee was killed after her 2-year-old apparently picked up a gun that had slid out from under the driver’s seat. It was a brutal stretch, even by the standards of researchers who track these shootings.

This is the American gun culture, like it or not. Most, of course, don’t like this but just are not willing to step up to work on solutions. What can we do about children getting their hands on guns? Not let them get their hands on guns. How can we do that?

  • Safely store guns away from small and curious hands.
  • Consider the risks of having guns in homes where children are present.
  • ASK if there are unsecured guns in the homes where children and teens play and hang out.
  • Pass laws to hold gun owners responsible when they are careless enough to leave guns around for small hands to access. The fact that we have not done this is shameful and negligent. Laws matter and will change behavior.

Not surprisingly the corporate gun lobby is opposed to laws that could prevent some of these brutal and tragic shootings of and by toddlers. It’s really beyond imagination to understand this kind of resistance to life saving legislation. But never mind…. rights.

From the article above:

Gun control advocates say these deaths illustrate lethal gaps in gun safety laws. Some states require locked storage of guns or trigger locks to be sold with handguns. Others leave safety decisions largely to gun owners.

Twenty-seven states have laws that hold adults responsible for letting children have unsupervised access to guns, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, though experts say such measures have, at best, a small effect on reducing gun deaths. Massachusetts is the only state that requires gun owners to store their guns in a locked place, though it has not stopped youngsters there from accidentally killing themselves or other children.

Gun rights groups have long opposed these kinds of laws. They argue that trigger locks can fail, that mandatory storage can put a gun out of reach in an emergency, and that such measures infringe on Second Amendment rights.

“It’s clearly a tragedy, but it’s not something that’s widespread,” said Larry Pratt, a spokesman and former executive director of Gun Owners of America. “To base public policy on occasional mishaps would be a grave mistake.”

“Occasional mishaps”? Seriously Larry Pratt?

Sigh.

Where is common sense?

These are our nation’s children we are talking about here. Anything we can do to stop senseless and avoidable deaths of children should be done. Hiding behind the second amendment and rights is just not cutting it any more. When even one child dies choking on a small toy part, we ban the toy and recall it. This is just plain nonsense and the public knows it. Too bad our legislators and Congress members don’t stand up in boldness and have the courage to challenge the gun culture that has left us with the carnage described above.

And speaking of protecting our children and youth, what about the ban on selling e-cigarettes to anyone under 18? Good news. Also, a warning label must accompany the product. If only guns were treated like all other dangerous public health and safety products, we could be on our way to saving lives.From the above article:

Federal health officials billed the new rules as critical to taming a “Wild West” atmosphere involving a multi-billion-dollar industry whose products have surged in popularity in recent years, especially among young people. They say there is little control over — or even basic information about — the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of the products, and that action is needed to protect young people from nicotine addictions and to inform adults about what exactly they are inhaling.

Hmmm. Insert guns for cigarettes and we would be on our way to doing something very good for our teens.

It is not odd for shootings like the ones above to happen every single day in America and my own state of Minnesota. It should be but it’s not. And when guns are in combination with anger and/or depression or a need for revenge, the ends can justify the means.

It’s time for this to stop and we can do something about this if we have the will and put our heads together to do the right thing. This is about saving lives. Period.

Let’s get to work. #Enough.

Americans agree about stronger gun laws

orange check mark with arrow

It’s a fact. Americans agree about requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. Polling data over many years has been consistent. A recent Star Tribune poll showed that 82% of Minnesotans favor background checks on all gun sales. It’s unmistakable. This includes gun owners, non gun owners, rural and urban Minnesotans and people of all political persuasions.

Americans in general in polling taken over many years show anywhere from 90%-92% agreement about Brady background checks. Gun owners also support requiring background checks on all gun sales by large numbers. This recent polling shows 83% of gun owners support Brady background checks for all gun sales:

A new national Public Policy Polling survey of gun owners finds overwhelming support for background checks and a higher likelihood of supporting political candidates who move them forward. Gun owners also believe the National Rifle Association, or NRA, is out of touch with them on these issues, and many believe the organization has lost its way altogether. While the debate over gun policy starkly divides American politics, this poll shows that support for key gun violence prevention policies has remained strong for years, even among gun owners themselves. (…) “The big picture from this survey is clear: Gun owners overwhelmingly support background checks,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling. “And that includes gun owners who are Republicans and gun owners who are NRA members. Gun owners want politicians to take action on these issues, and if anything, they will reward them for it. Gun owners also send a clear message that the NRA has lost its way and does not represent them on this issue.”

In 2 previous Frank Luntz (Republican pollster) polls surveying gun owners, even 74% of NRA members support requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales.

To show this support using humor to get the point across, the Brady Campaign teamed up with “Funny or Die”. Check out this great video showing the things about which most Americans agree. Here it is on this You Tube video

 

It’s known that many gun owners still want to buy guns with no background checks. While that may be OK for those who are law abiding, it ignores the fact that some are not and can get guns through on-line sites and at gun shows with no background checks. After Facebook made its’ announcement that gun sales without background checks would not be allowed on its’ platform, some are finding other on-line sites to do their business.

Why do people NOT want to go through background checks? That’s a question that needs to be asked and answered. If it’s inconvenient, so be it. When applying for certain jobs, a background check is required. When adopting a pet, a background check is required. One usually stands in line to renew driver licenses or auto titles or licenses for many other things. That can be inconvenient. Why the fuss over going through a background check when purchasing a gun?

Most people to agree to go through background checks because they buy their guns through licensed sellers. If the buyer is law abiding, it most likely takes just a few minutes to wait to find that out when buying from a licensed seller. That’s what the word “instant” means in the National Instant Background Check system. This is a system that works but it needs to be expanded to include private sellers if we are truly serious about keeping guns away from those who should not have them.

So what’s the problem? It’s a mystery to me and most Americans. It shouldn’t be a mystery to our elected leaders who have become lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can not only change our gun policies to reflect the majority views of Americans. But we must also change the conversation and the culture that allows tragedies like this one in Tennessee:

An 11-year-old boy has been sentenced to spend the rest of his childhood in custody after he was found guilty of the murder of an 8-year-old girl. (…)

MaKayla Dyer, a student at White Pine Elementary, was killed October 3, 2015, outside her home. Juvenile Judge Dennis “Will” Roach II, who presided over Tiller’s case, wrote in a court order that he was playing with MaKayla Dyer, her 11-year-old sister and her friend when he asked her to retrieve her puppies. After she said no, he went inside and came back with a 12 gauge shotgun and a bb gun, telling the girls he had guns.

“The victim then laughed at Mr. Tiller, and stated that she believed they were not real,” read the court documents. “Tiller then made certain the gun was loaded, cocked the hammer of the gun, and shot the victim just above the heart” from inside the window.

Dyer fell backwards and was later confirmed dead.

Day after day these incidents are happening. Most Americans would agree that this is not acceptable and that the 11 year old boy who shot an 8 year old girl should not have had that gun that day. Common sense is not always practiced by gun owners. Unless we raise the issue and talk about it as a matter of a public health epidemic, more children will die in the same way.

So we already agree that Brady background checks should be extended to all gun sales. Guns are the only product in the market place designed to kill others. We should all agree that we can do a much better job of keeping loaded guns out of the hands of children, teens, vulnerable adults and those who intend harm. The gun culture we have is not promoting the idea that more guns have not actually made us safer from devastating gun deaths and injuries. Reality matters. With rights come responsibilities and owning a gun is an awesome responsibility that should be taken very seriously. This is the conversation we should be having but thanks to the corporate gun lobby, it is not the conversation we are having.

It’s changing gun policy to reflect the majority public opinion and the public health and safety of Americans. It’s changing the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our country and how we can save lives.

Since you agree with me, let’s get to work on solutions to the problem.