The chilling effect of guns

foggy:rainyAt the end of my last post, I linked to some articles about the white terrorism event in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since that time, of course, unless you have been living under a rock, you know the political and actual fall-out of that awful “rally”.

It was a  chilly rainy foggy day in my hometown yesterday as I started this post. It has felt chilly everywhere in the U.S. since last week-end. The entire country felt a chill when neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, White terror alt-right groups come to a city to cause trouble and make a point, we can expect chilling results. When they come armed and wearing shields, helmets, carrying lit tiki torches, it was meant to intimidate everyone else. When hateful angry chants come out of their mouths, it was meant to intimidate and to entice others to protest against them. They were prepared for violence. They trained for violence. They knew exactly what they were doing.

White Nationalists, nazis and neo-nazis, KKK members are all unsavory characters who made a conscious decision to descend on Charlottesville to make a point. They hate Jews, Muslims, Black people, Brown people, anyone who is not white and doesn’t look like them. Remember the first and actual Nazis of Germany who demanded a pure Aryan race?

That didn’t work out well at all. We fought a world war to stop this kind of hatred. My Dad fought in World War II. He would be horrified, if he were alive today, at what is going on in our country.  It was a dark time in our world as Jews were almost eradicated by Hitler and his gang of miscreants, terrorists, killers and truly ugly and deplorable people.

Mistakenly we believed that after the atrocities of World War II, we left that kind of bigotry behind us. But white supremacists and white terrorists have been amongst us and sort of underground but sometimes raise their ugly heads.

Mistakenly we believed that once the Civil Rights movement allowed black people to vote as equal citizens and children and teens to attend the schools in their neighborhoods and the college of their choice, we could stop dealing with the hate.

Mistakenly we thought our first Black President would provide an example of how anyone can become President of the United States. And then anyone did. Our 45th President isn’t just anyone as it turns out. His election and his presidency are an alt right reaction to our first Black President and to the increase in the population of “others” who are not of the white Christian persuasion.

Thus we have hatred and fear. We have a President who wants to stop those “others” from coming into our country. He wants to stop them from voting and wants to get rid of policies that they believe disadvantage the pure white people of our country.

White privilege is raising its’ ugly head. The extremists representing this point of view have been welcomed into one of our major political parties. Armed militia members are welcome to carry weapons of war on their backs in cities all over America. They are because we haven’t stopped them. We have been complicit. Some of our leaders care more about their majority and their own elections than they care about our democracy and the public safety of American citizens. That has become obviously clear in recent weeks.

Follow the money. Follow the power. Follow the influence. Follow the culture and the rhetoric. Follow elections. Follow the hatred, the fear, the paranoia of some white people and you will find the anger at the bottom of all of this.

We’ve had our share of white terror attacks:

Here’s their breakdown on the number of deaths caused by individuals of different ideologies: 95 by jihadist, 68 by far-right, and eight by black separatist/national/supremacist.

Even individuals who carry out jihadist attacks, however, are sometimes American citizens or longtime residents.

“The terrorist threat in the United States is almost entirely homegrown, as no foreign terrorist organization has successfully directed and orchestrated an attack in the United States since 9/11,” said Albert Ford, a program associate with the International Security and Fellows programs at New America.

Of 418 individuals tracked by New America who are accused of jihadist terrorism related crimes in the United States since 9/11, 85 percent of them were either U.S. citizens or U.S. legal residents, and about half were born American citizens, Ford said.

And further, in case you believe the notion that terror attacks in America are mostly committed by radical Islamic terrorists, this is interesting from the above article:

Until the Orlando nightclub shooting, “the number of deaths caused by far-right-wing attacks outnumbered those caused by jihadism-related attacks,” Ford said.

These are not “nice” or “good” people.

You’ve just got to love this video of the group who went to Charlottesville to cause trouble.

 

Above is an interview with the reporter but you can watch the entire video here.

Listen to their words. They knew what they were doing.

As we all know a woman was killed as the result of a home grown white terrorist in Charlottesville.  But never mind that Heather Heyer was killed by one of their own. They don’t mind if a few people are killed. That was what I heard one White Supremacist say on a network interview. Really?

Yes, really. They don’t care if people die. They are angry white guys ( and a few women) with violence and evil in their hearts and minds.

And the #fakenews and outright lies going around is making it all so much worse. For example, Charlottesville police were NOT told to stand down.

For example, the Nazis were not “quietly protesting” as claimed by our very own President. If he meant it was quiet to walk along (armed) issuing insults and offensive remarks about Jews and Black people while holding their KKK like tiki torches ( we all know what that was intended to mean), he was wrong of course. Was he wrong intentionally? Was it a dog whistle? We don’t really know because that’s the way things go these days in America.

And though we can admit that some on the “left” reacted with violent incidents.,  the facts show that the “alt-right” group who sponsored the event displayed their willingness to intimidate and use violence.

And then there is the gun rights extremism now becoming increasingly strident and threatening. Hyperbole and ramping up fear for their own cause of promoting the sale of guns is very dangerous. From the article:

(… )

In a Feb. 24 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the National Rifle Assocation’s Wayne LaPierre linked those events with incidents of people being attacked if they supported the president.

“Right now, we face a gathering of forces that are willing to use violence against us,” warned LaPierre. “If the violent left brings their terror to our communities, our neighborhoods, or into our homes, they will be met with the resolve and the strength and the full force of American freedom in the hands of the American people. Among them and behind them are some of the most radical political elements there are. Anarchists, Marxists, communists and the whole rest of the left-wing Socialist brigade.”

On March 31, the footage of the inaugural rioting appeared for the first time in a political TV ad. In “Extremists,” a commercial produced by the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC to defeat Georgia congressional candidate Jon Ossoff, footage of peaceful Women’s March events — one of which Ossoff attended — was blended with footage of anarchists smashing windows and starting fires.

I attended the Women’s March in D.C. There was zero violence. A small group of people not associated with the Women’s March was involved the day before in some violent incidents.  But never mind the facts.

And now, as if Charlottesville was not enough, they intend to force themselves into other American cities.

What could possibly go wrong? As the rhetoric heats up, we can expect to see more and more armed citizens who fancy themselves as militia and insurrectionists ready to “take their country back” and ” make America great again.”

It will not go well.

The NRA has become more and more radical and dangerous as they display some questionable and threatening videos on NRA TV and in speeches to conservative groups. Several articles have been written in the past week about the reality of the NRA’s leaders and lobbyists. They are not representing average gun owners.

An article from Huffington Post:

The last thing I would like to see is one of those white supremacists taking the NRA at its word and going out gunning after members of a “terrorist cell.” But if Wayne-o keeps equating carrying a gun with patriotism and Trump-o keeps saying that patriots can make America great again, you have all the ingredients for someone to walk up to a crowd of demonstrators, pull out a cannon and bang away.

The New Yorker wrote this about the increasing push for violence by the NRA.:

It is, of course, perfectly within the prerogative of an advocacy group to stir anxiety and fear among its members or potential members for the sake of attracting donations. But gun owners, contemplating whether to re-up their forty-dollar annual memberships or hand over their credit cards for the first time, might consider the fact that they’re being manipulated. And for those (rightly) outraged by the intimations of violence in the videos, it is worth weighing the reality that we’re part of the N.R.A.’s strategy, too.

There is really no question about what is going on with the corporate gun lobby.

And to make matters worse,  there’s a new App that promotes the selling of all types of firearms with no background checks. In light of recent events, there is no excuse for selling guns to just anyone who may not be a law abiding citizen. Gunswipe.com is a dangerous new way to sell guns.

What we need now are stronger laws to make sure guns are only in the hands of those who can be responsible for them. We are going backwards and it’s a dangerous backwards trajectory.

It’s getting chillier and chillier. Guns are helping with the chilling effect of extremist uprisings all over the country.:

Like ISIS attackers in Europe, the Charlottesville murderer used a car as his assault weapon. But Charlottesville this past weekend was crammed with anti-social personalities carrying sub-military firearms. It could just as easily have been one—or more—of those gun-carriers who made the decision to kill. If so, Americans might this week be mourning not one life lost to an attack, but dozens.

As recently as 2009, the nation retained a capacity to be shocked when individuals carried weapons to political events. Such was the case in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 18, 2009:

A man toting an assault rifle was among a dozen protesters carrying weapons while demonstrating outside President Obama’s speech to veterans on Monday, but no laws were broken. It was the second instance in recent days in which weapons have been seen near presidential events.

The man who followed Obama with a rifle in Arizona was sending a wordless message. Not so the man who had showed up a few days before at an Obama event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. With a handgun strapped to his thigh, he carried a placard reading: “It is time to water the tree of liberty!”—a reference to Thomas Jefferson’s famous remark about the periodic need for revolutionary bloodshed.

(…)

What can be done? We can begin by acknowledging that America’s ranching days are behind it. Within metropolitan areas, there is no reason—zero—that a weapon should ever be carried openly. The purpose is always to intimidate—to frighten others away from their lawful rights, not only free speech and lawful assembly, but voting as well. This happened in Loudon County, Virginia, on Election Day 2016:

A man wearing a Donald Trump shirt and carrying a weapon stood outside a voting location in Loudon County, Virginia. … ‘I had my 9-year-old son with me. I felt intimidated,’ [Erika] Cotti said. ‘And I had to explain to my 9-year-old why a man with a 357 magnum is standing outside the polling station.’

Cotti said the man offered her a Republican sample ballot, which she declined.

‘He’s like, “Who are you going to vote for, crooked Hillary?” And I was like, “That’s really none of your business,”’ Cotti said, adding that the man was standing in the sidewalk outside of the office when they left and blocking their path.

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill and they intimidate others when openly carried. That is the truth. In this polarized gun crazed culture representing extremist groups, what we definitely don’t need is more intimidation with guns because it will inevitably lead to more injuries and deaths.

No other democracy on Earth tolerates such antics. When libertarian-minded Americans lament the over-militarization of police, they might give some thought to what it takes to police a society where potential lawbreakers think it their right to accumulate force that would do credit to a Somali warlord. And not only accumulate it, but carry that force into public to brandish against fellow citizens who think differently from their local paramilitaries.

(..)

It’s not necessary to live like this. No other advanced democracy does. As Americans critically self-examine the forces in their society that enabled the tragedy in Charlottesville, they might give a thought as well to the permission they allow the even graver tragedy that might have happened—and that sooner or later, surely will.

The time has come. Even common sense won’t quell the insatiable gun rights extremists who want to force their will and their guns onto the rest of us. If we don’t get this and deal with this, there will be more and more violence and our democracy will descend into insurrectionism.

Time to act. Time to prevent shootings and deaths. Time to prevent far right extremist groups from arming themselves and marching in our cities against all that our democracy stands for.

One side is plainly wrong. We are not this kind of country, or so I thought. The fact that some Americans are is downright frightening and chilling.

While the rhetoric and the extremist groups are heating up the country, the effect is making us all chilly.

 

UPDATE:

An article written for the New York Times by John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety calls out open carry for what it is:

Rejecting open carry is not about guns. Rejecting open carry is about rejecting terror and honoring fundamental American traditions. In Charlottesville, we saw the dystopian alternative — the most un-American racist and extremist hatred, turning our First and Second Amendment rights on their heads and trying to intimidate the rest of us into silence.

We will not be silenced by your guns.

A stormy time for the gun lobby

tree damageWe were without power for 3 days following a terrible and violent summer storm in my city of Duluth. We were awakened at 3:30 a.m. on Thursday morning by hurricane force winds, violent thunder and constant and bright lightning. To say it was scary is an understatement. We heard trees cracking along with all of the other noises and were not sure if we would have to seek shelter. The photo here showing one tree down on a wire is minor compared to the destruction that happened all over in my part of town.

A majority of Duluth residents lost their power during the storm due to trees on wires and twisted power poles. Upon waking on Thursday morning, I checked on my friends to make sure all was well. Many had huge Spruce and other old growth trees down in their yards. A friend and I drove around a bit looking for coffee and were stunned at the awful damage done by this storm. Many streets were impassable because of downed trees and wires and debris was all over. Traffic lights were not working causing long lines of cars on the streets.

The city is recovering though many are still without power as I write. Neighbors are helping neighbors and the city has risen to the occasion. We are not used to these kinds of storms in our area. We have blizzards that cause power outages and sometimes downed wires. But this is something most of us have not seen in our lifetimes. The weather has been generally more tumultuous this summer. With many torrential rain falls and severe storms, I am convinced that climate change is real.

Also what is real is the summer of shootings of young black men and police officers. In Minneapolis, shootings have risen to one of the highest levels of recent years. This Star Tribune article revealed a different law enforcement policy to stop some of the straw purchasing that accounts for many crime guns getting into the wrong hands. From the article:

Amid signs of a rise in illegal firearms trafficking, federal prosecutors in Minnesota have hit on a novel strategy to crack down on gun violence and get shooters off the streets. Instead of prosecuting suspects for murder, where convictions can be difficult to obtain, they charge multiple defendants with conspiracy to buy and possess guns illegally.

The strategy is rooted in the successful prosecution of 11 gang members in 2014, after what authorities called an “all-out shooting gang war” in the Twin Cities. Prosecutors built a conspiracy case that produced 10 guilty pleas and a jury trial conviction of the gang’s leader, Veltrez Black, who was sentenced this spring to 15 years in prison.

Now a Minnesota prosecutor has been asked to share the strategy with Chicago authorities, who are grappling with near nightly volleys of gunfire throughout their city.

Such crimes often go unsolved because witnesses refuse to break a code of silence, prosecutors say, but firearms conspiracy cases can be easier to build.

What we know is that crime guns don’t fall from the sky. Guns start out as legal purchases and get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them in various ways. It’s easy for anyone to buy guns legally or not, by not undergoing a background check at gun shows, flea markets or on-line sites such as Armslist or Facebook.

Straw purchasing is another way that allows the flow of guns into our streets and neighborhoods. We can do something about this if we have the will and think together about how to stop the guns that get used in shootings. Too many people are dying. There should be no excuses for not doing whatever it takes. More from the article:

The strategy is timely, given the recent surge in local gun violence. Minnesota gun deaths hit a 10-year high in 2015, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and represented a greater share of all homicides (61 percent) than in 1995, when Minneapolis was dubbed “Murderapolis.” (…)

And a new federal report shows that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recovered and traced 2,780 firearms in Minnesota last year — up 14 percent from a year before and also a 10-year high. That total doesn’t include all guns recovered by other law enforcement agencies; Minneapolis police inventoried an average of 681 guns as evidence per year from 2013 to 2015.

In the article there was mention of the problem of stolen guns. Some states have passed lost and stolen gun legislation to require people to report a stolen gun(s). We can see why from this: “The office also charged two people with buying up to 10 weapons for others in the group and later reporting the guns as stolen.”

And this, from the article, shows that many gun dealers are doing their jobs well:

At Bill’s Gun Shop & Range, owner John Monson is among the numerous Twin Cities sellers to occasionally find that a straw buyer passed through their doors. Monson said each of his five locations logs suspicious activity from any of the 100,000 customers who visit each year and passes along information to law enforcement agencies when necessary. Investigations can also evolve from mandatory reports to local police and the ATF whenever a customer buys two or more handguns in a week.

“We can’t stop all [straw purchasing],” Monson said. “But we can stop it in conversations in the process that happens before they do buy the gun.”

Prevention is what this is all about. If we can prevent guns from getting into the hands of those who intend harm, we can prevent some of the way too many shootings. Working with gun dealers is an important part of this process.

A new approach to preventing the proliferation of weapons onto our streets is needed given that many of our elected leaders are so beholden to the corporate gun lobby causing inaction in passing new laws or strengthening the ones we have. But we are seeing a new boldness amongst our politicians who are willing to speak out against the gun lobby publicly. One such statement was made by Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine on Saturday at his introductory speech. He spoke out and has spoken out before on the need for passing reasonable gun laws and has won all of his elections anyway.

The gun lobby is going to experience a stormy time now that their hypocrisy and rhetoric of fear are coming back to haunt them. Talk has turned to the nonsensical idea that citizens should openly carry assault rifles at public events and rallies such as the Dallas Black Lives Matter rally that turned violent. Others are wondering about conceal carry policies and how they work to protect people given that Philando Castile was armed with a legal gun when he was shot. There is some confusion over this confirmed by a local police officer at a meeting I attended about community safety. There are some interesting comments in the above linked article:

Thoughts on concealed carry: “If you’re a concealed-carry permit holder and you’re carrying, you assume some risk, you know? Things happen. Whether it’s on accident or intentional—you’re carrying a firearm. You’re assuming some risk in carrying a firearm. You have to assume some risk—it’s just like when you drive a car.”

How the Philando Castile situation will affect his work: “Will we change the way we do the training? No, because we believe we’re teaching it correctly. Will we emphasize this part of the training more? Yes. Will it come up for discussion? Guaranteed.”

It is undeniable that risk is involved when someone chooses to own and carry a gun. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others.

 

There is a perfect storm coming. More and more people are getting involved. This latest action to get in the way of Crossfit Reebok giving away Glock pistols to the winner of the  annual Crossfit games worked to call attention to the idea that gun giveaways are just not a good idea and obviously promote gun company profits. After the Orlando shooting, the GLBTQ community is not going to sit back and be silent. From the article:

“It is an outrage that an organization like CrossFit Reebok, who purport to be about health and fitness, are giving away a weapon of death and destruction as a prize,” said New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett.

Why give guns away? Promotion of weapons of death just does not fit with exercising.

A new AP poll shows, again, consistent support from gun owners and non gun owners alike for universal background checks and stronger regulation of assault weapons.

From the above article:

Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.

The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013, a survey taken about 10 months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators.

High-profile shootings also appear to have taken a toll on Americans’ sense of safety. Strong majorities of those polled expressed some degree of concern that they or a relative will be a victim of gun violence or a mass shooting.

What I love about this poll is that it reveals that public opinion has not changed regarding support for doing something about the proliferation of guns in America. And when politicians and the public are in no mood for the increase in mass and every day shootings, things are going to change. The gun lobby may experience some stormy times and it would be past time for that to happen.

As my friend and writer, Sam Cook, wrote for the Duluth News Tribune, there is a hole in the sky left by the fallen trees.

But guns are not falling through that hole.

The public has shown over and over again over many years that they want our leaders to act to prevent at least some of the heinous shootings. More guns are clearly not making us safer.

I leave you with the latest mass shooting at another nightclub in Florida where teens were gathered for a pool party.  Two killed and 17 injured.

Teens should be able to attend a pool party without being shot and killed.  Guns make every situation more likely to end badly. They make for the perfect storm.

#Enough. We are better than this.

Gun lobby conundrum

Brady Campaign memeIt’s really hard to keep up with all of the shootings and the articles written about the American gun culture as it is revealed in front of our very eyes. Our leaders are abandoning their citizens.

Actually most of us woke up long ago. It’s those who are afraid who are sleeping at the helm of public health and safety.  It’s those who can do something about it who have allowed themselves to be placed in the pocket of a group that doesn’t seem to care about all of the shootings. For if they did, they would start supporting common sense measures- or, as one person I read recently said, just plain laws to keep us safe.

Why do we have to say common sense when it should be an unspoken truth that our leaders will do all they can to protect us from things that can kill and injure us. They can’t protect all of us and they can’t stop all shootings but they sure as heck can get to work to stop some of the killings and act like adults instead of being led around by the nose by the ultra conservatives, the gun extremists and the gun lobby.

What does the corporate gun lobby (NRA)  say about shootings of and by police, of GLBTQ Americans, women and children?  Action is not on their calendar or their radar.  Instead, Congress took a 7 week vacation while people continue to die. The Brady Campaign has it right in the meme I have included here. How many more people will die while our Congress doesn’t do their jobs?

The Gun Violence Archive tells us that 2016 has been bloody. Our streets and homes have seen blood running in them. A speaker at a local Black Lives Matter event I attended on Friday and at which I spoke, stated the obvious. Everyone’s blood is red. Black people, brown people, white people and all people bleed red. toll of gun deaths

The gun lobby doesn’t want us to think about any of this. Nor do they want us to do research about any of it. The likely findings will be that too many Americans are shot to death every day and it’s because of the easy access to guns and lax gun laws that allow for this to happen.

It’s about a culture. It’s about guns. When will it stop? And when will we do something about it to get it to stop?

Here is an excerpt of my remarks at the vigil in my city on Friday night:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said this: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
He was right. We are living now in a country full of fear- fear of each other; fear of those who don’t look like us; fear of law enforcement; fear of black people; fear of white people; fear of the government; fear that if you don’t have a gun and someone else does, you are going to be at risk; fear that everyone is armed so then everyone needs to be armed to protect themselves from others who are armed.

Police officers fear that everyone could be armed. Too many are and the result is senseless death by bullets.Bullets are flying in some of our neighborhoods. Innocent people like Birdell Beeks, a beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet while sitting in her car in Northeast Minneapolis. Last week, after the tragic and heinous shooting of Philander Castile, 2 babies were shot in their father’s car when bullets were fired in North Minneapolis. A 2 year old died and a 15 month old was injured. (…)

The gun lobby is profiting off of our fears. They are encouraging, to the tune of over $14 billion dollars a year, the arming of America. They are promoting fear of “the other” to get people to buy guns. And the result is an armed society where no one knows who is the good guy with a gun and who is a bad guy with a gun anymore. An armed society is not a polite society.

One of the officers who attended this event told me during a conversation that the police department has to have more guns and more high caliber weapons like assault rifles now to keep up with what citizens have. Indeed, in Duluth, a man was arrested after making threats with an AR-15 on Friday night:

Police executed a search warrant at Davis’ residence and found a loaded Hi-Point brand 9 mm assault rifle between the mattress and box spring of his bed, the complaint said. Officers said the serial number had been scratched off the weapon, which appeared to be fully automatic and fully functional.

Fully automatic? Luckily that did not result in a shooting but it easily could have.

Everyone is afraid of everyone else. They have good reason. I just learned of the shooting death of 3 Baton Rouge, LA police officers. A man apparently walking around with an assault style rifle opened fire on the officers. A bystander called to report this person. How did she know the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun? More on this later but several days ago, Baton Rouge police were put on alert when there was a threat of a shooting of officers. People were arrested after they had stolen guns:

Authorities in Baton Rouge said this week that a teenager accused of stealing guns during a burglary told investigators that he and others involved were seeking bullets to shoot officers there. Officials said that they deemed this threat to be so credible that it shaped their response to protests over the death of Alton Sterling.

Police say that they arrested three people related to the theft, which occurred early Saturday morning at a pawn shop more than 2 miles from the food mart where Sterling was fatally shot by officers four days earlier.

These are our nation’s young people. What is happening in our country? Teens and guns are not a good mix.

People have had #Enough. It’s past time to do something.

A high school freshman wrote this one. Please read it and listen to the voices of our children. They know more than many of the adults in the country. From her letter:

We shouldn’t ban guns totally, as that would jeopardize the basic need of self-defense, but we should not give unlimited access to all sorts of guns in the name of the Constitution. Our neighbor Canada has restricted certain guns from civilian use. In the past year Canada had 172 deaths related to firearms, whereas the United States had 12,236 firearms-related deaths. We ought to follow our neighbor in restricting certain assault rifles and administering appropriate background checks. This way we can ensure the safety of our people and respect our constitutional right.

An older gentleman, known to me, wrote this one, with equal reasonable arguments in favor of gun safety reform and gun violence prevention:

How much, we need to ask ourselves, was Johnson responsible for these killings? And how much are our laws, our militarism and our elected officials responsible? If the United States is “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” does this mean we are free to shoot one another: white police shooting young blacks, unbalanced blacks shooting white police, husbands and boyfriends shooting wives and girlfriends, so many people shooting so many other people — and so freely? Not bravely, certainly, but cowardly.

The New York Times quoted the police chief of Milwaukee on July 8: “We’re the most heavily armed violent society in the history of Western civilization.”

Who is responsible for that?

Indeed. Who is responsible? Not the over 90% who want reasonable gun laws. How about our leaders? How about the gun lobby? How about our culture of guns?

They are right. They make more common sense than our own leaders. Why aren’t they saying things like this? Good question. Apparently they don’t have the backbone to stand for what is right.

Here is a short list of some of the latest shootings for your perusal:

One woman killed and others injured in separate events in Minneapolis last night.

12 shot and injured near Cleveland in one night. Yes, you read that right. Cleveland where the Republican Convention starts tomorrow.

2 people are dead from gunshot injuries in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Teens playing the latest game to hit American culture, Pokemon Go, sitting in their car playing the game experience shots fired by a man who got suspicious. Does one just shoot off one’s gun if one has even a little suspicion that something could be wrong before finding out or calling 911? When a gun is present, the potential is there for something bad to happen.

What does the gun lobby have to say about these?

What does the gun lobby say about the armed citizens in Dallas who were mistaken for perpetrators when gunfire began, leaving 5 officers dead?

What does the gun lobby say about the fact that a black man, Philando Castile, had a legal permit to carry a gun and when he told this to the Falcon Heights, MN officer. Who knows what that officer was thinking when he shot and killed Castile? We do know that officers assume that just about anyone could be armed when they make a traffic stop.  At this point, there are many unanswered questions but one is why the gun lobby did not stand up to defend this shooting of a legal gun permit holder?

And while we are on the topic of permits to carry, I have been talking to quite a few people about the fact that they get their permits to carry but they choose not to carry those guns around with them. Many of them said they like the training they get and they get their permits just in case they decide to carry. But for many reasons, they don’t want to carry- guns are heavy, they are hot, they get cold in cold weather, it’s inconvenient, it’s an awesome responsibility, and other reasons. So try as the gun lobby does to get everyone armed, they have not succeeded. It is about 4-5% of our population who have their permits to carry but many of them don’t carry a gun.

The gun lobby is caught in a conundrum of their own making. When lies and deceptions have been foisted on us about the safety of all gun owners and how guns will protect us from harm and then they don’t, what is their answer?

When people carry guns to protect themselves from others with guns, and get shot anyway, what is their answer? When police officers assume everyone is armed and then shoot someone who is armed for one reason or another (or potentially no good reason) what is their answer? When an otherwise supposedly legal gun carrier has access to military style weapons and targets and kills officers after the shootings of 2 black men, what is their answer?

When the political party conventions coming up allow for people to open carry guns in the second layer of security and now everyone is worried about what could happen, what is their answer? The Cleveland Police union has asked for Open Carry in Ohio to be suspended during the Republican National Convention. Now we are seeing the results of what our corporate gun lobby has done to our country.  Who can blame the officers?

The head of one of Cleveland’s largest police unions is calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to temporarily restrict the state’s open carry gun laws during this week’s Republican National Convention following Sunday’s shooting in Louisiana that killed three officers and wounded at least three others.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. Kasich requesting assistance from him. He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point,” Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told CNN. “They can fight about it after the RNC or they can lift it after the RNC, but I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over.”
Governor Kasich says he doesn’t have the power to protect the officers and citizens by suspending Open Carry or even concealed carry at that ( which officers actually fear more) for the duration of the convention. Of course not. Even suspending the rights of some people ( a distinct minority) in order to save lives is not possible. Governors have tried to restrict voting laws, also Constitutional, and rights of women to exercise their Constitutional right to choose abortion, but guns? Not so much.
Let common sense win. Officers lives are at risk. Was the Baton Rouge shooting an ambush? Are we at war?
(Speaking of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, does anyone find it ludicrous that real guns can be carried but tennis balls and toy guns are banned in the perimeter of the convention area? )
Everyone’s lives are at risk. This is the insanity of our American gun culture. Why should anyone carry assault rifles around in public wearing fatigues or dressed all in black? Who are they or who do they think they are? And body armor was apparently found on one of the suspects in Baton Rouge. Why is body armor available to citizens? There is no reason to buy it or wear it than to know you are going to need it in a shooting.
Our country is experiencing a very bloody time right now. What are we going to do? Nothing is not an option. What will the gun lobby do now? Please don’t let them bring forth their tired old arguments about more guns making us safer or leading to a polite society or only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns or passing any law will lead directly to gun confiscation. Please.
We just have to be better than this. It’s time to #DisarmHate and demand a safe society for our families, our children, our grandchildren, people of all colors, races, religions, sexual preference, law enforcement officers, women…..
We are weary of the news reports. We are tired of the shootings, the grief, the press conferences, the statements from politicians, the 24/7 news coverage, and we are afraid of the next national gun tragedy.

Comment storm about gun incident

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A few posts ago I wrote about active shooters and how we use the term. Little did I know that gun rights advocates would come so unglued about a post on the Protect Minnesota Facebook page that used the term active shooter because of a gun incident in a small town in Minnesota that was initially described that way. 

In the last few weeks, we have had far too  many instances of active shooters and shootings taking the lives of many. I guess some folks only consider active shootings to be mass shootings. In my previous blog post, I suggested that every shooting is an active shooter incident since by  their very nature, they involve the action of someone with a lethal weapon that shoots bullets from a gun, often at another human being.

So the post of the gun incident on the Facebook page of concern was one where a man went outside of his house, shot 2 shots from his gun into the ground and then went back inside. Of course, there was a report of shots fired. No one was sure what happened. Was it inside of the home? What was it about? Was anyone at risk? Who knew? Every day in America people are shot inside and outside of their homes. And hearing gunshots has become the new normal but also a reason for people who hear them to fear the worst.

In the end, the man was found asleep and drunk during the morning hours after the gun discharge and  was charged with a domestic disturbance. A 7 week old baby was inside.

Gunshots were, of course, fired recently in Minnesota leading to the death of a young black man named Philando Castile. Because of this shooting, protests have been happening all over America and now, as I write, there is a service in Dallas to honor the 5 police officers shot by a lone gunman who was upset by the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. The news is full of stories about all of this and I have written before about them. There is so much to say and it is being written about and talked about every day all over our country.

But was the news full of the incidents like the one in north Minneapolis after the shooting of Philando Castile, when 2 babies were shot and one died? A 2 year old is dead and a 15 month old is injured. Another active shooting. More gunshots. More death.

There was some mention on the news of the shooting in a Michigan court house when an inmate grabbed an officer’s gun and shot and killed 2 bailiffs. In the ensuing gunfire, the shooter was also shot. Another active shooting. More gunshots. 3 more dead.

Whether or not the gun rights advocates object to the idea that shootings are active events is no matter really. The shooting incident n the small town of Elko in Minnesota could easily have ended in injury or death. When a gun is available in domestic situations, when someone has been drinking, when someone is angry, when someone wants to “solve a problem”, it often ends badly.

But some of the commenters on the Protect Minnesota Facebook page thought it was just another small town incident that should be ignored. Really? Should we ignore a drunk person who could have just as easily have injured or killed family members with that gun? Then what would we have called the incident?

Shootings are not passive. They are active.There is action when a bullet is activated by the gun trigger. The trigger pulled by someone who is actively pulling it causes the action of the bullet rapidly moving through the gun barrel in order to find its’ target.

I suggest that if someone does not like the idea of active shootings referring to all shooting incidents, they ought to consider, as many of them say, that guns don’t kill people. People kill people. They sure do. People with guns have taken action far too many times to kill others.

A little common sense, or a lot for that matter, will go a long way to making sure people aren’t being shot on a daily basis. There are no excuses for anyone shooting off a gun recklessly.

When I read some of the ugly comments made by some of the commenters it was pretty clear that they wanted to shout out their views and they were angry. Many were deleted by the page administrators for good reason. Who needs that kind of attack? That hatred? That kind of language? That anger? The untruths expressed with no facts to back them up? The attempt to take over the discussion as is often the case on blogs, Facebook pages and articles about gun violence prevention is common. And it is almost always ugly and offensive.

This is no way to stop the shootings. It only adds to the divisiveness of any reasonable discussion about how to save lives and prevent shootings.

Comments and discussion are one thing if they are meant to openly discuss differences and come to solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. We are not just talking about a small problem here. We are talking about 90 Americans a day dying from gunshot injuries. We are talking about young black men being killed by officers and by other young black men. We are talking about police officers being killed by black men, white men, inmates and others. We are talking about domestic disputes that often end in death. We are talking about the thousands of people who take their own lives with guns every year. We are talking about our toddlers and children shooting others or themselves. We are talking about intolerant and angry young men shooting gay people, young children, theater goers and college students and shoppers with guns, often easily obtained. We are talking about people on known terror watch lists being able to access guns without our being able to stop them. We are talking about felons, domestic abusers, those who are dangerously mentally ill, fugitives and others who can buy guns every day with no background checks. We are talking about what should be peaceful protests over shootings turning violent themselves. We are talking about our police officers being outgunned on the streets and fearing for their own lives. We are talking about the fact that officers understand that almost anyone they encounter could be armed. We are talking about the fact that too many people have armed themselves out of fear of the government and/or law enforcement. We are talking about fear and paranoia and mistrust of others. We are talking about open carriers walking around during the Dallas protest with assault rifles over the shoulders confusing police when the shooting began. 

Who are the good guys with guns any more?

We have a serious problem. That is what comments should be about. How can we solve this problem together?

And speaking of action, there has been little of it in Congress regarding gun violence. Action is needed and needed immediately.

We are better than this. Americans are nearing a tipping point and becoming more and more impatient with the leaders at the state and federal level who could do something about our national crisis of active shootings but instead have become passive out of fear of the corporate gun lobby.

In fact, over 1 million petitions to Congress to act on a new ban on assault type rifles  were delivered today to Congress members on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Here is a tweet and photo of the petition delivery from MoveOn.org.

Americans are fed up. They want a change to the laws, a change to our gun culture, a change to our conversation and a change to the every day shootings.

#Enough.

#DisArmHate

It’s about the guns

little boyThe last few days have been difficult and heart-breaking to say the least. In my home state of Minnesota of course, a black man was shot to death by a police officer after being stopped for allegedly having a broken tail light. Really? So much to say here that I can hardly say it all. The victim had a legal permit to carry a gun around. He announced that he had that permit. Why? He didn’t have to according to Minnesota law. But he was a black man with a gun. Perhaps he was afraid that if he was found with a gun on his person, things would get hairy for him. He was right.

Would he have been alive had he not had that permit to carry and announced that he did to the officer? We don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud.

Philando Castile was his name. He was a beloved cafeteria worker in a St. Paul Montessori School. A role model to children.

Now he is dead.

So many unanswered questions. We don’t know why he kept saying that he had this permit to carry, or so his girlfriend said he was saying.

The gun lobby has been working hard to arm every American just in case….. Castile must have thought his gun and his legal permit would protect him from harm. It didn’t.

Where is the gun lobby’s outrage over these shootings? Are they standing with the Black Lives Matters protest in St. Paul because a man with a legal permit to carry was shot to death by an officer? Nope.

We don’t know why the officer fired his gun when Philando allegedly moved his hand towards his pocket for his ID.

We just don’t know everything. People react to situations in many different ways.

We do know that when a gun is present, things often go wrong.

We do also know that more guns are not making us safer.

We understand that there is racism abounding in our American communities fomented by fear and paranoia of “others”. We do know that the gun lobby is making it worse.

We do know that one Presidential candidate in the name of Mr. Donald Trump has said that the Orlando tragic shooting could have been lessened or averted if only someone had been armed.

Ludicrous.

And then came Dallas last night. Armed officers were gunned down by a couple of citizens ( or that is what we know so far) who seemed to have been upset by the peaceful Black Lives Matters protest over the Minnesota and Louisiana shootings of black men.

Four guys with assault style weapons and high capacity magazines were like snipers gunning down officers on purpose- armed officers.

We know that it is easy to get assault rifles and high capacity magazines in America- far too easy. We have made it easy. We allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire. What has happened since? Numerous shootings of innocent school children, movie goers, military members, officers, LGBTQ citizens, and others. That’s what our lack of common sense has done.

And, as a reminder to my readers, most of these guns were legally obtained by otherwise “law abiding” gun owners.

Hypocrisy.

Good guys with guns are as bad as bad guys with guns.

The least we can do is to keep guns away from the “bad guys”. But what do we do about the good guys?

Only in America. It’s about the guns. It’s about a gun culture and a culture of fear and hatred that, when combined, leads to tragic shootings and senseless loss of lives. From this editorial in the Baltimore Sun:

We are in the deep end, my fellow Americans, drowning in anger and frustration, guns and violence. I don’t know about you, but when I woke up this morning and read the news from Dallas, I felt like the country had tipped toward anarchy.

The U.S. is an exceptional country, all right. Exceptional for its political, social and racial polarization. Exceptional in its acceptance of gun ownership.

You can feel despondent. You can feel hopeless.

I am despondent but not feeling hopeless. As someone who has lost a sister in a domestic shooting, I have been re-traumatized by these latest shootings. I watched the now viral video taken by the girlfriend of Philando Castile. I watched the blood ooze from his shirt. I heard his dying moans and breaths. What if there was a video of my sister’s last moans and breaths? What if?

What if this was your loved one as President Obama said in a speech given last night before the Dallas shooting. What if? What if our elected leaders were made to watch videos and see photos of the victims’ last dying breaths? What if this was one of theirs?

And who will protect the children as I asked in my last post? There was a 4 year old girl in the back seat of Philando Castile’s car who saw him shot and watched him die. How can we forget the children who witness such awful murder in their young lives?

What if Congress just straight up passed stronger gun laws without pandering to the corporate gun lobby as House Speaker Paul Ryan just did:

“We’re not going to rush it,” the Wisconsin Republican said at a news conference. “We’re going to get it right. And that’s what we’re working on with our members.”

No rush. Every day 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries.

No rush. 5 officers were just gunned down in Dallas.

No rush. 49 LGBTQ Americans were just gunned down at a nightclub in Orlando.

No rush, Speaker Ryan.

Shame.

Heartbreak.

Outrage.

Tears.

Sorrow.

Before the Dallas shootings but after the Minnesota shooting, the words of Protect Minnesota’s Executive Director Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, were sent out to supporters. She was urging us to look at the Philando Castile shooting from many perspectives. But in the end, it’s all about the guns. Here is the email sent out last night titled “Thoughts on the death of Philando Castile:

 July 7, 2016
Posted by Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, Executive Director

“Another terrible tragedy occurred last night, this time in our own backyard, when Philando Castile was shot dead by a police officer in Falcon Heights. Philando was a much loved 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul Montessori school who was black. According to police reports, he was pulled over for a tail light violation and a handgun was “recovered at the scene.” According to his girlfriend, the officer shot Philando as he reached for his identification as per the officer’s request. Philando was armed, but had clearly announced that he had a permit to carry a handgun. His girlfriend, sitting next to him in the car with her young child in the backseat, streamed a video of Philando as he slumped over, bleeding, having been shot four times point blank. The video allows us to hear the officer yell at her and then handcuff and detain her, while she narrates, weeps and prays that Philando will survive. It is difficult to watch.

Because this awful incident involved gun violence, Protect Minnesota is expected to make a definitive statement and “take sides” on the issue. At this time, with so much still unknown, I am not prepared to do either. But I do have some thoughts to share. What follows isn’t short and pithy–I’m a pastor after all!– but I hope you’ll find it helpful.

1. On Racism
This was the second questionable shooting of a black man by police in the U.S. in as many days. According to the Washington Post, there have been 509 police killings in America so far this year, with African Americans being killed at a rate 2-1/2 times greater than whites. President Obama today said that African Americans are 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over and three times more likely to be searched by the police. Whatever other particulars arise, racism cannot be discounted as a key element of this tragedy. Often-hidden but always present, racism is like a strand of barbed wire woven into the fabric of our society. Its barbs catch, tear and hold back every institution, organization and individual as we strive to move forward towards justice. Since it would be naive to think that law enforcement does not reflect the racist attitudes that permeate our culture, this incident cries out for a full investigation by the Department of Justice. But nothing is black and white: according to Philando’s girlfriend in the video, the officer was Asian American. It’s safe to assume that he also experiences racial discrimination on a regular basis. At this time we cannot know how that factors into the equation.

2. On Police
There are approximately 1 million working police officers and law enforcement professionals in the United States, the vast majority of whom honorably serve and protect their communities. The risks they face have increased in recent years due to the ubiquity of firearms. More guns are being carried around in public now than at any time in our history, including during frontier times and the days of the “wild west”. Police officers now have to assume that anyone they detain may be carrying a gun and present a threat to their life. And the threat is real. According the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, shooting deaths of members of the U.S. law-enforcement community have increased significantly in recent years. For the first time in 2014, shootings comprised the leading cause of death for law enforcement personnel on the job, with ambush-style shooting attacks increasing the most. According to a 2010 press release issued by the San Mateo County, California, Sheriff’s Office,

“the law enforcement response is one of ‘hypervigilant urgency’… Should the gun carrying person fail to comply with a law enforcement instruction or move in a way that could be construed as threatening, the police are forced to respond in kind for their own protection. It’s well and good in hindsight to say the gun carrier was simply “exercising their rights” but the result could be deadly.”

That is a perfect description of what appears to have happened last night. Philando Castile was exercising his right to carry a firearm in Minnesota with a legal permit. He was totally within his rights and fully complying with both the law and the officer’s instructions when he was shot. The officer seems to have reacted with lethal “hypervigilant urgency” when he heard Philando announce that he had a permit to carry. Sadly, this is not unusual in the circumstance. According to gun violence expert David Hemenway in his book Private Guns, Public Health,

“Police officers, who receive large amounts of training, are still often inadequately prepared to handle ambiguous but potentially dangerous situations. Intense stress, confusion and fear are inherent in most possible shooting situations. Heart rates skyrocket, and it’s difficult to think clearly and to act deliberately. Not surprisingly, even police make serious mistakes.”

So even as we demand justice for the killing of Philando Castile, we can have compassion for the frightened officer who shot him.

3. On the NRA and the gun lobby.
In its continuing efforts to arm America in order to generate more profits for the gun industry, the gun lobby has done much to perpetuate two distructive myths that I believe may have played a role in Philando Castile’s tragic death.

Myth number 1: Gun violence is really just a “black on black” violence problem.
The NRA loves to quote statistics about how many black people kill other black people. Why? Because it feeds the fear that blacks are dangerous so we must carry guns to protect ourselves against them. In reality, according to FBI’s most recent statistics, 84% of white murder victims are killed by white people, compared to 90% of black murder victims who are killed by black people. Whites are six times more likely to be murdered by another white person as by a black person. And here’s the kicker: 82% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides, an overwhelmingly white phenomenon. Unfortunately, we never hear about the epidemic of “white on white” gun violence, but the “black on black” myth has been swallowed whole by the media. The image of the scary black man with a gun has become a psychological meme in white America–and the gun lobby seems to be fine with that. How do I know? Listen to their deafening silence in response to Philando’s shooting. A permit-holding, law abiding American who was exercising his 2nd Amendment right was shot point blank by a police officer for no other reason than stating that he had a permit to carry. Where is the NRA’s outrage? Have they joined the Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Governor’s mansion?

Myth number 2: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
We hear the NRA trumpet that after every terrible shooting. Well, this time it was a “good guy” with a gun who did the terrible shooting. If a licensed police officer who has completed many hours of firearms training and testing on justified and unjustified shootings could over-react to such deadly effect, how can we expect untrained “amateurs” to respond with measured self-control when faced with a real or imagined threat? This is the aspect of Philando Castile’s death that falls within the missional scope of Protect Minnesota. Our task is to counter the myth that more guns equal more safety. They don’t. More guns equal more gun tragedies. More gun crimes. More mass shootings. More domestic gun murders. More black on black gun violence. More white on white gun violence. More gun suicides. More unintentional gun deaths of children. And yes, more police shootings. The common denominator is the gun.

We at Protect Minnesota join President Obama, Governor Dayton and the larger gun violence prevention community in expressing our deepest condolences to the family of Philando Castile. We grieve at the senseless loss of a good man who was loved by the children at the school where he worked. We weep at the thought of the trauma that his girlfriend and her young child have experienced and will relive every time the video is played. Our prayers are with all people of color in our community who have been wounded by yet another apparently unjustified shooting of a black man by law enforcement. Our hearts are open as well for the dedicated and honorable police officers throughout our state and nation who will now face greater suspicion and increased risks.

There is no easy, definitive statement to make except this: In the wake of this tragedy, we will continue to do our job. We will counter the false claims of the gun lobby. We will build a statewide network of people and organizations who support sensible gun legislation. We will speak out against and work to prevent gun violence in Minnesota. I invite you to join us.”

The false claims of the gun lobby have us in this position. How do officers deal with armed citizens? Often they are outgunned by people on the streets. How do communities deal with more heavily armed young men in their communities? How do the young men in affected communities get their guns so easily and why do they feel like they need them? Why are officers so quick to stop people of color for minor traffic violations? Why are officers more afraid of black people with guns than white people with guns?

Governor Mark Dayton boldly said it like it is in his press conference yesterday:

“Would this have happened if … the driver and passenger were white?” he asked. “I don’t think it would’ve. So I’m forced to confront and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”

Today, President Obama said it like it is in his statement:

“Let me just say, even as yesterday I spoke about our need to be concerned, as all Americans, about racial discrimination in our criminal justice system. I also said our police have an extremely difficult job and the vast majority do their job in outstanding fashion,” he continued. “We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. And in the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well.”

Realities. More guns are NOT making us safer. The gun lobby is dead wrong.

This is about racism. This is about intolerance. This is about fear. And this is, at the least, about guns.

 

UPDATE:

We now know that there was a single gunman in Dallas. He had served in the military. He had lots of guns. He claimed he wanted to shoot white people ( he was black). One lone man with extreme  and out of the mainstream ideas( and a loner according to neighbors) could do this much damage because he could buy an assault style rifle with many rounds of high capacity magazines. He knew what he was doing. He knew he could inflict a lot of damage on a lot of people. From the article above:

Micah Xavier Johnson didn’t have a criminal record and apparently acted alone in the carefully planned ambush during a march downtown, a law enforcement official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, told USA TODAY earlier Friday. Seven other officers and two civilians were also wounded.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Dallas police confirmed the identity of the gunman and said he was described as a loner by some who knew him. Detectives were in the process of analyzing the information in the journal, the statement said. (…)

Johnson’s Facebook account included the names Fahed Hassen and Richard GRIFFIN or Professor Griff, the Dallas Police Department said in the statement. GRIFFIN, who embraces a “radical form of Afrocentrism,” police said, also authored a book titled A Warrior’s Tapestry.

Extremism of any kind and guns and ammunition are a lethal mix. We have proof of that over and over again. But we are still waiting to act.

Why?

 

 

Florida and guns

 I have been on a family trip to Marco Island, Florida this past week. It has one of the best and most beautiful beaches in the US. There are sea shells everywhere and a wide beach of hard white sand. Some call the state of Florida the “gun shine” state. I was expecting to see people walking around with holstered guns. But I have not seen one person with a gun. In fact, guns are not welcome on the beaches as my photo indicates. Why in God’s name would someone want to bring a gun to this beautiful pristine place?

But never mind all of that. So far at least, Florida remains a state without open carry. And in another modicum of common sense, the legislature failed to pass a campus carry law. It’s always nice to see the gun lobby get turned down in their efforts to get guns into every nook and cranny of our communities. I see more guns carried in public places in Minnesota than I have here in Florida.

Florida is known for looser gun laws and more gun deaths than many states. It is the home to the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis- the shooters of both young black men claimed as self defense. Luckily for the family of Jordan Davis, the shooter did not get away with murder. And we know about what a fine upstanding citizen George Zimmerman is. Florida is a laboratory for the NRA. What we see in Florida often shows up in other states. That is what Stand Your Ground in Florida started. A national trend.

Lately there was an awful shooting here on Dec 31st in Florida when a mother shot her daughter in what she thought was a self defense shooting. Yes. This is more often the case than guns used for actual self defense. All gun deaths are terrible tragedies. But theses kinds of “accidental” shootings are avoidable and totally senseless.

So I am wondering if it’s true that a lot of people carry guns in Florida or if that is just another gun lobby myth and exaggeration?  Politifact found that Florida does, indeed, have the largest number of carry permits in the country. So I could be surrounded by armed people- or not. It wouldn’t be much different than sitting in a legislative hearing room in the Minnesota Capitol.

Common sense tells us, of course, that carrying while enjoying  life with the family isn’t a good idea. And it can’t be much fun to always be worried about danger lurking everywhere. Kids running around playing. People in kayaks, paddle boards, parasailing, sipping Pina Coladas, and all of those relaxing things people do. Having a gun at the ready is just not one of them.

Meanwhile back in Minnesota, gun carriers are shoveling 12 inches of snow.

Tomorrow I will fly back home to deal with whatever bills are proposed in Minnesota. Let’s hope we can pass a background check bill to require that all gun buyers undergo a criminal background check. That is one way to save lives and keep everyone who wants to buy or sell a gun honest and law abiding. There’s nothing wrong with that idea though we know the “registration” and “confiscation” argument has already been raised by the gun lobbyists. It isn’t true. Time for all of us to take a break from the old arguments, relax, and have the reasonable conversation we should be having.

A love affair with guns

love_and_deathbAmericans love their guns. They love them too much if we are to believe the statistics about the daily carnage in our country. And yes, let it be said that most Americans who own guns for hunting or casual use are careful and legal with their guns. That said, let’s also say that the fact that too many of those otherwise “responsible” and “law abiding” gun owners are not.

The difference between being irresponsible with your hammer or not careful with your knife and not being responsible or careful with your gun could be a lost life. Why? Because hammers and knives, when used for their stated purpose, can cause some bodily injuries or maybe even get used in homicides or to harm others but the infrequency of that compared to gun deaths and injuries is a fact. And guns inherent and obvious use is to kill a person or an animal.

Americans love their guns to death. Most gun deaths are suicide in our country. And then there are those pesky “accidental” discharges killing our children and toddlers once a week or so.

So, on Black Friday, apparently Americans bought enough guns to arm the Marine Corps. Stunning. And what is even more stunning is that many of these guns went to people who already own other guns. The truth is that fewer people and households own guns. But those who do own many of them. From the article from The Trace (linked):

Ater Thursday’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College claimed ten lives in Roseburg, Oregon, officials revealed that Christopher Harper Mercer, the gunman behind the attack, had owned a stockpile of 14 firearms. The number elicited shock from the gunman’s father live on CNN: “How was he able to compile that kind of arsenal?” Ian Mercer asked. But as it turns out, owning ten or more firearms isn’t all that uncommon: According to a forthcoming study of gun ownership conducted by Harvard researchers, more than six million Americans already do. In other words, there are more people in America who own ten or more guns than there are residents of Denmark.

Amazing and concerning.

Take a look at this video clip of a Bill Maher show about how we love our guns and love to openly carry them for effect  ( or at least how the minority of us love their guns).

And what does this have to do with recent mass shootings? It is not only my view that the easy access to guns has caused a lot of mayhem on the home front. It is now speculated that the shooters in the San Bernardino mass shooting were able to amass a virtual arsenal of weapons, ammunition and bomb making materials. It’s easy for that to happen in gun nutty America. Does anyone remember that Congress allowed the restrictions on certain types of assault rifles, including certain features, to expire?:

Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza reportedly used a Bushmaster .223 rifle, a type of AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, to gun down 20 children in their first-grade classrooms on Friday.

AR-15s were one of 18 semiautomatic weapons banned under a 1994 law that expired in 2004 despite broad public support and a drop in gun fatalities, USA Today reported at the time.

Since then, killers have used semiautomatics to target victims en masse at Virginia Tech; theFort Hood military base; anAurora, Colo. movie theater; aSikh temple in Wisconsin; and now an elementary school in Newtown, Conn..

Let’s see. Are we safer from mass shootings now that that has happened? What kind of weapons are often used? Right. AR-15s or AK-47s.

Sigh.

High capacity magazines designed to attach to assault weapons are easy to buy in our country. Perhaps we need to restrict the amount of ammunition one can buy at once and require background checks for ammunition as well. Remember the Colorado movie theater shooter’s on-line purchases of thousands of rounds of ammunition? The victims’ families do. It’s kind of hard to argue that it’s OK for someone to be able to buy this much ammunition with no background check or even with a background check for that matter. We are not talking your average deer or pheasant hunter here.

We don’t know yet how the San Bernardino shooters obtained the 2 assault rifles used in the shooting but all guns start out as legal purchases so presumably they can be traced to their original owner. But it’s easy enough to buy as many guns as one wants or needs for some kind of attack right here at home- terror attack, domestic shooting, school shooting, or whatever.

And don’t get started on California’s strict gun laws before you read this from the article above:

Despite California’s relatively tough gun laws, it is not difficult to legally buy semiautomatic rifles that critics call assault weapons but are marketed by gun makers as “modern sporting rifles.” C.D. Michel, a Long Beach lawyer who has brought numerous legal challenges against gun ownership restrictions, said that “none of these laws have proven to be effective.”

“There’s a substitution effect,” said Mr. Michel, who counts among his clients the National Rifle Association. “If you ban Rifle X, people will use Rifle Y. When you strip away the prohibited features, you have a bare rifle, if you will, that is not necessarily a banned assault weapon.”

Go online, and it is not hard to find semiautomatic AR-15-style rifles offered for sale as “California compliant.” This is despite a series of laws dating to 1989 that banned a number of specific brands, as well as certain generic features.
Also, Californians can still legally possess assault rifles that they owned before the prohibitions went into effect as long as they have registered them with the state. More than 100,000 such weapons are registered.

The ban on high-capacity magazines, as well as the requirement that a magazine be affixed to the gun, was meant to prevent firing dozens of rounds from a single magazine and then quickly reloading, as has happened in many mass shooting cases. The development of the bullet button took advantage of a provision in California law allowing the sale of a gun with a magazine that could be removed with a “tool,” rather than simply by pressing a release-catch with a finger.

You can see how gun lobby amendments or loopholes get added to otherwise strong gun bills so they get their way anyway.

Insidious.

And worse than that, it’s easy for those who are prohibited from buying guns legally from also getting them legally because we haven’t made it illegal. You know what I mean- buying guns from private sellers at a gun show, on-line a flea market or maybe from a relative or friend who doesn’t know that you are a domestic abuser.

And what about those “everyday” gun deaths that don’t get the attention they deserve. Those are the ones that take the lives of most Americans killed by guns. You know, like my sister’s in a domestic shooting. Those. Vox has again done us a great service by putting the data in a form that is easy to understand, even for our Congress members and legislators. From the article:

We know that many of the everyday gun deaths are preventable. The research, helpfully aggregated by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center, shows that after controlling for variables such as socioeconomic factors and other crime, places with more guns have more gun deaths. The research is actually a bit weaker for mass shootings — in large part because such tragedies are, thankfully, somewhat rare, so they’re difficult to study. But the basic point is that we know restricting access to guns — and, better yet, confiscating guns — could help prevent thousands of gun deaths.

We don’t make sure that people like the shooter of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs have their guns taken from them because they could be a danger to themselves or others. So we let them keep their guns because…. rights. And now, of course, 3 innocent Americans just lost their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Often love affairs end in separation or divorce. It seems like the time is here to divorce the corporate gun lobby from the elected leaders who have been frightened into doing their bidding- sort of like the power and control an abusive partner has on their spouse or partner.

Yesterday the Senate was forced to take a vote on background checks and the terror gap loophole in our gun laws that allows known terrorists on the no fly list to purchase guns anyway legally. The Senate, while debating repealing Obama Care once again and taking away the rights of women to legal health care options, in it’s pandering to the gun extremists, voted to allow extremists, terrorists, domestic abusers, felons and others to be able to buy guns legally. The Brady Campaign sent a letter to Congress  just hours before the shooting in San Bernardino warning Congress of the dangers to Americans if we don’t close the terror gap and require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

Sigh.

You can’t make this stuff up. In the face of 2 horrendous mass shootings, home grown terror or otherwise, our Senators failed us. Here is the list. You can thank those who had the common sense to understand that keeping our country safe from domestic abusers with guns who target a clinic that provides services to women they are trying to deny, should be a priority. And you can ask what the others were thinking when they voted to allow terrorists to get guns legally and to allow just anyone to purchase a gun with no background check.

It’s time to divorce the pandering, fear, paranoia and money interests from our own supposedly deliberative body of law makers who should vote their consciences rather than their fear of being re-elected. Do we have a democracy any more?

Those who voted no on these life saving measures will be held accountable. The American public is in no mood to just accept this any longer. They just may divorce some of their leaders and vote for those who are willing to stand up for the victims and survivors and understand that more guns have not made us safer. Indeed, the opposite is what is happening every day. 89 American families a day are mourning their loss of a family member to gunshot injuries.

This is the definition of insanity. We are better than this. It’s past time to demand common sense action. Go ahead and pray for the families if you think that will help. And think about them every day. As long as it isn’t your loss, it’s easy to divorce yourself from the carnage. But when suddenly it’s your loss, it’s a different story to tell.

Schools, shopping malls, Planned Parenthood clinics, hospitals ( a Denver hospital was held hostage by a gunman yesterday), colleges, gatherings of public employees in a public building, and any other place where shooters choose their targets should be free from gun violence. And no, you gun rights extremists,  guns carried by law abiding gun carriers just don’t make a difference in shootings like this. That nonsensical argument needs to be put to rest once and for all. When the shooting began at the Planned Parenthood clinic, a gun permit holder wanted to get involved. He was told to get away. How would law enforcement know if he was the shooter in question or just a guy with a gun trying to take matters into his own hands.

And the love affair also extends to carrying guns around in nearly all public places, sometimes openly carried, by a bunch of folks who are flaunting their gun rights just because they can. There are plenty of people who shouldn’t be carrying guns but do so anyway because of flaws in our laws. Check out this article in the Star Tribune by someone who admits that he has enough prior mental difficulties due to depression and PTSD that he is a person who really should not be allowed to carry a gun. But he got his Minnesota permit anyway.

But debating the supremacy of public policy vs. my civil rights is of little use for the moment, because for the next five years I can walk into any federal firearms licensee storefront in Minnesota and walk out with a semiautomatic pistol, high-capacity magazines and all of the ammunition I can afford.

How many permit holders are there like me in Minnesota? That’s impossible to tell. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year 6.7 percent of U.S. adults 18 or older experience a major depressive disorder. And nearly two-thirds “do not actively seek nor receive proper treatment,” according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

Doing the math, Minnesota can expect that thousands of the more than 200,000 citizens with permits to purchase — as many as 8,900 — will experience a major depressive disorder this year. Like me, they’re not appearing on the sheriff’s radar. Unlike me, they don’t receive treatment.

So we have more than a serious problem. It is really an emergency. But our legislators and Congress members put their heads firmly in the sand and hope it will go away. What they are really hoping is that they don’t have to deal with gun issues. Why? Because in their heart of hearts most of them actually are on the side of reasonable gun laws just like me. But they are afraid to say so because the gun extremists, a mere minority of Americana and even of law abiding gun owners, might go after them. So what? 92% of Americans and even gun owners and NRA members want their leaders to do the right thing.

One has to ask then, who are our leaders truly representing? Not me. Not you. Not the way too many victims and survivors. Not gun owners.

Who?

We need the question answered.

UPDATE:

Within moments of my posting this one, I ran across this disgusting article. One of the Senators ( Presidential candidate) who voted against common sense yesterday is going ahead to host a second amendment rally even in the wake of the latest mass shootings. Let’s see if you can guess who this is before I provide a quote. Did you get it yet? Here it is ( from the article):

According to a report in Politico, the event was previously scheduled, but not canceled because Cruz spokesman Catherine Frazier told Politico “even in the midst of horrific events like this, we should never rush to take away the basic liberties enshrined in our Constitution that are guaranteed to law-abiding American citizens.”

As Politico pointed out, the Crossroads Shooting Sports boasts that part of its mission is to “glorify God in all we do and to be a positive influence to all who come in contact with CrossRoads Shooting Sports LLC.”

Yes, of course. Senator Ted Cruz flaunting gun rights while the families of the latest victims have not yet buried their loved ones.  I would say shame on him but he won’t listen because his mission is all about getting elected no matter what and pandering to God and gun rights extremists.

God help us all.

 

UPDATE #2:

Just when you thought things couldn’t be more ridiculous, I ask you to take a long look at the family of Nevada Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore packing heat for their Christmas card photo. Nothing says merry and happy and joy like a 5 year old holding a Walther P22.

She loves her guns and her right to look totally out of touch with America and likely many of her constituents. May she have a safe new year though with kids bearing arms, that is iffy.