School days, gun days…..

Back to School

It’s back to school in most of the country. I really do love the photos on Facebook of kids of various ages in various outfits and displaying various facial expressions. Some are obviously not so happy with their parents’ photos. But they are obligatory and I still have the photos of my kids on their first days of school. Now they are taking photos of their own kids.

There will be lots of things on the minds of our kids. My grandson just wrote two papers for Advanced English and Advanced Biology classes in his high school.He loved both of the books he read and his papers reflected his own opinions after reading the books. One was A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. 

The reading of this book led our family to having a serious and interesting discussion about the origins of the universe as we sat on the deck of our cabin looking at the stars and even some shooting stars.

I loved this discussion and watched his mind as it was literally expanding before us.

What I don’t love is the thought that his school could be the subject of a school shooting. And it could based on all evidence and our history with school shootings. This is also on the mind of our students. Or maybe, as this article suggests, it is more on the mind of parents and kids pick up on the anxiety displayed by their parents:

Schools have active shooter drills to get everyone used to their safety plan. “The more you practice something, the more you rehearse it, you lay the mental tracks so that you decrease the tendency to freeze in the case of a real emergency and you can go quickly into action,” explains Dr. Howard. “In the military you do realistic drills because you really will be in combat, but this is a low-probability event. You just need to lay the tracks so you decrease those few seconds of reaction time.”

Who can blame parents all things considered.

The thing is, schools are not the military and should not have to be “hardened” against school shootings. The article talks little about gun violence prevention and actually working to keep school shooters from getting guns in the first place. Kids should be able to study English and Biology without fear of being shot and not getting home to be with their families. Families should not have to be anxious that sending their child off to school in the morning could be the last time they see or hug their child.

A recent article article from the Star Tribune focused on school safety as well. 

It’s all about what schools around Minnesota are doing to keep students safe from shootings. A lot of money has been spent to construct secure entrances, metal screening devices, security lights and cameras and other things that will only alert those in the building to a shooting already happening. It all makes a lot of common sense.

Again, no mention of guns or how to keep school shooters from accessing guns. We just can’t talk about school shootings without talking about the role of guns in shootings. It’s that simple. What about prevention?

It’s the guns.

As proof, a San Francisco area school year got off to a bang when a student brought a gun to school and was “playing with it” in the back of the room when it discharged:

A 14-year-old girl student told NBC Bay Area that the gun went off in her class in the auditorium. She explained that she witnessed one student saying to another, in a joking way, “do you want me to shoot you?”

The other student said “yeah OK,” not taking the other student seriously, according to the witness. Then, the student with the gun started fumbling with his backpack and the firearm went off, the witness said.

Authorities said one person sustained a non-life threatening injury during the incident. One student sustained non-life threatening injuries unrelated to the firearm discharge and was evaluated and released to parents at the scene, police said. No other students were injured in this incident.

First of all, how did that gun get into his backpack? Second, why did he take it out of the backpack and play with it? Third, it was loaded. Adults are responsible for that. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

These are serious concerns. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others. They should be safely stored, unloaded, away from the hands of small children and teens. This will also protect them from being stolen. It is not a small thing or to be shrugged off when something like this happens in our schools. These incidents are not isolated. They happen often enough for us to be very concerned. Luckily no one was killed- this time.

So it was gratifying to see that a major American corporation was persuaded by the student survivors of the Parkland shooting to change the policies regarding guns in their stores. And they are going to put their money where there mouths are:

That’s why Levi Strauss & Co. is stepping up our support for gun violence prevention. You may wonder why a company that doesn’t manufacture or sell guns is wading into this issue, but for us, it’s simple. Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and all walks of life.

The stakes could not be higher. On an average day, 96 Americans are killed by guns, and hundreds more are wounded. Most are suicides or unintentional shootings. Our nation’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average rate of other high-income countries. Some shootings make the headlines; some you never hear of; but each one is a tragedy.

So today, on top of our previous actions, Levi Strauss & Co. is lending its support for gun violence prevention in three new areas.

First, we have established the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants from Levi Strauss & Co. over the next four years to fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.

This is only the beginning of what is going to happen after the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Texas and the aftermath of the shooting as students did not remain quiet but raised their voices loudly and clearly.

So as the school year begins, we can only hope that we won’t see more tragedies. Unfortunately we will. It’s just a matter of time before another teen who may be troubled or bullied or fascinated with guns or has some mental difficulties accesses a gun he cannot own and takes it to school to shoot at random kids or friends or those he perceives have slighted him or bullied him.

Much can be done to solve the problem of school gun violence. But if we refuse to talk about the guns and where they come from, we will be failing our kids and our country.

Please join the students in their fierce efforts to make changes to the conversation and changes to our gun laws to prevent shootings. It’s not rocket science. It’s about saving lives and stopping the carnage.

We can do this. Support a local, state or national group working to end gun violence and to pass gun safety reform measures. That, too, is simple. If you are anxious about school shootings, stand up and speak out. Lives depend on it.

3 + 9 equals mass shooting

Protect MinnesotaYesterday another mass shooting happened in America. It is probably not a surprise that it happened again in Florida. The gun laws in Florida are particularly loose ones and Florida has become the laboratory of the NRA’s agenda, thanks to NRA Board member Marion Hammer.

But things are changing even in Florida after the Parkland students and the country stood up and said “no more”in marches and student walkouts all over America that came from the March For Our Lives movement.

A shooter decided to direct his anger or frustration or whatever the heck he was thinking at innocent other people who were just hanging out at a gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. And so now we have to think twice about going to gaming events as well as schools, shopping malls, churches, parks, stores, being in homes, workplaces, colleges, preschools, and other places where American citizens go everyday.

It is unquestionable that too many guns and too easy access to guns by just about everyone is leading to an unsafe society. It is also an impolite and violent society. The culture of the corporate gun lobby is what the problem actually is. When so many people can buy so many guns of most any type so easily, we can expect to see just about every corner of our country experiencing gun deaths and injuries.

In Jacksonville, Florida yesterday, 2 were shot dead by the shooter who shot himself and 11 were injured, 9 by gunfire.

The 2 innocent people who died of their gunshot injuries were Taylor Robinson and Eli Clayton. Look at their faces and say their names.

In a live recording from the scene, gunshots can be heard and then screaming and the sound of people running. That is what the first reaction is- run for your life. If anyone had a gun there, they didn’t use it to stop the carnage. It would be rare if they did.

And the sound of bullets firing from a gun, screaming and running have become part of the American landscape.

The math is not good for shootings in Florida- or anywhere else for that matter.  The Parkland shooting has changed the landscape about gun safety reform in our country. It’s only been 6 months since that heinous shooting. And it’s only been about a week since a shooting at a high school football game in Jacksonville left 1 shot dead and 2 injured in an apparent gang member shooting:

“It is shocking. I was actually here, at the game,” Superintendent Diana Greene told the Times Union. “It was a great game and for it to end in violence like this is just unfortunate, and quite frankly, we should all be saying unacceptable.”

The superintendent said everyone coming into the game had to undergo a magnetic detector wand search and that security inside the game area was tight.

“This is a community issue,” Greene said. “I need parents, students to stand up. If you see something, say something.”

Friday’s shooting followed by one week a shooting at a high school football game in Palm Beach County, Fla., where two adults were wounded.

Really? A shooting the week before at another Florida football game before the Jacksonville shooting?

I would say it’s an understatement that this is a community issue important enough for parents and students to stand up and say something.

Where is common sense?

And let’s ask the obvious question. Where are all of the guns coming from?  Stolen? Trafficking? Straw purchasing? Private sale with not background check? Whatever the source, we can do something about all of it if we put our minds together and decide to stand up for common sense and right.

As kids go back to school, they will be facing another year where no parent knows whether their child will make it home after school. Children are fearful of being shot. In my last post, I discussed products sold to protect our children from harm. And I also discussed the ludicrous notion proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to spend federal funds to arm teachers.

How many kids are affected by gun violence every day? 8. Eight is 8 too many. The numbers are too high and shouldn’t add up to death or injury by bullets. How many kids have lost their lives so far this year to bullets? According to the Gun Violence Archive= 2236. 

Until we decide that the best way forward is prevention rather than taking measures after the fact or measures that deal with a shooting in progress, we will not protect our children and our citizens from gun violence.

The Brady Campaign’s new campaign to talk about the risks of family fire- End Family Fire- is a way to look at gun violence from the prevention and public health aspect as it should be. Passing stronger laws can prevent shootings. All gun violence prevention organizations at the state and federal level are promoting prevention measures and proactive measures to save lives.

Speaking of the Brady Campaign, here is a statement about the Jacksonville shooting:

“Americans deserve to be safe, whether at school, a football game, a club, an airport, an art exhibition, a church, a workplace, a concert, or — as of today — a gaming tournament. We await the details of this shooter’s plans and how he got his gun, but we already know that far more gun deaths happen every day in America than among any other industrialized nation. We can stop the shootings if we enforce our existing gun laws, including the Brady background check system, and eliminate the gaps in our our nation’s laws that make it far too easy for dangerous people to get firearms to use as killing machines.”

Protect Minnesota is urging young people and students to get involved in a new text program. Check out the meme above for more information. The Brady Campaign also has a text for action program (877-877) as do most other groups.  Brady’s #TeamEnough is a good way to get involved for young people.

Many good things are going on and I’m proud to be part of it all.

But where are Congress and our legislators?

We are better than this.

#Enough

Back to school gun nonsense

backpacks and little kidsOur kids are targets in our schools. Far too many of them have been murdered in cold blood while doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Why are we letting this happen? Why are we not addressing the issue of where school shooters get their guns and how we can prevent them from getting weapons of mass destruction?

Because….. rights.

Where are the rights of students and their parents to know that they will come home at the end of the school day safe and secure from being killed or injured by bullets?

So now our illustrious and totally unfit to serve Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is suggesting that the federal government should now allow states to be able to buy guns for teachers with federal education funds.

This is so ludicrous there are hardly words for it. Most teachers don’t want guns or want to be bodyguards or security guards while doing the difficult job of teaching our kids. I have been there. I worked in my school district as a special educator. Here is my take which I have shared before:

  1. My first duty is to get kids to a safe place and be with them in a very frightening and uncertain situation.
  2. My second is to stay with the kids, period.
  3. My last responsibility is to hope like hell that the shooter won’t find me and the group of kids I am trying to keep safe because I would not, in a moment when frightened and with adrenaline surging through my body, have the nerve or the knowledge to start shooting at a shooter. That would be a win-lose.
  4. Anyone who has not been in a classroom setting teaching kids should not be making these stupid decisions to arm teachers. Watch as a teacher goes through his or her day to see how difficult it would be to grab a gun while at the same time trying to keep students from being killed.
  5. The best thing we can do is to prevent school shooters ( mostly kids themselves) from getting guns in the first place. The majority of school shooters get their guns from home. Where is the responsibility of those “law abiding” gun owning parents and relatives? Check out this article about school shooters and how our weak laws and failure to deal with the problems we can see with some of our students contributes to the mass school shootings in our country:
  6. From the article above
  7. The 19-year-old had made threats and was expelled from school, bragged about killing animals, posed with guns on social media and went to a clinic for mental health treatment before took an AR-15-style rifle he had bought legally to a Florida high school and killed 17 people.

    The same style weapon has been used in Sutherland Springs, Texas; Las Vegas, San Bernardino, California; and Newtown, Connecticut. A similar rifle was used in Orlando.

    President Donald Trump kept a loophole allowing people to obtain guns while undergoing mental health treatment after President Barack Obama had tried to close it. Other mass shooters have gotten around restrictions by using weapons initially purchased legally

  8. Safe storage of guns is the key to keeping our kids safe. That should be a no brainer. Other measures like requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales and passing Extreme Risk Protection Orders can actually save lives and keep people from getting shot.
  9. Products like bulletproof backpacks or others being sold are just a way to make money and play on the fear of parents. What if the backpack is not with the kid when a shooting occurs? What if the backpack is in a locker or left on the floor?
  10. We can prevent school shootings. Ask your elected leaders why they are not working their tails off to do the right thing by and for our kids.

Common sense is what we need. Educators spend hundreds of their own dollars every year for supplies needed for teaching. Why? Schools are vastly underfunded. The Federal government does not contribute much to local school districts. State and local taxes pay for most of the education of our children. But every year, kids and their parents stress out over getting school supplies for the year since the districts don’t have the money to pay. Some families have a difficult time affording all of this so charitable non-profit organizations contribute backpacks and other supplies to families with needs. There are also groups who distribute supplies to teachers for free.

If Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to do something to help our kids, she should fund more assistance for mental health problems for kids and help pay for supplies and other things needed for our children to keep them financially secure and healthy and fed.  Class sizes are large. Kids’ needs are not being met. We have some unaddressed problems in our public schools. Arming teachers is one issue that comes with its’ own safety concerns and should be looked at very skeptically as a solution to the larger problem of access to guns by kids.

The idea that government would purchase guns for teachers is so out there as to make me wonder what people are smoking or where their priorities actually are for education in America.

Secretary DeVos played nice with gun safety reform advocates by inviting them to meetings to discuss school safety. The thing is, the word guns was not mentioned at these meetings. But when the influence of the corporate gun lobby pressures her and others in our government, she comes up with this cockamammie idea?

Where is common sense?

Wouldn’t those gun shops and manufacturers just be drooling at the prospect of selling guns to school districts all over the country?

Follow the money.

After the Parkland shooting on the heels of all of the other school shootings, to even publicly suggest spending tax money to arm teaches is tone deaf and misinformed.

Here is a list of school shootings so far in 2018. School has just begun in many states or will begin in a few weeks in others. That number will certainly go up and no one knows where the next shooting will occur. Will it be at your child’s school or your grandchild’s school?

We are better than this.

#Enough

 

UPDATE

I want to share this wonderful statement and video from Senator Kamala Harris of California when speaking about the dangers and ludicrous nature of arming teachers:

Armed intimidation of students

intimidationWhat makes a group of grown men so afraid? A group of students traveling the country advocating for gun safety reform. It’s called #RoadToChange.

It’s really almost comical if it wasn’t also threatening and intimidating. Check out the photo of the vehicle used by a bunch of armed gun extremists who are following the Parkland students around as they rally the public for gun safety reform.:

 

“The hostile environment created toward gun advocates in the Northeast is not unlike the hostile environments a black man would have experienced in the South hundreds of years ago,” he said Tuesday.

Good grief. So not true. And more:

The Georgia trooper was far friendlier. In another video taken by someone in Melchior’s entourage, the trooper said he saw Melchior drive past in the armored vehicle — missing the replica machine gun at that point but still with Utah Gun Exchange logos on the side — and thought “I gotta talk to this guy.”

The Georgia officer had a tattoo that appears to be the logo of a paramilitary organization called The Three Percenters, which bills itself as a national defense organization. He ended up signing the truck and left with a T-shirt for the gun exchange.

In Melchior’s view, it showed a divide among members of law enforcement.

“We received different treatment under the law based on who we encountered,” Melchior said. “That’s problematic.”

I couldn’t disagree more. What’s problematic is that the Georgia officer shrugged off the lunacy and the potentially dangerous and intimidating vehicle as they harass students around the country. And what’s more, is the tattoo sported by the officer showing where his sympathies lie- presumably not with common sense gun legislation.

This is not normal and not necessary. No one is going to take guns away from law abiding citizens. What is their point? In case you missed it, there was a good back and forth conversation as written on Twitter that a Parkland student posted. In the end, a gun rights advocate and a gun safety reform minded student survivor could agree on some basic truths. That is what can be accomplished if we put our heads together. It’s hard to do that if guys come around armed and driving wannabe tanks.

This is not child’s play or funny. This is serious business involving intimidation and armed citizens so afraid themselves that they are trying to get others to be afraid. But the students are not afraid.

This is also how true change will happen. Kudos to the Parkland students who are having these amazing common sense conversations.

Interesting, groups of gun rights advocates have attracted very small numbers of people to their counter protests. It’s about time that they stop pushing for their extreme views which the majority of Americans have rejected. And most gun owners actually agree with the goals of the Parkland students.

And speaking of the Parkland shooting, it’s time to talk more about the attitude towards allowing the teen shooter to buy his guns. His mother has been called now an enabler as she allowed the troubled teen to purchase his guns. She is now dead and so did not know about what those guns she thought he should have did to 17 innocent people.

From the article:

“His mother was an enabler, and his mother contributed to this significantly,” Gualtieri said at a Tuesday meeting of the commission, held at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. “To the point where at one time when they said that he wanted to buy a gun and the counselors from the school said he shouldn’t have a gun, his mother said ‘I don’t care. If he wants a gun, he can have a gun.’”

But a review of Nikolas Cruz’s psychiatric memos show it wasn’t as simple or uncontested as that. His mother initially resisted and they battled over the issue.

A mental health counselor paid a visit to the Cruz home in September 2016 when Nikolas Cruz acted out because his mother refused to take him to get a state-issued ID, which he would have needed to buy a gun. He turned 18 that month, legally old enough to make the purchase on his own. (…)

“I’m not concerned, and l’m not afraid,” she said. “My son has pellet guns and has always respected the rules of where they can and can’t be used.”

The school’s JROTC program already had banned Cruz from firing guns with the group during shooting practice.

A longtime friend of Lynda Cruz’s said she thought Lynda Cruz gave in to her son’s desire to buy a gun because she feared him. He had been physically violent with her, according to Broward Sheriff’s Office records and recent witness statements.

“I think she was afraid of him, actually,” the friend said.

His mother was wrong. She should have been concerned. More people should be concerned about how easy it is to get their hands on guns and use them to murder others. This is simply not OK.

None of this is OK. It’s time for it all to change. The only way it will change is to change the lapdog politicians who are afraid of the corporate gun lobby and armed people like the guys traveling the country in a look alike army tank to intimidate kids who are just trying to stop the shootings.

We are better than this.

In support of safe communities

register to voteWe have a problem ( we have many actually) in the country with so many senior Americans living in homes with guns. In my last post, I wrote about the need for Red Flag laws in order to save lives. A fine example of how these laws work to save lives is this incident of a woman whose husband “accidentally” shot her in the stomach. He had dementia but still she brought out his guns at his request so he could look at them. Unfortunately for all, he picked up one of the guns, pulled the trigger and shot his wife in the stomach. She lived. And yet, she was OK with this because she didn’t want to take away his dignity. But what’s more important here?

Education of the public is needed to explain the provisions of these kinds of laws. Families of gun owners often don’t believe that a loved one could possibly be a danger or pose a risk. But why take a risk with lethal weapons? From the article:

About a year before the shooting, Dee reluctantly took away his car keys. When he still insisted on driving, she sold the car. When he wanted to check on their guns, she locked them in their safe in a shed behind the house and changed the combination.

Dee did the right thing in taking away the car keys. She could have avoided getting shot had she not taken the guns out of the locked gun safe.

At the end of the piece, a common sense discussion occurs with another woman who made the decision to sell her husband’s guns. And further, the article ends with an interview with a physician and the dilemma about talking to elderly patients about guns in the home. This may the time to remind my readers that the NRA has tried to stop physicians from asking about guns in homes. Why? Second amendment I guess.

There really are some people who should not have guns.

This is a no brainer. Of course we have to have these discussions. And of course health care providers should talk to patients about the risk of guns in the home. And of course we need to pass more Red Flag laws. It’s all a matter of common sense and has nothing to do with rights. It’s about safer families and communities.

The Parkland students are touring the country with the Road to Change tour this summer. They are also talking about safer communities wherever they go. There are many ways to have safer communities. One is to pass stronger gun laws. These students understand that because they experienced a tragedy on Feb. 14th at their school and nothing has been the same since.

They are asking, “When is this going to end?”

Good question.

While the students were in Minneapolis, I went to a picnic and met some of them. It was great to chat a bit with Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, two of the outspoken Parkland students who have become heroes to many. I had a particularly good conversation with a student from Chicago who joined the tour as the group stopped there on their tour. We talked about easy access to guns, about the homicides in Chicago, about the difference between urban gun violence and gun suicides which can be prevalent in more urban areas. In the end, it’s the bullets that take lives whether homicide or suicide.

We agreed that we would all be safer if we passed a federal background check law to stop guns from states with more lenient gun laws making their way into states like Illinois with stronger gun laws. Chuck’s gun shop came up as the Brady Campaign has organized some protests there to show how Bad Apple Gun Dealers can add to urban gun violence.

While the students were in Minneapolis they did several things. One of the major goals is to register young people to vote in order to make the changes we need. They did register voters. They also attended a vigil for Thurman Blevins, the man shot by police in Minneapolis in a confrontation that turned deadly. To date there are conflicting reports about this shooting and it appears that the body camera footage of the officers will be released soon. Clearly guns cause a lot of conflict, a lot of heartache, a lot of tragedy and senseless violence in our communities no matter who is shooting them.  There are too many guns out there and as a result there are too many shootings. There is also fear about the too many guns in our communities leading to more fear from citizens and officers alike often leading to more shootings.

There were also more active shooting incidents last year than in previous years. This should come as no surprise to most of us and particularly not to the Parkland community or any community where recent shootings have taken place.This new FBI report released recently has the facts about this. From the article:

Active shooting incidents have continued to plague the nation but last year, there were 30 incidents across the U.S. — the highest number since the FBI began tracking the phenomenon. Last year also broke a record for the highest death toll in any single year.

“Faced with so many tragedies, society routinely wrestles with a fundamental question: can anything be done to prevent attacks on our loved ones, our children, our schools, our churches, concerts and communities?” the study says. “There is cause for hope because there is something that can be done.”

And also of interest is the fact that most of the shooters in these incidents got their guns legally ( though maybe shouldn’t have):

The 30-page report examines active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 and suspects in 63 cases, finding suspects showed signs before they attacked but law enforcement wasn’t notified in more than half the cases until it was too late.

Forty percent of suspects purchased a firearm or multiple guns legally for the sole purpose of an attack. Another 35 percent already legally owned a gun before planning an attack, meaning 75 percent of active shooter incidents reviewed by the FBI legally owned the gun they used in the attack.

The remaining suspects stole, borrowed or purchased a weapon illegally.

It’s so easy to get guns in America. If one intends to carry out a shooting, one can do it without a problem. Speaking of legal and illegal guns, the Heller decision is now 10 years old. 

The Supreme Court decided in Heller the second amendment could be interpreted to mean that individuals have the right to have guns in their homes, more or less ignoring the section of the amendment that deals with a “well regulated militia” as had been an established precedent previous to the decision.

The above linked article from the Brady Center discusses that decision and what it has meant for our country’s gun laws and public safety.

And what a day to mention this given that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today. What will this mean for gun rights and gun violence prevention? Here is the statement from the Brady Campaign about Kennedy’s retirement from the bench.  From the statement:

“President Trump has made no secret of his desires to reshape the Supreme Court to be hostile to common sense gun laws. Indeed, the NRA and the gun lobby are already celebrating today’s announcement. We will see what the coming weeks hold and who is appointed to the nation’s highest court, but rest assured – we will continue the fight to protect Americans’ right to be safe from gun violence. Brady has been fighting in the courts for 30 years, and we aren’t going anywhere. We’re up to the challenge.”

We are up to the challenges facing us and will continue our work to keep our families and communities safe from devastating gun violence. We stand behind the students in their efforts to make changes. We stand with the rule of law. We stand with common sense. We stand with the victims.

And we stand with the rights of everyone qualified to be able to vote. For that is the way to make the changes that are needed in our communities and to public health and safety. We must protect that right above all things. Pay attention to what is going on around you and do whatever it takes to make sure our rights to safe communities, our rights to vote, our rights to health care, women’s rights, civil rights, workers rights, rights to marry who we love, and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are preserved. Our democracy is under siege. We have to work to save lives and our democracy.

 

 

Gone but not forgotten

Bell and rocksWhile I was away from my blog several important shooting anniversaries came and went. As time goes by after mass shootings or any shooting, the memories fade and we forget about the pain and the national debate about gun violence. That is how the gun lobby wants it. Calling attention to anniversaries and remembering victims is a painful reminder that, as a country, we are doing virtually nothing to stop the next one from happening.

In fact, a mass shooting occurred just the other day in New Jersey. An all night Art Fair, which is a yearly event, attracted not just art lovers but gun lovers. An alleged “neighborhood dispute” (gang related) ended with 17 injured by bullets and the death of the shooter ( by police). In spite of New Jersey’s strict gun laws there are still shootings as there are in every state. When over 300 million guns are floating around in our country it is becoming easier and easier for shootings like this to take place anywhere.

Gun rights advocates do like to blame most shootings on gangs. They are wrong of course but I’m sure this will happen with this shooting.

My local chapter held a wonderful and meaningful event to mark the 2nd anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. As the names of the victims were read by a Spanish speaking university professor, the bell was rung in memory. All of the names were written on rainbow colored rocks displayed on a table. 49 families remembered the day two years ago when they learned of the death of their loved ones. It was the worst mass shooting by number until the Las Vegas mass shooting surpassed the number of victims.

We can’t forget about the victims, most from the GLBTQ+ community and of Hispanic origin. There has been debate about whether the shooting was homophobic in nature, a “terror” attack or something else. It really doesn’t matter. It was a mass shooting of innocent people who were just living their lives.

Let’s get one thing clear. Mass shootings like the Pulse nightclub shooting are domestic terror attacks. We should call it like it is.

Also, on June 17th, the 3rd anniversary of the Charleston church shooting passed with little notice. For the 9 families of those who lost their lives that day, it was not unnoticed. Anniversaries like that never are. We can’t forget this awful hate crime against members of a Black church. And we remember Cynthia, Clementa, Susie, Ethel, DePayne, Tywanza, Daniel, Sharonda, and Myra.

And tomorrow, the President will show up in home town for a rally. He will bring with him the usual fear, anger and paranoia. Many of us are organizing rallies and events of our own to speak out against the policies of the GOP party and the President. In light of the immigration debacle and attention paid to the disgraceful and shameful separation of children from their parents, we will be showing our opposition to this and other policies with which we disagree. Of course gun violence prevention is just one since there has been no action in spite of the many kids separated from their parents after being shot to death. And their fathers. We can’t forget the pain suffered by the fathers who couldn’t have their children with them on Father’s Day because of a deadly bullet to their bodies.

Many mamas and papas are missing their children every day. We should not be a country that countenances the awful policy adopted by the administration regarding immigrant children. The cries heard on the tape now made public are haunting. 

Just as we are haunted by the deaths of small children and of teens that occur on a regular basis in our country. We are better than this as a country and should not accept that there is nothing we can do. Our voices are crying out for action. Our voices are crying out for compassion and for caring. Our voices call out for common sense. 

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. In my city, we are having a Soulstice event to feed our souls with music, poetry, speeches and a large get together of those who are wanting change and compassion.

June 21st is ASK day. Parents can save lives by asking if there are unsecured loaded guns where kids can access them. And teens should ask their parents and their parents’ friends if their own guns are secured as well. Teen gun suicide is a leading cause of death and a senseless avoidable death.

Asking will save lives.

We have had #Enough and we call BS every day that no action is taken.

As an addendum to my post I am including a few photos of one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited in the Banff National Park in Canada. It was worth the trip to find so much peace and beauty in one place and not have to worry about gun toting visitors to disturb the peace.

Robert Kennedy Jr. – 50 years later

Robert_F._Kennedy_grave_in_Arlington_National_CemeteryIt’s been 50 years since the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. I remember when it happened. It was only a few months after the shooting of Martin Luther King so the nation had just experienced the loss of another great leader. It was one of those times in American life when things stopped for a while and people cried and mourned in disbelief.

Since Robert Kennedy was killed, over 1.5 million Americans have died from gunshot injuries. 

And it continues.

Bobby’s family somehow moved on with the grace and dignity shown after the assassination of President John Kennedy. Now, another brother. Another father. Another uncle. Another husband. Another cousin.

I had the honor to serve on the Brady Board of Trustees with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the oldest of the Kennedy children. She became a strong advocate for gun violence prevention and many other causes in which she believes. Here are some of her reflections on this momentous anniversary:

“‘How do we make moral choices? How do we help our fellow human being?'” Townsend said. “That is the most meaningful thing you can do.”

And it was their faith in the answers he offered that helped him build a coalition that’s implausible, if not impossible, to imagine today. “He could speak to white working class men and women because they trusted him that he would fight for them, and he also fought for African-Americans,” said Townsend. “If you talked to those who met him, you never sensed that he felt he was better than you. He was with you.”

Stopping the shootings of our children and innocent Americans is a moral choice. Our job is to help our fellow human beings do the right thing. That is why I am doing this work and remaining a fierce advocate for gun safety reform that can save lives.

And I believe that Bobby Kennedy would not have been influenced by the corporate gun lobby. In 1968 the NRA was a very different kind of organization than what it has now become. When Kennedy ran for President the NRA was an organization to support hunters and teach gun safety. Now it is an extremist group that accounts for about 1.8% of Americans with influence it should not have. We need more leaders like Bobby Kennedy to stand up to the corporate gun lobby instead of the lapdogs we have sitting in their seats refusing to stand up for the victims of gun violence.

Tomorrow the country will mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Many will be there to share their memories, to represent victims, to praise Robert Kennedy. From the linked article:

On Wednesday, Kerry Kennedy will join former president Bill Clinton at her father’s resting place in Arlington National Cemetery, for a memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of his death. Civil rights hero John Lewis, 78, and 18-year-old gun control activist Emma González will be among those reading quotations from the slain senator’s works. Two are inscribed in granite near the plain white cross at his grave: “Some men see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’” and: “… each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope …”

It is so fitting that one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting survivors will be in attendance. For she would have been honored by the Bobby Kennedy of 1968. She represents those whose voices can’t be heard just as Kennedy’s voice was taken from him far too soon. He would have stood with the victims and survivors and cried with them and acted on their behalf.

His potential to be a great leader was snuffed out in seconds by a gunman. Bullets end lives quickly leaving memories, legacies, unrealized potential and talent behind in aftermath.

What could have been different about our country if Bobby Kennedy had become our President? It may be an exercise in futility to wonder that but it’s interesting to think about what could have been given his positions and his passion for justice.

Compared to what we have now, our country would be a different place. We might actually have passion for people who need our help. We might actually be doing something about racism, about gun violence, about immigration and social justice.

The people seemed to sense that about Kennedy as his body was carried by train across the country while thousands of Americans waved and grieved along the side of the tracks.

My last post was about memories of gun violence victims. Bobby Kennedy was a gun violence victim.

Today I remember him and think about what could have been. I was honored to be invited to attend the ceremony but was unable to attend. I will be watching as it is televised.

Today we should all remember that our country does not have to tolerate this senseless loss of life. We can prevent shootings. We can do something about easy access to guns. We can pass stronger gun laws. We can change the conversation and the culture of gun violence. We can save lives. We can be a country with common sense approaches to the gun violence epidemic affecting our country.

We remember Robert F. Kennedy.