A summit of gun violence prevention leaders and advocates

There are so many things to talk about.

I have just made a trip to Washington D.C. for the joint Brady Campaign, Americans for Responsible Solutions summit- A Nation United for a Safer Future.  I have been involved in this movement long enough to have met many leaders and victims from all over the country. Many of us met and continued our friendship through the Million Mom March and now Brady Campaign. I also have met and know people involved with Americans for Responsible Solutions. Social media has allowed us all to connect and become friends. Many victims and survivors attended the summit.

Here were just a few of the victims and survivors in attendance.

A mother whose daughter was shot at the Aurora Theater; a mother and father of a young woman reporter shot on live T.V.; a young woman whose mother was shot in the Clackamas Mall shooting just days before the Sandy Hook shooting; a mother and a father whose college students survived the Virginia Tech shooting; a father whose son was shot when a friend was handling a gun; a mother whose 13 year old daughter was shot by a gun stored openly and loaded in the home of a friend; a man whose mother shot and killed herself; the woman who kicked the ammunition away when the Tucson shooter stopped to re-load his gun; a father whose son was shot in the Isla Vista mass shooting; several women whose family members had committed suicide by gun; a woman whose brother was shot and killed many years ago; me- who lost a sister to bullets during a domestic shooting; Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign whose brother was shot and injured in the terror attack on the Empire State Building; a woman who had lost two children to shootings; two women whose children were shot and injured in the Jewish Day Care Center in Los Angeles; a man whose mother was shot and killed when a shooter was looking for someone else and mistakenly shot and killed her and wounded his father…….

Aside from victims and survivors, attendees included law enforcement officers, interested advocates, leaders of national and state organizations, clergy, staff members of the two organizations, politicians, lawyers, health care providers, NAACP leaders, film makers, a founder of the Women’s March, and many others.

Politicians who spoke to and with us:

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly.

Senators Cory Booker, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Connecticut Representative Esty, California Representative Mike Thompson, Rhode Island Representative Dave Cicilline, Representatives Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy from Florida and others.

Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General

Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama.

But we didn’t just listen and react to these amazing speakers. We took action.

Hundreds of participants lobbied on Capitol Hill and had great visits, “armed” with information about two concerning bills that would make us all less safe if enacted:

H.R. 38- Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 ( Arm Everyone bill). This bill would, if it became law, override steps that states have taken to protect public safety and put citizens at risk. It would leave states with no power to decide who carries hidden loaded guns ( or openly carried) within their own states and communities.

H.R.367- cynically called the Hearing Protection Act. This bill is meant to do what the gun lobby loves- increase sales of accessories to guns ( gun sales are down right now) and attempt to undo the 1934 National Firearms Act which requires individuals who purchase gun silencers and machine guns to undergo strict background checks, fingerprints, payment to register and license the gun/silencer and a waiting period. These regulations work. We just don’t see silencers used in crimes since that act became law. If this bill were to pass, we could expect to see silencers sold without Brady background checks through private seller internet sales and private sellers at gun shows. It also creates threats to law enforcement and would make it more difficult to respond to mass shooters as the sound of gunfire would be muffled and dispersed. There are many items sold to protect hearing while using firearms that make more sense.

Can we just talk about the fact that conceal carry weapons holders DO kill and threaten people with their guns even after going through a permitting process? Read the Violence Policy Center‘s report- Concealed Carry Killers. And can we also talk about the fact that 11 states now allow people to carry guns with no training or permit requirements.?Without a system of universal background checks, these people could be prohibited purchasers who will be allowed to carry their guns everywhere. How will we know the “good guys” with guns from the bad guys with guns? I have not heard an answer that makes any sense. The idea that it’s OK to normalize the carrying of guns everywhere by anyone is not only ludicrous, it is irresponsible and dangerous.

On “The Hill”, we had some great conversations, a chance to thank those who have voted against the gun lobby sponsored bills and who have led the charge and the conversation about the need to prevent gun violence. And we had a few victories when Congress members changed their positions after meeting with our groups of victims and advocates.

The importance of the summit and visits to Capitol Hill cannot be overstated. Advocates who had never attended a summit before were engaged and energized. They now know they can do this. People like me came away re-energized and encouraged that, in spite of the Republicans in charge, the issue of gun violence and the prevention of it has more support than ever before. It’s only Congress (doing the bidding of the corporate gun lobby) who stands in the way of common sense. And while they are doing that, 32,000 Americans ( give or take)- real people- someone’s family member or good friend- are killed by guns. It happens every day.

During the summit we all engaged our minds about legislation, other actions, and changing the conversation about this public health epidemic. There was much to think about and actual incidents that reminded us about why we were there. Among just a few:

Americans continue to die by bullets in alarming numbers. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of shooting incidents. It’s not pretty.

And here are the reasons people get shot in Aor shoot others from Parents Against Gun Violence::

reasons people shot in April

And ISIS is telling its’ members to buy guns in America because it is so easy:

“The acquisition of firearms can be very simple depending on one’s geographical location,” the article read. “In most U.S. states, anything from a single-shot shotgun all the way up to a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle can be purchased at showrooms or through online sales — by way of private dealers — with no background checks, and without requiring either an ID or a gun license.”

The Rumiyah article specifically touted gun shows where these unregulated sales are often easiest.

And the officer who shot a black teen in Texas was fired and charged with murder. 

And Gander Mountain management bet wrongly on gun sales and lost. (Go figure. When Democrats are in office, the gun lobby scares people into buying guns in high numbers. When Republicans are in charge- no worries.)

“In 2016, at a rate of more than twice a week, a child under 18 years old was shot and killed with a loaded, unsecured gun”. This is from the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance, a new organization that presented information at the summit. One can look up current information of  shootings of and by children on this site. Who cares about the children?

And in just another average day in America, two young people are dead in a murder/suicide at a Texas college campus. Domestic disputes often spill over into public places and also way too often are the cause of mass shootings.

Asking about loaded, unsecured guns in homes can save lives. (ASK campaign)

And a health care bill passed in the House that will leave millions of Americans with no health care and lower taxes on the wealthy.

And those those with mental illness will have easier access to guns than health care.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic.

Many gun deaths and injuries are preventable and avoidable.

If we are to have the serious conversation we need and deserve to have, recognizing that there is a problem in the first place that can actually be fixed, or cured, or prevented or reduced in severity and frequency, is the most important thing we can do. Using some common sense in arguments and discussions will lead to responsible solutions.

On my plane back home from DC were at least a half dozen members of Congress, including my own, anxious to get back home for the recess ( didn’t they just have one?). While waiting to board, I spoke with my own Representative who introduced me to a Senator from a neighboring state- a Republican. We had a good discussion about health care and gun violence. We did not agree on much. But his main reason for being skeptical or against common sense solutions to save lives is one of the gun lobby’s myths. He actually believes that organizations such as the Brady Campaign and Americans for Responsible Solutions are out to get his guns. He is a lapdog for the gun lobby and will do their bidding no matter what anyone says to him.

As long as some of our politicians are in the pocket of the corporate gun lobby, we can expect to see bills that could become law that will actually make us less safe and lead to an increase in gun deaths and injuries. Is there anyone who thinks that is a good idea? The American public agrees that passing strong gun laws is a good idea.

Please make sure your own elected leaders are doing the bidding of the people and not the corporate gun lobby. We can make a difference if our voices are loud and clear about saving lives. For that is the bottom line.

Gun lobby distractions

Motivational speechThis post has been edited to update it since it was first posted.

 

Ever since Donald Trump was elected, chaos and distractions have been the rule and the name of the “game.” Lies, tweets, providing false news stories, ignoring or denying some very real dangers to our democracy from the Russian interference in our election, National Security Advisor fired, failed immigration orders, failed health care plan, etc. Not one department or policy area has been left alone. The long tentacles of those in absolute power are reaching far and wide. Gun policy is no exception. Licking their chops, the corporate gun lobby has pursued with some success an agenda that includes getting more guns into the hands of more people in more places. On the face of it, you have to wonder why anyone would want this. It makes no common sense that as a culture and civilized society we would choose to have loaded guns everywhere carried by just about anyone.

Executive VP of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre knows the rules well. He once said this and he meant it:

No Wayne. You made up the rules. This is not how Americans want our gun culture and our gun policy to be.

It seems to be of utmost importance to a minority of Americans who make claims that the second amendment gives them a right to do whatever they want with their guns because…. inalienable rights to own a gun.

Let’s talk a minute about rights. What are they? Is the meaning of the word clear to us all? I took a look at this Wikipedia article about the word rights:

There is considerable disagreement about what is meant precisely by the term rights. It has been used by different groups and thinkers for different purposes, with different and sometimes opposing definitions, and the precise definition of this principle, beyond having something to do with normative rules of some sort or another, is controversial.

And herein lies a basic problem with the arguments over gun rights. The several sides of the issue of gun rights and gun violence prevention would meet in the middle of the issue because that is where the majority stands and has stood for decades at least. In the interest of saving lives, the two sides approach it from different angles. One side, the majority, believes that people can have rights to own their guns but those rights come with responsibilities and common sense. The other side, claiming rights to the same life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness believes that that includes owning and carrying guns in order to protect their rights and lives.

Unfortunately for the one side, gun deaths are not decreasing and instead are staying the same year to year or increasing. More guns in more places carried and owned by more people who should not have them has not made us a safer nation. Those are facts. In states with more gun ownership and weaker gun laws, gun deaths are higher than in others on average. From the report from the Violence Policy Center:

“Year after year, the evidence is clear that states with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death,” says VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “States with strong gun violence prevention laws consistently have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. In states with weak gun laws and easy availability of guns, the rates of death by gunfire are far higher.”

The nationwide gun death rate in 2014 was 10.54. The total number of Americans killed by gunfire dipped to 33,599 in 2014 from 33,636 in 2013.

America’s gun death rates — both nationwide and in the states — dwarf those of other industrialized nations. The gun death rate in the United Kingdom was 0.23 per 100,000 in 2011, and in Australia the gun death rate was 0.93 per 100,000 in 2013. (These are the most recent years for which data is available. Data for these countries is available at GunPolicy.org, hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.)

State gun death rates are calculated by dividing the number of gun deaths by the total state population and multiplying the result by 100,000 to obtain the rate per 100,000, which is the standard and accepted method for comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

Another report from the Violence Policy Center about the impacts of gun violence:

VPC research finds that in 2014, gun deaths even outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline thanks to proven public-health based injury prevention strategies informed by consumer product safety regulation standards designed to reduce death and injury.

To reduce the toll of gun violence in America, a similar public health approach is urgently needed. Today, guns are the only consumer products in the United States that do not have to meet federal health and safety standards. The federal government should regulate firearms for health and safety just like any other consumer product.

I met with a young man last week who had attended a meeting at which I spoke in January. He was interested in the issue of gun violence prevention from the point of view of a gun owner who agrees with background checks on all gun sales and other reasonable  measures. Several people he knows and even relatives have died in hunting accidents and gun suicides. He did not think of these as gun violence but has changed his thinking and understands that his involvement would be instructive for the cause of gun violence prevention.

On the same day as this man attended one of the Protect Minnesota trainings he also attended a conceal carry permit class. His take? He never wants to carry a gun. When the permit trainer and a lawyer explained the responsibility of a gun carrier if they decide to aim their gun at someone or actually shoot someone, he determined that that was not for him.

This gun owner does not see things as black and white but rather he sees the world from the point of view of someone who likes to hunt and own guns but understands that his rights are limited in the interest of public safety.

But some do see this as black and white and getting their way. A recent article from The Trace does a good job of outlining why the gun absolutists want to trample on the rights of the rest of us to be safe:

“We’re the Trumps,” he said. “We’re the grassroots.”

Like President Trump and his top advisor, Stephen Bannon, constitutional-carry activists are unconcerned by any wider distress their agenda may cause. Like the new White House, they see the trampling of existing norms as the removal of obstacles.

“Once you cross over this PC concept,”  Harris said, “then you have an enormous number of issues that come out of the gate.”

Those issues include the abolition of gun-free zones in schools, and deregulation of tightly controlled weapons categories, like suppressors and machine guns, which have been subject to strict laws for nearly a century. Rather than a drastic break with current public safety standards, he said, such changes would merely represent government “getting back on sound fundamental principles.”

This sums it up. Like Trump and his extreme advisors who want to disrupt just about everything our country has done or stood for in the last few decades, these gun absolutists want their way no matter what. No matter the lives lost as a result. No matter that public safety will be in danger. No matter that the majority of Americans don’t want what they want. No matter that over 32,000 Americans die every year from gunshot injuries. No matter that about 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries in gun suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun discharges.

No matter common sense.

This is where we are now. No compromising. No discussion. Executive orders or bills passed with no hearings, no expert testimony, no input from citizens. Just pass things and get your way no matter whose rights you trample or what process you didn’t follow.

People identified with severe mental illness and can’t manage their affairs can now purchase guns. People who don’t have permits to carry loaded guns around in public being able to carry everywhere and anywhere. Does any of this make any sense even with rights?

The answer, of course, is NO.

We are being distracted from the gun violence epidemic before us that we can actually address with strong gun policy and good research about the causes and effects of gun violence. We are being distracted by the agenda of the gun absolutists whose view of the world and the gun culture is far different from what Americans actually want and need.

Here is a great article from Peter Ambler of Americans for Responsible Solutions about the need for research and understanding the risks of owning guns:

It’s time for Congress to stop serving at the will of the gun lobby and to start providing the resources our institutions of public health need to understand our country’s gun violence epidemic so that we can do something about it.

Gun violence robs communities of their leaders, schools of their students, and families of their loved ones. We know that if we gave our scientists and researchers the opportunity, they would produce results. How much longer will we have to wait before we let them try?

That is what we should be talking about now.

With their very own nominee , Neil Gorsuch, about to take the oath of office for the next Supreme Court Justice, the gun lobby and gun abolutists must be feeling jubilant at getting their way once again. Time will tell if that works out for the absolutists.

Meanwhile, we need to work on the real problems and not the solutions looking for a problem.

We are better than this.

Let’s get to work. Join an organization that is working on gun violence prevention and gun safety reform. Listen to the facts and act when you see that your voices are not being heard. Make noise. Speak up. Stand up for the victims and their families and friends and ask your elected leaders to do the same. Ask them to hear the real stories of victims.

Just as Trump seemed to have changed his mind about his policy in Syria after seeing the photos and videos of children strangled after exposure to serin gas, show your leaders photos of those whose lives were lost to senseless gun violence. Here is my photo (of my sister who was shot in a domestic related shooting incident by her estranged husband):

photo of Barbara

 

 

Guns and the Capitol

Basic RGBShots were fired near the U.S. Capitol yesterday. This is all in a usual day in our country. Luckily no one was injured as officers fired at a woman driving erratically and attempting to harm officers. Bullets flying on our streets is never a good idea no matter who fires them. People are understandably frightened when they hear nearby gunfire.But officers took care of the situation as is their job. From the article:

 

 

“It was high anxiety,” said Yanta, who planned to discuss farming issues with Cuellar. “I didn’t get shaken up until I went into the building and realized what had transpired right in front of me.

“To be so close to something like that was very frazzling.”

People know what it means when they hear gunfire.

Inside the Capitol our lawmakers are up to doing the bidding of the corporate gun lobby again. When aren’t they? Let’s take a look.

The nomination of Judge Gorsuch, is, of course, being scored by the NRA:

The National Rifle Association is investing $1 million of its own money in the Senate confirmation battle over Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

The group announced Tuesday that it’s buying up ads supporting Gorsuch in the states of Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri and Montana — all states Trump won in 2016 where Democratic senators are up for re-election in 2018.

None of the four senators has indicated their intentions on the nominee.

“Judge Gorsuch is an outstanding nominee and will protect our fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said in a statement. “We will be fully activating our five million members in support of his confirmation.”

They obviously believe that if Gorsuch is seated on the Supreme Court, he will act in their favor on gun deals. The NRA and others in the gun lobby spent a lot of money to get Donald Trump elected. They just knew he would do their bidding and he has not disappointed. Nor has Congress.

They must have forgotten that the man Gorsuch is replacing, Justice Antonin Scalia, made it clear that strong gun laws are constitutional.

The House voted to take the names of Veterans who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness off of the NICS list of prohibited gun purchasers. This makes perfect sense, don’t you think? I mean, it’s not as if veterans aren’t killing themselves with guns in great numbers. And sometimes others as well. Seems to make common sense to me and a whole lot of other Americans that protecting our Veterans from using a gun to end their own life is just a terrible and tragic idea. The overall suicide rate amongst our Veterans is high. Even some well-known military generals objected to this bill:

Earlier in the week, a coalition led by retired Gens. Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus, Peter Chiarelli, and Wesley Clark wrote a letter to lawmakers saying the proposal would “put America’s veterans who need our support the most in harm’s way, by providing them with easy access to firearms.”

But Roe argued that in many cases, veterans who are deemed unable to handle their finances can be indirectly barred from buying a weapon, even if they pose no real threat to the public.

“It’s hard enough for some people to admit they need help,” he said. “Imagine how much more difficult it is when they fear they will be stigmatized and isolated … (or) that a VA bureaucrat may decide that they are incompetent and take away their constitutional rights.”

Stigmatized? I get the idea here. People with mental health issues do not want to be stigmatized and they shouldn’t be. But I don’t get the idea that one feels isolated without a gun. I don’t and most people I know don’t. Somehow I can’t believe that owning a firearm when one is deemed severely mentally ill and not being able to handle one’s own financial affairs is at the top of the needs list. If it is, one needs to wonder if that person should not have a gun in the first place. Some people should not be able to access guns.

Firearms make it so much easier and veterans are familiar with their use. From this article:

Dr. Charles Engel: Six of 10 gun-related deaths are suicides, and about half of all suicides are gun-related. Most suicides occur on impulse, and the availability of a gun makes it all too easy for a person experiencing suicidal thoughts to act on that impulse. Some have speculated that perhaps one reason that suicide is elevated among military personnel and veterans is their experience with guns. Exchanging hostile fire in battle, especially the experience of killing, may represent an important psychological threshold. The tragic psychological familiarity that comes with crossing that threshold may well increase the likelihood of subsequent self-inflicted injury in someone already thinking about suicide.

The Senate may or may not take up this bill and do something with it. Time will tell if this becomes a law. We will not be safer. Nor will our Veterans and their families. It is backwards and ludicrous that some believe the Veterans in this small category would be safer with a gun.

But never mind public safety. Some in Congress don’t care about that because they have taken a whole lot of money from the corporate gun lobby and are threatened by them if they don’t vote the right way.

The very same gun lobby minions in Congress seem to think it is a good idea to grant reciprocity for gun permit holders nationally. I think this is a very bad idea and so do many others. I agree with Everytown for Gun Safety and other organizations:

“Reciprocity would have a profound impact on state public safety, making the state with the weakest standards into the law of the land, and letting criminals and other dangerous people carry concealed guns in every state in the country,” the gun control group Every Town for Gun Safety said in a statement.

So someone from a permitless carry state where no background checks or training are required to carry a permit will now be able to carry in states that have much stronger gun laws. What could possibly go wrong?

People like George Zimmerman, infamous for his shooting of an unarmed black teen-ager, will be coming to a state near you. You will not be safer as a result. This is the antithesis of public safety.

And then there is the attempt by the gun lobby and it’s lapdogs in Congress to re-introduce silencers into our national gun culture.:

Not everyone is convinced that shooting-related hearing loss is a problem that needs another solution.

“You already have the answer,” said Kris Brown, chief strategy officer at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “There are things available on the market to protect hearing.”

The people who want to make silencers more easily available point to a range of other tactical benefits. Silencers decrease a weapon’s recoil and improve its accuracy, the American Suppressor Association says on its website. This lets shooters fire in rapid succession without losing track of the target, as silencer manufacturers note. Suppressors also reduce muzzle flash, allowing shooters to better disguise their location in low-light settings.

Although supporters of silencers tout these latter advantages in terms of sport shooting, the same characteristics might also appeal to a mass shooter or other criminal.

“There could be some instance where somebody uses it for nefarious purposes,” said Jack Rinchich, president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. “They don’t want a loud report or a muzzle flash or a blast ― say a sniper or someone trying to shoot at police officers or other people from a distance ― and they want to suppress that noise.”

I’m sure that you remember the mafia shootings in the 1930s. Machine guns and silencers were regularly used to commit heinous crimes against innocent or unarmed victims. As a result, the nation decided that making these two types of firearms/accessories very difficult to obtain would be a good idea, thus the Gun Control Act of 1934. Since then, few, if any crimes and shootings have involved machine guns or silencers.

We have to remember that we don’t have universal background checks as a federal law. Until we do, if we make silencers legal to buy without the current strong restrictions, they will end up in the hands of those who should not have them. Why? Because they will be subject to sales with no background checks, as are all types of guns, because of private sellers on-line or at gun shows and other such venues. Who would get their hands on these then? We know the answer.

To say this is a bill that would protect hearing is ludicrous. There are many products that can protect hearing when shooting a gun at the range or while hunting.  Hunters want to hear other hunters shooting so they know where they are located and as self protection. In addition, the muting of a gun’s loud noise would make it more dangerous when a mass shooting is occurring. It was the noise of the bullets expelled from the assault rifle that alerted the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School that a shooter was in the building so they could do their best to hide and save the children. It was the sound of gunfire that led officers to the location of the Virginia Tech shooter.

The gun lobby if using fake news to tell us the only way to protect hearing while hunting ( yes they try to make this sound normal by relating it to hunting) is to buy a silencer. Nonsense. My husband lost some high frequency hearing in one ear while hunting as a youth and young man. I do understand that people can lose their hearing from gunshots. A good friend of mine became permanently deaf when her father shot off an assault rifle at a range very close to her head. She has had a profound hearing loss since then and her life was changed forever. That was a senseless and careless use of a gun which she readily admits.

So yes, it is true that shooting a gun frequently, or even irregularly, can cause hearing problems. But to use selling gun silencers as a hearing protection and public safety bill is disingenuous.

Again I go back to the path that follows the money. The silencer ( suppressor) industry would love to sell more of their products and can’t wait for that to happen. As fewer people own guns, the gun industry needs a market for their goods. That lurks behind most of the gun lobby pushed legislation. If you watch the video here you can see that opinions about silencers, aka suppressors,  are all over the place as to need, personal preference, ability to buy them, cost, etc.

And further Donald Trump Jr. is making the case for gun silencers.  That can’t hurt the cause in our current political configuration. The corporate gun lobby now has a seat in the White House.

I admit that many don’t see the harm in the use of silencers. They point to other countries, mostly European, who allow silencers. But those countries also have universal background check laws and other strong restrictions which make it unlikely that silencers would find their ways into the illegal market or into the hands of people who should not have guns.

I agree with the writer of this article.  This is a solution looking for a problem and looking for a way to make money.

Aren’t Congress members and our legislators charged with the safety of the public in their states and in the country as a whole? How did the narrative get high-jacked to make some people think that allowing more armed people, some with no training, to roam our streets and public places where families and the general public shop, work, go to school, have appointments with accountants, physicians, lawyers, tax preparers, other business people located in our cities?

It’s not normal for people to be carrying guns around in public no matter what the gun lobby claims. They want it to be normal. But it’s not. They have not convinced that many people so far as the public is largely in favor of common sense when it comes to gun laws and public safety.

As I said in my last post, it is a topsy turvy world as of the November. Literally everything is under attack. What we don’t need are people who are scared, feeling ill at ease, anxious, nervous, angry or depressed to get themselves armed and dangerous. And we don’t need the people who believe this is OK to be making gun policy.

Guns in everyday life

at the RotundaUnfortunately “everyday shootings” and other incidents involving guns leave families devastated or lead us to wonder why so many American guns lead to so much gun crime and injuries and deaths.

Where to start? How about this one? A Colorado woman was charged with 35 felonies the other day because of stupidity and dangerousness with guns:

A woman was charged with selling stolen guns out of a parking lot and a man was charged with threatening his girlfriend’s family, and another man was charged with trespassing and acting out, according to reports. They all made their first court appearances on Monday with 35th District Court Judge Jack Barker presiding.

Meredith M. Atwell, 37, of Huttig, was arrested Friday and charged with selling nine stolen firearms, and potentially more, said Capt. Charlie Phillips of the Union County Sheriff’s Office. (…)

Phillips added 13 counts of possession of a firearm by a certain person and 13 counts of theft of a firearm, making a total of 35 felony counts.

Deputies say they have connected Atwell to stolen guns from Camden, Magnolia, El Dorado, and other parts of Union County.

“And all of this was to supply a drug habit,” Phillips said.

Deputies are looking for more guns and seeking out more arrests connected with the case.

You can’t make this stuff up. If we want to know where crime guns come from, here is just one incident about stolen guns and a whole bunch of other crimes all to “supply a drug habit.”  Guns and drugs are a bad mix. We should do something about both. Luckily for all this did not lead to someone losing a life. But given time, it would have.

And did you hear the one about the Minnesota man who shot at a letter carrier’s car and then somehow was found dead in his home of a gunshot wound? :

Authorities say the mail carrier was making deliveries late Monday morning when gunshots shattered the rear window of his vehicle in Polk County. A deputy who responded was confronted by Huderle armed with a rifle. Huderle fired at the deputy, striking the squad car.

Investigators say an officer with the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force returned fire. Huderle was later found dead outside his home with a high-powered rifle.

Why? I guess it’s “have gun, will shoot”. Be careful out there.

How about a Minnesota border patrol agent who used his own service gun and shot and killed himself in broad daylight in the parking lot of the border crossing area?:

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer apparently shot and killed himself in the parking area of the U.S. port of entry at the Pigeon River on Sunday afternoon. (…) “This is an extremely tough loss,” Eliasen said, describing the deceased as a veteran officer who had lived in the region for some time. “He was well-known and respected in the community and protective service agencies, and our hearts and prayers are with his family, colleagues and community during this difficult time.”

Veteran officer or not, legal gun owner or not, this sad and tragic case is why we have so many gun deaths in America. Over half of all gun deaths are suicide. We are not having an adult conversation about the risks of guns and how having a gun can result in a homicide, accidental shooting or suicide close to home. Suicide by gun is most often fatal- there is no chance to change your mind or have a second chance at life. Now another Minnesota family is devastated and to the outside world, nothing seemed to be wrong. If there were mental health or other problems that led to the fatal decision of the officer, it’s an American tragedy that the man had a gun convenient to him to end his life.

Gun violence restraining ( or protective) orders can save lives.  Sometimes families and friends know when someone is having mental illness problems or other problems that would make that person a danger to him or herself. They could report the person to law enforcement and guns can be temporarily removed.

But we are not passing laws that will allow that to happen. Why? The corporate gun lobby and their lapdogs in Congress and legislators all over America don’t represent the majority of people who understand that common sense laws could save lives.

Too sad and disturbing really.

The American political world is so topsy turvy right now with every day and almost every hour of every day bringing us more scary and disturbing revelations about our own President that these incidents almost feel trivial. They are not to those involved.

Take, for example, the recent London terror attack also involving  gunfire. The only one to die by gunfire was the perpetrator who was shot by an officer. London officers usually do not carry guns but some near the Parliament buildings do actually carry guns now. This deliberate decision was decided out of common sense and the idea that public safety does not depend on guns. From the above article:

And yet more than 90 percent of the capital’s police officers carry out their daily duties without a gun. Most rely on other tools to keep their city safe: canisters of mace, handcuffs, batons and occasionally stun-guns. (…)

Giving everyday police officers guns sends the wrong message to communities, so this thinking goes, and can actually cause more problems than it solves.

Although there are higher numbers of armed police guarding Parliament, the attacker who rushed the gates Wednesday was shot dead by a relatively rare member of the country’s security forces — one who had been trained to use a firearm.

Some of these gun-wielding officers patrol the city in pairs, others are members of crack response teams — units dressed in body-armor, helmets and carrying long rifles — who are called to the scene of violent incidents like these.

In most instances, they don’t use their weapons.

So different from our own armed society and along with it, heavily armed law enforcement officers. More from the article:

It’s a world away from the United States, where cops killed 1,092 people in 2016, according to figures compiled by The Guardian.

Of course it’s easier for police to remain unarmed if civilians do the same. Out of every 100 people in Britain, fewer than four of them owns a firearm, according to GunPolicy.org, a project run by Australia’s University of Sydney. In the U.S. there is more than one gun per person.

Ah. There’s the rub. Fewer gun owning citizens means less need for officers to carry guns and fewer gun deaths. Such common sense is needed in America right now. Instead, we have the opposite. Read below.

Predictably the NRA’s first response to the London attack is…. you guessed it….more guns for Americans. If only those victims would have sensed a car coming towards them to mow them down, they could have shot at the driver. Or if only someone had stopped to shoot at the victim as he went after the officer with a knife instead of running away from the danger as they were told to do. Sadly an officer is dead but another officer trained with a gun shot the alleged terrorist.

We ought to be thinking about how we can stop terror attacks without having guns enter every conversation. The real conversation about guns should be about preventing our own homegrown terror due to the number of mass shootings, domestic shootings, shootings of young men of color,  easy access to guns by children and teens, and gun suicides. But we have the NRA and the corporate gun lobby putting their fear and paranoia front and center to stop the conversation we should be having.

And speaking of the NRA, this great article from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence points out the connection between health care and guns:

While mental illness is not a significant risk factor for violence against others, mental illness does increase the risk of suicide. About 90 percent of those who die from suicide experienced symptoms of mental illness prior to their death, and these individuals are often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated. Speaker Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is expected to come up for a vote today, fails those at risk of suicide by stripping mental health care from individuals who depend on it.

In drafting the AHCA, House Republicans had the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to improved mental health care. They had the opportunity to prioritize individuals living with behavioral health problems. They had the opportunity to save lives.

But, predictably, they didn’t take it.

The Republican health care did not pass for lack of votes in their own caucus and lack of leadership. In addition, the bill was a horribly written bill designed to rig the system in favor of the wealthy and take health care away from the poor, middle class and sick people. Such cynicism is unacceptable and proved to be fatal to the passage of the bill, thank goodness. Mental illness health care has improved under the ACA and would have suffered under the now dead Republican health care act.

You may remember that NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre tried to excuse and deny the Sandy Hook shooting of 20 first graders by passing it off to mental illness ( and presumably not much to do with access to guns):

At moments, the NRA and supporters almost sounded like liberal gun-control advocates. “We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed,” Mr LaPierre told NBC television on December 23rd last year, days after the Newtown murders. The NRA backs the FBI-run instant background checks system used by gun dealers when selling firearms, Mr LaPierre noted. It supports putting all those adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system, and deplores the fact that many states are still putting only a small number of records into the system. (…)

Mr LaPierre’s line is both clear and not. He supports improving the quality of the federal database used for background checks, but opposes using that same database more often, calling any talk of universal background checks a ruse paving the way for the creation of the national gun register that the government craves, so it can confiscate America’s guns.

He talks of improving mental-health treatment, but then uses the harshest possible language to describe the mentally ill, telling NBC:

We have no national database of these lunatics… We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that’s got these monsters walking the streets.

So what is really going on? Interviewing the Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, he accused the NRA of a “bait-and-switch”, in which the gun lobby is trying to appear constructive without allowing any gun rules to change.

Let’s just enforce the laws already on the books (unless we don’t like them) and not try to solve the problem of easy access to guns because…. rights.

We need to fix our background check system, our mental health system, our healthcare system,  our lack of attention to stolen guns and straw purchasing along with gun trafficking and many other policies that can make us safer. But do we?

No.

As an aside, there are fixes to Obamacare that can keep the good things about the law, including paying for mental health care, but change the things that have not worked. But for the far right, it is all or nothing and no adult conversations to try to find middle ground.

The sad reality in America is that there are places where people can meet in the middle because the public actually is in the middle on health care, on guns, on access to women’s health care, the environment and so many other crucial issues. As long as we have fealty to ideological extreme positions on these issues, we will be worse off.

We just have to be better than this.

Back to public health and gun violence, Protect Minnesota and volunteers from the Brady Campaign chapters , the public health community and other organizations had a great lobby day this past week with health care providers and others visiting their legislators The volunteers delivered packets containing the lists of reasons gun carry permits have been denied or revoked by county. Each legislator got a packet containing information about the county they represent. Research and facts matter. This is information the gun lobby does not want known. But it is now.

About 200 people gathered in the Capitol rotunda for a rousing rally and to hear fantastic speakers from the public health community as well as victims of gun violence. If only the public could hear the many amazing speeches about the effects of gun violence and the “cure” for gun violence.

One of the speakers, Athena Adkins, spoke about the tragic and avoidable death of a young law clerk last spring n the office where her husband works .  She spoke about the horror when learning that the bullets were intended for her husband:

According to the criminal complaint, Petersen had hired attorney Dan Adkins from the law firm but was “displeased with the way his case was being handled.” He expressed his concerns to Adkins via phone calls and text messages before and on Thursday.

“On the afternoon of April 7, Petersen fired [Adkins] by text message and demanded his money back,” the complaint said. “Petersen expressed a belief that [Adkins] was ignoring his messages.”

Adkins was in court at the time and couldn’t respond to Petersen, according to the complaint.

When Petersen arrived at the law firm, located above St. Paul’s historic W.A. Frost & Company restaurant in the 300 block of Selby Avenue, he apparently found only Passauer. Adkins and colleague James Gempeler arrived at the firm just after the shooting and found Passauer fatally wounded, sitting in his desk chair. He was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m. (…) “It’s unbelievable,” he said Friday of what transpired in the law office. “Gun violence is totally out of control. It’s amazing how it impacts the victim, the victim’s family, the whole neighborhood.”

Yes. It is amazing isn’t it? The impact of gun violence is like a whirlpool sucking everyone into it. The bullets were intended for Adkins but the law clerk was there and in the way of the shooter’s anger and desire for retribution for a perceived wrong. A gun made this all so quick and easy.

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser.:

Petersen has a lengthy and violent criminal past that includes convictions for drive-by shooting, second-degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, first-degree damage to property, aiding and abetting in the sale of narcotics, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, drunken driving and disorderly conduct, court records show.

Sigh.

These are the people who could be able to carry loaded guns in public if some in the Minnesota legislature have their way. We won’t know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys” with guns in a permitless system. It’s easy for the “bad guys” to access guns with no background checks and carry them around to shoot someone with whom they have a beef. Way too easy.

Another speaker, a Youth Program Developer and Mental Health worker at HCMC  (Hennepin County Medical Center) spoke about the proliferation of guns in the neighborhoods of color. He spoke about how easy it is for the youth to get cheap guns on the streets and the need to prevent that. Guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchases  and get onto the streets from traffickers who obtained their guns with no background checks ( or even with them), straw purchasing or stealing them.

Stand Your Ground laws disproportionately affect people of color. None of us would be safer if that bill became law but some members of the House Public Safety Committee prefer to only think about their own self defense in public where the need for a gun is rare indeed. Most shootings happen in homes or in places where no one has a chance to react given the surprise effect of gun violence. In spite of what the gun lobby loves to say, and did say in the public hearing regarding this bill, guns bought for self defense more often get used to harm someone known to or loved by the shooter. From this report( linked)  by the Violence Policy Center:

The center also dives into the thorny thicket of how often the presence of a gun stops a crime — either violent or against property, such as a burglary — from happening. The gun lobby trots out an annual figure of 2.5 million such instances. But an analysis of five years’ worth of stats collected by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey puts the number much, much lower — about 67,740 times a year. (…) So what conclusions can we draw from this? The notion that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun is a romanticized vision of the nature of violent crime.

So far the two dangerous and unpopular bills are not included in an Omnibus Public Safety bill but we know that the gun lobby minions are pressing for their inclusion. Most members of the legislature do not want to have to vote on these measures. They understand that they are NRA and corporate gun lobby bills pushed onto the public but not sought by the public. Never mind. The gun lobby wants its’ way. They want more loaded guns in public carried by people who shouldn’t have them and they want people to be able to shoot first and ask questions later. It defies common sense and the facts.

#Factsmatter. People are dying every day in American and on average, one a day in Minnesota. This is simply not OK. More and more people are discovering the truth about the extreme agenda of far right politicians and pushing back.

Minnesota not so nice

people_1_night_visitI was unable to attend the hearings on permitless carry and Stand Your Ground at the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. I watched much of the testimony streaming on the House website. It was the usual back and forth by gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates. Some things never change.

But things will change if several bills heard in the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee are given a yes vote. We may not know how individual members would vote on each bill since they were laid over to be likely included in a larger omnibus public safety bill. That is the way to hide controversial bills which may not pass through the entire body to pass anyway. And it’s a way to force a vote on unpopular policies. They can’t vote against something that also includes good stuff. This is politics and it’s the way it works. But we don’t have to accept it.

You know that real people have lost loved ones when firearms are used to kill them in senseless acts of violence. That is why we ( since I also have lost a sister in a domestic shooting) don’t want to make it easier for other families to lose loved ones like in the testimony of Rev. Rolf Olson, who I know personally. Here is his testimony ( from the above link) :

The new law would allow gun owners to legally carry weapons in public without a permit. It generated emotional testimony, including from Richfield Lutheran Church pastor Rev. Rolf Olson, whose daughter was murdered answering a Craigslist ad.

“People who couldn’t pass a criminal background check and have never learned how to handle a gun safely would be able to carry one in public,” Olson said. “How would that protect public safety?”

He brought a photo of his beautiful daughter and displayed it during his testimony. Did the legislators look at Katherine Olson’s photo? Did they care?

No answers, of course, from those who want the bill to pass. None of them have lost a loved one and several of them were packing heat at the hearing. Remember, there was not a public clamor for people who are not trained or go through a background check to carry loaded guns in public. It will simply NOT protect public safety. Rev. Olson knows about that.

If politicians are so afraid to take votes on individual bills or not allow amendments on bills, it just has to mean that they understand the bills are really not popular and their other members will not vote on them when they stand alone.

If you want to see the testimony, view it below.

The first bill heard yesterday was H.F. 0188 , Permitless Carry.  Much of the testimony centered on the fact that it is a natural constitutional right to carry a gun so really no restrictions should be placed on those who get to carry a loaded, lethal weapon around with them in public. The “arguments” from my side of the issue were made for us by one of pro gun rights testifiers. He said that we would say the Heller Supreme Court decision had some language in it that puts some limits on the right to keep and bear arms. He would be right. But he asked the legislators to ignore this and remember that when we point out the some of the words of the late Justice Scalia, writing for the majority should be ignored. Just pay attention to the totality of what the bill really means. Here, in Scalia’s own words, is why the pro gun advocates want to ignore his words:

The late justice also more generally offered the belief that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” For instance, Scalia said concealment laws were permitted at the time of the Constitution’s ratification and should be permitted today.

The issue that Scalia left future courts to grapple with is what constitutes a protected weapon. He wrote that the Constitution protects weapons that could be carried and were in common use. What he didn’t say in the opinion—and what the court has deferred ruling on—is whether an AR-15 fits the bill for a common weapon. On one hand, it’s certainly not rare. There are more than a million in circulation. On the other hand, it’s not as ubiquitous as ordinary rifles and handguns. At some point, the John Roberts court will wrestle with the questions Scalia left unanswered, or the justices will leave it to the political process.

So far the gun rights advocates and their lapdog politicians in the Minnesota legislature have not suggested the open carrying of AR-15s but I’m sure they would like to- and most likely without a permit or training either. That’s the way it goes in the world of the “guys with the guns make the rules”. (Wayne LaPierre):

Common sense does allow for people being able to read the entire opinion, including the words of the conservative Justice Scalia. Just because you don’t like the words doesn’t mean he didn’t write them. And it doesn’t mean that having regulations and restrictions on some guns, who may carry them and where they may carry is unconstitutional.

I thought that one of the best questions was asked by Representative Hillstrom who wondered how officers would know if someone who was packing heat when asked or when pulled over in a car was legally able to carry if there was no permit to show. One of the bill’s authors, Professor Joe Olson, looked puzzled and really couldn’t answer the question. Isn’t that the main point? How will we know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys with guns”? (Wayne LaPierre again) Carrying without permits means no mandatory training, no background check in order to get the permit, and allowing 18 year olds to now carry guns. What could possibly go wrong?

Maybe this?:

A University of Central Florida fraternity was suspended after one of its members was accused of holding a gun barrel to a student’s head as part of a pledge activity, according to documents released by the school.

The argument on the pro gun side was the usual- there has been no blood running in the streets since conceal and carry was passed in Minnesota in 2003 and 2005 ( repassed after Church lawsuit)  except when there is. About one Minnesotan a day dies from a gunshot injury and this has been a pretty deadly year so far. Domestic homicides, gang and drug related shootings, and accidental discharges are among the many shootings that occur in our state, less regularly than in some states, but regular enough to be of concern. And suicide by gun accounts for 80% of the gun deaths, but never mind them. Conceal and carry holders can and do commit suicide by gun. Besides, why isn’t one senseless death one too many?

Minnesota gun permit holders have killed themselves or others as it turns out and also been denied for some pretty interesting and good reasons. That information was given to each legislator on the committee. And they might appeal their denial and win:

Since 2003, at least 299 people deemed too dangerous or otherwise unfit for a gun-carry permit were able to obtain them on appeal to the sheriff or a judge, a Star Tribune analysis shows.

In a system that prosecutors say is heavily weighted in favor of permit seekers, it’s nearly impossible to find out why the denials are overturned. State law protects the privacy of gun owners, prohibiting law enforcement from releasing any data that could identify them — even if they have criminal records.

In Hennepin County, one applicant had a felony conviction for manufacturing and dealing crack cocaine. Another in Ramsey County was suspected of shooting at a law enforcement officer. An Olmsted County applicant was a confirmed gang member. Each got a permit on appeal.

Yup. And those people could be carrying without a permit if the bill passes.

But never mind. Let’s proceed to make it easier for those folks to have and carry guns around in public.

Sigh.

I suppose we could have brought former Representative Gabby Giffords in to testify given that she was shot by a young man who shouldn’t have had a gun but was allowed to carry one anyway in Arizona, a permitless carry state. His mental illness wasn’t enough to adjudicate him and make him a prohibited buyer. So he was legally carrying a gun but with no apparent training and no permit to carry it because…. rights.

But why deal with actual cases? They don’t seem to matter when the corporate gun lobby comes to town to testify, as they did in Minnesota.

The argument that one has to get a Brady background check when buying a gun anyway so if you carry said gun, you should be good to go, was trotted out. Really? Where is common sense?

A new study shows that about 22% of gun sales go without a Brady background check. That is down from the 40% we have been using, lacking more current research. But finally,  we have this figure from a Harvard study:

For years, politicians and researchers have estimated that as many as 40% of gun transfers are conducted without a background check – a statistic based on an extrapolation from a 1994 survey. Gun rights activists had decried that estimate as outdated and inaccurate.

The new survey, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that the current proportion of gun sales conducted without a background check is about half of the figure cited by prominent Democratic gun control advocates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It also found that gun owners in states that require background checks on all private gun sales were much less likely to report acquiring a gun without a background check than those in states with no universal background check law – a potential indication that efforts to boost screenings at the local level are succeeding, even in the absence of federal legislation. (…)

The new survey also found that in states that had passed universal screening laws by 1 July 2013, just 26% of gun owners said they had obtained a gun through a private sale without a background check, compared to 57% of purchasers who live in states without such requirements.

Overall, researchers found that half of guns transferred privately in all states within the past two years were obtained without a background check.

So a gun purchased without a background check through a private sale, a straw purchase, stolen or trafficked in some way can now be carried in public by its’ owner. Yes. It’s true. There is no way to make sure the person carrying can pass a background check if they don’t have to have one in order to get a permit.

Sigh.

And then, for the hearing on HF 0238, the ubiquitous Stand Your Ground bill, the gun lobby trotted out the discredited John Lott who runs around testifying in favor of the idea that more guns make us safer. And surely, people have the right not to retreat in a potentially dangerous situation but the bill would allow a situation perceived to be dangerous to shoot without retreating as has been in law. Shoot first and then find out if the person ( who may now be dead) was armed or meant bodily harm.

A testifier on my side, Rachael Joseph, testified about the shooting of her aunt Shelly, killed in 2003 in the Hennepin County Courthouse. I have included her story here in my blog before. But then she went on to talk about the danger to people of color and immigrants who, because they are considered the “other” by far too many people, are at risk when Stand Your Ground laws are enacted. We already know about Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Rachael wanted to talk about the recent shooting of 5 black men at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter gathering in 2015. Four white men drove to the Twin Cities with the idea in mind of causing trouble. They shot into the crowd, injuring 5 and then tried to claim that they themselves were in danger from unarmed people in the crowd.

This seemed to bother one of the legislators who claimed that people in the crowd instigated the shooting and therefore this case should apparently not be used. It must have been a surprise to him when a jury didn’t believe that and recently convicted one of the men involved in the shooting. 

But never mind actual cases.

One of the more interesting and disturbing testimonies came from a young man who claimed to be a hunter and gun owner. He suggested that it was time to shoot the bad people and become a state of lynching again. It was so offensive that the crowd murmured and booed and one legislator interrupted to say he should stop his offensive remarks. Check it out:

One speaker, identifying himself as Ross Koon of West St. Paul, caused perhaps the greatest disturbance of the hearing when he went on a tirade in ostensible support of the “stand your ground” bill.

After talking about the need of frontiersmen to bear arms against “marauding savages” or defend against “a lawless uprising of our valuable workforce,” he added, “It was not lightly that we took to weapons and rope to ensure the purity of our nation.”

The tirade caused those in the audience to wonder aloud whether Koon was a plant or trying to be ironic, with others saying it was hard to tell these days.

Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, and Rep. John Considine, DFL-Mankato, took the man seriously.

“Mr. Chair … this testimony is offensive,” Considine cut in over the speaker.

“Maybe to you but not to a lot of people in the room. We never shut down any of the opposition, we’re certainly not going to shut down … ” Cornish said.

“Marauding savages and talking about lynching black people?” Considine asked.

The speaker then took his tirade up a notch, saying “As we face hordes of illegals and so-called refugees, it is of the utmost importance that we be granted broad liberties to kill with impunity. … It’s time to kill the scary people. It’s time to make Minnesota lynch again.”

“All right … yeah that was rather offensive, but last time we had these hearings if we shut anybody down on either side we’d get booed and hissed, so I thought I’d just let him rave on,” Cornish said.

It turns out that he was using satire in his testimony and was not affiliated with either of the sides who signed up speakers for their remarks. His satire did make a point, however, even if we don’t like it. But the committee chair didn’t think his remarks were offensive to a lot of people in the room?

Sigh.

Should these bills pass the legislature and get to the Governor’s desk, we can hope for the sake of public safety that he won’t buy the arguments. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the NRA and corporate gun lobby are making the rounds to states all over our country pushing for these ridiculous laws.

We will have to think harder about what happens if our kids ring the wrong doorbell or run through someone’s yard after dark or try to sell candy to a neighbor. We will have to think harder about whether someone we see carrying a loaded holstered gun in public was actually trained to carry that gun, knows anything about guns or can pass a background check.

82% of Minnesotans support background checks on all gun sales. I can safely say that the public does not want these bills.

We will not be safer.

 

 

 

 

Election day violence?

voteThis post has been edited since first posted.

 

Will we have violence in the Nov. 8th election? If we do, it will be a first. But then, in this election almost everything is a first. For starters, an Arkansas Republican Trump supporting “poll watcher” told voters to go home while standing in front of a polling place. This guy is a gun toting man who has used his gun to threaten before. From the article:

Burks and many Arkansas Democrats want Soffer removed from the country election commission, however, the latest flap is just the most recent in a long list of complaints involving the 74-year-old Republican.

After Soffer brandished a loaded gun at a meeting in April, Democrats have tried to have him removed from the election commission. Webb appointed Soffer to a second 4-year term on the commission in June.

Let’s get this straight- this man was reappointed to the election commission.

Sigh.

Last night, there was a kerfuffle at a Trump rally in Reno, Nevada. Let’s take a look at what happened and what Trump and his supporters said happened- two different things as it turns out:

The man whose protest saw Donald Trump rushed off the stage by Secret Service agents has said the Republican nominee’s supporters turned on him when he held up a sign reading: “Republicans against Trump”.

The man, who identified himself as Austyn Crites from Reno, told the Guardian he was holding the sign at a rally when Trump supporters wrestled him to the ground.

The 33-year-old – who says he has been a registered Republican for about six years – said he was kicked, punched and choked, and feared for his life when the crowd turned on him at the gathering in Reno, Nevada.  (…)

Crites said when he was on the ground he heard someone yell “something about a gun” and he kept telling those on top of him that he had merely been holding a sign.

He was unaware, until the Guardian told him, that Trump had been ushered from the stage amid the mayhem.

For his part, Crites said he felt relieved when police arrived and placed him in handcuffs, but said officers had to fend off Trump supporters who continued to attack him. “As I was taken from the room, people are just looking at me like I’m a demon,” he said.

He said he was taken to the back of the auditorium, searched, subjected to a background check and then swiftly released.

Of course, if there is an actual threat with a gun that must be taken seriously. Why someone in the crowd thought there was a gun is still a question. The Secret Service did the right thing and thankfully Donald Trump is safe.

But then came the inevitable false and dangerous tweets began by Trump’s campaign with lies spewed that Trump was the victim of an assassination attempt:

But amid the chaos, some people seemed sure. Within minutes, at least two top Trump campaign voices — Donald Trump Jr., and top social media aide Dan Scavino — passed along unsubstantiated claims that the GOP nominee had just survived an “assassination attempt.” (…)  Someone on the scene had shouted that there was a gun. But there wasn’t, as the Secret Service soon confirmed.

Deplorable.

The implication and actual tweet that the incident involved a Hillary supporter is false. The man who was ushered out of the rally is a Republican who fears what a Donald Trump presidency would be for our country.

But never mind. This election has produced one candidate who says anything that pops into his head, lies on the stump and invokes rhetoric that gets the crowd chanting: “Lock her up.” The fact that so many people believe this is OK is what we ought to be frightened about as Americans. Trump may have been right when he said that he could step out onto 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose his support.:

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,”

No candidate for election to the office of President of the United States has said anything even remotely similar to this.

Lying just invokes more fear and hyperbolic rhetoric. Some Americans have been riled up to the point of being in a frenzy for the past year with dangerous rhetoric like this. We don’t know whether someone unhinged or so angered after listening to these lies will take action.

But can we talk about the instigation of violence at Trump rallies? We have not seen this before in American elections. It is simply not OK. Talk is one thing but some supporters are also talking about using guns on election day and after the election if Trump does not win. This is not how we do democracy in America. I wrote about this in my last two posts.

This is deplorable and an American tragedy. We can’t accept talk of violence during our democratic elections. It’s not who we are. We should not sit by and let it happen and we need to demand that our media and our elected officials condemn the lies and fear mongering.

The Brady Campaign is asking for people to renounce violence in the election:

Supporters of the Brady Campaign are once again calling on Donald Trump and the RNC to renounce similar threats of violence and disavow those like Richard Burr who spew such hateful rhetoric.

Brady president Dan Gross said, “Americans are fed up with the vile and dangerous talk of political violence coming from Republicans on the campaign trail. And they’re scared of what might happen on election day, even cancelling class at schools with polling places over fear of violence.  (…) “In this country, we settle our political differences with ballots, not bullets or bombs. We debate our opponents on the issues; we don’t call for their assassination when we’re behind in the polls. Every day Trump and the Republican Party fail to renounce hateful and violent rhetoric, they encourage deadly violence.”

#Enough.

There’s something else you can if you see people with guns at polling places. You can text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990.:

According to The Washington Post, “many election officials across the country are, for the very first time, bracing for intimidation or even violence on Election Day,” and these fears are compounded given that “most states have no laws regarding guns in polling places.”

Under federal law it is illegal to intimidate people trying to vote with guns or by other means. (…)

Voters who text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990 will receive information on a national voter protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) operated by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. Appropriate reports will be passed on to law enforcement and election officials, and voters will have the opportunity, if they feel safe doing so, to share photos of voter intimidation on social media.

The project’s launch comes as several disturbing news reports raise the prospect of people carrying guns at the polls and engaging in other instances of possible voter intimidation — including calls from racist far-right  media outlets for an “army” of white nationalists to “watch” the polls:

Yikes.

Common sense about threats of violence and use of guns to intimidate voters may not prevail in this election cycle.

In addition to violent threats and rhetoric, there are other voter intimidation schemes coming from the Republicans who are quick to intimate that the election may be rigged and the outcome will be illegitimate. But the real threat is their own ugly and un-American attempts to suppress the vote. Courts are ruling agains these schemes but the damage has already  been done in many states.

On Tuesday we will find out how many “law abiding” gun permit holders show up at the polls to intimidate people. Yes, I said intimidate. Most people understand that openly carrying a gun at a polling place is akin to intimidation- that is how they feel regardless of whether that person has a permit or is actually a legal permit holder.  And remember that in many states permitless carry is allowed so a person carrying may not be so law abiding after all. If someone feels intimidated by an armed guy at a polling place, then it is intimidation.  This is the result of our American gun culture loosening laws to allow this to happen. But in this particular hyperbolic election with threats of violence being real and promoted by one party and its’ candidate, we have to take this seriously.

Take a look at what happened at a Virginia polling place:

A man wearing a Donald Trump shirt and carrying a weapon stood outside a voting location in Loudoun County, Virginia, on Friday. Authorities in the nation’s richest county are apparently OK with that.

Erika Cotti encountered the man when she went to vote at the county’s registrar’s office, she told The Huffington Post. Virginia doesn’t have early voting per se, but voters can cast in-person absentee ballots for a host of reasons, like if they’re going to be out of the county or city on Election Day.

“I had my 9-year-old son with me. I felt intimidated,” 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.

This is not OK and it is intimidation. This is not what we do in America to get people to vote, or not to vote, as the case may be.

This is not the America we deserve. It’s time to stand up for common sense and the right of every American who is qualified to vote to be able to vote. In this country we don’t vote with our guns. We vote our conscience and hopefully armed with the facts about the candidates. No one can stop you from your right to vote. And most especially not armed vigilantes.

I am very concerned about Tuesday’s election- not just because I fear a Donald Trump win but because I fear that we will see violence.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

I just read this Media Matters article featuring a new ad for Donald Trump about second amendment rights with none other than NRA Board member Ted Nugent:

A new advertisement from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign about hunting and the Second Amendment features National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who claims Hillary Clinton “will destroy the freedom that is uniquely American.” Earlier this year, Nugent called for Clinton to be hanged for treason.

The eight-minute video features other conservative media figures including Fox News host Sean Hannity, frequent Fox News guest and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, and Mark Geist, the co-author of 13 Hours, about the 2012 attacks on American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

Insanity. Donald Trump has embraced the inflammatory rhetoric of an unhinged former musician whose offensive and threatening rhetoric has been known for years. And yet,  the NRA keeps him on their Board and Donald Trump thinks this is OK.

NOT.

Guns in schools?

school lockdownThe corporate gun lobby loves to think that teachers or others should be allowed to have guns in our schools to protect children from insidious and tragic assaults by dangerous people with guns. Proclamations and myths about “gun free” zones being more dangerous than places where guns are allowed are the mantra of the gun rights extremists. And, stupidly, many of our politicians parrot these dangerous talking points. They are not based on fact or reality. Most gun deaths and injuries actually occur in “guns allowed” zones, like homes, on our streets and many public places where guns are allowed. Police officers are shot on a regular basis even though they are armed and those who shoot them know they are armed. It’s a myth.

One of the myths is that teachers will be safe with guns in our schools and will be prepared to confront a shooter.  This South Dakota elementary teacher was dangerous to himself when the gun he had in his coat pocket discharged as the coat was put on the floor:

An elementary teacher at Wagner Community School is expected to make a full recovery after accidentally shooting himself in his home, law enforcement said.
Travis Barthel, a third-grade teacher at Wagner Community School, took a bullet from an accidental discharge of a 9 mm pistol on Feb. 26 in his home on the outskirts of Avon, according to Bon Homme County Sheriff Lenny Gramkow. Barthel declined to comment on the matter Monday.

According to Gramkow, Barthel had the pistol in his coat pocket. At about 6:20 p.m., the coat fell to the floor after Barthel took it off, and the pistol fired one bullet upward into Barthel’s stomach and through the back of his left shoulder.

Why would we think this teacher would be any safer in a classroom with that gun? There are other examples of “accidental” discharges in schools by gun carriers that, luckily, did not result in death. I have written about them many times in this blog. Remember that these are the people the gun lobby wants carrying guns or having guns somewhere in our schools to keep our children safe.

Remember when a Utah elementary school teacher ( where guns are allowed in schools) “accidentally” discharged her gun in a school bathroom?

There was a time when gun permits were only granted to those who showed a need to carry a gun ( for work or under conditions of necessary self defense) and law enforcement was given the authority to decide who, in their communities, should be granted a permit to carry a loaded gun around. All of that changed in 1987 when Florida, the laboratory for the gun lobby, passed a “shall issue” carry law. A few other states had passed such laws before that but Florida is a laboratory for the gun lobby so what happens in Florida can be expected to show up in state legislatures all over the country. Every state now has some version of a law allowing private citizens to carry guns in public.

But the slippery slope has moved the needle in favor of more guns in public, thanks to our bought and paid for politicians, ever ready to do business with the corporate gun lobby. So, again in Florida, the first Stand Your Ground law was passed in 2005 , signed by Governor Jeb Bush. So now gun permit holders in states with this law can shoot someone and claim self defense, getting away with murder. From the article:

“Our study finds that, that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn’t pass the laws over the same time period,” he says.

As to whether the laws reduce crime — by creating a deterrence for criminals — he says, “we find no evidence of any deterrence effect over that same time period.” (…)

Hoekstra obtained this result by comparing the homicide rate in states before and after they passed the laws. He also compared states with the laws to states without the laws.

“We find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws,” he said. There are about 14,000 homicides annually in the United States as a whole. (…)

Still, based on the available data, it appears that crafters of these laws sought to give good guys more latitude to defend themselves against bad guys. But what Hoekstra’s data suggest is that in real-life conflicts, both sides think of the other guy as the bad guy. Both believe the law gives them the right to shoot.

In a separate analysis of death certificates before and after stand your ground laws were passed in different states, economists at Georgia State University also found that states that passed the laws ended up with a higher homicide rate.

The slippery slope continues today as more and more states are now following the path of the gun lobby’s agenda in passing laws that will let citizens carry those loaded guns around in public places with no permit or training. Common sense? The Governor of West Virginia thought not when his legislature passed this stupid and dangerous bill which he vetoed. But never mind public safety. The lapdog politicians went along with this really bad idea and overrode his veto.  From the linked article written for The Trace:

Collectively, the bills seek to upend a concealed carry system that the National Rifle Association spent the past four decades building, and which now stands at the center of American gun culture and commerce. Under that system, permit applicants in most states must pass a background check and pay a fee to the state; there can also be mandatory training courses and tests, often administered by NRA-licensed instructors.

The push for permitless carry is part of the larger movement that seeks to establish new norms for the carrying of handguns in American society, wherein the ideal is a country that places no restrictions on gun owners. Proponents believe the mere existence of the Second Amendment nullifies the necessity for a permit requirement. “People don’t want to pay a fee to the state for a right that is guaranteed by the constitution,” Mike Mosher, a police officer in Kansas who owns a firearms training company called Tactical Simulations Solutions, tells The Trace.

The gun rights extremists want us to believe that the new normal is seeing people with holstered (or not) guns in public and we should not “wet our pants” about it. When that person could be anyone- with no training or even a permit with a background check requirement- we are supposed to trust this person to be safe in public? I don’t think so. Why would any reasonable person believe this is a good idea?

I saw a man just the other day outside of a McDonald’s restaurant where I was sitting with my grandchildren and some friends. Needless to say, the boys noticed immediately that the man was carrying a gun openly and were fascinated by the gun. Our children don’t need to observe adults carrying guns around in public. It is NOT normal.

The thing is, gun use for self defense is so minimal as to be hardly on the radar. The incidents of someone using a gun for legitimate self defense are just not making the news. Or at least not as often as mass shootings, domestic shootings, “accidental” discharges and other gun incidents. They aren’t making the news because they are so infrequent comparatively.

So back to the incident of the school teacher whose gun discharged and injured himself- this happens far too often in our country. I write about these incidents frequently. In fact, my news feed and Twitter feed are littered with articles about kids finding guns and shooting themselves or someone else or “law abiding” citizens shooting a loved one(s) , themselves or someone else by “accident” or in a dispute that would not end in death if a gun was not at the ready.

Mandatory training, background checks, permits and even licensing and registration are required for so many other every day things Americans do. The idea that because gun rights are deemed to be sacrosanct by the gun lobby there should be  absolutely no accountability is ludicrous. And dangerous.

Guns in schools will not lead to safer children unless they are carried by law enforcement or legitimate security personnel. Or not. Check this out. And this. It’s important to think through what we are doing to keep our children safe from gun violence. The most important thing we can do is to prevent shooters from gaining access to guns in the first place. That will not stop all shootings, of course. But the fact that we aren’t really trying is a national shame.

Satire is often needed to make the point that America is doing virtually nothing to address its’ public health and safety epidemic. Check out comedian Samantha Bee’s video about school shootings and the corporate gun lobby.  As always, the language is ripe and provocative. But the message is clear. What are we teaching our children about safety in schools? And why are children exposed to lock down drills and ways to stop shooters? They are children. They are in school to learn. Parents should expect that their children will come home alive after school every day.

Americans have had #Enough. Changing laws, changing the conversation and changing the gun culture will lead to safer communities and fewer gun deaths and injuries. Education, awareness, training, proper storage of guns and common sense is what is needed to keep families and communities from the devastation of insidious gun violence.