Stunts and games with guns are deadly

dominoesSometimes when I read accounts of really stupid and dangerous incidents with guns, I want to cry. Take this Minnesota story for just one of many examples:

A woman shot and killed her boyfriend in a “stunt” gone tragically wrong allegedly to increase their presence on YouTube:

As part of a young couple’s quest for YouTube fame, a 19-year-old woman shot at a book her boyfriend was holding against his chest, killing him at close range outside their northwestern Minnesota home. (…)

Ruiz held up the book — described by County Attorney James Brue as a hardcover encyclopedia — and Perez pulled the trigger on a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, trying to see whether the bullet would go through, according to the criminal complaint.

A few hours before the shooting, a posting went up on Perez’s Twitter account that read: “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE.” The note included two wide-eyed emoji faces and another of an eye-covering monkey with a gaping mouth.

No words.

They rolled the dice and tragically lost.

Playing games while carrying is also a bad idea. Someone got mad at friends while playing dominoes in Las Vegas and got a gun from his car to shoot and kill two people. No joke.

Two men in their 20s died Sunday night after an argument broke out over a game of dominoes at a northeast Las Vegas home, Las Vegas police said.

Officers responded about 7:20 p.m. to a shooting call at the home on the 4400 block of Wendy Lane, near East Craig and North Walnut roads, according to Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Dan McGrath.

After the argument began, another man retrieved a gun from his car, went back inside the home and opened fire, McGrath said. Detectives are working to “positively identify” and arrest the suspected shooter, who knew the men killed.

Who knew a simple game of dominoes could become deadly? My husband’s aunt and his mother used to have real arguments over their games of Cribbage while at their cabin. I’m sure glad neither of them had a gun. Because guns are dangerous and deadly. What is it about that that some people just can’t understand? The American gun culture is out of control.

On my old blog site, I wrote about a board game gone terribly wrong in Minnesota.

Becoming angry while playing friendly games with friends or family should not result in death or injury. But this is the American gun culture. It is out of control.

One of my favorite sources, The Trace, posted an article today about how research has shown that more “law abiding” conceal and carry gun permit holders have actually contributed to more crime:

In a new working paper published on June 21 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics at Stanford Law School ran that data through four different statistical models  — including one developed by Lott for More Guns, Less Crime — and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry. The exception was the narrower category of murder; there, the researchers determined that any effect on homicide rates by expanded gun-carry policies is statistically insignificant.

While other studies conducted since 1994 have undermined Lott’s thesis, the new paper is the most comprehensive and assertive debunking of the more-guns-less-crime formula.

“For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled,” said paper’s lead author, John Donohue. “The answer is no.”

I am not surprised but know that there will be pushback from the gun rights community because this debunks their notions that more guns= less crime when actual research says “NO”.

New polling from Pew research reveals how the country is very divided about some things concerning guns and unified about others:

Republicans and Democrats find rare common ground on some gun policy proposals in the U.S. Large majorities in both parties continue to favor preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, and background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows.

Yet there are sharp partisan differences on several other issues – particularly on whether to let people carry concealed guns in more places and to allow teachers and officials to carry guns in K-12 schools, a new Pew Research Center survey has found.

And Republicans and Democrats have stark, fundamental differences on questions relating to the causes of gun violence – and even whether gun violence is a serious problem in the country.

In what world do people not think gun violence is a serious problem? Just asking……

How did gun violence prevention and gun policy get to be a Republican/Democratic issue dividing the country? Just asking……

Because gun violence does not discriminate between political parties. Republicans and Democrats ( and Independents) alike are shot and killed every day. They also shoot people every day. My now ex and deceased brother-in-law was a Republican. My sister was a Democrat. Gun violence is an issue that affects us all but the corporate gun lobby has become a favored Republican organization:

That partisan split could provide a hint as to why Republicans are so united today behind the NRA. Some of America’s biggest social-issue shifts have been driven by motives other than ideology; young people regardless of party have buoyed America’s increasing tolerance of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, for example.

Gun rights, by contrast, have magnetized Americans toward the political poles. So Republicans might be naturally lining up with the more conservative factions in their party on everything from gun rights to immigration.

But Republicans also have a fairly complex relationship with gun laws. And in fact, the shift described above might undersell it.

Witness their changes over time on the idea of protecting gun ownership versus controlling it. Republicans’ lines are much squigglier than Democrats. But the trend among Republicans since 2008 is clear as day: gun rights over gun control. What was an even split seven years ago is now a 3-to-1 edge in favor of gun rights.

It’s an American tragedy that a public health gun death epidemic is treated as a partisan issue.

But is it? Let’s take a look at more recent polling from Quinnipiac showing more broad support for gun safety reform issues. In this poll and others, Americans broadly rejected the Republican health care plan- even Republicans. Americans seem to agree that the plan is a really bad idea for them. And they also agreed about most policies to prevent gun deaths. Let’s take a look from the linked article:

American voters support 94 – 5 percent, including 92 – 8 percent among voters in households where there is a gun, background checks for all gun buyers. Support is over 90 percent in every listed group.

It’s too easy to buy a gun in the U.S. today, 57 percent of voters say, while 6 percent say it’s too difficult and 32 percent say it’s about right.

If more people carried guns, the U.S. would be less safe, 57 percent of voters say, while 35 percent say the nation would be safer.

American voters say 79 – 17 percent that the way people talk about politics in the U.S. today contributes to violence. This belief is strongly held among all listed groups.

The recent shooting of a U.S. Congressman and several other people in Virginia will have no impact on how people talk about politics, 53 percent of voters say, while 11 percent say it will have a positive impact and 31 percent say it will have a negative impact.

This is agreement that we should be doing more to reduce and prevent gun violence. So why aren’t we? We know the answer. And speaking of politics contributing to violence, there has been much discussion today after our very own President again tweeted out some offensive things against two media personalities. The White House response was the usual defensive one claiming that the President doesn’t advocate violence. Quite a few Republican leaders denounced the tweets but until their actions follow their words, this will continue unabated. And we will all be the worse for it.

Words matter. Did we elect a fighter to be a our President? ( I did not vote for #45) I don’t even know what that means. Presidents are not supposed to openly fight with the press, with women, with anyone who talks about him/her. This President thinks he is still a candidate and a businessman. His thin skin has become his worst enemy leading him to bully, intimidate, tweet inappropriate and offensive words and alienate most of the country. Does he realize that he is actually the President of the United States?

Self restraint and discipline is what is needed. Being tough with world leaders when necessary, with Congress when necessary, with his cabinet members when necessary, but not with the American people and the press. But being tough does not mean being tough like a schoolyard bully. It doesn’t mean throwing verbal punches at innocent people.

And, by the way, a free press is protected in the First Amendment and necessary for a democracy. Any leader who thinks otherwise is flirting with the kind of authoritarianism that is just not American.

And where are his supporters? Do they believe this behavior is OK? It’s not under any standards.

Of course we can all find video and media clips of the President advocating violence and egging on his supporters.

(As an aside, the President was wrong about Mika Brzezinski bleeding on New Year’s Eve.) And here is an article written by Joe Scarborough and Mika in today’s Washington Post asking some serious questions about the President’s dangerous tweets.

This is an embarrassing, sad, unprecedented, unPresidential, offensive, deplorable, vulgar, appalling state of affairs and lack of discipline and common sense that we can’t tolerate. If words that encourage violence come from the top, some people take them seriously and do likewise. We have become an angry, impolite and intolerant country. Having more guns around does not make this any better.

Gun violence often happens when people are angry and intolerant of others or feel that vengeance is the way to make it better. Too many young people are out on our streets with guns used to get even or vent anger.

So back to what is going on in my state of Minnesota….. The St. Paul Police Chief has verified what most of us in the gun violence prevention movement know to be true. Gun violence is a public health crisis:

While addressing the St. Paul City Council, Police Chief Todd Axtell called a significant rise in gun violence a, “public health crisis.”

“As of Wednesday, the number of gunshots fired is up 61 percent, homicides are up and the number of guns recovered off the street is 286,” Axtell said. (…)

Axtell also noted that half of the city’s 13 homicide victims this year were teenagers and the suspects in most of those crimes were teenaged perpetrators as well. The chief added that the summer season may see a rise in gun violence.

“Just last night alone … we had three arrests, five shots fired incidents throughout the city and three guns were recovered,” Axtell said. “This is just one night of work.”

How do teen-agers get their guns? From irresponsible adults. Stealing. Buying on the street from others who have bought guns legally or got them illegally themselves. From their homes. From a relative. From a friend. Any of these scenarios is likely and something we must address as communities and as a country. Guns don’t fall from the sky. All guns start out as legal purchases. From there, too many of them get into the hands of children, teens, criminals and others who should not have access to guns.

This is an American tragedy. It is not happening in other democratized countries.

Our gun culture is not a game or a stunt. We have serious problems that are not being addressed and people are dying every day senselessly and avoidably. It doesn’t help that rhetoric is ramping up and becoming more and more angry and hyperbolic.

Along that line, we need to talk about the latest video from the NRA by their new young star, Dana Loesch.  

Can we talk about advocating violence and encouraging armed insurrection in America? Here is what Loesch is saying under the umbrella of the NRA. I do love the hypocrisy:

In other words, Loesch is telling us that she and the NRA appropriated the imagery of a clenched first, even though when it’s associated with the left, it stands, in her mind, for violent protest or being a whiny loser. She also urges her critics to “take a Midol” and “get a grip,” which is wild advice coming from a woman who made an eight-minute video sitting three inches from a camera yelling about leftists lighting garbage can fires.

But it’s a call to arms that is alarming here and considering the political atmosphere, it wouldn’t take much for a terrible incident to start something we don’t want to see in America. This is no game. This is serious stuff , so for Loesch to feign surprise at the pushback is dishonest and cynical. More from the linked article:

The NRA is getting a little of the sweet, white-hot outrage they so crave with a new and deranged ad featuring their spokesperson, pundit Dana Loesch. The ad explicitly positions Real Americans against the violent, lying left, and—given that it’s an ad for a gun lobbying organization—it reads a lot like a call to take up arms against those menacing liberals. But who is Dana Loesch, why is she in my face, and where does this fit in with the proud tradition of batshit NRA ads?

Who is she? Who is anybody who uses a media platform to encourage violence while representing an organization that encourages the sale of the weapons that cause the violence in this country?

The domino effect of gun violence is all too real  and it’s making us less safe. The dangerous rhetoric we are hearing every day is contributing to a sense of unease and mistrust. The potential for actual violence based on the rhetoric is also real.

Too many families and communities are suffering devastating loss from gun injuries and death. We ought to be discouraging violent and hyperbolic talk instead of hearing it from the top and in ads meant to cause anger and fear of others.

We are better than this.

Conspiracies and connections

conspiracyA lunatic conspiracy theory promoted on the internet brought a North Carolina man with an AR-15 into a popular Washington DC pizza restaurant to check it out for himself. Naturally it didn’t go well.

 

 

 

Police say the conspiracy theory led to violence Sunday when a North Carolina man fired a rifle in the restaurant as he sought to investigate the accusations. No one was injured, and the man was arrested.

Flynn Jr., who has accompanied his father to presidential transition meetings inside Trump Tower and lists the presidential transition website as part of his Twitter bio, tweeted Sunday night that, “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story.”

Trump’s team had no immediate response to questions about the conspiracy theory or the younger Flynn’s role in the presidential transition.

Hmmm. How is all of this connected? During the Presidential election there were more conspiracy theories appearing in fake news sights and shared on social media than in past elections. Is it a coincidence that most of them came from the right wing of our country? And is it a coincidence that some of President-elect Trump’s advisors have engaged in writing them, tweeting them, sharing them and promoting them to others?

It was just a matter of time before a lunatic with a gun would connect the dots and react to a fake news conspiracy theory. This could have been much much worse.

But what could possibly go wrong with a gun nut internet troll, a ridiculous and dangerous conspiracy theory pushed by even those in the “mainstream” and easy access to AR-15s? Let’s see what the latest is from this Washington Post article:

She understands freedom of speech, Ousmaal replied in an email, but “derogatory libelous and hateful blogs and emails should not and cannot qualify.”

The officer replied once more, suggesting she ask the other owners if they knew who was behind the “disruption.”

“I don’t have anymore options to give unfortunately,” he wrote.

Ousmaal couldn’t believe it. She feared her family or staff could be harmed.

“Literally,” she said, “death threats.”

This should not be the new normal. But I fear it is. The connection between the hateful election rhetoric, stirred up by the far right and their very own candidate and now President elect Donald Trump, is the connection. The gun lobby is connected to the far right and now to the Republican Congress and our next President. There is no mistaking that. If this is what they have in mind, get ready for a tumultuous and dangerous 4 years. It will not be pretty.

When the free press is threatened by people with guns whose anger is fomented by the man at the top and his advisors, we are not a democracy any longer. The connections are real. Subscribing to conspiracy theories is dangerous and they are not real. But when fact becomes fiction and fiction becomes fact as I wrote about in my last post, this is what we have. Is this what we want? I know I don’t and I know the majority does not. But the majority apparently didn’t care about this when voting for Donald Trump. Or did they even understand that this was the world we would inherit after Jan. 20, 2017? I doubt it.

Dana Milbank wrote this for the Washington Post this morning:

There was a time when threats against journalists, like threats of any sort of political violence, were exceedingly rare. But in Trump’s America, such threats are neither rare nor idle.

If you doubt that, consider the events in recent days at Comet Ping Pong, the family pizza place in Northwest Washington I’ve been frequenting with my daughter ever since she was a toddler a decade ago. Lately, the owner and staff at Comet — and those of other businesses on the block — have been getting death threats, spurred by radio host Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist with close ties to the president-elect. (…)

Trump is not directly responsible for every violent word or action of his followers. But he foments violence. As The Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, has noted, when Trump refers to journalists as “the lowest form of life,” “scum” and the enemy, “it is no wonder that some members of our staff [at The Post] and at other news organizations received vile insults and threats of personal harm so worrisome that extra security was required.”

Trump, during the campaign, fantasized about Clinton and her judicial nominees being assassinated. He boasted that “I bring rage out” in people, and his violent rallies proved it. Since the election, Trump has falsely accused the media of inciting violence. At his speech in Ohio last week he denounced the “dishonest” media no fewer than six times. (…)

Now we are beginning to see the consequences of the rage and paranoia Trump has encouraged: A disturbed man fires an assault weapon in a place where tots play ping-pong. The only “crime” of the owner, James Alefantis, was to be a Clinton supporter who had, the WikiLeaks hack exposed, discussed with Clinton aide John Podesta the possibility of hosting a Clinton fundraiser.

Frightening.  Dangerous.  Outrageous. Deplorable.

We are living in a new world full of guns, violence and threats by people with guns. It is not the world of our founding fathers who saw fit to add the Second Amendment to our Bill of Rights. Those founding fathers did not anticipate the types of weapons now on our streets. The connection between the meaning of the second amendment to the reality of everyday life has been hijacked by those who want profit and control.

Let’s take a look , for example, at the connection between the sale of high powered handguns and an increase in these kind of guns found at crime scenes?:

Data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and obtained by The Trace, shows a sharp uptick in the number of high-caliber guns recovered by police in just the last few years. From 2012 to 2015, the number of 9mm and .40-caliber weapons found by police at crime scenes and during investigations grew by 30 and 39 percent respectively. Those were greater increases than any other commonly recovered kind of guns. While .22s are still the second most frequently recovered pistol, the quantity of these guns confiscated by police stayed virtually flat.

Criminals are obtaining powerful, higher capacity weapons in greater numbers for the same reason as police and legal buyers, says David Hureau, a SUNY-Albany sociologist who studies the illegal firearms market.

“Demand is shifting because supply is shifting,” Hureau says. “Bigger, badder guns are just more available on the secondary market.”

If you build them, they will buy them. Did the supply come first or the demand?

Why do we need “badder” guns again? Why did the man who walked into the DC pizza restaurant need that AR-15 again? Self protection? Insurrection? Lunacy? Intolerance of others? Taking care of business himself? Taking the law into his own hands?

And do I need to mention again that these type of guns and weaponry are available to anyone who wants them because we do not require Brady background checks on all gun sales?

This is the “new normal” in America. Is this what we bargained for when we left the corporate gun lobby to write our policy laws about guns and gun violence? There is a connection between the ties of the gun industry to the gun lobby and to lapdog politicians who did and do their bidding.

We are not safer now. We ought to be scared enough to be ever vigilant and to hold our leaders responsible when we see the connections to violence perpetrated by weakening gun laws, bad policy and a gun culture that is out of control.

If a free press is threatened by our leader at the top, the outcome will not be a good one. If a restaurant owner is threatened and harassed by gun nut trolls the outcome will not be a good one. When more and more high powered guns are encouraged in more and more public places, the outcome will not be a good one.

Join me and others who are working on gun violence prevention and who will remain vigilant and active in promoting common sense.

For surely what I have written about above flies in the face of common sense and of the public good. The American people have a right to be protected from insidious and dangerous people who would do them harm based on false conspiracy theories and dangerous rhetoric from the NRA and our leaders. If our own leaders will not keep us safe from devastating shootings and violence, who will?