25 years later- unhappy anniversary

crying womanThis will be a long post. But then again, 25 years is a long time since the death of my sister. It’s a long time to have worked on gun violence prevention. It’s a long time living with the fact that we seem to be febile in the face of the gun lobby influence and have allowed lapdog politicians to do their bidding. And while the fight to prevent gun violence continues so do the deaths due to firearms injuries.

Too many families  mark the anniversaries of the death of a loved one to gun violence. What an unhappy anniversary. It brings back the memories of the phone call and/or the visit from law enforcement announcing that a shooting had taken the life of your child, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandchild or grandparent or a good friend. Gun violence has a ripple effect so the broader community and sometimes the entire country is affected by heinous shootings. It is in our consciousness and our collective memories and our collective culture.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara. She was a beautiful lively, talented artist and pilot. She was a biker, a very good downhill skier, a tennis player, a beauty queen, a mother and step-mother, very involved in her community and a world traveler. In high school her friends called her Bugs. I still am not sure why. Because she grew up in Duluth, some of her friends still live here and I run into them occasionally. They always have fond memories to share of her as she was loved by many.

In spite of the fact that her estranged husband ( 2nd husband) killed her, the adult children from her first marriage and adult child from her second marriage along with the adult children from his first marriage remain close to each other. His first wife has taken on the role of grandmother to the grandchildren my sister never met. My husband, my children and I all remain close with all of them. It was because of my sister’s ability to love and draw people together that we have remained a close family.

We could have been angry and divorced ourselves from his family, but my mother was forgiving to a fault and kept them all close. The thing is, we loved them all and had no idea that my soon to be ex brother-in-law was capable of shooting and killing two people. That is how it often is. Family members are surprised proclaiming that the shooter was such a nice person or a quiet guy or the family seemed to be so happy. What went wrong? It was so unexpected. That is the risk of having a gun so accessible in situations of anger and domestic disputes.:

DID YOU KNOW?  Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of homicide.

    • States with the highest levels of gun ownership have 114 percent higher firearm homicide rates and 60 percent higher homicide rates than states with the lowest gun ownership (Miller, Hemenway, and Azrael, 2007, pp. 659, 660).
    • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
  • Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).

Stunning.

I will always remember the night of the phone call about my sister’s death- actually on August 6 because her body and that of her friend were not discovered until the next day. When my nephew told me that my sister had died I assumed it was a plane crash since she was a pilot. Or anything else besides a shooting. How can one imagine that happening to a loved one? The violence. I often wonder how it would have been for her in the seconds before death after 1,2 and then a third bullet entered her body. Unimaginable. I can’t go there.photo of Barbara

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. I won’t repeat the figures here again but we know that a lot of people die needlessly from firearm injuries. We also know that we are NOT helpless to change the trajectory of the number of gun deaths. More guns means more gun deaths. That is just a common sense fact.

We are not dealing in common sense though. Tragically we are dealing with a powerful and well funded corporate gun lobby that has become an arm of the extreme right wing of our nation. They use the second amendment as cover for their ever increasingly extreme agenda, aimed at arming anyone everywhere. We will not be safer as a country.

On this 25th anniversary of my sister’s death, I want to also remember the 5 year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin,   6 died that day because of a hate filled white supremacist who killed just because. That is the American tragedy playing out regularly every day, week, month and year.

This shooting was just one of the very many mass shootings in America. Only in America is this a regular part of a nation’s culture. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have some suggestions:

Stop making this about the second amendment. It is about preventing gun deaths and injuries.

Stop the ludicrous assertion that passing a universal background check to require Brady background checks for all gun sales will inevitably lead to gun confiscation. That is a lie.

Challenge the NRA and other extreme gun rights groups when they cross over a line and stoke up lies and fear. Take this latest from Dana Loesch of NRA TV, for just one example:

Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, is yet again making headlines for controversial reasons. On Friday, during an interview with Grant Stichfield on the NRA TV channel, Loesch equated penalizing gun owners with shaming rape victims. Her comments were in response to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress indicating an increased rate of gun thefts in Southern states — with most of the stolen firearms ending up illegally trafficked and utilized in robberies and violent crimes. Texas, Georgia, and Florida topped the list with over 8,100 thefts of licensed firearms between 2012 and 2016. The Center for American Progress suggested implementing laws enforcing stricter storage guidelines for gun owners.

Loesch argued that focusing on gun owners rather than on those stealing the guns is analogous to shaming victims of sexual assault:

Good grief. What nonsense. No wonder some gun owners are moving away from this organization.

So we should encourage more reasonable gun owners who generally agree with the gun violence prevention groups to raise their voices. Many believe the NRA has become too extreme for them and have left the organization. Here is just one who wrote about his displeasure with the NRA:

As a gun owner and defender of the Second Amendment, I’m here to tell you the NRA has lost its ever-loving mind.

The nation’s largest firearms organization began its slide into moral degeneracy as late as the early 2000s, when actor Charlton Heston became its five-term president (a feat for which the NRA’s rules had to be changed to allow him to serve longer), before going public with his battle with Alzheimer’s disease and retiring. Under Heston’s firebrand leadership, the NRA’s rhetoric shifted its focus from working with lawmakers across the country to defend Second Amendment rights, to recasting the group as the front-line warrior in a crusade against the entire progressive movement in a culture war that they claimed had engulfed the country. (…)

A responsible NRA would be working for, not against, universal background checks on all firearms sales. As a responsible gun owner, it’s my job to ensure anyone I transfer a weapon to is in fact legally permitted to possess one. That’s the bare minimum due diligence that should be expected of me, and the vast majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. But not the NRA.

Pass the law to close the gap with Brady background checks that now allows private sellers to sell guns without knowing whether the buyer is a felon, a domestic abuser or someone dangerously mentally ill.

Pass laws to require safe storage of guns.

Strengthen gun trafficking laws.

Crack down on straw purchasing. The Brady Center won a settlement against a Florida gun dealer and announced it today. The message from the gun dealer who sold a gun through a straw purchase which was used in a fatal shooting:

“We must exercise great caution and due diligence with great responsibility in preventing firearms from getting in the wrong hands of people who seek to harm us all. I support laws that protect our Second Amendment and the laws that protect our society from criminal elements who would abuse that right to the detriment of others. I encourage all gun dealers, including the new owner of my gun shop, to implement such measures.”

Hold every gun dealer and every gun owner responsible for being safe with guns and business practices. Lives can be saved.

Educate parents about ASKing if there are loaded, unsecured guns in homes where their children play. One big question could save a life.

Form coalitions of like minded people who are interested in keeping people from shooting themselves or others such as faith groups, gun owners, law enforcement, mental health organizations, domestic violence associations, health care providers, communities of color, LGBTQ community, educators, parents, business leaders and other gun violence prevention groups.

Crack down on irresponsible gun dealers. (See above article about the Brady Center settlement against an irresponsible gun dealer)

Don’t loosen gun carry permit laws. New research suggests that the passage of the conceal (and open) carry laws have led to more gun violence.

Change the conversation about the risks of guns to families and communities. Push back when bad advice or faulty information is in the public domain like the recent Dear Abby column about kids and guns. After the Brady Campaign and other organizations and volunteers weighed in Abby wrote a column with new advice and changed her mind. 

Remember the victims and survivors and make sure their stories are told. They are the voices of the movement to prevent shootings.

Stop saying our thoughts and prayers are with you and do something about the gun violence epidemic. TAKE ACTION.

Join one of the many gun violence prevention groups working to end gun violence at the local, state and national level. Join them in sending emails, postcards, making phone calls, lobbying at offices, tabling, speaking out, going to rallies, bell ringings, other events. They need you.

Work together for common sense.

I will end by suggesting that the current culture of incivility, sometimes including our own friends, on social media is disturbing. It starts from the top. With a President who has mentioned violence at rallies and said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing supporters, we have hit some new lows in civility. With trolls making rude and offensive comments when they disagree with someone, how can we have a civil society? It’s a frightening trend.

With members of both parties attacking each other and then the other party, how can we expect civility? With more armed people walking around with loaded guns in public, can we expect civility?

Social media allows a platform for organizing and promoting causes as well as keeping in touch with each other. But when it also becomes a platform for open criticism of even other friendly organizations or candidates or friends and family members, how can we expect people to settle disputes peacefully and without use of force? With the wide gap between Americans politically, the fear and paranoia is real. What we don’t need is ramping it up to include the idea of violence against each other and particularly with guns. Gun rights and the second amendment go only so far. The NRA’s leaders and lobbyists and other gun rights organizations have increasingly associated themselves with one political party in our country. The rhetoric has become more violent and suggestive of “second amendment remedies”. Why? The question should be asked and answered.

We are better than this. I am sure we all want to leave our country and the world a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren. That is what my sister would have wanted and that is why I am persisting. In her name I carry on. I stand on the legacy and lost lives of the 825,000 Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since 1992. That’s right. 25 multiplied by 33,000 is that much. In 1992 when my sister was shot and killed gun deaths were actually higher than 33,000 per year.

And last, I want to pay tribute to Jim Brady who died 3 years ago yesterday. I met him once and immediately was taken by his sense of humor and engaging personality even as he suffered from the decades long firearm injuries he suffered in the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan. Jim and his wife Sarah persisted in spite of the terrible situation in which they found themselves, and got the Brady Law passed. Lives have been saved as a result.

I honor all victims of gun violence on this anniversary of my sister’s shooting death. Many things have changed since her death but one thing has not- gun violence is a thing. It’s a thing that needs fixing.

Shed a tear. Ring the bell. Light a candle. Pick a flower. Think for a minute the horror of losing a loved one in a shooting. And then take action and do something about it.

It’s exhausting

heavyloadI don't know about you but I have been left mentally exhausted by the political events of this past week. My mind has been scattered and I can't seem to concentrate on much aside from the Trump reality show playing out every day. It's like a soap opera. One must tune in to see the next episode and watch the drama unfold. We have a "drama queen" as  a President. He loves the spotlight and the attention and he demands loyalty and idiotic  support of an agenda that in the mind of many of us is becoming more and more frightening as he digs in and circles the fire. Just now, our very own President lied again about what happened when Obama was President- guns would be taken away. I think he meant Clinton but anyway- he lied and said your guns would be gone.

And two days ago, a new Communications Director at the White House (Anthony Scaramucci) who is actually not yet able to be paid for his new job because he has to sell off his multi-million dollar business, let loose with a tirade of ugliness and profanity that sent a chill into the political air. And, by the way, Scaramucci is actually firing people even though he is not officially on the job. You just can't make this stuff up.

It's exhausting to listen to all of those lies and offensive rhetoric.

So relief is the feeling of today. Also some celebrating that when people organize and get involved and demand change or resist terrible votes on terrible bills, democracy wins.

It's a heavy lift to make sure Americans have access and get affordable health care. It's an exhausting process. But it needs to happen.

It's a heavy lift to get measures to prevent and reduce gun violence in place as well.

As always, many Americans have died from gunshot injuries during this week of health care debate and other debacles- most of them avoidable. In fact at 90 a day, about 630 Americans have died from gunshot injuries since last Friday. That's exhausting.

What appears to be a domestic murder/suicide in Winona, Minnesota led to the death of two young people.  Guns are dangerous. When a gun is available things like this happen on a regular basis. There is no sense to it but it's the American gun culture gone wrong.

Also in Minnesota this week, another small child got access to a loaded gun and shot and injured another child. This is avoidable and senseless. A mother was arrested because every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. From the article:

A 21-year-old woman was arrested in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood Tuesday evening after a child apparently found a gun in her purse and shot a 4-year-old girl in the leg.

The girl was taken to Regions Hospital with a nonlife threatening gunshot wound to her left leg, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a police spokesman.

No guns in purses. Period. This is not the first time as we remember the awful incident where a young Idaho child found his mother's gun in her purse and shot and killed her. 

It's exhausting.

Speaking of access to guns by young children and the health care system, here is a new campaign from States United to prevent gun violence in partnership with the Brady Campaign's ASK campaign. Check it out.

Yes, there is a lot of blood. Bullets kill. They do a lot of damage once entering a human body. That is why they are so much more deadly than other weapons. What happens when a bullet goes through the skin and muscle is usually only seen by health care providers, law enforcement, and coroners. It's not pretty. Perhaps if more people became aware of the actual damage to human organs from the bullets they shoot out of their guns intentionally or unintentionally, they would stop thinking  of guns as just tools. They are tools of destruction and death. There really is no way around that.

So a Kentucky  photographer decided to record the damage done by bullets to make it graphic and use it as art. For art imitates life and in the case of shootings, it's powerful stuff. The photographer got more interested in the actual victims of shootings as he proceeded with his project and started memorializing victims in an interesting way through graphs. From The Trace article:

“Murder statistics can become abstract,” he said. “This is a way to remember the victims. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, gun violence was massive, but then it returned to ‘normal’ levels, and it seems like we don’t think about it anymore.” With HAIL, he hopes to make the consequences of gun fire are harder to forget.

It is impossible to forget the consequences if you have lost a loved one to gun violence. Survivors of gun injuries never forget the impact of a bullet and the damage done leaving many of them forever disabled. Rep. Gabby Giffords is just one high profile walking example of the destruction of bullets. James Brady, now dead from the decades long effects of his gunshot injuries after being shot by a man who tried to assassinate President Reagan is another. They are the walking wounded, or in many cases, they can't walk any more.

Bullets do a lot of damage. The results of shootings cause grief, pain, devastation and costs to Americans. Victims and survivors undergo medical services for their injuries and recovery and often forever. Mental health services help family members with how to live on after a heinous shooting. Court costs are also costs to tax payers.

Health care, gun violence, economic, political, elections, non-profits, and many other issues and problems come together and are in need of solutions. Unlike the health care bill debacle brought to us by a President, Senators and Representatives who had only their own win and ideology behind their bills, there are common sense solutions. But like the health care debacle, it has become so political and divisive that solutions seem to be far off.

It doesn't have to be this way. If we are all about doing what's best for all of us to keep us healthy, safe, having enough money to feed and clothe our families, educating our children and young adults, providing jobs with living wages, taking care of our environment to preserve it for our children and grandchildren, then we will do the right thing.

Everyone wants to be safe from gun violence. We are not all safe. Everyone needs and wants good affordable health care. The ACA was a start but needs fixing, not repealing and replacing. Everyone wants a good job that has benefits and can provide for their families. Everyone wants their kids to be well educated. Everyone wants to retire gracefully and with dignity.

This is a time to reflect on where we have gone awry on so many issues and concerns. We are lurching towards a country that is not a democracy. We are living with a man at the helm who cares more about his own ego and image than he does about the people he represents. The ugliness, the language, the accusations, the verbal attacks, the tone deafness when speaking to a group of young boys, the angry tweeting, the attacks against the GLBTQ community, the attacks on minorities and immigrants, the taking apart of regular order, the destruction of the office of the Presidency, the violent and threatening rhetoric, the ignorance, the lying, the lack of attention to our national security, the lack of resolve to stop a foreign country from interfering with our elections, the blaming of others for one's own faults and shortcomings, the lack of accountability and more are becoming more frightening.

We need to take our country back. We need to stop the violence. We need to stop the threats and the vulgar public language. We need to feel safe in our own communities. We need to hold our leaders accountable for their mistakes and their ignorance.

It's exhausting to wake up to chaos every day. If that is the plan, it's working. If not, it's unacceptable and should stop before we go off the cliff.

It doesn't have to be this way. We don't need to be exhausted every day.

We can do something positive. For example, in Minnesota law enforcement is working with gun sellers and gun owners to make sure guns are safely stored against stealing. This seminar reinforced Minnesota's stringent storage laws for licensed dealers. There should be the same for home gun owners but so far, there is not. There could be.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek opened the seminar with remarks that charted a link between a recent uptick in violent crime and firearms hitting the streets from thefts or straw purchases, in which a stand-in buys a firearm for someone who’s been banned from making such a purchase.

“I’m asking you, I’m pleading with you,” Stanek told the firearms dealers, “when you go home at night, lock up those firearms.”

Usset expressed skepticism that large sellers would have the time every evening to lock away each of their long guns.

But he said he’s been securing his handguns before going home each evening since burglary 22 years ago.

“Because when they break in that’s what they’re after,” he said.

If it means saving lives, is it too much to ask to lock up ALL guns? Seems like a good idea to me.

Gun violence is also exhausting to the families, the victims and the survivors. Working to end gun violence is also exhausting. But there are courageous people who continue the fight no matter what because they don't want a lost life to lead to despair. Instead, they are working towards hope and a solution to our nation's public health epidemic.

Watch this story told by one of the survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. 

Angel's need for health care is great after he was shot and injured. Without health care, how do the victims get the care they need? Why would we deny them coverage? They are victims of senseless shootings and a gun culture gone wrong. America has more mass shootings and everyday shootings than any other democratized country not at war. We also have among the worst guaranteed affordable health care of almost all of those democratized countries.

Health care is a right. Being safe from gun violence is a right.

It's exhausting but, nevertheless, we will persist.

Shootings in the whirlpool of controversy

Tunnel lights or vortex glowThe controversial shooting death of a woman in Minnesota has been the subject of national and international concern and alarm. An officer shot a Minnesota woman for what appears to be no reason. She was not armed. She had called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley near her house. For some reason, she herself, was outside when officers arrived and apparently approached the squad car. After that, things get more fuzzy. The woman was shot and killed by a gunshot wound to her abdomen. An officer, two years on the Minneapolis Police Department, allegedly leaned over this partner to discharge his weapon upon reportedly hearing a loud noise. Some report it to be fireworks. Did others hear fireworks?

This shooting cries out for an investigation and answers. It appears to be inexplicable. But when someone, even an officer, shoots first and then thinks about it later, the victim doesn’t get to tell his/her story. What could possibly have gone wrong? What prompts and officer to be so fearful of an unarmed citizen who, by most accounts, was not a threat?

In Minnesota, this is the third such recent incident of officer involved shootings that have raised eyebrows and caused protests and even trials of officers. First there was Jamar Clark. Then Philando Castile. And now Justine Damond.

Some explanations are rolling out but don’t seem to provide good answers so far. From the linked article above:

“It’s certainly reasonable to assume that any police officer would be concerned about a possible ambush under these circumstances,” Bruno said. “It was only a few weeks ago when a female NYPD cop and mother of twins was executed in her car in a very similar scenario.”

Bruno was referencing the case of New York City police officer Miosotis Familia, 48, who was killed July 5 after a mentally ill man shot her in the head while she sat in her squad car in the Bronx.

Officers do have justification to be fearful of ambushes because they have happened with some frequency in America. (Pittsburgh, Tacoma, NYC, Their lives are on the line whenever they are on duty.

And then, this:

On Tuesday the BCA released some information, based in part on an interview with Harrity, who said the two were responding at 11:30 p.m. to a call of a possible assault in the quiet Fulton neighborhood when he was startled by a “loud sound.” Damon, who was the 911 caller, approached Harrity in the driver’s side window of the squad car “immediately afterward,” according to the statement.

Noor, who was in the passenger seat, then fired across his partner, striking Damond in the abdomen.

A loud noise sounding maybe like gunshots? Did anyone else hear that noise? Would that be enough to shoot someone? Especially an unarmed woman?

She first called officers trying to help someone she thought was being raped:

Justine Damond spent her last moments trying to help a stranger.

At 11:27 on Saturday night, Damond called police to report a possible sexual assault, according to a 911 transcript obtained by the Star Tribune Wednesday.

“I’m not sure if she’s having sex or being raped,” Damond told the operator. After giving her address, Damond continued: “I think she just yelled out ‘help,’ but it’s difficult the sound has been going on for a while, but I think, I don’t think she’s enjoying it.”

“OK,” said the operator, “I’ve already got an officer on the way.”

About eight minutes later, Damond called 911 again to make sure they got her address right. She repeated the report of hearing a woman screaming, and the operator assured her the officers were en route.

“Thank you,” said Damond.

Moments later, one of those officers would fatally shoot her.

Wow. This just does not make sense.

And now the controversy is swirling with not enough answers. They will hopefully come. A family in Minnesota and Australia and several communities are devastated. The family and community of the officer is devastated. The Somali community in Minneapolis has had problems with violence, intolerance and gun violence. This just can’t help.

Several letters to the editor in today’s Star Tribune deserve to be read and re-read about the shooting of Justine Damond. Here  is the first:

Thirty-some years ago, we were the owners of the house Justine Damond lived in when she was killed. One New Year’s Eve we let our 13-year-old son baby-sit his younger brother and sister for the first time while we celebrated less than a mile away. We’d been calling hourly to see how things were going when right after midnight our son answered and said, “Was it OK that I answered the door for the police?” My heart stopped momentarily. It turned out that the elderly woman across the alley had her back door kicked in by two men who then robbed her, and the police were canvassing to see if anyone had heard anything.

We rushed home, not wanting to leave our kids home alone with possible bad guys in the neighborhood. Then, it was the bad guys people were afraid of, not the police.

Something has gone terribly wrong. Then, as now, the Fulton neighborhood was a pretty quiet, fairly upscale area with some property crimes but not much else. But, other things have changed significantly. There has been a continual push in the U.S. for more access to guns and gun freedoms like conceal-and-carry. It is no wonder most police are fearful when they never know who might pull out a gun. Their training has conditioned them to always believe the worst of everyone and every situation. Tensions and fear are high when someone always expects the worst. But that fear is no excuse or defense for the increasingly common case of police officers who are trigger-happy.

Today, unfortunately, I’d be as afraid of having my young (white) son answer the door for the police as I would be of the bad guys. We citizens have to demand better.

And here is the second:

Two immigrants came to the United States searching for the American dream. One came to heal; the other, to protect. Now due to the fear and violence surrounding firearms, both have realized the American nightmare.

State Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie

These shootings reveal tensions between law enforcement and communities of color. They also reveal the need for better training for officers. And the “elephant in the room” that gets swept under the rug is that there are just too many guns around in our country and that is leading to too many gun deaths.

This is of international interest because Justine Damond was Australian. They just can’t wrap their heads around the American gun culture. I’m with them. This article calls the shooting the  “American Nightmare”. From the article:

In Justine Damond’s native country, news of the meditation teacher’s baffling death has dominated the airwaves, newspapers and websites for days, feeding into Australians’ long-held fears about America’s notorious culture of gun violence.

In this image made from video, John Ruszczyk, father of Justine Damond, an Australian woman who was shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer, holds a press conference with his family in Sydney Tuesday, July 18, 2017. The death of Damond, a 40-year-old meditation teacher who was reportedly dressed in her pajamas, was shot late Saturday. The story has led Australian network newscasts and was splashed across newspapers' front pages on Tuesday. (Channel 9 via AP)
In this image made from video, John Ruszczyk, father of Justine Damond, an Australian woman who was shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer, holds a news conference with his family in Sydney on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (Channel 9 via AP)

“The country is infested with possibly more guns than people,” said Philip Alpers, a gun policy analyst with the University of Sydney who has studied the stark differences in gun laws between the nations. “We see America as a very risky place in terms of gun violence — and so does the rest of the world.”

While police officers carry guns in Australia, deadly shootings by police are exceedingly rare; only a handful are reported each year, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. And though the U.S. doesn’t keep a national database of deadly police-involved shootings, even incomplete statistics show there are hundreds every year.

America’s reluctance to strengthen its gun regulations and its seemingly endless stream of shooting deaths have long been a source of confusion and concern in Australia, which instituted tough gun ownership laws in 1996 following a deadly mass shooting. At the time, then-Prime Minister John Howard — a conservative — warned Australians against following America’s lead on gun control, saying: “We have an opportunity in this country not to go down the American path.”

The “American path”….

I have a theory. Ever since conceal carry weapons permits laws have passed, there are more people on the streets armed with guns. It is truly difficult to know when someone could be a danger to themselves or others and it’s also difficult to sift out who could be a “good guy” with a gun or a “bad guy” with a gun. Officers often respond with fear and excess violence when fearing for their own lives. Too often, innocent citizens are killed by officers and then the officers are found to be not guilty because they were justified out of fear for their own safety.

We have a circular problem. More guns carried by citizens means officers need more guns. When officers have more guns and citizens have more guns everyone feels unsafe.

And when the NRA ramps up that fear of others as they have in the last few weeks, we have volatility in our public interactions. The most recent NRA TV screed came close to urging violence against the media. Our very own President has verbally attacked many media sources calling them fake news and lying about their motives.  He skirted suggesting violence against the press ( from the article above) which fits right in with what the NRA is doing. When a free press is vulnerable to attack, physical or verbal, our democracy is at risk. As I wrote in my last post, when protesters are not safe from the ramped up encouragement of violence against them by the “guys with the guns”.

By the way, does anyone think that this NRA is representing average gun owners? This is an extremist organization seemingly representing the right wing of the Republican party. Is this even about guns any more? Or is it a not so subtle way for the guys with the guns to think about their enemies as those who are not like them or those who criticize them and their leaders?

Frightening.

None of this is OK. None of this is good for democracy. None of this is making us safer from violence and gun violence. No one is safe until everyone is safe is the slogan of the Women’s March from the NRA to the DOJ last week-end said. Someone picked a great slogan to describe the “American nightmare.”

There needs to be common sense when it comes to guns. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill other people. And they do that every day in the hands of officers and citizens alike.

More guns are not making us safer. We are being sucked into the vortex of a place that we must get out of before it destroys us. The path is going towards more senseless gun deaths and injuries and leaves many families living the American nightmare.

Time to wake up.

 

Women’s March and the NRA

We are not safeThe Women’s March is taking on the NRA. Why? Because the NRA has been using videos to encourage their members to use violence against protesters. Seriously. In what country do we live again? If protesters aren’t safe from intimidation and violence, we are not a democracy any more. When the media is attacked by our very own President and he encourages intolerance and lies about what he calls #fakenews, we are not a democracy. Violence is not the answer in a democracy.

We already know that women are less safe when a gun is in the home. Women should not feel unsafe at home, at work, at malls, at protest marches or wherever they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. I know this from personal experience.

In fact no one is safer when a gun is present in the home.

Guns are a risk to their owners and others. They can be used in a few seconds to “solve a problem” or kill an innocent person or people with whom they disagree.

Protesters should be protected from violence and be able to participate in non-violent marches and events without fear of violence. That is the way the Women’s March on DC and other cities all across the America in January- non violent, peaceful protests to show our resistance to and our fears and concerns about our newly elected President. Women took the lead and we are not going away. Protests have erupted all over the country against the hapless and selfish agenda pushed by our President and his cronies in Congress.

And our concerns have been realized as the news of what the Trump campaign, Trump family members and maybe even the President himself did and have been doing to our country’s Democracy and the office of the Presidency. The news gets more complicated and more concerning every day.

Back to the NRA, no one is safe when one powerful interest group and industry group ramps up fear, violence, paranoia and intolerance.

Below is the NRA video in question. Let me know if you think this is OK.

The “clenched fist of truth” is all #fakenews. The ad is so over the top that there are really no words to describe it- other than alarming.

If vigilantes or one individual unhinged person acts on what the above video is suggesting, it could be tragic and deadly.

When so many guns are available and accessible to just about anyone, it would be easy for someone to act on their anger and intolerance. We can hope for common sense but that isn’t what is happening for a minority of Americans who believe in this dangerous nonsense.

So I think we can agree that this is meant to ramp up intolerance and violence towards those with whom you don’t agree. Is it also to sell more guns as is the habit of the NRA and the corporate gun lobby. In several of my past posts, I have written about the encouragement and tolerance of violence towards others coming directly from the top in the person of our very own President. As we know, the NRA has a seat at the table of our President and their agendas are linked.

But today, many are acting and protesting the NRA ad attacking protesters. The Women’s March is taking on the NRA- marching from the NRA headquarters in Virginia to the Department of Justice building in Washington D.C. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

I am so proud of those people who have decided that enough is enough. The lies, innuendos, threats and dangerous rhetoric are not scaring these people.

Will these people be safe from gun violence or other forms of violence? Will the NRA harass them and follow them and film them and make another insipid and dangerous ad showing how the Women’s March is ruining America? Will they ramp up the lies some more to encourage yet more violence? The answer is YES.

Are they not ashamed? Embarrassed?

The answer would be NO.

Watch for more in the news media about this march and protest. The truth is that America has more guns and more gun deaths than any other democratized country. More guns have not and will not make us safer. Every day innocent people are killed or injured by firearms due to suicide, homicide or “accidental” shootings.

When enough Americans raise their own voices and let the elected leaders who are afraid to raise theirs know that that is not OK, maybe something will change? Or will it take another tragedy?

The corporate gun lobby and the NRA have had their way for too long. The country is waking up to the clever and disingenuous tactics used by a powerful industry and lobby group. It’s past time.

The thing is, we have had those tragedies already. Sandy Hook. Columbine. Virginia Tech. San Bernardino. Red Lake. Aurora. Clackamas Mall. Pulse nightclub. And……………………….

What will it take?

It’s time to take the moral high ground and do whatever it takes to prevent violence and intimidation. From an article about the march from the NRA to the DOJ:

“I’ve never ever believed that the NRA is more powerful than the people,” Mallory said. “As long as people of good moral conscience come together … I believe we will be victorious.”

The NRA was the largest outside donor to Trump’s campaign. That means the Women’s March, Everytown for Gun Safety and other groups participating in the protest are not only taking on the NRA, but the political establishment, providing an opportunity for the movement to demonstrate the scope of its influence.

#NRA2DOJ

#Enough

July 4th violence

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American BannerWell, I didn’t think I would be posting so soon after my last one. We shouldn’t be surprised that #45 is not taking a July 4th vacation from tweeting. He should.  Our President decided to tweet out yet another invective against the press, including a violent  doctored video.:

The video appears to be a repurposed clip of Trump, then a reality TV star, beating up WWE owner Vince McMahon in 2007 ― with the logo for CNN, which Trump has continually labeled a “fake news” media outlet, replacing McMahon’s head.

Trump’s official White House account subsequently retweeted the video, which appeared on a Reddit thread on Wednesday, entitled “Trump takes down fake news.”

The fake news is the video and tweeting by our own President.

Let’s hope no one acts on the violence encouraged in the tweeted video, above.

And we do have to wonder now if the President was right when he said he could step out onto Fifth Avenue in NYC and shoot someone and he wouldn’t lose any voters.  Something to think about,

This is America on the Fourth of July, 2017.

You just can’t make this stuff up and it portends of a whole new world and a total disregard for the office of the Presidency and the country as a whole. As Rachel Maddow explained on her Friday show, this President really doesn’t care about that. He only seems to care about his ratings, his base, and his self esteem. People with low self esteem are often bullies.

What does this have to do with gun violence you ask? Many of our nation’s domestic and mass shootings are committed by people with  anger problems , problems with women, actual low self esteem and self image problems or prior violence in their own lives. They are often angry and some with mental illness, diagnosed or under diagnosed. Gun suicides are often the result of these personality traits as well. And to make matters worse, many mass and domestic shootings are committed by suicidal people who seem to want to take others with them. My ex ( now deceased) brother-in-law did not kill himself at the moment of the shooting of my sister and one other person. He did that later but clearly mentioned being suicidal after the shooting and actually succeeded 3 months later when he put a plastic bag over his head and suffocated himself.

Back to my original thought about the President of our country instilling violence…..

We are about to celebrate our nation’s Independence from England. It was a brutal and violent war (what war isn’t?) and left many dead and injured behind. (4435 battle deaths.)

At about 90 gun deaths per day, it would take about 3 months to reach the number killed in the Revolutionary War. Since 1968 more Americans have been killed by guns than in all American wars combined.

Astounding.

The American gun culture is killing people en masse and we look the other way.

Who are we as a country any more?

What we gained was an independent country that has become a model for democracy all over the world. If that model becomes tainted by our own leader, what kind of model will we become? Confidence and trust in our country has already eroded after the election of a man who seems to be increasingly angry and unhinged- seeking vengeance against anyone who dares to criticize him for his own words and behavior that is out there for all to see or anyone who slights him in any way.

Words matter. Behavior matters. Tweets matter. This should not be tolerated by any of us. I would hasten to bet that if Hillary Clinton had been elected, the attacks would have been vicious but she would not have been the attacker. If Barack Obama had said or done any of the things #45 has done and said, he would have been run out of office in short order.

This is not the America we deserve or should want. The fact that our President’s base is willing to tolerate this because of ideology, fear, anger, and whatever else was in the background of our last election,  is alarming. Violence from the top can only beget violence below.

And speaking of violence ( having nothing to do with the President but everything to do with angry people and guns) the recent rampage at a Bronx hospital was just another reason why more guns do not make us safer. Why a man who had the problems this physician had was not charged with a felony for previous behavior is beyond me. But had he been, getting a gun would have been more difficult. Not impossible mind you because private sellers at gun shows and on-line can sell to anyone with no Brady background checks. He bought the gun within weeks of the shooting.

Waiting periods anyone? Some states have them.  Not enough. They could save lives.

Brady background checks can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding purchaser and gun owner?

This physician had an AM-15- an assault gun that he shouldn’t have had. But he brought it with him to the hospital and killed one, wounded 5 more and then killed himself. As these shootings always are- it was a shocking and violent surprise with no time to react. Don’t anyone write a comment to me about how if only someone had had a gun, this would not have happened. That would be a lie. We don’t need any more lies in our country.

And then there is the continued ripple effect of gun violence that also is felt by the families of the shooters. This story is about the reflections of the wife of the man who shot and injured Congressman Steve Scalise:

He flung dishes at his wife, roared at the television, erupted during an outing at a local brewery. Suzanne Hodgkinson became so concerned with her husband’s growing anger that she wrote to his doctor asking for help.

Now, the wife of the man who opened fire on a congressional baseball team in June wonders what more she could have done.

A case for Gun Violence Protection Orders. Some states have them. They can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding gun purchaser and owner?

Guns and anger don’t go together. Guns and domestic strife or domestic abuse don’t go together. Guns and issues with women don’t go together. Guns and financial troubles don’t go together. Guns and mental illness don’t go together. Guns and vengeance don’t go together.

Guns and stupidity and irresponsibility also do not go together. If this were not so serious, one could cry. A Florida man sat on his gun and shot himself in the penis. Really? Yes, really. #notanaccident

She said the man told her he sat on the gun, which accidentally went off.

Police were called to the hospital just before 3 a.m. because of the gunshot wound.

Investigators found that the man was convicted of cocaine possession in 2004.

It’s possible he will be facing charges for possessing a firearm, because he is a convicted felon.

Not a law abiding gun owner. How did he get his gun?

And since I will be busy doing things with my family, I want to write once again about the totally stupid and dangerous celebratory gunfire that occurs every year on July 4th:

Looking into the science of it, can it actually kill someone? According to Forensic Outreach it not only can, but has.

“Celebratory gunfire has wounded hundreds and killed dozens in recent years in the US alone,” according to the research website.

As the site explains, the impact a bullet falling back to the ground can have has several different factors rooted in physics — everything from gravity, terminal velocity and wind resistance. The speed of the bullet leaving a gun or rifle also changes based on size or caliber but is estimated at anywhere from 1,500 feet per second to 2,900 feet per second.

A bullet shot straight up in the air, which is almost impossible by a human according to Forensic Outreach, will lose all of its speed at the top and then start to fall back to the ground.

With the help of gravity, it will pick up speed and impact at somewhere between 200 to 330 feet per second, which is said to be enough to penetrate the skin.

Most bullets won’t be shot straight up. Most will be shot at an angle so it will never loose all of the speed coming out of a gun barrel. A bullet on that type of an angle will impact at a speed between 300 to 700 feet per second which is enough to penetrate a skull.

The moral of the story is don’t shoot your gun in the air because it’s illegal and can kill someone.

Pare injured or worse by this avoidable and nonsensical practice by irresponsible gun owners- most law abiding- who should know better. What goes up must come down by the laws of nature. I also refer to my friend Joe Jaskolka on the fourth of July because his life changed forever on New Year’s Eve of 1999 when a celebratory bullet ended its’ trajectory in his brain. He was 11 then and almost 30 now still suffering from the permanent effect of one celebratory bullet.

#Enough

Be safe out there everyone. More guns do NOT make us all safer so don’t listen to that lie. And use common sense if you do happen to own a gun. There’s too much carnage going around and way too much violent rhetoric going around. As a country we owe it our children and grandchildren to stop this from becoming normal. It is not normal in any way.

We do have a serious problem but for the next few days, we can hope that common sense will prevail and the President and others will refrain from violent rhetoric and actual violence. We all need a vacation from the tweeting and the chaos surrounding the President.

On that note, Happy July 4th everyone.

Terror in the workplace

person_climbing_140648Terror attacks all over the globe have made travelers and citizens uneasy and frightened. All over Europe terror attacks have been on the increase. Cable news is all over these attacks, dropping all other news to cover them for the remainder of the day’s news cycles. We watch in horror as video clips are repeatedly shown to us and talking heads examine what it all means.

Several of the recent attacks have involved vehicles mowing people down- the latest in ISIS strategy to terrorize us all. Some have involved knifes and some guns. European gun laws are typically much stronger than American gun laws making it much more difficult for terrorists, felons, domestic abusers and those adjudicated mentally ill people to get their hands on guns.

Our own President saw fit in one of his tweet storms to speak the gun lobby nonsense after the recent London terror attack and used it as an opportunity to try to turn the gun debate in American upside down. Many of us in the gun violence prevention community took issue with that cynical tweet, including Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut:

Sen. Chris Murphy, who has been a longtime advocate for strict gun-violence-prevention laws, said Trump “clearly doesn’t read his own intelligence reports.’’

“As we speak, terrorist recruiters are telling terrorists to buy assault rifles online or at gun shows because it’s so easy to do,’’ Murphy said. “We need to keep guns away from criminals and terrorists, and President Trump should be working with Congress to do so.’’

It’s easy to get guns in America for anyone, including terrorists. And we sit back and do nothing about this?

In America, we have terror attacks almost every day. A few have been actual terror attacks perpetrated by those whose sympathies lie with terror organizations but not actually directed by those organizations. The San Bernardino shooting was one of these attacks:

According to the FBI’s investigation, the perpetrators were “homegrown violent extremists” inspired by foreign terrorist groups. They were not directed by such groups and were not part of any terrorist cell or network. FBI investigators have said that Farook and Malik had become radicalized over several years prior to the attack, consuming “poison on the internet” and expressing a commitment to jihadism and martyrdom in private messages to each other. Farook and Malik had traveled to Saudi Arabia in the years before the attack. The couple had amassed a large stockpile of weapons, ammunition, and bomb-making equipment in their home.

A few days ago, a workplace shooting in Orlando terrorized people and killed 5 and then himself:

“We have no indication that this subject is a participant in any type of terror organization,” Demings told reporters Monday morning. “What this is at this point is likely a workplace violence incident.” 

The sheriff did not say why the company fired Neumann, but he noted that about three years ago, deputies responded to an incident at the business in which Neumann was accused of battering another employee. Deputies did not file charges in the incident, Demings said.

Neumann, a U.S. Army veteran who was honorably discharged in 1999, had a criminal history that included a DUI and minor drug possession, Demings said. The sheriff said Neumann did not have a concealed-weapons permit.

The shooter had a criminal history. He did not have a concealed weapons permit but he did have a gun. Thanks to our weak gun laws and the lapdog politicians for the corporate gun lobby, this is possible in America. This tape re-runs many times a year in our country. In fact, these kinds of shootings are happening with increasing frequency. Sometimes workplace shootings are the result of domestic difficulties. Let’s take a look at the above article that documents what is going on in our country that we don’t seem to be paying enough attention to:

The most recent records by the Bureau of Labor Statistics say workplace homicides rose by 2 percent to 417 cases in 2015, with shootings increasing by 15 percent. The 354 shootings in 2015 represent the first increase since 2012. (…)

There’s a change in some quarters on how to react.

“‘See something, say something’ is kind of tiresome,” said active shooter prevention expert and author Chris Grollnek. “You see out-of-ordinary behavior, make a quick note. And if you’re in a bad situation, it’s get up, get out. There is no more hiding under a desk.”

In America we need to know how to react to active shooters in the workplace, at schools, malls, and wherever people gather in large numbers. Not to mention in the home where active shootings take place every day.

So we can build walls to keep out potential “terrorists” on our borders. But where are the walls to keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them, no matter who they are? Where are the walls against men ( for it is mostly men) shooting women during domestic disputes? Where are the walls to keep people from shooting innocent people at airports? Where are the walls to keep children from getting their hands on guns and shooting themselves, a friend or a family member? Where are the walls to keep us from discussing gun violence as a public health epidemic?

The wall that stands in the way of common sense is a high one in America. This invisible wall comes from lack of courage and conviction. It comes from power and control and, of course, money. It all comes down to money in the end. The profits of the firearms industry are more important to some of our elected leaders than the lives of their constituents.

We need a different kind of invisible wall in our country. Breaking down the barriers to common sense when it comes to gun laws, a sensible conversation filled with facts rather than rhetoric, a gun culture that has moved from guns in the home for hunting and sport to guns at the ready for a zombie apocalypse. When just a small minority of Americans own most of the guns in circulation according to statistics that are collectible but not inclusive, we have a serious problem. From the linked article:

Half of those guns belong to just 3% of the adult population. These super-owners have anywhere between eight and 140 guns each, with the group average being 17, according to the study.

Overall, there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S.: Most have an average of three guns; half own one or two guns; and the number of guns owned by Americans has gone up by 70 million over that same time period.

Meanwhile the number of Americans who own guns has decreased from 25% to 22% since 1994. And the study also found that there has been a dramatic increase in gun theft, nearly doubling from 230,000 per year to 400,000 per year.

This is the story of the American gun culture. It’s past time for a change. Certainly understanding that we have our very own problem with home-grown terrorists is key to changing how we talk about the issue of gun violence and how we can prevent and reduce it.

We have some high walls to climb. The barriers in our way are artificial and invisible but they are there.

A close call

close callA few weeks ago, my daughter called me late in the evening to share some text messages from parents of kids at her own children’s middle school. The messages were in regard to a possible threat by a new student at the school who had apparently told other students that he intended to bring a gun to school and shoot kids. Naturally the reaction was panic and concern. Some parents had decided not to send their kids to school the next day. I advised that parents needed to speak with the principal to insure that he had done what he needed to do to deal with the situation. He had received many phone calls that night and actually, during the day some students went to him with their concerns about the student.

This is exactly what is supposed to happen. Students need to Speak Up and tell someone that a student is talking about shooting kids. Too often students try to protect other students or just don’t tell out of fear or indifference or thinking that it won’t happen. But in most school shootings other students knew ahead of the shooting. The Brady Campaign has a Speak Up program for students to report anonymously that another student intends to shoot other kids:

Although the hotline provides the mechanism through which students can report potentially life-saving information, it is critical that students are also provided with the motivation to do so. Our comprehensive public awareness campaign works to combat destructive social norms, such as the fear of retaliation or being labeled a “snitch.” The campaign sends the powerful message that students can and should “SPEAK UP” against violence.

Let me get back to this story. The principal had phoned the parents of the boy who had made the threat and the decision was that the student would not be in school the next day.

As the incident unfolded, my daughter chose to send her kids to school but did not tell them about the incident, trying not to panic them. But once they got on the bus, this was the topic of discussion. My grandson texted my daughter to ask if she knew that a boy intended to shoot kids at the school that day and my granddaughter asked her to come and pick her up because she was going to die. Some of this can be chalked up to pre-teen and teen-aged dramatic behavior and a tendency to overreact to things. But much of it can also be chalked up to the real fear that a school shooting  could, and does, happen anywhere.

During the day, she reassured the kids that they would be OK and I even got in on a group text exchange. Eventually my daughter went to the school during a break from work and spoke with the school resource officer. That officer was there on site as were other officers just in case. She was calmed by this discussion and nothing happened that day.

But it could have. We are a family who has already lost one loved one to a shooting. This close call was more upsetting to my daughter and to me because we know how it feels to hear that a loved one has been shot.

Too many school shootings have taken innocent children from their parents leaving them living around the hole left by their deaths. Since Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and the many other school shootings, parents understand the risk is all too real.

Only in America do parents have to be regularly concerned that an actual shooting could take their children away or leave them injured or forever scarred by witnessing a shooting. We are all suffering from PTSD from all of the shootings we see directly or indirectly on news media stories.

In 68% of school shootings the shooters get their guns from home. That means keeping guns away from potential school shooters is in the hands of parents or another responsible adult.  Adults can make school shootings less likely and less frequent by thinking about what they are doing with their own guns and how they are stored. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill.

Just a little bit of common sense can stop shootings and stop kids from getting a loaded gun to take to school. Unless we change how we talk about potential and actual threats and think differently about the risks of guns in the home, the media will continue to report on school shootings. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We are better than this. The incident I described above was of concern to my family but ended with some lessons learned. Kids can speak up, adults must listen and act, parents talk to administrators and administrators call law enforcement. Authorities and school officials did their job and students were brave enough and scared enough to know what to do. Sometimes kids are smarter than the adults.

And I will end by suggesting that all parents find out more information about the ASK campaign so they can feel comfortable asking if there are loaded, unlocked guns in the homes where their children play and hang-out. Kids are curious; just telling them to stay away from guns does not work. It’s up to the adults to be responsible. It’s easy to do and asking can save lives. Millions of our children live in homes where guns are present.

Our children are both the victims and perpetrators of avoidable shootings in numbers that should alarm us. The corporate gun lobby is not alarmed. Many in Congress are not alarmed about something that should have all hands on deck to solve a very serious public health and safety epidemic. It is “not an accident” when children and teens gain access to guns and avoidably shoot or injure other children or even adults. Or to bring a gun to school, which happens on a regular basis in America. This article from The Trace has tracked how many times children and teens brought guns to their schools:

From August through mid-June, there were at least 269 incidents in which elementary, middle, and high school students were caught with guns on school grounds. That figure is an update to the March tally of 185 such incidents in the first five months of the school year. (Some incidents involved multiple students and multiple guns.)

In 2016, 269 incidents of kids bringing guns to school and this does not include any intentional school shootings:

Swanson, like many other gun safety advocates and researchers, believes government policy should focus on addressing Americans’ easy access to guns. Preventing tragedies like Sandy Hook requires more than expanding resources for mental health, he said ― the U.S. needs more laws restricting guns in households that include “at-risk” individuals. Swanson cited Lanza, who used his mother’s guns to carry out his attack, as an example of why this matters.

“A law like that would allow police officers to take away some of these guns,” Swanson said. “We shouldn’t have to live in a society where people have such easy access to such an efficient killing machine.”

Yet gun violence prevention efforts will likely encounter even more resistance under the incoming Donald Trump administration, with its close ties to the National Rifle Association, the most influential gun lobby in the country.

The NRA was Trump’s largest outside financial backer during the 2016 presidential race, spending more than $30 million to help his campaign.

“[The NRA] is going to expect something in return for that investment,” Watts said. “They’re going to have a champion in the White House.”

I referred to the Children’s Firearms Safety Alliance in my last post and I will refer to it again. From the site:

AS OF MAY 10, 2017, THIS YEAR:
37 KIDS KILLED
68 KIDS INJURED
5 ADULTS INJURED
1 ADULT KILLED

2016 TOTALS:
121 KIDS KILLED
176 KIDS INJURED
21 ADULTS SHOT….ALL BY KIDS

There are far too many close calls with guns involving children and teens. And there are far too many actual shooting incidents involving our children and teens.

The real tragedy here is that too many in Congress, and now our very own President, don’t care about the children. That is an American tragedy.

Follow the money. Money and power over our children.

Children go to school to learn, form relationships with other children, participate in enriching activities and to become responsible future adults. They should not have to be concerned for their own safety or that another student threatens to bring a gun to school to shoot them. Children are anxious enough about far too many things. This should not be one of them.

Who is protecting our children?

Keeping our kids safe is the primary job of parents and other adults. It’s one of the primary jobs of our elected leaders as well. If it isn’t, shame on them all.

It’s past time to step up and do the right thing.