Excuses for no gun safety reform

Yesterday a group from our Northland Brady chapter associated also with Protect Minnesota stood on a busy corner near our Congressman’s district office. We were there as part of Brady’s and other national gun violence prevention groups’ Week-end of Action. The actions were to demand that the Senate come back early from their summer break to pass the laws that the House passed in February- namely the universal background check and Charleston loophole bills. My Congressman Pete Stauber voted against these 2 life saving measures.

Thus we were there, after gathering only one and half weeks ago in a local rally against hate and violence which was a well attended plea for action and to ask our leaders to #DOSOMETHING about the carnage. Several mass shootings in a row have changed the conversation ( again) and more of the public are demanding action.

But now, the House Judiciary Committee will be coming back from recess early to consider several common sense gun bills. The Extreme Risk Protection Order bill and perhaps an Assault Weapons Ban and/or restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines will be discussed.

After standing with our signs on the corner and getting mostly positive honks and waves, we went to Congressman Stauber’s office with a packet of information and a letter stating what we wanted him to do. We ended up having an impromptu meeting with his staffer. It was a good meeting- informative and revealing.

We spoke about all kinds of things as victims, a veteran, a clergy member, several health care providers, a woman of color, grandparents, parents and concerned citizens expressed our frustration and outrage over the do nothing Senate and the lack of votes in favor of bills that would make a difference. In the discussion we made it clear that we don’t believe that any one of these measures on their own will “cure” the epidemic of gun violence. But the fact that we have done nothing for decades has fueled the current epidemic and made it more lethal.

And then we heard some of the usual Republican and gun lobby excuses for why these bills won’t work or why the Congressman doesn’t believe the bills before him are the right ones ( in spite of research showing the effectiveness of them and the overwhelming public support for the measures that passed in the House). The first of these is the idea that we can’t deal with the gun problem until we deal with mental illness. President Trump himself said that mental illness pulled the trigger in the latest mass shooting, not the guns. That is absurd on its’ face but it is also patently not true. It’s not mental illness. It’s mostly angry white men who have access to guns they should not have.

Here’s the truth about mental illness and shootings:

In response, mental health experts repeated what they have said after previous mass shootings: Most people with mental illness are not violent, they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.
“Until we begin to have our political leaders speaking more accurately to these issues, it’s up to us to put the facts out there,” said Arthur Evans, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association.
Evans agreed that red flag laws , also known as extreme risk protection orders, are a worthwhile step. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have such laws, according to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and some have used the laws to temporarily disarm people who have threatened violence.
But Evans and others said terms like “monsters” add to stigma that keeps people from getting treatment. (…)

A country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness, said Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist who published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries.
“If mental illness were the driving factor, we would expect the countries with highest suicide rates to have higher rates of public mass shootings. That’s not what we see,” Lankford said.
Instead, Lankford found, gun ownership per person is the best predictor.
Lankford called Trump’s emphasis on mental illness “too simplistic.”

It’s the guns.

Since our rally last week, another mass shooting occurred in Philadelphia where 6 officers were injured by one man with an assault rifle ( again). The shooter was a man who should not have had a gun in the first place given numerous firearms charges against him. So how did he get that gun? From the article:

The suspect was identified by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as Maurice Hill, 36. Krasner said Hill had an extensive criminal history, including drug, gun and robbery charges. Krasner said Hill should not have been on the streets but stopped short of saying there was any specific failure by law enforcement.

My Congressman is a former police officer. He, of all people, should be more concerned that officers are at great risk when they are outgunned on the streets. This year alone 31 officers have been killed by shooters. 175 have been injured. And yesterday yet another officer shooting occurred where 2 Missouri officers were shot while delivering eviction papers.

And aren’t you tired of other lame and shameful excuses or blaming from Republicans to deflect the reality of our national public health epidemic? They even have memos showing how to respond to constituents such as this one, blaming the left, when we know that most of the politically motivated shootings have come from people with far right political views. In fact, Trump has been mentioned by criminals as a reason for their crimes:

But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

White supremacy, hate crimes and other acts of political violence are American terrorism. We have to face that reality. There is no excuse for not doing anything about this.

And yes, we can stop some of these shooters from getting guns in the first place. If we close some loopholes making it easier for them to buy guns themselves or get them from others who may buy them legally ( and private sales with no background checks are legal in many states, including my own) we can stop some sales. If we enforce straw purchasing laws more stringently, we can stop some guns from going where they shouldn’t. If gun owners safely store their guns, we can stop some of the guns from being stolen and ending up where they shouldn’t. If we pass Red Flag laws, we can temporarily remove guns from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others. If we pass restrictions on ammunition magazines, we can, at the least, prevent shooters from taking dozens of lives at a time in a short time period. If we make sure the ATF can do their job properly with adequate funding and personnel, gun dealers will be held more accountable for bad behavior. If we litigate cases where gun dealers have sold guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them, we can stop some shootings.

It’s a package and it needs to be. But as we discussed at our meeting yesterday, we can’t say criminals won’t follow the laws anyway as an excuse not to pass laws. If that is the case, why have laws at all? People do wear their seat belts for the most part. It’s the law. People don’t smoke in public places. It’s the law. People stop on red lights because it’s the law. If you don’t follow the law, you may become a felon. But we are not a lawless society. That’s no excuse.

And then there was this given as an excuse. We all must work hard to keep illegal guns from coming into our country from the Canadian and Mexican borders. I had to ask again if that is what I heard. This is an excuse. We don’t need to do anything about our own country’s gun laws because the guns are coming across the borders into our country?

I was astounded at this one because it is the exact opposite of what is true. The guns flowing into Mexico and Canada are coming mainly from the U.S because our gun laws are so much weaker than theirs. Check out this article in the Christian Science Monitor about what is actually happening:

American guns bought from vendors in the U.S. and then smuggled illegally abroad are a fact of life across the Americas. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), some 70% of guns recovered by law enforcement in Mexico and sent to the ATF for tracing between 2011 and 2016 were originally purchased from a licensed dealer in the U.S. Some estimates put the number of U.S. weapons smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico at over 200,000 a year.
Mexican officials, in their fight against drug violence, have long pleaded with the U.S. to stem the southward flow of guns. Former President Felipe Calderón famously had a billboard erected in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, that read “No More Weapons,” spelled out with confiscated, destroyed weapons. (…)

That is also despite research showing that when the U.S. assault weapon ban expired in 2004, Mexican municipalities on the border with the U.S. saw a spike in homicides, he says.

“I do see some recognition now that this is beyond drugs, and that guns play a major, major role,” Mr. Weigend says. That includes think tanks, students, and civil society groups speaking out more against the implications of U.S. gun flows to Mexico. (…)

Weaker gun regulations in the U.S. have long undermined Canada’s much stricter rules, as guns get trafficked north. Last week Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said Canada could reduce violence with more money towards stopping guns from the U.S., which he called “the greatest arsenal in the world.”

So no. We don’t have a problem with illegal guns coming into our country from the nations who share our border. It is the other way around. And further, the fact that so many guns make into Mexico and other Central American countries have caused violence there which many are trying to flee to get into our country. And then if they get into our country their lives are at risk here because of the hate and racist rhetoric against people of color fomented right from the top.

It is also part and parcel of our illegal drug problem.

These are flimsy excuses designed as cop-outs. What our Congress members who are beholden to the NRA, as mine is, are trying to do is to deflect the conversation away from the truth. We have a problem with guns in America. Such easy access makes it easier for just about anybody to get a gun.

Minnesotans and Americans ( and this includes Republicans and gun owners by the way) support stronger gun laws. We want our Congress members to represent the majority of people in their districts. Just because the gun rights advocates make more noise does not mean they are the majority. In fact they are a small minority of the constituents all over the country.

There are no excuses. There never have been but now, more than ever, we are sick and tired of the carnage affecting almost all of us.

#DO DOMETHING.

Kaddish- for the mourners

vigilOn Monday of this week, I attended a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. 150-200 people attended on a cold fall day and crowded into a small gathering place on a busy street corner in Duluth. There were chants and songs and prayers along with speeches from local community leaders. I spoke as a person whose sister was murdered by bullets. Our Mayor spoke and my minister as well as a local elder from the NAACP. Many from the local Jewish community were there as well and expressed such sadness and mourning for the anti-Semitic attack on their brothers and sisters of faith.

It has been 26 years since my sister was shot. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday. The memories come and go as does the pain and the grief. I don’t cry much any more when speaking. But when the leader of the Synagogue asked us to sing and pray Kaddish for the dead and told us to think of our own losses, I cried. That moment was so emotional and powerful and almost haunting.

The vigil was testament to the solidarity we all feel when attacks come against one group of people because of anti-Semitism or racism or anti-GLBTQ or anti-abortion, or anti-Christianity or just because.

Following on the heels of the pipe bomb threats to high profile Democrats it felt like something was terribly wrong.

And predictably, the President said these words after the mass shooting at the synagogue:

When asked if the shooting indicated a need to revisit gun laws, Trump replied that the shooting “has little to do with it” and that an armed guard might have been able to stop the gunman “immediately.”
Asked if he was advocating for armed guards inside of places of worship, Trump replied, “no, it’s certainly an option.”

These are corporate gun lobby words that mean nothing. Rarely has someone who is armed stopped a mass shooting. In this case, the synagogue often did have armed guards as has become necessary for many synagogues in the current atmosphere in our country. But that is different than arming worshipers. If we have to go to our places of worship with guns,  then we have lost our freedom to worship in peace and tranquility.

I did speak with the person at our church in charge of building issues. He told me that we do have an evacuation plan just in case but we haven’t paid a lot of attention to it. I think it’s time to talk about this but it won’t involve weapons.

Something is terribly wrong. There is no way of avoiding the obvious. Hatred and fear of the “other” is increasing in intensity and promoted by hate groups and some of our very own leaders. The President is at the top of the heap of this fear. At the moment, in a ploy to drive his base to the polls, he has dangerously and cynically decided to issue an unconstitutional order to deny citizenship based on birth rites. The country awaits the fall-out from this ludicrous idea.

On top of that the President said on national TV that he intends to deploy 10,000-15,000 troops to our border to stop the “invasion”, as he has pronounced it, from the south. Thousands of refugees are peacefully walking towards the Mexican border from Honduras where they are afraid to live in their own country.

The Honduran migrants headed northward as part of a massive caravan are fleeing for different reasons — rank poverty, gang threats and a globalized economy that left them behind. They’re so desperate, they told me, they’re willing to gamble on a dangerous trip.

It is families with children and people of all ages and yet, the President claims these poor people are gang members and criminals and maybe a few Middle Easterners thrown in for good measure to frighten us all to death.

I am daily horrified and disgusted by this anger and fear. It should not be this way. I may be naive but I really do believe that we are better than this. Any common sense about this kind of rhetoric has flown away into thin air. We need it back.

Can we get our nation back? Can we have a calm and peaceful national conversation about any of this? As the election grows closer, the rhetoric grows more and more coarse. The ghouls of Halloween are with us every day now.

We should be praying and singing Kaddish for our country. My friend, Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, has written this piece for City Pages:

Our kids know anti-Semitism is real and it concerns them. They see it through the lens of understanding police brutality against unarmed African American men, the attacks on trans people and Muslims and Native People and Latinx and migrants and those with disabilities. They recognize that none of us are free until all of us are free.

They know in their bones that the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh was absolutely an attack on the Jewish people—and was the same attack on the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Our children know that unless and until we address bigotry and racism and hatred for all, none of us will be safe. (…) We—all of us—need one another. We are facing mighty waves of bigotry and violence, intolerance and cynicism. The way we will make it to shore—the way we will survive and thrive and build a community worthy of our children’s dreams—is to hold on to one another and swim to the shore, together.

We need each other and we also need a leader who can bring us together in these moments of violence and upheaval. We don’t have that leader. Who will do this? Who will fix this? When will it stop?

When will they ever learn?

When I spoke on Monday I read the words of former President Barack Obama which got to the core of the matter:

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 2.05.04 PM

Amen.

A country at unrest

Modern medicine concept: Anxiety on Yellow Brickwall .I have not written for a while due to campaigning for candidates who actually care about saving lives by supporting gun violence prevention efforts. It’s refreshing to know they are out there representing the majority of Americans who agree with common sense.

Today was a day of what appears to be homegrown terrorism that we have not seen for a while in our country. I remember when the DC Snipers terrorized Washington D.C. and the surrounding area. Just a few guns and people were afraid to leave their homes. It was a frightening time. We have had many home grown terrorist attacks in this country using mostly firearms.:

A recent government report shows that from Sept. 12, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2016, there were 85 deadly attacks in the United States by violent extremists.

Most of the attacks were carried out by far-right violent extremists. But more people died during attacks connected with Islamic jihadist extremists.  (…)

Of those 225 deaths:

• 106 individuals were killed by far-right violent extremists in 62 separate incidents;

• 119 individuals were killed by radical Islamist violent extremists in 23 separate incidents;

• The number of people killed in a given year ranged from one to 49. (…)

GAO noted that 41 percent of the deaths caused by a radical Islamist during the reviewed period happened in one incident: the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. In June 2016, Omar Mateen, born in the United States to Afghan parents, killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

But today it was pipe bombs sent to the offices or homes of Democrats. Something is terribly wrong with this no matter who was targeted. Republicans are arguing that Congressman Steve Scalise was targeted by a left-wing nut job was just as bad as what happened today.

It’s true. That was a devastating attack on an innocent lawmaker just enjoying a baseball practice with his colleagues. But what good does it do to bring up this comparison? What it feels like to me is that the Republicans are just not willing to deal with the “elephant in the room”.

But now that President Trump has been in office for the better part of two years, we have seen out of control rhetoric coming straight from the mouth of the guy at the top. The President is supposed to be a role model and there to soothe Americans in crises and tamp down dangerous rhetoric. But Trump has no compunctions about intimidating and fomenting fear and potential violence against the media and his “political enemies”.  The examples just keep adding up.

Who is going to speak out against this? Who in the Republican party will call out the dangerous rhetoric coming out of the mouth of their own leader?

The angry mob is the latest insult issued by the President,  trying to make those of us in pussy hats the “bad guys”.  This is purely to get his base riled up and riled up they are. The other day he extolled the virtues of the Montana Congressman who body-slammed a reporter.

The crowd laughed.

For Trump, that was A-O-K.  I can give many other examples but his attacks against the press- ( focusing on CNN)  all except state TV ( oh- er FOX news) is what authoritarian rulers do. Where are we?

CNN President Jeff Zucker responded:

CNN’s President Jeff Zucker blamed President Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for the series of bomb threats that surfaced on Wednesday.

“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” Mr. Zucker said in a statement.

“The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that,” he continued.

And as it turns out, Trump’s daughter-in-law signed her name to a campaign email attacking CNN even after the pipe bombs were discovered:

“Here’s what CNN said. What do you say?” the email states. “I have some breaking news for CNN… That is the real America that exists outside of the liberal bubble.”

“It’s time for us to give the media another wake-up call from the American people,” the email continues. “The President needs you to take the Media Accountability Survey to do your part in fighting back against the fake news’ attacks and bias against hardworking Americans.”

The email asks for responses to the survey by 11:59 p.m.

One of the questions is: “Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?” with the options Yes, No, No Opinion and Other.

While such emails are generally scheduled ahead of time, the campaign would have had the option of canceling in light of Wednesday morning’s events.

I ask you- who is the enemy of the people?

Is there no decency in Trump world?

The press attacks have been drawn into sharp focus when, a Washington Post U. S. resident who was a Saudi citizen, was brutally murdered in istanbul allegedly and most likely by the Saudis at the top. Is it any coincidence that Trump is a good friend to these folks or that his son-in-law has fostered the relationship?

It’s very hard to avoid the obvious here. When the bully-in-chief spouts and encourages violence at his “rallies”, what should we expect? And worse yet, just tonight at a rally in Milwaukee the crowd was getting warmed up by yelling “Lock Her Up” in reference to one of the recipients of the pipe bombs. 

The election is over. President Obama is not the President anymore. Trump is not running against Hillary Clinton any more. CNN is a respected world-wide media company but Trump hates them because they tell the truth about him.

These are scary times. Americans are armed to the hilt and ready to go in case of insurrections. But who will start this? Not the women with pussy hats.

There is a rise in right wing violence in our country. Consider what happened in Charlottesville last year. Isn’t it more than a coincidence that the President actually called himself a Nationalist a few days ago? :

The response to this development from Trump and his apparatchiks has been to spread fantasies about mass immigration of violent, criminal brown people; to demonize Muslims; to cook up nightmares about an exploding crime rate that’s concentrated in cities with large black populations. All these dark forces are contrasted with Real America, the Silent Majority who want to Make It Great Again. During the election, Trump shared disgusting propaganda that radically inflated the prevalence of black-on-white crime. This week, Trump has even combined some of these greatest hits, unleashing the insane lie that there are “unknown Middle Easterners” embedded in a caravan of Central American immigrants and refugees headed for the U.S. southern border.

This rhetoric, we are continually reminded, is effective

These are dangerous times. I now am convinced that Trump could walk out onto 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and his supporters wouldn’t care. 

Please remember that the NRA spent more money to get Trump elected than in previous Presidential elections- $30 million. They understood that this guy would support their dangerous agenda.

Do remember that the NRA’s spokesperson Wayne LaPierre has said that “the guys with the guns make the rules” and on NRA TV, Dana Loesch has issued statements of hate and violence against liberals and the media. This is not your grandfather’s NRA. This is an extremist group.

Do you remember when Alex Jones ( friend of President Trump) made up conspiracy theories claiming that Sandy Hook and all mass shootings didn’t happen but the victims were actors? I do. The families do.

This is more than despicable. It is so disgusting there are hardly words and it adds to the hate and dangerous rhetoric exhibited by some who have loud voices in the media who should be hiding in a basement somewhere. But they have been given voice by the current party in charge because it keeps the base all revved up and ready to vote.

It is just a matter of time before someone is killed because of a political atmosphere filled with hate, paranoia, fear and made-up stories about mobs and caravans ( paid for by Democrats) and people who opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court.. 

The country is full of anxiety created by a chaotic President whose M.O. is yelling, blaming, crowing about himself, lying and cheating. Let’s hope the perpetrator of the terror threats is found soon and held responsible. Then we will know what this is all about. With 2 weeks to the election, it is vitally important that this person is caught.

We are better than this.

3 school shootings in 2 days? Speak out.

Speak Out Indicates Be Heard And AnnouncementYes, it’s true. There have been 3 school shootings in the last 2 days that have gone largely ignored. Why? Good question. What’s the answer? Preventing them in the first place. Most school shooters, if children or teens, get their guns from home. Others are due to adults who have an issue with anger, vengeance or whatever else can be explained as to reasons why people take their guns out in public and decide to shoot innocent people.

Of course this wouldn’t be happening if there were fewer guns around in our country and less access to the ones we have. But this is America where guns flow freely and children and adults die or are wounded in large numbers every day.

This is not normal or inevitable. It is, however, preventable.

It’s actually past time to speak out about gun violence and how to prevent it but it’s never too late to save lives. Gun violence is a public health epidemic that is ignored. People are dying and shootings continue apace.

Today in Kentucky, a shooter shot kids at a school. This CNN article tells us the facts so far as they are known:

Seven people were taken to hospitals, some by helicopter, said Darlene Lynn of Marshall County Emergency Management.
The shooter is in custody, she said.

More information about the Kentucky school shooting has been released. Now 2 are dead and 17 are injured. This is now an official mass shooting- way too common in America. This was preventable as they all are.

Sigh.

Yesterday a 16 year old boy wielding a gun he should not have had in the first place, opened fire and one girl was taken to the hospital after being shot in a Texas school:

The suspect was a student who left the Italy High building immediately after firing several shots with a .380-caliber handgun in the cafeteria, officials say. Usually 45 to 55 students are in the cafeteria at that time. (…)

“This could have been avoidable,” she said. “There were so many signs.”

Shook said she first went to school officials after the boy allegedly made a “hit list” in eighth grade and her name was on it. Then last year, the boy got angry during a class and threw a pair of scissors at her friend and later threw a computer against a wall, she said.

“I ran out of the classroom screaming, telling everyone to hide because I was scared,” Shook said.

Where is common sense?  Given that there were warning signs that the shooter had anger issues, why in the world did he have a gun? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Guns need to be safely stored and locked, unloaded, if they are in the home with children and teens. More information will come out about how this boy got a gun. The most important thing is that adults are responsible for kids getting guns. And if there are warning signs, clearly kids like this should not have access to a gun.

Kids know something as one girl reported. She knew this boy was potentially dangerous to himself or others. See something, say something. These kinds of shooting are avoidable as was quoted in the article.

The Brady Campaign has a program called Speak-Up that is a toll free number for kids to call if they suspect that a school shooting could happen.

Sigh.

And the 3rd school shooting? Oh- just a drive by in New Orleans outside of a school causing a slight injury:

Police said someone in a dark pickup truck drove by The NET Charter High School, in the 6600 block of Franklin Avenue, and fired while a group of students were in front of the school, in the parking lot. The shooting took place about 1:30 p.m., principal Elizabeth Ostberg said.

One boy was injured: While police initially said the 14-year-old had a graze wound from a bullet, NOPD later said that the boy’s injury to his elbow was not consistent with a gunshot graze and was actually an abrasion.

From the story, it sounds like other students had some connection to guns as well. We are talking about young teens. Clearly they should not guns. It’s lunacy really.

Gun Violence Archive tells us that so far this year, 191 children and teens 17 or under have been killed or injured by bullets. It’s only January 23rd.

Since I included a link provided by CNN, I want to talk about another gun story that has flown under the radar in the news affecting the news agency. An angry man threatened to shoot CNN employees in Michigan, being angry about the accusations of #fakenews against the media group coming from none other than our President:

Griesemer allegedly called CNN 22 times on Jan. 9 and 10, railing against African-Americans, Jews and CNN from the same phone number that was used in September to communicate threats against an Islamic center in Ann Arbor, according to an FBI affidavit.

The affidavit said that Griesemer, whose age was not listed, admitted to local police that he made the call to the mosque and that he was “angry at the time of the call.”

Four of the 22 calls to CNN included explicit threats, according to the FBI. In one of the calls, the caller said: “Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down.” In another call, he said, “I’m coming for you, CNN. I’m smarter than you. More powerful than you. I have more guns than you. More manpower. Your cast is about to get gunned down in a matter of hours.”

This one could have resulted in death and injury to innocent people. Words mean something. Attacks against the media made by a President who has a vendetta against what he has decided is #fakenews is very dangerous. When this kind of rhetoric comes right from the top, it is not surprising that an unhinged person with guns will decided to take action.

This is lunacy. Words matter. Having access to guns matter when one is too angry to think through consequences.

This is why we should be passing Extreme Risk Protection Order bills so that if a family member is concerned that someone with guns could be a danger to themselves or others, guns can be temporarily removed to avoid a tragedy to protect innocent people from harm.

We can do this America. Demand solutions and answers. We can save lives if we decide we are going to stand up and make our voices heard.

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.