Guns don’t fall from the sky

I have a friend who is a gun owner working with our local and state gun violence prevention groups who has said many times that guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchases. As proof, this recent arrest shows why this is true. Mind you, this is just one of many many similar stories about how crime guns enter the illegal or maybe even legal market. From the article:

A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection watch commander in Southern California has pleaded guilty to illegal gun-selling and unlawfully possessing more than 40 machine guns.

What the heck? Machine guns are strictly regulated for very good reason. They fall under the 1934 National Firearms Act that requires a lengthy background check process and a fee as well as registration. So how did this guy get machine guns? Good question. But they had to have started out as a legal purchase by someone who went through the process required.

All guns should go through the same process.

Embedded in the above article is another article of a similar vein about a convicted felon in possession of many guns using one in a road rage incident.

Police went on to search two residences associated with Trantham, a convicted felon who is barred from owning guns, and found several firearms, police said. Officers confiscated at least seven seven handguns, two shotguns, two rifles, numerous gun parts and thousands of rounds of ammunition that were seen in a photo posted by police to Facebook on Saturday, July 13.

The thing is, the guns this man had in his possession he could not purchase legally. How did he get them? And a photo on Facebook displaying the guns? I thought Facebook was going to stop this practice. They are not doing what they should be and said they would do.

And speaking of Facebook and guns they will now allow on-line blueprints for how to make 3D guns which, of course, anyone can make if they have the 3D printer. No background checks required and mostly plastic parts that can make it through metal detectors. From the article:

The social network said it would let “legitimate” gun shops and online vendors offer instructions for printing so-called “downloadable guns” in places where it is legal to do so. 

This is insanity itself. What is wrong with Facebook? We should all rise up in opposition to this one. Blueprints for buildings and other things are not dangerous. Blueprints for guns are.

Think of airport security, metal detectors in government buildings, etc. It will take just one bullet from one of these 3D guns at a Congressional hearing before the public understands the danger.

Where is common sense?

Another article in my local paper reveals that a recently released felon, convicted of shooting someone, on the day after his release, stabbed and beat his wife for the crime of not being home when he was released from prison:

Daniel Kriesel, 45, has been incarcerated for much of the past decade after he was convicted of shooting another man in the East Hillside in 2008. He’s now facing the potential of another long prison term after the Monday incident that left the victim with injuries that a prosecutor described as “brutal.”

Why oh why. Let me remind you that in many states felons can purchase guns legally because it is not illegal to buy from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or on-line sites like Armslist.com.

If we are to prevent and reduce gun violence we must use a multi faceted approach. Stronger background check laws, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, Safe Storage laws, gun trafficking laws, allowing more research into gun violence, promoting programs such as ASK and End Family Fire, and making our voices loud and clear ( as the majority have already do) that it is NOT NORMAL for our country to be in the midst of a national public health gun violence epidemic.

Much like cats and dogs, guns don’t fall from the sky. But it is really raining guns in America. We need to drain the ponds formed by the guns flooding our country and stop them from falling into the wrong hands.

Education. Energy. Emphatic support for common sense gun laws. Expedite passage of gun safety reform laws. Expert evidence about the risks of guns in the home. End Family Fire. Explaining the risks to leaders and the public. Explain and expose the truth about how the NRA has become a corrupt organization. Expose “bad apple gun dealers” where some crime guns get into the hands of people who should not have them. Elucidate the public about the danger of straw purchases of guns.

And eager engagement.

A Pyyhric Victory

Since my return home from my trip to Greece, the Minnesota House of Representatives has passed an Omnibus Public Safety Bill containing both background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order provisions. The vote happened at about 2:00 a.m. last Tuesday after the gun rights Republicans tried every trick in their tired old bag to weaken the bills. Stand Your Ground and Constitutional Carry- ever favorites of the now imploding NRA were tried but failed. One Representative suggested that, in the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, other things besides firearms should be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. He suggested cars, knives, golf clubs and bats for just a few. Yes. He said that.

He is wrong of course since the other items, except for auto accidents, don’t come anywhere near to killing as many people as guns. But never mind the facts.

This is the first time ever that a common sense gun safety reform bill has passed in a Minnesota legislative chamber. There was a rally on Monday which I attended and at which I spoke, to call attention to the bill and make noise about wanting it to pass. They heard us in chambers and knew we were there. Also there were a couple of obnoxious gun rights guys, dressed in suits can carrying their tripod with iPhone around on it to record the rally. Paranoid as they are, they must find out what we are doing and report it to their fearful followers in case we do something like spread out in the area and start confiscating their guns.

There was a group of students visiting from their school who these guys decided to record without asking permission. Several of us stood between the phone guy and the kids and answered questions about what we were doing. They were uniformly against the gun guys and understood the stakes for themselves when people who shouldn’t have guns use kids in schools as sitting ducks. Listen to the kids.

All in all it was a good day. We spoke with legislators and made our cause known. Speakers were inspiring, including Governor Walz who pulled his pen out of his pocket and said he was ready to sign the bill into law.

It was a Pyrrhic victory and we knew that. It will now be in the hands of a conference committee where the Senate, full of gun rights members, will not vote in favor unless a miracle happens. Why? Great question. No gun registration or confiscation will occur. No legal gun owners rights will be affected. There may be a few minutes of extra time involved in getting a background check from private sellers but so what? Not a reason to oppose. We know the reason. Follow the money and the influence of the corporate gun lobby.

From Minnesota DFL

The Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka declared the bills dead. My sister is dead. Hundreds of Minnesotans die every year. We can’t make them alive again but he can make the bills alive again. We can save lives and stop people from becoming dead in senseless and avoidable shootings.

The number of gun rights advocates calling and emailing the legislators are smaller by percentage than the majority of us who have demanded the passage of the bills. We are the majority but most of us are not single focused or paranoid and care about many things in our lives. To be more exact, the number of NRA members, the ones making the noise, in America compared to the total population is less than 10% of gun owners.

In fact, from the article above, after the Parkland school shooting, 97% of gun owners wanted to strengthen our gun laws. Remarkable. And also from the article:

A question remains. If gun owners across the country like Ware no longer identify with the organization, and polls show that they increasingly support gun control measures, who is the gun rights group fighting for?

Good question. And the other question that I asked on Monday in my speech was of whom are the legislators so afraid? This small group? The biggest problems is that the NRA is now an arm of the Republican party and part of the overall ideological bent of the party. It almost has nothing to do with guns anymore. They are a paper tiger but they have managed to wield a lot of influence anyway. Money talks. Corporations are people.

As the bodies pile up, our legislators will need to explain the real reasons they oppose reasonable gun laws. The archaic thinking that goes with their opposition is going out with those who are clinging to the old world order of mostly white guys having power and control. And when the NRA explodes, the road to victory will happen more easily.

Times are changing. Laws will change. The culture will change. Minnesota will change its gun laws. It may not be this year, though I still am hopeful. But it will change. Gun safety reform is here to stay and will be one of the most important issues of the upcoming campaigns and elections. We are not afraid any more of the “guys with the guns” who believe they make the rules.

They’re coming for your cows and your guns

By Famartin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27101259

Yes. It’s true. The Democrats ( aka socialists to some) are coming for your cows. That was uttered at the annual CPAC event which always brings out the worst of the conservatives trying to foment the worst fears and paranoia of the attendees.

Several speakers but most notably, former Trump “advisor” and ultra conservative Sebastian Gorka, did it with a flare.

“They want to take your pickup truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers,” former White House aide Sebastian Gorka declared at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday. “This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”

Yes. He said that. Red meat for the right. If we think that Stalin had any idea about pick-up trucks or hamburgers, we are dealing in fake news.

Am I missing something? Is there something radical about trying to save our planet for our grandchildren? The majority of scientists agree that climate change is real. Increasing numbers of Americans believe Climate Change is real but just don’t know what to do about it. Is there something radical about making sure all of us have affordable access to health care? Is there something radical about wanting to save lives? Facts are stubborn. It takes years of research and advocacy to change the hearts and minds of the public about issues of major importance to citizens. These are not radical ideas but ideas based on facts and what’s best for us all. I think that is what the founding fathers had in mind. It’s really important to deal in facts when talking about the effects of laws or ideas presented that are not laws such as the Green New Deal.

Speaking of facts and what’s in the best interest of the public writ large, this week was an emotional and satisfying victory for common sense after HR 8 and HR 1112 passed in the U.S House of Representatives. I was in DC for a celebration of the anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law 25 years ago on Feb. 28th. It was great to be in a room full of activists who had and have worked so hard to make sure that all gun sales have background checks. It was a historic week for gun safety reform and public health and safety.

My own Congressman, Pete Stauber, in 2 visits I made with him earlier this week ( one at O’Hare and one in his office on Capitol Hill) had never heard of Armslist.com. That is simply not OK. Because sites like Armslist.com are responsible for selling a pretty good number of firearms, ammunitions and accessories with no background checks. We have no idea if a private seller on the site connects with a felon, domestic abuser or someone who is adjudicated mentally ill and transfers a firearm to that person. The site is one of the problems with our background check system, that if fixed by Congress, would stop this kind of sale from happening.

And yet, the hyperbole and fear shouted out by members of Congress was as if these kinds of sales were not happening. They are. But never mind the facts. When one is endorsed by the NRA and makes promises, as my Congress member has, we can expect them to vote against common sense measures. Don’t be fooled by any language that might seem conciliatory. When we follow the money, the truth is revealed.

The current President of the NRA, the infamous liar Oliver North, claimed at the CPAC conference, that all guns would be confiscated if HR 8 became law.

“Our opponents ought to call themselves the vanguard of the disarm America movement,” North said. “They’re not going to be content to simply ignore the last four words of the Second Amendment, they want to repeal all 27 words and confiscate every firearm in the country.”

Yikes. They’re coming for your guns. Of course there is no basis in fact for that statement and it won’t happen, but never mind the facts. And who is this amorphous “they” who are coming?

Others proclaimed that if the bill became law, law abiding gun owners would go to jail for transferring firearms to family members. This is not in the bill and it is fleshed out in the bill language that family members are exempt from requiring background checks before a transfer but never mind the facts.

I heard from my own Congressman that the cost for background checks would be raised to $500.00 if the bill passed into law. NO. That is nowhere in the language of the bill and will not happen.

Listen up. These are the same background checks that most law abiding gun owners submit to when purchasing their firearms from federally licensed dealers. What’s the fuss? How will law abiding gun owners be affected if private sellers ask them to go through a background check?

They won’t. But never mind the facts.

Equally nonsensical arguments came out of the mouths of Minnesota Representatives of the House Public Safety committee on Wednesday evening at a hearing about HF 8 and HF 9. You would have thought that the sky was falling. Conspiracy theories were uttered. False claims of rights and firearms being taken were issued. Denial that on-line sales without background checks happen at all. ( See Armslist.com)

The bills passed anyway. The tired and false arguments from gun lobby supported elected leaders have been debunked for decades. Nevertheless, they persist. And they try new ones on as bills come forward that they can’t possibly support because….. rights….. money from the NRA…… angry, armed gun rights activists.

As Protect Minnesota and Moms Demand Action activists gathered for the hearings this week, they wore stickers on their shirts that said “Unarmed and Unafraid”. Indeed. The gun rights activists wore tee shirts that said “shall not be infringed”. They forgot the rest of the second amendment wording- “well regulated militia”.

What is to fear anyway? Women and grandmothers and young men and students wearing orange shirts? The machinations the gun rights folks went through to make sure they could come to the meeting armed to prove some kind of point that eludes most reasonable people was on full display in Minnesota.

We are not coming for your guns. Give it up. Keep them if you are law abiding and be responsible for what happens to them at home and in public. Don’t do what this guy did.  

Ouch to say the least. There are no “accidents” with firearms.

Don’t say what conservative attorney Joseph diGenova said on FOX news:

Speaking to conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, diGenova summed up his best advice to friends: “I vote, and I buy guns. And that’s what you should do.”


Yes, people are stockpiling guns for some kind of war with their own government apparently. Seems like a bad idea to me but whatever. And then sometimes you get caught doing the wrong thing with your stockpile like this Minnesota “law abiding” gun owner and elected county commissioner did:

Among the items found inside Hamer’s shop were: 
3 grams of methamphetamine.
Several pipes commonly used to smoke drugs.
Two scales which tested positive for meth.
Green leafy substance believed to be synthetic marijuana.
55 firearms, including a loaded 9mm pistol.

Guns and drugs often go together but they are a lethal combination and a really bad idea. I wonder what will happen to that stockpile of guns now?

Or don’t say what this Minnesota House member said at a gun rights rally:

“Some days, you feel like the frog in the boiling water. Just exactly how long are they going to just keep notching it up a degree here, and a degree here and a degree here until you’ve had enough? That line is for each of us to decide, each on our own terms,” Republican state representative Cal Bahr said during a Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus rally on Saturday. “There’s a lot of us in this room that have had enough, and it’s time to start riding herd on the rest of these people that want to take your rights away from you. They will not go quietly into the good night. They need to be kicked to the curb and stomped on and run over a few times,” he added, drawing cheers from the crowd. 
He then invoked Paul Revere and the American revolution in his closing remarks. 

Yep. I am one of those opponents of his perceived rights that Representative Bahr wants to kick to the curb and get stomped on and run over. Don’t say those things in defense of gun rights and carrying loaded guns around in public.

Don’t let your young child get a gun and do this.

The brothers were playing with a loaded handgun at their Pahokee apartment in Fremd Village, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, WPTV5 reported Wednesday evening.
The older brother, age 7, was apparently accidentally shot by his younger brother.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Just “google” child shoots sibling with gun and see the long list. You can do it by state or in general. It’s stunning how many irresponsible gun owners don’t understand the risk of guns in their homes. Perhaps they should be introduced to EndFamilyFire.

Don’t use your gun in a moment of anger and shoot your partner or someone else or threaten someone or get mad when a dog urinates on you.

Don’t do that with your gun. Be safe and responsible. That’s all we ask. If you want to keep your firearms and your rights, stay law abiding. It is only those who aren’t who will lose their rights and possibly their firearms. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill animals or people. They should be sold only to people who will use them legally and are law abiding.

And people like the shooter at the Aurora, Illinois workplace should not have guns. He slipped through the cracks. All we want is to strengthen the laws already on the books and pass new ones to keep that from happening.

Don’t do any of the above with your gun. Store guns safely away from hands of kids, teens and people who may be dangerous to themselves or others.Be safe and responsible. That’s all we ask. If you want to keep your firearms and your rights, stay law abiding. It is only those who aren’t who will lose their rights and possibly their firearms. Guns should be sold only to people who will use them legally and are law abiding.

But do remember that law abiding gun owners like my now deceased and ex brother-in-law can become felons in a matter of seconds for using a gun to kill people.

It could happen to you. Think about it. Wouldn’t you want as much as possible done to prevent your own loved one from being avoidably and senselessly killed in a violent and sudden shooting incident? I believe the answer is yes. And guess what, 97% of Americans are on my side.

We have come to expect that our cars will be as safe and laws have passed that require safety measures for our cars. Why? We don’t like it when our loved ones are killed in avoidable accidents. And lawsuits have held car manufacturers responsible for safety. There are laws to keep smokers from smoking in public places. Those laws keep us all safer. There are laws to keep children safe from defective products. There are laws against driving while drunk. These are all public health and safety laws that we know have worked to prevent senseless accidents and incidents. That is what stronger gun laws would do. We are pretty united about these laws.

This week the Brady Campaign launched a re-brand and is now Brady, United Against Gun Violence. Sarah and Jim Brady would be proud of the organization they helped to found. There is a lot of history with passing stronger gun laws and we celebrated that history this week in many ways. Check out this wonderful video:

We know that the country is actually united against gun violence. Check out the new Brady website. I love the “Take action, not sides” and “It’s in our hands.”

It is in our hands.

No one is coming for your cows, your hamburgers, your guns. Don’t believe it. It’s not true.

W

Brady background checks- why not?

6 years ago about this time a group from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter braved sub zero temperatures near the location of a gun show. The reason we came out for this in the freezing temperatures was because then, and now, private sellers at gun shows don’t have to do background checks on gun purchasers.

The photo shows our group holding our signs. We asked then and we ask now:

Why would we not make sure that every gun sale occurs with a background check? Since most do, why not all? About 1 in 5 guns are sold without a background check. It used to be more than that but because more states have passed laws to require background checks on all gun sales, we have made it harder for people who shouldn’t have guns to get their hands on them.

One of the interesting things about our protest on that cold day was the man who had been to the gun show and approached our group to talk to us. He claimed he had never talked to “gun control” activists before. Eventually the conversation turned to his worry that if a universal background check bill passed, the government would take his guns ( for sure). He had told us previous to this comment that he was a member of the National Guard. A friend in our group asked if he realized that he actually was the government who would go around confiscating guns if that gun lobby myth ever came to fruition. That was a surprise to him as he had never thought through what it would mean.

We need to make decisions made on facts and evidence, not myth.

Of course requiring the very same Brady background checks on private sales that are now required when purchasing from federally licensed firearms dealers would not result in confiscation. It hasn’t so far as long as the FBI’s National Instant Check system has been in existence- for the last 25 years.There is no logic to this gun lobby argument. But for too long this is what has persuaded our elected leaders to run away from passing a stronger background check law.

And therein lies the problem. There are myths rather than truths around the issue of requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Gun safety reform advocates understand that universal background checks will not cure the entire epidemic of gun violence. But that is no reason not to pass a law. Just as any law doesn’t solve the entire problem it is intended to fix. But we pass strong public safety laws for good reasons. And, as it turns out, most people follow the laws. Those who don’t get into trouble.

We also understand that lax gun trafficking laws, lax laws about stolen guns, lax laws about assault type rifles, lax laws about who can carry guns in public, lax laws about the sale of bump stocks, etc. contribute to the problem of too many gun deaths. Congress passed a law to deny funding for federal research into the causes and effects of gun violence. Congress passed a law to give immunity to the gun industry against lawsuits. Those, too, have contributed to our national gun violence epidemic.That’s why we are where we are- with close to 40,000 Americans a year losing their lives to bullets in the U.S.

That being the case, why would we not want to make everyone do the same thing when it comes to buying a gun? Lives can be saved. Every teacher gets a background check. No exceptions. Every health care provider gets a background check. No exceptions. Every person who works with children in a church or pre-school gets a background check. No exceptions. Everyone goes through the TSA check before boarding a plane- no exceptions. There are good reasons for these background checks. Why have any exceptions for buying a deadly weapons designed to kill people?

On Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee will have an official hearing on H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. This is the first hearing on a background check since 2011. There will be actual testimony about why requiring background checks on all gun sales is a really good idea. There will be evidence. There will likely be victims and survivors.It will likely pass out of the committee on a partisan vote unless a Republican on the committee decides to vote the way his/her constituents actually want. They will be held accountable by their constituents.

Common sense will happen this week at long last. I, for one, will be celebrating the hearing. I am quite sure that the corporate gun lobby will do their best to get their supporters to believe the usual myths about background checks on all sales leading to confiscation or registration. That’s a stupid and ludicrous untrue argument. But they will do it anyway. We will expect it.

Since most people understand that background checks on all gun sales make a lot of common sense, they already support the majority of the committee members. And the majority of the committee members will represent the 97% of Americans who want them to pass stronger gun laws.

Yesterday morning at my church I made an announcement and passed out stickers for members of the church to call our Representative to support H.R. 8. People couldn’t take them fast enough. I ran out. There were gun owners, parents, grandparents, community leaders, health care providers, educators, students, clergy- all who are sick and tired of letting the corporate gun lobby lead the conversation and intimidate their Congress members. They hate the daily carnage due to gun violence.

There are examples every day for the reason why we need to strengthen gun laws in our country.

A few days ago, a man in New Ulm, Minnesota gave his dying wife meth and had a death party for her. Clearly he is a man who should not have had any guns by the account in the article. But nonetheless, several guns were found in his home. The man reported that he had 47 guns, many of which were stolen. If true, why? Also from the linked article:

He has prior convictions for assault and DWI and is on probation for driving after license cancellation. A blood test taken after his DWI arrest in 2014 showed he had used methamphetamine, according to court records.

There really are people who should not have guns. Most likely this man could not purchase guns legally, explaining why most of his guns were allegedly stolen. Though he is under arrest for what occurred with illegal drugs and whatever else went on at his house, having guns accessible seems like a really bad idea. That is why we need stronger gun laws.

I just read this great editorial from the Star Tribune about the efforts of the Minnesota Medical Association to address gun violence. It’s heartening to see that health care providers are speaking out about gun violence as a public health issue. From the editorial:

Many cars now have backup cameras, which might have saved the child, the surgeon said. But when it comes to firearms, where are the technological advances and societal improvements — such as the widespread recognition of drunken-driving risks — that could prevent gun deaths?

The provocative question relayed by McClain provided just the right kickoff to the pioneering Minnesota workshop on gun-violence prevention put on by the state’s medical association. The MMA, which represents over 10,000 state physicians, merits praise not only for organizing it but for channeling members’ passion toward finding realistic solutions to a public health scourge. Beginning the discussion by considering the changes that have reduced motor vehicle deaths both inspired members and focused them on the workshop’s goal — proposing practical reforms.

The MMA has already taken a courageous stance on gun-violence prevention, one that not all members approved of. It issued a statement last March calling gun violence a “public health crisis” and then backed much-needed state reforms — such as criminal background checks on all purchases and transfers or exchanges of firearms. “Failure to intervene in the face of this significant epidemic is not an option,” the MMA said.

Exactly. It is not an option to not deal with gun violence. We have a crisis facing us and something has to be done about it. 

We will be a better country with the passage of H.R. 8. Will the Senate, with a Republican majority, many bought and paid for by the corporate gun lobby, hear a Senate similar bill?  Would the President sign any bill to strengthen gun laws given that the NRA spent more money on getting him elected than on any previous candidate? He owes them. If the Senate and the President want to be in partnership with an increasingly compromised organization they will be held accountable in the end.

Have a good week everyone. I will enjoy watching something positive happen for a change.


NRA news

This morning we learned the news that former President George H.W. Bush has died. I am not a Republican and did not support President Bush’s policies but he served with honor and integrity and was an honest man. Many Americans look back to those days and remember that at the least, there was not corruption, daily lies and chaos. 

George H.W. Bush had the integrity to resign from the NRA when the organization made verbal attacks against law enforcement after the Oklahoma City bombings. He wrote a letter resigning his life membership from the NRA.:

I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.


However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.


How refreshing. The current occupant of the White House is so far from doing anything honestly and above board that we look back at former Presidents who have the courage of their convictions with admiration.

I believe we could actually expect the opposite from our current President. Anything for his base. And who is his base? Are the NRA extreme gun rights advocates a large part of his base? Let’s take a look at the number of members of the organization compared to the total U.S. population. From an article written by Mike Weisser ( Mike the Gun Guy) in the Huffington Post in 2017:

Now since the NRA itself claims only to have 5 million members, how do we explain that all of a sudden the organization has added 9 million more to its membership rolls? Here’s how the NRA is handling it as of today: “we have millions more Americans who support us and will tell pollsters they are members, even when they are not.” And to underscore this point, the NRA website also linked to a story from The Washington Times (a real, balanced piece of journalism) which states that the Pew report shows that 21 percent of gun owners had contacted a public official about gun policy at some point in their lives, but only 12 percent of the non-owners said they did.

Another article posted after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida analyzed the numbers game played by the NRA in order to make the organization seem bigger and more powerful than it actually is:

Still, if there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S., even at 5 million members the NRA would account for less than 10 percent of the gun owning community.
“Let’s say it’s 10 million [members],” said Ware, the South Carolinian gun owner. “That’s still a fraction of the gun owners out there.”

A fraction of the gun owners out there- that is significant. If this is the organization that has successfully bought and paid for many of our elected leaders and represents a fraction of gun owners and even fewer Americans, we ought to be yelling from the roof tops to demand the action that over 90% of Americans want. 

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law. Back in 1993, even the NRA supported the idea that if someone wanted to buy a gun their background should be checked out to make sure they were not a felon, a domestic abuser, someone who was adjudicated mentally ill, etc. This was a no brainer. But when the law passed, with support of the NRA, there was an exception for private sellers of guns. That exception has proven to be deadly. There are many examples of mass shooters, domestic abusers and others who got guns through private sales and used them to murder innocent people. Columbine. Wisconsin Spa shooting. Charleston church shooting……..

Since the passage of the law, according to Mark Glaze, writing for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Under the current law, only people who buy their guns from federally licensed gun dealers are required by federal law to pass a background check. Unlicensed “private sellers” who sell at gun shows or over the Internet, are not required to conduct checks – a major gap that has grown exponentially larger as a portion of the marketplace for guns has moved online and away from bricks-and-mortar dealers.
Felons and other prohibited purchasers are well aware of this private sale loophole – and they exploit it every day. Researchers have estimated that as many as 22% of gun sales are conducted by private sellers – with no background checks and no questions asked.
In response to this lethal gap in the law, 20 states and the District of Columbia have acted to expand background checks to include at least some private sales, including those conducted by unlicensed sellers at gun shows, on the Internet and anywhere else.
And these laws are saving lives: when, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, Connecticut enacted a universal background check system, the state saw a 40% reduction in gun homicides and a 15% reduction in gun suicides.
Overall, from 2009 to 2012, states that required background checks on all handgun sales or permits had 35% fewer gun deaths per capita than states without that background check requirement.
Researchers have also found that, after adjusting for population, states that require background checks on all handgun sales experience less than half as many mass shooting incidents (52% fewer) as states without that background check requirement. (…) Brady background checks are more popular in America than pizza. A 2018 Quinnipiac poll showed that 97% of Americans support universal checks, including 97% of gun owners. And a 2012 survey by GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that even 74% of NRA members support this common-sense reform.
And we know voters have their eye on this issue. Polls both before and after the 2018 midterms showed gun safety was one of the top issues for voters. And a survey of 11 battleground House districts conducted by the Brady Campaign and the American Federation of Teachers showed that voters were much more likely to support candidates who support universal checks.

Change and common sense are coming to America. The 2018 elections will prove to be a game changer in America for many reasons. 

The news of the day is happening fast and furiously. Much of it is related to the Mueller investigation into whether our very own President colluded with the Russians and now, as a result of the investigation, there may actually be attempts at obstruction of justice.

Buried in some of this news was this one about the Russian woman, Maria Butina,  who allegedly attempted to help the Russians gain access to the President through the NRA. It should be more alarming that this happened but then, it’s become such an everyday occurrence that alarm has become complacency or else not wanting  to know.

Let’s look at what this article is saying about the consequences to the country and to the NRA once Butina spills her knowledge:

Prosecutors now allege that Torshin was, in fact, directing Butina’s gun rights networking in the US, as part of a Russian influence effort. If the government wants to get to the bottom of whether the NRA was getting Russian money to boost Trump, Butina may possess valuable information about Torshin’s role in the alleged scheme. (…) Butina, as Torshin’s collaborator and as Erickson’s partner, was smack dab in the middle of this effort in May 2016. In fact, during this same month, Butina herself was part of a group that unsuccessfully sought a meeting with the Trump campaign. So it’s likely she could shed light on Erickson’s and the NRA’s efforts to connect Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. (…) Though the campaign declined, Butina went to the event. During the audience Q&A, she asked Trump a question about whether he had plans to continue Russian sanctions, which Butina called “damaging” to both the American and Russia economies. Trump reassured her that he didn’t think the sanctions were needed. In May 2016, as the NRA hosted its convention in Louisville, Butina briefly met with Donald Trump Jr., and gave a speech at a NRA fundraiser involving Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin

I don’t know about you but I smell trouble ahead for Butina, the administration and the NRA. The organization is now having financial and legal problems related both to this investigation and the intense scrutiny placed on the NRA after the Parkland shooting. The activated students have not been shy about going after the powerful interest lobby. And it’s past time for that to happen. But it took the future generation to do what many of the adults have been unable to do. 

This article explains more about the NRA’s financial problems:

More noteworthy than its drop in contributions, though, was its decline in membership dues. The NRA took in more than $128 million in dues last year—a significant sum, but down considerably from the $163 million it took in the year prior. That decline, more than the drop in direct contributions, appears to indicate a dwindling, if still formidable, base of public support. Asked for comment on the decline, an NRA spokesperson pointed to reporting showing that the organization’s magazine subscriptions have shot up this year, interpreted as an indicator of an accompanying membership surge. (…) That loss in funding comes at a tricky political moment for the organization. Rarely has the NRA had so staunch an ally in the White House. But the group, which built significant political heft on the back of Obama-era threats to key gun-rights priorities, has also become a lightning rod in the still-raging debate over gun control and mass shootings in the U.S. And several recently elected House Democrats ran explicitly on pledges to go after the gun lobby when in office.
Under President Trump, the NRA has also adopted a more aggressive advocacy posture exceeding its traditional focus on gun-rights issues exclusively. It recently launched a stand-alone political commentary platform, NRA TV, that has veered into culture-war issues at best tangentially related to the Second Amendment.


So where are we? I say we are at an important time in our country’s history. One cannot avoid the sense that the corruption, lies and coverups are coming to a head. The involvement of the NRA in some of this news will not be good for the organization- once a respected group that supported gun safety and hunters. Things have changed. The country is going to experience more chaos and controversy.

When the truth is revealed, let’s hope that Americans will have the common sense to handle whatever happens peacefully without violence. There is a worry that those gun rights extremists, many of whom own many guns just in case they need them for an insurrection, may not stay on the sidelines:

“It seems like this is a theme that’s kind of resonating out there — that the militias feel there is an impending civil war that’s brewing between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, the militia versus antifa,” Johnson said. “That’s very concerning when you have a movement that is as well-armed [as militias], and conducts paramilitary training, and stockpiling and prepping and everything else. When you have them getting paranoid and discussing the possibility of a civil war, it’s not out of the realm of possibility of them actually trying trying to instigate it or provoke it.”

And so I end where I began- with my tribute to former President George H.W. Bush and his honor and integrity. And with my concern that the current occupant of the White House and the related investigations into corruption, collusions and possible obstruction of justice could lead to possible violence. The NRA is in the middle of both my tribute and my concerns about the current situation.

Remembering 9/11

IMG_7286Today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on America. We can never forget what happened on that day that changed so much in our country. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives that day. Those attacks had nothing to do with guns of course.

Since that day, we do flying differently. We take off our shoes, jackets and some jewelry. We put our purses and carry-ons through metal detectors. We are wanded. We put our 3 ounce liquids in a small plastic baggies. We don’t carry box cutters or knives or guns……

But gunsare found, however, regularly by the TSA in the carry-on bags of passengers:

On May 3rd, the agency said, they found 26 firearms in carry-on bags, the most in a single day. The firearms were discovered at 15 different airports including one at Dallas Love Field, two at Dallas-Fort Worth International, one at Austin-Bergstrom and four at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport.

This is not normal. We have to keep saying this. The people who “forget” that they have guns in their carry-on bags are not terrorists. They are Americans who presumably have legal permits to carry their guns. But what are they thinking?

Guns are not allowed on flights for obvious reasons but we do now have air marshals who are armed on many flights and passengers have no idea who they are. A recent incident with an air marshal occurred at the Minneapolis St.Paul airport from which I fly often:

However, communication between the cockpit and the MSP control tower that was captured by the authoritative website Liveatc.net revealed that it was confirmed onboard fairly quickly that both men were federal air marshals, and one of them “actually showed our flight attendant his gun,” one of the pilots reported soon after landing.

“That is completely against SOP [standard operating procedure] for them to show their firearm,” the pilot added. “So that’s the reason we declared an emergency.”

The marshal was initially mistaken for a passenger and with the hyper awareness about terror attacks on planes and gun violence in general, who can blame the cabin attendant?

Here is just one story about a loaded gun found at the Nashville airport where apparently guns are found with regular frequency at that airport.

The TSA offers advice to passengers who need to transport a gun safely while flying. 

It’s pretty simple to follow this advice and if you are thinking before flying, you just know there are certain things you can’t take on board with you any more after 9/11 and guns are among them. There is a certain amount of common sense and the realization that carrying a gun in public (or having one at home) is a grave responsibility that should come with gun ownership. Unfortunately for the too many victims, that is not the case.

We have had a few terror attacks at American airports since 9/11. The most notable is the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport on Oct. 6 of last year.:

Santiago was born in New Jersey in 1990 and moved to Puerto Rico two years later.[22] He lived most of his life in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, and attended high school there.[23] He joined the Puerto Rico National Guard on December 14, 2007, and served in the Iraq War from April 23, 2010, to February 19, 2011, as a combat engineer. He later served in the Alaska Army National Guard from November 21, 2014, until receiving a general discharge in August 2016 for “unsatisfactory performance.”[22] He was a private first class and received ten awards during his time in the military.[24]According to his family members, he had become mentally ill after his tour in Iraq and was severely affected by seeing a bomb explode near two of his friends while in service. They also stated he had recently received psychological treatment,[25][26] which was confirmed by federal officials.[27]

This shooter ( homegrown terrorist) was American born and served in the U.S. Military where he was affected by his experience in Iraq. Another issue for another post is the fact that many of our military veterans suffer from PTSD or other mentally incapacitating conditions that make them risks for suicide and homicide. This is yet another American tragedy.

It should also be mentioned that people who are placed on the terror watch list after 9/11 can legally obtain guns because we have not passed a law to make sure their names are placed on the list of prohibited persons:

The consolidated federal terrorist watchlist had 800,000 people (mostly non-Americans) on it as of September 2014, including 64,000 on a subset referred to as the “no-fly” list, which bars air travel to, from or within the United States.

While inclusion on the list does not disqualify people from purchasing weapons, prospective gun buyers are screened against the terrorist watchlist, and matches are forwarded to F.B.I. agents, who can use the information to help with investigations. Last year, 244 background checks involved people on the list.

According to a study by the Government Accountability Office using data collected by the F.B.I., the vast majority of those on the watchlist who attempted to buy a gun from 2004 to 2015 were allowed to proceed, because they were not stopped by a disqualifying factor like a history of criminal or mental health problems.

This is called the “terror gap” in our gun laws.

And, as I always mention, it is not necessary to get a Brady background check when purchasing a gun because our loose gun laws allow private sellers to sell to anyone, no background check required. This was mentioned in the above linked article.

Every year on this tragic anniversary we say the names of the victims of the attacks and remember them. Their deaths are not ever forgotten by their families and friends. It’s always an emotional day as it was this year. I visited the site of the 9/11 memorial last fall and I was stunned at how beautifully and respectfully it is done to honor those victims.

Every day in America 90 people lose their lives to bullets. Since In one month in America more Americans die from gun violence than died in total in the 9/11 attack. That is not meant to take away from the memories of those victims but to put things in perspective. Mass shooting anniversaries happen regularly in America on many days of the year.

Today we remember. Today we reflect on our country and patriotism and terrorism and victims and on the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives trying to save the victims. We remember the awful scenes we saw on our T.V. screens. We remember the aftermath and the collapse of two tall skyscrapers changing the horizon in New York City. We remember the horror and the finding of live people in the wreckage. We remember the pile of rubble left behind of what was left of human bodies, artifacts, fire trucks, personal effects. The site is now a sacred burial site and the victims’ names of there to read. They are just people going about their daily lives.

Nothing is the same.

Let us remember all victims of violent and tragic deaths.

Does technology trump the law?

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 7.25.00 AMMy last post was about the availability of blueprints to make 3D guns in the privacy of your own home. It’s a bad idea and now a whole lot of other people agree with me:

 

In 2013, the agency had said the plans could violate International Traffic in Arms Regulations. The government also had won several rounds of litigation with Wilson and his company since 2015.

Guns right groups, law enforcement officials and legislators have opposed the printing of guns.

“I don’t think that we really want to be in a world where Hamas in the Gaza has an ability to download a capacity for an AR-15 that could endanger security in that region, and the same thing could happen around the world,” Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat, said at a hearing earlier this week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The alarm bells have gone off as the public, Congress, Attorneys General and others have realized the implications of untraceable plastic home-made firearms finding themselves into public places. Just today, a Federal judge put an injunction on the release of the blueprints just before the deadline:

But with just hours before an Aug. 1 deadline when Mr. Wilson has said he will upload many more schematics — including instructions for making AR-15-style rifles — alarmed public officials had accelerated their efforts to to prevent Mr. Wilson from moving forward with his plans.

Attorneys general in eight states and the District of Columbia filed a joint lawsuit in federal court in Seattle on Monday attempting to force the Trump administration to prevent Mr. Wilson’s nonprofit organization, Defense Distributed, from making the technical plans for the plastic guns available online.

Today even President Trump weighed in on the controversy that his very own administration allowed in the first place. Take a look at the screen grab above. What he doesn’t understand ( no surprise) is what this is about- it’s not about the guns being sold. It’s about the blueprints for the guns becoming available for people to make their own guns. I suppose they could be sold after the guns are made which is another issue altogether.

I rarely agree with the President but it doesn’t make sense. Further, what makes even less sense is that his administration is allowing this to happen. Why didn’t he know that? Why didn’t they know this would cause a sh&6 storm in the public and in Congress?

Why did the President talk to the NRA about this? The NRA may not even like this idea given that if people start making their own guns they won’t be going to their local Federally Licensed Gun Dealer to buy them. And that is what this is all about. If we follow the money, we can learn a lot.

From the linked article above, Dana Loesch has weighed in on behalf of the NRA:

Dana Loesch, a spokeswoman for the N.R.A., mocked Democrats last week for concerns about the 3-D guns, and said that attempts to regulate the technology would be “absolutely unenforceable.” The guns were “what the rest of us call freedom and innovation,” she said in a video segment posted last week on NRATV, the organization’s online video channel.

Really? “…the rest of us call freedom and innovation”? Who are the rest of us? Not the majority of us. Not most in Congress. Not apparently the President. What does that even mean? The freedom for felons and terrorists to make guns they can use in terror attacks or domestic terror attacks?:

“What I’m opposed to is technology unchecked,” said David Chipman, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent. He says 3D-printed guns present a real and present danger because they’re both unregulated and untraceable.

“We are basically handing the keys to the store to terrorists and armed criminals,” he said.

Frightening thought.

The man who wants to post these blueprints to make guns is a self described anarchist. What could possibly go wrong? As an anarchist and a Libertarian, he doesn’t really like laws. He believes that this technology may supersede gun laws and make them obsolete.

But maybe it won’t actually work out as planned. Nevertheless, technology changes rapidly. Who thought we would have cars that drive themselves?  

From this article:

Because there has been a proliferation of guns built with do-it-yourself kits obtained online, gun-control advocates have maintained that 3-D-printed guns are a future threat. Adam Winkler, professor at UCLA School of Law, said that when printing technology becomes more reliable and affordable — which, he said, is undoubtedly coming — it will have dangerous consequences for public safety. “Climate change isn’t affecting us today, but people can be concerned about the future,” he analogized. For now, though, the 80-percent-unfinished DIY gun looms larger.

From the above article: ” Wilson relishes that he edged his way into American gun-control politics.”

What is that about? Sounds like Wilson is pretty impressed with what he has created and the fuss it has caused. But it’s more than politics. It’s public safety. It’s about lives.

Technology is mostly a good thing. But we are finding out how technology has become a vehicle to attack countries and threaten their national security and democracies. The investigation into Russia’s influence in our 2016 Presidential election proves how easy it has become to infiltrate the websites and emails of candidates and organizations. Social media sites are vulnerable to attacks.

Facebook revealed more information today about accounts the company have removed because of deceptive campaigns:

Facebook announced Tuesday afternoon that it has removed 32 Facebook and Instagram accounts or pages involved in a political influence campaign with links to the Russian government.

The company says this included efforts to organize counter-protests August 10-12 for the white nationalist Unite The Right 2 rally planned in Washington that weekend.

Though the President held his first national security council meeting about the Russian influence in our elections and cyberattacks, ( more than a year after the country learned about the Russian attacks) they met for about an hour on this important topic and then had no recommendations about how to stop and fix the attack.

So how is this all related to 3D guns? Cyberattacks are one thing. We know they are happening. I got a message yesterday from Instagram asking if I had signed in from an Android in another part of the country. The answer was no and I changed my password. My daughter got an email from Google saying that her son’s email ( which he almost never uses) had a sign-in from a Russian site. We know now that Senator Claire McCaskill’s account was hacked by Russians as well as those of 2 unnamed Senators.

Technology is in many ways helpful and we couldn’t do without it- or I couldn’t any more. But it also causes some bad things to happen. There’s cyber stalking. There’s cyber advertising which is more than annoying. There are now cyber plans for guns made by a printer at home. The man who developed the plans claimed his first amendment rights.

I’m obviously not an attorney so don’t know the intricacies of the law regarding first amendment rights. But what about skirting federal and state gun laws which keep us from becoming a lawless society? We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Laws are enacted for good reasons and most of them have to do with public safety and security.

If the plans lead to a terrorist making a gun and shooting a politician because the gun he made is undetectable to metal detectors, is that OK with our Congress? With President Trump? With Cody Wilson? With the NRA? Where do responsibilities end when it comes to rights? Or maybe the question is, where do responsibilities begin?

What’s OK when it comes to guns and gun violence?

We are crossing a dangerous line and leaving all common sense behind us. This is the result of a gun culture that values gun sales and second amendment rights over the ability to actually keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them anyway.

So the President calls the NRA to talk to whoever he talked to about 3D guns. I would be interested in knowing to whom he spoke and what that person’s position is on these guns. Are they OK with it? They seem to be OK with domestic abusers, terrorists, felons and those adjudicated mentally ill being able to buy guns without  background checks from private sellers. So what about 3D guns?

The NRA remains silent about the Maria Butina case and the fact that Russian money was funneled into its’ organization for the purpose of helping the campaign of Donald Trump.

The NRA has not mentioned the shooting of a “good guy” with a gun by Aurora, CO. police after said “good guy” shot and killed an intruder during a burglary. The officers thought the “good guy” was the intruder since he was standing in his house with his loaded gun in his hand:

Metz said officers who arrived at the scene heard gunshots inside the home and ran into an armed man. An officer shot the man, who died at an area hospital.

After clearing the scene, according to Metz, officers found a juvenile injured inside and a man shot dead on the bathroom floor. The child was taken to a hospital for “serious, but non-life-threatening injuries” caused by the intruder, he said.

Clearly we are not a polite society or a safer society with the proliferation of guns in America. Guns are more likely to cause injury or death to those who own them ( of their families) than using them in self defense. 

This knee-jerk response to gun violence is not only nonsensical, it is outright dangerous. The bottom line is, guns beget gun violence.

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) recently released Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use, which uses available federal data to determine that, despite the myths propagated by the firearms industry and gun lobby, private citizens rarely use guns to kill criminals or stop crimes. (…) 

There’s a simple explanation for why gun owners believe guns make us safer: The gun industry and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have spent decades convincing Americans that firearms are the best answer to any possible danger.

The NRA falsely claims that “millions” of Americans use guns for self-defense every year, a number that pro-gun advocates continually use to push their agenda — even though it has been shown to be factually inaccurate.

(…) The “good guy with a gun vs. bad guy with a gun” trope is a gun lobby and firearms industry myth. Our research found that a gun is 34 times more likely to be used in a criminal homicide than to kill in self-defense.

Technology has presented us with all kinds of new conundrums.  Do rights allow us to do absolutely anything we want? Should a right to bear arms allow felons, terrorists and domestic abusers the right to make guns with no background checks? Do rights allow for anything to be put on the internet no matter what harm it could cause to individuals or the national security of our country?

I don’t have the answers. But the questions are important.

We deserve the answers and we deserve a country where we don’t have to worry about plastic untraceable guns being available to anyone who can make them.

#Enough

 

UPDATE:

Here is more information about the Aurora officers’ shooting of a man in his home:

The man shot and killed by Aurora police was defending his family from a naked stranger who had burst through the front door of their East Montview Boulevard home in the wee hours of Monday morning, grabbing an 11-year-old boy who was sleeping on a couch and attacking him.

This sounds positively bizarre and frightening. In this case it seems the grandfather was justified in shooting the intruder who clearly intended to harm a family member. I have no quarrel with using a gun in that situation.

The problem came with the chaos and police not knowing what was happening. Things happened very quickly and decisions were made in an instant.

Could everyone have taken a second to deal with this differently? Perhaps but we still don’t all of the facts.

It would be interesting to know if the door was locked to prevent the man from bursting into the home. But that, too, may also come out with further investigation.