Dangerous times

It took me a while to calm down after I heard about the woman ( Shannon Lee Goessling) our President has nominated for appointment to the Office of the Violence Against Women. It’s upside down world ever since President Trump was elected. His appointees typically are not qualified to hold the positions they hold or to which they have been appointed. Ms. Goessling is absolutely wrong for the job. And my readers may remember that my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting where a gun would have done her no good at all.

Is this payback to the NRA for their funding of his election to the presidency? Just asking.

Brady has issued a statement opposing the nominee:

While working as counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm with a record of advocating for extreme gun rights, Goessling wrote an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Hellerarguing that women in domestic violence situations should arm themselves against their abusers, relying on research that was more than 30 years old. Following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, Goessling told a Florida House panel that “my best friend is my Glock” as she waved her concealed weapons permit and NRA membership card in the air. Goessling also filed an amicus brief opposing same-sex marriages, and the foundation took on multiple cases for groups and businesses targeting immigrants and other Americans who speak a language other than English.

It’s dangerous for women when guns are in the home or even when they have their own gun for self protection. This, of course, is the opposite of what the gun lobby claims. They are wrong. Also from the Brady statement- about women and guns:

When there is a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence, there is a 500 percent higher chance that a woman will be murdered.
In 2016, one out of every three women murdered was killed by an intimate partner with a gun.
Women who were killed by a spouse, intimate partner, or a close relative were seven times more likely to have lived in homes with guns.
2015 study found that “there is no clear evidence that in the hands of victims, firearms are protective,” and recommended instead prohibited abusers from accessing guns.
The LGBTQ+ community reports high levels of intimate partner violence, and African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than white women.

These are facts supported by research. Appointing someone who does not regard the facts and, in fact, will act against common sense and known facts about violence against women is appalling. This is the opposite of what is needed to keep women safe from violence. I urge the President to retract this nomination.

I want to move from violence against women to violence against Muslims and others not like us. The horrendous, tragic and heart wrenching shooting and deaths of 49 innocent people in New Zealand is now the topic of conversation in the media.

It’s worth discussing the influence of our own country’s culture on what is going on in other countries. This article highlights the manifesto left by the shooter before the shooting and the apparent influence of American hate shootings and racism on his actions far away from America:

Portions of the ghastly attack at the downtown mosque were broadcast live on social media by a man who police confirmed had also released a manifesto railing against Muslims and immigrants. The 74-page document states that he was following the example of notorious right-wing extremists, including Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. (my edit of name)

The manifesto, littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide,” is the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.


The digital platforms apparently enlisted in the shooting highlight a distinctly 21st-century dimension of mass gun violence — one sure to put more pressure on social media companies already under scrutiny about how they police their services.

Of course we need to talk about New Zealand’s gun laws here. From the above linked article:

Gun laws in New Zealand are more stringent than they are in the United States, but not as strict as regulations in Australia and much of Europe. In 2017, more than 1.5 million guns were held by civilians in New Zealand, according to a tracking website maintained by the University of Sydney School of Public Health.

New restrictions came into effect, including on military-style semiautomatic weapons, after what was previously the deadliest shooting in New Zealand’s modern history. In 1990, 13 people were killed in the seaside town of Aramoana when a resident, David Gray, went on a shooting spree after an argument with a neighbor.


Violent crime is rare in New Zealand, compared to the rest of the world. Murders in the country fell to a 40-year low of 35 in 2017, police said, a rate of seven deaths for every 1 million people.

Another article I found revealed that New Zealand is home to many guns- 1 per every 3 citizens. A license is required to own a gun and carrying one is strictly regulated. Nonetheless people can purchase semi-automatic weapons. Because this shooting happened in a country that has no amendment guaranteeing a right to bear arms, I am guessing that changes are coming. In spite of yesterday’s mass shooting though, “New Zealand also has a low murder rate, with a total of 35 homicides in 2017 — fewer than the number of people who died in Friday’s double mosque attack.”

I am editing this post to include an article about the New Zealand Prime Minister’s determination to strengthen the gun laws, as I predicted would happen:

Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference early on Saturday that she would consider banning semi-automatic firearms altogether after the alleged gunman behind the shootings obtained five guns legally.
“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” said Ardern. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.”

Ardern said the alleged shooter was found to have used five guns that he appeared to legally own under a “category A” licence obtained in November 2017. He appeared to have begun buying guns the following month, she said.
The guns taken from the alleged perpetrator included two semi-automatic guns and two shotguns, the prime minister said. Answering questions from reporters, Ardern said all options to restrict gun violence would be considered.

The attack was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” according to this article.

America has had so many “darkest days” they are too numerous to count. And what has changed? Nothing. In fact, the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to have a hearing on and vote on 2 bills recently passed in the House- HR 8 and HR 1112. We will wait to see if they have the courage to do what everyone knows is the right thing to do.

And speaking of changes coming, the parents of the children massacred in the Sandy Hook shooting won a victory yesterday when a judge determined that the parents of the victims can pursue a lawsuit against Remington:

In the 4-3 ruling, the justices agreed with a lower court judge’s decision to dismiss most of the claims raised by the families, but also found that the sweeping federal protections did not prevent the families from bringing a lawsuit based on wrongful marketing claims. The court ruled that the case can move ahead based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices.

There is something cynical and dangerous about the marketing of military style assault weapons. On the one hand, they are marketed as weapons of war designed to enhance one’s manhood and make one much more powerful in combat situations. Are we at war on our streets? I suppose one could answer yes to that question given the daily carnage. But to hype guns as weapons to ready the buyer for combat situations or exhibit their manhood is just plain wrong and dangerous.

But the other side of this nonsensical marketing is that the gun lobby really doesn’t like it when these guns are referred to as military style weapons trying to convince us that they are just “common sporting rifles.” These are glaring attempts to deceive and confuse. We understand that these guns are meant to kill as many people as possible. They are not meant for hunting; so for the gun lobby and gun rights advocates to argue that is just another of their deceptions and lies to get people to buy the guns and try to stop any legislation to ban or regulate certain of these guns. Follow the money.

And I will end where I began- with what the President is doing about violence in America. Yesterday he made a statement that many believe is a call to violence by the man who should be leading us to less violence and peaceful solutions to problems. Stoking anger is disturbing and even more disturbing when it comes right from the top. Trump supporters turn themselves into pretzels trying to defend him. Check out this conversation with one of the President’s leading staffers about the President’s rhetoric:

But Conway wouldn’t do it.  
“You’re just reading into it like you usually do,” she said. “He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.”
Conway also asked for the quote, but when Cuomo tried to read it, she immediately interrupted him.
“Christopher, he didn’t threaten and he’s not threatening violence,” she said, then claimed Cuomo was defending violence. 
“I give up,” Cuomo repeatedly said. 

More deceptions and lies. It’s insanity and confusion and obfuscation and absurd all at once.

We aren’t buying it. Today I went to a community gathering of support for our local Muslim community knowing that they would be grieving the loss of their brothers and sisters killed in the New Zealand mass shooting. They were so grateful that we came with our signs and our flowers. Graciously they invited us inside to join them at their prayer service. It was solemn and a meaningful service about hate crimes and gun violence. The wife of the Imam said in an interview with a local TV station that people should use their guns on animals, not humans. The Imam noted that these types of hate crimes are crimes against all of us no matter what religion. We ought to be able to worship without fear of being gunned down by people who hate us because of our religion, race, gender or sexual preference.

Gun violence affects everyone indiscriminately. But certain mass shootings are crimes against one group of people and done in hate towards that group to foment more hate. They are easy to accomplish when weapons of mass destruction are so readily available.

I say “Disarm Hate”. I say disarm domestic abusers. I say disarm those who shouldn’t have guns. We know who they are. I say disarm the fear mongering and rhetoric coming from the gun lobby that foments ideas and actions that can turn into buying and using deadly weapons to kill other human beings. I say disarm anyone who has hate in their hearts and minds against people not like them.

We are better than this. Join Brady. Join Protect Minnesota. Join other gun violence groups. “Take action, not sides.”

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

Valentine’s Day Massacre

On February 14th, 1929, in the midst of prohibition and Al Capone’s mob, there was a massacre in Chicago:

Chicago’s gang war reached its bloody climax in the so-called St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. One of Capone’s longtime enemies, the Irish gangster George “Bugs” Moran, ran his bootlegging operations out of a garage on the North Side of Chicago. On February 14, seven members of Moran’s operation were gunned down while standing lined up, facing the wall of the garage. Some 70 rounds of ammunition were fired. When police officers from Chicago’s 36th District arrived, they found one gang member, Frank Gusenberg, barely alive. In the few minutes before he died, they pressed him to reveal what had happened, but Gusenberg wouldn’t talk.

In 1934, as a result of the gang and mob violence in Chicago and elsewhere, often with the use of machine guns and silencers, Congress passed the 1934 National Firearms Act. This law required restrictions on the sale and possession of automatic guns like machine guns and also on gun silencers. Some wanted to ban these guns outright but in the end, the compromise was a national registry for these firearms, along with a lengthy waiting period and a $200 tax meant to discourage people from buying these products. The NRA supported the law. And Congress did something about the awful violence from the weapons on the list of those restricted.

And it worked. Machine guns and silencers are rarely, if ever, used in crime or shootings. Never mind that the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions in Congress would just love to have silencers back on the market so that anyone could have one. Imagine the Sandy Hook or Marjory Stoneman Douglas or any other mass shooting death toll if others in the buildings or vicinity did not hear gunshots going off to alert them to an emergency. It was actually the heinous mass shooting at a Las Vegas music concert, involving multiple rounds of ammunition and a bump stock on an assault rifle that derailed the bill to make silencers easier to purchase.

Good grief. What were they thinking in the first place? Never mind. The gun lobby does not like gun laws unless they loosen the restrictions on deadly weapons.

On Valentine’s Day of 2008 5 students were shot and killed and 17 injured at Northern Illinois University. 

A Graduate student who had stopped taking his medication for a psychiatric condition carried a shotgun and 3 handguns with many rounds of ammunition- because he could. Happy Valentine’s Day America.

Last Valentine’s Day there was a massacre as well. 17 students and teachers were massacred by a young man with a semiautomatic rifle who shot off 100 rounds into the bodies of human beings going about their everyday lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida:

It is the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history, surpassing the Columbine High School massacre that took place on April 20, 1999. The shooting came at a period of heightened public support for gun control following attacks in Las Vegas, Nevada and Sutherland Springs, Texas respectively in October and November 2017.

And Congress did…………?

So again we are here imploring Congress to have the spine to stand up to the interests of the corporate gun lobby. In my last post, I wrote about the hearing that occurred last week- H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. H.R. 8 was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last night. This will be the first such bill to get a hearing, pass out of committee and get a vote on the House floor in decades. We expect the bill to get a floor vote later this month. This is the best news I have heard in a long time. The timing was not a coincidence. It passed just as the country will be remembering the victims of the Parkland shooting. Thank you to the members of the committee who voted with the American public. It was, of course, a party-line vote with all Republicans voting against it. Why? We know the answer.

There will be a vote in the House but the Senate, controlled by Republicans and the Presidency, bought and paid for by the NRA ( and perhaps in collusion with the Russians) will be too afraid to do the right thing. They will fail us again.

Meanwhile, what is going on with the Parkland students who have been so eloquent and have changed the entire conversation around gun violence in America?:

The teens haven’t stopped working, urging young people to register and vote even though some of the students thrust into celebrity are barely old enough to vote themselves. They’ve been lobbying for tighter restrictions on firearms and challenging the National Rifle Association and the politicians it supports.
More: After Parkland shooting: A day-by-day fight over guns in America 
“I’ll always care about the issues that face our nation,” Kasky told USA TODAY. “And I will always feel dedicated to helping play a part in solving them.”
Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, lauded the students as articulate – and understandably angry. She noted that after the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, the survivors were very young children whose parents took up the challenge. High-schoolers made the scene different, she said.

“A lot of time the media is rushing to the site of a mass shooting but not finding a lot of people to talk to,” Brown said. “Here, you had people willing to talk, and articulate.” (…) The school will mark the tragic anniversary Thursday with a Day of Service and Love. Students will be serving breakfast to local first responders and packing meals for undernourished children. Mental health experts and therapy dogs will be there. At 10:17 a.m., the entire district and the community is asked to observe a moment of silence to honor the 17 who lost their lives. (…) There was no significant federal legislation, but the Trump administration did issue a federal regulation banning bump stocks.
The shootings “started a journey that we are still witnessing,” Brown said. “These kids are still out there, and they have made change.”

They are still out there, many still hoping for common sense from Congress. As teen-agers they have been amazingiy resilient, articulate, brave, bold and persistent. But they, like those of us who have been doing this for decades, have discovered how difficult it is to change the gun laws and the conversation around guns and gun violence.

It doesn’t have to be this way but here we are. Only in America.

Today please take action. Participate in a service in your community. Donate to a gun violence prevention organization of your choice. Call your Congress members and ask them to support H.R. 8 in the name of the victims and survivors of the Parkland shooting. Attend a local event if there is one. In Minnesota there is a Protect Minnesota Broken Hearts day in remembrance of the Parkland shooting victims and a lobby day to let legislators know that we want them to support legislation to expand background checks and for Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

And, as always happens after one of the many mass shootings in America, parents of the victims get involved in passionate pleas to do something. They know the pain. They grieve. They are angry. They are resolved. They want something to happen. Such is the case with one of the most high profile of the Parkland parents, Fred Guttenberg. Here is an article about him:

Guttenberg used to own Dunkin’ Donuts franchises; now he’s become a full-time activist opposing the NRA and telling any politician who will listen about what happened to his daughter, a high school freshman and competitive dancer. He has one rule: “I wouldn’t ever sit down with these people — I stood,” Guttenberg says. “I did not want to make anybody feel comfortable talking about what happened to my daughter…the second-to-last to be shot, on the third floor of this school, running from an active shooter. One shot in her spine. Because it could have been their kid, and they’re going to know that.”

“It could have been their kid”…… Yes it could have and could be. Once it happens your whole perspective changes. Nothing is the same and suddenly gun violence is a thing. I appreciate the parents who put themselves out there knowing that ugly conspiracy theorists will attack them and deny their grief as if it isn’t real; knowing that the gun lobby will argue against common sense and lie and deceive in spite of the tragic violence happening every day.

What if it was their kid? What if it was their sister, father, mother, brother, good friend?

I will be in spirit with the students, friends and parents and with those who are taking action. Sadly, I will be attending the funeral of a very good friend and supporting her family. As it turns out they are a gun owning family who have always supported common sense gun legislation. They understand that gun laws and owning guns can co-exist.

I will be grieving with my good friend’s family today. I will also grieve for my own sister as I do at the funerals of others. But I will rejoice that we are moving forward to change how things are to how they can and should be.

In memory of the victims of the Parkland shooting:

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14

Scott Beigel, 35

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14

Nicholas Dworet, 17

Aaron Feis, 37

Jaime Guttenberg, 14

Chris Hixon, 49

Luke Hoyer, 15

Cara Loughran, 14

Gina Montalto, 14

Joaquin Oliver, 17

Alaina Petty, 14

Meadow Pollack, 18

Helena Ramsay, 17

Alex Schachter, 14

Carmen Schentrup, 16

Peter Wang, 15

Background checks for all

It’s about time bills are introduced into Congress and my own Minnesota state legislature. In fact, it’s a national tragedy that our elected leaders have not passed bills requiring that every gun sale go through the process of finding out whether the buyer of a legal weapon should own one.

As the sign says, “the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a Congress with a spine”. So far Congress has been spineless. Yes, there was a bill written in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting but the NRA backed out at the end leaving not enough votes to get a bill passed after the nation’s most heinous mass shooting.

And mass shooting after mass shooting; domestic shooting after domestic shooting; suicide after suicide with a gun; “unintentional” shootings of toddlers by toddlers; stupid gun mistakes after mistakes; veteran suicide after suicide’ gang shootings after gang shootings and here we are today with gun deaths on the rise.

We are better than this.

On Tuesday I drove to the state Capitol in St. Paul for a welcome back and lobby day. Between the Minnesota Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota along with a group of us from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter, we were well represented. As hundreds gathered in the rotunda of the Capitol and outside of the chambers there were chants, lots of signs, enthusiastic volunteers and a lot of energy. Legislators knew we were there. Post cards were delivered to Representatives, Senators and the Governor asking for support for the bills that will be introduced this week for background checks on all gun sales and an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Almost at the same time, H.R. 8 was introduced in the U.S House on the 8th anniversary of the shooting of then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Let us remember the 6 who were senselessly murdered 8 years ago on January 8th because a young man who should not have had a gun had one anyway.: Christina- Taylor Green; Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman; Phyllis Schneck; Dorothy Morris; Dorwan Stoddard.

All of the national groups were gathered at the U.S. Capitol, as well as supportive Congress members. One of these was Congresswoman Lucy McBath from Georgia. Now there’s a woman with a spine. After her son Jordan Davis was shot and killed for sitting in a car playing loud music while black, Lucy got involved with Everytown for Gun Safety. And now, she is an elected leader with a spine. I am proud to know her and proud that she will actually stand up and do the right thing.

She is not alone. The country is with her. 97% of us want background checks for all gun sales. Why are the other 3% opposed to something that makes so much common sense? Several of them the 3% were at the Minnesota Capitol on Tuesday filming us, intimidating volunteers and telling their supporters the usual nasty nonsense about our groups. They were heard to say: “They want it all”. What does that mean? What we want are measures that will save lives and will not affect them- if they are law abiding individuals. On the Facebook page of Minnesota Gun Rights, as soon as the videos were posted, the comments started coming in. Such rational comments like- Did they leave their children at home watching videos while they are at the Capitol? Really? Women can’t go out of the house now without the criticism and approval of the gun rights extremists? What year is it again?

Or the best one is that we are paid by that terrible liberal philanthropist George Soros. Seriously. Why are we such a threat to them? They don’t believe that we volunteer our time for this noble and just cause. I mean, how can so many people show up if they aren’t paid? If I had been paid for all of my volunteering over the past 2 decades, I would be a millionaire. Instead, I spend my own money on gas, supplies, donations, tee shirts and other swag, so that I can represent my organizations and advocate for common sense gun laws.

Oh, and then a state legislator actually said this in an article about the proposed laws:

” House Republicans, meanwhile, blasted the proposals. Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said Minnesotans should be concerned that Democrats are trying “to take your freedoms, to take your money, to take your guns and to take your children” by forcing them into state-backed early educational care.”

Really? This is such nonsense, fear and paranoia. Plus it’s “fake news”. It’s a lie. I wonder where he got this stuff? ( Wayne LaPierre? Donald Trump? Rush Limbaugh? Sean Hannity?)

What we need here is a common understanding of the problem. The problem is that 1 out of 5 guns are sold with no background check. That would be like 1 out of 5 people going into a separate TSA line at the airport with no screening whatsoever. The number was greater until a few years ago when more states passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Brady background checks do save lives but they won’t prevent all gun deaths and injuries. 

There need to be other life saving measures to reduce the number of gun deaths and end gun violence. Extreme Risk Protection Orders will save lives. Waiting periods would save lives. Raising the age for purchase of handguns and assault rifles to 21 would save lives. Restricting the sale of some types of assault type rifles would save lives. So would banning bump stocks. Not allowing so many people to carry guns in public places would save lives. Asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns where your children play will save lives. Safe storage of guns will save lives. Stronger gun trafficking laws will save lives. Public awareness and education about the risk of guns in the home such as End Family Fire will save lives. Research about gun violence will save lives. Allowing law enforcement to share crime date with each other sill save lives. Reminding patients when they go to their health care providers that guns could be a risk to their health will save lives.

Yes, we want it all. We want whatever it takes to save lives. We don’t want to ban guns and take away rights. But let us remember that we are the only civilized democratized country that doesn’t have all of the above and more in the interest of public safety and health.

Let us also remember that background checks are required for a reason in many other areas of our common lives. One needs a background check to work with kids in churches and schools. One needs a background check to adopt a pet. One needs a background check to get a job in certain sectors like public accounting. One needs a background check to be a health care provider. This is for our common protection and safety.

The Brady Campaign has put a good chart together about background checks that will help with our understanding of for what we are asking. Here it is:

The “gun guys” don’t like background checks. They themselves buy guns with background checks when they to to a federally licensed dealer. Why would they object if all sales required a check to make sure the person who will have a loaded weapon is not a prohibited purchaser who could be dangerous to others? What do you say gun guys? ( standing above the crowd with their video cameras)

At Minnesota state Capitol with Protect Minnesota
Protect Minnesota, Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action supporters
Video by Joan Peterson

It’s time to act.

In the video, you can hear the voices of the gun rights guys speaking loudly about something- not sure what- but they were drowned out by voices for common sense.

We want action. We want all gun sales to have a background check. We want Extreme Risk Protection Orders. There are many more things that can be done to save lives from gunshot injuries due to bullets. What we want now is simple and won’t even do enough. Progress is slow but it is coming. Change is coming. The country wants change as was evidenced by the November elections.

Let’s get to work.

Guns and potato chips

potatochips_005350I frequently run into stories about people getting shot in arguments about simple things or objects just because. I have written about arguments over lawn mowers, garbage cans, property ( that’s a more common cause for a shooting), dogs, etc. But here is a new reason for shooting someone- eating my potato chips. Yes. It’s true. A South Carolina man shot and seriously injured his cousin after said cousin ate the chips he told him not to eat.

But the story started changing after the victim recovered enough for further questioning. The teen told investigators that Langdale shot him after warning him not to eat his salt and vinegar potato chips.

 

“Do not touch my chips, or I’ll shoot you,” Langdale allegedly told the victim according to a sheriff’s incident report, obtained by the Charleston Post and Courier.

People are killed for much more serious arguments actually. My sister is dead over a serious argument during a contentious divorce. No one should die because of that but a gun and several rounds of ammunition were available to my now dead estranged brother-in-law. And the result was 2 dead people. All because of money and a divorce.

I really am not fond of vinegar flavored potato chips. They are sour tasting to me but many love them. I guess a man with a gun loved them a little too much and now he is arrested for attempted murder.

It is about the guns after all. This man was presumably a “good guy with a gun” until he wasn’t. That’s the thing. It only takes seconds to make that very serious decision to use a loaded deadly weapon in the heat of the moment to seriously injure or kill someone.

Each of us has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in America. Too often that right is taken from us for reasons that are beyond our control- like disease, weather ( Hurricane Michael), war, poor health, poverty, no health care, etc.

In our country, we can count on the daily carnage of gun violence as one way to take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every day in our country is an American tragedy and yet we do nothing.

When will we ever learn? It’s not for lack of trying of course because many people like myself have been sounding the alarm and asking for common sense for decades now. And for that we have been treated like an “angry mob” and those bad people who will take away the guns of all of those “good people” and “law abiding” armed citizens.

The “angry mob” that our President and the GOP has now concocted as a reason not to vote for the Democrats is unarmed. The other angry mob walks around with AR15s strapped to their bodies and shows up in public places with loaded guns to intimidate the rest of us. Remember Charlottesville?

This is dangerous rhetoric fomented by our very own President and assisted by the corporate gun lobby with the promotion of fear and paranoia. Remember Wayne LaPierre and the “guys with the guns make the rules”?

No Mr. LaPierre. They don’t.

Let’s hope the rules are not made by armed citizens.  When that rhetoric is part of our national daily media, guys with guns get the idea that they just might be justified in shooting someone over potato chips or elections.

Elections are coming up. It’s October with less than a month to go. Peaceful and fair elections have always been the American way. Without that, we are not a democracy.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month.

The statistics are chilling. When a gun is in the home, women are at great risk during domestic arguments. 

This week I attended the annual fund raiser for Safe Haven which is a shelter for abused women in Duluth. Every year, either a woman who has been abused and used the shelter tells her story to the audience or a film is shown with interviews of some of the women who have been abused. Out of the 3 stories told by the women interviewed for this year’s film, 2 of them had experienced the terror of their abuser holding a gun to her head or having a gun aimed at her during the abusers abusive tirades. They lived to tell their stories.

A former District Court Judge was the keynote speaker for this event. He had seen a lot of domestic abuse cases over his years as a local attorney and then a judge. He spoke about seeing generations of men who had come before him as abusers- a grandfather, then his son and then his son. His message was that violence begets violence. Violence is not the way to win arguments or elections. But it can become the ultimate control over others.

I am adding this new report by the Brady Campaign about domestic violence and guns:

Every hour, 1,141 people become victims of domestic violence. About 3 people are shot and killed every single day by an intimate partner with a gun. Millions more are victimized, threatened, intimidated, or terrified into silence by the presence of one. They will survive with emotional (and sometimes physical) scars of the time that a person they loved hurt them. The stories of Sara, Kate, Rachael, and Kimberly are the voices of real people who have been affected by the intersection of domestic violence and guns in this country. Sara and Shelley didn’t survive their attacks. We owe a duty to them and to the survivors who lived. It is our job to call on Congress and state legislators to pass meaningful laws to prevent more men and women from becoming victims of domestic violence every year.

There is much much more to the above linked report including the real stories of women who have survived domestic violence- or not.

Loaded guns can become weapons of terror within seconds. The assumption is, or what I am told anyway by those who own guns for self protection, that a gun will be used to save the lives of one’s family during a robbery or an assault of some kind. But the thing is, owning a gun is risky business. Unless the owner is properly trained ( which many are not), stores guns securely in a safe away from the curious hands of a child or teen- or a burglar, they can be used to harm others. 

There are certain facts here. A gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill or injure oneself or someone in the home than it is to be used for self defense. There are real risks associated with gun ownership just like the risks of driving while drunk or smoking in public places.

Check out the Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire site to learn more about the risks.

And I will end with some observations I made while tabling a few days ago for Protect Minnesota at the St. Louis County Health and Human Services conference. This conference is attended by social workers and health care personnel from all over the state and is always full of people ready to learn. Our table was a popular one. Many stopped by to take information and have conversations.

One woman took lots of our information about safe storage of guns, ASK, and talking points about gun violence prevention. She told me she was a social worker who went into many homes of families who needed services for one reason or another. In one home, a woman lived alone with her children after being abused by her spouse. She told the social worker that she kept a loaded gun in the dresser drawer next to her bed just in case he came calling. This horrified the social worker as she asked the woman if her children were also in that bedroom. She said that her 3 year old slept with her.

So the social worker explained the risks of having this loaded gun around unsecured both to herself and her children. They went to a local Goodwill store and found a gun safe there for less than $10 and brought it home. The gun is now secured in this small safe hidden in the bedroom closet.

That is common sense.

Also at that 2 day conference, we gave away 200 trigger locks before 10:00 a.m. of the first day. People support what we do and what to be safe if they own guns.

Had that South Carolina man had his gun safely stored and not at the ready in his hands, his cousin would not have suffered serious injuries over a dispute about potato chips and the shooter would not have been arrested. Both lives have been forever changed because of the gun.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With some common sense and awareness about the risks of loaded guns we can save lives. With stronger gun laws, we can save lives.

That is the bottom line.

 

In memory- Las Vegas victims

Las Vegas 2Today we remember the 58 innocent Americans whose lives were lost senselessly in the devastating shooting at a concert in Las Vegas. One year ago today, the carnage once again captured the nation’s attention and left us horrified as the news filtered out.

Who could imagine that one man standing high above the crowd in a hotel room with a high powered rifle fitted with a bump stock could do so much damage? It’s an American tragedy and it happens with such frequency that we grow numb.

Before the Las Vegas shooting became the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the Pulse Nightclub shooting ended with 49 dead. Soon to follow would the Sutherland, Texas church shooting and then the Parkland, Florida school shooting. 

Between them, 151 innocent Americans were left dead.

How many more will it take before we do something about the daily carnage?

Of course, about 38,000 Americans, give or take, have lost their lives to bullets since the Las Vegas shooting. It should frighten and concern us that the number of the dead bodies is increasing in recent years.

Our collective common sense tells us that we can be better than this. The fact that we aren’t even trying is a travesty.

Elections are coming up soon enough. The issue of gun violence has become a major issue of concern in elections after the Parkland students made us all sit up and notice. Their efforts to register voters and get out the vote have been impressive to say the least. Students are registering students in large numbers at high schools and campuses all over America:

But youth voter registration has surged since the Parkland shooting, according to an analysis by the consulting group TargetSmart. Among 39 states where data is available, voter registration by 18-29-year-olds went up an average 2.2 percent, the group found. In Pennsylvania, which has a race for governor and House and Senate races that could determine which party controls each chamber next year, youth registration rose 16.1 percent. In Florida, the hike was eight percent; in Colorado, 2.3 percent, and in Ohio, the rise was six percent.

 

“I absolutely think 2018 is going to be different,” both in terms of young voter participation and the impact of the gun issue, says Isabelle James, political director for Giffords, a gun-safety group founded by the former congresswoman. “Young people are engaged at an unprecedented level, and it started before Parkland,” she says.

Protect Minnesota is now involved with voter registration all over the state. National gun violence prevention groups, like the Brady Campaign, are also registering voters. It is encouraging to see the young people so involved and making gun violence an issue in this year’s election.

Yesterday, the Duluth News Tribune ran an opinion piece that I wrote with the co-president of our local Brady Campaign chapter also working with Protect Minnesota.

Here is what we said:

 

Local View: Elect leaders who will change the culture of gun violence

A year ago tomorrow, on Oct. 1, 2017, a man in a hotel room in Las Vegas, high above a gathering of concertgoers, unleashed 1,100 rounds of bullets at anyone in his high-powered rifle’s sights. Using a bump stock to make his rifle more deadly, he killed 58 people and injured 851 in a matter of minutes. Concert attendees scrambled to safety or hid under bodies to avoid the bullets. The injured still suffer from physical and psychological wounds, and the trauma ripples through friends and families.

This tragedy was added to a pile that already included the Pulse nightclub and numerous shootings in schools, churches, theaters, and places of work. After a while one becomes weary.

We all have heard arguments over why these happen and what should be done about them. There is no doubt it’s a very complex, multilayered public health issue that needs to be addressed from many angles.

However, there is one common denominator: the gun. If any of these shooters had been thwarted from getting a deadly weapon, maybe some of their victims would be alive today.

Keeping guns out of the hands of people intent on doing harm is a daunting task. There are some safeguards in place, but they have loopholes. Any attempts to close those loopholes or pass new laws that might keep guns away from those who cannot handle them responsibly have proven to be almost impossible. Our elected officials have stonewalled changes, in spite of a majority of the public, including gun owners, wanting more safeguards. Through financial support, the powerful gun lobby has maintained a tight grip on our elected leaders.

It is understandable, when faced with the complexity of the gun-violence epidemic, to do nothing. But we ignore this issue at our own peril.

There are small steps we can take that would, in time, make a difference. Some common-sense measures include requiring background checks on all sales, requiring waiting periods for gun purchases, and enacting extreme-risk protection orders so guns can be temporarily taken from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

In addition, the bump stock feature, the unregulated add-on device that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to unleash numerous bullets in seconds, needs to be banned. At the very least it should be tightly regulated.

As we remember the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, let us also remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. It is up to us to elect leaders who will be the voices calling for laws to protect their constituents. With our support they can change the culture of gun violence and the conversation about the role of guns in our everyday lives.

A new generation is stepping up to demand action. The Parkland students led the way in bravery and activism to show adults that change can happen if our voices are loud and clear. Our leaders need to listen to the majority of us who are telling them that we want change and we want action.

We ask our candidates to stop their campaigns for 58 minutes on Monday, Oct. 1 to remember the victims. We ask them to consider that this is not a zero-sum game. The Second Amendment can coexist with the rights of all of us to be safe from gun violence.

In the name of the 58 victims who died tragically one year ago, we invite candidates and elected leaders to work with us, their constituents, to reduce gun violence.

Joan Peterson and Mary Streufert are co-presidents of the Northland Chapter of the Brady Campaign/Protect MN. Both the Duluth women have lost family members to gun violence.

For the families of the victims and for the survivors, their lives have been dark since the shooting one year ago. They are suffering from PTSD and other emotional and physical difficulties that just won’t go away:

Fudenberg heard the gunshots through his phone. Popping sounds. He can’t forget them. His protocol has been to show up at any scene if there were two or more dead. The investigator told him there were at least 20. Maybe more.

Cheney saw his friend absorb the news. His face locked in an expression he’d never seen.

“The change in him was instant,” Cheney said. “We had been talking and joking and, suddenly, it was gone.”

Fudenberg was dropped off first by the driver. Cheney didn’t see him again until he was on television, giving updates on the deceased. It would be two more weeks before he would see his friend again in person. Over that dinner, Cheney would see some cracks.

The veteran coroner would cry. It wouldn’t be the last time.

This is the ripple effect of gun violence that we don’t deal with well.
Remember the names of the victims and demand that your candidates and leaders take a stand on gun safety reform.
So on this day, our country has experienced 2 mass shootings.
#Enough
 

 

 

 

3 + 9 equals mass shooting

Protect MinnesotaYesterday another mass shooting happened in America. It is probably not a surprise that it happened again in Florida. The gun laws in Florida are particularly loose ones and Florida has become the laboratory of the NRA’s agenda, thanks to NRA Board member Marion Hammer.

But things are changing even in Florida after the Parkland students and the country stood up and said “no more”in marches and student walkouts all over America that came from the March For Our Lives movement.

A shooter decided to direct his anger or frustration or whatever the heck he was thinking at innocent other people who were just hanging out at a gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. And so now we have to think twice about going to gaming events as well as schools, shopping malls, churches, parks, stores, being in homes, workplaces, colleges, preschools, and other places where American citizens go everyday.

It is unquestionable that too many guns and too easy access to guns by just about everyone is leading to an unsafe society. It is also an impolite and violent society. The culture of the corporate gun lobby is what the problem actually is. When so many people can buy so many guns of most any type so easily, we can expect to see just about every corner of our country experiencing gun deaths and injuries.

In Jacksonville, Florida yesterday, 2 were shot dead by the shooter who shot himself and 11 were injured, 9 by gunfire.

The 2 innocent people who died of their gunshot injuries were Taylor Robinson and Eli Clayton. Look at their faces and say their names.

In a live recording from the scene, gunshots can be heard and then screaming and the sound of people running. That is what the first reaction is- run for your life. If anyone had a gun there, they didn’t use it to stop the carnage. It would be rare if they did.

And the sound of bullets firing from a gun, screaming and running have become part of the American landscape.

The math is not good for shootings in Florida- or anywhere else for that matter.  The Parkland shooting has changed the landscape about gun safety reform in our country. It’s only been 6 months since that heinous shooting. And it’s only been about a week since a shooting at a high school football game in Jacksonville left 1 shot dead and 2 injured in an apparent gang member shooting:

“It is shocking. I was actually here, at the game,” Superintendent Diana Greene told the Times Union. “It was a great game and for it to end in violence like this is just unfortunate, and quite frankly, we should all be saying unacceptable.”

The superintendent said everyone coming into the game had to undergo a magnetic detector wand search and that security inside the game area was tight.

“This is a community issue,” Greene said. “I need parents, students to stand up. If you see something, say something.”

Friday’s shooting followed by one week a shooting at a high school football game in Palm Beach County, Fla., where two adults were wounded.

Really? A shooting the week before at another Florida football game before the Jacksonville shooting?

I would say it’s an understatement that this is a community issue important enough for parents and students to stand up and say something.

Where is common sense?

And let’s ask the obvious question. Where are all of the guns coming from?  Stolen? Trafficking? Straw purchasing? Private sale with not background check? Whatever the source, we can do something about all of it if we put our minds together and decide to stand up for common sense and right.

As kids go back to school, they will be facing another year where no parent knows whether their child will make it home after school. Children are fearful of being shot. In my last post, I discussed products sold to protect our children from harm. And I also discussed the ludicrous notion proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to spend federal funds to arm teachers.

How many kids are affected by gun violence every day? 8. Eight is 8 too many. The numbers are too high and shouldn’t add up to death or injury by bullets. How many kids have lost their lives so far this year to bullets? According to the Gun Violence Archive= 2236. 

Until we decide that the best way forward is prevention rather than taking measures after the fact or measures that deal with a shooting in progress, we will not protect our children and our citizens from gun violence.

The Brady Campaign’s new campaign to talk about the risks of family fire- End Family Fire- is a way to look at gun violence from the prevention and public health aspect as it should be. Passing stronger laws can prevent shootings. All gun violence prevention organizations at the state and federal level are promoting prevention measures and proactive measures to save lives.

Speaking of the Brady Campaign, here is a statement about the Jacksonville shooting:

“Americans deserve to be safe, whether at school, a football game, a club, an airport, an art exhibition, a church, a workplace, a concert, or — as of today — a gaming tournament. We await the details of this shooter’s plans and how he got his gun, but we already know that far more gun deaths happen every day in America than among any other industrialized nation. We can stop the shootings if we enforce our existing gun laws, including the Brady background check system, and eliminate the gaps in our our nation’s laws that make it far too easy for dangerous people to get firearms to use as killing machines.”

Protect Minnesota is urging young people and students to get involved in a new text program. Check out the meme above for more information. The Brady Campaign also has a text for action program (877-877) as do most other groups.  Brady’s #TeamEnough is a good way to get involved for young people.

Many good things are going on and I’m proud to be part of it all.

But where are Congress and our legislators?

We are better than this.

#Enough