Happy 4th week-end

I have been changing things up lately because there is so much going on in the world around us that writing on a blog may not make as much sense. I am now posting shorter stories and comments on my Commongunsense Facebook page . It is easier to read shorter stories and comments there. I have been writing about the protests, about the dangerous gun carriers who are threatening black people and black protesters- all very concerning. These are just a few of the topics of importance before us now. Let’s start with the danger of loaded guns in public.

A Michigan woman pulled out her handgun in a Michigan parking lot and aimed it at a black woman and her daughter just because.

Have gun, will use it. We are clearly not safer. And black people are clearly much less safe from gun toting white people who have upped the instances of threats since the protests after George Floyd’s murder happened all over the country.

The startling confrontation in Oakland County, Mich., which was partly caught on camera Wednesday afternoon, quickly went viral overnight. As of Thursday afternoon, video of the confrontation had been viewed about 12 million times on Twitter.

“I am deeply disturbed by an incident last night where a woman pointed a cocked gun at another woman during an argument. This behavior is unacceptable,” Oakland County Executive David Coulter said in a statement Thursday. (…) The married couple held Michigan concealed pistol licenses. Both the man and woman were armed. The sheriff said he did not know whether the man also pointed his handgun.

Hill said the dangerous confrontation, which took place on the edge between the communities of Orion Township and Auburn Hills, left her and her three daughters traumatized.

Six people, including bystanders and those involved in the confrontation, called 911 as the incident unfolded. When deputies arrived in the parking lot, they “were presented with two very different stories” in which both sides claimed “they felt extremely threatened,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told reporters Thursday afternoon. The sheriff’s department has reviewed two videos of the incident.

Our conceal and carry laws need to be re-examined. There is no need for armed people on our streets.

And, of course, on July 4th, there will not be many fireworks displays because of the fear of spreading coronavirus. The spread is growing. When over 50,000 Americans a day contract the disease we have a serious problem. Don’t even get me started on Trump’s anemic, irresponsible and dangerous response to the pandemic that is worse because of his lack of understanding, empathy and the ability to govern.

He insists on having 2 super spreaders today and tomorrow. As someone said this morning on MSNBC- ” make America sick again.”

President Donald Trump’s July Fourth celebration on the National Mall will feature one of the largest fireworks displays ever and as many as 300,000 face masks will be given away to those who want them — but despite health concerns from D.C.’s mayor, no one apparently will be required to wear them

And he insists on tying up traffic at Mt. Rushmore National Park in a fireworks display many officials did not want to have. Those who know better and have some common sense are worried about safety, wildfires, the environmental impact of the fireworks and possible protests. But, nevertheless, he persits. The South Dakota governor even touted the fact that no social distancing or mask wearing will be required. Unimaginable.

On July 3, Mr. Trump will be at Mount Rushmore for a celebration and fireworks display, and on the Fourth he will be back in Washington to host events that will include multiple flyovers by military aircraft and a 35-minute fireworks display over the Mall. Most localities have scrapped their traditional festivities, coming up with imaginative replacements such as virtual fireworks or on-screen festivals as they urge people to stay home and stay safe. But nothing — not health experts’ concerns about large gatherings, not alarming spikes in recent days in virus case levels, not pleas from worried D.C. and Washington-area officials — gives pause to Mr. Trump about going ahead with these potentially dangerous events. 

What could possibly go right?

Earlier this week, Trump tweeted the video of a Missouri couple threatening black protesters in their neighborhood with a pistol and an assault type rifle. You can’t make this stuff up. How can the leader of a country even consider that this is OK and further, to tweet it. It’s not the first time Trump has tweeted about dangerous, violent or conspiracy theory comments.

And again, as I do every year, I warn about incidents of “accidental” shootings when people stupidly shoot their guns into the air not thinking about where bullets come down- because they always come down- and too often, the find a target in another innocent and unsuspecting human being. There is nothing celebratory about this kind of gunfire.

Bullets fired into the air usually fall back with terminal velocities much lower than their muzzle velocity when they leave the barrel of a firearm. Nevertheless, people can be injured, sometimes fatally, when bullets discharged into the air fall back down to the ground. Bullets fired at angles less than vertical are more dangerous as the bullet maintains its angular ballistic trajectory and is far less likely to engage in tumbling motion; it therefore travels at speeds much higher than a bullet in free fall.

A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 80% of celebratory gunfire-related injuries are to the head, feet, and shoulders.[6] In Puerto Rico, about seven people have died from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve in the last 20 years. The last one was in 2012.[7] Between the years 1985 and 1992, doctors at the King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, treated some 118 people for random falling-bullet injuries. Thirty-eight of them died.[8]

Don’t shoot your guns into the air to celebrate. My friend Joe Jaskolka was shot in the head at age 11 during a New Year’s eve celebration in Philadelphia. The damage suffered from the bullet wound to his head altered his life forever.

There is a drought in many areas of the country. We have had protests all over the country. We are in the midst of a pandemic and economic disaster. But it is the celebration of our country’s birthday so families should be together watching Hamilton streaming as we will do. And be careful with personal fireworks which are also a safety hazard and a fire danger in a drought.

There is hope if we all do the right thing and stay safe. Wear masks. Social distance. Don’t gather in crowded places. Be careful with fireworks. Be nice to others. Celebrate that our founding “fathers” wanted us to be a democracy, not an autocracy as the current White House occupant seems to want it to be. They knew we could weather a lot of storms together and make sure the Rule of Law is not violated as is happening in plain sight. This is the day to make sure we pay attention to what Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, Adams and others wanted for our country.

Being patriotic is celebrating our democracy and the rule of law. It is not all about flag waving and fireworks. It’s not about guns either. It’s about caring about each other in times of national disaster and pandemics. It’s about being free of gun violence in our communities. It’s about being free of community spread of the coronavirus. It’s about freedom for Black and brown people to have the same lives as white people have. Black Lives Matter. It’s about white people understanding systemic racism. It’s about being free to wear masks to protect us all.

I will leave you with this parody of mask wearing to the tune of Hamilton music.

Happy 4th.

Cure the virus of violence

image created by anonymous artists of Minneapolis and St. Paul

I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m outraged. I’m almost speechless;. I’m hurting for my state and for George Floyd’s family. I’m concerned. I’m worried about the boogaloo movement that foments violence and hopes for Civil War. Were they involved in the protests? We don’t yet know who the people are who came from the outside to promote violence, looting and burning of buildings. We need to find that out.

I’m afraid of the eruption of violence over the murder of George Floyd by a white officer while other officers stood by and let it happen. I’m inspired by the passionate activism of so many people who want justice for George Floyd. I am a white woman of privilege. I can’t really understand how it feels to be black, brown or indigenous in America. But I can see the reactions in Minneapolis and all over the country. We have all seen the demands for justice that are about more than George Floyd. They are about racism, racial and social injustice and inequality, discrimination in housing and jobs, lack of educational opportunities and violence against them perpetrated over the decades.

There are now many viruses spreading all over America. In the midst of our country’s worst pandemic in many decades, the virus of violence has been spreading from person to person and from community to community all over our country. The murder of George Floyd set it off. But that murder was the symptom of an underlying virus that has been lurking under the surface and often above the surface making America sick.

And to make matters worse, because of the protest the spread of coronavirus may increase now and could affect even more people of color. Clearly we have a long ways to go before that virus is controlled. And clearly we have a long ways to go to control the viruses of racial injustice and gun violence.

We have not been paying attention to what has been right in front of us. Communities of color have been hurting and angry for 400 years. A civil war was fought over slavery and tore our country apart. Even after the Civil War ended, there was not a solution to racial injustice.

In fact, if anything, the situation was worse after slaves were free to look for jobs, go to schools, live in houses in our neighborhoods, become professionals, work in our communities, vote in our communities and participate in our society. Because of the color of their skin, they have not been able to do any of those things without fighting and struggling to be treated just like everyone else.

Long after the Civil War, protesters in some places, Trump supporters and pro gun activists bring the Confederate flag with them as a statement of their racism. We know what that means.

Why have we allowed angry anti-government people to carry Confederate and Don’t Tread on Me (Gadsden) flags? Yes. It’s their first amendment right but it’s also an indication of racism and violence that is now taking center stage. It’s abhorrent and offensive. These may be the same people criticizing the protests and crying out for more arrests and more force against protesters.

Our own President seems to be encouraging violence in some of his recent tweets, especially mentioning shooting the looters. His tweets are stoking the tension and the violence. It’s unfathomable that our leader is not leading during our epidemics.

Pivoting to gun violence as a virus and public health epidemic, men and boys of color are 2.5 times more at risk of being shot by law enforcement than white men and boys. This article from the Washington Post shows us the number of police shootings so far this year along with the number of black victims:

Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

The time was ripe. We are in the midst of a pandemic that has taken over 100,000 lives, a disproportionate number of which have been people of color. The shut down of the economy has been disastrous for the economy and for low income people in particular. Many have no access to affordable health care. Many are unemployed and in despair. No wonder the country erupted.

Scientists, meanwhile, are increasingly studying police violence as a public health problem whose long-term harms radiate far beyond the original victim.

“It can have these toxic effects on communities, in terms of both their physical and mental health,” Edwards said.

A study published in the Lancet last year found that police killings of unarmed black men were associated with an increase in mental health problems such as depression and emotional issues for black people living in the state where the killing took place.

And living in a state of constant fear can lead to chronic stress, Edwards said. He referred to “the talk,” a conversation that many African American parents have with their children — especially boys — about how to interact with police to avoid being harmed.

All things considered, isn’t it surprising that there have not been more mass eruptions of anger and protests over the police killings of people of color? And over economic disparities? And over housing disparities? And over our healthcare crisis? And over gun violence?

Gun violence prevention organizations have talked about but never fully embraced this intersection of gun violence with racial injustice. We could have done better. We should have done better.

In incident after incident the country has watched the shootings of black men and boys by police when other options were better. Many organizations have made statements of solidarity with the protesters. We all care. We all want to help. We all need to step up and do more and do better. Brady made this statement about George Floyd:

This reality and the fact that Black Americans face disproportionate rates of gun violence result from the same racist policies and structures that drive inequality and disparity for minority communities across numerous outcomes. To speak to police violence requires acknowledging systemic racism in our country. To seek to end police violence requires addressing systemic racism. They are inseparable.

I get that law enforcement officers fear for their lives every day. Their jobs are dangerous by necessity. They are armed which gives them power over others. And they also recognize that citizens are more armed now than ever before. Made possible by the NRA and other gun rights organization, gun carry laws have passed in most states of the nation. Now police can’t tell the difference between “good guys” with guns and “bad guys” with guns.

And they can tell the difference between a black person with a gun ( or not) and a white person with a gun. Too often police have wrongly assumed that a black person is armed and they shoot first and ask questions later. Too often police officers who are charged and arrested are not found guilty of murder. That is what must be addressed if anything is going to change.

While we are at if, let us not forget the groups of armed white people who showed up in state capitols to protest the stay at home orders of Governors to stop the spread of COVID-19. What happened to those folks displaying assault weapons, including a rocket launcher? Nothing. No arrests. No police actions. We get the difference. If those armed men had been black, they would have been arrested- or worse. This is the problem isn’t it? One group is not like the other.

There is a virus of gun violence within the virus of the protests within the virus of COVID-19 turning to rioting and violence. We all need to breathe. George Floyd couldn’t breathe because of police action and he is now dead. Coronavirus victims have trouble breathing because the virus attacks the lungs. Some have died. Protesters can’t breathe when tear gas is lobbed their way. The nation can’t breathe now because of the violence and because of rampant racism. We need a cure.

And my last point has to do with the guns carried by protesters or used against protesters in the last few days. It’s bad enough without loaded weapons that take the breath away from the victims of the bullets. In Louisville, Kentucky several instances of deadly shootings have occured as the result of the protests. Here – 7 dead. Here- 1 shot dead by law enforcement.

In Omaha, Nebraska a white man shot and killed a black protester. The shooter had a history of gun arrests, including felonies. Why did he have access to a gun? Laws matter.

Here are just a few names of people of color shot by police:

Ahmaud Arbery

Breonna Taylor

Tamir Rice

Walter Scott

Michael Brown

Philando Castile

Jamar Clark

Just a few of the names of black people shot by armed citizens:

Trayvon Martin

Jordan Davis

Birdell Beeks

Tyesha Edwards

Nizeal Banks

I just watched an impromptu memorial to George Floyd in Minneapolis. George’s 2 brothers asked for peaceful protests to make the change that is needed. We all hope that common sense happens so we can get to work on solutions and systemic changes.

At the memorial there were several chants: “Peace on the left; justice on the right.” and “What’s his name?” “George Floyd.

George Floyd.