Happy gun violence free Labor Day

PrintThe Labor Day holiday is upon us already. It’s cool here in Minnesota now at night so we are reminded that fall is also coming on the heels of a rather wet summer. The Hurricane season also reminds us that fall is here. Hurricane Harvey has produced mass flooding and devastation to millions of families in Texas and now other states. We continue to see more severe storms and heavy rainfalls as some deny that we should try to do something to about what the majority of scientists agree appears to be climate change.

But facts don’t bother some in our country, including our own President who used his appearance in Texas as a mini campaign rally rather than showing empathy for the victims and re-assuring them as is the role of the Comforter in Chief during national emergencies.

But I digress. On the home front in Minnesota we have seen more than the usual number of shootings and incidents showing that, as we know, more guns do not make us safer. For example, earlier in August a man was minding his own business waiting for a bus when a fight broke out. During the fight, a gun was fired, hitting him in the stomach and leaving him with injuries from which he is still recovering:

Porwall was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center’s trauma center in Minneapolis and was released Monday. Porwall, who will always have the bullet lodged in his stomach, is recovering from his injuries at his Minneapolis home, with his mother, Kathy Porwall, and his two cats Kirby and Lopez at his side.

Porwall’s father Cy said his son is the most peaceful person in the world and has never been in a fight or been in trouble.

The victim will have the bullet in his stomach now likely forever and it could cause recurring health problems and financial difficulties. Gun injuries cost Americans billions every year:

A new study sheds light on just how much gun-related injuries cost the United States, from the health care system to victims’ families.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health on Tuesday, showed that between 2006 and 2014, the costs and financial burden of firearm injuries reached a total of $6.61 billion — and that was just for initial hospitalizations.
This, of course, does not include the psychological and emotional damage done when someone is badly injured or dies. Often PTSD is associated with gun violence victims and survivors. A traumatic, sudden and violent incident can do that. The walking wounded are amongst us wherever we go.
We can cut the costs of gun violence by cutting gun violence. It can be done with the right elected leaders who are not afraid of the corporate gun lobby. I have written often about measures that can be taken to save lives and keep people from being injured. Here is my list:
  • a waiting period before the gun is transferred to make sure the buyer isn’t in a rush to shoot someone
  • pass measures to require reporting of lost and stolen guns
  • pass stronger straw purchasing laws
  • strengthen gun trafficking laws
  • gun owners storing their guns safely at home
  • gun owners being more responsible when carrying guns in public to assure that their gun does not accidentally discharge
  • educating parents about the risks of loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where their children play
  • treating gun violence as a public health epidemic
  • limiting the number of guns sold at one time
  • passing Gun Violence Protection Order laws
  • changing the conversation generally about the risks of guns
  • require a mandatory training course for everyone who buys a gun
  • discussing the fact that most gun deaths are suicide and how we can prevent that

Did you think I forgot one of the most important ways to keep a gun away from people who shouldn’t have one?

Requiring a Brady background check on ALL gun sales, no matter where, to assure that those who buy a gun are not prohibited from owning one.

If you don’t think that is a good idea, you are in a distinct minority of Americans who don’t. And, as if we need a poster child for why this is important, take a look at this Minnesota “law abiding” gun owner who was caught “red handed” buying many guns in a short period of time and ostensibly falling through more than a few cracks ( otherwise known as loopholes in the law):

A high ranking professor and department head at the University of Minnesota is facing charges for going on an illegal gun buying spree.

The purchases would have been perfectly legal, except Massoud Amin is under felony indictment.

That should have banned him from buying guns.(…)

Investigators say Amin – who his attorney describes as a gun hobbyist – bought 14 handguns from seven separate gun shops across the metro in a two-and-a-half-week span this summer.

He was under a felony indictment at the time, accused of providing fabricated financial documents in his divorce.

Yet that first gun purchase came just six days after he was charged with forgery.

The federal form required when purchasing a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer asks the buyer to be honest when filling in the information such as: Are you a felon? Yes or No. Have you been charged with domestic abuse? Yes or No. Are you adjudicated mentally ill? Yes or No. And others.

This is a set-up for someone who falls into one of these categories to lie. It is a federal offense to lie on the form. One way to get around this is to buy from an unlicensed seller who doesn’t ask these questions or do a background check.

The National Instant Check System run by the FBI is then involved when the seller submits the information to the system to check for the accuracy of this information and either approve the purchase or deny the purchase. This has worked to deny millions of people from buying guns they shouldn’t have since the Brady Law was enacted in 1993.

But the system has some gaps that need to be fixed. One is that in some states, like Minnesota, getting a permit to carry a gun, requiring a background check once a year from law enforcement and a new permit every 5 years, also allows the buyer to avoid a NICS check when purchasing guns. And that is how a University of Minnesota professor with a felony charge was able to buy 14 guns in 2 weeks from 7 different gun shops.

We can only guess at why there was a need for that many firearms but the man’s lawyer claimed that he was a gun hobbyist and then this:

Amin’s attorney tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he did have a permit to carry, but would not comment on whether or not it was valid.

New this year in Minnesota, the permit to carry is enough to bypass the extra background check at the point of purchase since permit holders have already been screened.

Right then. People’s lives change, as this man’s did. Suddenly he became a felon:

He was under a felony indictment at the time, accused of providing fabricated financial documents in his divorce.

This does not sound like someone who should have a bunch of guns lying around. I know exactly how that can turn out. This is why my sister was shot and killed.

It doesn’t have to be like this. All we need is some common sense. As it turns out, most gun owners do have common sense and are safe with their guns. Most gun owners also agree with measures that will strengthen our gun laws to assure that all are safer and don’t suffer from the devastation of gun deaths and injuries. They are not threatened by tightening our laws because they are law abiding, practice safe gun usage and storage and use their guns for hunting and other shooting sports. It’s a small group who make it difficult for the majority. And as long as that small group sides with the gun extremists in the corporate gun lobby and refuses to support what most of us want, we will continue to see senseless and avoidable gun deaths and injuries.

What we need is for all of us to have the same safety standards, just like we do when getting a driver’s license or a professional license. There are no exceptions. All are treated the same. Everyone has to go through the TSA checkpoints at airports. All cars must know have seatbelts, airbags and other safety features. All toys and products are expected to pass safety standards to keep us all safe.  Smoking is prohibited in public places for the overall health of all of us. Background checks are required for child care providers and volunteers who work with children for the safety of all. Even adopting a pet requires strict standards.

Firearms should be no exception to protections that can keep us all safe. Purchasers and owners of firearms should be expected to be safe and responsible with their guns. The only way to do that is to impose standards and laws. Guns are the only product on the market actually designed to kill people ( and animals). Other things are used to kill and injure people but are not designed to do so.

We can prevent gun injuries and deaths if we put our collective minds to the effort.

I’m all in.

Oh- and stay safe out there this Labor Day. If you are going to a gun range to shoot, be safe. If you are purchasing a gun, make sure you understand that basic safety rules of owning a gun. If you are feeling angry at someone or wanting to get even or if you have had too much to drink, don’t bring your gun.

Remember why we have a national holiday this week-end. We celebrate those who labor on our behalf to keep us healthy, safe, financially viable, work on our streets and build our buildings and houses, put out fires, teach our children, take care of our children, and many others. Thanks to everyone who is working to provide economic viability to their families and contribute to the America we love. Unfortunately, gun violence never takes a holiday so there will be the inevitable shootings covered in news media all over our country.

And please think of ways to contribute to victims of Hurricane Harvey. There are many credible and trusted sites for you to do that. I contributed through fund sponsored by the United Church of Christ ( I attend a UCC church). We all need to dig deep to help others since one day, we ourselves, could become victims of a national disaster like Harvey.

And ( added after first posting) the usual scares and concerns about looting in the aftermath of natural disasters has people going for their guns and ammunition:

Hurricane Harvey may have moved on from East Texas, but the flood waters are only beginning to recede. Millions are scrambling for essentials like drinking water and food. Some, with worries about the ability of strained law enforcement to keep the peace, are in search of bullets.

“Our phones are blowing off the hook,” said James Hillin, the owner of Full Armor Firearms in Houston, which made it through the storm without flooding. “What people want is ammo. People want to arm up and protect themselves from the looters.”

We can only hope that there will be no shootings to add to the devastation of the storm.

 

No common sense

peacockIn what world is it OK for a teacher to take young children on a field trip to a gun range? It’s not normal to do this and trying to teach children about history by exposing them to loaded guns when they can’t handle that responsibility or understand the true risks of loaded guns is deplorable. There is no common sense in this very flawed and potentially dangerous decision:

 

Holdheide Academy owner Tammy Dorsten told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Wednesday’s controversial trip to Hi-Caliber Firearms was intended to “enrich” the children, who were learning about Annie Oakley, Bill Pecos and Davy Crockett, per Georgia’s required curriculum.

Dorsten said she got the idea after students at the Woodstock school thought the sharpshooters’ firing skills were simple.

Why would there even be a discussion with second graders about sharp shooting skills? If people want to talk about this at home, go ahead as long as it comes with the discussion about how dangerous guns are in the hands of anyone, let alone second graders. But teaching about this in a school lesson? No words.

Let’s review how many children have died because of gunshot injuries just this year. The Gun Violence Archive site is keeping track of all of this, thank goodness. If it weren’t for the media and sites like GVA we wouldn’t know what is actually going on in our country. The numbers collected so far in 2017 equal 478 for children aged 0-11 injured or killed by a firearm.

What about this do some folks not understand? This is just not the way things happened decades ago while I was a child. Why? Because there were not a lot of handguns sitting around in people’s homes. There were plenty of hunting guns, including in my own house since I was raised by a hunting family. But it was very rare to hear about small children finding a gun around and “playing” with it and shooting him/herself or someone else. It just didn’t happen.

How did we get here? Simple. The corporate gun lobby changed organizations like the NRA into a lobby for the gun industry instead of a group to support shooting and hunting sports. When hunting waned and gun sales declined, there had to be a way to encourage gun sales. That way was to convince average Americans that they needed a gun for self defense. And then to convince legislators that the next step was for the carrying of those guns into public places because…… well, because of all the lurking dangerous shadows and trolls, zombies and dangerous people not like themselves out and about ready to pounce.

Follow the money.

Oh, and then there is the unhinged idea that the government is coming to do harm in the face our first Black President or any Democratic President, for that matter. Because the NRA and other pro gun rights groups have become an arm of the Republican party and, in particular, the far right extremists.

We have seen this in action when armed citizens roam our streets with long guns strapped around their bodies or handguns openly holstered to remind us that they can protect us all or that they mean to intimidate anyone out there who is watching.

The most recent display of the gun rights extremists in action took place in Charlottesville during the KKK/neo nazi/alt right event that ended in the death of one woman. Watching armed “militia” members strut on the streets displaying their weapons like a male Peacock displaying its’ beautiful feathers was a scary sight indeed. It was meant to be that way. Have gun will travel and intimidate.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is also keeping track of these folks. Somebody has to. Many are armed and potentially dangerous and they intend to cause trouble if they believe in their own fears and paranoia about the government. One question to ask is if they are “well regulated” which is the illusive phrase in the second amendment is about.

As the above linked article highlights, we have a serious problem in our country because we have failed to have an adult reasonable discussion about what it means to be well regulated. And so as a nation we are failing our children and grandchildren. We allow children to be killed and to kill every day in numbers that would have caused other reasonable democratic countries not at war to regulate and regulate fast.

We should be alarmed about this. Instead, we continue on the deadly path we are now on because the corporate gun lobby has convinced scared and lapdog politicians to ignore a national public health and safety epidemic. Instead, some insist that more guns will make us safer and that sham has become the narrative for gun rights.

The narrative needs to change if we are to save our children and families from the devastation of gun tragedies. And, of course, we need to include the entire nation because we aren’t saving our adults either.

We have to get this right. Facts matter.

For example, guns for self defense are much much more likely to be used to kill or injure someone in the home or the gun’s owner than to be used for self defense.

The Violence Policy Center, linked here, is keeping track. Of course gun rights extremists think this is #fakenews. Their problem is that facts are stubborn things. When we dive into them, we find the truth. From the link above:

The use of guns in self-defense by private citizens is extremely rare. VPC research has found a gun is far more likely to be used in a homicide or suicide than in a justifiable homicide. More guns are stolen each year than are used in self-defense.

The gun lobby seeks to expand the carrying of concealed, loaded handguns into an ever-increasing number of public spaces, while at the same time blocking any restrictions on the availability of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The main argument used to advance these policies is that guns are a common and effective tool for self-defense. This argument is false.

A series of VPC studies on guns and self-defense thoroughly disprove the NRA myth. These studies analyze national data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

From the above linked fact based article: ” When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.”

But never mind facts and common sense.

The Brady Campaign published a report called The Truth About Kids and Guns. 

Yes. There are truths that cannot be ignored. If we care about the next generation, we will deal with guns and gun violence as a serious public health epidemic. The truth is that kids are dying every day in avoidable, senseless shootings.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. With rights come responsibilities. There are way too many gun owners, adults and parents who are just not responsible with their guns. As a result, our children are dying. Too many adults don’t realize that guns are too often not securely stored, loaded, just waiting for a young curious child to find.

The ASK campaign is all about responsible gun ownership and the education of parents and adults about the risks of loaded and unsecured guns to our children.

The result of this ignorance and willful irresponsibility is deadly.

There is no excuse for taking second graders to a gun range on a field trip. Children have died or shot someone else at gun ranges or in homes or cars or public places under the “watchful” eyes of adults.

Remember when a nine year old girl was allowed to shoot an Uzi at a gun range and shot and killed the instructor?

Remember when a father brought his 8 year old son to a gun show to shoot a machine gun and the boy ended up dead?

Remember when that 4 year old Florida boy was playing with a loaded gun in the back seat of his gun rights activist mother and “accidentally” shot her in the back?

Remember when that 2 year old idaho boy found a loaded gun in his mother’s purse ( for self defense) and shot and killed his very own mother?

One of these incidents is one too many. And these incidents are just a very few of far too many.

Guns are not meant for small children.

The prevalence of gun deaths among small children is an American tragedy in which the gun rights extremists have convinced some amongst us that the second amendment means unfettered rights for anyone to own and bear a firearm with no regulations whatsoever. This is a sham and a lie. And it’s leading to the deaths of our children.

 

25 years later- unhappy anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stunning.

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

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

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

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

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

I have some suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pass laws to require safe storage of guns.

Strengthen gun trafficking laws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work together for common sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s exhausting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's exhausting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stunts and games with guns are deadly

dominoesSometimes when I read accounts of really stupid and dangerous incidents with guns, I want to cry. Take this Minnesota story for just one of many examples:

A woman shot and killed her boyfriend in a “stunt” gone tragically wrong allegedly to increase their presence on YouTube:

As part of a young couple’s quest for YouTube fame, a 19-year-old woman shot at a book her boyfriend was holding against his chest, killing him at close range outside their northwestern Minnesota home. (…)

Ruiz held up the book — described by County Attorney James Brue as a hardcover encyclopedia — and Perez pulled the trigger on a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, trying to see whether the bullet would go through, according to the criminal complaint.

A few hours before the shooting, a posting went up on Perez’s Twitter account that read: “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE.” The note included two wide-eyed emoji faces and another of an eye-covering monkey with a gaping mouth.

No words.

They rolled the dice and tragically lost.

Playing games while carrying is also a bad idea. Someone got mad at friends while playing dominoes in Las Vegas and got a gun from his car to shoot and kill two people. No joke.

Two men in their 20s died Sunday night after an argument broke out over a game of dominoes at a northeast Las Vegas home, Las Vegas police said.

Officers responded about 7:20 p.m. to a shooting call at the home on the 4400 block of Wendy Lane, near East Craig and North Walnut roads, according to Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Dan McGrath.

After the argument began, another man retrieved a gun from his car, went back inside the home and opened fire, McGrath said. Detectives are working to “positively identify” and arrest the suspected shooter, who knew the men killed.

Who knew a simple game of dominoes could become deadly? My husband’s aunt and his mother used to have real arguments over their games of Cribbage while at their cabin. I’m sure glad neither of them had a gun. Because guns are dangerous and deadly. What is it about that that some people just can’t understand? The American gun culture is out of control.

On my old blog site, I wrote about a board game gone terribly wrong in Minnesota.

Becoming angry while playing friendly games with friends or family should not result in death or injury. But this is the American gun culture. It is out of control.

One of my favorite sources, The Trace, posted an article today about how research has shown that more “law abiding” conceal and carry gun permit holders have actually contributed to more crime:

In a new working paper published on June 21 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics at Stanford Law School ran that data through four different statistical models  — including one developed by Lott for More Guns, Less Crime — and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry. The exception was the narrower category of murder; there, the researchers determined that any effect on homicide rates by expanded gun-carry policies is statistically insignificant.

While other studies conducted since 1994 have undermined Lott’s thesis, the new paper is the most comprehensive and assertive debunking of the more-guns-less-crime formula.

“For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled,” said paper’s lead author, John Donohue. “The answer is no.”

I am not surprised but know that there will be pushback from the gun rights community because this debunks their notions that more guns= less crime when actual research says “NO”.

New polling from Pew research reveals how the country is very divided about some things concerning guns and unified about others:

Republicans and Democrats find rare common ground on some gun policy proposals in the U.S. Large majorities in both parties continue to favor preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, and background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows.

Yet there are sharp partisan differences on several other issues – particularly on whether to let people carry concealed guns in more places and to allow teachers and officials to carry guns in K-12 schools, a new Pew Research Center survey has found.

And Republicans and Democrats have stark, fundamental differences on questions relating to the causes of gun violence – and even whether gun violence is a serious problem in the country.

In what world do people not think gun violence is a serious problem? Just asking……

How did gun violence prevention and gun policy get to be a Republican/Democratic issue dividing the country? Just asking……

Because gun violence does not discriminate between political parties. Republicans and Democrats ( and Independents) alike are shot and killed every day. They also shoot people every day. My now ex and deceased brother-in-law was a Republican. My sister was a Democrat. Gun violence is an issue that affects us all but the corporate gun lobby has become a favored Republican organization:

That partisan split could provide a hint as to why Republicans are so united today behind the NRA. Some of America’s biggest social-issue shifts have been driven by motives other than ideology; young people regardless of party have buoyed America’s increasing tolerance of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, for example.

Gun rights, by contrast, have magnetized Americans toward the political poles. So Republicans might be naturally lining up with the more conservative factions in their party on everything from gun rights to immigration.

But Republicans also have a fairly complex relationship with gun laws. And in fact, the shift described above might undersell it.

Witness their changes over time on the idea of protecting gun ownership versus controlling it. Republicans’ lines are much squigglier than Democrats. But the trend among Republicans since 2008 is clear as day: gun rights over gun control. What was an even split seven years ago is now a 3-to-1 edge in favor of gun rights.

It’s an American tragedy that a public health gun death epidemic is treated as a partisan issue.

But is it? Let’s take a look at more recent polling from Quinnipiac showing more broad support for gun safety reform issues. In this poll and others, Americans broadly rejected the Republican health care plan- even Republicans. Americans seem to agree that the plan is a really bad idea for them. And they also agreed about most policies to prevent gun deaths. Let’s take a look from the linked article:

American voters support 94 – 5 percent, including 92 – 8 percent among voters in households where there is a gun, background checks for all gun buyers. Support is over 90 percent in every listed group.

It’s too easy to buy a gun in the U.S. today, 57 percent of voters say, while 6 percent say it’s too difficult and 32 percent say it’s about right.

If more people carried guns, the U.S. would be less safe, 57 percent of voters say, while 35 percent say the nation would be safer.

American voters say 79 – 17 percent that the way people talk about politics in the U.S. today contributes to violence. This belief is strongly held among all listed groups.

The recent shooting of a U.S. Congressman and several other people in Virginia will have no impact on how people talk about politics, 53 percent of voters say, while 11 percent say it will have a positive impact and 31 percent say it will have a negative impact.

This is agreement that we should be doing more to reduce and prevent gun violence. So why aren’t we? We know the answer. And speaking of politics contributing to violence, there has been much discussion today after our very own President again tweeted out some offensive things against two media personalities. The White House response was the usual defensive one claiming that the President doesn’t advocate violence. Quite a few Republican leaders denounced the tweets but until their actions follow their words, this will continue unabated. And we will all be the worse for it.

Words matter. Did we elect a fighter to be a our President? ( I did not vote for #45) I don’t even know what that means. Presidents are not supposed to openly fight with the press, with women, with anyone who talks about him/her. This President thinks he is still a candidate and a businessman. His thin skin has become his worst enemy leading him to bully, intimidate, tweet inappropriate and offensive words and alienate most of the country. Does he realize that he is actually the President of the United States?

Self restraint and discipline is what is needed. Being tough with world leaders when necessary, with Congress when necessary, with his cabinet members when necessary, but not with the American people and the press. But being tough does not mean being tough like a schoolyard bully. It doesn’t mean throwing verbal punches at innocent people.

And, by the way, a free press is protected in the First Amendment and necessary for a democracy. Any leader who thinks otherwise is flirting with the kind of authoritarianism that is just not American.

And where are his supporters? Do they believe this behavior is OK? It’s not under any standards.

Of course we can all find video and media clips of the President advocating violence and egging on his supporters.

(As an aside, the President was wrong about Mika Brzezinski bleeding on New Year’s Eve.) And here is an article written by Joe Scarborough and Mika in today’s Washington Post asking some serious questions about the President’s dangerous tweets.

This is an embarrassing, sad, unprecedented, unPresidential, offensive, deplorable, vulgar, appalling state of affairs and lack of discipline and common sense that we can’t tolerate. If words that encourage violence come from the top, some people take them seriously and do likewise. We have become an angry, impolite and intolerant country. Having more guns around does not make this any better.

Gun violence often happens when people are angry and intolerant of others or feel that vengeance is the way to make it better. Too many young people are out on our streets with guns used to get even or vent anger.

So back to what is going on in my state of Minnesota….. The St. Paul Police Chief has verified what most of us in the gun violence prevention movement know to be true. Gun violence is a public health crisis:

While addressing the St. Paul City Council, Police Chief Todd Axtell called a significant rise in gun violence a, “public health crisis.”

“As of Wednesday, the number of gunshots fired is up 61 percent, homicides are up and the number of guns recovered off the street is 286,” Axtell said. (…)

Axtell also noted that half of the city’s 13 homicide victims this year were teenagers and the suspects in most of those crimes were teenaged perpetrators as well. The chief added that the summer season may see a rise in gun violence.

“Just last night alone … we had three arrests, five shots fired incidents throughout the city and three guns were recovered,” Axtell said. “This is just one night of work.”

How do teen-agers get their guns? From irresponsible adults. Stealing. Buying on the street from others who have bought guns legally or got them illegally themselves. From their homes. From a relative. From a friend. Any of these scenarios is likely and something we must address as communities and as a country. Guns don’t fall from the sky. All guns start out as legal purchases. From there, too many of them get into the hands of children, teens, criminals and others who should not have access to guns.

This is an American tragedy. It is not happening in other democratized countries.

Our gun culture is not a game or a stunt. We have serious problems that are not being addressed and people are dying every day senselessly and avoidably. It doesn’t help that rhetoric is ramping up and becoming more and more angry and hyperbolic.

Along that line, we need to talk about the latest video from the NRA by their new young star, Dana Loesch.  

Can we talk about advocating violence and encouraging armed insurrection in America? Here is what Loesch is saying under the umbrella of the NRA. I do love the hypocrisy:

In other words, Loesch is telling us that she and the NRA appropriated the imagery of a clenched first, even though when it’s associated with the left, it stands, in her mind, for violent protest or being a whiny loser. She also urges her critics to “take a Midol” and “get a grip,” which is wild advice coming from a woman who made an eight-minute video sitting three inches from a camera yelling about leftists lighting garbage can fires.

But it’s a call to arms that is alarming here and considering the political atmosphere, it wouldn’t take much for a terrible incident to start something we don’t want to see in America. This is no game. This is serious stuff , so for Loesch to feign surprise at the pushback is dishonest and cynical. More from the linked article:

The NRA is getting a little of the sweet, white-hot outrage they so crave with a new and deranged ad featuring their spokesperson, pundit Dana Loesch. The ad explicitly positions Real Americans against the violent, lying left, and—given that it’s an ad for a gun lobbying organization—it reads a lot like a call to take up arms against those menacing liberals. But who is Dana Loesch, why is she in my face, and where does this fit in with the proud tradition of batshit NRA ads?

Who is she? Who is anybody who uses a media platform to encourage violence while representing an organization that encourages the sale of the weapons that cause the violence in this country?

The domino effect of gun violence is all too real  and it’s making us less safe. The dangerous rhetoric we are hearing every day is contributing to a sense of unease and mistrust. The potential for actual violence based on the rhetoric is also real.

Too many families and communities are suffering devastating loss from gun injuries and death. We ought to be discouraging violent and hyperbolic talk instead of hearing it from the top and in ads meant to cause anger and fear of others.

We are better than this.

Baseball and guns

Brady memeGun violence has and does occur in every nook and cranny of America. That is because there are guns in every nook and cranny of America. As many, if not most, of us watched in horror yesterday morning, another mass shooting unfolded almost before our very eyes and ears. Later in the day yesterday video with the audio of the mass shooting was released making it all too real. The sound of constant gunfire reminded us of war.

We are at war with each other. Yesterday’s shooting of U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise got a lot of attention because the victim was someone serving our country as was Rep. Gabby Giffords who was shot while serving in Congress. And here is Gabby Giffords writing about the obvious after yesterday’s shooting:

Why courage? Because the times we are in require it. We owe ourselves, our neighbors and our nation courage.

In the days and weeks to come, I know from personal experience what to expect. As a nation, we will debate violence and honor service — the service of the elected officials and their staff, and of local law enforcement and the U.S. Capitol Police, without whom the carnage could have been so much worse. We will debate the availability and use of guns. And we will wonder about the victims — how they are doing and how we can help them — as we wonder, too, about the shooter. What motivated such violence? What can we do to prevent it?

We know, as always, that no one law could prevent a shooting like this. But we also know that we must acknowledge a problem: an unacceptable rate of gun violence in this country. And we must acknowledge that a deadly problem like this brings a responsibility to find solutions. And that’s where we, as a nation, will need courage in abundance, as my former colleagues find the strength to recover from their wounds — and the bravery to try to make shootings like this one less likely in the future. (…)

My prayer today for my colleagues and their families is that they feel our strength and love as they embark on their recovery. My prayer for my country is that we find the courage I know we possess and use it to work toward a safer world, together.

We are all horrified at the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise and 3 others at yesterday’s baseball practice for a charity ball game to be held tonight in spite of the shooting. We are hoping for a good recovery for Rep. Scalise knowing that he is in critical condition and has a long road to go.

This morning I ran across this article that highlights what I have long thought about the issue of gun violence. We have so much of it in our country that it does seem to beget more of it. It’s like a virus that we can’t control and for which there is no cure. From the article:

The left-wing views of the alleged shooter might be surprising to some, but they shouldn’t be. The gun industry and the National Rifle Association market guns with promises that owning guns will make a customer feel manly and powerful, and that fantasy has a power that can transcend political boundaries. And no one knows better than gun industry leaders how feelings of political frustration caused by seeing your preferred candidate lose an election can be channeled into a pitch to buy more guns. (…) Gun marketing, helped along by the political messaging of the NRA, , is targeted largely at conservatives. That said, the emotional buttons being pushed — the wish to feel powerful, the desire to prove one’s masculinity, the appeal of violence as a political shortcut — cannot be contained by something as pedestrian as political partisanship. Through years of marketing and cultural messaging, the appeal of guns has been crafted into something totemic, even primal — desired by all manner of people who yearn for some kind of cleansing violence to solve their problems.

It is frightening that this is where we are now. We’ve been there for a long time but when the violence affects those who support the efforts of the corporate gun lobby, one would expect a new reaction- that just maybe something will be done about it -this time. But one would be wrong. More from the article:

And when it comes to the Republicans, sadly there is no reason to believe they will react to this dreadful crime by rethinking their resistance to saner gun control laws that could go a long way toward minimizing the amount of damage that people disposed to carrying out violence can do. Despite watching their friends and colleagues running away from a hail of gunfire, Republican politicians and pundits are sticking with the thoughts-and-prayers narrative and not even discussing taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

Some are demanding the opposite of common sense by suggesting that if only someone had been packing heat this would not have happened. Such ridiculous reasoning is insane and should not be believed or tolerated. But that rhetoric has been around for so many years that some actually believe it regardless of the truth of the matter. Here are some responses on an article posted on a Twitter feed about this very thing:

Yesterday the House was to have had a hearing on a bill to allow for the purchase of gun suppressor ( silencers) without going through the strict process now in place since 1934. Silencers were placed in a special category at that time for good reason. But the gun lobby is forever looking for a way to increase sales and accessories.

After the shooting yesterday morning apparently it was thought that it was not a good time to raise this controversial issue so the hearing was cancelled.:

The measure would make it easier to purchase silencers, transport guns across state lines and ease restrictions on armor-piercing bullets
The draft bill is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, who was at Wednesday’s practice in Alexandria, Virginia, where Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others were shot.

In this article there is a video of Senator Rand Paul, an avid support of second amendment rights and “freedom” stating that the incident yesterday would have been a massacre had capitol police officers not been there to take down the shooter. Paul was at the baseball practice and sounded truly frightened and shaken when interviewed. I am just wondering if he thought how much more deadly the shooting could have been had the shooter purchased a suppressor and attached it to his rifle. But I guess hypocrisy and warped thinking runs into the facts when it comes to justifying arming more people in more places for “self defense”.

Consider if the Congress members were packing heat at that practice or the game scheduled for tonight as some have suggested. Really? More warped thinking. What about sliding into third base? What about jumping up to catch a fly ball? What about a collision at home base between the catcher and a runner? What about just running around the bases with a loaded gun on your hip?

All of this defies common sense but it is being raised. Remember that the shooting took over 2 minutes according to a home video taken on an observer’s iPhone that many of us have now seen and heard. No one knew where to go, where to run, at first where the shots were coming from. Panic ensued. The instinct to run for your life and take cover or protect someone else by laying on top of him/her. Representative Scalise was a sitting duck out on the field as was the staffer who was injured. How could they have defended themselves with a loaded gun on their bodies? How could the other Congressmen have shot at a shooter not having any idea where he was? And what if more police came onto the scene, as happened, and saw a person with a loaded gun? Who is the good guy and who is the bad guy?

No. These are ludicrous and warped ideas.

There is one more issue that has surfaced after the shooting at the baseball field- more protection for Congress members who do receive death threats and face angry constituents at town halls meetings and other places. I will go on record as saying I am all in favor of this. But doesn’t it seem ridiculous that one of the first solutions to come up is more protection instead of looking for ways to tighten access to guns and trying to stop shootings in the first place? Who is going to protect the children? Who will protect the vulnerable women in domestic disputes? Who will protect us all at parks, movie theaters, malls and other public gathering places? We all need more protection. But let’s also look at ways to prevent and reduce the shootings.

Further, though the shooter had some past problems with domestic incidents and shooting his gun into the trees in his back yard prompting complaints from neighbors to law enforcement, he was a legal purchaser of guns and did so from a licensed dealer. This is actually often the case. Legal gun owners are law abiding until suddenly they are not. The thing is, guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and a risk to families, friends, and innocent people if something goes awry. It only takes an instant for a gun to do the damage we saw and heard yesterday. That’s why guns are the weapon of choice when someone intends to do harm and go on a rampage.

And weapons like assault type rifles and semi-automatic pistols, intended for use in war but altered slightly for civilian use, are often the ones used in these kinds of rampages. There are no limits to how many of these Americans can buy, either with or without a background check and no limits as to how many rounds can be in a magazine. Shooters who plan ahead understand perfectly well that a lot of people can be shot and killed if they use an AR-15 or AK 47 or the like. There are so many shootings with these types of weapons in America that we just move on to the next shooting, knowing it will come.

Once upon a time we banned certain types of assault type rifles. It lasted 10 years before we had time to know if it made a difference. But since that time, we know for a fact that many of the banned weapons have been used to kill Americans.

But I digress. When will the next mass shooting come? Where will it come?  As to when it is important to note that so far there have been 154 mass shootings in 2017. Yes. It’s true. We can quibble about the definition of “mass”.  What difference does it make? Lots of people are dead or injured. There was another mass shooting just hours after the shooting at the baseball field in Alexandria. This one- a workplace shooting where an alleged UPS worker took out his anger and frustrations on some of his fellow workers at a UPS facility in San Francisco. 6 shot. 3 dead plus the shooter who shot himself as he was about to be apprehended. All in a day’s work in America.

As this article states, baseball and gun violence are as American as apple pie:

And gun violence is our national shame, as American as apple pie and, yes, baseball.

The Wednesday attack on the Republican team’s final practice before the game by a shooter reportedly armed with an assault rifle was a chilling reminder of the 2011 attempt on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ life, which left six dead and 13 wounded. It raises serious concerns about ensuring the security of our elected officials and their staff.

For many parents, such concerns are a part of everyday life. In communities across the country, parents cannot safely send their children to school, to parks or to baseball practice for fear of gunfire. (…)

While the epidemic of gun violence in this country and the maddening politics around the issue can make this feel like an intractable problem, nothing could be further from the truth. There is a growing body of research showing that states that have enacted common sense measures — such as universal background checks, limits on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and restricting gun access by domestic abusers — have significantly lower rates of gun violence than permissive states.  (…)

In addition to high levels of support for policies like universal background checks — support that is shared among Republicans and Democrats, gun owners and non-gun owners — a new poll conducted by Penn Schoen Berland found that 54% of voters feel there should be fewer guns in circulation in America’s neighborhoods.

Since the start of this baseball season, approximately 3,120 people have been killed with guns in this country — more than four times as many people as the active Major League Baseball roster. Perhaps, at long last, the bipartisan spirit of baseball that imbues the annual congressional game will stay with the members as they return to Capitol Hill, and they will finally take action to address this epidemic nationwide.

Is there hope that we can address the issue- a national pastime- shooting other people? It’s sick, warped, deadly, despicable and shameful that we haven’t yet even after the shooting of 20 six and seven year olds.

What makes sense is trying our hardest to make it harder for everyone to get guns instead of easier. This shooter had his problems but they didn’t get addressed as perhaps they should have been. He appeared to be angry over the last election. He had some prior domestic incidents which almost always point to future violent problems. He had been shooting off his gun in his yard at home until his neighbors reported him to law enforcement who told him he had to stop. Did anyone realize that this was a man who should not have had a gun in the first place?

What if a friend or relative had sensed rightly that he could be a danger to himself or others and asked law enforcement to take his guns away as is possible with Gun Violence Protection Orders?

What if violence begets violence and in America, people see guns as a way to “solve their problems” rather than a final solution that takes the lives of loved ones, innocent people, sometimes themselves, and causes devastation to many?

Some say we can’t talk about gun violence after a terrible incident of gun violence. Why not? That is the time to talk about it. Some want our voices to be silent until……?  Every day 90 Americans die from gun violence due to suicide, homicide and “accidental” shootings. The corporate gun lobby and its’ lapdogs in elected office want us to be silent and not bring up the obvious. We have a public health epidemic and a serious problem with gun violence in America. Our voices will not be silenced. We will follow Gabby’s lead and be courageous and demand changes to gun laws, to the gun culture and to the conversation we cannot avoid.

I have volunteered with the Brady Campaign and Protect Minnesota for many years now.  Most of us have seen it all and tried everything and anything to make a dent in the resistance to doing the right thing. The meme above says it all though. At the very least we ought to be able to go to baseball practice, to school, to work, a movie or shopping without fear that someone who feels angry, vindictive, is seriously mentally ill, etc. gets his or her hands on a gun and massacres innocent Americans. We ought to know that a child will not have access to a loaded gun and shoot someone or him/herself. We ought to be able to make it much harder for our teens or older citizens to take their own lives and leave behind the grief and devastation for their survivors.

We ought to be safe from gun violence. We ought not to live in fear of gun violence wherever we gather or even in our homes. What’s happening in America is backwards. We are not doing nearly enough to keep Americans safe in their communities.

#Enough.

Gun lobby distractions

Motivational speechThis post has been edited to update it since it was first posted.

 

Ever since Donald Trump was elected, chaos and distractions have been the rule and the name of the “game.” Lies, tweets, providing false news stories, ignoring or denying some very real dangers to our democracy from the Russian interference in our election, National Security Advisor fired, failed immigration orders, failed health care plan, etc. Not one department or policy area has been left alone. The long tentacles of those in absolute power are reaching far and wide. Gun policy is no exception. Licking their chops, the corporate gun lobby has pursued with some success an agenda that includes getting more guns into the hands of more people in more places. On the face of it, you have to wonder why anyone would want this. It makes no common sense that as a culture and civilized society we would choose to have loaded guns everywhere carried by just about anyone.

Executive VP of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre knows the rules well. He once said this and he meant it:

No Wayne. You made up the rules. This is not how Americans want our gun culture and our gun policy to be.

It seems to be of utmost importance to a minority of Americans who make claims that the second amendment gives them a right to do whatever they want with their guns because…. inalienable rights to own a gun.

Let’s talk a minute about rights. What are they? Is the meaning of the word clear to us all? I took a look at this Wikipedia article about the word rights:

There is considerable disagreement about what is meant precisely by the term rights. It has been used by different groups and thinkers for different purposes, with different and sometimes opposing definitions, and the precise definition of this principle, beyond having something to do with normative rules of some sort or another, is controversial.

And herein lies a basic problem with the arguments over gun rights. The several sides of the issue of gun rights and gun violence prevention would meet in the middle of the issue because that is where the majority stands and has stood for decades at least. In the interest of saving lives, the two sides approach it from different angles. One side, the majority, believes that people can have rights to own their guns but those rights come with responsibilities and common sense. The other side, claiming rights to the same life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness believes that that includes owning and carrying guns in order to protect their rights and lives.

Unfortunately for the one side, gun deaths are not decreasing and instead are staying the same year to year or increasing. More guns in more places carried and owned by more people who should not have them has not made us a safer nation. Those are facts. In states with more gun ownership and weaker gun laws, gun deaths are higher than in others on average. From the report from the Violence Policy Center:

“Year after year, the evidence is clear that states with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death,” says VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “States with strong gun violence prevention laws consistently have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. In states with weak gun laws and easy availability of guns, the rates of death by gunfire are far higher.”

The nationwide gun death rate in 2014 was 10.54. The total number of Americans killed by gunfire dipped to 33,599 in 2014 from 33,636 in 2013.

America’s gun death rates — both nationwide and in the states — dwarf those of other industrialized nations. The gun death rate in the United Kingdom was 0.23 per 100,000 in 2011, and in Australia the gun death rate was 0.93 per 100,000 in 2013. (These are the most recent years for which data is available. Data for these countries is available at GunPolicy.org, hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.)

State gun death rates are calculated by dividing the number of gun deaths by the total state population and multiplying the result by 100,000 to obtain the rate per 100,000, which is the standard and accepted method for comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

Another report from the Violence Policy Center about the impacts of gun violence:

VPC research finds that in 2014, gun deaths even outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline thanks to proven public-health based injury prevention strategies informed by consumer product safety regulation standards designed to reduce death and injury.

To reduce the toll of gun violence in America, a similar public health approach is urgently needed. Today, guns are the only consumer products in the United States that do not have to meet federal health and safety standards. The federal government should regulate firearms for health and safety just like any other consumer product.

I met with a young man last week who had attended a meeting at which I spoke in January. He was interested in the issue of gun violence prevention from the point of view of a gun owner who agrees with background checks on all gun sales and other reasonable  measures. Several people he knows and even relatives have died in hunting accidents and gun suicides. He did not think of these as gun violence but has changed his thinking and understands that his involvement would be instructive for the cause of gun violence prevention.

On the same day as this man attended one of the Protect Minnesota trainings he also attended a conceal carry permit class. His take? He never wants to carry a gun. When the permit trainer and a lawyer explained the responsibility of a gun carrier if they decide to aim their gun at someone or actually shoot someone, he determined that that was not for him.

This gun owner does not see things as black and white but rather he sees the world from the point of view of someone who likes to hunt and own guns but understands that his rights are limited in the interest of public safety.

But some do see this as black and white and getting their way. A recent article from The Trace does a good job of outlining why the gun absolutists want to trample on the rights of the rest of us to be safe:

“We’re the Trumps,” he said. “We’re the grassroots.”

Like President Trump and his top advisor, Stephen Bannon, constitutional-carry activists are unconcerned by any wider distress their agenda may cause. Like the new White House, they see the trampling of existing norms as the removal of obstacles.

“Once you cross over this PC concept,”  Harris said, “then you have an enormous number of issues that come out of the gate.”

Those issues include the abolition of gun-free zones in schools, and deregulation of tightly controlled weapons categories, like suppressors and machine guns, which have been subject to strict laws for nearly a century. Rather than a drastic break with current public safety standards, he said, such changes would merely represent government “getting back on sound fundamental principles.”

This sums it up. Like Trump and his extreme advisors who want to disrupt just about everything our country has done or stood for in the last few decades, these gun absolutists want their way no matter what. No matter the lives lost as a result. No matter that public safety will be in danger. No matter that the majority of Americans don’t want what they want. No matter that over 32,000 Americans die every year from gunshot injuries. No matter that about 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries in gun suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun discharges.

No matter common sense.

This is where we are now. No compromising. No discussion. Executive orders or bills passed with no hearings, no expert testimony, no input from citizens. Just pass things and get your way no matter whose rights you trample or what process you didn’t follow.

People identified with severe mental illness and can’t manage their affairs can now purchase guns. People who don’t have permits to carry loaded guns around in public being able to carry everywhere and anywhere. Does any of this make any sense even with rights?

The answer, of course, is NO.

We are being distracted from the gun violence epidemic before us that we can actually address with strong gun policy and good research about the causes and effects of gun violence. We are being distracted by the agenda of the gun absolutists whose view of the world and the gun culture is far different from what Americans actually want and need.

Here is a great article from Peter Ambler of Americans for Responsible Solutions about the need for research and understanding the risks of owning guns:

It’s time for Congress to stop serving at the will of the gun lobby and to start providing the resources our institutions of public health need to understand our country’s gun violence epidemic so that we can do something about it.

Gun violence robs communities of their leaders, schools of their students, and families of their loved ones. We know that if we gave our scientists and researchers the opportunity, they would produce results. How much longer will we have to wait before we let them try?

That is what we should be talking about now.

With their very own nominee , Neil Gorsuch, about to take the oath of office for the next Supreme Court Justice, the gun lobby and gun abolutists must be feeling jubilant at getting their way once again. Time will tell if that works out for the absolutists.

Meanwhile, we need to work on the real problems and not the solutions looking for a problem.

We are better than this.

Let’s get to work. Join an organization that is working on gun violence prevention and gun safety reform. Listen to the facts and act when you see that your voices are not being heard. Make noise. Speak up. Stand up for the victims and their families and friends and ask your elected leaders to do the same. Ask them to hear the real stories of victims.

Just as Trump seemed to have changed his mind about his policy in Syria after seeing the photos and videos of children strangled after exposure to serin gas, show your leaders photos of those whose lives were lost to senseless gun violence. Here is my photo (of my sister who was shot in a domestic related shooting incident by her estranged husband):

photo of Barbara