Gun stories in newspaper headlines

Breaking News Shows At This Time And InfoAs I was reading my local newspaper on-line  yesterday, 2 headlines caught my attention.

The first is a veteran’s story- one of many involving veterans with PTSD and guns. From the story:

 

The former National Guard soldier and Iraq War veteran shot and killed his father, Rick Defiel, on June 1, 2016, in the family’s home in Fergus Falls, Minn.

He was found not guilty due to mental deficiency and was committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital as mentally ill and dangerous.

Defiel spoke to a reporter as he explained why he shot and killed his father. His claim is that he killed his own father in self defense. But his family members say otherwise:

She said Dustin had a psychotic break caused by untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, and only God knows what’s in his mind.

“This is his truth,” Tammy Defiel said. “It’s just not the truth.”

This is a hard story for me. My brother, a Viet Nam veteran, has PTSD along with many other health problems, some of which are service related. I know that PTSD is very real and his sometimes delusional reactions to things around him make it difficult to ascertain what is real and what isn’t. But further, veterans with PTSD should not be around guns. The reporter said that the shooter “found” a gun.

Looking for protection, Defiel found a gun. He opened the door and saw his dad on the bed, yelling and swearing.

“I pointed the gun and shot. He started to get up, so I pointed the gun and shot again. I shot him twice,” Defiel said, to keep his dad from coming after him.

Defiel said he went into “military mode,” feeling his life was in danger.

Here is the story as reported at the time of the shooting. It was a “high powered rifle” used in the shooting and the story in the linked article does not fit with the shooter’s story. From this story about the shooting:

Steven Kalenberg, the fiancé of Dustin’s sister, told authorities that the family has been terrified of Dustin Defiel. At one time, Ricardo Defiel had firearms in the house, but removed them because of Dustin. Kalenberg also said Dustin’s brother and sister were so afraid of him that they did not give out their home addresses or telephone numbers and had limited contact with him.

An investigator who spoke to Defiel shortly before midnight Wednesday found him calm and emotionless.

Defiel, according to court records and media accounts, has had run-ins with the law for theft, drunken driving and violation of a restraining order. He was the subject of several civil commitment hearings. He was arrested by West Fargo police in September of 2014 after a woman noticed him peeking into garages in her neighborhood.

The family wisely removed firearms from their home. But the shooter had one anyway in spite of his arrests and his psychotic break.

There are people who should not have guns, period. And why anyone “needs” an AR-15 ostensibly for self defense is beyond me and most of the American public.

The second story is of a local man who was sentenced for firing off off 36 rounds with an assault style rifle- yes I said 36 rounds- in an attempt to kill his wife. How did he not succeed? From the story:

Rusty George Kallis, 41, of Proctor pleaded guilty in December to a charge of attempted premeditated first-degree murder. He admitted that he threatened his girlfriend and two children with the firearm before firing off more than three-dozen rounds at the woman, missing her but striking a house across the street, and later pointing the weapon at a neighbor.

Kallis was facing trial on 10 felony charges, with jury selection entering its second day, when he entered the plea on Dec. 13.

And yet another man who should not have had a gun got his hands on a gun anyway. All were lucky that no one is dead as a result of this man’s anger. Anger and guns don’t mix.

Guns are readily available to just about anyone in America.

Many of the nation’s homicides are due to domestic disputes. This one I know because of my own sister’s shooting in a domestic dispute.

From the article:

In all, an average of at least 760 Americans are shot to death by current or former partners each year, a 2016 Associated Press analysis of national and state law enforcement data found. These numbers are probably an undercount, since not all agencies provide data. Nearly 75% of the victims in domestic violence shootings are the current wives or girlfriends of the men who killed them, the Associated Press found. Shooting deaths of men are much less frequent.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If we required Brady background checks on all gun sales, require safe storage of guns to avoid them being stolen or found by someone who could be dangerous to themselves or others, strengthen straw purchasing laws and pass Gun Violence Protective Orders or Extreme Risk Protective Orders, we could prevent some shootings.

And if we are not even interested in preventing at least some of our nation’s daily shootings, we are not doing the job of protecting our families.

What we need is a whole lot of common sense and the courage to take on one of our nation’s worst public health epidemics.

What I read in one edition of a local paper is just the tip of the iceberg. These stories often don’t grab the attention of the public or the media because they have become so common place that we just read and move on. But real people’s lives are affected by these every day shootings. A veteran with PTSD tells his story. But his family, telling a different story, now suffers from their own PTSD after losing a loved one to bullets. The family who was terrorized by an angry man with an AR-15 was lucky to get out alive. But they will never forget the horror of the day a man with a gun threatened to kill them.

It is not acceptable to think there is nothing that can be done to stop shootings. That is what the corporate gun lobby would have you believe.

They are wrong.

Many of our daily shootings are not “breaking news”. They are buried amidst many other stories. But they are breaking news to the families who are involved. And they break the hearts of way too many people every day.

It is #NotNormal and not inevitable that we read headlines about shootings in our local newspapers all over our country.

We are better than this and we have had #Enough.

 

 

Profiles in cowardice

cowardiceIt all started when President Trump was elected- actually during the 2016 campaign. It seemed that some of our own leaders had no courage in challenging a man who was obviously and clearly not fit to lead our country. Is it too late for us to correct our terrible mistake after just one year? We will see who has courage and who does not.

The past week has brought us to a new low in American democracy. Our beliefs are being challenged. Our moral courage is being challenged by a man who is unfit to lead us.

I want to talk about how lies and misinformation are leading us to a dangerous and unsafe place.

It turns out that science is actually important to the well being of the world. So is research based evidence about just about everything. In my neck of the woods, the flu epidemic is ramping up and people are getting sick. Unfortunately influenza can cause death. It has and it does. In 1918 it took the lives of millions of people around the world. Warnings are being issued that we would not be prepared for such an epidemic now if it occurred. Are we not a country and a world that sent people to the moon, built a space station, has made huge advances in cures for diseases and in technology and other such forward moving ideas?

I found this article about the influenza season and in general about what it might take to keep us safer from a possible pandemic. Note this from the article:

Washington, at the moment, is not particularly interested in science. Research budgets have been slashed, and more cuts are coming. The government spent only $75 million last year on flu vaccine research. The White House is not interested in developing a universal vaccine, the best solution if an animal flu virus infects humans and then goes viral.

Many are worried. Michael Osterholm, professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and Mark Olshaker, a documentary filmmaker who with Osterholm wrote “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs,” recently sounded a full-throated alarm in the New York Times.

“We are not prepared,” they said. “Our current vaccines are based on 1940s research. Deploying them against a severe global pandemic would be equivalent to trying to stop an advancing battle tank with a single rifle.”

Sigh.

We live in a modern world and country where our very own President and his minions have dumbed down vital government agencies by appointing those who know nothing about the departments they lead. Worse yet, they want to destroy the very departments they lead. (See Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others).

Cutting funding to departments is a trick of those who hate the government. That is the case today. Anti-science sentiment could kill us- and it does.

I am currently reading Dan Brown’s latest book, Origin. One of the main characters reveals some evidence to the world that would shake up the religious leaders and espouse supposed science over religion.

It’s a fascinating read and makes one have to think about what is possible ( or impossible) based on real science and research. Edmond Kirsch, the main protagonist,  revealed his research (posthumously) and his supposed evidence that the world as we know it would end in 50 years.

It’s science based on one person’s tenuous research. It challenges what we know and what we don’t know. But in the end, facts win out. It’s fictional, thank goodness.

So where am I going with this?  Simple. What we need is common sense which is sadly and tragically lacking in the current state of an administration bent on using its’ own #fakenews to attack what they believe is #fakenews. We have a President who lies with every word he says. We have a cover-up by otherwise supposedly intelligent leaders who are supposed to protect us by acting with integrity if something goes awry.

Instead, they are making us less safe by aiding and abetting an administration that will surely implode over its’ own insanity and constant lying and offensive behavior.

Research is important. Facts are important. Science is important. Facts matter.

Since the beginning of this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, 436 Americans have died from gun homicides or “accidents” including 72 children and teens shot and killed or injured. Those are facts. Denying those facts are the corporate gun lobby and some conspiracy theorists, supported by an unstable “genius” sitting in the White House, paid for in part by the corporate gun lobby.

That same corporate gun lobby is making sure that the ATF is underfunded and understaffed so that it can’t do a proper job of monitoring gun stores, gun sales and gun shows in order to make sure there are not bad apple gun dealers selling guns to those who can’t own them. That same corporate gun lobby has made sure that the Centers for Disease Control does not get funding for research about gun violence.

As I have written about previously, there are conspiracy theorists ( one Alex Jones, friend of our President) who claim that mass shootings have not actually happened. And to make matters worse, the NRA foments fear and paranoia in order to encourage loosening gun laws, keep their own power and influence and make sure profits are good for the gun industry. According to the above linked article:

“We’re seeing the rise of a new NRA,” says Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor whose latest book, Gunfight, chronicles the battle over gun rights. “It’s long been committed to a die-hard approach to gun policy; they focused like a laser beam on Second Amendment issues. Now it’s focused on immigration, race, health care. We’re seeing the NRA become an extreme right-wing media outlet, not just a protector of guns.”

Immigration and race are the President’s new focus for his lunatic tweeting now causing a big stir all over the country ( except from the Republicans in Congress and leadership).

Denying real facts and underfunding agencies who are in place because one of governments’ most important work is to protect us from harm of any sort. It should be alarming to us all ( but isn’t to far too many) that this is the way we are going– backwards instead of foreword. It’s downright frightening.

This week has unmasked and revealed the truths that the majority of Americans have known since before our current President was elected. He is not interested in protecting us. He is actually interested in himself. With his unwitting or perhaps cynical lack of the truth and information, he is taking us to a place from which I hope we can dig out.

Lying about everything is taking us backwards and dumbing down the office of the most powerful person in the world. The circling of the wagons in order to win elections is an act of cowardice and cynicism that we haven’t seen ever in America. The list of offenses and behavior by our President is endless but here are just a few:

Attacks on immigrants of color;  outright lying about the outcomes of “tax reform”;  FISA kerfuffle; loosening gun laws and refusing to pass gun policy that is vital to public health and safety; health care debacle; attacking the intelligence and security community; nominating totally unqualified judicial nominees for political gain; attacks on current federal judges for ruling against him; firing the FBI director out of fear of the Russia probe; calling opponents demeaning names; depleting important departments that need to be staffed and funded; proposing off-shore oil drilling ( except in the state that hosts the “winter White House”; outright racism; firing scientists in agencies that rely on scientific research; bating a lunatic North Korean leader; unfounded attacks on the media; proclaiming that his “button” is bigger than the other guy’s “button”; lying about President Obama’s citizenship; claiming that White Supremacists were nice people during Charlottesville racist protests; blaming President Obama as reason for canceling London trip; fomenting about Hillary Clinton more than a year after the 2017 election; obsessing about “collusion” and potentially refusing to meet with the Special Prosecutor; denying that Russian influence in our election may have led to a flawed election and then doing nothing about it to protect the integrity of our democracy.

In a meeting with a few leaders working on a compromise on immigration and DACA, our President demeaned and attacked citizens of Africa and Haiti by using the word “shitholes” to describe where they live and said that he didn’t want Haitians here. Did he remember that today is the 8th anniversary of the earthquake there that killed 300,000 people and left others to leave for a better place to live?

What I have heard today about the President’s words are the following adjectives:

abhorrent….despicable…disgusting…vile…offensive…undignified…unPresidential…repugnant…appalling…outrageous…vulgar…racist…paranoid…lying…profane…deplorable…(Speaker Paul Ryan used the weak word- unhelpful)…lunatic…ridiculous…and many more.

Where are the voices of common sense? Where are the Republicans? They are making apologies for an unhinged President whose tweets are making us less safe and calling attention to his lack of decorum, curiosity, morality, intellectual reasoning, filters, social skills, and understanding of consequences to name just a few.

And the worst of all of this is that he is getting away with it, thanks to the acts of cowardice exhibited by those in his own party, cowering in front of the Emperor who is actually wearing clothes that they can’t see.

Yes, he is an unusual President. That is the least of our worries.

And because this is a blog about the issue of gun violence I will end with just one more of the many incidents that point to the reason we need to educate the public about how easy it is for kids and teens to access guns they should not have and use them either on intentionally or not to harm others.

In St. Paul, Minnesota, some teens were riding around in a car when one of them was shot. They lied about what happened but they didn’t get away with it. The bullet was shot from the back seat of the car by one of the teens who injured another.

Teens should not have access to guns. But they do because we have failed our own children about how risky gun ownership can be. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. We are failing to keep our children safe from senseless injury and death.

This is not normal or inevitable. This is insanity itself. Because we are ignoring science, research and common sense, innocent Americans are dying and being wounded by bullets every day in numbers that are epidemic. Ignore it at our peril.

We must insist on research and science if we care about our children and grandchildren. The fact that some are preventing us from understanding and knowing the truth is an American tragedy.

We can hide but we can’t escape the consequences of purposeful and cynical lying and obsequious behavior by our very own elected leaders. This must change for the future of our country. We are now dangerously close to living in a country described in the novel 1984

Intolerance of “others” and hatred and racism has caused enough trouble in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of hate groups and the numbers are not reassuring given the current atmosphere. Unfortunately for us, our own President is fomenting this and more to others who feel the same way. The most frightening thing about this is that many in his base are the gun rights extremists who may just act out their own fear and paranoia if it’s continuation by our nation’s leader and the gun extremists amongst us is allowed.

Guns and hate never go together. Guns and anger never go together. Guns and intolerance of others never go together. Guns and fear and paranoia never go together.

Stand up and show some courage Republicans. Where are you? You are a profile in cowardice.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

Because this editorial in the Star Tribune is so relevant to what I wrote, I am including it in my post:

Trump’s latest “hate-filled things” have already reverberated internationally. In just a few examples, a spokesperson for the African Union told the Associated Press, “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.” Botswana’s government called Trump’s comments “reprehensible and racist.” And South Africa’s opposition leader added that “the hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent.”

The slight against Africans comes at a time when China, America’s chief geopolitical rival, is making great inroads by investing in — and respecting — numerous nations on the continent. Trump’s comments only make the job harder for America’s already beleaguered diplomats.

How much longer can our democracy withstand the leadership of a man unfit to be in the office of leader of the free world?

Abrogation of duty

Card File with Inscription High Priority.Our priorities are all screwed up. I could use another word here because that is how I really feel.

It turns out that the Department of Defense has been abrogating their duty when it comes to sending the names of military members who have become prohibited gun purchasers to the FBI’s instant check system. And Congress has been sitting on their butts doing nothing about the increase in gun deaths in America. So 3 cities decided to take matters into their own hands by suing the Department of Defense. That seems to be the way things get done in this country. Rather than doing what makes common sense our leaders are waiting for an order from on high ( NRA and Wayne LaPierre) before they can do the right thing for public health and safety.

From the article:

New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia said in court papers that the military’s broken system for relaying such information helped spur the massacre of 26 people inside a Texas church last month.

“This failure on behalf of the Department of Defense has led to the loss of innocent lives by putting guns in the hands of criminals and those who wish to cause immeasurable harm,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “New York City is joining Philadelphia and San Francisco to stand up to the Department of Defense and demand they comply with the law and repair their drastically flawed system.” (…)

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va., seeks an injunction and judicial oversight to ensure ongoing compliance with the Defense Department’s obligation to submit records.(…)

Earlier this month, the Pentagon’s watchdog agency said it found a “troubling” number of failures this year by the military services to alert the FBI to criminal history information. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of the FBI database.

Troubling? Tragic.

There is no reason why insisting that the military branches send these records to the database so people can be denied gun purchases should be a problem. It would only be enacting laws already on the books. This is not an issue of the second amendment or gun rights. Yet, somehow it feels like it might be. It really is past time to do what’s right for the American people. 26 people were killed in Sutherland, Texas while attending church one day in early November. If the military had followed the rules and sent the criminal records of the shooter to the FBI database, it is likely the shooting would not have happened. But then again, there is that gap in the law that would have allowed the shooter to go to a gun show or on-line site to buy guns with no Brady background check. But we can’t go there.

If we don’t go there, we can expect the carnage to continue. If one of your family members or friends had been shot by someone who could have been stopped, you would be pretty angry. Congress should be angry. Are they? There is no evidence that they are. Mass shooting after mass shooting continue unabated with no action from our leaders. it is an American tragedy and a refusal of Congress to keep us safe from harm. Where does it say anywhere that people have a right to shoot other people with no reason? I haven’t seen that anywhere.

And can someone please tell me why the totally reasonable common sense legislation to ban bump stocks after the Las Vegas shooting didn’t go anywhere?

Only Congress can explain this. Please ask them to do so.

More than troubling. Total abrogation of a duty to keep us safe from harm.

Shameful.

There have been 340 mass shootings this year according to the Gun Violence Archive, unless another few occur in the next few days.

Where does this stop?

Remember the dangerous “default proceed” written into the FBI system when the Brady Law was enacted? The victims and survivors of the Charleston church shooting do. This is another abrogation of our duty to protect people from harm.

Thanks NRA.

The NRA tried to excuse this loophole by claiming it was a “safety valve”. For whom? This is beyond crazy ( see below).

Every day shooting after every day shooting continue unabated. Even on Christmas. This Arizona woman is now dead as are both of her children thanks to her ex-husband and a gun he obtained.:

A 38-year old woman and her two children were killed and a police officer was injured in Christmas Day shootings at a Phoenix apartment complex.

Anthony Milan Ross, 45, the woman’s estranged spouse and the father of the children, was taken into custody shortly after 10 p.m. Monday after exchanging fire with officers after a six-hour standoff, Phoenix police said Tuesday. Ross did not appear to be injured.

Happy Christmas.

What a nice way to spend Christmas for the neighbors of the woman as they waited for the end of the stand-off:

“It’s beyond crazy,” resident Gibson Daoud said. “It’s as sh–ty as it can get on Christmas Day.”

For hours, residents and visitors inside the complex were not allowed to leave and those waiting to return to their homes were not allowed in.

Power was cut to the complex about 7:30 p.m., and residents near the gunman’s apartment were escorted out by police SWAT team members.

Yes, “it’s beyond crazy.” Every day we let this happen is beyond crazy.
Our gun culture is beyond crazy. Thank you to Women Against Gun Violence Facebook page for this information:
more guns than cars
It doesn’t have to be this way. But this is the gun culture we have. There is no question that we can make simple and even difficult changes if we really care more about saving lives than making profits off of the sale of guns. Remember that guns are the only product designed to kill people and also the only product not regulated for safety by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The way things are going in America, that will likely change as the Trump administration de-regulates everything.
There are regulations for a reason. Our public health and safety should be at the top of the list of responsibilities for our leaders. Excuse me for being cynical that this is the case. The very least we can do is to follow the laws on the books to save a few lives here and there. If that life is someone you know or love, that would be of the utmost importance to you.
2018 is around the corner. If there is any logic at all, we should make a pledge to work together to save lives and reduce and prevent gun violence. Demand that our Congress members get a spine and stand up for what is right. Preventing the public health epidemic of gun violence should be a top priority for our leaders. If it is not, they should be looking for a new line of work.

Arm anyone

armed manWhile important things are going on in Congress concerning national security, raising taxes on the middle class, a President re-tweeting a white supremacist UK site with fake videos about muslims attacking others, they found time to mark up a bill to allow anyone to carry loaded guns in public.

You can’t make this stuff up. But in today’s political atmosphere, absolutely everything is turned inside out and left is right, up is down. You would be right if you think this is lunacy.

There is no reason for HR 38 to become law except that the corporate gun lobby wants it and their lapdog politicians are all too willing to bow down and acquiesce. The bill is stupid and dangerous. The Law Enforcement Partnership To Prevent Gun Violence is against it:

The complete lack of consistent training standards, the different standards for identifying individuals that are too dangerous to carry, the uncertainty of a document’s validity, and the exposure of agencies and police officers to civil liability create unacceptable risks to our nation’s 900,000 police officers and the public at large. We reject the idea that one state’s approach to carrying a concealed firearm will work across the country. States and localities should maintain their rights to legislate concealed carry laws that best meet the needs of their citizens. The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence urges you to respect and defend state laws while protecting and supporting our nation’s police officers by opposing H.R. 38 and S. 446. Thank you for your support.

Most Americans are against it.

But never mind the majority.

It should be noted that the corporate gun lobby ( NRA, etc,) want this to happen soon just in case the Republicans lose their power. And after the news of the past few days, that may happen sooner rather than later. So many incidents, tweets, statements and policies are making America dangerous again. The gun death rate has increased over the past few years so now over 100 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. This is due to more guns everywhere. More guns are making us less safe. There are more guns on our streets thanks to stolen guns, trafficking, purchasing without background checks and straw purchasing. I wrote about recent reports of stolen guns in my last post.

Facts matter. We have a President who lies to us every day- sometimes several times a day. The gun lobby is lying to us as well. And the very sad and tragic thing is that many in Congress believe it. Apparently 2 of the nation’s worst mass shootings occurring in the last few months does not faze them. They don’t seem to care about victims.

Where is common sense?

Let’s take a look at H.R. 38 for a minute. You can watch the hearing on the bill here. During the hearing, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee unbelievably said that people with violent misdemeanors are “law abiding”. This means that those folks, though not felons and technically not prohibited purchasers should be allowed to carry loaded guns in public.

After 6 hours of discussion, the hearing ended with the committee voting in favor of the bill on a party line vote. In spite of any common sense arguments about public safety being at risk, the NRA bought and paid for politicians voted for yet another dangerous bill.

Now tell me that allowing people with no permit or training to carry guns wherever they want to is a great idea. One of the arguments from the gun lobby is that people don’t need permits to carry because, they say, you have to pass a background check to get the gun you will be carrying around with you loaded in public. That is totally false. We know that crime guns come from many places- one is from private sales on-line or at gun shows. Others come from stealing guns and some from straw purchases. Some of these aforementioned guns are trafficked. It’s easy to get a gun with no background check.

Concealed carry permit holders actually do kill people as this site from the Violence Policy Center shows clearly. Since 2007 when the VPC started keeping track, 1119 people have been killed by permit holders and 31 mass shootings have been committed by gun permit holders. That should be reason enough to kill this bill.

So now, if Congress passes the Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill, people with violent misdemeanors, those adjudicated mentally ill, domestic abusers and others who shouldn’t have guns in the first place can carry where you are.

We can expect an assault on public safety and we definitely will not be a safer nation.

What in the world are they thinking? Not about public health and safety.

Follow the money and power for the answer.

It’s not too late to contact your Representative and Senators to oppose this craziness. Please make some calls in the name of the victims of gun violence.

We are better than this.

 

Constant carnage

PrintI must give credit to my friend Kandi for this phrase. She messaged me about a toddler shot and injured in St. Cloud, Minnesota. What the heck? A toddler. But yes, constant carnage and it’s just another day.

From the article:

 

Through investigation, police say it appears the shooting was accidental due to negligent storage of a firearm. Authorities said they believe the child accidentally shot himself with a loaded firearm that was within his reach. The boy is still hospitalized in stable condition.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This adult had a felony conviction on his record. He can’t own guns legally. But he had one anyway and allowed access to it by his toddler child.

Just another day in America.

Where is common sense?

Toddlers cannot be responsible enough to handle guns, period. (see story above) In my neighboring state of Wisconsin ( I can see it from my windows) toddlers can now hunt. What could possibly go wrong?

In Northern California, a gunman shot up people at 7 crime scenes, ending at an elementary school, where he injured 2 children. At the end of this spree ( mass) shooting, 5 were dead and 10 injured. It barely made the news. Why? Maybe because only 4 died?

From the article:

“I really don’t know what his motive was,” Mr. Johnston said. “I think he was just on a rampage. I think he had a desire to kill as many people as he could.” (…)

Mr. Johnston said that investigators had reviewed video from the school’s security system that showed the gunman walking the hallways and entering a restroom, but appearing to get frustrated that the classroom doors were locked.

The school went on lockdown at the sound of gunfire, Mr. Johnston said.

“We would have had a horrific blood bath in that school if that school hadn’t taken the action when they did,” he said.

The alarming thing here is that the man manufactured his own assault weapons at home. How? Here’s how:

The AK-47, perhaps the world’s best-known gun, is so easy to make and so hard to break that the Soviet-designed original has spawned countless variants, updated and modified versions churned out by factories all over the globe. Although US customs laws ban importing the weapons, parts kits—which include most original components of a Kalashnikov variant—are legal. So is reassembling them, as long as no more than 10 foreign-made components are used and they are mounted on a new receiver, the box-shaped central frame that holds the gun’s key mechanics. There are no fussy irritations like, say, passing a background check to buy a kit. And because we’re assembling the guns for our own “personal use,” whatever that may entail, we’re not required to stamp in serial numbers. These rifles are totally untraceable, and even under California’s stringent assault weapons ban, that’s perfectly within the law.

This is lunacy. Time to pass laws to make this illegal.

The shooting in California started with a shooting of the man’s wife. Too often mass shootings are the result of domestic violence that lead to anger and the shooter takes it out on innocent Americans.

And to make matters even more ridiculous, our very own President tweeted condolences to the wrong community after the shooting in California. Either there are so many mass shootings of late that he can’t keep track of them or he is being his usual uninformed and hopelessly unprepared for his job. From the article:

Mr. Trump’s Twitter response, which has since been deleted from his account but is timestamped at 11:34 p.m. on November 14, mentioned another mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which occurred on November 5, killing 26 people and injuring 20 more.

“May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and Law Enforcement has arrived,” Mr. Trump wrote in the tweet, offering thoughts and prayers to the wrong town.

dorsybtvwaayaif.jpg

I thought that his tweets were part of the official Presidential record. Can he delete these lies and misinformation? That is a huge problem right now. The misinformation about shootings and gun policy are ubiquitous in the public sphere. Just take for example the usual talking point from the far right extremists that since California is a liberal state with strong gun laws, how does a shooting like this happen? Remember that the shooter made his own guns. And further, many of the guns used in crimes in California come from other states where gun laws are much weaker. In spite of that, California’s gun death rate is lower than in most other states.

But never mind the facts. And these are the folks, and the President, who love to accuse others of #fakenews. The hypocrisy is hard to stomach.

We have passed laws to keep guns away from domestic abusers but there are ways to get around it and there are too many loopholes that allow these angry folks to buy ( or manufacture) guns anyway. Too often someone in their lives know that they are potentially dangerous with guns. We could pass Gun Violence Protection Orders to make it harder for them to have guns. Will we?

We could save lives and prevent shootings.

On the political front, we will have 2 new Democratic governors who spoke openly about their support for gun violence prevention measures. And they won- not by a small margin. Talking about guns works. The public found that issue to be one of their top issues. Finally.

No need to be afraid to talk about gun violence. How can it be avoided when the constant carnage is killing so many people that soon enough all of us will know someone who has been shot.

We can actually do something about all of this. The public does understand that which is why they voted for candidates who spoke out about solutions. As a public health issue, gun violence needs a cure. The American Medical Association is becoming more concerned about deaths and injuries due to gunshots as well they should. In a new article, the Journal of the American Medical Association writes that physicians should treat gun violence like a public health problem and look for the cause of it like in other illnesses:

Guns kill people. More background checks; more hotel, school, and venue security; more restrictions on the number and types of guns that individuals can own; and development of “smart guns” may help decrease firearm violence. But the key to reducing firearm deaths in the United States is to understand and reduce exposure to the cause, just like in any epidemic, and in this case that is guns.

The constant gushing of gun deaths has hollowed out a huge hole in America. Every day, toddlers shot with a gun found in the home. Every day, women killed by abusers. Every day, guns used in suicides. Every day, every day, every day, every day………..

This column by conservative columnist David Frum opines on actions taken in America after all of the mass shootings. It is not what you would think is common sense:

So it’s not at all true that “nothing changes.” In fact, a remarkable research paper published in 2016 by Harvard’s Michael Luca, Deepak Malhotra, and Christopher Poliquin found that between 1989 and 2014, the most probable policy response to a mass shooting was a loosening of gun laws. (…)

This may explain why gun advocates insist that the immediate aftermath of a spectacular massacre is “too soon” for the gun discussion. They want the pain and grief and fear to ebb. They want ordinary citizens to look away. Then, when things are quiet, the gun advocates will go to work, to bring more guns to places where alcohol is served, where children are cared for, where students are taught, where God is worshipped. More killings bring more guns. More guns do more killing. It’s a cycle the nation has endured for a long time, and there is little reason to hope that the atrocity in Las Vegas will check or reverse it.

Ordinary citizens cannot look away. They must be noisy and insistent that our gun laws are strengthened, not loosened.

This is a moment in time that can make a difference. The constant carnage is digging a deep hole in our collective memories and day to day lives. Stay constant in the demands to act to prevent gun deaths and injuries.

And to our elected leaders, we must demand that they represent the vast majority of Americans ( almost 100%!) who support requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales and strongly support many other common sense measures to end the carnage. This Quinnipiac poll is stunning in that it reveals the truth about how our leaders have failed us:

That marks the highest level of support since Quinnipiac first asked the question in February 2013 in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.

Let’s get to work and do what almost all Americans know is the right thing to do.

The corporate gun lobby should not be calling the “shots”.

As I write this,  Senators Chris Murphy and John Cornyn are working on a bill that would fix some of the problems in our background check system that allowed the shooter at the Texas church to get a gun he shouldn’t have had. I’m all for it.It’s a fix around the margins but it’s a fix. It’s so interesting that when a shooting happens in a Senator’s state, he/she is under pressure to act ( Senator John Cornyn). Wouldn’t it be great if all Senators wanted to act whether the shooting happened in their state or another of our 50 states because they do, of course.

The constant carnage is killing us.

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.