What’s happening in gun world?

Woman with dog and diplomaThe responses to the student-led movement after the Parkland shooting are occurring around the country. Some are positive, some are negative.The arrogance and ramped up fear of the students and those who support them has been a thing. The students are not done yet as events are planned for April 20th for another walkout on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. 

Let’s review just a few of the things that have been going on gun world:

An Illinois town passed a law limiting certain military assault style rifles:

 

The ordinance states, “The possession, manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the Village of Deerfield is not reasonably necessary to protect an individual’s right of self-defense or the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.”

So, beginning June 13, banned assault weapons in Deerfield will include semiautomatic rifles with a fixed magazine and a capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, shotguns with revolving cylinders, and conversion kits from which assault weapons can be assembled. And those are just a few of the firearm varieties banned. The list is long and includes all the following models or duplicates thereof: AK, AKM, AKS, AK-47, AK-74, ARM, MAK90, Misr, NHM 90, NHM 91, SA 85, SA 93, VEPR, AR-10, AR-15, Bushmaster XM15, Armalite M15, Olympic Arms PCR, AR70, Calico Liberty, Dragunov SVD Sniper Rifle, Dragunov SVU, Fabrique NationalFN/FAL, FN/LAR, FNC, Hi-Point Carbine, HK-91, Kel-Tec Sub Rifle, SAR-8, Sturm, Ruger Mini-14, and more.

We can expect major pushback and maybe even legal measures from gun rights advocates who like to believe that anything like this is unconstitutional. But they are unlikely to win in today’s atmosphere. Courts have been ruling that assault weapons bans do not violate the constitutional right to bear arms as described in the second amendment.

Many states also have pre-emption laws that make it impossible for local communities to pass stronger gun laws than existing state laws. This was brought to us by the corporate gun lobby and their minions in state legislatures like my own in Minnesota and 39 other states.

Which brings me to the second happening in gun world from the past week or so. A federal judge has determined that assault weapons bans passed in some states and now local communities are perfectly legal:

U.S. District Judge William Young dismissed a lawsuit challenging the 20-year-old ban, saying assault weapons are military firearms that fall beyond the reach of the constitutional right to “bear arms.”

Regulation of the weapons is a matter of policy, not for the courts, he said.

“Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young said. “These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy.”

The state of Massachusetts passed an assault weapons ban decades ago. And it still stands. The state’s Attorney General had this to say about the ruling:

“Strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools,” Healey, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Families across the country should take heart in this victory.”

Is it any coincidence that Massachusetts has strong gun laws and the lowest gun death rate in the country? From this article:

In a major public health win, newly available federal data shows that Massachusetts has the lowest gun-related mortality rate in the country, a victory likely tied to legislative successes.

The CDC data, cited Tuesday in a Violence Policy Center (VPC) report, puts Massachusetts’ 2015 rate at 3.13 gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents. The next lowest rate, seen in Hawaii, was 3.84 deaths per 100,000 residents.

But shouldn’t we be concerned that overall gun deaths rates are going up? That brings me to my third point. From the article:

Firearm-related deaths rose for the second-straight year in 2016, largely due to spikes in gun violence in major cities like Chicago, newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

In 2016, there were more than 38,000 gun-related deaths in the U.S. — 4,000 more than 2015, the new CDC report on preliminary mortality data shows. Most gun-related deaths — about two-thirds —in America are suicides, but an Associated Press analysis of FBI data shows there were about 11,000 gun-related homicides in 2016, up from 9,600 in 2015. The increase in gun-related deaths follows a nearly 15-year period of relative stasis.

“The fact that we are seeing increases in the firearm-related deaths after a long period where it has been stable is concerning,” Bob Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the CDC’s Center for Health Statistics, told the New York Times.Fortune reported last week that the mortality data also showed an increase in drug-overdose deaths, largely do to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

There should be no surprises here. High profile mass shootings, most with military style assault style rifles account for a small percentage of overall gun deaths but they have taken the lives of dozens at a time which surely has affected the overall gun death rate. We have a serious epidemic of large proportions that we are ignoring. Even after the Parkland shooting, which caused many changes to politicians’ willingness to address the issue of gun violence in ways we have not ever seen before, some are defiant and intent on showing people that they represent the very small minority of NRA and gun owners in America.

Which brings me to my fourth point. At a recent town hall meeting, South Carolina Representative Ralph Norman thought he was being clever  when he pulled out his gun and laid it on a table before the crowd:

A South Carolina Republican congressman is not backing down from critics after he pulled out his own personal — and loaded — .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun during a meeting with constituents Friday.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, told The Post and Courier he pulled out the weapon and placed it on a table for several minutes in attempt to make a point that guns are only dangerous in the hands of criminals.

“I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords,” Norman said afterward, referring to the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman who was shot outside a Tucson-area grocery store during a constituent gathering in 2011.

Really Representative Norman? Where is your common sense? In the current state of mind of the American public, this was a truly bad idea. What is your point? Mark Kelly, of the Giffords organization and husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords responded to this truly ludicrous move by the Republican Congressman:

Giffords’ husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, said in a statement that Norman is “no Gabby Giffords” and noted that his wife has dedicated her life to ending gun violence.

“Americans are increasingly faced with a stark choice: leaders like Gabby, who work hard together to find solutions to problems, or extremists like the NRA and Congressman Norman, who rely on intimidation tactics and perpetuating fear,” Kelly said.

Norman said he’ll display his gun at future constituent meetings.

“I’m tired of these liberals jumping on the guns themselves as if they are the cause of the problem,” Norman told The Post and Courier. “Guns are not the problem.”

Yes, guns are the problem. We are onto you Rep. Norman. #WeCallBS. What you said and did at a public town hall meeting defies reason and the facts. You are wrong. And the public is not having it any more. We’ve had #Enough of this BS. We understand that the problem is actually- guns. Too many guns = too many gun deaths. The facts are clear. You are in the 3% of Americans who actually and stupidly believe that we should not require background checks on all gun sales. 

Support for common sense gun laws is going up, not down, just as gun deaths are going up. We have noticed. From the article:

Roughly 2 in 3 Americans now say gun control laws should be made more strict in the wake of the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to a number of polls, including a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that shows support for stricter gun laws among registered voters at 68 percent, compared with just 25 percent who oppose stricter gun laws.

It’s common for support for gun control to tick up in the aftermath of mass shootings. But there appears to be a clear trend in all the post-Parkland, Florida, polling: This time is different. The percentage of Americans who want more restrictive gun laws is greater now than after any other recent shooting.

Which brings me to my fifth point- For those who are attacking the facts and even the Parkland students- stand aside. Your behavior is noticed and we don’t like it. Try as you might to convince the public that guns are not the problem and that more guns make us safer, it’s not working. From the article:

The attacks now come not just from the alt-right and anonymous Twitter louts. Since the weekend’s massive marches for gun control, more and more prominent figures in media and politics are aiming previously unfathomable public attacks at the youngsters. (…) Given that the Parkland student-activists are still working to encourage more town hall events and more demonstrations, it seems likely these teenagers will face evermore vile personal and public attacks in the months to come. Although we cannot expect any personal responsibility from internet trolls, Americans should expect better from public officials, who have the power to lend legitimacy to the more disgraceful arguments circling around social media. But in the instances above, the public responded by rejecting the hateful arguments, and proved we have the power to hold these politicians to account.

We should and must expect better from public officials. What are they thinking? Being under the thumb of the increasingly unpopular and corrupt NRA ( see article for ties to Russia and the Mueller investigation) is just not a good idea any more.

Which brings me to my sixth point- the November 18th elections are going to matter when it comes to guns. This will be one of the main issues in the next election:

Now, suburban voters increasingly find that on guns they have more in common with their urban friends than with their rural ones. Some restrictions on guns, in particular, seem increasingly reasonable to swing voters after numerous mass shootings. As the issue has become more salient politically, it has also become potentially more effective for Democrats. (…)

Opponents of new gun controls are now so thoroughly integrated into the GOP that they are part of that party’s political base. Because they are no longer swing voters, they no longer have the electoral clout they once did.

Some Democrats from conservative, largely rural states or congressional districts will need pro-gun voters to win elections, and they will try to walk a fine line on the issue, as Conor Lamb is trying to do now in a western Pennsylvania House special election.

But in many states and districts, swing suburbanites — and particularly suburban women — are a much more important constituency than are NRA members because those suburban voters can decide which party wins — just the way anti-gun control voters once could.

This increased attention from suburbanites has changed the electoral equation for 2018, and that is why Democrats now should benefit from any focus on gun control issues.

It’s long past time for this shift. The body count has mounted as voters have been deceived by the gun lobby into voting for pro-gun candidates, intolerant of and totally resistant to any gun safety reform measures. The fear and paranoia is just not working any more. Instead, the fear of being shot has increased and the public is standing with our teens who are telling us that they are more afraid to go to school than they are of the insane rhetoric (much from NRATV) coming from the likes of Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch. Their increasingly desperate and unhinged rhetoric is falling more and more on deaf ears.

Take note, NRA lapdogs– you may not be around to make those nasty comments and pull out your guns at public meetings any more. You will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

We are better than this and the public understands that.

I will end with the video brought to us by the Brady Campaign about lapdog politicians. It’s good for a laugh which is much needed today, but it’s serious stuff. Watch.

 

 

 

 

 

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.