Connections- shootings and coronavirus deaths

Yes There is a connection. How could there not be? We are a nation of people who have mourned or are mourning the deaths of loved ones who died of gunshot injuries. They are not with us on holidays. They are missed. Their lives were lost in mostly unavoidable senseless acts of violence which take many forms- domestic shootings, gun suicides, urban violence, police violence, unintentional shootings, mass shootings, school shootings and more rarely, random acts of violence.

There was a random act of violence in Nevada the other day- on Thanksgiving. Happy thanksgiving. A couple in Nevada thought, apparently, that driving around shooting innocent people might be a thing to do on the holiday. It’s America. Should we be surprised?:

One person was shot dead and four others injured on Thanksgiving after police in Henderson, Nevada say a man and woman fired at people while driving in the city. 

“It is believed that the suspects were driving around the city randomly shooting at citizens with no apparent motive,” Henderson police said in a news release.

Henderson police officers responding to the Thursday shooting at the 800 block of East Lake Mead Parkway found a 22-year-old man who had died from an apparent gunshot wound, a 23-year-old injured woman, a 18-year-old injured man, a 53-year-old injured man, and a 41-year-old injured man, all suffering from apparent gunshot wounds, according to a news release. 

How is this related to COVID you might ask? As I wrote in my last post, shootings have continued in many forms during the shut downs and restrictions due to the pandemic. Not so many mass shootings because of the fact that the masses are not really gathering in many places as targets for shooters. But nevertheless, people are dying from gunshot injuries.

In El Paso, for example, the numbers of the dead from COVID are staggering. The community is struggling to deal with the bodies and the grief. El Paso was the sight of a heinous hate shooting at a Walmart store targeting Latino citizens a little over a year ago. The community was still reeling from the after effects of that shooting when COVID spread in our country last winter.

This article highlights the pile-on of grief for the victims of the virus on top of still grieving for those lost in August of 2019. How much can one community take? From the article:

The city unified in the face of hatred last year, adopting the “El Paso Strong” ethos after 23 people were killed in an allegedly racist attack at a Walmart. El Paso is now struggling to summon the solidarity to transcend indifference and fatigue as scores of people are dying each day in a persisting pandemic.

“Unfortunately, as human beings, we want to see things for ourselves. We physically watched the shooting and could see the danger,” said Ana Lilia Holman, whose 86-year-old father, William Howard Holman, died of covid-19 on Nov. 12. “But we can’t see this virus, so people tend to doubt how severe it really is.”

We should not doubt that coronavirus is spreading at an uncontrolled pace all across our country. And yet, there are deniers. There are those who don’t believe the virus exists or if it does, they will not be affected. They will not get sick or die. That only happens to others. So they don’t have to wear a mask or social distance because that’s just for other people. They know better.

Certain lawmakers are in denial or believe they can hide from the consequences of their failure to help America in the face of a national emergency. Why? History will look back on this time and wonder how a whole group of politicians chose not to act. Americans died as a result.

Gun violence won’t happen to those deniers either. If we hide in the sand and pretend it’s not happening, then it’s not something we need to address. The same lawmakers who are failing us about the spread of the virus and failing to help us in this national emergency are doing the same about gun violence. They have failed us. They have acquiesced to a rich and powerful gun lobby and a distinct minority of Americans who have conjured up false reasons for not acting on gun violence. They will do anything to keep their fragile control over America to shape it the way they want it to be in spite of public opinion, research and science showing them to be wrong.

People have died. People are dying. People will die. As long as we let these lawmakers get away with their failed policies and their inhumane decisions to let people die, we will also fail.

The connection is unmistakable. We have a national gun violence epidemic in the midst of the worst public health virus pandemic in a century.

We will have to deal with the aftermath and ripple effects of the pandemic and the gun violence epidemic for many years to come.

Where is common sense?

Reflections on shootings past present and future

As I reflected on the beauty of a light snowfall this morning, I was reminded by a news story that today was a day to remember momentous shootings. There are so many that it is too easy to forget what happened on this day in other years. We have paid so much attention to the present chaos over COVID and the 2020 election results which continue hour by hour, that we forget important things. That is the point of a President and a party who don’t want us to remember tragedies and past mistakes so we can learn from them and move forward to better solutions.

Today is the “anniversary” of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The country experienced a shock on November 22nd, 1963 as we watched the repeated video of our young President as he slumped over into his wife’s lap while the car sped away to the hospital where he died of his gunshot injuries. One shooter; one gun; many bullets; one U.S. President’s life snuffed out in seconds; the shooter shot by another unhinged man on live T.V.; the country mourned; stronger gun laws passed:

It had been floating around Congress for several years. [Discussion] really began after the JFK assassination; there was a strong sense that people shouldn’t buy guns through interstate mail, because Lee Harvey Oswald did through an ad that appeared in a NRA magazine. Congress held hearings, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Now in 1968, the country is facing rising urban rioting. In the mid-to-late ’60s, crime begins to increase. There’s greater concern about guns and easy accessibility to guns. Martin Luther King is assassinated in April. In June, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and that was really the final push that brought the law back and got it through Congress.

What are the most important things the law changed?

It banned interstate shipments of firearms and ammunition to private individuals [and] sales of guns to minors, drug addicts and “mental incompetents.” This is the first time you have in law that mentally unbalanced people ought not to be able to get guns — also convicted felons. It also strengthened the licensing and record-keeping requirements for gun dealers, and that was significant because gun dealers were subject to virtually no systematic scrutiny up until this time, although a 1938 federal law did establish a fee they paid to government to be a licensed dealer. It banned importation of foreign-made surplus firearms, except those appropriate for sporting purposes.

Since then, one other important gun violence prevention law passed in 1993 in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan- the Brady Background Check law. The Brady Background check law has prevented over 3 million prohibited people from getting their hands on guns.

As a side note, I recently completed the book-Mrs. Kennedy and Me written by Clint Hill, the security agent assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy. I learned from his reflections, about the horror in the immediate seconds after the President was shot. How can we understand the horror of what a shot person looks like when a bullet tears through their brain, or heart? We can’t. Maybe if we could better understand the consequences we would be quicker to want to prevent shootings.

Today is also the 6th anniversary of the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice. Tamir was walking around with a toy gun when police found him and mistakenly assumed he had a real gun. This is the problem with so many guns around. No one knows who is armed and who is not. But it’s also the problem with the quick response from law enforcement when a black person has a gun or is perceived to have a gun or is perceived to be armed or is just perceived to be trouble. Here is an article written by Tamir’s mother earlier this year as she reflected on the shooting death of her innocent son:

If Tamir was alive, he’d probably be doing something with sports. That little boy was so athletic at an early age. I’m not sure what kind of athlete he would have been. We didn’t really have a chance to have a lot of those conversations. He would be 18 and have graduated high school by now.

That day Tamir was murdered I received a knock at the door and it was a neighborhood kid saying my son had been shot by police. I said, “What are you talking about?” I was in denial and shock.

No parent should have to endure something like this.

As I arrived on the scene, my 14-year-old was in the back of a police car. Tamir was laying on the pavement in a gazebo with police surrounding him. My 16-year-old was surrounded by police officers as well. Basically, police told me to calm down or else they were going to put me in the back of a police car. They gave me an ultimatum to stay at the scene of the crime, or to go with Tamir in the ambulance.

The day was very horrific for me. I was enraged by the way he was killed, murdered, assassinated, lynched, whatever they may call it. Nobody bothered to look at this man’s record before he became a Cleveland police officer. He had a horrible report. Nobody in Cleveland did their job, and that’s why I have a dead son today.

No. No parent should have to endure this. No sister. No brother. No mother or father. No child. No one. And yet, over 100 Americans a day die from gun violence. The nation is enduring a public health epidemic now in the midst of an actual public health pandemic.

COVID restrictions have changed our world. Since last March, when the country shut down, many schools have been doing distance learning. This fall, when the school year began again, schools struggled with how to educate our children safely. Some opened completely. Some chose the hybrid model and some chose all distance learning. This largely depended on how the spread of COVID was occurring in the communities where schools are located. My own grandchildren are now learning from home while their parents work from home. It is not the way our kids should be educated but here we are.

There have been no school shootings since COVID started spreading in our country. I came across this report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) about school shootings that confirms what we really already know:

We examined school shootings and found:

Half were committed by current or former students

Suburban and rural, wealthier, and low-minority schools had more school-targeted shootings; such shootings were the most fatal and most commonly committed by students

Urban, poor, and high-minority schools had more shootings overall and more motivated by disputes; these shootings were often committed by non-students or unknown shooters

More shootings happened outside, but those inside schools were usually more deadly

We found no empirical research from 2009-2019 that directly examined the link between school discipline and school shootings.

There have been few mass shootings in public places either. People aren’t gathering as much in public now. There was one two days ago though in a Milwaukee suburb mall leaving 8 innocent people injured and none dead. Malls are still places where people are allowed to gather in larger numbers. It seems that where people gather in larger numbers, there are opportunities for mass shooters to take out some sort of angry rampage on people they don’t know. And easy access to guns along with weak gun laws lets this all happen.

Don’t get me started on the weak response to the actual pandemic. During the pandemic the sale of guns has gone up. How do we explain this? I don’t think we do. It’s a gun culture that no other country where COVID is also spreading experiences. It’s the weak gun laws.

We are experiencing unprecedented turmoil due to the pandemic. The stress of worry about losing a job, kids being at home, working from home, getting COVID and now the lunacy of a sitting President who refuses to admit he lost the election, is leading to fear and paranoia. It is not a good time to be locked and loaded. It is not a good time to be carrying a gun around in public where there are rallies and protests.

We know how that worked out in Kenosha when there were protests there after the shooting of a black man by police. Two people were shot and killed by a 17 year old who bought his gun in a straw purchase since he was too young to own or carry an AR-15. But carry he did. He was arrested.

The lunacy of what we are experiencing in America is that the said 17 year old shooter has been bailed out by none other than the “pillow guy”- friend to the current occupant of the White House and actor Ricky Schroder.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Where is common sense?

Everyday shootings have continued apace. According to Gun Violence Archive, 38,526 Americans have died from gunshot injuries so far this year. It will likely reach 40,00 before the end of the year.

This number included suicides. An increase in gun suicides in the age of COVID should not surprise us. Access to guns and suicide go together. Gun suicides have been on the rise anyway. But now we are seeing more evidence that times of stress and anxiety can lead to more suicides. Guns make it easy. A New York Times article has this to say:

Ms. Torp has reason to worry. Gun violence kills about 40,000 Americans each year, but while public attention has focused on mass shootings, murders and accidental gun deaths, these account for little more than one-third of the nation’s firearms fatalities. The majority of gun deaths are suicides — and just over half of suicides involve guns.

According to national health statistics, 24,432 Americans used guns to kill themselves in 2018, up from 19,392 in 2010.

People who kill themselves in this way are usually those with ready access to firearms: gun owners and their family members. Gun owners are not more suicidal than people who don’t own guns, but attempts with guns are more likely to be fatal.

Now, nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, unleashing a tide of economic dislocation and despair, experts are bracing for a rise in suicides. Gun sales have risen steadily since March, and as shutdowns aimed at containing the virus have disrupted lives and led to social isolation, studies have shown an increase in anxiety and suicidal ideation.

We are in perilous times now. More deaths from COVID and still rising to numbers that are incomprensible; a feckless, unfit and unhinged President turning his back to the American people; a major party refusing to stand up and insist that we proceed with the transition to the next President Joe Biden; armed people on our streets; conspiracy theories pushed by right wing extremists, including the President that will only make the threats of violence more likely; weak gun laws that allow for so many people to have instant access to guns that could result in a tragedy. Election officials have been threatened as have people who have spoken out against the President’s lunacy.

There is NO VOTER FRAUD. Time to move on to a more peaceful and safe country.

I look forward to President Joe Biden for many reasons. The daily chaos will decrease or disappear. We will have a sane approach to combating COVID and distributing what looks to be a successful vaccine. There is hope that the economy can recover and our kids can get back to school. And there will be a common sense approach to reducing and preventing gun violence.

I look forward to a peaceful and calm, but quiet, Thanksgiving and holiday season as a time of reflection on things past, present and future. I wish we could spend it with our kids and grandkids but not this year. Enjoy your quiet and tune out the loud noises out there.

Cure the virus of violence

image created by anonymous artists of Minneapolis and St. Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahmaud Arbery

Breonna Taylor

Tamir Rice

Walter Scott

Michael Brown

Philando Castile

Jamar Clark

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

Trayvon Martin

Jordan Davis

Birdell Beeks

Tyesha Edwards

Nizeal Banks

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

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

George Floyd.

Freedom or die

The last week or so has been eye opening and appalling as anti government, pro-gun, pro-Trump extremists were pushing for more ways to kill or harm us. And by that I mean both with guns and with the coronavirus. There’s quite a list of examples but below are just a few:

It would be hard to make this stuff up wouldn’t it? This did not happen in other countries that have also suffered from the same virus. Unlike America, they don’t suffer from armed insurrectionists threatening and shooting their fellow citizens.

On another front, people are dying from bullets in the midst of our pandemic. There have been several shootings in Minnesota, one in particular that has drawn the attention of the media and citizens. A gun permit holder shot and killed a young black man during an altercation over a fender bender because he “thought” the man was going for a gun when he put his hand in his waist. This is called Shoot First, Ask Questions Later. And, of course, the victim cannot tell his side of the story. But he was unarmed. Here is more from the article:

Trifiletti later told police that Lewis appeared to be reaching toward his waistband as he advanced toward Trifiletti, who’d grabbed a handgun from his glove box and fired several shots, striking Lewis four times. The man has a legal permit to carry, a law enforcement source confirmed.

The problem with legalized carrying of guns in public places is that when armed citizens and even law enforcement officers believe that anyone could be armed (because a certain number are) they assume that putting your hand on your waist band means you are have a gun and you are going to shoot.

And the excuse given by permit holders in these incidents is that they were shooting in self defense. In Minnesota the law requires a duty to retreat first unless in your own home, before shooting someone. There is no excuse for shooting innocent people for no reason.

Common sense tells us that if the shooter had been a person of color there would be no excuses allowed. Stand Your Ground laws have penalized black people more than whites in these situations. And more black people are shot in “self defense” incidents:

When white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white.6

Controlling for other factors—such as who initiated the confrontation and whether or not the victim was armed—Florida Stand Your Ground cases with minority victims are half as likely to lead to conviction, compared to cases with white victims.7

I can’t leave this post until I talk about the heinous case of Ahmaud Arbery who was shot in the back by 2 white men in Georgia. A video shows that Arbery appeared to have been ambushed. Once the video was released the public was so angered and the media coverage so intense that the shooters were finally arrested after more than 2 months of getting away with murder. (Coincidentally the video was made by a friend of the shooter who was following Arbery and the 2 shooters for some reason. But why was he doing a video in the first place? Was this shooting planned ahead of time?)

It seems that some in positions to know better would have let this go if they could have:

Arbery’s family and their attorneys say Arbery was out for a jog when he was killed. They believe he was the victim of racial profilingand have called the killing a lynching.

“Once again, a black man was lynched in Georgia. It was an unfortunate incident because we see this too often,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a press conference Friday. “That is a sad statement in where we are in this nation.”

It wasn’t until the video was released that public pressure and reporting about the shooting led to the arrest of the shooters. In just a few minutes 2 men with a gun snuffed out an innocent life and changed their own lives forever. For what?

Georgia is a Stand Your Ground state. It will be important to watch this case to make sure justice is done for the victim. This was a murder by vigilantes. This is an American tragedy.

Charles Blow writing for the New York Times had this to say:

But there is a clear problem here: Arbery had committed no offense. His only offense, the thing that drew suspicion, was that he was black and male and running through these white men’s neighborhood. (…)

Arbery was enjoying a nice run on a beautiful day when he began to be stalked by armed men.

What must that have felt like?

What must he have felt when he approached the truck and saw that one of the stalkers was brandishing a shotgun?

What must he have thought when he fought for the gun?

Ahmaud Arbery was a 25 year old human being out for a jog. He happened to be black while jogging. He jogged almost every day according to his family who loved him and will miss him every day.

When there are more guns added to the mix and more stress from the stay at home orders and job loss, there will be more gun deaths. A surge in gun purchases means a surge in gun deaths and injuries. From the Annals of Internal Medicine:

Since February 2020, as U.S. public health efforts have focused on containing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), gun sales in the country have skyrocketed. In March, more than 2.5 million firearms were sold, including 1.5 million handguns (1). In the best of times, increased gun ownership is associated with a heightened risk for firearm-related suicide (2). These are not the best of times. The United States faces an unprecedented combination of a public health and economic disaster. The physical distancing necessary to curb transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has disrupted social networks. Many people live in isolation, and the mental health of the population will likely suffer. Combined, these forces create a climate with the potential to increase firearm-related suicides.The firearm-related suicide crisis was mounting well before COVID-19. From 2006 to 2018, firearm-related suicide rates increased by more than 25% (3). In 2018 alone, there were 24 432 firearm-related suicides in the United States (3). Simultaneously, the number of firearm background checks increased from 10 036 933 in 2006 to 28 369 750 in 2019—an annual increase of 14% (4).

Gun violence is an epidemic in the midst of our coronavirus pandemic. The guns purchased in panic will be in homes and on our streets for the years to come. The gun lobby would have us believe that an armed society is a polite society. We have been treated to daily photos, videos and stories about armed Americans intimidating, injuring, threatening and killing innocent human beings during the coronavirus pandemic. The public understands that the gun lobby is dead wrong. The public is in favor of stronger gun laws and doing something to save lives.

Over 70,000 Americans- almost 80,000 have died from the coronavirus and the numbers keep climbing. It is frightening that a disease can be so deadly and so communicable. Scientists and health care providers are working hard to find measures to treat the virus and/or lessen the severity of the disease. Until a vaccine is released to give us all immunity from this awful disease, deaths will continue.

Now we need a vaccine from shootings. There are laws that can reduce and prevent gun violence -like a vaccine. Common sense works too. Staying safe from gun violence means locking up guns, not carrying them around in situations that could become volatile, checking on friends and loved ones to make sure they are not suicidal or homicidal, and just thinking about the risks of guns right now and always.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay at home unless you have important and necessary items. Social distance. Wear masks. It’s not just for you, it’s for all of us. We are all in this together and can prevent the spread of the disease by following easy and simple measures. Our freedoms have been temporarily restricted to save lives. It’s not an either or proposition. We don’t have the freedom to kill people and we should not the freedom to willfully spread the coronavirus by protesting against the very things that can prevent all of us from dying. We all have the freedom of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Another epidemic amidst the pandemic

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor, nature and water

Good morning. As I write this I sit in my cabin coronavirus hide-away looking at the sun begin to shine across the lake. It’s Easter week-end. We will not be spending Easter with our family as we often have done on this holiday week-end at our cabin. Instead, it’s just the two of us. We will connect with our kids and grandkids via one of the various apps designed to hold face to face virtual conversations. It will have to suffice. Instead of hugs it will be a chance just to see everyone and know they are OK.

Our daughter is a health care provider but not one on the front lines in a hospital. For that we give thanks this week-end. Her job has been affected by the coronavirus in that her healthcare system has had to furlough doctors, physician assistants, nurses, lab techs and others because they are bleeding money. She has taken a one week furlough without pay as have thousands of other professional staff so the hospitals can serve the coronavirus patients. She is lucky that has a job and that it is essential as she answers patient calls and has seen some patients in her office who are not COVID related. So far in Minnesota, we have had fewer than many other states but we know it’s coming here. My county has experienced an increase in cases of late.

Just as the pandemic has caused confusion, distress, disastrous changes to life as we know it and death, so has gun violence. Gun violence prevention advocates have been talking about and writing about our concerns that the surge of gun buying left possible because gun shops have been deemed essential businesses during the pandemic will result in increased probability of suicide, domestic shootings and unintentional shootings. It’s happening. Gun deaths have not been reduced during the pandemic as you might think could happen. There are fewer people out and about on our streets so certain types of gun violence are likely reduced due to young urban men shooting at each other. We won’t know this for sure until we can do more study and research during and after the pandemic surge abates.

Brady is keeping track of shootings though so we have some data. It is not pretty. We know people are dying of coronavirus now- a new disease requiring data so we know exactly how many people have the disease and how many are dying. This is crucial to stemming the disease and getting us back to some sense of normalcy. Unfortunately our testing capabilities are woefully inadequate to the task at hand. In spite of what our President says, we are not testing enough people so we can track the disease and figure out how to get our economy up and running.

Just as we have not done enough research into the causes and effects of gun violence and kept better figures about deaths and injuries. Facts matter. Research matters. Understanding reality matters. In order to cure and reduce deaths, sickness, and injuries we need facts. But when some with an agenda keep the facts away from the public and stop research, we are left with ignorance- on purpose. The CDC, now struggling to provide us with the information we need and the testing that is crucial, was stopped from researching gun violence years ago in an attempt to keep us from learning the facts about gun violence. Thank you corporate gun lobby and the elected officials who allowed this to happen. ( sarcasm intended)

After shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland, others have filled the void. The Trace is one example as they write about and provide crucial information about our gun violence epidemic. The Gun Violence Archive has provided us with information about daily shootings that has proved to be invaluable in understanding the spread of gun violence around he country.

Just a little from the new Brady tracking of shootings ( above link):

The COVID-19 global pandemic risks exacerbating gun violence in all of its forms, including domestic violenceunintentional shootingsfirearm suicide, and everyday gun violence. So far, the devastating results have left public health and government officials pleading for an end to the violence, as gun violence victims compete for space and vital resources inside our health system’s overcrowded intensive care units.

“Doctors like me are trying to keep the world safe from the coronavirus pandemic. But thousands of families in America are already caught in the country’s existing epidemic: gun violence.”Dr. Elinore Kaufman, a fellow in surgical critical care and trauma surgery at the University of Pennsylvania.

When our nation overcomes the COVID-19 global pandemic, the epidemic of gun violence will not have paused. One woman will still be shot and killed by a former or current partner nearly every 16 hours; eight children and teens will still be unintentionally injured or killed due to an unlocked or unsupervised gun in the home; and Black men will still be 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with a gun.

When you look at the incidents of gun violence, broken down by “category” you can see the number of domestic related shootings, the number of unintentional shootings, the number related directly to coronavirus, and the number of suicides (less information available about suicides because of lack of reporting)

I participated in a Webinar this past week sponsored by Brady to learn more about our response to the surge in gun buying and what that will mean for our families. It is not a pretty picture. I learned that some of the reasons people are buying guns is because of the fear of a breakdown in our society, a fear that law enforcement will be sick with the virus and unable to respond to threats to safety, and fear of prisoners released during the pandemic ( most of whom were convicted of non- violent crimes).

These are scary times for sure. We already knew that we had a gun violence epidemic and that gun deaths and injuries have been on the rise in recent years. Now we know that because of the current pandemic, gun violence may increase more. Guns don’t wear out. Many of the gun buyers during this surge of purchases are first time buyers making even some of the gun shop owners nervous. The guns will be in homes long after the pandemic abates. That means, inevitably, more deaths and injuries. Common sense tells us that this will be true. More guns = more shootings and more death and injury. That has always been true.

The key to stemming this tide of violence, if we can do so, is to strongly encourage safe storage of guns. Guns must be stored unloaded and locked away from those who should not be able to access them. We know that small children are curious and can access guns easily when they are left unsecured. We know that suicides are more successful with guns than other methods. We know that domestic abusers use guns to threaten and injure or kill spouses and partners. We know these things.

And we cannot have this discussion without talking about expanding background checks to all gun sales. If a domestic abuser wants a gun he ( or she) can easily get one through a private sale. Extreme Risk Protection Orders are very important now that so many guns in homes where the risk of someone being a danger to him or herself or someone else is very real. Also making sure gun sales do not proceed after the 3 day wait ( called the Charleston loophole) without a background check is more important than ever but the U.S. Senate has failed to even hear that bill after it passed in the House last year.

Now more than ever stronger gun laws are essential to pass. That should be an essential service to our communities and our families.

Check out End Family Fire for all the reasons we should be concerned about the risks of guns in homes.

Please talk to friends and family about guns in their homes at this stressful and volatile time. Please tell them to store guns safely if they feel they must have them. Guns will not protect us from the coronavirus. They will make us less safe. Please talk to friends and family who may be experiencing domestic strife to make sure guns are kept away from abusers and to be mindful of the risk they pose to our families. Domestic abuse organizations are still working and are a resource for victims of abuse. Please refer those who you think may be at risk for suicide to the suicide hotline. There has been an unfortunate exponential increase to the calls to the hotline.

There is so much more to write about and I will be doing so in the coming days about the surge of gun buying in the midst of a pandemic and the risks of guns in the home. Please stay safe at home and spend some virtual time with your families on this holiday week-end.

Below are some resources for families.

Suicidehotlines.com At this site you can find hotlines specific to your state.

Here is domestic abuse hotline information.

No photo description available.


Brady background checks- why not?

6 years ago about this time a group from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter braved sub zero temperatures near the location of a gun show. The reason we came out for this in the freezing temperatures was because then, and now, private sellers at gun shows don’t have to do background checks on gun purchasers.

The photo shows our group holding our signs. We asked then and we ask now:

Why would we not make sure that every gun sale occurs with a background check? Since most do, why not all? About 1 in 5 guns are sold without a background check. It used to be more than that but because more states have passed laws to require background checks on all gun sales, we have made it harder for people who shouldn’t have guns to get their hands on them.

One of the interesting things about our protest on that cold day was the man who had been to the gun show and approached our group to talk to us. He claimed he had never talked to “gun control” activists before. Eventually the conversation turned to his worry that if a universal background check bill passed, the government would take his guns ( for sure). He had told us previous to this comment that he was a member of the National Guard. A friend in our group asked if he realized that he actually was the government who would go around confiscating guns if that gun lobby myth ever came to fruition. That was a surprise to him as he had never thought through what it would mean.

We need to make decisions made on facts and evidence, not myth.

Of course requiring the very same Brady background checks on private sales that are now required when purchasing from federally licensed firearms dealers would not result in confiscation. It hasn’t so far as long as the FBI’s National Instant Check system has been in existence- for the last 25 years.There is no logic to this gun lobby argument. But for too long this is what has persuaded our elected leaders to run away from passing a stronger background check law.

And therein lies the problem. There are myths rather than truths around the issue of requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Gun safety reform advocates understand that universal background checks will not cure the entire epidemic of gun violence. But that is no reason not to pass a law. Just as any law doesn’t solve the entire problem it is intended to fix. But we pass strong public safety laws for good reasons. And, as it turns out, most people follow the laws. Those who don’t get into trouble.

We also understand that lax gun trafficking laws, lax laws about stolen guns, lax laws about assault type rifles, lax laws about who can carry guns in public, lax laws about the sale of bump stocks, etc. contribute to the problem of too many gun deaths. Congress passed a law to deny funding for federal research into the causes and effects of gun violence. Congress passed a law to give immunity to the gun industry against lawsuits. Those, too, have contributed to our national gun violence epidemic.That’s why we are where we are- with close to 40,000 Americans a year losing their lives to bullets in the U.S.

That being the case, why would we not want to make everyone do the same thing when it comes to buying a gun? Lives can be saved. Every teacher gets a background check. No exceptions. Every health care provider gets a background check. No exceptions. Every person who works with children in a church or pre-school gets a background check. No exceptions. Everyone goes through the TSA check before boarding a plane- no exceptions. There are good reasons for these background checks. Why have any exceptions for buying a deadly weapons designed to kill people?

On Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee will have an official hearing on H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. This is the first hearing on a background check since 2011. There will be actual testimony about why requiring background checks on all gun sales is a really good idea. There will be evidence. There will likely be victims and survivors.It will likely pass out of the committee on a partisan vote unless a Republican on the committee decides to vote the way his/her constituents actually want. They will be held accountable by their constituents.

Common sense will happen this week at long last. I, for one, will be celebrating the hearing. I am quite sure that the corporate gun lobby will do their best to get their supporters to believe the usual myths about background checks on all sales leading to confiscation or registration. That’s a stupid and ludicrous untrue argument. But they will do it anyway. We will expect it.

Since most people understand that background checks on all gun sales make a lot of common sense, they already support the majority of the committee members. And the majority of the committee members will represent the 97% of Americans who want them to pass stronger gun laws.

Yesterday morning at my church I made an announcement and passed out stickers for members of the church to call our Representative to support H.R. 8. People couldn’t take them fast enough. I ran out. There were gun owners, parents, grandparents, community leaders, health care providers, educators, students, clergy- all who are sick and tired of letting the corporate gun lobby lead the conversation and intimidate their Congress members. They hate the daily carnage due to gun violence.

There are examples every day for the reason why we need to strengthen gun laws in our country.

A few days ago, a man in New Ulm, Minnesota gave his dying wife meth and had a death party for her. Clearly he is a man who should not have had any guns by the account in the article. But nonetheless, several guns were found in his home. The man reported that he had 47 guns, many of which were stolen. If true, why? Also from the linked article:

He has prior convictions for assault and DWI and is on probation for driving after license cancellation. A blood test taken after his DWI arrest in 2014 showed he had used methamphetamine, according to court records.

There really are people who should not have guns. Most likely this man could not purchase guns legally, explaining why most of his guns were allegedly stolen. Though he is under arrest for what occurred with illegal drugs and whatever else went on at his house, having guns accessible seems like a really bad idea. That is why we need stronger gun laws.

I just read this great editorial from the Star Tribune about the efforts of the Minnesota Medical Association to address gun violence. It’s heartening to see that health care providers are speaking out about gun violence as a public health issue. From the editorial:

Many cars now have backup cameras, which might have saved the child, the surgeon said. But when it comes to firearms, where are the technological advances and societal improvements — such as the widespread recognition of drunken-driving risks — that could prevent gun deaths?

The provocative question relayed by McClain provided just the right kickoff to the pioneering Minnesota workshop on gun-violence prevention put on by the state’s medical association. The MMA, which represents over 10,000 state physicians, merits praise not only for organizing it but for channeling members’ passion toward finding realistic solutions to a public health scourge. Beginning the discussion by considering the changes that have reduced motor vehicle deaths both inspired members and focused them on the workshop’s goal — proposing practical reforms.

The MMA has already taken a courageous stance on gun-violence prevention, one that not all members approved of. It issued a statement last March calling gun violence a “public health crisis” and then backed much-needed state reforms — such as criminal background checks on all purchases and transfers or exchanges of firearms. “Failure to intervene in the face of this significant epidemic is not an option,” the MMA said.

Exactly. It is not an option to not deal with gun violence. We have a crisis facing us and something has to be done about it. 

We will be a better country with the passage of H.R. 8. Will the Senate, with a Republican majority, many bought and paid for by the corporate gun lobby, hear a Senate similar bill?  Would the President sign any bill to strengthen gun laws given that the NRA spent more money on getting him elected than on any previous candidate? He owes them. If the Senate and the President want to be in partnership with an increasingly compromised organization they will be held accountable in the end.

Have a good week everyone. I will enjoy watching something positive happen for a change.


Real people die every day

GVA
From the Gun Violence Archive

So every day people die of something. Opioid addiction is now killing about as many Americans as do guns. Sometimes the two go together. I have heard from some Police Chiefs that guns also come along with the drugs. Why? Good question. Intimidation? Potential vindictiveness if a drug deal goes wrong? What we do know is that guns and drugs do not go together- they are a dangerous combination.

And please take note of the linked article above as it comes from research by the Centers for Disease Control which is allowed by Congress for the drug/opioid epidemic. Not so for gun deaths and injuries. Why? The NRA and corporate gun lobby of course. Thanks guys.

Apparently it would interfere with the national narrative about gun rights and the money and influence that come to lapdog politicians doing the bidding of the corporate gun lobby if we knew the truth about gun deaths and injuries. And maybe we would see more photos, stories from families, and get into the causes so we could prevent at least some of the deaths. For that is what public health epidemic research is all about.

I am thankful that the Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of gun homicides ( they do not include suicides in their numbers) so we know what is happening around the country.

When I wrote on New Year’s,  there were zero Americans killed by gun violence in 2018 at that point.  Not so now. It didn’t take long, according to the Gun Violence Archive, to report on the numbers. So far in 2018 ( it’s Jan. 5th) 144 Americans have died from gun homicides. That’s about 30 a day. That’s an epidemic.

The thing is, these numbers represent real people with real families who loved them and will miss them terribly.

For the life of me, I don’t get how gun rights extremists don’t get that about gun violence. Is it really true that a certain number of gun deaths should be tolerated so they can have unfettered gun rights? If so, shame on all of us for letting that be the narrative being allowed to fester.

The narrative is and should be that gun violence is a public health epidemic, period. The numbers are increasing, in fact, of gun incidents, gun deaths and injuries. Did you look at the image at the top of this post? These are not fabricated or #fakenews. They are real.

From 2014 to 2017, looking at the chart above, there was a pretty significant increase in all categories of records kept by the Gun Violence Archive. Why are we not alarmed by this? And if we add the number of suicides, we are looking at a large number of Americans dead because of firearms and access to them by so many people. More guns=more gun deaths.

I say we go for common sense in 2018 and not allow ourselves to be silenced by those who want to confuse the public health epidemic of gun violence with the second amendment. We already know that the public is with us on the issue so our job is to get them to become louder and more committed to the gun issue in 2018. It is an election issue and should be raised wherever there are candidates running. Don’t let anyone run away from the issue just because they are afraid of the minority opinion. Tell them the truth but first learn the truth and become familiar with the facts.

Contribute your time, energy, talents and money. The NRA raised a record amount of money in 2016 to get Trump and their lapdogs elected and look what we got:

Trump made fears about gun violence a central part of his campaign, but as president he has done little to curb that violence. At the same time, he has methodically, if quietly, taken steps to relax gun control policies. The Justice Department tightened the definition of who qualifies as a “fugitive from justice” when it comes to gun ownership, in effect making it easier for certain people with arrest warrants to possess firearms. The Interior Department removed a ban on hunting with lead ammunition on federal lands. And a bill signed last February prohibited the Social Security Administration from reporting recipients with mental impairments to a national background-check database. The NRA applauded the latter two actions.

Sigh.

We got politicians beholden to the dangerous agenda of a corporate and influential lobby that must be paid back with loyalty and laws that will make us all less safe.

And then use real stories and talk about the victims. If we don’t do that, we haven’t done enough. They are all around us every day. The Brady Campaign has posted many of these real stories in videos and narratives. Other organizations are doing the same thing. The gun lobby does not like these victim stories and they don’t like it when the narrative moves towards ways to prevent gun violence right after a mass shooting or an “everyday” shooting. Why not? If we waited until there were no shootings we would never talk about it. That is what they want.

People like me are telling our stories. Our stories are of real family members who we loved and who we miss dearly. My sister’s family and friends will never forget her vivacious personality, her beautiful face, her adventuresome nature, her artistic ability, her love of sports and exercise and her love for her family.

Real people are shot every day. Don’t ever forget that.