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.

 

NRA Convention myths and facts

Trump NRAStarting tomorrow Atlanta will host the annual NRA Convention. It should be yet another testament to the more and more extreme agenda of the leadership of the NRA. Nationally and in states all over the country, the gun lobby’s leaders and lobbyists have been pushing for ever more dangerous laws to undermine public safety.

Donald Trump will speak at the convention on his 99th day in office. He must believe that the American public will find this to be one of his key accomplishments in his first 100 days. The accomplishment will be for the corporate gun lobby and, if you follow the money,  for gun industry profits.

There is little real support for these bills except for the NRA’s leadership and lapdog politicians. Americans for Responsible Solutions released new polling data that shows that most gun owners and NRA members do not agree with the agenda of the organization:

As the National Rifle Association (NRA) prepares to kick off its annual convention in Atlanta later this week, a new national survey of gun owners finds overwhelming opposition to the dangerous policies and positions supported by the Washington gun lobby. The poll, released today by Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, also finds that a many gun owners believe that the NRA has become increasingly out of touch with them on important gun safety issues and shows that a majority of gun owners believe the NRA has lost its way, straying from its original purpose and mission. (…) The poll illustrates a disconnect between the views of gun owners and the priorities being pushed by the gun lobby. Key federal legislative priorities named by the NRA, including federally mandated concealed carry, deregulating the sale of gun silencers, and eliminating gun-free school zones, receive very low support from gun owners themselves.

There is a disconnect not only between gun owners and the corporate gun lobby but between the general public as well. That is because the NRA and other pro gun organizations are out of touch with the real America. Their agenda is all about power, control and money. In a recent post, I mentioned that the NRA has become now a talking head for the agenda of the political far right:

The right-wing conservatives now ascendant in Washington are not so shy about their ties to the gun group, and the NRA and its allies are championing policies that would formerly be regarded as fringe. At the federal level, the NRA’s top legislative priority is a bill that would require states to honor each other’s laws governing the concealed carrying of handguns. Another gun-rights measure pending in Congress would legalize silencers, and a third would abolish gun-free school zones.

So let’s review, shall we?

The NRA now has a “seat” at the White House like in no prior administration.

The NRA spent $30 million to get Donald Trump elected.

The NRA spent political capital and actual capital to make sure that the open Supreme Court seat went to someone they wanted- Neal Gorsuch.

At least one NRA Board member, Ted Nugent, has dined at the White House with Donald Trump- last week. You can’t state clearly enough how offensive Ted Nugent has become and yet still retains a Board position with the NRA. Why was he dining at the White House along with someone who seems to share his views- ex VP candidate Sarah Palin- the one who shoots bears from a helicopter and loves her guns. Ted Nugent is not what we would call a fine upstanding citizen who should be dining with any President in my opinion.

The NRA’s extreme agenda is now in the “mainstream” of our government and will be apparently pushed by our very own President.

Americans continue to die from gunshot injuries at the alarming rate of 90 per day and around 32,000 a year.

Mass shootings continue on a pace more rapid than in past years.

Veterans are shooting and killing themselves in gun suicides daily but the House and perhaps the Senate will decide that not only is that OK, they will make it more possible.

Alex Jones, right wing conspiracy theorist and who believes the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, is a friend of our President.

Common sense is nowhere to be seen at the federal level concerning a national public health epidemic.

Americans generally do have common sense about gun policy, but as long as the corporate gun lobby has a hold on our political leaders, the public’s wishes will be ignored.

“Corporations are people” but corporations don’t get shot and killed. The gun lobby is a corporation formed by the gun industry and the leaders and lobbyists of the pro gun movement. As long as this is the case, we can expect to see shootings continue unabated.

Here are some facts to lead us into the week-end’s festivities:

While the NRA has been placing friends and allies in the Trump Administration and getting favors in return, it has also been relying on relationships with legislators and even President Trump’s own family to push its legislative goals in Congress. NRA allies in Congress and the White House have already delivered some quiet victories for the gun lobby that will endanger public safety. In February, Congress passed and President Trump signed legislation behind 3 responsiblesolutions.org #ResistTheGunLobby closed doors that eliminated a President Obama-era rule that prevented mentally impaired individuals from accessing firearms.12 The rule had required the inclusion of records into the NICS background check system of recipients of Social Security disability benefits who also required a fiduciary representative to manage their benefits because of a disabling mental disorder.13 And in March, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would make it harder to keep guns out of the hands of veterans with severe mental illnesses by effectively prohibiting the Veterans Administration from sharing those records with NICS while also removing the 174,000 records already included in the system. This will put the veterans who most need our support at increased risk of doing harm to themselves or others. The most recent statistics available from the VA found that an average of 20 veterans per day die from suicide.14 While these are early victories for the NRA, their real agenda is focused on policies that would undermine law enforcement and put public safety at risk, making communities across the country less safe.

And more, from the ARS article, from the mouth of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre:

In January, before President Trump was even sworn in, LaPierre made the NRA’s new mission clear, warning members that the “forces that conspired to keep Donald Trump out of the White House are coming together to sabotage his administration,” seeking to “inflict their revenge.”46 A month later LaPierre compared antiTrump protestors to “terrorists” and joined Trump’s attacks on “leftist media” and the “fake news.”47 LaPierre and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox are both slated to speak alongside Trump at the NRA’s annual meeting.48

Revenge. What is that exactly? And what are we talking about here? What I am talking about is public health and safety and protecting lives. The NRA and corporate gun lobby don’t seem to care a whit about that because… rights……money……loyalty…….power……control……..business.

The alternative facts and fantasy of more guns everywhere making American great again continues. Facts don’t matter when it comes to the gun extremists. They want what they want. And what they want is not good for America. A visit to the NRA headquarters is featured in a recent New York Times article takes on the fantasy world of the gun lobby in which we put our heads in the sand and ignore our real problems with guns and gun violence. From the article:

The film star stands tall at the National Rifle Association’s National Firearms Museum — true, only as a cardboard cutout of himself. But the cardboard fantasy of the good guy gunning down the bad guy is what makes the museum work as an enjoyable escape from the life-and-death reality of American gun carnage.

There are thousands of ingenious, gleaming rifles and handguns in displays about America’s gun-rich history of colonialism, immigration, expansionism and vigilante justice. But it is the gallery devoted to Hollywood and its guns and good-guy shooters that best illustrates the power of fantasy now driving the modern gun rights debate.

“Go ahead, make my day,” Clint Eastwood growled famously to a movie bad guy before dispatching him — kaboom! The museum narrative identifies the actual movie guns, not the actors, as having the “starring” roles in assorted western and terrorist-fantasy shootouts. The gallery includes some of the blank rounds actually fired in movies, as opposed to the live rounds bedeviling real life beyond the film screen.

During a visit, the difference between “acting” and “acting out” necessarily comes to mind. Why is there no stream of gripping films about the thousands of troubled Americans with easy access to guns who can lethally act out their darkest grievances on family and society day after day? Shooters nowadays must rise above the B-movie level to get noticed amid the 30,000-plus annual toll of gun death. They need a different twist in motive or a record-high death toll — or maybe the live delivery of death on Facebook, as happened last week — to jolt a jaded public. Inert politicians, of course, remain far more sensitive to the gun lobby than to routine gun mayhem.

(…) The N.R.A.’s latest priority is rooted in its ultimate fantasy that society will be safer if ordinary Americans are allowed to routinely pack a pistol. The organization is pushing Congress to pass a national concealed-carry reciprocity law to make it easier for people with state concealed-gun permits to carry their firearms nationwide. This is part of the campaign to make gun possession ubiquitous among ordinary citizens. All states permit some concealed carry, but under vastly different safety controls. That is why opponents wisely fear that national reciprocity is a ploy to sell more guns and undermine stronger local and state gun controls.

Fantasyland for sure. Evidence and real shootings every day lend the lie to the fantasy about more guns making us safer. Survivors and family members have found out that what they see on TV or in the movies is fantasy. What happens in real life is no fantasy.

The fantasy is that the NRA leaders and lobbyists live in fantasyland as they promote their agenda. One has to wonder when this fantasy bubble will burst. In the ARS polling ( from article above) an interesting question was asked and here is the answer:

  • The NRA is out of touch with gun owners on gun safety issues. 67 percent of the gun owners feel that the NRA used to be an organization dedicated to gun safety, but it’s been overtaken by lobbyists and the interests of gun manufacturers and lost its original purpose and mission. Less than 50 percent of gun owners feel that the organization represents their interests.

It’s past time for a change. As the myths and fantasies of the NRA continue to be perpetuated by those at the top, including now our President, people are dying. It doesn’t have to be this way.

 

UPDATE:

This Media Matters article sets the record straight about the myth that the NRA is a Civil Rights organization as often touted by their leaders:

Despite targeting a civil rights hero, the NRA has routinely attempted to co-opt the civil rights movement by, among other things, calling gun regulations “equally as unconstitutional” as Jim Crow laws and bemoaning that “too many Americans don’t think of the Second Amendment as a civil rights issue.” In August 2015, NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action media liaison Lars Dalseide compared a Seattle ordinance that would fund gun violence research by imposing a tax on the sale of guns and ammunition to Jim Crow-era poll taxes.

In March 2014, NRA board member Ted Nugent wrote in a column for conspiracy website WorldNetDaily that gun owners “must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns,” in response to a law that banned assault weapons following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Nugent went on to call Rosa Parks his “hero” and has previously called himself “Rosa Parks with a Gibson.”

The NRA can in no way be compared to our nation’s real Civil Rights organizations and actions taken to push for those rights. The organization was founded on the idea that it would support hunters and hunter and gun safety. The fact that the leaders and lobbyists use their efforts to increase profits of the gun industry and their control over elected officials by couching it in civil rights language is dangerous and fantasy. I am betting that even many who pay their dues to the organization have no idea that the leaders make this claim.

Nugent is no Rosa Parks.

Wayne LaPierre is no John Lewis.

False facts are not facts.

Myths are fantastical thinking.

The definition of fantasy:

  1. obsolete :  hallucination

  2. 2:  fancy; especially :  the free play of creative imagination

  3. 3:  a creation of the imaginative faculty whether expressed or merely conceived: such asa :  a fanciful design or invention a fantasy of delicate traceryb :  a chimerical or fantastic notion His plans are pure fantasy.c :  fantasia 1 the organ fantasy of Johannes Brahmsd :  imaginative fiction featuring especially strange settings and grotesque characters spent the summer reading fantasy —called also fantasy fiction

  4. 4:  caprice served to fulfill the king’s fantasies

  5. 5:  the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need an object of fantasy; also :  a mental image or a series of mental images (such as a daydream) so created sexual fantasies

  6. 6often attributive :  a coin usually not intended for circulation as currency and often issued by a dubious authority (such as a government-in-exile)

 

 

 

Another anniversary-Columbine

Columbines blooming fresh in the springtime. Colorado state flower.In my recent post, I wrote about the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. That mass shooting occurred on April 16, 2007- ten years ago.

“April is the cruelest month” wrote T.S. Eliot.  The poet could never have predicted how true that has become for America. The poem deals with depression and what April can mean for those who are suffering from depression. Eliot’s poem takes on new meaning considering those who suffer from grief and loss over loved ones shot and killed and/or injured in the month of April. There are too many to count since 1999.

Today is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Yes, remember that mass shooting? It was the first school shooting to really capture Americans as it unfolded almost in real time. It was the first one that made people wonder how it could have happened and also what in God’s name could we do to stop school shooters from randomly shooting classmates.

An article with facts about Columbine provides us with the basics about the shooting. There are facts in the article but they were not fast. It was a slow moving shooting that day. The grief of the families and friends has not healed fast. Grief is under the surface until something triggers the day. A birthday. A holiday. And today, an anniversary of that day.

The article names the victims. They were somebody’s son, daughter, niece, nephew, sister, brother, father, uncle, friend. They were real people who in an instant became named victims.

Cassie Bernall, 17
Steven Curnow, 14
Corey DePooter, 17
Kelly Fleming, 16
Matthew Kechter, 16
Daniel Mauser, 15
Daniel Rohrbough, 15
William “Dave” Sanders, 47
Rachel Scott, 17
Isaiah Shoels, 18
John Tomlin, 16
Lauren Townsend, 18
Kyle Velasquez, 16

We must also remember that 20 were injured and now live with their memories and injuries- physical and emotional.

Some have already forgotten and don’t want us to remember. Others will never forget. Just as I will never forget the night I learned that my sister had been shot and killed. That memory never goes away.

And those of us who have lost a loved one look back and wonder what could have stopped the event? Was there anything anyone could have done? Can we make sure other families don’t have to remember these anniversaries?

We could, at the least,  try to stop the shooters from easily accessing guns they shouldn’t have in the first place.

Here is how the Columbine shooters obtained their guns, being too young to purchase on their own:

Robyn Anderson, a friend of Klebold and Harris, bought the shotguns and the Hi-Point 9mm Carbine at The Tanner Gun Show in December of 1998 from unlicensed sellers. Because Anderson purchased the guns for someone else, the transition constituted an illegal “straw purchase.” Klebold and Harris bought the TEC-DC9 from a pizza shop employee named Mark Manes, who knew they were too young to purchase the assault pistol, but nevertheless sold it to them for $500.

They planned ahead. Nobody knew. That is often the case but also too often someone knew that something was not right but didn’t report it or do anything about it. From the “fast facts” article above, a statement from the mother of one of the shooters:

In the first television interview since her son Dylan killed 13 people at Columbine High School, Susan Klebold speaks to Diane Sawyer. Klebold states that “If I had recognized that Dylan was experiencing some real mental distress, he would not have been there,” she says. “He would’ve gotten help. I don’t ever, for a moment, mean to imply that I’m not conscious of the fact that he was a killer, because I am.”

We have done little or nothing to change gun laws and our gun culture in spite of horrendous mass shooting after mass shooting. We see the same things. We talk about the same things. We watch the coverage of shootings repeatedly on the news but nothing changes. The gun lobby says it’s not the guns,stupid and we couldn’t stop these shootings no matter what we do. And Presidents attend memorial services. And families grieve. And politicians put their heads in the sand and hope no one asks them what they want to do to stop shootings from happening so families don’t have to continue remembering the day their loved ones were shot. And we go on and on and on……

This article urges passage of stronger laws and points out that states that have laws requiring all gun sales to go through a background check have fewer shootings. In other words, laws do matter. Facts matter. From the article:

Research shows that background checks are effective when it comes to saving lives. States with universal background check laws experience 48 percent less gun trafficking, 47 percent fewer deaths of women shot by intimate partners, and 17 percent fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults. States with universal background check requirements also have a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, and 31 percent fewer suicides per capita than states without these laws.

We CAN do something. We can pass stronger gun laws such as requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. We can pass Gun Violence Protection Orders so that families and friends can ask that guns be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. We can pass stronger laws against straw purchasing. We can wake people up to the fact that if something doesn’t seem right, it isn’t and action is necessary. We can identify that there are risks to owning guns and casually selling them to just anyone. We can hold “bad apple gun dealers” accountable and make sure guns are not being sold or exchanged with people who clearly should not have them and end as crime guns.

We can’t let Columbine be forgotten. That is what the gun lobby wants. If we forget the victims- their names and faces, maybe we will just go along and do nothing to cause “trouble” for politicians. They want to avoid the unavoidable. They want to gain the favor of the gun lobby who represent an increasingly small group of Americans who think that the “guys with the guns make the rules.”  Or they just don’t want to deal with what has become a national public health epidemic. It is not and will not be easy. But that does not mean we shouldn’t do it.

Victims continue to speak out but who is listening to them? Tom Mauser, father, of  Columbine victim Daniel Mauser, has reached out to the NRA and wants them to listen. To no avail. With every subsequent mass shooting, he will comfort other parents if they ask for him to do that. He understands. He is active in the movement to prevent gun violence. In his words ( from the article):

“For the first 10 days, I didn’t speak to the media at all. I was just in shock. […] And then suddenly, I was so angry knowing that the NRA was meeting in town that I went and spoke in front of 12,000 people.

[…]It can be shocking. After I spoke, I suddenly realized I’m going to start getting calls from the media, I’m going to start getting people who are angry at me. You really have to be prepared for that.

[…]It can get pretty overwhelming. When you become an activist, you tell your story a lot. You live that story every day anyhow, it’s not like you don’t think of your loss. But when you go in front of other people and speak about it, it’s so much more. “

We have our stories. We have the facts on our side. But the facts and our stories don’t seem to be enough. They should be but we are living in a world where big money speaks and makes policy that advantages corporations and thumbs its’ corporate and political nose at the victims and survivors.

The truth is that on April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were brutally and shockingly and unexpectedly murdered for no reason other than two seemingly angry and possibly mentally ill young men wanted to shoot other kids. There is no other explanation.

What say you gun lobbyists and gun extremists? Is this OK with you? Is it just about mental illness? What if these two couldn’t have so easily accessed guns? What then?

The Columbine is Colorado’s state flower, thus the name of the school. Often names of flowers have significant meanings. For the Columbine flower there is a message:

Wherever your journey takes you stay steadfast in your faith, love and friendships. Believe in things that are not yet seen.

We have not yet seen the majority of America’s leaders step up to the challenge of gun violence. There is actually common ground on solving the issue of gun violence. The majority understands that doing something about this epidemic will save lives.

Where is common sense?

Not rocket science

rocketscientist_01So where were we? Oh yes, talking about why it’s a myth that more guns make us safer.

It’s difficult to discern and predict who may become dangerous with a gun. I know that from personal experience. But there does come a point where we ought to err on the side of preventing a potential tragedy.

There really are some people who should not have guns. One would think that would be a no-brainer and an area of agreement. One would be right. Even NRA members- 74% of them or so- believe that all gun sales should have Brady background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people who could be dangerous with them or who have abused them in the past, committed a felony, abused a partner, spent time in a mental institution, a fugitive from justice, or a teen-ager.

So who opposes such a reasonable measure? The corporate gun lobby of course. Their reasons? A lie.

Not selling guns to prohibited individuals is really a good idea for the public safety and health of our citizens. But sell them we do. Private sellers can set up tables at gun shows and flea markets or sell guns through on-line sites like Armslist.com And they can sell their guns to anyone they want to without asking them for ID or requiring a background check. Whenever this comes up the gun lobby insists that having private sellers do the same background checks that federally licensed dealers have been doing now for 23 years now ( enactment of the Brady law) it will lead to certain gun registration or ( YIKES!!) confiscation.

Such nonsense has filled the void of reasonable conversation for so many years that some actually believe this lie. But I have also found that the other lie perpetrated by the gun lobby that all gun sales do require background checks is believed by many.

They do not of course. Private sales account for about 40% of gun sales. No background check, no ID, have gun will travel. That is simply not OK and makes no sense.

So making sure we are not dealing with alternative facts but rather the truth and the facts will make us safer. Of course, the other lie is that any research into the causes and effects of gun violence are fake news or fake science. That is because those kinds of studies do not support the idea that more guns make us safer and everyone should have one.

This is not rocket science. This is about safety and stopping shootings. It’s that simple.

Take, for example, the oft repeated lies of the gun lobby and those who believe them about Chicago gun crime and/or other crime. There is an insistence that Chicago and Illinois have strong gun laws but the crime rate and shootings are high so, obviously ( to them) strong gun laws don’t work.

They would be wrong. In spite of stronger gun laws than some neighboring states, Chicago’s murder rate is high. The overall crime rate is not,  as President Trump asserts ( and lies about) the highest it has been in 45-47years. In fact, it is at it’s lowest with a peak last year. Why? There are many reasons for what is happening in Chicago. One of them is that 60% of the guns come in to the city from surrounding states with looser gun laws.

Maybe this chart from The Trace will explain things even better. Note that Chicago has fewer gun crimes than many other cities in America. Why does the administration and Republicans as well pick on Chicago? Shall we take a guess given where the other cities are? I’m just saying.

chicago-murders

If we don’t try to stop some of this by passing a national law to require Brady background checks on all gun sales, cities and states that have strong gun laws cannot stop or prevent some of the deadly carnage resulting from guns coming in from somewhere else.

In my own city, there have been 5 shootings in 2 weeks.Read what the police chief had to say about this:

Sunday’s incident is the fifth shooting in Duluth that resulted in injuries in the past 16 days, with at least two additional armed robberies reported during that time. Duluth officials have called the latest outbreak of gunplay a statistical anomaly, noting overall crime rates are dropping. Police Chief Mike Tusken, however, has said there has been an uptick in gun-related activity. Police confiscated more than twice as many firearms from criminals in 2016 compared to 2015, the chief said.

Tusken did not comment to reporters Sunday but did post on his Facebook page: “I empathize how these incidents create fear and angst. Those who use guns to settle disputes harm not only their intended victims but also rob our neighborhoods of a sense of security. For these reasons, we pursue these criminals with great vigor.”

In this article, Chief Tusken is quoted:

“What concerns me is that you have a proliferation of more guns accessible by more people who should not own them, and then that human factor that there’s a propensity — and what appears to be no reluctance whatsoever — to use them,” he said.

Tusken, though, reiterated that he considers the recent rash of gun crimes to be a “tremendous anomaly.” He stressed that none of the shootings were considered random.

Yes, there are people who should not own guns. And yes, most shootings are not random but rather among people who know each other. I know that from personal experience. And facts and research show it to be true. From the linked article:

This is, in many ways, intuitive: The prevalence of guns can cause petty arguments and conflicts to escalate into deadly encounters. People of every country get into arguments and fights with friends, family, and peers. But in the US, it’s much more likely that someone will get angry at an argument, pull out a gun, and kill someone.

These three studies aren’t the only ones to reach similar conclusions. Multiple reviews of the research, including the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s aggregation of the evidence, have consistently found a correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths — including homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings — after controlling for other factors.

So arguments among friends and family members can lead to deaths by firearms which cause the majority of homicides.

So to another myth- buy a gun for self defense and you will be safer. Fake news. Buy a gun for self defense and you and your family are more at risk for being shot:

Tragically, a record number of Americans subscribe to some version of this mythology, with 63 percent (67 percent of men polled and 58 percent of women) believing that guns truly do make them safer. The public’s confidence in firearms, however, is woefully misguided: The evidence overwhelmingly shows that guns leave everybody less safe, including their owners.

 

A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.

Facts matter- or they should. But we are living in a new country now where alternative facts and fake science have risen to new prominence and it comes right from the top.

Do the gun rights advocates think this is OK? I’m just asking. Because it sure seems like it. If they don’t think it’s OK, why are they not insisting that we make common sense changes to keep our families and communities safer from devastating gun violence.

Do gun rights advocates think the man who shot into a crowd of Black Lives Matters protesters in Minnesota because he was a racist and wanted to prove a point is OK with a gun?  Remember, he was a “good guy” with a gun. From the article:

Texts and photos taken from Scarsella’s cellphone and computer, many of which were not presented at trial, show a deeply racist man who talked about being part of a “reserve militia.” He took selfies with his gun in his waistband, wrote frequently about shooting blacks and was passionate about the gun he would eventually use to shoot protesters.

Frightening at best. Some people should not have guns. And when they use them in this way, they should not be able to claim self defense and get away with it. But the gun lobby thinks it would perfectly OK for someone like this to get away with shooting someone because…. Stand Your Ground– coming up for consideration in a state near you, including Minnesota.

Communities of color are rightly concerned and fearful of these kind of alternative facts and lies. They are more at risk now because we are not dealing with science and facts.

(I am editing this to include another great article about the dangers of guns compared to the dangers of terrorists). Nicholas Kristof New York Times writer) wrote this today:

Above all, fear spouses: Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.

And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves.

Yet Trump is raging about a risk from refugees that seems manageable, even as he talks about relaxing rules on another threat, guns, that is infinitely more lethal.

“I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools,” Trump said last year. “My first day, it gets signed, O.K., my first day.” Trump hasn’t in fact signed such an order, but his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, backed him up at her confirmation hearing last month, saying that guns might be necessary in schools because of “potential grizzlies.”

Domestic violence takes more lives than grizzly bears or terrorists. This is not rocket science. It doesn’t have to be this way and we must demand the truth and the facts.

It is so clear that more guns are not making us safer and particularly more guns in the hands of people who clearly have no business with a gun anywhere. So why are some of our leaders supporting measures to make it so easy for loaded guns to be in the hands of so many people?  It doesn’t seem to matter that the public is not demanding armed people in every nook and cranny of their communities. The public really is not comfortable with armed people with little or no training and no vetting via a background check walking around everywhere with their guns strapped openly to their bodies.

This is home grown terrorism. We lose more people to gunshot injuries that occur because of even law abiding gun owners who shoot a loved one, allow a toddler to get their small hands on a gun, or leave a gun available for a teen to use in a suicide than to terrorists coming in from other countries. And we are going to perform “extreme vetting” on immigrants, most of whom are not coming across our borders to do harm to others, but not on people who buy guns that are used to shoot another human being?

This is not rocket science. But it is science and fact that America is a country where more citizens own guns than any other democratized country not at war and also a higher gun death rate than almost any other nation:

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries, a new study finds.

There you have it. Facts. Science. Proof.

Until we are allowed by those in charge to deal with facts and science, nothing will change. It is downright frightening that facts are being changed or denied to suit the agenda of those who believe in the lies. Or do they? Is this about money? Likely. Is it about power and influence over elected officials and the voting public? Likely.

We are better than this. The pressure to tell the truth will continue with those who believe we are not safer with more guns everywhere carried into places where we hang out with our families and friends. And that happens to be the majority of Americans.

We will raise our voices. We will make noise. We will demand the truth and the facts and hold our leaders responsible for their choices that make Americans less safe.

 

 

Women marching for freedom from gun violence

march-photoI marched in the Women’s March on Saturday for my sister. I marched in the Women’s March in DC for all of the women who have been shot and killed by firearms. I marched for friends who have lost daughters, sisters, brothers, parents or children in senseless gun violence. I marched because I don’t want families to lose loved ones in a sudden and violent death. I marched because Congress and state legislators have not been listening to the voices of the victims. I marched because I know women and men all over America who are members of a club we didn’t choose. I marched to raise my voice loudly and clearly and to join with others in solidarity for women’s rights to be safe in their homes.

My sister was a feisty woman. She would have marched with me or for me if she had not been shot and killed in 1992 by her estranged husband. Women are 11 times more likely to lose their lives to gun violence than women in other countries. Why is that? Because Americans have more more guns in their homes than in other countries and they are not often stored safely locked and unloaded. Why is that? Because the corporate gun lobby has deceived us by making the case that guns in homes for self protection will protect people from harm. Instead, those guns get used more often to kill someone in the home than to be used to scare off a home invader.

As a Brady Campaign chapter leader, Brady Campaign/Center Board of Trustees member, Board member of Protect Minnesota and Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, I carried many people’s names with me because they wanted to be part of the march. I asked and they answered. Over 100 of my friends and family members asked to have their names on my sign. It was because of my passionate advocacy to prevent gun violence and in memory of my sister that so many wanted to “march” with me.

Thousands of Brady Campaign chapter members marched in cities all over America and came to DC to be a part of the most historic march in our country. Many of them were victims who were marching for loved ones. The surreal crush of marchers prevented us from meeting up as I had thought I could do. If I could have polled the marchers, I am certain that every one of them would have supported requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. We know that a vast majority of Americans agree to that.

About 100 women were willing to endure 2 nights on a bus with little sleep, living on snacks and fast food and cramped quarters to become a part of this large movement.It was a movement created by @realDonaldTrump himself:

That man is in power now. He is slowly reshaping his press coverage to his specifications, floating the idea of “putting in his own security and intelligence community,” whatever that might mean, and praising authoritarian leaders who crack down on dissident populations. The Women’s March will be remembered as a global rebuke to this administration and the manifestation of a massive political will to resist. But if it does what protests should — if it provokes a response — much more will have to come from it.

But I digress.

Before I left on the bus, my family expressed concern about my safety considering that sometimes “protests” and marches turn ugly and violence breaks out. I was more concerned about finding bathrooms and making sure I would not lose my friends. But as we walked from our where our bus was parked at RFK stadium to the beginning of the march, it was obvious that this was going to be something huge. I will never forget all of the bus riders starting their own march as we found our way to Independence Avenue. I will never forget the residents of the row houses standing on their lawns thanking us for coming. I will never forget the man who asked if he could hug me as I walked by his house. I will never forget the volunteers of a neighborhood high school opening up the school for marchers so we could use their bathrooms and get information.

And I saw no guns anywhere, thankfully. Guns in a large crowd would be a recipe for an accident or senseless tragedy. But the corporate gun lobby, of course, would have encouraged armed citizens to march. Because….rights. Marches all over the country were peaceful, polite, almost cheerful and very friendly events. That was one of the hallmarks of the march. Police officers thanked us for coming and we thanked them for being there to protect us, to answer questions, and to control the very large number of marchers.

Marching in DC on Saturday was an honor and a truly overwhelming experience for me. Like the Million Mom March, the Women’s March changed my life. I know that my advocacy is not for naught. I know that Americans with common sense –safe families and safe communities free of devastating gun violence. I know that we can all make a difference if we stand together and make our collective voices heard.

It was clear to me that the only way to make that happen is take steps to make it happen- both large and small. This is not the time to sit back and let others do the work. This is the time to get involved. The Brady Campaign and Protect Minnesota have been my way to be involved. As a victim of gun violence I have spoken out for many years as a chapter activist and worked hard to advocate for victims and survivors. I know many who have done the same. And now I know that millions more activists were born last Saturday and they are ready to act on the many issues that @realDonaldTrump is determined to affect.

If you marched anywhere in the country, thank you.

If you marched or if you didn’t march, this is no time to be silent. Now is the time to speak up and contact your local, state and federal elected leaders about what your concerns. Tell them in a simple message about what you want to see happen and say you are a voter and so are your friends and families.

This is how change will happen. Let’s get to work.

Minnesota felons have guns

arrested-emoticonWhere do they come from- those guns that felons get their hands on? Felons cannot legally buy guns from federally licensed gun dealers. It’s the law. Guns don’t fall from the sky. They come from someone or somewhere that shouldn’t be giving a gun to a felon. And felons know they cannot possess firearms. I have talked to a few people who are now ex-felons and they told me they understand that as one of the things they cannot do upon their release and going “off paper”.

But there are ways to get guns if a felon ignores the laws on the books:

  • From private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or on-line sites such as Armslist.com where no background checks are required
  • Stealing from a friend, family member or someone who “forgot” or was irresponsible enough not to lock up their guns
  • a “bad apple” gun dealer
  • from a friend who got it legally but gave it or sold it to a person even though they know they can’t have a gun
  • trafficked on the street ( but where do those traffickers get their guns?)

Shouldn’t we stop felons from getting their hands on guns? Of course. That is a no brainer.

I can’t imagine anyone saying no. But no they say when the lapdogs of the corporate gun lobby refuse to pass stronger gun laws to keep the guns from these and other people who shouldn’t have guns.

Where is common sense?

Requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales can save lives. Requiring the reporting of lost and stolen guns can save lives. Cracking down on bad apple gun dealers can save lives. Requiring people to lock up their guns can save lives. Stopping gun trafficking can save lives. Talking sense to people who think their friend or family member won’t do anything wrong with the gun they gave or sold to them would save lives.

So, on New Year’s Eve there was a deadly shooting in my neck of the woods. Two brothers were shot, one died and the other badly injured. Who shot them? Allegedly a  felon in possession of a gun he couldn’t have had legally. As of today, a man has been arrested with having this illegal gun at the scene of the crime but not yet officially charged with the actual shooting. More news to come, I’m sure.

Where did he get his gun?

Or this Minnesota man, also not far from my neck of the woods, another felon in possession of an arsenal he can’t legally own:

A woman in the home broke up the altercation, and the younger man reported to deputies that he was scared at the time of the incident and believed Kludt was capable of hurting or killing him. The victim then told deputies about approximately 25 guns stored on the property. Children in the residence confirmed that fact, and the woman gave consent to search the property.

Deputies seized two pistols from Kludt’s home office — a.45-caliber Glock and a 9mm Beretta — before locating a gun vault in Kludt’s garage that contained 32 total firearms.

Searches of a garage attachment and pole building elicited a second vault containing another 9mm Beretta and other guns. Multiple other firearms were found throughout the property, including muzzleloaders and antique firearms.

Not all firearms were seized; several were secured on the residence after a family member claimed possession and ownership of them.

Where did he get this arsenal? It sounds like his family was scared of him. I wonder why?

Where is common sense?

There really are people who shouldn’t have guns. We need to regulate the people who are potentially dangerous with guns. There are many responsible gun owners would not intentionally hurt someone with that ( until they do as in my sister’s case). Many guns are never fired or used in a crime. That’s all good.

What is not good is the few who make the wrong decision. Stronger laws can help us all make the decision that guns are not for everyone.

With the gun death rate staying the same or rising in the past 5 years or so, we are not doing enough to protect people from senseless gun deaths. It is a public health and safety crisis ignored.

We can save lives if we choose to and if the gun lobby lapdogs would represent the majority of American who want them to do something about the carnage.

New Years Resolutions

new-year-resolutionsHappy 2017 everyone. I have been avoiding the fact that in just  few short weeks, @realDonaldTrump will become our next President. And so I have also been avoiding other things in my life as I grapple with what is going on around me. Time has flown already since the New Year’s holiday. Family time and taking care of things for a relative who has a disability has not allowed me to think much about the new year. But I was drawn back in upon seeing some tweets and Facebook posts about shootings around the new year. It happens every year and, as I have written many times, gun violence does not take a holiday.

In spite of those facts, Congress and legislatures in many states, controlled by gun lobby lapdogs, will disappoint us with their resolutions to loosen laws that save lives and prevent shootings.

Let’s start with the Texas lawmaker who was the victim of celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. Every year, irresponsible gun owners and carriers don’t think about the great risk to others when they decide to shoot loaded guns into the air. Bullets, as we know, have certain trajectories and so when they go up, the natural physics is that they come back down. Whoever or whatever happens to be under the trajectory will be hit.

It seems that the lawmaker is OK and luckily for him, will not suffer from a life long debilitating injury like my friend Joe Jaskolka has. In fact, he is now ready to support a law to deal with celebratory gunfire:

“If my legislation could help save a life, you know, then definitely that’s what we’re gonna be looking at doing,” the Weslaco Democrat said Monday in a phone interview from the Valley Baptist Medical Center shortly before he was released.

That’s what I’m talking about- saving a life ( or lives). Is there something bad about that?

When people are affected by gun violence, it often changes things and makes them realize that this could happen to anyone.

Common sense is what it takes to save lives and keep citizens safe from gun violence.

Some are not as lucky as this lawmaker. Take my friend Joe Jaskolka, for instance. His life has been affected greatly and negatively since a bullet landed in his head from celebratory gunfire:

I got maybe a half-block away from my Grandmother’s home before a “Celebratory bullet” pierced my skull. Better yet, when my cousin Jeff ran back in the house to report to an adult to call 911, “Joe’s just lying on the ground, everyone must have thought I was joking”, but a child with a bullet-hole in the top of his cranium, when my parents (and aunts, uncles, and fellow cousins) were all trying to figure out what happened to me, crazy scenarios started to be heard.

When police searched the rooftops in a few block radius a day later, they found over 700 spent bullets!

When everyone at the party figured out my condition, they along with the medical staff at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) must have all figured I was dead.  You know you’re a dead man when the hospital has a priest sitting with your parents in the Emergency Room to wait for bad news.

Joe was 11 when this happened. When I met him years ago at a national meeting he was sitting in a wheel chair with obvious physical disabilities. We have remained friends for years.

Real stories are worth many gun lobby myths.

Closer to home, several things happened in Minnesota. Two men from the Twin Cities area were shot behind a local Superior, Wisconsin bar. One died in the shooting and one was injured. It was not random. Most shootings are not in fact.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced rather quietly that more states were added to the list of those whose carry permits would not be reciprocated in Minnesota. Why? Not strong enough regulations in Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Now there is some common sense.

If anyone can honestly tell me that it is safe for teens under 21 and those without permits to carry will be safe on our streets, then they are not using common sense. For in Minnesota, that is what we have decided we want people to have training and have a permit and be 21. Why would we allow less than that anywhere? Follow the money and the links between the gun lobby which pushes bills to allow anyone to buy and carry guns and the gun industry profits.

And speaking of the gun industry, it looks like gun stocks are falling after the election of the gun lobby’s candidate, Donald Trump. @realDonaldTrump won’t take guns away so no worries- except that people won’t flock to gun stores to buy guns now unless they are afraid of the fear of a President who will confiscate their guns. Now what? Looser laws that will create new markets for deadly weapons.

Of course, Hillary Clinton was not going to take guns away either but the gun lobby said she was. President Obama did not take guns away but the gun lobby said he would. Don’t believe the gun lobby.

Speaking of taking guns away, Congress and the Minnesota state legislatures are back in session. The gun lobby will be busy convincing Congress and state legislators that more guns are needed by more people to keep them safe. They are wrong, according to the facts and reality. But never mind the truth. As I have written before in a previous post, up is down and black is white.

As Mark Twain once said, ” “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”” That is more true today than ever.

One of the first orders of business in the Republican led House ( aside from the insane ethics debacle) was to introduce a measure to fine any House member who live streams from the House floor. Republicans didn’t like it when Rep. John Lewis and other Democrats staged a sit-in last June to ask for a vote on background checks. Now they want to silence members who don’t share the views of the gun lobby lapdogs but rather the majority of Americans.

Shame on them. But they have no shame. They would rather punish opposing views than save lives apparently.

But thankfully there are some in Congress who are not afraid of the gun lobby. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey will re-introduce a bill to allow government agencies to do research on the public health crisis of gun violence.

We will see a lot of gun bills going both ways but the conservatives, Republican lapdogs for the gun lobby and those who are afraid to stand against that group are giddy with the idea that they can weaken gun laws and allow more dangerous behavior with guns than ever before. For the life of my sister, I can’t understand this glee at weakening laws that save lives. People will die as a result. Will that matter to these lapdogs?

Does it matter to them that one toddler a week has shot someone in 2015 and now 2016? If not, why not? Avoiding the truth means avoiding the facts that these kinds of shootings are avoidable.

Maybe if one of their own is struck down by a stray bullet or shot by a crazed or angry person or a toddler who shouldn’t have had a gun in the first place ( when it could have been prevented) one or two of them will realize how wrong they have been.

It will be a busy few months (years). Let’s hope we can keep the pressure on this issue and shed light on those who take money from the nation’s most powerful lobby- the NRA. 1Pulse4America is keeping track. It is not a pretty picture. When North Carolina Senator Burr takes over $800,000 from the NRA in “blood money” we can count on him to oppose common sense gun legislation that could save lives.

For if a legislator or Congress member is beholden to the gun lobby, we are less safe as a result.

Facts matter. Accountability matters. Lives matter more than anything else.

Happy New Year everyone. I resolve to do whatever it takes to prevent gun violence and save lives. How about you?

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