The dark before the light

0be6f-winter-solstice-signToday is the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. Our national political situation feels very dark but I am hopeful that shedding light on the truth and evidenced-based research into the causes and effects of gun violence will help protect the vulnerable amongst us from their entitlement to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As we go into the new year it is worth remembering that almost 100 Americans lose their lives to gunshot injuries. That is more than 33,000 a year and another 70,000 or so are injured by guns. That includes transgender people and fetuses.  Mass shootings are happening far too frequently and affect our diversity of citizensScience-based studies have been stifled about the cause and effect of gun violence.

Everyone is vulnerable to getting shot anywhere and that is not going to change unless we all speak out and stand up like this military officer did at his hearing to be approved by a Senate committee for a job at the Department of Defense.:

“I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15,” Dr. Dean Winslow, the nominee for the Department of Defense’s top health affairs job, said during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Winslow was responding to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asking if the Texas gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, should’ve received a “dishonorable discharge” from the military — the worst possible way to leave the armed forces — instead of a “bad conduct discharge” for assaulting his spouse and child.

He was not approved.

I guess we can’t speak our minds about guns and gun violence and talk common sense in America where gun violence takes more lives than in any other democratized country not at war.

In this new America since January of this year, speaking the truth and voicing your views are under attack and it is truly frightening.

What is also frightening is that the far right “Trump TV” is talking about a coup. What does that mean? Will there be armed people taking over the government? I fear that with all those armed insurrectionists out there with arsenals and the fomenting of paranoia of government coming from those in the government, it could lead to tragic consequences. Half of U.S. guns are owned by just 3% of gun owners. That seems like a signal that some folks in our country are ready for something- not sure what yet.

But maybe these two know something. Alex Jones, conspiracy theorist and nut job, and Roger Stone, friend of our President, made a video of themselves at a gun range getting ready for civil war if Trump either resigns or is impeached. Let’s take a look:

The visit was documented in a nearly one-and-a-half-hour-long December 19 video posted to Jones’ YouTube channel with the title “Roger Stone Prepares For Civil War After Trump Is Removed From Office: LIVE AUTO GUNFIRE.”

Jones set up the video by explaining that when Stone “was recently asked by TMZ what happens if Trump is assassinated or overthrown, he said it would cause a civil war.”

I suppose I don’t need to remind my readers that “overthrown” is a dark word fraught with accusations and pregnant with meaning to some. If the President leaves of his own accord, is asked to leave after things get too dicey or is impeached, this is not being overthrown as if in a third world country.

But then again, the way things are going with attempts to ban words, stifle the media, shut down entire departments, “overthrow” regulations that are important for public health and safety, throwing people off of health care, attacking the FBI and the Justice Department, attacking immigrants and minorities, threatening to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, tweeting false accusations, blaming past administrations, meeting in secret to pass bills and “investigate” former administrations, avoiding a serious investigation into the actual known threat of Russian interference in our elections and much much more, it feels like we are a third world country.

We are better than this. When conspiracy theorists and lunatics arm themselves to the teeth in preparation for a civil war, we are in a dangerous place.

But there are actually some things we can do. Certainly making sure that we resist these machinations to “burn down the house” as Rep. Adam Schiff said last night in an interview on the Rachel Maddow show. Peacefully resisting and protesting any move to shut down our freedoms of the press, freedom to express ourselves, and any attempt to take down our democracy are an option.

And regarding the ever contentious issue of gun rights and gun violence, the Brady Campaign has an idea. Start talking more common sense with friends and relatives over the holidays when people are gathered together and the conversation turns to politics  (which it most likely will given the chaos happening all around us).

Let’s take a look:

A good discussion always starts with a place of common understanding. Find the ideals that unite you both – like respecting constitutional rights, while also preventing gun deaths – and focus on those. Starting at a point of understanding and recognition of your shared beliefs will lay the groundwork for a more productive conversation, and remind you why you’re having this conversation. It’s important to emphasize working together to accomplish a common goal, rather than view this discussion as a quick way to change someone’s mind.

And more:

This step is the crux of what most people think of when they envision of a “political debate.” But it doesn’t need to be intimidating or scary. Keep in mind the tips we’ve given you up to this point – remain engaged and open, don’t get defensive, and continue to share your viewpoints in a calm, rational manner. It’s okay if you find a place where you disagree – that is bound to happen – but this is where you can share the results of common-sense solutions like background checks with your audience.

It is too important to our liberty, our freedom, our rights, our democracy, the safety of our families and friends, to excuse extreme thoughts and behavior. For there is common ground in the middle. We know this from the polling done for many years now. Almost everyone agrees on requiring background checks for all gun sales, for example. And many other measures to strengthen our gun laws are also supported by a majority of Americans.

If we treat each other with respect and dignity without name calling and attacking, we will be a better country. And if we have conversations and make policy in the light of day instead of secretly and in the dark, even if we don’t agree, we can at least understand how it happened and have a chance to rebut or attempt to change minds.

The one thing I know for sure is that arming up will lead to bad things. Loaded guns in volatile and angry situations will inevitably lead to chaos and tragedy.

In the new year, I have to hope that shedding light on the truth and finding common ground on many issues, but particularly on the gun issue, can bring our country out of the darkness of the gun violence epidemic where we have been hiding for way too long. This is about safety and the health of our communities and families.

Happy solstice. Happy holidays. May your holidays be peaceful and joyful. And stay safe wherever you are.

 

July 4th violence

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American BannerWell, I didn’t think I would be posting so soon after my last one. We shouldn’t be surprised that #45 is not taking a July 4th vacation from tweeting. He should.  Our President decided to tweet out yet another invective against the press, including a violent  doctored video.:

The video appears to be a repurposed clip of Trump, then a reality TV star, beating up WWE owner Vince McMahon in 2007 ― with the logo for CNN, which Trump has continually labeled a “fake news” media outlet, replacing McMahon’s head.

Trump’s official White House account subsequently retweeted the video, which appeared on a Reddit thread on Wednesday, entitled “Trump takes down fake news.”

The fake news is the video and tweeting by our own President.

Let’s hope no one acts on the violence encouraged in the tweeted video, above.

And we do have to wonder now if the President was right when he said he could step out onto Fifth Avenue in NYC and shoot someone and he wouldn’t lose any voters.  Something to think about,

This is America on the Fourth of July, 2017.

You just can’t make this stuff up and it portends of a whole new world and a total disregard for the office of the Presidency and the country as a whole. As Rachel Maddow explained on her Friday show, this President really doesn’t care about that. He only seems to care about his ratings, his base, and his self esteem. People with low self esteem are often bullies.

What does this have to do with gun violence you ask? Many of our nation’s domestic and mass shootings are committed by people with  anger problems , problems with women, actual low self esteem and self image problems or prior violence in their own lives. They are often angry and some with mental illness, diagnosed or under diagnosed. Gun suicides are often the result of these personality traits as well. And to make matters worse, many mass and domestic shootings are committed by suicidal people who seem to want to take others with them. My ex ( now deceased) brother-in-law did not kill himself at the moment of the shooting of my sister and one other person. He did that later but clearly mentioned being suicidal after the shooting and actually succeeded 3 months later when he put a plastic bag over his head and suffocated himself.

Back to my original thought about the President of our country instilling violence…..

We are about to celebrate our nation’s Independence from England. It was a brutal and violent war (what war isn’t?) and left many dead and injured behind. (4435 battle deaths.)

At about 90 gun deaths per day, it would take about 3 months to reach the number killed in the Revolutionary War. Since 1968 more Americans have been killed by guns than in all American wars combined.

Astounding.

The American gun culture is killing people en masse and we look the other way.

Who are we as a country any more?

What we gained was an independent country that has become a model for democracy all over the world. If that model becomes tainted by our own leader, what kind of model will we become? Confidence and trust in our country has already eroded after the election of a man who seems to be increasingly angry and unhinged- seeking vengeance against anyone who dares to criticize him for his own words and behavior that is out there for all to see or anyone who slights him in any way.

Words matter. Behavior matters. Tweets matter. This should not be tolerated by any of us. I would hasten to bet that if Hillary Clinton had been elected, the attacks would have been vicious but she would not have been the attacker. If Barack Obama had said or done any of the things #45 has done and said, he would have been run out of office in short order.

This is not the America we deserve or should want. The fact that our President’s base is willing to tolerate this because of ideology, fear, anger, and whatever else was in the background of our last election,  is alarming. Violence from the top can only beget violence below.

And speaking of violence ( having nothing to do with the President but everything to do with angry people and guns) the recent rampage at a Bronx hospital was just another reason why more guns do not make us safer. Why a man who had the problems this physician had was not charged with a felony for previous behavior is beyond me. But had he been, getting a gun would have been more difficult. Not impossible mind you because private sellers at gun shows and on-line can sell to anyone with no Brady background checks. He bought the gun within weeks of the shooting.

Waiting periods anyone? Some states have them.  Not enough. They could save lives.

Brady background checks can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding purchaser and gun owner?

This physician had an AM-15- an assault gun that he shouldn’t have had. But he brought it with him to the hospital and killed one, wounded 5 more and then killed himself. As these shootings always are- it was a shocking and violent surprise with no time to react. Don’t anyone write a comment to me about how if only someone had had a gun, this would not have happened. That would be a lie. We don’t need any more lies in our country.

And then there is the continued ripple effect of gun violence that also is felt by the families of the shooters. This story is about the reflections of the wife of the man who shot and injured Congressman Steve Scalise:

He flung dishes at his wife, roared at the television, erupted during an outing at a local brewery. Suzanne Hodgkinson became so concerned with her husband’s growing anger that she wrote to his doctor asking for help.

Now, the wife of the man who opened fire on a congressional baseball team in June wonders what more she could have done.

A case for Gun Violence Protection Orders. Some states have them. They can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding gun purchaser and owner?

Guns and anger don’t go together. Guns and domestic strife or domestic abuse don’t go together. Guns and issues with women don’t go together. Guns and financial troubles don’t go together. Guns and mental illness don’t go together. Guns and vengeance don’t go together.

Guns and stupidity and irresponsibility also do not go together. If this were not so serious, one could cry. A Florida man sat on his gun and shot himself in the penis. Really? Yes, really. #notanaccident

She said the man told her he sat on the gun, which accidentally went off.

Police were called to the hospital just before 3 a.m. because of the gunshot wound.

Investigators found that the man was convicted of cocaine possession in 2004.

It’s possible he will be facing charges for possessing a firearm, because he is a convicted felon.

Not a law abiding gun owner. How did he get his gun?

And since I will be busy doing things with my family, I want to write once again about the totally stupid and dangerous celebratory gunfire that occurs every year on July 4th:

Looking into the science of it, can it actually kill someone? According to Forensic Outreach it not only can, but has.

“Celebratory gunfire has wounded hundreds and killed dozens in recent years in the US alone,” according to the research website.

As the site explains, the impact a bullet falling back to the ground can have has several different factors rooted in physics — everything from gravity, terminal velocity and wind resistance. The speed of the bullet leaving a gun or rifle also changes based on size or caliber but is estimated at anywhere from 1,500 feet per second to 2,900 feet per second.

A bullet shot straight up in the air, which is almost impossible by a human according to Forensic Outreach, will lose all of its speed at the top and then start to fall back to the ground.

With the help of gravity, it will pick up speed and impact at somewhere between 200 to 330 feet per second, which is said to be enough to penetrate the skin.

Most bullets won’t be shot straight up. Most will be shot at an angle so it will never loose all of the speed coming out of a gun barrel. A bullet on that type of an angle will impact at a speed between 300 to 700 feet per second which is enough to penetrate a skull.

The moral of the story is don’t shoot your gun in the air because it’s illegal and can kill someone.

Pare injured or worse by this avoidable and nonsensical practice by irresponsible gun owners- most law abiding- who should know better. What goes up must come down by the laws of nature. I also refer to my friend Joe Jaskolka on the fourth of July because his life changed forever on New Year’s Eve of 1999 when a celebratory bullet ended its’ trajectory in his brain. He was 11 then and almost 30 now still suffering from the permanent effect of one celebratory bullet.

#Enough

Be safe out there everyone. More guns do NOT make us all safer so don’t listen to that lie. And use common sense if you do happen to own a gun. There’s too much carnage going around and way too much violent rhetoric going around. As a country we owe it our children and grandchildren to stop this from becoming normal. It is not normal in any way.

We do have a serious problem but for the next few days, we can hope that common sense will prevail and the President and others will refrain from violent rhetoric and actual violence. We all need a vacation from the tweeting and the chaos surrounding the President.

On that note, Happy July 4th everyone.