Minnesota nice?

minnesota-niceThe last few days has revealed the lunacy of an armed society in Minnesota. Not that it isn’t happening in every state of our “great” country every day. But the last few days have been particularly concerning. Let’s take a look at the Minnesota gun culture as it has been reported in news stories.

First up- a Winona man apparently was shot by an “accidental” discharge and has now died of his gunshot injuries. There are no “accidental” gun discharges. There are avoidable, senseless accidents with guns that shouldn’t have happened. Why? Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill or injure humans or animals. They must be taken seriously and their owners must not “play” with them or clean them without knowing if there is a round in the chamber, or get them out while drinking, or let children access them and all of those other common sense admonitions that go with dangerous things.

Second- a first grader brought a gun to a St. Paul school where it discharged, injuring the floor tiles and luckily not another child or adult. As we said when I was writing for the Kid Shootings blog- Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy.

Third- a shooting took place at an Anoka area gas station. Law enforcement engaged in the high speed chase on highways and freeways ending with a crash and the suspect being shot and injured by law enforcement.

And now the same St. Cloud mall that suffered the September mass stabbing incident was under lock-down because a man was seen with a gun.

Shortly after 7 p.m., St. Cloud police Sgt. Jason Burke said in a news release that ““Initial information is that a male and female were in an argument outside the mall by the food court. During the argument, two males unknown to them approached, one of the males lifted the front of his shirt and showed the couple a gun in his waistband. The gun was not pointed at the couple, no threats were made, and no injuries have been reported.

It will be interesting to find out who these 2 reported guys with guns were.

And as an aside, people arguing in malls should take it outside or in private so they don’t frighten people around them. Fear is all around us now after the most contentious election in recent history. The corporate gun lobby has helped stoke that fear and suspicion that could lead to us being less safe rather than safer:

Trump bore little resemblance to the lifelong heartland conservatives whom the NRA typically backed. He was an Ivy League-educated real estate heir with a gold-plated private jet and a foreign, former-model third wife. Trump and Melania had wed at a glamorous ceremony where Bill and Hillary Clinton had been among the guests. A proud New York City resident, Trump didn’t seem to have much regard for the attachments many Americans felt towards guns, never mind the policy purity the NRA demands of other candidates. In a 2000 book, he’d even written, “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

But from the outset of his campaign, Trump adopted an incendiary message that matched the NRA’s own. He hurled invectives at establishment politicians in both parties. He described a once-great nation under assault and in sharp decline, rhetoric that electrified white Americans brimming with grievance.

This is our President-elect.

Sigh.

We will not be safer with more guns around us in this atmosphere of fear.

But I digress.

Another fatal shooting in North Minneapolis yesterday adds up to a very violent year in that section of Minneapolis that has residents very concerned for their own safety. From the article:

For the third day in a row, the pop-pop-pop of gunfire punctuated the midday calm near a north Minneapolis strip mall, this time leaving a young man dead and detectives searching for answers.

This is simply not the kind of communities we want for our children and families. The proliferation of guns on our streets is a serious public health and safety epidemic. No one is immune from it. It adds to the fear and suspicion of others and spirals out of control.

And last, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has been charged with manslaughter:

In an extraordinary move by a Minnesota prosecutor, authorities said the officer, not the civilian, is to blame for the tragic events that turned a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb into a flash point in the national debate over racial profiling and police use of force.

You may remember that the shooting of Castile resulted in demonstrations on the streets of Minnesota and all over the country for that matter. These are incidents that have escalated all over America. Unarmed and armed men of color have been shot by officers in what seems like increasing frequency. Race plays a role. Armed citizens plays a role. Fear plays a role. There should be some very serious conversations about what all of this means for the safety of Americans. Will we have them? Will we ignore this at the peril of our communities?

I have great respect for our law enforcement officers and have written frequently about officers under assault by armed citizens. The job of our officers is made all the more dangerous by so many armed Americans and it has led to a vicious circle of arming up to protect themselves from citizens who are allowed to carry their guns in public places or are involved in domestic disputes. Armed citizenry is not the norm in other democratized countries and therefore, law enforcement officers are not often the target of ambushes. In fact, in some countries, officers are not armed. Interestingly, there are far fewer gun deaths in almost all over democratized countries not at war. Coincidence?

What is particularly disturbing is the number of ambushes of American officers leading to tragic deaths of officers:

The attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge that left eight officers dead earlier this month sent waves of fear through law enforcement agencies across the country, with departments ordering officers to double up on patrols as a safety measure.

These deaths contributed to a grim tally this year. Through last week, 32 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks these deaths. More than half of the officers fatally shot died in ambushes, the group said in a report released Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with this American tragedy. Time will tell if he will and if he does, how he will.

An armed society is not a polite society. Our children and families should not have to be exposed to this kind of violence and potential violence. This is lunacy, not niceness.

“Minnesota nice” is a myth.

These are only the gun deaths we know about. About 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. These are not usually reported in the media unless they are homicide/suicides, often occurring in domestic shootings. Passing stronger gun laws reduces gun homicides and suicides as it turns out.

But requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is under assault. The continued myths coming from the corporate gun lobby don’t make us safer.

Who are we? Do we care about our fellow citizens no matter who they are? There are certain truths that should be self-evident. One of them is that we have a moral responsibility to protect our citizens from those who would do them harm and I am not just talking about terrorism. The truth is that toddlers have killed more of their fellow Americans than terrorists:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Please look at the map in the above linked article showing that in “red states” that typically have looser gun laws, more shootings by toddlers have occurred. Coincidence?

Banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans, as our President-elect and apparently many in the Republican party want to do to protect us will not change this.

The Brady Campaign and other gun violence prevention organizations have solutions that often don’t involve legislation. Check out what can be done to make us safer by making sure guns are locked and stored away from tiny hands and the hands of others who should not have access to guns.

As I wrote about in my last post, things will not be getting better now that the corporate gun lobby believes they have a seat in the White House. How will that make us safer? It won’t. I have yet to hear how plans to repeal strong gun laws will result in fewer shootings and fewer deaths. In fact, the opposite is true.

But we are now living in a country where lies and deception are taken for the truth. It’s a scary time for those of us who have been working for peaceful solutions and safer communities. It’s downright sobering that in a country where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is under assault.

The epitome of our gun culture

JCC shooting15 years ago today, a White Supremacist shot up a Jewish Community Center day care center and injured small children. This is the shooting that caught the attention of Donna Dees Thomases who then went on to organize the Million Mom March in May of 2000. Since that time, thousands of Americans have been involved in the issue of gun violence prevention. And since that time, about 200,000 more Americans have died from gunshot injuries with Congress taking the back seat instead of driving the conversation that we need to have.

And so , the American gun culture keeps giving us shooting after shooting, mass shooting after mass shooting, and more dead and injured citizens. Americans are numb to the carnage because it is happening too often. People feel helpless to do anything about it since our politicians are so afraid to take the bully pulpit they have and speak out for change.

Let’s take a glimpse at what went on in our country over the past few days if you don’t believe me.

A shooting in a small North Carolina city is the epitome of the American gun culture. A young father, drunk, shot and killed his two young sons and then himself. In reading the story, several things jumped out for me. The man told neighbors he was paranoid about someone breaking into his house. He was constantly shooting guns in his back yard, bothering and frightening the neighbors and often while drinking. Are there laws about stuff like this? Can people shoot off their guns in the city limits? If so, why? If not, why didn’t someone call law enforcement? Should this man have been allowed to have guns? Shooting while drunk just has to be against some law- reckless endangerment? Or is this just an example of the gun culture we have that people are willing to accept this dangerous and stupid behavior?

Now 2 innocent little children are dead. Senseless. Avoidable.

New research (from the Armed With Reason blog)  is showing that shootings by people who are under the influence of alcohol are more frequent than shootings by those with dangerous mental illness:

Several studies have established the relationship between alcohol abuse and firearm-related crimes. Just as an individual is severely handicapped while operating a car under the influence, these studies found that similar failures in judgment and impulse control manifest during the operation of a firearm. Research shows that the risk of homicide, suicide, and violent death by all causes is significantly elevated with chronic alcohol abuse. Another studyfound a causal relationship between alcohol abuse and “impulsive” crimes such as assault and property damage.

Garen Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, has conducted two recent studies on alcohol use among gun owners and how it might impact their behavior. In 2011, using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — an annual survey of risk-related behaviors conducted by the Centers of Disease Control — for eight states and more than 15,000 respondents, he found that gun owners are significantly more likely than non-firearm owners to have five or more drinks on one occasion, to drink and drive, and have 60 or more drinks per month.

Additionally, in 2015, Wintemute discovered that firearm owners who drink excessively had a history of risky behavior, including higher rates of non-traffic offenses, an overall higher risk of arrest, and greater reported “trouble with the police.” Alcohol abuse, the 2011 study found, also leads to risky behavior with guns: For instance, alcohol intoxication is likely to impair a firearm owner’s “decision-to-shoot” judgment. And while Wintemute didn’t seek a direct link between alcohol abuse and gun violence, he did conclude that of the nearly 400,000 firearm-related deaths between 1997 and 2009, “it is probable that more than a third of these deaths involved alcohol.”

Our country is awash in guns. It’s inevitable that a father who has abused alcohol and is fascinated with guns, will eventually shoot and kill people he loves. It happens. It doesn’t have to but in our American gun culture the unspeakable happens.

This past week-end there were several mass shootings not being talked about by national media.  A Texas man who shouldn’t have had a gun got upset when an ex partner changed the locks on the house. That’s a good reason to shoot and kill 8 people right? Why not? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill other people. And kill they do. Guns in the hands of guys like this are more than dangerous. Given that this guy had a record and was likely on the prohibited purchasers list, how did he get his gun?

This is the American gun culture.

And up in Vermont, 4 were shot and killed by a disturbed woman upset with the social services department. Have gun, will shoot. 3 were relatives of the shooter. 1 was a Social Worker. From the article:

Sobel was shot and killed after work Friday outside a state office building in Barre. She handled a case for the state Department for Children and Families in which Herring lost custody of her 9-year-old daughter, authorities said.

“I think all Vermonters are as shocked, dismayed, horrified and grief-stricken as all of us are,” Shumlin said. “I cannot remember, in my lifetime, four people being murdered by the same alleged perpetrator.”

The person in the quote needs only tune in to the national media to find out that 4 people are killed by the same alleged perpetrator all the time in this American gun culture.

Arguments about who owns a $20 dresser resulted in a shooting incident in Oklahoma- with an AR-15 for goodness’ sake.

This is the American gun culture.

3 people are dead in a presumed domestic shooting in Kileen, Texas.

This is the American gun culture.

Sigh.

In yet another “officer involved shooting” at the one year anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting, a man was shot and injured in Ferguson. A demonstration turned violent and law enforcement reacted. A young man started running and fired at police resulting in the shooting. This is unfortunate all the way around. Again, where do these young people get their guns? This one was, as many are, stolen. From the article:

On Monday, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch denounced the shootings, saying that “violence obscures any message of peaceful protest and places the community, as well as the officers who seek to protect it, in harm’s way.

“The weekend’s events were peaceful and promoted a message of reconciliation and healing,” Ms. Lynch said in a statement. “But incidents of violence, such as we saw last night, are contrary to both that message, along with everything that all of us, including this group, have worked to achieve over the past year.”

And this, too, is the American gun culture. Young people with guns are in our neighborhoods shooting each other, shooting innocent people, shooting at police officers. Young people with guns obtained illegally most likely. Police officers are outgunned on our streets and sometimes overreact to the young people, some unarmed- some armed. And it seems that most of this is happening to black youth.

We cannot ignore this gun culture. It is killing our young people of all colors but mostly young black youth. It is a national tragedy that we are not addressing. It’s an issue of racial injustice and racial disparity. And it is an issue of too many guns accessible to people who should not have them.

Though I am not addressing gun suicides and “accidental” shootings in this post, those, too, are all part of our American gun culture. This is not a culture of which we should be proud. It should be a national embarrassment that we are not addressing  like other countries have done in the face of a public health and safety problem.

Is the epitome of our gun culture dead children? Small children being led across a street in a human chain after a crazed gunman tried to kill them? Drunk people firing off their guns in their yards every day? An angry woman shooting 4 people over losing custody of her child? An angry domestic abuser shooting 8 people because of a change of a door lock? Young black kids being shot by police officers? Police officers outgunned on our streets? Stolen guns leading to crime guns used in shootings?  Someone shooting off an AR-15 over a $20.00 dresser? PSTD suffered years after being shot at a day care center by a mad man?

What is the cost of our American gun culture?

Where is common sense?