Freedom from gun violence

dove of freedomHappy July 4th. Today is, of course, the day we celebrate our independence from a tyrannical government. If we are not vigilant we could be there again. Freedom obviously means different things to different people. But universally it should mean that people ought to be free from violence; free from oppression; free to express opinions; free to live a life without fear of losing health care, a way to make a living, being able to make decisions about own’s own body, free from intolerance and racism, free from discrimination , losing the right to vote, the fear of not being able to marry who you love, the right to the rule of law, the right to live in society within reasonable and common sense rules and laws so that what is good for the most of us is good for all of us. For one never knows when those freedoms might unexpectedly be taken away by circumstances beyond our control or by despotic and self serving leaders.

This morning I read this column written by Dana Milbank, writer for the Washington Post ( the media outlet Trump loves to hate) about our freedoms. From his article:

This isn’t just a linguistic de-emphasis of freedom; Trump has made common cause with dictators and played down human rights abroad while starting a trade war with democratic allies. At home he has questioned due process for refugees, taken immigrant children from their parents, imposed a travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations and declared the media the enemy of the American people. He is now poised to shift the balance on the Supreme Court away from abortion rights and gay rights.

In a very real sense, the fight against Trump is a battle for freedom.

It’s 2018. We should not be a in a battle for our freedoms. But this is where we are right now. Some on the far lunatic right like Alex Jones ( conspiracy theorist and fear monger who Trump loves to love) has put out there that the Democrats are going to start a Civil War today:

The conspiracy theorist tweeted his prediction on Monday, accompanied by a video in which he claimed that “elite publications” were calling for a “civil emergency” using civil unrest and “racial strife” to force out President Trump.

We must be free of this anger, fear mongering and downright lunacy. The fact that our President is on board with this guy says it all.

The President had to relent and allow government buildings to lower their flags to half mast after the shooting of 5 journalists at the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis, Maryland. The fact that someone in the White House refused the original request by the Annapolis Mayor says it all. Why didn’t they intuitively do the right thing? They really don’t seem to care about the lives lost to gun violence. Or if they do, they have a strange way of showing it.

Who does this President stand with? Who does he stand up for? What does he stand up for? Thousands a year lose their lives to gun violence in America, the land of the free. And yet Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell cynically and dangerously says that the federal government can’t do anything to stop school shootings:

McConnell delivered his remarks amid a push for tougher gun safety laws in America, after a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., claimed 17 lives.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Florida attack, said McConnell was full of it.

“Honestly, the man should resign. He either is intentionally useless or he’s just evil,” Guttenberg told the Daily News.

The outspoken activist insisted there’s plenty the federal government could do to combat violence in American schools.

“They could allow the CDC to study gun violence. They could strengthen background checks, ban high capacity magazines,” he said. “There’s a lot they can do, but they can’t do anything if they’re not allowed. Mitch McConnell is nothing more than a roadblock.”

The Kentucky Republican, who has a 93% rating from the NRA, has repeatedly blocked gun-control proposals.

This is what we’ve got right now in America. Lapdog politicians who are pushing to restrict many of our other freedoms but willing to ignore one of the most important freedoms- to live without gun violence.

STOP.

YES WE CAN STOP SHOOTINGS. YES, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN ACT TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE PASS A BRADY BACKGROUND CHECK LAW AND A RED FLAG LAW.

MR. MAJORITY LEADER- STOP THE STUFF AND NONSENSE.

And further, of course, is the hope on the right that any nominee for the Supreme Court open position will further erode the laws that have kept us free and safe from some of the gun violence. The far right and the corporate gun lobby have shown us they resent any restrictions on guns- the kind of guns, who can carry them, and where they can be carried. One of their favorite justices, Antonin Scalia, knew that there should be some restrictions and said so in the 2008 Heller decision– something the corporate gun lobby and Congress loves to conveniently forget. So we do have some constitutional rights to be safe from gun violence after all.

This line of reasoning posed by the corporate gun lobby and the far right extremists ( and even the current GOP party leaders) is dangerous and will lead to chaos and yes, Mr. Jones, even violence. Let’s hope that is not the case but the threat will not be coming from the Democrats who want to stop the violence. Look to those who believe in conspiracy theories, threaten journalists with violence, try to restrict basicl freedoms, rights to vote, and stockpile their weapons for a future war against their own government.

Let me just say that on this July Fourth holiday, what can be done is a commitment to changing the conversation about the causes and effects of gun violence, change the gun culture and change the laws so we can be safe and free from gun violence in our schools, our places of work, our shopping malls, our homes, our parks, our wherever we gather together as a community.

If we give up our freedoms such as freedom of speech and others without also challenging the idea that the misinterpreted meaning of the second amendment means freedom for anyone to purchase and own any kind of gun and carry it anywhere one pleases, we will be giving up our democracy.

Stay firm and strong and keep fighting attempts to take away our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Fourth. Stay safe out there everyone. There are some restrictions on fireworks and personal fireworks can lead to injuries. Celebratory shooting is simply not OK no matter what anyone says. What goes up must come down- a simple law of Physics not understood by some irresponsible gun owners.  Shooting off guns on the Fourth of July is dangerous business and not in the spirit of the celebration.

This is a great day to think about what you can do about our national public health epidemic and our national dilemma about freedoms and civil rights. The best thing you can do is to consider all of this and VOTE in your primaries and the November election.

Common sense is at stake. Lives are at stake. Freedoms are at stake.

In support of safe communities

register to voteWe have a problem ( we have many actually) in the country with so many senior Americans living in homes with guns. In my last post, I wrote about the need for Red Flag laws in order to save lives. A fine example of how these laws work to save lives is this incident of a woman whose husband “accidentally” shot her in the stomach. He had dementia but still she brought out his guns at his request so he could look at them. Unfortunately for all, he picked up one of the guns, pulled the trigger and shot his wife in the stomach. She lived. And yet, she was OK with this because she didn’t want to take away his dignity. But what’s more important here?

Education of the public is needed to explain the provisions of these kinds of laws. Families of gun owners often don’t believe that a loved one could possibly be a danger or pose a risk. But why take a risk with lethal weapons? From the article:

About a year before the shooting, Dee reluctantly took away his car keys. When he still insisted on driving, she sold the car. When he wanted to check on their guns, she locked them in their safe in a shed behind the house and changed the combination.

Dee did the right thing in taking away the car keys. She could have avoided getting shot had she not taken the guns out of the locked gun safe.

At the end of the piece, a common sense discussion occurs with another woman who made the decision to sell her husband’s guns. And further, the article ends with an interview with a physician and the dilemma about talking to elderly patients about guns in the home. This may the time to remind my readers that the NRA has tried to stop physicians from asking about guns in homes. Why? Second amendment I guess.

There really are some people who should not have guns.

This is a no brainer. Of course we have to have these discussions. And of course health care providers should talk to patients about the risk of guns in the home. And of course we need to pass more Red Flag laws. It’s all a matter of common sense and has nothing to do with rights. It’s about safer families and communities.

The Parkland students are touring the country with the Road to Change tour this summer. They are also talking about safer communities wherever they go. There are many ways to have safer communities. One is to pass stronger gun laws. These students understand that because they experienced a tragedy on Feb. 14th at their school and nothing has been the same since.

They are asking, “When is this going to end?”

Good question.

While the students were in Minneapolis, I went to a picnic and met some of them. It was great to chat a bit with Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, two of the outspoken Parkland students who have become heroes to many. I had a particularly good conversation with a student from Chicago who joined the tour as the group stopped there on their tour. We talked about easy access to guns, about the homicides in Chicago, about the difference between urban gun violence and gun suicides which can be prevalent in more urban areas. In the end, it’s the bullets that take lives whether homicide or suicide.

We agreed that we would all be safer if we passed a federal background check law to stop guns from states with more lenient gun laws making their way into states like Illinois with stronger gun laws. Chuck’s gun shop came up as the Brady Campaign has organized some protests there to show how Bad Apple Gun Dealers can add to urban gun violence.

While the students were in Minneapolis they did several things. One of the major goals is to register young people to vote in order to make the changes we need. They did register voters. They also attended a vigil for Thurman Blevins, the man shot by police in Minneapolis in a confrontation that turned deadly. To date there are conflicting reports about this shooting and it appears that the body camera footage of the officers will be released soon. Clearly guns cause a lot of conflict, a lot of heartache, a lot of tragedy and senseless violence in our communities no matter who is shooting them.  There are too many guns out there and as a result there are too many shootings. There is also fear about the too many guns in our communities leading to more fear from citizens and officers alike often leading to more shootings.

There were also more active shooting incidents last year than in previous years. This should come as no surprise to most of us and particularly not to the Parkland community or any community where recent shootings have taken place.This new FBI report released recently has the facts about this. From the article:

Active shooting incidents have continued to plague the nation but last year, there were 30 incidents across the U.S. — the highest number since the FBI began tracking the phenomenon. Last year also broke a record for the highest death toll in any single year.

“Faced with so many tragedies, society routinely wrestles with a fundamental question: can anything be done to prevent attacks on our loved ones, our children, our schools, our churches, concerts and communities?” the study says. “There is cause for hope because there is something that can be done.”

And also of interest is the fact that most of the shooters in these incidents got their guns legally ( though maybe shouldn’t have):

The 30-page report examines active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 and suspects in 63 cases, finding suspects showed signs before they attacked but law enforcement wasn’t notified in more than half the cases until it was too late.

Forty percent of suspects purchased a firearm or multiple guns legally for the sole purpose of an attack. Another 35 percent already legally owned a gun before planning an attack, meaning 75 percent of active shooter incidents reviewed by the FBI legally owned the gun they used in the attack.

The remaining suspects stole, borrowed or purchased a weapon illegally.

It’s so easy to get guns in America. If one intends to carry out a shooting, one can do it without a problem. Speaking of legal and illegal guns, the Heller decision is now 10 years old. 

The Supreme Court decided in Heller the second amendment could be interpreted to mean that individuals have the right to have guns in their homes, more or less ignoring the section of the amendment that deals with a “well regulated militia” as had been an established precedent previous to the decision.

The above linked article from the Brady Center discusses that decision and what it has meant for our country’s gun laws and public safety.

And what a day to mention this given that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today. What will this mean for gun rights and gun violence prevention? Here is the statement from the Brady Campaign about Kennedy’s retirement from the bench.  From the statement:

“President Trump has made no secret of his desires to reshape the Supreme Court to be hostile to common sense gun laws. Indeed, the NRA and the gun lobby are already celebrating today’s announcement. We will see what the coming weeks hold and who is appointed to the nation’s highest court, but rest assured – we will continue the fight to protect Americans’ right to be safe from gun violence. Brady has been fighting in the courts for 30 years, and we aren’t going anywhere. We’re up to the challenge.”

We are up to the challenges facing us and will continue our work to keep our families and communities safe from devastating gun violence. We stand behind the students in their efforts to make changes. We stand with the rule of law. We stand with common sense. We stand with the victims.

And we stand with the rights of everyone qualified to be able to vote. For that is the way to make the changes that are needed in our communities and to public health and safety. We must protect that right above all things. Pay attention to what is going on around you and do whatever it takes to make sure our rights to safe communities, our rights to vote, our rights to health care, women’s rights, civil rights, workers rights, rights to marry who we love, and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are preserved. Our democracy is under siege. We have to work to save lives and our democracy.