Valentine’s Day massacre

heartOur hearts are broken again.

Students carrying Valentine day balloons walked out of a school in Parkland, Florida, unhurt but traumatized. 17 didn’t make it. Others injured. 

They hugged each other and then their parents as they reunited.

An all too familiar scene watched on TV news on a regular basis.

This is an American tragedy. This is at least the 12th school shooting this year, some say it’s the 18th. It’s too many whatever it is. It’s only February 14th.

Only in America do we need to read articles like this about the motives behind mass shootings and school shootings. 

A 19 year old former student who had been expelled got into the school and decided today would be the day to shoot up a bunch of high school kids. He was viewed as volatile and fascinated with guns. He was viewed as a threat when expelled last year. A young white disenfranchised boy/man got his hands on an AR-15 and multiple rounds of ammunition. He wore a gas mask and set off the fire alarm so kids would come out into the hallway.

#Sick

#Notnormal

Not inevitable.

#Enough

Only in America.

Students coming out of the school in a line with their hands up. Parents frantic. Students texting and even taking a video of the actual shooting. Good grief. PTSD for all and everyone should watch that video to see what our kids have to go through on almost a daily basis.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Where is common sense?

The NRA is an arm of the Republican party. What is wrong with them? Do they think this is OK? We keep saying what will it take before enough is enough? We keep offering thoughts and prayers. And yet, they keep taking money from the NRA. They keep supporting the agenda of the NRA. It is a dangerous and deadly agenda.

#Nomorethoughtsandprayers.

We want action. We want to save lives.

Our hearts are broken. Families are broken. Friends will never be the same. They knew the victims. They got shot themselves. They holed up in a closet. They cried. They were frightened out of their wits.

And it goes on and on and on and on.

There are no more words or excuses.

Our hearts are broken.

Big money and guns

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The NRA, the Russian investigation, power, money, corruption, influence on elections, Trump and the 2016 campaign. What could possibly go wrong?

If this allegation is true, it shows how far the corporate gun lobby will go to gain and hold on to their influence over our political system. From the article about the FBI investigation into the influence of Russian money, the NRA and the Trump election:

However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.

Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.

We know that Trump attended the NRA’s annual meeting to lie about his support for their dangerous policies. And we know he received a large campaign donation from the organization along with support by way of letting supporters know that they should vote for this unfit man:

A supporter of restrictions on guns before he entered politics, Mr. Trump became a fierce champion of gun rights during his bid for the White House, earning early backing — and $30 million in campaign support — from the powerful lobbying group.

“Only one candidate in the general election came to speak to you, and that candidate is now the president of the United States, standing before you,” Mr. Trump said. “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”

There it is for all to see.

This is simply corrupt and absolutely not OK. We need to keep our eyes and ears open.

The book, “Dark Money” reveals the extent to which this is happening in our democracy, if you can call it that given that money is buying elections and influencing important decisions on behalf of the American people. From the review of the book:

A careful exposé of the libertarian agenda, spearheaded by the Koch brothers, to “impose their minority views on the majority by other means.”

As people who read my blog know, I often talk about how the gun lobby represents a distinct minority of Americans and even gun owners. But their agenda is about money and influence which works against the majority. For decades that money and influence has bought us terrible policies that are dangerous to public health and safety. Such laws as “Stand Your Ground” and ” Constitutional Carry” allow people with guns to get away with murder and for people to openly carry guns in public places where most people do not want them. And if the agenda of passing “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” were to move forward and get the support of the Senate, just about anyone would be allowed to carry loaded guns wherever they go.

These are the wishes forced on us by the minority who have money. Money talks.

Left in the wake of all of this are the victims. But victims don’t talk. Sometimes they have a voice and survivors like former Representative Gabby Giffords, for example, speak as well as they can in demanding common sense in the halls of Congress and state legislatures.

Unfortunately for us, her voice and the voices of others like her are not loud enough compared to the voices of money. Many of our politicians are lapdogs for the gun lobby. I posted this Brady Campaign video in my last post as well. It is still relevant:

Woe unto us if we let the money continue to influence the safety and well being of the public. The bodies are piling up in front of our eyes.

In Minnesota a few days ago, the combination of icy roads, an accident, and guns came together to lead to the death of a young driver:

What happened next was spelled out Wednesday in a criminal complaint that said Weiss, 25, of Rochester, who has a legal permit to carry a gun, shot the teenage driver of the other car at point-blank range when a confrontation flared.

The Olmsted County attorney charged Weiss, who says he acted in self-defense, with second-degree murder in the death of Muhammed Rahim, 17, the middle child of a family that fled Iraq six years ago. The charge is a felony that, with a conviction, carries a potential prison sentence of three to 40 years.

Weiss was arrested and jailed. He has since been released on bail.

Rahim’s passenger told police that he thought Weiss wanted to fight after the collision. He said he and Rahim threatened Weiss and that Rahim even dared Weiss to shoot him. There were no punches thrown, according to police, but Weiss said Rahim shoved him once in the chest.

Incidents like this should not lead to death. This was an accident, a misunderstanding, perhaps some strong words. But if one man had not had a gun, the other would be alive today. And claiming self defense may or may not work here. The victim was unarmed and only ( maybe) had words with the shooter. Is that enough to kill someone?

But Minnesota does not have a Stand Your Ground law. We have fought against it for many years in the face of fierce support by the corporate gun lobby’s influence on some of our state legislators. Would this man be able  to get away with murder with no trial if a Stand Your Ground law was in place?

This is yet another of those “good guys” with guns that Wayne LaPierre so famously and nonsensically said after the shooting of 20 first graders, held up when pretending that only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns:

Sigh.

Sometimes even in states with Stand Your Ground laws, shooters have not gotten away with murder. The case of Jordan Davis, shot in Florida by a gun permit holder because of teens sitting in a car playing loud music, showed that murdering an unarmed person who simply annoyed someone isn’t an excuse.

We are better than this.

The confluence of the Russia investigation into their influence on our 2016 election, with the NRA is an interesting situation. If the findings come out showing that it was, indeed, true, we need to hold the NRA responsible for their actions and expose the truth about dark money and guns.

 

UPDATE:

This New York Times article expands on the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians through the NRA:

It’s important not to get carried away, if only because a scenario in which the Russian investigation ensnares the N.R.A., probably the most influential conservative group in the United States, seems a bit too much like Resistance fan fiction, too delicious to be true. Indeed, if it is true, it has devastating implications for the entire Republican Party, since many officeholders enjoy lavish financial support from the N.R.A. Still, an N.R.A. role in Russiagate would explain a few things, including why the N.R.A. has, in recent years, developed such a close relationship with Russia.

Follow the Money. People are dying. The gun industry profits. Gun laws are loosened. People unfit for office are elected with the help of the gun lobby. Our leaders are afraid to pass laws to save lives and protect us all from senseless gun violence.

The insatiable quest for profits for the gun industry, power and control of our democratic process may end in a very bad way. It would not be a surprise to most people who have come to understand that the NRA is not a gun rights group any more. It is an arm of the Republican party and is run by extremists.

The “elephant in the room”

elephantWe are at a crucial tipping point. Will the terror attacks in Paris at long last lead us common sense solutions to gun violence prevention? I say this broadly because what happened in Paris has already led to a lot of discussion about how we in America can prevent a similar attack. Of course there is the strident and paranoid hyperbole and fact free discussion about what to do with Syrian refugees. It’s disturbing to watch and listen to political candidates and politicians pander to the hysteria.

Do we really want to target one religious group by asking them to register in a data base meant to keep track of them?  Apparently candidate Donald Trump would consider this:

That’s more Trump bluster, of course. Forcing every Muslim in the country to register for some sort of database would do nothing to secure the borders or stanch the flow of undocumented migrants. It also wouldn’t prevent the possibility of some radicalized and disaffected American youths deciding to join the jihadi cause. Indeed, by stigmatizing an entire religious community, it would make such behavior more likely. Trump must know that his proposals don’t make sense, but he’s pushing on regardless. He has moved from rabble-rousing to demagoguery, or something even uglier. And this time, sadly, we have no option but to take him seriously.

Can we be that intolerant now? Can we tolerate one candidate’s calling a religious group “rabid dogs”?:

While speaking at a campaign event in Mobile, Alabama, Carson compared the need to screen refugees before they enter the U.S. with the steps a community would take to protect children from rabid dogs.

“If there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you’re probably going to put your children out of the way,” Carson said. “Doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs, by any stretch of the imagination. But, you’re putting your intellect into motion and you’re thinking, how do I protect my children?”

This is ugly and self serving rhetoric that makes us worse as Americans and dumbs down a very important discussion about how to protect our own country from a future terror attack.

Here is what we should be considering and talking about. We can stop a potential terror attack by making sure those on the known terror watch list can’t legally purchase guns from licensed firearms dealers:

Currently, some known or suspected terrorists are prohibited from boarding airplanes by the government’s no-fly list — but all are allowed to buy assault rifles and other weapons.

While the bill remained a nonstarter, more than 2,000 suspects on the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist bought weapons in the U.S. over the last 11 years, according to the federal Government Accountability Office.

The GAO reported that 91% of all suspected terrorists who tried to buy guns in America walked away with the weapon they wanted over the time period, with just 190 rejected despite their ominous histories.

In 2013-14, the number of successful buyers rose to 94% — with 455 suspects buying weapons and just 30 denied as allowed under current laws.

“It is hard to believe that anyone could defend that someone on the Terrorist Watchlist should get a gun, no questions asked,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “I can’t believe that our Republican colleagues would block this now.”

Will the Republicans and rural Democrats  block a measure to stop this? Will terrorists continue to be allowed to buy guns in the US? Let’s see how much power the gun lobby will have now. And if Congress doesn’t act, we will know that they are too weak to stand up for the safety of Americans at the behest of the corporate gun lobby.

Senator Harry Reid has common sense, thank goodness. His statement challenges the Republican Senators to put their money where the mouths are when it comes to protecting us from terror attacks. From the article:

“Republicans care more about kowtowing to the NRA than preventing terrorists from legally buying assault rifles and explosives like the ones used in the Paris attacks here in America.

“Shockingly, Republicans continue to preserve a loophole that allows FBI terror suspects to buy guns and explosives legally, without background checks. As we speak, a terrorist on the FBI’s terror watch list can walk into a gun show in your hometown and buy as many AK-47s and explosives as they need to commit the kind of mass, heinous slaughter of innocents we witnessed in Paris and which we know terrorists want to perpetrate here in America. Al Qaeda openly urges militants in the United States to purchase firearms through this loophole.

“Democrats have sought to close this loophole for years but have been blocked by Republicans blindly doing the bidding of the NRA. In the wake of Paris, closing the loophole that allows FBI terror suspects to buy guns and explosives should be an obvious step. Legislation to close the loophole has existed for years. But Republican leaders in both Houses of Congress continue to block legislation to close this terrorist loophole.

And in the height of hypocrisy, Erick Erickson of Redstate.com   proclaimed ( as quoted in a Paul Krugman editorial for the New York Times) that he wouldn’t go to a movie theater to see the new Star Wars movie because there are no metal detectors at theaters. Really? This is coming from the mouth of someone who, along with the gun lobby, supports gun extremists who want the carrying of guns into every public place in our country.

How does his statement square with the idea that gun carriers believe they need their guns to protect themselves from terrorists and other scary things? It doesn’t of course. Guns would not be allowed if we had metal detectors in movie theaters. But never mind common sense. You just can’t make this stuff up. Erickson got caught with his “pants wet” as this writer wrote for Salon today about Erickson’s ludicrous statement:

Erickson got caught with his pants wet and has had to backtrack. He now says that he is not afraid to go to the movies because he will be carrying a gun and assumes that others will too. If that’s true, a lot of people should rethink their plans to attend Star Wars. With theaters full of armed men who are quivering in fear and ready to fire at the first loud noise, does seem wise to avoid that situation. Those fellows are dangerous even when they aren’t on edge from terrorist attacks that happened on other continents.

Oopsie.

But back to my main point. We should also pass a bill to require Brady background checks on all gun sales. Why? Because it will prevent those who shouldn’t have guns from being able to get them anyway. Yes, even terrorists. Because if terrorists are stopped ,by closing the terror gap, from legally purchasing guns from licensed dealers they know where to get guns very easily- from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets, on-line and other places:

It is also worth noting that this gap in the law is compounded by another huge loophole in federal gun laws—the one that allows individuals to buy guns from private sellers without a background check. One of the Garland shooters was a convicted felon and therefore prohibited from gun possession under federal law. While we don’t yet know exactly how he obtained the guns used in this attack, he would have had little trouble buying one without a background check through a private sale, online, at a gun show or anywhere else.

This weakness in our gun laws is not a secret. In 2011, America-born Al-Qaeda propagandist Adam Gadahn urged his followers to take advantage of our weak gun laws to arm up, explaining, “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and, most likely, without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”

The question for the rest of us is: What are we waiting for?

What are we waiting for indeed? Haven’t we had #enough of the hyperbole and fear mongering based on false information? Why not do something about what can actually stop the next terrorist from getting firearms and explosives?

Stopping refugees from coming to America will not solve the problem. America has the most stringent screening process for refugees of any country in the world. That’s a fact. Few if any refugee has committed an act of terror in the US:

The history of the refugee resettlement program has a nearly spotless record when it comes to ensuring that those offered a place in the U.S. are not inclined towards committing acts of terrorism.

“The United States has resettled 784,000 refugees since September 11, 2001,” Newland wrote in a recent op-ed. “In those 14 years, exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities—and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible.”

Two of the men were indicted and jailed for plotting to send weapons to terrorist organizations in Iraq. One Uzbek man was convicted of terrorism-related charges for possessing explosives and supporting a terrorist organization in Uzbekistan.

The Syrian refugees are mainly families who are fleeing the terrorists who are now attacking innocent people in the Western world.

But the U.S. House of Representatives has taken a vote that is political and claiming it will keep us safer, potentially worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected countries all over the world. Even France has said it will take up to 30,000 Syrian refugees after one of the worst terror attacks suffered by their country.

The terrorists who committed the heinous act of violence in Paris are almost all home grown. They were all born in France or Belgium with the possible exception of one who may have used a fake Syrian passport which was left at the scene of terror.  They did not come out of a Syrian refugee camp.

Hysteria and fear has caused Americans to make inhumane decisions in the past. Have we not learned from our mistakes?  Think the Jews trying to flee the Nazis during World War ll. Think Japanese interment camps during World War ll. 

Things are getting ugly in America. Knee jerk reactions  won’t solve the real problems. Acting without thinking through the consequences will haunt us as we look back at this period of our history. There are measures, like closing the terror gap in our gun laws, requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales, altering  our temporary worker visa program as is now considered in the U.S. Senate:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is introducing a bill along with Flake to restrict that visa waiver program, which allows citizens and foreign nationals from mostly European countries—like France and Beligium—to come to the U.S. for 90 days without visas. Their legislation would bar visa-less entry to people from those countries if they had been to Iraq or Syria in the past five years. Flake is joined by at least one other Senate Republican in not being totally insane about refugees. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said, following the briefing, that “the visa waiver program potentially is the place where there’s greater gaps, possibly, than the refugee program itself.”

Where Republicans are not working with Democrats, not at all shockingly, is on the gun part. The part wherepeople on the FBI terrorist watch list can buy guns. According to the General Accounting Office, between 2004 and 2014, “suspected terrorists tried to purchase guns through the loophole at least 2,233 times, and were able to do so in 2,043 of those cases.” That’s comforting, huh? Thus far, Feinstein has no Republicans wanting in on that proposal.

Who is Congress more afraid of- terrorists or the gun lobby? Ignoring a safety risk in front of our own noses will make us less safe and so far, that is what Congress is doing. This article from The Trace highlights the hypocrisy of the gun lobby bought and paid for Congress members:

Yet legislative stonewalling does not solve the political problems that the events in Paris present for the NRA and its conservative allies, who find themselves in a double bind: They must decided (sic) whether or not a no-compromise interpretation of the Second Amendment supersedes U.S. national security. The gun lobby and Republican leaders each positions themselves as stalwart defenders of the former as well as the latter. On the question of the so-called terror gap in gun background checks, there is no clear way to be both.

And further, from the article:

In 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine published a poll that asked Americans whether they supported prohibiting suspects on the watch list from buying guns. Eighty-six percent of respondents answered in the affirmative. That included 82 percent of gun owners surveyed and 76 percent of NRA members.

“There have been all of these extreme efforts to deter terrorists in this country,” says Karen Greenberg, the Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University. “And yet we’ve missed this huge elephant in the room, and that’s access to firearms. By not enhancing background checks, you’re taking an essential piece of prevention out of the hands of law enforcement.” She notes that with respect ISIS, which was responsible for the rampage in Paris, there is a call for “local attacks in a kind of ad hoc way. In the U.S., guns are easy to get. Explosives are tough to make.”

The public wants Congress to act on whatever measures will make us safer. Will they do the right thing? The real problems are staring us in the face but Congress and others ( Governors) are ignoring the facts before them in order to score political points.

We’ve had #enough.

Common sense, facts, calm decision making and courage are needed. It’s time to stop the pandering and get down to the business of keeping us safe from terrorist attacks from foreign fighters who mean us harm, from our own home grown terrorists, and from the devastation of every day gun violence in our own country.

We are better than this.

 

UPDATE:

The Center for American Progress has put together some information about the terror gap. Below is a graphic that explains things pretty well:

CAPAF-TerrorGap

In addition, they have provided a great fact sheet so that Americans can understand this potential risk to our national safety. I suggest if anyone doesn’t get it, they will after reading this information.