In memory- Las Vegas victims

Las Vegas 2Today we remember the 58 innocent Americans whose lives were lost senselessly in the devastating shooting at a concert in Las Vegas. One year ago today, the carnage once again captured the nation’s attention and left us horrified as the news filtered out.

Who could imagine that one man standing high above the crowd in a hotel room with a high powered rifle fitted with a bump stock could do so much damage? It’s an American tragedy and it happens with such frequency that we grow numb.

Before the Las Vegas shooting became the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the Pulse Nightclub shooting ended with 49 dead. Soon to follow would the Sutherland, Texas church shooting and then the Parkland, Florida school shooting. 

Between them, 151 innocent Americans were left dead.

How many more will it take before we do something about the daily carnage?

Of course, about 38,000 Americans, give or take, have lost their lives to bullets since the Las Vegas shooting. It should frighten and concern us that the number of the dead bodies is increasing in recent years.

Our collective common sense tells us that we can be better than this. The fact that we aren’t even trying is a travesty.

Elections are coming up soon enough. The issue of gun violence has become a major issue of concern in elections after the Parkland students made us all sit up and notice. Their efforts to register voters and get out the vote have been impressive to say the least. Students are registering students in large numbers at high schools and campuses all over America:

But youth voter registration has surged since the Parkland shooting, according to an analysis by the consulting group TargetSmart. Among 39 states where data is available, voter registration by 18-29-year-olds went up an average 2.2 percent, the group found. In Pennsylvania, which has a race for governor and House and Senate races that could determine which party controls each chamber next year, youth registration rose 16.1 percent. In Florida, the hike was eight percent; in Colorado, 2.3 percent, and in Ohio, the rise was six percent.

 

“I absolutely think 2018 is going to be different,” both in terms of young voter participation and the impact of the gun issue, says Isabelle James, political director for Giffords, a gun-safety group founded by the former congresswoman. “Young people are engaged at an unprecedented level, and it started before Parkland,” she says.

Protect Minnesota is now involved with voter registration all over the state. National gun violence prevention groups, like the Brady Campaign, are also registering voters. It is encouraging to see the young people so involved and making gun violence an issue in this year’s election.

Yesterday, the Duluth News Tribune ran an opinion piece that I wrote with the co-president of our local Brady Campaign chapter also working with Protect Minnesota.

Here is what we said:

 

Local View: Elect leaders who will change the culture of gun violence

A year ago tomorrow, on Oct. 1, 2017, a man in a hotel room in Las Vegas, high above a gathering of concertgoers, unleashed 1,100 rounds of bullets at anyone in his high-powered rifle’s sights. Using a bump stock to make his rifle more deadly, he killed 58 people and injured 851 in a matter of minutes. Concert attendees scrambled to safety or hid under bodies to avoid the bullets. The injured still suffer from physical and psychological wounds, and the trauma ripples through friends and families.

This tragedy was added to a pile that already included the Pulse nightclub and numerous shootings in schools, churches, theaters, and places of work. After a while one becomes weary.

We all have heard arguments over why these happen and what should be done about them. There is no doubt it’s a very complex, multilayered public health issue that needs to be addressed from many angles.

However, there is one common denominator: the gun. If any of these shooters had been thwarted from getting a deadly weapon, maybe some of their victims would be alive today.

Keeping guns out of the hands of people intent on doing harm is a daunting task. There are some safeguards in place, but they have loopholes. Any attempts to close those loopholes or pass new laws that might keep guns away from those who cannot handle them responsibly have proven to be almost impossible. Our elected officials have stonewalled changes, in spite of a majority of the public, including gun owners, wanting more safeguards. Through financial support, the powerful gun lobby has maintained a tight grip on our elected leaders.

It is understandable, when faced with the complexity of the gun-violence epidemic, to do nothing. But we ignore this issue at our own peril.

There are small steps we can take that would, in time, make a difference. Some common-sense measures include requiring background checks on all sales, requiring waiting periods for gun purchases, and enacting extreme-risk protection orders so guns can be temporarily taken from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

In addition, the bump stock feature, the unregulated add-on device that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to unleash numerous bullets in seconds, needs to be banned. At the very least it should be tightly regulated.

As we remember the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, let us also remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. It is up to us to elect leaders who will be the voices calling for laws to protect their constituents. With our support they can change the culture of gun violence and the conversation about the role of guns in our everyday lives.

A new generation is stepping up to demand action. The Parkland students led the way in bravery and activism to show adults that change can happen if our voices are loud and clear. Our leaders need to listen to the majority of us who are telling them that we want change and we want action.

We ask our candidates to stop their campaigns for 58 minutes on Monday, Oct. 1 to remember the victims. We ask them to consider that this is not a zero-sum game. The Second Amendment can coexist with the rights of all of us to be safe from gun violence.

In the name of the 58 victims who died tragically one year ago, we invite candidates and elected leaders to work with us, their constituents, to reduce gun violence.

Joan Peterson and Mary Streufert are co-presidents of the Northland Chapter of the Brady Campaign/Protect MN. Both the Duluth women have lost family members to gun violence.

For the families of the victims and for the survivors, their lives have been dark since the shooting one year ago. They are suffering from PTSD and other emotional and physical difficulties that just won’t go away:

Fudenberg heard the gunshots through his phone. Popping sounds. He can’t forget them. His protocol has been to show up at any scene if there were two or more dead. The investigator told him there were at least 20. Maybe more.

Cheney saw his friend absorb the news. His face locked in an expression he’d never seen.

“The change in him was instant,” Cheney said. “We had been talking and joking and, suddenly, it was gone.”

Fudenberg was dropped off first by the driver. Cheney didn’t see him again until he was on television, giving updates on the deceased. It would be two more weeks before he would see his friend again in person. Over that dinner, Cheney would see some cracks.

The veteran coroner would cry. It wouldn’t be the last time.

This is the ripple effect of gun violence that we don’t deal with well.
Remember the names of the victims and demand that your candidates and leaders take a stand on gun safety reform.
So on this day, our country has experienced 2 mass shootings.
#Enough
 

 

 

 

Guns in airports- the new normal?

Sanity Insanity Means Health Care And AdvertisementAs it turns out 44 states allow permit holders to carry guns in the common unsecured areas at airports across the country. Coincidentally, Florida is not one of them. But that didn’t factor into the mass shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport yesterday.

I have been wondering ,since I assume the gun lobby reaction might be this-would someone with a loaded gun, assuming they had not been on a flight because guns are not allowed for passengers traveling on planes, had stopped the shooter? Very doubtful. As we have seen now after watching many videos and hearing from travelers, panic and chaos ensued. People ran, abandoning their luggage, wherever they could to save themselves from being shot. They ended on the tarmac, parking areas, hiding behind cars or luggage. They grabbed their children, their mothers, their friends and ran. That is the first response to an active shooter. Keep yourself and your family from being shot.

Adding one more person with a gun to the mix of panic and chaos would have assured even more confusion and possibly more deaths and injuries.

5 people are dead and 8 injured by bullets. Others were injured in the rush to escape. More families are grieving. More families are worried at the sides of hospital beds. More people affected by gun violence in America.

Minnesotans were affected by this shooting. Names of the victims have not been released yet. But we have heard from Minnesotans who were on the Delta flight that began in Anchorage, Alaska. They witnessed the shooting and the death and the chaos. Some were going on a cruise to take advantage of warmer weather during this frigid Minnesota January. Their cruise will now be different than they intended. Why?

Gun violence has a ripple effect. Those who were at that baggage claim area witnessed people dying after being shot in the head point blank. One man said he smelled the smoke from the bullets fired and thought the shooter was just behind him. He will never forget that. Some passengers spent hours on the tarmac or sheltered in place. Some passengers spent hours on planes parked on the tarmac.

Those at the baggage claim most likely thought that gun violence would never affect them. But in America, mass shootings happen at least every week and shootings happen every day. 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries from homicides, suicides and “accidental” gun discharges.

Gun violence affects more than those directly hit by a bullet and their loved ones and friends. As it turns out, it affects all of us. We watch, horrified, on a regular basis as mass shooting after mass shooting takes place on live TV. The coverage is 24/7. We are all traumatized. Some suffer from PTSD after every one of these events, thinking of their own loved one who was shot in the head or torso and died from the injuries.

Is this the new normal?

Let’s talk about guns at airports. Guns can be packed in checked luggage at U.S. airports. If you intend to do this you must declare that you have a gun packed in your checked luggage. It must be in a hard sided locked case without ammunition which must be separate. The shooter appeared to have grabbed his luggage off the carousel and gone into a bathroom where he unpacked the gun, loaded it and started randomly shooting- reloading twice.

Yes, someone could have walked into that baggage claim area with a loaded gun having parked a car or arrived by taxi and done the same thing. Guns everywhere is the norm in America and people are carrying guns everywhere. That is what the corporate gun lobby has imposed on Americans with the help of the lapdog politicians who believed in the lies and deceptions that more guns make us safer. And what we have is mass shootings in every public place in our country and also, actually more frequently, in private homes all over the country. They occur most often in guns allowed zones as it turns out.

The gun lobby yells that these shootings only happen in gun free zones. In the case of this particular shooting, they are right. But in most cases, they are wrong. Don’t believe them.

On a personal level, my sister’s shooting death happened in a guns allowed zone- a private home where most shootings occur actually.

Because gun carrying has increased with almost every state having passed laws to allow ordinary citizens to carry guns, people do carry their guns around. If they are responsible, they will know where that gun is at all times and make sure it does not fall out of their pants or their purse, etc.  That is why it is so ludicrous that so many airline passengers say they “forgot” they had a gun in their carry-on luggage. I urge you to read this TSA blog for more information.

The TSA reports that in the week between Christmas and Jan. 4th alone, they found 53 guns in carry-ons. In 2015, according to the linked blog above:

Also significant, 2,653 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging more than seven firearms per day. Of those, 2,198 (83 percent)were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at a total of 236 airports; 12 more airports than last year. There was a 20 percent increase in firearm discoveries from 2014’s total of2,212. Pictured are just some of the firearms discovered in 2015.

Wow. They have found many guns with rounds chambered and ready to go. Check out the photos provided on the blog. Grenades? Yes. Why not?

Where is common sense?

If you are a responsible gun owner, you will know where your gun is and you will also know that there are many things that cannot be brought on board airplanes. I travel enough to be very careful about what I take in my carry-ons because I don’t want to be stopped and frisked or have my carry-on luggage searched. It is annoying to me as a traveler when someone takes something they shouldn’t in their carry-ons because it slows the TSA line down and adds to the stress of traveling.

But I am happy that the TSA does such a good job of checking these things. I don’t want people armed on my flights nor do I want a grenade to go off on my flight. Remember that this happened after the terror attack of 9/11 to keep us safe. And yet, more people are terrorized by gun violence in a few weeks time than died in the attacks of 9/11. And, for goodness sake, more toddlers kill people with guns left for them to access by an adult than terrorists.

Insanity.

All of this is the result of our unique and deadly gun culture. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can actually prevent and reduce gun violence by enacting stronger laws about the people who buy and carry guns. I saw a recent meme using the gun lobby’s claim that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yes they do. That is why we need to keep some people from getting their hands on guns.

The shooter at the Ft. Lauderdale airport for example, we now know had some severe mental health problems. He had served in the National Guard and served a year in Iraq. He came back a changed man and even checked himself into a mental facility after telling the FBI in Alaska that he heard voices in his head.He had gone AWOL several times and got a general discharge ( likely for mental health reasons).  And yet, he was able to buy a gun. In Alaska a permit is not required to carry a gun. Good idea?

The shooter had domestic problems with his girlfriend in Alaska where he had lived and was a security guard. There were some misdemeanors on his record.

There has been a report that the shooter was a permit to carry holder. Some of the gun rights folks on Twitter feeds have disputed that. Alaska does not require a permit as such to carry a gun  for anyone over 21 who can legally possess a firearm so most likely the shooter could carry that gun, permit or not. No training requirements or classes required. Just carry a gun if you over 21.

Does this shooter look like someone who should be able to buy and carry a gun?

We can do something about this. The shooter’s family knew about his difficulties and mental health problems. There is a life saving measure that is called Gun Violence Restraining Order or Gun Violence Protective Order. Several states have passed such laws. In Minnesota it has been proposed but the legislature refused to hear it and take a vote.

The shooter’s guns could have been removed from his possession temporarily under a law like this and his name could have been placed on the list of prohibited purchasers through our FBI’s national instant check system. Of course, we also need to require that every gun purchase go through a Brady background check in order to fully save lives. Why? Because the NICS list is only for federally licensed firearms dealers. Private sellers do not have to require life saving background checks.

If we can save lives, why would we not? Do we really want those who are dangerously mentally ill carrying guns around in public places and shooting innocent Americans? If not, why do legislators refuse to hear bills that could prevent this?

We have a choice. Insanity or sanity. I know what I choose.

Ask your elected leaders to save lives. If they refuse to vote on this life saving measure, ask them why? They must be held accountable for refusing to consider options that could potentially save innocent lives.

What is normal shouldn’t be. In this year when a President who is turning everything upside down under the guise of shaking things up, we are experiencing abnormal behavior. We can’t normalize it because it could be dangerous for our democracy. Just as we can’t normalize gun violence and pretend we can’t do a thing about it.

Ask President-elect Trump if he has more than thoughts and prayers after mass shootings. He will be faced with as many, if not more, than President Obama faced during his 8 years in office. That is reality, not fiction. Tweeting about it is not enough Mr. Trump. Do something and stop tweeting.

But please do remember that the gun lobby supported President elect Trump by giving him tons of money and he owes them now. That’s called “draining the swamp” er uh……

President Obama’s response to this latest one at least mentioned the number of mass shootings we endure in our country:

“We’re heartbroken for families who have been affected,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

The president commented on the frequency of mass shootings in the US saying, “These tragedies have happened too often during the eight years that I’ve been president.

In an interview published by the BBC in 2015, Obama called the rise in mass shootings during his presidency his biggest frustration.

And yes, those of us working on gun violence prevention comment after tragedies such as the Ft. Lauderdale shooting and take criticism for “using” a tragedy to further our agenda. What? There is not a day  when we don’t have gun violence. Mass shootings are so frequent that if we wait until a different time we will never be able to talk about gun violence. And that is the agenda of the gun lobby and it’s minions. They don’t want us to talk about gun tragedies and gun deaths. This does not fit into their own scenario that guns make us safer. And so they try to stop us.

We will not be stopped.

My agenda is saving lives and living in a sane country. What’s yours?

So we will write and talk about the inconvenience of gun deaths, mass shootings, suicides, domestic homicides, toddlers killing people in increasing numbers, guns found in carry-on bags, irresponsible gun owners, the effects of weak gun laws and whatever it takes to save lives. For if even one life is saved by our “agenda” we will have accomplished something important.

What we want is action- not thoughts and prayers. Check out the images below that were posted on Twitter feeds and Facebook yesterday.

garbage-truck

screenshot-2017-01-07-08-17-29