End Family Fire in Minnesota

It’s hard not to despair every day about the deaths due to firearms. Minnesota has had a rough week but then, who hasn’t when it comes to gun violence? I have been asked how I don’t get too depressed or how do I keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally and even physically faced with the involvement with the gun violence prevention movement?

The last question first- my family, friends, faith community, local community and statewide and national gun violence prevention friends keep each other healthy. We mourn. We ring bells. We act. We support each other and carry on in the names of the victims. For what else can we do? Everyone handles the stresses differently. I immerse myself in photography, exercise, reading books, spending time at our cabin and with our family enjoying watching my grandchildren grow into fun and productive human beings. Their sports activities keep us busy. Their school activities- musical and otherwise are an outlet and provide happiness. Travel is also a great way to forget about the violence and the world’s problems.

Now to the first about Minnesota. This week 2 Minnesota law enforcement officers used guns to kill themselves. Suicide by gun. Not uncommon as it turns out. But 2 in one week- unrelated to each other? From the article:

A study released in September found that police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.The rate of 13 out of 100,000 deaths by suicide in the general population rises to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers, with 167 police officers taking their own lives in 2018.

Police officers risk their lives every day on the job. They see the carnage caused by homicides, suicides, domestic abuse, auto accidents and the like. It has to be very stressful to experience this every day on the job. The unexpected happens and officers respond.

Officers also have easy access to guns. When contemplating suicide, if there is an easy way out, a gun is the fastest and most efficient.

So what should we do about this? Police departments are providing officers with ways of handling stress and dealing with their emotional health. It is not enough and more recognition of the serious risks should be discussed more openly. It is difficult for people trained to be tough and authoritative to admit that they have vulnerabilities and difficulties handling their stressful and dangerous jobs.

Brady’s End Family Fire is a program designed for discussion of the risks of guns in the home. No matter who the gun owner happens to me, a better understanding of the actual risks posed when a gun for self protection or used on the job can still cause unintentional or intentional deaths.

So that is the lesson for some Minnesota teens who last week in St. Paul “accidentally” pulled the trigger on a stolen gun and killed a friend. This tragedy was so avoidable in many ways:

The St. Paul Police Department says Jones-Morris was shot Wednesday afternoon at a home on the 100 block of Annapolis Street, near the city’s border with West St. Paul. Police say a 15-year-old boy told investigators he accidentally shot Jones-Morris while playing with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded.

That teen and a 16-year-old boy were charged in the shooting Thursday. The criminal complaint says the 16-year-old admitted to stealing the gun from an SUV last week. Both are being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

“So many people are just broken down and shocked,” said friend Alex Hogg.

How many times does “so many people are just broken down and shocked” have to be quoted in an article about the gun death of one of our teens whose life’s potential will never be reached? This young man was a football and basketball star at his school and had many friends. His personality was a happy one- making others laugh.

Let’s talk about some of the precursors of this avoidable death. The teens stole a gun from a car. That was illegal. What about the “responsible” gun owner who left a gun in his/her car easy to steal? What is his/her responsibility here? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. Teens can’t buy guns. Stealing is one easy way to get one.

Second, teens cannot be responsible with guns. Guns are not toys to be “played with”. Everyone who touches a gun should have some kind of training on how to operate a deadly weapon and the risks of having one in their hands. How often do we hear about people who did not realize there was a bullet in the chamber?

Efforts to safety proof guns have been rebuffed by the corporate gun lobby. Smart guns could save lives and in this case, would have. But the technology is not there yet. My opinion is that if we can create the will and technology to send Americans to the moon and into space, we can develop better guns that will keep us safer.

Safe storage of guns whether in cars or homes would save lives and this case would have. Stronger laws for safe storage and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns would save lives. But we aren’t passing those laws in many places either.

And it doesn’t have to be a law. It’s just common sense really isn’t it? Responsible gun owners understand that their guns are to be respected and gun safety is key to avoid the gun incidents I have written about here. But even in the hands of responsible gun owners, things go wrong. Combined with anger over just about anything, a domestic abuse, a bad grade in school, despair, depression, drug and alcohol use, or “playing” with a gun and/or cleaning a gun, tragedy and heartbreak can be an unfortunate and deadly outcome.

There was one more incident this week in Oklahoma that I want to talk about. Yet another 3 year old found a gun left carelessly in a bathroom in a public place.:

The restaurant, located near May Avenue and Grand Boulevard, has a sign on the door that reads, “No handguns,” but a customer brought one in anyway and left it behind by mistake.

“I got a call from my daughter, and she was quite alarmed.” Dennis Pealor said.

Pealor told KOCO 5 that his daughter’s family was eating brunch Sunday at La Baguette when his son-in-law escorted their 3-year-old to the bathroom.

“Immediately, she points to this item on the toilet paper holder and says, ‘Daddy. What’s that?'” Pealor said.

According to a police report, a semi-automatic handgun was found in the stall. The report states that a 77-year-old man from Duncan used the restroom and left the restaurant, forgetting the weapon was in there.

No handguns allowed but someone who thought he could ignore the law brought his gun in anyway? Why? What is so dangerous about a restaurant? And then he leaves the gun in the toilet stall? Good grief. This is what happens when more people carry guns around in public. We are not safer.

These incidents have become too common place but also had the owners understood the risks of guns by applying the End Family Fire tenets, carelessness that could have led to an awful outcome would be avoided.

And my last concern is about the irresponsible United States Senate for its’ failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act. This has never happened before. Too many women and children lose their lives to domestic violence- and most to firearms. This is national disgrace:

The bill would eliminate the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Of course. The NRA.

For 30 years, Minnesota has been keeping track of the numbers of people who have died from domestic violence:

Known for years as the annual Femicide Report, it started in 1989 as a way to fill in a gap in reporting gender-bias violence against women and girls. There was no other state or national group collecting this kind of data at the time, and to this day no state agency collects comparable data.

“Every month or so a woman, and or her children, and or her partner or mother or neighbor got killed, and it was like a flash in the pan,” said Julie Tilley, who first decided to start collecting the names as a staffer at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

“One of our goals was not only to honor the victims of this horrendous violence but to make this violence visible. It was so clear to us at that time that people weren’t seeing what was happening all around us.”

The Clothesline Project is a visual display of tee shirts designed by family or friends of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. We must make the violence visible. I once found my sister’s name on a tee shirt at a display by the project. It was a very emotional moment for me as I held on to the shirt with her name as the clothesline stretched out with the many other names.

We must say their names and see their faces. It’s the stories of the victims that should change the conversation. That is why I do this advocacy.

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

We all remember the many victims of mass shootings that have occurred in November- Thousand Oaks, CA one year ago on Nov. 7 leaving 12 dead, Sutherland Springs,Texas church shooting 2 years ago on Nov. 5 leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded ( for just 2). Minnesota has seen an upsurge in shooting deaths this year. What will we do about it? That remains to be seen but we have to #dosomething. It’s in our hands to make our kids, teens and communities safer.

We are better than this.

Memorial Day warning for Veterans

Every year America celebrates Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day. A little history

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

My family is at our cabin for the week-end preparing for the summer season after the long winter. The dock is in, the pontoon is in, tables and umbrellas are up and the grill has been going. We had a cabin association meeting yesterday. There I heard that a man with a cabin on our lake ( not at the meeting) drove by my next door neighbor’s house and just past the house, he stopped and shot his gun out the window. Really? How stupid and dangerous is that? Another cabin owner, a lawyer, said that was illegal, of course. The next time I talk to him, I will be mentioning this incident and reminding him of my grandchildren and all of the other people he could put at risk with his carelessness.

But back to the point of this post, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are identifying more veterans with PTSD. My brother, who served in Viet Nam, suffers greatly from PTSD and Parkinson’s Disease,both attributed to his service years. It is sad and upsetting that his life is so limited now. He talks of suicide at the Veterans’ Home where he lives. I know that if he were living at a place on his own, he would have tried and maybe succeeded to use one of his guns for suicide. I removed his guns from his house after he moved to assisted living knowing that he could never use those guns responsibly again.

Guns are a risk to our Veterans.

In the wake of an increase in Veterans’ suicides, we can’t run away any more. And, a new study shows that Veterans are not opposed to removing their firearms during crisis times:

In 2016, the suicide rate for male veterans was about 40% higher than non-veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The rate for female veterans was even worse.
Many of those suicides involve firearms, and research has shown that reducing access to means of suicide can help prevent what is sometimes an impulsive act.
And there’s a growing body of research that people like Rolf should be talking about guns – with their doctor.

Lynn Rolf III said rumors that a PTSD diagnosis could endanger his security clearance were one reason he delayed seeking mental health treatment.Chris Haxel / KCUR
“It’s very clear that veterans are at higher risk to die from suicide (than the general population,)” said Dr. Marcia Valenstein, a researcher, psychiatrist and professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. “Veterans with mental health conditions are at even greater risk.”
Many doctors worry their patients will get mad if they try to talk about guns, Valenstein says. For VA doctors working with patients who were in the military, that concern is amplified because veterans are perceived as being more conservative and unwilling to part with their weapons.
Valenstein and a team of researchers surveyed VA patients who had already received mental health treatment. They asked how open the veterans might be to a series of interventions, ranging from basic screening questions and free gun locks to temporarily storing their guns with family members or in a VA-managed program.
The results were surprising: 93% of respondents were open to a low-intensity technique, such as talking about guns with their doctor. About 75% of veterans also endorsed at least one of the more intensive options.
“I think this is pretty clear that this is a positive response from veterans and high-risk veterans in mental health care,” Valensten said.
The key factor, she says: making these interventions voluntary.

We can make the intervention voluntary which may work for some. But for others it could be too late. That is why background checks on all gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders bills are so important to get passed wherever we can. 15 states now have Red Flag laws. They save lives because family members can report that a veteran or military family member ( or non veteran) could be dangerous to themselves or others and should not have access to a gun.

Also remember that the extremist corporate gun lobby does not want health care providers talking to their patients about the risks of guns? Why? Follow the money and influence. According to the NRA, physicians should “stay in their own lane.” Of course talking to patients about risks in their home is exactly their own lane, prompting many physicians and other health care providers to tweet #thisismylane. Really the NRA should stay in their own lane and leave the rest of us alone.

It turns out that many lives could have been saved if the Air Force had reported the veteran who shot up the Sutherland Springs, Texas church and killed 26 and injured 20 in a matter of seconds. From the article:

The service failed six times to submit records to the FBI that would have barred the troubled former airman from buying the guns he used in the November 2017 massacre at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., a Pentagon inspector general’s report concluded.
On at least four occasions during and after criminal proceedings against Kelley concerning domestic violence, the Air Force should have submitted the former service member’s fingerprints to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, the 131-page report concludes. On two other occasions, it should have submitted to the FBI the final disposition report — which states the results of a case, after proceedings occur.

Why? What are they afraid of? As the previous article mentioned, even military health care providers are afraid to bring up the subject of guns. They should be more afraid not to. Part of the reason for this is the current gun culture which scares people into thinking that mentioning the risks of guns to themselves or others might trample on their rights. Good grief. What about the rights of those 26 whose family members celebrate Memorial Day much differently today than they did before the shooting.

And now the families of the victims can sue the government over the shooting. Often courts are the abiters of what makes common sense and what is right no matter what the extremists believe is right. From the article:

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez’s Thursday ruling is a huge victory for the nine families in the case, which allows them to put federal authorities on trial for alleged negligence. Rodriguez dismissed the government’s motion to throw out the case and said the families can begin the discovery process, which allows their lawyers to gather documents and seek interviews with which to make their case.

Victims deserve to be heard and deserve to have some peace after horrific mass shootings like the one in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter should not have been able to get a gun. He got it from a licensed dealer and his name should have been on the FBI’s list of prohibited purchasers. But let’s also talk about how easy it would have been for the shooter to get a gun from a private seller had he been turned away by the licensed dealer.

We have a serious problem in America. Veterans are dying by suicide at an alarming rate:

Veterans are twice as likely as civilians to die by suicide, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday in its latest report on suicide.
Veterans make up more than 14 percent of all suicides, although they account for only 8 percent of the total population, the VA report said. (…) Guns were used in two-thirds of suicides by veterans in 2015. Having access to firearms raises the risk of suicide, experts have found.

Another recent article highlights a suicide emergency among young veterans:

Veterans aged 18 to 34 have higher rates of suicide than any other age group, the VA says in its National Suicide Data Report. The rate for those young veterans increased to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, up from 40.4 in 2015, even as the overall veteran suicide rate decreased slightly, according to a copy of the report reviewed by the Guardian.
Many vets in that age group served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(…) Veterans were also more likely than other Americans to kill themselves using a gun. In 2016, 70% of veteran suicides were by firearm, compared with 48% of non-veterans.

This is serious. Some of our lapdog politicians are shrugging it off because…..????? Rights? Campaign contributions? Drinking the gun lobby’s kool-aid? Whatever the reason, they are negligent. Much like the Air Force was negligent in not reporting a name of a potentially dangerous service member to the NICS database, politicians are failing us and acting as if gun deaths and injuries are just a normal experience in America.

It is NOT NORMAL for so many people to die from bullets.

Background checks on gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders are constitutional. The extreme gun lobby makes up nonsense about the laws claiming all sorts of fake facts leading to fear and paranoia amongst a few who make a lot of noise. We can’t listen to them.

Whether suicide, domestic shootings, gang violence, unintentional shootings, mass shootings, something must change. People can’t even attend a Memorial Day party without being shot up as did 10 in this New Jersey mass shooting yesterday. 9 were injured and one has now dies as a result of a drive-by shooting. Why do we let so many people carry guns around in public? It’s leading to blood running in our streets. Since I wrote my last post, another 3 or 4 stupid and dangerous incidents by “law abiding” gun owners have occurred. They are becoming more frequent. It took time before the result of loosening conceal and carry laws started having consequences.

Please have a safe memorial day and honor those who have died in the service of our country. But as you honor them, remember the ones who have died as a result of bullets here at home. If we are patriotic, we will do something about this national public health and safety epidemic.

Be a patriot.

Stupid and Dangerous- series 100

Back when I was writing my blog on Blogger before it was hacked (who would do something like that?) , I wrote a bunch of posts that I called Stupid and Dangerous and started numbering them. The thing is, I just couldn’t keep numbering because there are so many stupid and dangerous incidents with guns. I had trouble keeping up.

In the last few weeks there have been enough of them that I decided that I must write again about how irresponsible and stupid so many gun owners are with their dangerous weapons. The risks are many when one brings a gun into one’s home or carries in public. Enough so, that reconsideration may be necessary in order to stay safe.

So let me begin my list of stupid, dangerous and sometimes deadly incidents with guns:

  • A man in Washington state hid drugs in his butt and pocket and then his not too well hidden gun fired, shooting him in the testicles. (How often do gun rights extremists claim this cannot happen?) Yes, one wants to feel for the guy, but really? Come on. He was a convicted felon with drugs and a gun: “Wilson, who is a 13-time convicted felon, told his girlfriend to dispose of the weapon before heading to the hospital, the paper said…..When the ex-con finally went to the hospital, a balloon of marijuana slipped out of his anus while a doctor was operating on the gunshot wound, court records show….Cops also arrived at the hospital when alerted of the gunshot wound and searched Wilson’s car where they discovered a bag of meth in the blood-stained jeans he was wearing when he shot himself. ” No more words necessary

And of course, none of these involve the many many other shooting incidents happening every day that are intentional. Common sense tells us that this is not normal. But in America, of course, it is. Sadly it is because our leaders have decided they would rather be lapdogs to the corporate gun lobby than to protect us from gun violence.

Guns are dangerous. Many gun owners understand that and take care not to let stupid and dangerous things happen with their guns. But there are so many guns out there owned by people who shouldn’t have them in the first place thanks to our loose gun laws and elected leaders with no backbone, that incidents like the ones I described above seem to be on the increase.

It goes without saying that something needs to be done. Keep the pressure on your elected leaders to do whatever needs to be done to stop the above mentioned incidents and keep us all safe from this lunacy. Join a gun violence prevention organization. Talk to your legislators and Congress members. Talk to your friends. Safely store your guns and ask others to do the same. Make sure people are trained properly before going anywhere or doing anything with a loaded weapon.

The gun lobby would love to normalize the carrying of guns in public so we just get used to having people with guns everywhere. Should we just get used to these “normal” people shooting the rest of us?

Stolen guns, stolen lives

It should be a no brainer that all guns need to be locked up away from the hands of those who should not have them. Those hands would be children, teens, those individuals having a crisis in their lives making them dangerous with guns and thieves. Guns are one of the most stolen items from homes. I just read an account from someone on a local neighborhood site letting neighbors know that there was someone breaking into homes and that a gun was stolen from one of the homes. Hopefully the gun owner reported the gun stolen because it is now in the illegal market for guns leading to more guns on our streets.

And then there is this from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about crime guns in the city of Minneapolis:

“In October, police were called to an apartment complex across the street from the police union’s headquarters in Northeast, after the worker found the bag of guns inside a room that’s used to access the building’s HVAC system, according to filings in the case. Peeking inside, he counted seven handguns.
Police say the firearms were traced to a burglary last July at an Ashland, Wis., pawnshop where more than 30 guns were taken. No arrests have been announced in the case, which is being investigated by the ATF.
Another of the stolen firearms — a Ruger .380-caliber handgun — was apparently recovered last September at a south Minneapolis gas station.”

Gun dealers and pawn shops also need to store their guns safely and institute safety measures in their businesses to keep guns from being stolen. Stolen guns increase the risk that one will be used in a crime or get into the hands of kids on our streets who use them against each other in gang situations. And too often innocent people, not involved in this activity, are shot and killed as was a woman named Birdell Beeks, shot while sitting in her car with her granddaughter:

The fatal shooting of the 58-year-old grandmother a year and a half ago stirred outrage. Investigators say it was set into motion when a gang rival crossed over an invisible territorial boundary on Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis.
Tipped off to the rival’s presence by a 165-second phone call, Ezeka went outside and fired a handgun nine times towards the rival’s car. One of those bullets hit and killed Birdell Beeks, whose van was stopped at an intersection across the street. (…) “When you point a gun and you fire it, you do so with the intent that you’re going to destroy whatever you’re firing at,” Mathews said. “We all know what guns do.”
Mathews also argued that if Ezeka really meant to scare his rival, he could have fired the gun in the air or waved it around. Mathews says nine shots fired in just a couple seconds “doesn’t sound like shots that are meant to scare.”

The problem with this argument is that the person who wanted to “scare” his rival should not have had a gun in the first place. And firing a gun into the air is a really bad idea. What goes up always comes down. Don’t wave a gun around either. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill. We should be working really hard to prevent such easy access to guns in our communities with no excuses for those who use them dangerously.

We can’t get our loved ones back after incidents like this as Birdell Beeks’ daughter (who I have come to know well) says ( from the article):

Members of the close-knit Beeks family have packed one side of the courtroom each day of the trial, comforting one another during the sometimes graphic testimony or chatting quietly during court delays. Birdell Beeks’ daughter Sa’Lesha testified that her mother was a “pillar of the community.”
After the verdict, Beeks said she didn’t see any remorse from Ezeka, and she can’t forgive him, but the prospect of Ezeka spending his life prison is bittersweet.
“It doesn’t bring my mom back, but we got justice,” Sa’Lesha Beeks said, “almost in a sad way, because two lives were lost.”
Granddaughter Ne’Asha Griffin, who is now 17, told the court that her grandmother had always been her “cheerleader.” Griffin, who’s heading to college in Florida this year, said she’s set her college acceptance letter next to the urn containing her grandmother’s ashes.

Lives are stolen. Innocence is stolen. Future plans are stolen. Productivity for the shot person is stolen. Family members are stolen. Peace and tranquility are stolen. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is stolen because guns are stolen and end up in the hands of people who should not have them. (other loose laws contribute to stealing lives as well)

The latest school shooting came about as a result of a gun “stolen” from home by a teen-ager who wanted to shoot up a school:

Two sources with knowledge of the investigation told Denver7 on Wednesday that investigators believed the guns were stolen from the parents. But Denver7 could not report at the time the manner in which the weapons might have been secured.
The sources said Wednesday they believe the parents of the 18-year-old suspect bought the weapons legally and that the guns were stolen by the suspects. People under age 21 are not allowed to purchase handguns in Colorado.

Earlier in the article it was reported that the students smashed the gun safe to get into it. If the guns were in a glass case, it would be easy to smash it open and certainly the teens would have known the guns were there. A more secure gun safe would have been almost impossible to smash. I would not say the guns were “stolen”.

Most school shooters are teens who got their guns from home and are affiliated in some way with the school. And yet, some would have us believe otherwise as did this active shooter training video made in Pennsylvania to train officers for school shootings. They got it very wrong:

A video of an active shooting drill at a Pennsylvania school has received sharp criticism over the decision to dress an actor playing a would-be shooter in what appears to be a Middle Eastern-style headdress.
The simulation video, which was made in January and only intended for internal training purposes, shows an actor abruptly entering a classroom and firing a shot, followed by a loud scream and students ducking their heads. The school said that two actors were used during the filming.

In the first scene, it’s not clear if an actor is wearing a headdress — but a few minutes later, after police officers have caught up with him, there’s a clearer picture of him wearing a headdress with his hands up.

The extremist gun lobby and some lawmakers and our very own President would have us believe that this is the way school shootings occur in America. Further this is who we should be very afraid of and why we all need to have our guns for self protection. People like this are lurking in every shadow waiting to attack us. We should be afraid of someone in middle eastern style head wear with a mask on his face. We should be a afraid of a person of color.

What we should be afraid of is the recklessness with which parents and adults store their guns in their own homes. We should be afraid of the frequency of unintentional shootings with guns found by young children. We should be afraid of how often guns for “self protection” are used to kill others in homes or for suicide.

This article highlights a study in the JAMA Pediatrics about safe storage of guns and suicides and unintentional gun deaths:

How guns are stored matters. A study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics has found that even a modest increase in owners who lock up their guns would pay off in an outsize drop in gun deaths. (…) Last year, a study based on a national survey in 2015 found that about one in three of all households in the United States owned at least one gun. Of those households with both guns and children at home, more than 20 percent reported storing them both loaded and unlocked — the least-safe way. An additional 50 percent stored them either loaded or unlocked. (…) This meant that about 7 percent of all children in the United States lived in a house in which at least one gun was stored in an unsafe manner. This was about twice the number reported in the previous national survey, published in 2002. Other research suggests that many people in gun-owning households, typically not the primary owner of the gun, think they are safely stored when they are not.

Yes, some gun owners believe they need easy access to their guns in case of a home invasion ( or whatever other reason they may have). But they don’t seem to be thinking about easy access to those same guns by kids, teens and others who should not have them.

Guns are a risk because they are deadly weapons designed to kill people. If you or someone you know decides to bring a gun into your home, please think about the chance that that gun will be used against you or someone you know.

There are things we can do about all of the above. The sad and disturbing fact is that we aren’t doing what needs to be done. Common sense informs us that dangerous things in homes need to be made safer for our children and others living in the home. We lock poisons, hopefully medications, cleaning supplies and other such things away. We put covers over electric outlets when toddlers are crawling around. We use gates to keep kids from falling down stairs or getting into things that would be dangerous. We put kids in federally approved car seats and have to follow the laws about when kids can go without the seats. Kids wear bike helmets and safety gear for sports for good reasons.

But guns? Not so much.

I will end by again shining a light on End Family Fire (endfamilyfire.org) which is designed to educate parents and adults about the risk of guns in homes and bring more awareness to those risks. Saving lives is the bottom line.

Check out this video about how kids find everything ( and we all know they do):

Kids find anything. Kids do anything. Some kids get their hands on guns by taking them from their parents or another known adult. Some get guns by stealing them or getting them from someone who stole them. Some guns get into the hands of kids in other ways. But remember this- guns don’t fall from trees. They start out as legal purchases and then pass through other hands in various ways. And that is why we need to pay attention, be responsible, educate others, be more aware, pass stronger gun laws and make noise about keeping our kids safe.

Our children are losing their lives. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Pearls and guns

Earlier this week, a group of New Hampshire legislators donned their pearls to mock gun violence prevention advocates. Yes, it’s true. A bunch of men did this thinking they were so clever. Other words come to mind but misogyny is at the top of the list. Because gun violence prevention groups have many women leading the charge, some gun rights advocates have decided that women can be intimidated and mocked with no repercussions. That’s the way it is.

Here is the article with photos of the men who wore their pearls:

Images from the statehouse — where legislators were considering arguments over a bill that would make it easier to take guns away from potentially dangerous people — caromed across social media as critics lobbed accusations of sexism and insensitivity at the necklace-wearing men.
The implication was clear, they said: These politicians thought gun-control activists were “clutching their pearls” in overwrought and self-righteous outrage — and, specifically, female outrage.
The advocates, who were volunteers with the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said they felt mocked, as if some of the lawmakers were not interested in hearing how gun violence has affected their lives.

I wonder if any of those men have been affected by gun violence? I wonder if they had been, would they have still worn those pearls? The fact is, I have never worn pearls while advocating for common sense gun legislation or lobbying or visiting with Congress members or legislators or speaking at a meeting or holding a vigil. I have never seen any other woman do so either. But I have seen many men come dressed with armed pistols in holsters at hearings.

But then this was uttered in defense of the pearl wearing ( from the article):

Online, members of the Women’s Defense League of New Hampshire, a pro-guns organization, have said Watts and other Moms Demand Action members have it all wrong: the pearls symbolize opposition to the bill itself and support for the Second Amendment and the Women’s Defense League — support for women, not denigration of them.
“The PEARLS are in support of the Women’s Defense League. Women who ACTUALLY PROMOTE GUN SAFETY and WOMEN’S RIGHTS,” tweeted Kimberly Morin, president of the group.

I call BS. This just can’t be believed. We all know what the wearing of the pearls was all about and it wasn’t in support of women. The very bill they proclaimed opposition to will serve to protect women from harm. It’s an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill meant to keep people who could be dangerous to themselves or others from having or purchasing guns. This includes the many women who fear for their lives from domestic abuse and partners/spouses who might kill them with a firearm. From the article:

The bill, known as a “red flag” law, would allow family members and law enforcement agencies to obtain court orders that restrict gun access for individuals who may pose an immediate risk to themselves or others. If New Hampshire adopts the legislation, it would join 14 states that have done so, many in the wake of deadly mass shootings.

You can’t make this stuff up. Pearls. Not pearls of wisdom. Pearls of wisdom and common sense tell us that too many people are dying and are injured by bullets. Here are just a few of the recent shooting incidents in America that point to exactly why we need to pass stronger gun laws and change the culture around guns and gun violence:

And those are just a few of the many more happening every day in America. at increasing frequency. If guns made us safer, why are these incidents happening?

These people, and everyone really, should check out End Family Fire to learn about the risk of loaded guns to themselves and others. If you decide to bring a gun into your home or carry it around with you, don’t you already understand those risks? It should be automatic but the gun lobby prefers to have people believe they will be invincible with their guns. Why is there no training required before walking out of a gun store or from a gun show with a deadly weapon? Or before allowing people to carry guns in public in many states?

But back to pearls, as I began this post.Pearls have a symbolism as described in this article:

Pearls symbolize wisdom acquired through experience. They are believed to attract wealth and luck as well as offer protection. Known for their calming effect, pearls can balance one’s karma, strengthen relationships, and keep children safe. The pearl is also said to symbolize the purity, generosity, integrity, and loyalty of its wearer.

I think I’ll wear my pearls more often.

#Enough

Guns and potato chips

potatochips_005350I frequently run into stories about people getting shot in arguments about simple things or objects just because. I have written about arguments over lawn mowers, garbage cans, property ( that’s a more common cause for a shooting), dogs, etc. But here is a new reason for shooting someone- eating my potato chips. Yes. It’s true. A South Carolina man shot and seriously injured his cousin after said cousin ate the chips he told him not to eat.

But the story started changing after the victim recovered enough for further questioning. The teen told investigators that Langdale shot him after warning him not to eat his salt and vinegar potato chips.

 

“Do not touch my chips, or I’ll shoot you,” Langdale allegedly told the victim according to a sheriff’s incident report, obtained by the Charleston Post and Courier.

People are killed for much more serious arguments actually. My sister is dead over a serious argument during a contentious divorce. No one should die because of that but a gun and several rounds of ammunition were available to my now dead estranged brother-in-law. And the result was 2 dead people. All because of money and a divorce.

I really am not fond of vinegar flavored potato chips. They are sour tasting to me but many love them. I guess a man with a gun loved them a little too much and now he is arrested for attempted murder.

It is about the guns after all. This man was presumably a “good guy with a gun” until he wasn’t. That’s the thing. It only takes seconds to make that very serious decision to use a loaded deadly weapon in the heat of the moment to seriously injure or kill someone.

Each of us has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in America. Too often that right is taken from us for reasons that are beyond our control- like disease, weather ( Hurricane Michael), war, poor health, poverty, no health care, etc.

In our country, we can count on the daily carnage of gun violence as one way to take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every day in our country is an American tragedy and yet we do nothing.

When will we ever learn? It’s not for lack of trying of course because many people like myself have been sounding the alarm and asking for common sense for decades now. And for that we have been treated like an “angry mob” and those bad people who will take away the guns of all of those “good people” and “law abiding” armed citizens.

The “angry mob” that our President and the GOP has now concocted as a reason not to vote for the Democrats is unarmed. The other angry mob walks around with AR15s strapped to their bodies and shows up in public places with loaded guns to intimidate the rest of us. Remember Charlottesville?

This is dangerous rhetoric fomented by our very own President and assisted by the corporate gun lobby with the promotion of fear and paranoia. Remember Wayne LaPierre and the “guys with the guns make the rules”?

No Mr. LaPierre. They don’t.

Let’s hope the rules are not made by armed citizens.  When that rhetoric is part of our national daily media, guys with guns get the idea that they just might be justified in shooting someone over potato chips or elections.

Elections are coming up. It’s October with less than a month to go. Peaceful and fair elections have always been the American way. Without that, we are not a democracy.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month.

The statistics are chilling. When a gun is in the home, women are at great risk during domestic arguments. 

This week I attended the annual fund raiser for Safe Haven which is a shelter for abused women in Duluth. Every year, either a woman who has been abused and used the shelter tells her story to the audience or a film is shown with interviews of some of the women who have been abused. Out of the 3 stories told by the women interviewed for this year’s film, 2 of them had experienced the terror of their abuser holding a gun to her head or having a gun aimed at her during the abusers abusive tirades. They lived to tell their stories.

A former District Court Judge was the keynote speaker for this event. He had seen a lot of domestic abuse cases over his years as a local attorney and then a judge. He spoke about seeing generations of men who had come before him as abusers- a grandfather, then his son and then his son. His message was that violence begets violence. Violence is not the way to win arguments or elections. But it can become the ultimate control over others.

I am adding this new report by the Brady Campaign about domestic violence and guns:

Every hour, 1,141 people become victims of domestic violence. About 3 people are shot and killed every single day by an intimate partner with a gun. Millions more are victimized, threatened, intimidated, or terrified into silence by the presence of one. They will survive with emotional (and sometimes physical) scars of the time that a person they loved hurt them. The stories of Sara, Kate, Rachael, and Kimberly are the voices of real people who have been affected by the intersection of domestic violence and guns in this country. Sara and Shelley didn’t survive their attacks. We owe a duty to them and to the survivors who lived. It is our job to call on Congress and state legislators to pass meaningful laws to prevent more men and women from becoming victims of domestic violence every year.

There is much much more to the above linked report including the real stories of women who have survived domestic violence- or not.

Loaded guns can become weapons of terror within seconds. The assumption is, or what I am told anyway by those who own guns for self protection, that a gun will be used to save the lives of one’s family during a robbery or an assault of some kind. But the thing is, owning a gun is risky business. Unless the owner is properly trained ( which many are not), stores guns securely in a safe away from the curious hands of a child or teen- or a burglar, they can be used to harm others. 

There are certain facts here. A gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill or injure oneself or someone in the home than it is to be used for self defense. There are real risks associated with gun ownership just like the risks of driving while drunk or smoking in public places.

Check out the Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire site to learn more about the risks.

And I will end with some observations I made while tabling a few days ago for Protect Minnesota at the St. Louis County Health and Human Services conference. This conference is attended by social workers and health care personnel from all over the state and is always full of people ready to learn. Our table was a popular one. Many stopped by to take information and have conversations.

One woman took lots of our information about safe storage of guns, ASK, and talking points about gun violence prevention. She told me she was a social worker who went into many homes of families who needed services for one reason or another. In one home, a woman lived alone with her children after being abused by her spouse. She told the social worker that she kept a loaded gun in the dresser drawer next to her bed just in case he came calling. This horrified the social worker as she asked the woman if her children were also in that bedroom. She said that her 3 year old slept with her.

So the social worker explained the risks of having this loaded gun around unsecured both to herself and her children. They went to a local Goodwill store and found a gun safe there for less than $10 and brought it home. The gun is now secured in this small safe hidden in the bedroom closet.

That is common sense.

Also at that 2 day conference, we gave away 200 trigger locks before 10:00 a.m. of the first day. People support what we do and what to be safe if they own guns.

Had that South Carolina man had his gun safely stored and not at the ready in his hands, his cousin would not have suffered serious injuries over a dispute about potato chips and the shooter would not have been arrested. Both lives have been forever changed because of the gun.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With some common sense and awareness about the risks of loaded guns we can save lives. With stronger gun laws, we can save lives.

That is the bottom line.

 

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.