Gun rights odds and ends and white terrorism

odd

This post has been edited since first posted.

 Walmart store, allegedly and reportedly in Evanston, Indiana put up a display of rifles touting them as part of their going back to school marketing. How odd. How disturbing. A woman took a photo, it went viral, and voila- we have the gun rights culture out front and center for the bold and clueless treatment of guns. The linked article reports that Walmart apologized and the display was taken down but also wondered if it was a fake photo or doctored in some way. Both cannot be true and the mystery remains.

But why go there at all? The thing is, it’s so believable that there would be a marketing display of this sort that naturally people were upset. In the midst of all of the heinous shootings involving kids and the thought of one’s own child as a victim of a school shooting or the shooter for that matter, why go there?

The answer is… gun rights. What is odd about that display anyway? Isn’t it normal for guns to be marketed like this to increase sales? Never mind that it might be offensive to many.

Many are not only offended but many have experienced gun violence in their lives. Shooting anniversaries come and go and it’s one more year since the death or injury of a loved one. Yet another such shooting anniversary occurred with little notice. In 1999 a White Supremacist with hate in his heart and on his mind decided to shoot at kids and teens at a Jewish Community Center day care in L.A.  Five were wounded after 70 shots were fired. It’s quite amazing that more people weren’t injured or killed. The children of two friends were among the wounded. These are mothers I have met through my network of gun violence prevention advocates. The son of one of them, only of pre-school age has now grown into a wonderful young man with nothing but some physical and emotional scars left. The other was a teen girl who is now happily married and doing fine. But the feelings never go away and the scars and memories are still there. The horror of the phone call that your child has been shot lives just below the surface.

It was this shooting that motivated Donna Dees Thomases to start planning what has become one of the largest marches on the National Mall- the Million Mom March. which took place in May of 2000. And the movement continues. Activists and advocates lobby, march and organize still today for non-violence and common sense solutions to gun violence.

Speaking of common sense solutions to violence, how can we hope that will happen when white supremacists gather together to foment hate, racism and intolerance.  But that is what they will do this week-end in an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There are concerns about public safety of course as there will be counter protesters as well. Hopefully no gun carrying or gunshots at these rallies. From the article:

Thomas asked that protesters from both camps to pledge to remain nonviolent.

“I urge groups on both sides to publicly commit to a nonviolent assembly,” he said. “Your commitment may influence the small minority that may seek to jeopardize public safety and will also serve to strengthen bonds throughout our community, reduce a growing cloud of fear, and emotionally disarm those who would delight in provoking others towards violent actions.”

Yet, yesterday, Trump’s deputy assistant and counterterrorism adviser, Sebastian Gorka, ridiculed the idea of lone-wolf terrorists and played down the threat of white supremacist violence.
Lone wolf shootings have become more common in America. They should be rare and odd but they are not. There are angry people fueled by white supremacist leanings, terrorist group leanings, anger over politics, race, a grievance against law enforcement or an organization and loosely associated with such groups who have wrecked havoc on innocent Americans. Take a look at this article:

Lone wolf attacks are rare — there have been perhaps 100 successful politically motivated attacks pulled off by a solo actor in the United States since the 1940s. But they began attracting special attention from the national security community more than a decade ago when Al Qaeda started encouraging them. By 2010, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta declared that lone wolf attacks could pose “the main threat to this country.” The next year, President Barack Obama laid out the problem on CNN: “When you’ve got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it’s a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators.”

Researchers believe lone wolf attackers are fundamentally different than people who participate in organized political violence. In an effort to better understand the phenomenon, the Department of Justice has funded two groups of researchers to compile databases of historic lone wolf attacks, so they can be analyzed for trends, psychological profiles — and, the authorities hope, insight into how to prevent them.

We all know that Donald Trump changed his views about gun policy as he was seeking to be our President. Of course he did. Follow the money and power. As an aside, our President has changed his position on many issues and one doesn’t know what will come out of his mouth at any given moment. Lies, #fakenews, incendiary rhetoric, ramping up war rhetoric, blaming others, bullying others, criticizing his own “friends” and allies, throwing people under the bus for his own expediency and blurting out mistruths that could end us all up in a lot of trouble. It is not only odd but disconcerting and quite scary.

(Maybe I should buy a gun!)   grrr

But I digress. It does no good to ignore or deny that these kinds of attacks take place. The shooters are most often angry men and often known to have mental illness. And they have access to guns because… it’s America where gun rights trump the right of all of us to be safe from attacks by people wielding guns in order to hurt others. Ignoring and denying that these incidents happen gives an excuse for doing nothing about them.

More from the above-linked article:

In the early years, a high percentage of lone wolf attacks employed explosives. But that has changed: “The lone wolf’s preferred weaponry is now a staggering range of high-velocity firearms,” Hamm and Spaaij write.

They attribute this trend to controls on the purchase of bomb-making materials enacted after the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995 and the permissiveness of U.S. gun laws.

“Permissiveness of U.S. gun laws…” This is the truth but the gun rights extremists want our laws to be even more permissive so that anyone can buy and carry guns everywhere. This is not normal. It is odd compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war.

When the commander in chief keeps changing his own mind about guns and gun policy and ramping up fear and paranoia, of course we have more violent and intolerant rhetoric. The gun culture we have is not the gun culture we should have. There is no reason why we can’t all work together to at least try to stop some of the shootings. Changing the conversation and working towards making guns accessible only to those who can reasonably handle them and are not under the category of felons, domestic abusers, known terrorists ( on the terror no-fly list), adjudicated mentally ill, drug abusers, or potentially dangerous to themselves or others would save lives.

That should not be so difficult. It’s all about common sense.

Gun rights to some people seems to mean no responsibility with that deadly weapon. Allowing guns to be accessible to small children is inviting tragedy. Every day in America, guns fall into small hands. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Take one of the latest incidents ending badly:

A Kansas City 5 year old is dead by his own hands when he found a gun in his home and shot himself. Without the kind of discussion, research, common sense measures to prevent shootings and whatever it takes to stop this irresponsible gun behavior we can expect our children to continue to suffer from gunshot injuries and deaths.

A 16 year old Mississippi teen fatally shot his 6 year old brother to “scare” him: 

Craft illegally came into possession of the handgun, according to Gulfport police Chief Leonard Papania. The teen has been charged with manslaughter.

How do 16 year olds access guns? That question must be asked and answered. They should not have guns, period. But this is gun rights in America. Solutions can be found if we have good research into the problem, talk about the risks of guns in homes, attack gun trafficking, lost and stolen guns, straw purchasing and require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

This writer for Forbes has written about this American tragedy and the denial of it in America.:

 

Today, 19 children will die or receive emergency treatment for a gunshot wound in the U.S. And tomorrow, another 19 will. And then another 19 the next day. In fact, 91% of all children who die from firearms in high-income countries across the world come from the United States, and guns are the third leading cause of death for all children between ages 1 and 17. Those are a handful of the sobering statistics reported in a new study on gun violence in Pediatrics.

Yet the myth persists that the freedom to own a gun without a universal requirement of background checks or a legal requirement to store those guns safely and out of children’s reach supersedes the lives of American children. Until the U.S. as a whole decides to recognize and accept what the tremendous cost of current lenient gun laws is, more than 1,000 more children will die next year. And the year after that. (Read here how to reduce your child’s risk.)

Yes. We have gun rights and we also have gun rights myths. Guns are killing us and most especially, our children. This is not OK. It’s odd. It’s not normal. We can do something about it if we stop the denial and raise our voices. It doesn’t have to be this way. Young children should not die from gunshot injuries, robbing them of a future and their families of watching them grow up to contribute to society. Young children dying from gunshot injuries should be rare and odd.

Try ASKing if there are loaded unsecured guns where your children play and make sure you, yourself lock your guns away, unloaded, from curious hands or from theft.

And speaking of young children being shot, this awful incident happened in Cleveland when a road rage incident ended with the shooting of a 4 year old:

A 4-year-old boy is in serious condition after he was shot in the head in an apparent road rage incident overnight in Cleveland, Ohio, the Cleveland Police Department said.

Police said the shooting happened while a mother was driving her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.

After the mother honked her horn to pass another car blocking the road, that car allegedly followed the mother onto the freeway and fired shots into the woman’s car, police said.

What is wrong with us? Why are people driving on our roads armed? What is so dangerous out there to warrant this kind of behavior? This is a gun culture gone wrong.

A friend posted a photo on her Facebook page of a man open carrying at a dog park to which she took her dog. She had never seen someone open carrying a loaded gun before and found it odd. It is. It’s not normal. Others on her Facebook page were not aware that people can open carry guns in many states and were upset and disgusted to see this photo. People don’t like seeing armed citizens around where they go to work, play, learn, worship and hang out.

Commenters on her page wondered what is so dangerous at a dog park? Will the man have to shoot another dog? Will a dog owner make him angry? Will that gun “accidentally” fall off of his belt  (not sure how gun is attached to belt)  when he leans over or chases the dog? There are no “accidental gun discharges but nevertheless they happen. I write about these incidents too often and they should be odd. Why aren’t they?

I have posted this photo with permission from my friend.

man at dog park

Should this be normal? A minority of Americans practice their gun rights by carrying concealed or openly. So far instances of having to use carried guns for self defense are rare compared to the risk of having guns around in the home. But the reason given by many gun rights activists is that they must own and carry their guns for self defense.

( This was added after I first posted) And then stuff like this happens.:

A pistol-packing senior tried to reserve a parking space in Queens Wednesday by firing off a few rounds.

Yvonne Cosby, 76, let off two gunshots from the window of her Brookville home because she was angry that a man had parked outside her house, cops said.

Miraculously, Cosby missed her target. Police were eventually able to calm her down and take her into custody, cops said.

It’s very clear that some people should not have guns. We need to re-think the idea that just anybody can pack heat and have a gun for “self defense”. This woman’s family will now hopefully understand that she is dangerous to herself or others and should have her gun removed from her home.

There is something wrong with a gun culture where there are almost more guns than people. And to make it worse gun ownership has gone down and now fewer people own more guns per person. Normal? There is something wrong when gun deaths happen at such a rate as to be a national public health epidemic that we ignore and deny at our peril. There is something wrong with idolizing guns and gun rights to the point that we dare not challenge it or those who believe in the myths.

Gun rights and gun responsibility along with sensible gun laws can go hand in hand. They are not mutually exclusive. Since most gun owners agree with this, we ought to be on our way to sensible solutions, right?

haha

There is nothing funny about it. In the end, this is about saving lives and need not set gun rights against the right to be free from devastating gun violence.

 

UPDATE:

Sadly, as predicted, violence has broken out at the “alt-right neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA. The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

 

This is not who we are as a country and what is happening is truly frightening. From an article posted last night:

A group of three dozen self-described “militia” – men who were wearing full camouflage and were armed with long guns – said they were there to help keep the peace, but they also did not break up the fights.

There were vicious clashes on Market Street in front of Emancipation Park, where the rally was to begin at noon. A large contingent of white nationalist rallygoers holding shields and swinging wooden clubs rushed through a line of counterprotesters. (..,)

Tensions began Friday night, as several hundred white supremacists chanted “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” as they carried torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus.

The fast-paced march was made up almost exclusively of men in their 20s and 30s, though there were some who looked to be in their mid-teens.

Very frightening. Where do we live? This is America but then again, this is not America.

 

ANOTHER UPDATE:

There is enough material here for a new post but I will add to this one instead. The NRA has decided to continue its’ offensive, rude, threatening and dangerous rhetoric by suggesting that North Korea should bomb California instead of Guam. The NRA has become an extremist group that supports violence and they are the “good guys with the guns”?   From the article:

Stinchfield later deleted the tweet and then apologized.

“It was meant as a joke and I regret it,” he told the New York Daily News. “What’s going on with North Korea is no laughing matter.”

 NO. It was not meant as a joke. He got caught. He meant it and it’s NOT FUNNY. Just as President Trump claimed that it was a good thing that Putin cut all of those embassy jobs because they were trying to cut the State Department budget and later tried to claim that it was satire. NO. It was NOT SATIRE. He meant it. Apparently he also told the Governor of Guam that this tough talk would be good for tourism there as well. NOT SATIRE. Stupid and dangerous talk.
Words matter. Words often lead to actions. We are seeing it play out in real time in Charlottesville, Virginia. No Mr. LaPierre, “the guys with the guns make the rules”-
NOT.  We’ve had it with this hate, intolerance, paranoia and threats of violence. This is not who we are.

 

 

 

 

Minnesota’s latest gun madness

madnessWe ought to be angry. We ought to be outraged over the madness that is gun violence. There are a lot of things about which to feel outrage in this political atmosphere. One of them just has to be the continuing devastation of gun violence in our country- in every state. We ought to be outraged that we aren’t talking about the risks of gun ownership that causes so many senseless and avoidable deaths and injuries. We ought to be outraged that so many people who should not be able to get their hands on guns get them anyway because we have failed to pass measures to stop them.

For example-  A St. Thomas University  (Minnesota)  student, handling a gun in a dorm ( where guns are not allowed by the way) “accidentally “discharged the gun and injured another student when a bullet went through the wall of a dorm room.

Accidental? Seems purposeful to me when someone brings a gun into a place where they are not allowed and then takes it out for some reason and irresponsibly shoots an innocent person. More from the article:

A University of St. Thomas student was accidentally shot Friday night inside a residence hall, authorities said.

The student was injured seriously enough to require surgery after a gun was accidentally discharged in another room, sending a bullet through a wall in Flynn Hall, the university said Saturday.

Guns don’t shoot people of course. People do.

In St. Paul a family is decimated and devastated by a domestic homicide/suicide committed during a custody battle over a young child:

Hernandez Foster said that the 20-year-old man suspected of killing her family members was involved in an intense custody dispute with one of the slain young women over the 18-month-old girl. Accounts from her and others who knew the family reveal the night’s carnage as a sprawling act of domestic violence. (…)

“Our lives will never be the same again,” she said. “I want to make sure that the investigation prevails and that we find all the details of the madness that happened.”

Their names are Maria McIntosh,  Wade McIntosh, Olivia McIntosh.

Madness it is. It happens every day in America because we have done nothing to stop it.

This more recent article details the angry phone call between the parents of the young child before the shooting occurred. It appeared that there had also been domestic abuse but not documented.

Yes, it was purposeful and happened because of anger, anxiety, custody of a child, loss of control and…. an available gun.

Two people shot at each other in Prior Lake, MN from their cars and were injured:

Witnesses reported seeing gunfire coming from one of the vehicles and directed toward the other around 8 p.m. on County Road 21 near Carriage Hills Parkway, said Police Chief Mark Elliott.

Why? We will hopefully find out but the reason doesn’t really matter does it? All we know is that these two irresponsible gun owners decided to “solve a problem” with guns fired from moving cars not thinking about where the bullets would end up. Bullets do fly for long distances and often hit innocent “targets”.

And it was purposeful.

In another Minnesota shooting, something strange happened:

The charging document continues that Johnson cooperated with police, saying he met Glover at Don’s Car Wash a couple months ago. Johnson said he was the manager there, and had recently fired Glover. He also explained that he was letting Glover live in his garage, adding Glover was “a really good guy” and had gotten “caught up in some s***”. Johnson said another friend made allegations that Glover had stolen some coins and was going to come over to see if they were there.

“I got worried,” court documents say Johnson tells detectives. “I grabbed my gun and I loaded it and it was sitting in the garage.”

The documents also say Johnson admitted to snorting methamphetamine earlier that day. He goes on, describing how he started boxing up Glover’s belongings that were in the garage, also talking about how he thought Glover may have tampered with the ammunition in his gun. Johnson says Glover arrived about a half hour later, walked up to the garage and an argument broke out over the theft accusations.

Glover, documents say, pushed past Johnson, saying he was going through his stuff to look for drugs. Johnson says Glover came out of the room in the garage, Johnson held the pistol up and Glover said “you pull a pistol on me?” and “I’m going to break your f****** neck”. Johnson told police Glover was 4-5 feet away and he pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. Documents say Glover took a breath and froze. Johnson says he started pulling the trigger again, this time the gun firing, Glover saying “you shot me” over and over. Johnson said Glover started towards him then, and Johnson fired two more times.

See if you can figure this one out. It seems that drugs were a factor. Paranoia. Anger. Suspicion. And a gun was available. Two men who had worked together, one for the other, are now forever linked together by a shooting. One is dead. The other is charged for murder. Nothing will ever be the same. And for what?

I guess one could always say that shootings are strange because they are not normal. The gun lobby seems to believe they are because as long as their second amendment rights are preserved there are bound to be some consequences. The consequences are death and injuries.

But one more- A Grand Rapids father with diagnosed depression over many years had a gun. He used it to kill himself and shoot and injure his own son:

Both parties had been shot in the head in an attempted murder-suicide scenario, said Sgt. Bob Stein, an investigator with the Grand Rapids Police Department. The boy remained in critical condition Friday in a Duluth hospital, Stein added.

“He’d been suffering with depression since the age of 14,” said Stein of the elder Krauss.

A 9mm handgun was found at the scene and is presumed to have been the weapon involved, Stein said. The man had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon and had purchased the gun on March 22, Stein said.

Is this what we have come to expect now? People with guns in their homes can and do use them to commit tragic acts like this one which would have been far more difficult without that gun accessible. Another Minnesota family is devastated by gun violence and will never be the same.

It was purposeful. The shooter had a valid Minnesota permit to carry that gun. He was supposed to be safe and responsible with the gun. But he wasn’t. Why did he have a permit? Under the loose “shall issue” permitting system in Minnesota it is assumed that people who get their permits do not have problems that could make them dangerous to themselves or others. This is not the case, of course.

I can’t leave this post without writing about the latest news story that barely got a mention in the media because of all of the other strange things going on in the national news. But another domestic dispute spilled into a workplace at a San Bernardino elementary school where a teacher, the shooter and an innocent 8 year old boy are dead. The shooter apparently had a domestic dispute with his estranged wife:

“He came in, and very, very quickly upon entering the classroom started shooting,” Burguan said.
Anderson also reloaded after firing what is believed to have been a .357-caliber revolver, the police chief said.
Burguan said preliminary information indicates the two were recently married.
“I’m told that their marriage was relatively short. They’ve only been married for a few months and they’ve been separated for about the last month, month-and-a-half, roughly, when this incident took place,” he said. “But there’s nobody that in the investigation has come forward to say that they saw this coming.”
Her name was Karen Smith.
The thing is, people often don’t see it coming. But when a gun is available to settle what the shooter believes is a problem or is jealous or angry or depressed, things happen quickly and we learn the story later. I know this one from personal experience. (Her name was Barbara Lund).
In addition, this shooter should definitely not have had a gun:
The police chief said Anderson “does have a criminal history.”
Court records showed that he had faced criminal charges of brandishing a weapon, assault and crimes against public peace in 2013, with those charges later “dismissed or not prosecuted.” There had also been two petitions for temporary restraining orders filed against him by women in previous years.
California does have strict gun laws. We don’t know how or where he got his gun. Guns are often available to those who want them through many channels. And since we have not chosen to close the channels, we have come to expect that these things will happen.
We do have some facts that matter about guns and domestic violence however that should make us all pause- and then get to work. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has this to say:

Guns pose a particular threat in the hands of domestic abusers.1

  • Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.2
  • Domestic violence assaults involving a gun are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.3
  • More than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms.4
  • In 2011, nearly two-thirds of women killed with guns were killed by their intimate partners.5
Whether purposeful or accidental, what I know and what the stories tell us is that we need a whole lot more common sense and courage to prevent some of these shootings. Both seem to be in short supply.
Some states, including my own, have passed laws to remove guns from domestic abusers. This seems like a very good idea given what we know. But until we pass even more laws, such as universal Brady background check laws to prevent prohibited purchasers from getting their hands on guns no matter where they go to buy them, we are failing women and children. And one bill that has been introduced in Minnesota ( and other states and passed in California) is a Gun Violence Protection Order. Of course as long as lapdog politicians are in charge of legislatures and the Congress, this, too, does not even see the light of day. And we are failing our families because of this lack of courage and conviction.
As long as we let the gun lobby make the rules and hijack the conversation, we are failing our families.
I don’t know about you, but I will not stop working to prevent and reduce the devastating gun violence that has affected so many families and communities in my state and in our country. It doesn’t have to be this way and I just know we are better than this.
Are you angry and outraged yet?
Let’s get to work and insist that our leaders do something about our serious public health epidemic of gun violence.

Drive by shootings and gun policy

bonnieclydeRemember Bonnie and Clyde? I do. There were a lot of drive-by shootings and road rage shootings committed by the infamous couple who died in their car of multiple bullet wounds at the hands of law enforcement. Those were the “good old days” when bullets were flying and machine guns were easily available to those who shouldn’t have had them. Revenge, gangs, anger, too much alcohol and guns- bad combinations.

Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934.

Remember Elliott Ness and Al Capone and the mafia era? The years of prohibition created mayhem on the streets of some of our cities. It was just after this time period that Congress decided that machine guns and silencers should not be available to average citizens without very strict regulations. In 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed:

With the passage of the NFA, these guns immediately faced severe restrictions.  While owning them is still technically legal, they must be registered (which isn’t exactly easy) and they are taxed more heavily ($200 for owning a silencer, for example, or as low as $5 for some smooth bore pistols, like the Serbu Super Shorty pictured earlier).  Anyone wanting to own one or manufacture one has to go through the BATFE for approval. (…) But firearms enthusiasts should look at it from a cautionary perspective, as well.  This was possible.  In fact, it is one of several legislative acts that govern the way we think about firearms.  And the NFA will be the cornerstone on which new restrictions will be built.

Few, if any, crimes are committed with these weapons because so few people own them and those who do go through a long and expensive process to get them. But it could only be a matter of time as the corporate gun lobby is driving by to get laws passed in many of our states to allow people to purchase silencers. When more people own silencers, will they, too, end up in the illegal market? How will they be used? Keep track of this as the push is on to get them into more hands. My own state of Minnesota passed such a law a few years ago:

Anderson, who sometimes carries a weapon to the Capitol, says that he intends to buy silencers for some of his guns. He outlined the process he’ll have to go through: He’ll have to get approval from the Cass County sheriff; pass a state background check; apply to the federal government to possess the silencer, sending $200 along with his application (which needs to include the serial number of the silencer he intends to purchase); go through a federal background check that might take months; and finally, make the purchase of an item that is fairly pricey (upwards of $700).

“It’s ludicrous that we have to go through all of this at the federal level,” Anderson said. “This is an item you should be able to walk into a store and just purchase. We need to work on the federal law. But still, this is a pretty big step.”

Yup. It’s just a matter of time before silencers are available with no background checks from private sellers and on-line just like guns are in most states. That is why we need to stop the drive-by policies of the corporate gun lobby and put the brakes on these bills. What we need is to make sure ALL gun sales, including ammunition and paraphernalia go through Brady background checks.

Why the resistance to this? It’s a minority who oppose it. Their reasons make no sense and aren’t even true. Time to make sure we do the right thing and stop people from getting shot in their cars, in their homes, and anywhere else.

Today, we have more guns than any other democratized country in the world. Over 300 million. We also have the highest number of gun deaths per capita and the weakest gun laws. Other countries don’t have a second amendment or a corporate gun lobby like ours. Sure there are some people in other countries who want to loosen the laws that have been passed. But it isn’t happening because other countries are watching our mass shootings and every day carnage and understand that our loose laws contribute.

The NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby have flown or driven into almost every state of the union and left us with the worst gun policies in the world.  This was done very purposely to drive up profits for the industry and deceive the public into believing that the second amendment includes allowing anyone to buy a gun and carry it everywhere. That is NOT what the founding fathers had in mind when the amendment was written. And, of course, we need to remember why the founding fathers wrote that amendment into our Constitution in the first place. From this Mother Jones article with an interview with author Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center:

MW: Yes. And that might be noteworthy for some. There were plenty of guns. There was the right to defend yourself, which was part of English common law handed down from England. But there were also gun restrictions at the same time. There were many. There were limits, for example, on where you could store gunpowder. You couldn’t have a loaded gun in your house in Boston. There were lots of limits on who could own guns for all different kinds of reasons. There was anexpectation that you should be able to own a gun. But they didn’t think they were writing that expectation into the Constitution with the Second Amendment.

MJ: So then why focus on the Second Amendment and not the English Bill of Rights or other things the framers drew on that more clearly address individual gun ownership?

MW: We are not governed today, in 2014, by British common law. Law evolved, the country evolved. It was a very rural place. There were no cities. There were no police forces. It was a completely different way of living. So gun rights activists turned this into a constitutional crusade. Those who want more guns and fewer restrictions realized they could gain some higher ground if they claimed the Constitution.

Has the world changed since the second amendment was written? Of course. Check this video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence for a graphic image of how much guns have changed since the amendment was written.

I happen to believe that the Constitution is a living document that can change when change is required to keep Americans safe and healthy.

Ever since the 1977 Cincinnati NRA convention revolt (see article above), the gun lobby has changed -transformed itself into a lobby group that doesn’t represent its’ original purpose nor its’ members. They changed to a group that protects and supports the gun industry profits and vice versa. As a result, the landscape changed as well regarding gun policy.

One of the goals of this change  was passing laws in almost all states to allow people to carry guns in their cars and public places. The charade was that people needed guns for self defense everywhere they went. Our legislators bought it because-  rights. Never mind that the second amendment does not mention the right to carry guns for personal protection. These laws had the effect of changing the culture around guns. It became OK for people to have guns with or without a permit on their person.

Former Representative Gabby Giffords spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Her appearance caused a stir in the hall as well it should have. Her speech was simple and short because of her brain injury. Do you remember that her shooter had a gun with no permitting process as is allowed by Arizona law? I do.

It wasn’t so many years ago that it would have been unusual for guns to be found in cars and used in drive-bys or accidental shootings. Two recent examples in my own state:

Man follows couple on local road and shoots and injures one passenger:

Jesse Jay Bohanon was charged in Carlton County District Court Tuesday with three counts of second-degree attempted murder while committing a drive-by shooting, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of drive-by shooting, one count of dangerous weapons-intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition.

Where did this felon get his gun? It’s easy in our country for that to happen.

Man shot and killed in bar by someone  who allegedly fired shots car at the bar. “The man, yet to be charged, is jailed on suspicion of assault and second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting, suggesting that he fired the shots from a vehicle.”

Many other examples of drive-by shootings exist. The city of Des Moines, Iowa has seen an increase in drive-by shootings as just one example.

Many examples of road rage involving gun violence exist as well with some dead victims.

Here is one. And another. And another. And another.

Common sense suggests that having guns in cars is not a good idea. Small children find them in the glove box or the back seat and shoot them. I have written about more than a few of these recently- a small child shot and injured his own mother, a gun loving person. Another toddler killed his own mom with a gun found in the car.

And then there are the people who get caught for illegal drugs and guns like this case in Daytona, Florida:

Of the 29 people, 18 were arrested on Tuesday. Nine were arrested in the course of the operation.

And police are looking for two others who are targets of the operation: Tiffany Malcom, 33, and Robert Smith, 27. Smith, Chitwood revealed Wednesday, is a person of interest in the murder of Deandre Smith, who was shot to death as he drove his car on the Oakridge Boulevard Bridge on May 10, 2015.

Eleven people were charged with federal firearms violations. Nine were charged with state drug and firearms crimes.

What is it about criminals shooting each other in cars? Don’t they know that stray bullets hit innocent people?  A beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet in Minneapolis in May while sitting in her car minding her own business. They don’t care really when they have anger and vengeance on their minds. Bullets don’t know where to stop and there are way too many of them flying from and into cars all over America. And the gun lobby doesn’t seem to care that people like the 29 arrested in Daytona found guns so easily to traffic drugs and kill other people.

Drive-by gun policy comes from the corporate gun lobby who send NRA or other representatives into states to lobby and write bill language. And then they leave us with bad policies that have led to more gun deaths and injuries. Lives are too precious to leave gun policy to those whose interest is in selling their product. Finding new markets for new guns leaves us with too many grieving families and devastated communities.

It takes a while for new policies to change the landscape and become effective. So about 11-12 years after many states passed conceal ( or open) and carry laws, we see how they are working. Most gun permit holders are safe with their guns and do not misuse them. But enough of them have been dangerous- either intentionally or accidentally that an argument could be made that we need to strengthen these laws.

Rather than people needing to use guns for self defense, those guns are being used in shootings- drive-bys or other shootings. Few instances of defensive gun uses make the case for conceal and carry weak.

We are just plain not safer with more guns on our streets, in our cars and in our homes, schools, places of work and where we play. Using guns for hunting and sport shooting is one thing. Having them around in places where we gather or drive our cars makes no common sense. But because the NRA and corporate gun lobby drives by our states and promotes weakening our gun laws, the result has been the devastation in communities all over our country.

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton accept the nomination of the Democratic party to be the first woman to have that honor. It was thrilling to know that I have lived in a time when a woman can be nominated for and hopefully win the Presidency. Among other things she said in her acceptance speech was this ( meme by Brady Campaign):

Hillary and guns

Thank you Hillary. We are just trying to keep people from getting shot by people who shouldn’t have guns. Let’s get to work to make the changes we all deserve.

 

 

Road rage in Minnesota

RoadrageIt’s happened again. Someone decided to take out their anger over a traffic problem with a gun. Why do people carry guns in their cars? That is the question. Let’s look at what happened in Minneapolis yesterday:

 

A 39-year-old woman who honked at a vehicle that cut her off was shot four times in rush-hour traffic on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis Tuesday.

Police spokesman John Elder said the woman was southbound near Groveland Avenue at 5 p.m. when she was cut off by a beige four-door Jeep Cherokee with tinted windows.

She honked at the car, which then slowed down next to her driver side, and a passenger shot at her multiple times with a black handgun, Elder said. The victim, who was shot three times in the arm and once in the stomach, drove several blocks and called 911. She is hospitalized and expected to survive her injuries, police said.

The shooter has not been found yet but no doubt he will be. When he is, many questions need to be asked. Was he a law abiding permit holder? Was the gun legally obtained or illegally obtained. How did he get the gun? And the biggest question- why shoot someone over a honk?

This is not the first time road rage incidents have ended in injury or death by gun and not the first time in Minnesota. Five women were shot at in January as they were being driven on a freeway in an Uber car- just in January of this year. The shooter has not yet been found.

I could list many more in Minnesota and in states all over the country but you get the picture.

So shouldn’t we be able to drive on roads and freeways without fear of being shot? I say the answer is a resounding YES. So why allow guns in cars in the first place? Before Minnesota passed a law in 2005 to allow “law abiding” gun owners to carry guns around with them wherever they go, this was just not happening. Or if it was, it was pretty rare. Sure, some who have illegal guns have likely been carrying guns around all along. But now we have made it part of our every day culture as if it is normal. It’s not.

Further, we have not even discussed children finding guns in their parents’ cars or permit holders shooting themselves while fiddling with guns in their cars. It happens often and I have written about this before. Most recently a Florida child found his mother’s gun in her car and shot it off “accidentally” sending a bullet flying through the front seat, injuring his gun loving mother in the back.

Senseless.

If you look at the image in this post, you can see a man shaking his fist. No one died or was injured as a result. But when a gun is there at the ready, the result is very different. And that is the problem with allowing guns everywhere we play, drive, live, learn, work, eat and walk.

No wonder 141 public health institutions, including the Minnesota Public Health Association, have signed a letter to Congress asking for an end to the funding prohibition for the Centers for Disease Control to study the causes and effects of gun violence. It is the health care providers who treat the injured and deal with the deaths. They understand perfectly well that bullets cause death and injury. They deal with health risks every day and they want some answers. They also understand that, like other public health epidemics, we can do something about it if we understand how it is caused. That is the American way. It’s all about common sense. We all deserve the questions and the answers and most importantly, the victims deserve a chance at live so their families will not be left with a large hole in their lives due to the shooting of a loved one.

If you believe its normal for people to be shooting at innocent drivers and passengers while they are going about their daily business, you are part of the problem. But since I know that most of you agree with me, the time is now to express your frustration and concern over a public health and safety issue that many of our leaders have chosen to ignore. Lives can be saved. And lives are taken every day in senseless avoidable incidents like the ones above.

If you’ve had #Enough of this craziness, let your legislators and Congress members know that you expect them to stand up for the victims and not the gun lobby whose interest lies in profits over saving lives. Get involved. Speak up. Write letters. Send emails. Make phone calls. Join a gun violence prevention group. That is how change will happen. A bill to require background checks on all gun sales is sitting in the Minnesota legislature waiting for a hearing. Protect Minnesota supports this legislation and is asking legislators to sign on and bring it to a hearing. It won’t get a hearing if you don’t make some noise. Similar background check bills are sitting in Congress waiting for enough co-sponsors to bring them to committee hearings. That won’t happen if you don’t make noise.

Star Wars “The Force Awakens” and the real dangers of guns

Star WarsThe long awaited opening of the new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens” is here. It looks like security will be tight at movie theaters across the country.Of course we all know that mass shootings can happen in movie theaters. The dust has just settled on the trial of the Aurora theater shooter. Remember that one? Remember that, as a country, we pretended it didn’t happen and didn’t want to be inconvenienced by talk of trying to prevent these kinds of shootings. Shooters like this can get any weapon and any amount of ammunition they want with no background check (legally) and carry out a heinous shooting leaving far too many families grieving forever.

Brady background checks anyone? This guy, ridiculous as it is, passed a background check. He was not a stable person. But in America, what the heck? Anyone should have a gun because……rights. And the ammunition? Bought on line with no background checks. Hundreds of rounds and drum magazines. Why not? The average citizen needs that kind of sh&^ for every day living. We don’t require background checks on ammunition, no matter how much is purchased.

This time around, when a larger than life movie that will attract millions of viewers opens, America can’t help but think of shootings and terror attacks because…… America. So theaters are preparing with extra security guards and precautions like not allowing Star Wars type lasers and light sabers. Oh, and no masks or painted faces.

But, unless it is specifically prohibited, guns may be allowed inside. I mean, what’s more dangerous? A toy light saber or a real gun?

Anyone remember these incidents?

A Florida “law abiding” gun carrier shot and killed a young man who was texting at the beginning of a movie.

A man opened fire at a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater, killing 2 and injuring 9 before shooting himself.

A gun carrier “accidentally ” shot himself in the leg while carrying in a Kansas theater.

This is insanity. Our priorities are all screwed up.

And I can’t help throwing in why guns are more dangerous than other “weapons” or tools. How about guns in road rage incidents?  You just never think of someone throwing a knife at a driver in road rage. Or a hammer? Or maybe a vase or some sharp object?  A gun is much more effective at killing people. So this happened in Oklahoma:

A man open fired from his pickup truck and killed two people in separate shootings on an Oklahoma interstate in what is suspected to be a road rage incident. (…)

The suspect continued driving, firing at vehicles as he drove fast and erratically, Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples said.

“He shot so many vehicles that it would have been totally impractical to assume he knew them,” Peoples added.

The suspect was being held at the Custer County jail on a preliminary complaint of driving under the influence, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown said.

Driving under the influence? What about murder with a gun? Two innocent Americans are dead.

And while we are thinking of road rage and gun deaths of people innocently driving their cars down the road let’s turn our attention to this conundrum. The federal government ( with the help of Congress) has determined that death by auto accident deserves our attention and tax payer money to fund research to cut deaths makes perfect sense. Research on gun deaths? Not so much. 

Thanks NRA and corporate gun lobby. Thanks Congress.

And speaking of guns allowed in all public places, Disney World has decided- NOT. Guns will not be welcome in their theme parks any more nor will they even sell toy guns in their parks. Oh, and no costumes for people over 14. Why? I think you know the answer. It is not only “foreign” terrorists they fear. It’s the nutty Americans who can buy anything on-line or at gun shows with no background checks or through straw purchasing or on through trafficking that have caused most of our nation’s terror attacks.

I was at Disney World with my daughter and grandchildren last winter. It was such a great experience for all of us. It’s the “happiest place on earth”. Or is it? We now have to fear armed people everywhere we go. We would rather inconvenience millions of Americans at theme parks than require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

I don’t know about you but the Tea Cup ride made me a little dizzy. It’s shown in this article about the security changes at Disney World. You know what else makes me dizzy? The lapdog politicians who give in to the demands of the minority of Americans ( and even of gun owners and NRA members) so that Americans need to fear guns while enjoying movies and theme parks.

(An aside- speaking of straw purchases, we now know that I wrote about before. The guns used in the San Bernardino terror attach were obtained through a straw purchase and the buyer has been arrested for that and many other things.)

The gun nuts tell me all the time that it would be so inconvenient for them to have to undergo a background check when buying from a private seller on line (armslist.com) or at a gun show. I have asked these folks if it is equally inconvenient for them when they buy from licensed sellers where Brady background checks are required on all gun sales. I have yet to see or hear a rational answer to this question. That makes me wonder if these folks can actually pass a Brady background check. For what other reason could there be to resist this common sense way of keeping guns away from dangerous or potentially dangerous people?

Tell the family of Zina Haughton  how inconvenient it would have been for Radcliffe Haughton to be turned away from the seller on armslist.com when he sold Haughton his gun used to kill his wife at a Wisconsin spa and 2 others and then himself. He was a prohibited gun purchaser because of domestic abuse. It was mighty inconvenient for the families of those killed that day to bury their loved ones.

Just for a minute, let’s take a look at how many guns are available through private sales in Florida on Armslist.com just for today. Many pages of them. This is not OK. How does the seller know to whom he/she is selling that gun?

Why do we allow this? Congress? State legislators? It’s up to you now.

I just spoke with someone yesterday who said she had to have a background check to volunteer with kids in our schools. This is true for teachers and for volunteers in churches when someone wishes to volunteer with kids. There are no exceptions to this. Why? To protect our children from potentially “bad” people. Background checks are required for many other Americans for many reasons- with no exceptions. But for guns? Not in America.

Guns everywhere is clearly not the answer. We have allowed this to happen and now we have created a monster. Changing this culture of guns, guns, guns is not going to be easy. But it is happening. The force is awakening. The American public has had #enough. We are fighting back and we are angry as well. The gun lobby’s angry and fear mongering rhetoric has been responsible for Americans arming themselves. And when more Americans are armed, more Americans are losing their lives to gun homicides, mass shootings, gun suicides and “accidental” shootings.

So now when we attend openings of popular movies or go on trips to theme parks or other places where large numbers of Americans gather, we need to fear for terrorists with guns or just about any nut or angry person with a gun who can easily get one.

We are better than this. It’s past time for the changes we want and deserve to protect our communities and families from devastating gun violence. Join me in demanding action from Congress and state legislators. Go to the website of a gun violence prevention organization of your choice. Get on the email lists. Attend events. Contribute money and your talent and time. Raise your voices with me and the millions of others who have already said in poll after poll after poll for many years now that they want our leaders to listen to us and not the corporate gun lobby.