A “memoraversary”

The last week has been a difficult one for the entire country. For victims and survivors it has been worse than difficult. High profile shootings bring back too many memories. The press coverage, the constant conversation about the guns, bullets, the victims, the injuries…

PTSD is what I call it. I believe the entire country is experiencing PTSD after the last week of mass shootings. The nonsensical talk about video games, lack of praying in school, mental illness and every other excuse offered by those who refuse to talk about the root of the problem is enough to make us sick. We know what the problem is. We have experienced it.

It’s the guns stupid. Plain and simply it’s easy access to guns. The hate shooting in El Paso was a horrendous act of violence directed at immigrants, people of color, hispanic people- the “other”. An assault rifle. Premeditated murder. Unrepentant killer. A legal gun purchase.

We’ve heard it ad nauseum before- hundreds of times.

The shooting in Dayton appears to be a domestic related shooting but the premeditation involving body armour, an assault rifle with a 100 round drum magazine is inexplicable. Why?

In talking about the high profile mass shootings, we often forget about the “everyday” shootings happening regularly. Over 100 a day. The domestic homicides. The suicides. The unintentional shootings by kids, officer involved shootings. They are all around us every day. They leave victims and survivors in their wake. They leave a ripple effect going wider and wider. With all of the shootings, there are few of us remaining who have not been affected by a shooting.

I am one of those people feeling the PTSD in the past week. Thoughts of my own family dealing with the domestic shooting of my sister came back. The phone call came back. It brought back the days between the shooting and the funeral and the days following dealing with the after effects and grief and moving forward.

Moving forward for me was getting involved and working with Brady and Protect Minnesota to prevent shootings in any form. It has been a long and frustrating journey. We go round and round and make small steps towards progress because we are swimming upstream against a formidable force of opposition and a culture of guns that stops us from doing what almost everyone knows is the right thing to do.

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara Lund. What should we call the anniversary of the death of a loved one? That question was asked recently in a group of Brady chapter leaders. Anniversary seems like not quite the right word. Every year on this date I write about my sister, who was murdered by her estranged husband on Aug. 5, 1992.

It’s been a long time but we miss her still. I can still hear her voice and remember her vivacious personality at family events. She was a force. She was a beauty queen. She was a skier, an artist, a mother, a sister, a wife, an ex-wife, a step-mom, a tennis player, a pilot, an entertainer, politically active, and an all around adventurous person. People never forgot her once they met her.

She would have been a fierce advocate for doing the right thing in my memory had I died before her by some untimely violent death. She would have worked for background checks on all gun sales and the many issues that have been in the forefront in the decades since her death.

But a stronger background check system would not have stopped my sister’s shooting. Her estranged husband was a legal gun owner. Perhaps an Extreme Risk Protection Order law however could have prevented what happened that day in August in 1992. There had been a restraining order. He was becoming aggressive with phone messages to her. He was becoming, in general, more resistant to the divorce proceedings even being in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the proceedings. They were separated by then and she told friends she was worried about his guns.

But using his guns to kill her and her friend because he was angry? Why? Where is common sense?

Others have similar stories with somewhat different details. Some women survive the bullets. Many do not. Domestic murders often involve more than one person and most often happen when a woman is trying to leave the relationship- whether marriage or not. Sometimes it takes a half dozen times to actually leave. When children, money and pets are involved, it’s difficult to leave.

I have learned a lot since Aug. 5, 1992. Now we all know more and we all know that we can do something about this carnage. If there is a difficulty in the relationship and the man ( for it is almost always the man) owns guns, we must think differently. We must be hyper aware. If there is a threat to the gun owners’ self or others, if Extreme Risk Protection Orders are law, guns can be removed, at least temporarily.

A woman is 5 times more likely to be killed in intimate violence situations when a gun is present. In my sister’s case there was no physical violence but rather increasing signs of anger and depression over his losing control of money and control.

If there is a difficult relationship between domestic partners or spouses, a gun can make it deadly instantly. Getting away from the relationship or getting guns away from the person who could be a danger to themselves or others is of utmost importance.

End Family Fire is a new campaign to highlight the risks of guns in the home. These risks are for suicide, domestic homicide, school shootings (most school shooters get their guns from their own homes) or “accidental gun discharges”. Considering the risks there is no reason not to be more cautious about guns in the home. At the very least they need to be stored safely ( in a metal gun case) and/or with a trigger lock and away from ammunition.

Too many gun owners think their loaded guns must be at the ready at home just in case. This flawed thinking leads to way too many avoidable deaths and injuries. A gun is much more likely to be used against you or someone in the home than in self defense.

You may think that something like this can never happen in your family or your community. You may be right. But if I were you I would err on the side of safety and caution to prevent personal tragedy. None of the families of the tragic and deadly mass shootings and “everyday” shootings ever thought it would happen to them either. My last post was about the rash of mass shootings in the last week. Since I wrote that post, dozens more have died of gunshot injuries.

We don’t have to live like this. But we do have to demand that our leaders make sure our lives are safe from preventable gun violence. Our personal responsibility is to be aware, be safe, be sensible around guns, and don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. Lives depend on getting this right.

Our leaders’ responsibility is to pass laws to make it less easy for people who should not have guns to get them. It is to make it harder to get guns. It should be. Guns are lethal weapons and they are responsible for horrendous carnage. This is national public health emergency and we must do something.

In memory of my sister and the many thousands of Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since her death and before, I demand action. I honor the lives lost with action.

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.

It’s exhausting

heavyloadI don't know about you but I have been left mentally exhausted by the political events of this past week. My mind has been scattered and I can't seem to concentrate on much aside from the Trump reality show playing out every day. It's like a soap opera. One must tune in to see the next episode and watch the drama unfold. We have a "drama queen" as  a President. He loves the spotlight and the attention and he demands loyalty and idiotic  support of an agenda that in the mind of many of us is becoming more and more frightening as he digs in and circles the fire. Just now, our very own President lied again about what happened when Obama was President- guns would be taken away. I think he meant Clinton but anyway- he lied and said your guns would be gone.

And two days ago, a new Communications Director at the White House (Anthony Scaramucci) who is actually not yet able to be paid for his new job because he has to sell off his multi-million dollar business, let loose with a tirade of ugliness and profanity that sent a chill into the political air. And, by the way, Scaramucci is actually firing people even though he is not officially on the job. You just can't make this stuff up.

It's exhausting to listen to all of those lies and offensive rhetoric.

So relief is the feeling of today. Also some celebrating that when people organize and get involved and demand change or resist terrible votes on terrible bills, democracy wins.

It's a heavy lift to make sure Americans have access and get affordable health care. It's an exhausting process. But it needs to happen.

It's a heavy lift to get measures to prevent and reduce gun violence in place as well.

As always, many Americans have died from gunshot injuries during this week of health care debate and other debacles- most of them avoidable. In fact at 90 a day, about 630 Americans have died from gunshot injuries since last Friday. That's exhausting.

What appears to be a domestic murder/suicide in Winona, Minnesota led to the death of two young people.  Guns are dangerous. When a gun is available things like this happen on a regular basis. There is no sense to it but it's the American gun culture gone wrong.

Also in Minnesota this week, another small child got access to a loaded gun and shot and injured another child. This is avoidable and senseless. A mother was arrested because every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. From the article:

A 21-year-old woman was arrested in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood Tuesday evening after a child apparently found a gun in her purse and shot a 4-year-old girl in the leg.

The girl was taken to Regions Hospital with a nonlife threatening gunshot wound to her left leg, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a police spokesman.

No guns in purses. Period. This is not the first time as we remember the awful incident where a young Idaho child found his mother's gun in her purse and shot and killed her. 

It's exhausting.

Speaking of access to guns by young children and the health care system, here is a new campaign from States United to prevent gun violence in partnership with the Brady Campaign's ASK campaign. Check it out.

Yes, there is a lot of blood. Bullets kill. They do a lot of damage once entering a human body. That is why they are so much more deadly than other weapons. What happens when a bullet goes through the skin and muscle is usually only seen by health care providers, law enforcement, and coroners. It's not pretty. Perhaps if more people became aware of the actual damage to human organs from the bullets they shoot out of their guns intentionally or unintentionally, they would stop thinking  of guns as just tools. They are tools of destruction and death. There really is no way around that.

So a Kentucky  photographer decided to record the damage done by bullets to make it graphic and use it as art. For art imitates life and in the case of shootings, it's powerful stuff. The photographer got more interested in the actual victims of shootings as he proceeded with his project and started memorializing victims in an interesting way through graphs. From The Trace article:

“Murder statistics can become abstract,” he said. “This is a way to remember the victims. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, gun violence was massive, but then it returned to ‘normal’ levels, and it seems like we don’t think about it anymore.” With HAIL, he hopes to make the consequences of gun fire are harder to forget.

It is impossible to forget the consequences if you have lost a loved one to gun violence. Survivors of gun injuries never forget the impact of a bullet and the damage done leaving many of them forever disabled. Rep. Gabby Giffords is just one high profile walking example of the destruction of bullets. James Brady, now dead from the decades long effects of his gunshot injuries after being shot by a man who tried to assassinate President Reagan is another. They are the walking wounded, or in many cases, they can't walk any more.

Bullets do a lot of damage. The results of shootings cause grief, pain, devastation and costs to Americans. Victims and survivors undergo medical services for their injuries and recovery and often forever. Mental health services help family members with how to live on after a heinous shooting. Court costs are also costs to tax payers.

Health care, gun violence, economic, political, elections, non-profits, and many other issues and problems come together and are in need of solutions. Unlike the health care bill debacle brought to us by a President, Senators and Representatives who had only their own win and ideology behind their bills, there are common sense solutions. But like the health care debacle, it has become so political and divisive that solutions seem to be far off.

It doesn't have to be this way. If we are all about doing what's best for all of us to keep us healthy, safe, having enough money to feed and clothe our families, educating our children and young adults, providing jobs with living wages, taking care of our environment to preserve it for our children and grandchildren, then we will do the right thing.

Everyone wants to be safe from gun violence. We are not all safe. Everyone needs and wants good affordable health care. The ACA was a start but needs fixing, not repealing and replacing. Everyone wants a good job that has benefits and can provide for their families. Everyone wants their kids to be well educated. Everyone wants to retire gracefully and with dignity.

This is a time to reflect on where we have gone awry on so many issues and concerns. We are lurching towards a country that is not a democracy. We are living with a man at the helm who cares more about his own ego and image than he does about the people he represents. The ugliness, the language, the accusations, the verbal attacks, the tone deafness when speaking to a group of young boys, the angry tweeting, the attacks against the GLBTQ community, the attacks on minorities and immigrants, the taking apart of regular order, the destruction of the office of the Presidency, the violent and threatening rhetoric, the ignorance, the lying, the lack of attention to our national security, the lack of resolve to stop a foreign country from interfering with our elections, the blaming of others for one's own faults and shortcomings, the lack of accountability and more are becoming more frightening.

We need to take our country back. We need to stop the violence. We need to stop the threats and the vulgar public language. We need to feel safe in our own communities. We need to hold our leaders accountable for their mistakes and their ignorance.

It's exhausting to wake up to chaos every day. If that is the plan, it's working. If not, it's unacceptable and should stop before we go off the cliff.

It doesn't have to be this way. We don't need to be exhausted every day.

We can do something positive. For example, in Minnesota law enforcement is working with gun sellers and gun owners to make sure guns are safely stored against stealing. This seminar reinforced Minnesota's stringent storage laws for licensed dealers. There should be the same for home gun owners but so far, there is not. There could be.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek opened the seminar with remarks that charted a link between a recent uptick in violent crime and firearms hitting the streets from thefts or straw purchases, in which a stand-in buys a firearm for someone who’s been banned from making such a purchase.

“I’m asking you, I’m pleading with you,” Stanek told the firearms dealers, “when you go home at night, lock up those firearms.”

Usset expressed skepticism that large sellers would have the time every evening to lock away each of their long guns.

But he said he’s been securing his handguns before going home each evening since burglary 22 years ago.

“Because when they break in that’s what they’re after,” he said.

If it means saving lives, is it too much to ask to lock up ALL guns? Seems like a good idea to me.

Gun violence is also exhausting to the families, the victims and the survivors. Working to end gun violence is also exhausting. But there are courageous people who continue the fight no matter what because they don't want a lost life to lead to despair. Instead, they are working towards hope and a solution to our nation's public health epidemic.

Watch this story told by one of the survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. 

Angel's need for health care is great after he was shot and injured. Without health care, how do the victims get the care they need? Why would we deny them coverage? They are victims of senseless shootings and a gun culture gone wrong. America has more mass shootings and everyday shootings than any other democratized country not at war. We also have among the worst guaranteed affordable health care of almost all of those democratized countries.

Health care is a right. Being safe from gun violence is a right.

It's exhausting but, nevertheless, we will persist.

Taking sides on guns

NRA with ear muffsWhen it comes to innocent people being shot or taking their own lives with a gun or a child shooting someone or him/herself with a loaded unsecured gun, I thought there was only one side- common sense and safety. That was, of course, before I got involved in the gun violence prevention movement. In this movement we are all on the side of people not getting shot for really much of any reason. But we also recognize that guns are made to kill people and so, when there a lot of guns around and many of them unregulated and many of their owners also unregulated, there will be a lot of deaths and injuries.

But the silence from the gun lobby is deafening when it comes to actual people being shot and the epidemic of gun violence in our country. Is it on purpose? Is it just lack of empathy and compassion? Is it only political and in the interest of profit? Is it really true fear and paranoia that the government will come knocking on the door for their guns? Is it fear of zombies and the other? Is it just the second amendment which doesn’t say anything about guns for anyone who wants them no matter what? Is it avoidance of the truth? Is it ignorance of the laws or willful refusal to believe that gun laws can work? Is it some sort of fear of freedom being taken away when the lives lost were freedoms taken? Is it all about profits over lives? Is it about a culture change happening and fear of that change as fewer people hunt and fewer households own guns?

I don’t know that answer. I think all of the above are true actually. All I know for sure is that too many lives are taken every day by bullets and we can change that if we have the will and the political courage to do so. From the linked article above:

Is it too much to hope that America may be nearing the point of progress over the urgent — and long overdue — issue of gun violence? More than 5,000 people have been killed by guns since the start of this year. More than 10,000 have been injured. There have been more than 112 mass shootings. Just this week, amurder-suicide claimed two lives on the UCLA campus. In 2013, the U.S. saw more than 30,000 gun-related deaths. There’s cause to believe that 2016 will see a similarly horrifying tally.

Whose side are you on? Stopping some of these shootings or turning away from the carnage under our noses every day?

Thursday was #WearOrange day. By all standards, if counting many thousands of people participating in various events and posting photos of themselves on social media, it was a huge success. I was involved in organizing 2 of these events in my city. As always, we have speakers talking about why they are involved and why we need to deal with our public health epidemic. The Mayor issued a proclamation making my city orange for the day in memory and honor of gun violence victims. She held up a picture that a young boy had sent her with the words, “no more guns.” The Police Chief spoke about gun safety and the importance of storing guns safely to prevent them from being stolen and becoming crime guns. A woman spoke about the pain of losing her father when he took the gun he bought for self defense and used it to kill himself, leaving their family without a father.

And then a gun owner and hunter spoke about the need for putting our heads together and forgetting about our differences so we can save lives and prevent at least some of the gun violence. He is a strong proponent of requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales with the understanding that his own guns will NOT be taken from him nor will his rights to shoot those guns as long as he doesn’t shoot another human being.

It turns out that on the same day as our events, a Minnesota woman was found shot dead in her home, shot by the same man who had traveled to UCLA and shot a professor dead and then himself. The shooter had a hit list and he had 2 semi automatic guns, presumably bought legally. And that is the conundrum. Many people can buy guns legally and may never use those guns to shoot another human being or themselves. They may never bring it out to play with or show to someone and have it discharge. They may never drop their gun in a public place where it “accidentally” discharges. They may never leave that gun unattended, unsecured and loaded for young children or teens to find to use in a shooting.

But the fact is, far too many of these people are not safe with their guns. And we don’t know who will become unsafe or when they might become unsafe. That is the problem with our sides. My hunter friend spoke of how in other democratized countries that allow private ownership of guns, there just are not a lot of the incidents I described above. Does that mean that those folks are more careful and more safe? Maybe. But we do know that laws exist in those countries that make gun ownership a very awesome responsibility and difficult to get in the first place.

I maintain that stronger laws change the way in which people look at guns. People are less cavalier when their gun is harder to obtain and they have to go through more regulations to get a gun. They understand that they have to be safe given that they have been carefully vetted and can’t just get guns willy nilly with no background check through the internet or on the streets.

Let’s compare gun ownership to driving a car. We seem to have a common understanding that there are certain rules that everyone who wants to drive one has to follow- no exceptions. Everyone has to take drivers’ training. Everyone has to be at least 16. Everyone has to take a test. Everyone has to purchase insurance ( though some don’t). Everyone needs to wear a seat belt and follow the traffic laws. Most people actually do follow traffic rules as it turns out. Without laws and rules, our streets would be chaos.

And surely we can say that our gun culture causes chaos. Our inner city areas are chaos. Losing a loved one to a bullet causes not only grief, but chaos in one’s life. Mass shootings cause chaos. Shooting young children causes chaos. A gun suicide causes chaos in the family.

I spoke at our local event about the reason for the day, which I wrote about in my last post. Some of my readers will ask why there are so many gun deaths in Chicago like that of Hadiye Pendleton, when Chicago has strict gun laws. It’s the classic excuse given for doing nothing about stopping gun deaths because there are so many gun deaths. This illogical reasoning has been allowed to be a part of our discussion for far too long. It’s not difficult to understand when the neighboring states of Indiana and others flood the state with guns that can’t be bought in Chicago or Illinois. A brilliant article from The Trace shows us where the guns come from. From the article:

Not coincidentally, as the visualization above shows, in 2010, 2011, and 2014, the annual count of Illinois crime guns originating in Indiana topped 1,o00 guns per year. (In 2012 and 2013, there was a big dip in Illinois crime guns coming from Indiana, though the ATF isn’t sure why.) Mississippi was next in line, trafficking about a third as many guns into the state. At least four others exported more than 500 guns to Illinois during 2010–14. Five more states sent more than 400 each.

So if we follow the logical conclusion here, shouldn’t we make sure that there are uniform laws in all states to keep places like Chicago and some of our other large urban cities from providing the guns that kill innocent 15 year old girls (Hadiye Pendelton in Chicago)  and grandmothers (Birdell Beeks in Minneapolis) in their neighborhoods?

And then there’s Chuck’s gun shop in Chicago – a bad apple gun dealer. The shop has been the “target” of many protests over the past few years as the Brady Campaign and others have drawn attention to the loose practices of Chuck’s that allow crime guns to get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. Shouldn’t we do something about bad apple gun dealers? People are getting shot. But the gun lobby has pressured Congress to underfund the ATF which is the agency responsible for monitoring gun dealers like Chuck’s to make sure they are following the laws. Let’s enforce the laws already on the books.

There is some good news here, though. In spite of the gun industry immunity law (PLCAA) lawsuits filed against bad apple gun dealers (Badger Guns in Milwaukee) and others are winning in our courts.

Whose side are you on?

Watch here as President Obama answers a question from a man who is concerned about his gun rights, at a PBS Newshour town hall. His response is exactly mine and the millions of Americans who agree that doing something about people getting shot will not take away the rights of people to own guns. And this exchange shows the sides taken by Americans on the issue of guns and gun rights. There should be no sides when it comes to saving lives. But when it comes to guns, there are sides.

Whose side are you on?

Massachusetts is having a similar problem. Lots of the states crime guns are coming into the state from Vermont where gun laws barely exist:

Many local officials say inconsistent gun laws are fueling the trade. Most northeastern states have enacted laws that extend background check requirements for gun purchases to include firearms sold at gun shows and unlicensed dealers. But Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine do not require such checks on private sales, making it easier for people with criminal records to buy guns in those states, and move them around New England.

“We have good gun laws in Massachusetts, but our problem is most of the guns that seem to be coming in and being used in crimes are coming from other states,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans tells The Trace. “It’s hard for us when so many come from our border states that have lax laws.”

The gun extremists like to talk about Vermont having few gun deaths in spite of loose gun laws. They are ignoring the fact that Vermont has high gun suicide and domestic shooting death rates. In addition, weak gun laws are allowing people to be able buy guns that end up in other states where it’s more difficult to buy a gun. From this article:

Again, in universal terms, the total number of homicides, domestic violence cases, and gun-related deaths is indeed small, which can make some of these rate statistics seem exaggerated. But the argument can be made that they’re also less deceptive than the happy reports of a Second Amendment oasis in the heart of New England. A truer picture lies in this final statistic: Vermont, which is virtually impossible to traverse without a car, is a state where firearms deaths outnumber traffic deaths.

So back to my original question- Whose side are you on? The side of public health and safety? Or on the side of allowing anyone to get a gun, including many who shouldn’t?- felons, domestic abusers, those adjudicated mentally ill, fugitives, terrorists, etc. Interestingly many on the side of unfettered gun rights actually don’t think criminals should have guns- or so they say. So how do they think we can stop them from getting guns if we don’t actually stop them from getting guns?

We don’t have to take sides. Gun owners and NRA members are actually on the side of common sense with me. You’d never know it though from the general rhetoric that the gun lobby spews and often gets away with because they go unchallenged. Why? Good question. Some of the arguments and statements by the gun lobby are being taken apart by more people who are doing the research the corporate gun lobby hates and has tried to stop. This is shedding bright light on the real problem in America. Too many people are getting shot.

Orange is a bold and bright color. It makes a statement. Hunters wear orange to protect themselves from being shot by other hunters while out in the woods. Last fall my grandchildren were at our cabin during deer hunting season. We could hear gunshots in the woods nearby. When they were outside, I insisted that they all wear bright orange hats which they happily did since it was also cold outside. We turned America orange to make a bold and bright statement on Thursday. Monuments all over America turned orange including the Enger Tower in my city of Duluth.  Enger tower orange

We rang the bell at Enger Park for victims of gun violence- domestic murders, suicides, a young Minneapolis girl who was just sitting in her house doing homework when a bullet flying in her neighborhood snuffed out her young life; and many others. We shouldn’t be surprised but always are at the number of people who ring the bell for relatives or people they know who have died from gunshot injuries. People who shouldn’t have been shot.

We just can’t continue on this trajectory or this level of violence. The time for action has long passed. My side of the issue can be blamed for some of this. But the bold and bright truth of the matter is that when people are getting shot and the problem is being ignored and the conversation is being stifled by those with a vested interest in selling their products, we have a big and deadly problem. No one wants to get shot. We will wear orange, have marches, turn monuments orange and continue to demand the changes in our laws and the conversation that all of the victims and their families deserve. We are Americans against being shot. #Enough now.

 

Guns and washing clothes

washing_machineI have written before about various disputes over things (like lawn mowers, garbage cans, etc.) that have ended in death or injury from gun fire. Here is yet another- a dispute over washing clothes has ended in the death of 4 people in the Los Angeles area. The easy access to a gun and alcohol can be deadly. From the article:

A man shot and killed his wife and two others in his home on New Year’s Eve before his son wrestled the gun away and fatally shot him in a chain of events apparently set off by a dispute over a washing machine, authorities said Friday.

The two other victims killed were the son’s 48-year-old girlfriend who also lives at the house in Rowland Heights and a 27-year-old man who was visiting, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

The 54-year-old father was a heavy drinker with a large gun collection, and authorities had made dozens of previous trips to the home, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said.

This is the American gun culture out of control. Guns make disputes like this deadly. People can argue over all sorts of things but when a gun is at the ready, sometimes they die. I know that from personal experience.

Devastating shootings affect the lives of many. There is a ripple effect when mass domestic shootings like this happen. Now the son who witnessed the shootings is being held on murder charges for killing his father after he wrestled the gun from him. Good grief.

According to the writers of the Gun Violence Archive, 200 incidents that they know of involving guns and shooting have been recorded so far in 2016. It’s January 2nd. Check it out for yourself on their above linked website if you don’t believe me.

Raise your hand if you believe this is the way of life we, as Americans, should accept. The corporate gun lobby does everything in its’ ubiquitous power to stop any kind of common sense measure to prevent at least some of the shootings. With wide recognition by the public that passing laws such as expanded Brady background checks are a good idea, why doesn’t Congress just go ahead and vote to keep us safer? Rural Democratic legislators and Republicans who are in charge of a lot of our state houses are doing everything they can to reverse common sense and make it easier for just anyone to buy, own and carry guns in public. Who are they afraid of? We know the answer.

All of this adds up to a gun culture that is no longer accepted but is allowed because of feckless, timid and scared elected leaders. They are the only ones who can act through law to keep us safer. And we need them to be afraid of us and afraid of the victims and survivors who have a lot at stake to keep other Americans from suffering from devastating gun violence.

Some of our citizens have become so scared and paranoid about needing guns for protection against zombies, terrorists, people of color, President Obama, and shadows in every corner that we now have 89 Americans a day dying from gunshot injuries.

Citizens and gun owners can act positively by storing guns safely from kids, teens or being stolen. They can stop taking risks that end in death. They can be more responsible with their guns. Measures ( one has been proposed)  like requiring liability insurance on gun owners could make people more responsible much like we do with cars because car accidents can kill others unintentionally. We can tax guns and ammunition (now law in Seattle) like we do cars upon purchase so that people understand that if they want a gun, they will have to come up with tax money. Why? Because gun deaths and injuries are costing Americans a lot of money.

And why are gun buyers not required to take a class to teach them about the risks and responsibilities of gun owning  before they walk out the door of the gun shop just like we do with anyone who wants to drive a car?

And perhaps a stiff tax on ammunition would have stopped the shooter of the Aurora theater victims to think twice before ordering thousands of rounds of ammunition to be used to slaughter innocent people.

All of these things are done for good reason. And there are no exceptions. Everyone has to take driving lessons. Everyone has to pay state sales taxes when buying a car. Everyone has to register their car and get a license for that car. Proof of insurance is required but we know that some ignore this and then we all pay when an accident happens. Driving while drunk has severe penalties now. What about operating a gun while drunk? There are laws in states that allow guns in bars and restaurants that say someone with that permit can’t drink beyond the state approved legal limit. But who’s checking to see if that is the case? Bar owners don’t ask their customers if they are carrying a gun before serving them their 5th beer. It’s too late once a shooting happens. But our legislators were convinced that everything would be just fine for those “responsible” gun owners and carriers because they don’t break the laws- until they do. That’s what laws are for- to protect us all and keep us safe from those who can’t or won’t be responsible.

If you think the man who shot those folks over a dispute over washing clothes while under the influence of alcohol was responsible, think again. He should not have had access to guns.

So in 2016, what is past due is a discussion that involves reasonable people from both sides to get to a place where we can prevent some of the shootings however we can and protect rights and gun ownership. It is done in most other places in the world and in some of our own states with good results.

Let’s get to work.

 

Breaking news- mass shootings and gun insanity as far as the eye can see.

Latest News - Gold 3D Words on Digital Background.

On Thursday of this week, the breaking news was all about mass shootings. One could not look at any news media without the interrupted programming reporting about the shooting of Marines at a Naval recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And today, the news is that another victim has died of the injuries sustained in Thursday’s mass shooting. Also on that day, the jury of the Aurora theater shooting trial returned a guilty verdict. Common sense happened. In addition, there was news about the upcoming trial of the Charleston church mass shooter. America was consumed by mass shooting.

What we didn’t hear about that day was that 80 other Americans died from gunshot injuries and hundreds more sustained injuries. What the news media did’t talk about was a spree shooting in Maine that killed 2 and injured 5. How did this guy get his gun, by the way?

Will there be a day when we won’t be talking about another mass shooting? When will we do something about all of this? Congress took a break from their work while families were grieving and people were being shot. This statement from the Brady Campaign is perfect:

The two stories dominating news headlines across the country both center on the issue of gun violence – an epidemic that kills 89 people in America every day, and injures hundreds more. Congress’ response to a grieving nation: another three-day weekend.

“Today marks one month from the Charleston church shooting, while just yesterday four Marines were killed while serving their country on US soil and the Aurora movie theater shooter was convicted for murdering twelve people. Gun violence leads the news today in every congressional district in America, and this doesn’t count local shooting incidents that fail to make national news,” said Brady Campaign President Dan Gross. “The issue of gun violence is very much on the public’s mind and the last thing Congress should be doing is taking another break. Our elected leaders should make it a priority to take immediate action to keep guns out of the wrong hands and that starts by taking a vote on H.R. 1217.”

Isn’t it time for them to get to work on solving one of our country’s most pressing public health and safety problems? When 32,000 Americans die in one year from gun injuries, isn’t it time to break out common sense, put our collective heads together and start working on solutions? For there are solutions and we are ignoring them.

I write often about, at the least, requiring background checks for all gun sales. 92% of Americans, and yes, even gun owners, favor this solution. Why is this not the solution? Why would we even think about allowing anyone who purchases a deadly weapon to not go through a background check? It’s insane.

A group of faith leaders has written about another solution and is imploring President Obama to use it in this New York Times piece:

For more than a year, we and fellow religious leaders across the nation have worked to persuade President Obama to use what we believe is the most powerful tool government has in this area: its purchasing power. The federal government is the nation’s top gun buyer. It purchases more than a quarter of the guns and ammunition sold legally in the United States. State and local law enforcement agencies also purchase a large share. Major gun manufacturers depend on these taxpayer-funded purchases. For the government to keep buying guns from these companies — purchases meant to ensure public safety — without making demands for change is to squander its leverage.

Some of the leading brands of handguns purchased by the government — Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, Beretta, Colt, Sturm, Ruger & Company — are also leading brands used in crimes. Among the brands of handguns recovered by the Chicago Police Department at crime scenes between January 2012 and October 2013, all six of these companies ranked in the top 11. When police officers carrying Glocks are recovering Glocks at crime scenes on a regular basis, shouldn’t this prompt questions about whether the police department could use its influence to reduce the number of guns that end up in the hands of criminals? When Smith & Wessons turn up frequently in the hands of criminals, shouldn’t questions be asked when Smith & Wesson seeks a contract with the federal government?

There are specific suggestions made by these faith leaders that could lead to safer practices of selling guns to make sure guns don’t fall into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. Why would we not require these gun dealers to more accountable for what they are doing? They are selling deadly weapons designed to kill people.

Along the line of common sense solutions suggested in the above linked piece is another article that highlights the gun sale policies of Walmart, the nation’s largest seller of guns:

Current federal guidelines offer dealers a degree of discretion in the small percentage of cases where background checks don’t clear within two hours and are placed under review, after which many retailers will opt to proceed with the sale even if an approval or denial hasn’t been issued when the three-day mark passes. Walmart’s own background check policies have surpassed federal requirements since 2002, when the company decided that it would no longer sell guns to customers without a completed approval from NICS. The company refuses to sell a gun without a concrete all-clear from the federal system.

“The fact is, a gun dealer is not required to sell a gun to anybody,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tells The Trace. In default proceed sales, he argues, it’s safer not to. In a 2000 FBI study, the agency found that a person whose background check takes over 24 hours to complete is also 20 times more likely to be a prohibited purchaser. “Walmart realized that it’s just not good practice as a responsible corporate citizen to supply guns to those people,” says Lowy.

Walmart, the nation’s largest gun retailer, sells rifles, shotguns, and ammunition in some 1,700 outlets. (It doesn’t offer handguns, except in the state of Alaska.) In 2008, the company adopted even more rigorous standards by implementing a 10-point code of conduct as part of a partnership with the gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In addition to refusing default proceed sales, Walmart agreed to videotape all firearm transactions, require background checks for all employees handling or selling guns, and create a system to trace guns sold by the company that are later linked to crimes, among other measures. (Mayors Against Illegal Guns is an earlier iteration of Everytown for Gun Safety, a seed donor of The Trace.)

Other gun dealers need to follow these simple good practices when selling guns. Lives depend on it.

Making sure kids and teens don’t access guns can also save lives. The ASK campaign is all about asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where your kids play and hang out. Making sure if you are gun owners yourself, you do the same, is crucial.

The solution is not more guns, by the way. There is absolutely no evidence that works. In fact the opposite is likely true. For example, this Georgia navy recruiter accidentally shot himself in the leg with his personal weapon carried into a recruiting center. But now, of course, Republican Presidential candidates and gun rights activists are suggesting that if only those Chattanooga victims would have had guns, they could have protected themselves.

Pandering.

How would that have worked? The shooter shot from a distance spraying the buildings with bullets and it happened by surprise as these events always do. Perhaps military members working in these facilities should be armed but armed and trained. But even then, it may not stop the next armed attacker from spraying bullets from a distance. Like in any situation where a gunman shows up, chaos ensues and more guns do not ensure more safety and fewer deaths.

Even armed officers and law enforcement are shot and killed or injured in “guns allowed” zones. One of the first victims in Chattanooga was an armed police officer who was injured and couldn’t stop the shooter. I have written often about the shootings of armed officers in Tacoma, Washington, Pittsburgh, New York and other places.

Arming more people is not the answer. The answer is to have fewer armed citizens. There are far too many guns circulating in America. There are far too many people who shouldn’t be abel to have guns who can access them far too easily. The evidence is mounting that in America we make it easy for shooters like the Aurora shooter, the Columbine shooters, the Charleston shooter, the Chattanooga shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter and all of the others to gain access to deadly weapons.

A new study that draws the same conclusion as others, finds that guns for self defense are used very infrequently and that, indeed, do not actually make much difference and could make things worse for the gun owners. From the article in The Trace:

Despite these advantages, even the NCVS is almost certainly overestimating defensive gun use. The fact is that defensive gun use is an inherently rare phenomenon: Any survey, no matter how well designed, will produce a final estimate that is much higher than its true incidence because of false positives. Not only is this a well-established statistical phenomenon, it’s also supported by new data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) — the most comprehensive and systematic effort to catalog every publicly available defensive gun use report — which finds that there were fewer than 1,600 verified DGUs in 2014.

In response to GVA data, pro-gun advocates have been forced to argue that the reason researchers can barely find .064 percent of the 2.5 million DGUs a year claimed by Kleck and Gertz is because virtually nobody reports their defensive gun use to the police. This argument is problematic. For starters, it would seem to imply that the vast majority of people using guns in self-defense are irresponsible citizens who use their firearm to ward off an attempted crime, and then, perhaps uncertain about the legality of their action, are leery of interacting with the police. It would also imply that while these citizens ostensibly stopped a crime serious enough to justify brandishing a firearm, they aren’t at all concerned about informing the police about a criminal who remains on the street.

The only thing we can know for sure is what we have empirical data on: Namely, that there is a reliable floor for defensive gun use estimates at around 1,600 a year. In addition, according to the most recent data on defensive gun use, we have reliable evidence showing that owning a firearm does not give individuals any significant advantage in a criminal confrontation, and they are no less likely to lose property or be injured by using a gun in self defense.

Facts matter. We need to re-think our insane gun culture and the claims made by the corporate gun lobby. For saving lives is the most important thing we can do and if the facts point to stronger gun laws and discussing the role of guns and gun violence in our communities that don’t fit with the claims made otherwise, it’s time to change the conversation.

As if to punctuate the evidence about our daily news and breaking news reports about shootings, Everytown for Gun Safety has a new report about the trends in mass shootings and other shootings. It is not a pretty picture. You can read the facts for yourself but surely the report reveals that more guns and more easy access to guns had made our country far less safe. Let’s look at just one fact, though, considering the shootings of the past few weeks:

Here’s some further evidence to support this point. Last year, Media Matters noted that response rates to mass shootings are generally within minutes of the first shot fired. During the September 2013 Navy Yard shooting which claimed 13 lives, for example, local police arrived within two to three minutes and members of the Yard’s armed security force had already fired at the shooter but failed to stop him. In 2012, Mother Jones found absolutely no evidence that even a single mass shooter had considered whether someone in the area could legally be carrying a firearm. Instead, shooters choose locations based on their personal connection to the site — and don’t seem to care much about whether someone might be firing back at them. Perhaps that’s because many mass shooters are suicidal; Everytown says that in 42% of incidents, the shooter killed themselves.

Facts matter. We can’t let this trend continue.

Today is my birthday. I have much to be thankful for. So today I will celebrate with the usual cards, birthday cake, time with friends, calls from family and time at our beloved cabin on a lake.

Too many people will not be celebrating birthdays. Too many families will not be able to celebrate the birthdays of their loved ones, killed by gun violence. It’s all around us.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

This article about an Oregon felon arrested with guns and ammunition is the poster child for everything that’s wrong with our American gun culture:

Broke told police that he had the gun “out of concern for his safety because of all the guns on the street,” court documents state.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Law suits and the gun lobby

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In 2005 Congress passed a law opposed by many, including the gun violence prevention organizations around the country. It was difficult for the general public and Congress to really grasp. But when the “guys with the guns make the rules” that is often the case. This law is the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms law, aka the Immunity Law ( Gun Industry Immunity). Here is what this law does:

In the years before passage of the act, victims of firearms violence in the United States had successfully sued manufacturers and dealers for negligence on the grounds that they should have foreseen that their products would be diverted to criminal use.[2] The purpose of the act is to prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products. However, both manufacturers and dealers can still be held liable for damages resulting from defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, and other actions for which they are directly responsible in much the same manner that any U.S. based manufacturer of consumer products (i.e. automobiles, appliances, power tools, etc.) are held responsible.

Here is more about the law:

While opponents of the measure said it singles out the gun industry for special protection, Mr. LaPierre said the protection is necessary because, unlike auto manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies, American firearms makers “don’t have deep pockets,” and the industry would be at risk simply from the cost of fighting the lawsuits.

But opponents called the bill shameful — “bought and paid for by the N.R.A.,” in the words of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, whose constituents include victims of the 2002 sniper shootings in Washington and its suburbs, called the measure “a cruel hoax” on victims of gun violence.

“I went to a lot of memorial services during that period of time,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “I’ve met with family members. To tell them that their cases were frivolous is, I think, to add insult to injury.”

Eight of the sniper victims or their relatives won a $2.5 million legal settlement from the manufacturer of the gun used in the shootings and the dealer in Washington State who sold it. Mr. LaPierre said that suit would have been permitted under the law passed Thursday. But the lawyer who brought it, Dennis Henigan of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, disagreed.

Mr. Henigan said that while the dealer had violated federal law, the bill would have prevented the suit nonetheless because the violations did not pertain directly to the weapon used in the sniper shootings. He said he intended to challenge the bill on constitutional grounds, arguing that it deprives states of their right to legislate and deprives victims of their right to sue.

As our country is experiencing more, not fewer, gun deaths and injuries and as the mass shootings keep piling up, this Media Matters article wonders why we aren’t paying more attention to this gun lobby law. From the article:

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act favors an industry that, at best, turns a blind eye to business practices that place profit over victims. As Forbes admits, the result is that “gun manufacturers have won double-barreled protection from Congress against the type of lawsuits that bedevil the makers of everything from toys to tractor-trailers.” Although legal experts like Andrew Cohen, posting in The Atlantic, are starting to highlight this unnecessary and unprecedented immunity for the gun industry, further attention would better inform current calls to hold gun companies accountable in court. As leaders of Congress state that “every idea should be on the table” in attempting to prevent another tragedy like the Newtown massacre, major news outlets should investigate why the gun industry remains shielded by law from the consequences of its irresponsible business practices in a way that other industries are not.

For example, the same type of gun used in the Newtown shooting was used by the 2002 Washington, D.C., snipers to shoot more than a dozen people. But if it had been in effect at the time, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act would have blocked the lawsuit filed by the victims against the gun maker and dealer, and prevented the settlement they received. On this point, the questions of Denise Johnson, the widow of one of the snipers’ victims, are still relevant:

I’m confident that the criminal justice system will work to punish the people who killed my husband. But the civil justice system must also be allowed to work. Those who share responsibility for my husband’s death must also be held accountable.

[…]

I and families of other sniper victims have sued these gun sellers. I hope that by holding them accountable, we can cause others to behave more responsibly, and that future tragedies such as mine will be prevented. I understood when I filed the case that I was not guaranteed victory, but that’s OK. All I wanted was my day in court. But if [the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act] is enacted, the courthouse door will be slammed in my face.

No other industry enjoys the protections that the gun industry is seeking. Gun sellers and manufacturers shouldn’t be above the law. If any other product injured my husband and irresponsible sellers played a part, I would be able to bring a case in court. But because Conrad was shot with a gun, my lawsuit would not be allowed. Those who sell guns that are sought by criminals need to be more careful than sellers of other products, not less careful.

I call on Congress to protect my rights and the rights of other victims of gun violence. There’s nothing frivolous about how bad gun dealers behave. And there’s nothing frivolous about my case.

The gun industry does not need to be more protected than any other industry. If victims file law suits, the courts can sort it out like they do for other industries who are sometimes sued by victims who are harmed by a product. The tobacco industry was found to be liable for deleterious health effects caused by their products. The same with the auto industry. Why does Congress treat the gun industry differently?  The corporate gun lobby may complain that they don’t have deep pockets but that is really not the case. The gun industry seems to be thriving thanks in part to the protections it has received from our own elected leaders who are afraid to stand up for the victims. And also thanks to the fear and paranoia sold to some in America that fuels the sale of firearms. And in a sick twist, many of these firearm sales increase after high profile mass shootings.

At some level, our elected leaders must know and understand this information. Do they also know how much gun deaths and injuries cost Americans?  Our leaders need to know it all in order to make informed decisions. There has been controversy in the past week or so about one such leader who happens to be running for President- Senator Bernie Sanders.  Sanders voted in favor of the 2005 law that protects the gun industry and has been having problems because of it. He also voted against the Brady Bill.

The 2005 law has come to the forefront in a recent lawsuit filed by the parents of one of the Aurora theater shooting victims against an ammunition company.  From the article:

A federal judge ordered the parents of a Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting victim to pay court costs and attorney fees as a result of a lawsuit filed last year, and the defendants in the case say the family owes around a quarter of a million dollars. (…)

The lawsuit was part a larger effort by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to expose unscrupulous gun dealers that ignore obvious warning signs and sell to customers with malicious intentions.

The plaintiffs, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the shooting, filed suit in September, but a senior district judge dismissed the claims last month.

The judge cited the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in the ruling, a law passed in 2005 to shield gun makers and retailers from liability for injuries caused by a third party with their products.

On-line purchases like this are way too easy and come with no background checks:

“We’re different than other cultures,” said Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which advocates for firearms owners’ rights. “We do allow Americans to possess the accoutrements that our military generally has.”

Gun rights activists like Brown celebrate that freedom, but even some involved in the trade are troubled by how easily Holmes stocked up for his alleged rampage.

Chad Weinman runs TacticalGear.com, which caters to police officers looking to augment their equipment, members of the military who don’t want to wait on permission from the bureaucracy for new combat gear, and hobbyists like survivalists and paintballers. The site receives “thousands” of orders daily, sometimes from entire platoons that are about to deploy to war zones.

On July 2, Holmes placed a $306 order with the site for a combat vest, magazine holders and a knife, paying extra for expedited two-day shipping to his Aurora apartment. The order, Weinman said, didn’t stand out.

“There’s a whole range of consumers who have an appetite for these products, and 99.9 percent of them are law-abiding citizens,” Weinman said. But he said that “it makes me sick” that Holmes bought material from him. He added that he doesn’t sell guns or ammunition and that he was “shocked” at the amount of bullets that Holmes allegedly bought online.

Authorities say all of Holmes’ purchases were legal – and there is no official system to track whether people are stockpiling vast amounts of firepower.

This statement ( above) should concern us: “”There’s a whole range of consumers who have an appetite for these products, and 99.9 percent of them are law-abiding citizens,””. Law abiding or not, why is there an appetite for these products in the first place? Doesn’t that tell us something about our insane American gun culture? Who needs these kinds of products? And if you are law abiding and want them, a background check or further scrutiny should not be a bother to you. But…rights.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips lost her daughter, Jessica, that night in a movie theater. Her right to live was taken from her in just seconds by a man who could buy hundreds of rounds of ammunition on-line because- rights:

That’s right. Not only does U.S. federal law protect gun makers and sellers from being held responsible for selling arms to nutcases, terrorists and murderers, but the state of Colorado requires plaintiffs to pay them court costs for having the nerve to sue them! (…) The other problem, which Sachs does not specifically mention is that our nation’s lax gun laws — along with laws protecting gun makers and sellers — allow no recourse to victims of the weapons industries and the NRA gun lobby.

Americans can buy anything they want on-line no matter who they are. Guns and ammunition should be treated differently than other products because they are the only product designed to kill people. Why can’t we get this right? High profile shootings often highlight our weak gun laws. The recent Charleston shooting has exposed a flaw in the FBI’s national instant check system:

That is something that should outrage all Americans, black or white, gun owner or non-owner. Polls show voters overwhelming support a background check system that prevents serious criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from owning firearms. Yet the NICS isn’t getting the job done — failing about 228,000 times per year based on the latest FBI numbers. And that’s not even counting the sales from private sellers to private buyers (including those conducted in conjunction with gun shows) that, while restricted in Maryland, are unrestricted in 33 states by last count. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, background checks only cover about 60 percent of gun sales. (…)

As troubling as the Confederate flag may be as a symbol of racism and oppression, a gun in the hands of a criminal or a dangerous psychotic poses a far more imminent danger. Fixing the background check — and closing the private sale loophole on a national basis — is no assault on Second Amendment rights. Rather, it would be a case of making existing law, one that’s been on the books for 22 years, function in the way that Congress intended. And qualified gun owners would have nothing to fear as they’d face no additional burden beyond a meaningful criminal background check while gaining the comfort that terrible armed rampages like the one that took place in South Carolina might be made less frequent.

Sometimes overlooked in discussions of this nation’s falling violent crime rate (and it’s fallen every year since 1994 on a per capita basis) is the role of Brady background checks that have denied guns to 2.4 million prospective buyers who were either convicted of felonies, were fugitives from the law or were determined to be dangerously mentally ill. Surely fixing the system will yield even better results, making it just a bit more difficult to walk into a church and kill six women and three men gathered for a Bible study. As important as taking down the Confederate flag may be on a symbolic level as a repudiation of the kind of white supremacy that Mr. Roof embraced, fixing the leaky background check system would save lives of all kinds and likely in large numbers.

Background checks on all gun sales can save lives.

We need to Finish the Job and require background checks on all gun sales. It’s the bullets and ammunition that actually kill.

Back to the gun lobby and lawsuits. Some lawsuits have worked in spite of the 2005 law. This Kansas lawsuit  puts gun sellers on notice that they need to make sure those who are buying their guns can pass a background check. From the article:

The owners of Baxter Gun and Pawn say they didn’t know Graham was a felon, and that they were convinced the grandmother was buying the gun as a gift for young Zeus. She filled out the form and passed the mandatory federal background check, as Graham waited.

“He paid cash for the gun, he carried out the gun, and he purchased the ammo,” Shirley says.

And just hours later, he used it to kill the boy, and himself.

“I lost my son,” Shirley says. “At the time, my only child. At the age of eight.”

She filed a negligence suit against the gun shop, and the Kanas Supreme Court eventually ruled that gun dealers must exercise the “highest standard of reasonable care” to keep weapons away from felons. That’s higher standard than had been in place.

She recently settled with the gun shop owners for $132,000.

“This case is hugely important,” says Jonathan Lowy with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

He argues that gun control advocates face a veritable brick wall in Washington, where he says powerful gun rights lobbying groups consistently block gun control legislation. Civil litigation, he says, offers a chance to move the needle on restricting sales.

And more from the article: ” “Gun dealers can be held accountable when they irresponsibly supply a dangerous person. That is a powerful message,” he says.”

And what follows is a comment from a gun dealer about how this is not the norm and most gun dealers are responsible. It is only about 5% of gun dealers who are responsible for 90% of the crime guns. But that 5% comes with innocent victims losing their lives. There should be no tolerance for “bad apple” gun dealers. Clearly stopping these dealers from careless and dangerous business practices can save lives. It won’t bring the ones who were shot back and it won’t stop their families and friends from grieving for them, but if it will stop another family or more than one family from experiencing the devastation of gun violence, it is important and worth doing.

Lawsuits matter.

Reasonable people can agree that we need to keep people from being shot in any way we can. That being the case, our laws need to be stronger, not weaker. And our conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities needs to involve a discussion about everything we can do to stop the senseless violence that is devastating our communities. Common sense tells us we must have that conversation.

The thing is, we shouldn’t have to beg for our leaders to pass laws that can save lives. We shouldn’t have to sue bad apple gun dealers to get them to do the right thing. We shouldn’t have to remind gun owners to keep their guns locked away, unloaded, from kids and teens so they can’t “accidentally” shoot someone or themselves. (According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 994 “accidental shootings since January of this year; 371 children killed/injured in the same time period; 1269 teens (12-17) killed or injured since January.) Something has to change.

We are better than this.

Other countries have managed to get it right. We can too if we have the will and if our leaders do what they know is right in the face of a well funded and fierce corporate gun lobby.