Happy gun violence free Labor Day

PrintThe Labor Day holiday is upon us already. It’s cool here in Minnesota now at night so we are reminded that fall is also coming on the heels of a rather wet summer. The Hurricane season also reminds us that fall is here. Hurricane Harvey has produced mass flooding and devastation to millions of families in Texas and now other states. We continue to see more severe storms and heavy rainfalls as some deny that we should try to do something to about what the majority of scientists agree appears to be climate change.

But facts don’t bother some in our country, including our own President who used his appearance in Texas as a mini campaign rally rather than showing empathy for the victims and re-assuring them as is the role of the Comforter in Chief during national emergencies.

But I digress. On the home front in Minnesota we have seen more than the usual number of shootings and incidents showing that, as we know, more guns do not make us safer. For example, earlier in August a man was minding his own business waiting for a bus when a fight broke out. During the fight, a gun was fired, hitting him in the stomach and leaving him with injuries from which he is still recovering:

Porwall was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center’s trauma center in Minneapolis and was released Monday. Porwall, who will always have the bullet lodged in his stomach, is recovering from his injuries at his Minneapolis home, with his mother, Kathy Porwall, and his two cats Kirby and Lopez at his side.

Porwall’s father Cy said his son is the most peaceful person in the world and has never been in a fight or been in trouble.

The victim will have the bullet in his stomach now likely forever and it could cause recurring health problems and financial difficulties. Gun injuries cost Americans billions every year:

A new study sheds light on just how much gun-related injuries cost the United States, from the health care system to victims’ families.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health on Tuesday, showed that between 2006 and 2014, the costs and financial burden of firearm injuries reached a total of $6.61 billion — and that was just for initial hospitalizations.
This, of course, does not include the psychological and emotional damage done when someone is badly injured or dies. Often PTSD is associated with gun violence victims and survivors. A traumatic, sudden and violent incident can do that. The walking wounded are amongst us wherever we go.
We can cut the costs of gun violence by cutting gun violence. It can be done with the right elected leaders who are not afraid of the corporate gun lobby. I have written often about measures that can be taken to save lives and keep people from being injured. Here is my list:
  • a waiting period before the gun is transferred to make sure the buyer isn’t in a rush to shoot someone
  • pass measures to require reporting of lost and stolen guns
  • pass stronger straw purchasing laws
  • strengthen gun trafficking laws
  • gun owners storing their guns safely at home
  • gun owners being more responsible when carrying guns in public to assure that their gun does not accidentally discharge
  • educating parents about the risks of loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where their children play
  • treating gun violence as a public health epidemic
  • limiting the number of guns sold at one time
  • passing Gun Violence Protection Order laws
  • changing the conversation generally about the risks of guns
  • require a mandatory training course for everyone who buys a gun
  • discussing the fact that most gun deaths are suicide and how we can prevent that

Did you think I forgot one of the most important ways to keep a gun away from people who shouldn’t have one?

Requiring a Brady background check on ALL gun sales, no matter where, to assure that those who buy a gun are not prohibited from owning one.

If you don’t think that is a good idea, you are in a distinct minority of Americans who don’t. And, as if we need a poster child for why this is important, take a look at this Minnesota “law abiding” gun owner who was caught “red handed” buying many guns in a short period of time and ostensibly falling through more than a few cracks ( otherwise known as loopholes in the law):

A high ranking professor and department head at the University of Minnesota is facing charges for going on an illegal gun buying spree.

The purchases would have been perfectly legal, except Massoud Amin is under felony indictment.

That should have banned him from buying guns.(…)

Investigators say Amin – who his attorney describes as a gun hobbyist – bought 14 handguns from seven separate gun shops across the metro in a two-and-a-half-week span this summer.

He was under a felony indictment at the time, accused of providing fabricated financial documents in his divorce.

Yet that first gun purchase came just six days after he was charged with forgery.

The federal form required when purchasing a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer asks the buyer to be honest when filling in the information such as: Are you a felon? Yes or No. Have you been charged with domestic abuse? Yes or No. Are you adjudicated mentally ill? Yes or No. And others.

This is a set-up for someone who falls into one of these categories to lie. It is a federal offense to lie on the form. One way to get around this is to buy from an unlicensed seller who doesn’t ask these questions or do a background check.

The National Instant Check System run by the FBI is then involved when the seller submits the information to the system to check for the accuracy of this information and either approve the purchase or deny the purchase. This has worked to deny millions of people from buying guns they shouldn’t have since the Brady Law was enacted in 1993.

But the system has some gaps that need to be fixed. One is that in some states, like Minnesota, getting a permit to carry a gun, requiring a background check once a year from law enforcement and a new permit every 5 years, also allows the buyer to avoid a NICS check when purchasing guns. And that is how a University of Minnesota professor with a felony charge was able to buy 14 guns in 2 weeks from 7 different gun shops.

We can only guess at why there was a need for that many firearms but the man’s lawyer claimed that he was a gun hobbyist and then this:

Amin’s attorney tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he did have a permit to carry, but would not comment on whether or not it was valid.

New this year in Minnesota, the permit to carry is enough to bypass the extra background check at the point of purchase since permit holders have already been screened.

Right then. People’s lives change, as this man’s did. Suddenly he became a felon:

He was under a felony indictment at the time, accused of providing fabricated financial documents in his divorce.

This does not sound like someone who should have a bunch of guns lying around. I know exactly how that can turn out. This is why my sister was shot and killed.

It doesn’t have to be like this. All we need is some common sense. As it turns out, most gun owners do have common sense and are safe with their guns. Most gun owners also agree with measures that will strengthen our gun laws to assure that all are safer and don’t suffer from the devastation of gun deaths and injuries. They are not threatened by tightening our laws because they are law abiding, practice safe gun usage and storage and use their guns for hunting and other shooting sports. It’s a small group who make it difficult for the majority. And as long as that small group sides with the gun extremists in the corporate gun lobby and refuses to support what most of us want, we will continue to see senseless and avoidable gun deaths and injuries.

What we need is for all of us to have the same safety standards, just like we do when getting a driver’s license or a professional license. There are no exceptions. All are treated the same. Everyone has to go through the TSA checkpoints at airports. All cars must know have seatbelts, airbags and other safety features. All toys and products are expected to pass safety standards to keep us all safe.  Smoking is prohibited in public places for the overall health of all of us. Background checks are required for child care providers and volunteers who work with children for the safety of all. Even adopting a pet requires strict standards.

Firearms should be no exception to protections that can keep us all safe. Purchasers and owners of firearms should be expected to be safe and responsible with their guns. The only way to do that is to impose standards and laws. Guns are the only product on the market actually designed to kill people ( and animals). Other things are used to kill and injure people but are not designed to do so.

We can prevent gun injuries and deaths if we put our collective minds to the effort.

I’m all in.

Oh- and stay safe out there this Labor Day. If you are going to a gun range to shoot, be safe. If you are purchasing a gun, make sure you understand that basic safety rules of owning a gun. If you are feeling angry at someone or wanting to get even or if you have had too much to drink, don’t bring your gun.

Remember why we have a national holiday this week-end. We celebrate those who labor on our behalf to keep us healthy, safe, financially viable, work on our streets and build our buildings and houses, put out fires, teach our children, take care of our children, and many others. Thanks to everyone who is working to provide economic viability to their families and contribute to the America we love. Unfortunately, gun violence never takes a holiday so there will be the inevitable shootings covered in news media all over our country.

And please think of ways to contribute to victims of Hurricane Harvey. There are many credible and trusted sites for you to do that. I contributed through fund sponsored by the United Church of Christ ( I attend a UCC church). We all need to dig deep to help others since one day, we ourselves, could become victims of a national disaster like Harvey.

And ( added after first posting) the usual scares and concerns about looting in the aftermath of natural disasters has people going for their guns and ammunition:

Hurricane Harvey may have moved on from East Texas, but the flood waters are only beginning to recede. Millions are scrambling for essentials like drinking water and food. Some, with worries about the ability of strained law enforcement to keep the peace, are in search of bullets.

“Our phones are blowing off the hook,” said James Hillin, the owner of Full Armor Firearms in Houston, which made it through the storm without flooding. “What people want is ammo. People want to arm up and protect themselves from the looters.”

We can only hope that there will be no shootings to add to the devastation of the storm.

 

25 years later- unhappy anniversary

crying womanThis will be a long post. But then again, 25 years is a long time since the death of my sister. It’s a long time to have worked on gun violence prevention. It’s a long time living with the fact that we seem to be febile in the face of the gun lobby influence and have allowed lapdog politicians to do their bidding. And while the fight to prevent gun violence continues so do the deaths due to firearms injuries.

Too many families  mark the anniversaries of the death of a loved one to gun violence. What an unhappy anniversary. It brings back the memories of the phone call and/or the visit from law enforcement announcing that a shooting had taken the life of your child, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandchild or grandparent or a good friend. Gun violence has a ripple effect so the broader community and sometimes the entire country is affected by heinous shootings. It is in our consciousness and our collective memories and our collective culture.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara. She was a beautiful lively, talented artist and pilot. She was a biker, a very good downhill skier, a tennis player, a beauty queen, a mother and step-mother, very involved in her community and a world traveler. In high school her friends called her Bugs. I still am not sure why. Because she grew up in Duluth, some of her friends still live here and I run into them occasionally. They always have fond memories to share of her as she was loved by many.

In spite of the fact that her estranged husband ( 2nd husband) killed her, the adult children from her first marriage and adult child from her second marriage along with the adult children from his first marriage remain close to each other. His first wife has taken on the role of grandmother to the grandchildren my sister never met. My husband, my children and I all remain close with all of them. It was because of my sister’s ability to love and draw people together that we have remained a close family.

We could have been angry and divorced ourselves from his family, but my mother was forgiving to a fault and kept them all close. The thing is, we loved them all and had no idea that my soon to be ex brother-in-law was capable of shooting and killing two people. That is how it often is. Family members are surprised proclaiming that the shooter was such a nice person or a quiet guy or the family seemed to be so happy. What went wrong? It was so unexpected. That is the risk of having a gun so accessible in situations of anger and domestic disputes.:

DID YOU KNOW?  Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of homicide.

    • States with the highest levels of gun ownership have 114 percent higher firearm homicide rates and 60 percent higher homicide rates than states with the lowest gun ownership (Miller, Hemenway, and Azrael, 2007, pp. 659, 660).
    • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
  • Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).

Stunning.

I will always remember the night of the phone call about my sister’s death- actually on August 6 because her body and that of her friend were not discovered until the next day. When my nephew told me that my sister had died I assumed it was a plane crash since she was a pilot. Or anything else besides a shooting. How can one imagine that happening to a loved one? The violence. I often wonder how it would have been for her in the seconds before death after 1,2 and then a third bullet entered her body. Unimaginable. I can’t go there.photo of Barbara

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. I won’t repeat the figures here again but we know that a lot of people die needlessly from firearm injuries. We also know that we are NOT helpless to change the trajectory of the number of gun deaths. More guns means more gun deaths. That is just a common sense fact.

We are not dealing in common sense though. Tragically we are dealing with a powerful and well funded corporate gun lobby that has become an arm of the extreme right wing of our nation. They use the second amendment as cover for their ever increasingly extreme agenda, aimed at arming anyone everywhere. We will not be safer as a country.

On this 25th anniversary of my sister’s death, I want to also remember the 5 year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin,   6 died that day because of a hate filled white supremacist who killed just because. That is the American tragedy playing out regularly every day, week, month and year.

This shooting was just one of the very many mass shootings in America. Only in America is this a regular part of a nation’s culture. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have some suggestions:

Stop making this about the second amendment. It is about preventing gun deaths and injuries.

Stop the ludicrous assertion that passing a universal background check to require Brady background checks for all gun sales will inevitably lead to gun confiscation. That is a lie.

Challenge the NRA and other extreme gun rights groups when they cross over a line and stoke up lies and fear. Take this latest from Dana Loesch of NRA TV, for just one example:

Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, is yet again making headlines for controversial reasons. On Friday, during an interview with Grant Stichfield on the NRA TV channel, Loesch equated penalizing gun owners with shaming rape victims. Her comments were in response to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress indicating an increased rate of gun thefts in Southern states — with most of the stolen firearms ending up illegally trafficked and utilized in robberies and violent crimes. Texas, Georgia, and Florida topped the list with over 8,100 thefts of licensed firearms between 2012 and 2016. The Center for American Progress suggested implementing laws enforcing stricter storage guidelines for gun owners.

Loesch argued that focusing on gun owners rather than on those stealing the guns is analogous to shaming victims of sexual assault:

Good grief. What nonsense. No wonder some gun owners are moving away from this organization.

So we should encourage more reasonable gun owners who generally agree with the gun violence prevention groups to raise their voices. Many believe the NRA has become too extreme for them and have left the organization. Here is just one who wrote about his displeasure with the NRA:

As a gun owner and defender of the Second Amendment, I’m here to tell you the NRA has lost its ever-loving mind.

The nation’s largest firearms organization began its slide into moral degeneracy as late as the early 2000s, when actor Charlton Heston became its five-term president (a feat for which the NRA’s rules had to be changed to allow him to serve longer), before going public with his battle with Alzheimer’s disease and retiring. Under Heston’s firebrand leadership, the NRA’s rhetoric shifted its focus from working with lawmakers across the country to defend Second Amendment rights, to recasting the group as the front-line warrior in a crusade against the entire progressive movement in a culture war that they claimed had engulfed the country. (…)

A responsible NRA would be working for, not against, universal background checks on all firearms sales. As a responsible gun owner, it’s my job to ensure anyone I transfer a weapon to is in fact legally permitted to possess one. That’s the bare minimum due diligence that should be expected of me, and the vast majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. But not the NRA.

Pass the law to close the gap with Brady background checks that now allows private sellers to sell guns without knowing whether the buyer is a felon, a domestic abuser or someone dangerously mentally ill.

Pass laws to require safe storage of guns.

Strengthen gun trafficking laws.

Crack down on straw purchasing. The Brady Center won a settlement against a Florida gun dealer and announced it today. The message from the gun dealer who sold a gun through a straw purchase which was used in a fatal shooting:

“We must exercise great caution and due diligence with great responsibility in preventing firearms from getting in the wrong hands of people who seek to harm us all. I support laws that protect our Second Amendment and the laws that protect our society from criminal elements who would abuse that right to the detriment of others. I encourage all gun dealers, including the new owner of my gun shop, to implement such measures.”

Hold every gun dealer and every gun owner responsible for being safe with guns and business practices. Lives can be saved.

Educate parents about ASKing if there are loaded, unsecured guns in homes where their children play. One big question could save a life.

Form coalitions of like minded people who are interested in keeping people from shooting themselves or others such as faith groups, gun owners, law enforcement, mental health organizations, domestic violence associations, health care providers, communities of color, LGBTQ community, educators, parents, business leaders and other gun violence prevention groups.

Crack down on irresponsible gun dealers. (See above article about the Brady Center settlement against an irresponsible gun dealer)

Don’t loosen gun carry permit laws. New research suggests that the passage of the conceal (and open) carry laws have led to more gun violence.

Change the conversation about the risks of guns to families and communities. Push back when bad advice or faulty information is in the public domain like the recent Dear Abby column about kids and guns. After the Brady Campaign and other organizations and volunteers weighed in Abby wrote a column with new advice and changed her mind. 

Remember the victims and survivors and make sure their stories are told. They are the voices of the movement to prevent shootings.

Stop saying our thoughts and prayers are with you and do something about the gun violence epidemic. TAKE ACTION.

Join one of the many gun violence prevention groups working to end gun violence at the local, state and national level. Join them in sending emails, postcards, making phone calls, lobbying at offices, tabling, speaking out, going to rallies, bell ringings, other events. They need you.

Work together for common sense.

I will end by suggesting that the current culture of incivility, sometimes including our own friends, on social media is disturbing. It starts from the top. With a President who has mentioned violence at rallies and said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing supporters, we have hit some new lows in civility. With trolls making rude and offensive comments when they disagree with someone, how can we have a civil society? It’s a frightening trend.

With members of both parties attacking each other and then the other party, how can we expect civility? With more armed people walking around with loaded guns in public, can we expect civility?

Social media allows a platform for organizing and promoting causes as well as keeping in touch with each other. But when it also becomes a platform for open criticism of even other friendly organizations or candidates or friends and family members, how can we expect people to settle disputes peacefully and without use of force? With the wide gap between Americans politically, the fear and paranoia is real. What we don’t need is ramping it up to include the idea of violence against each other and particularly with guns. Gun rights and the second amendment go only so far. The NRA’s leaders and lobbyists and other gun rights organizations have increasingly associated themselves with one political party in our country. The rhetoric has become more violent and suggestive of “second amendment remedies”. Why? The question should be asked and answered.

We are better than this. I am sure we all want to leave our country and the world a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren. That is what my sister would have wanted and that is why I am persisting. In her name I carry on. I stand on the legacy and lost lives of the 825,000 Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since 1992. That’s right. 25 multiplied by 33,000 is that much. In 1992 when my sister was shot and killed gun deaths were actually higher than 33,000 per year.

And last, I want to pay tribute to Jim Brady who died 3 years ago yesterday. I met him once and immediately was taken by his sense of humor and engaging personality even as he suffered from the decades long firearm injuries he suffered in the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan. Jim and his wife Sarah persisted in spite of the terrible situation in which they found themselves, and got the Brady Law passed. Lives have been saved as a result.

I honor all victims of gun violence on this anniversary of my sister’s shooting death. Many things have changed since her death but one thing has not- gun violence is a thing. It’s a thing that needs fixing.

Shed a tear. Ring the bell. Light a candle. Pick a flower. Think for a minute the horror of losing a loved one in a shooting. And then take action and do something about it.

Just one bullet

Bullet gun copperJust one bullet killed an innocent Alaska woman and left a suicidal man with a life forever changed:

A trial date has been set for a 21-year-old Alaska man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend when he tried to kill himself and the bullet struck the woman after passing through his head. (…)

Chelsea Hartman, Haag’s sister, told KTVA that the pair, who were high school sweethearts, “always seemed so happy.”

“I think a lot of it is still hard to grasp of how is it just one bullet, you know? And how does it go through one person and then the other person and kill the second person? It’s just not fair,” Hartman said.

Yes, that is all it takes. One bullet and instant death. Accident, suicide, unintentional, homicide, terror attack….. Just one bullet.

Guns and alcohol don’t go together.

A South Carolina family is lucky one of them was not killed by this man’s bullets. In this case, it started with one bullet and one angry man. It then escalated quickly to many bullets. From the article:

Frustrated by young children playing in his Goose Creek-area neighborhood, a man shot their grandparents and fired at two others, including a 1-year-old girl, investigators said Tuesday. (…)

Before 5 p.m. Monday, the children played in the road near Merritt’s house. One was an 8-year-old boy, the other a 1-year-old girl, said Mark Peper, an attorney for the children and their parents.

Merritt emerged from his home and told them to be quiet.

The grandparents, who were watching the children after school, learned about the encounter. They told Merritt not to yell at their grandchildren.

“Merritt got upset and … retrieved a .22-caliber pistol,” the sheriff’s statement said.

He confronted the grandparents and the children’s mother, telling the woman that she and the baby she was holding were going to die.

He started shooting at several people there and followed them a short distance as they scattered.

The grandfather was hit in the left chest, an arm and an ear. He had tried to shield his family from the gunfire, Peper said.

A bullet struck his wife in the chest.

You can’t make this stuff up. Children playing? That deserves a bullet?

Anger and guns don’t go together.

The thing is, when the gun lobby wants to arm anyone and everyone and allow people with no permit, no training and absolutely no common sense to have guns loaded with deadly bullets around everywhere, this is the result.

But I digress. It took just one bullet for this 4 year old Virginia boy to find at his daycare center, carelessly and irresponsibly left accessible to children. He shot and killed himself with it:

This incident occurred at a child care provider that is also the residence of a Stafford County Sheriff’s Office recruit, according to officials. The recruit was not at home at the time of the incident.

Aren’t children supposed to be safe at child care centers? A woman I know said she was asked if there were guns in the home before she was licensed as a home daycare provider. The cavalier attitude towards guns that is shown by some gun owners is a national public health and safety problem.

Children and guns don’t go together.

I could go on and on because incidents like the above happen every day and every hour of every day. All it takes is one bullet. It took one bullet to injure my sister, one to kill her and one for “good measure.”

The owner of the bullets used to shoot others are the ones who have to be responsible and careful because bullets are deadly and don’t know where to stop. Often enough, however, bullets are very intentionally aimed at an innocent person resulting in instant tragedy. The “good guy” with the gun who shot at grandparents and children because of noisy playing is a poster boy for all that is wrong with the American gun culture. He represents what the corporate gun lobby wants. The “good guy” with a gun who shot my sister became an instant “bad guy” with a gun.

Domestic disputes and guns don’t go together.

What should we do about this state of affairs?

We should educate people about the risks of loaded guns to their owners and those around them.

We should insist on laws that prevent those who should not have guns from getting them legally or illegally. Yes, it is legal for prohibited purchasers to buy guns legally with no background checks in case you were thinking of arguing about this fact.

We should pass safe storage laws and insist that all guns are locked up, unloaded, away from small hands, teens and others who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

We should strengthen our gun trafficking and straw purchase laws.

We should pass mandatory lost and stolen gun laws.

We should pass laws to hold parents responsible when their gun is used in an “accidental” shooting by their own child.

We should pass gun violence protection order laws so that families can report a person who could be dangerous to him/herself or others to law enforcement so the guns could be removed from their hands.

We should insist that all gun buyers have training before walking out of a gun store with a deadly weapon.

We should make sure that if someone wants to carry a loaded gun in public, they are vetted carefully and have training in how to carry that gun.

We should agree that an armed society is not a polite society nor a safe society.

We should ASK if there are loaded guns in the homes where children hang out and play.

We should not let ads for products that depict guns and bullets cavalierly without asking why. Check out Azzaro Cologne as just one example:

In both smell and presentation, this cologne draws out the rebel in every man with striking aromas and a gleaming gun cylinder bottle.

What? What do mens’ cologne and bullets have in common? Maybe manliness, or being a rebel? What does that mean? The not so subtle intimation that only a rebel with bullets and Azzaro cologne can be real men?

Where is common sense?

Real bullets kill people.

All it takes is one bullet.

All it takes are elected leaders who will stand up to the corporate gun lobby.

All it takes are Americans making more noise, raise their voices against our gun violence epidemic and get involved to save lives.

Like the voice of this little boy who tells it like it is. He doesn’t want a bullet to take his life. He just wants to go to school to learn his numbers.

All it takes is just one bullet to change the lives of innocent people forever. This little boy knows that. Our leaders should listen to his voice and do something about it.

Where is common sense?

Responsible gun owners?

Clipboard with Rules And Regulations Concept. 3D.All gun owners should be responsible with their deadly weapons. Unfortunately for way too many victims, they are not. With rights come responsibilities but you wouldn’t know it by the actual incidents of gun deaths and injuries. And, of course, the dangerous and false insinuations and rhetoric coming through the corporate gun lobby makes the situation worse. 

Most countries recognize the dangers and risks of guns in the home and/or carrying loaded guns around in public. As a result, there are many laws and regulations making sure that those who do get permission to buy guns know what they are doing and are not those who shouldn’t be able to come near a firearm.

And gun deaths are few and far between in countries that have strong laws and regulations.

Not so in the good old U. S. of A. Shamefully and tragically, we let just about anyone buy and carry guns. What’s the big deal right? Until suddenly it is a big deal.

Take this one example ( and it IS just one of thousands). A Portland, Maine columnist and physician was showing a teen-ager his gun and is now dead as a result of his carelessness:

Harmon, a steadfast defender of gun rights and champion of conservative viewpoints, was a longtime Maine Sunday Telegram and Press Herald editor and columnist. He worked for the newspapers for 41 years before retiring in 2011, although he continued writing a weekly column.

The teenage boy and his father, both from North Berwick, were visiting Harmon’s home at the time of the shooting, police said. Detectives said they have been cooperating with the investigation and will be undergoing more questioning on Thursday.

Harmon’s wife, Margaret Harmon, declined Thursday to discuss details of the shooting, calling it an “accidental tragedy.”

There are no accidents when it comes to gunshot injuries. Or at least they should be at a minimum instead of almost every day stories in the news. Guns are the only product on the market designed specifically to kill another human being ( or an animal). What is it that we don’t get about that in America?

Actually most people do get it and want more strong regulations on gun owners and the guns themselves. They don’t want them taken away. They just don’t want people getting shot to death.

When there are so many guns around there will be so many gun deaths and injuries. This is not rocket science. It is real and it’s common sense. In this crazy and frightening world of fake news and denial of actual facts that make a difference to our health and well being, we just can’t afford to have irresponsibility with deadly weapons.

Until we change the conversation and make it perfectly clear to anyone who walks out of a gun shop that what they do with that gun could affect their own or someone else’s life forever, there will be irresponsible behavior with guns. But then, folks who get their guns on-line or at a gun store from a private seller don’t even undergo a Brady background check, for goodness sakes.

What kind of country and what kind of communities do we want? Do we want to excuse the death of a loved one because he/she was reckless or irresponsible with a gun and just say it was an accident so never mind?

Do we want shootings in our urban neighborhoods to become normalized and pretend there is nothing we can so let’s not? I don’t think so. Check out this article about the uptick of shootings in some Chicago neighborhoods:

“We should be embarrassed as a city, every single one of us, that we’ve allowed this city to become the poster boy of violence in America,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, an activist and pastor of a Catholic church on the South Side. “Are we just going to shake our heads and say, ‘What a terrible year in Chicago?’”

Father Pfleger, who often spars with elected officials, said he was searching for fresh ways to draw attention to the plague of gun violence. He is planning a rally on Saturday on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a downtown avenue lined with high-end shops and restaurants, that will be attended by marchers carrying two-foot-high wooden crosses bearing the names of victims. Some victims’ relatives are expected to attend.

And yet, where is the shame? Where is the embarrassment? Where is the action? Where are the responsible gun owners and elected leaders?

Where is common sense?

Responsibility means passing laws that will keep us safer from gun violence. Responsibility means stronger regulations on people who can buy and own guns. Responsibility means not letting your brother have a gun if you know he is experiencing alcoholism, severe mental illness, a marriage or relationship break-up, anger or some other problem that may cause him to use a gun to “solve” whatever it is that is bothering him. Responsibility means safely storing guns away from the hands of small children and teens. Responsibility means making sure all who carry guns in public are regulated to make sure they are not prohibited persons and properly trained to carry  deadly weapon in public. Responsibility means stopping “bad apple” gun dealers from getting away with selling guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them. Responsibility means asking if there is an unlocked, loaded gun where your children play. Responsibility means not handling your gun inside of your house or letting someone else who doesn’t know anything much about guns handle one in your presence. Responsibility means knowing where your gun is at all times.

I know that our next President rails at rules and regulations. But they are there for a reason. Mostly it is for the health and safety of the public. Regulations on businesses are there so we don’t get screwed. Remember the financial crisis of 2008? I do. All too well. Regulations on energy companies are there so we don’t have the kind of pollution seen in Beijing almost every day. Regulations on speed limits, seat belts, air bags and other car safety measures are there to stop and lower injuries or deaths from auto accidents. Regulations about smoking in public places are there go protect us from deadly diseases. Regulations on poisons, outlet covers, cribs, toys and other products that could harm young children are there for a reason.

Without regulations, laws and rules, it’s a free for all. Leaving it up to private industry to regulate themselves only serves their own bottom line and interests. What happens to the rest of us?

The Trace has a year-end report with some gun violence statistics that should make everyone understand that we need to do much more about our gun culture and guns in our country. This publication is responsible for a good deal of research in the area of gun violence that others cannot or are not doing. If we are to do the responsible thing and try to prevent and reduce gun deaths and injuries, these are to what we need to turn our attention. There is no denying these facts:

We’re hungry for the data that can help us better understand gun violence in America, and when we find something that informs our thinking, we are eager to share it with our readers. Here are 10 facts and figures that helped shape our reporting this year.

You can read the ten facts, including about domestic gun violence and the effect on women, the effect of shootings on black communities, many Americans falsely think background checks are required on all gun sales, why people buy guns, etc.

Unless we are allowed and/or demand to have hearings and discuss this national public health tragedy, things will not change. You may remember that some Democrats in Congress held a sit-in last June to call attention to the fact that the Republicans had not allowed discussions or votes on gun violence prevention. The result?  A lot of attention to some brave leaders who actually went against the rules in desperation to try to get some new laws and regulations.

But the Republicans ( House Speaker Paul Ryan) want to silence them and any kind of protest regarding controversial issues. Shame on them. What goes around may come around. Representative Ryan doesn’t want a vote and he doesn’t apparently want to do anything about gun violence. He is willing to silence those who do. And those who ar making noise are speaking for those who have been silenced by a gun.

These same leaders have been shamelessly blocking the usual rules in the House and Senate for the last 8 years to try to keep President Obama from governing and doing something about gun violence and a whole lot of other important issues. I guess they only like their own rules.

Surely we are better than this. If you believe as I do that no one wants to be shot or have a loved one or good friend shot to death or injured, then you ought to be making noise and not being silent or being silenced.

Let’s get to work. Lives depend on it.

 

Tis the season….

Christmas horizontal banners backgroundIt’s the Christmas season. And, oh yes, the Chanukah season and the approach of the new year. Here in my neck of the woods, we are expecting a major winter ice/snow/rain storm event on Christmas day which will interfere with the holiday celebrations tomorrow.

But nothing interferes more with the holidays than the shooting of a loved one. I write often about how shootings don’t take a holiday. They happen every day in our beloved country. Easter, Halloween, Memorial Day, Labor Day, New Years, Christmas, whatever. 90 a day die from gunshot injuries.

Merry Christmas.

In Faribault, Minnesota a family is grieving the loss of two loved ones after a murder/suicide occurred a few days before the holiday. It was another domestic shooting. The shooter took guns and ammunition from his son’s home and gunned down his ex-wife at her place of work and then shot and killed himself. He was an ex police officer:

The shootings took place less than a week after Barbara Larson served her former husband with a harassment restraining order, Pederson said. The couple divorced in 2014.

Richard Larson retired from the city’s police department in 2008 after serving Faribault for about 25 years, Pederson said. He was a captain when he retired.

Sigh.

Another police officer’s gun was used by his 2 year old child to kill himself “accidentally”. The Cleveland family will be mourning the senseless and avoidable loss of their precious child all over irresponsible storage of a gun the child should never have accessed:

The boy is the son of a 54-year-old Cleveland police officer, Jose “Tony” Pedro, who was hired in 1993. Cleveland police said the gun was the officer’s service weapon.

Aren’t these the “good guys” with guns? I’m just asking.

Where is common sense?

Guns are a risk to those who choose to own them. With rights come responsibilities. What is it that we don’t get about that in America?

But I digress because I wanted to write about a shooting closer to my home. In Cloquet, Minnesota:

A victim, who police said was in his 30s, was found inside a residence with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a Duluth hospital, where he was pronounced dead.(…) “I don’t believe it was a random act,” Ferrell said a few hours after the shooting. “I’m sure they are aware of each other. I just don’t know what the circumstances are or what led up to the shooting.”

Most shootings happen between people who know each other. Guns for self defense are often used against someone known to the shooter. The myth of the gun lobby’s mantra that more guns make us safer is just that. A myth. A deadly myth as it turns out.

More guns are clearly not making us safer. An armed society is clearly not a polite society.

And more families are mourning the senseless loss of a loved one at a holiday time that is supposed to be merry and happy. Not for many.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind my readers that the holidays can be sad and depressing for many. And gun suicides account for the majority of gun deaths in America:

Despite an alarming uptick in homicides in some urban areas in the last few years, violent death rates are significantly lower than they were in the 1990s. There is one notable exception to this trend. Suicide rates for men and women have steadily increased for the past 15 years.

The statistics are bleak. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. From ages 10 to 34, it is the second leading cause. Last year, at least 40,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide. From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate for men and women jumped 24 percent.

Guns make it all so easy.

Also I shouldn’t have to remind my readers that toddlers have killed more people than terrorists in America:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

So please tell me again how it is that a gun in the home for self defense will make the owners safer from strangers, home invaders, terrorists or zombies? I don’t buy it.

The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of gun deaths and injuries in America in case you don’t believe the numbers. 356 children under 11 have been killed or injured by guns in 2016 so far. 11 in the last week alone have been killed.

Stunning. Shocking.

Surely we are better than this and if so, we need to work much harder to change these statistics. For the statistics are real children with real families. They are not just statistics.

If there is a gun in the home for hunting or sport, the onus is on the owner to lock it up away from the hands of toddlers, people who are experiencing domestic problems, people experiencing severe mental difficulties, suicidal teens or adults, or thieves.

In America, our cavalier attitude about guns and gun rights is leading us to deadly outcomes.

There are too many empty chairs around holiday tables every year. The one belonging to my sister has been empty for 24 years now. But we remember her fondly for her hosting amazing Christmas gatherings full of fun and holiday chaos.

Tis the season to be jolly. Hopefully you will all have a jolly holiday no matter what you celebrate.

And may the grinch not spoil things for your family.

Merry Christmas ( and yes, I am a liberal and Donald Trump didn’t just allow me to say that to my friends). Happy Chanukah. Happy Kwanzaa and everything else.

Stay safe and warm out there wherever you are.

 

Thanksgiving memories

Rowan branchSo many Americans will have empty seats at their Thanksgiving tables this year because of senseless acts of gun violence. Some will be because of gun suicides, the most common form of gun violence in America. I send my hugs and condolences to those families. But wishes, hugs and forms of sympathetic expressions are just not enough.

And for the families of the 4 officers who were shot in just one day, 2 of whom were allegedly targeted by some ill intentioned person with a gun, there will be no normal Thanksgiving and maybe not for many years. One officer died from his injuries. From the article:

McManus said he believed Marconi was slain because he was a police officer.

“I think the uniform was the target, and the first person who happened along was the person he targeted,” McManus said. (…)

In St. Louis, a police sergeant was hospitalized in critical condition but expected to survive after being shot twice in the face Sunday night in what the police chief called an “ambush.”

In America ambushes by armed people against armed law enforcement officers have happened with some regularity.  Tacoma. Philadelphia. Pittsburgh. Iowa. New York. And others. So much for having a gun for protection ( as do officers) keeping you from getting shot by someone else with a gun.

Families are grieving. They have lost sons, brothers, uncles, fathers. They have lost sisters, mothers, daughters and aunts. And many of the deaths were avoidable if we only would put our heads together to prevent a portion of the devastation. We can do it. Of course we can. But we haven’t. It is an American tragedy that has been playing out for decades.

Those of us who have lost loved ones to gun violence can be thankful for the memories that make us both sad and happy. We can be thankful that we still have other family members and friends and that we can make the most of what we have. I know I am thankful for all of the wonderful people I have met over the years through my volunteer work with various gun violence prevention organizations. I feel thankful that there is a network of victims and survivors nation-wide who can share their stories and help each other get through the bad times. And I am thankful that so many of them have become stronger people as a result of their stories and their advocacy.

Today is the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. If you were alive then, you can’t forget where you were or the aftermath of that tragedy. Just thinking about it now makes me anxious because the days right after the assassination were so potently sad and full of fear and anxiety for Americans. We watched much of it unfold on national television which made it all the more horrible.

The Kennedy family has suffered 2 such assassinations and have had empty seats around their Thanksgiving tables for a long long time. The pain and memories never go away. My family has had an empty chair for almost 24 years now. Holidays are always times that bring forth memories and now, we can mostly find happy ones. But the hole left in our hearts never goes away.

And so it is in America.

We could strengthen our laws to stop at least some people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them by requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. But we aren’t doing that. We could do more about lost and stolen gun legislation and launching public health campaigns about the dangers of not storing guns safely at home. ( 400 guns were stolen by teens from the home of a felon who could not possess them.)

Does one person need 400 guns? What was the felon going to do with these guns? How and why did this felon even have these guns given that he can’t legally buy them from federally licensed firearms dealers? And what were the teens planning to do with them?

Sigh.

We could be talking more about the danger of unlocked, loaded guns in homes where children live. Why aren’t we doing more about this? The gun lobby doesn’t really like this kind of talk.

We could be talking more about the risk of loaded guns for people who may have mental or physical health problems that could make them dangerous to themselves or others. But we aren’t really doing much about that either.

The thing is, most Americans have common sense and actually want something to be done. The Center for American Progress did a post election poll of Trump and Clinton voters. The results may surprise some people but not me. I know that all polling, at least about gun violence prevention measures, has been the same for decades. They show strong support from Republicans, Democrats, gun owners, non gun owners and even NRA members for requiring background checks on all gun sales.

102 Pass legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales, including those sold online or at gun shows. ……………………………………………………… 57 31 9 3 88 12 76 Trump Voters………………………………………………… 47 35 12 6 82 18 64 Clinton Voters ……………………………………………….. 68 25 5 1 93 7 87

What about this does the gun lobby and its’ minions in Congress and state legislators not get?

Oh right. It’s the gun industry and the corporate gun lobby that have those folks at their mercy. How sad is that? And Donald Trump says he’s going to “drain the swamp”?

I have my doubts. If he decides to stay beholden to the lobbyists of the gun industry who manage to get their way in spite of what the public wants and in spite of the continuing gun violence epidemic in our country, he will be adding swamp monsters and filling it up.

But victims and survivors move on with their lives. Many of them work hard for gun violence prevention measures and speak out against the deceptions presented by the corporate gun lobby. More guns do not make us safer. There is proof of that in every day incidents that leave innocent people dead from their gunshot injuries. An armed society is certainly not a polite society and gun free zones do not lead to more gun deaths.

Let’s be thankful for those who have common sense. Let’s be hopeful that our Congress and state legislators stop following the money and being lapdogs for the gun lobby. Let’s also be hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump will be willing to shake things up regarding the gun lobby’s influence on our country’s gun policies.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Be safe out there. As I often write, gun violence does not take a holiday.

Minnesota nice?

minnesota-niceThe last few days has revealed the lunacy of an armed society in Minnesota. Not that it isn’t happening in every state of our “great” country every day. But the last few days have been particularly concerning. Let’s take a look at the Minnesota gun culture as it has been reported in news stories.

First up- a Winona man apparently was shot by an “accidental” discharge and has now died of his gunshot injuries. There are no “accidental” gun discharges. There are avoidable, senseless accidents with guns that shouldn’t have happened. Why? Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill or injure humans or animals. They must be taken seriously and their owners must not “play” with them or clean them without knowing if there is a round in the chamber, or get them out while drinking, or let children access them and all of those other common sense admonitions that go with dangerous things.

Second- a first grader brought a gun to a St. Paul school where it discharged, injuring the floor tiles and luckily not another child or adult. As we said when I was writing for the Kid Shootings blog- Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy.

Third- a shooting took place at an Anoka area gas station. Law enforcement engaged in the high speed chase on highways and freeways ending with a crash and the suspect being shot and injured by law enforcement.

And now the same St. Cloud mall that suffered the September mass stabbing incident was under lock-down because a man was seen with a gun.

Shortly after 7 p.m., St. Cloud police Sgt. Jason Burke said in a news release that ““Initial information is that a male and female were in an argument outside the mall by the food court. During the argument, two males unknown to them approached, one of the males lifted the front of his shirt and showed the couple a gun in his waistband. The gun was not pointed at the couple, no threats were made, and no injuries have been reported.

It will be interesting to find out who these 2 reported guys with guns were.

And as an aside, people arguing in malls should take it outside or in private so they don’t frighten people around them. Fear is all around us now after the most contentious election in recent history. The corporate gun lobby has helped stoke that fear and suspicion that could lead to us being less safe rather than safer:

Trump bore little resemblance to the lifelong heartland conservatives whom the NRA typically backed. He was an Ivy League-educated real estate heir with a gold-plated private jet and a foreign, former-model third wife. Trump and Melania had wed at a glamorous ceremony where Bill and Hillary Clinton had been among the guests. A proud New York City resident, Trump didn’t seem to have much regard for the attachments many Americans felt towards guns, never mind the policy purity the NRA demands of other candidates. In a 2000 book, he’d even written, “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

But from the outset of his campaign, Trump adopted an incendiary message that matched the NRA’s own. He hurled invectives at establishment politicians in both parties. He described a once-great nation under assault and in sharp decline, rhetoric that electrified white Americans brimming with grievance.

This is our President-elect.

Sigh.

We will not be safer with more guns around us in this atmosphere of fear.

But I digress.

Another fatal shooting in North Minneapolis yesterday adds up to a very violent year in that section of Minneapolis that has residents very concerned for their own safety. From the article:

For the third day in a row, the pop-pop-pop of gunfire punctuated the midday calm near a north Minneapolis strip mall, this time leaving a young man dead and detectives searching for answers.

This is simply not the kind of communities we want for our children and families. The proliferation of guns on our streets is a serious public health and safety epidemic. No one is immune from it. It adds to the fear and suspicion of others and spirals out of control.

And last, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has been charged with manslaughter:

In an extraordinary move by a Minnesota prosecutor, authorities said the officer, not the civilian, is to blame for the tragic events that turned a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb into a flash point in the national debate over racial profiling and police use of force.

You may remember that the shooting of Castile resulted in demonstrations on the streets of Minnesota and all over the country for that matter. These are incidents that have escalated all over America. Unarmed and armed men of color have been shot by officers in what seems like increasing frequency. Race plays a role. Armed citizens plays a role. Fear plays a role. There should be some very serious conversations about what all of this means for the safety of Americans. Will we have them? Will we ignore this at the peril of our communities?

I have great respect for our law enforcement officers and have written frequently about officers under assault by armed citizens. The job of our officers is made all the more dangerous by so many armed Americans and it has led to a vicious circle of arming up to protect themselves from citizens who are allowed to carry their guns in public places or are involved in domestic disputes. Armed citizenry is not the norm in other democratized countries and therefore, law enforcement officers are not often the target of ambushes. In fact, in some countries, officers are not armed. Interestingly, there are far fewer gun deaths in almost all over democratized countries not at war. Coincidence?

What is particularly disturbing is the number of ambushes of American officers leading to tragic deaths of officers:

The attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge that left eight officers dead earlier this month sent waves of fear through law enforcement agencies across the country, with departments ordering officers to double up on patrols as a safety measure.

These deaths contributed to a grim tally this year. Through last week, 32 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks these deaths. More than half of the officers fatally shot died in ambushes, the group said in a report released Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with this American tragedy. Time will tell if he will and if he does, how he will.

An armed society is not a polite society. Our children and families should not have to be exposed to this kind of violence and potential violence. This is lunacy, not niceness.

“Minnesota nice” is a myth.

These are only the gun deaths we know about. About 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. These are not usually reported in the media unless they are homicide/suicides, often occurring in domestic shootings. Passing stronger gun laws reduces gun homicides and suicides as it turns out.

But requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is under assault. The continued myths coming from the corporate gun lobby don’t make us safer.

Who are we? Do we care about our fellow citizens no matter who they are? There are certain truths that should be self-evident. One of them is that we have a moral responsibility to protect our citizens from those who would do them harm and I am not just talking about terrorism. The truth is that toddlers have killed more of their fellow Americans than terrorists:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Please look at the map in the above linked article showing that in “red states” that typically have looser gun laws, more shootings by toddlers have occurred. Coincidence?

Banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans, as our President-elect and apparently many in the Republican party want to do to protect us will not change this.

The Brady Campaign and other gun violence prevention organizations have solutions that often don’t involve legislation. Check out what can be done to make us safer by making sure guns are locked and stored away from tiny hands and the hands of others who should not have access to guns.

As I wrote about in my last post, things will not be getting better now that the corporate gun lobby believes they have a seat in the White House. How will that make us safer? It won’t. I have yet to hear how plans to repeal strong gun laws will result in fewer shootings and fewer deaths. In fact, the opposite is true.

But we are now living in a country where lies and deception are taken for the truth. It’s a scary time for those of us who have been working for peaceful solutions and safer communities. It’s downright sobering that in a country where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is under assault.