Traveling with your gun

It seems that the American public is no longer safe no matter where they are. A California shooting on a Greyhound bus may be a first for the scene of a mass shooting– One dead and 5 injured. Until firearms carry laws passed in the early 2000s in many states, there weren’t so many shootings in public places. Shootings took place at home mostly in the form of domestic shootings or suicides. They still do but mass shootings have become a regular happening. The Columbine school shooting was one of the first mass (school) shootings that caught the attention of the public in a big way because so many victims were left dead and they were kids.

Speaking of guns and buses, does anyone remember last winter’s incident involving a school bus driver and a “law abiding” carry holder in Minnesota?:

A Minnesota man who shot and wounded a school bus driver on a Minneapolis freeway during a snowstorm has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Thirty-two-year-old Kenneth Lilly, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty in August to first-degree assault for the February attack that left Thomas Benson deaf in one ear and unable to continue working as a bus driver due to nerve damage in his hand.

Another article about the shooting says this about the shooter:

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office says Lilly was cleared in a previous shooting, in which he shot and killed a 16-year-old armed robbery suspect in 2015. At that time, the county attorney found that no criminal charges were “appropriate.”

It appears that the man, a supposed security guard, has a trigger finger and should not have had that gun on that day. His anger combined with a gun has now left him serving time.

Unfortunately and tragically times are changing. Guns are so easily and readily available to just about anyone. No matter if they can pass a background check- they can get a gun. No matter if they are a domestic abuser- they can get a gun. No matter if they are dangerously mentally ill or a felon, they can get a gun. No matter if they live in a state with strong gun laws, they can get a gun. California is one of those states where gun deaths are actually low compared to some states and were strong gun laws have been passed. But the weak laws in neighboring states allow guns to come into California anyway:

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. But the tragedy that played out on Sunday, in which three people were killed and 12 wounded, illustrated a familiar problem for states that have ratcheted up their own gun laws in recent years, only to see them neutralized by neighboring states with more lax rules.

The above article was referring to the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last July where 3 were shot dead and 17 wounded. Have gun will travel to other states. Have gun will travel on buses and to malls and Congress on your Corner events like the one that killed 6 and left U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and others permanently injured and disabled.

The gun lobby, of course, will tell you that the world is dangerous so you must carry a gun to protect yourself or have one at the ready at home. The opposite is true of course. Many times “law abiding” gun owners and gun carriers are the shooters. “Unintentional shootings” happen far too often. Mistaken identity has left more than a few dead or injured. It happens primarily in America where gun rights advocates insist that the second amendment protects them and allows them to have guns no matter what.

A Super Bowl ad funded by the Michael Bloomberg campaign got it right. Watch the ad for yourself:

Galandrian Kemp who speaks about George, her murdered son, ends with these words: “You have a right to live. No one has a right to take your life and dreams”

Exactly. That is what this is all about. There is no need to travel with a gun. One can’t even compare defensive gun uses to the number of daily gun deaths. Bodies are piling up as I write. They are killed on buses, in cars, in homes, in malls, on the streets, in schools and offices, in hospitals, in every corner of America. But rarely are guns used in self defense. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of today 3583 Americans have died by firearm. There have been 132 defensive gun uses. Common sense tells us that guns are more often used to kill someone than in self defense.

Yes, some choose to carry firearms. And sometimes they are used in legitimate self defense. Mostly the firearms in homes and carried are never fired to kill or injure another human being and most gun owners are safe with their guns.

We can stipulate to all of that. But given that the number of gun deaths and injuries are the highest in our country of all industrialized democratized countries in the world, it is worth discussing why the minority of gun owners ( more extreme in their positions) resist attempts to prevent and cure our national public health epidemic. Given that we all have the right to our lives and dreams it seems like a no brainer.

There is a responsibility to safely store and handle lethal weapons. With rights come responsibilities. Lives can be saved if gun owners think twice or three times before using a gun in anger, disputes, depression or against themselves. Lives are changed in just an instant when a gun is the weapon.

There is also a responsibility to reign in your rhetoric when you are an elected leader. For example, it’s a pretty dangerous idea for a state lawmaker to say it’s legal to shoot communists. We don’t have to use much imagination to know who he is talking about. (And who, really are communists? We know the right and Trump are going to use that word to describe the Democratic candidate no matter who he or she is. Let’s take a look:

Rep. Rodney Garcia, a state lawmaker in Montana, told a roomful of Republicans he believes the U.S. Constitution says socialists can be jailed or shot simply for being socialists. Garcia initially made the statement at an election event, then he reiterated it to a Billings Gazette reporter. And then, (…) Garcia was not able to say where he finds that in the Constitution, the Billings Gazette reported.

Anthony Johnstone, a law professor at the University of Montana, told The Washington Post that “nothing in the Constitution of the United States authorizes the government to punish socialists or anyone else on the basis of their political beliefs.” In fact, the First Amendment prohibits punishing political speech, and the Constitution of Montana “expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” Johnstone said. All state lawmakers swear an oath to uphold those doctrines.

Never mind….. rights.

He should get an ethics violation at the least. And does he have a carry permit? I question how he will use it if confronted with a candidate running for office who is in the left position of many Democrats. You don’t get so shoot people with whom you disagree politically. You just don’t.

Unless of course your are Donald Trump who believes he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose his supporters.

You can’t make this stuff up.

After experiencing the anger of Minnesotans 2 weeks ago at a hearing that I mentioned in my last post, I get the feeling that we can’t overcome this anger to get to a solution that will move us forward towards saving lives. We are not the enemy as one man told one of the bus riders who traveled to Hibbing, Minnesota to attend a hearing on gun bills. We disagree about how to get to the solution. If those folks are truly law abiding gun owners, they have nothing to fear. But the NRA and right wing extreme talking points have fueled anger, fear, paranoia, misinformation and hyperbole.

In the end, we ought to be safe traveling on buses and in the mall, and in our homes, and our kids should be safe from shootings in their schools. Arming more people is just not the solution. And allowing easy access to guns for those who clearly should not have them is just plain stupid and dangerous.

Our better angels should prevail. In my city, there will be a Better Angels training to get people on opposite sides of controversial issues to engage and try to get to some place where we can agree. Our country has become so polarized over the last few decades that I wonder if that is even possible. The current occupant of the White House tweets many times a day to foment the polarization. Never before has a President been so demeaning and called so many people names. Never before has a President engaged in hourly lies to misinform the public and cause damage to the national psyche. And never before has a President encouraged violence in tweets or excused it for that matter.

Never before has social media and more mobility been a factor in some of the violence and polarization. People travel with their guns to shoot people, to attend rallies, to attend hearings and they come from out of state and from far away.

Take this article from the Star Tribune about the increasing gang violence in the Twin Cities:

She offered another, simpler explanation: As society becomes more mobile, many young gang members, lacking stable housing, are staying with relatives or girlfriends around the metro area. (…)

Bill Finney, another Ramsey County undersheriff and former St. Paul police chief, suspects that teens feuding online set up meeting spots at transit stations along the light-rail line to settle their differences in person. Last year, he witnessed such an encounter as two boys wielding knives greeted another pair getting off the train. The attack resulted in a stabbing, Finney said.

Before the internet, graffiti was the medium of choice to diss a rival, experts say. The emboldened could, under the cover of darkness, spray paint an anonymous message on an adversary’s property.

But an explosion of social media has accelerated those disputes. Today, teens flock to Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube to disrespect one another through flashy rap videos without ever leaving their homes. The words are not veiled, and neither is the poster. Retribution is swift.

At the end of the above article mention is made about getting the guns off the streets. That is really the main problem here. Easy access to guns allows the violence to increase and results in tragic loss of life. The gun rights extremists often write off gang violence as an excuse to do nothing about the violence. Gang members have families who love them and when they die, their families mourn for them. We can’t just write off a whole group of citizens. Sometimes the violence of gangs harms and kills innocent people like the mother of my friend Bunny Beeks who as sitting in her car when a bullet flying in the street hit her and killed her.

Never before has there been such an outright display of weaponry as we have seen in Virginia and Kentucky in the past few weeks. A meme is going around with a photo of the armed Kentuckians going around the metal detectors at the state Capitol while others, unarmed, had to go through the detectors. And by armed, I mean AR-15s strapped around their shoulders and chests. Check out the photos in the linked articles and tell me if you would feel safer surrounded by these folks. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is not normal nor should it become normal. It will take elected leaders to step up and call out this dangerous and bullying behavior if the rest of us are to feel safe. I have been told by some in the gun rights community that I should not fear being surrounded by people carrying guns. They are, after all, law abiding citizens. My response? If I feel unsafe surrounded by armed citizens then I feel unsafe. They don’t seem to understand that the majority of us do not care to see people carrying guns around in public. And particularly people dressed in masks and military gear.

We are not at war- or not yet anyway. But I fear that with the increased polarization and the increase in armed rallies and citizens ready to engage in civil war, we just may see one.

That would be tragic to say the least.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

I need to add something to my original post that supports my view that we don’t need armed people everywhere to respond to crises. According to this article. the Greyhound bus driver in the incident where a shooter killed 1 and injured 5 was unarmed. He talked the shooter down without a gun pointed at him:

After the gunman opened fire, the bus driver pulled over to the shoulder and “was able to persuade the shooter” to get off the bus, Sgt. Brian Pennings with the California Highway Patrol said during a news conference Monday morning.

The suspect “voluntarily” got off the bus, leaving a black handgun behind, Pennings said. Officers located him on the shoulder and took him into custody without incident.

The bus driver, who was not injured, “handled the situation professionally and appropriately to minimize any more possible victims,” Pennings said.

Even if the driver had been armed, how was he to respond with a gun while driving the bus and keeping the other passengers safe? This is the myth of the gun lobby suggesting that if only someone had a gun…….

Accountability for guns and comments

Accountability on Black Chalkboard. Black Chalkboard with Accountability Concept. 3d Rendering.

Of course we know by now that President Trump has been impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are the impeachment articles. Can we talk about abuse of responsibility and language in our current hyperbolic and partisan atmosphere?

Whatever you think about impeachment at the least the comments should be measured since the public and social media get to hear what you have to say with the speed of light. Such is the case with comparisons to Jesus and the bombing of Pearl Harbor during last night’s vote.

And so, when a Colorado radio talk show host said that he wished for a school shooting in the midst of the impeachment vote, his comments were taken seriously:

Denver radio host Chuck Bonniwell began a segment of his afternoon radio show Tuesday by lamenting the “never-ending impeachment of Donald Trump,” and then saying, “You know, you wish for a nice school shooting to interrupt the monopoly.”

Chuck tried to walk it back but he failed miserably showing his total lack of empathy and common sense.:

Bonniwell hasn’t apologized on air yet, but immediately after Hayden’s response to his comment, he told his audience that he meant shootings in “which no one would be hurt.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

In this era of a President and a party that seems to think anything goes and accountability for their insane and cruel remarks doesn’t happen quickly enough, it was refreshing to find out that Chuck’s show was canceled.

No Chuck, you can’t joke about school shootings. It’s not done in a polite and democratic society. But the bully in Chief has made remarks like this one “normal”. They are not normal. It’s been said that Trump could shoot someone on 5th Avenue ( NYC) and get away with it. God help us if that is actually true.

The lack of accountability for words and actions is more than concerning. It’s dangerous. Going forward in this divided country where incendiary language could result in a tragedy, everyone needs to be accountable for what they say and do. Our democracy depends on it.

School shootings have made the lives of our kids dangerous. Shootings at home has made the lives of our kids dangerous. Gun suicides have made the lives of our teens dangerous. Easy access to guns has made our country dangerous. There are real consequences for not being accountable.

And so let’s talk about not being accountable with guns. I want to highlight this awful story about a father who left a loaded gun around for one of his children to find. The child shot his sister dead. And the father? He hid in the basement with his AR-15 at the ready:

Pataskala police had received 60 phone calls to that address involving guns and knives since 2009, according to the bond recommendation.

You can’t make this stuff up.

What about an Extreme Risk Protection Order law Ohio?

And lastly, I want to highlight a story, just released, about a private security company that has managed to “lose” over 600 guns in possession of their security agents. What kind of accountability is this? Well, here is what happened with some of the guns that were “lost and/or stolen”:

The largest private security company in the world can’t keep track of its guns.

And the consequences are clear: One of their missing guns was held to a woman’s head as a man threatened to rape her. Another was used to pistol-whip a pizza delivery driver. A third ended the lives of two men playing video games.

Before they were used to hurt or kill people, each of these guns was assigned to a security guard whose job was to protect the public. Then they were stolen from G4S, a company that brings in billions of dollars with promises of “securing your world.”

Surely this company realizes that guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and that everyone who carries one or uses one in their employ must be accountable for their weapon?

And surely this company realizes that safe storage of guns saves lives and is crucial for responsible gun owners.

From the article about the company’s agreement about accountability:

Under a firearms license with the federal government, G4S is supposed to make sure its weapons are secure and accounted for at all times, like gun shops do. But the company saves time and does more business by shifting much of that responsibility to individual guards, trusting them to safely store the weapons at home.

Too often, they don’t.

No. They always have to be accountable for their weapons.

In these times of anything goes, we all have to accountable for our actions and our words. Words matter. Our own President uses incendiary and dangerous language in his campaign rallies. Last night was no exception. This is not who we are. Chuck’s language was not OK. The consequence was quick. The father left a gun out for a child. The consequence was deadly. A large security firm has “lost” guns they promised they would not because they wanted to save time and money. The consequence was deadly.

We are better than this.

Background checks and gingerbread houses

Yesterday I stopped to pick up my best friend at her house. Her son-in-law and granddaughter were outside of her door picking up her background check form that would be submitted to her granddaughter’s teacher so that she could enter the school building to help with her granddaughter’s 3rd grade class make gingerbread houses.

Her granddaughter was quite clear that this was required because of the near school shooting that happened last spring in Duluth. In a matter of fact voice she stated that her school had to go on a “soft” lock-down because someone with a gun was in the nearby high school. All Duluth schools went on lock-down that day. No one connected with the schools has forgotten what happened that day. Duluth could have been in the news for a mass shooting of innocent school children but because law enforcement acted quickly and relative reported the man to law enforcement the man was arrested before he could do any serious harm.

The harm done still lives inside of students and teachers. As I wrote in my last post, one of the students who huddled with friends in the orchestra room fearing she was going to die, has not forgotten. PTSD is real. Kids go to school wondering if there will be a shooting that day. It is no at the top of their minds most likely but it lurks under the surface.

And companies are profiting from this fear by training educators and children to participate in lock-down drills that make them responsible for stopping a shooter, not the elected leaders who could actually do something about it. I will write more about this later.

And by do something, I mean pass the universal background check bill passed by the U.S. House last February. Minnesota Senators could pass the background check sitting idle on their desks as well after the House passed the bill last spring. But common sense is not happening when it should given the gun violence epidemic.

Does it make any sense, for example, that a man who has served time for various felony offenses, can walk into a Duluth bar and threaten people with a gun?:

At the time of the incident, Curry was on supervised release for a federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He also has convictions in Minnesota for attempted second-degree burglary, aiding and abetting second-degree assault and escape from custody.

Could or should this man have passed a background check at a federally licensed firearms dealers? No. Could he get a gun anyway? Yes. And that is our problem and the foolishness and danger of not requiring background checks on all gun sales but getting them on volunteers in our schools.

The thing is, the man who was caught at a high school in Duluth last year passed a first background check so he could coach kids with disabilities. But a more thorough check may have found him to be someone who should not be in schools working with kids if not more. An Extreme Risk Protection Order could have prevented him from having guns given that he was reported by a family member for comments he had made. In addition, he appeared to have mental health difficulties that should have prevented him from having a gun.

Miller, the defense attorney, said his client has mental health diagnoses and believes that he was not thinking clearly at the time he made the statements. He added that he does not believe the weapons were actually capable of fully automatic fire, indicating a probable cause challenge would likely be made to that charge.

“…fully automatic fire…” What are we thinking? Why should any gun or any gun kit that could make a gun capable of automatic fire be available to anyone?

We know requiring background checks on all gun sales will not save every life. But not to require them is an abrogation of our responsibility of a polite and democratic society. We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is being able to help your granddaughter make a gingerbread house in her school classroom without fear of being shot.

Rather than do the right thing and do whatever is necessary to make guns harder to access for those who should not have them,we engage companies to train our children to fight off school shooters.

The Trace has published this article about ALICE training:

Drills can also be traumatic for the children involved, and schools considering training options have the difficult task of weighing the need for protection from intruders against the risk of doing further harm. “There is no evidence that lockdown drills with kids learning to barricade or defend themselves enhances security,” said Dr. Nancy Rappaport, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. And the drills “may have unintended consequences of creating terror for students.”

And more:

There are no national standards or specific licensing requirements dictating who can or can’t start an active shooter training company, he said, which is part of the problem. “People are claiming to be subject matter experts because they feel they are, or have written a book,” he said.

Czyz said he is so convinced that teachers are the ones who need to be prepared that he doesn’t train children in active shooter drills, only in preventative measures and situational awareness. He doesn’t want to risk training a potential shooter, and was spooked by reports that the Parkland shooter may have used his knowledge of the school’s drill procedure to guide his attack. (The gunman reportedly set off the fire alarm before his rampage, which may have complicated the school’s lockdown.)

This is all about the kids. If we can’t protect them from being shot, who are we? All kids should be able to go about their business of being students and not worry about being shot. The fact that we have to have lock-down drills using techniques from companies like ALICE is a statement about us. New information about these kinds of trainings should make us wonder what we are doing to our kids.

I know my friend had a great time with her granddaughter and I assume all were safe. And let’s hope that everyone stays safe for the remainder of the school year of 2019.

End Family Fire in Minnesota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course. The NRA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

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

We are better than this.

Back to school with guns

School is starting all over our country. In some school districts, staff can bring their guns to school. This has not worked out as expected in so many places but facts don’t seem to matter when it comes to guns and school safety.

As I always say, there are no “accidents” with guns. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill animals or humans.

School safety has taken on a whole new definition in the days of school shootings. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999 and now the 20th anniversary, about 700.000 Americans have died from gunshot injuries- a good proportion of them our precious students. Congress has still not acted since Columbine, thus the large toll of human life.

We all remember the Columbine shooting as the marker for our “new normal” where kids are shot up regularly in our schools. It is also a new normal for the victims and the trauma never goes away.

While I was working as a special educator in my local school district, lockdown drills were a part of our routine. Schools are not necessarily made for the type of safety needed from a school shooter. No building is actually. Schools and kids are not bulletproof.

Remember the slaughter of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012? That surely is another important marker is school shootings because no one could believe that Congress would DO NOTHING after that heinous shooting. And remember when Wayne LaPierre said “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”? That was , in a way, a new low in NRA opposition to common sense gun laws. The NRA and Republicans and some Democrats stopped support for doing the right thing even though the nation supported action.

And then came the Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. This massacre of 17 high school students changed things forever. This time the students were old enough to fight back and fight back they did. They started a national movement and a huge country wide March For Our Lives. And now, because the adults are doing nothing, they have their own well thought out plan for stopping school shootings and every day shootings.

But companies are making a profit trying to make everything bullet proof. I mean, why not? If we refuse to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them with the result that we are all less safe in public places, why not try to bullet proof people? Thus, there are bullet proof backpacks that make parents feel better about sending their kids to school and making sure they come home again.

I hope everyone understands that backpacks are not with the kids all day. Some are in closets in elementary classrooms and some are in lockers where they will be inaccessible. During some classes, backpacks may not be allowed or usable. Lunch time? Likely not wearing a backpack. Phy Ed class? Not wearing a backpack.

In addition, the company that makes them actually tested whether the backpacks would stop a bullet. Note that the backpack was on the front of the dummy, not the back where kids wear them. And also note that the backpack did not stop bullets from an AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

So much for those. They have been pulled from the shelves in some places.

Companies are also profiting on training programs such as ALICE. I have written about this one before. ALICE is mostly to train kids and staff to take measures that could make them less safe from a shooter. It makes some sense on the face of it but in reality often the “countering” techniques like throwing something at the shooter, or interrupting the shooter can work in reverse.

We do hear about people interrupting shooters by hitting them with a chair from behind or tackling them as in the Tucson mall shooting. That does sometimes work.

But we are talking here about kids taking the responsibility for saving themselves instead of the adults who can do something about the gun violence epidemic preventing the easy access to guns in the first place.

Some Colorado school districts have provided buckets of kitty litter and tourniquets so kids can survive from the bleeding from a gunshot wound and go to the bathroom if they are trapped in a classroom for a long time.

The buckets are just one strategy teachers are being taught to respond to lockdowns and school shootings. Lopez says she was also given a Sharpie marker to indicate what time a tourniquet was applied to a bleeding student, and candy to give diabetic students to maintain their blood sugar during a long lockdown.

So it’s come to this.

Where is common sense?

As kids head back to school, it will be inevitable that school shootings will begin again. There are some things that can be done and I’m not sure the above measures are the right ones. Lockdown drills happen regularly and they are scaring our kids:

Over the past two decades, the drills have ramped up in intensity — with some schools going so far as to use fake blood and fire blanks at students. A drill last month at an Indiana school prompted outrage when teachers were shot execution-style with pellet guns, leaving them injured.

At the same time, students’ anxieties have swelled. Some are not told that the lockdowns are just drills, prompting them to send what they believe are final goodbyes over text to their parents or faint or throw up. Others are afraid to go to school in the days following the drills.
As a result, a growing number of schools are experimenting with ways to lessen the toll of the drills while still doing everything possible to keep students safe. For some school districts, that means using age-appropriate language; for others, it involves having guidance counselors or school psychologists available during and after the drills.

In a recently released video, by Brady, “Morning Routine”, the morning routine includes putting a bullet proof vest on a little girl as she goes out the door for her school day. The father watches with a worried look on his face:

So it’s come to this.

We all have PTSD from shootings and the ripple effect has grown so wide that we are all affected by shootings in one way or the other. We are raising a generation of lockdown kids and increasing anxiety about going to school.

We have done little if anything to stop school shootings. There are some things that can be done that don’t require lockdowns or laws.

Parents must store their guns safely at home since most school shooters get their guns from home. Talk about End Family Fire as a way to discuss the risks of guns in the home.

If you see something, say something. In the weeks since the El Paso and Dayton shootings dozens of people have been arrested for threats made to shoot up people in public places. One such threat came from an Albert Lea, Minnesota 15 year old girl who made threats on social media to shoot up a school.

I don’t believe that arming staff is a good way to deal with active shooters either. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to be in the right place during a shooting and also to be able to actually hit a moving human being also shooting at you. There have been many instances of staff members leaving loaded guns in bathrooms or accidentally discharging their guns. In last May’s Colorado STEM school shooting an armed guard accidentally shot one of the students. He should not have had his gun:

In a statement, STEM School Highlands Ranch said it didn’t know the guard was armed until the shooting occurred May 7 on the campus that includes students from kindergarten through high school.
“While it is more common to have armed security personnel at high schools, it is uncommon at elementary schools,” the statement issued Monday said. “Given the diverse population at our school, we made the decision to request an unarmed guard in an effort to balance these different interests.”

There are many reasons that arming staff is not a good idea.

Let’s just say it like it is. Our politicians need to DO SOMETHING to protect us from gun violence. It can be done in conjunction with respecting gun rights. The bottom line is that gun rights in the clothing of the second amendment, has stopped us from protecting the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Since January of 2019 there have been 22 school shootings according to his article. That does not include the beginning of the last school year from September through December. What we want is to reduce that number through new laws, awareness, safety practices, safe storage, and any other method we can use.

This is about saving lives and protecting our children. For the sake of my grandchildren and yours and your children, it’s time to get involved and engage. Let’s get to work.

Guns don’t fall from the sky

I have a friend who is a gun owner working with our local and state gun violence prevention groups who has said many times that guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchases. As proof, this recent arrest shows why this is true. Mind you, this is just one of many many similar stories about how crime guns enter the illegal or maybe even legal market. From the article:

A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection watch commander in Southern California has pleaded guilty to illegal gun-selling and unlawfully possessing more than 40 machine guns.

What the heck? Machine guns are strictly regulated for very good reason. They fall under the 1934 National Firearms Act that requires a lengthy background check process and a fee as well as registration. So how did this guy get machine guns? Good question. But they had to have started out as a legal purchase by someone who went through the process required.

All guns should go through the same process.

Embedded in the above article is another article of a similar vein about a convicted felon in possession of many guns using one in a road rage incident.

Police went on to search two residences associated with Trantham, a convicted felon who is barred from owning guns, and found several firearms, police said. Officers confiscated at least seven seven handguns, two shotguns, two rifles, numerous gun parts and thousands of rounds of ammunition that were seen in a photo posted by police to Facebook on Saturday, July 13.

The thing is, the guns this man had in his possession he could not purchase legally. How did he get them? And a photo on Facebook displaying the guns? I thought Facebook was going to stop this practice. They are not doing what they should be and said they would do.

And speaking of Facebook and guns they will now allow on-line blueprints for how to make 3D guns which, of course, anyone can make if they have the 3D printer. No background checks required and mostly plastic parts that can make it through metal detectors. From the article:

The social network said it would let “legitimate” gun shops and online vendors offer instructions for printing so-called “downloadable guns” in places where it is legal to do so. 

This is insanity itself. What is wrong with Facebook? We should all rise up in opposition to this one. Blueprints for buildings and other things are not dangerous. Blueprints for guns are.

Think of airport security, metal detectors in government buildings, etc. It will take just one bullet from one of these 3D guns at a Congressional hearing before the public understands the danger.

Where is common sense?

Another article in my local paper reveals that a recently released felon, convicted of shooting someone, on the day after his release, stabbed and beat his wife for the crime of not being home when he was released from prison:

Daniel Kriesel, 45, has been incarcerated for much of the past decade after he was convicted of shooting another man in the East Hillside in 2008. He’s now facing the potential of another long prison term after the Monday incident that left the victim with injuries that a prosecutor described as “brutal.”

Why oh why. Let me remind you that in many states felons can purchase guns legally because it is not illegal to buy from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or on-line sites like Armslist.com.

If we are to prevent and reduce gun violence we must use a multi faceted approach. Stronger background check laws, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, Safe Storage laws, gun trafficking laws, allowing more research into gun violence, promoting programs such as ASK and End Family Fire, and making our voices loud and clear ( as the majority have already do) that it is NOT NORMAL for our country to be in the midst of a national public health gun violence epidemic.

Much like cats and dogs, guns don’t fall from the sky. But it is really raining guns in America. We need to drain the ponds formed by the guns flooding our country and stop them from falling into the wrong hands.

Education. Energy. Emphatic support for common sense gun laws. Expedite passage of gun safety reform laws. Expert evidence about the risks of guns in the home. End Family Fire. Explaining the risks to leaders and the public. Explain and expose the truth about how the NRA has become a corrupt organization. Expose “bad apple gun dealers” where some crime guns get into the hands of people who should not have them. Elucidate the public about the danger of straw purchases of guns.

And eager engagement.

Asking about guns

Have you asked if there are unlocked loaded guns in the homes where your children or grandchildren hang-out? Have you stored your own guns so people who should not have guns don’t get their hands on them?

Today is ASK day. Every year on the summer solstice, Brady holds ASK day. Asking if there are unsecured guns around is a life saving measure. Every day, children find guns in their own homes or the homes of someone else. Children are curious. They can find anything. Check out this video from End Family Fire.

8 children a day are shot with guns they should not have had access to. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Why are so many adults with gun so reckless and irresponsible? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill others. They should be treated that way rather than just another thing that is lying around the house.

Safe storage also prevents suicides. If guns are inaccessible or difficult to find, a suicidal person may not act on the spur of the moment. Since most gun deaths are suicides, this is an important life saving measures.

Health Care providers should be asking simple questions during histories and physicals. Are there guns in your home? Are they locked up away from ammunition? I am not just talking about pediatricians. I am talking about adults who may be suicidal or in the midst of marital strife. Asking a simple question could save a life. But the NRA does not want health care providers asking this life saving question. Why not?:

For their part, Wintemute and his colleagues did not argue that doctors should tell patients to stop owning guns. Rather, as Wintemute told The Post, doctors should educate themselves about gun ownership, in order to offer nonjudgmental advice on safe gun storage. Plus, no matter how many times a doctor asks patients about their firearm safety, as Eugene Volokh noted in The Post in December 2015, the guns will not vanish.

There are so many unanswered questions about guns and gun violence. That is why it was so important that last week the U..S House passed a larger bill that contained $50 million for CDC research into gun violence. Gun rights advocates don’t like research. Why not? Good question. One that is unanswered except for postulation that they are afraid that research will show what we already know- that guns are a risk to those who own them. And that guns are killing too many Americans causing a public health epidemic. But let’s take a look at how the Dickey Amendment has affected government research:

“The NRA told everybody, ‘You either can do research, or you can keep your guns. But if you let the research go forward, you will all lose all of your guns,’ ” Rosenberg tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Instead of completely shutting down the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Rosenberg says Congress presented the Dickey Amendment as a compromise. But the center’s budget was eventually cut by $2.5 million, and Rosenberg was fired in 1999.

Jay Dickey, the Republican congressman from Arkansas who spearheaded the legislation, told NPR in 2015 that he regretted his role in pushing through the provision.

“It wasn’t necessary that all research stop,” Dickey said. “It just couldn’t be the collection of data so that they can advocate gun control. That’s all we were talking about. But for some reason, it just stopped altogether.”

Research will lead to a safer America, not banning guns. Good grief.

I have one last question, just for this post- why would a “law abiding” Washington gun owner do something like this man did?

“We got into an argument about putting a gate up in the kitchen to block the baby because he is mobile,” Wilson told investigators.

Wilson said he told his daughter it was unfeasible to do a structural change, court documents say.

“Wendall Wilson executed his adult daughter over a petty argument about the installation of [a] baby gate,” prosecutors said in court documents.

Wilson said his daughter had a tendency to “escalate” their arguments and said this particular argument got out of hand, according to court documents.

Why? Without the gun, she would be alive. Look at the photo in the article of the police officer carrying the 13 month old baby away from the scene. Most shootings occur between people who know each other in moments of anger.

Why?

Where is common sense?

Irresponsible with guns

The year got off to a bang-literally. In my home state of Minnesota a homicide/suicide took the lives of 2. 

Authorities say up to 20 relatives, ranging in age from kids to the elderly, had gathered at the family matriarch’s house to celebrate the holiday when shooting broke out. Larry Klimek, 54, of Minneapolis was killed with his 16-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter nearby, their mother said Wednesday. The boy called 911 to report that his uncle had shot his father, who was bleeding inside the home, according to emergency dispatch audio.

How do things like this even happen? What brings a man who may or may not have obtained his guns legally or may or may not have had a permit to carry them around decide to kill his brother and then himself in front of a roomful of people?

It’s an American tragedy. Only in America do we need to keep daily track of shootings. Only in America do gun rights = not passing strong gun laws to prevent shootings.

When someone buys a gun, hopefully legally, it should be a given that they will be responsible for taking good care with it. It is a lethal weapon designed to kill. No one should act cavalierly around guns. And when a gun is available, no one should use it in anger, when depressed, when under the influence of alcohol, or otherwise incapacitated. Moments of despair or anger turn deadly in seconds when a loaded and unsecured gun is available. Responsible gun owners must store guns away and think about the risks involved. Common sense needs to be practiced.

There are 2 paths to gun ownership. Being careful and responsible or not.

Too often the wrong path is taken resulting in senseless and avoidable deaths and injuries.

When guns become a symbol for freedom, or a product of revenge and anger they can also become just another thing and people act cavalierly around them. When gun rights are taken literally as a right to do anything with a gun, then they can also become a way to exhibit rights without responsibilities.

What else could bring someone to senselessly shoot bullets into the air to celebrate New Year’s Eve? It’s pretty basic physics to understand that something that is shot into the air will come down again somewhere. That somewhere this year was in the head of a 6 year old California girl celebrating New Year’s Eve with her family.

Police are blaming all of the bullets on celebratory gunfire. Amazingly, the child is going to okay. The bullet is still in her head and may never be removed. (…) The chief also said the girl’s parents are shaken.

“Put the guns down,” Chief Kirkpatrick said. “It is foolishness. It is unnecessary.”

Foolishness is a mild term for what happened. It could have been another tragic death and left a little girl forever changed as it did for my friend Joe Jaskolka who was struck by a celebratory bullet in 1998. Nothing has been the same for Joe or his family since he was struck in the head by a bullet.

And shaken is also a mild word for how the parents and family must feel about a bullet lodged in the brain of their little girl. Future problems, including lead poisoning, could occur and cause more difficulties for them.

2019 has started with the same bang that ended 2018. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of daily incidents with guns and the cumulative numbers as the year goes on. Here are up to the day figures already for 2019:

We are better than this. Please support efforts of gun safety reform groups to prevent and reduce gun injuries and deaths. Lives depend on what we do and 2019 is a year that we can bring change to the ubiquitous narrative and to our gun laws.

Guns and potato chips

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Mr. LaPierre. They don’t.

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

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

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is common sense.

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

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

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

That is the bottom line.

 

School days, gun days…..

Back to School

It’s back to school in most of the country. I really do love the photos on Facebook of kids of various ages in various outfits and displaying various facial expressions. Some are obviously not so happy with their parents’ photos. But they are obligatory and I still have the photos of my kids on their first days of school. Now they are taking photos of their own kids.

There will be lots of things on the minds of our kids. My grandson just wrote two papers for Advanced English and Advanced Biology classes in his high school.He loved both of the books he read and his papers reflected his own opinions after reading the books. One was A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. 

The reading of this book led our family to having a serious and interesting discussion about the origins of the universe as we sat on the deck of our cabin looking at the stars and even some shooting stars.

I loved this discussion and watched his mind as it was literally expanding before us.

What I don’t love is the thought that his school could be the subject of a school shooting. And it could based on all evidence and our history with school shootings. This is also on the mind of our students. Or maybe, as this article suggests, it is more on the mind of parents and kids pick up on the anxiety displayed by their parents:

Schools have active shooter drills to get everyone used to their safety plan. “The more you practice something, the more you rehearse it, you lay the mental tracks so that you decrease the tendency to freeze in the case of a real emergency and you can go quickly into action,” explains Dr. Howard. “In the military you do realistic drills because you really will be in combat, but this is a low-probability event. You just need to lay the tracks so you decrease those few seconds of reaction time.”

Who can blame parents all things considered.

The thing is, schools are not the military and should not have to be “hardened” against school shootings. The article talks little about gun violence prevention and actually working to keep school shooters from getting guns in the first place. Kids should be able to study English and Biology without fear of being shot and not getting home to be with their families. Families should not have to be anxious that sending their child off to school in the morning could be the last time they see or hug their child.

A recent article article from the Star Tribune focused on school safety as well. 

It’s all about what schools around Minnesota are doing to keep students safe from shootings. A lot of money has been spent to construct secure entrances, metal screening devices, security lights and cameras and other things that will only alert those in the building to a shooting already happening. It all makes a lot of common sense.

Again, no mention of guns or how to keep school shooters from accessing guns. We just can’t talk about school shootings without talking about the role of guns in shootings. It’s that simple. What about prevention?

It’s the guns.

As proof, a San Francisco area school year got off to a bang when a student brought a gun to school and was “playing with it” in the back of the room when it discharged:

A 14-year-old girl student told NBC Bay Area that the gun went off in her class in the auditorium. She explained that she witnessed one student saying to another, in a joking way, “do you want me to shoot you?”

The other student said “yeah OK,” not taking the other student seriously, according to the witness. Then, the student with the gun started fumbling with his backpack and the firearm went off, the witness said.

Authorities said one person sustained a non-life threatening injury during the incident. One student sustained non-life threatening injuries unrelated to the firearm discharge and was evaluated and released to parents at the scene, police said. No other students were injured in this incident.

First of all, how did that gun get into his backpack? Second, why did he take it out of the backpack and play with it? Third, it was loaded. Adults are responsible for that. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

These are serious concerns. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others. They should be safely stored, unloaded, away from the hands of small children and teens. This will also protect them from being stolen. It is not a small thing or to be shrugged off when something like this happens in our schools. These incidents are not isolated. They happen often enough for us to be very concerned. Luckily no one was killed- this time.

So it was gratifying to see that a major American corporation was persuaded by the student survivors of the Parkland shooting to change the policies regarding guns in their stores. And they are going to put their money where there mouths are:

That’s why Levi Strauss & Co. is stepping up our support for gun violence prevention. You may wonder why a company that doesn’t manufacture or sell guns is wading into this issue, but for us, it’s simple. Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and all walks of life.

The stakes could not be higher. On an average day, 96 Americans are killed by guns, and hundreds more are wounded. Most are suicides or unintentional shootings. Our nation’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average rate of other high-income countries. Some shootings make the headlines; some you never hear of; but each one is a tragedy.

So today, on top of our previous actions, Levi Strauss & Co. is lending its support for gun violence prevention in three new areas.

First, we have established the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants from Levi Strauss & Co. over the next four years to fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.

This is only the beginning of what is going to happen after the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Texas and the aftermath of the shooting as students did not remain quiet but raised their voices loudly and clearly.

So as the school year begins, we can only hope that we won’t see more tragedies. Unfortunately we will. It’s just a matter of time before another teen who may be troubled or bullied or fascinated with guns or has some mental difficulties accesses a gun he cannot own and takes it to school to shoot at random kids or friends or those he perceives have slighted him or bullied him.

Much can be done to solve the problem of school gun violence. But if we refuse to talk about the guns and where they come from, we will be failing our kids and our country.

Please join the students in their fierce efforts to make changes to the conversation and changes to our gun laws to prevent shootings. It’s not rocket science. It’s about saving lives and stopping the carnage.

We can do this. Support a local, state or national group working to end gun violence and to pass gun safety reform measures. That, too, is simple. If you are anxious about school shootings, stand up and speak out. Lives depend on it.