International Women’s Day

Today is a day to celebrate women all over the world. We have only to look a few decades back to when women in America finally got the vote after years of protesting, organizing, and being arrested to understand why we need a day of celebration of women. Women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton persisted in spite of the men who were as determined that they should not be able to vote as they were that they had the right to vote. They are role models to all women even today.

Women are superheroes- they are working mothers, they are stay at home mothers, they are sisters and grandmas who serve as CEOs, and in all professions that just decades ago were almost all occupied by men. The world has changed thanks to the persistence of women.

I am a proud member of the League of Women Voters in my community. The League has served to educate, engage and activate women on issues of concern- not just women’s issues- all issues. Many women leaders and elected leaders have come from that organization over the years. I stand on the shoulders of many great women leaders and organizers.Don

Of course, the Million Mom March was the springboard for many of us now and remaining involved in the gun violence prevention movement. One woman, Donna Dees Thomases, after seeing small children being led out of a Jewish Community Center day care center in L.A. in 1999 after a shooter wounded several inside, got a permit for a march on the Mall in D.C. And then the Columbine shooting happened. Mothers ( and parents) all over the country watched in horror as kids were shot down in a school in Colorado. And then they got mad and got organized.

The rest is history. I attended the march in 2000 in Washington D.C. and was moved, angered, and energized after observing so many victims and survivors of gun violence with names of loved ones killed by bullets on their hats, shirts and signs. Some of the mothers of kids injured in the day care center are still involved with gun violence prevention. We are now merged with Brady and there are chapters all over the country populated by mothers and others. We persist in pushing for stronger gun laws all over the country, including in my own state of Minnesota.

Brady is celebrating the women who got involved and stayed involved in videos sent out to supporters before the coming 20th anniversary of the Million Mom March. After the 2000 march, the organization name was changed to Brady because of the efforts of Sarah Brady, wife of James Brady, President Reagan’s Press Secretary, shot in the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life in 1981. Sarah persisted in her efforts to get the Brady Law passed and finally won. The law has been in effect since 1994.

And Brady’s capable leader is Kris Brown, a powerful and effective woman leading one of the country’s oldest gun violence prevention organization.

Spurred on by the horrendous shooting of 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012, Moms Demand Action for GunSense in America was founded by Shannon Watts. Hundreds of thousands of women and others belong to chapters of MDA in every state in the country.

Women have been victims of many domestic and other shootings. My sister was just one of many of these women. Victims of domestic violence are FIVE times more likely to be murdered if their abuser obtains a gun according to Brady.

According to Giffords ( an organization formed after a woman Congress member, Gabby Giffords, was shot and severely wounded in a mass shooting in 2011):

The firearm homicide rate for women in the US is nearly 16 times higher than that in other high-income countries.
Laws that prohibit firearms after a domestic violence restraining order is issued are associated with a 13% decrease in firearm intimate partner homicides.

As long as the Senate refuses to act on bills that will keep guns away from domestic abusers, women will continue to be at risk. For the first time since the Violence of Women Act passed in 1994 the Senate has refused to pass this bill. From this New York Times article:

“The bill has three broad, but simple, goals: to make streets safer for women; to make homes safer for women; and to protect women’s civil rights,” Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of the bill’s sponsors when he was a Delaware senator, said in 1990.

That summer, survivors delivered stirring testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the time, the Senate had only two women and the proposal had little support from women’s groups or civil rights groups.

There is one reason why Senator Mitch McConnell and most Republicans refuse to re-authorize the act:

There’s already a law on the books to keep guns out of the hands of spouses convicted of such crimes, and Democrats and some Republicans have long wanted to extend that restriction to partners. But the National Rifle Association is opposed, and that’s why the bill is stalled in the Senate.

“The objection doesn’t make any sense if the idea is to be consistent and to protect women,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told VICE News. “At this point, we don’t see why we wouldn’t close that loophole.”

Are we going to let a minority of gun owners and Americans decide what is best for women? If the violence was happening to men, would the act be stalled? I think we know the answer. The same is true of women’s health care and women making their own decisions about their bodies. The fact that men want to control women’s bodies is just another example of why we must celebrate women on this day.

Everyone is affected by gun violence- men, women, transgender and GLBTQ Americans of all ages and races. But when it comes to domestic violence, it is most often the women who become the victims. And many of our mass shootings are spawned by a domestic dispute:

But scientists say the real problem is that violent, impulsive, and angry men are getting their hands on guns.

Many of the shooters behind the deadliest mass shootings in modern America (listed below) committed violence against women, threatened violence against women, or disparaged women.

Suicides become homicide/suicides as well as (mostly) men who are angry, depressed or upset about a relationship or something else are suicidal but also shoot someone else:

In a comparison of homicides-suicides in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States (using NVDRS data), major differences — e.g., Switzerland and the U.S. have much higher rates of homicide-suicide than the Netherlands — are explainable by the availability of firearms.

The bottom line is that women are often the ones on the front lines of the fight against gun violence. They are also on the front lines of those affected by gun violence. Today is a day to remember and celebrate women all over the world who have fought against violence against women and for women’s rights. Being a woman in many countries is dangerous and difficult. When heroes like Malala Yousafzei step up, it gives other women and girls the courage to do the same. She was the victim of a terrible shooting and survived to speak up. And, of course, it took a Swedish teen-ager, Greta Thunberg, to lead the world wide effort against climate change.

Women are about 50% of the population but still not where we should be regarding influence and leadership on the most important issues of the day. If even half of the world’s and our own country’s leaders were women, I believe many issues would be looked at and solved differently.

The day after President Trump was sworn in as the 45th President, a million women and others (including myself) marched in Washington D.C. bringing in more people than attended the inauguration. Several hundred thousand others marched in cities all over the world in concert with the march in D.C. Women have led the way against a misogynistic man whose reputation with women and statements made during the campaign angered and invigorated women to act. The march organizers held workshops on running for office and run they did. The historic 2018 election saw 90 newly elected women take office in Congress.

When women run for office they serve as role models to girls and women as well. The 2020 Presidential race is an example of how difficult it is to run as a woman to lead our country. It’s discouraging that so many believe that a woman cannot be the Commander in Chief. That’s nonsense. Women are tough. Maybe that’s the problem. When women challenge men in a relationship or in a primary or a debate, too often they become victims of the status quo.

We can and should get the background check bill passed into law in the U.S. Senate to keep guns away from domestic abusers and others who should not have them. In addition Red Flag or Extreme Risk Protection Order laws have been passed in many states but should be passed in all to allow for the removal of guns from domestic abusers by law enforcement after a judge determines they could be a danger to themselves or others. Women would be safer if these bills are enacted into law.

Everyone would be safer, of course. But today is the day to celebrate women.

I applaud all women who put their names and faces into the public sphere to speak up for what’s right and for the changes we deserve. It’s not easy. Women are often criticized unfairly and suffer from discrimination because of simply being a woman. Please say thank you to a woman today.

7 years after Sandy Hook

Again, we are at that date again. We are remembering the 26 innocent victims of that awful day in 2012.

My Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter held a vigil yesterday to honor those 26 lives and to highlight the effect gun violence has on all of us. Gun violence takes the form of suicides, homicides, mass shootings and “accidental shootings” along with actions taken by law enforcement. We have had so many mass shootings that we are all suffering from PTSD.

The headline of the hard copy of the Duluth News Tribune is this: “We are children, dying before we live.” That was a quote from a Duluth student who experienced a real lockdown last April of all Duluth schools when a man threatened to shoot up a school and was found in one of the local high schools. The student noted that it’s been 8 months and 8 days since her lease on life was extended because she thought she was going to die that day:

Karin Berdahl, now a student at Drake University in Iowa, noted that it had been eight months and eight days since she was in the orchestra room at Duluth East High School “cradling myself and my friend, shaking with terror” after an alert was given about a man with a gun in the school.

She was born two years after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., Berdahl said, and was 11 when the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

“I have never lived in a time where gun violence isn’t prevalent,” she said. “I have never not lived with that fear. Restrictions can be set in place. Laws can be passed. I was lucky that day; many are not. We are children, dying before we live.”

And this, dear readers is the American tragedy of gun violence. The Executive Director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs spoke about the trainings he does in Australia for the coordinated community response to domestic abuse known as the Duluth Model. In Australia, there is domestic abuse as there is everywhere in the world. But women are not being killed by their abusers in regular incidents as we hear and read about every day in our own country.

The Chief of Police spoke about Extreme Risk Protection Orders and why they would save lives:

This year, Tusken said, he consulted with St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman when it became known to police that a man with a permit to carry was mentally unstable. Without a red flag law in place, there was nothing police could do to protect the man from himself or o

A parent spoke and teared up about having to think about her sons being victims of a school shooting and she chose not to think about every day as she sne them off to school in the morning.A teacher and President of the Duluth Federation of Teachers ( a co-sponsor of the event) spoke about how teachers’ jobs had changed after all of the school shootings because now they have to think about an active shooter in their building and classroom and go through lock-down drills that traumatize kids and educators alike.

A gun owner spoke about how the NRA is fear mongering scaring people into thinking they must have their guns for self protection. He said that it isn’t gun safety reform that threatens their rights but rather it is gun violence itself. And further, no legal gun owners’ rights will be affected if common sense gun legislation measures are passed. They are lying.

The President of the Duluth chapter of the NAACP spoke about and remembered his brother and sister, both victims of shootings. A leader from the native American community spoke about how gun violence has affected his members. I read a statement from a transgender leader from our community who could not attend but spoke about how much guns and gun violence affect their community- both homicides and suicides. A veteran remembered the many veterans who die daily from gun suicides.

Gun violence affects us all. So many people are suffering from the after effects of shootings that have torn their families apart. The last speaker was a local woman whose brother was shot and killed last December- almost one year ago now. From the article:

For Wendy Waha, that person was Kevin John Weiss, killed in a shooting a year and three days earlier outside a Gary-New Duluth residence.

“Our innocence has been shattered, and life feels a lot less safe and a lot more violent,” Waha said. “We now think about things like guns, and that such a weapon doesn’t allow for second chances, or grace, or restorative ends to conflict.”

Waha spoke calmly and forcefully for nearly five minutes. But when it came time to say her brother’s name before ringing the bell, she faltered. After tearfully reciting his name, she added, “I would ask everyone here to please take action to do something that helps put common (sense) gun laws into place in order to end this insanity.”

Yes. Our innocence has been shattered. It is never the same. For the parents of the children shot 7 years ago today at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, they are now coming to grips with the idea that their children have been dead as long as they were alive. I read an article about the family of Noah Pozner, one of the children killed, as they deal with the ugly and offensive hoaxers who claim that Sandy Hook never happened and they have attacked these families and made their lives miserable. Their grief should have been enough. But this is so over the top, there are hardly words:

A month before what would have been his son Noah’s 13th birthday, Lenny Pozner told a jury about the last time he saw him, when he dropped him off at school on Dec. 14, 2012.

“It was cold, but he jumped out not wearing his jacket, and he had one arm in one sleeve and his backpack on the other arm, and he was kind of juggling both and walking into the school that way,” Mr. Pozner told a Wisconsin jury in October. “And that’s — that’s the last visual that I have of Noah.” (…) “We had a private viewing where we opened the coffin, and I got a chance to say one last goodbye to Noah,” Mr. Pozner said, as some jurors wept. “I remember saying goodbye to him and kissing him on his forehead,” which because the child had been shot in the face, “was the only part of him that was not covered.”

Do our leaders get this? Noah’s forehead was all that was left of his face. Dying by bullets from a gun is gruesome. The Duluth Police Chief spoke about how officers and first responders cannot unsee what they see when at the scene of a shooting. And the health care community also suffers from PTSD and the nightmare of treating gunshot injuries and those who die from their injuries. A retired nurse whose father took his life by firearm when she was a young woman, spoke about how it is for those who treat gunshot victims:

We tend to the living.

Injuries include paralysis, chronic pain, Loss of limbs, Need for long term ventilators and feeding tubes  PTSD, and the latest concern is lead poisoning since often bullet fragments are unable to be removed. The most memorable patient I have cared for literally was left without a face.

Think of this with the Las Vegas shooting: 58 dead, but 620 sustained injuries, many who will suffer for a lifetime. A handgun wound usually requires one surgery, but an AR15 averages 3-10 surgeries.

Gun violence is insidious. It is violent. It shatters families and communities and leaves behind it a wake of grief and PTSD. It affects us all.

Let us remember the 26 who died one year ago today. Please watch this YouTube video. It is emotional and powerful.

Podcasts about gun violence

Brady has started a podcast to highlight the voices and the programs of gun violence prevention. It’s a good way to get the word out to those who support changing the law and the conversation around the role of guns and gun violence in our society. I was honored to be one of the first voices to be able to speak about my story and my experiences over the years. There have been many. You can listen to my voice here.

But let me summarize a bit of what I said:

  1. I have a story to tell and so do the thousands and thousands of other victims and survivors. Domestic shootings take the lives of too many women every day so my story is the story of many.
  2. Telling our stories is important because it makes the deceased victims come “alive” and “tell their stories” so that the public and politicians can better understand the devastation to families and communities from gun violence.
  3. Understanding how devastating it is for families to experience the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets will lead to the changes we deserve to keep us all safer.
  4. Many of us in the movement of gun violence prevention have worked for decades to stop bad bills promoted by the corporate gun lobby, advocate for bills to prevent some of the shootings and in many cases to help pass common sense bills that save lives. We know they save lives because we have the numbers to show it.
  5. After the Sandy Hook shooting, other groups formed and helped to advocate for sensible gun laws and have added their voices and visibility in state houses and Congress.
  6. What seems to have made the biggest change is what happened with the student voices after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Those kids have been relentless and powerful and have given those of us involved for so many years new ways to talk about gun violence prevention. I admire those youthful voices and have come to know them well in my own community.
  7. In Minnesota we have had ups and downs since our chapter formed in 2000 after the Million Mom March. After the passage of the conceal and carry law in Minnesota and the federal sunsetting of the assault weapons ban in 2004 in close proximity, some of the air went out of our balloons. But we have picked up and carried on and stopped some bad bills. We now have new focus after our House passed the background check and Extreme Risk and Protection Order bills in the last session. We will push hard to get them passed in the state Senate in the upcoming session. Senators will have to explain why they would be against bills that would not take away the rights of “law abiding” gun owners. Gun rights and gun violence prevention are not mutually exclusive.
  8. Our country is suffering from PTSD from all of the mass shootings taking place on a regular basis. Our kids certainly are negatively affected by the shootings and sometimes get killed by school shooters. School active shooter drills are causing more distress and anxiety for our kids. We should question some of the programs used and focus on where the shooters get their guns so we can stop them. In the majority of school shootings, the guns come from the home of the shooter. It’a a no brainer to lock guns away safely from the hands of kids, teens and those who might steal them to be used in a gun crime.
  9. One of my heroes in the movement is Sarah Brady who served on the Brady board for part of my terms as a board member. She was a feisty woman whose opinions were made known at meetings. She worked hard with her husband Jim to get the Brady background check bill passed and for that, we are all safer.
  10. What I hope to see in a world where the best will happen is that all purchasers of a gun of any kind must first pass a background check. There is no reason not to do this that makes any sense at all. In addition, we can save lives if we pay attention to the risks of guns for people who could be a danger to themselves or others and make sure that their guns can be temporarily removed while the danger passes. Too many shootings are spur of the moment shootings that happen while someone is under stress, angry over a difficult situation like a contentious divorce that caused my now deceased brother-in-law to shoot my sister. We can make a difference and save lives.

I would encourage my readers to listen to the RedBlue & Brady podcasts. I believe they will provide a lot of insight into the issues and the people who are involved. The stories will make a difference and change the conversation as we must do if we are to make progress.

It is so clear that the majority of Americans want change to happen. The only way the majority will be represented in the halls of state capitols and in Congress is for the voices of those who believe we can save lives with stronger gun laws are louder than the voices of the corporate gun lobby. Remember that the NRA and corporate gun lobby represent a very small minority of Americans and gun owners.

So speak up and speak out. Listen to how we can make change. Get involved and take action, not sides. It’s in our hands to make change happen. Let’s do this.

Is it too extreme to speak the truth about gun violence?

personal photo of book

In my last post I wrote about the businesses who have decided to “come out” and tell their customers that they want nothing to do with their openly carried guns in their places of business. This would not have happened a month ago. But after the heinous shooting at an El Paso Walmart, it became obvious that any business could be the next one found in a Wikipedia entry for a mass shooting site. Who wants that to be your legacy?

Now the tide is coming in and it’s turning. A few days ago, 150 chief executives of some of America’s largest companies sent a letter to the Senate telling them that it’s “simply unacceptable” to not act on bills that could stop some of the gun violence that is affecting their customers and their businesses.

This is huge:

The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.

It’s been “off limits” for far too long. The corporate gun lobby has made it so. And our elected leaders and many influential business leaders and others, for that matter, who could have made a difference decades ago have now decided to weigh in.

The thing is, the public has been ahead of elected leaders for decades now. Look at the latest poll which is just one of many showing the same results over the last few decades. Support is undeniable. But deny does Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and the Republicans who have run out of excuses.

Why has it taken so long to act? Sometimes this is the way the system works I guess. But it does take bold action and a constant drumbeat of advocacy and also, I guess, one too many mass shootings, before it enters the collective consciousness of a country exhausted by the carnage.

When shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and then Odessa, Texas showed how people with AR-15s can inflict so much damage to human bodies in such a short time happened in rapid succession that appeared to be too much even for business leaders.

Let’s be clear. It’s been too much ever since the Columbine shooting became one of the first mass shootings to get the attention of the country. When our kids became the targets and the victims, mothers marched on DC in the Million Mom March in 2000. We were horrified at the shooting at a Jewish Day Care Center in California followed by the Columbine shooting and one brave woman, Donna Dees Thomases, stepped forward to lead the charge.

But that was 20 years ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from gunshot injuries needlessly. We let the NRA lead the conversation with the second amendment as their foil to stop any common sense action to stop the next shooting. We let the gun lobby continue to protect gun manufacturer profits over lives. We let our leaders get away with avoiding any discussion about the role guns actually play in gun violence.

We are all to blame for this in a way. The Democrats got scared that if they touched the “third rail” of gun violence they would lose their seats. Never mind that thousands lost their loved ones. We tried. We have held rallies and hundreds of vigils. We have lobbied at the state and federal level. We have sent letters, made phone calls, visited with our leaders, lit candles, rang bells, and demanded action. We have lie-ins and sit-ins and stood up for common sense. We have protested in the streets of our towns and in the nation’s Capitol.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and severely wounded at a Tucson gathering outside of a mall and a group named for her and now called Giffords was formed. After the totally unimaginable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school a new group of mothers and others began- Moms Demand Action and Everytown.

Together, groups who have been working for decades like Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and many independent state groups (States United) have been joined by a host of other groups to demand action. We are making a difference. Congress is now hearing us but the Republicans are not listening.

Even a few months ago, Democrats vying to become our next President would not have touched the issue of gun violence. But something happened after the Parkland shooting. The student survivors fought back and made their voices loud and clear. March For Our Lives joined the others and it was hard to ignore their young and articulate voices.

The tide is changing. At this week’s Democratic debate, candidates tripped all over themselves to be the one with the best plan for preventing gun violence. The loudest voice was that of former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke who represented El Paso. El Paso, the site of the mass shooting at a Walmart that was carried out by a White Supremacist whose rhetoric matched that of our sitting President. O’Rourke suspended his campaign to be with the victims in El Paso and it changed him.

Sitting with those whose sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins and friends have just been shot and killed so suddenly and violently is hard work. Who among us wants to listen to those stories? But we must hear their stories if change is to happen. And it was so clear that the shooter in the El Paso incident should not have had a gun. It was so clear that the Dayton shooter should not have had a gun but they both got them anyway.

And then, the Odessa shooting showed us how, if we had passed a law requiring a background check on every gun sale, we could have prevented the shooting death of 7 innocent people and the permanent disfigurement of the face of a 17 month old baby.

So when Beto O’Rourke described sitting with the mother of a 15 year old girl as she died from the horrendous injuries caused by bullets from an AR-15, it was too much. There were so many injured people because AR-15s can do that- shoot as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, that ambulances couldn’t respond to the mayhem. And so, the 15 year old died as her mother watched her bleed to death.

And now we have the famous statement made by Beto O’Rourke calling for a mandatory buyback of AR-15s and AK-47 assault style weapons originally meant for war. His description of why these weapons have been used and are used by the military was something we have not heard a candidate say before. His passion was genuine and heard loudly and clearly.

Even some Democrats came unglued and are wringing their hands. Oh my- what will happen now? Will we lose voters? Did we make people too angry? Will we lose the Presidency? What should we do about this perceived threat to gun rights? I guess time will tell how this shakes out. At the least it started a very important discussion about weapons designed for war in the hands of civilians.

What Beto O’Rourke did was “accidentally” or on purpose speak the truth. The public knows that it is AR-15s that have been used in many of our mass shootings. The public at large does not want these weapons in circulation so they get into the hands of people who intend mass carnage. Even many gun owners don’t want them, don’t need them, and are willing to give them up.

O’Rourke’s loud call was heard by a sitting Texas state Senator who issued a tweet heard ’round the country.

And this, dear readers, is why we need to act and act soon. When gun rights extremists occupy our state houses and Congress and believe they can own any weapon they want to own with no restrictions and then issue threatening rhetoric at candidates for office, we have turned a very dangerous corner.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Assault Weapons Ban and the 15th anniversary of its’ death. which was famously allowed to sunset in 2004 after only 10 years of keeping us safer from weapons designed for war. The gun lobby keeps trying to tell us that these weapons don’t kill many people compared to other guns. They tell us that they love them and we hate them because they are scary looking. They tell us that they need them for hunting and sport.

No. When they kill, they kill many at a time and the bullets do much more damage to human tissue. That is why the military likes them.

No. They are not good for hunting.

No. They are not needed by anyone for self defense or sport.

Here are some facts offered by Brady that were sent out on social media yesterday:

“In shootings with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, 155% more people are shot and 47% more people are killed. These weapons of war were designed for mass destruction. (…) According to the @nytimes, the federal assault weapon ban — which ran from Sept. 13, 1994 to Sept. 13, 2004 — was associated with a 25% drop in gun massacres and 40% percent drop in fatalities.  (…) On September 13, 2004, Congress let the federal assault weapons ban expire. In the decade after, America saw a 347% increase in fatalities in gun massacres. Enough is enough. Congress: it’s past time to end this bloodshed and #BanAssaultWeapons now! “

Yes. We can save lives if we ban assault weapons. Yes. We can save lives if we pass universal background check and red flag laws. Yes. We can do this. Yes. It’s past time. Yes. Beto O’Rourke said something that people are talking about. Was it too extreme?

Was it to extreme for 53 Americans to be shot in mass shootings just in August?

Is it too extreme that the Republicans have stopped every reasonable gun bill coming their way and let Americans die as a result?

Is it too extreme to let the NRA write our gun bills?

Is ti too extreme that the NRA had help from Russia to get our current President get elected?

Is it too extreme that our President swings like a pendulum whenever a mass shooting happens and then fails to act?

Is the cost of an assault weapons buy-back too extreme?

Is the actual cost in billions of dollars attributed to gun violence and all that happens in the aftermath too extreme?

Is it too extreme that a group of student survivors had to write their own plan, in the absence of action from Congress, to stop gun violence?

Is it too extreme that a book, “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You” was published because children are texting their parents in terror during lock-down drills and during actual shootings? Survivors who wrote in the book are not extreme people. They are average Americans who have experienced the terror of school shootings and survived to tell their stories.

Is it too extreme that our children are the targets of mass shooters?

Is it too extreme that the American Federation of Teachers, March For Our Lives and Brady teamed up to run an ad in Politico showing a student hiding under a desk during a lock-down drill?

Is it too extreme that our schools have been forced to have these drills in the first place because our leaders refuse to act to prevent school shooters from getting guns in the first place?

I know the answers. I own the book pictured above and know some of the people who wrote sections of that book. I understand that even still, decades after shootings, they do not forget the terror. I also know some people affected by mass shootings and “everyday shootings” like my own sister’s. I know the emotional and financial trauma suffered by too many. I have met some of the survivors of these shootings and seen the sadness in their eyes.

You know the answers. The public understands. The Democrats are not afraid anymore. American business leaders are not afraid anymore. Teachers, parents and students are not afraid to speak out. Survivors are not afraid. The stakes are high. Lives are at stake.

The only ones still afraid of the corporate gun lobby are the ones who can make the difference.They are afraid they will lose their power and influence and yes, campaign donations. If they won’t act, we will. We will make sure they are voted out of office and left to wonder what happened and why they refused to act on our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

#Enough

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.

Dangerous times

It took me a while to calm down after I heard about the woman ( Shannon Lee Goessling) our President has nominated for appointment to the Office of the Violence Against Women. It’s upside down world ever since President Trump was elected. His appointees typically are not qualified to hold the positions they hold or to which they have been appointed. Ms. Goessling is absolutely wrong for the job. And my readers may remember that my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting where a gun would have done her no good at all.

Is this payback to the NRA for their funding of his election to the presidency? Just asking.

Brady has issued a statement opposing the nominee:

While working as counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm with a record of advocating for extreme gun rights, Goessling wrote an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Hellerarguing that women in domestic violence situations should arm themselves against their abusers, relying on research that was more than 30 years old. Following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, Goessling told a Florida House panel that “my best friend is my Glock” as she waved her concealed weapons permit and NRA membership card in the air. Goessling also filed an amicus brief opposing same-sex marriages, and the foundation took on multiple cases for groups and businesses targeting immigrants and other Americans who speak a language other than English.

It’s dangerous for women when guns are in the home or even when they have their own gun for self protection. This, of course, is the opposite of what the gun lobby claims. They are wrong. Also from the Brady statement- about women and guns:

When there is a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence, there is a 500 percent higher chance that a woman will be murdered.
In 2016, one out of every three women murdered was killed by an intimate partner with a gun.
Women who were killed by a spouse, intimate partner, or a close relative were seven times more likely to have lived in homes with guns.
2015 study found that “there is no clear evidence that in the hands of victims, firearms are protective,” and recommended instead prohibited abusers from accessing guns.
The LGBTQ+ community reports high levels of intimate partner violence, and African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than white women.

These are facts supported by research. Appointing someone who does not regard the facts and, in fact, will act against common sense and known facts about violence against women is appalling. This is the opposite of what is needed to keep women safe from violence. I urge the President to retract this nomination.

I want to move from violence against women to violence against Muslims and others not like us. The horrendous, tragic and heart wrenching shooting and deaths of 49 innocent people in New Zealand is now the topic of conversation in the media.

It’s worth discussing the influence of our own country’s culture on what is going on in other countries. This article highlights the manifesto left by the shooter before the shooting and the apparent influence of American hate shootings and racism on his actions far away from America:

Portions of the ghastly attack at the downtown mosque were broadcast live on social media by a man who police confirmed had also released a manifesto railing against Muslims and immigrants. The 74-page document states that he was following the example of notorious right-wing extremists, including Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. (my edit of name)

The manifesto, littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide,” is the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.


The digital platforms apparently enlisted in the shooting highlight a distinctly 21st-century dimension of mass gun violence — one sure to put more pressure on social media companies already under scrutiny about how they police their services.

Of course we need to talk about New Zealand’s gun laws here. From the above linked article:

Gun laws in New Zealand are more stringent than they are in the United States, but not as strict as regulations in Australia and much of Europe. In 2017, more than 1.5 million guns were held by civilians in New Zealand, according to a tracking website maintained by the University of Sydney School of Public Health.

New restrictions came into effect, including on military-style semiautomatic weapons, after what was previously the deadliest shooting in New Zealand’s modern history. In 1990, 13 people were killed in the seaside town of Aramoana when a resident, David Gray, went on a shooting spree after an argument with a neighbor.


Violent crime is rare in New Zealand, compared to the rest of the world. Murders in the country fell to a 40-year low of 35 in 2017, police said, a rate of seven deaths for every 1 million people.

Another article I found revealed that New Zealand is home to many guns- 1 per every 3 citizens. A license is required to own a gun and carrying one is strictly regulated. Nonetheless people can purchase semi-automatic weapons. Because this shooting happened in a country that has no amendment guaranteeing a right to bear arms, I am guessing that changes are coming. In spite of yesterday’s mass shooting though, “New Zealand also has a low murder rate, with a total of 35 homicides in 2017 — fewer than the number of people who died in Friday’s double mosque attack.”

I am editing this post to include an article about the New Zealand Prime Minister’s determination to strengthen the gun laws, as I predicted would happen:

Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference early on Saturday that she would consider banning semi-automatic firearms altogether after the alleged gunman behind the shootings obtained five guns legally.
“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” said Ardern. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.”

Ardern said the alleged shooter was found to have used five guns that he appeared to legally own under a “category A” licence obtained in November 2017. He appeared to have begun buying guns the following month, she said.
The guns taken from the alleged perpetrator included two semi-automatic guns and two shotguns, the prime minister said. Answering questions from reporters, Ardern said all options to restrict gun violence would be considered.

The attack was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” according to this article.

America has had so many “darkest days” they are too numerous to count. And what has changed? Nothing. In fact, the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to have a hearing on and vote on 2 bills recently passed in the House- HR 8 and HR 1112. We will wait to see if they have the courage to do what everyone knows is the right thing to do.

And speaking of changes coming, the parents of the children massacred in the Sandy Hook shooting won a victory yesterday when a judge determined that the parents of the victims can pursue a lawsuit against Remington:

In the 4-3 ruling, the justices agreed with a lower court judge’s decision to dismiss most of the claims raised by the families, but also found that the sweeping federal protections did not prevent the families from bringing a lawsuit based on wrongful marketing claims. The court ruled that the case can move ahead based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices.

There is something cynical and dangerous about the marketing of military style assault weapons. On the one hand, they are marketed as weapons of war designed to enhance one’s manhood and make one much more powerful in combat situations. Are we at war on our streets? I suppose one could answer yes to that question given the daily carnage. But to hype guns as weapons to ready the buyer for combat situations or exhibit their manhood is just plain wrong and dangerous.

But the other side of this nonsensical marketing is that the gun lobby really doesn’t like it when these guns are referred to as military style weapons trying to convince us that they are just “common sporting rifles.” These are glaring attempts to deceive and confuse. We understand that these guns are meant to kill as many people as possible. They are not meant for hunting; so for the gun lobby and gun rights advocates to argue that is just another of their deceptions and lies to get people to buy the guns and try to stop any legislation to ban or regulate certain of these guns. Follow the money.

And I will end where I began- with what the President is doing about violence in America. Yesterday he made a statement that many believe is a call to violence by the man who should be leading us to less violence and peaceful solutions to problems. Stoking anger is disturbing and even more disturbing when it comes right from the top. Trump supporters turn themselves into pretzels trying to defend him. Check out this conversation with one of the President’s leading staffers about the President’s rhetoric:

But Conway wouldn’t do it.  
“You’re just reading into it like you usually do,” she said. “He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.”
Conway also asked for the quote, but when Cuomo tried to read it, she immediately interrupted him.
“Christopher, he didn’t threaten and he’s not threatening violence,” she said, then claimed Cuomo was defending violence. 
“I give up,” Cuomo repeatedly said. 

More deceptions and lies. It’s insanity and confusion and obfuscation and absurd all at once.

We aren’t buying it. Today I went to a community gathering of support for our local Muslim community knowing that they would be grieving the loss of their brothers and sisters killed in the New Zealand mass shooting. They were so grateful that we came with our signs and our flowers. Graciously they invited us inside to join them at their prayer service. It was solemn and a meaningful service about hate crimes and gun violence. The wife of the Imam said in an interview with a local TV station that people should use their guns on animals, not humans. The Imam noted that these types of hate crimes are crimes against all of us no matter what religion. We ought to be able to worship without fear of being gunned down by people who hate us because of our religion, race, gender or sexual preference.

Gun violence affects everyone indiscriminately. But certain mass shootings are crimes against one group of people and done in hate towards that group to foment more hate. They are easy to accomplish when weapons of mass destruction are so readily available.

I say “Disarm Hate”. I say disarm domestic abusers. I say disarm those who shouldn’t have guns. We know who they are. I say disarm the fear mongering and rhetoric coming from the gun lobby that foments ideas and actions that can turn into buying and using deadly weapons to kill other human beings. I say disarm anyone who has hate in their hearts and minds against people not like them.

We are better than this. Join Brady. Join Protect Minnesota. Join other gun violence groups. “Take action, not sides.”

Embracing hope through action

Today is the 6th anniversary of the shooting that shocked and rocked the country. Never before Dec. 14th 2012 had an unhinged shooter carried weapons meant for war and massacres to an elementary school and opened fire indiscriminately on innocent 6 and 7 year olds and 6 adults, massacring their young bodies. Never before. But not never again. Since the massacre 6 years ago, 600,000 Americans have been shot. Of those, over a third died of their gunshot injuries. 

We had hope back then that this heinous shooting would at long last, loosen the grip the corporate gun lobby had on our nation’s elected leaders and actually allow stronger gun laws to pass. But we were woefully and tragically wrong. There was a bi-partisan bill. There was hope.

Even Blue Dog Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, an avid gun owner and NRA politician, cried in his office when the Sandy Hook parents came to him with their pleas to do something. It was a raw moment. It was public. 

We had hope. Even the grief and tears of the parents of the 6 and 7 year olds so soon after the shooting was not enough for the lapdog politicians in thrall with the second amendment. 

We had hope. Hope was not enough. 

Yesterday at our local 6th annual vigil in memory of the Sandy Hook and other gun violence victims a pastor quoted these words

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

We are angry at the way things are. We have had hope shattered too many times. Which mass shooting will be enough for our leaders? How many victims shot all at once in rapid succession with a mad man holding weapons meant for war would it take? How many………….?

The title of our local vigil was “Embracing Hope Through Action”. Speakers talked about past efforts and present situations. The last speaker was a student at our local university who helped organize our local March For Our Lives chapter. She is an emerging leader who gave us hope because the students have had the courage to step up and look up, as she said. They have nothing to lose. They taught the adults how to do this.

And so it took a group of vocal and determined older high school students, not willing to sit down and shut up after their friends were shot at another shooting that shocked and rocked the nation last Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida, to affect change. 

There is common sense after all. Even Florida, the state owned by the NRA, passed stronger gun laws after the Parkland students insisted- no demanded- in very loud voices. Over 1 million people marched in over 700 marches nation-wide on March 24th last year. Students walked out of their schools in moving 17 minutes of actions and silence in memory of the 17 shot at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The tiny survivors of Sandy Hook elementary school couldn’t make demands. For one thing, they were all traumatized by what had occurred and seeing the bloody bodies of their friends and classmates. They still are. The parents were traumatized and so many felt relief that their child was not one of the bullet ridden bodies left lying on the floors of a building no longer in existence. 

But the memories were not erased by the demolition of the building that was once a happy place of learning. They live on. 

We remember them today and always. We are still angry that our leaders couldn’t have the courage to do the right thing after what happened 6 years ago today.

But we still have hope. That is what allows us to get on and do the hard work of advocacy on behalf of our loved ones. 

This is a “no brainer”. Why should it be so hard? It should be easy. 

And it shouldn’t take courage to make noise and stand up for what we know well over 90% of Americans support. It takes resolve and doing the right thing.

The winds of change are blowing. Our young people are the hope. Our young people have courage. They are showing us how to do this. They have taken on conventional wisdom and attacked those who have stood in the way of the common sense and doing what is morally and lawfully right. 

The 2018 election saw NRA “A” rated candidates and sitting Congress members go down to defeat to candidates who embraced gun safety reform. 

There is hope.

We can and will do this in the names of the victims and survivors. 

Today we remember:

from CNN.com