Another anniversary

photo of BarbaraEvery year on this day, I write a memorial to my sister, Barbara Lund. I try not to dwell on the day my sister was murdered by her estranged husband. It was a day that changed the “age of innocence” about gun violence for our family. I mean, really, who ever thinks that a family member will be shot to death? My sister was in her second marriage but trying to get out of it after more than 20 years together with the man who would eventually kill her. The most vulnerable and dangerous time for women is when they are leaving or attempting to leave a relationship.

I wish we had all known then what we know now. I have no idea whether a tragedy could have been averted but I have learned that not doing something is not an option.

On Aug. 5th of 1992 my sister, now in a new relationship after a long and protracted and contentious divorce process, drove to her estranged husband’s home to deliver some paperwork that he needed to sign. ( He was also in a new relationship) She went with her partner because, as we learned later, she was actually nervous about her estranged husband. She knew he had guns in his home. Apparently, something I learned later but was not aware of, he did keep a lot of guns around his house.

We don’t know some of the details because my estranged brother-in-law killed himself months after the shootings of my sister and her partner leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions. ( That is another story) We do know that he said he thought he was killing her lawyers and doesn’t remember much except that he sort of blanked out during the shooting. That is often said by shooters. The loud noise. The sudden death. The blood. The chaos.

There is much more but you don’t need to know all of the details to know that when a gun is at the ready, disputes over relationships and divorces turn deadly in an instant. Even the shooters are surprised by it and often take their own lives at the same time in desperation. Taking a human life ( or two) is something no one, unless maybe those serving in the military or law enforcement, expects will happen.

What I know now is that my life changed as I got involved with advocacy groups like the Brady Campaign  and Protect Minnesota and others to prevent families from devastating, insidious, tragic, senseless and mostly preventable shootings.

There are ways to keep guns away from people who should not have them and change the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. Brady background checks will and do save lives if we expect that all buyers should have one no matter what.  Extreme Risk Protection Orders (Red Flag laws) also can save lives. Look at what has happened in Florida just since the laws passed there in response to the Parkland shooting and the pressure put on lawmakers by the outspoken and courageous students:

Hundreds of gun owners in Florida have been ordered to give up their guns under a new law that took effect after the deadly Parkland shooting in February, according to a report published Monday.

The Risk Protection Order, signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott just three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas, aims to temporarily remove weapons from gun owners who have been deemed by a judge to possibly be a threat to themselves or others.

 

Yes. We can save lives.

Let’s do it together.

There are many issues before us during this chaotic election season. Gun violence is just one of them that has now taken hold and supported by the majority of Americans. Lawmakers are feeling this and have become more outspoken about the issue. I am a Democrat. For many years I have been working on my own elected leaders to be bold and speak out. It is finally happening. It took many years of advocating, meetings, vigils, sending emails, making phone calls and insisting on change.

That is what we have to do with so many other issues like health care, immigration, the economy, getting big money out of our politics, medicare, social security and the environment. It won’t happen overnight but suddenly it will take hold.

The Parkland shooting has moved the needle at long last on the issue of preventing gun violence. It wasn’t the Sandy Hook shooting or the Aurora theater shooting or the Las Vegas shooting or the Pulse Nightclub shooting, many of which took more lives than the Parkland shooting. But it was an accumulation that threw the public over the edge. Thanks to those courageous and outspoken students for the change we are seeing in our country.

It takes us all working together raising our voices and persistence.

We all have our stories to tell. Some are about the loss of life due to bullets. Some about insidious diseases or conditions. Some are about suicide by any means. Some are about immigration or about health care or about losing a job or about cancer, or Parkinson’s, or depression or Alzheimer’s or heart disease. All of these are in my family. Many of these are in families of people I know and care about.

At some point there is an intersection of the issues and that is this-  making us all safer, healthier and caring for one another when it needs to happen.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic where it intersects with health care. Gun violence is an economic issue as deaths by gun cost our law enforcement, legal and health care system a lot of money. Gun violence has an intersection with immigration. Gun violence has an intersection with education as so many of the mass shootings have happened in our schools. Gun violence has an obvious intersection with domestic abuse and violence.  

And to add to this list, gun violence intersects with terrorism and national security because we know terrorists can buy guns in the U.S. and we aren’t stopping them from doing so because of a big gap in our laws. This is a matter of national security as well. And if we don’t think the fomenting of fear and paranoia against the media and the increased presence of militia and other hate groups who are armed isn’t another big issue, we are not paying attention to a serious problem.

And yes, gun violence intersects with big money in politics as the NRA has become a lobbying and big money influencer in our politics and elections. That is why so many of our leaders won’t stand up and do the right thing.

We don’t need a repeat of what happened last August in Charlottesville but the same group is gathering in Oregon and a “Unite the Right” rally on the National Mall in D.C. next week-end. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong.

Many of these issues are the American tragedy. Failure to deal with all of them is failure to keep America safe and do the right thing for our citizens.school

When common sense prevails, we will all be better off.

On this day I remember not only my beautiful sister Barbara Lund but all my friends and people I don’t know who have suffered the grief of the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets shot out of guns that are too readily available.

As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, ” We all do better when we all do better.

Nothing could be more true.

 

UPDATE:

I posted this before I went to church this morning and I was inspired by the service to write more.  It was the annual outdoor service under a tent near the vegetable and wild flower garden planted behind the parking lot. There was great music, a wonderful children’s time, a great sermon and the closeness of the congregation gathered together in this sweet sultry summer morning. The minister of my church reminded the congregation that this was the 27th anniversary of her first service at our church.

In an odd confluence of events, it was one year after she began her ministry that my sister was murdered. On August 7th after our family finally learned of the news of the murder and all family members were informed, I called my minister to share what had happened with her. Her response was as it always is with her- so supportive and caring and kind and gentle with just the right things to say. After all of that, though, she told me that her husband, who had not yet moved to Duluth because he hadn’t found a job yet, was on his job as a Police Officer in Minnetonka, Minnesota on August 6th. He was one of the first officers to enter the home of my estranged brother-in-law, now taken to the mental ward of a Twin Cities area hospital by his lawyers ( another long story). He was one of the first officers to find her body and that of her partner. He was there. He saw the horrific scene.

Once and only once, I had the nerve to talk to him about the crime scene. I think I didn’t really want to know the details. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful, talented, high spirited sister I knew who was trying to be happy. The last time I saw her was at my daughter’s graduation from high school less than 2 months before her murder.

This morning’s church service was a reminder to me about how supportive my minister and everyone in my church has been to me over the years. One year after my sister’s murder, I asked my minister to lead a celebration of life for my sister on the shore of Lake Superior. Friends and family attended. The minister read the eulogy from my sister’s memorial service as it was held quite privately in a church in the Twin Cities so not many of my friends attended.

Since that time, our chapter has held many vigils and events around gun violence prevention and I have led many mission moments about gun violence- too many. My minister has spoken many times at our vigils and has spoken out publicly about this issue. Gun violence has a ripple effect you see. The people in my church are affected by what happened to me and they support my efforts and they support stronger gun laws and preventing shootings.

I am humbled today by all of the emotions and the memories. I know that the majority is with me. If only the leaders of our country would step up and be with us so we can save lives.

church service

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Vigil for Las Vegas shooting victims at my church in Oct. 2017

 

Memories

MemorialMemorial Day is a day to remember those who died while serving their country. It has turned into a different kind of holiday now. We remember all those who served and I remember my own father who did not die during his service in World War II but died decades later of natural causes. I remember my brother, who served in Viet Nam, and struggles still decades later with PTSD and Parkinson’s Disease and all that comes with those insidious conditions.

If we fail to remember those who have died before us we fail to think through the results of war and sending our service members into danger to ostensibly protect us all from harm. Some argue that wars in Iraq, Viet Nam and some others did not accomplish that end.

What about the war on our streets and in our homes? Evidence abounds that that is happening. Look at what just happened in New Orleans, as just one example of the hundreds and hundreds:

After the shooting stopped, the witness said, he saw one victim stumble out of the passenger side of the white car and collapse beneath the sign for the walking trail. A man exited the Kia, looked at a man slumped over the passenger seat of the white car, returned to the Kia and drove away.

Only then did the man in the white car move. “It was like he was playing dead until the shooter left,” said the witness said. “As soon as the burgundy car was gone, the driver opened the door and stuck his leg out, and I was just like, ‘Thank God’.” (…) “You have to be really bold to shoot someone in the middle of the day, with all these neighbors around, and drive off all slow and smooth,” the witness said. “I got a good look at that car, and the guy driving it. I was on the phone with 911 and told the dispatcher his license plate and everything. That’s a bold move, for real.” (…) “Never in a million years would I have expected to see something like this,” he said. “It’s scary. You never see anything like this. Stuff like this you see in movies and TV.

Bold? Crazy? Unthinkable? Senseless?

What kind of memories will these children have now?

And how about this child who narrowly escaped with a shrapnel wound when someone decided to go bowling while wearing his pistol? 

You just can’t make this stuff up.

There are no “accidents” when it comes to weapons of war or weapons carried around by everyday Americans in places where people should be safe.

It’s real life right here in America on the day we celebrate the heroes and victims of wars.

Grabbing children to save them from incoming bullets?

All of the above and worse.

We have guns by the thousands and people by the thousands with those guns gunning innocent people down in places where we should be safe from this kind of war-like violence.

More Americans have died from bullets right here on our own soil than American service members have died in wars in defense of our country.

Where is common sense?

Who will save our children?

There is none when it comes to gun violence. Lapdog politicians play with us every day. They issue thoughts and prayers and think that is enough. In fact, the town of Santa Fe in Texas where 10 were gunned down by a teen using his father’s guns got together and tried to pray away the violence.

I am a Christian but I understand that prayers are just not going to do it.

It is a shameful Memorial Day when politicians will attend services for fallen service members but refuse to act to save us all from devastating violence right in our communities and schools.

We need action and we need it now.

#Enough

Memories are painful for too many on this day. For our veterans. For our service members lost in wartime. For our children lost to school shooters. For our women lost in domestic shootings. For the innocent gathered in movie theaters, bowling alleys, hospitals, shopping malls, churches and in homes all over America.

There are memorials for our war heroes in our nation’s capitol and in cities all over America. And increasingly there are memorials now for victims of mass shootings. 

We leave flowers. We ring bells. We light candles. We march.

We remember.

Do Something

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Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via AP

There are hardly words any more. All I know is that I almost felt numb after today’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. 10 are left dead and 10 injured. How can we endure this again and again and again and again.

We can’t.

We must do something. We can’t go numb. The Star Tribune published this editorial today after the shooting. I couldn’t agree more. Please don’t go numb:

Instead, a busy school morning was shattered by gunfire, and now 10 people are dead, mostly students, and more wounded. Some escaped by running, at a teacher’s instruction, to the theater department’s storage room, where they huddled while the smell of gunpowder hung in the air. Paige Curry, according to the Houston Chronicle, hid for half an hour, “on the phone with my mom the whole time.” Imagine being the mother who gets that early morning call from a terrified child who might be gunned down while you’re still on the phone with her. A daughter who is relying on your voice to calm her even as you wonder whether you will ever hear her voice again.

Imagine.

Can you?

Look at the photo accompanying the piece. LOOK AT THE PHOTO. WHAT IF THAT WERE YOU?

It could be- that’s the thing.

This is a media release written for our local press:

On March 24th 2018, about 1000 students and community members marched in Duluth Minnesota, saying that we have had ENOUGH of innocent students losing their lives to gun violence in America. Months later, it’s happened again, this time in a Texas school. Students at this school claimed they weren’t surprised that it happened to them.

Please join us June 2nd for National Gun Violence Awareness Day and lend your voice to demanding much needed change. https://www.facebook.com/events/192992358010479/

March For Our Lives Duluth, the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter and Moms Demand Action Duluth chapter are saddened and angered by yet another mass school shooting in America. Kids should not be sitting ducks and have to endure the fear of bullets in their schools and classrooms. After the Parkland school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 17 students were killed. Now 10 more families will have to suffer the devastation of the loss of a loved one.

This is the 22nd school shooting of the year already. We are also concerned with the 96 Americans, 8 of them children, who lose their lives to bullets every day in our country. A few days ago a 7 year old first grader in Plymouth, Minnesota found a loaded gun in a box and shot and killed himself. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

It is unavoidable to talk about the role of guns in our national public health crisis. Please see this article by columnist David Frum. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/its-the-guns/560771/?utm_source=atlfb

The Minnesota legislature had several chances to pass a universal background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order bill but failed 90% of Minnesotans by refusing to vote them out of committee or bring them to the floor. This is not OK with us.

The fact that gun injuries have taken more lives than U. S. service members is simply outrageous. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/05/18/2018-has-been-deadlier-for-schoolchildren-than-service-members/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.53767397c367

Elected leaders are responsible for bringing life saving bills to votes. The fact that they have not should be a wake-up call to us all. 97% of Americans support universal background checks. Only 1.5% of Americans are NRA members. Most gun owners and NRA members support these life saving measures.

We are calling on our elected leaders to act immediately to pass life saving bills. We are also calling on Minnesotans and Americans to listen to these young leaders who are demanding change.

June 2nd is National Wear Orange and Gun Violence Awareness Day. In Duluth, activists and the public will be standing on the corners of Lake Avenue and Superior St. from 10:00 a.m. to Noon holding signs and wearing orange to demand change to our gun laws and our gun culture. We urge people who are fed up with the inaction of our leaders to come and wave a sign in solidarity with the families who are hurting and grieving after this horrendous loss of life in Santa Fe, Texas.

 

We are tired of being tired of the carnage.

The whole country has had #Enough.

After Parkland we said #Neveragain.

But here we are again.

Where is common sense?

Our hearts are broken.

Protect Minnesota is holding a rally today to demand the change Minnesotans deserve before the session is over.

The Minnesota legislature is scrambling to finish the session. Will they finish without enacting any gun safety reform measures? If so, shame on them.

I end with the statement from the Brady Campaign:

Brady Campaign co-presidents Kris Brown and Avery Gardiner stated:

“We are heartbroken today. Once again, children are shot in their school. Once again, another mass shooting has grabbed the headlines, and meanwhile, so many other shootings go by without any attention. We’ve asked this time and time again – what will it take? What will it take for Congress to step up and do their jobs to protect innocent children from gun violence? Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones today, and we fervently hope that perhaps this is the day when our elected officials stand and take action.”

Do something.

 

Columbine

state_flower_144419Today will be a different kind of remembrance for the Columbine mass shooting anniversary. It’s been 19 years now since the image of students with their hands raised over their heads emerged from the scene of a horrendous massacre that took the lives of 13 at Columbine High School. That was the first of the many such images to follow.

This year, the Parkland school shooting survivors have made the Columbine shooting anniversary something different. Different because the Parkland massacre that took the lives of 17 is the latest of a long list of horrible and devastating school shootings. And the Parkland students have started a movement that has changed everything. This day will be a day of activism from students on yet another student led walkout from school day.

Various activities are planned for the day. There will be walkouts, rallies, actions taken and whatever the students have decided works best for them. Never before on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting have there been nation-wide activism like we will see today.

The movement continues. The carnage continues. As long as the carnage continues, the movement will continue. As long as our leaders refuse to act, students will lead us to action to stop the carnage.

As long as common sense is ignored, the movement will continue. As long as the lapdog politicians keep ignoring the movement, the movement will grow.

When our elected leaders realize that this is real and this is powerful enough to change the practices of businesses like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Citibank, Bank of America, and others, they will be on the wrong side of history, of public support, and the wrong side of a public health epidemic that is growing every day they fail to act.

When our leaders and others realize that attacking the victims is simply not OK and will be challenged with consequences (Laura Ingraham, conservative Missouri talk show host), things will change.

For decades the NRA and others in their orbit have felt free to attack victims and viciously go after anyone who disagrees with them. NRATV is just one example of this hate. Alex Jones, conservative conspiracy theorist,  is another. The spotlight is on them right now but they continue with their hate speech and attacks until at some point there will be a consequence for their hate and fear filled paranoid rants.

As long as I am able, I will act in the memory of my sister and all of the victims of the shootings before, during and after the Columbine massacre.

Today we all remember all victims. Today the country mourns and the country acts. Today we remember.

In order of how they were killed:

Rachel Scott
Daniel Rohrbough
Dave Sanders*
Kyle Velasquez
Steven Curnow
Cassie Bernall
Isaiah Shoels
Matthew Kechter
Lauren Townsend
John Tomlin
Kelly Fleming
Daniel Mauser
Corey Depooter

Remember. Mourn. Act. Rally. Walkout. March. Send postcards. Make phone calls. Thank businesses. Get involved. Stay involved.

#Enough #Neveragain

Never again will the nation let our leaders get away with their willful inaction, their willful adherence to the myths of a once powerful gun lobby and lack of the courage to do the right thing in the name of the victims of gun violence.

Vote them out

Time cover
Time magazine

This week, the Minnesota House Public Safety committee did not have the courage to take a vote on whether to move a background check bill and a Gun Violence Protection Order bill out of committee for a vote. Those who voted against taking the bills off the table where they had been since hearings about a month ago were cowardly, afraid, insensitive, clueless, and tone deaf. If they don’t get what the student movement is about, they will find out. After the vote in the committee, red and orange shirted Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota volunteers got up and walked out chanting “Vote them out.”

The students have made a difference in Minnesota and all over the country. Their voices are resonating in the halls of our legislatures and Congress. Were it not for students politely asking why the Minnesota Senate would not hear the gun safety bills sitting in committee and being “escorted” out of the room, the Senator Democratic minority leader Tom Bakk may not have written this extraordinary piece in today’s Duluth News Tribune,:

I want it to be clear: I support these students’ efforts to motivate the institution into holding hearings. I support several common-sense gun-safety measures. And I’d welcome another opportunity for bipartisan compromise in the state Senate. We owe it our students.

It is not lost on Senator Bakk that there will be at least 2 student marches today in small towns in his district, in the middle of hunting and gun owning country. There will be at least 13 marches today all over Minnesota. Let the student voices be heard. They will make the difference.

We’ve had #enough of this equivocating, avoidance, and ignoring a national public health epidemic that is killing our kids. We will remember in November the cowardice of these legislators. The student movement is staring them in the face. Tomorrow it is expected that tens of thousands of people will be marching all over our country to demand action and common sense from our leaders. March For Our Lives is happening. I marched in the Million Mom March in 2000 with 750,000 others who had hope. But nothing happened. Why? The Republicans were in control of the House and Senate and paid allegiance to the corporate gun lobby. They abrogated their responsibility to our kids. The Columbine school shooting had occurred shortly before the march. Even that could not persuade them.

The Million Mom March chapters merged with the Brady Campaign in chapters all over the country. We are actively involved with the students who are planning the marches all over the country and with the students who have come to DC to march. By hosting workshops, speakers and events, they are helping the students hone their messaging and their skills as well as registering them to vote. All of the gun violence prevention groups are involved with this effort. It is to support the kids. They are leading and we should get out of the way. Many of them will be voting in November and this issue will be at the top of their priorities.

The shootings have continued unabated since the Columbine shooting first awoke our collective conscience about the horror of school shootings. Since then, regular school mass shootings and mass shootings at other places have become commonplace in our country. And many of us have worked tirelessly to make the changes we deserve in the name of the victims. We have been waiting for the young people to get involved but we did not expect it to look like this.

Today I will march with the students and community for the sake of my dead sister and all of the other victims of gun violence. I will march for all of those Parkland students and students from Minnesota and all 50 states who will be in DC for this momentous occasion. And it will be momentous!

Today is also the anniversary of a school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, leaving 5 dead. Since the shooters were so young- 11 and 13, – so young to become mass shooters. From the article:

The two were reportedly planning a shooting and getaway, with news reports at the time detailing how Johnson took his parents’ car and the boys broke into Golden’s grandparents’ home where his grandfather kept his guns unlocked. One of the pair then pulled the fire alarm at lunch and opened fire when people started to flee.

“They were hiding in bushes and shooting at us,” Spencer said. “We didn’t know what was going on. It was an ambush. It was chaos.

How do young boys like this get ideas like those described above? The gun came from the home of a grandfather where they were unlocked. In 1998 this was the 2nd deadliest mass shooting in our history. How things have changed. Columbine happened in 1999.

If you read the entire article you will see that these two shooters (Jonesboro) are now adult men, out after serving 10 years and both wanting to possess or possessing firearms:

As for Johnson, he obtained a firearm at some point after his release. After a traffic stop in Arkansas in 2007, he was arrested for possessing a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance. The lawyer who represented him in that case, Jack Schisler, told ABC News that in more than 20 years of practicing law, he has never seen that charge used. When asked why that particular charge was used, Schisler said: “Because he’s Mitchell Johnson, Jonesboro school shooter. That’s my opinion.”

“They were looking at the fact that because he was a juvenile when he got involved in the Jonesboro school shooting and, essentially, got out when he was 21 years old, that didn’t sit well with a lot of people. And I think they thought this would be probably the most powerful charge,” Schisler said.

“….that didn’t sit well with a lot of people.” I wonder why? When you kill 5 innocent people for no reason at all, you shouldn’t have guns, period. It sounds like Johnson was not thinking that as a murderer, he ought not to use a controlled substance with a gun in his possession.

Where is common sense?

This week a 16 year old Minnesota boy took a loaded handgun to school and was caught and arrested. Could we have had a mass school shooting in Minnesota? Yes. Of course. Why else does a 16 year old bring a gun to school? How and why does he even have a gun in his possession? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. On the same day the Minnesota legislature refused to consider common sense, a 17 year old Maryland teen brought a gun he took from home ( belonged to his father) and shot and injured one boy and critically injured a girl with whom he had been in a relationship. She has now died. The boy died when a school resource officer shot him.

Far too often relationships end in shootings. That is the story of my sister. If a gun is not present, relationships are less likely to end in death.

After the march tomorrow I will be leaving on a trip to Florida, the gunshine state, with my family. I will likely be away from my blog but the way things have been going I may actually have to write while away. As we now know, Governor Rick Scott, up for re-election, signed a law to make Florida safer. This was in direct response to the Parkland students raising their voices and challenging the adults to do something to stop the shootings. But I will be watchful given that Florida’s gun death rate is higher than in Minnesota at 26th out of 50 states.

Congress passed some weak provisions in the omnibus bill just signed by President Trump hoping we will go away and not bother him or them any more. That is where they are wrong. We see what they did. Their weak kneed and limp response is shameful. We noticed. From the article:

The three provisions drew a lukewarm response from gun-control advocates. On the one hand, they were encouraged that a Republican majority resolutely opposed to restrictions on gun access felt compelled to pass even a modest, bipartisan bill in that direction. But they worried that the move would sap momentum for more expansive changes they believe are necessary to actually prevent gun violence and mass shootings.

“Congress clearly feels the pressure from Americans demanding action, but these baby steps forward aren’t enough,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Congress needs to buck the NRA and go big on gun safety. If they don’t, voters will throw them out.”

Just last week Congress introduced the WOOFF bill after a dog died in an overhead compartment on an airplane. Really? One dog dies and Congress introduces an immediate bill to deal keeping pets safe. But 17 kids die in a mass school shooting and- nothing? This is lunacy.

As I board my plane I will think about all of this in perspective. Things are so out of whack when we care more about pets than we do about our kids. We have a serious public health epidemic called gun violence. Now at least the CDC will get to maybe do some research but with no funding, maybe not? We know the cause and we know the effects. The cause is too easy access to the way too many guns in America. The effect? – shootings and dead people.

Congress and the President nibbled around the edges. They did little to affect the change that is required to protect our students from harm. Congress, do no harm. Voters are watching and voters care. Nothing will be the same after the Parkland shooting and today’s marches.

#Neveragain

As I soak up the sun in Florida I will think about the students who were massacred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I will celebrate that the response by our country’s teens and the adults who support them was immediate and forceful. And I will be saddened by the totally inadequate and irresponsible response by our Congress and state legislatures.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, for whom the now infamous high school is named, had it right:

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

 

 

It’s the kids, stupid

March for Our Lives
from the Brady Campaign

What do our leaders not get about the movement that is taking place in our country right now? Why are they ignoring the voices of the kids who understand the sound of an AR-15 killing their friends? Why do they continue to mouth the same old tired NRA talking points when pretending that nothing can be done as did Senator Ted Cruz yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe?

 

Cruz was wrong but was smooth in his lies and deceptions brought to him and us by the NRA and corporate gun lobby. We aren’t having it. #WeCallBS. 

I have been working with teens and young adults in my city to support their plans for student Walk-outs on March 14th and a local March For Our Lives on March 24th. With each exchange with the students I have become more impressed with their energy and resolve to do something about the lack of action on laws and actions that would protect them from shootings in their schools.

Adults want to support these kids knowing that their voices are being heard and that they are the leaders for this cause. Many national gun violence prevention organizations and other organizations are lining up to co-sponsor the walk-outs and marches.

Kids are afraid. Why wouldn’t they be? They are the targets and sitting ducks for school shooters who have killed students all over our country in surprise attacks against their own classmates. They are also able to get their hands on guns far too easily.

In the past few weeks since the Parkland shooting there have been numerous incidents of threats to schools by young kids. In Minnesota, one particularly alarming incident involved a 13 year old Vadnais Heights boy who had threatened to shoot up a school:

The father of a Vadnais Heights boy who allegedly threatened to shoot up his school owned several illegal firearms and kept loaded guns out in the open, according to charges filed Monday.

Christopher Stowe, 41, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with two felony counts of prohibited possession of machine guns and short-barreled shotguns and one count of gross misdemeanor negligent storage of firearms where a child can access them.

Authorities on Friday seized a cache of firearms, ammunition and at least two explosive devices from Stowe’s split-level home on Desoto Street. Some of the firearms were unsecured, and a ballistic vest was also recovered, authorities said. (…) “During the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement officers also observed that several of the firearms were a [sic] loaded and located out in the open and accessible to children in the home,” the charges said. “[The boy] was home alone when law enforcement officers first arrived to execute the search warrant.”

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. What was this family planning? And what were they thinking? Some gun owners have a total lack of common sense when it comes to storing their guns safely away from the hands of children. This family seemed clueless about the guns that were left loaded laying around their home. There are no excuses for this behavior around lethal weapons. Had this boy shot up his classmates at his school, I am quite sure they would have thought differently about their own lack of common sense.

The stakes are high. What is it about the risk of loaded guns in homes that some people don’t understand? I say it’s the gun culture gone wrong. It’s the Senator Ted Cruz nonsensical arguments that filter down to some gun owners who are vulnerable to the lies and paranoia spewed by the lobbyists and leaders of the NRA.

The AR-15s used in recent mass shootings take more lives at once which is why they are used. A Parkland physician wrote this article about the damage done to body tissue and organs when bullets come from assault type rifles. From the article:

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage? (…) Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

This is why the kids are scared. This is why the kids, parents and teachers know that trying to make ordinary hunting rifles seem the same as assault style rifles is “BS”. This is why the kids are angry.

The kids are not having it. There have been small walk-outs and protests all over the country. Just yesterday, hundreds (some say 2000) students from 2 high schools in St Paul, Minnesota walked to the state Capitol to express their anger and frustration:

“We’ve sat through many school shootings, and we’ve watched, and we’ve listened and we’ve waited for something to change, and nothing has changed,” said one of the organizers, Clare Fitzpatrick, a 18-year-old senior from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. (…)

“I just hope that we can change this. I just hope that everybody that they can make this work, and we can change the gun violence. And find out a way to keep guns away from schools.”

Fitzpatrick said students want the Minnesota Legislature to take action.

“We’ve received silence from our legislators that can’t pass a bill to help our students, and I think our first priority should be passing legislation that’s going to help save lives of students.”

Another article explains that other students joined the students who walked to the Capitol adding to the crowd to make it around 5000 students-and it’s not even the day of the March For Our Lives! From the article:

Arie Walker, a sophomore from St. Paul Academy and Summit School, said the mass shootings have instilled fear in her. Before she comes to school, she said, she thinks about what students could be thinking. She said this has made it hard for her to trust her peers.

“It builds tension,” Walker said. “We shouldn’t be scared that someone is going to come to school and shoot us.”

Tension is the least of what is happening.

And yet another source about this walk-out:

“As a group of students, we come here today with total diversity of opinion,” Doyle said in an interview. “As you look around, there are people here with signs with specific demands. As a group, we’re here to promote legislative action. I don’t think that high schoolers should have to write the bills for legislators. That’s why they’re in there. And that’s why we’re out here — to encourage them to write those bills.”

No, high schoolers shouldn’t have to write bills but right now I am thinking they could do a much better job of it than the legislators who have no courage or conviction.

Will we invest in our kids? More from the linked article:

As seen elsewhere, the school shooting in Florida seems to have triggered a rash of copycat threats. At least 21 threats have been made against Minnesota schools in the last three weeks, resulting in recent lockdowns and school closures at Minneapolis’ Patrick Henry High School, schools in the Cambridge-Isanti Public Schools and Orono Public Schools districts.

In response to Governor Dayton’s safe schools request, a Superintendent had this to say ( from thea article):

Speaking in support of Dayton’s proposal, Orono Public Schools Superintendent Karen Orcutt said it’s important that schools are given flexibility in how they invest in safety and security features because no two schools’ needs are exactly the same. But having recently endured a lockdown that lasted nearly six hours as police and the FBI investigated a “serious shooting threat” coming from inside one of the district’s buildings, she says it became clear that more needs to be done.

“All of these things we had going for us did not assure nor comfort the parents of these children, who spent the whole day under a threat and a lockdown,” she said.

Our kids are under threat almost every day. The adults are not listening or doing nearly enough.

Listen to the kids. They are leading the adults and we should listen to them. They are wiser than the adults and they are affected by gun violence in ways adults are not. There have been 18 incidents of guns firing at or in schools already this year alone. And it’s only March. Here’s one that just happened in Alabama.

We can expect to see more shootings in schools and everywhere else for that matter. We can also expect to see many thousands of students involved in Walk-outs scheduled for March 14th at 10:00 a.m. in each time zone. So far, as I write, students at 2300 schools will walk out of classes for 17 minutes and each will do something different during their protests.

On March 24th it is expected that there could be 500,000 students and others in Washington D.C. at a March For Our Lives. Marches will occur in cities all over the country and the world for that matter. People are angry. They want their voices to be heard and they want our leaders to act. They have had #Enough.

Why are they not acting? Have we been taken hostage by a hostile enemy? Have some of our leaders lost their mandate to protect their constituents from harm? Apparently.

At least in Florida, nicknamed the “gunshine state” the kids got to the legislators and they passed a bill that will help prevent some shootings. They could have gone further to save lives but this is a first step and a slippery slope to common sense. In spite of Marion Hammer, the legislators acted. Finally the voices of those who matter were heard. The NRA be damned.

The NRA has dug in its’ heels as it usually does. No capitulation for them. No compromising either. Just listen to their spokeswoman, Dana Loesch,  threaten the media and others on NRA TV:

“To the politicians who would rather watch America burn than lose one ounce of their own personal power, to the late night posts that think their opinion is the only opinions that matter.

“To the Joy-Ann Reids, the Morning Joes, the Mikas. To those who stain honest reporting with partisanship.

“To those who bring bias and propaganda to CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times… your time is running out. The clock starts now.”

She then turns over the sand timer before the screen fades to black and a message appears promoting Loesch’s new show on NRATV.

Perhaps the NRA’s time is running out.

No wonder so many people and businesses are distancing themselves from the organization.

The majority of people are supportive of reasonable gun laws understanding that the second amendment does not preclude passing laws to keep our children safe.

Health care providers who deal with kids and teens understand the risks and the public health aspect of gun violence. This Minnesota group of physicians has come forward to urge more research on gun violence. They understand the need to keep kids and teens safe from gun violence since they are the ones who deal with the injured and the dead. They also understand the devastation to bodies caused by bullets in ways that we cannot. A physician from Parkland, Florida, wrote this piece about the damage done to victims since she has seen it and we have not.

This is about our kids. If we can’t do the right thing for our kids, who are we? Kids are demanding action in ways that adults have not been able to. Our next generation is being snuffed out by senseless and avoidable shootings. Our kids are becoming shooters. The lost potential is staggering, not to mention the cost in not only dollars, but dealing with the aftermath of shootings and the PTSD that will be with some of these kids for years. Watching a friend or fellow student bleed out from a gunshot wound right in front of your eyes can’t be unseen.

Do this for our kids. It’s the only thing we can do. And do it right to make it matter.

Listen to the kids in one of the videos from the March For Our Lives site. #Whatif #Neveragain :

 

The absurd idea of arming teachers

lion roaringThe majority of Americans can agree that our children ought to be safe in their schools from shootings. What we can’t agree on is how to make that happen. In recent days since the Parkland, Florida school shooting that took the lives of 17 innocent high school kids, the rhetoric has been noisier and more insistent than ever before. What is happening now is a movement such as we have not seen before. It has a life of its’ own. It’s the teens who are speaking out without worry of push-back from the adults. It’s the adults who are following- or not- what the teens are saying and demanding.

Some adults have tried their usual conspiracy theory ideas out on the teens but it’s not working. They are fighting back. It’s hard for me to imagine the frame of mind of an adult attacking a teen who has just experienced one of the worst school shootings in America. But then again, there a lot of extreme and mean people in the world who have become so radicalized that they literally cannot stop themselves from acting like total idiots.

What the teens, teachers, general public and most politicians are NOT clamoring for is arming teachers. But President Trump has been way out there with the absurd notion that kids would be safer with armed teachers. And in his ramblings as he starts talking and tweeting with no facts or common sense, he has said the most absurd things I have heard on this topic.

The President is mouthing the propaganda of the NRA. For decades, that organization, run by lobbyists, extremists and gun manufacturers, have been trying to get guns into our schools. It would be, of course, yet another market for the sale of guns and possible training classes sponsored by the NRA. Follow the money.

This stupid and dangerous idea is not even supported by most veterans, who understand what it’s like to face down an “armed enemy” and kill another human being. From the article:

Critics seized on Peterson’s failure to act. The left held it up as evidence that armed guards won’t prevent shootings, while people on the right—including President Trump—used Peterson as a scapegoat, the exception that proves the rule. Peterson, according to Trump, either “didn’t react properly under pressure or [was] a coward.”

It’s a simple, if reductive explanation, and an easy one for those who’ve never experienced the mental and physical toll of a firefight scenario. But as some with combat experience, like retired General Mark Hertling, the one time commander of the United States Army in Europe, pointed out on Twitter, freezing up in a potential combat scenario, or failing to perform your duty, is not unusual.

“While soldiers/security are trained to run to the sound of the guns…not all do for a variety of psychological reasons. It happens more often than most would think, and it’s part of human nature,” he said.

Human nature? Let’s ignore that and pretend all teachers have nerves of steel and would defy logic and human nature. Because then we can continue with our fantasy about armed teachers.

Even law enforcement officers only hit their marks about 18% of the time.:

Yet, even with all of their training, it’s hard for police officers to hit a target and harder still in chaotic conditions.

The New York Police Department is the nation’s largest police force and among the best trained, yet its own study showed between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate was 18 percent for officers in a gunfight.

So what makes the President think that teachers would do better given the panic of a school shooter, kids shouting, running, trying to escape or find cover? Here are all the reasons why this is a terrible, absurd idea:

I could go on but these are just common sense reasons why arming teachers is absurd. I am a retired educator and went through many lock-down drills while working. I knew that my job was to get the kids out of the halls, into a room, lock the door, turn off the lights, hide in a closet ( which I didn’t have) or behind furniture and stay with the kids to keep them from running or panicking. Had I stepped away from this responsibility I would have left the kids on their own and would have caused more problems for all.

Officers don’t know who the “good guy” with a gun is in these situations and will shoot anyone they see with a weapon. No one knows who the good guy is. Kids and others may run and in a split second a mistake could be made. I could shoot and kill a child or someone else by mistake. That happens in these situations and even with trained officers.

I would be absurd to arm teachers.

But let me talk about more absurdities. The President seems to have cornered the market on absurdity when it comes to this issue. And that is saying it kindly. Cynicism is another word for all of this. If we just deflect the conversation from actually doing something about keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them in the first place, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation in the first place. But that is not what the NRA and corporate gun lobby wants and so the President is doing their bidding and talking about what they want him to talk about.

Just watch the video from an article about comedian John Oliver’s attack on the President’s idea (some offensive language) :

He, Trump that is, met with the ridiculous NRA VP Wayne LaPierre and other NRA leaders a few days ago. I can imagine the conversation.

“Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll make statements about arming teachers to distract from the things you guys don’t want. It will be fine. I’ll talk about doing something about gun violence- like raising the age of purchase for assault rifles to 21 but I won’t really mean it and I won’t push it. I’ll talk about requiring background checks on all gun sales but in a few weeks, people will forget about it and it won’t happen. I’ll mention the Fix NICS bill that has been languishing in Congress for a long time but don’t worry, I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen either. I know you guys will support me and my lapdogs when I run again so I’ll just lie. I do it all the time and about 38% of Americans believe me. My base will be happy when none of this happens and we’ll all move on. O.K.? Believe me. ”

Other absurdities from the President include:

  • Making up some cockemamy idea that 20% of teachers should be armed.
  • Talking about only people who can handle guns well should have them in schools.
  • Talking about arming teachers who are former or current military because there are so many of them teaching in our schools.
  • Claiming that the real problem is the lack of courage of the armed officers who didn’t go into the school to challenge the shooter.
  • Saying( from link above):  “”I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too,” He was sure of that. ( I mean, he alone can take care of everything.) Just leave it to him. All will be fine. He will be around for every school or mass shooting and run into the building to save the day.
  • We just need to “harden” our schools and all will be fine. Let’s surround them all with the fencing used at our prisons and have no windows or bullet-proof windows. That should make the learning atmosphere pleasant and inviting for students and the public.

And I do love the idea of the Oath Keepers stationing armed “volunteers” outside of every school to protect the buildings. Good grief. Who are these guys?

All of this nonsense is cynical and intended to deceive us into complacency once again. It’s to get us to shut up and go away. They don’t want to see the faces or hear the words of the students, who are a lot brighter and more articulate than most of their elected leaders. I just read this piece from Emma Gonzáles, one of the Parkland students, whose wisdom is beyond her years.:

What matters is that the majority of American people have become complacent in a senseless injustice that occurs all around them. What matters is that most American politicians have become more easily swayed by money than by the people who voted them into office. What matters is that my friends are dead, along with hundreds upon hundreds of others all over the United States. (…) “If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, then you cannot possibly imagine it,” wrote Lemony Snicket in The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events. There are people who do not know, and will never know, what it feels like to go through this. For that I am eternally thankful. But to the people out there who disagree with us: if you have ever felt what it’s like to deal with all of this, you would know we aren’t doing this for attention. If these funerals were for your friends, you would know this grief is real, not paid for. We are children who are being expected to act like adults, while the adults are proving themselves to behave like children.

Where are the adults? Where is common sense? You cannot possibly imagine it. But I can.

The NRA is meeting its’ match at long last. Right now they have a mouth piece in the White House and they have Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell- cowards in the face of tragedy- calling the shots ( excuse the pun). From the linked article:

Ryan also emphasized that sentiment: “There was a colossal breakdown in the system locally… and we need to get to the bottom of this to [find out] how these breakdowns occurred, from … the armed officer who was in the school at that time, to the FBI who failed to follow up on a glaring tip that this young man wanted to shoot up a school.”

Thank you Paul Ryan. More deceptions and deflections and cynicism. More putting it off for another day until another dozen or more students are shot in a school or a gunman enters a mall or church and mows down innocent citizens. The thing is, we know where the “colossal breakdown” is- it’s you and your cynical colleagues in Congress.

But that is not going to last for long. If candidates for election or re-election think they can get away with silence or lying or mimicking gun lobby talking points, they are mistaken. We have seen the man behind the curtain and he is evil and he is weak. He lacks the courage of the cowardly lion. He is corrupt with money and influence of the NRA. And maybe even the Russians. He is scared of the wrong things. He has scared a minority of Americans into thinking the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

“We’ve met the enemy and he is us”. He is a minority of us as it turns out. But he is still in power and in control of our government. We need to throw him out. We need to keep the curtain drawn. We need to see him naked without the emperor’s clothing that has been fooling us.

We are not fooled. We are marching and we are calling and we are writing and we are talking and chanting and lobbying and traveling to DC and rallying and sending lots of emails to legislators and Congress.

And we will vote in November.

Hear our voices.

Hear us roar.