Children in the crosshairs

Photo from CNN.com

It’s all about the children today- and every day actually. If we don’t protect our children from harm, who are we? On so many levels and in so many ways, we have failed our children. Do you remember where you were when you heard the news 8 years ago that 20 innocent beautiful first graders and 6 educators were massacred by a young man who should never had had access to a gun? I do. I was on my way from Duluth to the Twin Cities for a holiday program for one of my grandsons. All I could think about was him and his little pre-school friends performing music for parents and grandparents having their lives snuffed out violently and in a bloody few minutes of horror. Or, I should say, I couldn’t imagine it. I remember the director of the pre-school making a statement about the shooting before the program began. Sobering.

Eight years later, today, the parents,, grandparents, family and friends of those little children and educators will be re-living the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that rocked the country. The pain never goes away. There is a hole in the lives of all who knew the victims. They live around the hole. Some do better than others. The father of one of the children killed took his own life last year. He just couldn’t keep going after losing his beloved daughter. The ripple effect of gun violence is real. PTSD is real. Heartbreak is real. Grief is real.

What about this don’t we get as a country? What craziness is this that 8 years after the shooting on Dec. 14th, 2012 we have done nothing. Nothing………

Who are we? Why do we let our children remain in the crosshairs of weapons designed for war that are sold legally in a country where there are more guns than people? Why? Teens can get their hands on guns. Teens shoot other teens in school shootings or in urban neighborhoods where guns are a way of life. Teens shoot themselves regularly in a moment of despair, depression or anguish over something that might not have caused a death had a gun not been available to them.

It’s an American tragedy. Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of deaths and injuries from bullets. It’s stunning that we even have to keep track of such things. But as of today, according to Gun Violence Archive, 275 children aged 0-11 have died from gunshot injuries and another 658 have been injured. 996 children aged 12-17 have died from gunshot injuries and another 2910 have been injured.

Let the numbers sink in.

We don’t know the kind of injuries but we do know that some of these children will live forever with physical and emotional scars.

Our Northland Chapter held a virtual vigil on Dec. 11th to remember the victims of Sandy Hook and all victims of gun violence. We have held a vigil every year for 8 years following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We do it to remind us all that the shootings continue unabated. From an OpEd piece written by myself and another chapter leader for the Duluth News Tribune:

If we don’t remember the victims, we will never act to prevent more senseless gun violence. We can make a difference if we demand the changes that lead to safer communities.

People should be safe from gun violence when they go about their daily business. Children should be safe from gun violence wherever they are. We can decrease the number of gun homicides and suicides through common-sense precautions and legislation. (…)

The behavior we put up with is the behavior we get more of. By speaking up and taking responsibility to store guns unloaded and locked, we can begin to reduce the threat of dangerous gunfire in our neighborhoods. Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken has asked for the community to help identify those who are being reckless with their guns and disturbing the peace of our neighborhoods.

With the right to own and carry a gun comes the serious responsibility to use it sparingly and wisely and to keep it away from others who cannot handle that responsibility.

Contrary to what some say, we are not trying to take rights or guns away. We want to make sure that guns are bought legally and with proper vetting to make sure owners are up to the responsibility.

That’s all. Simple. Common sense.

We can save lives if we choose to. The fact that, as a country, we have not chosen to do so is an abysmal and catastrophic failure. We have failed to protect our children. Our bad.

In looking for the numbers of mass shootings since Sandy Hook I found this article from CNN:

Gun violence has been overshadowed this year by the pandemic, the struggling economy and the victory of Joseph Biden in the presidential election. There hasn’t been a high-profile mass shooting, on the scale of Sandy Hook, since the pandemic began. Mass shootings that dominated the news include 50 killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, 59 killed at the Harvest music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, and 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

Philip J. Cook, a sociologist with the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and author of “The Gun Debate: What Everybody Needs to Know,” said that six of the 10 deadliest mass murders in U.S. history have happened since Sandy Hook. The most recent high-profile mass shooting was in 2019, at a WalMart in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed. He said the deadliest mass shooting in 2020 was a domestic incident in North Carolina where a man killed six family members and then himself.

“It was a tragic event, but not a public event, and the number of deaths was smaller than the cases that have become famous,” said Cook. “The Sandy Hook massacre was a great shock to the political stasis around gun control.”

President Barack Obama tried, and failed, to implement stricter gun control. In 2013, Congress failed to pass a bill to restrict assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which have been used in multiple mass shootings.

“The states were inspired to go their separate ways, with red states loosening gun regulations and blue states tightening them,” said Cook, noting that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, spearheaded the SAFE Act in 2013, which bans most assault weapons. 

But the federal government has implemented virtually no gun control laws, aside from the 2019 ban on bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting to speed up the rate of fire.

While some see mass shootings as reason for more gun control, others see mass shootings as reason to buy more guns. Mark Oliva, public affairs director for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry group that happens to be based in Newtown, described mass shootings as a “crime problem and not one of lawful firearm ownership.”

“The first crime committed by the murderer at Sandy Hook was theft of the firearm belonging to his mother,” he said. “The second crime was the brutal murder of his own mother, before he continued with his unspeakable acts.”

Shame on us.

Remember all of the children who have died since this day 8 years ago. The numbers are staggering.

And remember these 26 today:

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Rachel Davino, 29

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana M Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Madeline F. Hsu, 6

Catherine V. Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Mary Sherlach, 56

Victoria Soto, 27

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison N Wyatt, 6

Reflections on shootings past present and future

As I reflected on the beauty of a light snowfall this morning, I was reminded by a news story that today was a day to remember momentous shootings. There are so many that it is too easy to forget what happened on this day in other years. We have paid so much attention to the present chaos over COVID and the 2020 election results which continue hour by hour, that we forget important things. That is the point of a President and a party who don’t want us to remember tragedies and past mistakes so we can learn from them and move forward to better solutions.

Today is the “anniversary” of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The country experienced a shock on November 22nd, 1963 as we watched the repeated video of our young President as he slumped over into his wife’s lap while the car sped away to the hospital where he died of his gunshot injuries. One shooter; one gun; many bullets; one U.S. President’s life snuffed out in seconds; the shooter shot by another unhinged man on live T.V.; the country mourned; stronger gun laws passed:

It had been floating around Congress for several years. [Discussion] really began after the JFK assassination; there was a strong sense that people shouldn’t buy guns through interstate mail, because Lee Harvey Oswald did through an ad that appeared in a NRA magazine. Congress held hearings, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Now in 1968, the country is facing rising urban rioting. In the mid-to-late ’60s, crime begins to increase. There’s greater concern about guns and easy accessibility to guns. Martin Luther King is assassinated in April. In June, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and that was really the final push that brought the law back and got it through Congress.

What are the most important things the law changed?

It banned interstate shipments of firearms and ammunition to private individuals [and] sales of guns to minors, drug addicts and “mental incompetents.” This is the first time you have in law that mentally unbalanced people ought not to be able to get guns — also convicted felons. It also strengthened the licensing and record-keeping requirements for gun dealers, and that was significant because gun dealers were subject to virtually no systematic scrutiny up until this time, although a 1938 federal law did establish a fee they paid to government to be a licensed dealer. It banned importation of foreign-made surplus firearms, except those appropriate for sporting purposes.

Since then, one other important gun violence prevention law passed in 1993 in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan- the Brady Background Check law. The Brady Background check law has prevented over 3 million prohibited people from getting their hands on guns.

As a side note, I recently completed the book-Mrs. Kennedy and Me written by Clint Hill, the security agent assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy. I learned from his reflections, about the horror in the immediate seconds after the President was shot. How can we understand the horror of what a shot person looks like when a bullet tears through their brain, or heart? We can’t. Maybe if we could better understand the consequences we would be quicker to want to prevent shootings.

Today is also the 6th anniversary of the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice. Tamir was walking around with a toy gun when police found him and mistakenly assumed he had a real gun. This is the problem with so many guns around. No one knows who is armed and who is not. But it’s also the problem with the quick response from law enforcement when a black person has a gun or is perceived to have a gun or is perceived to be armed or is just perceived to be trouble. Here is an article written by Tamir’s mother earlier this year as she reflected on the shooting death of her innocent son:

If Tamir was alive, he’d probably be doing something with sports. That little boy was so athletic at an early age. I’m not sure what kind of athlete he would have been. We didn’t really have a chance to have a lot of those conversations. He would be 18 and have graduated high school by now.

That day Tamir was murdered I received a knock at the door and it was a neighborhood kid saying my son had been shot by police. I said, “What are you talking about?” I was in denial and shock.

No parent should have to endure something like this.

As I arrived on the scene, my 14-year-old was in the back of a police car. Tamir was laying on the pavement in a gazebo with police surrounding him. My 16-year-old was surrounded by police officers as well. Basically, police told me to calm down or else they were going to put me in the back of a police car. They gave me an ultimatum to stay at the scene of the crime, or to go with Tamir in the ambulance.

The day was very horrific for me. I was enraged by the way he was killed, murdered, assassinated, lynched, whatever they may call it. Nobody bothered to look at this man’s record before he became a Cleveland police officer. He had a horrible report. Nobody in Cleveland did their job, and that’s why I have a dead son today.

No. No parent should have to endure this. No sister. No brother. No mother or father. No child. No one. And yet, over 100 Americans a day die from gun violence. The nation is enduring a public health epidemic now in the midst of an actual public health pandemic.

COVID restrictions have changed our world. Since last March, when the country shut down, many schools have been doing distance learning. This fall, when the school year began again, schools struggled with how to educate our children safely. Some opened completely. Some chose the hybrid model and some chose all distance learning. This largely depended on how the spread of COVID was occurring in the communities where schools are located. My own grandchildren are now learning from home while their parents work from home. It is not the way our kids should be educated but here we are.

There have been no school shootings since COVID started spreading in our country. I came across this report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) about school shootings that confirms what we really already know:

We examined school shootings and found:

Half were committed by current or former students

Suburban and rural, wealthier, and low-minority schools had more school-targeted shootings; such shootings were the most fatal and most commonly committed by students

Urban, poor, and high-minority schools had more shootings overall and more motivated by disputes; these shootings were often committed by non-students or unknown shooters

More shootings happened outside, but those inside schools were usually more deadly

We found no empirical research from 2009-2019 that directly examined the link between school discipline and school shootings.

There have been few mass shootings in public places either. People aren’t gathering as much in public now. There was one two days ago though in a Milwaukee suburb mall leaving 8 innocent people injured and none dead. Malls are still places where people are allowed to gather in larger numbers. It seems that where people gather in larger numbers, there are opportunities for mass shooters to take out some sort of angry rampage on people they don’t know. And easy access to guns along with weak gun laws lets this all happen.

Don’t get me started on the weak response to the actual pandemic. During the pandemic the sale of guns has gone up. How do we explain this? I don’t think we do. It’s a gun culture that no other country where COVID is also spreading experiences. It’s the weak gun laws.

We are experiencing unprecedented turmoil due to the pandemic. The stress of worry about losing a job, kids being at home, working from home, getting COVID and now the lunacy of a sitting President who refuses to admit he lost the election, is leading to fear and paranoia. It is not a good time to be locked and loaded. It is not a good time to be carrying a gun around in public where there are rallies and protests.

We know how that worked out in Kenosha when there were protests there after the shooting of a black man by police. Two people were shot and killed by a 17 year old who bought his gun in a straw purchase since he was too young to own or carry an AR-15. But carry he did. He was arrested.

The lunacy of what we are experiencing in America is that the said 17 year old shooter has been bailed out by none other than the “pillow guy”- friend to the current occupant of the White House and actor Ricky Schroder.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Where is common sense?

Everyday shootings have continued apace. According to Gun Violence Archive, 38,526 Americans have died from gunshot injuries so far this year. It will likely reach 40,00 before the end of the year.

This number included suicides. An increase in gun suicides in the age of COVID should not surprise us. Access to guns and suicide go together. Gun suicides have been on the rise anyway. But now we are seeing more evidence that times of stress and anxiety can lead to more suicides. Guns make it easy. A New York Times article has this to say:

Ms. Torp has reason to worry. Gun violence kills about 40,000 Americans each year, but while public attention has focused on mass shootings, murders and accidental gun deaths, these account for little more than one-third of the nation’s firearms fatalities. The majority of gun deaths are suicides — and just over half of suicides involve guns.

According to national health statistics, 24,432 Americans used guns to kill themselves in 2018, up from 19,392 in 2010.

People who kill themselves in this way are usually those with ready access to firearms: gun owners and their family members. Gun owners are not more suicidal than people who don’t own guns, but attempts with guns are more likely to be fatal.

Now, nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, unleashing a tide of economic dislocation and despair, experts are bracing for a rise in suicides. Gun sales have risen steadily since March, and as shutdowns aimed at containing the virus have disrupted lives and led to social isolation, studies have shown an increase in anxiety and suicidal ideation.

We are in perilous times now. More deaths from COVID and still rising to numbers that are incomprensible; a feckless, unfit and unhinged President turning his back to the American people; a major party refusing to stand up and insist that we proceed with the transition to the next President Joe Biden; armed people on our streets; conspiracy theories pushed by right wing extremists, including the President that will only make the threats of violence more likely; weak gun laws that allow for so many people to have instant access to guns that could result in a tragedy. Election officials have been threatened as have people who have spoken out against the President’s lunacy.

There is NO VOTER FRAUD. Time to move on to a more peaceful and safe country.

I look forward to President Joe Biden for many reasons. The daily chaos will decrease or disappear. We will have a sane approach to combating COVID and distributing what looks to be a successful vaccine. There is hope that the economy can recover and our kids can get back to school. And there will be a common sense approach to reducing and preventing gun violence.

I look forward to a peaceful and calm, but quiet, Thanksgiving and holiday season as a time of reflection on things past, present and future. I wish we could spend it with our kids and grandkids but not this year. Enjoy your quiet and tune out the loud noises out there.

Ghost guns and goblins

Happy Halloween. There may be fewer ghosts out there today given COVID and the scare about contracting the virus from strangers giving out candy. I don’t think the sacrifice is too great to miss this one year of Halloween. It seems like families are finding creative ways to celebrate the holiday in spite of it all.

But I want to talk about something else scary today. Ghost guns. Just as their name suggests they are sort of invisible guns that fly under the radar. According to Brady:

Ghost guns are unserialized and untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home. They are often sold through “ghost gun kits,” which include all of the parts and often the equipment necessary to build these weapons at home. These kits are widely available and can be purchased by anyone, including prohibited purchasers, domestic abusers, and gun traffickers — without a background check. As these kits and guns are sold at gun shows and online every day throughout the country, they undermine all of the life-saving policies that state legislatures have fought so hard to put in place.

Ghost guns are:
Designed to avoid all gun laws

Untraceable and unserialized

Available to buy without a background check

This criteria and lack of federal regulation is exactly ghost guns are a growing a weapon of choice among people who are legally prohibited from buying guns.

I think this is scary, and I’m sure my readers would agree with me. This is exactly why we need to elect leaders who will do something to bust ghost guns. As long as they are easy to buy, are unregulated and untraceable they should not be available to anyone.

Common sense would tell us this but the extreme gun lobby is missing a lot of common sense. And most citizens have no idea these kinds of guns are available. That is, unless one of their loved ones was killed or injured in the Saugus High School shooting by a ghost gun. You can see a photo of it in the article if you want to see what it looks like. From the article:

A teen who fatally shot two students and injured three others in Santa Clarita, California, used an unregistered “kit gun” in last week’s shooting, authorities said.

Kit guns, sometimes called “ghost guns” if they do not have a serial number, are self-assembled firearms, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told KABC-TV that the gun used in the shooting at Saugus High School does not have a serial number to track.

“The real concern here is that you have untraceable, unserialized firearms that exist completely outside of the regulatory scheme of federal and state law,” Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at gun violence group Everytown, told USA TODAY. “People who are prohibited from owning firearms under federal or state law have ready access to make their own untraceable firearms, and that’s very dangerous.”

Check out Brady’s podcast about Ghost guns here.

On this Halloween I suggest that we need to know where ghosts are hiding and where they come from. That way we can stop fearing them. Until we get our system under control to stop the sale of ghost gun kits, we should be worried.

And there are certainly goblins out there threatening the safety and peacefulness of our upcoming election. Americans should not feel anxiety about guns at polling places. That is for 3rd world countries where guns are a regular feature of elections. But we are in the midst of the potential for tragedy and violence. It’s scary.

Much has been written about this topic but I found this article in the Washington Post a good summary of the current situation:

“Could the election devolve into civil war? Unlikely,” mused Miller, the founder of a budding network of members-only survivalist camps. “But look at World War I: Some worthless, low-level archduke gets assassinated and things escalate out of control. I’ve got people who are concerned that all it would take is a close election and some cheating.”

In Portland, Ore., where a right-wing armed group plans to show up at ballot drop-off sites on Tuesday with weapons in plain view, some extreme left-wing organizers are preparing to do the same.

“The right is not going to give up their power unless they feel threatened,” said Olivia Katbi Smith, a co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America in Portland. “People are opening up to the idea that a riot is the language of the unheard. Property destruction is not violence.”

On the eve of a presidential election fraught with tension, warning flares are bursting across American skies. From federal and local law enforcement to analysts who track radical groups, concern is high about the possibility that violence could erupt, especially if the vote count drags on for days without a clear winner.

Happy Halloween. It’s 3 days until the election. That’s scary enough if you support candidates who believe in and support common sense gun laws. And it’s scary considering the threats of violence, shootings, kidnappings and other potentially unsettling and tragic happenings in the next few weeks.

Until we elect people who will stand up to the scary lobbyists from the gun industry, ghost guns will haunt us. Until we deal with armed militia groups things will be scary in our country.

Stay calm. Vote. Be patient. Carry on.

What have guns got to do with it?

Protesters at Michigan anti stay at home rally from Post Online Media (4/16/20)

I was thinking about the Tina Turner song, What’s Love Got To Do With It? as I was getting ready to write this post. For the life of me, I cannot understand what guns have to do with the anti stay at home protests going on all over the country. Why, for instance, are AR-15s deemed necessary when protesting that governors have shut down much of our lives so we stay home to keep from getting sick and dying? It makes no sense because common sense tells us that going out now and mingling with groups, eating out, going to sporting events, being in school, going to movies, etc. can be deadly. Of course doing those things can also be deadly because of gun violence as well. But right now we are talking about the coronavirus that is killing people by the thousands every day.

In a photo in the above linked article, there are armed members of the Boogaloo movement. I posted about that group during the pro gun rally at the Virginia statehouse in January to protest the impending passage of common sense gun laws. Does this mean that these folks want a Civil War or are they preparing for one?

When these anti government groups protest with guns strapped across their chests they are also sending a message to the rest of us. Beware. Danger. If society doesn’t open now or very soon, we will use these guns? Or are the guns a threat to our own leaders? Or to our democracy itself? I believe all are true.

Fomented by our very own President, these groups have been given not so subtle permission from the very top:

Several Democrats at the state and nation levels, meanwhile, blasted the president for fomenting domestic violence with a series of tweets calling on his supporters to “liberate” Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan — all states with Democratic governors.

Trump urged the action as groups have formed to protest stay-at-home orders and business closures aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. He ominously also called on people in Virginia to protect their gun rights, which are “under siege,” he said.

And the protests are not organic. They have been organized by, of all things, Minnesota pro-gun activists:

The Facebook groups target Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and they appear to be the work of Ben Dorr, the political director of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his siblings, Christopher and Aaron. By Sunday, the groups had roughly 200,000 members combined, and they continued to expand quickly, days after President Trump endorsed such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states.

The Dorr brothers manage a slew of pro-gun groups across a wide range of states, from Iowa to Minnesota to New York, and seek primarily to discredit organizations like the National Rifle Association as being too compromising on gun safety. Minnesota Gun Rights, for instance, describes itself as the state’s “no-compromise gun rights organization.”

I am familiar with the Dorrs. Ben shows up at the Minnesota Capital with his video camera following people like me around trying to get them to talk to him. His paranoia about what Protect Minnesota and Mom Demand Action are doing is obvious.

So is this actually about the stay at home orders or is it about gun rights? The two seemed to be linked here. The NRA has become an arm of the Republican party and represents the far right fringe, whatever that is currently. From the article about the protests though the NRA has compromised too much. Wow.

Also in the photos there are signs that say: give me liberty or the coronavirus. Really? “Give me liberty or give me death.” The irony. The ignorance. The danger. The fantasy?

Now what? What is going to happen? People are frightened, stressed out, depressed, angry- we all are. I get that. But we don’t need nor should we have to be afraid of people with guns in this charged atmosphere.

We all know that guns kill people. Yes they do.

An apparent murder/suicide just occurred in Minnesota. At this point we don’t know if it’s related to COVID because domestic killings have been going on for many decades now. But the concern is that we will see an increase that goes with the increase in the number of guns purchased in panic buying. They won’t wear out. They will be in homes for the foreseeable future to be used in homicide, suicide and unintentional shootings.

A man was found dead of a gunshot wound in Maple Grove, MN. The shootings continue during the pandemic.

Gun deaths have been at an epidemic rate for decades now. They have not been treated as an epidemic but the numbers have hovered between 32,000 and close to or over 40,000 since the mid ’90s when my sister was murdered. And yet, what have we done? Not nearly enough.

As with the coronavirus, we are not doing enough. We need strong leaders who will not be afraid to tell the truth and deal with the facts on the ground. When tens of thousands of Americans die every year from just one cause, we must find a way to reduce that number and prevent the cause. We need to make sure people are safe at home and on the streets, in the workplace and where kids and families go to school and play.

We are hopefully safe at home now with the orders given by most governors. Opening up our society too soon will cause more deaths. That is inevitable. About 25% to 50% of those who test positive for COVID 19 are asymptomatic. That is why testing of all kinds is imperative. Until that happens, we cannot listen to the people with guns who are making idle and not so idle threats. By most accounts and most reporting and facts, the country is not ready to open up yet. Those who are protesting are flat our wrong. They are not thinking about what it actually means to have people go back to “normal” pre-COVID life. But then again, they are not thinking when they show up with assault rifles outside of governors’ mansions and state houses either.

We must be safe at home and stay at home now. We also must be safe at home from gunshot injuries that could kill us. This is not how it has been in any other country. Only in America can we see photos of people protesting the very thing that will save them from themselves. Only in America is there a stupid and dangerous display of assault type weapons on the streets near our state houses and governors’ mansions.

By the way, most Americans don’t agree with the protesters- they don’t want the country to re-open too quickly according to a Sunday poll by NBC and Wall Street Journal. Just like the gun issue where the majority of Americans want common sense gun laws, Americans know that pandemics and gun violence epidemics need solutions that keep them safe from danger, death, injuries and sickness.

In the words of my friend and local writer Sam Cook in this column:

I cannot imagine a summer without waking up in the canoe country, listening to the soft lapping of water on rock. I could be packed and ready to go in half a day. But if that kind of travel is deemed too risky — to me or to the greater populace — then it would be both selfish and foolish for me to go.

Don’t be foolish. Don’t be selfish. Stay safe. Stay at home. Lock up your guns. Don’t bring your guns out in public. Don’t shoot yourself or a loved one. Don’t let your kids handle loaded unsecured guns. Wear a mask in public. Don’t congregate in groups and become sick yourself or infect those around you. Use common sense.

In the fog of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, I almost forgot to mention that today is the 21st anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Columbine was the first mass school shooting that in some ways, has been a model for other school shooters. Please remember the 13 who were killed and the others who were injured and survived and their families. This day lives on in their memories and ours.

Lasting effects of gun violence

Today is the “anniversary” of the attempt to assassinate President Reagan. As we know, President Reagan survived the shooting and was back at work leading the country within the following month. But it was never the same for James Brady, President Reagan’s press secretary who suffered grievous injuries on March 30, 1981:

Besides Reagan, White House Press Secretary James BradySecret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded. All three survived, but Brady suffered brain damage and was permanently disabled; Brady’s death in 2014 was considered a homicide because it was ultimately caused by this injury

His life became that of a survivor with continuing health and physical challenges. He retained his sense of humor and did the best he could to be cheerful. I met Brady once at a lunch for Brady United Against Gun Violence and spoke with him briefly. It was hard to understand him as his speech production was affected by his injuries. It was such an honor to be able to speak with him and meet him for the first time.

Sarah Brady became a force in the effort to get the Brady law eventually passed after 6 tries in 7 years. Because of her tireless and selfless efforts, we are safer now from gun violence. That is what drove her to keep going back to Congress to demand that something be done to stop people, like the man who shot her husband, from getting guns in the first place.

I served with Sarah on the Brady board and came to appreciate her wry humor, her feisty personality and plain spokenness. She was not afraid to speak up, to criticize when she thought something was wrong, to be appreciative when things were done right, and to engage in the important discussions about gun violence prevention. Sarah died in 2015 from cancer.

Since the shooting on March 30, 1981 that left Jim Brady permanently disabled, over one million Americans have died of gunshot injuries.

After the Brady Bill was enacted into law in 1993, a system of instant background checks on gun purchasers was set up by the FBI. The database includes the following:

  1. Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is a fugitive from justice;
  3. Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  4. Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  5. Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  6. Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  7. Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  8. Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  9. Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

These prohibited gun purchaser categories are used by federally licensed firearms dealers to check the status of someone who wants to buy a gun. At the point of purchase, the buyer completes a Form 4473 to complete the purchase.

Because of the passage of the Brady law, over 3 million people seeking to purchase a gun from a licensed firearms dealer have been prohibited from doing so because they fall into one of the above categories. There is no question that Brady background checks have and do save lives.

As of the time of Sarah Brady’s death she was working on, along with many others in the gun violence prevention movement, expanding this system of background checks to all private sellers. What is generally referred to as a loophole in the law allows for private sellers to sell guns to anyone without requiring a background check. This loophole is equivalent to allowing some physicians, some teachers, some public accountants, some other professionals to practice their careers without being checked out to make sure they are not a felon, a domestic abuser, an illegal drug user, etc. That is the way it should be.

Especially now with the coronavirus outbreak, we certainly want patients to be treated by licensed professionals. And especially now when the Health and Human Services Department has deemed that gunshops are essential businesses with a surge in gun sales, we should want all gun sales to have a background check. These are stressful, dangerous and perilous times in the history of our country. There is a lot of fear and misinformation floating around as well as anxiety, depression and anger. When President Trump pronounced on Saturday that we was concerned about the potential for suicides, he forgot to mention that he had not shut down gun shops to make the means for suicide less likely. Whether he is right or wrong doesn’t it make common sense to stop one of the most efficient methods of suicide by shutting down gun shops? Suicide by gun accounts for at least half of all suicides; suicide by gun accounts for the majority of our gun deaths.

Something does not make sense with passing a law that made so much common sense and then letting some gun sales go without the checks that save lives. Something does not make sense in letting people who could be dangerous to themselves or others to buy a gun from a private seller without making sure that person can be responsible and safe. Something does not make sense that in this time of uncertainty, some counties across our states are declaring themselves second amendment sanctuaries to law enforcement ostensibly will not have to enact laws already on the books or new laws passed in many states to save lives.

Some things do not make sense. The shooting of Jim Brady did not make sense. My sister’s shooting did not make sense. The mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Red Lake, Parkland, and all of the others so frequently occurring in our country don’t make any sense. Something does not make sense about stockpiling guns in this time of uncertainty. Something does not make sense about a public health epidemic out of control not receiving the attention it deserved and deserves.

But in this time of another public health pandemic, most things are shut down and on hold, including actions in Congress and state legislatures to deal with gun violence prevention. We will not forget. We will keep working on keeping Americans safe long after the current epidemic slows. A piece written by Jonathan Lowy from the Brady Center explains why this is so crucial:

The risks are great that guns will be stored unsafely and accessible to children and others who should not have access to them. And your semiautomatic can’t fend off the coronavirus, no matter how large your ammunition magazine is.

But there is an even more fundamental problem that may be at play with at least some of the binge-buying of guns. Some have a sense, it appears, that society may break down under the weight of this pandemic, and Americans will end up fighting each other for supplies, or food, or to maintain safety.  

In this post-apocalyptic Hobbesian state, guns will be needed. This is the same worldview that the National Rifle Association has been stoking for decades to fuel the notion that a gun is necessary for self-protection, evidenced by an inflammatory tweet last week. Some will even add, that is what the Framers intended when they wrote the Second Amendment into our Constitution. (…) And when we come out of this coronavirus, we must recommit to repairing the breaches of our society and establishing a caring community in which Americans recognize we are in this together, as a nation and, indeed, a world. Stockpiling firearms is not the answer and is contradictory to the very notions of government and society upon which our nation was founded.

Lowy is so right. We will come out of this on the other side. Many hundreds of thousands will have died or been changed forever by this time in our history. It would be an added tragedy to add gun avoidable and senseless deaths to coronavirus deaths.

The toll will be more than we can imagine right now. The toll of gun deaths has been more than we can fathom for decades. The bell tolls for the hundreds of thousands who will die or be affected.

Please be safe and healthy. These are difficult times. Having a gun in the home right now can make households and families less safe. If you own a gun please store it securely and unloaded. Please don’t let children or teens get their hands on a gun right now or ever. End Family Fire is working on awareness of the risks of guns in homes.

Sarah Brady knew the risks of guns owned by those who shouldn’t have them. I know the risks of guns in homes with domestic and marital strife. Too many parents have found out the hard way about the risks of guns to children who accessed them in curious moments. Too many families have found that a suicide by gun has forever changed their lives. Too many mass shootings have proven why we need to continue this national discussion about gun violence.

What is “gunnormal” in 2020?

Screen shot from Gun Violence Archive Twitter Feed

2020 is off to a violent start. I just saw the Twitter feed from Gun Violence Archive showing us the current states since the start of this year. It’s Jan. 6th folks. We’re off to the races so to speak. 6 mass shootings in 6 days. What other country endures a mass shooting a day? What other country does nothing about something as tragic and insane as our own gun violence epidemic?

Will 2020 be a banner year for gun violence? If this keeps up, maybe it will be. That would be the new normal.

Is this the new normal? Gun rights extremists gathering en masse locked and loaded outside of the Virginia state house to make a point? What point? Look at us. We are armed and dangerous and we will intimidate the legislature into voting against common sense gun legislation. What could possibly go wrong? From the article:

What began as a handful of rural Virginia counties declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” has jumped the state’s borders and become an Internet phenomenon. Far-right websites and commenters are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against what they see as a national trend of weakening gun rights.

Now they are coming from out of state with their guns. They sure are exercised about the probability that at long last, Virginia is likely to join other states who have passed stronger gun laws. And gun rights still exist.

And so a Nevada-based group called the Oath Keepers said it’s sending training teams to help form posses and militia in Virginia. The leader of a Georgia militia called Three Percent Security Force has posted videos and calls to arms on Facebook, urging “patriots” to converge on Richmond. The right-wing YouTuber “American Joe Show” warned without evidence that Virginia will cut the power grid to stop the army of protesters — one of a host of false and exaggerated rumors spreading online.

Remember Charlottesville?

Fear and paranoia abound. Fake news and outright lies are ramping up the anger that could be a dangerous combination with guns. Hatred of those who they believe are going to take something from them is in there as well. It is unfounded but real to them. Showing up en masse armed and angry will not solve their hatred and fears. The reality is that this is not normal. I think it will not turn out well for the armed ersatz militia in Virginia. Even the NRA is distancing itself from this insane movement:

Response to that agenda has become so heated that the nation’s most visible gun-rights group, the National Rifle Association, is taking an intentionally lower-key approach. It will sponsor town halls in three rural locations around Virginia in the coming weeks, aimed at explaining proposed legislation.

The majority of the public nationally and in Virginia want stronger gun laws. It was the biggest issue of the 2019 election that turned Virginia blue. The public will not side with these extremists. Let’s hope there is no violence. And also let’s hope this is not a trend when other legislators consider laws to keep us safer.

And speaking of keeping us safer, let’s talk about our children in schools all over America in the year 2020. Some schools have gone so far in their school safety plan as to have “poop buckets” delivered to classrooms to be used as children are hunkering down during an active shooting.

No more words for this one. It is not normal. The majority want to see our leaders pass measures to keep guns away from school shooters. In a far simpler and common sense way to do this, parents who are gun owners must store their guns safely so a troubled or angry kid can’t get a gun to shoot up his schoolmates. Most school shooters get their guns from their own homes.

Check out End Family Fire to see how curious kids are and how easy it is for kids and teens to find a gun to use in an unintentional shooting, a school shooting or a suicide.

I have an idea- or maybe several for that matter. Regarding the “poop buckets”, I think we ought to have them delivered to state legislators and Congress members just in case they have a lock down drill and an active shooter. Then they can experience what it’s like to be a kid in school in 2020.

Another idea is for our leaders to speak up using the right language to talk about why it’s a good idea to pass stronger gun laws. There is enough proof that strong gun laws mean fewer deaths and injuries. And it’s not gun control. It is gun violence prevention or gun safety reform. Groups working to prevent gun violence are trying to take away the risk of guns to innocent people. They actually do want to either take away or keep away guns from people who have already been deemed to be prohibited to purchase one.

Gun violence prevention and gun rights are not mutually exclusive. The gun rights extremists have made the argument for decades now that they are. They are wrong. We can have both. All that law abiding gun owners need to do is go through a background check for each gun sale- simple and short and not inconvenient. Then they need to be sure they are trained to operate their deadly weapon because not doing so can result in tragedy.

Locking up their guns should be mandatory but if not, at least strongly recommended for many obvious reasons. And finally let’s hope that the many law abiding gun owners out there won’t decide to use their gun(s) in an argument, in moments of anger, despair, during a difficult relationship separation, while drinking alcohol or to get even with someone.

Simple. Common sense. Normal in most other places in the world.

Accountability for guns and comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t make this stuff up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t make this stuff up.

What about an Extreme Risk Protection Order law Ohio?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too often, they don’t.

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

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

We are better than this.

Background checks and gingerbread houses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trace has published this article about ALICE training:

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

And more:

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

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

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

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

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.

A historic day

On this day in 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated. I will never forget that day and the days that followed. In my home town, anyway, the news flew around fast. School was dismissed and I think there was no school for quite a few days afterward as the nation was in mourning. Still sticking in my mind is sitting with my parents watching the T.V. in our living room when Jack Ruby shot and killed the shooter on live TV before our very eyes. I always remember my sister letting out a scream of disbelief. We had never seen anything like this before on live T.V.- only in movies and T.V. shows.

How times have changed. We now see shootings on live T.V. and the coverage of them almost 24 hours a day. President Kennedy’s shooting shocked us all. These things don’t happen in America. Could Oswald have been a legal purchaser of a gun? He ordered it from a mail order catalog:

 Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, with a mail-order Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 millimeter bolt-action rifle, for which he paid $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

Fifty years later, obtaining guns via mail is less common because the U.S. Postal Service imposes major restrictions on firearms shipments.

But despite a myriad of federal and state laws regulating gun transactions, buying a firearm via the Internet is commonplace.

Where Oswald mailed his money order with a coupon torn from an ad in the National Rifle Association‘s American Rifleman magazine, troubled individuals today can search online and similarly get their hands on powerful weapons with no questions asked, gun control advocates claim.

Even back then the NRA was involved in gun deaths though they were still doing more reasonable things like supporting hunters and teaching gun safety classes. I imagine there weren’t as many people then to worry about ordering a bolt action rifle because we just didn’t have mass shootings then. Now we have military style assault rifles available at places like Armslist.com so just about anyone can get their hands on one of these weapons of mass destruction with no background check.

By the way, when I googled Armslist I took a look at the front page. Here is the problem. There is a photo of a gun that looks sort of like a military pistol- maybe a semi-automatic? held by a guy wearing gloves. The wording on the photo goes like this: ” GEAR FOR YOUR DAILY GUNFIGHT”.

Really? This is the difference between 1963 and today.

Right.

The article about Kennedy’s assassination (above) was written in 2013 and 7 years later, nothing has changed. Let’s remember that since Robert Kennedy, President Kennedy’s brother, was assassinated in 1968 more Americans have died from gunshot injuries than all American military members who have died in an American war combined. Stunning.

Now the country mourns shootings of famous people, shootings of relatives and friends, suicide deaths of Veterans, farmers, police officers, “accidental” shootings of children, mass shootings at schools and malls and domestic murders like the one that took the life of my sister.

American Presidents are much more protected now than in 1963. The Secret Service has increased in numbers and the type of protection they provide. Cars outfitted with armour and other protections are taken so a President’s life is not in as much danger. The armoured vehicle used is actually called “The Beast”. Still though, I worry that no matter who our President is, all it takes is one person bent on doing harm with a gun easily obtained to change history.

Back to President Kennedy’s assassination. As with all gun deaths, life changes irreversibly. His family was never the same. They remained in the limelight. Jackie Kennedy could hardly live her life and eventually, of course married Aristotle Onassis, an unlikely match for her. And tragically the young John Kennedy died in an airplane crash in 1999. The Kennedy family suffered a lot of losses and still the younger generations are into politics, causes and sometimes trouble.

Today we remember the lost potential of the life of John F. Kennedy. We will never know what he could have accomplished or if he would have won re-election and make further contributions to our country. Looking back, we now see a man who was in almost constant pain that he didn’t show. We also know of his affairs about which some knew but have now been revealed. He was an imperfect man. He was an imperfect President.

But because he died so young and so tragically, there is a fairy tale aspect to his life and his legacy. Today we remember his life and his Presidency and understand that since 1963, no other President has been killed by gunfire but attempts have been made on several Presidents including famously on the life of President Reagan which led eventually to the passing of the Brady Law. Jim Brady, then President Reagan’s press secretary was badly injured and lived his life changed forever by a bullet. He and his wife Sarah worked tirelessly to pass the Brady bill into law and finally in 1993 it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

A gun was used also to threaten the life of President Gerald Ford.

One would think that after this violent history of gun violence in America we would have the common sense to pass much stronger gun laws. But such is not the case.

I have hope that in time the majority will win and laws to prevent gun violence will pass in the U.S. Congress and be signed into law by a President who cares more for saving lives than saving his (her) own political skin.