A close call

close callA few weeks ago, my daughter called me late in the evening to share some text messages from parents of kids at her own children’s middle school. The messages were in regard to a possible threat by a new student at the school who had apparently told other students that he intended to bring a gun to school and shoot kids. Naturally the reaction was panic and concern. Some parents had decided not to send their kids to school the next day. I advised that parents needed to speak with the principal to insure that he had done what he needed to do to deal with the situation. He had received many phone calls that night and actually, during the day some students went to him with their concerns about the student.

This is exactly what is supposed to happen. Students need to Speak Up and tell someone that a student is talking about shooting kids. Too often students try to protect other students or just don’t tell out of fear or indifference or thinking that it won’t happen. But in most school shootings other students knew ahead of the shooting. The Brady Campaign has a Speak Up program for students to report anonymously that another student intends to shoot other kids:

Although the hotline provides the mechanism through which students can report potentially life-saving information, it is critical that students are also provided with the motivation to do so. Our comprehensive public awareness campaign works to combat destructive social norms, such as the fear of retaliation or being labeled a “snitch.” The campaign sends the powerful message that students can and should “SPEAK UP” against violence.

Let me get back to this story. The principal had phoned the parents of the boy who had made the threat and the decision was that the student would not be in school the next day.

As the incident unfolded, my daughter chose to send her kids to school but did not tell them about the incident, trying not to panic them. But once they got on the bus, this was the topic of discussion. My grandson texted my daughter to ask if she knew that a boy intended to shoot kids at the school that day and my granddaughter asked her to come and pick her up because she was going to die. Some of this can be chalked up to pre-teen and teen-aged dramatic behavior and a tendency to overreact to things. But much of it can also be chalked up to the real fear that a school shooting  could, and does, happen anywhere.

During the day, she reassured the kids that they would be OK and I even got in on a group text exchange. Eventually my daughter went to the school during a break from work and spoke with the school resource officer. That officer was there on site as were other officers just in case. She was calmed by this discussion and nothing happened that day.

But it could have. We are a family who has already lost one loved one to a shooting. This close call was more upsetting to my daughter and to me because we know how it feels to hear that a loved one has been shot.

Too many school shootings have taken innocent children from their parents leaving them living around the hole left by their deaths. Since Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and the many other school shootings, parents understand the risk is all too real.

Only in America do parents have to be regularly concerned that an actual shooting could take their children away or leave them injured or forever scarred by witnessing a shooting. We are all suffering from PTSD from all of the shootings we see directly or indirectly on news media stories.

In 68% of school shootings the shooters get their guns from home. That means keeping guns away from potential school shooters is in the hands of parents or another responsible adult.  Adults can make school shootings less likely and less frequent by thinking about what they are doing with their own guns and how they are stored. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill.

Just a little bit of common sense can stop shootings and stop kids from getting a loaded gun to take to school. Unless we change how we talk about potential and actual threats and think differently about the risks of guns in the home, the media will continue to report on school shootings. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We are better than this. The incident I described above was of concern to my family but ended with some lessons learned. Kids can speak up, adults must listen and act, parents talk to administrators and administrators call law enforcement. Authorities and school officials did their job and students were brave enough and scared enough to know what to do. Sometimes kids are smarter than the adults.

And I will end by suggesting that all parents find out more information about the ASK campaign so they can feel comfortable asking if there are loaded, unlocked guns in the homes where their children play and hang-out. Kids are curious; just telling them to stay away from guns does not work. It’s up to the adults to be responsible. It’s easy to do and asking can save lives. Millions of our children live in homes where guns are present.

Our children are both the victims and perpetrators of avoidable shootings in numbers that should alarm us. The corporate gun lobby is not alarmed. Many in Congress are not alarmed about something that should have all hands on deck to solve a very serious public health and safety epidemic. It is “not an accident” when children and teens gain access to guns and avoidably shoot or injure other children or even adults. Or to bring a gun to school, which happens on a regular basis in America. This article from The Trace has tracked how many times children and teens brought guns to their schools:

From August through mid-June, there were at least 269 incidents in which elementary, middle, and high school students were caught with guns on school grounds. That figure is an update to the March tally of 185 such incidents in the first five months of the school year. (Some incidents involved multiple students and multiple guns.)

In 2016, 269 incidents of kids bringing guns to school and this does not include any intentional school shootings:

Swanson, like many other gun safety advocates and researchers, believes government policy should focus on addressing Americans’ easy access to guns. Preventing tragedies like Sandy Hook requires more than expanding resources for mental health, he said ― the U.S. needs more laws restricting guns in households that include “at-risk” individuals. Swanson cited Lanza, who used his mother’s guns to carry out his attack, as an example of why this matters.

“A law like that would allow police officers to take away some of these guns,” Swanson said. “We shouldn’t have to live in a society where people have such easy access to such an efficient killing machine.”

Yet gun violence prevention efforts will likely encounter even more resistance under the incoming Donald Trump administration, with its close ties to the National Rifle Association, the most influential gun lobby in the country.

The NRA was Trump’s largest outside financial backer during the 2016 presidential race, spending more than $30 million to help his campaign.

“[The NRA] is going to expect something in return for that investment,” Watts said. “They’re going to have a champion in the White House.”

I referred to the Children’s Firearms Safety Alliance in my last post and I will refer to it again. From the site:

AS OF MAY 10, 2017, THIS YEAR:
37 KIDS KILLED
68 KIDS INJURED
5 ADULTS INJURED
1 ADULT KILLED

2016 TOTALS:
121 KIDS KILLED
176 KIDS INJURED
21 ADULTS SHOT….ALL BY KIDS

There are far too many close calls with guns involving children and teens. And there are far too many actual shooting incidents involving our children and teens.

The real tragedy here is that too many in Congress, and now our very own President, don’t care about the children. That is an American tragedy.

Follow the money. Money and power over our children.

Children go to school to learn, form relationships with other children, participate in enriching activities and to become responsible future adults. They should not have to be concerned for their own safety or that another student threatens to bring a gun to school to shoot them. Children are anxious enough about far too many things. This should not be one of them.

Who is protecting our children?

Keeping our kids safe is the primary job of parents and other adults. It’s one of the primary jobs of our elected leaders as well. If it isn’t, shame on them all.

It’s past time to step up and do the right thing.

Active shooters

shooting fingerYesterday a report of an active shooter at Andrews Air Force Base was reported on the news. For a while, the facility was put on lock-down while things were checked out. It was discovered that the base was having an active shooter drill. Someone at a medical facility on base reported seeing two men walking around with rifles and called 911 to report it.  As it turns out, the two men were apparently part of the drill.

This is America. Guns are everywhere and are encouraged to be carried everywhere. We really don’t know the difference between a “good guy” with a gun and a “bad guy” with a gun even though Wayne LaPierre has some people believing there is a difference at first blush.

This is America. “Good guys” with guns kill people every day. Take the recent Orlando shooting for instance. The shooter was not prohibited from buying a gun at a federally licensed firearms dealer. There were some warnings- many in fact- but none that would rise to the prohibited purchaser category. There’s the terror watch list on which the shooter’s name was placed for a while. But such people can get guns in America.

The shooter was a domestic abuser and had mental health problems according to his first wife. It’s easy for those people to get guns in America since we don’t require Brady background checks on all gun sales so anyone can get a gun easily.

It’s easy to get guns in America. The bar is low. By definition the Orlando shooter was a “good guy”. How does Mr. Wayne LaPierre explain that? He is not asked that question because he doesn’t answer questions like that. There is no logical explanation and so he gets away with spewing his hate, fear and paranoia and, stupidly, some people believe what he says.

Take this Texas mother. She believed the fear, apparently. Having posted on social media that she didn’t want her guns to be taken from her, she was a proud American gun owner:

Christy Sheats wrote often online about her faith, and on several occasions she posted about her support of the Second Amendment and her right to bear arms.

“I have 10 guns. Obama wants 8 of my guns. How many guns do I have?” said one meme, over a photo of bullets and a gun. “That’s right, I have 10 guns.”

She captioned the photo: “That’s right! #merica.”

Yes. “#merica.”

And then, in the heat of anger and mental illness and marriage problems, she took the anger and her guns out apparently on her husband by killing the people he loved the most. When officers confronted her, she aimed at them so they shot her.

Should this woman have had a gun given 3 admissions to a hospital for mental illness and suicidal behavior? (see article above)

This is America. She was a “good girl” with a gun apparently.

She was an active shooter.

Today I attended a panel discussion at Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs  in Duluth for visitors from Moldova. DAIP is an internationally recognized program training communities all over the world about the Duluth model and the coordinated community response. The Chief of Police, the Mayor, the County Attorney, the County Sheriff, a local judge and someone from a local corrections facility explained their own role and then answered questions.

What do you suppose one of the questions was from the Moldovans? Are there weapons often involved in domestic disputes? What happens if there is? Do you take them away? What happens to those weapons if you take them from the abuser?

The answer from the Chief- we have to assume that everyone is armed! Yes. The visitors laughed nervously but then realized he was not making it up. He said that with 300 odd million guns in America, we can guess that many of the domestic abusers will be armed and that officers go prepared for that realization; that there will be an active shooter.

Women are more at risk to die when there is a gun in the home. Domestic disputes are the most dangerous calls for law enforcement. Actually everyone is more at risk when there is a gun in the home according to many studies:

A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.

This is America. We have active shooters everywhere- in our homes, in schools, malls, airports, nightclubs, movie theaters, on the streets, at air bases- everywhere.

We have good guys with guns who shoot people every day intentionally or by “accident”. Check out the site, Gun Violence Archive, that is keeping track of shooting incidents ( active shooters) all over the country.

I don’t know what you call children who regularly find their parents’ guns and shoot themselves or someone else by “accident”. A bad boy or a bad girl?

What do you call a teen or an older white male who shoot themselves with guns in great numbers in America? “Bad kid”? “Bad man”? Active shooter? Or Veterans whose suicide gun rate is very high and we are doing little to stop it? Are they “good guys” with guns?

This is America.

Two days ago Americans all over the country went to visit their House members while they were at home in their districts. They delivered beach balls ( Protect Minnesota), letters, sat-in, asked for common sense, thanked them for standing up for victims during the “sit-in” last week and made some noise. It turns out that most responsible gun owners don’t belong to the NRA which is the main lobby group opposing anything that might make us all safer. We asked our Representative to represent the more than 80% of us, even gun owners, who want them to act.

After Orlando, things changed. Votes may happen. Even Speaker Paul Ryan is feeling the heat. He knows he has to at least stop terrorists from getting guns. I mean, that is a no brainer but you’d never know it from the reaction of the Republicans in the House and Senate. They act as if stopping terrorists and others who shouldn’t have guns from getting them is un-American. I mean- everyone has a “sacred” right to own a gun, right?

But when the NRA writes gun policy legislation, as this vote (above) would be, it’s like the fox guarding the hen house:

“House Democrats will keep up our efforts to push for the majority to allow a vote on gun violence legislation, but bringing up a bill authored by the NRA just isn’t going to cut it,” said Drew Hammill, an aide to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. The NRA denied writing the legislation.

Let’s have some legislation that will actually work rather than weak legislation that may not work so the pro gun lobbyists and leaders can say the laws don’t work anyway so why pass any. This kind of cynicism is not OK and will not save lives but rather is window dressing. Time will tell what will take place.

Many of our leaders know this. They are afraid of the wrong people. They are afraid of the guys with the guns. They should be very afraid of the families and friends of the victims and those who know that we can do better.

So back to active shooters and the Moldovans.  Moldova has a rate of firearm deaths of .79 per 100,000. No wonder they were nervous when the Police Chief gave his answer. Active shooters are very rare in their country.

Only in America do we have regular active shooter drills in businesses, military bases, tourist attractions, medical clinics, schools, etc. If this is the new normal, it puts the onus on our leaders to make sure we are safer from active shooters by making sure there are far fewer of them just like we did with air raid drills when I was a child. From this post by Mike Weisser at Mike the Gun Guy:

Crouching under a wooden desk is about as much of a positive response to nuclear attack as giving someone a week-long course in armed force and then have them walking through a school hallway looking for a kid with a gun. The whole point of nuclear non-proliferation is the recognition that once the weapon is out there, the chances of it being used go way up. Trump seems to be unaware that this is why a basic consensus exists that the world needs to be a nuclear-free zone.

The same argument can be made about gun-free zones which, despite the nonsense peddled by the NRA, make every place safer if guns aren’t allowed. And it’s no violation of anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights to leave the gun at home.

We did something about regulating and controlling nuclear weapons to make the county and the world safer from those kinds of attacks. Not one has happened since our own country bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Let’s take back our country and stop the fear mongering. We do have active shooters every day. But arming more people to try to stop the shooters makes no common sense given reality. More guns and more armed people have clearly not made us all safer.

#Enough. #DisarmHate

 

#NRAAM NRA Convention, 2016 version

liarIf it’s May, it must be NRA convention time. The lies have just begun.So far, it has proven to be the usual with the exception of a certain Presidential candidate who showed up and spoke from notes he doesn’t usually use. From this article:

 

Trump also made it clear he wanted to woo the pro-gun crowd — but he seemed bored by his prepared remarks during his speech, joking about teleprompters before veering off onto other topics throughout the speech and even belittling his own remarks.

What did he say? More lies. But the crowd loved the lies and were excited to applaud a man whose transformation from a real estate guy who used to be in favor of common sense when it came to gun violence to a full-on card carrying NRA gun guy. He was, of course, endorsed by the NRA.

Whatever.

The lies? Let’s take them one at a time:

Donald Trump will make gun free zones guns allowed zones immediately upon taking the oath of office. Will that include his own properties? Will that include the annual NRA convention where guns are not allowed? It will, apparently include schools where it’s always a good idea for gun toters and teachers to be armed.

If this was such a good idea, why in the world are we the most dangerous country in the world when it comes to gun violence? Is this the great America Trump wants for us? How about this? Let’s make America safe again, a new slogan from Moms Demand Action. While the NRA is talking about more guns everywhere, a group of gun violence prevention activists will hold a screening of Katie Couric’s film, Under the Gun. featuring victims of gun violence telling their poignant stories.

We have more guns per person ( though many of those guns are owned by fewer people) already than any other country in the civilized and democratized world. And this kind of illogic fails to speak the truth. Most gun deaths are in guns allowed zones already. Take domestic shootings, many of which occur inside of homes. Or gun suicides, which often occur in a home where a gun is not only allowed but easily accessible to use in a suicide. Homes are not gun free zones since anyone can have a gun inside of their own home. I know that from personal experience.

Or gun ranges where people are killing themselves with increasing frequency?

Or how about hospitals, which are mostly gun free, where people like this lady who carried a gun in spite of the gun free zone, “accidentally” discharged her weapon injuring an innocent person.

Or what about cars? Are they gun free? Nope. Remember this one and this one where a toddler got their hands on a gun and shot their own parent? Or the guy who “accidentally” discharged his gun while sitting in his car waiting for his wife. Or the woman who was adjusting her bra gun holster and shot and killed herself?  Gun free zone? You decide.

Or how about taking selfies with your phone? Presumably the place where this happened was not a gun free zone.

Bars and restaurants in many states allow concealed guns inside. It hasn’t worked out particularly well as in this case, or this one. Or this one where a man forgot he had his gun when it fell from his jacket pocket in a restaurant ( presumably not a gun free zone) badly injuring one of the customers whose injuries will be life long. Or this Kansas man ( “law abiding gun owner) whose gun went off in a restaurant injuring his own wife. There are pages and pages of incidents like these if you look on the internet. Most of them occur in guns allowed zones. But if they occur in “gun free zones” who can one defend oneself from a stupid and dangerous gun carrier who believes he/she has a right to carry a loaded gun in public and then makes a terrible and sometimes deadly mistake. There’s no accounting for stupidity. But stupidity with a loaded gun is very serious stuff.

#Enough

Let’s move on to some more lies. Trump is making claims that Hillary Clinton wants to confiscate all guns and take away American’s right to own guns. Silly Donald. He knows better. But pandering to the minority of gun owners who are extreme in their positions is his ticket, he believes, to winning the election. Most NRA members don’t believe this and actually support requiring background checks on all gun sales. Shhhh. Don’t tell the Donald this. It doesn’t fit with his new-found support of gun rights.

Oh, and then there’s the lie about Hillary Clinton wanting violent criminals to go free. Just because he says so does not make it true. But never mind. Trying to make women fear crime in order to drive them to gun stores to buy a gun or to the polling booths is cynical at best and doesn’t deal with the truth that women are more at risk when there are guns in the home. But here is what Donald said anyway to get votes from women:

“In trying to overturn the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton is telling everyone — and every woman living in a dangerous community — that she doesn’t have the right to defend herself,” Mr. Trump said. “So you have a woman living in a community, a rough community, a bad community — sorry, you can’t defend yourself.”

Trump has had a lot of trouble with his support from women because of his many comments and insults since his entry into the Presidential race.

It’s also the usual suspects who come calling at this display of gun extremism. Of course, it wouldn’t be an NRA convention without good old Wayne LaPierre whose annual speeches to convention goers never fail to drum up fear and paranoia. And then the list of politicians who have to pay homage to this group of gun extremists shows how our leaders are so afraid to admit that the second amendment actually can co-exist with gun rights as it has for many years now.

Sigh.

And what about those NRA leaders and Board members? Here’s a nice list so you can see who they are and who they represent. Ted Nugent, of course, is one of the loud mouth NRA Board members who offends people and issues racial and sexist slurs on a regular basis. And in late breaking news, Nugent was re-elected to the NRA Board with the 2nd highest vote total. That tells us everything we need to know about the participants at the convention and their willingness to support hate, racism and crudity.

And of course, if we follow the money to find out how the NRA is actually funded we don’t have to look much further than executives of Sturm-Ruger who presented the NRA-ILA with a nice 4 million dollar check. 

The displays are the usual- guns and more guns. And don’t forget those ugly displays of bleeding look-alike gun targets (women, Barack Obama, etc) , hyped up slogans and swag with anti-Obama sayings and more ludicrous lies about those who support the idea that 30,000 American gun deaths are too many.

In Louisville, Kentucky, the site of the annual convention this year, it’s been a bad year for gun deaths:

“We are having an epidemic,” says Michelle Unseld Thomas, a resident of the South Side.

The violence in Louisville right now is “unprecedented,” says Brown, the police major.

But never mind. The NRA doesn’t get involved in trying to prevent this upward trend of people shooting other people. One has to wonder if their insular world includes anyone who has become a victim of a gun death by suicide, homicide, or an “accidental” shooting. Likely not.

And the shootings continue unabated. Children are shooting themselves or each other daily. Domestic shootings are taking the lives of innocent women and children. Suicides account for the majority of gun deaths. Young men in communities of color are the victims of way too many shootings thanks to easy access to guns and mass shootings happen in America like in no other country in the world.

One of the biggest lies is that guns don’t affect suicide rates and that suicides should not be considered to be gun violence. That is false. Studies confirm that access to guns makes suicide easier and, of course, deadlier. A new study from the Journal of Public Health confirms this. If only the NRA could admit that guns contribute to the majority of gun deaths in America and believe in research and studies that deal with public health and safety. But denial and outright deception by the corporate gun lobby has kept the government from studying important issues like this. Follow the money for the reasons.

But never mind the truth. This convention is all about convincing those in attendance and those who get the NRA’s mailings and emails that America will only be safer if more people own guns to protect themselves from the government and all of those evil shadows lurking around every corner in every nook and cranny. Never mind that those guns are much more likely to be used against you or someone around you than in self defense.

And those militia groups and people who actually do believe the government is coming for your guns? I feel sorry for their fear. It must be difficult to live in a world where that kind of fear prompts people to have their own arsenals. It’s  a burden to have to live this way. Plus, it sometimes leads to home grown terrorism as in this deadly incident in Nevada.

Are we safer because of the hyped fear and paranoia spewed by gun rights extremists and those who speak at NRA conventions?

A recent study of angry behavior which received responses from gun owners and non gun owners revealed what we all most likely believe to be the truth. There are a lot of angry (mostly men) with guns carried for “self defense” who just may use them for something else. From the article by “Mike the Gun Guy”:

Where the number of guns owned by individuals seemed to be a real risk issue can be found in the correlation between number of guns owned, engaging in any of the three anger indicators and carrying a gun outside the home. The good news in this survey was that less than 5 percent of the respondents reported that they walked around with a gun. The not-so-good news is that folks who owned six or more guns and carried a concealed weapon reported that they engaged in at least one of the three impulsive behaviors four times more frequently than persons who owned five or fewer guns.

This study and others about anger and guns lends the lie to the idea that guns will make us safer. Way too often angry people with guns shoot others in an instant because they can. And that is the real America.

We can’t afford to lie about gun violence. And we sure as heck cannot afford to have one of our major political party candidates for President of the United States lying about something this serious.It is a national public health and safety epidemic that is largely going untreated because of the lies. Are we on the side of a safer America or one that allows lies and deceptions to determine policies and treatment that can save lives? This election will determine on whose side we are.

 

 

 

 

Worlds collide

I remember the episode of Seinfeld where the character “George Costanza” chastised Jerry Seinfeld for inviting his fianceé, Susan, to a movie. George was upset because he wanted to keep Susan away from his world with his friends. Here is the segment:

I had an exchange on my last post with one of my readers about the lawful ownership of tanks by private individuals. In my world, the people with whom I associate would find this to be just plain ridiculous and would wonder why in the world anyone would want to own a tank much less the legality of such ownership. One can assume that these tanks are not operational and only for the purpose of collecting them. But again, why?

An article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted this world of tank owning:

When their insurance agent inquired about their plans for the tank, the Neal brothers emailed back, “We are going to use it to take over the world.”
Says Ken Neal, 45: “A tank is cool.”

A tank is also expensive, with good ones going for the price of some houses.

Sigh.

In Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine he asks if the right to bear arms should be extended to nuclear bombs and other such military armaments. Does it? How far can we go with the amendment that was written more than 200 hundred years ago by the founding fathers that are so often “quoted” or mis quoted by gun rights extremists. From the film:

Is this the world envisioned by our founding fathers?

A Facebook friend, involved in gun violence prevention, posted this photo of a quote from the Jefferson Memorial while on a recent trip to Washington D.C.

Thomas Jefferson quote

 

The world has changed since Thomas Jefferson wrote this quote while reflecting on the Constitution. I think everyone can recognize that. Since then several wars have occurred leaving behind new types of arms. ( and by the way, more Americans have died from gun violence just since 1968 than from all Americans killed in wars since the Constitution was written). Now some of these arms ( weapons) are marketed as “common sporting rifles”. AK 47s have been converted to become an ordinary civilian weapon for mass shooters or those who believe the government is coming for their guns.

The inventor of the AK 47 expressed regrets for how his invention has been used in wars and in civilian deaths around the world:

“I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?” he wrote.

“The longer I live, the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man to have the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.”

AR 15s are also used by mass shooters such as at Sandy Hook Elementary school where a teen shooter knew perfectly well that using an AR 15 would inflict as much damage as possible in a very short time in order to kill as many first graders as he could. From the article:

“It’s a favorite among sportsmen, target shooters and competitors,” Stewart told CBS News. “It’s also popular as a home defense platform.”

Lightweight and easy to master with about 30 minutes of instruction, the AR-15 was invented in 1959 for the military, but was modified for civilian use beginning in 1963.

“The AR-15 is America’s rifle,” Stewart said. “You’re going to find more of those in safes at home than you’ll find of any other rifle in the country.”

Civilian use of the weapon is an abiding issue though.

There once was a nationwide ban on such assault weapons, imposed in 1994 following a number of mass shootings in the ’80s and ’90s.

When it was lifted ten years later, gun rights advocates cheered and sales rose.

Now the parents of those first graders and the relatives of the adults also killed in that heinous shooting are suing the manufacturer of the AR 15 because said manufacturer knows that these types of semi automatic rifles originally designed as war weapons that can take large capacity ammunition magazines are actually not common sporting rifles but meant to kill a lot of people in one place at a time in short order.

Worlds collide. The world of gun rights extremists is not understood by those of us who want safer communities and fewer people shot to death or injured by the many guns that are now accessible to average Americans. And vice versa. Was this the vision of our founding fathers? Doubtful. They had the common sense to realize that the world would change long after their own deaths and that the country and its’ Constitution should also change to reflect different times. They set down some principles that have helped govern our country for the last 200 plus years. For the most part they have worked well. But when it came to only white property owners having the right to vote, the new world had to change. Slaves were no longer. Black people were freed and demanded the right to vote. Women decided that they had the same rights as men to vote and demanded that right. It took a long time to get there which, looking back, seems almost surreal.

And so we plod along trying to make the world a safer place and hoping that gun deaths and injuries can be prevented with stronger gun laws to reflect the current world. The internet has provided a new market place for the sale of guns where private sellers can connect with private buyers and exchange guns for money with no background checks. Let’s look at just one of many hidden camera videos of how easy it is to buy any gun on-line.

“When you need the money you need the money.”

Sigh. Follow the money.

The founding fathers did not anticipate this world. When the Brady law was enacted, there was a provision for private sellers to be able to sell collections of guns at gun shows and other places without having to ask for background checks. The world has changed since 1994. Private “collectors” now set up tables at gun shows with the same types of guns and as many sometimes as licensed dealers. And they don’t have to require background checks from buyers. Another Brady Campaign hidden camera video to show the real world of private sales at gun shows:

Colin Goddard (in the video) was shot and injured at the Virginia Tech mass shooting.

Guns don’t fall out of the sky. They are not powder rifles any more. One more video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence to show you what I mean about the changed world of guns since the second amendment was written by our founding fathers:

 

Mass destruction is possible with the weapons developed since the 2nd amendment was written. Weapons designed for military use are now available to citizens. And some gun extremists actually believe they will be at war with their own government. This kind of fear and paranoia is stoked by the corporate gun lobby where profits are the bottom line. And so resisting all common sense measures to stop guns from going from the legal market to the illegal market are stopped by their nonsensical rhetoric.

And so the devastation continues with almost daily reporting of toddlers accessing loaded guns owned by their parents or other relatives who think their rights to own guns apparently don’t come with the responsibility to keep others safe from shooting themselves or others. Domestic shootings continue unabated. Gang shootings are taking the lives of young people of color in our large urban cities. Gun suicides are taking the lives of too many older white men and young (mostly) men and teens.

Worlds do collide. Truth is often stranger than fiction. Just look at the Presidential race if you don’t believe me. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is ramping up the nonsense and fear by making claims that if Hillary Clinton is elected as our President she will methodically order the confiscation of all of the more than 300 million guns in circulation in America. If you believe this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. 

So what now? Will we ever be able to convince a majority of our elected leaders to support the views of the majority of Americans without fear of being attacked by the minority but well funded and mythically powerful corporate gun lobby. Yes, a lot of Americans own guns but fewer homes have guns than in many years. Some Americans own many guns. Yes, a lot of Americans hunt and use guns for recreation but they don’t oppose stronger gun laws. Yes, a small minority of Americans like to carry loaded guns around in public and seem to think they have some sort of constitutional right to do so (can you find that in the wording of the second amendment?) But do they realize that carrying a gun in public is more often to result in incidents like those below than actually using that gun in self defense?

Kentucky concealed carry permit holder discharges gun “accidentally” in hospital.

South Carolina student “accidentally” discharges gun in a school and shoots himself.

3 year old finds gun in Dad’s backpack and shoots and kills himself.

This is the real world. It is not fiction. This is where the world of the gun extremists and gun lobby collide with the world of actual daily shootings that could be avoided and prevented if we put our heads together to make it happen.

Slowly but surely, the public is recognizing that we can do something about the devastation of gun violence in America. As more people are affected by gun violence or are made aware of the truth of the matter, they are joining the many organizations and individuals working to prevent gun violence. And politicians are recognizing that supporting reasonable gun laws that don’t affect law abiding gun owners or take away rights is a winning issue.

We are better than this. Let’s get to work because we’ve had #Enough and refuse to be intimidated by those who make claims that are not true. We may never bring the two worlds together but we can bring the majority who reside in the middle and believe we make changes together to save lives.

 

Guns in schools?

school lockdownThe corporate gun lobby loves to think that teachers or others should be allowed to have guns in our schools to protect children from insidious and tragic assaults by dangerous people with guns. Proclamations and myths about “gun free” zones being more dangerous than places where guns are allowed are the mantra of the gun rights extremists. And, stupidly, many of our politicians parrot these dangerous talking points. They are not based on fact or reality. Most gun deaths and injuries actually occur in “guns allowed” zones, like homes, on our streets and many public places where guns are allowed. Police officers are shot on a regular basis even though they are armed and those who shoot them know they are armed. It’s a myth.

One of the myths is that teachers will be safe with guns in our schools and will be prepared to confront a shooter.  This South Dakota elementary teacher was dangerous to himself when the gun he had in his coat pocket discharged as the coat was put on the floor:

An elementary teacher at Wagner Community School is expected to make a full recovery after accidentally shooting himself in his home, law enforcement said.
Travis Barthel, a third-grade teacher at Wagner Community School, took a bullet from an accidental discharge of a 9 mm pistol on Feb. 26 in his home on the outskirts of Avon, according to Bon Homme County Sheriff Lenny Gramkow. Barthel declined to comment on the matter Monday.

According to Gramkow, Barthel had the pistol in his coat pocket. At about 6:20 p.m., the coat fell to the floor after Barthel took it off, and the pistol fired one bullet upward into Barthel’s stomach and through the back of his left shoulder.

Why would we think this teacher would be any safer in a classroom with that gun? There are other examples of “accidental” discharges in schools by gun carriers that, luckily, did not result in death. I have written about them many times in this blog. Remember that these are the people the gun lobby wants carrying guns or having guns somewhere in our schools to keep our children safe.

Remember when a Utah elementary school teacher ( where guns are allowed in schools) “accidentally” discharged her gun in a school bathroom?

There was a time when gun permits were only granted to those who showed a need to carry a gun ( for work or under conditions of necessary self defense) and law enforcement was given the authority to decide who, in their communities, should be granted a permit to carry a loaded gun around. All of that changed in 1987 when Florida, the laboratory for the gun lobby, passed a “shall issue” carry law. A few other states had passed such laws before that but Florida is a laboratory for the gun lobby so what happens in Florida can be expected to show up in state legislatures all over the country. Every state now has some version of a law allowing private citizens to carry guns in public.

But the slippery slope has moved the needle in favor of more guns in public, thanks to our bought and paid for politicians, ever ready to do business with the corporate gun lobby. So, again in Florida, the first Stand Your Ground law was passed in 2005 , signed by Governor Jeb Bush. So now gun permit holders in states with this law can shoot someone and claim self defense, getting away with murder. From the article:

“Our study finds that, that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn’t pass the laws over the same time period,” he says.

As to whether the laws reduce crime — by creating a deterrence for criminals — he says, “we find no evidence of any deterrence effect over that same time period.” (…)

Hoekstra obtained this result by comparing the homicide rate in states before and after they passed the laws. He also compared states with the laws to states without the laws.

“We find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws,” he said. There are about 14,000 homicides annually in the United States as a whole. (…)

Still, based on the available data, it appears that crafters of these laws sought to give good guys more latitude to defend themselves against bad guys. But what Hoekstra’s data suggest is that in real-life conflicts, both sides think of the other guy as the bad guy. Both believe the law gives them the right to shoot.

In a separate analysis of death certificates before and after stand your ground laws were passed in different states, economists at Georgia State University also found that states that passed the laws ended up with a higher homicide rate.

The slippery slope continues today as more and more states are now following the path of the gun lobby’s agenda in passing laws that will let citizens carry those loaded guns around in public places with no permit or training. Common sense? The Governor of West Virginia thought not when his legislature passed this stupid and dangerous bill which he vetoed. But never mind public safety. The lapdog politicians went along with this really bad idea and overrode his veto.  From the linked article written for The Trace:

Collectively, the bills seek to upend a concealed carry system that the National Rifle Association spent the past four decades building, and which now stands at the center of American gun culture and commerce. Under that system, permit applicants in most states must pass a background check and pay a fee to the state; there can also be mandatory training courses and tests, often administered by NRA-licensed instructors.

The push for permitless carry is part of the larger movement that seeks to establish new norms for the carrying of handguns in American society, wherein the ideal is a country that places no restrictions on gun owners. Proponents believe the mere existence of the Second Amendment nullifies the necessity for a permit requirement. “People don’t want to pay a fee to the state for a right that is guaranteed by the constitution,” Mike Mosher, a police officer in Kansas who owns a firearms training company called Tactical Simulations Solutions, tells The Trace.

The gun rights extremists want us to believe that the new normal is seeing people with holstered (or not) guns in public and we should not “wet our pants” about it. When that person could be anyone- with no training or even a permit with a background check requirement- we are supposed to trust this person to be safe in public? I don’t think so. Why would any reasonable person believe this is a good idea?

I saw a man just the other day outside of a McDonald’s restaurant where I was sitting with my grandchildren and some friends. Needless to say, the boys noticed immediately that the man was carrying a gun openly and were fascinated by the gun. Our children don’t need to observe adults carrying guns around in public. It is NOT normal.

The thing is, gun use for self defense is so minimal as to be hardly on the radar. The incidents of someone using a gun for legitimate self defense are just not making the news. Or at least not as often as mass shootings, domestic shootings, “accidental” discharges and other gun incidents. They aren’t making the news because they are so infrequent comparatively.

So back to the incident of the school teacher whose gun discharged and injured himself- this happens far too often in our country. I write about these incidents frequently. In fact, my news feed and Twitter feed are littered with articles about kids finding guns and shooting themselves or someone else or “law abiding” citizens shooting a loved one(s) , themselves or someone else by “accident” or in a dispute that would not end in death if a gun was not at the ready.

Mandatory training, background checks, permits and even licensing and registration are required for so many other every day things Americans do. The idea that because gun rights are deemed to be sacrosanct by the gun lobby there should be  absolutely no accountability is ludicrous. And dangerous.

Guns in schools will not lead to safer children unless they are carried by law enforcement or legitimate security personnel. Or not. Check this out. And this. It’s important to think through what we are doing to keep our children safe from gun violence. The most important thing we can do is to prevent shooters from gaining access to guns in the first place. That will not stop all shootings, of course. But the fact that we aren’t really trying is a national shame.

Satire is often needed to make the point that America is doing virtually nothing to address its’ public health and safety epidemic. Check out comedian Samantha Bee’s video about school shootings and the corporate gun lobby.  As always, the language is ripe and provocative. But the message is clear. What are we teaching our children about safety in schools? And why are children exposed to lock down drills and ways to stop shooters? They are children. They are in school to learn. Parents should expect that their children will come home alive after school every day.

Americans have had #Enough. Changing laws, changing the conversation and changing the gun culture will lead to safer communities and fewer gun deaths and injuries. Education, awareness, training, proper storage of guns and common sense is what is needed to keep families and communities from the devastation of insidious gun violence.

 

 

 

Nothing to fear but… guns

fearI can tell that the American public has had #enough!.I wrote my blog post the other day about this and it had more views than ever before. I’m sure the gun extremists are checking it out to make sure I’m not saying anything about taking their guns away. That is their unfounded fear.

What the rest of us fear is the proliferation of guns in our communities. After the summer’s series of mass shootings followed by the live shooting of 2 Virginia journalists while on air, the cumulative effect is that the conversation is changing. In the years I have been working on this issue, I have not seen the intensity and the anger that I now see. I have not seen the media paying such close attention and actually beginning to ask some serious questions that need to be asked. They are using the language of common sense as are many of our political leaders.

Some of the leaders in Roseburg, Oregon, home to the latest mass shooting, have made it clear that their pro-gun and conservative views are anathema to any solutions to our nation’s public health and safety epidemic. In fact, the newspaper’s editor asked that President Obama not come to Roseburg, as he has done when other communities have suffered mass tragedies like this one, to comfort the families. The Mayor has now made it clear, under public pressure and the light shed on this dangerous behavior, that the President is welcome in his city.  The sick underbelly of our unhinged gun culture has been exposed with this latest shooting. It’s been there before but this time, it is not being hidden. The press is talking about it.

Southern Oregon is home to many gun extremists, including their own Sheriff Hanlin who is handling the investigation of the shooting in his community. The problem is that he claimed he would not enforce any federal gun laws passed after the Sandy Hook shooting and has also been part of a group of people who have denied that the Sandy Hook shooting took place. As a result, the Brady Campaign has called for his resignation. 

From the article, linked above, about Southern Oregon:

Mr. Obama plans to visit Roseburg on Friday to meet the grieving families of yet another gun rampage, but many people here are bristling at his renewed call for stricter gun laws. In some ways, the rampage at the college by a 26-year-old student, Christopher Harper-Mercer, has actually tightened the embrace of guns in a rural town where shots at rifle ranges echo off the hills and hunters bag deer and elk through the fall.

Some families touched by the violence and students who fled gunfire said they now feared that the kind of bloodshed seen inside Classroom 15 at Snyder Hall, Umpqua Community College, could happen anywhere. Some said they were planning to buy guns. Others said they would seek concealed-weapons permits. Others, echoing gun advocates’ calls for more weapons on campus, said the college should allow its security guard to carry guns. A few said they thought that stricter gun control laws could have averted the massacre.

Gun extremists such as the shooter’s mother who allegedly posted on social media about guns and gun laws and that her son suffered from Asperger’s syndrome- a high functioning form of Autism are part of that culture. It’s hard to imagine that the shooter didn’t absorb this kind of gun culture. It seems to me that this mother should have understood that her son was not able to be responsible with guns.

Seriously- you can’t make this stuff up. These folks think that the President will push a political agenda- something about gun confiscation or actually trying to do something about gun violence. This nonsense about politicizing the issue of gun violence is ludicrous. Of course, the gun lobby NEVER does this, right?

Wrong. The NRA is famous for trotting out their worn our logic after mass shootings and encouraging more guns instead of fewer. What is it about the gun culture in our country when people go out to buy more guns after a heinous mass shooting? It’s inexplicable and concerning.

The gun lobby in the name of the NRA is always politicizing the gun issue. That is all they do. The NRA is mining names for their data base and is sending out almost daily emails to their list invoking fear and paranoia. The problem with this is they get their names from state hunting license lists, gun show attendees, etc. even if people don’t want to be on their list. I have always said that if anyone wanted to confiscate guns all that is needed is hacking into or demanding the NRA’s list of names to find out where the guns are. Wouldn’t that be karma?

And meanwhile, the carnage and nonsense continues. Two open carriers in Portland, after the Umpqua campus shooting, shut down some Portland area schools. From the article:

Grant High School and nearby Beverly Cleary School were temporarily placed on lockdown Tuesday after police received several reports of two men walking in the area with apparent semi-automatic rifles slung across their chests.

What’s the point? Walking around with guns slung around your chest is just a plain bad idea given what is happening all over America. But never mind, gun nuts believe their rights includes this kind of immature and bullying behavior. And doing it right after a mass shooting in your state is totally irresponsible and potentially dangerous.

Moving along, you may remember my post about puppies and guns. Now, an 8 year old Tennessee girl is dead because an 11 year old neighbor boy purposely shot and killed her with a shotgun he found at home:

An 11-year-old boy in the US state of Tennessee has been held on suspicion of shooting dead an eight-year-old girl in a row over a puppy.

The boy has been charged with first-degree murder as a juvenile.

According to police, he shot neighbour McKayla Dyer on Saturday evening after she refused to let him see her puppy.

In another fatal child shooting case, authorities said on Monday that an 11-year-old boy fatally shot his brother while target shooting in Ohio.

The boys were with two adults, who had three loaded guns on a picnic table. The younger boy picked one up and it fired, killing his 12-year-old brother.

Both tragedies happened just days after a mass shooting at a small town college in Oregon in which nine people were killed.

You just can’t make this stuff up. And yes, in the 2nd incident mentioned adults were present. When will gun owners understand that young kids and guns are a bad combination? What are they thinking? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Parents are already fearful about where the next school shooting will happen. It looks like we should be more fearful of young children with guns.

There is a serious disconnect with the desires of the American public to do something to stop this daily carnage and what actually happens in Congress. But the pressure is now on. People Magazine got into it, encouraging the public to call their Congress member and ask them to support measures sitting on their desks to expand Brady background checks to all gun sales. That would be HR 3411 or HR 1217. And then they listed all of the names and contact information for the Congress members to make it very easy to call. I’ve never seen this before but I’m happy to know that those of us working on this issue are not alone.

Gun owners are calling for people like themselves who don’t believe in the gun lobby rhetoric, to form their own group and speak up for common sense. Here is just one of several articles I have read after the Umpqua shooting calling for gun owners to get involved:

Not all gun owners agree with the policies of the National Rifle Association. Hunter — and Oregon resident — Lily Raff thinks she’s precisely the kind of person Obama was addressing.

“I think what he’s calling for is probably for gun owners like me, who support some reasonable gun control, to stand up and say, ‘The NRA doesn’t represent us,’ ” Raff tells NPR’s Michel Martin. “We want something to happen here. We want something to change.”

Raff, author of the memoir Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner, has written about her differences with the NRA. After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, Raff wrote columns for the New York Times and The Atlanticcalling on fellow hunters to support stricter gun control measures.

“There’s a whole spectrum of gun owners,” she says, “and I think one of the problems that we have as a country is that there is a very, very narrow view of the gun owner that has a voice.”

This is welcome support. We’ve always known of the wide support for background checks and other gun safety reform measures by gun owners and even NRA members. And we’ve also always known that organizations like the NRA represent a small minority of gun owners and an even smaller minority of Americans.

The American tragedy is that they have “gotten away with murder” for too many years. That is figurative but the way things are going, it is becoming literally true.

Change is in the wind. It’s coming. We can and will save lives going forward and make our country safe from the devastation of gun violence that affects far too many families. We are better than this.

Our hearts are broken again with another campus shooting

broken heartWell, in case anyone wonders where the numbers come from when gun safety reform advocates talk about 32 homicides a day, today is an example of how just one shooting can add up the bodies to that number. A campus shooting in Oregon has reportedly taken the lives of 10 and injured 20. In fact now the report is 13-15 dead. From this article:

As many as 10 people were killed and 20 injured when a shooter opened fire at Umpqua Community College Thursday in southern Oregon, Oregon State Police told KGW-TV.

The shooter was reported to be dead, according to police.

We will learn more details as the day progresses. It’s probably likely that more will end up in the dead column. This incident is already all over the news media and is taking the place of all other news. About every few weeks, we can turn on the TV or read articles in the media about these kinds of mass shootings. This is America at its’ worst. But it’s the America we have isn’t it?

Where is the outrage? Where will it happen next? Will it be your child, your husband, brother or sister? Just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it won’t. And don’t let the gun advocates fool you into believing that if only you had a gun with you you could stop a shooter who is bent on killing as many people as possible at once. The first reaction is most often to get out of the way or run or hide somewhere rather than risk your own life to maybe or maybe not take down a shooter. What happens in these cases? People run and no one knows who is who. As I am listening to the reports, commentators are saying that chaos reigns in these incidents no matter how well people think they are prepared.

Hospitals are overwhelmed. Trauma centers can’t handle the injuries and bodies. Law enforcement will be working over time in this small town of 3000. The whole community is affected by this and the ripple effect goes further and wider than Roseburg, Oregon. All are in shock and now many are grieving. This is life in America. This is the affect of an American awash in guns along with lax gun laws.

From this article in The Trace, I learned that the Umpqua campus allows guns on the grounds but not in the classrooms. There is more about Oregon’s gun violence and gun laws in the linked article. Would a gun in the classroom have made a difference? I’m sure there will be the usual discussion about that argument instead of discussing how this shooter got his gun and the easy access to guns by way too many who should not have them in our country.

There have been 264 mass shootings this year according to the Gun Violence Archive which describes mass shootings of at leas 4 injured. Yes. You saw that right. How can a country allow this to happen without doing one thing about this national and horrific epidemic? It’s a public health and safety emergency.

Where is the outrage?

Where is common sense?

Don’t be numb. Don’t send your thoughts and prayers. Don’t shrug your shoulders. Cry but then act. We have a national public health and safety emergency that can only be solved with all hands on deck, including our elected officials. Please ask your public officials to act immediately. Yes, laws can make a difference. Laws let people know that some things are not acceptable and for the common good will not be allowed. Once the laws are passed, the culture can change. And the culture can change things to pass laws. Both must happen.

Our hearts are broken yet again.

UPDATE:

It turns out the the Umpqua campus allows guns on their campus and there was at least one armed person on the campus at the time of the shooting.