Loopholes

After traveling in Greece, I am recovering from jet lag and getting back to my life. Nothing stopped in the U.S. while I was gone of course. The Mueller report was released with all of the concomitant and expected chaos and controversy. The weather was awful in Minnesota while I was gone. Actually the weather was cool and a bit rainy in Greece for the first part of our trip and our guide explained that the snow capped mountains we saw were very unusual for April in Greece. In a normal year, there is not snow on the mountains in April there. But this was not a normal year.

Clearly it is not a normal year in the U.S. A President and presidency is run amok. The Mueller report revealed that there were enough instances of obstruction of justice to make us all know that this is not normal. And there is no excuse for calling it not normal because what is happening is frightening and dangerous to our democracy. But never mind, the President and his sycophants carry on as if there is nothing to see here even though it is as obvious as a large wart on someone’s nose that we have a serious crisis on our hands.

Speaking of crises- the coverage of the NRA convention, going on as I write, has been amusing and interesting. It reveals an organization also run amok.

From the article:

Turmoil racking the National Rifle Association is threatening to turn the group’s annual convention into outright civil war, as insurgents maneuver to oust Wayne LaPierre, the foremost voice of the American gun rights movement.
The confrontation pits Mr. LaPierre, the organization’s longtime chief executive, against its recently installed president, Oliver L. North, the central figure in the Reagan-era Iran-contra affair, who remains a hero to many on the right.
Behind it is a widening crisis involving a legal battle between the N.R.A. and its most influential contractor, Ackerman McQueen, amid renewed threats from regulators in New York, where the N.R.A. is chartered, to investigate the group’s tax-exempt status. With contributions lagging, the N.R.A. is also facing an increasingly well-financed gun control movement, motivated by a string of mass shootings.

Count me as not sad about this state of affairs. The NRA has stopped common sense gun legislation for way too long for its’ own financial and political purposes. They are not considering the loss of life in increasingly large numbers, spewing hate and paranoia instead of working with us to find solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. It’s time for a reckoning. They have wielded undue influence and money for decades as the bodies pile up. The American public is against what they are doing but some of our lapdog politicians are too afraid to stand up. That is changing though as the U.S House passed several gun laws in the new Congress to keep people who could be dangerous with guns from getting them. The Minnesota House is poised to do the same and other states have passed recent laws to make their residents safe from shootings.

The second amendment is NOT sacrosanct as we are finding out. Laws have passed in spite of the now weakened NRA. The organization has veered off course and they are eating their own. The NRA allegedly took money from the Russians. That is a scandal worth investigating. They have misused their non-profit status over and over again. We all know about the money they take in from gun manufacturers and now, possibly foreign countries.

And meanwhile, during the now controversial and as usual, hateful NRA annual convention, Maria Butina, Russian operative(?) was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She tried to claim she was not a spy. If that is true, pigs will fly. Butina’s job was to get to the Trump campaign via the NRA which the Russians knew could happen. Because of course, the NRA gave more money to Trump’s campaign than has ever been given to any other campaign.

They exploited campaign finance loopholes and now they are getting caught. As is explained in the above article Giffords is taking them on in a lawsuit. It’s about time for accountability:

The worst news for the NRA, however, may be a new lawsuit filed against the Federal Exchange Commission. The FEC is being sued by nonprofit group, Giffords, for failing to uphold financial laws allegedly broken by the NRA.

Back to the second amendment, misusing its’ meaning is ripe for those who are true believers in the hype about an amendment written in the late 1800s when powder guns were the norm. Look, for example, at an article about a Minnesota teen ( 16 years old) who wore a shirt to school displaying the American flag with bullets and handgrenades instead of stars of stripes. Patriotic? NOT. Considering the number of school shootings and lockdowns that our kids must endure, this is plain and simply provocative and meant to be so. From the article:

Valerius said he wore the sweatshirt as a show of support for the Second Amendment, and feels that there should be a “loophole” in the dress code for that type of expression. He wore it to school again Friday.

A loophole? Let’s talk about loopholes that allow anyone, even domestic abusers, teens, felons and those adjudicated mentally ill to purchase any kind of gun they want and then use it to kill people. That is a loophole.

An example of this wonderful loophole in our gun laws is the vigilante extremist who was arrested at the New Mexico border with Mexico for essentially kidnapping asylum seekers. He was a felon with a gun. Where did he get the gun? Easy enough in America. From the article:

Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, said federal agents had arrested the leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who had been operating under the alias Johnny Horton Jr. Mr. Balderas said in a statement that Mr. Hopkins was arrested on charges of firearms possession by a felon.

Sigh. Innocent people are terrorized every day by gun extremists. We have our very own home grown terrorists who think they can do anything with their guns and their rights. Only in America.

Trump has been busy encouraging this danger by speaking total falsehoods, fear and paranoia at the NRA convention. It was sickening, actually, to watch and hear but the gun toting crowd loved it. Er, uh, oops- they can’t carry their guns at NRA conventions because……?

Trump also announced during this crazy speech that he would make the world less safe by refusing to sign on to the U.N. Small Arms Treaty which NRA lapdogs in Congress and now the Presidency claim will take away gun rights in America. I like this reasoning from the article quoted from the Protect Minnesota Facebook page because it explains the second amendment and gun rights nonsense so well:

” 1) The NRA, on behalf of gun manufacturers, gets Trump to revoke the small arms trafficking agreement. 2) Arms manufacturers get rich selling guns to gangs in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. 3) Armed gangs make life unbearable for the citizens in those countries. Thousands are forced to leave and walk across a continent to “safety” in the US. 4) Trump convinces Americans the these asylum-seekers are dangerous criminals. 5) Frightened Americans buy more guns to protect their families. 6) Arms manufacturers get even richer. The NRA has done its job.”

This is the fact checking of his speech which is always necessary because Trump never tells the truth while speaking to his base:

Members of MS-13, a violent street gang, are a tiny fraction of the number of people apprehended while trying to illegally cross the southwestern border.
In the 2019 fiscal year thus far, border officials apprehended more than 360,000 people trying to illegally cross the border. Of those people, 221, or 0.06 percent, were MS-13 members.

(See above statement from Protect Minnesota)

(…) The 2014 Arms Trade Treaty regulates international sales of conventional weapons (like tanks, combat vehicles, warships, missiles and firearms). It does not “surrender American sovereignty” over gun laws to the United Nations or hand enforcement powers over guns to “foreign bureaucrats.”
The United States was a signatory to the treaty, but did not ratify it as 101 other nations have. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States’ signature during his speech.
The treaty aims to establish international norms for regulating arms sales between countries and addressing illegal arms sales. It prohibits selling weapons to nations that are under arms embargoes or will use them to commit genocide, terrorism, war crimes or attacks against civilians. (…) “It has absolutely no effect on U.S. domestic gun laws,” said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, which supports the treaty.
Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed and noted that withdrawing the United States as a signatory would have very little impact given that the Senate never ratified the treaty. What Mr. Trump is relinquishing, Mr. Kimball said, is a seat at the international table to set global standards and better enforcement in countries most affected by the illegal arms trade. (…)

You can watch a video of his entrance when someone in the audience throws a cell phone at the President. Thank God no guns are allowed inside of the convention.

Well, back to loophole nonsense. Why would the NRA want to have this woman teaching gun safety to others? She shot an unarmed person and got away with it- another loophole. From the article:

A former Tulsa police officer acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed man is expected to teach a National Rifle Association course next month.

I want to end with where I began- with our trip to Greece where the origin of the phrase “Molon Labe” began:

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC), one of the most famous battles in history . King Leonidas of Sparta said the phrase Molon Labe (means “Come and take them” in ancient Greek) to Xerxes I of Persia 2492 years ago when the Persians asked the Spartans to lay down their arms and surrender.

The second amendment apologists have misused this one as well. We visited the site where the battle of Thermopylae took place and where this phrase was used in its’ original context.

The “second amendment” folks claim this phrase for their own purposes which is to let people know that they will resist any attempts to take away their guns or their rights as if that is going to happen. It is yet another loophole in language that has been exploited for political purposes.

The photo shows the famous statue of King Leonidas.

Resisting common sense and any attempts to keep the rest of us safe from danger and shootings by exploiting the meanings of language is disingenuous at the least. They are like the goats ( in photo from my trip taken on the Greek island of Kefalonia) who take risks, follow the ersatz leader and sometimes do dangerous things that could hurt the herd.

Working together works out better in the end for all of us. In Greece and in most other democratized countries, they think the U.S is just crazy when it comes to guns. Our guides told us that in Greece, it is very hard to get a gun of any kind. They are only used for hunting and not much for that , as it turns out. When it comes to semi-automatic assault rifles, they proclaimed their dangerousness and surprise that in America, just about anyone could have one. They don’t believe that guns are necessary for much of anything in Greece and their gun death rate , among the lowest in the world, proves that they have common sense. The ancient Greeks were very wise as are the modern Greeks that we encountered on our trip.

And so it is always instructive to travel for many reasons but getting a perspective on what’s going on at home is useful and mind expanding. We are a country unto our own when it comes to loopholes and gun laws.

Freedom from gun violence

dove of freedomHappy July 4th. Today is, of course, the day we celebrate our independence from a tyrannical government. If we are not vigilant we could be there again. Freedom obviously means different things to different people. But universally it should mean that people ought to be free from violence; free from oppression; free to express opinions; free to live a life without fear of losing health care, a way to make a living, being able to make decisions about own’s own body, free from intolerance and racism, free from discrimination , losing the right to vote, the fear of not being able to marry who you love, the right to the rule of law, the right to live in society within reasonable and common sense rules and laws so that what is good for the most of us is good for all of us. For one never knows when those freedoms might unexpectedly be taken away by circumstances beyond our control or by despotic and self serving leaders.

This morning I read this column written by Dana Milbank, writer for the Washington Post ( the media outlet Trump loves to hate) about our freedoms. From his article:

This isn’t just a linguistic de-emphasis of freedom; Trump has made common cause with dictators and played down human rights abroad while starting a trade war with democratic allies. At home he has questioned due process for refugees, taken immigrant children from their parents, imposed a travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations and declared the media the enemy of the American people. He is now poised to shift the balance on the Supreme Court away from abortion rights and gay rights.

In a very real sense, the fight against Trump is a battle for freedom.

It’s 2018. We should not be a in a battle for our freedoms. But this is where we are right now. Some on the far lunatic right like Alex Jones ( conspiracy theorist and fear monger who Trump loves to love) has put out there that the Democrats are going to start a Civil War today:

The conspiracy theorist tweeted his prediction on Monday, accompanied by a video in which he claimed that “elite publications” were calling for a “civil emergency” using civil unrest and “racial strife” to force out President Trump.

We must be free of this anger, fear mongering and downright lunacy. The fact that our President is on board with this guy says it all.

The President had to relent and allow government buildings to lower their flags to half mast after the shooting of 5 journalists at the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis, Maryland. The fact that someone in the White House refused the original request by the Annapolis Mayor says it all. Why didn’t they intuitively do the right thing? They really don’t seem to care about the lives lost to gun violence. Or if they do, they have a strange way of showing it.

Who does this President stand with? Who does he stand up for? What does he stand up for? Thousands a year lose their lives to gun violence in America, the land of the free. And yet Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell cynically and dangerously says that the federal government can’t do anything to stop school shootings:

McConnell delivered his remarks amid a push for tougher gun safety laws in America, after a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., claimed 17 lives.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Florida attack, said McConnell was full of it.

“Honestly, the man should resign. He either is intentionally useless or he’s just evil,” Guttenberg told the Daily News.

The outspoken activist insisted there’s plenty the federal government could do to combat violence in American schools.

“They could allow the CDC to study gun violence. They could strengthen background checks, ban high capacity magazines,” he said. “There’s a lot they can do, but they can’t do anything if they’re not allowed. Mitch McConnell is nothing more than a roadblock.”

The Kentucky Republican, who has a 93% rating from the NRA, has repeatedly blocked gun-control proposals.

This is what we’ve got right now in America. Lapdog politicians who are pushing to restrict many of our other freedoms but willing to ignore one of the most important freedoms- to live without gun violence.

STOP.

YES WE CAN STOP SHOOTINGS. YES, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN ACT TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE PASS A BRADY BACKGROUND CHECK LAW AND A RED FLAG LAW.

MR. MAJORITY LEADER- STOP THE STUFF AND NONSENSE.

And further, of course, is the hope on the right that any nominee for the Supreme Court open position will further erode the laws that have kept us free and safe from some of the gun violence. The far right and the corporate gun lobby have shown us they resent any restrictions on guns- the kind of guns, who can carry them, and where they can be carried. One of their favorite justices, Antonin Scalia, knew that there should be some restrictions and said so in the 2008 Heller decision– something the corporate gun lobby and Congress loves to conveniently forget. So we do have some constitutional rights to be safe from gun violence after all.

This line of reasoning posed by the corporate gun lobby and the far right extremists ( and even the current GOP party leaders) is dangerous and will lead to chaos and yes, Mr. Jones, even violence. Let’s hope that is not the case but the threat will not be coming from the Democrats who want to stop the violence. Look to those who believe in conspiracy theories, threaten journalists with violence, try to restrict basicl freedoms, rights to vote, and stockpile their weapons for a future war against their own government.

Let me just say that on this July Fourth holiday, what can be done is a commitment to changing the conversation about the causes and effects of gun violence, change the gun culture and change the laws so we can be safe and free from gun violence in our schools, our places of work, our shopping malls, our homes, our parks, our wherever we gather together as a community.

If we give up our freedoms such as freedom of speech and others without also challenging the idea that the misinterpreted meaning of the second amendment means freedom for anyone to purchase and own any kind of gun and carry it anywhere one pleases, we will be giving up our democracy.

Stay firm and strong and keep fighting attempts to take away our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Fourth. Stay safe out there everyone. There are some restrictions on fireworks and personal fireworks can lead to injuries. Celebratory shooting is simply not OK no matter what anyone says. What goes up must come down- a simple law of Physics not understood by some irresponsible gun owners.  Shooting off guns on the Fourth of July is dangerous business and not in the spirit of the celebration.

This is a great day to think about what you can do about our national public health epidemic and our national dilemma about freedoms and civil rights. The best thing you can do is to consider all of this and VOTE in your primaries and the November election.

Common sense is at stake. Lives are at stake. Freedoms are at stake.

The NRA and journalists

Media Definition Shows Social Media Or MultimediaOf course we can’t draw a direct line between what the NRA threatens about journalists and what happened in Annapolis, Maryland a few days ago. But we can draw some conclusions about what our own President and hate filled organizations like the NRA are saying about the freedom of the press in America- one of the pillars of a democracy and our own country since its’ inception.

New evidence is emerging about the shooter of the Capitol Gazette office and is also alarming:

“Of the thousands of people I’ve dealt with in court, this guy stuck,” McCarthy told USA TODAY. “I was extremely scared that he was going to do something to me and my family.”

McCarthy says he became a target of Ramos’ rage after representing a woman in 2011 who accused Ramos of stalking her and threatening her online.

The woman told McCarthy that Ramos, who had gone to the same high school as she did, had been harassing her online since 2009. McCarthy described it as the “worst case of harassment and stalking I have ever encountered in my career.” (…)

McCarthy stated repeatedly that no one had ever frightened him the way Ramos did. He called Ramos a “classic loner” and “as angry and obsessive an individual as you will ever meet.” He also said Ramos viewed anyone who opposed him as an enemy.

“He described adverse parties as belligerents,” McCarthy said. “Like he’s at war.” (,,)

In another post, Ramos makes mention of a shotgun, saying “My bullets are words.” Police say Ramos used a shotgun in the shooting on Thursday.

He also posted multiple times about the 2015 attack at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, even including photoshopped images of one magazine staff member with a bullet hole in his head and blood on his face. His loathing of the press may not have been just fixed on the Capital. In 2014, he posted his thoughts on the beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff and accused the press of propaganda. “Journalists making a living (literally) by participating in propaganda is nothing new,” he wrote. “Think about it.”

Ramos hadn’t posted on the account since January 2016, but just moments before the shooting on Thursday, a message was posted: “F— you, leave me alone.”

How and why did this man have a gun? Until we make it more difficult for people like this to legally ( or illegally) purchase or get their hands on guns, we can expect to see more senseless loss of life.

Let’s just look at this article and video from the ever hateful Dana Loesch ( March of 2018 and after the Parkland shooting):

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

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

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

Yes. She said this.

With rights come responsibilities. That goes for the first amendment and the second amendment.

And we have ample evidence about what our President thinks about the media– except of course what can realistically be called state TV or Fox news. And let us also remember that Trump gets his own views about things from Fox news- not the other way around. There are many people serving in his administration who have worked for Fox news. That alone should be of concern for us all. From the above linked article:

Berman said that while he does not doubt Trump’s sincerity in saying journalists should not be “violently attacked,” he finds it “hard to believe” Trump’s comments aboard Air Force One that he has “a lot of respect for the press.”

Berman’s comments were followed by a montage of Trump attacking the press in past speeches and rallies, including calling media “fake news,” “absolute scum,” “disgusting” and “very dishonest.”

Much of Trump’s criticism of the press has been directed at CNN, which he has repeatedly labeled “Fake News.”

“Fake News”- what a clever way to go after the truth. The truth is that the “fake news” is coming from the mouth of our very own President who lies every day and demeans his critics. This has served to rile up his base and ferment fear and paranoia that could erupt into more than verbal attacks.

Threats to the first amendment are more dangerous than threats to the second amendment. For one can lead to the other. If we don’t have a free press, we don’t have anything. The idea that that individuals are stockpiling guns to protect themselves from the government could very well turn into attacks on our democracy itself.

These are potentially frightening times for our country.

These are hallmarks of autocracy.

Finally one journalist had the courage to speak out at a recent press availability. Thank you Jim Costa.: 

Someone must do this before more tragic incidents happen.

In what other democratized country not at war do Presidents speak like this? We have examples of oppressive regimes and dictatorships where this happens. But not in America have we ever seen this before.

This is frightening and should be alarming even to the rank and file NRA members and Trump supporters. If this were coming from a Democrat, there would be hell to pay. It would not be tolerated or accepted- period.

But the Republicans in Congress have no courage or the will to speak out. They are aiding and abetting this kind of dangerous behavior. Until something happens similar to or worse than the shooting at a newspaper office in Annapoli, Maryland they won’t.

At what point will common sense happen? It could just be too late. We will rue the day we allowed this to take place.

We are better than this. And we are not going to let it go unnoticed. It’s time for all Americans who want to preserve our democracy and the rule of law to stand up. And that includes you Congress.

Here comes the judge

judgeAs soon as I wrote this I could hear the cadence of the “Rowan and Martin Laugh Incomedy show skit starring Sammy Davis Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often when decisions about gun policy get to court, judges take a different look at what is going on and decide in the favor of public health and safety. That is as it should be. Law and order are important concepts to our American life and the judicial system. Laws need to be fair and decided on their merits and their constitutionality.

I wrote about the “docs vs. glocks” decision in my last post. It turns out that the first amendment right of a health care provider to practice medicine how they are taught and know is best to treat patients trumps the second amendment. People have a right to know about the risks of guns from those who understand that health care encompasses keeping people from killing themselves or others and keeping children from getting their hands on guns. There is nothing in it for physicians and other health care providers except practicing good health care. Since far too many parents neglect to understand the obvious risk of guns in the home and are irresponsible with their guns, someone has to protect the children.

This week another ruling came down upholding a Maryland assault weapons ban:

The en banc panel of the court, meeting in Richmond, overturned a three-judge panel that ruled against the law. In a 10-4 ruling, 4th Circuit judges sided with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat who introduced the bill when he served in the state Senate in 2013.
The 10-member majority said assault weapons like those banned under the Maryland law were disproportionately used in mass shootings and in assaults on law enforcement officers. Judge Robert King, writing for the majority, said assault weapons are not protected under the Second Amendment.
Maryland’s ban on assault weapons still allows citizens to protect themselves “with a plethora of other firearms and ammunition,” King wrote. King cited shootings in Aurora, Colo.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Virginia Tech; Fort Hood, Texas; Binghampton, N.Y.; and Tucson, Ariz., the incident in which then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot in the head.
Of course. This is common sense in action. The case was decided en Banc making it even stronger.
And more from the linked article:
“It is unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment,” Frosh said.
Unthinkable.
But the corporate gun lobby doesn’t care about the unthinkable. To them, anything goes if it means increasing sales and having more power. They equate it all with rights. Where are the rights of the rest of us to be safe from people who believe they can carry around a weapon of war on our streets ( as is done in some places) or take one into a school, a mall, a college campus or anywhere else and unload the high capacity magazine full of bullets into the bodies of innocent people. Now that is unthinkable.
I just hate to get into any kind of discussion about the second amendment because it just raises hackles and is usually unproductive.
This is about public safety. If anyone thinks our society is the same as it was when the amendment was written in 1791, please let me know. Or take a look at the States United to Prevent Gun Violence video below which I have included in other blog posts:
The world has changed. The world of guns has certainly changed. And the change has not made American citizens safer.
We will be judged by how we treated our fellow citizens and hopefully not how we failed to protect them from harm. We will be judged by the ways in which we saved our children from senseless harm, injury and death by any means.
Gun violence is insidious. Gun violence is a public health epidemic. Gun violence is preventable. The courts understand this.
Will our elected leaders?

 

Trump’s Second Amendment “gaffe”

Trump remarks

Thank you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for this meme of the latest remarks by Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. The Brady Campaign is named for James Brady who was shot and seriously injured in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

The question is, were these remarks a gaffe or something else?

A gaffe is when a politician accidentally says what he/she really means instead of couching it in more cautious language. Sometimes gaffes expose good things that someone running for office really means but is afraid to say for fear of some sort of consequence for telling the truth. Sometimes gaffes expose the true nature of a politician’s mind and thought process. From Merriam Webster:

  1. a social or diplomatic blunder

  2. a noticeable mistake

I guess you could call all of the amazingly crude, offensive and ludicrous things Donald Trump says gaffes. They are certainly noticeable mistakes. Were they innocent mistakes or were they intentional? For sure they are blunders and they are happening on a daily basis.

But really, the country is coming to know Trump as someone who is what he says and means what he says and it’s not a pretty picture. Some thought he could overcome his own personality and seem more Presidential. I never thought that. There is nothing Presidential about a man who says what Trump said yesterday.

Sigh.

And so when Trump went off script, or should we say actually stayed on his own script which is basically to say anything that comes to mind, about the second amendment last night, we heard something we’ve never heard before. We heard a Presidential candidate actually suggest that once Hillary was elected those “second amendment” people would just have to do something about her appointing judges who would overturn the second amendment.

He did say that and he meant it no matter what his surrogates are saying. We know what it meant. He was not asking “second amendment” voters to get involved in the election and be active in getting Trump himself elected. That is not what he meant because his words indicated doing something about judges after Hillary is elected.

This was a dangerous moment in our nation’s history. Common sense tells us that Trump is woefully and dangerously unprepared to become the leader of the free world. The fact that he is now the “titular” head of the Republican Party should be an embarrassment and travesty to the party leaders. But they still sit back, hoping against hope that Trump will stop being Trump and act like a normal candidate for President.

Trump claims to be outside of the mainstream and an unusual candidate. That’s for sure. Do his supporters actually believe that someone who knows virtually nothing about running a country should get the job? And do they also believe that what Trump said was just a joke and the rest of us should pretend we didn’t hear the words that came out of his mouth? They heard them. Are they giving him a pass even on this remark?

How far will this go before there is a nut job who takes what he says seriously enough to act on his words? This dangerous and insurrectionist talk is fomenting anger and fear amongst Trump supporters. We should all be afraid of the consequences.

What this election has done is bring the issue of guns and gun rights front and center. Hillary Clinton has asked for strengthening our gun laws so that so many people won’t get shot. That seems like a sensible goal and would be in any other country. But in America we have a group of right wing gun extremists who have taken the second amendment out of context and turned it in to some interpretation that just doesn’t fit with what’s happening in real life. The worst of this is that they have gotten away with their fear mongering and hate talk for far too long.

Not any more. This kind of interpretation of the second amendment, long held by the NRA leaders and lobbyists and the corporate gun lobby is now being challenged by more people who see that the “emperor has no clothes”. The curtain has been pulled aside on Oz and we see this small group of lobbyists and extremists and the leaders who refuse to debunk their myths, for who they are.

If we continue to have incidents like the ones I write about on this blog and will highlight just a few of here, we will see that our world of guns and gun violence is taking an increasing toll on too many citizens. We are also seeing that more guns are leading to more dangerous incidents with guns. How could it not? Guns are designed to kill people. Too many gun owners have cavalier attitudes about guns because…rights.

With rights come responsibilities.

What was the responsibility of this Indiana prosecutor who should have known better when he decided to carry his loaded gun in his pocket?

What was the responsibility of this Florida police officer whose gun still had a bullet in the chamber and ended up killing an innocent citizen who was volunteering to become a citizen patrol member? How was it that someone so experienced with guns made this mistake?

Was this Minnesota gun guy a responsible gun owner when he threatened a cable worker with his shotgun? I think not.

I didn’t make these up. These incidents happen every day and are not myths. This is what we need to be talking about instead of insinuations that “second amendment people”, whoever they are, should get involved in a solution to Hillary Clinton appointing judges who will allegedly abolish the second amendment.

This is the problem with our gun culture. It isn’t what the second amendment extremists claim it is. It is something else. Every day we see the consequences.

And in this great article, Evan Osnos writes in the New Yorker about why Trump’s comments about the second amendment matter to gun owners:

Many gun owners I know, especially those who are most passionate about defending the Second Amendment, take pride in reminding others that they are law-abiding. They are responsible for their conduct and for the safe handling and storage of a firearm; they try not to lose their tempers, and to argue their ideas with facts and civility. Trump, in this sense, is harming them; by suggesting that, to use his phrase, “Second Amendment people” would turn to violence because their favored candidate loses an election is an insult to gun owners everywhere. By feeding a caricature, Trump is effectively advancing the case of those who would seek to curtail access to guns. Truly protecting the Second Amendment means identifying those who are misusing it for their own political purposes.

If anyone thinks those  law abiding gun owners who want the right to own guns for self protection and hunting/recreation believe that those guns should be used the way Trump is suggesting, they are wrong. Most gun owners are safe with their guns but those same gun owners need to get involved and tell the corporate gun lobby and candidates like Trump to stop giving them all a bad name.

In fact, most gun owners want what I want. So do the vast majority of Americans who support sensible gun laws and a sensible gun culture where women are not being shot by their partners in domestic shootings, where children are not shooting themselves and others in “accidental” gun dischargers, where people of color, gay Americans, Sikhs, small children, college students, children at a Jewish day care center, military members, and others are not victims of hate crimes and mass shootings.

Trump’s remarks left an opening for an interpretation of calling for a political assassination.Political assassinations happen, it seems, more frequently in other countries but we have had our share of successful and unsuccessful attempts to change our government through violent means. Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and others. The list is long.

What we don’t need is the anger and violent talk fomented by one of our Presidential candidates to end in another American tragedy.

This is serious business and our next leader needs to be a serious person who knows how to speak publicly without others having to interpret the true meaning of the words. World leaders are watching this wondering what we have become. A few careless and thoughtless words could change the trajectory of world peace. Dangerous remarks made about violence could end in violence.

To say this is unsettling is an under statement. No matter what Trump’s surrogates say about this, they will not convince most voters that this was a joke. As someone who has lost a sister in a domestic shooting, I am not only offended, I am frightened by the rhetoric spewing from the mouth of someone who, if elected our next President, would make us all less safe.

Where is common sense? We are better than this. And we’ve had #Enough of the violent and fear mongering rhetoric. We’ve had #Enough of actual gun violence that takes the lives of 90 Americans a day.

This election is a pivotal time for changing the conversation about guns and gun violence. Hillary Clinton has not said and could not succeed in abolishing  the second amendment. This is hyped up fear talk and it needs to stop. All Hillary wants is to stop some of the shootings. There is nothing more nefarious than that. Any other meaning ascribed to her words is a lie. The linked article states that Trump’s remarks were open to interpretation. Wars and international misunderstandings have resulted when a leader’s remarks were misinterpreted. 

The bottom line is that no candidate for President should be allowed to get away with this kind of talk. If Trump can’t speak without issuing threats or needing to have  his remarks interpreted by his surrogates to cover his ass, then the Republican party needs to seriously think about what their own positions are and reflect on whether this is the man they want representing them.

I leave my readers with these wise and cogent remarks from someone who should know what it means to be targeted as a politician- and lived to tell her story and advocate for reasonable gun laws- former Representative Gabriel Giffords:

“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence,” the statement reads. “Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed.”

 

 

 

Activist mommies

mommy activistThis morning one of the commenters who reads my blog but rarely gets published called me an “activist Mommie”.  Check it out here:

Why is your only response to post a link and text to an NRA sponsored site? I’ve not proffered anything of the sort….I asked you where is the primary source foundation for the gun control lobby’s assertions, where it regards the 2nd Amendment?

Read any of the Framers debates over the intent and verbiage during the ratification of the 2nd Amendment; then read a bit of at least one of the philosophical influences as directly and explicitly admitted by said Framers. I recommend Algernon Sidney.

Simply playing narratives between the NRA and activist Mommies is lazy.

First of all, this kind of demeaning and misogynistic comment is not rare coming from gun rights extremists. I have been called all kinds of names, including the “c” word, as has my dead sister. They think we are “weak” according to this commenter who calls himself “Constitutional Insurgent”, whatever that means. He believes he knows more about the constitution than the rest of us yet refused to provide any evidence of what he was claiming. He got mad when I provided him with a site supported by the NRA.  Whatever.

We are not going to sit home baking cookies and doing what some think is what women should be doing.

But I did look up something about Algernon Sidney, as “Insurgent” suggested but provided me with no links. Just as I suspected, Sidney, who died in 1683, was a limited government guy :

“Furthermore, Sidney believed that civil government should have limited jurisdiction. He said the, “only ends for which governments are constituted and obedience rendered to them, are the obtaining of justice and protection.” This suggests a limited civil government whose primary purpose is to 1) render legal justice through its court system and 2) provide for the safety of its citizens. We can also conclude from Sidney that, if a government fails to accomplish these basic components, obedience to that government is no longer required.”

So we are supposed to base current gun policy on writings from the 17th century read by our founding fathers? I’m sure they read a lot of scholarly research in forming the Constitution. The Constitution is an incredible document reflecting both limited government and the need for a strong federal government. It was a compromise that has worked pretty well for our country. But as I pointed out in my last post, the  Constitution, in my opinion, can (and has) change with the times. And since guns have changed dramatically, laws need to reflect our current culture and life, not that of those who lived in the 17th century. I like to read about history as well. But I can also see that, while it is important to know what came before us, it is also important that we deal with present problems.

The second amendment and its’ various interpretations, is thrown up as the reason why we can’t do anything about all of the carnage in our country. That is a weak and unsupported argument that has won the argument for far too long. The second amendment does not guarantee a God given right to own whatever gun one wants by anyone who wants to carry anywhere one wants to. If someone can find a reference to guns in the Bible or other early Biblical, Jewish, Muslim or any other religious teachings, let me know. And don’t send me the stuff about taking up swords. That is a nonsensical argument, at best.

This article in The Trace, written by a law scholar, says this about recent second amendment rulings in the Supreme Court:

Assuming that Heller remains on the books, what does it mean for the future of gun rights and gun regulation in the United States? Probably not as much as supporters of gun regulation fear, nor as much as gun rights proponents want. Despite broad claims about its likely impact, the “individual right” interpretation of the Second Amendment has not radically changed the legal landscape. Roughly 95 percent of Second Amendment challenges brought since Heller have failed, and the evolving doctrine leaves ample room for reasonable gun regulations. The primary obstacles to stronger gun laws remain political, not constitutional.

But back to hateful rhetoric, it comes straight from the top. One of the NRA Board members, Ted Nugent, is famous for this offensive , racist, anti-semitic, and rude comments when he “performs” in public or otherwise speaks at NRA events or on NRA radio. There is pushback for an upcoming appearance by Nugent in my state of Minnesota as well there should be.

Yesterday the Republican nominee for President, Mr. Donald J. Trump, intimated that the Muslim mother of a solder killed in Iraq didn’t speak out at the Democratic National Convention when she stood beside her husband, Khizr Kahn because she was Muslim. This, of course, is a typical dog whistle issued by Trump and others like him.

Kahn, speaking at the DNC, took on Trump’s offensive remarks about a Muslim ban in America considering that his own son, a Muslim, signed up to fight in Iraq for his own country of America and was killed in combat. It was a powerful and emotional moment for all of us. But Trump and his ilk don’t like to be challenged by the facts and the truth. So they fight back with offensive lies meant to deflect the truth of the matter. In the process they tear down Muslims, people of color, women and anyone who doesn’t think or look like them.

After the convention, both of the Kahns were interviewed by Lawrence O’Donnel on MSNBC. Mrs. Kahn spoke and spoke powerfully about the pain she has experienced and how hard it is for her to talk about her son. Mr. Kahn said that she was the strong one and helped him write his speech.

If this had not been a Muslim couple on stage and only one person spoke, would Trump have attacked them? We know the answer.

When will this stop? Will someone be shot? I’m just wondering.

This kind of fear mongering and offensive rhetoric is coming straight from the man at the top of the Republican ticket. Why are other Republicans not speaking out against this? That question needs to be answered.

Just as the NRA leadership is not speaking out against Nugents’ offenses and vile remarks, it comes from the top. And it implicates everyone who doesn’t speak out.

So then, why allow these type of comments on articles on the web? Many are too vile to say out loud. Take this attack on Massachusetts Attorney General   who had the nerve to speak out in favor of an assault weapons ban. God forbid! Another activist Mommy in favor of stopping people from getting shot in a mass shooting by an angry young male. Check it out:

“Another [expletive] woman passing laws based off emotional bias this is why woman[sic] should not have leading roles they’re emotionally to [sic] weak,” wrote a grammatically challenged charmer.

They’ve called Healey ugly, her agenda satanic, and taunted her for being gay. One person tweeted that he’d like to hire a homeless man to rape and disembowel the attorney general alive. A commenter on a gun nut blog tracked down her home address and posted it. (…)

They don’t attack only women, of course.

“A day doesn’t go by that I am not called the worst kind of Jew on the planet,” said John Rosenthal, the longtime gun control activist. “I’m ‘a Jew faggot,’ or I ‘should have been killed in an oven.’ It’s disgusting.”

And then the article ended with this cogent assessment:

Oh, good grief, you may be thinking, Can’t you just ignore them? These are just fringe-dwelling fools. They can’t even spell. The thing is, the fringe is wide. And when somebody sends you a note threatening you with rape and murder, it can get to you, even if you’ve grown inured to garden-variety torment.

You’re not supposed to admit this, of course. You’re damned if you call these cretins out — it gives them oxygen, makes you seem like a victim — and damned if you don’t, because they just keep doing it. The world, especially online, is replete with men who straight-up hate women.

For her part, Healey has opted for oxygen deprivation, declining to comment on the torrents of misogyny. She did say she was determined to keep fighting to control the spread of weapons designed to mow down as many people as possible. Which guarantees further abuse.

“I am not going to back down,” she said. “I believe this is right and appropriate and lawful and something we need to do.”

Good for Healey. We need to stand up to these attacks and stand together. But now we have a woman nominee who is likely to win the race for the White House. They will hate her every bit as much as they have hated our first Black President. It won’t be pretty.

I, for one, am proud to be an activist Mommy and Grandmother. There are a lot of us and the majority of men, gun owners and NRA members have joined us in our support of legislation that would stop and prevent some of our daily carnage. If those right wing gun activists oppose that, then the weakness is theirs, not ours. Congress is the weak link here but that is going to change soon.

The Million Mom March, which I attended in 2000 on the Mall in Washington DC was a pivotal moment in the movement to prevent gun violence. It brought mothers and others together as one to oppose the overly powerful and influential gun lobby whose weakening of gun policy and opposition to anything that would save lives had kept our Congress from acting.  Chapters were formed all over the country and are now affiliated with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, named for Jim Brady who was shot in an assassination attempt against President Reagan. The gun nuts hated Sarah Brady. She was regularly attacked and abused by them. She was a strong woman who apparently threatened their world.

After the Sandy Hook shooting, Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America, affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety has brought millions more into the movement for sanity.

The shooting of a woman sitting Congressman, Gabby Giffords, started a movement formed by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly- Americans for Responsible Solutions. Her voice is strong and powerful when she speaks and her story resonates. Gun activists don’t like her either.

Other organizations are active and include mommies, daddies, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, grandparents, nieces, nephews and friends of people who have been shot. What the gun rights extremists don’t like about us is that we are the majority and we are changing the conversation that they have had to themselves for far too long. Our influence is now changing the minds and hearts of our elected leaders and a tipping point is upon us.

We are all attacked on a regular basis by those who fear our power to change their small minority of resistance to reasonable changes to gun laws and their fear of tyranny, people not like them, zombies and their own shadows.

This kind of shameful, ludicrous, fact free attack has to be challenged and called out for what it is. Hate. Fear. Sexist. Racist. Offensive. Rude. Unacceptable. Who are the weak ones who are so afraid of the mothers and others who want to do something about the shootings?

Where is common sense?

 

UPDATE:

Since I wrote about Donald Trump demeaning the mother of a Muslim soldier here is her response from an article:

In an opinion piece published Sunday on The Washington Post’s website, Ghazala Khan responded directly to Trump.

“Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart,” she wrote.

She said Trump is “ignorant” when he talks about Islam. Trump has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States.

“If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.” she wrote. “Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”

On Sunday, Khizr Khan defended his wife’s silence at the convention, telling CNN that she is ill, has high blood pressure and cannot keep herself composed when she sees images of her son.

I suggest that the extremists stop their demeaning, misogynistic, rude and offensive comments. But first, those at the top have to stop. Who will stop them?

 

UPDATE #2

In Oregon, a woman Governor can’t support gun laws that will save lives without receiving threats against her life. Remember, the guys with the guns are likely the ones making the threats. This is simply not OK. From the article:

“Instead of voicing passionate opinions or dissent as part of exercising free speech, they express intent to cause her harm, ugly threats of physical violence and death,” said Kristen Grainger, Brown’s communications director. “Potentially dangerous individuals have attempted to breach security perimeters on more than one occasion.”

Grainger and others say Brown’s role in calling for an end to this winter’s armed occupation near Burns, along with her recent backing of three gun-control bills, appear to have ramped up threats.

I will let it speak for itself.

 

Drive by shootings and gun policy

bonnieclydeRemember Bonnie and Clyde? I do. There were a lot of drive-by shootings and road rage shootings committed by the infamous couple who died in their car of multiple bullet wounds at the hands of law enforcement. Those were the “good old days” when bullets were flying and machine guns were easily available to those who shouldn’t have had them. Revenge, gangs, anger, too much alcohol and guns- bad combinations.

Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934.

Remember Elliott Ness and Al Capone and the mafia era? The years of prohibition created mayhem on the streets of some of our cities. It was just after this time period that Congress decided that machine guns and silencers should not be available to average citizens without very strict regulations. In 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed:

With the passage of the NFA, these guns immediately faced severe restrictions.  While owning them is still technically legal, they must be registered (which isn’t exactly easy) and they are taxed more heavily ($200 for owning a silencer, for example, or as low as $5 for some smooth bore pistols, like the Serbu Super Shorty pictured earlier).  Anyone wanting to own one or manufacture one has to go through the BATFE for approval. (…) But firearms enthusiasts should look at it from a cautionary perspective, as well.  This was possible.  In fact, it is one of several legislative acts that govern the way we think about firearms.  And the NFA will be the cornerstone on which new restrictions will be built.

Few, if any, crimes are committed with these weapons because so few people own them and those who do go through a long and expensive process to get them. But it could only be a matter of time as the corporate gun lobby is driving by to get laws passed in many of our states to allow people to purchase silencers. When more people own silencers, will they, too, end up in the illegal market? How will they be used? Keep track of this as the push is on to get them into more hands. My own state of Minnesota passed such a law a few years ago:

Anderson, who sometimes carries a weapon to the Capitol, says that he intends to buy silencers for some of his guns. He outlined the process he’ll have to go through: He’ll have to get approval from the Cass County sheriff; pass a state background check; apply to the federal government to possess the silencer, sending $200 along with his application (which needs to include the serial number of the silencer he intends to purchase); go through a federal background check that might take months; and finally, make the purchase of an item that is fairly pricey (upwards of $700).

“It’s ludicrous that we have to go through all of this at the federal level,” Anderson said. “This is an item you should be able to walk into a store and just purchase. We need to work on the federal law. But still, this is a pretty big step.”

Yup. It’s just a matter of time before silencers are available with no background checks from private sellers and on-line just like guns are in most states. That is why we need to stop the drive-by policies of the corporate gun lobby and put the brakes on these bills. What we need is to make sure ALL gun sales, including ammunition and paraphernalia go through Brady background checks.

Why the resistance to this? It’s a minority who oppose it. Their reasons make no sense and aren’t even true. Time to make sure we do the right thing and stop people from getting shot in their cars, in their homes, and anywhere else.

Today, we have more guns than any other democratized country in the world. Over 300 million. We also have the highest number of gun deaths per capita and the weakest gun laws. Other countries don’t have a second amendment or a corporate gun lobby like ours. Sure there are some people in other countries who want to loosen the laws that have been passed. But it isn’t happening because other countries are watching our mass shootings and every day carnage and understand that our loose laws contribute.

The NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby have flown or driven into almost every state of the union and left us with the worst gun policies in the world.  This was done very purposely to drive up profits for the industry and deceive the public into believing that the second amendment includes allowing anyone to buy a gun and carry it everywhere. That is NOT what the founding fathers had in mind when the amendment was written. And, of course, we need to remember why the founding fathers wrote that amendment into our Constitution in the first place. From this Mother Jones article with an interview with author Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center:

MW: Yes. And that might be noteworthy for some. There were plenty of guns. There was the right to defend yourself, which was part of English common law handed down from England. But there were also gun restrictions at the same time. There were many. There were limits, for example, on where you could store gunpowder. You couldn’t have a loaded gun in your house in Boston. There were lots of limits on who could own guns for all different kinds of reasons. There was anexpectation that you should be able to own a gun. But they didn’t think they were writing that expectation into the Constitution with the Second Amendment.

MJ: So then why focus on the Second Amendment and not the English Bill of Rights or other things the framers drew on that more clearly address individual gun ownership?

MW: We are not governed today, in 2014, by British common law. Law evolved, the country evolved. It was a very rural place. There were no cities. There were no police forces. It was a completely different way of living. So gun rights activists turned this into a constitutional crusade. Those who want more guns and fewer restrictions realized they could gain some higher ground if they claimed the Constitution.

Has the world changed since the second amendment was written? Of course. Check this video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence for a graphic image of how much guns have changed since the amendment was written.

I happen to believe that the Constitution is a living document that can change when change is required to keep Americans safe and healthy.

Ever since the 1977 Cincinnati NRA convention revolt (see article above), the gun lobby has changed -transformed itself into a lobby group that doesn’t represent its’ original purpose nor its’ members. They changed to a group that protects and supports the gun industry profits and vice versa. As a result, the landscape changed as well regarding gun policy.

One of the goals of this change  was passing laws in almost all states to allow people to carry guns in their cars and public places. The charade was that people needed guns for self defense everywhere they went. Our legislators bought it because-  rights. Never mind that the second amendment does not mention the right to carry guns for personal protection. These laws had the effect of changing the culture around guns. It became OK for people to have guns with or without a permit on their person.

Former Representative Gabby Giffords spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Her appearance caused a stir in the hall as well it should have. Her speech was simple and short because of her brain injury. Do you remember that her shooter had a gun with no permitting process as is allowed by Arizona law? I do.

It wasn’t so many years ago that it would have been unusual for guns to be found in cars and used in drive-bys or accidental shootings. Two recent examples in my own state:

Man follows couple on local road and shoots and injures one passenger:

Jesse Jay Bohanon was charged in Carlton County District Court Tuesday with three counts of second-degree attempted murder while committing a drive-by shooting, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of drive-by shooting, one count of dangerous weapons-intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition.

Where did this felon get his gun? It’s easy in our country for that to happen.

Man shot and killed in bar by someone  who allegedly fired shots car at the bar. “The man, yet to be charged, is jailed on suspicion of assault and second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting, suggesting that he fired the shots from a vehicle.”

Many other examples of drive-by shootings exist. The city of Des Moines, Iowa has seen an increase in drive-by shootings as just one example.

Many examples of road rage involving gun violence exist as well with some dead victims.

Here is one. And another. And another. And another.

Common sense suggests that having guns in cars is not a good idea. Small children find them in the glove box or the back seat and shoot them. I have written about more than a few of these recently- a small child shot and injured his own mother, a gun loving person. Another toddler killed his own mom with a gun found in the car.

And then there are the people who get caught for illegal drugs and guns like this case in Daytona, Florida:

Of the 29 people, 18 were arrested on Tuesday. Nine were arrested in the course of the operation.

And police are looking for two others who are targets of the operation: Tiffany Malcom, 33, and Robert Smith, 27. Smith, Chitwood revealed Wednesday, is a person of interest in the murder of Deandre Smith, who was shot to death as he drove his car on the Oakridge Boulevard Bridge on May 10, 2015.

Eleven people were charged with federal firearms violations. Nine were charged with state drug and firearms crimes.

What is it about criminals shooting each other in cars? Don’t they know that stray bullets hit innocent people?  A beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet in Minneapolis in May while sitting in her car minding her own business. They don’t care really when they have anger and vengeance on their minds. Bullets don’t know where to stop and there are way too many of them flying from and into cars all over America. And the gun lobby doesn’t seem to care that people like the 29 arrested in Daytona found guns so easily to traffic drugs and kill other people.

Drive-by gun policy comes from the corporate gun lobby who send NRA or other representatives into states to lobby and write bill language. And then they leave us with bad policies that have led to more gun deaths and injuries. Lives are too precious to leave gun policy to those whose interest is in selling their product. Finding new markets for new guns leaves us with too many grieving families and devastated communities.

It takes a while for new policies to change the landscape and become effective. So about 11-12 years after many states passed conceal ( or open) and carry laws, we see how they are working. Most gun permit holders are safe with their guns and do not misuse them. But enough of them have been dangerous- either intentionally or accidentally that an argument could be made that we need to strengthen these laws.

Rather than people needing to use guns for self defense, those guns are being used in shootings- drive-bys or other shootings. Few instances of defensive gun uses make the case for conceal and carry weak.

We are just plain not safer with more guns on our streets, in our cars and in our homes, schools, places of work and where we play. Using guns for hunting and sport shooting is one thing. Having them around in places where we gather or drive our cars makes no common sense. But because the NRA and corporate gun lobby drives by our states and promotes weakening our gun laws, the result has been the devastation in communities all over our country.

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton accept the nomination of the Democratic party to be the first woman to have that honor. It was thrilling to know that I have lived in a time when a woman can be nominated for and hopefully win the Presidency. Among other things she said in her acceptance speech was this ( meme by Brady Campaign):

Hillary and guns

Thank you Hillary. We are just trying to keep people from getting shot by people who shouldn’t have guns. Let’s get to work to make the changes we all deserve.

 

 

July 4, 2016- Who will protect the children?

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American Banner

On this Independence Day, I will again remind my readers that what goes up must come down. My friend Joe Jaskolka knows this all too well. His story is told here by my friend who writes the New Trajectory blog. Joe survived the bullet that lodged in his brain that New Years’ Eve of 1999 when he was just 11 years old. Someone celebrating their second amendment rights changed Joe’s life forever. I have met Joe and his father. I know how his life is now. Who protected him that night from someone with a gun? No one could have predicted this.

As The Trace wrote last New Years, the odds are low of being hit by a bullet fired into the air:

But if the odds of being hit by celebratory gunfire are indeed low, so too are the odds of ever being caught for engaging in it in the U.S. Cases where authorities can precisely pinpoint the location of the gun — let alone identify the shooter — are incredibly rare. The legal consequences for those who do get caught are mixed, with charges ranging from the misdemeanor to felony level and fines ranging widely.

And why do people do this in the first place? On one level, the answer is the obvious one: It’s recklessness, frequently abetted by drunkenness.

People may actually not realize that the bullets they launch into the air will inevitably land somewhere, with potentially disastrous results. But on another level, there are basic economics at work.

Many municipalities ban outright the sale of another New Year’s staple: fireworks. That means residents have to be able to afford to travel outside city limits or even cross state lines in order to buy them. Meanwhile, ammunition can be plentiful, already at hand, and, in many cases, simply cheaper.

But when guns, celebration and possibly alcohol are mixed together with people whose rights don’t come with responsibilities, these kinds of shootings happen often enough that we should be very concerned that your child or grandchild could be affected next.

Anyone with common sense should understand that bullets shot into the air do come down somewhere. What are they thinking? Not much apparently. Those guns bought for self protection more often than not end up harming or killing some other innocent American citizen. 

So my purpose in writing about this is that, before I met Joe Jaskolka, I never thought about the possibility that someone would be injured or killed by celebratory gunfire. I want others to know that this is possible and to make sure there are not armed people nearby celebrating on our national holidays by shooting bullets into the air.

Fireworks also injure people every year. Interestingly, this article reveals some statistics about fireworks injuries:

As states have relaxed laws related to fireworks sales over the past decade, emergency doctors saw an increase in both the number and severity of fireworks-related injuries among young people, the data show.
They determined that the number of patients under age 21 treated and released by emergency departments between 2006 and 2012 rose modestly: from 4.28 per 100,000 people in 2006 to 5.12 in 2012. Significantly larger increases were seen in injuries requiring inpatient hospital admission, which skyrocketed (if you’ll pardon the pun) from 29% of cases in 2006 to 50% in 2012.

Laws matter as it turns out and are there for good reason- to protect children from avoidable injuries and death.

Rights come with responsibilities. On this day when we celebrate freedom, independence and love of country, we should take our responsibilities very seriously.

A few days ago, a story circulated about a 3 year old Kansas child who was visiting a home in Tennessee with his parents. Unfortunately and tragically for all concerned, the boy found a loaded gun in the home, not stored away from small hands, and he shot himself in the face.

He died.

What caught my attention on the news story video was the sign in front of the house that promoted the owner’s second amendment rights with the saying: “protected by the second amendment”.

Who was there to protect that child from the owner’s second amendment rights?

The second amendment does not, according to the gun lobby, guarantee the right of the rest of us to be safe from those who promote it with no restrictions, regulations or moderation.

This is not acceptable and should not be accepted as fact.

Who will protect our children from those who are not practicing their second amendment rights responsibly? Most gun owners are safe and responsible. But many of them refuse to participate in efforts to make sure all are responsible.

What can we do?

Pass safe storage laws so guns must be stored safely or there will be a penalty.

Pass Child Access Prevention Laws and enforce them to make adults responsible for leaving loaded guns within easy reach of children.

Make sure all gun sales come with a Brady background check.

Pass laws to make sure domestic abusers don’t have guns. Children ( and women) are often shot during domestic shootings.

ASK  if there are unsecured, loaded guns in the homes where your children play.

Require everyone who buys a gun to have training with a firearm before walking out of the gun store or gun show with said gun.

Restrict the number of rounds allowed to be used with firearms.

Restrict the features that can be added to assault type rifles to turn them into weapons of mass destruction.

Charge gun owners whose guns are used by children to kill themselves or others.

Contact your elected leaders and demand that they act to save the children.

Join an organization working to prevent gun violence. It’s about prevention.

Understand that any restrictions on firearms does not lead to confiscation of guns or taking away second amendment rights. Remember that these are myths promoted by the corporate gun lobby.

Report anyone using a gun irresponsibly at a celebratory community or family event.

Don’t assume anything. Take irresponsible gun use seriously. With rights come responsibilities.

Change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America.

On this day of national celebration, please remember that we are better than this and must act to keep our children safe from devastating gun violence.

A new NRA website called sharethesafety.org is promoting the purchase of guns for others who can’t “afford” them. This is the exact opposite of everything we know about gun safety. A brazen attempt to arm people in neighborhoods where supposedly people can’t afford guns is a ludicrous and dangerous promotion of gun sales to make a profit off of death and injury. We already know that our young people of color in these kinds of neighborhoods are already quite heavily armed and causing death and mayhem every day in inner city urban neighborhoods.

Minneapolis has seen an increase in shootings in affected neighborhoods this year. Recently a beloved woman, Birdell Beeks, was shot by a stray bullet in her neighborhood. All we need are more guns legally or illegally owned  killing innocent people.

Please read the Violence Policy Center’s “Blood Money” if you don’t believe me.

It’s not sharing the safety. It’s sharing the death.

This is the American we have. Is this the America we deserve to have or want? I think not.

Remember that more people have died from gunshot injuries in American than all Americans who have died in wars. Is this patriotic and love of country?

Only in American, the nation we are celebrating today, do shootings of and by toddlers take more lives than terrorists do:

In the US in 2015, more people were shot and killed by toddlers than by terrorists. In 2013, the New York Times reported on children shot by other children: “Children shot accidentally – usually by other children – are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.”

Children and innocent Americans should not be collateral damage. If we take this seriously like we do death by any other cause,  we will do something about it. If we love our country and are patriotic, we will do whatever it takes to save our children from a country dripping in guns and bleeding from gun deaths and injuries like no other country not at war.

#Enough.

Be safe out there today and Happy Fourth of July.

 

UPDATE:

Disclaimer- It turns out that the website, sharethesafety.com is a hoax and a parody about the NRA.  Sometimes parodies reflect the truth and in this case, we can all believe that the NRA would promote the buying of guns for people who can’t afford them because they often use that myth as a way to complain about gun restrictions. What I also find interesting is that low-income Americans can barely afford clothing, food and the necessities of life. It’s likely they won’t need a gun to live their daily lives. The other point is that there are young people who don’t have a lot of money to afford guns but can easily get them on the streets cheaply. Easy access to guns for those who shouldn’t be able to get them is a serious public health and safety problem in our country. Guns are weapons designed to kill other people. They should be expensive and more difficult to access.

According to the above article, the NRA has filed an official complaint about the men who launched this hoax website. It hit too close to home apparently.

What now?

What's next?It’s been an eventful few weeks for America. Our nation’s worst mass shooting took place, killing 49 gay/lesbian people at a nightclub in Orlando. Of course our leaders did the right thing and immediately passed laws that would make it harder for dangerous people to get guns.  Our leaders, in the figures of mostly Republicans, refused to act to do something to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns. The Democrats and a few Republicans and Independents decided this was not the way things were going to go this time.

This time.

Not after this mass shooting.

Not after Sandy Hook.

Not after Aurora.

Not after Tucson.

Not after Umpqua Community College.

Not after San Bernardino.

Not after Santa Monica.

…………..

Not this time.

Australia acted after its’ country’s worst mass shooting. There have been no more mass shootings since 1996 when gun laws were strengthened there.

The Senate took a vote (after a successful Democratic filibuster) on whether or not we should allow those on the terror watch list to be able to buy guns legally. And it passed. It was blocked by the bought and paid for Republicans a few scared Democrats. Then they took a vote on whether or not it was OK for a felon, domestic abuser, someone adjudicated mentally ill, a fugitive or another such person to buy guns without background checks. And it passed. It was blocked by the Republicans and a few scared Democrats.

Then something happened in the U.S. House of Representatives. An unprecedented sit-in happened to get a vote on whether dangerous people should be able to buy guns legally. They sat for 25 hours and had help from some of the Senators who days earlier had made their stand with a 15 hour filibuster which led to the no votes.

They used their own photos and a video app called Periscope to feed their speeches to the public through the Facebook platform and C-Span. Never before had this been done. But then never before had 49 Americans been killed in one place at one time except during war time.

And Speaker Paul Ryan called a vote to protect us from the next mass shooter.

Civil disobedience has a way of calling attention to something the leaders don’t want us to know, see or hear about.

What next? What now? More civil disobedience?

More sit-ins?

More filibusters?

More no votes?

More shootings?

For surely the shootings will come until we decide that they shouldn’t and decide we can actually do something about them without fearing that the corporate gun lobby will interfere and “call the shots.”

The public understands what is happening. The public will vote in November and they will not forget that some of our leaders are not interested or care enough about the many victims of shootings to sit with the victims’ families and look into their eyes and tell them that they just won’t do anything to stop more people from ending up like their own loved ones. They care more about being re-elected and maintaining the power they got largely through special interest lobby groups whose money speaks.

Who will speak for the victims?

Lack of courage is not a good feature in a leader. Lack of empathy and conviction doesn’t work out well when representing people who need help and support. Lack of ability to stand up for what’s right even though a powerful lobby is telling you you can’t do it is shameful and spineless. Lack of the backbone to tell the gun lobby to take a hike because they are not representing the Americans who want you to do something, anything, to stop this carnage- these massacres, is not only unbecoming, it’s inexcusable.

There are no excuses. Lack of common sense leads to bad decision-making for the good of the people.

There are no excuses. No. Rights will not be taken from someone who deserves them and is law-abiding.

Not everyone gets those rights. They are not God-given and sacrosanct no matter what the gun lobby has deceived people into believing. And the second amendment does not say that we can’t infringe on the rights of dangerous people to have guns. That is total nonsense.

If a conversation can’t take place and a bill can’t be marked up to deal with what is staring us in the face, we can’t even try to deal with language that will make sure someone whose name may be on the no-fly list by mistake can address the problem and correct it. A bill was floated by Senator Susan Collins that would give people 14 days to get their name off the no-fly list after being told it is on the list and that they can’t buy a gun. It was a bi-partisan effort and it passed, of course. From the linked article:

“The Orlando shooting provides perhaps the clearest example of why this provision is so important,” Collins said ahead of the vote, referring to the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“Surely on an issue of this importance we should be able to come together and work for common sense solutions,” Collins said of her bill.

Afterwards, she said she was “uncertain” what happens next — though she claimed momentum, arguing she was “pleased” with the “strong vote.”

The bill drew more bipartisan support than previous measures, and defeated the procedural vote aimed at tabling it permanently. But in the end it fell victim to same ideological splits that have prevented any movement on guns in the past few years.

So there you have it.

In the name of common sense, if someone is so desperate to buy a gun that we can’t wait for 14 days to see if they actually are a terrorist or someone who shouldn’t have one, then we have lost our ability to think through what is best for all of us.

More from the article about the House sit-in:

“I tremble at the thought of what” Republicans will do next, Pelosi, (D-Calif.) said at a press conference.

“We need actions, not words,” Pelosi, visibly exhausted, added, referring to empty calls for thoughts and prayers following mass shootings.

“We cannot stop until we get a bill,” she said. “It’s not about politics, it’s not about elections, it’s not about campaigns, it’s about the safety of the American people.”

What is next? Speaker Ryan? Majority Leader McConnell?

Gun owners and Republicans are on board with these proposals.

The majority of NRA members want these common sense measures to happen.

What next Republican leadership? Who will you represent? Who will you protect?

Who will you sit-in for or stand up for?

Whose sons or daughters or sisters or brothers or uncles, aunts, nieces, grandchildren will be next on the list of victims of mass shootings?

Who will listen to the voters and the public during the election?

Who will acknowledge that the public actually wants restrictions on weapons designed for war time use?

Who will take money from the gun lobby to do their bidding to make sure as many Americans are armed as possible and will go to the gun stores to keep profits coming?

How many more AR-15s and other such assault type rifles ( and other guns not needed for self defense) will a minority of crazed and fearful Americans buy to protect themselves from their own government? 

How many more people who shouldn’t be able to buy guns will buy them anyway and commit acts of mass murder or everyday shootings while our Congress refuses to sit down and stand up for victims?

How many more private sellers will sell guns to people who are too dangerous to own them because a background check is not required for private gun sellers?

What?

Who?

When?

Where?

Why?

 

We are at war with each other

crossIt’s no secret. The political atmosphere was hateful and angry before the Orlando shooting. Now it’s worse. We are war with each other. History will look back on the America of the 2000s and write about how we turned our backs on the millions of victims of gun violence and their families. Historians will write about how a country allowed the massacre of 20 first graders to happen without trying to do something to prevent the next one. History will not be kind when it comes to America and mass shootings and gun violence in general.

If we lined up the crosses of all Americans killed by gun violence since 1968, they would form a field larger than that at Normandy (France), Gettysburg, Appomattox, Arlington and other cemeteries combined where fallen American military personnel are buried.

Are we at war?

Today is the first anniversary of the Charleston church shooting that took the lives of 9 innocent Americans while praying at Mother Emanuel church. History will write about how our weak gun laws allowed a young man with hate and racism in his heart to buy a gun in spite of his prohibited purchaser status. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and their minions in Congress, a three day default proceed provision was written into the Brady law. What that means is that if the record keeping and data bases don’t communicate with each other and get information into the law enforcement system by 3 days after the purchase of a gun, the purchaser can walk away with the gun anyway.

Nine precious lives were taken because of that provision in our law that makes absolutely no common sense. But in America, sales and profits of selling guns takes precedent over saving lives.

Today, the families of the 9 killed in Charleston are remembering their loved ones. Here is one article written by the brother of one of the victims in remembrance.:

We may be back here again soon. Not in Charleston, not in a church, but somewhere in our country someone is going to experience some type of pain simply because of the proliferation of guns, and the Achilles heel of our country, racism, that we can’t seem to get past. So we got to not just forgive and forget, but we have to remember to continue to fight for those things that make our society better today than it was yesterday.

What will historians write about how we responded to this crime of hate and racism?

I wrote in my last post that things were changing concerning guns and the conversation about gun violence after the Orlando shooting. No sooner had I posted my article than a filibuster broke out in the U.S. Senate led by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator Murphy was in attendance when the families of the first graders massacred at Sandy Hook learned that theirs were the 20 who didn’t come out alive. He is not going to forget or let us forget about that heinous and bloody day in American history.

Has the accumulation of all of the mass shootings in recent years just been too much? Are we, at long last, ready to do something?

It looks like there may be a vote now on some gun safety reform provisions as a result of that filibuster. At the least, the conversation changed for 15 hours when 40 Democratic Senators, 2 Republicans and 1 independent joined in and articulately and passionately talked about our national gun violence scourge. They stood with the victims. They spoke for the victims’ families. They spoke for the majority of Americans who can see that change has to happen in order to stop the daily war in our streets and our homes and public places.

Even the generals are weighing in. General Stanley McCrystal wrote this piece for the New York Times today. From his opinion piece comes something very important to the conversation about guns in America:

Here at home, many of us are alarmed by the carnage. We are alarmed by loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers get hold of guns without a background check. We are alarmed that a known or suspected terrorist can go to a federally licensed firearms dealer where background checks are conducted, pass that background check, legally purchase a firearm and walk out the door.

Now veterans are speaking out. Last Friday, two days before the tragedy in Orlando, a new initiative, the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, led by the Navy combat veteran Capt. Mark Kelly and his wife, the former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was announced. Those of us serving on its advisory committee come from every branch of our military and virtually every rank. We are trained in the use of firearms, and many of us have served in combat. And we all think our country must do more to save lives from being cut short by gun violence.

Are we alarmed enough to do something at long last?

Listen to the voices of common sense and experience. Those on the side of the corporate gun lobby are most often also strong supporters of our military. Not that the rest of us aren’t but those who oppose reasonable gun measures can often be heard to proclaim themselves as patriotic Americans- more patriotic than the rest of us. What’s so patriotic about allowing our citizens to be massacred by people who shouldn’t have guns?

The inanity of the conversation about gun violence in our country has been taking place for far too long. Not any more. People are joining gun violence prevention organizations in large numbers asking what they can do to help. Spontaneous rallies have occurred. Monetary donations have been received. Hundreds of thousands of calls were made to Senators in 24 hours urging participation in the filibuster and what will hopefully be upcoming votes.

We have had #Enough. Action is needed. No more words and thoughts and prayers.

And no more blaming President Obama for what happened in Orlando. Shamefully Arizona Senator John McCain ( among others) has gone over the line of common sense and sanity to join in some of the lunacy regarding the Orlando shooting. From the article:

Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando, though McCain later said he “misspoke.” “Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures — utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq, thinking that conflicts end just because you leave. So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Really Senator McCain?

We are better than this.

There is a gun culture that has promoted the civilian ownership of weapons of war that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. For 10 years we had a ban on these kinds of guns but our weak politicians, with pressure from the gun lobby let it lapse. Since then these weapons designed for use in war time have been used to kill countless Americans. Sandy Hook. Aurora.San Bernardino….. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This Boston Globe editorial is asking for us to return to sanity and common sense when it comes to military style assault rifles:

There is nothing more American today than a mass shooting, the quickest way for the wicked among us to join the ranks of the reviled. Their motives are many, but their opportunity is limited only by their gun and ammunition magazine brand preference. In this country, the federal government limits duck hunters to weapons that carry only three shells, to protect the duck population. But you can buy an assault weapon in seven minutes and an unlimited number of bullets to fire with it. For every McDonald’s in the United States, there are four federally licensed gun dealers and an untold number of unregulated private dealers who can legally sell an unlimited number of guns out of their homes, backpacks, and car trunks without requiring a criminal background check or proof of ID.

These weren’t the guns, and this wasn’t the America, that the Founders foresaw. That is why we need a new assault weapons ban, written for the realities we face in 2016.

What did the founding fathers envision? Gun rights extremists tell us that what we have now is exactly what was meant by the founding fathers when they wrote the second amendment. That is, in part, responsible for what happened in Orlando.

There is a weak system of regulating who gets guns that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Racism and hatred is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando.

Presidential politics and extreme rhetoric is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. One of our Presidential candidates is fear mongering and hating certain groups even thought they aren’t responsible for what happened in Orlando. (“Trump’s discourse, both leading up to and following the Orlando shooting, begins with a pathos of fear but ends with an appeal to anger.”)

We are better than this.

Even tolerance of anti-government groups and support for them has allowed the current culture to get a foot hold in American and leads to other acts of violence. For example, the stand-off by armed Americans proclaiming it was all about the federal government taking something from them, was not only ignored but even supported by some on the right and Donald Trump himself:

That chummy relationship with extremists didn’t start with Malheur. In fact, Donald Trump expressed admiration for Cliven Bundy at the time of the 2014 confrontation between his armed supporters and law enforcement officers over Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle on government land.

“I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk…I respect him,” Trump told Fox News in April that year. Bundy’s sons led the Malheur standoff, which eventually resulted in their arrest and the killing of one of the occupiers at a roadblock by state police.

“Republican Congressional leaders have done nothing to combat this growing threat,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) “Indeed, they ignored a Democratic request … to hold a Natural Resources Committee hearing on this issue.”

History will judge us for this kind of anti-government extremism.

It’s not President Obama. It’s those who hate him. More from the above article:

“This antigovernment movement has exploded since President Obama took office. In 2008, we documented approximately 150 radical antigovernment groups. Last year, we counted almost 1,000,” he added. “The movement is dangerous. It includes almost 300 armed militia groups committed to resisting what they see as a tyrannical federal government.”

Thompson pointedly compared the anti-government crowd with foreign, and foreign-inspired, terrorists. Domestic terrorists have the same goal, he said, “to harm and incite fear within our borders.”

Congress, he said, “must take this growing threat seriously and take action.”

Our politicians weak spines are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Individuals who have become self radicalized and terror groups who want us to be terrorized by actions of unstable angry young men who have troubled pasts and intolerance of others are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando:

Oppositional. Lacks remorse. Verbally abusive. These are some of the terms teachers and school counselors used to describe a young Omar Mateen, according to elementary and middle school records.

Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday in the worstmass shooting in modern U.S. history, had a troubling record of behavioral issues throughout his elementary and middle school years, ranging from simply disrupting class to outright aggressive conflicts with classmates.

Our almost total ignoring of the hundreds of thousands of gun violence victims is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Fear and paranoia promoted by the corporate gun lobby and extremists on the right are in part to blame for what happened in Orlando.

All we know is that blame is not going to change the fact that too many Americans have been killed in mass shootings and every day shootings. We need to deal with fear, paranoia, hate, racism, misogyny, anti-gay sentiments, terror, intolerance, mental health and whatever else causes someone to kill others. But to ignore the guns is a national shame and putting our heads in the sand.

This can’t be the new normal. We can’t let it be. We will do whatever it takes. The nation is asking for our leaders to do something. Increased interest in strongly regulating assault style rifles and high capacity magazines has surfaced. The gun lobby hates any renewed discussion but we are not going to let the gun lobby lead that discussion. A majority of Americans want something to happen.

Something has changed. New ways of invoking terror in Americans has sparked a national conversation but I am concerned that it has further divided us and made the conversation more hate-filled and acrimonious than ever.

We are better than this.