We should never forget

MLK dream memeOne of the things about mass shootings and everyday shootings is that we have a tendency to forget about them and the victims because so many others come behind them to take a place in our collective conscience.

The gun lobby and their lapdog politicians want us to forget about them because remembering all of the carnage serves to put the focus squarely where it belongs- on their resistance to any common sense gun safety reform measure that could save lives and prevent the shootings.

So today I am going to remind us about a shooting anniversary. 9 years ago today, 13 were massacred at a Citizenship class in Binghamton, New York:

 

A gunman invaded an immigration services center in downtown Binghamton, N.Y., during citizenship classes on Friday and shot 13 people to death and critically wounded 4 others before killing himself in a paroxysm of violence that turned a quiet civic setting into scenes of carnage and chaos. (…)

Two pistols and a satchel of ammunition were found with the body. In what the police took to be evidence of preparation and premeditation, the assailant had driven a borrowed car up against the center’s back door to barricade it against escape, then had walked in the rain around to the front to begin the attack.

What motivated the assault remained a mystery. Binghamton officials said the assailant apparently had ties to the center, which helps immigrants and refugees with counseling, resettlement and other issues.

This was just another mass shooting but, according to the article:

It was the nation’s worst mass shooting since April 16, 2007, when Seung-Hui Cho, 23, shot and killed 32 people in a dormitory and classroom at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va., then killed himself in the largest shooting in modern American history. In the last month, 25 people, including 2 gunmen, were slain in three mass shootings, in North Carolina, California and Alabama.

Since then, of course, our country has experienced other horrendous mass shootings. To name just a few:

Sandy Hook in 2012- the slaughter of 20 first graders and 6 educators.

Aurora theater shooting in 2012- leaving 12 dead and 70 injured.

Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 with 49 dead and 58 injured.

Las Vegas in 2017- 58 massacred and 851  injured!Parklan

Sutherland, Texas church shooting left 26 dead and 20 injured.

Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14th of this year leaving 17 dead and 17 injured.

We shouldn’t think these will be the worst.

Because some of our leaders have chosen to close their eyes and ears to these tragic shootings of innocent Americans, we know there will be more.

They are not acting to stop the next shooting or prevent easy access to guns by those who shouldn’t have them or stop military style assault rifles from being too easily available for the slaughter of our kids.

Where is common sense?

Back to the inauspicious anniversary of the shooting at a citizenship class in Binghamton, New York, it does seem as if the community and the nation has moved on:

Eight years later, the world has largely forgotten about Binghamton, its tragedy turned achingly familiar by the shootings that have followed. This is far from a mournful place, and the little memorial park that residents built by the Chenango River is quiet and tasteful. But the rampage still affects the community and its people in subtle ways. (…)

“It was an episode that ripped apart our delusion that we were safe from all that,” said Gerald R. Smith, a 63-year-old historian who works out of the Broome County Public Library downtown.

Yes, it can happen here, Binghamton learned the hard way, in a small city of about 46,000, roughly the size of Attleboro or Leominster.

The ripple effect of gun violence swirls around us in communities all over our country. The families and friends of the victims never forget. They learn to live around the hole in their hearts and their lives caused by a senseless shooting. But some things cannot be forgotten or erased from the collective memories of a small town north of New York City. The shooting will never make sense as they never do. More from the linked article:

King is 55, a trim, well-spoken man who keeps a packed schedule. The growing number of mass shootings in the years after Binghamton — the litany that opens this story is just a sampling — has driven him to deep frustration. Though he never raises his voice in an hourlong interview at his office, his exasperation is clear.

“I’m sickened that another group of innocent people will go through what we did,” he said last week, with news of the Sutherland Springs shooting still fresh.

“I just know deeply . . . ”

He cut off the thought and began another.

“Those families now — they have no idea the recovery . . . ”

He tapped his fingers over his heart.

“You can’t go to the cinema. Can’t go to the mall. Can’t go to church. Can’t go to school. My temple has had a policeman outside since 9/11,” he said. “It’s sick.”

It is sick. There is something wrong in our country. We have a serious public health and safety epidemic and we are ignoring it because……… because……… the corporate gun lobby’s hold on our elected leaders. There can be no other explanation.

Tomorrow will be the 50th anniversary of the shooting of Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr. I will always remember the news of the shooting of a man who was a national hero of the civil rights movement in our country. A woman at the scene of King’s shooting at a Memphis hotel still recalls the event tearfully in this story. 

People don’t forget seeing dead bodies. They don’t forget hearing gunshots. They don’t forget becoming a part of a national tragedy that they had no idea was coming when they woke up that morning. They don’t forget the sirens. They don’t forget the shock and the chaos. They don’t forget the phone call telling them that a loved one has been shot and killed in an unexpected and violent way.

These are our collective memories. Mass shootings. Shootings of political leaders. Shooting of a loved one. Shooting of a friend or a neighbor. We don’t forget. For if we do, we will never do what is right in the name of the victims.

Every day – we remember.

The movement created by the Parkland shooting student survivors is changing everything and making sure we do not forget the lives lost. They will not let us forget and they will not let our leaders forget:

Stoneman Douglas students from Parkland, Florida, and the people they’ve inspired seem intent on keeping the issue of gun violence front and center in the coming weeks: Marches and rallies have continued, and there are plans for a nationwide school walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.

Victoria Kaplan, organizing director for MoveOn.org, said she considers those steps “really strong indicators” that political engagement will continue through November — and perhaps far beyond.

And Kris Brown, Co-President of the Brady Campaign made this observation ( from the above linked article):

Brown said frequent lockdown and mass shooter drills at schools around the country have shown kids what needs to change.

“For many kids, this is how they grew up, and it’s a reminder, every time they go through it, of how little has been done to truly protect them,” Brown said. “The answer that the adults have put into place, they know, really, is not going to stop it from happening again.”

“I don’t see them just walking away from this,” she added. “This is something that’s deeply personal, like, ‘You’ve told me this is the way our government is supposed to work. I see that this is — pardon my French — a bastardization of it. Fix it, and if you’re not going to fix it, then get out of the way.’”

A major motivator is students’ visceral anger at “the corruption of our political system,” as Ambler characterized it.

No, we won’t forget that our system has been corrupted by the corporate gun lobby and its’ corporate money given to our leaders and used to intimidate voters and leaders alike.  Follow the money.

The students are reminded whenever they have active shooter drills in their schools hoping that their school will not be next.

Every time another shooting happens, we should remember those that came before and remember who is standing in the way of the changes we deserve.

The students and young people are keeping the dream of change alive.

The Gun Violence Archive does not forget. In fact, the organization is keeping track of our daily carnage. Here is what they have posted today:

The dreams of too many shattered. The potential of too many people unrealized. The grief for the lost lives. The bodies piled up. The American tragedy.

#Enough

 

 

See their faces; say their names

candlesOn Thursday of this week, my local chapter held a vigil on the 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Since we had a dozen co-sponsors who helped us spread the word about the vigil, attendance was higher than expected. Participants sat in the sanctuary of a local church listening to beautiful piano music played by a friend as slides with the faces of the 20 children and 6 adults massacred 5 years ago looped in front of them. Earlier this fall, we held another vigil for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, equally well attended and a solemn reminder that real people lose their lives every day to gunshot injuries. At that vigil, we said the names of each victim and rang the bell 58 times. It was moving to say the least.

A local reporter asked me in an interview before the vigil why we would hold a vigil for mass shooting victims when they happened so far away. My response? I don’t suppose the families of those small children expected that it would happen to them or in their town. I don’t think the residents of Sutherland, Texas imagined that it could have happened in their town. I never imagined that gun violence would affect my family.

That is why we do this.

There were vigils all over the country sponsored by Newtown Action Alliance and many other national gun violence prevention groups.

The reason I mention that vigil is that only 2 months ago, we held a vigil for the victims of the worst mass shooting in our country. And then the church shooting in Sutherland, Texas happened in November taking the lives of another 26. There were slides with photos of those victims as well as their names on the screen as well.

It was sobering, moving and powerful. After remarks from the pastor of the church urging peace and reminding us that, for Christians, this is the season of lighting advent candles to remind us of the reason we celebrate Christmas. But there were people of all faiths in the sanctuary including the local Rabbi, the Quaker community and those who don’t practice with any faith group.

As the participants lined up to light candles in memory of the victims of all gun violence and in particular the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, the photos continued looping. It was seeing those happy faces of those 20 first graders that caused the tears and emotion as the candles were lit. Many of us also lit a candle for our own personal loss of a loved one and there were a number of victims in the sanctuary who cried over their own loss as well as the losses felt by way too many Americans.

As the vigil came to a close, we asked to honor the victims with action. That action included signing over 300 postcards that were mailed to our Congressional delegation urging them to support bills that would expand Brady background checks to all gun sales- something that makes so much common sense that 90-95% of Americans agree.

postcards

We have had enough. That was the overwhelming sentiment at our vigil and vigils all over the country to mark this particular anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting- the one we thought was even too much for our lapdog politicians.

Alas, none of these mass shootings are enough. In fact, the stunning fact that 51% of Americans think that in order to protect gun rights, some mass shootings are OK with them. 

Sigh.

This sad fact should make us wonder what in the world is wrong with us. These shootings just don’t happen anywhere else in the world in such large numbers or at all, actually.

At the same time as that 51% number revealed the insanity about our nation’s gun culture, people also said this ( from the linked article above):

About 61 per cent said the country’s gun laws should be tougher, while 27 per cent would rather see them remain the same, and 11 per cent want them to be less strict. That’s similar to the results of an Associated Press poll in July 2016.

What is happening in our country is just not normal. Nor is it inevitable. It is preventable. It is avoidable. It is lunacy itself.

5 years later, the victims’ families reflect on what happened and, of course, are still haunted by that day that changed their lives forever.

The ripple effect of gun violence spreads far and wide.

It is an American tragedy.

Something needs to change. We will not be held hostage by the corporate gun lobby.

As two of my friends who attended our vigil said, they both have granddaughters in first grade. Seeing those smiling faces hit home for them about how it would be if one of their own was massacred so violently and suddenly by a crazed person with a gun.

The enormity of our gun violence epidemic is very personal.

Say their names. Look at their photos.

Say their names.

 

Another shooting anniversary

Candles glowing in the darkLight the candles. Ring the bells. Bring out the photos and say the names. Two years ago today, 9 people were left dead when a young man with many guns and crazy ideas decided to shoot people. The scene this time was at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

In our country we are called on to remember the anniversaries of mass shootings like they are holidays or birthdays. What is an anniversary? Isn’t it supposed to be a celebration of some kind? Instead, families have to wake up in the morning and remember that two years yesterday, their loved one or friend was still alive and going about their daily business. No thoughts that the next day, they would get the phone call telling them that their loved one was murdered by a crazed gunman on a college campus.

It turns out that the shooter left a “manifesto” behind that he wanted law enforcement and others to see. Often shooters like this want the attention after a shooting they commit and like to see themselves in the news. There is definitely something sick about that. But this young man shot and killed himself as also often happens. But he left his crazed and distorted thoughts behind him.

From the article:

… shot himself in the head after he was wounded by police. Authorities found nine guns stashed in his backpack, in a college restroom and at his home.

In the document, the 26-year-old community college student wrote that he is part of a “demonic Hierarchy” and will become a demon when he dies and return “to kill again and again” after possessing someone else.

He makes it clear that he idolizes other mass shooters and says he has studied their methods but faults them for not killing more people or for not killing police officers.

He also paints himself as a “loser,” with nothing to live for and no successes in life.

“My whole life has been one lonely enterprise. One loss after another. And here I am, 26, with no friends, no job, no girlfriend, a virgin,” he wrote.

“But for people like me there is another world, a darker world that welcomes us. For people like us this (is) all that’s left,” he wrote. “My success in Hell is assured.”

Disturbing.

This is an American tragedy.

If we had any common sense we would get to work to do something to keep guns away from people like this. Our leaders lack courage. The public believes that nothing can be done. We get desensitized to the carnage.

The thing is, candles, prayers, thoughts, bells ringing and flowers are just not enough. They won’t bring back the lives lost. We may feel a bit better or we may feel a bit worse after we do something to assuage our guilt and remember an deadly day.

We want action.

I ask you to picture your own child, sister, brother, parent or good friend lying in a pool of blood after being shot by someone who should never have been able to get 9 guns let alone one. And then I ask you to think about what you would do about this?

Your life would be shattered and devastated as were the lives of the victims. Even the shooter’s family can never be the same. The ripple effect of gun violence is wide. We will never know what these victims ( and all shooting victims) would have contributed to society. We have lost their potential and are left with memories and celebrating an anniversary of their deaths.

What does the corporate gun lobby do on these anniversary days?

I’m just asking.

We are better than this.

Remembering:

Treven Taylor Anspach, 20

Rebecka Carnes, 18

Lucero Alcaraz, 19

Lucas Eibel, 18

Jason Johnson, 34

Quinn Cooper, 18

Sarena Dawn Moore, 44

Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59

The shooter

Shooting anniversaries

Alison ParkerAnniversaries marking the death of a loved one in a heinous shooting are so difficult. Over time it does get easier but the date is always there somewhere, called up at odd moments. August 5th is my day to remember a shooting anniversary.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the senseless shooting ( aren’t they all?) of journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live TV in Roanoke, Virginia. This is one we will remember if are paying attention. No shooting is OK and rarely are they justified. But to watch it happen on live TV as if watching a fiction show was something unusual, even for America.

Thank you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for the above image.

I remember the day well. August 26th of last year. I remember it because this particular shooting reminded me so viscerally of my own sister’s shooting. I cried when I began hearing the news and know that many other of my friends who have lost loved ones to a shooting felt the same way. Yet one more family had just joined us in the club we didn’t want to belong to in the first place. But Alison and Adams’ deaths happening live on TV was too close to thinking about how it must have been for our own loved ones. We grieved for the friends and relatives of Alison and Adam while we grieved for our own sister, brother, father, mother, daughter, son, niece, nephew, uncle or aunt.

Over the past year, I have met Alison’s parents, Barbara and Andy Parker on several occasions. I have also met and spoken with Chris Hurst, Alison’s fiancé at the time of the shooting. They are all fine and gentle people who have been brave enough to step forward, soon after Alison’s shooting to call for strengthening our gun laws. The pain in their faces is always behind their smiles as they speak of the lovely Alison and her aspiring career as a journalist. Their commitment to gun safety reform is also passionate and fierce.

Alison’s shooting death reminds of us of how vulnerable innocent people can be when someone with a grudge gets his hands on a gun and acts.  It is far too easy in America to act on a grudge and far too easy for a “disturbed” person to get a gun,  as Alison and Adam’s shooter did:

Overton said the gunman was “disturbed in some way.” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, speaking on WTOP, described Flanagan as a “disgruntled” employee. Jeff Marks, WDBJ’s general manager, said during a live broadcast on the station that Flanagan “was sort of looking out for people to say something he could take offense to.”

Marks said Flanagan was fired after “many incidents of his anger coming to the fore.”

“He did not take that well,” he said.

Why is it so easy? Because our America gun culture has evolved, along with the laws that allow just about anyone to buy a gun, to the point where we do very little to screen out those who should not be able to buy a gun. Because the corporate gun lobby has managed to get their friends in Congress to do their bidding, we have come to assume that anyone can be responsible with a deadly weapon. Because owning a gun is a right in America, we have come to assume that means that right can’t be denied to anyone. Because we have come to think we can’t deny a right to a deadly weapon to anyone, we let anyone get a gun easily.

This video from Real Sports shows how easy it is for a 13 year old to walk into a gun show and legally buy a gun from a private seller with no background check to show that he is not old enough to buy or own that gun. This is ludicrous, dangerous and absolutely why we need to stop the private seller loopholes in our gun laws. You can see it for yourself here:

And we are letting this happen. And we look the other way when people who are considered to be “law abiding” gun owners flip out or get angry over a grudge and shoot someone. The gun lobby says that every case like this is just an anomaly. They claim that only criminals with guns shoot people.

They are wrong. It’s a gun lobby myth that only a good guy with a gun can save us all from bad guys with guns. The gun lobby claim that if only someone had had a gun in situations like this one, when the shooter unexpectedly approached the journalists and the woman they were interviewing is false::

Tragically, a record number of Americans subscribe to some version of this mythology, with 63 percent (67 percent of men polled and 58 percent of women) believing that guns truly do make them safer. The public’s confidence in firearms, however, is woefully misguided: The evidence overwhelmingly shows that guns leave everybody less safe, including their owners.

 

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

If only Alison and Adam had been armed……

Sigh.

Where is common sense?

Work place shootings happen far too often in our country. There is a long list of them, at least one of which occurred in my own state of Minnesota when an angry employee showed up at Accent Signage and shot and killed 6 people and left 3 others injured. I also know the Rahamim family and have seen the pain of their grief over the years since that shooting. The anniversary of that shooting is coming on September 27th and I know that that day is so difficult for all of them.

What is it about angry men, guns and the desire to seek revenge or harm someone?  From the article:

One of the most significant findings was the three-way association between individuals who owned multiple guns, carried a gun outside of the home and expressed a pattern of angry, impulsive behavior. Study participants who owned six or more guns were found to be four times more likely to carry guns outside of the home and to be in the high-risk anger group than participants who owned one firearm.

Participants who were considered to have a high risk for impulsive anger responded affirmatively to some or all of the following questions: “I have tantrums or angry outbursts;” “Sometimes I get so angry I break or smash things;” and “I lose my temper and get into physical fights.”

Or suicidal people with guns who shoot others and sometimes themselves?

Every day, on average, 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries, including suicide. The Gun Violence Archive keeps tracks of these shootings. Thank goodness someone is doing this because the denial from the gun lobby that these shootings happen in such high numbers often goes without fact checking. The chart on the site shows an up-to-date accounting of gun deaths, including suicides where that information is possible to gather. You can click on the graph and see where the shootings have happened and more about each incident.

The thing is, these are real people with real families who are grieving for their loved ones every day and reminded of that person on anniversaries, holidays, and special family occasions.

Only in America do we mark anniversaries of mass shootings and very high profile public shootings like that of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. They have become synonymous with an American gun culture that has evolved over time with deadly consequences. We don’t have to shrug our shoulders and say nothing can be done because….rights. We know that we can not only change our gun laws, but we are changing the conversation and we can change the culture. Most gun owners are with us and agree with our proposals.

As with other public health and safety campaigns, if we change the conversation and the culture, we can save lives by also changing the laws. That is how we got laws requiring seat belts, air bags and other safety features in cars. The result? Reduced deaths and injuries.It is also how we got a massive change in the way we treat tobacco. It’s not OK any more for smokers to smoke inside where non-smokers come to be at risk for health problems.

And it’s not OK for the shootings that take the lives of our loved ones and leave us marking shooting anniversaries to continue without addressing how we can change things to reduce the violence- the deaths- the injuries- the emotional and psychological trauma- the physical after affects of survivors- the cost to our country in the billions- and the pain and the grief.

And while so many are marking anniversaries of shootings, Congress is taking a break from its’ job in the longest recess ever. Why? Good question. But we are not letting them get away with it. Two weeks ago there was a #DisarmHate rally in DC to mark the 2 month anniversary of the Orlando nightclub shooting that took the lives of 49 Americans. And today is the Day of Unity Rally in DC where rally participants will gather at NRA lobbying headquarters in DC to protest that organizations resistance to strong life saving gun laws. We have had activities all over the country to remind Congress members that we expect them to do their jobs and pass life saving measures to keep us safe from the gun violence that is devastating far too many families and communities. While Congress is away, almost 4000 Americans will die from gunshot injuries.

We have had #Enough.

Let’s get to work. Join me and the many people (many of whom are victims and survivors) working on gun safety reform.