The Brady Campaign on the march

tipping pointI have been away from my blog while attending the Brady Summit in Washington D.C. hosted by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Public Health Association. Hundreds of attendees were inspired, saddened, educated and energized by like minded people on a mission. The tide is turning. We can feel it and we know it by the public responses to the recent tragedies. We see the testimonials. We hear the speeches. We watch as the news media is changing what they are saying about the issue and at least some politicians are finally speaking the truth about our national gun violence epidemic. Thank goodness. It’s far far too late for way too many. But it’s a step. And I hope it will be the slippery slope towards common sense.

I wrote in my last post about the article on the CNN website written by Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign. We have reached a tipping point on the issue of gun violence.

A recent shooting in Virginia which ended with the murder of 2 journalists on live TV was a tipping point. At the Brady Summit, one vey inspiring and emotional moment came when Andy and Barbara Parker, parents of Alison Parker, one of the Virginia journalists, spoke to the attendees. Here is a video of Andy Parker’s remarks:

Let’s do this for Sarah and Jim Brady and for Alison. Let’s not let our mission be derailed by those whose interests are in keeping gun industry profits high and keeping gun lobbyists in business. For too long, those voices have drowned out the voices of victims and survivors. Not any more. We will not be silenced.

Meanwhile, as advocates were learning from the experts in public health and safety, suicide prevention, physicians, attorneys, elected officials, victims, state advocates, and others-   these are the things that went on in our country while we weren’t paying attention:

Insanity.

You can read much more about the world of firearm accidents and intentional deaths at several good sites:

Accidents Happen Guns Kill

Ohh shoot blog

Gun Violence Archive

The Daily Kos- Gun Fail

Don’t you find it amazing that there are so many sites reporting on accidental and intentional gun discharges? Only in America. But much of the research and reporting is coming from sites like this. Since the NRA owned Congress members made sure government agencies can’t research the causes and effects of gun violence, it’s good news that others are stepping up.

One of the best sources of information outside of the public health researchers is the on-line publication, The Trace. In one of today’s articles, we learn that the ATF only monitors 7% of gun dealers in a year. That is a crime, actually.

Where are crime guns coming from? Many from “bad apple gun dealers”. You can read more about that in this piece from the New York Times today:

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has pledged to throw his weight behind the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the country’s most prominent gun control groups, in an as-yet-unannounced effort demanding that the Justice Department more closely scrutinize so-called bad apple gun merchants, according to people familiar with the campaign.

Mr. Cuomo, in an interview about his plans to work with the Brady Campaign, promised that his involvement in national gun politics would continue to deepen. He said he would hit the campaign trail in 2016 to emphasize the issue of gun violence, which he repeatedly called “the big issue” in national politics. (…) To start, Mr. Cuomo will be among the chief signatories of a letter to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, to be released as early as next week, urging the Justice Department to punish what the Brady Campaign describes as a small fraction of gun dealers who sell an overwhelming share of weapons used to commit crimes. He has promised to lobby other governors around the country to join in the push.

Yes, we can do something about gun trafficking and crime guns and we will.

And you can watch 60 Minutes on Sunday for information about Smart Gun technology that has the potential for saving lives. The gun lobby opposes Smart Gun technology. Why? They need to explain how they can be against new technology that could prevent a toddler from pulling a trigger to kill or hurt themselves or somebody else. They need to explain how they can be opposed to a technology that could keep a teen from accessing a gun to use in a suicide or a school shooting. They need to explain why they oppose technology that could prevent a robber from using a stolen gun in a crime.

But I digressed. I sat at a table with a BBC reporter at the Brady Summit on Tuesday. She was doing a story on America’s fascination with guns and the lack of ability to change the minds of Congress when so many Americans want change. She was stunned at the American gun culture and our seeming tolerance for the carnage. It was unfathomable to her that we have failed to act. These things are just not happening anywhere else in the world. But she was also encouraged that groups were working state by state to change the gun laws that don’t get passed in Congress. That was news to her. As Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy spoke to the summit attendees, she paid attention to his remarks about how hard it was to get new laws passed even in the state where the massacre of 20 small school children occurred.

I explained to her about the insidious corporate gun lobby and the fear of said lobby affecting too many of our elected leaders. The lies and deceptions keep coming as the influence of the gun lobby wanes. You can read about the latest from the NRA’s own Mr. Wayne LaPierre in this Media Matters article:

The NRA’s lie is brazen given widespread reporting explaining how the gun group interferes with ATF operations. As USA Today reported in 2013, “lobbying records and interviews show the [NRA] has worked steadily to weaken existing gun laws and the federal agency charged with enforcing them.”

According to The Washington Post, “the gun lobby has consistently outmaneuvered and hemmed in ATF, using political muscle to intimidate lawmakers and erect barriers to tougher gun laws. Over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF’s budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings.”

The NRA’s opposition to the ATF has been extreme. The gun group has threatened to attempt to abolish the agency all together and LaPierre infamously called federal law enforcement agents “jack-booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms.”

Sigh.

While lobbying on Wednesday at the Hart Senate office building, a group of us were standing with our”Background Checks Save Lives” stickers on and managed to attract attention and comments from quite a few people. One of them was a Senate staffer who was not American born but worked for a Senator who he said did not agree with us. The thing was- he himself agreed with our views and shook his head as he tried to figure out why America is so gun crazy and so violent. I told him that the majority in his Senator’s state agreed with us and he should go back and check the polling date to share with his boss.

For if our own leaders fail to represent us- the majority and the victims, survivors, experts, researchers, law enforcement, clergy, youth, gun owners, health care providers, educators, hunters, and others who want gun safety reform, what else is there? Congress must act. Our state legislators must act. They are now hearing from the millions who want to get this job done in the name of the victims.

We are marching forward towards saving lives in spite of stiff resistance. We are holding our elected leaders responsible and asking them to commit to measures to keep us all safer in the halls of Congress and state legislatures. The tipping point is here.

We have had #enough. If you have also had enough, check out the #enough campaign on the Brady Campaign’s website.

Nothing to fear but… guns

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

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

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

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

From the article, linked above, about Southern Oregon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The world is beautiful and scary

gooseberryLast Sunday, my minister said that the world is both beautiful and scary in a sermon relating to one of the readings of the day. She is so right. Most of the time, I find the world to be beautiful. In spite of my family’s having dealt with the domestic shooting of my sister, we have all moved on the best we could living around the hole left by my sister’s death. Life seems beautiful and we are lucky for that.

But then something happens to bring the grief and sadness to the surface again. Recent shootings, especially the very public shooting of 2 reporters in Virginia, brought those scary feelings back instantly. Gun violence is so unexpected and violent. Thoughts of a loved one experiencing that horror, pain, violence and fear are hard to push back down again. People die from auto accidents, household accidents, diseases, and sometimes by homicide. But gun deaths for the most part are so senseless and preventable.

So maybe we should all put our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. We could roll ourselves up in a ball and move on. But many of us have not done that. We have made ourselves advocates for preventing the awful effects of gun violence on other families. So I read. I act. I write. I talk.

The daily news of gun incidents is hard to ignore. But it’s important to keep writing and talking. Most people become numbed to the issue and just want to live their lives without thinking about gun violence. But just as with auto accidents, diseases and other causes of injury and death the majority of parents do what they can to keep their families safe and healthy. Gun safety reform and awareness of the dangers of guns should be a part of the safe and healthy life styles that we all practice . We, as adults, will not be here forever. Our children will be around longer than us and  we owe it to them to keep them safe and teach them healthy habits. We should do #WhatEverItTakes. When 8 children a day are dying from gun homicides, suicides or accidents, we can’t take it lightly. And many more are injured and suffer life long disabilities and/or emotional distress.

Given that, how can a parent shoot a one month old child? Now that is downright scary. A man brought a gun to a church in Selma, Alabama on Sunday but was noticed before he could get off a lot of shots. He wounded his wife, his one month old son, and a man who tried to get the gun away from him. This was yet another case of a domestic dispute gone terribly wrong. From the article:

Earl Carswell said Sunday’s incident could have been much worse.

“If (Minter) had been aiming, and wasn’t somebody pulling on him, he could have killed three, four or five folks,” Carswell said. “But thank the Lord he got pulled off. As soon as that gun appeared, they grabbed a hold of it.”

Despite struggling with several churchgoers, Carswell said Minter was able to squeeze off seven rounds.

“Bullets don’t got any sense, they just go whichever way,” he said. “It could have been a hairy thing quick, I mean sure enough.”

(…) “When I think about it (today), I get jittery,” he said.

Jackson said he believes residents “are still in shock that something like this could happen in Selma.

This is probably the first church shooting we have had, but unfortunately this is the world we live in now,” he continued. “Church used to be off limits, even to the worst criminals, as far as committing a crime in the church. Now times have changed.”

Carswell said he has lived in Selma for 61 years and many churchgoers have been known to carry guns into worship service. Carswell said himself carried one into church for 10 years.

“This is the first time anyone has ever pulled it and even showed it,” he said.

“…. but unfortunately this is the world we live in now.”” Yes. It’s unfortunate but not inevitable. It’s hard to believe that this is the first time there has been a problem with guns in worship services in Selma given that people have been carrying guns into churches for years. Why? Why are guns needed during church services? What are people scared of in church? Church services are mostly beautiful and peaceful or joyous. If we are scared of people with guns coming into churches, it’s because we, as a country, have allowed our laws to be weakened to the point of allowing guns in our churches.

And why is that when people “snap” it’s a gun that they turn to to “solve” their problems?

Our gun culture encourages almost everyone to own and carry guns and we don’t make serious attempts to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them. When someone like the man in the Selma church “snaps” a gun changes everything in an instant from normal, beautiful, calm, happy,…. to scary. The shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston was scary not only because 9 people were shot but because of the shooter’s motives. He was associated with white supremacists and had racist sentiments. The recent fomenting of racism and anti-Muslim statements made by Republican Presidential candidates is making our world scarier. Combined with people who shouldn’t be able to own guns, we have a potential “perfect storm”.

Part of this is the consequence of a culture of guns that is based on fear of others who are not like us and fear of others with guns. It’s a vicious circle.

Bullets don’t have any sense of course as is mentioned in the above linked article. That’s the point.  They have trajectories that can be predictable or not. Guns with bullets in them are dangerous and people who carry guns and own them can become dangerous in a split second.

Speaking of becoming dangerous in a split second, we really do need to have a very serious discussion immediately about kids bringing guns to school. Going to school should be a positive experience. We all know that is not the case for all children given their race, religion, home life experiences, intellect, etc. Many factors can make learning difficult for some. But school, at least, is supposed to be a safe place. Not so any more. From this article in The Trace, we learn that:

Since the school year began roughly one month ago, there have been at least 29 incidents in which elementary, middle school, and high school students were caught bringing firearms to school, according to a survey of media reports. Most have involved teenagers.

This bears repeating- “…there have been at least 29 incidents in which elementary, middle school, and high school students were caught bringing firearms to school....” Very frightening. What are we going to do to keep our kids and students safe? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. What in the world are adult gun owners thinking? The problem appears to be that people have such a cavalier attitude towards guns that they don’t seem to realize how dangerous they are. Guns are mostly not used for self defense. When will we get this into our collective heads? When will we stop listening to the gun lobby who tells people the opposite?

Scary to say the least. And the problem comes from easy access to guns. We now have more guns around than ever before. It is inevitable that they will make it into the wrong hands. There is just no common sense to our gun culture and our gun laws.

Yesterday I took a little time away from the cares of the world and this blog and gun violence prevention. I drove up along the North Shore of Lake Superior on a gorgeous day to enjoy the beauty of the nature around me. I was not scared of anyone or anything. I saw no guns. I saw no one who looked like they were scared about some idiot with a gun in the parking lot or along the trail. What I saw was people enjoying the beautiful day with cameras carried instead of guns. Thanks goodness most people don’t carry guns or feel the need to own them. At least not where I live. And not the people with whom I am friends. And if they do have guns, they use them mostly for hunting in the beautiful woods that are all around my area of northern Minnesota. Not only do people hunt, they love the beauty of the woods in the fall and the sport of hunting.

Until we get to the point of of a serious national discussion about the dangers of guns, even for “law abiding” gun owners, the incidents I read and write about will continue. The corporate gun lobby is aiding and abetting our insane gun culture to boost sales and preserve a narrative that is just not based on the truth. Maybe some of those folks should take a walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty around them instead of thinking of ways to sell guns.