“Good” grief

Charlie BrownI often use the words “good grief” to describe my anger, frustration, distaste, exasperation, disbelief and any number of other emotions when other words do not suffice.

Charlie Brown, the iconic character in Charles Schultz’s  Peanuts cartoons, which also became television specials, used this term often to express his frustration.

So how do these words find themselves into my post today? How does the funeral of a friend, a summit on gun violence as a public health issue, a hunting accident, an officer’s response to tragedy,  a racist incident at a Minnesota college, a road rage incident, the acquittal of a St. Louis police officer, tabling at a local festival and a gun suicide intersect?

Grief. Anger. Victims. Awe. Inspiration. Organizing. Keeping children safe from gun injuries and death.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend. We met his family at church many years ago and his wife, in particular, became my friend and a member of my church book group. As she always does at funerals, my minister wove his story of love, compassion for his family and community, his humor, his fun loving life style and his courage in the face of his cancer diagnosis into the sermon. He was a volunteer firefighter and a Viet Nam veteran. No one was left without a tissue. We were all touched by his 3 adult daughters telling us about their dad and his 3 sons-in-law reading the verses. There were so many things we hadn’t known about our friend and it took his death for us to find out. He was an avid hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, volunteer, grandparent to 6, and good man who made his mark on his circle of friends and the community at large. The grief of this family over the loss of a man who died too young will continue through their lives and they will live with the hole left by his death.

Grief is grief no matter how a death happened. With my friend it was cancer. There are many causes of death, of course. Suicides take the lives of way too many Americans and are on the rise in Minnesota. In Minnesota suicides by gun account for about 75% of gun deaths.

One of the topics of the Protect Minnesota 2 day summit I attended last week about gun violence and public health was the prevalence of gun suicides across the country and in Minnesota. There was much discussion about access to loaded guns, discussions about how much mental illness contributes to suicides and about other conditions or behaviors that contribute to suicides and suicides by gun.

An article in the Washington Post written by the wife of a gun suicide victim says it all:

I believe my husband’s decision to end his life two years ago was made seconds before it happened. His fate was sealed only when he reached for one of his guns for the last time. Once the hammer started to fall, that was it.

When our American gun culture doesn’t consider the risks of guns to those who should so clearly not have them, we have a serious public health crisis. Yes, it is a crisis.

I do not oppose the Second Amendment, but we desperately need to start changing the conversation about gun ownership in this country. My husband was a casualty of a jacked-up marketing fable that convinces men, women and children that their castles are unsafe unless they are guarded with guns.

Far more guns kill people in suicides, accidents, mistakes or fits of rage than from an intruder in the night. Families, partners and friends must acknowledge this reality when discussing having guns in the home. We also need politicians to support policies that give families the power they need to save their loved ones.

We can save our loved ones by enacting sensible and common sense measures such as requiring a Brady background check on all gun sales and Gun Violence Protective Orders. In fact, these make so much common sense that the majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. We can prevent at least some of the grief of gun deaths and injuries.

At the Protect Minnesota summit we heard from a panel of survivors, each of whom had lost a loved one to gun violence or had survived a shooting. To say the least, it was powerful and emotional and full of the grief of the survivors. This is why those in the gun violence prevention movement do what we do. We really don’t want others to feel the grief we have all felt.

survivors

There is a lot of grief to go around and some of it is actually in the form of anger. At the Protect Minnesota summit mentioned above there were local and national speakers highlighting ways in which we can reduce and prevent urban gun violence. Much of it was based on the racism associated with shootings in urban areas. And a lot of time was spent on how and why young men of color “need” guns that often end up in the wrong hands or in gun crimes, and worse, gun tragedies.

So when the “shooting” incident reported by a security guard at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul made the media rounds, it first appeared to be another school shooting. A campus was locked down and law enforcement were called to the scene looking for the perpetrator. As it turned out, the perpetrator was the security guard himself who had irresponsibly brought his own firearm to work and “accidentally” discharged it, shooting himself in the shoulder.  He said he was afraid he would lose his job if he reported the truth and so he fabricated a shooter- of course a young black man wearing a hoodie:

Police arrested Ahlers, 25, on Wednesday, after he told investigators during questioning that he accidentally shot himself with his handgun and lied about it because he feared losing his job, according to St. Paul police. St. Kate’s prohibits people, including security guards, from carrying guns on campus.

St. Kate’s terminated Ahlers on Thursday. University President Becky Roloff said in a statement that the university “strongly condemns racial discrimination, racial stereotyping, and racial profiling of any kind. The statements attributed to the former employee concerning the race of an alleged suspect are deeply troubling and do not reflect our values.”

The man lost his job. A campus was locked down for nothing. Police were involved in an unnecessary search for a black man. And there are no “accidental” shootings. There is irresponsible handling of a deadly weapon however.

A St. Catherine University security guard put African-American men at risk of being hurt or killed during an intense manhunt in St. Paul, after he allegedly falsely accused a black male of shooting him, community leaders said Friday.

There were real implications to what Brent Patrick Ahlers told police, said community activist Robert McClain. He received calls regarding three people stopped by police during the search for the “suspect” Tuesday night, including by officers with guns drawn.

“When they look for someone who they assume is an active shooter, they don’t look in a nice way,” McClain said. “They don’t stop and ask questions in a nice way, so you victimize people who haven’t done a thing.

Good grief.

Law enforcement officers are a part of our communities and there to serve us and protect us from harm. Sometimes that does not work out well and there are plenty of recent incidents of officer involved shootings of young black men gone wrong that have left families and communities grieving. The latest outcry has come in St. Louis where the last two days have seen protests after the acquittal of an officer who shot and killed a black man.

We have a lot of work to do regarding relationships between law enforcement and communities of color. It is understandable that people of color are angry over the acquittals of officers after shootings of black men. This is a uniquely American problem and it is because of all of the guns in our communities. Officers are armed and citizens are armed. It doesn’t work out well and racism plays a part. When everyone is armed, too many people do not feel safe.

But officers are often involved in non-violent support of their communities. A story in the Duluth News Tribune caught my attention this morning. It is written by a female officer who comforted a young girl during the rescue of her father and sister in their drownings in Lake Superior. Officers are often traumatized by tragic incidents and sometimes even leave the force. But this officer chose to write a beautiful story about how she spent hours with a young girl who had lost her father and sister. Thanks goodness for officers like this one and their dedication to their communities and the victims of tragic incidents.

There was a law enforcement panel at the Protect Minnesota summit last week. All participants were caring, dedicated and educated individuals who cared a lot about how gun violence affects their communities and they are working to lessen the impact of gun crimes and gun violence. They all agreed that they saw too many gun suicides and too much urban violence and they want to work with us to solve important problems and lessen the grief that devastates families and communities.

And we know that many officers are themselves victims of shootings when trying to intervene in incidents or in actual ambushes by people who hate officers or have a grudge of some kind.  We have our very own home-grown terrorists. This is yet another element to our gun violence epidemic that we are ignoring at the risk of losing lives.

Good grief.

The grief that comes with a violent and sudden death never goes away. Another story in the Duluth News Tribune this morning was so poignant and difficult but I am grateful for the man who told his story of grief over an accidental shooting that took the life of his son while hunting decades ago:

He allowed Mark to move ahead a few steps. Just then, a grouse flushed along the trail.

“When a grouse flushes, your instinct is to be quick,” Kern said.

He was. He shouldered his shotgun and swung on the fleeing bird. In that split-second, he wasn’t aware that Mark had moved directly into the path of his shot.

“I shot him right in the back of the head,” Kern said. “Killed him instantly.”

He speaks openly about that day, not without showing some emotion. He shares his story with others from time to time. He hopes it might serve as a powerful reminder to other hunters about the importance of safe gun handling, about being aware of where one’s hunting partners are, about understanding the finality of an ill-advised shot.

…”the finality of an ill-advised shot.” Bullets are often final.

Hunting season is happening right now in Minnesota. Every year we hear of hunting accidents involving guns and too often it is one family member or a friend shooting another family member or friend. The guilt and pain that comes with that must be unimaginable. But this man goes on with his life as best he can and lives forever with his grief. More from the linked story:

Over the years, Kern has regained his inner strength and a sense of who he is. He believes strongly that each of us has “a force” within. A kind of energy. A spirit.

He cannot, of course, forget what happened on that long-ago September day. He doesn’t try to bury the memory. He fully acknowledges the reality of what he did.

“This happened to me,” he says.

The loss of a child is too painful to consider but it has happened to members of my family and to friends. Most have thankfully not been due to gun deaths. Yesterday my chapter set up a table at a local event to educated the public about how they can reduce the chances that a child will be “accidentally” shot in the home of friends. The ASK campaign encourages parents and gives them the language to ask that awkward question. Most gun owning families actually think this is a good idea and if they are storing their guns unloaded and secured, they can avoid the awful tragedy of an “accidental” shooting. It was ( and is) well received and allowed us to have many great conversations with parents and others about the risks of unsecured guns and other issues related to guns and gun violence.  ASK

Every day in America about 7 children a day die from gunshot injuries. Some survive and survive with lifetime physical and emotional injuries and PTSD. (PTSD was a topic of discussion also at the Northstar conference on gun violence and public health.) A road rage shooting that is now being reported in the media has left one innocent little boy with terrible head injuries but hopefully not with long term disabilities related to the shooting. The article is titled: ” Children Under Fire”.

Good grief.

How can this be a title for a story? It can be because in America, people carry guns around with them in their cars. And stupidly and tragically, they shoot other people when they get angry over their driving.  From the article:

“Stop!” Hill screamed, turning to check on her son, who, just before midnight on Aug. 6, had become one of the nearly two dozen children shot — intentionally, accidentally or randomly — every day in the United States. What follows almost all of those incidents are frantic efforts to save the lives of kids wounded in homes and schools, on street corners and playgrounds, at movie theaters and shopping centers.

Good grief.

(…) On average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015, according to a Post review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet striking a growing body every 63 minutes.

In total, an estimated 8,400 children were hit, and more died — 1,458 — than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade.

Many incidents, though, never become public because they happen in small towns or the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.

Caring for children wounded by gunfire comes with a substantial price tag. Ted Miller, an economist who has studied the topic for nearly 30 years, estimated that the medical and mental health costs for just the 2015 victims will exceed $290 million.

Good grief.

There is nothing good about grief. In America, the grief of families because of gun violence is remarkable, avoidable, preventable, and a national public health epidemic. We can do something about all of this but a minority of gun extremists and the corporate gun lobby get in the way of common sense. I wonder if they read about these incidents or have experienced the grief associated with gun deaths? I don’t wish it on anyone but stories must be told in order to make change.

In this post I have told quite a few stories. They involve victims, law enforcement officers, survivors, the grief experienced by the family of my friend, children, communities and families.

And I haven’t even touched on domestic shootings like the one that took my sister’s life. But they, too, happen every day. More grief.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is October– soon. I will write more then.

We are better than this.

Minnesota nice?

minnesota-niceThe last few days has revealed the lunacy of an armed society in Minnesota. Not that it isn’t happening in every state of our “great” country every day. But the last few days have been particularly concerning. Let’s take a look at the Minnesota gun culture as it has been reported in news stories.

First up- a Winona man apparently was shot by an “accidental” discharge and has now died of his gunshot injuries. There are no “accidental” gun discharges. There are avoidable, senseless accidents with guns that shouldn’t have happened. Why? Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill or injure humans or animals. They must be taken seriously and their owners must not “play” with them or clean them without knowing if there is a round in the chamber, or get them out while drinking, or let children access them and all of those other common sense admonitions that go with dangerous things.

Second- a first grader brought a gun to a St. Paul school where it discharged, injuring the floor tiles and luckily not another child or adult. As we said when I was writing for the Kid Shootings blog- Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy.

Third- a shooting took place at an Anoka area gas station. Law enforcement engaged in the high speed chase on highways and freeways ending with a crash and the suspect being shot and injured by law enforcement.

And now the same St. Cloud mall that suffered the September mass stabbing incident was under lock-down because a man was seen with a gun.

Shortly after 7 p.m., St. Cloud police Sgt. Jason Burke said in a news release that ““Initial information is that a male and female were in an argument outside the mall by the food court. During the argument, two males unknown to them approached, one of the males lifted the front of his shirt and showed the couple a gun in his waistband. The gun was not pointed at the couple, no threats were made, and no injuries have been reported.

It will be interesting to find out who these 2 reported guys with guns were.

And as an aside, people arguing in malls should take it outside or in private so they don’t frighten people around them. Fear is all around us now after the most contentious election in recent history. The corporate gun lobby has helped stoke that fear and suspicion that could lead to us being less safe rather than safer:

Trump bore little resemblance to the lifelong heartland conservatives whom the NRA typically backed. He was an Ivy League-educated real estate heir with a gold-plated private jet and a foreign, former-model third wife. Trump and Melania had wed at a glamorous ceremony where Bill and Hillary Clinton had been among the guests. A proud New York City resident, Trump didn’t seem to have much regard for the attachments many Americans felt towards guns, never mind the policy purity the NRA demands of other candidates. In a 2000 book, he’d even written, “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

But from the outset of his campaign, Trump adopted an incendiary message that matched the NRA’s own. He hurled invectives at establishment politicians in both parties. He described a once-great nation under assault and in sharp decline, rhetoric that electrified white Americans brimming with grievance.

This is our President-elect.

Sigh.

We will not be safer with more guns around us in this atmosphere of fear.

But I digress.

Another fatal shooting in North Minneapolis yesterday adds up to a very violent year in that section of Minneapolis that has residents very concerned for their own safety. From the article:

For the third day in a row, the pop-pop-pop of gunfire punctuated the midday calm near a north Minneapolis strip mall, this time leaving a young man dead and detectives searching for answers.

This is simply not the kind of communities we want for our children and families. The proliferation of guns on our streets is a serious public health and safety epidemic. No one is immune from it. It adds to the fear and suspicion of others and spirals out of control.

And last, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has been charged with manslaughter:

In an extraordinary move by a Minnesota prosecutor, authorities said the officer, not the civilian, is to blame for the tragic events that turned a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb into a flash point in the national debate over racial profiling and police use of force.

You may remember that the shooting of Castile resulted in demonstrations on the streets of Minnesota and all over the country for that matter. These are incidents that have escalated all over America. Unarmed and armed men of color have been shot by officers in what seems like increasing frequency. Race plays a role. Armed citizens plays a role. Fear plays a role. There should be some very serious conversations about what all of this means for the safety of Americans. Will we have them? Will we ignore this at the peril of our communities?

I have great respect for our law enforcement officers and have written frequently about officers under assault by armed citizens. The job of our officers is made all the more dangerous by so many armed Americans and it has led to a vicious circle of arming up to protect themselves from citizens who are allowed to carry their guns in public places or are involved in domestic disputes. Armed citizenry is not the norm in other democratized countries and therefore, law enforcement officers are not often the target of ambushes. In fact, in some countries, officers are not armed. Interestingly, there are far fewer gun deaths in almost all over democratized countries not at war. Coincidence?

What is particularly disturbing is the number of ambushes of American officers leading to tragic deaths of officers:

The attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge that left eight officers dead earlier this month sent waves of fear through law enforcement agencies across the country, with departments ordering officers to double up on patrols as a safety measure.

These deaths contributed to a grim tally this year. Through last week, 32 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks these deaths. More than half of the officers fatally shot died in ambushes, the group said in a report released Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with this American tragedy. Time will tell if he will and if he does, how he will.

An armed society is not a polite society. Our children and families should not have to be exposed to this kind of violence and potential violence. This is lunacy, not niceness.

“Minnesota nice” is a myth.

These are only the gun deaths we know about. About 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. These are not usually reported in the media unless they are homicide/suicides, often occurring in domestic shootings. Passing stronger gun laws reduces gun homicides and suicides as it turns out.

But requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is under assault. The continued myths coming from the corporate gun lobby don’t make us safer.

Who are we? Do we care about our fellow citizens no matter who they are? There are certain truths that should be self-evident. One of them is that we have a moral responsibility to protect our citizens from those who would do them harm and I am not just talking about terrorism. The truth is that toddlers have killed more of their fellow Americans than terrorists:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Please look at the map in the above linked article showing that in “red states” that typically have looser gun laws, more shootings by toddlers have occurred. Coincidence?

Banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans, as our President-elect and apparently many in the Republican party want to do to protect us will not change this.

The Brady Campaign and other gun violence prevention organizations have solutions that often don’t involve legislation. Check out what can be done to make us safer by making sure guns are locked and stored away from tiny hands and the hands of others who should not have access to guns.

As I wrote about in my last post, things will not be getting better now that the corporate gun lobby believes they have a seat in the White House. How will that make us safer? It won’t. I have yet to hear how plans to repeal strong gun laws will result in fewer shootings and fewer deaths. In fact, the opposite is true.

But we are now living in a country where lies and deception are taken for the truth. It’s a scary time for those of us who have been working for peaceful solutions and safer communities. It’s downright sobering that in a country where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is under assault.

A stormy time for the gun lobby

tree damageWe were without power for 3 days following a terrible and violent summer storm in my city of Duluth. We were awakened at 3:30 a.m. on Thursday morning by hurricane force winds, violent thunder and constant and bright lightning. To say it was scary is an understatement. We heard trees cracking along with all of the other noises and were not sure if we would have to seek shelter. The photo here showing one tree down on a wire is minor compared to the destruction that happened all over in my part of town.

A majority of Duluth residents lost their power during the storm due to trees on wires and twisted power poles. Upon waking on Thursday morning, I checked on my friends to make sure all was well. Many had huge Spruce and other old growth trees down in their yards. A friend and I drove around a bit looking for coffee and were stunned at the awful damage done by this storm. Many streets were impassable because of downed trees and wires and debris was all over. Traffic lights were not working causing long lines of cars on the streets.

The city is recovering though many are still without power as I write. Neighbors are helping neighbors and the city has risen to the occasion. We are not used to these kinds of storms in our area. We have blizzards that cause power outages and sometimes downed wires. But this is something most of us have not seen in our lifetimes. The weather has been generally more tumultuous this summer. With many torrential rain falls and severe storms, I am convinced that climate change is real.

Also what is real is the summer of shootings of young black men and police officers. In Minneapolis, shootings have risen to one of the highest levels of recent years. This Star Tribune article revealed a different law enforcement policy to stop some of the straw purchasing that accounts for many crime guns getting into the wrong hands. From the article:

Amid signs of a rise in illegal firearms trafficking, federal prosecutors in Minnesota have hit on a novel strategy to crack down on gun violence and get shooters off the streets. Instead of prosecuting suspects for murder, where convictions can be difficult to obtain, they charge multiple defendants with conspiracy to buy and possess guns illegally.

The strategy is rooted in the successful prosecution of 11 gang members in 2014, after what authorities called an “all-out shooting gang war” in the Twin Cities. Prosecutors built a conspiracy case that produced 10 guilty pleas and a jury trial conviction of the gang’s leader, Veltrez Black, who was sentenced this spring to 15 years in prison.

Now a Minnesota prosecutor has been asked to share the strategy with Chicago authorities, who are grappling with near nightly volleys of gunfire throughout their city.

Such crimes often go unsolved because witnesses refuse to break a code of silence, prosecutors say, but firearms conspiracy cases can be easier to build.

What we know is that crime guns don’t fall from the sky. Guns start out as legal purchases and get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them in various ways. It’s easy for anyone to buy guns legally or not, by not undergoing a background check at gun shows, flea markets or on-line sites such as Armslist or Facebook.

Straw purchasing is another way that allows the flow of guns into our streets and neighborhoods. We can do something about this if we have the will and think together about how to stop the guns that get used in shootings. Too many people are dying. There should be no excuses for not doing whatever it takes. More from the article:

The strategy is timely, given the recent surge in local gun violence. Minnesota gun deaths hit a 10-year high in 2015, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and represented a greater share of all homicides (61 percent) than in 1995, when Minneapolis was dubbed “Murderapolis.” (…)

And a new federal report shows that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recovered and traced 2,780 firearms in Minnesota last year — up 14 percent from a year before and also a 10-year high. That total doesn’t include all guns recovered by other law enforcement agencies; Minneapolis police inventoried an average of 681 guns as evidence per year from 2013 to 2015.

In the article there was mention of the problem of stolen guns. Some states have passed lost and stolen gun legislation to require people to report a stolen gun(s). We can see why from this: “The office also charged two people with buying up to 10 weapons for others in the group and later reporting the guns as stolen.”

And this, from the article, shows that many gun dealers are doing their jobs well:

At Bill’s Gun Shop & Range, owner John Monson is among the numerous Twin Cities sellers to occasionally find that a straw buyer passed through their doors. Monson said each of his five locations logs suspicious activity from any of the 100,000 customers who visit each year and passes along information to law enforcement agencies when necessary. Investigations can also evolve from mandatory reports to local police and the ATF whenever a customer buys two or more handguns in a week.

“We can’t stop all [straw purchasing],” Monson said. “But we can stop it in conversations in the process that happens before they do buy the gun.”

Prevention is what this is all about. If we can prevent guns from getting into the hands of those who intend harm, we can prevent some of the way too many shootings. Working with gun dealers is an important part of this process.

A new approach to preventing the proliferation of weapons onto our streets is needed given that many of our elected leaders are so beholden to the corporate gun lobby causing inaction in passing new laws or strengthening the ones we have. But we are seeing a new boldness amongst our politicians who are willing to speak out against the gun lobby publicly. One such statement was made by Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine on Saturday at his introductory speech. He spoke out and has spoken out before on the need for passing reasonable gun laws and has won all of his elections anyway.

The gun lobby is going to experience a stormy time now that their hypocrisy and rhetoric of fear are coming back to haunt them. Talk has turned to the nonsensical idea that citizens should openly carry assault rifles at public events and rallies such as the Dallas Black Lives Matter rally that turned violent. Others are wondering about conceal carry policies and how they work to protect people given that Philando Castile was armed with a legal gun when he was shot. There is some confusion over this confirmed by a local police officer at a meeting I attended about community safety. There are some interesting comments in the above linked article:

Thoughts on concealed carry: “If you’re a concealed-carry permit holder and you’re carrying, you assume some risk, you know? Things happen. Whether it’s on accident or intentional—you’re carrying a firearm. You’re assuming some risk in carrying a firearm. You have to assume some risk—it’s just like when you drive a car.”

How the Philando Castile situation will affect his work: “Will we change the way we do the training? No, because we believe we’re teaching it correctly. Will we emphasize this part of the training more? Yes. Will it come up for discussion? Guaranteed.”

It is undeniable that risk is involved when someone chooses to own and carry a gun. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others.

 

There is a perfect storm coming. More and more people are getting involved. This latest action to get in the way of Crossfit Reebok giving away Glock pistols to the winner of the  annual Crossfit games worked to call attention to the idea that gun giveaways are just not a good idea and obviously promote gun company profits. After the Orlando shooting, the GLBTQ community is not going to sit back and be silent. From the article:

“It is an outrage that an organization like CrossFit Reebok, who purport to be about health and fitness, are giving away a weapon of death and destruction as a prize,” said New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett.

Why give guns away? Promotion of weapons of death just does not fit with exercising.

A new AP poll shows, again, consistent support from gun owners and non gun owners alike for universal background checks and stronger regulation of assault weapons.

From the above article:

Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.

The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013, a survey taken about 10 months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators.

High-profile shootings also appear to have taken a toll on Americans’ sense of safety. Strong majorities of those polled expressed some degree of concern that they or a relative will be a victim of gun violence or a mass shooting.

What I love about this poll is that it reveals that public opinion has not changed regarding support for doing something about the proliferation of guns in America. And when politicians and the public are in no mood for the increase in mass and every day shootings, things are going to change. The gun lobby may experience some stormy times and it would be past time for that to happen.

As my friend and writer, Sam Cook, wrote for the Duluth News Tribune, there is a hole in the sky left by the fallen trees.

But guns are not falling through that hole.

The public has shown over and over again over many years that they want our leaders to act to prevent at least some of the heinous shootings. More guns are clearly not making us safer.

I leave you with the latest mass shooting at another nightclub in Florida where teens were gathered for a pool party.  Two killed and 17 injured.

Teens should be able to attend a pool party without being shot and killed.  Guns make every situation more likely to end badly. They make for the perfect storm.

#Enough. We are better than this.

Comment storm about gun incident

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A few posts ago I wrote about active shooters and how we use the term. Little did I know that gun rights advocates would come so unglued about a post on the Protect Minnesota Facebook page that used the term active shooter because of a gun incident in a small town in Minnesota that was initially described that way. 

In the last few weeks, we have had far too  many instances of active shooters and shootings taking the lives of many. I guess some folks only consider active shootings to be mass shootings. In my previous blog post, I suggested that every shooting is an active shooter incident since by  their very nature, they involve the action of someone with a lethal weapon that shoots bullets from a gun, often at another human being.

So the post of the gun incident on the Facebook page of concern was one where a man went outside of his house, shot 2 shots from his gun into the ground and then went back inside. Of course, there was a report of shots fired. No one was sure what happened. Was it inside of the home? What was it about? Was anyone at risk? Who knew? Every day in America people are shot inside and outside of their homes. And hearing gunshots has become the new normal but also a reason for people who hear them to fear the worst.

In the end, the man was found asleep and drunk during the morning hours after the gun discharge and  was charged with a domestic disturbance. A 7 week old baby was inside.

Gunshots were, of course, fired recently in Minnesota leading to the death of a young black man named Philando Castile. Because of this shooting, protests have been happening all over America and now, as I write, there is a service in Dallas to honor the 5 police officers shot by a lone gunman who was upset by the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. The news is full of stories about all of this and I have written before about them. There is so much to say and it is being written about and talked about every day all over our country.

But was the news full of the incidents like the one in north Minneapolis after the shooting of Philando Castile, when 2 babies were shot and one died? A 2 year old is dead and a 15 month old is injured. Another active shooting. More gunshots. More death.

There was some mention on the news of the shooting in a Michigan court house when an inmate grabbed an officer’s gun and shot and killed 2 bailiffs. In the ensuing gunfire, the shooter was also shot. Another active shooting. More gunshots. 3 more dead.

Whether or not the gun rights advocates object to the idea that shootings are active events is no matter really. The shooting incident n the small town of Elko in Minnesota could easily have ended in injury or death. When a gun is available in domestic situations, when someone has been drinking, when someone is angry, when someone wants to “solve a problem”, it often ends badly.

But some of the commenters on the Protect Minnesota Facebook page thought it was just another small town incident that should be ignored. Really? Should we ignore a drunk person who could have just as easily have injured or killed family members with that gun? Then what would we have called the incident?

Shootings are not passive. They are active.There is action when a bullet is activated by the gun trigger. The trigger pulled by someone who is actively pulling it causes the action of the bullet rapidly moving through the gun barrel in order to find its’ target.

I suggest that if someone does not like the idea of active shootings referring to all shooting incidents, they ought to consider, as many of them say, that guns don’t kill people. People kill people. They sure do. People with guns have taken action far too many times to kill others.

A little common sense, or a lot for that matter, will go a long way to making sure people aren’t being shot on a daily basis. There are no excuses for anyone shooting off a gun recklessly.

When I read some of the ugly comments made by some of the commenters it was pretty clear that they wanted to shout out their views and they were angry. Many were deleted by the page administrators for good reason. Who needs that kind of attack? That hatred? That kind of language? That anger? The untruths expressed with no facts to back them up? The attempt to take over the discussion as is often the case on blogs, Facebook pages and articles about gun violence prevention is common. And it is almost always ugly and offensive.

This is no way to stop the shootings. It only adds to the divisiveness of any reasonable discussion about how to save lives and prevent shootings.

Comments and discussion are one thing if they are meant to openly discuss differences and come to solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. We are not just talking about a small problem here. We are talking about 90 Americans a day dying from gunshot injuries. We are talking about young black men being killed by officers and by other young black men. We are talking about police officers being killed by black men, white men, inmates and others. We are talking about domestic disputes that often end in death. We are talking about the thousands of people who take their own lives with guns every year. We are talking about our toddlers and children shooting others or themselves. We are talking about intolerant and angry young men shooting gay people, young children, theater goers and college students and shoppers with guns, often easily obtained. We are talking about people on known terror watch lists being able to access guns without our being able to stop them. We are talking about felons, domestic abusers, those who are dangerously mentally ill, fugitives and others who can buy guns every day with no background checks. We are talking about what should be peaceful protests over shootings turning violent themselves. We are talking about our police officers being outgunned on the streets and fearing for their own lives. We are talking about the fact that officers understand that almost anyone they encounter could be armed. We are talking about the fact that too many people have armed themselves out of fear of the government and/or law enforcement. We are talking about fear and paranoia and mistrust of others. We are talking about open carriers walking around during the Dallas protest with assault rifles over the shoulders confusing police when the shooting began. 

Who are the good guys with guns any more?

We have a serious problem. That is what comments should be about. How can we solve this problem together?

And speaking of action, there has been little of it in Congress regarding gun violence. Action is needed and needed immediately.

We are better than this. Americans are nearing a tipping point and becoming more and more impatient with the leaders at the state and federal level who could do something about our national crisis of active shootings but instead have become passive out of fear of the corporate gun lobby.

In fact, over 1 million petitions to Congress to act on a new ban on assault type rifles  were delivered today to Congress members on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Here is a tweet and photo of the petition delivery from MoveOn.org.

Americans are fed up. They want a change to the laws, a change to our gun culture, a change to our conversation and a change to the every day shootings.

#Enough.

#DisArmHate

It’s about the guns

little boyThe last few days have been difficult and heart-breaking to say the least. In my home state of Minnesota of course, a black man was shot to death by a police officer after being stopped for allegedly having a broken tail light. Really? So much to say here that I can hardly say it all. The victim had a legal permit to carry a gun around. He announced that he had that permit. Why? He didn’t have to according to Minnesota law. But he was a black man with a gun. Perhaps he was afraid that if he was found with a gun on his person, things would get hairy for him. He was right.

Would he have been alive had he not had that permit to carry and announced that he did to the officer? We don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud.

Philando Castile was his name. He was a beloved cafeteria worker in a St. Paul Montessori School. A role model to children.

Now he is dead.

So many unanswered questions. We don’t know why he kept saying that he had this permit to carry, or so his girlfriend said he was saying.

The gun lobby has been working hard to arm every American just in case….. Castile must have thought his gun and his legal permit would protect him from harm. It didn’t.

Where is the gun lobby’s outrage over these shootings? Are they standing with the Black Lives Matters protest in St. Paul because a man with a legal permit to carry was shot to death by an officer? Nope.

We don’t know why the officer fired his gun when Philando allegedly moved his hand towards his pocket for his ID.

We just don’t know everything. People react to situations in many different ways.

We do know that when a gun is present, things often go wrong.

We do also know that more guns are not making us safer.

We understand that there is racism abounding in our American communities fomented by fear and paranoia of “others”. We do know that the gun lobby is making it worse.

We do know that one Presidential candidate in the name of Mr. Donald Trump has said that the Orlando tragic shooting could have been lessened or averted if only someone had been armed.

Ludicrous.

And then came Dallas last night. Armed officers were gunned down by a couple of citizens ( or that is what we know so far) who seemed to have been upset by the peaceful Black Lives Matters protest over the Minnesota and Louisiana shootings of black men.

Four guys with assault style weapons and high capacity magazines were like snipers gunning down officers on purpose- armed officers.

We know that it is easy to get assault rifles and high capacity magazines in America- far too easy. We have made it easy. We allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire. What has happened since? Numerous shootings of innocent school children, movie goers, military members, officers, LGBTQ citizens, and others. That’s what our lack of common sense has done.

And, as a reminder to my readers, most of these guns were legally obtained by otherwise “law abiding” gun owners.

Hypocrisy.

Good guys with guns are as bad as bad guys with guns.

The least we can do is to keep guns away from the “bad guys”. But what do we do about the good guys?

Only in America. It’s about the guns. It’s about a gun culture and a culture of fear and hatred that, when combined, leads to tragic shootings and senseless loss of lives. From this editorial in the Baltimore Sun:

We are in the deep end, my fellow Americans, drowning in anger and frustration, guns and violence. I don’t know about you, but when I woke up this morning and read the news from Dallas, I felt like the country had tipped toward anarchy.

The U.S. is an exceptional country, all right. Exceptional for its political, social and racial polarization. Exceptional in its acceptance of gun ownership.

You can feel despondent. You can feel hopeless.

I am despondent but not feeling hopeless. As someone who has lost a sister in a domestic shooting, I have been re-traumatized by these latest shootings. I watched the now viral video taken by the girlfriend of Philando Castile. I watched the blood ooze from his shirt. I heard his dying moans and breaths. What if there was a video of my sister’s last moans and breaths? What if?

What if this was your loved one as President Obama said in a speech given last night before the Dallas shooting. What if? What if our elected leaders were made to watch videos and see photos of the victims’ last dying breaths? What if this was one of theirs?

And who will protect the children as I asked in my last post? There was a 4 year old girl in the back seat of Philando Castile’s car who saw him shot and watched him die. How can we forget the children who witness such awful murder in their young lives?

What if Congress just straight up passed stronger gun laws without pandering to the corporate gun lobby as House Speaker Paul Ryan just did:

“We’re not going to rush it,” the Wisconsin Republican said at a news conference. “We’re going to get it right. And that’s what we’re working on with our members.”

No rush. Every day 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries.

No rush. 5 officers were just gunned down in Dallas.

No rush. 49 LGBTQ Americans were just gunned down at a nightclub in Orlando.

No rush, Speaker Ryan.

Shame.

Heartbreak.

Outrage.

Tears.

Sorrow.

Before the Dallas shootings but after the Minnesota shooting, the words of Protect Minnesota’s Executive Director Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, were sent out to supporters. She was urging us to look at the Philando Castile shooting from many perspectives. But in the end, it’s all about the guns. Here is the email sent out last night titled “Thoughts on the death of Philando Castile:

 July 7, 2016
Posted by Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, Executive Director

“Another terrible tragedy occurred last night, this time in our own backyard, when Philando Castile was shot dead by a police officer in Falcon Heights. Philando was a much loved 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul Montessori school who was black. According to police reports, he was pulled over for a tail light violation and a handgun was “recovered at the scene.” According to his girlfriend, the officer shot Philando as he reached for his identification as per the officer’s request. Philando was armed, but had clearly announced that he had a permit to carry a handgun. His girlfriend, sitting next to him in the car with her young child in the backseat, streamed a video of Philando as he slumped over, bleeding, having been shot four times point blank. The video allows us to hear the officer yell at her and then handcuff and detain her, while she narrates, weeps and prays that Philando will survive. It is difficult to watch.

Because this awful incident involved gun violence, Protect Minnesota is expected to make a definitive statement and “take sides” on the issue. At this time, with so much still unknown, I am not prepared to do either. But I do have some thoughts to share. What follows isn’t short and pithy–I’m a pastor after all!– but I hope you’ll find it helpful.

1. On Racism
This was the second questionable shooting of a black man by police in the U.S. in as many days. According to the Washington Post, there have been 509 police killings in America so far this year, with African Americans being killed at a rate 2-1/2 times greater than whites. President Obama today said that African Americans are 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over and three times more likely to be searched by the police. Whatever other particulars arise, racism cannot be discounted as a key element of this tragedy. Often-hidden but always present, racism is like a strand of barbed wire woven into the fabric of our society. Its barbs catch, tear and hold back every institution, organization and individual as we strive to move forward towards justice. Since it would be naive to think that law enforcement does not reflect the racist attitudes that permeate our culture, this incident cries out for a full investigation by the Department of Justice. But nothing is black and white: according to Philando’s girlfriend in the video, the officer was Asian American. It’s safe to assume that he also experiences racial discrimination on a regular basis. At this time we cannot know how that factors into the equation.

2. On Police
There are approximately 1 million working police officers and law enforcement professionals in the United States, the vast majority of whom honorably serve and protect their communities. The risks they face have increased in recent years due to the ubiquity of firearms. More guns are being carried around in public now than at any time in our history, including during frontier times and the days of the “wild west”. Police officers now have to assume that anyone they detain may be carrying a gun and present a threat to their life. And the threat is real. According the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, shooting deaths of members of the U.S. law-enforcement community have increased significantly in recent years. For the first time in 2014, shootings comprised the leading cause of death for law enforcement personnel on the job, with ambush-style shooting attacks increasing the most. According to a 2010 press release issued by the San Mateo County, California, Sheriff’s Office,

“the law enforcement response is one of ‘hypervigilant urgency’… Should the gun carrying person fail to comply with a law enforcement instruction or move in a way that could be construed as threatening, the police are forced to respond in kind for their own protection. It’s well and good in hindsight to say the gun carrier was simply “exercising their rights” but the result could be deadly.”

That is a perfect description of what appears to have happened last night. Philando Castile was exercising his right to carry a firearm in Minnesota with a legal permit. He was totally within his rights and fully complying with both the law and the officer’s instructions when he was shot. The officer seems to have reacted with lethal “hypervigilant urgency” when he heard Philando announce that he had a permit to carry. Sadly, this is not unusual in the circumstance. According to gun violence expert David Hemenway in his book Private Guns, Public Health,

“Police officers, who receive large amounts of training, are still often inadequately prepared to handle ambiguous but potentially dangerous situations. Intense stress, confusion and fear are inherent in most possible shooting situations. Heart rates skyrocket, and it’s difficult to think clearly and to act deliberately. Not surprisingly, even police make serious mistakes.”

So even as we demand justice for the killing of Philando Castile, we can have compassion for the frightened officer who shot him.

3. On the NRA and the gun lobby.
In its continuing efforts to arm America in order to generate more profits for the gun industry, the gun lobby has done much to perpetuate two distructive myths that I believe may have played a role in Philando Castile’s tragic death.

Myth number 1: Gun violence is really just a “black on black” violence problem.
The NRA loves to quote statistics about how many black people kill other black people. Why? Because it feeds the fear that blacks are dangerous so we must carry guns to protect ourselves against them. In reality, according to FBI’s most recent statistics, 84% of white murder victims are killed by white people, compared to 90% of black murder victims who are killed by black people. Whites are six times more likely to be murdered by another white person as by a black person. And here’s the kicker: 82% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides, an overwhelmingly white phenomenon. Unfortunately, we never hear about the epidemic of “white on white” gun violence, but the “black on black” myth has been swallowed whole by the media. The image of the scary black man with a gun has become a psychological meme in white America–and the gun lobby seems to be fine with that. How do I know? Listen to their deafening silence in response to Philando’s shooting. A permit-holding, law abiding American who was exercising his 2nd Amendment right was shot point blank by a police officer for no other reason than stating that he had a permit to carry. Where is the NRA’s outrage? Have they joined the Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Governor’s mansion?

Myth number 2: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
We hear the NRA trumpet that after every terrible shooting. Well, this time it was a “good guy” with a gun who did the terrible shooting. If a licensed police officer who has completed many hours of firearms training and testing on justified and unjustified shootings could over-react to such deadly effect, how can we expect untrained “amateurs” to respond with measured self-control when faced with a real or imagined threat? This is the aspect of Philando Castile’s death that falls within the missional scope of Protect Minnesota. Our task is to counter the myth that more guns equal more safety. They don’t. More guns equal more gun tragedies. More gun crimes. More mass shootings. More domestic gun murders. More black on black gun violence. More white on white gun violence. More gun suicides. More unintentional gun deaths of children. And yes, more police shootings. The common denominator is the gun.

We at Protect Minnesota join President Obama, Governor Dayton and the larger gun violence prevention community in expressing our deepest condolences to the family of Philando Castile. We grieve at the senseless loss of a good man who was loved by the children at the school where he worked. We weep at the thought of the trauma that his girlfriend and her young child have experienced and will relive every time the video is played. Our prayers are with all people of color in our community who have been wounded by yet another apparently unjustified shooting of a black man by law enforcement. Our hearts are open as well for the dedicated and honorable police officers throughout our state and nation who will now face greater suspicion and increased risks.

There is no easy, definitive statement to make except this: In the wake of this tragedy, we will continue to do our job. We will counter the false claims of the gun lobby. We will build a statewide network of people and organizations who support sensible gun legislation. We will speak out against and work to prevent gun violence in Minnesota. I invite you to join us.”

The false claims of the gun lobby have us in this position. How do officers deal with armed citizens? Often they are outgunned by people on the streets. How do communities deal with more heavily armed young men in their communities? How do the young men in affected communities get their guns so easily and why do they feel like they need them? Why are officers so quick to stop people of color for minor traffic violations? Why are officers more afraid of black people with guns than white people with guns?

Governor Mark Dayton boldly said it like it is in his press conference yesterday:

“Would this have happened if … the driver and passenger were white?” he asked. “I don’t think it would’ve. So I’m forced to confront and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”

Today, President Obama said it like it is in his statement:

“Let me just say, even as yesterday I spoke about our need to be concerned, as all Americans, about racial discrimination in our criminal justice system. I also said our police have an extremely difficult job and the vast majority do their job in outstanding fashion,” he continued. “We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. And in the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well.”

Realities. More guns are NOT making us safer. The gun lobby is dead wrong.

This is about racism. This is about intolerance. This is about fear. And this is, at the least, about guns.

 

UPDATE:

We now know that there was a single gunman in Dallas. He had served in the military. He had lots of guns. He claimed he wanted to shoot white people ( he was black). One lone man with extreme  and out of the mainstream ideas( and a loner according to neighbors) could do this much damage because he could buy an assault style rifle with many rounds of high capacity magazines. He knew what he was doing. He knew he could inflict a lot of damage on a lot of people. From the article above:

Micah Xavier Johnson didn’t have a criminal record and apparently acted alone in the carefully planned ambush during a march downtown, a law enforcement official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, told USA TODAY earlier Friday. Seven other officers and two civilians were also wounded.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Dallas police confirmed the identity of the gunman and said he was described as a loner by some who knew him. Detectives were in the process of analyzing the information in the journal, the statement said. (…)

Johnson’s Facebook account included the names Fahed Hassen and Richard GRIFFIN or Professor Griff, the Dallas Police Department said in the statement. GRIFFIN, who embraces a “radical form of Afrocentrism,” police said, also authored a book titled A Warrior’s Tapestry.

Extremism of any kind and guns and ammunition are a lethal mix. We have proof of that over and over again. But we are still waiting to act.

Why?

 

 

Why gun research matters

ПечатьGuns matter. Gun deaths matter. Gun laws matter. Lives matter. Data matters. Research matters. Facts matter. What is becoming more and more necessary is good research into the causes and effects of gun violence in America.

Remember that Congress passed a law in 1996 to stifle and halt research by the CDC into what causes so much gun violence in our country. Representative Jay Dickey, who at the time pushed this law, was beholden to the corporate gun lobby and did their bidding. Now that he doesn’t have to worry about their bullying tactics any more he understands that the law was detrimental to our public health and safety and has said so publicly. Good for him. Let’s take a look:

“It is my position that somehow or someway we should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached,” he wrote in a letter released through the office of Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). “Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution.” (…)

The former GOP congressman, 75, reached at home Thursday, said “political purposes” should have never gotten in the way of the issue. He conceded he “should have done something” to see that the research continue.

NRA LOBBYING LED TO LAW THAT STOPPED CDC FROM USING FEDERAL FUNDS TO STUDY GUN VIOLENCE

“Research will lead us to a solution,” Dickey said. “I have no idea what it’s going to be. I just couldn’t stay quiet any longer. It doesn’t look like anybody else is trying to get a solution.”

Dickey compared gun violence to car accidents. Highway regulation and research aren’t meant to deter car ownership — they’re meant for safety, he said.

“(Gun violence) is an insidious social problem that we have in America, and it’s getting worse, in my opinion,” he said.

Dickey said he was “almost numb” as reports emerged of Wednesday’s shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in which 14 people were killed and 21 wounded.

“It’s just a shame … innocent people,” he said.

But years after that law went into effect, public shootings of 6 year olds in a school, Christian black people in churches, Muslims in homes, journalists on live TV, people sitting in movie theaters, horrendous domestic homicide/suicides, gang shootings in our inner cities, increased numbers of gun suicides by teens and rural white men, and toddlers killing themselves on a regular basis, the carnage continues unabated.

Former Representative Dickey spoke truth to power. He is right. It’s insidious and a shame. Too many innocent people are dying.

Others are doing the much needed research and presenting us with the proof that gun laws matter and can prevent some of the nation’s shootings. This New York Times comprehensive article, replete with useful charts and information, should be required reading for legislators and Congress:

In the past decade, Missouri has been a natural experiment in what happens when a state relaxes its gun control laws. For decades, it had one of the nation’s strongest measures to keep guns from dangerous people: a requirement that all handgun buyers get a gun permit by undergoing a background check in person at a sheriff’s office.

Here is one of the incredible graphs disproving the gun lobby’s argument that strict gun laws don’t matter. Gun trafficking from state to state is easy because we have made it easy. And thus, even if states or cities pass strong laws, gun violence continues. It’s a slippery slope.

Well researched graphs, maps and charts help us understand the causes and effects of our insidious and shameful national public health epidemic. For example:

An interactive map of where licensed gun dealers are located in the country makes it easy to find out how many there are near you.  As it turns out, there are more of them than there are grocery stores or McDonalds restaurants. It’s actually pretty darned convenient to find a gun dealer to do a Brady background check.

Minneapolis and St. Paul have had more gun homicides this year than in past years. And here’s a map to show where the shootings occurred:

More than 11 months later, with 2016 approaching, Minneapolis has seen 49 homicides this year, according to city data, considerably more than the 32 recorded in 2014 and the most since 2006.

St. Paul recorded 17 homicides in 2015, including a victim who died this year of an injury sustained in 2012, up from 13 in 2014.

Of the 65 homicides in both cities, 49 involved firearms. The rest were either stabbings or beatings.

The gun lobby often argues that guns are not responsible for the most homicides. They are wrong. Also, many of these gun deaths are happening in our core urban cities with the impacted communities being people of color.

Why does any of this matter? Because if we truly are serious about preventing the carnage, we need data to help us with solutions. Silencing research on guns and gun violence has a deadly affect on our communities. The corporate gun lobby’s insidious influence on policy is leading to devastating gun deaths and injuries.

We make it far too easy for citizens who shouldn’t have access to guns to get them anyway. Laws matter. With stronger laws will come a stronger public resolve that we take this seriously and we care about innocent people getting shot in our homes, schools, shopping malls, parking lots, hospitals, at holiday parties, churches, military bases, government buildings, etc. And please do remember that some of the shooters in these places obtained their guns legally. That is because in America we have such a cavalier and twisted outlook and attitude about guns because….. rights, because…. Congress, because…..second amendment absolutists, because…. corporate gun lobby, that there is a total lack of common sense.

More data lets us know which large cities have seen the most shootings of civilians by officers. Police departments all over America, including in Minneapolis, have been under fire for shootings of citizens, often black citizens. Looking at the data and learning from it can make our large cities safer.

It’s important to understand shootings by officers and shootings of officers so our communities can better deal with insidious gun violence that plagues our largest urban areas.

Here is information about how many officers have been killed in the line of duty and an interesting fact is that firearms have caused fewer deaths of officers in 2015 than in 2014. Traffic accidents have accounted for an increased number of officer deaths. And “other causes” have increased 70% over 2014. It seems like this is important information for the safety of officers while on duty.

Why again do we not want research and data on the subject of gun violence? You will have to ask people who hang around with the corporate gun lobby and your elected leaders. The answer is very important to public health and safety.

And while we are waiting for common sense to break out these are the daily reports in the media, on the internet or on blogs:

“Law abiding” DC area gun owner gets impatient when a holiday shopper has trouble with his credit card at an exit of a shopping mall and shoots at the man.

 

A Washington state man was arrested for possession an illegal gun and saying he wanted a .50 caliber rifle to shoot officers:

Today, the assistant U.S. attorney told the judge that Barbeau was trying to buy a .50 caliber rifle that would be quote “advantageous” in a shootout with law enforcement. And that he was seen in photos posing next to explosives that federal agents have yet to locate.

But hey, what’s the problem? These are readily available anywhere for the most part and his friends and family believe he is just trying to exercise his rights:

But his family says Barbeau is just trying to protect the rights of his fellow citizens, and sometimes gets caught up in inflammatory rhetoric.

“He gets pretty emotional when things are happening and injustices are happening around him. And he tends to say some things that maybe I wouldn’t say,” said Milam. ” But I don’t believe at all that he is out to start there is any part of him that is out to start anything with anybody.”

I, for one, am glad this guy is not on the loose with his guns.

Data matters. In the case above, the FBI had been following this guy because of threats to police officers. Not OK. Home grown terrorists have been responsible for more than a few high profile shootings in our country.

Research is happening now despite the gun lobby’s distaste for it and their resistance to facts. The tired old NRA and corporate gun lobby arguments are going to fall on deaf ears soon enough. Armed with research and facts, our country will demand, as the majority already have, that our leaders get down to business and do their jobs to keep us safe from devastating gun violence and terror attacks. This is not rocket science.

 

Peace and justice on Thanksgiving

Puzzle Pieces: Justice Concept.

As Thanksgiving approaches we should all pause and think about what is going on right now in our country. The Paris terror attacks have elevated the fear, anger and paranoia of Americans for good reason. But since the terror attack, some of the reactions have been amazingly uneducated and utterly frightening. I have been writing about this in my last few blog posts.

But now terror has hit Minnesota in the form of an attack by armed (alleged) white supremacists in Minneapolis against members of the Black Lives Matters protest over the shooting of a young black man by police last week.

This is a domestic terror attack- there is not another word for it. When so many people have been encouraged to arm themselves for perceived threats to their safety, this is inevitable. When so much hate, anger and fear is spewed on the air waves every day, what do we expect? More guns have definitely not made us safer or more polite. We have a violent and racist society.

Mike the Gun Guy has written about the Minneapolis shooting. It’s something to consider. From his post:

If you don’t think there’s a connection between the Black Lives Matter protestor who was beaten up at a Trump rally in Alabama and the attempted killing of peaceful demonstrators in Minneapolis, then you haven’t been paying attention to the news or the Trump campaign.  When you stand up in front of a cheering-jeering audience and call someone a ‘jerk’ or a ‘dope’ or a ‘crazy’ because they yell something during your speech, you’ve abandoned any degree of public civility and are now just pandering to the lowest and meanest folks in the crowd. (…)

But they don’t have to keep quiet if they can go to a rally headlined by Trump.  And they don’t have to keep quiet when they walk up to a demonstration held by Black Lives Matter because another Black man may have been gunned down by the cops.  After all, these guys have a Constitutional right to call someone a name and they also have a Constitutional right to walk around with a gun.  Put those two rights together and you know what you get?  You get three young Black men in the hospital with gunshot wounds and the cops, in a shooting which took place right outside a police station, still looking for the guys who pulled out the guns.

It happened right outside the police station.  Think about that.

Didn’t these armed thugs know that armed police officers were nearby? Of course they did. They didn’t care. Their hate, racism and anger fueled them and combined with guns, it didn’t go well. The suspects have all been arrested.

We don’t know yet what exactly happened in the case of the shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. Both sides have a story to tell and evidence to bring. An investigation will hopefully bring some justice and peace to citizens of the 4th precinct.

No matter what happened to Jamar Clark, one can understand mistrust of officers by people of color given the incidents that have happened over many years’ time. The tenuous relationship between people of color and law enforcement has been much in the news all over our country.

A Chicago officer just turned himself into police over the shooting of a black teen in October of 2014. It turns out that the officer shot the teen 16 times, many of the bullets shot after the teen was lying dead on the street.

These are difficult times for America. When there are so many guns on our streets and in our homes, the inevitable result is mistrust of others. Yes, black teens and young men are dying in greater numbers than their white counterparts. Yes, white men are dying more often than their counterparts of color in gun suicides. Toddlers and small children are “accidentally” shooting themselves and others at an alarming rate. Mass shootings occupy our media spaces on a regular basis. Yes, white radicalized home grown terrorists are shooting people of color. Stand Your Ground laws are unmistakably aimed at people of color and affect them at a greater rate than white people.  And yes, black young men are also shooting each other and innocent people in gang related shootings all over America. Police officers are being shot by others in various scenarios. And police officers are sometimes shooting  young men of color in sometimes justified shootings, sometimes not.

The issue of race and guns needs to be examined so we can understand the issues faced by our communities of color. It is not without controversy as nothing is with gun rights and gun violence prevention. The Trace has written about the history of race and gun rights. It’s worth the read for a better understanding of what is going on in our own country right now.

It’s impossible not to connect the dots from this article with the summer shooting of 9 Black people at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was an act of terror and it was an act of overt racism.

Home grown extremists are shooting Americans on a pretty regular basis.

We have a gun problem that is contributing to all of the above.

Minnesota has had a rough year for shootings. There have been many shootings in the communities of color. There have been horrific domestic shootings and the usual suicides which account for 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota. Just yesterday, a man in a domestic dispute was shot and killed by officers in a Minnesota suburb. Domestic cases are among the most dangerous for officers.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Getting a handle on our nation’s public health and safety gun violence epidemic won’t be easy. But we shouldn’t stop until we have the conversation we deserve about the causes and effects of devastating gun violence. Common sense and resolve have to lead the discussion.  Facts will be important but our sense of justice and common values should be at the forefront of the discussion and decision making.

You may have conversations around your Thanksgiving table with family and friends about the many controversial  topics surrounding us. There are terror attacks, Syrian refugees, what to do with old aunt Sally, how to deal with cousin Peter, what to do about Uncle Joe’s drinking, where to go shopping on Black Friday and other important and not so important topics. If shootings and gun violence come up there are some answers to some of your gun toting relatives in this article in The Trace. “Arming” yourself with the facts rather than arguing at an emotional level may make your Thanksgiving table conversation less confrontational.

This Thanksgiving is going to be very difficult for a lot of people who are missing a family member because of a deadly shooting. Please think of them while you are with your own family and friends. And stay safe this holiday season.

God help us all. We will need all the help we can get to deal with all of the tragedy and unrest surrounding us.