Virginia Tech remembered as shootings continue in America

Virginia Tech Shooting AnniversaryTomorrow is April 16th ( one day from the late tax day deadline this year)

I want to first remember the victims of the Virginia Tech mass shooting which happened on April 16, 2007. It was the worst mass school shooting after Columbine and still remains one of our country’s deadliest mass shootings. 32 died and 17 were injured. The effects of that shooting, even 11 years later, live on for those who were there, those left behind and the entire community. Gun violence has a ripple effect. No one forgets. The corporate gun lobby wants us to forget. They are not succeeding. If anything, we are remembering more and more as more and more of these kind of shootings and every day homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings continue apace.

The young man who got his hands on a gun and shot up the Virginia Tech campus should not have had a gun and was clearly irresponsible with his gun. Not only was he irresponsible, he intentionally murdered innocent people. He was a supposed “legal” gun owner as his name was not in the FBI database flagging him as prohibited to buy a gun. It should have been but our loose gun laws allowed him to purchase that gun and kill people. Why did he want his gun? For self defense? No. To kill people.

Many gun owners are responsible with their guns and own them for hunting or sport. Many gun owners are not interested in shooting at people who they believe might do them harm because they are not paranoid. Most gun owners don’t just shoot first and ask questions later. In fact most Americans don’t do this because most Americans don’t own guns in their homes for hunting, sport or self protection. And they are more safe than those who do as it turns out.

I write all the time on this blog about the rare instances of needing a gun for self protection in your home or in public and the rare incidents of said uses of a gun. NPR posted this article a day ago about this very topic.:

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tellsHere & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.”

The gun rights advocates beg to differ with little evidence or actual facts- from the article:

But the research spread by the gun lobby paints a drastically different picture of self-defense gun uses. One of the most commonly cited estimates of defensive gun uses, published in 1995 by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, concluded there are between 2.2 and 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually.

One of the main criticisms of this estimate is that researchers can’t seem to find the people who are shot by civilians defending themselves because they don’t show up in hospital records.

“The Kleck-Gertz survey suggests that the number of DGU respondents who reported shooting their assailant was over 200,000, over twice the number of those killed or treated [for gunshots] in emergency departments,” crime prevention researcher Philip Cook wrote in the book Envisioning Criminology.

Kleck says there is no record of these gunshot victims because most instances of self-defense gun use are not reported.

Hmmmm. Really? Why not report these incidents if it is so important to you? Because they are not happening, that’s why.

“The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” Hemenway says. “It’s a well-known problem in epidemiology that if something’s a rare event, and you just try to ask how many people have done this, you will get incredible overestimates.”

In fact, Cook told The Washington Post that the percentage of people who told Kleck they used a gun in self-defense is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliensThe Post notes that “a more reasonable estimate” of self-defense gun uses equals about 100,000 annually, according to the NCVS data.

Check out this chart from the Gun Violence Archive for facts:

You can see for yourself how often guns are used defensively and how many end up being used to kill or injure someone by comparison.  Not even close.

The NRA extremists in the form of their leaders and their minions, have ratcheted up the fear and paranoia for so many decades that they have convinced a certain segment of gun owners that they should be afraid of their own shadows. They are afraid of the wrong thing.

Three incidents from the past day or two prove my point.

 

This one involved a black teen who got lost while looking for his school. He innocently knocked on the door of the home of one of those aforementioned paranoid and racist homeowners:

A black teenager was nearly shot and killed by a racist homeowner after missing his bus and trying to ask a neighbor for directions. (…)

“I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady’s door,” Brennan told the TV station. “Then she started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High, and she kept yelling at me.”

“Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun,” the teen added. “I saw it and started to run — and that’s when I heard the gunshot.”

The shot missed the fleeing teen, and Brennan said he kept running until he found a hiding place, and that’s when he broke down crying.

His crime was being Black and lost and knocking on the wrong door, apparently. And more from the boy:

“My mom says that black boys get shot because sometimes they don’t look their age, and I don’t look my age,” he said. “I’m 14, but I don’t look 14. I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic.”

He was one of the lucky ones who did not become a statistic. But way too many do.

This gun owner should be held accountable for, at the least, reckless discharge of a gun and at the most, intent to injure or kill someone. Let’s see how this one turns out.

Another teenaged Oklahoma boy did, however, become a statistic. His own father shot and killed him in his haste to shoot first and ask questions later. Without that gun in his hand, his son would be alive today. And what did he do wrong? Let’s look:

When Tony Rutherford, 47, arrived in the middle of the night, he saw his older son’s pickup truck cut across a field. It was supposed to be parked.

According to the release, Rutherford “gave chase and fired his rifle at the driver several times.”

At least one of those rounds hit the driver, who was pronounced dead at the scene. That driver, found slumped over in the driver’s seat of the pickup, was later identified as Rutherford’s 13-year-old son.

“What is unique about this case is that we have a father who thought he was protecting an older son’s property, and in fact, he shot and killed his younger son, not knowing it was his younger son,” Jennifer Brown, OSBI spokeswoman, told KOAM.

Unique? No actually, incidents like this happen often enough in America as to be of grave concern. I have written many many times in this blog about family members “accidentally” killing each other when they mistake them for someone else and don’t use an ounce of common sense.

The boy’s death was totally avoidable and senseless. How will that father be able to live with what he did?

And then there is this, all too common stupid and dangerous use of a gun- an 8 year old had a loaded gun and fired it off while walking home from school with friends!:

Detectives said the gun is legally owned by a family member of the child.

Police said that the child took the gun that morning without the owner’s knowledge, and carried it to Harper Elementary in his backpack.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Lock up your darned guns everybody. Safe storage can save lives. Where is common sense?

Do I have to remind you all that these two gun owners were “law abiding” until suddenly they weren’t? And the parents of the 8 year old? I have no words. They were the “good guys” with guns that NRA VP Wayne LaPierre loves to talk about. As recently as the CPAC convention, mentioned in the above linked article, La Pierre was using the same old unprovable and nonsensical argument about those good guys out there with guns. And this happened just a week after the Parkland school shooting that shocked the nation and caused everyone to take a different look at the National Rifle Association. Take a look at the continuing rants of this man who represents a group that represents a very small minority of Americans- about 1.5% of us.

Wayne- we actually hate the shootings.

Gun ownership is going down. The NRA’s reputation is in the toilet. They are now part of the Mueller investigation.

What LaPierre and others sometimes talk about but don’t often do much about is that gun ownership requires not only common sense but responsibility, training, and restraint. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill. And kill they do. They are the only product on the market not regulated for safety. There are no training requirements to own a gun and very few for carrying one in public.

We are changing the culture and the conversation more slowly than we should since the body count is increasing every year.  

Finally the messaging of the corporate gun lobby is falling apart. It’s well past time for that to happen. Just as with gay marriage, the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke and driving while drunk changed laws and the culture, so too will allowing loose gun laws to lead to a national public health and safety epidemic.

Candidates and lawmakers are now publicly stating their support for measures that will save lives and claiming their “F” rating from the NRA proudly.

Yesterday I attended my congressional district convention as a delegate. Not one of the democratic candidates running or current sitting lawmakers were against passing reasonable laws to protect our kids and communities from the devastation of gun violence. Even those in districts where many gun owners and hunters live agreed that something has to be done. I had many conversations with these leaders and candidate as did many in the room. Gun violence prevention was on the top of the list as issues of concern.

The Parkland students and students all over this country are telling lawmakers that they are no longer willing to listen to their BS representing gun lobby speak. Students and others in the Virginia, Maryland, DC area came out for a rally at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia yesterday.  They ( we) are not going away any time soon. We are more committed than ever to getting things done to save lives.

We are better than this and the public has had about #enough.

#Neveragain.

 

 

The Fools

march photoHappy Easter all if you celebrate. And happy Passover to those who celebrated the Jewish holiday.

Today is April Fools’ Day as well as Easter. Interesting that it falls on the same day. As we returned from the warmth and sun of Florida, Minnesota had inches of snow and it’s bitterly cold. Fooled us.

And yesterday, who were the fools of the day? The Minnesota gun rights folks who had a rally at the State Capitol, armed to the teeth. Do they think this is going to change anyone’s minds after the way the last 6 weeks have gone? Fools all. From the article:

“Gun owners like you and me and the tens of thousands friends and family who couldn’t be here, we are getting trampled on. We’re getting assaulted by the people in this building,” Dorr said. “Gun owners are not respected. We’re under full blown attack in this building.”

Nonsense. You are not under attack. If you are law abiding gun owners, what do you have to fear but fear itself? Yes, we know you love your guns and you have your rights. No one is saying otherwise. But why flaunt your AR-15s after the Parkland shooting? Where is your common sense? The public doesn’t like to see your openly carried guns. Not on the week-end of Easter. Not on the week-end of Passover. Why do you think this is going to help your cause? You have nothing to fear with the suggested stronger gun laws now sitting in Congress and state houses all over the country. What are you so afraid of?

More from the above linked article:

“It is really about common sense gun safety legislation like universal background checks, which are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans,” Farnsworth said.

But Minnesota Gun Rights says it wants to make sure the voices of firearms owners are heard, and that the Republican-led Legislature knows it will face political repercussions if lawmakers advance any new gun control measures.

Nonsense.

Gun owners’ voices have been the only voices heard at the legislature. That is about to change.

It appears that you might be afraid of the students. And the fear has caused some really stupid and offensive things to happen. For one thing, harassing and attacking students is just not working. They are not having it and neither are we. We see through this fear of yours. You are afraid that a group of students is actually changing the conversation around your gun rights. All they are doing is trying to stop school shootings so they don’t have to be afraid to go to school every day to do what they are supposed to do as students. What about you? Are you so afraid to go to work, go to church, go to a park or a shopping mall that you need a gun to protect yourself? Go ahead if that’s what you want. But the chances of using that gun to protect yourself in those situations are slim to none.

Just check out what NRA Board member and generally crazy and offensive former music “artist” Ted Nugent had to say about the Parkland students:

“All you have to do now is not only feel sorry for the liars, but you have to go against them and pray to God that the lies can be crushed and the liars can be silenced so that real measures can be put into place to actually save children’s lives,” Nugent said.

Many conservatives have been critical of the Parkland survivors’ political beliefs, which isn’t too surprising given that they generally want gun control. But some, like Nugent, have gone further than that — attacking the kids for unrelated and often personal aspects of their lives.

On the radio show, Nugent claimed that the left had lied to the Parkland students, which he said meant they were committing “spiritual suicide.”

“To attack the good, law-abiding families of America when well-known, predictable murderers commit these horrors is deep in the category of soulless,” Nugent continued. “These poor children — I’m afraid to say and it hurts me to say this, but the evidence is irrefutable — they have no soul.”

No soul? Who is the fool who said that? And why would you say that about innocent students who have just gone through the trauma of a mass shooting at their school, in some cases, watching their classmates be slaughtered in cold blood?

What we should all be afraid of is your unrelenting lies and misperceptions that have caused our leaders to be afraid of you. Well, you have fooled them. You are only about 1.5% of gun owners and Americans. Why should we all be afraid of you?

We should be afraid of the 97% of Americans who want universal background checks but are not getting them.

We should be afraid of the domestic shootings and suicides that cause so much devastation in our country. We should be afraid of little kids finding their parents unlocked, loaded guns and killing themselves or someone else. We should be afraid of those loaded guns ostensibly for self defense “accidentally” discharging, sometimes harming another human being. We should be afraid of the fear of others instilled in police officers and others that cause people to shoot first and ask questions later.

This piece by Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, explains that fear of Black and Brown people that permeates our culture and is ramped up by Wayne LaPierre, gun rights extremists and even our very own President. We must address this uniquely racist violence by stopping the fear of “others” who are not like us:

But it’s not a local issue — it’s a national issue. And like every American who claims to be a gun violence prevention advocate, I have a responsibility to speak out against this uniquely American crisis. The unlawful shootings of Black and Brown people by law enforcement is gun violence. If we want to end gun violence, then we have to fight the systemic racism that can cause it, too.

I have great respect for law enforcement officers. They are afraid of being shot themselves almost every day while working to protect our communities. The recent shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man in Sacramento, was totally uncalled for and rooted in fear of young black men. Police departments must address the issue of shooting people of color more often than they shoot white people:

Our country’s culture of shooting at what scares us has a body count in Black and Brown lives. Research has shown that Black people are three times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white men. In addition, Black men are 13 times more likely than white men to be victims of gun homicides. Black children and teens are 14 times more likely to be the victims of gun homicides than white children and teens.

This is something to fear and something that cannot be hidden under the rug. The student movement after the Parkland shooting has raised the issue of shootings of young people of color as well as mass shootings and school shootings.

So who are the fools out there? Let’s be clear about this. No one needs to be fooled by the ramped up fear and paranoia of the gun rights extremists. I was so proud to have marched with the students in Duluth last Saturday. About 1000 turned out on a cold day to listen to students tell their stories and hear from a graduate student who was the mother of a shooting victim last December tell her story.

This is the American tragedy. We have been fooled by the NRA lapdogs. No more.

The students are challenging everything and because of it right wing FOX TV host Laura Ingraham is in trouble. Why did she foolishly go after the students? She didn’t have to do that. But she is afraid of their power. She is afraid they may be right and that our leaders will and are listening to them instead of her hate.

Why did Vermont gun owners have a rally like that in Minnesota and give away high capacity magazines at the rally to show their opposition to laws that are about to be signed by their Governor in a gun friendly state?

How foolish of them. The public understands what AR-15s and high capacity magazines do to our students and others. We understand. We will not be fooled.

Our students are or will become voters very soon. The gun lobby should be afraid of that:

Somehow it became acceptable over the past several days and weeks for politicians and others to mock mourning students-turned-activists who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

At what age is it OK to bully someone whose classmates were murdered at school? 14? 16? Adults on social media claim that because our young people aren’t as familiar with lawmaking or the Second Amendment or might not have known the difference between an automatic and a semiautomatic rifle two years ago, they can’t possibly know what they need to feel safe at school.

But those who organized and attended last weekend’s March For Our Lives are not to be trifled with. They have the power of social media and the power of their votes. It’s a bit short-sighted to think that because young people have historically not turned out to vote in large numbers that they won’t come out in droves come November.

Happy April Fools’ Day.

Don’t be fooled by the corporate gun lobby.

And remember the victims and their families on this Easter holiday that will not be happy for far too many. Their empty shoes are filled with memories and their families grieve on this day and all days.

shoes and roses

The dark before the light

0be6f-winter-solstice-signToday is the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. Our national political situation feels very dark but I am hopeful that shedding light on the truth and evidenced-based research into the causes and effects of gun violence will help protect the vulnerable amongst us from their entitlement to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As we go into the new year it is worth remembering that almost 100 Americans lose their lives to gunshot injuries. That is more than 33,000 a year and another 70,000 or so are injured by guns. That includes transgender people and fetuses.  Mass shootings are happening far too frequently and affect our diversity of citizensScience-based studies have been stifled about the cause and effect of gun violence.

Everyone is vulnerable to getting shot anywhere and that is not going to change unless we all speak out and stand up like this military officer did at his hearing to be approved by a Senate committee for a job at the Department of Defense.:

“I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15,” Dr. Dean Winslow, the nominee for the Department of Defense’s top health affairs job, said during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Winslow was responding to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asking if the Texas gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, should’ve received a “dishonorable discharge” from the military — the worst possible way to leave the armed forces — instead of a “bad conduct discharge” for assaulting his spouse and child.

He was not approved.

I guess we can’t speak our minds about guns and gun violence and talk common sense in America where gun violence takes more lives than in any other democratized country not at war.

In this new America since January of this year, speaking the truth and voicing your views are under attack and it is truly frightening.

What is also frightening is that the far right “Trump TV” is talking about a coup. What does that mean? Will there be armed people taking over the government? I fear that with all those armed insurrectionists out there with arsenals and the fomenting of paranoia of government coming from those in the government, it could lead to tragic consequences. Half of U.S. guns are owned by just 3% of gun owners. That seems like a signal that some folks in our country are ready for something- not sure what yet.

But maybe these two know something. Alex Jones, conspiracy theorist and nut job, and Roger Stone, friend of our President, made a video of themselves at a gun range getting ready for civil war if Trump either resigns or is impeached. Let’s take a look:

The visit was documented in a nearly one-and-a-half-hour-long December 19 video posted to Jones’ YouTube channel with the title “Roger Stone Prepares For Civil War After Trump Is Removed From Office: LIVE AUTO GUNFIRE.”

Jones set up the video by explaining that when Stone “was recently asked by TMZ what happens if Trump is assassinated or overthrown, he said it would cause a civil war.”

I suppose I don’t need to remind my readers that “overthrown” is a dark word fraught with accusations and pregnant with meaning to some. If the President leaves of his own accord, is asked to leave after things get too dicey or is impeached, this is not being overthrown as if in a third world country.

But then again, the way things are going with attempts to ban words, stifle the media, shut down entire departments, “overthrow” regulations that are important for public health and safety, throwing people off of health care, attacking the FBI and the Justice Department, attacking immigrants and minorities, threatening to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, tweeting false accusations, blaming past administrations, meeting in secret to pass bills and “investigate” former administrations, avoiding a serious investigation into the actual known threat of Russian interference in our elections and much much more, it feels like we are a third world country.

We are better than this. When conspiracy theorists and lunatics arm themselves to the teeth in preparation for a civil war, we are in a dangerous place.

But there are actually some things we can do. Certainly making sure that we resist these machinations to “burn down the house” as Rep. Adam Schiff said last night in an interview on the Rachel Maddow show. Peacefully resisting and protesting any move to shut down our freedoms of the press, freedom to express ourselves, and any attempt to take down our democracy are an option.

And regarding the ever contentious issue of gun rights and gun violence, the Brady Campaign has an idea. Start talking more common sense with friends and relatives over the holidays when people are gathered together and the conversation turns to politics  (which it most likely will given the chaos happening all around us).

Let’s take a look:

A good discussion always starts with a place of common understanding. Find the ideals that unite you both – like respecting constitutional rights, while also preventing gun deaths – and focus on those. Starting at a point of understanding and recognition of your shared beliefs will lay the groundwork for a more productive conversation, and remind you why you’re having this conversation. It’s important to emphasize working together to accomplish a common goal, rather than view this discussion as a quick way to change someone’s mind.

And more:

This step is the crux of what most people think of when they envision of a “political debate.” But it doesn’t need to be intimidating or scary. Keep in mind the tips we’ve given you up to this point – remain engaged and open, don’t get defensive, and continue to share your viewpoints in a calm, rational manner. It’s okay if you find a place where you disagree – that is bound to happen – but this is where you can share the results of common-sense solutions like background checks with your audience.

It is too important to our liberty, our freedom, our rights, our democracy, the safety of our families and friends, to excuse extreme thoughts and behavior. For there is common ground in the middle. We know this from the polling done for many years now. Almost everyone agrees on requiring background checks for all gun sales, for example. And many other measures to strengthen our gun laws are also supported by a majority of Americans.

If we treat each other with respect and dignity without name calling and attacking, we will be a better country. And if we have conversations and make policy in the light of day instead of secretly and in the dark, even if we don’t agree, we can at least understand how it happened and have a chance to rebut or attempt to change minds.

The one thing I know for sure is that arming up will lead to bad things. Loaded guns in volatile and angry situations will inevitably lead to chaos and tragedy.

In the new year, I have to hope that shedding light on the truth and finding common ground on many issues, but particularly on the gun issue, can bring our country out of the darkness of the gun violence epidemic where we have been hiding for way too long. This is about safety and the health of our communities and families.

Happy solstice. Happy holidays. May your holidays be peaceful and joyful. And stay safe wherever you are.

 

Guns vs. trucks

car 2Of course the talk turned last week to the terror attack in New York City as it should have.  The reaction was horror and outrage. Our President wanted immediate action to ban citizens from certain countries from entering and to make our already extreme vetting more extreme.

Not so much after the Las Vegas shooting when it was much too soon to discuss any policy changes because…. rights. Never mind that #45 rarely mentioned the victims of the NYC terror attack because he was too busy blaming Senator Schumer for the law that allowed the “terrorist” to enter the U.S. in 2010. He was wrong.

The reaction to the New York City terror attack was outrage and the cry to take immediate action to change laws. The reaction to the Las Vegas shooting was outrage but let’s not do anything about it.

There have, of course, been other terror attacks in the U.S., including many that included mass shootings. But those who owe allegiance to the corporate gun lobby prefer not to acknowledge the attacks involving guns as terror attacks.

So let’s consider a few things that have made the news or have been brought to our attention since the Las Vegas shooting and during the most recent terror attack:

Ought we to have truck control since that seems to be the new terror method used by extremists?

Could someone with a carried gun have saved the day in the NYC attack?

No.

And speaking of the gun lobby myth that armed citizens can and should save the day in a public shooting, check out this article about how that idea backfired in the latest Walmart shooting in Colorado. (It is not uncommon for shootings to occur at Walmart stores but this one was more deadly than most) . From the article:

But police in Thornton, Colo., said that in this case the well-intentioned gun carriers set the stage for chaos, stalling efforts to capture the suspect in the Wednesday night shooting that killed three people. (…)

But the videos showed several people in the store with their guns drawn. That forced detectives to watch more video, following the armed shoppers throughout the store in an effort to distinguish the good guys from the bad guy, Avila said.

Investigators went “back to ground zero” several times as they struggled to pinpoint the suspect, he said.

And finally this, from the linked article:

In a 2014 FBI report, researchers examined more than 100 shootings between 2000 and 2012 and found that civilians stopped about 1 in 6 active shooters — usually by tackling the gunman, not shooting him.

The corporate gun lobby is deceiving us.

We must do a better job of getting out the common sense discussion about how risky it is to have loaded guns sitting around the house ( or in public places). This Texas mother had a gun. She shot and killed her two young daughters.

A domestic shooting in Wisconsin took the lives of 3. The headlines call this an altercation. When a gun is readily available altercations turn to death in seconds.

This Minnesota couple is dead from a murder/suicide– another altercation between people who knew each other or had a relationship.

Deer hunting season opened this week-end in Minnesota. Every year there are mishaps with hunting guns that end in injury or death.

But sometimes those hunting “accidents” are actually intentional shootings.

Last year, a Minnesota father of 4 was out hunting and was murdered in the woods. The rifle used has now been found. Armed with a hunting gun, someone shoots someone out in the woods intentionally and it often appears to be an “accident.”

On top of everything else, gun deaths are on the rise in America. No thanks to the corporate gun lobby’s refusal to support any effort to lower gun deaths. From the article:

Overall, the firearm death rate rose to 12 deaths per 100,000 people last year, up from 11 in 2015, according to the report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before that, the rate had hovered just above 10 — a level it had fallen to in the late 1990s.

Death rates rose from 90 per day to 104 per day.

Stunning.

So yes, trucks are a new weapon of mass destruction used now by terrorists. There have been an increasing number of these kinds of attacks. And we need to do whatever it takes to stop them from happening.

But trucks are not designed to kill people. They do occasionally get used to intentionally kill people and we have a different perspective after they have been used in terror attacks all over the world. Guns are designed to kill people. And kill they do. Much more often than trucks.

Guns have been the weapon of choice for many of the acts of terror committed daily and mass shootings on a regular basis. From the article:

But a new study suggests that these violent methods, while all horrific, are not equally deadly.

In a research letter published Friday in JAMA Internal Medicine, investigators report that although guns were used in fewer than 10% of terrorist attacks worldwide between 2002 and 2016, they were responsible for more than half the resulting deaths.

There should be no equivocation when it comes to that. If we leave the solutions in the hands of those who have a vested interest in selling weapons of mass destruction, we will not get this right.

We have now learned that the Las Vegas “terrorist” was depressed over losing a lot of his wealth gambling over the past few years. Why that is a reason to shoot innocent people is the big question. But when you have access to as many guns and dangerous accessories you want or need, it’s easy to act out your anger and depression.

One state just got it right. Massachusetts passed a ban on bump fire stocks. This is what happens when legislators and the Governor are not loyal to the corporate gun lobby. Common sense actually dictates public health and safety.

The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of shootings in America. Since the Las Vegas shooting, if we use the average of about 100 Americans a day who die from gunshot injuries, close to 2800 Americans have died since the Las Vegas shooting.

In what country or world is this OK? It is not too soon to talk about how we can prevent the daily carnage of gun deaths. It is too late. On behalf of the 104 Americans who lose their lives every day to gun violence, I will work to reduce that number and prevent shootings.

Since I posted this, there has been a mass shooting at a church in a small Texas town. Early reports are that there are multiple deaths and injuries. They keep coming and coming and coming. How many more? How many times have I asked that?

Congress? Anyone?

UPDATE:

We now know that 26 are dead after the deadliest church shooting in America. The youngest victim- 5 years old. The oldest- 72 years old. It has been reported that the 14 year old daughter of the pastor of the church was one of the victims. So now this shooting has a name: “The deadliest church shooting in America.”  Just as the Las Vegas shooting has been titled the “deadliest mass shooting in America.” And all of this in just one month’s time.

We have all become victims of the corporate gun lobby and an impotent Congress that cares more for ideology and campaign contributions than human lives. We are held hostage by this group of Americans and continue to watch as victim after victim piles up.  As a friend wrote in an email: ” We Are being denied legislative and policy relief through preventable solutions, that we know work, and could save lives!”

We live in troubled and dangerous times. If you don’t think this can happen anywhere in the U.S. you are mistaken. It has, and it will. That’s when you have to realize that none of us are immune to the whims of a shooters who can amass weapons of mass destruction and multiple rounds of high capacity magazines. The shooter used an AR-15 type semi-automatic assault rifle. By all accounts, he was using magazines with multiple rounds.

Texas has loose gun laws and is an “open carry” state. How would anyone know if the shooter was up to a crime by just looking at him walking around with a rifle?

This is a sad day for our country.

New Years Resolutions

new-year-resolutionsHappy 2017 everyone. I have been avoiding the fact that in just  few short weeks, @realDonaldTrump will become our next President. And so I have also been avoiding other things in my life as I grapple with what is going on around me. Time has flown already since the New Year’s holiday. Family time and taking care of things for a relative who has a disability has not allowed me to think much about the new year. But I was drawn back in upon seeing some tweets and Facebook posts about shootings around the new year. It happens every year and, as I have written many times, gun violence does not take a holiday.

In spite of those facts, Congress and legislatures in many states, controlled by gun lobby lapdogs, will disappoint us with their resolutions to loosen laws that save lives and prevent shootings.

Let’s start with the Texas lawmaker who was the victim of celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. Every year, irresponsible gun owners and carriers don’t think about the great risk to others when they decide to shoot loaded guns into the air. Bullets, as we know, have certain trajectories and so when they go up, the natural physics is that they come back down. Whoever or whatever happens to be under the trajectory will be hit.

It seems that the lawmaker is OK and luckily for him, will not suffer from a life long debilitating injury like my friend Joe Jaskolka has. In fact, he is now ready to support a law to deal with celebratory gunfire:

“If my legislation could help save a life, you know, then definitely that’s what we’re gonna be looking at doing,” the Weslaco Democrat said Monday in a phone interview from the Valley Baptist Medical Center shortly before he was released.

That’s what I’m talking about- saving a life ( or lives). Is there something bad about that?

When people are affected by gun violence, it often changes things and makes them realize that this could happen to anyone.

Common sense is what it takes to save lives and keep citizens safe from gun violence.

Some are not as lucky as this lawmaker. Take my friend Joe Jaskolka, for instance. His life has been affected greatly and negatively since a bullet landed in his head from celebratory gunfire:

I got maybe a half-block away from my Grandmother’s home before a “Celebratory bullet” pierced my skull. Better yet, when my cousin Jeff ran back in the house to report to an adult to call 911, “Joe’s just lying on the ground, everyone must have thought I was joking”, but a child with a bullet-hole in the top of his cranium, when my parents (and aunts, uncles, and fellow cousins) were all trying to figure out what happened to me, crazy scenarios started to be heard.

When police searched the rooftops in a few block radius a day later, they found over 700 spent bullets!

When everyone at the party figured out my condition, they along with the medical staff at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) must have all figured I was dead.  You know you’re a dead man when the hospital has a priest sitting with your parents in the Emergency Room to wait for bad news.

Joe was 11 when this happened. When I met him years ago at a national meeting he was sitting in a wheel chair with obvious physical disabilities. We have remained friends for years.

Real stories are worth many gun lobby myths.

Closer to home, several things happened in Minnesota. Two men from the Twin Cities area were shot behind a local Superior, Wisconsin bar. One died in the shooting and one was injured. It was not random. Most shootings are not in fact.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced rather quietly that more states were added to the list of those whose carry permits would not be reciprocated in Minnesota. Why? Not strong enough regulations in Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Now there is some common sense.

If anyone can honestly tell me that it is safe for teens under 21 and those without permits to carry will be safe on our streets, then they are not using common sense. For in Minnesota, that is what we have decided we want people to have training and have a permit and be 21. Why would we allow less than that anywhere? Follow the money and the links between the gun lobby which pushes bills to allow anyone to buy and carry guns and the gun industry profits.

And speaking of the gun industry, it looks like gun stocks are falling after the election of the gun lobby’s candidate, Donald Trump. @realDonaldTrump won’t take guns away so no worries- except that people won’t flock to gun stores to buy guns now unless they are afraid of the fear of a President who will confiscate their guns. Now what? Looser laws that will create new markets for deadly weapons.

Of course, Hillary Clinton was not going to take guns away either but the gun lobby said she was. President Obama did not take guns away but the gun lobby said he would. Don’t believe the gun lobby.

Speaking of taking guns away, Congress and the Minnesota state legislatures are back in session. The gun lobby will be busy convincing Congress and state legislators that more guns are needed by more people to keep them safe. They are wrong, according to the facts and reality. But never mind the truth. As I have written before in a previous post, up is down and black is white.

As Mark Twain once said, ” “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”” That is more true today than ever.

One of the first orders of business in the Republican led House ( aside from the insane ethics debacle) was to introduce a measure to fine any House member who live streams from the House floor. Republicans didn’t like it when Rep. John Lewis and other Democrats staged a sit-in last June to ask for a vote on background checks. Now they want to silence members who don’t share the views of the gun lobby lapdogs but rather the majority of Americans.

Shame on them. But they have no shame. They would rather punish opposing views than save lives apparently.

But thankfully there are some in Congress who are not afraid of the gun lobby. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey will re-introduce a bill to allow government agencies to do research on the public health crisis of gun violence.

We will see a lot of gun bills going both ways but the conservatives, Republican lapdogs for the gun lobby and those who are afraid to stand against that group are giddy with the idea that they can weaken gun laws and allow more dangerous behavior with guns than ever before. For the life of my sister, I can’t understand this glee at weakening laws that save lives. People will die as a result. Will that matter to these lapdogs?

Does it matter to them that one toddler a week has shot someone in 2015 and now 2016? If not, why not? Avoiding the truth means avoiding the facts that these kinds of shootings are avoidable.

Maybe if one of their own is struck down by a stray bullet or shot by a crazed or angry person or a toddler who shouldn’t have had a gun in the first place ( when it could have been prevented) one or two of them will realize how wrong they have been.

It will be a busy few months (years). Let’s hope we can keep the pressure on this issue and shed light on those who take money from the nation’s most powerful lobby- the NRA. 1Pulse4America is keeping track. It is not a pretty picture. When North Carolina Senator Burr takes over $800,000 from the NRA in “blood money” we can count on him to oppose common sense gun legislation that could save lives.

For if a legislator or Congress member is beholden to the gun lobby, we are less safe as a result.

Facts matter. Accountability matters. Lives matter more than anything else.

Happy New Year everyone. I resolve to do whatever it takes to prevent gun violence and save lives. How about you?

Tis the season….

Christmas horizontal banners backgroundIt’s the Christmas season. And, oh yes, the Chanukah season and the approach of the new year. Here in my neck of the woods, we are expecting a major winter ice/snow/rain storm event on Christmas day which will interfere with the holiday celebrations tomorrow.

But nothing interferes more with the holidays than the shooting of a loved one. I write often about how shootings don’t take a holiday. They happen every day in our beloved country. Easter, Halloween, Memorial Day, Labor Day, New Years, Christmas, whatever. 90 a day die from gunshot injuries.

Merry Christmas.

In Faribault, Minnesota a family is grieving the loss of two loved ones after a murder/suicide occurred a few days before the holiday. It was another domestic shooting. The shooter took guns and ammunition from his son’s home and gunned down his ex-wife at her place of work and then shot and killed himself. He was an ex police officer:

The shootings took place less than a week after Barbara Larson served her former husband with a harassment restraining order, Pederson said. The couple divorced in 2014.

Richard Larson retired from the city’s police department in 2008 after serving Faribault for about 25 years, Pederson said. He was a captain when he retired.

Sigh.

Another police officer’s gun was used by his 2 year old child to kill himself “accidentally”. The Cleveland family will be mourning the senseless and avoidable loss of their precious child all over irresponsible storage of a gun the child should never have accessed:

The boy is the son of a 54-year-old Cleveland police officer, Jose “Tony” Pedro, who was hired in 1993. Cleveland police said the gun was the officer’s service weapon.

Aren’t these the “good guys” with guns? I’m just asking.

Where is common sense?

Guns are a risk to those who choose to own them. With rights come responsibilities. What is it that we don’t get about that in America?

But I digress because I wanted to write about a shooting closer to my home. In Cloquet, Minnesota:

A victim, who police said was in his 30s, was found inside a residence with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a Duluth hospital, where he was pronounced dead.(…) “I don’t believe it was a random act,” Ferrell said a few hours after the shooting. “I’m sure they are aware of each other. I just don’t know what the circumstances are or what led up to the shooting.”

Most shootings happen between people who know each other. Guns for self defense are often used against someone known to the shooter. The myth of the gun lobby’s mantra that more guns make us safer is just that. A myth. A deadly myth as it turns out.

More guns are clearly not making us safer. An armed society is clearly not a polite society.

And more families are mourning the senseless loss of a loved one at a holiday time that is supposed to be merry and happy. Not for many.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind my readers that the holidays can be sad and depressing for many. And gun suicides account for the majority of gun deaths in America:

Despite an alarming uptick in homicides in some urban areas in the last few years, violent death rates are significantly lower than they were in the 1990s. There is one notable exception to this trend. Suicide rates for men and women have steadily increased for the past 15 years.

The statistics are bleak. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. From ages 10 to 34, it is the second leading cause. Last year, at least 40,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide. From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate for men and women jumped 24 percent.

Guns make it all so easy.

Also I shouldn’t have to remind my readers that toddlers have killed more people than terrorists in America:

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.

So please tell me again how it is that a gun in the home for self defense will make the owners safer from strangers, home invaders, terrorists or zombies? I don’t buy it.

The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of gun deaths and injuries in America in case you don’t believe the numbers. 356 children under 11 have been killed or injured by guns in 2016 so far. 11 in the last week alone have been killed.

Stunning. Shocking.

Surely we are better than this and if so, we need to work much harder to change these statistics. For the statistics are real children with real families. They are not just statistics.

If there is a gun in the home for hunting or sport, the onus is on the owner to lock it up away from the hands of toddlers, people who are experiencing domestic problems, people experiencing severe mental difficulties, suicidal teens or adults, or thieves.

In America, our cavalier attitude about guns and gun rights is leading us to deadly outcomes.

There are too many empty chairs around holiday tables every year. The one belonging to my sister has been empty for 24 years now. But we remember her fondly for her hosting amazing Christmas gatherings full of fun and holiday chaos.

Tis the season to be jolly. Hopefully you will all have a jolly holiday no matter what you celebrate.

And may the grinch not spoil things for your family.

Merry Christmas ( and yes, I am a liberal and Donald Trump didn’t just allow me to say that to my friends). Happy Chanukah. Happy Kwanzaa and everything else.

Stay safe and warm out there wherever you are.

 

Bullets are flying

flying_bulletYes they are. It’s getting more difficult to explain the gun culture in America. When there is an auto accident and the one at fault gets out of his rolled car and shoots and kills the woman in the other car, we have to wonder what in the h#$% is going on? I just can’t wrap my head around this kind of violence and stupidity. Why did this happen? The accident was enough wasn’t it? Maybe alcohol? Maybe a whole lot of anger directed at the wrong person? Maybe just a gun at the ready to use just in case one causes an accident and needs to get rid of the evidence?

Where is common sense?

But even worse than this is the shooting death of a young mother in Chicago while bullets were flying intended for others:

Nykea Aldridge, 32, a mother of four, was pushing a baby stroller Friday afternoon on Chicago’s South Side when she was shot. Police said she was not the intended target of the shooting. Aldridge’s child was not struck by the gunfire.

Police said the two men charged with murder — Darwin Sorells, 26, and Derren Sorells, 22 — were both on parole and affiliated with the Gangster Disciples gang. They appeared in court Sunday and were ordered held without bail.

This is such an awful tragedy. I watched a news show with an interview of the woman’s mother who talked with tears streaming down her cheeks.

It’s insanity. Yes, the shooters were gang members. Yes a lot of gang members are armed. And yes, they shoot other people. Why? How do they get their guns? Legally? From people who sell guns from the trunk of their cars like these opportunistic gun buyers at a Minneapolis gun buyback?

Or from this guy who was trafficking guns from Indiana into Chicago. Indiana has lax gun laws. Illinois’ laws are stronger. And this man was supplying guns to gangs. From the article:

A suburban Chicago man has been sentenced to nearly 17 years in federal prison for buying hundreds of firearms and high-capacity magazines from gun shows in Indiana and selling them illegally in Chicago. (…) The 24-year-old is from South Holland. He was convicted of dealing firearms without a federal license, illegally transporting firearms across state lines and interstate travel to sell guns without a license.

The woman was doing what she was supposed to be doing on a week-end day- walking a baby in a stroller. Mothers walking their babies in strollers should be safe from stray bullets flying in their neighborhoods.

And let’s address the real problem- guns and the easy access to them. But Presidential candidate Donald Trump doesn’t want to talk about the guns. It’s all about himself and not the victims. He wants votes and thinks he can get them by letting people know that he predicted things like this would happen. He says he can protect people from being shot but he doesn’t say how. Nothing but empty rhetoric seemingly addressed at people of color in neighborhoods like this one in Chicago and in large urban cities all over America.

What about the guns Mr. Trump? What will you do about the guns and the bullets? How will you protect young mothers walking their babies? This great article from the Star Tribune quotes the Chicago Police Chief asking Mr. Trump what his plan is ,if he has one, to stop the killings:

On Monday morning, Trump posted on Twitter about crime in inner cities “reaching record levels,” which is untrue. While killings have increased in major cities across the country this year — as they did last year — crime rates still remain far below what they were just a few decades ago.

Facts matter. Yes we have crime but the rates are lower than they have been for many years. Conflating crime rates with shooting rates is an old trick of the corporate gun lobby used to deflect the real problem with guns and bullets in our country. Shootings are not just about criminals with guns. Some of the gun rights advocates who read my blog tried to tell me that my ex brother-in-law was a criminal because he shot and killed my sister. He was not a criminal until he pulled the trigger and the bullets ended up in my sister’s body. People who commit suicide by gun are not criminals. Small children who find their parents’ guns and shoot their siblings like this incident ( for just one of many) are not criminals. Domestic shootings like my sister’s are not often committed by criminals but by angry, jealous mostly men upset with a spouse or partner trying to leave the relationship.

How will we all protect anyone from an angry divorced guy who decides to shoot bullets into the air in mid-day in the Minneapolis suburb of Eagan? How?  He was shot and killed by police. How do we protect our families from crazies with guns? Why do so many people think they can do things like this in the first place? Without the gun, what would have happened? He would be alive most likely. Was this a suicide by cop? We don’t know. He endangered the lives of many innocent people while shooting those bullets around near the apartment building.

Where are our values when it comes to the ease with which people take another human life and we do nothing about it? Isn’t this something that rises to the top of our agenda? If not, why not?

The fact that I am writing about this and these incidents even happened shows the serious public health and safety problem we are facing. And these are only just a few of thousands happening every year everywhere in America. Note that the apartment tenants in Eagan, Minnesota were surprised that this could have happened in their neighborhood. Don’t people know that with over 300 million guns in America things like this are inevitable? From the article about the Eagan shooting ( above):

The incident shocked residents in what some described as a peaceful neighborhood.

“I am a lifelong Eaganite, and we rarely have an incident like this,” said Jim Carlson, the state senator for District 51, which includes Eagan. Carlson was knocking on doors with a group of volunteers when the shooting erupted nearby.

And yes, those volunteers could have been injured or worse by flying bullets.

When will the gun lobby help out with this? Why do they convince just about everyone that owning a guns is an OK thing without making sure everyone has a background check and proper training to operate a deadly weapon? Why do we have such a cavalier attitude towards deadly weapons? Rights? Why are we not discussing the inherent risk of owning a deadly weapon and making sure they are not only stored safely but that those who have them can be responsible with them? We legislate safety with cars so that everyone has to be trained properly and take a test to get a license. Cars are registered and when transferred to a new owner, paper work is required by the state and kept on file.

What we need is to break down the resistance to sensible measures to make sure we are safe from devastating gun violence in our neighborhoods; and that people who shouldn’t have guns aren’t shooting bullets off with them on the streets in our neighborhoods. I think we can do this. We have done it with many other things we deem to be potentially dangerous to our safety or our health. We sent people to the moon and into outer space. We can figure this out.

Let’s get to work. We’ve had #Enough of the denial and inaction.

UPDATE:

Just after I posted this I saw this article from The Trace which gives us some hope:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s top trade group, is partnering for the first time with the leading suicide prevention nonprofit organization in the U.S. The ambitious goal of the collaboration: averting nearly 10,000 deaths over the next decade.

The program, initiated by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will strive to educate people on the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, and provide guidance on how best to talk to someone who may be considering trying to end his or her own life, says Robert Gebbia, the chief executive of AFSP.

Notably, the program will also recommend blocking family members who are suicidal from accessing firearms by, for example, emphasizing the importance of securely locking guns away. It is not clear whether the AFSP guidance will include specific suggestions about how to remove weapons from potentially suicidal people. The NSSF, which represents thousands of gun dealers and manufacturers, provided input into the program and is also promoting it.

It is past time for this to happen but acknowledging the public health problem of gun suicides is a big step forward from this gun industry leader. We can hope that the corporate gun lobby will follow this group and get involved in reducing and preventing gun deaths. Common sense may just be breaking out.