Home for the holidays

It’s always hard to write at this time of the year knowing that so many people will not be at home for the holidays- not at anyone’s home. At the end of the year, the news is not really good is it? A Government shut-down and an unpredictable and unhinged President causing the markets to tank right before the Christian holiday of Christmas. The retirement in protest of our Secretary of Defense, causing shock waves the world over. Common sense has flown the coop, so to speak.

And to add to the chaos and bad news, gun death rates are up to a level not seen in a long long time. The CDC is keeping track. The latest numbers show that our nation’s lax gun laws and our gun culture are contributing to the pile of bodies getting higher and higher. Gun suicides take the most lives followed by homicides and then unintentional shootings. Most if not all are preventable and senseless.

Our leaders are adding to the chaos and the problems by not having the spine to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions who cry stupid things like: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Well yes. Too true. And the point of this nonsensical myth that is pushed?

Guns make it all too easy and too quick. An “ordinary” argument between two people can turn deadly in a second when a gun is involved. Anger and guns don’t go together. Domestic disputes and guns don’t go together. Young men with mass shootings on their minds don’t go together with guns. Alcohol and drugs and guns don’t go together. Dangerous mental illness and guns don’t go together. Children and guns don’t go together.

But together is where we find the collision that leads to senseless gun deaths and injuries. We have a public health epidemic. If almost 40,000 people died from auto accidents, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right, we did. If tens of thousands died from smoking and second- hand smoke wouldn’t we do something? Oh right, we did. If we knew that lettuce caused Salmonella, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right… If baby toys have parts that come off easily and can lead to choking deaths, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right again.

So what is it about gun violence that paralyzes us? Fear of the gun lobby? Yes. Fear of not being elected again? Yes. Fear of the mythical power of the gun extremists? Yes. Fear to challenge the current conversation around gun violence? Yes. Fear of having guns taken away ( by the gun rights extremists)? Yes. Being uninformed about the facts? Yes. Fear of compromise? Yes. Fear of having difficult conversations? Yes. Fear of the second amendment? Yes.

All of these and more. But we aren’t having it any more. Gun safety reform or gun violence prevention is on the front burner. Too many mass shootings and too many daily accounts of deadly disputes and too many families affected by shooting deaths is leading to a different conversation.

Too many gun owners are sick and tired of the fear and paranoia coming from the gun lobby. Too many gun owners are also sick of the devastation of gun violence and don’t like to be lumped in with the extremists who refuse to do anything.

As it turns out, it’s almost unanimous that we want our leaders to pass stronger gun laws. 97% after the Parkland shooting! That many Americans can’t agree on anything else

There are common sense solutions to our public health epidemic. And they will be pursued vigorously. In the name of our family members and friends and the far too many victims, we will continue to demand action to stop the carnage.

Not all solutions involve legislation. Awareness of the risks of guns to gun owners must become the new narrative to save lives. The Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire is a new way to talk about this. ASKing if there is an unsecured loaded gun in the homes where your children and teens play and hang out can save lives from gun deaths. Safely storing guns to keep them away from children, teens and from being stolen can save lives. Most school shooters get their guns from home.

And the big thing is changing the conversation and the narrative around the role of guns and gun violence in our country full of guns and gun violence.

You can’t know what’s like to not have a loved one be home with you for the holidays because their life was snuffed out in a violent and unexpected shooting unless suddenly you do. In case you think this can’t happen to you, think again. In case you think a mass shooting or a domestic shooting can’t happen to someone you know or love, think again. In case you think your teen-aged child or elderly parent won’t find a loaded gun and take their own life, think again. In case you think your brother or father or sister, home after serving our country in the military won’t suffer from PTSD and decide to use a loaded gun to end it all, think again.

One person in my family will be missing for the holidays because she was shot and killed in a domestic shooting. Her grandchildren never got to meet her. They will only know of her through photos and stories. She was vibrant, beautiful, talented, smart, unafraid to speak out and unafraid to fight for herself. And now we are without her.

Parents of young children and teens whose lives have been ended by bullets will never know the potential of that child or teen. Lives lost are lost potential and future contributions to society. Gun violence has a ripple effect and about now, we are all affected by the violence because we can’t avoid what is going on around us.

I wish my readers and followers a happy holiday and safe travels if you are going home for the holidays or if your family is coming home to you. I also wish a safe and peaceful Christmas free of shootings. One year, when we pass stronger gun laws and stop being afraid of the corporate gun lobby, that will be possible.

NRA news

This morning we learned the news that former President George H.W. Bush has died. I am not a Republican and did not support President Bush’s policies but he served with honor and integrity and was an honest man. Many Americans look back to those days and remember that at the least, there was not corruption, daily lies and chaos. 

George H.W. Bush had the integrity to resign from the NRA when the organization made verbal attacks against law enforcement after the Oklahoma City bombings. He wrote a letter resigning his life membership from the NRA.:

I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.


However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.


How refreshing. The current occupant of the White House is so far from doing anything honestly and above board that we look back at former Presidents who have the courage of their convictions with admiration.

I believe we could actually expect the opposite from our current President. Anything for his base. And who is his base? Are the NRA extreme gun rights advocates a large part of his base? Let’s take a look at the number of members of the organization compared to the total U.S. population. From an article written by Mike Weisser ( Mike the Gun Guy) in the Huffington Post in 2017:

Now since the NRA itself claims only to have 5 million members, how do we explain that all of a sudden the organization has added 9 million more to its membership rolls? Here’s how the NRA is handling it as of today: “we have millions more Americans who support us and will tell pollsters they are members, even when they are not.” And to underscore this point, the NRA website also linked to a story from The Washington Times (a real, balanced piece of journalism) which states that the Pew report shows that 21 percent of gun owners had contacted a public official about gun policy at some point in their lives, but only 12 percent of the non-owners said they did.

Another article posted after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida analyzed the numbers game played by the NRA in order to make the organization seem bigger and more powerful than it actually is:

Still, if there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S., even at 5 million members the NRA would account for less than 10 percent of the gun owning community.
“Let’s say it’s 10 million [members],” said Ware, the South Carolinian gun owner. “That’s still a fraction of the gun owners out there.”

A fraction of the gun owners out there- that is significant. If this is the organization that has successfully bought and paid for many of our elected leaders and represents a fraction of gun owners and even fewer Americans, we ought to be yelling from the roof tops to demand the action that over 90% of Americans want. 

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law. Back in 1993, even the NRA supported the idea that if someone wanted to buy a gun their background should be checked out to make sure they were not a felon, a domestic abuser, someone who was adjudicated mentally ill, etc. This was a no brainer. But when the law passed, with support of the NRA, there was an exception for private sellers of guns. That exception has proven to be deadly. There are many examples of mass shooters, domestic abusers and others who got guns through private sales and used them to murder innocent people. Columbine. Wisconsin Spa shooting. Charleston church shooting……..

Since the passage of the law, according to Mark Glaze, writing for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Under the current law, only people who buy their guns from federally licensed gun dealers are required by federal law to pass a background check. Unlicensed “private sellers” who sell at gun shows or over the Internet, are not required to conduct checks – a major gap that has grown exponentially larger as a portion of the marketplace for guns has moved online and away from bricks-and-mortar dealers.
Felons and other prohibited purchasers are well aware of this private sale loophole – and they exploit it every day. Researchers have estimated that as many as 22% of gun sales are conducted by private sellers – with no background checks and no questions asked.
In response to this lethal gap in the law, 20 states and the District of Columbia have acted to expand background checks to include at least some private sales, including those conducted by unlicensed sellers at gun shows, on the Internet and anywhere else.
And these laws are saving lives: when, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, Connecticut enacted a universal background check system, the state saw a 40% reduction in gun homicides and a 15% reduction in gun suicides.
Overall, from 2009 to 2012, states that required background checks on all handgun sales or permits had 35% fewer gun deaths per capita than states without that background check requirement.
Researchers have also found that, after adjusting for population, states that require background checks on all handgun sales experience less than half as many mass shooting incidents (52% fewer) as states without that background check requirement. (…) Brady background checks are more popular in America than pizza. A 2018 Quinnipiac poll showed that 97% of Americans support universal checks, including 97% of gun owners. And a 2012 survey by GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that even 74% of NRA members support this common-sense reform.
And we know voters have their eye on this issue. Polls both before and after the 2018 midterms showed gun safety was one of the top issues for voters. And a survey of 11 battleground House districts conducted by the Brady Campaign and the American Federation of Teachers showed that voters were much more likely to support candidates who support universal checks.

Change and common sense are coming to America. The 2018 elections will prove to be a game changer in America for many reasons. 

The news of the day is happening fast and furiously. Much of it is related to the Mueller investigation into whether our very own President colluded with the Russians and now, as a result of the investigation, there may actually be attempts at obstruction of justice.

Buried in some of this news was this one about the Russian woman, Maria Butina,  who allegedly attempted to help the Russians gain access to the President through the NRA. It should be more alarming that this happened but then, it’s become such an everyday occurrence that alarm has become complacency or else not wanting  to know.

Let’s look at what this article is saying about the consequences to the country and to the NRA once Butina spills her knowledge:

Prosecutors now allege that Torshin was, in fact, directing Butina’s gun rights networking in the US, as part of a Russian influence effort. If the government wants to get to the bottom of whether the NRA was getting Russian money to boost Trump, Butina may possess valuable information about Torshin’s role in the alleged scheme. (…) Butina, as Torshin’s collaborator and as Erickson’s partner, was smack dab in the middle of this effort in May 2016. In fact, during this same month, Butina herself was part of a group that unsuccessfully sought a meeting with the Trump campaign. So it’s likely she could shed light on Erickson’s and the NRA’s efforts to connect Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. (…) Though the campaign declined, Butina went to the event. During the audience Q&A, she asked Trump a question about whether he had plans to continue Russian sanctions, which Butina called “damaging” to both the American and Russia economies. Trump reassured her that he didn’t think the sanctions were needed. In May 2016, as the NRA hosted its convention in Louisville, Butina briefly met with Donald Trump Jr., and gave a speech at a NRA fundraiser involving Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin

I don’t know about you but I smell trouble ahead for Butina, the administration and the NRA. The organization is now having financial and legal problems related both to this investigation and the intense scrutiny placed on the NRA after the Parkland shooting. The activated students have not been shy about going after the powerful interest lobby. And it’s past time for that to happen. But it took the future generation to do what many of the adults have been unable to do. 

This article explains more about the NRA’s financial problems:

More noteworthy than its drop in contributions, though, was its decline in membership dues. The NRA took in more than $128 million in dues last year—a significant sum, but down considerably from the $163 million it took in the year prior. That decline, more than the drop in direct contributions, appears to indicate a dwindling, if still formidable, base of public support. Asked for comment on the decline, an NRA spokesperson pointed to reporting showing that the organization’s magazine subscriptions have shot up this year, interpreted as an indicator of an accompanying membership surge. (…) That loss in funding comes at a tricky political moment for the organization. Rarely has the NRA had so staunch an ally in the White House. But the group, which built significant political heft on the back of Obama-era threats to key gun-rights priorities, has also become a lightning rod in the still-raging debate over gun control and mass shootings in the U.S. And several recently elected House Democrats ran explicitly on pledges to go after the gun lobby when in office.
Under President Trump, the NRA has also adopted a more aggressive advocacy posture exceeding its traditional focus on gun-rights issues exclusively. It recently launched a stand-alone political commentary platform, NRA TV, that has veered into culture-war issues at best tangentially related to the Second Amendment.


So where are we? I say we are at an important time in our country’s history. One cannot avoid the sense that the corruption, lies and coverups are coming to a head. The involvement of the NRA in some of this news will not be good for the organization- once a respected group that supported gun safety and hunters. Things have changed. The country is going to experience more chaos and controversy.

When the truth is revealed, let’s hope that Americans will have the common sense to handle whatever happens peacefully without violence. There is a worry that those gun rights extremists, many of whom own many guns just in case they need them for an insurrection, may not stay on the sidelines:

“It seems like this is a theme that’s kind of resonating out there — that the militias feel there is an impending civil war that’s brewing between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, the militia versus antifa,” Johnson said. “That’s very concerning when you have a movement that is as well-armed [as militias], and conducts paramilitary training, and stockpiling and prepping and everything else. When you have them getting paranoid and discussing the possibility of a civil war, it’s not out of the realm of possibility of them actually trying trying to instigate it or provoke it.”

And so I end where I began- with my tribute to former President George H.W. Bush and his honor and integrity. And with my concern that the current occupant of the White House and the related investigations into corruption, collusions and possible obstruction of justice could lead to possible violence. The NRA is in the middle of both my tribute and my concerns about the current situation.

But for the guns…..

american-flag-gun-stockBut for the guns, thousands of Americans would be alive today to live their lives as the rest of us are doing. They would be singing, dancing, working, studying, playing, shopping, eating, loving, reading books, traveling, and just living.

Take this young man from Chicago-Delmonte Johnson for one example:

Mr. Johnson, a 19-year-old who loved to sing and dance, who was an athlete and a budding social activist, will not get to see that vision realized. He was shot and killed Wednesday after playing basketball near his home.

Image
Delmonte Johnson, in red, with his family in an undated photo.

Mr. Johnson’s death was tragic and unnecessary and enraging. It was also the sort of death that’s become far too common in America, and in particular in Mr. Johnson’s hometown, where more than 2,000 people have been shot so far this year, nearly 400 of them fatally. While mass shootings involving high-powered guns and high death tolls have claimed an outsize portion of the nation’s collective grief — and its headlines — street shootings like the one that killed Delmonte Johnson are far more common.

Yes. Far too common.

And then take this man who was minding his own business when a cop walked into the wrong apartment ( she thought it was her own), saw him there and shot and killed him. This one has to be almost a first, or is it?:

Amber Guyger, who is white, was off-duty when she shot Botham Shem Jean, a black man, in his apartment, police said Thursday. Guyger told police she thought she was entering her own apartment not realizing she was on the wrong floor. Upon encountering Jean, she thought her home was being burglarized and opened fire, according to police.
Botham, a 26-year-old native of St. Lucia, was unarmed. He died at a hospital.

Enter the NRA with their lame and usual excuse- if only the victim had also been armed, all would have been hunky dory:

“This could have been very different if Botham Jean had been, say, he was a law-abiding gun owner and he saw somebody coming into his apartment,” Loesch said on NRATV’s Relentless on Monday. “I don’t think there’s any context that the actions would have been justified. If I see somebody coming into my house and I’m not expecting them and they’re walking in like they own the place, I would—I would act to defend myself.”

Social media users balked at the suggestion that a gun could have saved Jean, who was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

“If Botham Jean had a gun and killed a police officer he’d be in jail held without bond and Trump would be nonstop tweeting about that immigrant who killed that poor cop,” Comedian Sarah Cooper tweeted in response to Loesch’s remarks.

Sometimes the NRA’s line of reasoning is so ridiculous as to be unbelievable and totally unhinged. As if people are sitting around in their own apartments armed just in case someone happens to come in who doesn’t belong there and, of course, be totally prepared for a cop with a gun. ( Oh right- that is what the NRA and gun rights advocates believe).

I think they can retire this argument. It makes no common sense and it’s stupid.

The mother of Philando Castile challenged the flawed reasoning of Dana Loesch- mouthpiece for the NRA:

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch is “asinine” to suggest Botham Jean might still be alive today if only he was “a law-abiding gun owner,” Valerie Castile told the Daily News. (…)

Castile is the mother of Philando Castile, the Minnesota public school employee who had a valid concealed carry permit when he was shot to death by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota two years ago.

“My son was a licensed gun owner and it didn’t help him. He’s dead because he gave that information to an officer,” Castile said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being "one-sided."
Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being “one-sided.” (CRAIG LASSIG / Getty Images)

 

Castile called Loesch “reckless” and “one-sided” for using Jean’s tragic death to further the NRA’s agenda.

“(Jean) was in his own home. Inside a nice building with security. He had a right to feel safe in his own home. He wasn’t expecting someone to come in uninvited. He shouldn’t have to always keep a gun on his hip. That’s asinine,” Castile said.

“That officer was dead wrong. Just hold her accountable. Don’t try to spin the story. My son was a good guy, and (the NRA) tried to spin it. The truth is, he’s dead for being honest and telling the truth,” she said.

Reckless is a great word for the NRA’s claims. Loesch was actually suggesting that Jean should have shot a police officer. What would have happened then? A black man with a gun shooting an officer? Stand your ground laws don’t work out so well for people of color.

And then take these Twin Cities area victims all shot in one short period time:

“It’s unacceptable,” Frey said. “Gun violence is one of the most insidious issues we have confronting our country and our response as a city is gong to be swift and strong.”

His comments came as police scrambled to ward off any retaliatory violence after a weekend in which 10 people were shot, four of them fatally. Most of the shootings occurred over a 48-hour stretch on Friday and Saturday.

It’s the guns. It’s actually the bullets from the guns that are killing all of these people-mostly innocent of wrongdoing but now dead. California wants to do something about the bullets. That liberal bastion of a state has managed to pass some of the nation’s strongest gun laws and also has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country. Gun rights advocates love to criticize the laws in California because they don’t seem to stop all shootings. But they have it all wrong. What is going on in California is saving lives. California has lower gun death rates than most other states.

Let’s review. Firearm deaths account for the majority of overall homicides in our country. Guns make a difference.

Suicide by gun accounts for the majority of overall gun deaths in America.

America has more mass shootings than any other developed country not at war.

America has more guns per capita than most other countries and the most gun deaths per capita.

And I want to end by remembering the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting that occurred on this date 5 years ago..

Twelve died and 3 injured because of a gunman who should not have had a gun:

The government contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yardlast week was driven by delusions that he was being controlled by low-frequency radio waves and scratched the words “End the torment!” on the barrel of the shotgun he used, the FBI said Wednesday, offering new, chilling details of the attack.

Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said that Aaron Alexis, 34, began the shooting knowing he would be killed. A search of Alexis’s electronic devices, she said, indicated that he was “prepared to die during the attack and that he accepted death as the inevitable consequence of his actions.”

In America, people like this have easy access to guns.

Let us all take a moment and remember the victims.

It’s the guns. We can’t avoid the truth. But then, for some in today’s American political craziness truth is not truth any more.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Stand up for the truth and for action. Tell your candidates you want them to do something about gun violence. And by that I mean do something. Don’t pander to the nation’s large corporate gun lobby. It’s a paper tiger. The majority of Americans do actually understand that we have a serious problem with guns and loose gun laws.

#Enough

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.