Sounding the alarm bells

alarm bellHow can we be so cavalier and casual about the recent week-end’s carnage due to shootings? Does the public pay attention any more or have we become numb to what is happening around them? People have busy lives. I get that. I pay attention because I blog and because I am so involved. But getting people to understand that we don’t have to tolerate the 90 gun deaths a day is too important to let go. The corporate gun lobby doesn’t want us to know how many people are shot and killed or injured. Guns are dangerous. They are designed to kill people. Once we pass the stronger gun laws that the public wants and the conversation changes to talking about the awesome responsibility of gun ownership, it’s possible that fewer people may want to buy firearms.

Follow the money. Profit trumps saving lives.

Last Saturday, an Uber driver went on a spree shooting, allegedly in between passenger stops. 6 people are now senselessly and tragically dead in Kalamazoo, Michigan as a result:

New details emerged about the victims, ordinary people with no connection to Mr. Dalton, enjoying simple pleasures on an unseasonably warm day — taking a walk, eyeing cars at a dealership. Outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant, a makeshift memorial and yellow caution tape marked the site where four women were shot dead and a teenage girl seriously injured.

Lt. Dale Hinz of the Michigan State Police said the people who were shot outside the restaurant just before 10:30 p.m., in the last of three assaults, had dined there earlier in the evening. He said they had then car-pooled to a performance on Western Michigan University’s campus in Kalamazoo, leaving one car behind. Afterward, they returned to the restaurant. “They had just pulled into the parking lot and just gotten back to their respective vehicles” when they were shot, Lieutenant Hinz said.

This latest rampage was just one of 6 last week-end alone leaving 10 dead and 19 wounded. In addition to the spree/mass shootings, there were the usual shootings that happen on an hourly basis in homes, businesses, schools, churches, streets, in bars and restaurants and other places where Americans gather. More from the article:

According to data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), 80 people were killed and 150 wounded by gunfire between Friday afternoon and Sunday night — a rate of more than one fatality per hour. The new figures bring the total of gun deaths in 2016 to 1,754, according to GVA’s count. An additional 3,437 people have been injured by bullets.

These numbers do not include suicides unless they are known to media sources.

These stunning numbers should be alarming. Are they? Common sense would tell us that losing this many people to one cause should sound some bells and lead to a major discussion about how to solve the problem. But common sense is subverted by some kind of prevailing opinion not supported by the majority of Americans, that doing anything about the gun violence epidemic would violate rights. Meanwhile, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been taken from way too many victims of senseless shootings leaving devastating grief and sadness for the families, friends and communities.

And speaking of risks and responsibilities, how many more times will we see a “law abiding” gun owner and conceal carry permit holder lay his/her gun down in a home with children and have it end in a tragedy like this one?:

Neither of them noticed the little boy approach the table where Lonaker had left his .38 revolver. No one watched as he picked it up, the weapon clumsy and cold in his tiny hands. And no one saw him pull the trigger, sending a bullet flying toward his father.

With rights come responsibilities. More from the above linked article:

“Please keep your guns in a secure location out of reach of children,” his statement implored. “This was a tragic accident. Please make certain that firearms in your homes are not accessible to anyone — especially children. Many firearms accidents in the home can be prevented simply by making sure that firearms are kept unloaded and safely stored, with ammunition secured in a separate location. Please keep your guns in a secure location out of reach of children.

“This is a tragedy that is told and retold all across the country and a tragedy that can be avoided.”

Lonaker’s death is at least the 18th accidental shooting by an American child under age 10 this year, according to a Washington Post survey of news reports. Six of those incidents were fatal, and in every other one, the victim was also a child. In three cases, the person killed was the child who accidentally pulled the trigger.

This should not be the new normal. This is NOT normal anywhere else in the world. A 6 year old boy will never be the same because his own father left a gun within easy reach thinking nothing could possibly happen. The ripple effect of this tragedy will be wide and severe for all concerned.

Sound the bell for another senseless lost life due to bullets.

More vigils, More flowers. More candles. More bell ringings. More speeches about the ravages of gun violence. More avoidance by elected leaders and candidates. More people joining the club of gun violence victims and survivors.

Sound the bell. It’s past time for action. We have to be better than this and we’ve had #Enough.

 

Wake up calls about gun violence

alarm_clockDoes anyone think through the results of our lax gun laws? I know I do but, as a country, we have been so steeped in a unique gun culture that we have lost our way. It’s time to wake up to the reality of what our lax gun laws actually mean.

I ran across an editorial from the Washington Post comparing the recent Colorado Springs shooting with the recent California campus stabbing. Four people were stabbed by someone wielding a knife on a campus and will survive. Not so for the victims of the Colorado man who walked plainly down the streets of Colorado Springs with an openly carried gun that was legal to carry. From the article:

Imagine if Colorado weren’t so permissive in allowing people to openly display guns. Would that 911 operator have recognized the danger more quickly and would lives have been saved?

Similarly, imagine what would have occurred if the attacker at the University of California at Merced had wielded a gun instead of a hunting knife. Would there have been fatalities instead of injuries, and would there have been additional victims before the attacker could be stopped? Indeed, would the construction worker who bravely broke up the attack have been able to do so if a gun were involved and not a knife?

Where is the knife lobby when you need it? Death by knifings/stabbings are very low compared to firearms. The obvious is before us. Gun laws would matter and would save lives. But we are living in a country where rights come before public safety. Is this what we really thought would happen when our state legislators loosened our gun laws in a slippery slope that has led to the spectacle of armed citizens on our streets?

What do we think of when armed men (mostly men) are walking armed on the streets of our communities? I think of countries at war. And I do believe that we are war with ourselves in America. How can we think otherwise? When more Americans have lost their lives since 1968 to gun violence than all Americans who have died in all American wars since the Revolutionary War, we know we have a real public health and safety epidemic that we are not addressing with any kind of common sense.

When small children continue to shoot themselves or someone else because of easy access to a gun, we have a serious problem. When teens and middle aged white men have access to guns, they are shooting themselves at an alarming rate. 

Will we admit that guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and animals? Even in hunting season, there are accidents because bullets are projectiles coming from guns that kill animals but sometimes kill or injure hunters or innocent bystanders. One such happened in my own state of Minnesota when a slug hit a hunter instead of a deer. Luckily for all the man will live. Gun safety is of the utmost importance but isn’t always followed by gun owners.

Every one who holds a gun should have required gun safety classes before they can own or carry a gun. I will remind my readers that the gun lobby is actually working to do away with training requirements for those who carry guns in public. And we don’t require any prior experience or training before someone walks out the door of a gun shop with a gun. Never mind those who get their guns without a Brady background check because we have no idea who these folks are or whether they are allowed to purchase guns let alone be able to be responsible with them once they have them.

Not only is the gun lobby keeping us snoozing when it comes to gun safety reform, they are ramping up the fear and paranoia to those who believe it. It sells guns. Take a look at this post from Mike the Gun Guy for the contradictions in our country when it comes to gun rights and gun safety reform. Mike is a guy the gun lobby/extremists hate. Why? He is a gun owner who is speaking the inconvenient truths about guns and gun laws. He is a supporter of gun violence prevention and yet lives in the world of guns. A majority of gun owners are like Mike. From his latest blog post after attending a vigil at the National Cathedral in DC and then attending a Pennsylvania gun show:

The point is that the two sides in the gun debate are more different than any two populations that we could identify as having different viewpoints on any public policy issue at all.  When it comes to gun violence, incidentally, what’s funny is that we all seem able to discuss in reasonable tones whether as a country we need to have a ready supply of really big weapons – planes, tanks, nukes – to make the world a safer place.  It’s when we get down to safety on our own street corners with the little weapons that rhetorical ugliness and angry epithets tend to shape the debate.

Somehow over the last twenty years the reaction to people getting killed or injured with guns has turned ugly, raucous and mean.  But hasn’t the discussion of all policy issues become more nasty and abrasive since a certain Kenyan signed a lease at for an apartment in the People’s House?

The issue of gun rights has become not just about guns but about politics. When most Republicans agree that gun rights are more important than gun safety reform, it’s political. Republican Presidential candidates are tripping all over themselves to be the most extreme NRA supporter. The opposite is happening with the Democratic candidates who are trying to outdo each other to be the one with the worst rating from the NRA. It’s become part of the far right’s take over of the Republican party. The fear and paranoia spewing after our first Black President was elected is not only offensive- it’s frightening.

A friend attended a recent gun show and took photos there, which the gun show operators hate. Why? Because what she got photos of were incendiary bumper stickers, hate posters, Confederate flags, rows and rows of assault rifles for sale, tee shirts for sales with slogans like this: “Hillary for prison, 2016″, ” Liberty Freedom Family My right to own a firearm has  more value than your  entitlement to Food Stamps.” Sellers at gun shows not only sell guns and ammunition they sell fear, hate, insurrectionist ideas and paranoia. In addition, a good number of those sellers are private sellers who most often sell their wares without requiring a background check. That is grounds for fear.

This is the extreme view of gun rights that we are allowing to take over any rational discussion we could be having and deserve to have. But, as Bob Dylan wrote in one of his songs,  “the times, they are a changin’.” His words couldn’t be more appropriate for 2015. From the song lyrics ( linked above):

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Yes, Congress has stalled and a lot of Americans are being hurt because of the snoozing of our politicians. There is a battle for the messaging about gun rights vs. gun safety reform. There shouldn’t be. The two are not mutually exclusive and can co-exist. Tell that to the extremists and your politicians.

America, we need to wake up. We’ve had many wake-up calls over the years. But apparently we have hit the snooze button. We are napping through a serious public health and safety epidemic. I sense that the public is waking up, however. We’ve had #enough.

We’re late for a very important date that can save lives.