Sabbath attacks

Yesterday was the Jewish sabbath. In New York, a man ran into the home of a Rabbi celebrating Hanukkah with friends and family and stabbed 5 people leaving 2 seriously injured:

“It was a terrifying scene, the officials and witness reported, saying that the violence occurred at about 10 p.m. as numerous people were celebrating Hanukkah at the home of the rabbi, Chaim Rottenberg, in Monsey, which is in an area with a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews. (…) Mr. Kohn said that after the attacker fled, he tried to enter a synagogue next door, Congregation Netzach Yisroel, which is led by Rabbi Rottenberg.

But people inside the synagogue apparently heard screams from the rabbi’s home and, fearful, locked the door so the attacker could not get in, Mr. Kohn said.

Why, you might ask, do I write about a mass stabbing? They are relatively rare compared to mass shootings and often leave the victims injured but not dead. Never mind though, the far right and the gun rights advocates love to tell you that knivings result in more deaths than “rifles”. Let’s take a look at this Politifact article to find out the truth:

When totaling the data from the FBI crime report, we see that 374 people were killed by rifles, while 1,604 were killed by knives or cutting instruments. That means about 4.3 times as many people were killed by knives or cutting instruments as were killed by rifles.

“He is comparing a full set of cutting instruments to a partial set of guns which makes cutting instruments look more deadly,” said Dr. James Nolan, a sociology professor at West Virginia University.

“The real story from the data is that the odds of being murdered by a firearm are nearly seven times higher than the odds of being murdered by a knife or cutting instrument,” he said.

When you look at firearms murders overall, the number is staggeringly different: 11,004 murders out of 15,070 total murders were committed with firearms. That is, 73 percent of U.S. murders were committed with firearms — 3.4 percent of firearm murders were committed with a rifle. The other categories are shotguns, handguns and “type unknown.”

So comparing apples to oranges is misleading. Knives can be dangerous for sure. When used as a weapon they can kill and injure. And what happened in New York is reprehensible at the least. It’s hate and anti-Semitic nature make it a domestic terrorism attack. Unfortunately those are on the increase in America. What makes it even worse than usual is that the current occupant of the White House encourages hate and intolerance and fails to speak out against White Supremacism, Racism and anti-Semitism:

Indeed, the most dangerous thing about living at a time of constant stories about anti-Semitism is how quickly the hatred is normalized. Two and a half years ago, chants of “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville, Virginia, stunned America; today, anti-Semitism is just a part of the news cycle.And so, as we take stock after this latest news, it’s time to face three uncomfortable truths. First, despite his claims, Giuliani’s comments are unmistakably anti-Semitic. Second, this anti-Semitism is not merely vile but dangerous: The anti-Soros tropes like those evoked by Giuliani may tacitly encourage those prone to violence, resulting in Jewish bodies on the streets. Most disturbingly, we can’t write this off as the inebriated ravings of a single man. Everything Giuliani said had been repeated, over and over, by President Donald Trump, by Republican lawmakers and by Fox News hosts.

We can’t forget the recent shootings in synagogues- Tree of Life and Poway mass shootings are still fresh in our minds. In the linked article you can see an increase in the 21st century of attacks on synagogues. Something is rotten.

Note that as of the time I wrote this, there has not been one tweet or one statement from our President about the attack at the New York home of the Rabbi.

No words.

And speaking of shootings at places of worship, there have been quite a number of them as well over the past few years. I won’t name them here but I’m sure you know of them.

One happened just this morning at White Settlement church in Texas. Two are dead and one injured. From another article, it seems that an armed member, perhaps a security guard at the church, shot the shooter. Not before, of course, the shooter got off a few rounds and did the damage. These kind of things take everyone by surprise because why would you think you might be shot while taking communion at a church service on a Sunday morning?

Do I have to remind you that the deadliest shooting at a place of worship also happened in Texas- at Sutherland Springs, leaving 26 dead?

It’s the sabbath in America when many Americans practice their faith in different ways. Have we come to needing armed guards at churches? Do we need them wherever we go because that is what may happen? But how would that work? Or should we all carry our guns with us wherever we go? That will make for a safer America for sure.

It’s heartening to see that an unarmed group of volunteers calling themselves the Guardian Angels will be patrolling the streets near where the stabbing attack occurred and in Jewish neighborhoods. No guns. No knives. Just people making a statement that we are not going to let these attacks deter us from living our lives and we will not let them frighten us (though they most certainly do at some level).

It’s clear that we need leadership from our elected leaders to protect us. That is the bottom line.

Instead of dealing with an out of control gun culture and culture of fear, intolerance, hate and paranoia, some are ignoring the crisis and acquiescing to the corporate gun lobby’s myths. It’s a sad and chaotic way to live but that is the way some like it because then they can control everything and make money doing it.

Call me cynical if you must but we are ending 2019 with a record number of gun deaths according to Gun Violence Archive and all of the everyday media reports of shootings. Will things change in 2020? Will common sense break out? I think you know the answer to that. As long as our leaders would rather support corporate money and power rather than what the majority of Americans want them to do, this will be our sabbath and worship days, and our school days, and our shopping at malls, and going to work, and enjoying concerts and movies. This will be our fate as a country unless we get new leaders who will stand up for what is morally the right thing to do and stop the shootings.

If we can’t or won’t change the laws and the culture, we will change the leaders.

Let’s get to work.

This is not normal. It doesn’t have to be like this.

And let us take a minute to remember the victims of both attacks. They have names. They have family and communities grieving their losses and grieving that their faith stirs hate enough to want them dead.

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.