Peace and justice on Thanksgiving

Puzzle Pieces: Justice Concept.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunned down Americans- Rest in Peace

RIPIn what country are we living again? Historically we have understood that there are countries where awful violence affects the citizens and the rest of the world watches in horror. I would suggest that in the last week in America, the rest of the world has watched in horror as a disgruntled employee gunned down 2 journalists because….? Actually other nation’s citizens have been watching our gun violence in horror for years now but last week was particularly horrific.

We know more about the shooter of the journalists now and understand that he was an angry man and potentially violent. He had to be physically removed from the TV station after throwing things and making threats against other employees. 

As a result of that shooting, there has been a focus on the issue of gun violence prevention because Alison Parker’s father has chosen to use his grief to call attention to our nation’s lax gun laws and has proclaimed that he will work hard to make change happen. I wish him all the luck with that and we are all expecting to work with him. Many other family members of shooting victims have come forward over the years to work on the issue. This beautiful piece, written by the mother of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim, encourages Parker to get involved and offers hope:

Please use your emotions, your love for your daughter and the pain caused by the gaping hole in your life, and focus them into this issue. Once you’ve been touched by violence, saving the lives of others is the only way forward. Whether you choose to fight for policy and political change, or whether you decide to get ahead of the violence and prevent it before it happens (as I chose), always know you are never alone.

We are on a long, difficult road together, but with my son, your daughter and hundreds of thousands of others across the states, we will get there. I promise.

When will our leaders make this promise in the name of the victims and survivors? Unfortunately for them and for the country, not much happens as a result because of our entrenched gun culture and refusal of the corporate gun lobby to actually work to stop the shootings. Our leaders put their fingers to the wind and believe ( erroneously) that if they challenge the gun lobby, they can’t get re-elected.

I would also offer that if we had stronger gun laws and screening of potential gun purchasers and gun carriers more carefully as is done in a lot of other countries, the shooter of the 2 young journalists would likely not have been considered as someone who could legally buy a gun. And in a system where all sales require background checks or personal information as in other countries, there would be few avenues for him to purchase a gun. So angry people do kill people by other means but not anywhere close to the killings by firearms ( in America).

And we thought this shooting of 2 young journalist on live TV and recorded by the shooter was horrific. It was. And then yesterday, another execution occurred. A Texas state trooper was gunned down execution style while he stopped for gas at a convenience store. The details of this are almost too awful to contemplate. From the article:

A man shot a uniformed sheriff’s deputy “execution-style” while he fueled his patrol car in the Houston area, killing him instantly, authorities said.

Deputy Darren H. Goforth, 47, was returning to his car after pumping gas Friday night.

The gunman walked up from behind him and opened fire for no apparent reason, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said.

When Goforth fell to the ground, the gunman stood over him and shot him some more, authorities said. He died at the scene.

“He was literally gunned down in what appears to be an unprovoked, execution-style killing,” Hickman said. “I have been in law enforcement for 45 years, I have never seen anything this cold-blooded.”

Well, dear readers. This is the America we now have in no small part because of our twisted and paranoid gun culture. The corporate gun lobby is promoting guns for everyone everywhere and that is what we have.

(I am editing this post to include details about the shooter of the Texas law enforcement officer. He has been caught.):

Sheriff Ron Hickman released few details about the suspect Saturday in a press conference. Miles has a list of prior convictions including resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct with a fire arm, he said.

He was able to get a gun, of course. And now an innocent law enforcement was gunned down and his family will grieve for him forever. Senseless.

So now what? Is this how it’s going to be? Domestic shootings happen between people who know each other and one ( usually a male) decides to take out his anger by killing a spouse/partner and whoever else happens to be in the way. Suicides happen quietly but sometimes are also the motivation of mass shooters who were likely suicidal in the first place but had to shoot others first for some inexplicable reason. It happens quite often that way. The shooter kills himself after shooting all the others. Too hard to face what he/they did or knowing how awful it was to shoot other human beings, why live with those images in your head? And we do have a problem with young people in our large cities who may or may not be members of local gangs but who shoot each other over slights or arguments about territory or whatever. Easy access to guns adds to this urban violence problem. Also often enough, innocent people get caught in the cross fire and are killed by stray bullets. It happens often enough to alarm us. We are gunning each other down in America.

Are we alarmed? Do we care that we now have execution style shootings going on in our communities? Hyped up fears and mistrust of law enforcement officers  (and government) have caused other attacks in public places, here ,and here. There are others where these come from. And then the opposite happens. Officers themselves shoot and kill ( often) people of color over things that should not result in a shooting death. We have the recent shootings of Michael Brown, Walter Scott and Tamir Rice  to name just a few. We are gunning each other down in America.

Anti government sentiment, whipped up by extremists and the gun lobby, also result in horrific shootings. Take the shooting in Las Vegas in 2014 for just one example but there are many others. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of potentially dangerous extremists groups who represent racist, white supremacist, anti government sentiments. These folks are armed and can do a lot of damage.And shootings also have killed some of our military members serving on US soil, also this summer, in the Chattanooga shooting. Expect to see more of these shootings like the one in the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston this summer. The hate and racism exhibited by the shooter there seems to have been some sort of catalyst for the shooter of the Virginia journalist or so he claimed.

It just may be true that one mass shooting contributes to another, and to another and the cycle continues until we decide we’ve had enough like Australia did after a horrific 1996 mass shooting there. For now, though, we are gunning each other down.

Officers fear for their lives every day because there are so many citizens with guns that they, themselves, get caught in situations where they believe they are defending themselves. When carrying a gun, officer or citizen) it’s there to use and sometimes judgment is impaired or race plays a role or fear. Some citizens apparently fear for their lives every day as well and sometimes kill others over something that shouldn’t result in a death. And with new Stand Your Ground Laws, people like George Zimmerman can do this and not be accountable for the death of an unarmed young black man.

The result is that the violence is increasing. The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track. There have been over 33,569 shooting incidents so far in 2015. It’s only August. So far this year there have been 247 mass shooting (4 or more shot and injured or killed) incidents in America. We have 4 months left in the year. What will happen next? We keep thinking we have seen the worst. When 20 first graders are gunned down by a young man who never should have had access to guns and we do nothing, we can expect to see more. When people are gunned down in movie theaters, churches, malls, schools and everywhere we go for no apparent reason, we are officially a country that has lost it’s moral compass in efforts to appease a group of armed Americans so fearful of losing something they value that they will allow just about any kind of carnage to keep their way of life. But there appears to be disregard for the valuable lives lost because of our love affair with guns.That love affair with guns has resulted in what we are now seeing in our media and on the streets of our communities.

There are ways to change what we are doing to keep guns away from volatile, angry people who don’t necessarily find themselves on the prohibited purchaser list for gun purchases at a licensed dealer. And, of course, we can require that every gun sale go through a Brady background check no matter where a gun is purchased.

But we aren’t doing these things.

A new report/study by Criminologist Adam Lankford points to our American gun culture as exceptional compared to other countries and provides some interesting ideas about why these kinds of shootings happen mostly in America. He was interviewed for this article:

“For decades, people have wondered if the dark side of American exceptionalism is a cultural propensity for violence,” he wrote, “and in recent years, perhaps no form of violence is seen as more uniquely American than public mass shootings.”

Lankford, author of “The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers,” looked at the situation globally, and considered a wide range of relative factors — the state of mental health coverage, the availability of guns, the valorization of fame, and other cultural differences. (…)

What the data clearly show is a strong relationship between firearm ownership rates – what is the percentage of firearms owned by civilians in a country – and the number of public mass shooters. That’s what I found in my study of 171 countries – that relationship was very strong. And it was even strong when you removed the United States from the analysis – it explains the variations in other countries as well. So that seems to be one of the critical factors, and the United States has five times the number of mass shootings than any other country – five times the second-ranked country – from 1966 to 2012 – and we have the world’s leading firearm ownership rate among civilians. (…)

There is nearly one handgun for every person in America – far higher than the ratio in ever other country in the world. How consequential is that?

Very consequential. It effects both who can get a gun to carry out an attack, and how many guns someone who’s decided to carry out an attack can get, which directly, in turn, effects the number of people they kill. One of the findings of my study is that attackers who use multiple guns kill significantly more victims. That was a global finding. (…)

It would be a great day for America if people struggling with mental health problems and had some motive to carry out an attack decided to take a different path because they couldn’t find the firearms they wanted.

That would be a great day, indeed. Let’s get to work to make that happen because we just have to be better than this. We can’t let the world look at us as people who gun down other Americans in public places because they hold a grudge in the workplace, are angry over a separation, are angry in general, or have mental illness that could lead to thoughts of homicide.

Yes. We are gunned down America.

In spite of all of this, gun violence prevention advocates are not going away. We will continue to discuss gun violence and solutions to the problem in the midst of yet another shooting even though the gun lobby doesn’t want us to “dance in the blood of the victims.” If we waited until we had no shooting tragedies, we would wait a very long time and that is exactly what the gun rights advocates want. Mass shootings, execution style shootings, keeping track of shooting incidents, writing about the carnage, witnessing a shooting live on TV, hearing about a neighbor killed by a  souse or partner- they won’t go away no matter what the gun lobby thinks. Ignoring it would be a total abrogation of our responsibilities to make sure our families and children are safe. And it would be a moral lapse of huge proportions.

No, we will not back down in the face of the fierce resistance of an armed minority of Americans. The public is with us. We will continue. Andy Parker’s voice will be heard and added to the many others like him working for reform.  The voices of other high profile shooting victims ‘ families will be heard. Those of us who have lost someone in a domestic shooting will continue to force the conversation to happen. We will be heard. But in the meantime, we are killing each other every day.

Where is common sense?

Rest in Peace America.

The gun nuts and nutty rhetoric and logic

nutsOregon just passed a new law requiring background checks on all gun sales. This makes 7 states plus the District of Columbia having now required that all gun sales have background checks. It’s more than interesting to watch the gun nuts go all nutty about the idea that everyone now needs to go through a background check when purchasing a gun. These folks take it all personally as if the law was meant to punish them. Think about it. How could a law that requires Brady background checks,which most of these folks already undergo when purchasing their guns at federally licensed firearms dealers, punish them? What about the tired old mantra that we need to enforce the laws already on the books?- an excuse to stop progress towards safer communities. It’s backwards thinking promoted by the corporate gun lobby. Don’t believe them. This law will only stop people who shouldn’t be able to purchase guns from purchasing them anyway.

Gun nuts have been getting away with these talking points for many years. Apparently they don’t like laws that get in the way of unfettered access to guns. They want their guns with no hassle, no laws in the way.

The thing is, this nutty way of thinking allows felons, adjudicated mentally ill people, domestic abusers, and others who shouldn’t have guns to get them easily. The Million Mom March and Brady Chapters have been advocating for expanding Brady background checks for the last 15 years. Even after the horrific shooting of 20 first graders at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, the gun lobby stood in the way of common sense. Our Senators couldn’t even muster support for something that made so much sense and was a compromise piece of legislation, after spending time with the parents of the nation’s most horrific shooting. Shame on them all.

Other groups have joined the fray since May 14, 2000 increasing the number of people advocating openly and loudly for Brady background checks and other measures to keep our children and our communities safe from devastating gun violence. Most of these got involved after the shooting in Newtown because they, like the rest of us, were horrified that something like this could happen in our country. They are getting a dose of the gun lobby’s nuttiness that the rest of us have experienced for many years. They are also experiencing the fierce opposition to even the smallest measures to make us safer.

Together we are having an impact however. We welcome the new folks who have joined us in the fray. We already know that the general public and even gun owners and NRA members are with us. For at least 15 years, polling has been consistent about that. We also already know that some of our politicians have been cowed by the corporate gun lobby whose minions speak of gun confiscation and taking away rights if we just but pass small but reasonable measures to keep the majority safe.

What we need now is for the gun nuttery to be openly recognized. We can look to this recent article in the Washington Post about a “constitutional” Wisconsin Sheriff and his extreme nutty views about guns and gun violence for what the minority is thinking. His views are crazy and unsubstantiated but somehow he continues to be re-elected. Let’s take a look:

Less than 24 hours after Officers Benjamin J. Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 24, of the Hattiesburg Police Department were gunned down during a traffic stop, Milwakuee County Sheriff David A. Clarke linked the deaths to events in Ferguson, Mo., and said in a series of tweets that the president is to blame.

[Four suspects in custody after shooting deaths of two Mississippi police officers]

“Obama started this war on police intentionally,” Clarke wrote. “Right in line with his community agitating.”

Clarke, a conservative folk hero who has predicted that a second American revolution will be fought over gun rights, is a regular Fox News guest with55,000 followers on Twitter. In 2013, he ran radio ads telling people to fight back against violent criminals instead of relying on 911, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

America’s 1st Freedom, an NRA publication, has called the outspoken Clarke “NRA’s Favorite Sheriff.” Earlier this year, he was presented with the Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Right then. The NRA leaders love this guy. He is a perfect foil for their extreme views about the world. And he is encouraging people to protect themselves from all of those violent criminals out there waiting to get them rather than to rely on his very own services as a Sheriff. You really can’t make this stuff up.  From this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. set off alarm bells Friday with a radio spot some view as a call for citizens to arm themselves.

In the radio ad, Clarke tells residents personal safety isn’t a spectator sport anymore, and that “I need you in the game.”

“With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option,” Clarke intones.

“You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back.”

Clarke urges listeners to take a firearm safety course and handle a firearm “so you can defend yourself until we get there.”

“You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on you?”

The thing is, what Clarke says is simply not true. Continue reading the article. This is the fear and paranoia that the corporate  gun lobby needs in order to stay in business. It’s what we in the world of gun violence prevention movement have been fighting against. The fact that our politicians have been duped into believing this nutty rhetoric should be alarming and a lesson for why we need to keep working to advocate for what we know is right.

The gun lobby has actually become more nutty in the 15 years since I have been involved. They have gained ground by weakening gun laws all over the country claiming that any law to strengthen our safety is a violation of their rights. Their other specious claim is that any stronger gun law punishes their own. That, of course, is not true and ridiculous but they manage to get away with it because of our own lawmakers’ lack of backbone when it comees to challenging this “logic”. Here are just a few of the inane efforts to deceive gun owners, the public and lawmakers:

George Zimmerman made the news again. This time, he was on the other end of a gun nut who shot at him in a claimed road rage incident in Florida. The shooter has been in other disputes with Zimmerman and claimed “self defense.” Ha! You just can’t make this stuff up. It’s just plain nuts that Zimmerman was not held legally accountable for the death of an innocent Black teen-ager and even nuttier that he is out and about causing more trouble.

How many more incidents should be tolerated for the man who has already killed another human being?  This is the 4th one since he killed Trayvon Martin. Some people should not have guns and yes, they should lose their gun rights. This is a guy who is the poster child for what can go wrong in our twisted and dangerous gun culture. We don’t need Stand Your Ground laws so people like Zimmerman can walk away from a murder. We don’t need guns everywhere carried by anyone.

Maine’s Governor, along with 5 others, signed on to an amicus brief to attempt to repeal California’s strong conceal/carry law- claiming punishment for gun owners. Nuts.

The NRA’s own Wayne LaPierre is lying again- using a false conspiracy theory claiming that President Obama is out to ban all ammunition sales. He’s wrong but never mind. Nuts.

The Tennessee Governor signed a law also similar to one signed in Indiana to interfere with federal gun regulations because, you know, states shouldn’t follow federal law. How this benefits gun owners and law abiding citizens is not spelled out. It will actually benefit the felons and others who should not have guns. My theory is that this is on purpose so when felons have more guns, the gun lobby can hysterically cry that more citizens need their guns for self protection against the felons with guns. It’s nuts. What could possibly go wrong?

And in a cynical attempt to roll back “knife rights” the NRA is involved in legislative measures to allow possession of more dangerous knives for “law abiding” citizens. Nuts. From the article:

“I don’t see knives posing that big of a danger to the public,” Representative Harold Dutton Jr., who sponsored the bill, said in an interview. “Now that we’re going to let everybody have a gun, I think we ought to set knives free.”

This twisted “logic” is actually more nutty than we think. The gun nuts like to argue that knives take more lives than guns. They are wrong of course and it can be easily proven. The claim is that knives kill more people than long guns. That would be true. But total gun homicides in this FBI report from 2011 were 8523 compared to total knife homicides of 1694.

Here’s my theory. If we allow more dangerous knives we will certainly have a rise in deaths from knives. Then the gun lobby can say that knives are just as lethal as guns so what’s the problem?

The thing is, these measures increase the likelihood of deaths and injuries to innocent people all over our country. It’s just plain nuts.

We are better than this. But arguing with nuts is just nuts. It isn’t worth the argument. The problem is that our legislators refuse to use logic and get cowed by the nuts. They are bullied into taking positions counter to public health and safety. And what we will surely see is an increase in deaths and injuries. In states with strong gun laws and fewer guns, there are fewer gun deaths. The same is true in most other civilized, developed democratized countries not at war. We have the proof. We just need our elected leaders to speak the truth and not be afraid of the nuts.

Isn’t it past time to speak the truth and get on with ways to save lives? Why are the gun nuts winning the argument with our elected leaders? They shouldn’t be. If you believe, like most Americans do, that too many of our leaders are lapdogs for the gun lobby, please let them know how you feel. Also please join a group working on preventing gun violence. As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Million Mom March, I see a strong and committed group of Americans who are not going away. We are stronger than ever and we will call out the nutty gun logic so we can base policy on facts.

UPDATE:

I found this article that was written along the same theme that I wrote about in this post. That would be that the gun lobby’s fueling of fear and paranoia is a vicious circle. When the fear causes more guns and more guns cause fear, we have a serious problem. We are not talking about just any consumer product. We are talking about deadly weapons designed to kill people. From the article:

The gun rights movement warns of a society riddled with pervasive threats—increasingly, they come from police officers, or their absence, or their recklessness. And the NRA gets its way: there are more guns on our streets than ever. This in turn makes the job of policing that much harder—and the possibility of police violence more frequent. Perhaps police might retreat from criminal encounters, which increasingly risk turning out badly—where someone dies, or they are charged with a crime. Either way, the gun rights movement will bellow that we need still more guns and more armed citizens. Despairing in the face of criminal and police violence, African Americans appear to be joining this view.

We are mired in a classic negative feedback loop. The gun rights movement is good at making its predictions come true. It bemoans a society delivered unto violence, coming from every corner, and will make sure of that.

This is more than nutty. It’s dangerous and unacceptable. I know we can do better.

UPDATE:

I am going to update this post both as another example of the nuttiness and stupidity of the gun nuts and in response to a comment made that I shouldn’t call all hard core gun guys nutty. This is the new mantra from the NRA who do say they represent about 4 million members, more or less- Hillary Clinton is now going to take away the guns that Barack Obama didn’t manage to get his cold dead hands on. From the article:

The NRA then baselessly links this non-existent firearm registry scheme to gun confiscation, declaring, “Gun registration has been considered the holy grail — the queen on the chessboard and the key to the kingdom — by every gun-ban group, every genocidal regime and every would-be tyrant around the world since King George sent his redcoats to seize the colonists’ arms at Lexington and Concord. That’s not hyperbole. It’s history.”

The article concludes, “Hillary Clinton’s apparent ultimate aim is as direct and undeviating as an argon laser: ‘Universal’ background checks … which depend on universal gun registration … which inevitably, invariably, leads to gun confiscation.”

So we will now be hearing this for the upcoming election cycle because the NRA’s leaders have to find a way to gin up the fear and paranoia to make sure to protect gun sales and the industry. It’s just plain nuts. The worst of it is that so many people believe it. I suppose they didn’t notice that President Obama did not actually manage to get their guns. Never mind the facts and common sense.

The irony of the gun lobby “logic”

irony_megaphone_137602Oh the irony. It is playing out every day. What the gun lobby says about more guns making us safer is plainly not happening. Sure, there are the occasional incidents of a law abiding gun owner using a gun for legitimate self defense. Those on my side are not arguing that that is not the case. We are arguing that more often than not, a gun is used with bad intent to harm others and a gun in many situations emboldens the person with the gun and escalates a situation. In addition, guns are not needed in many volatile situations to change the outcome.

Yesterday a student brought a gun to a school in a Seattle suburb and fired off a few rounds. The boy was stopped by an unarmed teacher who tackled him before he could do anyone, including himself, harm. From the article:

A 16-year-old boy who fired two gunshots Monday inside a Washington state high school, hitting no one before a teacher tackled him, told detectives he never intended to hurt any students, a police spokesman said.

Three other staff members at North Thurston High School in Lacey, about 60 miles southwest of Seattle, quickly helped subdue the teen.

The boy told detectives “there were some issues in personal relationships,” Lacey police Cmdr. Jim Mack told The Olympian newspaper. Asked if the shooting could have been an attempt at “suicide by cop,” Mack said, “It definitely could have been.”

How would a teacher with a gun have changed this situation? Would the teacher have had a gun holstered on their person as some suggest should be the case? Would a teacher whose gun was stored somewhere in the school not near where the incident occurred have had the time, training or inclination ( given the fear and with adrenalin surging) to get to a gun? And then what? Would a teacher have shot this student? This appears to be a student with some problems who now will hopefully get some help. His life was changed by the incident. Other students lives have changed as well. But no one is dead. And a gun was not needed to stop the student with a gun.

By the way, where did this young student get his gun? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Others lives have been changed by bullets. This Texas man shot his own wife believing her to be a burglar in his home. This, by the way, is not the first of similar types of shootings. From the article:

According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the man was sleeping when he woke up to the sound of someone “scuffling” downstairs.

Deputies said he saw the front door open so he grabbed his gun thinking a burglar had broken in.

But when he fired, his target was his wife.

So far no charges have been filed. And that brings me to other such “accidental” shootings where no charges occurred or were rejected after a “law abiding” gun owner mistakenly shot someone. Sure, people have gun rights. Do they have rights to be irresponsible with their guns and then not be held responsible? This incident also highlights the irony of the “logic” that having a loaded gun around the home for self defense too often results in the injury or death of someone living in the home.

And what is the “logic” to people like this guy, ostensibly a “law abiding” gun owner, holding a neighborhood hostage bringing out a SWAT team to disarm the situation?:

Around 8:30 a.m. Monday, police were called out to 58 Randall Road after a gas worker who attempted to shut off gas service was threatened with a gun.

Several SWAT teams, a bomb squad and negotiators were called out to help. More than 20 shots were reportedly fired from inside the house toward officers and SWAT vehicles, police said.

Surrounding houses were asked to evacuate the area. Officials say Parker was believed to be armed with a high-powered rifle and possibly explosive devices.

All because of an angry guy with a gun- or from the sounds of it, someone who should not have had a gun, threatening law enforcement and a city worker with his loaded gun. It’s harder to carry out threats like this with some other kind of weapon or object. But when so many people succumb to the fear and paranoia promoted by the gun lobby, people like this use their guns with bad intent rather than in self defense. We all know how things can go terribly wrong with one armed citizen making threats. This is the America we have. Is this the America we deserve?

Speaking of the armed America we have and holding gun owners responsible when something goes wrong, Amanda Gailey of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, has written an article wondering about why negligence with guns is rarely prosecuted or found to be legal negligence:

Every year many gun owners, like Wilson, unintentionally cause death and injury yet face no legal consequences. In criminal and civil courts, the legal system often fails to hold negligent gun owners accountable for such harm.Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit effort that combs through more than a thousand media sources to collect information about gun violence, has verified more than 1,500 accidental shooting incidents in 2014. Data on the legal outcomes of these shootings is sketchy, but many cases of unprosecuted unintentional shootings are available—dozens from the first two months of 2014 alone remain unprosecuted.

The past decade has seen legal measures to prevent gun negligence systematically dismantled. The 2005 Protection of Legal Commerce in Arms Act statutorily inoculated gun manufacturers and dealers from most claims of negligence in gun deaths. This is even more dangerous than it may first sound. Many people unfamiliar with guns assume that they are designed with simple safeguards against unintentional shootings, but this is not always the case. Glock handguns, for example, have no external safety: If a round is chambered and the trigger is squeezed, the gun fires. As Aaron Walsh, a criminal defense attorney in Augusta, Georgia, put it, “With any other product in the world there would be no Glock company because they would be sued out of existence. You don’t have a safety? That can’t be right.”  (…) Yet some of these cases are appalling. A man in Washington practiced drawing a loaded handgun and unintentionally shot and killed his girlfriend’s daughter. A man in Florida twirled a handgun on his finger and killed a pregnant woman. A man in New Mexico handed a loaded rifle to his six-year-old daughter, who unintentionally shot her sister in the neck. None of these gun owners was prosecuted. The district attorney in the New Mexico case told the Farmington Times, “The father did not follow basic and universally accepted firearm safety rules” but “the problem is that the standard for criminal negligence is higher.”

Ah yes. The 2005 “Immunity Bill” that offers protections to the gun industry that no other industry enjoys. Silly me. Shoot someone by accident? No worries. Rights will protect you. A gun discharges accidentally? No problem. The immunized gun industry will protect the industry, not the shooter or the weapon.

There is much more in this article that is worth considering. Ms. Gailey, like the majority of us and actually the majority of gun owners, knows that people who are negligent with guns should be held accountable. She writes about the fact that gun owners ‘ negligence is treated differently than in other cases of negligence resulting in the death of an innocent person:

When a surviving family member does sue a negligent gun owner for the death of a child or spouse, their lawsuits often fail. Andrew McClurg, a law professor at the University of Memphis, has written extensively on what he sees as a “right to be negligent” that has arisen from the failure of courts to hold negligent gun owners accountable. McClurg sees these rulings as flagrant violations of tort principles that result from strange mistakes in reasoning about risk—judges have ruled in favor of negligent gun owners because specific chains of events were unforeseeable. (…)

Findings in other civil cases against negligent gun owners suggest that political sensibilities motivate some decisions by the court. In one case McClurg examined, a gun owner kept a loaded handgun next to a tray of change in his bedroom, which he allowed his teenage daughter to raid for spending money. Sometimes she did this with her boyfriend; eventually, the boyfriend took the gun and used it to rob and murder a man who was leaving a restaurant. The victim’s family sued the girl’s father for leaving a loaded gun lying around where he knew minors could access it. The court declined to hold him liable, saying it was “not persuaded that society is prepared to extend the duties of gun owners that far.” This reasoning was not based on principles of liability, but on what the court thought the implications would be for gun ownership in America.

Indeed, political squeamishness about defining responsible gun ownership drives our failure to hold negligent gun owners accountable. It leads to statutes that protect recklessness among manufacturers and sellers, enables legislation that encourages gun proliferation, and shackles a legal system that ends up seeming more concerned about running afoul of the firearms lobby and its adherents than in protecting the public.

We do need to change this “squeamishness” to stand up to the corporate gun lobby. They have managed to make even negligence with a gun a right. It’s time for that kind of irresponsible attitude about guns to change. But instead, in many states, we are going the other way.

The corporate gun lobby has pushed for anyone to carry guns everywhere with little to no accountability, training or permit. This, of course, will suggest to a felon that he/she, too, can just strap their gun on their waists and walk around in public with no questions asked. Because there is a move afoot to allow those who do this to do so unencumbered by the fear that law enforcement can ask if you are actually a legal gun carrier, why wouldn’t someone with bad intent do this? Here’s another Texas case to consider:

Domestic terrorist Larry McQuilliams — an anti-immigration extremist who fired a machine gun at Austin Police headquarters, a federal courthouse, and the Mexican Consulate last November, before an Austin police officer shot him down — would have been safe from police scrutiny right up until the moment be began shooting had Texas lawmakers already passed the open carry law that’s about to land on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

That’s the opinion of Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who sat for an interview with Austin.com on Wednesday afternoon. His comments below follow a short essay published Tuesday in which Acevedo expresses dire concern about an amendment to House Bill 910 that would prevent police officers from asking people who are openly carrying handguns whether or not they’re licensed to do so. The Texas House passed that bill on Monday by a vote of 101-42, after defeating an amendment that would have allowed large cities to opt out.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. Courtesy photo.

“If [Larry] McQuilliams had a pistol… The only way we would have stopped him [if HB 910 were law] is if he had brandished that weapon in a threatening manner,” Acevedo told Austin.com. “Obviously, he went so far as to shoot up occupied buildings, actually shooting at police officers in front of the main headquarters, but had he been walking around the federal building or the Mexican Consulate with just a gun on his hip, we would have never been able to ask him anything about the gun or about whether or not he had a permit to have the gun.”

This seems like a good policy, right? I mean- why not protect terrorists and felons with guns because- rights? This is the extent to which our elected leaders are going to protect gun rights and appease the gun lobby. The irony of all of this is that when gun rights are treated this way, we are encouraging vigilantism  and an “anything goes” culture that will not end well. This, of course, is the ideology behind Stand Your Ground Laws which have already shown that upstanding “law abiding” citizens like George Zimmerman can shoot an unarmed teen because- well, just because- and get away with it.

Reasonable gun owners understand the implication of proposed laws like this one- a gun shop owner from South Carolina commenting on the proposed bill to let anyone who wants to carry a gun carry one without training or a permit. He calls it reckless in the video interview in the link. Yes, it’s reckless. Why don’t our legislators understand this? They, themselves, are reckless when they are afraid to stand up to the gun lobby. What are they thinking? Where is common sense? In the video the gun shop owner said this: “…because I believe incidents will happen through untrained and uneducated people.” Great. Whatever. Does anyone care that “incidents will happen”?

There’s a pattern here, right? You can see it. Can our leaders see it? Or are they so blinded by fear of the corporate gun lobby that they have abrogated their responsibility for public safety to the industry itself whose main interest is profits? Logical?

Occasionally the justice system does work as with this Florida case of a 3 year old who found a gun in her mother’s purse and accidentally shot the mother:

The toddler had accidentally shot Gillilan with a handgun that she’d left in her purse, Davie police said.

Now, nearly three months after the Feb. 2 incident, Gillilan is charged with culpable negligence by storing or leaving a loaded firearm within easy reach of a minor.

Toddler shot mother, police say
Toddler shot mother, police say
Gillilan, who also has a 1-year-old son, told an investigator that the shooting, which happened at a home in the 4800 block of Southwest 59th Street in Davie, was her mistake.

“I should’ve never left the gun in my purse like that! I never do!” she was quoted as saying in a police report. “I’m just glad that I was the one who got shot, and not my boys!”

Gillilan said she usually kept the small-caliber, semi-automatic handgun in the trunk of her car, but she was in the process of transferring items to a new vehicle, according to police.

In front of the children, police said, she put the registered weapon in her purse in a bedroom. (…)

Gillilan is a state-licensed security officer with a firearms license, state records show. She told police that’s why she keeps a gun.

It doesn’t appear to matter that a gun owner is licensed or serving as a security or police officer. (girl shoots sister with father’s  loaded service gun). Negligence with guns is happening every day. Without charges brought in order to encourage better gun safety practices, they will continue. With over 300 million guns in circulation or sitting around somewhere, negligence with these lethal weapons is inevitable. Just as with other consumer products, people misuse them and cause injury and death. When a drunk driver kills someone in an auto accident, there are laws intended to hold that person responsible- criminal vehicular homicide. These statutes passed in states all over America are meant as public safety laws to discourage bad behavior while driving cars, not as punishment to those who follow the rules. Legislators used a lot of common sense when passing laws like these.

Some states have Child Access Prevention laws meant to hold parents responsible when a child accesses a gun and uses it to accidentally kill him/herself or someone else. They are often not enforced because of the guilt already felt by grieving parents for a dead child. Further, the NRA has often opposed such laws, believing, as I wrote in my previous post, that their Eddie Eagle program will be enough to stop kids from gaining access to an adult’s loaded gun:

I’m not saying the Eddie Eagle program doesn’t work. I’m saying that to use a totally non-validated safety program as an excuse for opposing CAP laws is shabby at best, harmful and unsafe at worst. The real reason that unintentional gun injuries have declined over the past twenty years is because gun makers have phased in more safety engineering (e.g., floating firing pins) and states now require additional safety features such as loaded chamber indicators and minimum trigger-pull weights. But neither factor invalidates Shannon’s call for more comprehensive CAP laws. If the NRA was really serious about representing all those responsible gun owners, they would welcome laws that require guns to be locked or locked away.

So, where were we? Ah yes. We were discussing the “logic” of the gun lobby’s arguments against gun safety reform. Ironically, their opposition to common sense gun safety laws has contributed to gun negligence because of a gun culture that encourages anyone to own guns without proper training and the known risks of loaded guns in homes and public places. Denying the research and the facts is not making us safer. Loosening gun laws will not do the trick.

This is all part and parcel of the national conversation we need to hold about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Until we face this public health and safety issue head on, without the encumbrance of the second amendment holding us hostage, we will not solve the problem. And solve it we must. Lives are at stake.

Gun laws in Florida- and guns at Disney World

Disney

I think we all know that Florida’s gun laws leave something to be desired. I will be traveling there with my grandchildren to visit Disney World and I’m looking forward to it. Like everyone else, we understand Disney World to be a happy place where people are safe from a lot of things that happen in the outside world. It is, as is intimated by the title, a world of its’ own. But just in case, Disney has issued some common sense safety advise so your experience will be a good one. Here’s a list of incidents and “altercations” at Disney World. See if you can find a reason for carrying a gun in the parks.

The Brady Campaign has issued its’ new state report card along with a video and website called CrimAdvisor. You can watch the video here:

According to CrimAdvisor, Florida is one of the best states in the country for felons to buy, carry and traffic guns. No surprises here really. According to the Brady Campaign’s rating system, Florida gets a score of -20.5 out of a possible 100 points. You read that right. It’s a minus 20.5. You can see a more detailed explanation of the report in the link above. Also Florida’s rate of gun deaths per 100,000 at 12.49 ranks the state as 20/50. Since the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law was passed in 2005, according to this article, gun deaths have increased in Florida. Here is one more article among quite a few about Florida’s recent increase in the gun death rate. States that have high gun ownership rates and weak gun laws also have higher rates of gun deaths.

I noticed a post somewhere a while ago with a comment from a gun rights extremist saying that he carries his gun at Disney World in spite of Disney World warning on its’ website that guns are permitted inside. Never mind. These guys know better than anyone else that they can and will carry wherever they want. And if they can’t they will pass laws to make sure they do. It’s an insane view of the world and is not making us safer. Disney World can prohibit guns in their parks.  In 2013 a grandmother on an Animal Kingdom ride found a loaded gun. She was with her grandchild. This is not the experience I want to have with my grandchildren. From the article:

The discovery of a gun aboard a ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has raised questions about what park security does to keep firearms from slipping inside and whether its no-weapons policy for visitors is clear.

A grandmother handed a Cobra .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol to a park attendant Sunday after getting off the Dinosaur ride. “My grandma found it in her seat,” her young grandson told park security.

Minutes later, an apologetic Angelo Lista returned to claim the firearm, which was loaded with five hollow-point bullets — but none was in the chamber. He told the Sentinel it had fallen out of his buttoned back pocket during the bumpy ride. He was escorted out of the theme park.

He returned to the parks the next day without the gun.

Lista, 44 of Royal Palm Beach said he had no idea Disney prohibited guns on its property, raising questions about whether the company’s restrictions on firearms are explicit enough.

Disney spokeswoman Kathleen Prihoda said in a statement Wednesday that the company’s policy is no guns are permitted. The company’s website says “weapons of any kind” are not allowed on Disney property.

Disney officials would not say whether there are posted signs on property spelling out their restrictions. Prihoda would not say how often security intercepts a firearm brought into the parks or what happens when a gun owner is found to have one on property. She wouldn’t discuss any security measures.

The incident may not indicate a broader safety gap, said Dr. Abraham Pizam, dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida.

“Does it happen? Yes, it does. Does it happen frequently? Absolutely not,” Pizam said. “Security is one of the issues that if it works, everyone takes it for granted. But it if doesn’t work, everyone is a critic.”

Thousands of people are free to walk through the parks’ front turnstiles uninhibited unless they are carrying bags. Disney employees inspect and feel the bags for anything on the restricted list. There are no metal detectors at the entrances, and guests are rarely searched.

This bears repeating: “He returned to the parks the next day without the gun.” So the obvious question here is why this man NEEDED a gun while at Disney World. After stupidly leaving his loaded gun on a ride and getting caught, he evidently decided that gun wasn’t so important after all. Isn’t Disney the happiest place on earth? What’s the fear? What’s going to happen at Disney World that would require a gun? Most likely nothing. But this is the world of the gun rights extremists. They have been led to falsely believe that there is danger around every corner. The corporate gun lobby is masterful at deceiving people into this view of the world. Why? It drives up gun sales. Follow the money.

Let’s take a look at some pretty well known shootings in Florida:

There are many others. After the Stand Your Ground law passed, a long list of victims whose shooters have claimed self defense is available for our perusal. Take a look at this compilation of photos and information about shooting victims provided by the Tampa Times. I think we can safely say that blood is running in the streets. The gun lobby denies this of course. But facts matter. Real people are being shot every day. They have names, families, and most were contributing members of society whose potential will never be reached.

This is sobering information for visitors to Florida like myself. Let’s hope that all will be safe in the parks of Disney World. It will be interesting to see if anyone is noticeably carrying a gun around where my family and I will be enjoying the sun and the fun. I think most people believe in common sense when it comes to guns at Disney World. There is no need for loaded guns in a place where so many families from all over the world are gathered for enjoyment. Even gun rights extremists must believe this.

And I do like this image, courtesy of the Brady Campaign’s CrimAdvisor site.

Cross posted at www.commongunsense.com