“Liar liar pants on fire”

pants-on-fireWe’ve been lied to. Congress has been lied to. Our state legislators have been lied to.

Someone’s pants are on fire. But what does it mean? Let’s take a look at the meaning of the phrase we use often and more often now that faux news and people in power are lying to keep their power and control over us:

When the lad heard his father’s footsteps, he snuffed the burning cigar as best he could and stuffed it into his back pants pocket. The father opened the shed door and barked at his son to tell the truth about what he’d done. The youngster feigned innocence, saying he was looking for a hook to go fishing with a friend at a promising fishing spot nearby. The cigar in his pocket suddenly sparked into flame. The father spotted the smoke and yelled, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” Then he swiftly turned the boy over his knee and whacked his behind, extinguishing the danger.

The NRA and the corporate gun lobby are lying to us and have been for decades: 

That is, of course the paradox. We are in thrall to a fib of epic proportions that itself relies on two other lies. And because we are captive to all these lies, we are also captive to the notion that as much as we wish someone would do something about all the innocent dead people, our hands are tied by the freedom-affording gift that is the Second Amendment. It is a sick joke of our democracy that after every mass shooting we must tell our children that the Framers gave us this precious gift of liberty, more valuable than their lives, and that we are stuck with it. This is the opposite of freedom. It is slavery by choice.

Most of us who have any common sense at all have understood the big lie for years now. But we have not been able to get our voices heard over the loud noise of the lies. Exposing the lies is key to saving lives and most especially after the election that brought us the “liar in chief” as our next President. Exposing the faux news sites and stories is also key to our American democracy and freedom of the press.

The lies will continue if we don’t make noise and keep agitating for the truth. An article in The Trace, written by someone who grew up with the NRA lies, alerts us to the dangers of these lies:

Rather than critically evaluating articles for their correspondence to known facts, the NRA has long encouraged its audience to dismiss these reports and the outlets that produce them as irredeemably opposed to a cherished way of life. In the NRA’s view, the mainstream media not only fails to reveal the truth, its editors, reporters, and producers are inherently incapable of being honest about gun issues.

Why bash the press? Because it is a strategy that works. Many of the NRA’s members are primed to trade in “fake news” precisely because of the epistemological groundwork the lobby has laid. The price of admission in this pro-gun bubble is no longer merely firearms ownership or enthusiasm for shooting sports. The NRA is speaking to any real American concerned about the intentions of those cold, timid souls in the media who just don’t get gun people, much less bother to know the difference between full-auto and semi.

It’s bad enough that our next President will be a liar in chief. So when @realDonaldTrump becomes President of the United States he will be informed about policy ( or not since he chooses not to be informed) by other liars.

This just can’t be good for any of us. But for those whose concern is that too many people are being shot to death every day in America, it is very concerning.

The truth matters. Facts matter. If we are to live in a fact free country, our democracy will die a slow death and more people will die sudden violent deaths.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has released it’s annual state score card regarding gun laws and numbers of gun deaths. You can click on your own state to see how they came up with their scores. What the report concludes, as have all other reports before this one and many other such reports by other organizations, is that in states that have stronger gun laws, in general there are fewer gun deaths. This is not rocket science. It is the truth. From the report:

The premise of the Law Center’s annual Gun Law State Scorecard is simple. Our legal experts evaluate every state’s gun laws, assign grades, and compare those grades with the state’s most recent gun death rate. Consistently, we see a powerful correlation: states with stronger laws have fewer gun deaths per capita while states with weaker laws have more gun deaths.

2016 brought increased public outcry over gun violence, as well as real progress at the state level, with a flurry of new gun laws passed, including ballot initiatives in three states. But, with 25 states scoring an F for their gun laws, clearly there is so much more work to be done. Use the map above to see how your state stacks up and learn about the steps your lawmakers can take to save lives in 2017.

Laws matter. Truth matters. Reality matters. The culture of guns and gun violence matters. Changing the conversation about the laws and the culture matters.

As the Law Center states, smart gun laws can save lives. We must be smart, not ignorant.

For example,  there is evidence that an increasing number of Americans choose gun ranges to commit suicide. Guns are available there. Maybe they don’t want to go buy a gun or maybe they would be prohibited purchasers making it more difficult. But don’t we have to deal with this American public health and safety epidemic given the evidence? A recent incident is just one of many. A Wichita man went to a local gun range and shot and killed himself:

“I’m sorry for the people that were there. Sorry for my employees that have to deal with it. Sorry for the person’s family. This time of year is a bad time of year. The last time we had this was the day after Christmas,” Relihan said.

Both times, the person used a rental gun.

Yes there is a ripple effect to gun violence. Many are affected and will never be the same, least of all the family members of the victim.

Gun suicides cause over half of American gun deaths. Easy access to guns is the culprit. Guns account for about half of all suicides in America. Other countries experience high rates of suicide by other means but our rate of suicide is high compared to many democratized countries.

Christmas is not always a happy time for many who are experiencing some mental health problems. Family members and friends should be vigilant and not afraid to mention the unmentionable. Is there a gun available in the home? Can the person access a gun easily?

There are laws that can help. Gun Violence Protection ( or Restraining)  Orders for example, allow family members to report that a family member ( or friend) may be dangerous to him/herself or others so guns can be temporarily removed. The person’s name can be added to the prohibited persons NICS list to prevent the sale of a gun at a federally licensed dealer.

But of course, as we know, in too many states, guns are easily available with no Brady background checks on-line and at gun shows through private sellers.

The thing is, we can prevent gun deaths and injuries. Why would we not want to do that? Good question.

Guns are dangerous and risky. They are the only product on the market actually designed to kill people. Facts matter. We can’t let lies inform our public policy about lethal weapons and where human lives are at stake.

What we need is more than a little common sense combined with a change in laws and a change to the conversation about guns. More guns have not made us safer. Period.

What we also need is elected leaders who hear the truth, see the truth, believe the truth when they hear it, reject the lies and innuendos and fear and paranoia coming from the corporate gun lobby.

In the upcoming administration, the gun lobby will have a seat at the table. The country will be led by corporate business billionaires, deniers of the truth, sycophants, campaign donors, conspiracy theorists, Russian friendly folks, second amendment enthusiasts, and others who don’t seem to care about public health and safety. 

That will not bode well for our children, families and our communities.

Please get involved as a truth teller and stand up to make noise when the lies are spewed. The time is past for demanding that something be done to stop the daily carnage of gun deaths in our country. We can’t let the lies interfere with saving lives.

Demand that @realDonaldTrump and his administration and other elected leaders tell the truth.

Lives depend on it.

Let’s get to work.

 

Guns and washing clothes

washing_machineI have written before about various disputes over things (like lawn mowers, garbage cans, etc.) that have ended in death or injury from gun fire. Here is yet another- a dispute over washing clothes has ended in the death of 4 people in the Los Angeles area. The easy access to a gun and alcohol can be deadly. From the article:

A man shot and killed his wife and two others in his home on New Year’s Eve before his son wrestled the gun away and fatally shot him in a chain of events apparently set off by a dispute over a washing machine, authorities said Friday.

The two other victims killed were the son’s 48-year-old girlfriend who also lives at the house in Rowland Heights and a 27-year-old man who was visiting, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

The 54-year-old father was a heavy drinker with a large gun collection, and authorities had made dozens of previous trips to the home, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said.

This is the American gun culture out of control. Guns make disputes like this deadly. People can argue over all sorts of things but when a gun is at the ready, sometimes they die. I know that from personal experience.

Devastating shootings affect the lives of many. There is a ripple effect when mass domestic shootings like this happen. Now the son who witnessed the shootings is being held on murder charges for killing his father after he wrestled the gun from him. Good grief.

According to the writers of the Gun Violence Archive, 200 incidents that they know of involving guns and shooting have been recorded so far in 2016. It’s January 2nd. Check it out for yourself on their above linked website if you don’t believe me.

Raise your hand if you believe this is the way of life we, as Americans, should accept. The corporate gun lobby does everything in its’ ubiquitous power to stop any kind of common sense measure to prevent at least some of the shootings. With wide recognition by the public that passing laws such as expanded Brady background checks are a good idea, why doesn’t Congress just go ahead and vote to keep us safer? Rural Democratic legislators and Republicans who are in charge of a lot of our state houses are doing everything they can to reverse common sense and make it easier for just anyone to buy, own and carry guns in public. Who are they afraid of? We know the answer.

All of this adds up to a gun culture that is no longer accepted but is allowed because of feckless, timid and scared elected leaders. They are the only ones who can act through law to keep us safer. And we need them to be afraid of us and afraid of the victims and survivors who have a lot at stake to keep other Americans from suffering from devastating gun violence.

Some of our citizens have become so scared and paranoid about needing guns for protection against zombies, terrorists, people of color, President Obama, and shadows in every corner that we now have 89 Americans a day dying from gunshot injuries.

Citizens and gun owners can act positively by storing guns safely from kids, teens or being stolen. They can stop taking risks that end in death. They can be more responsible with their guns. Measures ( one has been proposed)  like requiring liability insurance on gun owners could make people more responsible much like we do with cars because car accidents can kill others unintentionally. We can tax guns and ammunition (now law in Seattle) like we do cars upon purchase so that people understand that if they want a gun, they will have to come up with tax money. Why? Because gun deaths and injuries are costing Americans a lot of money.

And why are gun buyers not required to take a class to teach them about the risks and responsibilities of gun owning  before they walk out the door of the gun shop just like we do with anyone who wants to drive a car?

And perhaps a stiff tax on ammunition would have stopped the shooter of the Aurora theater victims to think twice before ordering thousands of rounds of ammunition to be used to slaughter innocent people.

All of these things are done for good reason. And there are no exceptions. Everyone has to take driving lessons. Everyone has to pay state sales taxes when buying a car. Everyone has to register their car and get a license for that car. Proof of insurance is required but we know that some ignore this and then we all pay when an accident happens. Driving while drunk has severe penalties now. What about operating a gun while drunk? There are laws in states that allow guns in bars and restaurants that say someone with that permit can’t drink beyond the state approved legal limit. But who’s checking to see if that is the case? Bar owners don’t ask their customers if they are carrying a gun before serving them their 5th beer. It’s too late once a shooting happens. But our legislators were convinced that everything would be just fine for those “responsible” gun owners and carriers because they don’t break the laws- until they do. That’s what laws are for- to protect us all and keep us safe from those who can’t or won’t be responsible.

If you think the man who shot those folks over a dispute over washing clothes while under the influence of alcohol was responsible, think again. He should not have had access to guns.

So in 2016, what is past due is a discussion that involves reasonable people from both sides to get to a place where we can prevent some of the shootings however we can and protect rights and gun ownership. It is done in most other places in the world and in some of our own states with good results.

Let’s get to work.

 

Merry Christmas- This is what change looks like

bauble_decoration_297288As 2016 is soon to be upon us, change is in the air regarding guns and the conversation about the causes and effects of gun violence. I wrote in my last post about new research about gun violence that is educating people about the insidious nature of a devastating public health and safety epidemic. If we understand the causes, we can work on common sense solutions.

Let’s look at the ways in which change is coming.

The NBA has teamed up with Everytown for Gun Safety to run ads during NBA basketball games starting on Christmas Day.

The NRA lost a lawsuit involving the city of Seattle’s decision to add a new tax on guns and ammunition.

The Supreme Court refused to take a case involving a ban on assault weapons in Highland Park, Illinois.

The Governor and Attorney General of Virginia are continuing to make news as they have now decided that Virginia will stop honoring the concealed carry permits of 25 other states, including my own state of Minnesota.

Earlier this year, Governor McAuliffe signed an executive order banning open carry of guns in some Virginia public buildings.

Connecticut Governor Malloy took action to stop those on the known terror watch list from being able to legally buy guns.

Bad apple gun dealer, owner of Stag Arms in Connecticut got caught with felony possession of a machine gun not registered to his company and other such charges. He can no longer own his business or be involved in it in any way.

A conspiracy theorist and Florida university professor, involved in a disgusting movement harassing parents of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, has come under fire for his views and could be fired.

This is what change looks like. The public has had #enough. The shootings at the Planned Parenthood building in Colorado Springs and the terror attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino have changed the conversation. It is long past time for that to have happened. It’s too late for Andy and Barbara Parker. It’s too late for Chris Hurst. It’s too late for Sandy and Lonnie Phillips. It’s too late for the parents of the 20 first graders who were massacred by a teen who shouldn’t have had access to guns. It’s too late for Colin Goddard. It’s too late for Bob Weiss and Lucy McBath and Richard Martinez. The list is too long for this blog.

It’s too late for the 89 Americans a day who lose their lives to gunshot injuries.

2016 will bring more change and more common sense. As the fear and paranoia will ramp up during the presidential election, more people will buy guns and more accidental shootings will happen and more children will die. More women will be shot by their abusers. More teens and older white men will take their own lives with guns that are accessible in their homes. More gang shootings in our large cities will lead to devastating deaths and injuries. More angry men will shoot innocent people in public places and at home. More and more and more.

There will be more victims. But the victims will not be quiet. They will fight back.

As more people like my friend at Accidents Happen Guns Kill and the Ohh Shoot blog write about the dangers of guns in homes, the public will be made aware of the risks to owning guns and hopefully think twice about leaving loaded guns around rather than storing them safely. As more parents are made aware that they should ASK if there are loaded guns in the homes where their children play, children will be safer. As more awareness of bad apple gun dealers ends with consequences for gun dealers who are providing guns to felons and others who shouldn’t have them, communities will become more safe.

The corporate gun lobby has gone too far and will have more defeats thanks to their unyielding resistance to common sense gun laws that the American public wants. When even their own members agree with the gun violence prevention groups, it is becoming more obvious that Wayne LaPierre and his fellow gun rights extremists are out of touch with even their own.

The Trace has published it’s list of 15 statistics about gun violence in 2015 that rose to the top of importance. Such facts as 8% of gun owners own more than 10 guns and deaths from car accidents are going down as deaths from guns remain steady or increase. And toddlers are killing themselves or others at a rate of once per week. There is much more in this great article that will change the conversation.

There will be more awareness and more talk about solutions and more laws passed to make it harder for dangerous and potentially dangerous people to get their hands on guns. There will be more people involved with gun violence prevention groups and more voices raised to let our leaders know that we have had more than #enough. There will be more bloggers and groups writing about the truth of our insane American gun culture.

#NRAdefeat will be trending on Twitter.

As we go into the Christmas holiday, I will be thinking of the family members missed around the tree and for whom there will be no gifts. There will be no gifts from them to their family members this year. We have missed gifts to and from my sister for 23 years now.

We remember them. We honor them. We will continue our march to common sense and making America safe from gun violence again.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the holiday. To those who celebrate and those who don’t I wish peace and fond remembrances of your loved ones.

 

 

The Brady Campaign on the march

tipping pointI have been away from my blog while attending the Brady Summit in Washington D.C. hosted by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Public Health Association. Hundreds of attendees were inspired, saddened, educated and energized by like minded people on a mission. The tide is turning. We can feel it and we know it by the public responses to the recent tragedies. We see the testimonials. We hear the speeches. We watch as the news media is changing what they are saying about the issue and at least some politicians are finally speaking the truth about our national gun violence epidemic. Thank goodness. It’s far far too late for way too many. But it’s a step. And I hope it will be the slippery slope towards common sense.

I wrote in my last post about the article on the CNN website written by Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign. We have reached a tipping point on the issue of gun violence.

A recent shooting in Virginia which ended with the murder of 2 journalists on live TV was a tipping point. At the Brady Summit, one vey inspiring and emotional moment came when Andy and Barbara Parker, parents of Alison Parker, one of the Virginia journalists, spoke to the attendees. Here is a video of Andy Parker’s remarks:

Let’s do this for Sarah and Jim Brady and for Alison. Let’s not let our mission be derailed by those whose interests are in keeping gun industry profits high and keeping gun lobbyists in business. For too long, those voices have drowned out the voices of victims and survivors. Not any more. We will not be silenced.

Meanwhile, as advocates were learning from the experts in public health and safety, suicide prevention, physicians, attorneys, elected officials, victims, state advocates, and others-   these are the things that went on in our country while we weren’t paying attention:

Insanity.

You can read much more about the world of firearm accidents and intentional deaths at several good sites:

Accidents Happen Guns Kill

Ohh shoot blog

Gun Violence Archive

The Daily Kos- Gun Fail

Don’t you find it amazing that there are so many sites reporting on accidental and intentional gun discharges? Only in America. But much of the research and reporting is coming from sites like this. Since the NRA owned Congress members made sure government agencies can’t research the causes and effects of gun violence, it’s good news that others are stepping up.

One of the best sources of information outside of the public health researchers is the on-line publication, The Trace. In one of today’s articles, we learn that the ATF only monitors 7% of gun dealers in a year. That is a crime, actually.

Where are crime guns coming from? Many from “bad apple gun dealers”. You can read more about that in this piece from the New York Times today:

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has pledged to throw his weight behind the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the country’s most prominent gun control groups, in an as-yet-unannounced effort demanding that the Justice Department more closely scrutinize so-called bad apple gun merchants, according to people familiar with the campaign.

Mr. Cuomo, in an interview about his plans to work with the Brady Campaign, promised that his involvement in national gun politics would continue to deepen. He said he would hit the campaign trail in 2016 to emphasize the issue of gun violence, which he repeatedly called “the big issue” in national politics. (…) To start, Mr. Cuomo will be among the chief signatories of a letter to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, to be released as early as next week, urging the Justice Department to punish what the Brady Campaign describes as a small fraction of gun dealers who sell an overwhelming share of weapons used to commit crimes. He has promised to lobby other governors around the country to join in the push.

Yes, we can do something about gun trafficking and crime guns and we will.

And you can watch 60 Minutes on Sunday for information about Smart Gun technology that has the potential for saving lives. The gun lobby opposes Smart Gun technology. Why? They need to explain how they can be against new technology that could prevent a toddler from pulling a trigger to kill or hurt themselves or somebody else. They need to explain how they can be opposed to a technology that could keep a teen from accessing a gun to use in a suicide or a school shooting. They need to explain why they oppose technology that could prevent a robber from using a stolen gun in a crime.

But I digressed. I sat at a table with a BBC reporter at the Brady Summit on Tuesday. She was doing a story on America’s fascination with guns and the lack of ability to change the minds of Congress when so many Americans want change. She was stunned at the American gun culture and our seeming tolerance for the carnage. It was unfathomable to her that we have failed to act. These things are just not happening anywhere else in the world. But she was also encouraged that groups were working state by state to change the gun laws that don’t get passed in Congress. That was news to her. As Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy spoke to the summit attendees, she paid attention to his remarks about how hard it was to get new laws passed even in the state where the massacre of 20 small school children occurred.

I explained to her about the insidious corporate gun lobby and the fear of said lobby affecting too many of our elected leaders. The lies and deceptions keep coming as the influence of the gun lobby wanes. You can read about the latest from the NRA’s own Mr. Wayne LaPierre in this Media Matters article:

The NRA’s lie is brazen given widespread reporting explaining how the gun group interferes with ATF operations. As USA Today reported in 2013, “lobbying records and interviews show the [NRA] has worked steadily to weaken existing gun laws and the federal agency charged with enforcing them.”

According to The Washington Post, “the gun lobby has consistently outmaneuvered and hemmed in ATF, using political muscle to intimidate lawmakers and erect barriers to tougher gun laws. Over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF’s budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings.”

The NRA’s opposition to the ATF has been extreme. The gun group has threatened to attempt to abolish the agency all together and LaPierre infamously called federal law enforcement agents “jack-booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms.”

Sigh.

While lobbying on Wednesday at the Hart Senate office building, a group of us were standing with our”Background Checks Save Lives” stickers on and managed to attract attention and comments from quite a few people. One of them was a Senate staffer who was not American born but worked for a Senator who he said did not agree with us. The thing was- he himself agreed with our views and shook his head as he tried to figure out why America is so gun crazy and so violent. I told him that the majority in his Senator’s state agreed with us and he should go back and check the polling date to share with his boss.

For if our own leaders fail to represent us- the majority and the victims, survivors, experts, researchers, law enforcement, clergy, youth, gun owners, health care providers, educators, hunters, and others who want gun safety reform, what else is there? Congress must act. Our state legislators must act. They are now hearing from the millions who want to get this job done in the name of the victims.

We are marching forward towards saving lives in spite of stiff resistance. We are holding our elected leaders responsible and asking them to commit to measures to keep us all safer in the halls of Congress and state legislatures. The tipping point is here.

We have had #enough. If you have also had enough, check out the #enough campaign on the Brady Campaign’s website.

The importance of facts about gun background checks

PrintThe gun lobby doesn’t want us to know that 40% of gun sales are made without background checks. It doesn’t fit with their mantra that only law abiding people will follow the laws and criminals won’t. What are we to think, then, when new research confirms older research about how many guns go without a Brady background check? I know what I think. It means that we must expand Brady background checks to make sure that all gun sales require background checks.

Arguments from gun rights extremists include that background checks are already required so we don’t need laws to require them on all gun sales. The public doesn’t believe that all gun sales don’t require background checks. When tabling at a recent conference, many people to whom I spoke were surprised to find out that some gun sales are made without background checks.

The only data we really had to go on until now was a 1994 study that found that about 40% of gun sales came from privates sellers with no background check. This is old because the gun lobby has made sure that the CDC and the NIH could not do research into the causes and effects of gun violence. 

But now, others are doing the research. A new study, highlighted in this article in The Trace, reveals that today, the number remains the same. Approximately 40% of gun sales are going without background checks. From this article:

Amid the controversy, a team of Harvard researchers are fast-tracking a major update to this fundamental gun debate statistic. Pulling data from a forthcoming study on gun ownership conducted by the university’s Injury Control Research Center, the scholars have landed on a figure set to corroborate the earlier finding: Harvard’s Dr. Deborah Azrael tells The Trace that of 2,072 gun owners the researchers surveyed, roughly 40 percent said they’d acquired their most recent firearm (through a sale or transfer) without going through a background check.

Will the gun lobby admit this to be true? If so, they should be pushing for expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales. Why? Because it’s obvious that if no background checks are conducted, sellers don’t know to whom they are selling guns. It could be a domestic abuser, a felon, someone who had been adjudicated mentally ill, a fugitive or others on the prohibited purchasers list who are prevented from buying guns through federally licensed firearms dealers.

If the gun lobby does not admit to this fact, why not? Are they not interested in stopping prohibited purchasers from getting guns? Or is it just too inconvenient to go through a background check for law abiding citizens? If so, why? It seems they are willing to undergo background checks when they buy guns through licensed sellers. And it’s just not true that criminals won’t follow the law and try to buy guns where background checks are required. 2.4 million people have been prevented from buying guns at licensed firearms dealers since the Brady Law was enacted in 1994. That means these purchasers are trying to get their guns this way. So why not stop them at the point of sale in the first place?

We all know that there are other ways for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them anyway. But guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchasers and get into the wrong hands through straw purchasing, stealing them from law abiding gun owners or dealers, or trafficking. Just take a look at how easy for guns to be stolen can be in this article about a UPS employee who stole 2 guns from a package at a Baltimore area facility. And straw purchases can also be stopped at the source if we are tougher on gun dealers who knowingly sell guns to people who shouldn’t have them. The recent case of the Milwaukee Badger Guns dealer found responsible for allowing a straw purchase should be a strong message to gun dealers to do the right thing. Guns sold knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them can result in death as it did in this case when on officer was shot by the gun straw purchased for the shooter.

But where do the guns that are trafficked come from in the first place? Someone bought the gun. Stopping one method of obtaining a dangerous weapon designed to kill another human being will save lives.

We now have facts, graphs, charts and reports indicating that stronger gun laws actually work to save lives. What more do we need? The news is full of stories of domestic shootings, mass shootings, shootings in our streets and homes and in public places, suicides and toddlers shooting themselves or others. What more do we need? These are real people losing their lives or suffering from life long injuries and disabilities and we are turning away from them. Where is our moral compass and our responsibilities as citizens and government to do the right thing?

It only makes common sense that we would stop the supply of guns into the pool that could become illegal. Turning off the faucet and draining the pool of illegal guns will keep our communities safer from the devastation of gun violence. Isn’t that what this is all about? Saving lives and public health and safety should be at the top of our priority list. The fact that gun safety reform isn’t at the top of the priority list for our Congress and many state legislatures is a national tragedy. It’s time for that to change. The public is now very engaged and in favor of stronger gun laws but yet, some of our elected leaders support the views of a small minority of Americans.

89 Americans a day are dying from gunshot injuries. 33,000 Americans a year are dying from gunshot injuries.

We are better than this.

Guns, puppies and other stupid and dangerous stuff

dog122There really aren’t adequate words for the stupidity of some of our gun owning Americans. It seems that we are beyond being able to legislate common sense for some “law abiding gun owners.” Even changing the conversation may not be enough to stop some of the stupid and dangerous things that happen with guns. There are over 300 million guns circulating or sitting around in this country. It is inevitable that bad things will happen with so many weapons designed to kill people ( or animals when used for legal hunting purposes) in the hands of so many people. We lack adequate training and the accompanying respect that should come with the awesome responsibility of owning and/or using a gun for any purpose. Instead, our insane gun culture results in the daily carnage that takes the lives of human beings. And it comes with unbelievable incidents with guns that just shouldn’t be happening and don’t happen anywhere else in the world without “second amendment rights.”

With rights come responsibilities. Too often that is forgotten once a gun is in hand. And things happen quickly without the lack of respect and responsibility that should be automatic. With lax gun laws and a corporate gun lobby encouraging anyone and everyone to own a gun with few restrictions and no training, too  many people lack the common sense that comes with other potentially dangerous products. Driving a car comes with mandatory training, a permit, a licensing test, registration of the vehicle, traffic laws, following safety laws like wearing seat belts, penalties for not following the law and being able to have the money to buy a car.

Not so with guns. But let’s get to the point of this post.

A story from Arkansas where a police chief resigned because of fear for his young family highlights what happens when extremists show disdain for law enforcement and are not afraid to let them know. From the article:

Bald Knob Police Chief Erek Balentine is resigning, saying he feels that doing so will better the safety of his family.

His announcement of resignation comes just days after his truck was vandalized overnight. The phrase “2 Amendment” was written in spray paint on the sides of the vehicle.

The gun rights advocates believe they should be able to carry their guns anywhere and the carry laws (often written by the gun lobby) are obtuse and vague purposely. As a result, the gun rights extremists challenge laws all over our country to make a point. And officers of the law and the public are left to try to interpret the laws the best they can. In Arkansas, because of the case of the arrest of a man open carrying in a McDonald’s, there is still confusion over the law. Until we figure out how to tell a “good guy” with a gun from a “bad guy” with a gun, this will continue. Can we tell the difference? Shootings happen in public places often enough that it’s natural for the public, business owners and law enforcement officers to assume the worst. That is the problem with allowing carrying of guns in public places. The second amendment was written at a time that did not anticipate this kind of use of guns.

When someone goes so far as burning the truck of a police chief because they disagree with him on gun rights we have a serious problem- it’s called insurrectionism. It’s dangerous and more than stupid.

And then there’s the idea that shooting puppies is one way to get rid of them. But the last laugh on this stupid Florida gun owner came from the puppy:

A man who tried to shoot seven puppies was shot himself when one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver’s trigger. Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, was being treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his wrist.

Bradford said he decided to shoot the 3-month-old shepherd-mix dogs in the head because he couldn’t find them a home, according to the sheriff’s office.

On Monday, Bradford was holding two puppies — one in his arms and another in his left hand — when the dog in his hand wiggled and put its paw on the trigger of the .38-caliber revolver. The gun then discharged, the sheriff’s report said.

First of all, couldn’t the guy find a home from these puppies? Why shoot them at all? But- guns. As someone remarked on my Facebook page, ” Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad puppy with a gun.” Ludicrous stuff. Another comment on this article on Facebook was, “Guns don’t kill people, puppies do.”

Along the line of stupid people with guns and dogs, a Texas woman asked for some of her Facebook friends to shoot her dog because….. well- she couldn’t take care of it. How about finding a home for the dog? A dog shelter maybe? What is wrong with us? And who wants to shoot a dog when they shoot back?

I don’t spend time at gun ranges. I have some friends who do and talk about how safety comes first and people have to follow the safety rules or will not be allowed to shoot at the range. But more often than they should by all rights be happening, there are serious accidents that sometimes result in death or serious injury at gun ranges. One such happened recently at a range in North Carolina when a military veteran was killed after a gun misfired. I don’t understand this. When guns misfire, should there be some responsibility assigned? Was it the fault of the man who fired the gun? Or was it a manufacturing flaw? And even if it was, there is no recourse because the gun lobby made sure that the gun industry is immune from legal action that could hold them responsible if negligence is found.

To wrap this up, what I’m writing here is that too many things can go wrong when guns are present. Every day, too many people die from gunshot injuries- most of them totally avoidable and senseless. But since our gun culture is so embedded in our political system, we just can’t seem to loosen the hold the gun lobby has.  When that happens, I expect that we will, at long last, do the right thing and pass laws to prevent at least some of our gun injuries and deaths.

Also, I’m just wondering why I so often write about incidents that happen in Florida and Texas, home to some of the most lax gun laws and high number of gun owners in the country.

Where is common sense?

Minneapolis shootings highlights access to guns

Basic RGBThe Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote an editorial that appeared in today’s version of the paper. The editorial focused on the latest round of shootings in downtown Minneapolis that left 9 people injured and one dead last week-end. I wrote about this in a previous post. From the editorial piece:

That’s a different kind of crime-fighting challenge, city officials said during a City Council Public Safety Committee this week. And, as one pointed out, combating it involves a strong focus on gun access — using current laws to prevent violent criminals from getting guns, prosecuting them to the maximum when they possess and use guns, and expanding efforts to take more firearms out of circulation.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and downtown police Inspector Mike Kjos said they are looking at additional traffic-flow and business-hour changes, understanding that those strategies only go so far. Therefore, doubling down on access to firearms can make a difference. It’s far too easy for those who intend to inflict harm to get guns. And once caught and convicted on gun charges, too many of them are back on the streets too soon. As Freeman noted, his office, the various law enforcement agencies and downtown stakeholders must continue to work together to bring brazen offenders to justice.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is an answer staring us in the face but our leaders are ignoring it. It’s clear that easy access to guns in our communities is causing senseless shootings and deaths and injuries. There really is no argument about it. Preventing easy access to guns has to be a solution. In an interesting article that came to may attention, Chicago criminals serving time were asked where they got their crime guns. From the article:

A survey of inmates in Chicago suggests most criminals don’t steal guns. Instead they get them from family or people they know.

“There are a number of myths about how criminals get their guns, such as most of them are stolen or come from dirty dealers. We didn’t find that to be the case,” says Philip J. Cook, a professor of public policy, economics and sociology at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

What the study found is that at least these criminals got their guns from their friends. (Where did their friends get their guns?) They didn’t try to buy them from a gun dealer. Why? They would likely not pass a background check and would be turned away. They didn’t steal them, though many crime guns do come from thefts of guns of law abiding gun owners. Though some of the guns come from straw purchases, many of the guns in the Chicago area came from out of state from someone who was able to get guns and bring them in to sell on the street. More from this article:

“This research demonstrates that current federal and local regulations are having a big effect on the availability of guns to criminals in Chicago,” he adds. “They can’t buy their guns from stores, the way most people do, and are instead largely constrained to making private deals with acquaintances, who may or may not be willing and able to provide what they want.

“Other studies we have done have found that in many cases criminals go without guns because they don’t know how to get one. We conclude that current enforcement is somewhat effective, and devoting more resources to enforcement would further constrain gun access by dangerous people.”

There’s a theme here. When there is easy access to guns for those who shouldn’t have them, shootings will likely happen. Crime will happen. People will die. Our streets will be less safe.

And laws matter. Just as laws matter for speeding, access to tobacco products, drunk driving and other public health and safety matters, gun laws do matter. But we need to expand the laws we have to include requiring background checks on ALL gun sales. Why wouldn’t we? Speeding laws include everyone. No one is immune. Everyone is required to wear a seatbelt. Access to tobacco products includes everyone. No one is excluded. Safety laws for baby cribs don’t exclude certain companies. Everyone has to go through the TSA screening before boarding a plane. No one is excluded. There is not a separate line for some people. All medicine containers now have safety caps that make it hard for kids to open. Even adults have problems opening these bottles.  Not one is exempt. All are included. If people or companies don’t follow the laws, there are penalties and responsibilities for breaking them.

And sometimes the end result of not following the laws is senseless deaths and injuries. That is why we, as a country, do as much as we can to prevent that from happening. But gun laws are the exception. It’s simply not true that criminals just don’t follow gun laws as a rationale for not bothering to pass any. That is a flawed and false argument.

It’s way past time to address the problem of easy access to guns. It takes the shooting of 10 people in one night in downtown Minneapolis for the public’s and law enforcement’s attention to focus on the problem of guns. There are other things that contribute to the problem. But the guns must be addressed. It’s the only common sense argument.

We can do much better than this if we focus on the real problem and not let the gun lobby distract us or scare us into thinking that guns are not the problem. They certainly are. At the national level we can Finish the Job started when the Brady law was passed and expand background checks to all sales. We can, if we have the will, require reporting of lost and stolen guns. We can strengthen straw purchasing and gun trafficking laws. We can make sure people who are a danger to themselves or others don’t have guns. Some states have passed laws to do just that. (California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order) We can remove guns from domestic abusers. Some states, including Minnesota, have done just that. We can hold bad apple gun dealers accountable. (The Brady Campaign is working on that) Revoking state pre-emption laws that keep cities from passing strong gun laws would help with easy access to guns in, especially, large urban cities. From the linked article from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

At the urging of the gun lobby, however, most states have explicitly removed authority from local governments to regulate guns and ammunition, thereby creating a dangerous exception to the traditional rule of local authority.

State preemption statutes threaten public safety because they prevent local governments from implementing customized solutions to gun violence in their communities and impede their ability to fill regulatory gaps created by inaction at the state and federal level.  Moreover, by mandating a one-size-fits-all approach to firearms regulation, preemption statutes deprive the public of a critical problem-solving resource:  local innovation.

The gun lobby has managed to stop local communities from exercising local control- something they like for anything else ( as mostly conservatives). But when it comes to guns, not so much.

We can, as the article about where criminals get their guns, make sure young people in affected communities of color have more to do than wander our streets with guns.

In other words, we can do this. It is beyond unreasonable and ludicrous that we haven’t already tried to stop at least some of the 33,000 gun deaths a year in America.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made a statement after one of his staffers died from gunshot injuries sustained in a random shooting on the streets of New York:

“This is not any Second Amendment fight, it’s not for the soul of the country,” Cuomo said. “That’s a lot of baloney. Nobody’s trying to take anybody’s gun. I am a gun owner. I have been a gun owner. I’m not anti-gun. I’m anti-gun for mentally ill people. I’m anti-gun for criminals.” (…)

Cuomo called on federal elected officials to summon the “guts and courage” to pass strict laws on the national level because of the guns that have flooded into New York from other states.

“The federal officials in my opinion are afraid of the political downside,” he said.

And he acknowledged he took a hit in popularity for the SAFE Act, passed in the wake of an elementary school shooting in Connecticut. The measure has angered gun-rights supporters and Republicans, especially upstate, and Cuomo’s popularity there has struggled to rebound.

“I paid the price. When I passed the law in New York, the people who were against any gun control got very, very angry at me and the don’t like me and they don’t vote for me,” Cuomo said. “I understand that. But, I was elected to do the right thing. The right thing is this nation needs a federal gun control policy.”

Thank you to Governor Cuomo for doing and saying the right thing. He does have the political courage to do the right thing in the face of strong resistance. That is what it will take in order to save lives. He gets it. Too many of our elected leaders don’t or won’t.

Shame on them all.

Strong laws, community responses to this concerning epidemic, public education and awareness about the risks of guns, enforcing the laws already on the books( which doesn’t preclude passing new ones), holding gun owners responsible for their own behavior, and many other measures, can make a difference. They have already made a difference in the states that have taken action and passes strong gun laws. The evidence is already in front of us.

Do we want to make a difference and make change happen? Or do we want to just have the status quo and let the corporate gun lobby be the deciding group in these important decisions? Do we want our elected leaders to listen to the majority of us who are concerned about our national public health and safety epidemic or will we let them get away with publicly announcing their adherence to the gun lobby’s view of the second amendment?

It’s time to do something and stand with the families of the 33,ooo victims of gunshot injuries. Who are we as a country if we fail our children and our communities in such a tragic way? We need to do #WhatEverItTakes.