It’s exhausting

heavyloadI don't know about you but I have been left mentally exhausted by the political events of this past week. My mind has been scattered and I can't seem to concentrate on much aside from the Trump reality show playing out every day. It's like a soap opera. One must tune in to see the next episode and watch the drama unfold. We have a "drama queen" as  a President. He loves the spotlight and the attention and he demands loyalty and idiotic  support of an agenda that in the mind of many of us is becoming more and more frightening as he digs in and circles the fire. Just now, our very own President lied again about what happened when Obama was President- guns would be taken away. I think he meant Clinton but anyway- he lied and said your guns would be gone.

And two days ago, a new Communications Director at the White House (Anthony Scaramucci) who is actually not yet able to be paid for his new job because he has to sell off his multi-million dollar business, let loose with a tirade of ugliness and profanity that sent a chill into the political air. And, by the way, Scaramucci is actually firing people even though he is not officially on the job. You just can't make this stuff up.

It's exhausting to listen to all of those lies and offensive rhetoric.

So relief is the feeling of today. Also some celebrating that when people organize and get involved and demand change or resist terrible votes on terrible bills, democracy wins.

It's a heavy lift to make sure Americans have access and get affordable health care. It's an exhausting process. But it needs to happen.

It's a heavy lift to get measures to prevent and reduce gun violence in place as well.

As always, many Americans have died from gunshot injuries during this week of health care debate and other debacles- most of them avoidable. In fact at 90 a day, about 630 Americans have died from gunshot injuries since last Friday. That's exhausting.

What appears to be a domestic murder/suicide in Winona, Minnesota led to the death of two young people.  Guns are dangerous. When a gun is available things like this happen on a regular basis. There is no sense to it but it's the American gun culture gone wrong.

Also in Minnesota this week, another small child got access to a loaded gun and shot and injured another child. This is avoidable and senseless. A mother was arrested because every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. From the article:

A 21-year-old woman was arrested in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood Tuesday evening after a child apparently found a gun in her purse and shot a 4-year-old girl in the leg.

The girl was taken to Regions Hospital with a nonlife threatening gunshot wound to her left leg, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a police spokesman.

No guns in purses. Period. This is not the first time as we remember the awful incident where a young Idaho child found his mother's gun in her purse and shot and killed her. 

It's exhausting.

Speaking of access to guns by young children and the health care system, here is a new campaign from States United to prevent gun violence in partnership with the Brady Campaign's ASK campaign. Check it out.

Yes, there is a lot of blood. Bullets kill. They do a lot of damage once entering a human body. That is why they are so much more deadly than other weapons. What happens when a bullet goes through the skin and muscle is usually only seen by health care providers, law enforcement, and coroners. It's not pretty. Perhaps if more people became aware of the actual damage to human organs from the bullets they shoot out of their guns intentionally or unintentionally, they would stop thinking  of guns as just tools. They are tools of destruction and death. There really is no way around that.

So a Kentucky  photographer decided to record the damage done by bullets to make it graphic and use it as art. For art imitates life and in the case of shootings, it's powerful stuff. The photographer got more interested in the actual victims of shootings as he proceeded with his project and started memorializing victims in an interesting way through graphs. From The Trace article:

“Murder statistics can become abstract,” he said. “This is a way to remember the victims. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, gun violence was massive, but then it returned to ‘normal’ levels, and it seems like we don’t think about it anymore.” With HAIL, he hopes to make the consequences of gun fire are harder to forget.

It is impossible to forget the consequences if you have lost a loved one to gun violence. Survivors of gun injuries never forget the impact of a bullet and the damage done leaving many of them forever disabled. Rep. Gabby Giffords is just one high profile walking example of the destruction of bullets. James Brady, now dead from the decades long effects of his gunshot injuries after being shot by a man who tried to assassinate President Reagan is another. They are the walking wounded, or in many cases, they can't walk any more.

Bullets do a lot of damage. The results of shootings cause grief, pain, devastation and costs to Americans. Victims and survivors undergo medical services for their injuries and recovery and often forever. Mental health services help family members with how to live on after a heinous shooting. Court costs are also costs to tax payers.

Health care, gun violence, economic, political, elections, non-profits, and many other issues and problems come together and are in need of solutions. Unlike the health care bill debacle brought to us by a President, Senators and Representatives who had only their own win and ideology behind their bills, there are common sense solutions. But like the health care debacle, it has become so political and divisive that solutions seem to be far off.

It doesn't have to be this way. If we are all about doing what's best for all of us to keep us healthy, safe, having enough money to feed and clothe our families, educating our children and young adults, providing jobs with living wages, taking care of our environment to preserve it for our children and grandchildren, then we will do the right thing.

Everyone wants to be safe from gun violence. We are not all safe. Everyone needs and wants good affordable health care. The ACA was a start but needs fixing, not repealing and replacing. Everyone wants a good job that has benefits and can provide for their families. Everyone wants their kids to be well educated. Everyone wants to retire gracefully and with dignity.

This is a time to reflect on where we have gone awry on so many issues and concerns. We are lurching towards a country that is not a democracy. We are living with a man at the helm who cares more about his own ego and image than he does about the people he represents. The ugliness, the language, the accusations, the verbal attacks, the tone deafness when speaking to a group of young boys, the angry tweeting, the attacks against the GLBTQ community, the attacks on minorities and immigrants, the taking apart of regular order, the destruction of the office of the Presidency, the violent and threatening rhetoric, the ignorance, the lying, the lack of attention to our national security, the lack of resolve to stop a foreign country from interfering with our elections, the blaming of others for one's own faults and shortcomings, the lack of accountability and more are becoming more frightening.

We need to take our country back. We need to stop the violence. We need to stop the threats and the vulgar public language. We need to feel safe in our own communities. We need to hold our leaders accountable for their mistakes and their ignorance.

It's exhausting to wake up to chaos every day. If that is the plan, it's working. If not, it's unacceptable and should stop before we go off the cliff.

It doesn't have to be this way. We don't need to be exhausted every day.

We can do something positive. For example, in Minnesota law enforcement is working with gun sellers and gun owners to make sure guns are safely stored against stealing. This seminar reinforced Minnesota's stringent storage laws for licensed dealers. There should be the same for home gun owners but so far, there is not. There could be.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek opened the seminar with remarks that charted a link between a recent uptick in violent crime and firearms hitting the streets from thefts or straw purchases, in which a stand-in buys a firearm for someone who’s been banned from making such a purchase.

“I’m asking you, I’m pleading with you,” Stanek told the firearms dealers, “when you go home at night, lock up those firearms.”

Usset expressed skepticism that large sellers would have the time every evening to lock away each of their long guns.

But he said he’s been securing his handguns before going home each evening since burglary 22 years ago.

“Because when they break in that’s what they’re after,” he said.

If it means saving lives, is it too much to ask to lock up ALL guns? Seems like a good idea to me.

Gun violence is also exhausting to the families, the victims and the survivors. Working to end gun violence is also exhausting. But there are courageous people who continue the fight no matter what because they don't want a lost life to lead to despair. Instead, they are working towards hope and a solution to our nation's public health epidemic.

Watch this story told by one of the survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. 

Angel's need for health care is great after he was shot and injured. Without health care, how do the victims get the care they need? Why would we deny them coverage? They are victims of senseless shootings and a gun culture gone wrong. America has more mass shootings and everyday shootings than any other democratized country not at war. We also have among the worst guaranteed affordable health care of almost all of those democratized countries.

Health care is a right. Being safe from gun violence is a right.

It's exhausting but, nevertheless, we will persist.

Here comes the judge

judgeAs soon as I wrote this I could hear the cadence of the “Rowan and Martin Laugh Incomedy show skit starring Sammy Davis Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often when decisions about gun policy get to court, judges take a different look at what is going on and decide in the favor of public health and safety. That is as it should be. Law and order are important concepts to our American life and the judicial system. Laws need to be fair and decided on their merits and their constitutionality.

I wrote about the “docs vs. glocks” decision in my last post. It turns out that the first amendment right of a health care provider to practice medicine how they are taught and know is best to treat patients trumps the second amendment. People have a right to know about the risks of guns from those who understand that health care encompasses keeping people from killing themselves or others and keeping children from getting their hands on guns. There is nothing in it for physicians and other health care providers except practicing good health care. Since far too many parents neglect to understand the obvious risk of guns in the home and are irresponsible with their guns, someone has to protect the children.

This week another ruling came down upholding a Maryland assault weapons ban:

The en banc panel of the court, meeting in Richmond, overturned a three-judge panel that ruled against the law. In a 10-4 ruling, 4th Circuit judges sided with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat who introduced the bill when he served in the state Senate in 2013.
The 10-member majority said assault weapons like those banned under the Maryland law were disproportionately used in mass shootings and in assaults on law enforcement officers. Judge Robert King, writing for the majority, said assault weapons are not protected under the Second Amendment.
Maryland’s ban on assault weapons still allows citizens to protect themselves “with a plethora of other firearms and ammunition,” King wrote. King cited shootings in Aurora, Colo.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Virginia Tech; Fort Hood, Texas; Binghampton, N.Y.; and Tucson, Ariz., the incident in which then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot in the head.
Of course. This is common sense in action. The case was decided en Banc making it even stronger.
And more from the linked article:
“It is unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment,” Frosh said.
Unthinkable.
But the corporate gun lobby doesn’t care about the unthinkable. To them, anything goes if it means increasing sales and having more power. They equate it all with rights. Where are the rights of the rest of us to be safe from people who believe they can carry around a weapon of war on our streets ( as is done in some places) or take one into a school, a mall, a college campus or anywhere else and unload the high capacity magazine full of bullets into the bodies of innocent people. Now that is unthinkable.
I just hate to get into any kind of discussion about the second amendment because it just raises hackles and is usually unproductive.
This is about public safety. If anyone thinks our society is the same as it was when the amendment was written in 1791, please let me know. Or take a look at the States United to Prevent Gun Violence video below which I have included in other blog posts:
The world has changed. The world of guns has certainly changed. And the change has not made American citizens safer.
We will be judged by how we treated our fellow citizens and hopefully not how we failed to protect them from harm. We will be judged by the ways in which we saved our children from senseless harm, injury and death by any means.
Gun violence is insidious. Gun violence is a public health epidemic. Gun violence is preventable. The courts understand this.
Will our elected leaders?

 

Drive by shootings and gun policy

bonnieclydeRemember Bonnie and Clyde? I do. There were a lot of drive-by shootings and road rage shootings committed by the infamous couple who died in their car of multiple bullet wounds at the hands of law enforcement. Those were the “good old days” when bullets were flying and machine guns were easily available to those who shouldn’t have had them. Revenge, gangs, anger, too much alcohol and guns- bad combinations.

Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934.

Remember Elliott Ness and Al Capone and the mafia era? The years of prohibition created mayhem on the streets of some of our cities. It was just after this time period that Congress decided that machine guns and silencers should not be available to average citizens without very strict regulations. In 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed:

With the passage of the NFA, these guns immediately faced severe restrictions.  While owning them is still technically legal, they must be registered (which isn’t exactly easy) and they are taxed more heavily ($200 for owning a silencer, for example, or as low as $5 for some smooth bore pistols, like the Serbu Super Shorty pictured earlier).  Anyone wanting to own one or manufacture one has to go through the BATFE for approval. (…) But firearms enthusiasts should look at it from a cautionary perspective, as well.  This was possible.  In fact, it is one of several legislative acts that govern the way we think about firearms.  And the NFA will be the cornerstone on which new restrictions will be built.

Few, if any, crimes are committed with these weapons because so few people own them and those who do go through a long and expensive process to get them. But it could only be a matter of time as the corporate gun lobby is driving by to get laws passed in many of our states to allow people to purchase silencers. When more people own silencers, will they, too, end up in the illegal market? How will they be used? Keep track of this as the push is on to get them into more hands. My own state of Minnesota passed such a law a few years ago:

Anderson, who sometimes carries a weapon to the Capitol, says that he intends to buy silencers for some of his guns. He outlined the process he’ll have to go through: He’ll have to get approval from the Cass County sheriff; pass a state background check; apply to the federal government to possess the silencer, sending $200 along with his application (which needs to include the serial number of the silencer he intends to purchase); go through a federal background check that might take months; and finally, make the purchase of an item that is fairly pricey (upwards of $700).

“It’s ludicrous that we have to go through all of this at the federal level,” Anderson said. “This is an item you should be able to walk into a store and just purchase. We need to work on the federal law. But still, this is a pretty big step.”

Yup. It’s just a matter of time before silencers are available with no background checks from private sellers and on-line just like guns are in most states. That is why we need to stop the drive-by policies of the corporate gun lobby and put the brakes on these bills. What we need is to make sure ALL gun sales, including ammunition and paraphernalia go through Brady background checks.

Why the resistance to this? It’s a minority who oppose it. Their reasons make no sense and aren’t even true. Time to make sure we do the right thing and stop people from getting shot in their cars, in their homes, and anywhere else.

Today, we have more guns than any other democratized country in the world. Over 300 million. We also have the highest number of gun deaths per capita and the weakest gun laws. Other countries don’t have a second amendment or a corporate gun lobby like ours. Sure there are some people in other countries who want to loosen the laws that have been passed. But it isn’t happening because other countries are watching our mass shootings and every day carnage and understand that our loose laws contribute.

The NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby have flown or driven into almost every state of the union and left us with the worst gun policies in the world.  This was done very purposely to drive up profits for the industry and deceive the public into believing that the second amendment includes allowing anyone to buy a gun and carry it everywhere. That is NOT what the founding fathers had in mind when the amendment was written. And, of course, we need to remember why the founding fathers wrote that amendment into our Constitution in the first place. From this Mother Jones article with an interview with author Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center:

MW: Yes. And that might be noteworthy for some. There were plenty of guns. There was the right to defend yourself, which was part of English common law handed down from England. But there were also gun restrictions at the same time. There were many. There were limits, for example, on where you could store gunpowder. You couldn’t have a loaded gun in your house in Boston. There were lots of limits on who could own guns for all different kinds of reasons. There was anexpectation that you should be able to own a gun. But they didn’t think they were writing that expectation into the Constitution with the Second Amendment.

MJ: So then why focus on the Second Amendment and not the English Bill of Rights or other things the framers drew on that more clearly address individual gun ownership?

MW: We are not governed today, in 2014, by British common law. Law evolved, the country evolved. It was a very rural place. There were no cities. There were no police forces. It was a completely different way of living. So gun rights activists turned this into a constitutional crusade. Those who want more guns and fewer restrictions realized they could gain some higher ground if they claimed the Constitution.

Has the world changed since the second amendment was written? Of course. Check this video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence for a graphic image of how much guns have changed since the amendment was written.

I happen to believe that the Constitution is a living document that can change when change is required to keep Americans safe and healthy.

Ever since the 1977 Cincinnati NRA convention revolt (see article above), the gun lobby has changed -transformed itself into a lobby group that doesn’t represent its’ original purpose nor its’ members. They changed to a group that protects and supports the gun industry profits and vice versa. As a result, the landscape changed as well regarding gun policy.

One of the goals of this change  was passing laws in almost all states to allow people to carry guns in their cars and public places. The charade was that people needed guns for self defense everywhere they went. Our legislators bought it because-  rights. Never mind that the second amendment does not mention the right to carry guns for personal protection. These laws had the effect of changing the culture around guns. It became OK for people to have guns with or without a permit on their person.

Former Representative Gabby Giffords spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Her appearance caused a stir in the hall as well it should have. Her speech was simple and short because of her brain injury. Do you remember that her shooter had a gun with no permitting process as is allowed by Arizona law? I do.

It wasn’t so many years ago that it would have been unusual for guns to be found in cars and used in drive-bys or accidental shootings. Two recent examples in my own state:

Man follows couple on local road and shoots and injures one passenger:

Jesse Jay Bohanon was charged in Carlton County District Court Tuesday with three counts of second-degree attempted murder while committing a drive-by shooting, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of drive-by shooting, one count of dangerous weapons-intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition.

Where did this felon get his gun? It’s easy in our country for that to happen.

Man shot and killed in bar by someone  who allegedly fired shots car at the bar. “The man, yet to be charged, is jailed on suspicion of assault and second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting, suggesting that he fired the shots from a vehicle.”

Many other examples of drive-by shootings exist. The city of Des Moines, Iowa has seen an increase in drive-by shootings as just one example.

Many examples of road rage involving gun violence exist as well with some dead victims.

Here is one. And another. And another. And another.

Common sense suggests that having guns in cars is not a good idea. Small children find them in the glove box or the back seat and shoot them. I have written about more than a few of these recently- a small child shot and injured his own mother, a gun loving person. Another toddler killed his own mom with a gun found in the car.

And then there are the people who get caught for illegal drugs and guns like this case in Daytona, Florida:

Of the 29 people, 18 were arrested on Tuesday. Nine were arrested in the course of the operation.

And police are looking for two others who are targets of the operation: Tiffany Malcom, 33, and Robert Smith, 27. Smith, Chitwood revealed Wednesday, is a person of interest in the murder of Deandre Smith, who was shot to death as he drove his car on the Oakridge Boulevard Bridge on May 10, 2015.

Eleven people were charged with federal firearms violations. Nine were charged with state drug and firearms crimes.

What is it about criminals shooting each other in cars? Don’t they know that stray bullets hit innocent people?  A beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet in Minneapolis in May while sitting in her car minding her own business. They don’t care really when they have anger and vengeance on their minds. Bullets don’t know where to stop and there are way too many of them flying from and into cars all over America. And the gun lobby doesn’t seem to care that people like the 29 arrested in Daytona found guns so easily to traffic drugs and kill other people.

Drive-by gun policy comes from the corporate gun lobby who send NRA or other representatives into states to lobby and write bill language. And then they leave us with bad policies that have led to more gun deaths and injuries. Lives are too precious to leave gun policy to those whose interest is in selling their product. Finding new markets for new guns leaves us with too many grieving families and devastated communities.

It takes a while for new policies to change the landscape and become effective. So about 11-12 years after many states passed conceal ( or open) and carry laws, we see how they are working. Most gun permit holders are safe with their guns and do not misuse them. But enough of them have been dangerous- either intentionally or accidentally that an argument could be made that we need to strengthen these laws.

Rather than people needing to use guns for self defense, those guns are being used in shootings- drive-bys or other shootings. Few instances of defensive gun uses make the case for conceal and carry weak.

We are just plain not safer with more guns on our streets, in our cars and in our homes, schools, places of work and where we play. Using guns for hunting and sport shooting is one thing. Having them around in places where we gather or drive our cars makes no common sense. But because the NRA and corporate gun lobby drives by our states and promotes weakening our gun laws, the result has been the devastation in communities all over our country.

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton accept the nomination of the Democratic party to be the first woman to have that honor. It was thrilling to know that I have lived in a time when a woman can be nominated for and hopefully win the Presidency. Among other things she said in her acceptance speech was this ( meme by Brady Campaign):

Hillary and guns

Thank you Hillary. We are just trying to keep people from getting shot by people who shouldn’t have guns. Let’s get to work to make the changes we all deserve.

 

 

Worlds collide

I remember the episode of Seinfeld where the character “George Costanza” chastised Jerry Seinfeld for inviting his fianceé, Susan, to a movie. George was upset because he wanted to keep Susan away from his world with his friends. Here is the segment:

I had an exchange on my last post with one of my readers about the lawful ownership of tanks by private individuals. In my world, the people with whom I associate would find this to be just plain ridiculous and would wonder why in the world anyone would want to own a tank much less the legality of such ownership. One can assume that these tanks are not operational and only for the purpose of collecting them. But again, why?

An article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted this world of tank owning:

When their insurance agent inquired about their plans for the tank, the Neal brothers emailed back, “We are going to use it to take over the world.”
Says Ken Neal, 45: “A tank is cool.”

A tank is also expensive, with good ones going for the price of some houses.

Sigh.

In Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine he asks if the right to bear arms should be extended to nuclear bombs and other such military armaments. Does it? How far can we go with the amendment that was written more than 200 hundred years ago by the founding fathers that are so often “quoted” or mis quoted by gun rights extremists. From the film:

Is this the world envisioned by our founding fathers?

A Facebook friend, involved in gun violence prevention, posted this photo of a quote from the Jefferson Memorial while on a recent trip to Washington D.C.

Thomas Jefferson quote

 

The world has changed since Thomas Jefferson wrote this quote while reflecting on the Constitution. I think everyone can recognize that. Since then several wars have occurred leaving behind new types of arms. ( and by the way, more Americans have died from gun violence just since 1968 than from all Americans killed in wars since the Constitution was written). Now some of these arms ( weapons) are marketed as “common sporting rifles”. AK 47s have been converted to become an ordinary civilian weapon for mass shooters or those who believe the government is coming for their guns.

The inventor of the AK 47 expressed regrets for how his invention has been used in wars and in civilian deaths around the world:

“I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?” he wrote.

“The longer I live, the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man to have the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.”

AR 15s are also used by mass shooters such as at Sandy Hook Elementary school where a teen shooter knew perfectly well that using an AR 15 would inflict as much damage as possible in a very short time in order to kill as many first graders as he could. From the article:

“It’s a favorite among sportsmen, target shooters and competitors,” Stewart told CBS News. “It’s also popular as a home defense platform.”

Lightweight and easy to master with about 30 minutes of instruction, the AR-15 was invented in 1959 for the military, but was modified for civilian use beginning in 1963.

“The AR-15 is America’s rifle,” Stewart said. “You’re going to find more of those in safes at home than you’ll find of any other rifle in the country.”

Civilian use of the weapon is an abiding issue though.

There once was a nationwide ban on such assault weapons, imposed in 1994 following a number of mass shootings in the ’80s and ’90s.

When it was lifted ten years later, gun rights advocates cheered and sales rose.

Now the parents of those first graders and the relatives of the adults also killed in that heinous shooting are suing the manufacturer of the AR 15 because said manufacturer knows that these types of semi automatic rifles originally designed as war weapons that can take large capacity ammunition magazines are actually not common sporting rifles but meant to kill a lot of people in one place at a time in short order.

Worlds collide. The world of gun rights extremists is not understood by those of us who want safer communities and fewer people shot to death or injured by the many guns that are now accessible to average Americans. And vice versa. Was this the vision of our founding fathers? Doubtful. They had the common sense to realize that the world would change long after their own deaths and that the country and its’ Constitution should also change to reflect different times. They set down some principles that have helped govern our country for the last 200 plus years. For the most part they have worked well. But when it came to only white property owners having the right to vote, the new world had to change. Slaves were no longer. Black people were freed and demanded the right to vote. Women decided that they had the same rights as men to vote and demanded that right. It took a long time to get there which, looking back, seems almost surreal.

And so we plod along trying to make the world a safer place and hoping that gun deaths and injuries can be prevented with stronger gun laws to reflect the current world. The internet has provided a new market place for the sale of guns where private sellers can connect with private buyers and exchange guns for money with no background checks. Let’s look at just one of many hidden camera videos of how easy it is to buy any gun on-line.

“When you need the money you need the money.”

Sigh. Follow the money.

The founding fathers did not anticipate this world. When the Brady law was enacted, there was a provision for private sellers to be able to sell collections of guns at gun shows and other places without having to ask for background checks. The world has changed since 1994. Private “collectors” now set up tables at gun shows with the same types of guns and as many sometimes as licensed dealers. And they don’t have to require background checks from buyers. Another Brady Campaign hidden camera video to show the real world of private sales at gun shows:

Colin Goddard (in the video) was shot and injured at the Virginia Tech mass shooting.

Guns don’t fall out of the sky. They are not powder rifles any more. One more video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence to show you what I mean about the changed world of guns since the second amendment was written by our founding fathers:

 

Mass destruction is possible with the weapons developed since the 2nd amendment was written. Weapons designed for military use are now available to citizens. And some gun extremists actually believe they will be at war with their own government. This kind of fear and paranoia is stoked by the corporate gun lobby where profits are the bottom line. And so resisting all common sense measures to stop guns from going from the legal market to the illegal market are stopped by their nonsensical rhetoric.

And so the devastation continues with almost daily reporting of toddlers accessing loaded guns owned by their parents or other relatives who think their rights to own guns apparently don’t come with the responsibility to keep others safe from shooting themselves or others. Domestic shootings continue unabated. Gang shootings are taking the lives of young people of color in our large urban cities. Gun suicides are taking the lives of too many older white men and young (mostly) men and teens.

Worlds do collide. Truth is often stranger than fiction. Just look at the Presidential race if you don’t believe me. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is ramping up the nonsense and fear by making claims that if Hillary Clinton is elected as our President she will methodically order the confiscation of all of the more than 300 million guns in circulation in America. If you believe this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. 

So what now? Will we ever be able to convince a majority of our elected leaders to support the views of the majority of Americans without fear of being attacked by the minority but well funded and mythically powerful corporate gun lobby. Yes, a lot of Americans own guns but fewer homes have guns than in many years. Some Americans own many guns. Yes, a lot of Americans hunt and use guns for recreation but they don’t oppose stronger gun laws. Yes, a small minority of Americans like to carry loaded guns around in public and seem to think they have some sort of constitutional right to do so (can you find that in the wording of the second amendment?) But do they realize that carrying a gun in public is more often to result in incidents like those below than actually using that gun in self defense?

Kentucky concealed carry permit holder discharges gun “accidentally” in hospital.

South Carolina student “accidentally” discharges gun in a school and shoots himself.

3 year old finds gun in Dad’s backpack and shoots and kills himself.

This is the real world. It is not fiction. This is where the world of the gun extremists and gun lobby collide with the world of actual daily shootings that could be avoided and prevented if we put our heads together to make it happen.

Slowly but surely, the public is recognizing that we can do something about the devastation of gun violence in America. As more people are affected by gun violence or are made aware of the truth of the matter, they are joining the many organizations and individuals working to prevent gun violence. And politicians are recognizing that supporting reasonable gun laws that don’t affect law abiding gun owners or take away rights is a winning issue.

We are better than this. Let’s get to work because we’ve had #Enough and refuse to be intimidated by those who make claims that are not true. We may never bring the two worlds together but we can bring the majority who reside in the middle and believe we make changes together to save lives.

 

Violence by bullets

Basic RGBWe live in a violent country.  Unfortunately, violence has always been in human nature. Various ways of committing violence over time have resulted in too many deaths to count. Why are we so violent? The search for answers to that question has been centuries long and will always be with us. But we are living in this time right now and so are dealing with what is front of our faces every day. There is an understanding that purposely killing another human being is violence no matter the method. When people die by bullet(s) their deaths cannot be called anything but violent.

Mike the Gun Guy has written a blog post about suicide by gun and whether or not it should be considered in the category of gun violence. It is important to make this point because most gun deaths in our country are due to suicide. If the gun lobby wants to lower the number of people they believe are killed by bullets, they throw out the numbers of suicides. It doesn’t fit with their idea that a gun for self defense in the home can be used in other ways rather than self defense. I will discuss this later in this post. For now, let’s look at what Mike has to say:

But let’s drop the euphemism and look at reality: “States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups.  It remained true after accounting for poverty, urbanization and unemployment.” The link between gun ownership and suicide is particularly evident among teens, according to researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and the fastest-growing age-group prone to suicides are teens. Since 2007, the overall rate of gun suicide has increased by 12%, the gun suicide rate among teens is up by 42%.

First of all, in a paragraph previous to the one above, Mike writes about the National Shooting Sports Foundation actually offering safety tips to gun owners on its’ website and comes close to saying guns are a risk in homes. That’s good news. In a recent blog post, I argued that if people understood the risks of owning guns they would, at the least, be more aware of their responsibilities to keep guns locked up and away from small kids and teens. One of the age groups with high rates of gun suicides are teens.

But then, Mike talks about the use of the word violence to refer to gun suicides:

Don’t think that suicide isn’t gun violence?  Think again.  Here’s how violence is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Notice it doesn’t say ‘someone else,’ because that’s a crime called aggravated assault.

Violence means damage and there’s nothing out there that can damage someone as effectively or quickly as a gun, particularly when you don’t even have to aim.  As far as I’m concerned, at least when it comes to suicide, maybe the GVP community should just drop the ‘V.’

I say we don’t drop the “V”. Violence happens every day. But most of the violent deaths are committed with firearms. And most of the firearms deaths are suicides. There are solutions to this kind of violence. I write about them in almost every post. Common sense leads us to the conclusion that, since firearms are the cause of so many deaths and injuries, something should be done about the access to them, who should have them, how they are stored, how the firearms are sold, what sex, race and age group die in the highest numbers, etc. We are already doing some of this research but we need a lot more if we are to deal with gun violence as a public health epidemic.

So now I want to talk about the idea of guns for self defense since that is the reason a lot of people buy guns. The Violence Policy Center has released a new report about guns for self defense. From this press release about the study:

The study finds that in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, there were only 211 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the SHR. Twenty states reported zero justifiable homicides in 2013. That year, there were 7,838 criminal firearm homicides.

In 2013, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 37 criminal homicides. This ratio does not even take into account the tens of thousands of lives needlessly lost in gun suicides and unintentional shootings that year.

The study also finds only a tiny fraction of the intended victims of violent crime or property crime employ guns for self-defense. Over a three-year period from 2012 to 2014, less than one percent of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a firearm, and only 0.2 percent of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a firearm.

“Self-defense is the big lie that the firearms industry and gun lobby use to promote gun sales. The fact is that any gun is far more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional killing than in a justifiable homicide,” states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “A gun is far more likely to be stolen than used in self-defense.”

Guns are designed to kill people so if a gun is purchased for self defense isn’t that because the owner intends to use it at some point to kill or injure another human being? If people were warned about the risks like smokers are when they buy a pack of cigarettes, would it make a difference? Maybe. If people had mandatory training before being able to acquire a gun, would it make a difference? Maybe. So why not do these things because they certainly wouldn’t hurt anything and they just might prevent some senseless gun deaths?

When States United to Prevent Gun Violence set up a phony gun shop in New York City and explained to prospective gun buyers that the type of gun they wanted to buy was used in a recent mass shooting, the buyers changed their minds. Reality hit. Take a look:

Guns do have a history. All guns start out as a legal purchase but get into the illegal market in several ways- sold without a background check to someone who shouldn’t have a gun or to someone who intends to sell the gun without a background check to someone the seller does not know; stealing; straw purchase; trafficked on the street. If a gun doesn’t have its’ own personal history, the type of gun sold does and perversely, after a mass shooting, some Americans rush out to buy the very type of gun used in that mass shooting.

Where is common sense?

I watched  the movie American Gun. It is a movie that traces the history of a gun used to kill a man’s daughter. In the end ( spoiler alert) the gun used to kill his daughter was his own gun that had been stolen. Guns have histories.

Back to talking about the word violence. Many gun violence prevention organizations do use that word for a reason. People who die from gunshot injuries die a violent and usually sudden, unexpected death. There is no way around that. Whether the bullets came from a gun used in a suicide, a homicide or an “accidental” shooting, the bullets cause a violent reaction to a person’s body. And so we have:

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The Violence Policy Center

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Protect Minnesota, Minnesotans working together to prevent gun violence

States United to Prevent Gun Violence

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

And many more too numerous to list here.

Violence is pervasive in America. Gun violence accounts for much of violence. Our media is littered with reports about shootings and shootings cause violence to the bodies of the victims. It is a violent death for sure. Bullets are designed to do damage to soft tissue inside of a person’s body.

A new study also suggests that gun violence is worse than we thought it was. Vox.com has reported here:

Beyond the implications for policy research, the findings are simply alarming. It’s hard to imagine that America’s gun violence problem is actually worse than we think, given that the country, even after the big drop in crime over the past few decades, still fares much worse than its developed peers. But this study shows that may be the case. At the very least, we’re not counting a lot of shootings as shootings.

How can we not count shootings as shootings? Sometimes when shootings result in only injuries or minor injuries, they are not counted. A shooting is a shooting because it results in less safe communities and a gun culture where too many people become victims of devastating violence that has a ripple effect.

Unless we have the common sense to talk about the issue for what it is, nothing will change. Perhaps if we showed photos taken by law enforcement at shooting scenes our legislators would change their minds about doing nothing about the violence. Perhaps if one of the gun rights extremists who argued with me at the hearing this week in the Minnesota Senate on the background check bill had seen a photo of my sister lying in a pool of blood at the shooting scene, he would have had just a little empathy for why I am trying to prevent gun deaths.

More on this in my next post.

I just know we can do better than this. Not addressing gun violence as encompassing all kinds of gun deaths is putting our heads in the sand. More guns have not made us safer and to the affected families, no matter what the cause of the gun death, it was a shooting that took the life of a loved one in a dramatic, sudden, unexpected and violent way.

 

 

While I was away…..

IMG_1329

It was great to get away and enjoy some family fun at Disney World. Our family trip was a wonderful get-away with good weather- not too hot, sometimes cloudy, even a little drizzle and fog- but nothing that kept us from enjoying the rides and the other attractions at the various parks of Disney World. As I looked around I saw people mostly having fun. There were the crying kids, of course. There were people of all ages from all over the world walking or with strollers and wheel chairs and wheeled carts causing “traffic jams”. There was lots of waiting in line which is part of the “Disney Experience”. Staff were cheerful and efficient as was the Disney resort where we stayed. All in all, very impressive. I saw no guns and I saw no need for guns in the “happiest place on earth.”

It was great to get away and enjoy some family fun at Disney World. Our family trip was a wonderful get-away with good weather- not too hot, sometimes cloudy, even a little drizzle and fog- but nothing that kept us from enjoying the rides and the other attractions at the various parks of Disney World. As I looked around I saw people mostly having fun. There were the crying kids, of course. There were people of all ages from all over the world walking or with strollers and wheel chairs and wheeled carts causing “traffic jams”. There was lots of waiting in line which is part of the “Disney Experience”. Staff were cheerful and efficient as was the Disney resort where we stayed. All in all, very impressive. I saw no guns and I saw no need for guns in the “happiest place on earth.”

While I was away, there were the usual number of shooting incidents. This one in Florida was particularly awful, if one can be worse than another:

“There were few answers on Thursday about what led a 12-year-old boy to allegedly shoot his two brothers Wednesday night, killing one and injuring the other, before turning the gun on himself.

Investigators say Kevin Pimentel, remembered as a quiet kid who played with his iPad on the school bus and was in gifted classes, shot and killed his 6-year-old brother, Brady, and injured his 16-year-old brother, Trevor, inside their home. He then shot himself, committing suicide, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a news conference Thursday morning.

Trevor was shot in the leg and remains hospitalized with nonlife-threatening injuries.

Detectives believe the incident was precipitated by an argument while the boys were cooking inside their Sugar Lane park mobile home at 16916 Bachmann Ave. But Nocco said investigators did not yet know what led to the argument or what it was about.”

Arguments between children should not end up in a shooting that takes lives. This is insane. And we can do something about it if we get people who buy guns to understand that guns are a risk if owned and certainly need to be stored unloaded and safely away from the hands of children and teens. But our American gun culture has become so cavalier, in large part because the gun lobby has pushed for the “normalization” of guns everywhere, that people actually believe guns will keep them safer. The opposite is true of course.

And while I was away, an Arizona state Senator proposed a mandatory church attendance law to stop gun violence. I’m not kidding. I don’t make this stuff up.

Two Miami children were shot and injured in separate incidents with no one yet arrested.

Another road rage incident, this time in Pennsylvania, resulted in the arrest of a man carrying a handgun in his car. Guns in cars- loaded and left out where they can be easily accessed- are a bad idea. Other such incidents have ended in death.

This child shooting happened in Pennsylvania. Again, one more toddler who gained access to a gun and shot and injured himself. Where is common sense? All were lucky this did not end in yet another tragic death as we are seeing more and more often in America.

Guns should not be used to randomly shoot innocent people on freeways as they are driving. This latest incident in the Kansas City, Missouri area reminds us that there are way too many people with guns who shouldn’t have them and who use them to terrorize the public. Guns are like that. They can be used to terrorize people. From the article:

“In my 18 years as a police officer, I’ve seen a lot of things and this was absolutely one of the scariest things that I’ve witnessed,” said Jimenez. “He had no regards for public safety, he definitely was trying to kill police men, and citizens.”

Jimenez said police did not stop traffic because he felt other motorists would be sitting targets.

It’s also a reminder that we are doing little to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them anyway. America is a country with weak gun laws and an insane gun culture. This is what we get.

Just before I left on my trip, States United to Prevent Gun Violence produced an amazing video of a mock gun shop set up in New York City. You can watch the reaction of prospective gun buyers once they hear the history of the gun they are considering. Guns have a history and we need a history lesson in order to understand the risks of guns. Here’s the video:

You can see more at the website, Guns With History. Also you can see the freak-out by the gun rights extremists about this video. One can only imagine that if gun buyers understand what can happen with the gun they are about to bring home, they may just decide not to buy one. What would happen to profits if that were the case? But when profit comes at the expense of human lives, we have a serious problem. It’s an epidemic of gun violence that can only be cured by a change to our national conversation about gun safety and ways to make us all safer from devastating gun violence.

Speaking of devastating gun violence, a cartoon on a Cincinatti media site showed the shooting deaths March 20-March 25 and called it March Madness. Indeed it is-14 gun injuries or deaths in 5 days. It’s just another average day in America.

The corporate gun lobby is pushing for permitless carrying of guns in states all over the country. It looks like the Kansas legislature will pass such a bill. On the face of it, how does this even make any common sense? No matter what the gun lobby tries to say about this, it means that anyone will be able to carry a gun if the law passes- felon or not; domestic abuser or not. From the article:

“Carrying a gun is a lifestyle,” said Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco. “The government should trust its citizens.”

Why trust everyone with a gun when you have no idea if that person can pass a background check or should be carrying that gun? Remember that many guns are purchased without background checks from private sellers at gun shows, on the Internet or other venues. That means that a gun bought without a background check, potentially by someone who is a prohibited purchaser, could then be carried around without a permit which would require a more complete background check by law enforcement. What’s to stop a felon or domestic abuser or dangerously mentally ill person from carrying a gun in public? Who would know the difference between a “law abiding” carrier with no bad intent or someone with bad intent carrying a gun to inflict injury or death on others? But even those “law abiding” legal gun carriers have been known to shoot others.

Conceal carry permit holders have been responsible for more than a few homicides since the laws have passed in so many states. The Violence Policy Center is keeping track of gun carriers who have killed other people. Take a look and tell me if we should just trust anyone carrying a gun to be responsible with that gun. But I digress.

Oh, and speaking of the American gun culture, the NRA’s own Ted Nugent is up to his usual rude and offensive stuff. It will be more than interesting to see what else Nugent has to say at the upcoming NRA convention in Nashville. Remember, the organization most associated with gun rights in America keeps this guy on their Board of Directors meaning they must endorse this kind of talk.

And last, but not least, the gun rights extremists are so paranoid about us gun safety reform folks that they managed to create a Google app that revealed personal information about gun violence prevention advocates. Thankfully it has been taken down. But these folks seem to think anything goes when it comes to their rights. Responsibilities apparently don’t come with those rights. A civil debate and discussion can happen about the issue of gun violence prevention. But perhaps that is what these folks are afraid of. If a civil and reasoned debate based on facts and research about the causes and effects of gun violence occurs, it may not come out on the side of guns everywhere for everyone. Is that what this is about? It’s past time to find out.

One of my critics who reads this blog wondered why I report shooting incidents here. What good does that do? What it does is to expose the notion that more guns are making us safer. Because if more people understand that shootings like the ones I post here are happening everywhere every day, they may just join the cause of gun safety reform. Because the shootings happen everywhere, they can happen anywhere and to people we all know and love. And that may lead more people to support common sense gun legislation and common sense conversation about gun safety reform. A conversation about gun safety reform that could lead to laws to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them is not mutually exclusive to protecting gun rights. This is not either/or. It’s both and it’s about saving lives.

When the gun lobby pushes for no restrictions on guns or who owns them, it makes it hard to keep the discussion civil and based on fact. Restrictions are necessary for a civil society. An armed society is definitely not a polite society. So yes, while I was away, a lot of shooting incidents happened as well as activity by the gun rights extremists to arm everyone and pretend that mandatory church attendance will solve our gun violence epidemic. Let’s talk about what will really work to have safer communities.

Speaking of safe communities, I heard no gunshots at Disney World except for the Indiana Jones show at Epcot. The only bangs I heard were at various attractions and shows and most particularly at the light and laser show at Epcot which was, as advertised, spectacular.

You can also find this post at commongunsense.com.

UPDATE:

I must add one more shooting incident to my list, though there are many more. In Kentucky, a 5 year old unlocked the gun cabinet, took out a gun and shot his sister. The little girl will live apparently. But kids are curious about all kinds of things. Perhaps people should re-consider whether they should have guns at all at home when children are small or even when they are teens. The risks are great.