I am really tired of seeing the stock photos of police car flashing lights and crime scene tape on the front page of my local paper. Just in the last few weeks, Minnesotans and the Northland area have been involved in a long list deadly and/or dangerous shooting incidents. Sadly I can make a list of these incidents as if they were a shopping list or a “to-do” list. And the thing is, those affected are real people and real families suffering from the after affects of senseless shooting incidents. Neighborhoods are traumatized by the sound of gunfire.Only in America is this the case. The New Year will not be a happy one for many.
Here is just some of the incidents from the last few weeks in Minnesota and the Northland:
A domestic shooting in the Bemidji area left one person dead and 2 arrested.
A 16 year old boy was shot and killed allegedly in an incident of teens sitting in a truck while drinking alcohol
A person was shot and gravely injured in downtown Duluth
Minneapolis police shot and killed an alleged felony at a gas station after the victim supposedly fired his gun
A gun “accidentally” discharged in a Superior Kwik Trip store
A hand grenade was found in the recycling center in Duluth
In St. Paul a 2 year old died from gunshot injuries inside of a home where adults were present.
A 17 year old is dead from gunshot injuries sustained in a North Minneapolis shooting
And these were the headlines that littered the media sources in Minnesota and the Northland. Have we become numb to the fact that guns are creating a terrible public health epidemic in our country? Media all over the country report these incidents daily. It’s a fact of life in America.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The devastation of gun violence in our communities is endemic. It’s traumatizing. It’s violent. It is painful and leaves too many families grieving over avoidable deaths and injuries.
The Gun Violence Archive reports shooting incidents in real time. As of today, the last day of 2020, 43,322 Americans have lost their lives to bullets. Let that sink in.
This is not normal. It should be alarming to all who care about their fellow Americans. The fact that our state legislators and Congress have not addressed this scourge head-on is not only an embarrassment, it is an American tragedy. This is simply not happening in other civilized countries not at war.
There are so many things that can be done about this national epidemic. There is no vaccine for it as there is now for COVID. But there are common sense solutions that have been tragically avoided. The majority of Americans know there are solutions and support the solutions. But some of our elected officials either ignore it or purposely do nothing. We don’t have good answers as to why they are doing this other than decades of allowing it. Pressure from the paper tiger called the NRA has a lot to do with it. Big money influences people in office. Fear of public sentiment has for decades shaped the conversation even when it’s a very small number of people who hold the views that have kept solutions from happening.
Unfortunately in a year when gun purchases went up and fear over whatever people have feared in the age of COVID, general support for gun laws that could make a difference is down. Overall support still remains strong for specific individual gun laws ;ike universal background checks.
We have work to do. If people better understood how gun violence is affecting communities and the risks of guns in homes and in public, minds can be changed.
2020 was the annus horribilis for many reasons. COVID 19 has ravaged our country leaving 341,000 dead. It is common knowledge that we could have saved some of these lives had we acted sooner and better. By we, I mean the current administration. But we didn’t. We didn’t act soon enough for the victims of gun violence either.
We have elected a new President, Joe Biden, whose support for common sense gun safety reform is well known. He won anyway. The current occupant of the White House, if you can call him that, took on the gun extremist mantra and used it even though we all know he does not genuinely hold those beliefs. He panered to the far right. It’s a sham. It’s the Wizard of Oz fooling us into thinking there is nothing we can do.
We have no illusions that 2021 will lead to immediate solutions for the scourge of COVID 19. It will take most of the year to get us all vaccinated and back to normal. It will also take some backbone to stand up to those who refuse to do anything about the gun violence public health epidemic. Both are huge problems that don’t have easy solutions. But the solutions are there if we make up our common minds that we intend to do something about it.
The national discussion will change. Change will happen, albeit slowly. Lives can be saved. Families and communities don’t have to live with gun violence as an everyday occurrence.
There is hope in spite of incredible grief and trauma. We are all experiencing a form of PTSD since the pandemic hit the world early this year. Nothing is the same. Nothing will ever be the same. But a new President is coming with a team of people who actually are qualified for the positions they will hold. Expertise and science is back. The truth is back. The public will not be fooled by those with evil and malignant intentions.
I hope you will have a very small celebration and stay safe. Don’t shoot guns into the air, by the way. What goes up must come down. I have posted before about my friend Joe Jaskolka, whose life changed forever in 1999 after a New Year’s Eve celebration when a stupid gun owner shot a bullet into the air that landed in the brain of an innocent young boy. His life and his family’s life was changed forever on that New Year’s Eve. I leave you with this message about the danger of bullets and guns.
Be safe. Stay safe. Don’t bring guns to parties. Don’t fire a gun into the air. Don’t leave your guns out for kids and teens to find. Don’t drink and shoot. Don’t use a gun in an angry dispute. Don’t leave your guns unlocked and loaded. Store them safely. Don’t use a gun to take your own life. Save lives. Have some common sense.
Happy New Year.