Remembering 9/11

IMG_7286Today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on America. We can never forget what happened on that day that changed so much in our country. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives that day. Those attacks had nothing to do with guns of course.

Since that day, we do flying differently. We take off our shoes, jackets and some jewelry. We put our purses and carry-ons through metal detectors. We are wanded. We put our 3 ounce liquids in a small plastic baggies. We don’t carry box cutters or knives or guns……

But gunsare found, however, regularly by the TSA in the carry-on bags of passengers:

On May 3rd, the agency said, they found 26 firearms in carry-on bags, the most in a single day. The firearms were discovered at 15 different airports including one at Dallas Love Field, two at Dallas-Fort Worth International, one at Austin-Bergstrom and four at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport.

This is not normal. We have to keep saying this. The people who “forget” that they have guns in their carry-on bags are not terrorists. They are Americans who presumably have legal permits to carry their guns. But what are they thinking?

Guns are not allowed on flights for obvious reasons but we do now have air marshals who are armed on many flights and passengers have no idea who they are. A recent incident with an air marshal occurred at the Minneapolis St.Paul airport from which I fly often:

However, communication between the cockpit and the MSP control tower that was captured by the authoritative website Liveatc.net revealed that it was confirmed onboard fairly quickly that both men were federal air marshals, and one of them “actually showed our flight attendant his gun,” one of the pilots reported soon after landing.

“That is completely against SOP [standard operating procedure] for them to show their firearm,” the pilot added. “So that’s the reason we declared an emergency.”

The marshal was initially mistaken for a passenger and with the hyper awareness about terror attacks on planes and gun violence in general, who can blame the cabin attendant?

Here is just one story about a loaded gun found at the Nashville airport where apparently guns are found with regular frequency at that airport.

The TSA offers advice to passengers who need to transport a gun safely while flying. 

It’s pretty simple to follow this advice and if you are thinking before flying, you just know there are certain things you can’t take on board with you any more after 9/11 and guns are among them. There is a certain amount of common sense and the realization that carrying a gun in public (or having one at home) is a grave responsibility that should come with gun ownership. Unfortunately for the too many victims, that is not the case.

We have had a few terror attacks at American airports since 9/11. The most notable is the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport on Oct. 6 of last year.:

Santiago was born in New Jersey in 1990 and moved to Puerto Rico two years later.[22] He lived most of his life in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, and attended high school there.[23] He joined the Puerto Rico National Guard on December 14, 2007, and served in the Iraq War from April 23, 2010, to February 19, 2011, as a combat engineer. He later served in the Alaska Army National Guard from November 21, 2014, until receiving a general discharge in August 2016 for “unsatisfactory performance.”[22] He was a private first class and received ten awards during his time in the military.[24]According to his family members, he had become mentally ill after his tour in Iraq and was severely affected by seeing a bomb explode near two of his friends while in service. They also stated he had recently received psychological treatment,[25][26] which was confirmed by federal officials.[27]

This shooter ( homegrown terrorist) was American born and served in the U.S. Military where he was affected by his experience in Iraq. Another issue for another post is the fact that many of our military veterans suffer from PTSD or other mentally incapacitating conditions that make them risks for suicide and homicide. This is yet another American tragedy.

It should also be mentioned that people who are placed on the terror watch list after 9/11 can legally obtain guns because we have not passed a law to make sure their names are placed on the list of prohibited persons:

The consolidated federal terrorist watchlist had 800,000 people (mostly non-Americans) on it as of September 2014, including 64,000 on a subset referred to as the “no-fly” list, which bars air travel to, from or within the United States.

While inclusion on the list does not disqualify people from purchasing weapons, prospective gun buyers are screened against the terrorist watchlist, and matches are forwarded to F.B.I. agents, who can use the information to help with investigations. Last year, 244 background checks involved people on the list.

According to a study by the Government Accountability Office using data collected by the F.B.I., the vast majority of those on the watchlist who attempted to buy a gun from 2004 to 2015 were allowed to proceed, because they were not stopped by a disqualifying factor like a history of criminal or mental health problems.

This is called the “terror gap” in our gun laws.

And, as I always mention, it is not necessary to get a Brady background check when purchasing a gun because our loose gun laws allow private sellers to sell to anyone, no background check required. This was mentioned in the above linked article.

Every year on this tragic anniversary we say the names of the victims of the attacks and remember them. Their deaths are not ever forgotten by their families and friends. It’s always an emotional day as it was this year. I visited the site of the 9/11 memorial last fall and I was stunned at how beautifully and respectfully it is done to honor those victims.

Every day in America 90 people lose their lives to bullets. Since In one month in America more Americans die from gun violence than died in total in the 9/11 attack. That is not meant to take away from the memories of those victims but to put things in perspective. Mass shooting anniversaries happen regularly in America on many days of the year.

Today we remember. Today we reflect on our country and patriotism and terrorism and victims and on the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives trying to save the victims. We remember the awful scenes we saw on our T.V. screens. We remember the aftermath and the collapse of two tall skyscrapers changing the horizon in New York City. We remember the horror and the finding of live people in the wreckage. We remember the pile of rubble left behind of what was left of human bodies, artifacts, fire trucks, personal effects. The site is now a sacred burial site and the victims’ names of there to read. They are just people going about their daily lives.

Nothing is the same.

Let us remember all victims of violent and tragic deaths.

Gunned down in America

Super Bald Eagle Character - 2America- the land of the free and home of the brave. Also the country of guns, guns, guns. The last few weeks have given us another full frontal view of what it means to “bear arms” in a country with almost as many guns as people. So here are just a few of the things that have happened that we need to think about:

So let’s review. Fewer Americans own the majority of guns in the land of the free. People are open carrying these guns in small numbers but have managed to pass laws to allow people without proper vetting to carry guns in public. And in states where standing your ground is considered to be brave, if a shooting should happen while the “law abiding” shooter claims self defense the shooter does not have to face the usual legal process for killing someone.

More mass shootings happen in the land of the free and home of the brave than in any other country and they have increased in frequency. Some lawmakers are willing to sacrifice common sense for their adherence to a powerful gun lobby that represents a distinct minority of Americans. Follow the money. Conceal and open carry laws allow for the proliferation of guns on our streets and in our neighborhood public places. And we have learned from a study cited in an article above that people who own and carry guns do so in fear of other people. Law enforcement officers can’t tell “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns. And are black men legally carrying guns more likely to be deemed “bad guys” with guns than white guys with guns? I’m just asking.

“Law abiding” gun owners are not locking their guns safely away from being stolen by those who shouldn’t be able to get their hands on guns. We don’t pass laws that include mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns and we have no laws requiring that guns be locked securely away from ammunition. Guns make it to the streets and the illegal market when they are stolen. Of course the fact that we allow those very same people who are deemed to be prohibited purchasers at a federally licensed firearms dealer to buy those very same guns from private sellers on-line or at gun shows and flea markets is ludicrous and dangerous.

We are free to own and carry guns in America. But we should be free from devastating gun violence as well. We don’t have to sit by and let this happen. The corporate gun lobby, through it’s lapdogs in Congress,  has suppressed research about the causes and effects of gun violence. Luckily for the brave amongst us, there are non-government researchers who are showing us the real problem with guns. They are a risk to those who own and carry them and become a risk to other innocent people as a result. We know, thanks to research and surveys done by credible sources, that fewer Americans own guns but own a lot of them on average. That being the case, how do we get our elected leaders to stop bowing to a very well funded and vocal lobby which represents mostly themselves and not average gun owners in the land of the free?

Maybe exposing their votes and their acceptance of campaign contributions from the gun lobby will help. The Brady Campaign has released a new lapdog scorecard showing who are the lapdogs for the gun lobby in Congress. Check it out. You can click on your own state and find out. The thing is, the majority of Americans, gun owners or not, and even NRA members, support strengthening our gun laws. If this is the land of the free and home of the brave, the brave need to speak out and do the right thing in the name of saving lives.

The model of fear is a bad idea when dealing with deadly weapons. Some in our country have ramped up fear of others, fear of those who don’t look like us, fear of shadows lurking in every corner awaiting a chance to get us. If you don’t believe me, you can look at this new campaign ad made by the NRA about why gun owners should fear Hillary Clinton and vote for Donald Trump. It’s another big lie but it gets people to the gun stores. Follow the money.

Fear is not a good way to make laws and change the conversation. It is counter productive and leads us to fear the wrong things. Why are we not fearful that just about anyone can gain access to a deadly weapon and carry it around in public or use it for bad intentions? Why are we not concerned that those on a no-fly list are not on the no-buy list for guns? Though not a perfect solution, it sure seems like we ought to be able to stop at least some dangerous people from being to get guns.

If you think all of this is insane, please get involved to make the changes we all deserve. That would be changes to gun laws to make them stronger so we can prevent some of the daily carnage. It also means changing the conversation to make people think twice about whether or not a gun for self defense makes sense for them. And if it does, at the least, make sure these folks have good training in using a deadly weapon designed to kill other people and have the common sense to lock up their guns unloaded to avoid stolen guns or someone, like a child or teen, accessing the gun. And make darned sure that dangerous people or those who could become dangerous to themselves or others either can’t get guns or have them removed until the danger is over or permanently, whichever happens first.

We have work to do. But we also have to counter erroneous claims by the corporate gun lobby that have become common talking points in our country. If we are the land of the free and home of the brave, we need to be brave enough to stand up for the truth and against those whose claims about freedom do not reflect reality.

On-line gun sales

Live Chat on Orange Keyboard Button.

A new market place has opened up for gun sales since the Brady law took effect in 1994. Like everything else, guns can be purchased on-line. Unlike anything else, no other item for sale on-line rises to the definition of a deadly weapon. I buy a lot of things on-line and I like that convenience. I don’t think any other item I buy on-line requires a background check because a sweater, a pair of shoes, a camera or a rug do not kill people. Guns do.

Armslist.com sells guns on line. I checked out what was available today in Minnesota. Many handguns, hunting rifles and also AR-15s are there for people who choose to purchase guns this way. Some sellers do say they will only ship to an FFL and one must have a Minnesota permit to purchase or carry. That’s good news. But many are sold by private sellers with no background check required. When these kinds of gun sales became available , those in the gun violence prevention movement raised concerns about this new market place for guns. Many gun rights extremists claimed that guns could not be bought on line with no background check. What they thought, or said, was that all guns sold on-line went through sites like Gander Mountain, for example, which has strict policies about shipping the purchased guns to a federally licensed firearms dealer for pick-up. There a background check would be required.

Were these folks in denial, lying or didn’t they realize that sites like Armslist.com allowed private sellers to post their wares and sell with no background checks just as they do at gun shows?  Someone I know once spoke with a reporter from the Star Tribune who said that some of the gun folks told him we were lying when we said this was possible. She directed him to Armslist.com and while on the phone call and asked him to click on Minnesota and then take a look at what was available. He admitted that we were right and the gun folks were wrong.

Radcliffe Haughton bought his gun from Armslist.com with no background check. He was a prohibited purchaser. Soon after the purchase, his estranged wife and 2 other people were dead after he shot them all in a fit of rage over a separation. Several others were injured. From the article:

Haughton was able to buy a gun despite a Milwaukee County judge issuing a restraining order against him just three days before the shooting. The restraining order barred him under federal law from owning a firearm or buying one from a gun dealer.

Haughton sidestepped the federal law by purchasing the gun privately.

Private sellers are not required to run background checks and do not have to follow a 48-hour waiting period, required at the time of the shooting for gun dealers in Wisconsin. The waiting period was intended, in part, as a cooling-off period in domestic violence cases. That waiting period was eliminated in a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker over summer.

The lawsuit says Armslist, and its owners, were liable because they created the marketplace that could facilitate such a transaction.

Facebook allows private groups to buy and sell guns to each other. No background checks are required. The transactions are made, as they are on Armslist.com when the seller and buyer choose a place to make the transaction and the cash is exchanged for the gun(s).

It was just a matter of time before people started getting caught trafficking in guns bought and sold on-line. This Minnesota man is one of them.  From the article:

“Feldman’s actions in this case put firearms in the hands of criminals in the Twin Cities and jeopardized public safety,” said James Modzelewski, special agent in charge of the St. Paul field division for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “[The] ATF is committed to working with local police and prosecutors to identify illegal sources of firearms, and hold them accountable. If we’re going to impact gun violence in our communities, we all need to work together to prevent criminals from getting guns.” (…)

The ATF found evidence linking Feldman’s sales to several handguns used in serious crimes.

The indictment said Feldman regularly bought firearms — mostly handguns — from licensed out-of-state sellers using an online auction site, had the weapons transferred to a Burnsville gun shop where he received them, and then quickly advertised them for sale on another website that facilitates gun sales without criminal background checks.

The allegations span two years, with Feldman’s last sale (of more than 50) coming in January at a shopping mall parking lot to an undercover officer used by the ATF.

His indictment came soon after Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Justice would toughen federal gun control efforts, including a warning that “a person can be [considered to be] engaged in the business of dealing in firearms” even if they conduct transactions only at gun shows or online. Those doing so, Obama said, must be licensed, just like dealers who run their businesses out of a traditional storefront.

Feldman advertised on Armslist.com to sell guns he had earlier bought from licensed dealers online. He first had the firearms transferred to L.E. Gun Sales in Burnsville, where he would receive them after completing required paperwork and submitting to a background check.

So much for the “law abiding” gun owner. He was able to purchase the guns legally, going through a background check himself but then turned around and sold them with no background checks. He was acting as a gun dealer and not requiring background checks. This is why we need background checks on all gun sales. These kinds of transactions help provide crime guns. And we need to enforce these laws, already on the books.

Why do some people believe that it’s OK to sell guns with no background checks? How do they know who is on the other end of the transaction? They don’t. It could be an ex-felon who can’t have guns. It could be a domestic abuser or someone who had been adjudicated mentally ill at some point. It could be a fugitive or a terrorist ( who can buy guns legally in the U.S. and we can’t stop them from doing so, thanks to our lax gun laws.)

This just makes no common sense. The corporate gun lobby continues to resist measures to require background checks on all gun sales. Why? They claim that these kinds of sales will lead to gun registration and confiscation even though the very same background checks that have been in place for over 20 years now have not done this.

The gun lobby is wrong of course. But some of our leaders seem to believe them and the minority of gun rights activists in league with the gun lobby cry wolf any time proposed bills come up.

The times are changing however as more Americans are now educated as to the fact that some gun sales do go without background checks. In fact, about 40% do. So the analogy that seems to work best is to think about going through the TSA checkpoints when traveling by plane. And then think about 40% of people who can just walk through without having their bags checked or going through the metal detector. And this analogy becomes even more scary considering how many guns are found in carry-on bags by the TSA.

So the long and short of it is- in order to protect the public from at least some of the daily shootings, the very least we can do is to require background checks on all gun sales and do what the majority of Americans have agreed is the right thing to do. Why not treat every sale the same? Just like all on-line sales of books, cosmetics, clothing, toys, etc. are treated the same for all, sales of guns should be uniform. No one can buy Sudafed without asking the pharmacist- there are no exceptions.  Many states require controlling the substance contained in Sudafed:

Pharmacy is one of the most highly regulated professions.3 Pharmacists are the gatekeepers of dangerous drugs. As such we are in a position to control access to one of the most dangerous of the drugs of abuse. We are at the end of the protected, closed loop of drug distribution. When it comes to protecting society from the illegal traffic in harmful drugs, we can make a difference. In so doing, pharmacists not only follow the law but fulfill our duty to protect society.

Hmmmm. This is a strong statement. Why doesn’t it apply to gun dealers- even private sellers?

Sales of tobacco products require an ID if a young person appears to be below the age of 18 and sellers can be fined for selling to a minor. Selling alcohol to a minor can result in severe fines as well as jail time. We all know that drugs are illegally bought and sold all over the world and that that is a huge problem in our country. The penalties are stiff if someone is caught and we have put a lot of resources into the efforts to stop drug trafficking but it is still happening.  It’s not easy to stop illegal activity like this but the fact that we are putting up no obstacles to dealing with the sales of guns to people who shouldn’t have them is ludicrous and dangerous.

There are exceptions for selling guns to those who can’t legally own them. It’s called legal private sales with no background checks. Gun dealers are required to be licensed but are not monitored as they should be, by design of the corporate gun lobby.

We are talking about allowing deadly weapons to fall into the hands of people who can’t buy them legally from licensed dealers.

This is the opposite of protecting Americans from public health and safety problems.

As Congress finally comes back from its’ longest break ever, lots of important things will be on their plates but little will happen because it’s an election year and they are afraid of their own shadows. We won’t expect much. But we will be watching to see how Congress will avoid dealing with a public health and safety crisis of gun violence not seen in any other country.

Congress needs to act. Ask them to act. If they don’t ask them why not? And keep the pressure on. We can’t let them ignore the fact that over 30,000 Americans die each year from gunshot injuries. Too many families are devastated daily by the carnage. It’s time for that to change.

#Enough.

Active shooters

shooting fingerYesterday a report of an active shooter at Andrews Air Force Base was reported on the news. For a while, the facility was put on lock-down while things were checked out. It was discovered that the base was having an active shooter drill. Someone at a medical facility on base reported seeing two men walking around with rifles and called 911 to report it.  As it turns out, the two men were apparently part of the drill.

This is America. Guns are everywhere and are encouraged to be carried everywhere. We really don’t know the difference between a “good guy” with a gun and a “bad guy” with a gun even though Wayne LaPierre has some people believing there is a difference at first blush.

This is America. “Good guys” with guns kill people every day. Take the recent Orlando shooting for instance. The shooter was not prohibited from buying a gun at a federally licensed firearms dealer. There were some warnings- many in fact- but none that would rise to the prohibited purchaser category. There’s the terror watch list on which the shooter’s name was placed for a while. But such people can get guns in America.

The shooter was a domestic abuser and had mental health problems according to his first wife. It’s easy for those people to get guns in America since we don’t require Brady background checks on all gun sales so anyone can get a gun easily.

It’s easy to get guns in America. The bar is low. By definition the Orlando shooter was a “good guy”. How does Mr. Wayne LaPierre explain that? He is not asked that question because he doesn’t answer questions like that. There is no logical explanation and so he gets away with spewing his hate, fear and paranoia and, stupidly, some people believe what he says.

Take this Texas mother. She believed the fear, apparently. Having posted on social media that she didn’t want her guns to be taken from her, she was a proud American gun owner:

Christy Sheats wrote often online about her faith, and on several occasions she posted about her support of the Second Amendment and her right to bear arms.

“I have 10 guns. Obama wants 8 of my guns. How many guns do I have?” said one meme, over a photo of bullets and a gun. “That’s right, I have 10 guns.”

She captioned the photo: “That’s right! #merica.”

Yes. “#merica.”

And then, in the heat of anger and mental illness and marriage problems, she took the anger and her guns out apparently on her husband by killing the people he loved the most. When officers confronted her, she aimed at them so they shot her.

Should this woman have had a gun given 3 admissions to a hospital for mental illness and suicidal behavior? (see article above)

This is America. She was a “good girl” with a gun apparently.

She was an active shooter.

Today I attended a panel discussion at Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs  in Duluth for visitors from Moldova. DAIP is an internationally recognized program training communities all over the world about the Duluth model and the coordinated community response. The Chief of Police, the Mayor, the County Attorney, the County Sheriff, a local judge and someone from a local corrections facility explained their own role and then answered questions.

What do you suppose one of the questions was from the Moldovans? Are there weapons often involved in domestic disputes? What happens if there is? Do you take them away? What happens to those weapons if you take them from the abuser?

The answer from the Chief- we have to assume that everyone is armed! Yes. The visitors laughed nervously but then realized he was not making it up. He said that with 300 odd million guns in America, we can guess that many of the domestic abusers will be armed and that officers go prepared for that realization; that there will be an active shooter.

Women are more at risk to die when there is a gun in the home. Domestic disputes are the most dangerous calls for law enforcement. Actually everyone is more at risk when there is a gun in the home according to many studies:

A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.

This is America. We have active shooters everywhere- in our homes, in schools, malls, airports, nightclubs, movie theaters, on the streets, at air bases- everywhere.

We have good guys with guns who shoot people every day intentionally or by “accident”. Check out the site, Gun Violence Archive, that is keeping track of shooting incidents ( active shooters) all over the country.

I don’t know what you call children who regularly find their parents’ guns and shoot themselves or someone else by “accident”. A bad boy or a bad girl?

What do you call a teen or an older white male who shoot themselves with guns in great numbers in America? “Bad kid”? “Bad man”? Active shooter? Or Veterans whose suicide gun rate is very high and we are doing little to stop it? Are they “good guys” with guns?

This is America.

Two days ago Americans all over the country went to visit their House members while they were at home in their districts. They delivered beach balls ( Protect Minnesota), letters, sat-in, asked for common sense, thanked them for standing up for victims during the “sit-in” last week and made some noise. It turns out that most responsible gun owners don’t belong to the NRA which is the main lobby group opposing anything that might make us all safer. We asked our Representative to represent the more than 80% of us, even gun owners, who want them to act.

After Orlando, things changed. Votes may happen. Even Speaker Paul Ryan is feeling the heat. He knows he has to at least stop terrorists from getting guns. I mean, that is a no brainer but you’d never know it from the reaction of the Republicans in the House and Senate. They act as if stopping terrorists and others who shouldn’t have guns from getting them is un-American. I mean- everyone has a “sacred” right to own a gun, right?

But when the NRA writes gun policy legislation, as this vote (above) would be, it’s like the fox guarding the hen house:

“House Democrats will keep up our efforts to push for the majority to allow a vote on gun violence legislation, but bringing up a bill authored by the NRA just isn’t going to cut it,” said Drew Hammill, an aide to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. The NRA denied writing the legislation.

Let’s have some legislation that will actually work rather than weak legislation that may not work so the pro gun lobbyists and leaders can say the laws don’t work anyway so why pass any. This kind of cynicism is not OK and will not save lives but rather is window dressing. Time will tell what will take place.

Many of our leaders know this. They are afraid of the wrong people. They are afraid of the guys with the guns. They should be very afraid of the families and friends of the victims and those who know that we can do better.

So back to active shooters and the Moldovans.  Moldova has a rate of firearm deaths of .79 per 100,000. No wonder they were nervous when the Police Chief gave his answer. Active shooters are very rare in their country.

Only in America do we have regular active shooter drills in businesses, military bases, tourist attractions, medical clinics, schools, etc. If this is the new normal, it puts the onus on our leaders to make sure we are safer from active shooters by making sure there are far fewer of them just like we did with air raid drills when I was a child. From this post by Mike Weisser at Mike the Gun Guy:

Crouching under a wooden desk is about as much of a positive response to nuclear attack as giving someone a week-long course in armed force and then have them walking through a school hallway looking for a kid with a gun. The whole point of nuclear non-proliferation is the recognition that once the weapon is out there, the chances of it being used go way up. Trump seems to be unaware that this is why a basic consensus exists that the world needs to be a nuclear-free zone.

The same argument can be made about gun-free zones which, despite the nonsense peddled by the NRA, make every place safer if guns aren’t allowed. And it’s no violation of anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights to leave the gun at home.

We did something about regulating and controlling nuclear weapons to make the county and the world safer from those kinds of attacks. Not one has happened since our own country bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Let’s take back our country and stop the fear mongering. We do have active shooters every day. But arming more people to try to stop the shooters makes no common sense given reality. More guns and more armed people have clearly not made us all safer.

#Enough. #DisarmHate

 

What now?

What's next?It’s been an eventful few weeks for America. Our nation’s worst mass shooting took place, killing 49 gay/lesbian people at a nightclub in Orlando. Of course our leaders did the right thing and immediately passed laws that would make it harder for dangerous people to get guns.  Our leaders, in the figures of mostly Republicans, refused to act to do something to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns. The Democrats and a few Republicans and Independents decided this was not the way things were going to go this time.

This time.

Not after this mass shooting.

Not after Sandy Hook.

Not after Aurora.

Not after Tucson.

Not after Umpqua Community College.

Not after San Bernardino.

Not after Santa Monica.

…………..

Not this time.

Australia acted after its’ country’s worst mass shooting. There have been no more mass shootings since 1996 when gun laws were strengthened there.

The Senate took a vote (after a successful Democratic filibuster) on whether or not we should allow those on the terror watch list to be able to buy guns legally. And it passed. It was blocked by the bought and paid for Republicans a few scared Democrats. Then they took a vote on whether or not it was OK for a felon, domestic abuser, someone adjudicated mentally ill, a fugitive or another such person to buy guns without background checks. And it passed. It was blocked by the Republicans and a few scared Democrats.

Then something happened in the U.S. House of Representatives. An unprecedented sit-in happened to get a vote on whether dangerous people should be able to buy guns legally. They sat for 25 hours and had help from some of the Senators who days earlier had made their stand with a 15 hour filibuster which led to the no votes.

They used their own photos and a video app called Periscope to feed their speeches to the public through the Facebook platform and C-Span. Never before had this been done. But then never before had 49 Americans been killed in one place at one time except during war time.

And Speaker Paul Ryan called a vote to protect us from the next mass shooter.

Civil disobedience has a way of calling attention to something the leaders don’t want us to know, see or hear about.

What next? What now? More civil disobedience?

More sit-ins?

More filibusters?

More no votes?

More shootings?

For surely the shootings will come until we decide that they shouldn’t and decide we can actually do something about them without fearing that the corporate gun lobby will interfere and “call the shots.”

The public understands what is happening. The public will vote in November and they will not forget that some of our leaders are not interested or care enough about the many victims of shootings to sit with the victims’ families and look into their eyes and tell them that they just won’t do anything to stop more people from ending up like their own loved ones. They care more about being re-elected and maintaining the power they got largely through special interest lobby groups whose money speaks.

Who will speak for the victims?

Lack of courage is not a good feature in a leader. Lack of empathy and conviction doesn’t work out well when representing people who need help and support. Lack of ability to stand up for what’s right even though a powerful lobby is telling you you can’t do it is shameful and spineless. Lack of the backbone to tell the gun lobby to take a hike because they are not representing the Americans who want you to do something, anything, to stop this carnage- these massacres, is not only unbecoming, it’s inexcusable.

There are no excuses. Lack of common sense leads to bad decision-making for the good of the people.

There are no excuses. No. Rights will not be taken from someone who deserves them and is law-abiding.

Not everyone gets those rights. They are not God-given and sacrosanct no matter what the gun lobby has deceived people into believing. And the second amendment does not say that we can’t infringe on the rights of dangerous people to have guns. That is total nonsense.

If a conversation can’t take place and a bill can’t be marked up to deal with what is staring us in the face, we can’t even try to deal with language that will make sure someone whose name may be on the no-fly list by mistake can address the problem and correct it. A bill was floated by Senator Susan Collins that would give people 14 days to get their name off the no-fly list after being told it is on the list and that they can’t buy a gun. It was a bi-partisan effort and it passed, of course. From the linked article:

“The Orlando shooting provides perhaps the clearest example of why this provision is so important,” Collins said ahead of the vote, referring to the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“Surely on an issue of this importance we should be able to come together and work for common sense solutions,” Collins said of her bill.

Afterwards, she said she was “uncertain” what happens next — though she claimed momentum, arguing she was “pleased” with the “strong vote.”

The bill drew more bipartisan support than previous measures, and defeated the procedural vote aimed at tabling it permanently. But in the end it fell victim to same ideological splits that have prevented any movement on guns in the past few years.

So there you have it.

In the name of common sense, if someone is so desperate to buy a gun that we can’t wait for 14 days to see if they actually are a terrorist or someone who shouldn’t have one, then we have lost our ability to think through what is best for all of us.

More from the article about the House sit-in:

“I tremble at the thought of what” Republicans will do next, Pelosi, (D-Calif.) said at a press conference.

“We need actions, not words,” Pelosi, visibly exhausted, added, referring to empty calls for thoughts and prayers following mass shootings.

“We cannot stop until we get a bill,” she said. “It’s not about politics, it’s not about elections, it’s not about campaigns, it’s about the safety of the American people.”

What is next? Speaker Ryan? Majority Leader McConnell?

Gun owners and Republicans are on board with these proposals.

The majority of NRA members want these common sense measures to happen.

What next Republican leadership? Who will you represent? Who will you protect?

Who will you sit-in for or stand up for?

Whose sons or daughters or sisters or brothers or uncles, aunts, nieces, grandchildren will be next on the list of victims of mass shootings?

Who will listen to the voters and the public during the election?

Who will acknowledge that the public actually wants restrictions on weapons designed for war time use?

Who will take money from the gun lobby to do their bidding to make sure as many Americans are armed as possible and will go to the gun stores to keep profits coming?

How many more AR-15s and other such assault type rifles ( and other guns not needed for self defense) will a minority of crazed and fearful Americans buy to protect themselves from their own government? 

How many more people who shouldn’t be able to buy guns will buy them anyway and commit acts of mass murder or everyday shootings while our Congress refuses to sit down and stand up for victims?

How many more private sellers will sell guns to people who are too dangerous to own them because a background check is not required for private gun sellers?

What?

Who?

When?

Where?

Why?

 

We are at war with each other

crossIt’s no secret. The political atmosphere was hateful and angry before the Orlando shooting. Now it’s worse. We are war with each other. History will look back on the America of the 2000s and write about how we turned our backs on the millions of victims of gun violence and their families. Historians will write about how a country allowed the massacre of 20 first graders to happen without trying to do something to prevent the next one. History will not be kind when it comes to America and mass shootings and gun violence in general.

If we lined up the crosses of all Americans killed by gun violence since 1968, they would form a field larger than that at Normandy (France), Gettysburg, Appomattox, Arlington and other cemeteries combined where fallen American military personnel are buried.

Are we at war?

Today is the first anniversary of the Charleston church shooting that took the lives of 9 innocent Americans while praying at Mother Emanuel church. History will write about how our weak gun laws allowed a young man with hate and racism in his heart to buy a gun in spite of his prohibited purchaser status. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and their minions in Congress, a three day default proceed provision was written into the Brady law. What that means is that if the record keeping and data bases don’t communicate with each other and get information into the law enforcement system by 3 days after the purchase of a gun, the purchaser can walk away with the gun anyway.

Nine precious lives were taken because of that provision in our law that makes absolutely no common sense. But in America, sales and profits of selling guns takes precedent over saving lives.

Today, the families of the 9 killed in Charleston are remembering their loved ones. Here is one article written by the brother of one of the victims in remembrance.:

We may be back here again soon. Not in Charleston, not in a church, but somewhere in our country someone is going to experience some type of pain simply because of the proliferation of guns, and the Achilles heel of our country, racism, that we can’t seem to get past. So we got to not just forgive and forget, but we have to remember to continue to fight for those things that make our society better today than it was yesterday.

What will historians write about how we responded to this crime of hate and racism?

I wrote in my last post that things were changing concerning guns and the conversation about gun violence after the Orlando shooting. No sooner had I posted my article than a filibuster broke out in the U.S. Senate led by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator Murphy was in attendance when the families of the first graders massacred at Sandy Hook learned that theirs were the 20 who didn’t come out alive. He is not going to forget or let us forget about that heinous and bloody day in American history.

Has the accumulation of all of the mass shootings in recent years just been too much? Are we, at long last, ready to do something?

It looks like there may be a vote now on some gun safety reform provisions as a result of that filibuster. At the least, the conversation changed for 15 hours when 40 Democratic Senators, 2 Republicans and 1 independent joined in and articulately and passionately talked about our national gun violence scourge. They stood with the victims. They spoke for the victims’ families. They spoke for the majority of Americans who can see that change has to happen in order to stop the daily war in our streets and our homes and public places.

Even the generals are weighing in. General Stanley McCrystal wrote this piece for the New York Times today. From his opinion piece comes something very important to the conversation about guns in America:

Here at home, many of us are alarmed by the carnage. We are alarmed by loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers get hold of guns without a background check. We are alarmed that a known or suspected terrorist can go to a federally licensed firearms dealer where background checks are conducted, pass that background check, legally purchase a firearm and walk out the door.

Now veterans are speaking out. Last Friday, two days before the tragedy in Orlando, a new initiative, the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, led by the Navy combat veteran Capt. Mark Kelly and his wife, the former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was announced. Those of us serving on its advisory committee come from every branch of our military and virtually every rank. We are trained in the use of firearms, and many of us have served in combat. And we all think our country must do more to save lives from being cut short by gun violence.

Are we alarmed enough to do something at long last?

Listen to the voices of common sense and experience. Those on the side of the corporate gun lobby are most often also strong supporters of our military. Not that the rest of us aren’t but those who oppose reasonable gun measures can often be heard to proclaim themselves as patriotic Americans- more patriotic than the rest of us. What’s so patriotic about allowing our citizens to be massacred by people who shouldn’t have guns?

The inanity of the conversation about gun violence in our country has been taking place for far too long. Not any more. People are joining gun violence prevention organizations in large numbers asking what they can do to help. Spontaneous rallies have occurred. Monetary donations have been received. Hundreds of thousands of calls were made to Senators in 24 hours urging participation in the filibuster and what will hopefully be upcoming votes.

We have had #Enough. Action is needed. No more words and thoughts and prayers.

And no more blaming President Obama for what happened in Orlando. Shamefully Arizona Senator John McCain ( among others) has gone over the line of common sense and sanity to join in some of the lunacy regarding the Orlando shooting. From the article:

Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando, though McCain later said he “misspoke.” “Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures — utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq, thinking that conflicts end just because you leave. So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Really Senator McCain?

We are better than this.

There is a gun culture that has promoted the civilian ownership of weapons of war that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. For 10 years we had a ban on these kinds of guns but our weak politicians, with pressure from the gun lobby let it lapse. Since then these weapons designed for use in war time have been used to kill countless Americans. Sandy Hook. Aurora.San Bernardino….. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This Boston Globe editorial is asking for us to return to sanity and common sense when it comes to military style assault rifles:

There is nothing more American today than a mass shooting, the quickest way for the wicked among us to join the ranks of the reviled. Their motives are many, but their opportunity is limited only by their gun and ammunition magazine brand preference. In this country, the federal government limits duck hunters to weapons that carry only three shells, to protect the duck population. But you can buy an assault weapon in seven minutes and an unlimited number of bullets to fire with it. For every McDonald’s in the United States, there are four federally licensed gun dealers and an untold number of unregulated private dealers who can legally sell an unlimited number of guns out of their homes, backpacks, and car trunks without requiring a criminal background check or proof of ID.

These weren’t the guns, and this wasn’t the America, that the Founders foresaw. That is why we need a new assault weapons ban, written for the realities we face in 2016.

What did the founding fathers envision? Gun rights extremists tell us that what we have now is exactly what was meant by the founding fathers when they wrote the second amendment. That is, in part, responsible for what happened in Orlando.

There is a weak system of regulating who gets guns that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Racism and hatred is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando.

Presidential politics and extreme rhetoric is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. One of our Presidential candidates is fear mongering and hating certain groups even thought they aren’t responsible for what happened in Orlando. (“Trump’s discourse, both leading up to and following the Orlando shooting, begins with a pathos of fear but ends with an appeal to anger.”)

We are better than this.

Even tolerance of anti-government groups and support for them has allowed the current culture to get a foot hold in American and leads to other acts of violence. For example, the stand-off by armed Americans proclaiming it was all about the federal government taking something from them, was not only ignored but even supported by some on the right and Donald Trump himself:

That chummy relationship with extremists didn’t start with Malheur. In fact, Donald Trump expressed admiration for Cliven Bundy at the time of the 2014 confrontation between his armed supporters and law enforcement officers over Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle on government land.

“I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk…I respect him,” Trump told Fox News in April that year. Bundy’s sons led the Malheur standoff, which eventually resulted in their arrest and the killing of one of the occupiers at a roadblock by state police.

“Republican Congressional leaders have done nothing to combat this growing threat,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) “Indeed, they ignored a Democratic request … to hold a Natural Resources Committee hearing on this issue.”

History will judge us for this kind of anti-government extremism.

It’s not President Obama. It’s those who hate him. More from the above article:

“This antigovernment movement has exploded since President Obama took office. In 2008, we documented approximately 150 radical antigovernment groups. Last year, we counted almost 1,000,” he added. “The movement is dangerous. It includes almost 300 armed militia groups committed to resisting what they see as a tyrannical federal government.”

Thompson pointedly compared the anti-government crowd with foreign, and foreign-inspired, terrorists. Domestic terrorists have the same goal, he said, “to harm and incite fear within our borders.”

Congress, he said, “must take this growing threat seriously and take action.”

Our politicians weak spines are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Individuals who have become self radicalized and terror groups who want us to be terrorized by actions of unstable angry young men who have troubled pasts and intolerance of others are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando:

Oppositional. Lacks remorse. Verbally abusive. These are some of the terms teachers and school counselors used to describe a young Omar Mateen, according to elementary and middle school records.

Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday in the worstmass shooting in modern U.S. history, had a troubling record of behavioral issues throughout his elementary and middle school years, ranging from simply disrupting class to outright aggressive conflicts with classmates.

Our almost total ignoring of the hundreds of thousands of gun violence victims is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Fear and paranoia promoted by the corporate gun lobby and extremists on the right are in part to blame for what happened in Orlando.

All we know is that blame is not going to change the fact that too many Americans have been killed in mass shootings and every day shootings. We need to deal with fear, paranoia, hate, racism, misogyny, anti-gay sentiments, terror, intolerance, mental health and whatever else causes someone to kill others. But to ignore the guns is a national shame and putting our heads in the sand.

This can’t be the new normal. We can’t let it be. We will do whatever it takes. The nation is asking for our leaders to do something. Increased interest in strongly regulating assault style rifles and high capacity magazines has surfaced. The gun lobby hates any renewed discussion but we are not going to let the gun lobby lead that discussion. A majority of Americans want something to happen.

Something has changed. New ways of invoking terror in Americans has sparked a national conversation but I am concerned that it has further divided us and made the conversation more hate-filled and acrimonious than ever.

We are better than this.

The conversation about guns is changing

-isn't it strange?The Orlando shooting was just one of many on June 12th, 2016. According to Vox.com, it was one of 43:

What got much less coverage, though, were the 42 other reported shootings that happened yesterday. According to news reports collected by the Gun Violence Archive and Vox, these shootings resulted in an additional 18 deaths and 41 injuries. At least five of those killed were children.

These shootings, albeit more granular, paint a tragic picture of just how common gun violence is in the United States — and how it claims thousands of lives annually, outside of mass shootings.

Only in America. Is it strange? It should be but too many think it’s normal. It’s NOT normal. It can’t stay this way.

Times are changing.

I have been inundated and overwhelmed with emails, Facebook posts, conference calls and Tweets about the shooting in Orlando. I participated in a vigil at my local college where a large group of supports of the LGBTQ community gathered to express their sorrow and their support for unity after (now) 49 people lost their lives in the nation’s worst mass shooting. Our Mayor read the names of the dead as a combined gay/lesbian family rang the bell. It was emotional. The dead had names. They have loved ones and friends left to mourn for them and forever have to live without them now.

#Enough

The politicians are yapping and talking common sense. As I write this, the Senate Democrats are filibustering on the floor about gun violence and gun violence prevention measures. Thank God. Something is actually happening. Even Fox’s own Bill O’Reilly is talking common sense

We have said this before so I almost hate to write this. Is this the tipping point we have long been waiting for? Has the country finally had more than #Enough? This point should have been reached long long ago. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and our timid and frightened elected officials. we have allowed people to die needlessly and avoidably for decades.

Some Republican Congress members are coming forward to change their positions regarding some gun violence prevention measures. At the least, closing a gap in our federal gun law that allows those on the terror watch list to be able to legally purchase guns must happen. Does it make any sense that we can see and know that these folks are buying guns but we can’t stop them from buying the guns that they could use in an act of terror?

You know the answer.

We do not know for sure the motive of the Orlando shooter. He was, according to his first wife, mentally unstable, angry, capable of domestic abuse, and perhaps confused about his own sexuality. She did not hear him talking about terrorism. If this was an act that related to terror, he was self radicalized and not associated formally with ISIS or any other terror group. Some have tried to claim otherwise. If this was man was an actual member of one of these groups, then the talking points are different.

I can feel things changing. I can feel the outpouring of actions and activity of those who just know that this time their voices are going to be heard. I can feel the national sadness and anger over this latest mass shooting. I can feel things changing.

Can you? If not, you are not paying attention.

And if you don’t want things to change out of some conviction that stopping people who shouldn’t have guns from being able to get them will limit your own rights, then I don’t have time for you. Things are changing.

We can’t have a reasonable discussion if you believe that the government is coming for your guns.

We can’t have a reasonable discussion if you believe that requiring a simple Brady background check on all gun sales will lead to gun registration, then I don’t have time for you. You are wrong.

If you believe, as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has foolishly proclaimed using gun lobby talking points that if someone had had a gun in that Orlando nightclub they could have saved themselves and others or stopped the shooter, then I can’t talk to you.

Support has increased in the last few days for an assault weapons ban. Are you one of the minority who doesn’t want that to happen? If not, is there a discussion to be had or will you dig in your heals and insist that it won’t do any good anyway?

If you believe that passing any common sense law will lead to gun confiscation, then I don’t have time for you.

If you believe that just anyone should be able to buy any gun, then I don’t want to talk to you.

If you believe that assault style rifles formerly used in war are weapons to be used by everyday citizens for hunting, then I don’t have time to you.

If you believe you need guns that fire hundreds of rounds of bullets in just one minute, then I don’t have time for you.

If you believe that the lives lost in shootings every day is the price we have to pay for your  “inalienable” second amendment rights, then I can’t talk to you.

If you believe the second amendment means there can be no restrictions on types of guns, who can buy them, and where they can be carried, go away. I can’t talk to you.

We are done listening to the lies, fear and paranoia coming from the mouths of gun extremists. They are in the minority but their voices have risen far above where they deserve to be given the reality of gun violence in America.

Times are changing.

On June 17th, just a few days from now, we will mourn again for the lives of the 9 black Americans taken by another young man with hate in his heart who managed to get his hands on a gun. We will remember those shot at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina.

We are better than this.

Watch here as CNN’s Anderson Cooper breaks down while reading the names of the victims.

Let us remember the names of the fallen:

Edward Sotomayer Jr.

Stanley Almodovar III

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo

Akyra Monet Murray

Luis S. Vielma

Juan Ramon Guerrero

Christopher Andrew Leinonen

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz

Kimberly Morris

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice

Enrique Rios

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan

Cory James Connell

Mercedez Marisol Flores

Deonka Deidra Drayton

Miguel Angel Honorato

Jason Benjamin Josaphat

Darryl Roman Burt II

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon

Oscar A Aracena-Montero

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez

Shane Evan Tomlinson

Amanda Alvear

Martin Benitez Torres

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez

Javier Jorge-Reyes

Tevin Eurgene Crosby

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado

Joel Rayon Paniagua

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez a

Luis Daniel Conde

Juan Chevez-Martinez

Jerald Arthur Wright

Leroy Valentin Fernandez

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool

Angel L. Candelario-Padro

Frank Hernandez

Paul Terrell Henry

Antonio Davon Brown

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz

Alejandro Barrios-Martinez

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez

My list of victims’ names has never been this long.

May they rest in peace. May their families learn to heal over time and live around the hole left in their hearts by the loss of someone they loved as a son, daughter, sister, brother, grandchild or friend.

May we rise up in unity and say #WeAreOrlando

This shooting has gone to our hearts and souls.

The soul of America has been badly wounded. What will we do about it?

Times are changing.

Will you be there to keep more Americans alive and safe from gun violence at gatherings of people of all colors, races, sexual orientation, age and gender?

Times are changing.

There is so much more to say. I haven’t even started in on assault type rifles and the ease with which we sell them in America or why they are necessary for anyone to own. That is for another post.

Times are changing.