To shoot or not to shoot, that is the question

After the shooting at the church in White Settlement, Texas there has been a lot of discussion, misinformation, tweeting and assertions made about how the shooter was shot. We know now that a trained security guard shot the shooter. We also know that it appears that there were other armed parishioners at the ready. We don’t know if the victims were actually armed though one article suggested that one of them was a member of security “force” used in that particular church. The man who shot the shooter actually trained the others and was an ex law enforcement officer who knew what he was doing.

Had police officers come to the scene, they would have done the same. And yes, we have to admit that the security guard did something good. Can we say that he was skilled and maybe also lucky? He took one shot and aimed at the head of the shooter, according to some reports. He hit the target and stopped the shooter from doing more damage, if that is what he intended..

We know that after the Sutherland Springs church shooting Texas passed a law allowing guns in churches. Texas has other gun laws- looser rather than stronger.

And we know now that the shooter was a prohibited purchaser. But Texas has not passed a universal background check or Extreme Risk Protection Order to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them anyway and shooting up churches and schools and malls and Walmarts and other places of businesses.

But that’s the way it is. This article explains what I have been thinking about and highlights the controversy over arming people in churches and everywhere else for that matter. From the article:

The reality of Wilson’s heroism is a lot more complex. He wasn’t just an ordinary parishioner, as gun advocates may want you to believe. The church’s volunteer security team member is a firearms instructor, gun range owner and former reserve deputy with a local sheriff’s department, according to a New York Times detailed account.  

In other words, he’s exactly the kind of man you want around with a firearm. But we know nothing about the at least six other parishioners who also appeared to draw their handguns at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. (…) And that’s terrifying.

Why is it terrifying? Because anyone can carry a gun into churches now and other places. How do we know if they are “good guys” with guns or bad guys with guns? If the man who shot those parishioners carried a gun inside the church and intended harm, no one would have said a thing because….. rights:

But have we really reached a point when each of us need to carry a firearm anywhere we go? Gun advocates certainly think so. They point to Wilson and the new Texas law that allows him and others to carry firearms inside the church.

And of course our very own President tweeted about the heroism of Jack Smith. He tweeted the NRA line. The President likes heroes and tough guys. He has made that clear many times over the past 3 years. He, and the corporate gun lobby, would rather there be a hero saving the day, though not stopping the shooting in the first place as they claim armed citizens will do, than to pass laws to stop shooters from getting a gun in the first place.

We will wait to see if he invites Smith the White House or invites him to one of his campaign rallies to showcase his tough guys, heroes, and pardoned Navy Seals.

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser. Where did he get the gun?:

The gunman at West Freeway Church of Christ, 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen, apparently had a long criminal history, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities say they’re still investigating the motive of Sunday’s shooting, and there were no immediate details about how he got the firearm he used at the church.

And this, from the article, is the main point of it all isn’t it?:

We know firearms are readily available to anyone who wants one, really. And that’s part of the problem. Sunday’s shooting isn’t just about Jack Wilson’s heroism. It’s about how Kinnunen got a hold of a weapon in the first place, given his criminal record.

The shooter was also mentally unstable and had been ordered to receive treatment as well as having a restraining order against him from his former wife.

These are all reasons this man should not have been able to get a gun in the first place. Why aren’t we talking about that? We must talk about that. Because if we don’t the shootings will continue unabated and continue to end in senseless gun deaths and injuries.

Texas gun laws changed to take the state and common sense backwards:

Texas also doesn’t require gun owners to obtain a license or register their firearms. Law enforcement in the state does not have any discretion to deny a concealed carry permit.

In addition, if a Texas gun purchaser already has a concealed carry permit, a background check is not required. Like many other states, Texas does not require a background check for private sales or sales at gun shows.

Research has generally shown that states with higher levels of gun ownership experience higher numbers of gun homicides and suicides.

Texas currently ranks in the middle in terms of firearm mortality according to the CDC.

In addition, recent research from Columbia University finds states with more permissive gun laws experience higher numbers of mass shootings.

Gun laws matter.

I also want to talk about why so many shooters are angry men? It’s the combination of anger and easy access to guns.

Common sense tells us that we don’t want everyone to be armed. Imagine the chaos if everyone was shooting at everyone else at the church, as they almost did according to reports. This is insanity itself.

We have failed the country by not dealing with the causes of our national epidemic of gun violence before the shootings rather than during the shootings.

To shoot or not to shoot. We have choices to make as a country. Are we going to allow the corporate gun lobby to decide how our country will be or are we going to follow the wishes of the majority and do something about our gun culture and lack of gun laws in order to save us from senseless and avoidable shootings?

My post would not be complete without reporting on the usual and totally avoidable shootings of innocent people in celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. A 61 year old woman ( and, according to the article-one toddler injured and a 31 year old woman also killed) was shot by a bullet that someone made a deadly decision to shoot out of his gun to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Why do people do this? Aren’t these the good guys with guns we were talking about earlier?

2020 is picking up where 2019 left off with shootings already listed in the Gun Violence Archive charts– 91 deaths so far and the day is not over yet.

Stop the shootings. Make a decision. Do the right thing elected leaders.

( I have struck through the name of the shooter because we should not be naming the shooters )

Let us remember the names of the two victims: Anton “Tony” Wallace, 64, and Richard White, 67.

From sea to shining sea

From Gun Violence Archive Facebook page

Please read the updates at the end of this post. There have been 2 more mass shootings within the last 24 hours.

“…America, America God shed his grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

That patriotic song came to mind this past week as mass shootings took the lives of many Americans from one coast to the other and in the middle:

At least eight people were killed, and 46 were injured, in mass shootings that spanned the country from Washington, DC, to Kennewick, Washington, according to the Gun Violence Archive’s tally. The organization defines a mass shooting as a single incident in which at least four people are shot not including the gunman.

The numbers follow a trend seen every summer in America — as temperatures heat up, killings become more likely.

An analysis from The New York Times last year found that more than twice as many people were shot in northern cities such as Chicago when it’s hot as when it’s cold.

“Summer time an’ the livin’ is easy……”

The mass shootings happened in just a few days’ time. Shooting is easy in America.

At the Gilroy Garlic Festival 3 were killed and 12 injured by bullets when a 19 year old with an assault rifle cut his way through a security fence to inflict carnage on innocent food fair attendees. Two were children. He bought his gun in Nevada where the minimum age for purchasing a rifle ( even an assault rifle) is 19. In California, where the shooting occurred, he could not have bought that same rifle until he was 21. One can argue that no one should be able to buy an AK-47 weapon meant for war.

Only in America can we find people who have survived 2 mass shootings in the span of less than 2 years as was highlighted in the linked article above:

After surviving the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, three friends were not expecting history to repeat itself two years later.

In 2017, Christopher and George Cook were in Las Vegas during the Route 91 Harvest festival, an outdoor country music concert, when a gunman fired into the crowd killing 58 and injuring more than 500. They managed to escape with no injuries. (…) Sunday, the brothers attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival when a gunman opened fire. Three people were killed and 12 injured.

Physically the Cook brothers escaped unharmed, however mentally, Christopher told CNN he’s been dealing with a wave of emotions.

“You think you’re grateful for everything you have until something like this happens,” he said.

America the beautiful. An American tragedy.

The first linked article goes on to list the mass shootings all over the U.S. including:

4 shot and injured in Washington D.C.

4 injured in Chicago

4 injured in Uniontown, PA

1 dead, 5 injured in Philadelphia

1 dead, 3 injured in Wichita, Kansas

1 killed, 11 injured in Brooklyn, N.Y.

1 killed, 3 injured in Kennewick, WA

The article missed a shooting in Wisconsin when 5 were killed and 2 injured in Chippewa County, WI.

And yet, no action on passage of a federal assault weapons ban, criminal background check bill or Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Where is common sense?

And no action in the MInnesota Senate whose leadership refused to take up any gun safety reform bills.

Where is common sense?

It is true in our America the beautiful that 8 children a day are shot (some injured, some dead).

It is true in America the beautiful that 100 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. Hundreds more are injured daily.

From the Brady site: ” Every year, 113,108 people are shot.

The chart above comes from Gun Violence Archive. Why do we need a site to keep track of American shootings? What a sad state of affairs. We have had 248 mass shootings so far this year according to Gun Violence Archive. It is August 1st and day 213. Let that sink in.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Americans are demanding that leaders stand up and do their jobs to keep us all safe so we can enjoy going to festivals, state fairs, schools, work, concerts, movies, etc. without fear of being shot.

In my state of Minnesota officials of the Minnesota state fair are ready to take more precautions realizing that with the crowds who attend every day, because anything can happen:

Katie Galioto at the Star Tribune checks in on local event officials and law enforcement following the recent shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival: “A State Fair spokesperson said Minnesota’s famed get-together, which attracted more than 2 million people last summer, involves the coordination of federal, state and local agencies. 

The gun rights advocates have tried to convince Minnesota State Fair officials that they should be allowed to carry loaded guns at the Fair. They have been turned down. Just imagine the chaos if someone or many armed citizens started shooting bullets around in a crowd of running people. I can’t , but they must imagine themselves as heroes. They are wrong.

This is America the beautiful. This is the America where just about anyone can get their hands on a gun of any type to inflict mass carnage, pain and grief on innocent families all over our beautiful country.

This is America- the land of the free and the land of the armed.

I don’t find this beautiful. I’m sure you don’t either. Please contact your elected officials and demand action. That is the only way we can make America safe again.

Update:

As you are reading my post I am adding yet another deadly mass shooting happening right now. El Paso, Texas is the scene of the latest carnage on a beautiful summer day. A Walmart store to be specific where at least one has died and 18 or more are injured in a mass shooting with an AK-47 rifle. Do I have to mention an assault weapons ban?

Another update about the El Paso shooting– it appears now that 20 are dead and 26 injured. The type of rifle has not been definitively identified but some reports say it was an AK-47. With that many dead, it is likely:

20 people were killed in the shooting.

Officials are exploring capital murder charges.

Authorities are investigating a manifesto in connection with the shooting.

Hospitals and emergency workers are treating victims.

Witnesses described the violent scene.

El Paso has been at the center of the migrant crisis.

Officials expressed their sympathies.

Who knew that I would be writing about a 2nd mass shooting within a 24 hour period. Dayton, Ohio was the scene for the latest one leaving 9 dead and others injured. As more information becomes available I will write more. But here is what we know so far:

Unconfirmed eyewitness accounts indicated a person who was denied entry at a bar opened fire. Police said the shooting took place after 1 a.m.

Anger and guns don’t go together. Why did this angry man have a long gun as it was reported in another article? Why would he shoot people at a bar because he couldn’t get in? Why did he have a gun in the first place?

Defying the gun lobby talking points, he was most likely not mentally ill. He was angry. And because we have such easy access to guns in our country, this is possible.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

New Years Resolutions

new-year-resolutionsHappy 2017 everyone. I have been avoiding the fact that in just  few short weeks, @realDonaldTrump will become our next President. And so I have also been avoiding other things in my life as I grapple with what is going on around me. Time has flown already since the New Year’s holiday. Family time and taking care of things for a relative who has a disability has not allowed me to think much about the new year. But I was drawn back in upon seeing some tweets and Facebook posts about shootings around the new year. It happens every year and, as I have written many times, gun violence does not take a holiday.

In spite of those facts, Congress and legislatures in many states, controlled by gun lobby lapdogs, will disappoint us with their resolutions to loosen laws that save lives and prevent shootings.

Let’s start with the Texas lawmaker who was the victim of celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. Every year, irresponsible gun owners and carriers don’t think about the great risk to others when they decide to shoot loaded guns into the air. Bullets, as we know, have certain trajectories and so when they go up, the natural physics is that they come back down. Whoever or whatever happens to be under the trajectory will be hit.

It seems that the lawmaker is OK and luckily for him, will not suffer from a life long debilitating injury like my friend Joe Jaskolka has. In fact, he is now ready to support a law to deal with celebratory gunfire:

“If my legislation could help save a life, you know, then definitely that’s what we’re gonna be looking at doing,” the Weslaco Democrat said Monday in a phone interview from the Valley Baptist Medical Center shortly before he was released.

That’s what I’m talking about- saving a life ( or lives). Is there something bad about that?

When people are affected by gun violence, it often changes things and makes them realize that this could happen to anyone.

Common sense is what it takes to save lives and keep citizens safe from gun violence.

Some are not as lucky as this lawmaker. Take my friend Joe Jaskolka, for instance. His life has been affected greatly and negatively since a bullet landed in his head from celebratory gunfire:

I got maybe a half-block away from my Grandmother’s home before a “Celebratory bullet” pierced my skull. Better yet, when my cousin Jeff ran back in the house to report to an adult to call 911, “Joe’s just lying on the ground, everyone must have thought I was joking”, but a child with a bullet-hole in the top of his cranium, when my parents (and aunts, uncles, and fellow cousins) were all trying to figure out what happened to me, crazy scenarios started to be heard.

When police searched the rooftops in a few block radius a day later, they found over 700 spent bullets!

When everyone at the party figured out my condition, they along with the medical staff at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) must have all figured I was dead.  You know you’re a dead man when the hospital has a priest sitting with your parents in the Emergency Room to wait for bad news.

Joe was 11 when this happened. When I met him years ago at a national meeting he was sitting in a wheel chair with obvious physical disabilities. We have remained friends for years.

Real stories are worth many gun lobby myths.

Closer to home, several things happened in Minnesota. Two men from the Twin Cities area were shot behind a local Superior, Wisconsin bar. One died in the shooting and one was injured. It was not random. Most shootings are not in fact.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced rather quietly that more states were added to the list of those whose carry permits would not be reciprocated in Minnesota. Why? Not strong enough regulations in Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Now there is some common sense.

If anyone can honestly tell me that it is safe for teens under 21 and those without permits to carry will be safe on our streets, then they are not using common sense. For in Minnesota, that is what we have decided we want people to have training and have a permit and be 21. Why would we allow less than that anywhere? Follow the money and the links between the gun lobby which pushes bills to allow anyone to buy and carry guns and the gun industry profits.

And speaking of the gun industry, it looks like gun stocks are falling after the election of the gun lobby’s candidate, Donald Trump. @realDonaldTrump won’t take guns away so no worries- except that people won’t flock to gun stores to buy guns now unless they are afraid of the fear of a President who will confiscate their guns. Now what? Looser laws that will create new markets for deadly weapons.

Of course, Hillary Clinton was not going to take guns away either but the gun lobby said she was. President Obama did not take guns away but the gun lobby said he would. Don’t believe the gun lobby.

Speaking of taking guns away, Congress and the Minnesota state legislatures are back in session. The gun lobby will be busy convincing Congress and state legislators that more guns are needed by more people to keep them safe. They are wrong, according to the facts and reality. But never mind the truth. As I have written before in a previous post, up is down and black is white.

As Mark Twain once said, ” “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”” That is more true today than ever.

One of the first orders of business in the Republican led House ( aside from the insane ethics debacle) was to introduce a measure to fine any House member who live streams from the House floor. Republicans didn’t like it when Rep. John Lewis and other Democrats staged a sit-in last June to ask for a vote on background checks. Now they want to silence members who don’t share the views of the gun lobby lapdogs but rather the majority of Americans.

Shame on them. But they have no shame. They would rather punish opposing views than save lives apparently.

But thankfully there are some in Congress who are not afraid of the gun lobby. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey will re-introduce a bill to allow government agencies to do research on the public health crisis of gun violence.

We will see a lot of gun bills going both ways but the conservatives, Republican lapdogs for the gun lobby and those who are afraid to stand against that group are giddy with the idea that they can weaken gun laws and allow more dangerous behavior with guns than ever before. For the life of my sister, I can’t understand this glee at weakening laws that save lives. People will die as a result. Will that matter to these lapdogs?

Does it matter to them that one toddler a week has shot someone in 2015 and now 2016? If not, why not? Avoiding the truth means avoiding the facts that these kinds of shootings are avoidable.

Maybe if one of their own is struck down by a stray bullet or shot by a crazed or angry person or a toddler who shouldn’t have had a gun in the first place ( when it could have been prevented) one or two of them will realize how wrong they have been.

It will be a busy few months (years). Let’s hope we can keep the pressure on this issue and shed light on those who take money from the nation’s most powerful lobby- the NRA. 1Pulse4America is keeping track. It is not a pretty picture. When North Carolina Senator Burr takes over $800,000 from the NRA in “blood money” we can count on him to oppose common sense gun legislation that could save lives.

For if a legislator or Congress member is beholden to the gun lobby, we are less safe as a result.

Facts matter. Accountability matters. Lives matter more than anything else.

Happy New Year everyone. I resolve to do whatever it takes to prevent gun violence and save lives. How about you?

Houston, we have an open carry monster

monsterWe have created a monster. It’s swallowing up our children and innocent Americans at the rate of 89 a day. It’s ubiquitous. It’s huge, slimy, deceptive, has sharp teeth, lots of money, bullies elected leaders and doesn’t care about the health and safety of our communities. It has an agenda to make lots of money for an industry, keep itself influential and wealthy, keep everyone feeling unsafe and paranoid, and arming our country. It’s evil and the cause of a lot of death and injury. It leaves in its’ wake victims and survivors and a ripple effect that is devastating our communities. It is rearing its’ ugly head after loosening our gun laws and it’s coming into more clear focus every day.

Open carrying of guns has come into sharp focus after the man who walked down a street open carrying a rifle in Colorado Springs shot and killed 3 people, seemingly without provocation. I should say that even if someone provoked someone, there is no need to shoot them. The guns were legally purchased. Law enforcement ( or a dispatcher) allegedly did not act quickly because, as she supposedly told a panicked 911 caller, it’s legal to open carry in Colorado. Not to worry. But questions are being asked and let’s hope they can be answered in the interest of public safety.

That said, let’s examine this more closely. An article in The Trace that has picked up on some others written after that shooting incident last week-end looks at the idea of rights vs. public safety. This is the ubiquitous tension in our discussion about gun violence prevention. The article summarized a meeting held in Houston regarding the new law in Texas to allow open carrying of guns in public places but the Colorado Springs incident was on the minds of the attendees. The worst fears came out in the meeting. Residents asked many questions of law enforcement and even they could not answer them. No one seems to understand the details of the law and it turns out the law was “badly written” and difficult to understand.

That is all done on purpose by the gun lobby. When they work with their bought and paid for legislators, many nuances that are meant to confuse the public and law enforcement but benefit the gun rights extremists are stuck into bills. The result is bad bills that are as far as you can get from public safety. So the residents’ questions were right on point.

From the article:

As the meeting got underway in Houston, the law enforcement officials, seated behind a green rectangular table, did not exactly put the room at ease. “As a police officer, it is so complex,” Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr., announced. “I don’t really understand all the nuances of the law.” City Attorney Donna Edmundson agreed. “Unfortunately,” she said, “this law wasn’t written very well. It’s not very clear.” District Attorney Devon Anderson conceded, “This is complicated.” Later, she admitted to only learning that morning to which government buildings the law applied.

And further:

It was a mother who prompted what might have been the most poignant exchange of the evening. “Most of us, as parents, have told our children that, if you see someone with a gun, run, scream,” She said. “What do you suggest we tell our children, who might be out and about without us, when they see a man with a gun, what do they do? Because they’re scared. They’re very scared.”

The DA appeared sympathetic. “That’s hard, because I have kids too,” she said, fumbling for an appropriate answer.

The mom persisted. “The main thing is, in Colorado Springs, at what moment did he become a threat? When he shot a person on a bike, a woman in her face, and a woman in her chest?”

The DA said, “Let me say this, and I’m taking a chance here but I’m going to say it: if you see a civilian with a gun in a school building, that’s a 911. That’s a prohibited place, inside a school building.” She continued, “You can carry around a school, on the sidewalk, in a parking lot — that kind of thing. But that would give me pause.”

The mom appeared dumfounded. “So I tell my child, if it’s outside a school, it’s okay?”

So what is a parent to do? What are kids to do? What are we all to do? The gun lobbyists and leaders in concert with legislators, who either believe in the deception that more guns will make us safer, or are not willing to challenge the fierce gun lobby are making us all less safe.

Isn’t the job of elected leaders to deal with public health and safety epidemics and concerns? The answer is Yes. So the parents who asked law enforcement in Houston about what to tell their children when they see a “good guy” with a gun walking down the street with a rifle have every right to ask the question. And notice that even law enforcement officers have no idea how to answer. How could they? They don’t want this either. It makes their own jobs very difficult. If they stop someone with a rifle, will that person give an officer ID or will that person shoot the officer? If you ask for ID, the gun rights folks get huffy and often challenge the officers.

There are many examples of these Texas open carriers provoking officers and then getting out their iPhones to video tape the exchange so they rile up their own “troops” or maybe challenge the law or bring a law suit. Here is just one where the open carriers claimed that officers treated them like terrorists. Good grief. This is the world of the gun rights extremists and we have let it happen. And now we are paying the price in lost lives. It will only get worse as more people believe they should be able to “normalize” open carrying in public.

We are not safer now. Anyone with common sense understands that we have created a monster. So now what are we going to do? Expose our kids to this lunacy? Not pay attention to guys with guns strutting around the streets of our cities until they actually decide to kill innocent people? Can we arrest them? Apparently not. Are they a public nuisance? At the least.

We just have to be better than this. The other night I was introduced to some young professionals who had traveled to my city from our sister city of Petrosavask,(Petrozavodsk) Russia. They asked me about gun laws here and were astounded that anyone could buy a gun and that guns were for sale on the internet. In Russia, one must have a license to buy a gun and also go through some questions to make sure it’s OK for you to buy a gun including your mental health status. Unfortunately, Russian President Putin just gave citizens the right to carry guns in public for self defense. Things are changing even in Russia. Russia has its’ own problems politically and culturally but they don’t have the rate of gun violence as that in our own country. 25% of homicides are caused by firearms in Russia whereas in the U.S. that number is 60% at least, according to this chart in Gunpolicy.org. This is a uniquely American tragedy.

We have a problem created by our own elected leaders. Fixing it will not be easy and far too late for the many innocent victims of gun violence. And no, laws will not fix all of this. Many of the folks wandering our streets are legal gun purchasers and “law abiding” until suddenly they are not. It takes a few seconds to snap and when it happens with a gun, lives are lost quickly and violently.

It’s our gun culture run amok with the help of our own leaders and the compliance and urging of the corporate gun lobby. It’s the public, unaware of the implications and the detalis of the laws passed under the radar and scrutiny they deserve. It’s deception at its’ worst and at its’ deadliest.

It’s time for a change. Let’s get to work now while we can still save lives.

Millions against gun violence

guns everywhereThank you to One Million Moms and Dads Against Gun Violence for the image on the left. The numbers of parents and others against gun violence are surging. Why? Because we don’t believe that guns everywhere are making us safer. We can read the news articles and the headlines. Some of us have lost loved ones to bullets. We understand that we can do something about this constant and unsettling barrage of stories about shootings. In the last 2 days there were 2 college shootings. 2 more dead and 4 more injured. And this was a week after 9 were shot and killed and 9 others injured at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.  A Texas professor has gone public with his resignation saying he doesn’t feel safe with all of the guns around and when the Texas law allowing students to carry concealed guns on campus goes into affect in August, he doesn’t want to be there for what might likely happen.

There are millions of Americans who are angry and appalled at the latest violent incidents in the country. The headlines read like a country at war. In fact, in my local newspaper this morning there were 2 headlines for articles that appeared next to each other. The one on the left stated: “Two students die in shootings at Texas, Arizona college campuses“. The one on the right reads: ” Violence spreads to Gaza, where Hamas leader calls for uprising.” And then on another page, the headline reads: Obama in Roseburg urges nation to ‘come together’ over gun violence. My paper chose the headline above when running an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times by Maria L. La Ganga where the headline read: Obama, visiting Roseburg families,is confronted by angry gun rights activists“.

Appalling. The hatred and extremism of the folks protesting a visit by the President of their country to comfort yet the latest families by gun violence is inexcusable. If his had happened to any other President, we would have been calling these folks insurrectionists. The definition, from the link: “an act or instance of rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government.” Well?

But because it is the right wing extremists, so ugly in their hatred of a President who has done nothing to take away their rights or their guns, somehow they get away with it. Where else can people stand with loaded openly carried guns when the President’s motorcade comes by? And why were they allowed to do this? Rights? Armed intimidation by angry citizens?

There is a disconnect between reality and policy. It’s fueled by angry armed people who have been deceived by the corporate gun lobby and others on the right side of our political spectrum. It keeps them agitated and voting.

Insanity.

Which is it? Will we come together as a nation over gun violence or will the angry gun rights activists who represent a very small minority of Americans get their way because they are angry and armed? Time to start thinking about what this means. Decisions in America are not made at the end of a gun barrel. Bullets will not decide who will lead our country. If it comes to that, our democracy will end and we will become no better than the countries we criticize because they are constantly at war and where violence reigns.

Also in my local paper, a letter to the editor claimed this: Arming everyone is the answer to gun violence”:

There is just one obvious answer: Allow everyone to carry a gun either openly or concealed. Then, when some bad guy starts shooting, those around him will be able to defend themselves and others. This sounds a little crazy, but is there any other answer?

The suggestion that everyone should be armed is, of course, nonsensical given the facts. In developed democratized countries not at war, there are no headlines like the ones in my morning paper. Of course there are other answers and they don’t involve arming everyone. Guns in the hands of angry gun rights activists are not normal in other countries not at war. It should not be normal here.

What we have learned about most of the shooters involved in the latest rash of shootings on our campuses is that they were fascinated with guns and their parents even encouraged that fascination. The shooter in yesterday’s Arizona campus shooting, for example, loved his guns. And we found out after the Umpqua Community College shooting that the young man who decided to end the lives of 9 people also loved guns and was well versed in gun laws. He had a stockpile of guns which, at this point we are not sure whether were all purchased by him or also his gun loving mother. He was also someone who had developmental and emotional difficulties and should not have had easy access to guns.

Insanity.

A headline in another area newspaper said this: “‘Lucky One’, Matthew Downing, gives first statement about Oregon Community College massacre.” According to this account from one of the survivors, the Oregon shooter mercilessly slaughtered other human beings as though he was a machine. What happens to people when they have these kinds of thoughts and feelings and also access to guns? Something goes terribly wrong and innocent people are killed. From the above article:

Downing did so and said at that point Harper-Mercer fired into the center of the room and began asking students one by one if they were religious. The shooter fired at one student who said he was Christian and another who said she was Catholic.

The shooter reloaded two handguns with ammunition from his backpack during the killings, Downing said. Harper-Mercer was “firing on people who were just lying there,” Downing said.

Downing also said the shooter seemed to lose interest when a woman told him she couldn’t move her legs to stand up because of the pain.

Downing was lucky. He will never be the same. What he witnessed last week will always be in his brain and his life has changed forever. Lucky him.

Insanity.

Common sense tells us that things just can’t keep going the way they are. Millions of Americans are on the side of passing stronger gun laws to stop at least some of the massacres. Why would we not? We know the answer. The corporate gun lobby, representing mostly the gun industry and not their members, has a frightening hold on the country’s conversation about guns and on our political process:

In more than three decades of service to the NRA, Wayne LaPierre has done more than any other man alive to make America safe for crazed gunmen to build warlike arsenals and unleash terror on innocents at movie theaters and elementary schools. In the 1980s, he helped craft legislation to roll back gun control passed in the wake of the Kennedy and King assassinations. And since the late 1990s, twice he has destroyed political deals that might have made it hugely difficult for accused killers like Holmes and Lanza to get their hands on their weapons.

A predecessor once characterized the NRA as being “one of the world’s great religions,” and 64-year-old LaPierre is a strange fit to be its pope. LaPierre did not come from gun culture. He wasn’t a hunter, a marksman, a military man or a Second Amendment activist. “He’s not a true believer,” says NRA biographer Osha Gray Davidson. “He’s the first NRA chief you can say that about.”

But judging from the commentaries, comments, news coverage and finally, some courage by some of our politicians, things are changing. We are not letting candidates for the highest office in the land get away with saying, ” ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all,’” Seriously? There are more where this came from in this Salon article.

Picture yourself in the room with the Oregon shooter. Someone ( an Army veteran) did actually try to rush the shooter but he was shot and disabled by the shooter. But never mind that. Dr. Ben Carson is sure he would have done it differently and the outcome would have been different as a result.

Picture a room full of first graders. And one of them, Sarah, says to Jack- “Hey everybody, we can take this guy down. Everybody attack him.”

Insanity.

People like Dr. Ben Carson are in an increasingly small minority. The NRA, for example, represents ( or they say they are representing) about 4 million gun owners- give or take a million. A small percentage of Americans own guns.  Even fewer of these are actually members of the NRA. And for those folks, we are letting our kids and others be slaughtered?

Insanity.

In a recent post I wrote about the anger over the string of shootings- one following on the heels of another. We are turning that anger into action. Please join one of the many organizations working to prevent gun violence and let your voice be heard.

Where is common sense? We are better than this.

UPDATE:

Speaking of millions in favor of stronger gun laws and expanding Brady background checks, I ran across 2 articles in the Washington Post written by gun owners who want change. The headline on the first one is” “I’m a gun owner. The NRA doesn’t speak for me.”  The second article, also in the Washington Post, has this headline:Most gun owners support background checks and other limits. So why aren’t their voices heard?”

We know the answer to the question asked in the second article. And we also know that the first article’s writer is saying what many reasonable gun owners are saying. The NRA does not speak for them. So when our elected leaders wrap their heads around this idea, something will change and lives will be saved. Until then- calling all gun owners. Join with us in our efforts to make change happen. We need your voices.

UPDATE#2:

Since I mentioned the anti-government gun extremists who showed up to protest President Obama’s visit to Roseburg, Oregon, I feel the need to let my readers know that the man who organized the protest rally is a convicted felon.  Hmmmmm.

Insanity.

Guns, puppies and other stupid and dangerous stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is common sense?

Gun odds and ends

odditiesThere are so many articles and incidents every day that I really don’t know where to begin most of the time when deciding on a topic for a post. So today I am going to just write about odds and ends. Because the American gun issue is so complicated and full of controversies and oddities, it seems appropriate to write about the oddities and then also about the ends that can help change the oddities in our gun laws and our unique gun culture.

Let’s start with police shootings in other countries, most especially Norway as written in this article:

Police in Norway fired their guns only twice last year – and no one was hurt – new statistics which reveal the country’s low level of gun use have shown.

Norwegian officers drew their weapons just 42 times in 2014, the lowest number of times in the last 12 years. Only two people were killed in police shootings in the same period.

The majority of Norway’s police, like forces in Britain, Ireland and Iceland, patrol unarmed and carry guns only under special circumstances.

In the US, where officers are armed at all times, 547 people have been killed by police during the first six months of 2015 alone, 503 of them by gunshot.

Why isn’t this proof that more guns have not made us safer? It is, of course but the gun lobby can’t deal with this truth. No other country has the insane culture of that of the U.S., thank goodness. And more, about officers themselves being shot:

US police are faced with greater day-to-day violence than most developed countries. In 2013, 30 officers were fatally shot while on duty.

The last time a British officer was killed by gunshot was in 2012 when two female police constables were shot in Manchester.

Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said in a statement at the time, “Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”

So there’s that oddity. But the post hasn’t ended. Now I want to talk about “good guys” with guns in my neck of the woods. The following article is a caution to anyone who wants to mow their lawn too early in the morning:

A 57-year-old Ely man was charged July 6 in State District Court in Virginia after admitting to police that he pointed a shotgun at another man mowing a lawn.

James Brobin was arrested July 2 in Ely after a victim and another witness said Brobin raised a shotgun at the man mowing grass on the corner of Central Avenue and East Harvey Street in Ely. (…)

Jason Carlson told Ely police that Brobin came within approximately 20 yards of Carlson and raised the gun for approximately 20 seconds. Carlson and his brother began cutting grass at a residence at approximately 7 a.m.

After he lowered the gun, said the complaint, Brobin “made a slashing motion across his neck with his right hand.” He then walked back across the street and into his home at 13 West Harvey St., said the complaint.

Be careful out there and don’t mow your lawn at 7:00 a.m. We can safely say that this was another “good guy” with a gun until suddenly he wasn’t. I have written about other incidents involving lawnmowers. In this one, also in Minnesota, a woman got hurt over a lawn mower incident:

A Minnesota man ambushed his 17-year-old neighbor, shooting her three times, hours after she asked him to not ride his lawn mower through her yard, prosecutors say.

Chad Pickering, 40, told investigators the teen was “a bitch” who “threatened him” Monday afternoon, before he “went over to (her house) and knelt down by a pine tree … and ‘I waited, and I waited and I waited,’” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Apparently lawn mowing can cause enough anger to armed “good guys” with guns that they actually believe they can shoot someone over that anger.

Under the category of “you just can’t make this stuff up” here, now, is a machine gun lawn mower.Let’s take a look:

No words.

It’s hard not to make a comment about this oddity insanity taking place in the state of Texas concerning a military operation. You’ve just got to love the photo of these paranoid armed Texans ready to take on the government. By the way, are these “good guys” with guns? From the article:

Eric Johnston is a retired firefighter and police officer from Arizona currently residing in the Texas Hills region. Johnston decries paranoia, saying “We are not far-wing, ‘Oh God, arm ourselves, get in camouflage, block the streets. We’re doing more of a neighborhood watch kind of thing. We are going to find a central location and set up an area and just cruise the streets, drive up and down the highway through Bastrop…most of us are legal concealed-carry folks, but we’re not going to be running up and down the street with automatic rifles.” This mentality ascends all the way to the governor’s office – as Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15 back in April.

Can we think about the “mentality” of even the Governor of Texas?

And speaking of the odd mentality of some people, can we talk about why some people pack guns in their camping gear? This couple found out what a bad idea that was:

The woman, 38, was camping with her boyfriend in Box Elder Canyon of the Stansbury Mountains west of Grantsville when the boyfriend tried to instruct her in firearms use, said Tooele County sheriff’s Lt. Ron Johnson. The woman first tried shooting a BB gun and then moved to a .22-caliber rifle, Johnson said.

“He handed it to her, and she placed it between her legs,” Johnson said. “When she went to stand, she grabbed it around the trigger guard. It discharged into her chin and exited through the bridge of her nose.”

Oops. Clearly we are not safer when there are more guns around. There are way too many irresponsible people handling guns out there. I would say the other campers are lucky that bullet didn’t end anywhere else. If this man was teaching his girlfriend gun safety one has to wonder how responsible he is himself as a gun owner. And we all know that alcohol and guns just don’t mix. Unfortunately this is not an oddity. It’s a normal, almost every day occurrence in our country.

And can we talk about where some of our crime guns come from? An Arizona gun show provided 26 guns to a group of teens who broke into the show venue during the night and stole the guns:

Investigators said about a dozen teens were able to cut through a chain at the east gate of the Central Florida Fairgrounds and make their way into the Orlando Gun Show expo building, smashing through a window with a brick. They walked out with 26 guns.

Oops. Only in America do we have the odd problem practice of thousands of guns being exhibited at large gun shows. Stolen guns end up as crime guns. Obviously this is another one of those things we need to work on to improve gun safety and improve the overall safety of our communities. To that end, I suggest we put our heads together to figure out how to keep guns from being stolen from gun shows, gun shops, homes, cars,etc. When we are awash with guns, this is a serious problem.

Aside from these inanities about people with guns, “accidental” shootings, lawn mowers, Jade Helm, stolen guns and others, let’s look at a real tragedy that could have possibly been averted if we had stronger gun laws. The Charleston shooter should not have been able to get his gun legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer. But here is how he could have been stopped from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • State Reporting Improvements: Many states fail to report essential information like criminal history, mental health status, domestic violence records, and, especially important in the Charleston case, illicitdrug abuse records to the agencies that perform background checks. Increasing NICS funding and changing federal law to require states to report relevant records to the NICS system will close this dangerous gap in the background checks system.
  • Universal Background Checks: The best way to save lives from gun violence is require background checks on all private sales, including online and at gun shows. South Carolina has abysmal gun laws (we gave them an F on our 2014 Gun Law State Scorecard), and had the Charleston shooter failed his background check at the gun shop (as he should have), he still would have easily been able to purchase a gun through a private sale, where no background check is required. Eighteen states currently have some form of private sale background checks, but until we pass this smart gun law everywhere, we cannot act surprised when dangerous criminals get their hands on deadly weapons so easily.

Dan Gross of the the Brady Campaign has made a similar statement regarding the Charleston shooter’s access to a gun he should not have had in the first place:

“Dylann Roof’s arrest on a drug charge, combined with his admission of prior drug use, should have prevented him from buying a gun, and it’s a tragedy that is not what happened. This news underscores the urgency of the message that Charleston families and the Brady Campaign took to Capitol Hill this week: Congress must vote now on H.R. 1217.

Yes. We can actually do something about the oddities and the insanity of our gun culture.

This editorial in the Washington Post gets right to the point with their title-The argument against common sense gun control crumbles:

Mr. Comey’s revelation should, first, inspire a lot of soul-searching among federal law enforcement. They aren’t responsible for Mr. Roof’s virulent racism, but they failed in the narrow area of responsibility that the nation entrusted to them. Congress has stifled the study of gun violence and theenforcement of gun laws in the past. But this appears to be a the fault of a poorly operating database.

Mr. Comey’s admission should also drive home what should be an obvious point: A tightened, functional background-check system and other simple measures would erect real and practical barriers to people attempting to buy guns for nefarious purposes. If the system had worked correctly in this case, Mr. Roof would have been turned away at the gun store counter. If Congress had tightened up the system’s rules years ago, he would have had a harder time looking elsewhere, such as at gun shows. If federal and state lawmakers weren’t so in thrall to the pro-gun fringe, friends, family members and other potential sources would have faced clear and high penalties for giving Mr. Roof a weapon without taking him to a gun store to get checked out first.

It’s entirely appropriate to talk about imposing basic gun laws in the wake of any mass shooting. All of them underline the fact that guns are shockingly efficient killing machines that no responsible government would ignore. Even if better gun laws wouldn’t prevent every rampage or end street crime, they would certainly cut down on gun deaths from all sorts of causes by making it tougher to obtain and use firearms illegally. (…) But in the case of Mr. Roof, gun activists now can’t easily fall back on the argument that better gun laws couldn’t have helped. Maybe Mr. Roof would have been so determined to start a race war that he would have eventually found a gun. Maybe not. What’s clear is that it didn’t have to be so simple for him. The country should have tried harder to stop him — and should be trying harder to stop the other Dylann Roofs still out there. That means law enforcement can’t be asleep at the switch. And it means that Congress should finally pass more common-sense gun limits that would make it harder to skirt the system.

9 Black men and women are dead. Our background check system has a serious flaw. People who shouldn’t get guns get them anyway. Congress does nothing. People continue to die. And we have a broken system of gun laws fostered by the corporate gun lobby and our own elected leaders. This is not only insane but totally unacceptable and should be at odds with our American values. We just have to be better than this.

UPDATE:

Sadly, I did not think I would have to add one more mass shooting to my list of “odds and ends”. But 5 more Americans are dead, including the shooter, in a shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here is the statement, in its’ entirety, from the Brady Campaign about the shooting:

“We are shocked and saddened by today’s acts of domestic terrorism at a Navy Reserve center and a military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. As information continues to unfold, our thoughts are with the victims who are reportedly members of the military and law enforcement, as well as their families and the Chattanooga community.”

“We do not yet know how the shooter obtained his firearm. As the details continue to unfold in Tennessee, it is already clear that this is another reminder of the work that needs to be done to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We owe it to the men and women at our military installations, in our communities, and to the 89 people killed every day by guns to take action now.”

This has to end.