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.

Should we be afraid of the gun extremists?

zombieThis will be a long read because there is so much going on in the insane gun world that it takes a lot of space to write about it. And write about it is what many are doing. It’s hard to deny that our gun culture is so out of whack and so out of tune with what Americans want that it is becoming a tragic and deadly joke to the rest of the world. The fact that it is not lighting a fire under the pants of our elected leaders is a national shame.

I wrote a recent post about gun free zones in which I took issue with the corporate gun lobby’s specious claim that shooters look for gun free zones when they want to shoot people. It is, of course, a lie. This nonsensical and hypocritical claim has led the gun extremists to pushing for guns everywhere as they have convinced lawmakers that it will only be them- the “good guys” with guns who show up in places where guns are not allowed to save the rest of us from certain death.

I had an exchange with one of my readers on my last post about how he believes his children are not safe in their schools ( gun free zones) which is why he has chosen to carry a gun at his child’s school which he says he has worked out with administrators in the school. It is concealed so others don’t know he is carrying. I countered with the facts. Children are actually more safe in their schools than they are in their homes. This great and extensive report by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “The Truth About Kids and Guns points out that 87% of firearms deaths for children 10 and under happen in their own homes- not considered to be gun free zones, by the way.

Let’s look again at the gun free zones nonsense. I pointed out how police officers are frequently attacked by guys with guns. It’s a fact. So the idea that someone with a gun is looking only for gun free zones for their attacks is disproven by the facts. And another example of this has played out in Dallas, Texas where an armed and angry “good guy” with a gun opened fire at a police station where we can presume those inside are armed:

Mr Brown told a news conference that the shoot-out began at about 12.30am local time, when the suspects parked in front of the building and began firing.

He said at least one suspect fled the scene in a van which rammed a police cruiser before leading officers on a chase that ended in an ongoing stand-off at a car park in the city of Hutchins, where more gunfire was exchanged.

Mr Brown said the suspect driving the van told officers that he blames police for losing custody of his son and “accusing him of being a terrorist”. The gunman also said he had explosives in the van, which appeared to be fitted with gun ports in the sides.

Let’s read this again: “”accusing him of being a terrorist””. Hmmm. An angry armed guy in an armored van with possible explosives. What should we call him? Is this what the Texas legislature had in mind when they just passed the law allowing for open carry of any kind of gun on the streets of their cities?

And did you know you could order a Zombie Apocalypse Assault Vehicle and Troop Transport.” vehicle through Facebook? The now deceased attacker had mental illness and anger issues according to his family and clearly had a fascination with guns. He had had prior problems with the law when he tried to choke his own mother but charges were dropped. Where did he get his guns? I think this statement needs more explanation actually ( from the above linked article):

The police report said he was then reported on the same day to be in Paris,Texas, about 100 miles away, where he grabbed weapons and body armour and talked about “shooting up schools and churches”. Andrew Boulware and his father, Jim, confirmed the incident.

So many red flags here. This is why laws such as the recently passed Gun Violence Restraining Order in California are so important. Family members know if a relative has mental illness and shouldn’t have guns. Laws such as this one in addition to requiring background checks on all gun sales can save lives. In this case, only the suspect died but all were lucky that many others were not injured or killed based on the mental state and bad intentions of the attacker. People with mental illness and anger issues such as this man had should not have access to guns.

And seriously, do people actually believe in zombies? Is there an alternate universe that I don’t know about?

Dear God.

But, according to this article, it’s really easy to become a terrorist like this guy in our own country. We talk a lot about those ISIS and other foreign terrorists attacking us. Let’s talk about our own home grown terrorists. I think that is what the guy in the zombie apocalypse van can be called. Check out this article from the Daily Beast about the ease of getting armored vehicles, clothing and guns, of course, right here in our own communities.

Where is common sense? We will see more of this because we are doing absolutely nothing to stop it. This one was in Dallas. The next one could be in your community. And that is not fear and paranoia. That is real. We are not talking about the zombies so feared by the gun extremists. We are talking about severely mentally ill people without the support they need to keep themselves and others safe from harm. We are talking about people with anger issues with guns. We are talking about the gun extremists themselves.

And almost at the same time that this incident was taking place the Governor of Texas was signing the new Open Carry and Guns on Campus bills into law. He signed the bills at a gun range. You just can’t make this stuff up. I’ve talked about Open Carry a lot so won’t get into that in this post.

Today my home town newspaper ran this editorial piece about guns on college campuses:

There has been no major demand on college campuses from students who want to bring guns to school. Instead, pro-gun laws have been foisted on colleges and universities that don’t want them. Why? Because of the power of the gun lobby.

But students don’t desire firearms. A 2013 poll published in the Journal of American College Health found that 78 percent of students at 15 Midwestern colleges and universities rejected guns on their campuses. Almost 80 percent of students said they would not feel safe if faculty, students and visitors carried concealed weapons on campus, and 66 percent said they did not feel that carrying a gun would make them less likely to be threatened by others. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities and more than 420 colleges and universities in 42 states have joined the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus to fight pro-gun laws.

And they are right. Guns do not belong on campuses any more than they belong at schools or in places of worship or in hospitals. College campuses are supposed to be sites of learning, lively debate, quiet contemplation and study. (…)

We don’t need vigilantes. We have professional law enforcement, which sometimes has problems, but is still accountable to us.

As powerful as the gun lobby is, this year so far has not been a complete triumph for the gun rights movement. It lost a battle to get the Florida Legislature to approve a law allowing guns on campuses. And even though Texas passed its gun law, some pro-gun groups saw the law as a defeat because legislators amended it to permit university presidents to set limits on the buildings into which students can bring guns.

Let’s hope that the defeat in Florida and the amendment to the Texas law are just the beginning of a pushback against the gun lobby’s excesses. The last thing we need is more armed students on college campuses.

Gun lobby excesses is the right wording. There are so many examples in every day America of the excesses of the gun lobby and it’s followers. Why isn’t the message getting to the people we have elected to serve the majority and protect the public health and safety? Oh right- corporate gun lobby.

As just another example of a gun extremist acting out his rights as a “good guy” with a gun, let’s look at this heinous shooting at an Iowa shopping mall:

Iowa mall cop — with a Facebook account loaded with open-carry and right-wing memes and photos of multiple weapons — is under arrest for shooting and killing a fellow mall worker because she filed sexual harassment complaints against him.

According to The Gazette, Alex Kozak was taken into custody after shooting 20-year-old Andrea Farrington three times in the back while she was at work at the Iowa Children’s Museum in the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville, Iowa.

Police say that the 22-year-old Kozak left the mall and went to his home and retrieved a 9mm Glock handgun before retuning and shooting Farrington late Friday night..

KCJJ reports that a cousin of Farrington’s said that Kozak had been harassing the victim for at least six weeks and that she had complained to his superiors about unwanted advances he had made toward her. (…) Kozak — who is currently being held on $10 million bail — is married to Kellie Kozak, who recently posted pictures on her Facebook page of a visit to Costco where her husband can be seen carrying a sidearm. According to his father-in-law, Kozak didn’t always carry a weapon, saying, “If circumstances were that it’d be best not to have a weapon present, he didn’t have a problem with that.”

You really ought to check out the Facebook screen captures ( in the article) from the page of the shooter’s wife. Dare to speak out against gun insanity and meet with this in your face behavior. The staff at the Costco store the shooter and his wife visited were perhaps prescient. Even though these 2 tried to force their open carry behavior on the clerks and customers, they didn’t want it. Did they sense this guy could be a killer with that gun he carried so proudly and arrogantly?

The shooter had a legal permit to carry that gun. No comment.

The thing is, the majority of us don’t want openly carried or concealed carried guns in public places. Yes,people have a right to own guns but where is the line drawn between civility and harassment and being in the faces and spaces of others?

New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote this column about the in your face nonsense of open gun carriers. From her column:

We’ve moved from the right to bear arms to the right to flaunt arms.

While the airport setting gives the incident a particular flair, this kind of thing has been happening quite a bit. In Michigan, the City of Grand Rapids has been in a legal battle with a man who took umbrage when police stopped him while he was walking down a residential street on a Sunday morning wearing camouflage, with a pistol strapped to his leg and singing “Hakuna Matata” from “The Lion King.”

Very few states have flat-out rules against openly carrying guns in public. It’s just something that never came up. “It’s not a practical thing to do,” said Laura Cutilletta of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. But it turns out that anyone with the legal right to carry a concealed weapon — which, in some states, doesn’t even require a permit — generally also has the legal right to walk into a McDonald’s with a gun sticking out of his waistband. (…)

The open display of weaponry freaks out average citizens, especially the ones with children. It outrages police. At one point, even the National Rifle Association said the open carry demonstrations were “downright weird.” But the organization quickly backtracked, apologized, blamed the post on an errant staffer, and averred that “our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners.”

You’d think that lawmakers would move quickly to make it illegal, but with a few exceptions, there’s more enabling going on than anything else. After a Kalamazoo man walked into the public library’s summer reading party for children with a 9-millimeter gun strapped to his waist, worried officials asked the State Legislature to add libraries to a very small list of gun-free zones. The Legislature did nothing.

“Look, I got a gun!” yelled a man who walked into a park where kids were playing baseball in — yes! — Georgia. “There’s nothing you can do about it.” The police, who were summoned, determined he was absolutely right.

There’s nothing we can do about it because our state legislators have enabled the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists and left the rest of us with this kind of uncouth and impolite behavior. They ought to be ashamed or embarrassed. Are they? Not so far but if this kind of public display of bravado with loaded guns continues, they will eventually have to take responsibility for allowing themselves to be duped by the gun lobby and fix the problem. It’s already too late but they could at least try. “Better late than never.”

Some people think this is the answer. It has merit and if the insanity continues, who knows? But for some who have been hiding behind the second amendment for opposition to common sense measures to stop the shootings, these are “fighting” words. More on this another time.

I could go on and on and on. The result of our American gun culture brought to us by the corporate gun lobby is that more people are now dying of gunshot injuries and more are surviving thanks to modern medical techniques. I will list a few more but just know I’ll be back to talk about how we can stop at least some of our nation’s senseless gun deaths.

Can we prevent all shootings? Of course not. But we surely have to practice some common sense and do a much better job of keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them. But further, we need a serious national discussion about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Too many people are dying in preventable shootings. More guns everywhere is proving to be deadly to our fellow citizens. The gun extremists are afraid of zombies and certain trouble in every nook and cranny of our communities. We should be afraid of those who are afraid of the zombies.

UPDATE:

Remember the man in the zombie van who shot up a Dallas police department? I wrote about it above and wondered how he got his guns. Well they were “legal” guns which were taken from him but returned after charges were dropped in an incident where he tried to choke his own mother:

Lamar County authorities say the weapons found on James Boulware, the man killed by Dallas police following a weekend attack on police headquarters, match guns and ammo confiscated then returned to Boulware two years ago:

A long range hunting rifle with scope. A 12 gauge shotgun. A Ruger rifle. A 45-revolver. A 9-millimeter, semi-automatic pistol. A camouflage flak jacket and body armor and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

That’s just some of the arsenal of weapons confiscated by Lamar County Sheriff’s deputies in May of 2013 after arresting James Boulware on assault charges out of Dallas.

An arsenal of weapons was confiscated then returned after charges against James Boulware were dropped in a 2013 assault. Brett Shipp investigates.

Seems like a pretty #badidea to me. But when our gun laws are so lax that law enforcement and judges can’t do a thing about removing guns from those who clearly should not have them, this is the result. There are some people who should not have guns. We can do something about this if we make changes to strengthen our laws.

UPDATE#2:

So I want to add another article about that “zombie apocalypse” van used by the attacker of the Dallas police station. There are other folks in our country who feel a need to own one of these vehicles. From the article:

Why does he own it? Mr. Funicello, who runs a mixed martial arts gym called the Spartan Academy, said the question should be: Why not?

“This is America,” he said. “I should be able to have a howitzer or a bazooka if I want one. If I wanted to buy a fire truck, I could.”

Yup. This is America……

Gun insanity reigns

Open CarryThe political cartoon I have used here is going around on social media. It is a pretty good depiction of what most people think about the guys who openly carry their assault rifles in public to make some kind of point that eludes the sane majority. And it also points to the insanity of our gun culture. Just as gun deaths are going up, so are the attempts to weaken gun laws and “normalize” gun carrying in public. It’s antithetical to the real problem of gun violence in our communities and definitely not what we need.

What we need in our country is a serious national discussion about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities- not the insanity taking place in communities across America. Why is it happening? The answer is important. What or who are these guys afraid of? Their behavior makes no sense given that crime is going down in our country for many reasons. And President Obama has not taken away anyone’s guns during his two terms. The gun lobby has made claims about why we need an armed America but they are specious- not supported by the facts.

On the other hand gun deaths are going up for many reasons. And most of the deaths are suicides or homicides among people who know each other rather than random acts of violence by “the  (feared) other”. People like themselves ( “good guys with guns”) are shooting people on a regular basis intentionally or not (accidents). Shouldn’t we examine what is going on here and then deal with this national public health epidemic in ways that will affect lives and make us safer?

In America I thought we rolled up our sleeves and worked together on things that kill our children, sisters, brothers and friends. Why? Because we don’t want our loved ones dying from something preventable.  Or we engage and rally supporters and the public to educate them about the causes and effects of serious problems and then ask our elected leaders to make changes to laws, if that is what’s needed. Or maybe it’s not a law. Maybe it’s awareness that will lead to changes in behavior that can also save lives or prevent injuries. But the gun lobby has seen fit to prevent research about saving lives due to gun violence. And that is insane and troubling to say the least.

Certainly that is what happened when MADD called attention to the insanity of drunk drivers being responsible for the deaths of their children. Recent changes to our acceptance of same sex couples have led to changes in our marriage laws to allow people to marry who they love. We now recognize that second hand smoke can cause health problems. Public health campaigns encourage cancer screening tests which can save lives. Some of these efforts resulted in laws, others not.

Something interesting is happening with awareness about gun deaths and injuries, much of which changed after the shooting of 20 small children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The public is far more engaged on this issue and new polling has shown continued and mostly unchanged support for changes in laws that could save lives. With more groups and organizations pushing for change, it is inevitable that change will happen. But there’s an opposite push by a minority of well funded and increasingly bold gun extremists that makes no sense given the facts. Rather than trying to prevent gun injuries and deaths by highlighting the risks of guns, these zealots are exposing America to an underbelly of extremism that is potentially dangerous and certainly not in the mainstream or the interest of public health and safety.

Meanwhile things are getting crazier and crazier in gun world. What is the deal with the open carry activists anyway? They are pretty much making fools of themselves while also calling attention to the potential dangerous result of laws that have made it possible for gun extremists to carry any kind of gun they want to carry in public places. Our legislators should be re-thinking their favoring of the corporate gun lobby’s nonsensical notion that openly ( or concealed) carrying loaded guns in public places is a good idea. The “proof is in the pudding”.

I don’t have to give all of the examples of permit to carry holders having problems with their guns in public places do I? It’s been written about by me and many others repeatedly. But further, in a civil society not at war citizens don’t carry loaded guns around in public. I’ve traveled in countries where armed military are on the runways at airports or in public places because of unrest and potential violence. Is that us?

Take this confrontation with law enforcement in Abeline, Texas by open carriers. From the article:

Grisham tells officers that he is within his rights to loiter roadside with high-powered weapons. “This is public property,” Grisham says. The cop, however, informs Grisham that he has actually been standing on private property, and that he and his cohorts are guilty of criminal trespassing.

Grisham asks why cops felt compelled to give a warning armed with AR-15s. When police pointed out Grisham too was in possession of a large weapon, he dismissed the concern since the gun was “on [his] back.”

“I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’m minding my own business,” Grisham complains to police. “Do you know why I’m feeling this way right now?”

“I feel threatened,” Grisham explains loudly, “because you are a police officer and you have people with rifles here that are threatening me.”

Grisham and his partners in crime elected to leave rather than escalate their dispute with law enforcement. But when he gets to his car — a silver minivan with an Open Carry Texas logo on the front driver’s side door — Grisham turns back toward cops to shout at them first before getting in. “You guys wanna come up on us like we’re some sorta terrorists, then I’m gonna respond in kind,” Grisham yells toward police, before exchanging a few more tense words, and driving off.

That last utterance from Grisham pretty much says it all doesn’t it? What kind of sane person who doesn’t want to call attention to himself or who isn’t looking for a confrontation does this? Grisham has had his problems with the law. When the new carry law is enacted in Texas will he even be able to carry a pistol legally? From the article:

That being said, it seems like Mr. Watkins and Open Carry Texas leader CJ Grisham, two men who’ve dedicated much of their adult lives to being radical anti-government wackos fighting for gun rights in Texas, might finally be getting their wish as a current proposal would pave the way for Texans to openly carry handguns. There’s just one slight catch – neither man would qualify to do so under the proposed law. Under current laws anyone convicted of a Class A or B misdemeanor is prohibited from carrying concealed handguns for 5 years, and anyone arrested on either of those charges loses their concealed license until the case is resolved. Well it just so happens that Grisham was arrested during a hike carrying an AR-15 and charged with interfering with an officer’s duties, while Watkins was arrested this past September while he and his group of anti-government activists were out harassing police officers in Arlington, Texas. It’s believed that the requirements under this new proposal would mirror the state’s current laws concerning concealed handgun licenses, which means that if convicted, neither Grisham or Watkins would be allowed to openly carry handguns for at least 5 years. Naturally, neither man believes that any form of license should be required to carry guns. As always they’ll cite the “shall not be infringed” fragment of the Second Amendment – while completely ignoring the whole “well regulated” part at the very beginning.

These are the “law abiding” “good guys” with guns who are promoting ever more lax gun laws so that they can do whatever they want with their guns. People can’t do whatever they want with anything in our country. We have laws for a reason. That’s a democracy in action.

The Open Carry nonsense is gaining traction- but not for the reasons the Open Carry folks want. Check out this parody about Open Carry on a recent Daily Show segment. The Texas pool party incident that has everyone talking took on a different meaning looking at it through the lens of satire about Open Carry. And can we talk about the totally different reaction by one set of Texas police officers towards mostly black teens in a disturbance at a swimming pool and another set of Texas police officers towards a bunch of insane men carrying assault rifles and yelling at and harassing the officers?

Something is wrong in America.

Here’s another “law abiding” good guy with a gun waiting to break a law. I thought that was just for criminals. Remember another gun lobby myth- that if we make stronger gun laws, the criminals won’t follow them anyway. Based on that mythical analysis we should not have any laws I guess. But I digress. An Open Carry Missouri activist, looking all “svelt” decked out in his finest, decided that the law about not allowing people with guns in his local zoo was just not for him:

In April, Open Carry activists marched on the Ohio State university campus to ‘educate’ kids attending school there. When a man named John informed the group that children as young as 5-years-old will be attending dance classes nearby, and politely requested that those participating leave their weapons in their vehicles until right before the walk, Jeffry Smith declined.

He said, “If children are scared, then it is because they’ve been socialized to be so.”

“It’s a zoo, not an amusement park. It’s a zoological institution. The difference between the zoo and Six Flags is that the zoo is public,” Smith said.

Under Missouri law, guns are prohibited in amusement parks, but Smith questions if the zoo is actually categorized as one. (…) The St. Louis Zoo said that it bans all weapons.

I guess when you are a white guy with an AR-15 and a pistol on your hip,you can do anything you dang well please with that gun. And why do people need guns in zoos? Maybe a peacock will get out of control and attack? Or a lion could escape I suppose. Or worse- a bear. I mean, we have bears and deer in my  back yard regularly where I live but I don’t need my gun to get rid of them nor would I use it that way. Or armed at an amusement park? You just never know when you might get stuck at the top of the ferris wheel and need to shoot yourself to safety. Insanity.

No, this guy is just strutting and showing off because he thinks he can. He mistakenly believes that his second amendment rights include doing anything he wants with his guns. And he believes that we should just socialize everyone to love having people like him around everywhere we go. And as for the kids, they will learn that we are a country at war with ourselves over gun rights- a war not seen anywhere else in the world. Wars in other parts of the world are where people actually get killed with those AR-15s or loaded guns in public. Oh right……..Sandy Hook. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Gabby Giffords. Aurora Theater…………..

Or there’s the NRA’s own Ted Nugent exclaiming on his Facebook page that President Obama should be assassinated. He’s done this before, of course, and got the attention of the Secret Service. One day, his rantings just may result in a tragedy. Do these folks actually think through what they are saying or is the fear and paranoia real? Hard to tell. Nugent is a performer- and a bad one at that.

So how to counter this insanity? Here’s an idea from a University of North Dakota professor that is worth considering. Refusing to enter an eating establishment or other business that allows folks with openly carried weapons inside is one thing. Walking out without paying may work, it may not. The businesses are stuck with the laws in their states but most could post signs that say guns are not allowed or welcomed inside. But the gun rights extremists say they can and will ignore those signs and carry anyway. The laws are not meant for them. Insanity reigns.

The thing is, a civil society is a society where people help each other and care about each other enough to not to harm or inflict violence on others. Certainly having guns openly carried discourages the idea of civility. How can one have a serious conversation with someone displaying an AR-15 over their shoulder? And why an assault rifle? There is a clear message sent by the carrier of these guns. Don’t mess with me. “Molon Labe”- come and take it. We get the message. It’s flawed and full of potential problems. Our message is that we don’t want you carrying these guns around with you in places where our families hang out. Leave them at home where you can use them for self defense, or um,  for whatever people think they need them. 

As I said before, we need a serious national discussion that is beginning to happen in spite of efforts to stop it ( by the corporate gun lobby). There are films and plays in the works. There are publications and studies. There are protests. There are blogs and new web sites. There are Tweets and Facebook pages and new studies showing consistent support for common sense when it comes to stronger gun laws.

June is gun violence awareness month. June 21st is ASK day encouraging parents to ask about loaded unsecured guns in homes where their children play. We have had more than enough incidents of kids “accidentally” killing kids to know how important it is to ASK. On June 22nd, HBO will run a documentary about gun violence victims. titled “Requiem for the Dead”.  The film is full of incidents taken from news media reports and Facebook and Twitter links to actual deaths of real people. As long as real people die every day, these kinds of films will be important as a documentation of the facts.

Please join me in efforts to take the insanity out of our gun culture and gun laws. Too many people are dying every day. What we need are cool, sane, calm and reasonable voices with the facts at hand if we are to influence the decisions made about gun policy. Lives depend on our getting this right.

UPDATE:

I am updating this post to include this blog post by Mike the Gun Guy. It’s all about the appearance of Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign on Sean Hannity’s FOX news show the other night. From the blog:

But nice-sounding platitudes aside, I find it interesting that someone as pro-gun as Hannity would give Dan Gross an opportunity to appear before a large Fox audience to prove, if nothing else, that he’s not Lucifer in disguise.  Because although Hannity threw in a couple of red-meat comments that are de rigueur on Fox when anyone mentions guns, such as his fear of the ‘slippery slope’ of gun control, he basically let Dan tell the audience how much gun owners had in common with supporters of the Brady Campaign, which is entirely contrary to what usually erupts from the NRA.

Ever since the Brady law was voted in 1994, the NRA and other pro-gun groups have kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-Brady commentary designed to convince gun owners that any expansion of background checks is nothing short of a conspiracy to take away all guns.  Here’s a typical comment from the NRA in 2013 after Brady mounted a video to mark the 20th anniversary of the original background-check law:  “The Brady Campaign’s proposed expansion of federal background checks would force even many family and friends to get government permission for firearm transfers amongst each other and subject all lawful gun transfers to federal paperwork and recordkeeping requirements, the prerequisites for a national registry.”  Of course this statement is simply untrue, but it plays directly into the old slippery-slope gun control nonsense that Hannity found necessary to mention on the show.

I have been saying recently that the smartest thing Brady and Everytown have done is to move into the safety space which until now was owned lock, stock and barrel (pardon the pun) by the NRA. But while everyone’s in favor of safety, there’s one safety issue which puts the two sides as far apart as the Brand Canyon’s rims, and Hannity gave it away when he said that no matter how many laws were passed to prevent guns from getting into the ‘wrong hands,’ criminals wouldn’t obey laws anyway, so what was the point of passing more laws?

The pro-gun community falls back on this argument every time that any new measure is proposed that would increase regulation of guns.  The problem is that if we only passed laws that criminals would obey, there wouldn’t be any laws at all. Which is actually what the pro-gun community would prefer as regards gun ownership, particularly when a Democrat happens to be renting living space at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

You may remember that I wrote something very similar earlier in this post. It’s true. Another gun lobby myth that doesn’t hold water. It’s time, as I have said before, to de-mythify the gun lobby arguments so we can deal with the facts when dealing with saving lives.