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.


Of “Mad Men”, lapdogs, car dealers, gun giveaways and biker gang shoot-outs

Texas bikers
Thanks to Parents Against Gun Violence

There is always so much to write about that it’s difficult to find the starting point. But I think I’ll start with the biker gang shoot-out in Waco, Texas on Sunday because the irony is so delicious. Let’s first take a look at who showed up at this massacre that took the lives of 9, left at least 18  injured and led to the arrest of 172 or so.  You really can’t make this stuff up. From the article:

Open Carry advocates and bikers packed the State Capitol grounds in January in hopes of pushing for more lax gun laws. Among those bikers was Mike Lynch, who was also one of the culprits in the Waco bloodbath. (…)

Mike is one of the 172 bikers who were arrested after the carnage in Waco, leaving 9 dead and at least 18 injured.

In January, at least 2,000 bikers made their way to the State Capitol for a day of lobbying. Gun rights was at the top of their list of priorities, Fox 8 reported.

“They’re going to try to take our guns because some looney toon killed a bunch of people,” one biker said in January.

I can’t fit anymore irony in one sentence than that.

Lynch wrote on Facebook, “What a great day!” above a post referencing their attendance at the Texas Capitol.

So when we let the gun lobby and its’ minions write our gun laws, this is what we get- a lot of dead people in a massacre that most law enforcement said they have never seen in all of their years of working in the field. And it’s true that the gun lobby, whose interests are not that of even most gun owners, write the laws.

I love this statement about what happened in Waco from the Brady Campaign:

“Everything is big in Texas,” said Jonathan Hutson, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Including big biker shootouts and even bigger loopholes that allow criminals and other dangerous people to buy guns without a Brady background check at gun shows and online”

Ah- the irony again. Now here was a group of mad men, for the perpetrators were mostly men. And mad they were- over some slight that allegedly happened in a restaurant bathroom and perhaps someone drove over someone’s foot in the parking lot? That’s enough to make you mad all right. But did people have to die over these petty arguments? The answer is, of course, NO. But when a gun, and in this case other weapons as well, are available, it’s easy to kill someone in an instant in an argument.

What I am saying is that guns are the most commonly used weapon in homicides. And this case was a prime example. Other weapons were used but the 9 who died apparently, from the information I have found,  all died of gunshot injuries:

….“When you get in an argument with a group of outlaw motorcyclists,” Thompson wrote, “your chances of emerging unmaimed depend on the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle. In this league, sportsmanship is for old liberals and young fools.” The addition of guns proved predictably deadly. But whose bullets killed whom and why?

As if on cue, the right wing is blaming law enforcement for the deaths. At this point we don’t know who killed whom. But it seems clear from several articles that the biker gangs had made some statements threatening to shoot police officers.

And as if to make the public, who mostly support common sense when it comes to gun laws– yes- even in Texas- madder, the Texas legislature is thinking about expanding gun rights to allow just about anyone to open carry their pistols and other guns and with a provision that prevents law enforcement from asking them for their permit to carry. Seems like a good idea, right? This is the gun culture we have, thanks to spineless politicians who care more about their campaign treasure chests and saluting to the corporate gun lobby than about common sense and actually doing something about the public safety they were elected to protect. This is the definition of mad men– meant broadly to include all legislators.

They are lapdogs to the gun lobby. Shame on all of them. Check out this Brady Campaign video for the satire and the truth about our politicians:

Sigh.

Closer to home, a local car dealer decided it would be a good idea to give pistols away in a promotion to get customers to buy cars. Great idea, right? What message does this send to the public? Why do we think giving away a deadly weapon should be a part of a business promotion?  Some of my Facebook friends alerted me to the one page prominent ad in the local newspaper. This prompted quite a big discussion on Facebook and through e-mail about what we could do to express our concerns about such an ad. ad for gun give away

Yesterday more than a few phone calls were made by concerned citizens to both the local newspaper and the local car dealer. We learned that the Pawn Shop that had apparently donated the guns for the promotion, is a licensed firearms dealer and will perform background checks on any person who walks away from the gun dealer with a gun. The problem is that there was no disclaimer to that effect in the ad as there should have been. We also learned that the both the newspaper personnel and the car dealer representatives to whom we spoke were quite adamant that a background check should be required. If that is the case and the importance of a Brady background check was expressed, one wonders why there is so much resistance to requiring all gun sales to have one? Calling attention to the fact that many gun sales go without background checks will help to change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities.

By coincidence, I took my car to my dealer for an oil change and some other maintenance yesterday where I spoke to one of the managers who I know. He said that this ad was the topic of their morning meeting. They were quite concerned about the lack of information about whether a background check would be required. Their other concern was for the bad message this sends to the public leaving them embarrassed for car dealers who have to sink to giving guns away to get business.

What is happening here is that the veritable “chickens are coming home to roost.” When we sit back and allow the insane and well funded single interest gun lobby groups to make our laws without thought to the consequences, we encourage such a cavalier attitude towards guns that when something happens like the Waco shooting, people are taken aback and proclaim surprise. When a car dealer gives gun away in a prominently placed ad in a local paper, some people just think it’s part of our culture and no big deal. Others, however, take notice and they don’t like it. The problem for this gun dealer here was that the ad was so large and the image of the two pistols so obvious that it called attention to itself. That is what they wanted but I don’t think the result is what they expected.

This is NOT the gun culture the general public wants. But it is the gun culture we have. It is also not the culture we have to accept. Things are changing.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign wrote this great piece yesterday about how changes to social mores occur over time and how we have learned to do a better job of protecting our children and our communities from hard, sometimes the hard way.  From the article:

And then it struck me, what could be more inspiring than Mad Men? Not only as a great way to end a speech, but as a powerful demonstration of how much the world can change and how quickly that change can happen.

In less than a generation how many of the things we see on that show have gone from perfectly acceptable — even glamorous or sexy — to socially unconscionable? How many dangerous, reckless or harmful things that we used to do without second thought, are things we would not even consider doing now? (…)

The fact is, if we can just keep guns only out of the hands of people that every sane American believes should not have them in the first place, and inspire safe, responsible behavior around the dangers and risks of guns in the home, we can create extraordinary change.

But first, we have to stop talking about guns as a partisan political debate and start talking about gun deaths as the public health and safety issue that they are.

Don Draper famously said, “If you don’t like what’s being talked about, change the conversation.” That is precisely what we must do to address the problem of gun deaths and injuries in our nation. Just like all the other issues that have changed so dramatically in the generation since Mad Men, we have to start talking about solutions based on our common goals and values, like health, safety and freedom from fear.

Dan Gross is right. Gun violence is a public health and safety epidemic. Making that worse by passing looser gun laws rather than stronger laws has deadly results. Promoting gun giveaways for advertising promotions is just not a good idea given the increase in gun deaths and the obvious public health problem resulting from our cavalier and insane gun culture. We don’t have to accept the way things are. We can step up to make change and it can happen in small ways as well as large. The “Mad Men” culture isn’t the culture we have today, though some would say that the advertising culture prevalently featured in the popular series still exists in some ways. But luckily we know better about some things and people no longer openly smoke and drink in the work place or let kids play with plastic bags over their heads.

If local car dealers realize that they shouldn’t give guns away as a way to get people to buy cars, then change will happen. If Texas legislators are scrutinized for their own role in listening to the wrong people while making gun laws, then change will happen.

It is so obvious that something is terribly broken with our American gun culture. But why do we let it continue without making the changes we deserve? Ask your legislators to be responsible decision makers when it comes to public safety. Ask them to stop being lapdogs to an industry that sells deadly weapons without concern for public safety. Ask other parents if there are unsecured guns in homes where your children play. Ask businesses to think twice about allowing loaded guns in places where families gather. Ask questions when you aren’t sure a policy is going to actually keep children and families safe from devastating gun violence. Make phone calls, send e-mails, realize that laws matter and there are consequences to bad laws.

We can’t shrug our shoulders and just walk away thinking that nothing will change anyway so why bother. We can make a difference if we put our heads together for common sense.

Let’s get to work. It’s past time to challenge things that have become socially acceptable but are actually harmful and dangerous. Let’s do it before more harm is done. Lives are at stake and we are better than this.

Something smells in the state of the gun extremists

state_bird_144288I think it’s a great idea for a state to have an official state gun, don’t you? I mean, why not let the people of your state know that some things are to be honored and revered as special. In Minnesota the state bird is a Loon. That’s because the Loon is beloved here. The sound of Loon calls are on almost every one of the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. There’s nothing like that sound in the middle of a summer night while staying at our cabin in the summer time. The open windows let in the warm ( or cool) night time air and also the sounds of nature.

I suppose one could love the sound of gunfire in the middle of the night, too. In Tennessee, perhaps that is what they had in mind when the gun lobby bought and paid for legislators proposed a state gun- a .50 caliber gun that can shoot a bullet that travels for a mile before hitting its’ target. The message is clear, right? Don’t mess with us here in Tennessee. We have this state gun. If we hear noises in the middle of the night, watch out.

The bill may be on hold for a while. Maybe Tennesseans don’t want to be on record with the state gun thing. They are on record for a whole lot of other gun bills, however that smell of the corporate gun lobby influence.

This is all part and parcel of our nation’s gun culture. Worship of guns is a religion to some. Some of our nation’s lawmakers are making a statement about their love affair with guns by displaying assault rifles in their Capitol officers. From the article:

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) last week tweeted a picture of himself and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the leader of the House’s Benghazi investigation, holding an AR-15 in a House office building.

The photo raised eyebrows, because Washington is home to some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, including a ban on the AR-15.

But members of Congress are exempted from rules that otherwise prohibit people from having assault weapons, including AR-15s, Capitol Police said.

The District’s gun laws “specifically provide that members of Congress may maintain firearms within the confines of their office and they and any employee or agent of any member of Congress may transport within the Capitol Grounds firearms unloaded and securely wrapped,” Capitol Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider told The Hill.

Right then. No one else can carry guns in the Capitol. They have made sure to protect themselves from someone with bad intent. The rest of us, not so much. In addition the citizens of Washington D.C. are constantly under assault from those who want to loosen gun laws everywhere except where they do their work:

“For years, the District of Columbia has infringed on its residents’ Second Amendment rights and rendered them vulnerable to criminals who could care less what the gun laws are,” the Florida Republican said in a statement. “This legislation will finally allow D.C.’s law-abiding residents and visitors access to firearms for sporting or lawful defense of themselves and their homes, businesses and families.”

Mr. Rubio’s “Second Amendment Enforcement Act of 2015” would make it easier for D.C. residents to purchase firearms and carry them in public by gutting the city’s gun laws and blocking the D.C. Council from enacting gun control measures. Among its changes, it would eliminate D.C. gun registration requirements, overturn the city’s ban on semi-automatic firearms and create a “shall issue” permitting system for concealed carry licenses.

Something smells of pandering. Rubio wants visitors and dignitaries visiting our nation’s Capitol to be surrounded by gun carrying folks except when they get to the Capitol building. What could possibly go wrong? Check the Ohh Shoot blog for how often “law abiding” citizens make stupid and dangerous mistakes with their guns.

Here’s another article about the Capitol AR-15 display. So what is the message here? Sure it’s legal. And maybe the paper work was all done correctly. But here’s the thing. Why does a sitting US Congress member need to display an AR-15 in his office? Keep it at home. What we need is some common sense. This open display of a gun in the office of a US Congress member is unnecessary and inane. In the face of so many gun deaths and injuries, how does this even happen? What are people thinking? I guess it’s hard to have a clear head when you are carrying the smelly garbage of the gun lobby in order to curry favor. smelly

The gun rights extremists make a big stink about their rights and in the process, leave the rest of us less safe. We smell a rat in Texas and so does the head of the Texas police when he says this about a bill moving through the legislature:

He and Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, were behind the amendment that basically says an officer cannot ask to see a person’s handgun license simply because they are openly carrying a gun.

“The police officers, just like if you’re driving a car, need some reasonable suspicion of a crime or reasonable suspicion that the person is unlicensed,” said Rinaldi.

Kent Morrison carries a concealed handgun on a regular basis and agrees with the lawmakers.

“Why should [licensed gun owners] be stopped and questioned while they’re doing something totally legal?” asked Morrison.

But the largest police association in Texas, which has supported open carry, disagrees with the amendment.

“It’s disturbing,” said Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, “because it’s definitely aimed at law enforcement.”

He believes it takes away the tools an officer has to do their job.

Why shouldn’t licensed gun owners be stopped and questioned while carrying loaded guns openly around in public? What if the gun carrier is a felon with bad intent? What if the gun carrier is a domestic abuser on his way to shoot his partner? What if the gun carrier is an adjudicated mentally ill person on the way to shoot up a classroom of first graders? Gun rights extremists hide behind the second amendment to loosen our gun laws so that soon enough virtually anyone who wants to own and carry guns around will do so unchecked- unhindered by any laws. This is not the kind of communities the majority of us want. But this is pushed on us by the corporate gun lobby whose primary interest is in driving up profits while gun deaths are also going up.

Speaking of licensed gun owners, or not, as in the case of the new Kansas law to allow people to carry guns with no license or training, check out the poll showing Kansans with common sense. Of course we don’t want people walking around with loaded guns ho have not undergone training or background checks. THE GUN LOBBY AND THEIR BOUGHT AND PAID FOR POLITICIANS ARE WAY OUT OF TOUCH WITH THE PUBLIC. Something doesn’t smell right. 

It’s as if we have lost our sense of what’s right and wrong. We have lost our ability to think clearly about public safety and what’s best for the citizens of our community. We have lost our moral compass when it comes to guns. Nothing seems to matter or make any common sense when it comes to the agenda of the gun lobby.

We will continue along this vein apparently until more tragedies occur. Until the children of some of our lawmakers use a gun in an “accidental” shooting; until the child of a lawmaker uses a gun for a suicide; until a lawmaker actually uses a gun to commit a homicide; until the good friend or a family member of a lawmaker is shot in a senseless gun death; until more small children are shot while doing what children are supposed to do- be in their classrooms learning.

There is no evidence that more guns have made us safer. In fact as more and more facts and research get released, we are seeing the opposite. We have seen the opposite for a long time but the gun lobby has stifled research by our government in to the causes and effects of gun violence. Just as the government in the form of the CDC studies other issues concerning public health for the common good of the citizens, as is the job of the government, they should also study gun violence. Physician groups are getting fed up with this lack of research into one of our nation’s dangerous epidemics:

For two decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been prohibited by Congress from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” (The National Institutes of Health faces a similar restriction.) Now there are signs the medical profession is getting fed up. In the April 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine is an editorial calling on physicians to demand the “resources and freedom” to do their jobs: reducing harm. Specifically, the journal calls for an end to the political blockade on research about the health effects of gun violence.

The gun lobby’s anxiety is understandable. It makes many claims, but none is more consequential than the declaration that more guns lead to greater public safety. Life (and death) across the U.S. seems toundermine that assertion daily, while a smattering of research, conducted despite the blockade, reinforces doubts about the National Rifle Association’s thesis.

Perhaps extensive research would authenticate the NRA’s claims. On the other hand, there is a chance that a solid body of social-science research would reveal its thesis as a myth. Better not to take the risk.

Not all research has been extinguished. Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the University of California at Davis are among the institutions that have produced notable studies in recent years. The National Institute of Justice has made limited forays into studying the criminal use of guns. But given the scope of the issue — more than 30,000 firearm deaths and tens of thousands of injuries annually — foundation grants and a bare trickle of government research can do only so much to advance understanding.

Understanding. That seems important here. With such a volatile and politically charged issue as what to do about gun safety reform, evidence based research is vitally important. We are operating in a vacuum created by the gun lobby- very purposely. Some statements made beg credultiy. I write them all the time on this blog. For example, possible Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee had this ridiculous thing to say about the second amendment:

During the discussion, Huckabee shared his views on the Second Amendment by explaining that, where he comes from, the “gun nuts” are the people who support gun control and stated that if somebody broke into this house, the only reason he’d call 911 would be to tell them where to pick up the body of the intruder.

Explaining that he’s owned guns since the time he was five, Huckabee said that he cringes when he hears people say that they support the Second Amendment because it protects hunting.

“The Second Amendment is not about hunting,” he said, “this is about freedom. And I’ve heard people say ‘Huckabee is one of those gun nuts.’ Where I come from, a gun nut is a person who is irrationally afraid of a firearm because they don’t understand the nature of having one and the importance to their liberty. I don’t love guns, but I do love freedom. I love it a lot.”

Nice. Isn’t Huckabee a minister? Whatever happened to caring for and loving our neighbors like ourselves? Whatever happened to compassion? This smells of pandering and a lack of basic understanding about the problem of gun violence in American. Who needs a “leader” saying stuff like this? It stinks up the conversation about guns and gun violence that our country so desperately needs.

We are better than this. It doesn’t have to be like this. But it will be until the majority decides to rise up and demand change. It will be until we change the conversation about gun safety reform. It’s possible to freshen the air and freshen the conversation with facts and humanity. Please join a group working on the issue of gun safety reform and say “enough.”

Enough. Haven’t we had enough? If over 30,000 gun deaths a year is not enough, what is? Reasonable people can disagree about issues. But it smells when facts are denied or shoved aside in order to promote the agenda of a single issue political interest group whose main goal is profit but its’ products cause the death of innocent Americans.

Where is common sense?