Guns at the borders

I have written before about how the loose gun laws in the U.S. actually are contributing to our border crisis. Here’s how (from an article in Common Dreams:

The link between homicide and migration is captured in this startling ratio from the Inter-American Dialogue in 2018: In Honduras, a 1 percent increase in homicides drives up migration by 120 percent. (…) But what I had not, and certainly should have, grasped is our nation’s central role in generating fear by allowing a flood of US weapons to continue across our southern border. The flood into Mexico alone includes “[m]ore than 212,000 illegal firearms” from the U.S. each year owing to “straw purchases,” observes the Los Angeles Times. 

Central America is hardest hit.

There, gun laws are comparatively strict, yet “homicide rates are among the highest on earth.” In El Salvador, with the world’s highest rate, almost half of weapons found at the country’s crime scenes are from the U.S. officials here estimate.

And more, from the article, that is pretty significant because it refers to how crime guns used in drug trafficking, homicide and terrorizing citizens in Mexico and other Central American countries come from our very own country:

The country has only one gun store. Located in Mexico City, it is guarded by the army. Seventy percent of guns seized in Mexico were originally sold in the U.S.—most of them in Texas, California, and Arizona according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

“Once in Mexico, these weapons end up in the hands of drug cartels or get shipped to gangs in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador,” says The Associated Press. In Honduras, “armed holdups on public transportation are a regular occurrence, where nearly half of the unregistered weapons originated in the U.S.,” reports the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.. 

“The number of firearms smuggled from the United States was so significant that nearly half of American gun dealers rely on that business to stay afloat,” reported the University of San Diego in 2013.

The author wonders why this is not more widely known. It is simple. The NRA and its lapdog politicians have conveniently sought to blame others for the problem. The outrage over what what was named Operation Fast and Furious, an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives) operation to try to stem the sale of illegal guns used by the Mexican drug cartel to reap terror and violence and allow for more drugs to come into our own country was part of this blame game.

Though the Obama administration, the ATF and former AG Eric Holder are not blameless, trying to understand how guns get into Mexico illegally adding to the violence this was a worthy operation it seems to me:

Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view. The trove of records reviewed by The Trace tell two clear stories: High-volume gun traffickers often depend on a single retail gun dealer for most of their wares. And rarely do those gun sellers face consequences.   (…) “It’s one big operation. You’ve got drugs — cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin — coming up from South America and Central America to the U.S., which is a big consumer. And then you have money and guns going south,” said a former ATF official who worked in Mexico during the period in question. He spoke to The Trace on condition of anonymity because he still consults with law enforcement. “Guns are the tool of the trade,” he said. “People aren’t killing each other with machetes.”

A Minnesota man ( from the above article) trafficked guns he purchased at one gun store in southern Minnesota but he got caught.

Beginning in 2007, a Minnesota man named Paul Giovanni De La Rosa began purchasing guns and delivering them to a business partner who lived near Mexico City. In court documents, he was accused of smuggling more than 100 firearms over the course of 20 trips. The weapons included more than 40 Five-seveN pistols, which are favored by drug cartels because they fire a cartridge that can pierce body armor. After De La Rosa was caught at the Laredo border crossing with weapons hidden inside furniture, he was prosecuted and sentenced to three years in prison. He did not respond to a request for comment sent to his attorney.

Dozens of De La Rosa’s purchases were included in the trove of ATF records reviewed by The Trace. Of the 34 weapons tracked in that dataset, 28 were sold by a single store: Hart Brothers, in the town of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Hart Brothers is now out of business. I wonder why.

From the quote in the above article from The Trace, this is key: ” Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view.”

Brady and The Trace as well as other organizations have received some ATF trace data through a FOIA request. We have known why the ATF needs to be stronger, not weaker as the NRA minions in Congress want the organization to be-because the Republicans pushed through the Tiahrt amendment which passed in 2003. Why would the corporate gun lobby and some members of Congress not want us to know about crime gun traces? We know the answer. Information is not a friend of corruption, greed and illegal activity,

The ATF is vastly underfunded and under staffed on purpose. Thank you NRA and lapdog politicians.

Laying blame at the feet of others is the M.O. used by those who want power and control and are willing to corrupt the conversation for their own selfish agenda. Hating President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder was ubiquitous and overt. Republican leadership did everything they could to discredit our first Black President. They held Holder in contempt of Congress.

And Trump hating and now attacking those who are trying to get to the bottom of his immigration mess at the border is shameless at the least. Rep. Elijah Cummings was holding him and his administration responsible for the horrendous conditions at border detention centers. The detention centers are a stain on our democracy and our history.

Let’s be clear. What is happening now at the border is not the fault of the ATF, President Obama or AG Eric Holder. President Trump, his sycophants in the administration and his Republican minions have made the situation much worse and now, of course, blame everyone but themselves. That is actually how Rep. Elijah Cummings found himself the subject of more of Trump’s offensive and racist Tweets. Comparing Baltimore with the border situation is a shameless way of diverting attention away from the terrible problems created by the Tweeter in Chief.

The Baltimore Sun pushed back in a great editorial piece laying it out like it is. We all must push back on what is happening at the border, what our President is tweeting, and the overt racism and intolerance as well as attacks on entire cities and members of Congress totally unbefitting a President, let alone anyone else.

Finally, while we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner — or ruefully point out that he failed to spell the congressman’s name correctly (it’s Cummings, not Cumming) — we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.

We all must step forward and take responsibility for the terrible situation at the border and in our impoverished cities. Passing strong gun laws would help fix both violent situations at home and in neighboring countries. We can see how guns make it into the Baltimore area but we are not doing anything about it:

“I would say approximately 60 percent statewide of firearms that are seized by Maryland law enforcement are not Maryland guns, that goes up exponentially in places like Baltimore City and Prince George’s County,” Lopez said.

Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Buyers are required to wait seven days after purchase to actually take possession of a handgun. There is no instant background check, and buyers are limited to one purchase per month.

Laws are far more lax in states to the south and west.

In West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, background checks are instant, and there is no waiting period and no limit on how many guns you can purchase at once.

The disparity between gun laws state by state complicates the effort to reduce gun violence, currently an urgent priority in Baltimore.

There is no shortage of supply. (…) “It’s not difficult at all,” Guy said. “Not only are those that are involved in intentionally violent activities have quick access to guns, even those kids that are fearful that if they are not protecting themselves, that they could be another victim, but it’s easy for them to get guns too.”

Passing a federal universal background check law requiring that every buyer is checked out to make sure he/she is not a prohibited purchaser would save lives. That makes common sense. Passing and enforcing straw purchasing and gun trafficking laws would help stop some of the sales of guns that end up in Mexico and other Central American countries. These laws would also prevent some of the trafficking into our major urban areas. Holding irresponsible gun dealers accountable also will stop the practice of selling to those who can’t and shouldn’t get their hands on guns. These same laws would affect violence in our urban centers all over the country.

Immigration, violence, poverty and guns go together. They shouldn’t but they do. President Trump just connected the border situation with urban poverty and violence. In many ways he is right but he doesn’t know it. His intent was to denigrate, attack and criticize and his Tweets have only drawn attention to the atrocious conditions in both places. Plus I’m pretty sure he did not want us all to know that his own son-in-law Jared Kushner is partly responsible for the “rat infested” living conditions in Baltimore. Seriously- you really can’t make this stuff up.

It’s in our hands to affect change. We don’t have to accept what has become an untenable situation. Holding our leaders accountable for their negligence is key to making change happen.

Take action. Not sides.

Lock them up

familyjewelsLock up those guns. It turns out that stolen guns account for a lot of crime guns. Here is a new report from The Trace about that very thing. This is a long and comprehensive article but just a few highlights about something we already know:

American gun owners, preoccupied with self-defense, are inadvertently arming the very criminals they fear.

Hundreds of thousands of firearms stolen from the homes and vehicles of legal owners are flowing each year into underground markets, and the numbers are rising. Those weapons often end up in the hands of people prohibited from possessing guns. Many are later used to injure and kill. (…)

Thefts from gun stores have commanded much of the media and legislative attention in recent years, spurred by stories about burglars ramming cars through storefronts and carting away duffel bags full of rifles and handguns. But the great majority of guns stolen each year in the United States are taken from everyday owners.

So for those legal gun owners who love to blame those guns on the streets for gun crimes and murders, check out your own homes and cars first. It’s also a reminder that when we allowed the gun lobby to loosen gun laws in many of our states, we made this happen. In many states, where shall issue concealed/carry laws are in place, guns can be kept in cars- locked up of course. But, duh, don’t you suppose those intent on stealing guns know this? Many stolen guns come from car break-ins.

In the image in this post, the homeowner has his own handgun out ready to shoot someone who may be breaking into his home. As it turns out, most home invasions happen when the homeowners are not at home making the idea that a gun is needed to protect from home invasions. It is rare that a gun is used in that way. Too often those guns end up shooting a loved one.

My state of Minnesota is one where gun carry permit holders can keep their guns in their cars.

Where is common sense?

But back to stolen guns.

I understand that hundreds of millions of Americans own guns and a small majority of Americans own a large majority of the guns. But for God’s sake- lock them up.

More guns+more mass shootings+more shootings in general= about 100 dead Americans a day.

In my hometown of Duluth, a robbery of a home not too far from where I live ended with 3 arrested and one person who escaped. A friend who lives close to the home where the robbery occurred told me that a shotgun was found lying in the back yard at the scene. She has 2 small children and guessed that there about 20 kids who live within blocks of the crime scene. The thought that a shotgun was found where, had police not found the stolen items, could have been found by a young child was concerning to her.

In addition to the stolen shotgun,  a handgun and a rifle were found in the yard the next day. They appear to have been stolen from the home. The one who got away left his jeans behind in a neighbor’s garage. There have no further articles about the robbery to confirm this information so this is hearsay but most likely true.

The moral of the story is that there are more guns on the streets being traced to crimes and shootings. A lot of them are coming from “law abiding” gun owners are not responsible enough to lock up their guns securely where they can’t be stolen.

Passing laws to require the reporting of lost and stolen guns could prevent some of the many stolen guns used in crimes and help law enforcement trace crime guns to their sources for the sake of accountability. This is not rocket science. It’s a no brainer and common sense. 

From the above-linked article:

Nine states and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws to partially fill this gap and require gun dealers to implement some specific security measures, but such steps fall short of a comprehensive solution to the rising rate of firearm theft from gun stores.33 Congress should enact legislation that mandates certain security requirements for licensed gun dealers and gives ATF the authority to ensure compliance with these requirements. In July 2017, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced legislation that would require licensed gun dealers to store guns in a secure manner when their stores are closed and also would direct the U.S. attorney general to promulgate regulations requiring additional security measures.34 In addition to passing this legislation, Congress should remove the rider on ATF’s budget that prevents the agency from requiring gun dealers to conduct an annual inventory reconciliation, a commonsense business practice that would help ensure that dealers are keeping track of their dangerous inventory.35 Finally, Congress should provide ATF with the resources required to conduct regular compliance inspections of gun dealers to ensure that all dealers are complying with applicable laws and regulations and to help dealers identify potential security weaknesses before thefts occur.36   

And further, from the article:

The lack of mandatory reporting of stolen guns also enables gun trafficking and straw purchasing by eliminating accountability and allowing individuals whose guns end up used in connection with crime to simply say that the guns were stolen. To help ensure a more accurate assessment of the prevalence of gun theft in the United States, Congress and state legislatures should enact laws requiring all gun owners to promptly report stolen or lost guns to law enforcement. This provision was included in a number of bills introduced in the last Congress, including the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2016, which was introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).49 A June 2016 poll commissioned by The New York Times found that 88 percent of voters support this policy.50

If you have seen the 2002 film, “American Gun” you understand the path a stolen gun can take to become the weapon of a murder from being a legally owned gun. Too often, the consequences of guns stolen from gun dealers and individual gun owners are tragic.

One way to prevent this is for everyone to think about what they are doing with their guns. Until we all get that there is a risk to gun ownership as well as a right and a responsibility, we will continue to see people die due to gunshot injuries. There are suggestions in the article above about taking care that guns are not stolen.

We can a lot better to prevent guns from entering the black market and being trafficked on our streets. The fact that we aren’t is leading to senseless and avoidable gun deaths and injuries. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Carnage in Minnesota

Bloodshed Word Represents Wordclouds Bloodletting And FightingThis past week-end was a stunning example of our urban gun violence epidemic. It happened in Minneapolis and St. Paul where 17 people were shot and 2 of them died of their gunshot injuries.:

 

 

So far this year, 229 people have been struck by gunfire citywide — roughly 21 percent fewer than this time last year — most on the North Side. If the pace continues, Minneapolis will log 283 shootings this year.

Many of the assaults have been attributed to gang disputes.

In 2016, Minneapolis had 341 gunshot victims, after averaging 243 per year over the previous decade, according to department figures. The number of juvenile gunshot victims has also risen in each of the past five years. Four of the 14 people shot in Minneapolis last week were 18 or younger.

Meanwhile, on a national level shootings continue unabated. Check out the Gun Violence Archive’s latest information.

2545 Americans have been shot since the Las Vegas massacre according to the Gun Violence Archive.

As with other causes of death, injury or illness, we must deal with the evidence and the facts in order to understand what is happening. In Minnesota the facts are that urban gun violence is killing and injuring too many people.

Sigh.

772 have been killed.

Sigh.

Why does this carnage not get the attention it deserves? Simple- the NRA and corporate gun lobby are extremist organizations that have a hold on our country and our leaders. Why in the world our leaders are afraid of a distinct minority of Americans is not a puzzle. Follow the money. Follow the influence.

But the puzzle is solvable.

Corporations, including that of the corporate gun lobby, are in control of our Democracy. They are eroding our freedoms, our dignity, our rights to be safe and to solve the most important problems facing us as a country. As long as we continue to elect people who are beholden to these minority interests, we will contribute to the demise of the country our founders envisioned.

And those very people who are beholden and who influence our leaders blame everything on gangs. Yes, gangs are responsible for much of our urban gun violence. And black men account for 50% of homicide victims according to this 2015 report from The Trace. I recommend reading the linked article for other statistics about gun violence in the year 2015 since it addresses the issues I have mentioned as concerns and puzzles that we can solve if we make some new laws, improve old laws and change the culture and the conversation around gun violence in America.

But to just cast blame and then claim that their lives don’t matter is cynical and mean. Much of the urban gun violence is due to gang activity. It is among people who know each other for the most part except when an innocent person gets caught in the crossfire like the Birdell Beeks whose daughter I have come to know.

Domestic violence is also in urban areas as are suicides. Children find guns they shouldn’t find in urban areas as well as rural areas.

The bottom line is the easy access to guns. That we can change by changing the conversation, getting involved with efforts to intervene in urban areas by offering services that will help our youth get out of poverty, make sure they have access to health care, education and other basic needs and to interrupt the cycle of violence.

And we can pass stronger laws to make sure all gun sales have a background check, to strengthen straw purchasing, stolen guns and trafficking laws and Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Finally we can and should elect politicians who actually care about public safety and saving lives lost to gun violence. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an American public health epidemic being ignored by our leaders.

Make the gun issue one of your issues. Demand answers from candidates about what they will do to prevent some of the gun violence in America. Don’t let them hide behind the second amendment. This is not about the second amendment and gun rights. This is about the rights of Americans to live free of insidious and devastating gun violence that affects dozens of families every day and it comes as a total shock.

After the Las Vegas shooting it should be a no brainer to do something about the carnage. If candidates avoid the issue, you will have your answer. Vote for the other person or persist in asking the question. What will he/she do about urban gun violence? What will he/she do about gun suicides? What will he/she do about small children getting access to guns and shooting themselves or others? What will he/she do about stolen guns that contribute to crimes and violence? What will he/she do about easy access to guns on our streets? What will he/she do about assault weapons? What will he/she do about high capacity magazines and accessories like silencers and bump fire stocks?

And then expect answers.

Gun violence is destructive to families and communities. People should be able to sit in their cars, walk in the streets, go to work and school, play on playgrounds, go to public places and be in their homes without encountering bullets.

It wouldn’t take too much common sense to change things. The current atmosphere, however, is far from common sense.

As a country, we are better than this.

 

 

 

Stunts and games with guns are deadly

dominoesSometimes when I read accounts of really stupid and dangerous incidents with guns, I want to cry. Take this Minnesota story for just one of many examples:

A woman shot and killed her boyfriend in a “stunt” gone tragically wrong allegedly to increase their presence on YouTube:

As part of a young couple’s quest for YouTube fame, a 19-year-old woman shot at a book her boyfriend was holding against his chest, killing him at close range outside their northwestern Minnesota home. (…)

Ruiz held up the book — described by County Attorney James Brue as a hardcover encyclopedia — and Perez pulled the trigger on a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, trying to see whether the bullet would go through, according to the criminal complaint.

A few hours before the shooting, a posting went up on Perez’s Twitter account that read: “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE.” The note included two wide-eyed emoji faces and another of an eye-covering monkey with a gaping mouth.

No words.

They rolled the dice and tragically lost.

Playing games while carrying is also a bad idea. Someone got mad at friends while playing dominoes in Las Vegas and got a gun from his car to shoot and kill two people. No joke.

Two men in their 20s died Sunday night after an argument broke out over a game of dominoes at a northeast Las Vegas home, Las Vegas police said.

Officers responded about 7:20 p.m. to a shooting call at the home on the 4400 block of Wendy Lane, near East Craig and North Walnut roads, according to Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Dan McGrath.

After the argument began, another man retrieved a gun from his car, went back inside the home and opened fire, McGrath said. Detectives are working to “positively identify” and arrest the suspected shooter, who knew the men killed.

Who knew a simple game of dominoes could become deadly? My husband’s aunt and his mother used to have real arguments over their games of Cribbage while at their cabin. I’m sure glad neither of them had a gun. Because guns are dangerous and deadly. What is it about that that some people just can’t understand? The American gun culture is out of control.

On my old blog site, I wrote about a board game gone terribly wrong in Minnesota.

Becoming angry while playing friendly games with friends or family should not result in death or injury. But this is the American gun culture. It is out of control.

One of my favorite sources, The Trace, posted an article today about how research has shown that more “law abiding” conceal and carry gun permit holders have actually contributed to more crime:

In a new working paper published on June 21 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics at Stanford Law School ran that data through four different statistical models  — including one developed by Lott for More Guns, Less Crime — and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry. The exception was the narrower category of murder; there, the researchers determined that any effect on homicide rates by expanded gun-carry policies is statistically insignificant.

While other studies conducted since 1994 have undermined Lott’s thesis, the new paper is the most comprehensive and assertive debunking of the more-guns-less-crime formula.

“For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled,” said paper’s lead author, John Donohue. “The answer is no.”

I am not surprised but know that there will be pushback from the gun rights community because this debunks their notions that more guns= less crime when actual research says “NO”.

New polling from Pew research reveals how the country is very divided about some things concerning guns and unified about others:

Republicans and Democrats find rare common ground on some gun policy proposals in the U.S. Large majorities in both parties continue to favor preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, and background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows.

Yet there are sharp partisan differences on several other issues – particularly on whether to let people carry concealed guns in more places and to allow teachers and officials to carry guns in K-12 schools, a new Pew Research Center survey has found.

And Republicans and Democrats have stark, fundamental differences on questions relating to the causes of gun violence – and even whether gun violence is a serious problem in the country.

In what world do people not think gun violence is a serious problem? Just asking……

How did gun violence prevention and gun policy get to be a Republican/Democratic issue dividing the country? Just asking……

Because gun violence does not discriminate between political parties. Republicans and Democrats ( and Independents) alike are shot and killed every day. They also shoot people every day. My now ex and deceased brother-in-law was a Republican. My sister was a Democrat. Gun violence is an issue that affects us all but the corporate gun lobby has become a favored Republican organization:

That partisan split could provide a hint as to why Republicans are so united today behind the NRA. Some of America’s biggest social-issue shifts have been driven by motives other than ideology; young people regardless of party have buoyed America’s increasing tolerance of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, for example.

Gun rights, by contrast, have magnetized Americans toward the political poles. So Republicans might be naturally lining up with the more conservative factions in their party on everything from gun rights to immigration.

But Republicans also have a fairly complex relationship with gun laws. And in fact, the shift described above might undersell it.

Witness their changes over time on the idea of protecting gun ownership versus controlling it. Republicans’ lines are much squigglier than Democrats. But the trend among Republicans since 2008 is clear as day: gun rights over gun control. What was an even split seven years ago is now a 3-to-1 edge in favor of gun rights.

It’s an American tragedy that a public health gun death epidemic is treated as a partisan issue.

But is it? Let’s take a look at more recent polling from Quinnipiac showing more broad support for gun safety reform issues. In this poll and others, Americans broadly rejected the Republican health care plan- even Republicans. Americans seem to agree that the plan is a really bad idea for them. And they also agreed about most policies to prevent gun deaths. Let’s take a look from the linked article:

American voters support 94 – 5 percent, including 92 – 8 percent among voters in households where there is a gun, background checks for all gun buyers. Support is over 90 percent in every listed group.

It’s too easy to buy a gun in the U.S. today, 57 percent of voters say, while 6 percent say it’s too difficult and 32 percent say it’s about right.

If more people carried guns, the U.S. would be less safe, 57 percent of voters say, while 35 percent say the nation would be safer.

American voters say 79 – 17 percent that the way people talk about politics in the U.S. today contributes to violence. This belief is strongly held among all listed groups.

The recent shooting of a U.S. Congressman and several other people in Virginia will have no impact on how people talk about politics, 53 percent of voters say, while 11 percent say it will have a positive impact and 31 percent say it will have a negative impact.

This is agreement that we should be doing more to reduce and prevent gun violence. So why aren’t we? We know the answer. And speaking of politics contributing to violence, there has been much discussion today after our very own President again tweeted out some offensive things against two media personalities. The White House response was the usual defensive one claiming that the President doesn’t advocate violence. Quite a few Republican leaders denounced the tweets but until their actions follow their words, this will continue unabated. And we will all be the worse for it.

Words matter. Did we elect a fighter to be a our President? ( I did not vote for #45) I don’t even know what that means. Presidents are not supposed to openly fight with the press, with women, with anyone who talks about him/her. This President thinks he is still a candidate and a businessman. His thin skin has become his worst enemy leading him to bully, intimidate, tweet inappropriate and offensive words and alienate most of the country. Does he realize that he is actually the President of the United States?

Self restraint and discipline is what is needed. Being tough with world leaders when necessary, with Congress when necessary, with his cabinet members when necessary, but not with the American people and the press. But being tough does not mean being tough like a schoolyard bully. It doesn’t mean throwing verbal punches at innocent people.

And, by the way, a free press is protected in the First Amendment and necessary for a democracy. Any leader who thinks otherwise is flirting with the kind of authoritarianism that is just not American.

And where are his supporters? Do they believe this behavior is OK? It’s not under any standards.

Of course we can all find video and media clips of the President advocating violence and egging on his supporters.

(As an aside, the President was wrong about Mika Brzezinski bleeding on New Year’s Eve.) And here is an article written by Joe Scarborough and Mika in today’s Washington Post asking some serious questions about the President’s dangerous tweets.

This is an embarrassing, sad, unprecedented, unPresidential, offensive, deplorable, vulgar, appalling state of affairs and lack of discipline and common sense that we can’t tolerate. If words that encourage violence come from the top, some people take them seriously and do likewise. We have become an angry, impolite and intolerant country. Having more guns around does not make this any better.

Gun violence often happens when people are angry and intolerant of others or feel that vengeance is the way to make it better. Too many young people are out on our streets with guns used to get even or vent anger.

So back to what is going on in my state of Minnesota….. The St. Paul Police Chief has verified what most of us in the gun violence prevention movement know to be true. Gun violence is a public health crisis:

While addressing the St. Paul City Council, Police Chief Todd Axtell called a significant rise in gun violence a, “public health crisis.”

“As of Wednesday, the number of gunshots fired is up 61 percent, homicides are up and the number of guns recovered off the street is 286,” Axtell said. (…)

Axtell also noted that half of the city’s 13 homicide victims this year were teenagers and the suspects in most of those crimes were teenaged perpetrators as well. The chief added that the summer season may see a rise in gun violence.

“Just last night alone … we had three arrests, five shots fired incidents throughout the city and three guns were recovered,” Axtell said. “This is just one night of work.”

How do teen-agers get their guns? From irresponsible adults. Stealing. Buying on the street from others who have bought guns legally or got them illegally themselves. From their homes. From a relative. From a friend. Any of these scenarios is likely and something we must address as communities and as a country. Guns don’t fall from the sky. All guns start out as legal purchases. From there, too many of them get into the hands of children, teens, criminals and others who should not have access to guns.

This is an American tragedy. It is not happening in other democratized countries.

Our gun culture is not a game or a stunt. We have serious problems that are not being addressed and people are dying every day senselessly and avoidably. It doesn’t help that rhetoric is ramping up and becoming more and more angry and hyperbolic.

Along that line, we need to talk about the latest video from the NRA by their new young star, Dana Loesch.  

Can we talk about advocating violence and encouraging armed insurrection in America? Here is what Loesch is saying under the umbrella of the NRA. I do love the hypocrisy:

In other words, Loesch is telling us that she and the NRA appropriated the imagery of a clenched first, even though when it’s associated with the left, it stands, in her mind, for violent protest or being a whiny loser. She also urges her critics to “take a Midol” and “get a grip,” which is wild advice coming from a woman who made an eight-minute video sitting three inches from a camera yelling about leftists lighting garbage can fires.

But it’s a call to arms that is alarming here and considering the political atmosphere, it wouldn’t take much for a terrible incident to start something we don’t want to see in America. This is no game. This is serious stuff , so for Loesch to feign surprise at the pushback is dishonest and cynical. More from the linked article:

The NRA is getting a little of the sweet, white-hot outrage they so crave with a new and deranged ad featuring their spokesperson, pundit Dana Loesch. The ad explicitly positions Real Americans against the violent, lying left, and—given that it’s an ad for a gun lobbying organization—it reads a lot like a call to take up arms against those menacing liberals. But who is Dana Loesch, why is she in my face, and where does this fit in with the proud tradition of batshit NRA ads?

Who is she? Who is anybody who uses a media platform to encourage violence while representing an organization that encourages the sale of the weapons that cause the violence in this country?

The domino effect of gun violence is all too real  and it’s making us less safe. The dangerous rhetoric we are hearing every day is contributing to a sense of unease and mistrust. The potential for actual violence based on the rhetoric is also real.

Too many families and communities are suffering devastating loss from gun injuries and death. We ought to be discouraging violent and hyperbolic talk instead of hearing it from the top and in ads meant to cause anger and fear of others.

We are better than this.

Questions to ask about guns and gun violence

ASK display with rocksYesterday, the Northland Brady Campaign, Protect Minnesota chapter asked parents some questions. Volunteers ( askers) sat in 8 local parks/playgrounds with ASK materials and either approached parents or parents approached them to see what was set up on the picnic tables. It was a cool and windy day, thus the Lake Superior rocks to hold down the brochures and other materials. This was our first attempt at taking the ASK campaign out to parents where they hang out with their kids. The reception was all positive once people understood what we were all about.

One man, though, approached the table and told the volunteers that he had 3 gun safes where he keeps his many firearms safely locked up. He then blustered that there were 3 reasons to own guns:

  • Self defense
  • Hunting
  • Fighting against the government

Right. There are several things to talk about here.

Guns bought for self defense (mostly pistols) and left around in homes are more likely to be used against you or someone you love than for self defense. That is why the ASK campaign is encouraging parents to ask the awkward question about whether there are unsecured loaded guns in the homes where their children play. ( see my previous post)

That is why the need to lock up guns to prevent avoidable accidents and suicides by children and teens. That is why locking guns securely can keep criminals or those who should not have guns from gaining access to them after they steal them from a home. Many guns obtained this way result in crimes. From this article in The Trace:

Privately owned firearms are stolen in America with alarming frequency: between 300,000 and 600,000 every year, a forthcoming survey of gun ownership by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities will show. At the high end, that’s more than 1,600 guns stolen every day, more than one every minute. That’s enough firearms to provide a weapon for every instance of gun violence in the country each year — several times over.

That is why the questions need to be asked.

Hunting? Many people own guns just for hunting and hopefully have proper training and keep their hunting guns locked up in secure gun safes. Most people do not object to hunting guns. Hunting is a sport and often a family tradition. I grew up in an outdoors hunting/fishing/camping family and was exposed to hunting guns at an early age. I learned how to shoot a .22 hunting gun but chose not to hunt with my mom, dad and brother. My husband is a hunter though now does not hunt any more. We have his guns stored in a locked metal safe. My daughter told me though that when she was young, before my sister was murdered and I got involved in this issue, she knew where the hunting guns were stored ( unloaded but not locked). Funny thing about that, most kids do know where those guns are. That is why we need to ask the important questions of other parents.

Now though, fewer kids are interested in hunting and the sale of hunting guns decreased with this lack of interest in the sport. That is why the corporate gun lobby shifted emphasis to self defense and concealed carry to open up a new marked for firearm sales. Businesses and industry do this all the time. Changes are made to boost sales and profit. The difference between most businesses and the firearm business is that guns are the only product sold to the public without the consumer product safety regulations used for other products to guard against harm and the only products sold that are meant to kill or harm another human being.

Guns used to fight against the government? Yes. It turns out that a new Pew study shows how many people own guns and how many know someone who has been shot. The facts are inverse to what they should be if we had strong gun laws and a gun culture that did not promote guns for tyranny and self defense just in case. Of the minority of Americans who own guns, many of them own many guns.:

Overall, Americans own an estimated 265 million guns – more than one gun for every American adult, according to the study by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. Half of those guns – 133 million – were in the hands of just 3% of American adults, so-called “super owners” who possessed an average of 17 guns each, it showed.

Questions need to be asked.

There are militia groups all over America getting ready for the apocalypse or a hostile take-over of the government and they are armed heavily. So far, most states let them be but they are watched carefully just in case. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of these groups now on the rise. Guns don’t go well with hate, racism and anti-government sentiments.

As I was reading the morning paper, I noticed an article that struck me about our American gun culture. It turns out that a Canadian sniper killed an Iraqi fighter from a distance of 2.2 miles with a .50 sniper rifle. Yes, bullets can fly that far and kill someone. Who knows what might come between the sniper and the target. But as I read the article, I thought about the fact that in America this kind of rifle is available to anyone who wants one.  And even without a background check. For just thousands, you, too, can own a gun that could shoot down a plane:

A 50 caliber rifle can hit a target accurately from distances of 1,000 to 2,000 yards, depending on the skill of the shooter, and can reach targets at a longer range, sacrificing accuracy.2  Designed for use in urban combat situations, these weapons can penetrate structures and destroy or disable light armored vehicles, radar dishes, helicopters, stationary and taxiing airplanes, and other “high-value” military targets.3

Despite their deadly power, or perhaps because of it, 50 caliber rifles are proliferating on the civilian market. Because they are considered long guns, however, they are subject to less regulation than handguns.4  In fact, under federal law and the laws of nearly all states, any 18-year-old who passes a background check may purchase a 50 caliber rifle.5 Moreover, because federal law and the laws of most states do not require private sellers to conduct background checks, 50 caliber rifles may easily be purchased by criminals at gun shows and elsewhere.

Questions need to be asked.

It turns out that the man who stabbed an officer at the Flint, Michigan airport tried to buy a gun ostensibly for this attack ( considered by some to be a terror attack) but he was turned away from a licensed dealer because he was not an American citizen. Luckily for all, he did not choose to go to a private seller at a gun show or on-line or this attack could have resulted in much more tragedy and devastation.

Brady background checks work.

Asking the right questions works.

Common sense works.

Safe storage works.

Sensible gun laws work in other countries and right here at home. 

None of these are a “magic bullet” but in combination, we know we can save lives.

Though only Americans not on board with all of this common sense are those who are lapdogs to the corporate gun lobby. The majority is already there.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The conversation is changing- one person at a time. The culture will change as the conversation changes. And gun laws can be made stronger when the culture and conversation changes. Whether the change in laws comes first to change the culture or the change to the culture and conversation come first to change the laws is moot.

It will change with awareness, persistence and knowledge. The majority are already there.

Asking saves kids.

Answers will save American families and communities from the devastation of gun violence.

Where are you?

 

 

Can you feel The Pulse?

Disarm_Hate_logo_insertv2

 

Can you feel the pain, the grief, the loss? One year ago today, the news of yet another mass shooting started crawling across TV screens, becoming the subject of Tweets, 24/7 news shows interrupting regular programming to cover the shooting death of 49 Americans. These Americans were members of the GLBTQ community gathered at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida for an evening of dancing and a good time. The  shooter, a young security guard with hate in his heart mowed down more people than any other mass shooting in our country and was considered to be a terrorist attack.

From the article above:

The attack is the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in United States history;[82][83][84] the deadliest incident of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the history of the United States—surpassing the 1973 UpStairs Lounge arson attack[85]—and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.[24][86][87]

49 died and 53 were left injured.

The names of the dead:

  • Stanley Almodovar III, age 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

Their pulses are no longer felt. Their voices are no longer heard. Their places at family dinners and events are no longer there and their faces have become memories. The devastation was wide-spread affecting the entire city of Orlando and the country.

But we move on and tend to forget about the victims and the devastation because these shootings keep happening all over our wonderful country. We hear the news. We mourn for a while with the families of the victims. We shake our heads in disbelief. And then collectively we let our leaders get away with doing nothing. A young man with two semi-automatic weapons he shouldn’t have had, with hate inside of him,  thinking he can take revenge on a group of Americans and then claiming it was revenge for bombing his country.

And the guns make it so so easy to do. There are no excuses.  The shooter was a complicated, socially awkward, confused, angry man who was clearly someone who should not have been allowed to get his hands on guns:

From October 2006 until April 2007, Mateen trained to be a prison guard for the Florida Department of Corrections. As a probationary employee, he received an “administrative termination (not involving misconduct)”[98] upon a warden’s recommendation after Mateen joked about bringing a gun to school.[99]Mateen unsuccessfully pursued a career in law enforcement, failing to become a Florida state trooper in 2011 and to gain admission to a police academy in 2015.[98]According to a police academy classmate, Mateen threatened to shoot his classmates at a cookout in 2007 “after his hamburger touched pork” in violation of Islamic dietary laws.[100][101][102][103]

Since 2007, he had been a security guard for G4S Secure Solutions.[104][105] The company said two screenings—one conducted upon hiring and the other in 2013—had raised no red flags.[106]Mateen held an active statewide firearms license and an active security officer license,[107][108] had passed a psychological test, and had no criminal record.[109]

(crossed out letters mine)

I dedicate this post to those whose lives were taken so suddenly and violently and to the survivors who will never forget or be the same. Please read this article about the after effects one year later.:

“I might still be in shock,” Leinonen said. “I know I’m often in denial. It’s as if you know rationally that this massacre happened, but the brain cannot comprehend it, or I should say the heart. The heart and soul cannot comprehend that level of evil.” (…)

“Even though I’m a victim, or a survivor – whatever the case may be – I still try to live as normal, be as normal as possible. People get depressed. Of course, I’m going to get depressed, I’m going to have my moments. I’ve got scars and stuff up and down my body, and stuff now that I continue to look at … a lot of stuff. I’m going to get depressed here and there, you know what I’m saying?”

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to move on, I’ve got to push forward, because nobody else can do it for me. I can’t just give up.”

We are not going to give up. And yes, we do move on. But what does that mean? For this individual it means trying to get his life back together but he will never forget. For the survivors it means eventually not crying regularly and being able to live on with the memories. For the country though, does it mean forgetting and moving on as if these mass shootings don’t happen on a regular basis? Or does it mean we will stand up and do something about it?

On this day an article from The Trace connects us to a man who cares and just can’t get over the deadly massacre. So many people are affected by one shooting. Here is how one man, a cemetery caretaker, is dealing with what happened one year ago today:

Price is 49 years old, a sturdy man with a graying goatee and consoling blue eyes. Among his 20-some tattoos is a quotation from Ernest Hemingway inked on the back of his right calf. “The world breaks everyone,” it reads. “And afterward, many are stronger at the broken places.” He has been Greenwood’s sexton for 15 years, and has seen death come in many ways. But the plot in the northwest corner is different. When he recalls the night of the attack — June 12, 2016, the worst mass shooting in modern American history — he looks dumbfounded and says, “I mean, these were kids who just wanted to dance.”

They were just kids who wanted to dance and now they are dead. Price cares about the graves of those lost and cares about those who come to “visit” the victims and the memories that are stored at the gravesites. And though some of the victims were not considered to be kids by their stated ages, they were all someone’s kids who will never grow old and never live out their dreams.

Do we all care enough to do something about the daily carnage? We don’t need to be dumbfounded. We do need to be brave and courageous against a corporate gun lobby that prevents us from dealing with a serious public health and safety epidemic.

We can prevent and reduce these kinds of shootings and the shootings that take the lives of 90 Americans every day. With a change in the conversation, a culture of guns that leads to arming those who should not have guns, a change to our gun laws and speaking out loudly and clearly to our elected leaders, we can save lives.

In the name of common sense the fight for what we know is right continues and will continue. If we can’t change the conversation about making it easier rather than harder for just about anyone to get a gun after the deadly Pulse nightclub massacre , what will it take?

Update:

After I posted, I was made aware of this video from CAP Action Guns. Please watch as survivors share their stories:

Virginia Tech-moving stones

Virginia TechIt’s Easter tomorrow for those who practice the Christian faith. It’s also the Passover season for Jews. What will the victims and survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting be doing and thinking about on the 10 year anniversary of what was our nation’s most deadly and heinous mass shooting until the Sandy Hook shooting took the lives of 20 first graders and 6 educators and the Orlando nightclub shooting took the lives of 50- yes 50 innocent Americans?

When will we ever learn?

The grief of the Virginia Tech shooting victims is matched by the grief of 90 families a day after a gunshot injury became a gun death due to homicide, suicide or an “accidental” gun discharge. This is the daily carnage and the daily news in America in spite of holidays, families pleading for common sense and brave elected leaders willing to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and demand that the devastation be, at the least, reduced and at the most prevented.

We know there is no way to stop all shootings but shouldn’t we at least try? When a public health epidemic that takes the lives of so many people every year (32,000-33,000) we always get busy to study why and then recommend changes or cures that can prevent the cause of the disease or cause of death.

In America, instead, we are making things worse by loosening gun laws at the state and federal level. Why? Good question. I don’t really believe that the gun lobby wants people to die. They couldn’t could they? They must be affected by the photos and videos of all of the shootings that take place on a regular basis everywhere.

So why do they resist gun safety reform and efforts to prevent shootings so vigorously?

It’s a question that we must ask and it needs an answer.

Following the money is one answer. Power and control is another.

Meanwhile, while we are trying to figure out how to work around the money and profits of the gun industry and the outsized power of the NRA and other organizations, mass shootings continue unabated:

Perhaps because Virginia Tech’s fatality count was so high, most of the school shootings that followed didn’t receive the attention they might have in the decade prior to the massacre.

Are these kinds of shooting becoming normalized to the public or is it they don’t want to hear about them because they feel helpless to do anything about them? They are NOT normal and we can’t let them become normal. It is simply not normal for someone to walk into a school and spray bullets around killing random, or sometimes, selected victims.

And of course, the “everyday” shootings happen without much media coverage and every day, ordinary people’s lives are changed forever. You may know some of these people. They are living close to you- in your neighborhoods and communities. They are remembering lost loved ones every day. This is not normal.

Memorials to victims have become normal. Flowers, candles, teddy bears, hearts, cards, bell ringings, stones.

Memorials sprout up all over the country. In the case of Virginia Tech it was stones. From the article in The Trace:

Without realizing it, the kids at Virginia Tech were propelled by the same instinct that leaves mourners in America’s cities searching their surroundings for a way to honor shooting victims whose deaths often go unnoticed outside their neighborhoods. In Lexington, Kentucky, last fall, high schoolers laced track shoes to a chain link fence in homage to a slain 15-year-old runner, Trinity Gay. After a homicide in New York City, lampposts sprouted roses and sidewalks glittered with liquor bottles. In Cincinnati, a menagerie of stuffed animals was deployed to guard the home of a 9-year-old. (…)

The permanent memorial was dedicated with a ceremony on August 19, 2007, four months and three days after the massacre. Thousands of people gathered on the lawn that day, sporting their Hokie colors of maroon and orange. The university president spoke. A bell tolled 32 times. Each original stone had been placed in a mahogany box with a hinged lid, like a miniature coffin. Later, the boxes would be delivered to the families of the victims.

Uma Loganathan can hardly remember the dedication; grief seems to have blurred many of her memories from that time. What she does remember is that first semicircle of stones set earnestly upon the grass, their rough edges befitting of her sorrow.

“Befitting of her sorrow”…. Can anything befit the sorrow we all feel after losing a loved one to gun violence? Or having a close call as did my friend Lori Hass, mother of a Virginia Tech survivor?

Like other survivors, I got into this GVP movement because of what happened. But that’s in the past and what we’re working for is a future where there’s less gun violence and where we’re doing more to prevent it. Our goals are to take the evidence and the policies that work and begin to apply as many as are appropriate. For example, we understand that domestic violence situations become exponentially more lethal when there’s a firearm introduced. Road rage with a firearm can turn lethal. Confrontation in the streets become lethal when there’s a firearm. Toddlers have killed more Americans than terrorists if you look at the numbers over time — all because somebody was careless and left firearms out and unsecured.

Lori Haas speaks during a vigil outside the U.S. Capitol on April 16, 2013, to remember those murdered and demand congressional action on gun legislation.

ALAMY

We want policies that make us all safer. We think domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to guns. We think that there should be a background check on all buyers — how do you stop a prohibited buyer from purchasing a gun if you don’t do a background check to figure out if he or she is prohibited? We believe that you should have to have hands-on training around concealed carry. We think there should be penalties so that gun owners must properly store and secure their firearms so that children can’t get access to them. We think there should be limitations on the type of firepower that everyday citizens can carry on our street. The efficacy of a lot of those policies have been proven in other states and those states have fewer deaths. New York’s gun death rate per 100,000 is in the low, low single digits. Virginia’s is 10.9.

It’s devastating for all of the families, me included, to relive the trauma each time another school shooting occurs. And you can’t help but relive it. What we’re also really traumatized by is the fact that someone else is now added to the club nobody wants to be in: the one where your loved one’s been shot and killed or injured. But [that] club is strong, the club is active, the club is compassionate and supportive. I know dozens of families from dozens of mass shootings. Every day we have gun violence in America, so there is a camaraderie that’s very understood by those [who have experienced it].

Ten years ago tomorrow, the feelings will re-emerge of how things went down that day ten years ago. Lori gives a very moving testimony to how one family experienced the horrendous shooting of 32.

Tomorrow will also be Easter. A stone figures prominently in the Easter story. Stones can be moved but they are hard to move and they are hard to destroy. Tombstones are made of stone for a reason. They signify a marker where a loved one is buried and they are there mostly forever. So are the memories of our lost loved ones.

Tomorrow, please remember these 32. See their photos. Say their names.

We Will Not Forget

Families have approved and released these official biographies and photos of our 32 fallen Hokies. Please join us in remembering and honoring their lives by clicking on their names or photos.

And then work with Lori Hass, Colin Goddard, Andy Goddard and the millions of us involved in preventing the next one of these shootings. Colin has been an advocate for gun violence prevention since he was shot and injured in the shooting. The film, Living for 32, features Colin’s story and his efforts to expose the lack of Brady background checks on all gun sales.

We should not have to erect stone memorials to victims. We should not have to move stones to get the attention of the public and elected leaders about our deadly gun violence epidemic. We should expect that our leaders do this without question in the name of the victims and common sense. If we are to change the conversation and change the culture, we need more than memorials, thoughts, prayers, flowers, etc.

WE NEED ACTION. Get involved in the name of the victims and just because losing 90 Americans a day to gunshot injuries is not normal and not acceptable. Let’s get to work.