Excuses for no gun safety reform

Yesterday a group from our Northland Brady chapter associated also with Protect Minnesota stood on a busy corner near our Congressman’s district office. We were there as part of Brady’s and other national gun violence prevention groups’ Week-end of Action. The actions were to demand that the Senate come back early from their summer break to pass the laws that the House passed in February- namely the universal background check and Charleston loophole bills. My Congressman Pete Stauber voted against these 2 life saving measures.

Thus we were there, after gathering only one and half weeks ago in a local rally against hate and violence which was a well attended plea for action and to ask our leaders to #DOSOMETHING about the carnage. Several mass shootings in a row have changed the conversation ( again) and more of the public are demanding action.

But now, the House Judiciary Committee will be coming back from recess early to consider several common sense gun bills. The Extreme Risk Protection Order bill and perhaps an Assault Weapons Ban and/or restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines will be discussed.

After standing with our signs on the corner and getting mostly positive honks and waves, we went to Congressman Stauber’s office with a packet of information and a letter stating what we wanted him to do. We ended up having an impromptu meeting with his staffer. It was a good meeting- informative and revealing.

We spoke about all kinds of things as victims, a veteran, a clergy member, several health care providers, a woman of color, grandparents, parents and concerned citizens expressed our frustration and outrage over the do nothing Senate and the lack of votes in favor of bills that would make a difference. In the discussion we made it clear that we don’t believe that any one of these measures on their own will “cure” the epidemic of gun violence. But the fact that we have done nothing for decades has fueled the current epidemic and made it more lethal.

And then we heard some of the usual Republican and gun lobby excuses for why these bills won’t work or why the Congressman doesn’t believe the bills before him are the right ones ( in spite of research showing the effectiveness of them and the overwhelming public support for the measures that passed in the House). The first of these is the idea that we can’t deal with the gun problem until we deal with mental illness. President Trump himself said that mental illness pulled the trigger in the latest mass shooting, not the guns. That is absurd on its’ face but it is also patently not true. It’s not mental illness. It’s mostly angry white men who have access to guns they should not have.

Here’s the truth about mental illness and shootings:

In response, mental health experts repeated what they have said after previous mass shootings: Most people with mental illness are not violent, they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.
“Until we begin to have our political leaders speaking more accurately to these issues, it’s up to us to put the facts out there,” said Arthur Evans, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association.
Evans agreed that red flag laws , also known as extreme risk protection orders, are a worthwhile step. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have such laws, according to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and some have used the laws to temporarily disarm people who have threatened violence.
But Evans and others said terms like “monsters” add to stigma that keeps people from getting treatment. (…)

A country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness, said Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist who published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries.
“If mental illness were the driving factor, we would expect the countries with highest suicide rates to have higher rates of public mass shootings. That’s not what we see,” Lankford said.
Instead, Lankford found, gun ownership per person is the best predictor.
Lankford called Trump’s emphasis on mental illness “too simplistic.”

It’s the guns.

Since our rally last week, another mass shooting occurred in Philadelphia where 6 officers were injured by one man with an assault rifle ( again). The shooter was a man who should not have had a gun in the first place given numerous firearms charges against him. So how did he get that gun? From the article:

The suspect was identified by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as Maurice Hill, 36. Krasner said Hill had an extensive criminal history, including drug, gun and robbery charges. Krasner said Hill should not have been on the streets but stopped short of saying there was any specific failure by law enforcement.

My Congressman is a former police officer. He, of all people, should be more concerned that officers are at great risk when they are outgunned on the streets. This year alone 31 officers have been killed by shooters. 175 have been injured. And yesterday yet another officer shooting occurred where 2 Missouri officers were shot while delivering eviction papers.

And aren’t you tired of other lame and shameful excuses or blaming from Republicans to deflect the reality of our national public health epidemic? They even have memos showing how to respond to constituents such as this one, blaming the left, when we know that most of the politically motivated shootings have come from people with far right political views. In fact, Trump has been mentioned by criminals as a reason for their crimes:

But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

White supremacy, hate crimes and other acts of political violence are American terrorism. We have to face that reality. There is no excuse for not doing anything about this.

And yes, we can stop some of these shooters from getting guns in the first place. If we close some loopholes making it easier for them to buy guns themselves or get them from others who may buy them legally ( and private sales with no background checks are legal in many states, including my own) we can stop some sales. If we enforce straw purchasing laws more stringently, we can stop some guns from going where they shouldn’t. If gun owners safely store their guns, we can stop some of the guns from being stolen and ending up where they shouldn’t. If we pass Red Flag laws, we can temporarily remove guns from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others. If we pass restrictions on ammunition magazines, we can, at the least, prevent shooters from taking dozens of lives at a time in a short time period. If we make sure the ATF can do their job properly with adequate funding and personnel, gun dealers will be held more accountable for bad behavior. If we litigate cases where gun dealers have sold guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them, we can stop some shootings.

It’s a package and it needs to be. But as we discussed at our meeting yesterday, we can’t say criminals won’t follow the laws anyway as an excuse not to pass laws. If that is the case, why have laws at all? People do wear their seat belts for the most part. It’s the law. People don’t smoke in public places. It’s the law. People stop on red lights because it’s the law. If you don’t follow the law, you may become a felon. But we are not a lawless society. That’s no excuse.

And then there was this given as an excuse. We all must work hard to keep illegal guns from coming into our country from the Canadian and Mexican borders. I had to ask again if that is what I heard. This is an excuse. We don’t need to do anything about our own country’s gun laws because the guns are coming across the borders into our country?

I was astounded at this one because it is the exact opposite of what is true. The guns flowing into Mexico and Canada are coming mainly from the U.S because our gun laws are so much weaker than theirs. Check out this article in the Christian Science Monitor about what is actually happening:

American guns bought from vendors in the U.S. and then smuggled illegally abroad are a fact of life across the Americas. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), some 70% of guns recovered by law enforcement in Mexico and sent to the ATF for tracing between 2011 and 2016 were originally purchased from a licensed dealer in the U.S. Some estimates put the number of U.S. weapons smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico at over 200,000 a year.
Mexican officials, in their fight against drug violence, have long pleaded with the U.S. to stem the southward flow of guns. Former President Felipe Calderón famously had a billboard erected in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, that read “No More Weapons,” spelled out with confiscated, destroyed weapons. (…)

That is also despite research showing that when the U.S. assault weapon ban expired in 2004, Mexican municipalities on the border with the U.S. saw a spike in homicides, he says.

“I do see some recognition now that this is beyond drugs, and that guns play a major, major role,” Mr. Weigend says. That includes think tanks, students, and civil society groups speaking out more against the implications of U.S. gun flows to Mexico. (…)

Weaker gun regulations in the U.S. have long undermined Canada’s much stricter rules, as guns get trafficked north. Last week Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said Canada could reduce violence with more money towards stopping guns from the U.S., which he called “the greatest arsenal in the world.”

So no. We don’t have a problem with illegal guns coming into our country from the nations who share our border. It is the other way around. And further, the fact that so many guns make into Mexico and other Central American countries have caused violence there which many are trying to flee to get into our country. And then if they get into our country their lives are at risk here because of the hate and racist rhetoric against people of color fomented right from the top.

It is also part and parcel of our illegal drug problem.

These are flimsy excuses designed as cop-outs. What our Congress members who are beholden to the NRA, as mine is, are trying to do is to deflect the conversation away from the truth. We have a problem with guns in America. Such easy access makes it easier for just about anybody to get a gun.

Minnesotans and Americans ( and this includes Republicans and gun owners by the way) support stronger gun laws. We want our Congress members to represent the majority of people in their districts. Just because the gun rights advocates make more noise does not mean they are the majority. In fact they are a small minority of the constituents all over the country.

There are no excuses. There never have been but now, more than ever, we are sick and tired of the carnage affecting almost all of us.

#DO DOMETHING.

Back to school gun nonsense

backpacks and little kidsOur kids are targets in our schools. Far too many of them have been murdered in cold blood while doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Why are we letting this happen? Why are we not addressing the issue of where school shooters get their guns and how we can prevent them from getting weapons of mass destruction?

Because….. rights.

Where are the rights of students and their parents to know that they will come home at the end of the school day safe and secure from being killed or injured by bullets?

So now our illustrious and totally unfit to serve Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is suggesting that the federal government should now allow states to be able to buy guns for teachers with federal education funds.

This is so ludicrous there are hardly words for it. Most teachers don’t want guns or want to be bodyguards or security guards while doing the difficult job of teaching our kids. I have been there. I worked in my school district as a special educator. Here is my take which I have shared before:

  1. My first duty is to get kids to a safe place and be with them in a very frightening and uncertain situation.
  2. My second is to stay with the kids, period.
  3. My last responsibility is to hope like hell that the shooter won’t find me and the group of kids I am trying to keep safe because I would not, in a moment when frightened and with adrenaline surging through my body, have the nerve or the knowledge to start shooting at a shooter. That would be a win-lose.
  4. Anyone who has not been in a classroom setting teaching kids should not be making these stupid decisions to arm teachers. Watch as a teacher goes through his or her day to see how difficult it would be to grab a gun while at the same time trying to keep students from being killed.
  5. The best thing we can do is to prevent school shooters ( mostly kids themselves) from getting guns in the first place. The majority of school shooters get their guns from home. Where is the responsibility of those “law abiding” gun owning parents and relatives? Check out this article about school shooters and how our weak laws and failure to deal with the problems we can see with some of our students contributes to the mass school shootings in our country:
  6. From the article above
  7. The 19-year-old had made threats and was expelled from school, bragged about killing animals, posed with guns on social media and went to a clinic for mental health treatment before took an AR-15-style rifle he had bought legally to a Florida high school and killed 17 people.

    The same style weapon has been used in Sutherland Springs, Texas; Las Vegas, San Bernardino, California; and Newtown, Connecticut. A similar rifle was used in Orlando.

    President Donald Trump kept a loophole allowing people to obtain guns while undergoing mental health treatment after President Barack Obama had tried to close it. Other mass shooters have gotten around restrictions by using weapons initially purchased legally

  8. Safe storage of guns is the key to keeping our kids safe. That should be a no brainer. Other measures like requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales and passing Extreme Risk Protection Orders can actually save lives and keep people from getting shot.
  9. Products like bulletproof backpacks or others being sold are just a way to make money and play on the fear of parents. What if the backpack is not with the kid when a shooting occurs? What if the backpack is in a locker or left on the floor?
  10. We can prevent school shootings. Ask your elected leaders why they are not working their tails off to do the right thing by and for our kids.

Common sense is what we need. Educators spend hundreds of their own dollars every year for supplies needed for teaching. Why? Schools are vastly underfunded. The Federal government does not contribute much to local school districts. State and local taxes pay for most of the education of our children. But every year, kids and their parents stress out over getting school supplies for the year since the districts don’t have the money to pay. Some families have a difficult time affording all of this so charitable non-profit organizations contribute backpacks and other supplies to families with needs. There are also groups who distribute supplies to teachers for free.

If Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to do something to help our kids, she should fund more assistance for mental health problems for kids and help pay for supplies and other things needed for our children to keep them financially secure and healthy and fed.  Class sizes are large. Kids’ needs are not being met. We have some unaddressed problems in our public schools. Arming teachers is one issue that comes with its’ own safety concerns and should be looked at very skeptically as a solution to the larger problem of access to guns by kids.

The idea that government would purchase guns for teachers is so out there as to make me wonder what people are smoking or where their priorities actually are for education in America.

Secretary DeVos played nice with gun safety reform advocates by inviting them to meetings to discuss school safety. The thing is, the word guns was not mentioned at these meetings. But when the influence of the corporate gun lobby pressures her and others in our government, she comes up with this cockamammie idea?

Where is common sense?

Wouldn’t those gun shops and manufacturers just be drooling at the prospect of selling guns to school districts all over the country?

Follow the money.

After the Parkland shooting on the heels of all of the other school shootings, to even publicly suggest spending tax money to arm teaches is tone deaf and misinformed.

Here is a list of school shootings so far in 2018. School has just begun in many states or will begin in a few weeks in others. That number will certainly go up and no one knows where the next shooting will occur. Will it be at your child’s school or your grandchild’s school?

We are better than this.

#Enough

 

UPDATE

I want to share this wonderful statement and video from Senator Kamala Harris of California when speaking about the dangers and ludicrous nature of arming teachers: