Does technology trump the law?

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 7.25.00 AMMy last post was about the availability of blueprints to make 3D guns in the privacy of your own home. It’s a bad idea and now a whole lot of other people agree with me:

 

In 2013, the agency had said the plans could violate International Traffic in Arms Regulations. The government also had won several rounds of litigation with Wilson and his company since 2015.

Guns right groups, law enforcement officials and legislators have opposed the printing of guns.

“I don’t think that we really want to be in a world where Hamas in the Gaza has an ability to download a capacity for an AR-15 that could endanger security in that region, and the same thing could happen around the world,” Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat, said at a hearing earlier this week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The alarm bells have gone off as the public, Congress, Attorneys General and others have realized the implications of untraceable plastic home-made firearms finding themselves into public places. Just today, a Federal judge put an injunction on the release of the blueprints just before the deadline:

But with just hours before an Aug. 1 deadline when Mr. Wilson has said he will upload many more schematics — including instructions for making AR-15-style rifles — alarmed public officials had accelerated their efforts to to prevent Mr. Wilson from moving forward with his plans.

Attorneys general in eight states and the District of Columbia filed a joint lawsuit in federal court in Seattle on Monday attempting to force the Trump administration to prevent Mr. Wilson’s nonprofit organization, Defense Distributed, from making the technical plans for the plastic guns available online.

Today even President Trump weighed in on the controversy that his very own administration allowed in the first place. Take a look at the screen grab above. What he doesn’t understand ( no surprise) is what this is about- it’s not about the guns being sold. It’s about the blueprints for the guns becoming available for people to make their own guns. I suppose they could be sold after the guns are made which is another issue altogether.

I rarely agree with the President but it doesn’t make sense. Further, what makes even less sense is that his administration is allowing this to happen. Why didn’t he know that? Why didn’t they know this would cause a sh&6 storm in the public and in Congress?

Why did the President talk to the NRA about this? The NRA may not even like this idea given that if people start making their own guns they won’t be going to their local Federally Licensed Gun Dealer to buy them. And that is what this is all about. If we follow the money, we can learn a lot.

From the linked article above, Dana Loesch has weighed in on behalf of the NRA:

Dana Loesch, a spokeswoman for the N.R.A., mocked Democrats last week for concerns about the 3-D guns, and said that attempts to regulate the technology would be “absolutely unenforceable.” The guns were “what the rest of us call freedom and innovation,” she said in a video segment posted last week on NRATV, the organization’s online video channel.

Really? “…the rest of us call freedom and innovation”? Who are the rest of us? Not the majority of us. Not most in Congress. Not apparently the President. What does that even mean? The freedom for felons and terrorists to make guns they can use in terror attacks or domestic terror attacks?:

“What I’m opposed to is technology unchecked,” said David Chipman, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent. He says 3D-printed guns present a real and present danger because they’re both unregulated and untraceable.

“We are basically handing the keys to the store to terrorists and armed criminals,” he said.

Frightening thought.

The man who wants to post these blueprints to make guns is a self described anarchist. What could possibly go wrong? As an anarchist and a Libertarian, he doesn’t really like laws. He believes that this technology may supersede gun laws and make them obsolete.

But maybe it won’t actually work out as planned. Nevertheless, technology changes rapidly. Who thought we would have cars that drive themselves?  

From this article:

Because there has been a proliferation of guns built with do-it-yourself kits obtained online, gun-control advocates have maintained that 3-D-printed guns are a future threat. Adam Winkler, professor at UCLA School of Law, said that when printing technology becomes more reliable and affordable — which, he said, is undoubtedly coming — it will have dangerous consequences for public safety. “Climate change isn’t affecting us today, but people can be concerned about the future,” he analogized. For now, though, the 80-percent-unfinished DIY gun looms larger.

From the above article: ” Wilson relishes that he edged his way into American gun-control politics.”

What is that about? Sounds like Wilson is pretty impressed with what he has created and the fuss it has caused. But it’s more than politics. It’s public safety. It’s about lives.

Technology is mostly a good thing. But we are finding out how technology has become a vehicle to attack countries and threaten their national security and democracies. The investigation into Russia’s influence in our 2016 Presidential election proves how easy it has become to infiltrate the websites and emails of candidates and organizations. Social media sites are vulnerable to attacks.

Facebook revealed more information today about accounts the company have removed because of deceptive campaigns:

Facebook announced Tuesday afternoon that it has removed 32 Facebook and Instagram accounts or pages involved in a political influence campaign with links to the Russian government.

The company says this included efforts to organize counter-protests August 10-12 for the white nationalist Unite The Right 2 rally planned in Washington that weekend.

Though the President held his first national security council meeting about the Russian influence in our elections and cyberattacks, ( more than a year after the country learned about the Russian attacks) they met for about an hour on this important topic and then had no recommendations about how to stop and fix the attack.

So how is this all related to 3D guns? Cyberattacks are one thing. We know they are happening. I got a message yesterday from Instagram asking if I had signed in from an Android in another part of the country. The answer was no and I changed my password. My daughter got an email from Google saying that her son’s email ( which he almost never uses) had a sign-in from a Russian site. We know now that Senator Claire McCaskill’s account was hacked by Russians as well as those of 2 unnamed Senators.

Technology is in many ways helpful and we couldn’t do without it- or I couldn’t any more. But it also causes some bad things to happen. There’s cyber stalking. There’s cyber advertising which is more than annoying. There are now cyber plans for guns made by a printer at home. The man who developed the plans claimed his first amendment rights.

I’m obviously not an attorney so don’t know the intricacies of the law regarding first amendment rights. But what about skirting federal and state gun laws which keep us from becoming a lawless society? We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Laws are enacted for good reasons and most of them have to do with public safety and security.

If the plans lead to a terrorist making a gun and shooting a politician because the gun he made is undetectable to metal detectors, is that OK with our Congress? With President Trump? With Cody Wilson? With the NRA? Where do responsibilities end when it comes to rights? Or maybe the question is, where do responsibilities begin?

What’s OK when it comes to guns and gun violence?

We are crossing a dangerous line and leaving all common sense behind us. This is the result of a gun culture that values gun sales and second amendment rights over the ability to actually keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them anyway.

So the President calls the NRA to talk to whoever he talked to about 3D guns. I would be interested in knowing to whom he spoke and what that person’s position is on these guns. Are they OK with it? They seem to be OK with domestic abusers, terrorists, felons and those adjudicated mentally ill being able to buy guns without  background checks from private sellers. So what about 3D guns?

The NRA remains silent about the Maria Butina case and the fact that Russian money was funneled into its’ organization for the purpose of helping the campaign of Donald Trump.

The NRA has not mentioned the shooting of a “good guy” with a gun by Aurora, CO. police after said “good guy” shot and killed an intruder during a burglary. The officers thought the “good guy” was the intruder since he was standing in his house with his loaded gun in his hand:

Metz said officers who arrived at the scene heard gunshots inside the home and ran into an armed man. An officer shot the man, who died at an area hospital.

After clearing the scene, according to Metz, officers found a juvenile injured inside and a man shot dead on the bathroom floor. The child was taken to a hospital for “serious, but non-life-threatening injuries” caused by the intruder, he said.

Clearly we are not a polite society or a safer society with the proliferation of guns in America. Guns are more likely to cause injury or death to those who own them ( of their families) than using them in self defense. 

This knee-jerk response to gun violence is not only nonsensical, it is outright dangerous. The bottom line is, guns beget gun violence.

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) recently released Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use, which uses available federal data to determine that, despite the myths propagated by the firearms industry and gun lobby, private citizens rarely use guns to kill criminals or stop crimes. (…) 

There’s a simple explanation for why gun owners believe guns make us safer: The gun industry and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have spent decades convincing Americans that firearms are the best answer to any possible danger.

The NRA falsely claims that “millions” of Americans use guns for self-defense every year, a number that pro-gun advocates continually use to push their agenda — even though it has been shown to be factually inaccurate.

(…) The “good guy with a gun vs. bad guy with a gun” trope is a gun lobby and firearms industry myth. Our research found that a gun is 34 times more likely to be used in a criminal homicide than to kill in self-defense.

Technology has presented us with all kinds of new conundrums.  Do rights allow us to do absolutely anything we want? Should a right to bear arms allow felons, terrorists and domestic abusers the right to make guns with no background checks? Do rights allow for anything to be put on the internet no matter what harm it could cause to individuals or the national security of our country?

I don’t have the answers. But the questions are important.

We deserve the answers and we deserve a country where we don’t have to worry about plastic untraceable guns being available to anyone who can make them.

#Enough

 

UPDATE:

Here is more information about the Aurora officers’ shooting of a man in his home:

The man shot and killed by Aurora police was defending his family from a naked stranger who had burst through the front door of their East Montview Boulevard home in the wee hours of Monday morning, grabbing an 11-year-old boy who was sleeping on a couch and attacking him.

This sounds positively bizarre and frightening. In this case it seems the grandfather was justified in shooting the intruder who clearly intended to harm a family member. I have no quarrel with using a gun in that situation.

The problem came with the chaos and police not knowing what was happening. Things happened very quickly and decisions were made in an instant.

Could everyone have taken a second to deal with this differently? Perhaps but we still don’t all of the facts.

It would be interesting to know if the door was locked to prevent the man from bursting into the home. But that, too, may also come out with further investigation.

 

 

 

A big fat NO to 3D guns and other gun rights dangers

3D gun
from CNN.com

Technology could change the gun safety reform movement and the conversation about guns and gun violence.  In the words of the young man who created plans for how to make 3D guns on printers: 

 

“I want to reserve a space for the humane. I hope I would react humanely. And I hope it would affect me. But does that lead me to apologise for what was done? And I appeal back to standard discussions about respect for civil liberties. What does that mean? It means people will abuse these rights. But what does it mean, as a structural feature, to have access to military weapons as a society? I’m not trying to brush it off but it means accepting people will abuse their liberties, but that’s why they deserve protection. If no one is going to abuse a gun, it wouldn’t be a right worth protecting. If no one was going to make a speech, we wouldn’t need to defend the principle of freedom of speech. The same thing with the right to be secure in your possessions.”

The problem with Wilson’s argument is that’s it’s an argument, one that you might formulate in the sixth-form debating society. And on the other side, there would be a dead person. Your mother, perhaps. Or your son who, if it hadn’t been for Wilson, and his desire to push the boundaries of internet freedom further, would still be alive. But I can’t get through on this point.

Coming from an avowed libertarian and anarchist, these are worrisome words. “The right to secure your possessions” is an interesting turn on language. Given that every day, there are incidents where otherwise “law abiding gun owners” don’t secure their possessions and people end up dead, what in the world does this guy mean?

The thing is, guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. Do people have a right to secure opioids in their possession if they are illegally obtained? Can one do anything with them if they so choose?  From the article:

Criminal laws often change because of shifting societal attitudes or in response to other events. One example is the decriminalization and reduced penalties involved in possessing small amounts of marijuana. But the destruction caused by the opioid epidemic and explosion in prescription drug misuse and abuse has led to the opposite result. Louisiana laws regarding possession of heroin, opiates, and prescription drugs have become harsher, and prosecutors throughout the state have been aggressively seeking convictions as part of efforts to fight the crisis.

It is not hard to understand why law enforcement is attacking these crimes so vigorously. In 2016, for the first time in history, more people died in New Orleans from drug overdoses than were killed in homicides. It is estimated that 175 Americans die from opioid overdoses every single day, and the personal and economic damage caused by opioid abuse is astronomical.

If you are arrested for possession of heroin or the unlawful possession of opioids or other prescription medications, you could be facing hefty fines, significant time behind bars, and other serious consequences.

And so, there are shifting societal attitudes in response to gun violence. In fact, 97% of Americans agree that we ought to require a criminal Brady background check every time a gun is sold. That doesn’t happen as we all know. Private sellers are allowed to sell guns in their possession to anyone who wants to buy them. It could be a felon. It could be a domestic abuser. It could be someone who has been adjudicated mentally ill. The seller wouldn’t know that of course, unless the buyer was subjected to an easy and quick background check through the FBI’s National Instant Check System.

But if one can possess a plastic gun made at home on a 3D printer, who is to know anything about the person who has made that gun?

The plans for such guns will be allowed to be posted on-line starting on Aug. 1st. Thanks Trump.

What could possibly go wrong? From the article:

Last month, the agency agreed to settle a multi-year legal battle with Texan Cody Wilson, who claimed in a lawsuit the government infringed on his right to free speech for posting the programming code online to print a 3D gun. He was ordered to take it down for violating US export laws.

The administration said in the settlement, which was not made public but provided by his attorneys to certain media outlets, that Mr Wilson’s charity group Defense Distributed could post the code online and it agreed to pay $40,000 of his legal fees.

And further:

“The government fought us all the way and then all of the sudden folded their tent,” Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun rights group who assisted Mr Wilson on the case, told CNN.

Though the lawsuit had been filed during the Obama administration, Mr Gottlieb said much of the case had been handled by career civil servants not political appointees of Mr Trump.

Anyone remember that the NRA spent over $30 million to make sure Trump was elected? 

Thanks NRA.

Was it Russian money as is asked in the above article?:

The F.B.I. and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating meetings between N.R.A. officials and powerful Russian operatives, trying to determine if those contacts had anything to do with the gun group spending $30 million to help elect Donald Trumptriple what it invested on behalf of Mitt Romneyin 2012. The use of foreign money in American political campaigns is illegal. One encounter of particular interest to investigators is between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian banker at an N.R.A. dinner. (…) Torshin—who Spanish authorities wanted to arrest in 2013 on money-laundering allegations—made energetic efforts to ingratiate himself with the Trump campaign. (Torshin was never charged and has denied any wrongdoing in the money-laundering case.) He met Donald Trump Jr. at a private dinner during the N.R.A.’s convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2016. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., has dismissed the conversation between his client and Torshin as “all gun-related small talk.”

Really? “Gun related small talk”? Doubtful.

Since the above linked article was written, we now know about an actual Russian spy who spent some time getting to know leaders from the NRA and other conservative folks who had influence into the Trump campaign. I wrote my last post about this.

So back to 3D guns. Is there any common sense at all to allowing anyone to make a gun in the comfort of their own home?

The answer just has to be NO. People who will be a danger to themselves or others, if they have the funds to invest in the required printer, could make a gun like this and carry out a crime against an innocent person(s). This is just not the kind of America we want or should have. Gun rights do not include anything that anyone wants to do. There are limits.

And speaking of limits and the NRA, can we touch for a minute on the tragic incident in Florida, the gunshine state, involving a white man who shot and killed a black man in a dispute over a parking space?  Because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the shooter will most likely go free. There is still another step but the sheriff has said he will not charge the man with murder because of this law. Read below:

Sheriff’s detectives said Michael Drejka, 47, approached Jacobs while her boyfriend Markeis McGlockton, and the couple’s 5-year-old son, Markeis Jr., went into the store. Drejka and Jacobs began arguing about her parking in the handicapped parking space.
Witnesses told police that McGlockton came outside, walked over to Drejka while he was arguing and “forcibly pushed” Drejka, causing him to fall.
“This is a violent push, this wasn’t a shove, this wasn’t just a tap,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a Friday press conference.
In response, the news release stated, Drejka pulled out a handgun while he was on the ground and shot McGlockton in the chest.
“Witnesses say McGlockton walked back into the convenient store where he collapsed,” the release stated. He was taken to a hospital where he died.
The state of Florida has made it even harder for victims’ families to get a hearing in court over the murder of an unarmed ( most often) loved one:
The framework of Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law was changed this year, Gualtieri said. Before, the defendant/shooter used “stand your ground” as a defense and had to prove they were in fear of further body harm, the law now says the state attorney has to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant/shooter is not entitled to “stand your ground” immunities.
“Nowhere else is there anything like this in criminal law where somebody asserts something and the burden then shifts to the other person,” Gualtieri said. “That’s a very heavy standard and it puts the burden on the state.”
Gualtieri said the case will go to the state attorney. Meanwhile, “Drejka will not be charged, will not be arrested by us … either (the state attorney) will concur or not and if he concurs, there will be no arrest.”
Thanks NRA.
Over 30,000 Americans are killed by bullets every year. It is a health care epidemic.
And we are doing nothing but making it worse. And by we, I mean the NRA lapdogs in Congress and our state legislatures. 
Elections are coming. Vote for candidates who will actually care about saving lives. Gun rights and gun safety reform are not mutually exclusive no matter what the corporate gun lobby would like you to believe.
UPDATE:
All 3 of the major gun violence prevention groups are working together to make sure the instructions for making 3D guns do not go up on a website as has been allowed by our government. Thanks to the Brady Center, Everytown and Giffords for working together to keep America safe from senseless shootings.:

WASHINGTON– Attorneys representing the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have informed a Texas federal court that they anticipate filing legal action within days related to a settlement that would allow new designs for downloadable, untraceable guns to become public and available world-wide as early as August 1. The gun safety organizations urged the court to consider the public safety and national security risks posed by the settlement, which would let Defense Distributed —a company run by a self-proclaimed anarchist who wants to undermine gun safety laws —post its gun blueprints online in the form of Computer Aided Design files.

“[T]his settlement is far from ordinary,” the gun safety organizations write in a letter available here. “It is dangerous, irreparable and – as the government itself has emphatically argued for years – raises issues of national defense and national security of the highest order.  It is also, we believe, illegal.”

This is very good news indeed. National security is at stake here. What kind of country to we want? I would argue that we don’t want people making 3D guns in their living rooms and potentially committing acts of terror on the American public.

Freedom from gun violence

dove of freedomHappy July 4th. Today is, of course, the day we celebrate our independence from a tyrannical government. If we are not vigilant we could be there again. Freedom obviously means different things to different people. But universally it should mean that people ought to be free from violence; free from oppression; free to express opinions; free to live a life without fear of losing health care, a way to make a living, being able to make decisions about own’s own body, free from intolerance and racism, free from discrimination , losing the right to vote, the fear of not being able to marry who you love, the right to the rule of law, the right to live in society within reasonable and common sense rules and laws so that what is good for the most of us is good for all of us. For one never knows when those freedoms might unexpectedly be taken away by circumstances beyond our control or by despotic and self serving leaders.

This morning I read this column written by Dana Milbank, writer for the Washington Post ( the media outlet Trump loves to hate) about our freedoms. From his article:

This isn’t just a linguistic de-emphasis of freedom; Trump has made common cause with dictators and played down human rights abroad while starting a trade war with democratic allies. At home he has questioned due process for refugees, taken immigrant children from their parents, imposed a travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations and declared the media the enemy of the American people. He is now poised to shift the balance on the Supreme Court away from abortion rights and gay rights.

In a very real sense, the fight against Trump is a battle for freedom.

It’s 2018. We should not be a in a battle for our freedoms. But this is where we are right now. Some on the far lunatic right like Alex Jones ( conspiracy theorist and fear monger who Trump loves to love) has put out there that the Democrats are going to start a Civil War today:

The conspiracy theorist tweeted his prediction on Monday, accompanied by a video in which he claimed that “elite publications” were calling for a “civil emergency” using civil unrest and “racial strife” to force out President Trump.

We must be free of this anger, fear mongering and downright lunacy. The fact that our President is on board with this guy says it all.

The President had to relent and allow government buildings to lower their flags to half mast after the shooting of 5 journalists at the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis, Maryland. The fact that someone in the White House refused the original request by the Annapolis Mayor says it all. Why didn’t they intuitively do the right thing? They really don’t seem to care about the lives lost to gun violence. Or if they do, they have a strange way of showing it.

Who does this President stand with? Who does he stand up for? What does he stand up for? Thousands a year lose their lives to gun violence in America, the land of the free. And yet Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell cynically and dangerously says that the federal government can’t do anything to stop school shootings:

McConnell delivered his remarks amid a push for tougher gun safety laws in America, after a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., claimed 17 lives.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Florida attack, said McConnell was full of it.

“Honestly, the man should resign. He either is intentionally useless or he’s just evil,” Guttenberg told the Daily News.

The outspoken activist insisted there’s plenty the federal government could do to combat violence in American schools.

“They could allow the CDC to study gun violence. They could strengthen background checks, ban high capacity magazines,” he said. “There’s a lot they can do, but they can’t do anything if they’re not allowed. Mitch McConnell is nothing more than a roadblock.”

The Kentucky Republican, who has a 93% rating from the NRA, has repeatedly blocked gun-control proposals.

This is what we’ve got right now in America. Lapdog politicians who are pushing to restrict many of our other freedoms but willing to ignore one of the most important freedoms- to live without gun violence.

STOP.

YES WE CAN STOP SHOOTINGS. YES, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN ACT TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE PASS A BRADY BACKGROUND CHECK LAW AND A RED FLAG LAW.

MR. MAJORITY LEADER- STOP THE STUFF AND NONSENSE.

And further, of course, is the hope on the right that any nominee for the Supreme Court open position will further erode the laws that have kept us free and safe from some of the gun violence. The far right and the corporate gun lobby have shown us they resent any restrictions on guns- the kind of guns, who can carry them, and where they can be carried. One of their favorite justices, Antonin Scalia, knew that there should be some restrictions and said so in the 2008 Heller decision– something the corporate gun lobby and Congress loves to conveniently forget. So we do have some constitutional rights to be safe from gun violence after all.

This line of reasoning posed by the corporate gun lobby and the far right extremists ( and even the current GOP party leaders) is dangerous and will lead to chaos and yes, Mr. Jones, even violence. Let’s hope that is not the case but the threat will not be coming from the Democrats who want to stop the violence. Look to those who believe in conspiracy theories, threaten journalists with violence, try to restrict basicl freedoms, rights to vote, and stockpile their weapons for a future war against their own government.

Let me just say that on this July Fourth holiday, what can be done is a commitment to changing the conversation about the causes and effects of gun violence, change the gun culture and change the laws so we can be safe and free from gun violence in our schools, our places of work, our shopping malls, our homes, our parks, our wherever we gather together as a community.

If we give up our freedoms such as freedom of speech and others without also challenging the idea that the misinterpreted meaning of the second amendment means freedom for anyone to purchase and own any kind of gun and carry it anywhere one pleases, we will be giving up our democracy.

Stay firm and strong and keep fighting attempts to take away our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Fourth. Stay safe out there everyone. There are some restrictions on fireworks and personal fireworks can lead to injuries. Celebratory shooting is simply not OK no matter what anyone says. What goes up must come down- a simple law of Physics not understood by some irresponsible gun owners.  Shooting off guns on the Fourth of July is dangerous business and not in the spirit of the celebration.

This is a great day to think about what you can do about our national public health epidemic and our national dilemma about freedoms and civil rights. The best thing you can do is to consider all of this and VOTE in your primaries and the November election.

Common sense is at stake. Lives are at stake. Freedoms are at stake.

Gone but not forgotten

Bell and rocksWhile I was away from my blog several important shooting anniversaries came and went. As time goes by after mass shootings or any shooting, the memories fade and we forget about the pain and the national debate about gun violence. That is how the gun lobby wants it. Calling attention to anniversaries and remembering victims is a painful reminder that, as a country, we are doing virtually nothing to stop the next one from happening.

In fact, a mass shooting occurred just the other day in New Jersey. An all night Art Fair, which is a yearly event, attracted not just art lovers but gun lovers. An alleged “neighborhood dispute” (gang related) ended with 17 injured by bullets and the death of the shooter ( by police). In spite of New Jersey’s strict gun laws there are still shootings as there are in every state. When over 300 million guns are floating around in our country it is becoming easier and easier for shootings like this to take place anywhere.

Gun rights advocates do like to blame most shootings on gangs. They are wrong of course but I’m sure this will happen with this shooting.

My local chapter held a wonderful and meaningful event to mark the 2nd anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. As the names of the victims were read by a Spanish speaking university professor, the bell was rung in memory. All of the names were written on rainbow colored rocks displayed on a table. 49 families remembered the day two years ago when they learned of the death of their loved ones. It was the worst mass shooting by number until the Las Vegas mass shooting surpassed the number of victims.

We can’t forget about the victims, most from the GLBTQ+ community and of Hispanic origin. There has been debate about whether the shooting was homophobic in nature, a “terror” attack or something else. It really doesn’t matter. It was a mass shooting of innocent people who were just living their lives.

Let’s get one thing clear. Mass shootings like the Pulse nightclub shooting are domestic terror attacks. We should call it like it is.

Also, on June 17th, the 3rd anniversary of the Charleston church shooting passed with little notice. For the 9 families of those who lost their lives that day, it was not unnoticed. Anniversaries like that never are. We can’t forget this awful hate crime against members of a Black church. And we remember Cynthia, Clementa, Susie, Ethel, DePayne, Tywanza, Daniel, Sharonda, and Myra.

And tomorrow, the President will show up in home town for a rally. He will bring with him the usual fear, anger and paranoia. Many of us are organizing rallies and events of our own to speak out against the policies of the GOP party and the President. In light of the immigration debacle and attention paid to the disgraceful and shameful separation of children from their parents, we will be showing our opposition to this and other policies with which we disagree. Of course gun violence prevention is just one since there has been no action in spite of the many kids separated from their parents after being shot to death. And their fathers. We can’t forget the pain suffered by the fathers who couldn’t have their children with them on Father’s Day because of a deadly bullet to their bodies.

Many mamas and papas are missing their children every day. We should not be a country that countenances the awful policy adopted by the administration regarding immigrant children. The cries heard on the tape now made public are haunting. 

Just as we are haunted by the deaths of small children and of teens that occur on a regular basis in our country. We are better than this as a country and should not accept that there is nothing we can do. Our voices are crying out for action. Our voices are crying out for compassion and for caring. Our voices call out for common sense. 

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. In my city, we are having a Soulstice event to feed our souls with music, poetry, speeches and a large get together of those who are wanting change and compassion.

June 21st is ASK day. Parents can save lives by asking if there are unsecured loaded guns where kids can access them. And teens should ask their parents and their parents’ friends if their own guns are secured as well. Teen gun suicide is a leading cause of death and a senseless avoidable death.

Asking will save lives.

We have had #Enough and we call BS every day that no action is taken.

As an addendum to my post I am including a few photos of one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited in the Banff National Park in Canada. It was worth the trip to find so much peace and beauty in one place and not have to worry about gun toting visitors to disturb the peace.

Gun laws in Canada

Banff-Hero-AUR0018949-1735x1153Today my family is on the way to Banff, Alberta in Canada. It is a long anticipated trip with our entire family. We are caravaning with 2 cars and 9 people for the trip. As with our other travels, I like to blog about the gun laws where we are going to compare them to what American gun laws looks like.

First of all, who needs a gun in this beautiful place? I would hope we don’t run into a Grizzly Bear. But actually bear spray seems to be the “weapon” of choice when it comes to a very rare encounter with a Grizzly.

But I digress. Back to Canadien gun laws.

I always remember that the film producer Michael Moore made a trip to Canada in his award winning film, Bowling for Columbine. The laws are starkly different than ours. Even though Canadiens own a lot of guns, gun deaths and injuries are few. Let’s take a look:

According to a StatsCan report from 2012 – the most recent year available – the U.S. suffered a total of 8,813 murders involving the use of firearms that year. Canada, in the same year, recorded just 172 firearms-related homicides.

“When looking at firearm-related homicide rates in comparable countries, Canada’s rate is about seven times lower than that of the United States (3.5 per 100,000 population), although it is higher than several other peer countries. While Canada’s firearm-related homicide rate is similar to those in Ireland and Switzerland, it is significantly higher than the rates in Japan (0.01 per 100,000 population) and the United Kingdom (0.06 per 100,000 population),” states StatsCan’s findings, which do not include Quebec figures.

Presently, Canadian law classifies firearms into three categories: prohibited, restricted, and non-restricted. Prohibited firearms include military-grade assault weapons such as AK-47s and sawn-off rifles or shotguns. Handguns are generally classified as restricted weapons, while rifles and shotguns are usually non-restricted. The AR-15 rifles used by the San Bernardino suspects is classified as restricted.

That explains a lot. Gun laws work. And more:

Anyone wishing to buy a gun in Canada and/or ammunition must have a valid licence under the Firearms Act. To obtain a firearms licence, all applicants must undergo a screening process, which includes a safety course, criminal history and background checks, provision of personal references, and a mandatory waiting period.

So then, what about gun deaths and injuries:

Overall, Americans are almost 70 per cent more likely to die at the end of a gun — shot by someone else, by themselves, by accident — than Canadians are to die in a car accident.

Thirty-five per cent more likely to be shot to death than Canadians are to die of a fall.

American firearm death rates are almost three times higher than Canadian death rates of ovarian cancer and Parkinson’s; 42 per cent higher than Canadian prostate cancer deaths; 10 per cent higher than pneumonia.

Stunning and proof positive that strong gun laws work without totally restricting guns themselves. And that is the ludicrous myth presented to us by the corporate gun lobby. If we pass one law, all guns will be confiscated. On its’ face, it doesn’t even make sense. It won’t happen and it hasn’t happened in Canada or other countries where people actually have to go through a stringent process to purchase a gun. In America, we go through that process to buy a car, to adopt a pet, to buy Sudafed, and many other things in our daily lives.

Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill people. The fact that we don’t regulate these lethal weapons better and the people who are purchasing them is an American tragedy. We are unique in many ways in our country. Our President wants us be exceptional. We are, unfortunately. More people die from gun deaths and injuries every day than in any other industrialized country not at war.

What we want is just common sense based on the evidence. The evidence is in. The suicide rate is going up.:

Montana experienced about 29 suicides for every 100,000 people — the highest in the nation — compared with about seven people out of every 100,000 in the District of Columbia — the lowest. As a whole, the nation saw 15 people dying by suicide for every 100,000 in 2016.
“The most common method was firearm, followed by hanging or suffocation, followed by poisoning,” Schuchat said. “Opioids were present in 31% of individuals who died by poisoning.” She added that intentionality is difficult to determine in cases in which a person dies by overdose.

We will be traveling through North Dakota and Montana on our way there. There are lots of guns available to residents of those states and loose gun laws. So no surprises that the suicide rate is high in Montana.

The overall number of people killed by guns is going up. But our Congress stands still and does nothing. Some of our state legislatures have managed to pass stronger gun laws. Not in Minnesota. Generally speaking states with strong gun laws have fewer gun deaths.

Any questions?

What are we doing about this?

So why is this happening? We know the answer. Limp, scared lapdog politicians afraid to stand up to the gun lobby. The NRA makes up about 1.8% of Americans. Most gun owners want stronger gun laws. I have spoken with many.

The best thing that has happened after a national tragedy in Parkland, Florida is that the kids are speaking up. They are making a difference. At the recent Minnesota DFL convention, held on Wear Orange week-end, gun violence became one of the most important issues there. Finally, the issue is on the radar screen and has the attention of the Democrats at least. If the Republicans avoid it, they may be sorry.

We have a long ways to go but we are moving. And we are not afraid to be bold. The time is long passed to address our public health epidemic of gun violence.

While I am in Canada, I will be unlikely to see gun toting people where I will be with my family. I know that I will at the least be safe from gun violence. Now let’s hope we are safe from other things like auto accidents, falls on the trails, etc. I look forward to getting away from the negativity and chaos of American politics.

I also know that the G-7 summit will be in Canada and that our President will be in the same country as me again.  I doubt that he will give one thought to gun violence and how Canada has managed to be mostly safe from mass shootings and every day shootings. But he intends to leave the summit early before other things of grave importance to the U.S. and the world will be discussed:

By pulling out early, Trump will skip sessions focused on climate change, the oceans and clean energy. He will also miss the traditional group-photo opportunity among fellow heads of state. The president may also miss the opportunity to host a summit-ending news conference, something world leaders traditionally do. The leader of the host nation, in this case Trudeau, also takes questions and gives closing remarks. Trump chose not to hold a news conference last year, becoming the only G-7 leader not to do so before leaving Italy, according to The Hill. He opted instead for a speech at a nearby naval air station.

Avoiding tough issues is no way to solve them. The world is crying out for dealing with important issues facing us all.

While I am gone, there will be memorials to the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting 2 years ago on June 12th. There will be one in my home town which I will miss. People want to take action and do something. And they will come and remember and sign up to get active to do something. We will make sure they do.

I intend to write more about the Pulse shooting later.

Until then we will be enjoying the beauty of Banff.

The absurd idea of arming teachers

lion roaringThe majority of Americans can agree that our children ought to be safe in their schools from shootings. What we can’t agree on is how to make that happen. In recent days since the Parkland, Florida school shooting that took the lives of 17 innocent high school kids, the rhetoric has been noisier and more insistent than ever before. What is happening now is a movement such as we have not seen before. It has a life of its’ own. It’s the teens who are speaking out without worry of push-back from the adults. It’s the adults who are following- or not- what the teens are saying and demanding.

Some adults have tried their usual conspiracy theory ideas out on the teens but it’s not working. They are fighting back. It’s hard for me to imagine the frame of mind of an adult attacking a teen who has just experienced one of the worst school shootings in America. But then again, there a lot of extreme and mean people in the world who have become so radicalized that they literally cannot stop themselves from acting like total idiots.

What the teens, teachers, general public and most politicians are NOT clamoring for is arming teachers. But President Trump has been way out there with the absurd notion that kids would be safer with armed teachers. And in his ramblings as he starts talking and tweeting with no facts or common sense, he has said the most absurd things I have heard on this topic.

The President is mouthing the propaganda of the NRA. For decades, that organization, run by lobbyists, extremists and gun manufacturers, have been trying to get guns into our schools. It would be, of course, yet another market for the sale of guns and possible training classes sponsored by the NRA. Follow the money.

This stupid and dangerous idea is not even supported by most veterans, who understand what it’s like to face down an “armed enemy” and kill another human being. From the article:

Critics seized on Peterson’s failure to act. The left held it up as evidence that armed guards won’t prevent shootings, while people on the right—including President Trump—used Peterson as a scapegoat, the exception that proves the rule. Peterson, according to Trump, either “didn’t react properly under pressure or [was] a coward.”

It’s a simple, if reductive explanation, and an easy one for those who’ve never experienced the mental and physical toll of a firefight scenario. But as some with combat experience, like retired General Mark Hertling, the one time commander of the United States Army in Europe, pointed out on Twitter, freezing up in a potential combat scenario, or failing to perform your duty, is not unusual.

“While soldiers/security are trained to run to the sound of the guns…not all do for a variety of psychological reasons. It happens more often than most would think, and it’s part of human nature,” he said.

Human nature? Let’s ignore that and pretend all teachers have nerves of steel and would defy logic and human nature. Because then we can continue with our fantasy about armed teachers.

Even law enforcement officers only hit their marks about 18% of the time.:

Yet, even with all of their training, it’s hard for police officers to hit a target and harder still in chaotic conditions.

The New York Police Department is the nation’s largest police force and among the best trained, yet its own study showed between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate was 18 percent for officers in a gunfight.

So what makes the President think that teachers would do better given the panic of a school shooter, kids shouting, running, trying to escape or find cover? Here are all the reasons why this is a terrible, absurd idea:

I could go on but these are just common sense reasons why arming teachers is absurd. I am a retired educator and went through many lock-down drills while working. I knew that my job was to get the kids out of the halls, into a room, lock the door, turn off the lights, hide in a closet ( which I didn’t have) or behind furniture and stay with the kids to keep them from running or panicking. Had I stepped away from this responsibility I would have left the kids on their own and would have caused more problems for all.

Officers don’t know who the “good guy” with a gun is in these situations and will shoot anyone they see with a weapon. No one knows who the good guy is. Kids and others may run and in a split second a mistake could be made. I could shoot and kill a child or someone else by mistake. That happens in these situations and even with trained officers.

I would be absurd to arm teachers.

But let me talk about more absurdities. The President seems to have cornered the market on absurdity when it comes to this issue. And that is saying it kindly. Cynicism is another word for all of this. If we just deflect the conversation from actually doing something about keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them in the first place, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation in the first place. But that is not what the NRA and corporate gun lobby wants and so the President is doing their bidding and talking about what they want him to talk about.

Just watch the video from an article about comedian John Oliver’s attack on the President’s idea (some offensive language) :

He, Trump that is, met with the ridiculous NRA VP Wayne LaPierre and other NRA leaders a few days ago. I can imagine the conversation.

“Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll make statements about arming teachers to distract from the things you guys don’t want. It will be fine. I’ll talk about doing something about gun violence- like raising the age of purchase for assault rifles to 21 but I won’t really mean it and I won’t push it. I’ll talk about requiring background checks on all gun sales but in a few weeks, people will forget about it and it won’t happen. I’ll mention the Fix NICS bill that has been languishing in Congress for a long time but don’t worry, I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen either. I know you guys will support me and my lapdogs when I run again so I’ll just lie. I do it all the time and about 38% of Americans believe me. My base will be happy when none of this happens and we’ll all move on. O.K.? Believe me. ”

Other absurdities from the President include:

  • Making up some cockemamy idea that 20% of teachers should be armed.
  • Talking about only people who can handle guns well should have them in schools.
  • Talking about arming teachers who are former or current military because there are so many of them teaching in our schools.
  • Claiming that the real problem is the lack of courage of the armed officers who didn’t go into the school to challenge the shooter.
  • Saying( from link above):  “”I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too,” He was sure of that. ( I mean, he alone can take care of everything.) Just leave it to him. All will be fine. He will be around for every school or mass shooting and run into the building to save the day.
  • We just need to “harden” our schools and all will be fine. Let’s surround them all with the fencing used at our prisons and have no windows or bullet-proof windows. That should make the learning atmosphere pleasant and inviting for students and the public.

And I do love the idea of the Oath Keepers stationing armed “volunteers” outside of every school to protect the buildings. Good grief. Who are these guys?

All of this nonsense is cynical and intended to deceive us into complacency once again. It’s to get us to shut up and go away. They don’t want to see the faces or hear the words of the students, who are a lot brighter and more articulate than most of their elected leaders. I just read this piece from Emma Gonzáles, one of the Parkland students, whose wisdom is beyond her years.:

What matters is that the majority of American people have become complacent in a senseless injustice that occurs all around them. What matters is that most American politicians have become more easily swayed by money than by the people who voted them into office. What matters is that my friends are dead, along with hundreds upon hundreds of others all over the United States. (…) “If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, then you cannot possibly imagine it,” wrote Lemony Snicket in The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events. There are people who do not know, and will never know, what it feels like to go through this. For that I am eternally thankful. But to the people out there who disagree with us: if you have ever felt what it’s like to deal with all of this, you would know we aren’t doing this for attention. If these funerals were for your friends, you would know this grief is real, not paid for. We are children who are being expected to act like adults, while the adults are proving themselves to behave like children.

Where are the adults? Where is common sense? You cannot possibly imagine it. But I can.

The NRA is meeting its’ match at long last. Right now they have a mouth piece in the White House and they have Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell- cowards in the face of tragedy- calling the shots ( excuse the pun). From the linked article:

Ryan also emphasized that sentiment: “There was a colossal breakdown in the system locally… and we need to get to the bottom of this to [find out] how these breakdowns occurred, from … the armed officer who was in the school at that time, to the FBI who failed to follow up on a glaring tip that this young man wanted to shoot up a school.”

Thank you Paul Ryan. More deceptions and deflections and cynicism. More putting it off for another day until another dozen or more students are shot in a school or a gunman enters a mall or church and mows down innocent citizens. The thing is, we know where the “colossal breakdown” is- it’s you and your cynical colleagues in Congress.

But that is not going to last for long. If candidates for election or re-election think they can get away with silence or lying or mimicking gun lobby talking points, they are mistaken. We have seen the man behind the curtain and he is evil and he is weak. He lacks the courage of the cowardly lion. He is corrupt with money and influence of the NRA. And maybe even the Russians. He is scared of the wrong things. He has scared a minority of Americans into thinking the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

“We’ve met the enemy and he is us”. He is a minority of us as it turns out. But he is still in power and in control of our government. We need to throw him out. We need to keep the curtain drawn. We need to see him naked without the emperor’s clothing that has been fooling us.

We are not fooled. We are marching and we are calling and we are writing and we are talking and chanting and lobbying and traveling to DC and rallying and sending lots of emails to legislators and Congress.

And we will vote in November.

Hear our voices.

Hear us roar.

Big money and guns

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The NRA, the Russian investigation, power, money, corruption, influence on elections, Trump and the 2016 campaign. What could possibly go wrong?

If this allegation is true, it shows how far the corporate gun lobby will go to gain and hold on to their influence over our political system. From the article about the FBI investigation into the influence of Russian money, the NRA and the Trump election:

However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.

Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.

We know that Trump attended the NRA’s annual meeting to lie about his support for their dangerous policies. And we know he received a large campaign donation from the organization along with support by way of letting supporters know that they should vote for this unfit man:

A supporter of restrictions on guns before he entered politics, Mr. Trump became a fierce champion of gun rights during his bid for the White House, earning early backing — and $30 million in campaign support — from the powerful lobbying group.

“Only one candidate in the general election came to speak to you, and that candidate is now the president of the United States, standing before you,” Mr. Trump said. “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”

There it is for all to see.

This is simply corrupt and absolutely not OK. We need to keep our eyes and ears open.

The book, “Dark Money” reveals the extent to which this is happening in our democracy, if you can call it that given that money is buying elections and influencing important decisions on behalf of the American people. From the review of the book:

A careful exposé of the libertarian agenda, spearheaded by the Koch brothers, to “impose their minority views on the majority by other means.”

As people who read my blog know, I often talk about how the gun lobby represents a distinct minority of Americans and even gun owners. But their agenda is about money and influence which works against the majority. For decades that money and influence has bought us terrible policies that are dangerous to public health and safety. Such laws as “Stand Your Ground” and ” Constitutional Carry” allow people with guns to get away with murder and for people to openly carry guns in public places where most people do not want them. And if the agenda of passing “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” were to move forward and get the support of the Senate, just about anyone would be allowed to carry loaded guns wherever they go.

These are the wishes forced on us by the minority who have money. Money talks.

Left in the wake of all of this are the victims. But victims don’t talk. Sometimes they have a voice and survivors like former Representative Gabby Giffords, for example, speak as well as they can in demanding common sense in the halls of Congress and state legislatures.

Unfortunately for us, her voice and the voices of others like her are not loud enough compared to the voices of money. Many of our politicians are lapdogs for the gun lobby. I posted this Brady Campaign video in my last post as well. It is still relevant:

Woe unto us if we let the money continue to influence the safety and well being of the public. The bodies are piling up in front of our eyes.

In Minnesota a few days ago, the combination of icy roads, an accident, and guns came together to lead to the death of a young driver:

What happened next was spelled out Wednesday in a criminal complaint that said Weiss, 25, of Rochester, who has a legal permit to carry a gun, shot the teenage driver of the other car at point-blank range when a confrontation flared.

The Olmsted County attorney charged Weiss, who says he acted in self-defense, with second-degree murder in the death of Muhammed Rahim, 17, the middle child of a family that fled Iraq six years ago. The charge is a felony that, with a conviction, carries a potential prison sentence of three to 40 years.

Weiss was arrested and jailed. He has since been released on bail.

Rahim’s passenger told police that he thought Weiss wanted to fight after the collision. He said he and Rahim threatened Weiss and that Rahim even dared Weiss to shoot him. There were no punches thrown, according to police, but Weiss said Rahim shoved him once in the chest.

Incidents like this should not lead to death. This was an accident, a misunderstanding, perhaps some strong words. But if one man had not had a gun, the other would be alive today. And claiming self defense may or may not work here. The victim was unarmed and only ( maybe) had words with the shooter. Is that enough to kill someone?

But Minnesota does not have a Stand Your Ground law. We have fought against it for many years in the face of fierce support by the corporate gun lobby’s influence on some of our state legislators. Would this man be able  to get away with murder with no trial if a Stand Your Ground law was in place?

This is yet another of those “good guys” with guns that Wayne LaPierre so famously and nonsensically said after the shooting of 20 first graders, held up when pretending that only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns:

Sigh.

Sometimes even in states with Stand Your Ground laws, shooters have not gotten away with murder. The case of Jordan Davis, shot in Florida by a gun permit holder because of teens sitting in a car playing loud music, showed that murdering an unarmed person who simply annoyed someone isn’t an excuse.

We are better than this.

The confluence of the Russia investigation into their influence on our 2016 election, with the NRA is an interesting situation. If the findings come out showing that it was, indeed, true, we need to hold the NRA responsible for their actions and expose the truth about dark money and guns.

 

UPDATE:

This New York Times article expands on the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians through the NRA:

It’s important not to get carried away, if only because a scenario in which the Russian investigation ensnares the N.R.A., probably the most influential conservative group in the United States, seems a bit too much like Resistance fan fiction, too delicious to be true. Indeed, if it is true, it has devastating implications for the entire Republican Party, since many officeholders enjoy lavish financial support from the N.R.A. Still, an N.R.A. role in Russiagate would explain a few things, including why the N.R.A. has, in recent years, developed such a close relationship with Russia.

Follow the Money. People are dying. The gun industry profits. Gun laws are loosened. People unfit for office are elected with the help of the gun lobby. Our leaders are afraid to pass laws to save lives and protect us all from senseless gun violence.

The insatiable quest for profits for the gun industry, power and control of our democratic process may end in a very bad way. It would not be a surprise to most people who have come to understand that the NRA is not a gun rights group any more. It is an arm of the Republican party and is run by extremists.