The dark before the light

0be6f-winter-solstice-signToday is the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. Our national political situation feels very dark but I am hopeful that shedding light on the truth and evidenced-based research into the causes and effects of gun violence will help protect the vulnerable amongst us from their entitlement to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As we go into the new year it is worth remembering that almost 100 Americans lose their lives to gunshot injuries. That is more than 33,000 a year and another 70,000 or so are injured by guns. That includes transgender people and fetuses.  Mass shootings are happening far too frequently and affect our diversity of citizensScience-based studies have been stifled about the cause and effect of gun violence.

Everyone is vulnerable to getting shot anywhere and that is not going to change unless we all speak out and stand up like this military officer did at his hearing to be approved by a Senate committee for a job at the Department of Defense.:

“I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15,” Dr. Dean Winslow, the nominee for the Department of Defense’s top health affairs job, said during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Winslow was responding to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asking if the Texas gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, should’ve received a “dishonorable discharge” from the military — the worst possible way to leave the armed forces — instead of a “bad conduct discharge” for assaulting his spouse and child.

He was not approved.

I guess we can’t speak our minds about guns and gun violence and talk common sense in America where gun violence takes more lives than in any other democratized country not at war.

In this new America since January of this year, speaking the truth and voicing your views are under attack and it is truly frightening.

What is also frightening is that the far right “Trump TV” is talking about a coup. What does that mean? Will there be armed people taking over the government? I fear that with all those armed insurrectionists out there with arsenals and the fomenting of paranoia of government coming from those in the government, it could lead to tragic consequences. Half of U.S. guns are owned by just 3% of gun owners. That seems like a signal that some folks in our country are ready for something- not sure what yet.

But maybe these two know something. Alex Jones, conspiracy theorist and nut job, and Roger Stone, friend of our President, made a video of themselves at a gun range getting ready for civil war if Trump either resigns or is impeached. Let’s take a look:

The visit was documented in a nearly one-and-a-half-hour-long December 19 video posted to Jones’ YouTube channel with the title “Roger Stone Prepares For Civil War After Trump Is Removed From Office: LIVE AUTO GUNFIRE.”

Jones set up the video by explaining that when Stone “was recently asked by TMZ what happens if Trump is assassinated or overthrown, he said it would cause a civil war.”

I suppose I don’t need to remind my readers that “overthrown” is a dark word fraught with accusations and pregnant with meaning to some. If the President leaves of his own accord, is asked to leave after things get too dicey or is impeached, this is not being overthrown as if in a third world country.

But then again, the way things are going with attempts to ban words, stifle the media, shut down entire departments, “overthrow” regulations that are important for public health and safety, throwing people off of health care, attacking the FBI and the Justice Department, attacking immigrants and minorities, threatening to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, tweeting false accusations, blaming past administrations, meeting in secret to pass bills and “investigate” former administrations, avoiding a serious investigation into the actual known threat of Russian interference in our elections and much much more, it feels like we are a third world country.

We are better than this. When conspiracy theorists and lunatics arm themselves to the teeth in preparation for a civil war, we are in a dangerous place.

But there are actually some things we can do. Certainly making sure that we resist these machinations to “burn down the house” as Rep. Adam Schiff said last night in an interview on the Rachel Maddow show. Peacefully resisting and protesting any move to shut down our freedoms of the press, freedom to express ourselves, and any attempt to take down our democracy are an option.

And regarding the ever contentious issue of gun rights and gun violence, the Brady Campaign has an idea. Start talking more common sense with friends and relatives over the holidays when people are gathered together and the conversation turns to politics  (which it most likely will given the chaos happening all around us).

Let’s take a look:

A good discussion always starts with a place of common understanding. Find the ideals that unite you both – like respecting constitutional rights, while also preventing gun deaths – and focus on those. Starting at a point of understanding and recognition of your shared beliefs will lay the groundwork for a more productive conversation, and remind you why you’re having this conversation. It’s important to emphasize working together to accomplish a common goal, rather than view this discussion as a quick way to change someone’s mind.

And more:

This step is the crux of what most people think of when they envision of a “political debate.” But it doesn’t need to be intimidating or scary. Keep in mind the tips we’ve given you up to this point – remain engaged and open, don’t get defensive, and continue to share your viewpoints in a calm, rational manner. It’s okay if you find a place where you disagree – that is bound to happen – but this is where you can share the results of common-sense solutions like background checks with your audience.

It is too important to our liberty, our freedom, our rights, our democracy, the safety of our families and friends, to excuse extreme thoughts and behavior. For there is common ground in the middle. We know this from the polling done for many years now. Almost everyone agrees on requiring background checks for all gun sales, for example. And many other measures to strengthen our gun laws are also supported by a majority of Americans.

If we treat each other with respect and dignity without name calling and attacking, we will be a better country. And if we have conversations and make policy in the light of day instead of secretly and in the dark, even if we don’t agree, we can at least understand how it happened and have a chance to rebut or attempt to change minds.

The one thing I know for sure is that arming up will lead to bad things. Loaded guns in volatile and angry situations will inevitably lead to chaos and tragedy.

In the new year, I have to hope that shedding light on the truth and finding common ground on many issues, but particularly on the gun issue, can bring our country out of the darkness of the gun violence epidemic where we have been hiding for way too long. This is about safety and the health of our communities and families.

Happy solstice. Happy holidays. May your holidays be peaceful and joyful. And stay safe wherever you are.

 

Who’s in charge anyway?

Business man select choice - Vector illustration - EPS10Only in America. Dangerous and irresponsible people can get their hands on guns. Easy Peasy. The “pizzzagate” incident is a classic example of why we need to strengthen, not loosen, our Brady background check system. Let’s take a look at the guy who saw fit to check out a lunatic conspiracy theory ( my last post) at a DC pizza restaurant:

 

 

John Sifford, a captain in the sheriff’s office in Rowan County, where Welch lives, said the gunman’s misdemeanor charges would not have impeded the department from issuing him a concealed weapons license or a permit to purchase a pistol. But there is no evidence that Welch applied for, or received these permissions, Sifford said.

It appears that Welch may have not obtained legal permission to buy or carry the .38-caliber revolver found in his possession in the pizza parlor. (…)

Welch had also been convicted of drug crimes. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor drug possession charges. But the “unlawful user” prohibition has an expiration date. A conviction, positive drug test, or confession only prohibits individuals from buying guns if it occurred in the past year. That’s according to the FBI’s detailed guidelines about just what designates someone as an “unlawful user” of illegal drugs, which indicates that Welch was probably not covered by the prohibition.

So as long as Welch obtained his guns after 2008, there is likely no legal reason why the sales should have been blocked. Stephen Fischer, an FBI spokesman, declined to directly address whether Welch had passed a background check or not, due privacy restrictions.

Do you know anyone like Welch? They are in our communities and they can have guns- no questions asked. Do you think that is a good idea? And if the answer is yes, why?

It’s pretty obvious that this guy should have been flagged in the FBI’s National Instant Check System as someone who could not be responsible enough with a deadly weapon to be able to legally buy one. And even if he was flagged at a federally licensed dealer, he would know how easy it is to obtain an AR-15, powerful semi-automatic handgun or just about anything else he wanted from a private seller at a gun show or on-line.  (armslist.com)

Because, this is America.

Apparently our next President believes this is OK as do his cronies in Congress. They hate government restrictions on who can have guns, where they can be carried, what kinds of guns and ammunitions are sold, and where they can be sold. They do like conspiracy theories. And who will @realDonaldTrump listen to when it comes to protecting Americans from senseless gun violence or many other public health and safety issues that Americans depend on in their daily lives?

Who will really be in charge?

Those who will be in charge don’t like Medicare or Social Security. They do love tax cuts for the rich and corporate tax cuts. They love cronie capitalism. They love power.They don’t like the minimum wage. The don’t like restrictions on businesses. They hate environmental protections that make sure we have clean water and safe food and that we aren’t poisoned by the air or medicines or cleaning supplies. They love fossil fuels no matter what they do to our environment and that may actually be depleted if we don’t find other energy methods or supplies. A climate change denier will head the EPA.

They hate an affordable health care system that has insured tens of millions of Americans who weren’t insured before the Democrats finally got a bill passed to fulfill the really moral case for the right of all Americans to have health care. They don’t seem to care that people couldn’t buy insurance if they had a pre-existing condition but, of course, they have government insurance so it doesn’t affect them. A man who has authored the repeal Obamacare bill over 60 times will now be in charge of finding a way to provide health care to all without providing health care for all. 

They hate a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive health care decisions. Would they love it if men could bear children and this happened to them? Think about it. They don’t like women in positions of power and they don’t like Muslims, minorities, Mexicans or anyone who disagrees with them ( well- him actually- you know @realDonaldTrump).

He (@realDonaldTrump) seems to love Russia and Vladimir Putin and denies the evidence that Russian hackers influenced the American election.  Would he have hated that if he had lost? I’m just asking.

A general who believes in conspiracy theories will have the daily ear of @realDonaldTrump. This general’s son, more extreme than him, until just the other day, worked for the transition team of the President-elect. So who’s in charge anyway? Why would the son of a man who believes in conspiracy theories and who is, himself, even more extreme, with little or no experience in government get security clearance for some of our country’s most classified information? What could possibly go wrong?

Sigh.

Oh, and they love the billionaires who are now going to tell the rest of us that they care about the middle class and low income Americans. One is a woman who hates public education and will now run the department of Education. One is a woman who runs the World Wrestling Entertainment business and will be in charge of small businesses.

Sigh. So much for “draining the swamp.”

They love those deals that save 750 jobs for a mere $7 million in tax breaks- er uh- or maybe a 35% tariff on imports brought in by companies who outsourced American jobs to make the products they are going to import back to our country. And if you call @realDonaldTrump out on his lies, as an Indiana union leader just did, watch out.

Or this young woman who dared to ask @realDonaldTrump a question at a rally?

Death threats. Do the guys making the threats have guns? I’m just asking.

And is it a good idea for the President of the United States to be tweeting ugly and accusatory things at private citizens who question him? I thought that only happened in third world countries.

Who’s in charge anyway? Who will stop the man with the tweets? Is this how our country will find out what is actually happening in the administration?

But I digress. And oh yes, a supposedly brilliant neurosurgeon is going to be making decisions about housing for the poor. 

Sigh.

Who cares? I do, for just one. The almost 3 million Americans who gave Hillary the popular vote win but she lost the electoral college vote by 77,000 votes care. But oh yes- he – (@realDonaldTrump) won by a landslide. He likes to remind us of that while he is lying his head off and tweeting about the millions of illegal votes in the popular votes.

Oh- and they like to threaten the media, business people, union leaders, or anyone else who challenges them about anything. This is the way it works. When you blog or do anything in the gun violence prevention movement, you open yourself up to ugliness and lies. Like the one about any common sense gun law to protect innocent Americans from harm leading to gun confiscation. Of course it does- like it did for the last 8 years of Obama’s presidency. Mass shootings are more common and more frequent.  American toddlers killed more people than terrorists but they love to go after the Muslim ( naturally) terrorists for killing Americans with guns legally obtained here in America. See San Bernardino shooting in linked article.

Black is white. White is black. Domestic abusers, drug abusers, felons, terrorists, dangerously mentally ill folks- all walking amongst us as the next potential threat to our safety. And what are we doing about it? Appointing people to be in charge of policy and regulations who hate regulations. They want to dismantle our government.

And then what? They have no idea. Let’s just say that it won’t be pretty.

There will be no common sense if the next 4 years are like the past year and the transition period.

And in the midst of this chaos, incompetency, deception and outright lying, threats to the media or others, mixing private business with foreign deals and government policies, taking away the rights of people to be free of gun violence, to make health care decisions, to have health care, to make a living wage, to drink safe water, to be able to breathe clean air, and so many other important public health and safety measures, what we don’t need is  making it easy for crazy people who believe in conspiracy theories to have guns.

What could possibly go wrong?

If you want to see a film that depicts what goes in the lobbying world, check out “Miss Sloane” now  playing in theaters all over the country. It’s the gun lobby against the “gun control” organizations. It’s not a pretty picture and it’s going to get worse?

We know who is now in charge and it’s not a pretty picture. The folks in charge don’t seem to care that 33,000 Americans a year are killed by firearms- oh and another 70,000 injured every year.  And the man who will be in charge of the Justice Department is against measures that could save lives.

Lives matter. Facts matter. The truth matters even if one of @realDonaldTrump’s cronies said we should not take what he says literally:

Trump is different. On his own terms he’s an outsider and a “disrupter” who claims that political elites range from stupid to malevolent. He also has zero experience in foreign or domestic policy. What he says — and how he says it — takes on greater importance precisely because he lacks a track record in public office to put his language in context.

This seriously-not-literally thing is a great analytical insight into how then-candidate Trump communicated with his supporters. But it is fairly ridiculous hogwash as a prescription for how to treat an actual president, or president-elect, of the United States.

Yes. Trump is different. That does not make it OK to lie and let us think one thing when he meant another or believe the opposite of what he just said.  Or tweet out untruths to millions who may act on what was tweeted. In what world is that OK? Who is the real Donald Trump? How will this work out? Who is in charge? Who and what can we trust? What will all of this drama and chaos do to the American psyche?

It’s exhausting really and we deserve better. I do try to believe that most Americans are better than this.

I am hoping for the best but expecting the worst.