Background checks for all

It’s about time bills are introduced into Congress and my own Minnesota state legislature. In fact, it’s a national tragedy that our elected leaders have not passed bills requiring that every gun sale go through the process of finding out whether the buyer of a legal weapon should own one.

As the sign says, “the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a Congress with a spine”. So far Congress has been spineless. Yes, there was a bill written in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting but the NRA backed out at the end leaving not enough votes to get a bill passed after the nation’s most heinous mass shooting.

And mass shooting after mass shooting; domestic shooting after domestic shooting; suicide after suicide with a gun; “unintentional” shootings of toddlers by toddlers; stupid gun mistakes after mistakes; veteran suicide after suicide’ gang shootings after gang shootings and here we are today with gun deaths on the rise.

We are better than this.

On Tuesday I drove to the state Capitol in St. Paul for a welcome back and lobby day. Between the Minnesota Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota along with a group of us from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter, we were well represented. As hundreds gathered in the rotunda of the Capitol and outside of the chambers there were chants, lots of signs, enthusiastic volunteers and a lot of energy. Legislators knew we were there. Post cards were delivered to Representatives, Senators and the Governor asking for support for the bills that will be introduced this week for background checks on all gun sales and an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Almost at the same time, H.R. 8 was introduced in the U.S House on the 8th anniversary of the shooting of then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Let us remember the 6 who were senselessly murdered 8 years ago on January 8th because a young man who should not have had a gun had one anyway.: Christina- Taylor Green; Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman; Phyllis Schneck; Dorothy Morris; Dorwan Stoddard.

All of the national groups were gathered at the U.S. Capitol, as well as supportive Congress members. One of these was Congresswoman Lucy McBath from Georgia. Now there’s a woman with a spine. After her son Jordan Davis was shot and killed for sitting in a car playing loud music while black, Lucy got involved with Everytown for Gun Safety. And now, she is an elected leader with a spine. I am proud to know her and proud that she will actually stand up and do the right thing.

She is not alone. The country is with her. 97% of us want background checks for all gun sales. Why are the other 3% opposed to something that makes so much common sense? Several of them the 3% were at the Minnesota Capitol on Tuesday filming us, intimidating volunteers and telling their supporters the usual nasty nonsense about our groups. They were heard to say: “They want it all”. What does that mean? What we want are measures that will save lives and will not affect them- if they are law abiding individuals. On the Facebook page of Minnesota Gun Rights, as soon as the videos were posted, the comments started coming in. Such rational comments like- Did they leave their children at home watching videos while they are at the Capitol? Really? Women can’t go out of the house now without the criticism and approval of the gun rights extremists? What year is it again?

Or the best one is that we are paid by that terrible liberal philanthropist George Soros. Seriously. Why are we such a threat to them? They don’t believe that we volunteer our time for this noble and just cause. I mean, how can so many people show up if they aren’t paid? If I had been paid for all of my volunteering over the past 2 decades, I would be a millionaire. Instead, I spend my own money on gas, supplies, donations, tee shirts and other swag, so that I can represent my organizations and advocate for common sense gun laws.

Oh, and then a state legislator actually said this in an article about the proposed laws:

” House Republicans, meanwhile, blasted the proposals. Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said Minnesotans should be concerned that Democrats are trying “to take your freedoms, to take your money, to take your guns and to take your children” by forcing them into state-backed early educational care.”

Really? This is such nonsense, fear and paranoia. Plus it’s “fake news”. It’s a lie. I wonder where he got this stuff? ( Wayne LaPierre? Donald Trump? Rush Limbaugh? Sean Hannity?)

What we need here is a common understanding of the problem. The problem is that 1 out of 5 guns are sold with no background check. That would be like 1 out of 5 people going into a separate TSA line at the airport with no screening whatsoever. The number was greater until a few years ago when more states passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Brady background checks do save lives but they won’t prevent all gun deaths and injuries. 

There need to be other life saving measures to reduce the number of gun deaths and end gun violence. Extreme Risk Protection Orders will save lives. Waiting periods would save lives. Raising the age for purchase of handguns and assault rifles to 21 would save lives. Restricting the sale of some types of assault type rifles would save lives. So would banning bump stocks. Not allowing so many people to carry guns in public places would save lives. Asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns where your children play will save lives. Safe storage of guns will save lives. Stronger gun trafficking laws will save lives. Public awareness and education about the risk of guns in the home such as End Family Fire will save lives. Research about gun violence will save lives. Allowing law enforcement to share crime date with each other sill save lives. Reminding patients when they go to their health care providers that guns could be a risk to their health will save lives.

Yes, we want it all. We want whatever it takes to save lives. We don’t want to ban guns and take away rights. But let us remember that we are the only civilized democratized country that doesn’t have all of the above and more in the interest of public safety and health.

Let us also remember that background checks are required for a reason in many other areas of our common lives. One needs a background check to work with kids in churches and schools. One needs a background check to adopt a pet. One needs a background check to get a job in certain sectors like public accounting. One needs a background check to be a health care provider. This is for our common protection and safety.

The Brady Campaign has put a good chart together about background checks that will help with our understanding of for what we are asking. Here it is:

The “gun guys” don’t like background checks. They themselves buy guns with background checks when they to to a federally licensed dealer. Why would they object if all sales required a check to make sure the person who will have a loaded weapon is not a prohibited purchaser who could be dangerous to others? What do you say gun guys? ( standing above the crowd with their video cameras)

At Minnesota state Capitol with Protect Minnesota
Protect Minnesota, Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action supporters
Video by Joan Peterson

It’s time to act.

In the video, you can hear the voices of the gun rights guys speaking loudly about something- not sure what- but they were drowned out by voices for common sense.

We want action. We want all gun sales to have a background check. We want Extreme Risk Protection Orders. There are many more things that can be done to save lives from gunshot injuries due to bullets. What we want now is simple and won’t even do enough. Progress is slow but it is coming. Change is coming. The country wants change as was evidenced by the November elections.

Let’s get to work.

Denial and insanity

denialWell, as we could have predicted, on the heels of a mass/spree shooting in Kalamazoo, Michigan that shook that community, yet another community, now in Kansas, has now suffered the effects of a gunman mowing innocent people down because…….:

A gunman armed with what police called an “assault-style” weapon killed three people and injured 14 others in Kansas Thursday before he was killed by a police officer.

All three victims and 12 of the injured were shot at Excel Industries, a plant in Hesston that makes lawn mower products, Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said. Of those hurt, 10 were critically wounded, he said.

Authorities have not officially identified the deceased suspect, but multiple co-workers identified the shooter to local media as Cedric Ford. Walton would not discuss a motive, but told reporters there were “some things that triggered this individual.”

“….some things that triggered this individual.” So in America, the land of the free and milk and honey, when something “triggers” someone, they can just get out their assault style rifle and handguns and take out their anger or their beef with someone and open fire on innocent citizens. 4 are dead, including the gunman, and many are critically wounded because….. America.

Are we insane? One does have to wonder why these things happen. Or maybe not. With the American gun culture as it is, with enough guns for every American citizen and laws that allow just about anyone to access a gun, it is inevitable that the shootings continue unabated.

And when the gun lobby gets its’ way with elected leaders, yet more insanity occurs. In Iowa, as just one crazy example, the legislature thought it would be a good idea to let children 14 and under become gun handlers. I mean, why not, right? An army of children who will, of course, know exactly how to handle handguns because…… Well, it’s pretty inexplicable actually. Toddlers shot more people in 2015 than did terrorists. And both can easily access guns.

With children who access their parents’ guns shooting themselves or their parents or siblings or friends on a regular basis, it sure does seem like a great idea to let more children use guns doesn’t it?

Here’s another article about the Iowa law:

State representative Jake Highfill told the Washington Post that the new law “gives the power back to parents”.

“Allowing people to learn at a young age the respect that a gun commands is one of the most important things you can do,” Highfill said.

The alternative, he added, is “turning 18 with no experience”.

What? No words.

Yesterday I participated in an event in Minneapolis with Americans for Responsible Solutions. I was honored to stand behind former Representative Gabby Giffords and her husband Captain Mark Kelly as they spoke about the facts. And I was also honored to be asked to be a member of this coalition of law enforcement officers, domestic violence organizations, community activists, educators, gun owners and people on both sides of the aisle. The round table discussion centered on the easy access to guns and what we can do about it. And the group, of course, understood that saving lives was the common goal.

We know one undeniable fact. Gabby Giffords’ life was almost lost when an angry young man with a gun he should not have been able to have shot and killed 6 people and injured Giffords and others. This is the 3rd time I have been with Gabby Giffords and I find her courage remarkable. She is determined to do something about the denial exhibited by her former colleagues in Congress. She spoke about the need for courage.

Why should it take courage to do something about the senseless shootings in our country? What is it about the gun lobby that makes our leaders put their heads in the sand and pretend that if they pass common sense laws the rights of law abiding citizens will be affected? This denial is costing lives at an alarming rate. There is no more time for this heads in the sand response to the shootings like the ones in Michigan, Kansas and …….

We know the routine. In the article about the Gabby Giffords event, this is the response from the gun lobby folks interviewed by the media:

But Bryan Strawser and the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus believe the focus should be on dealing with violent criminals, particularly looking at prosecution and sentencing, and providing additional access to mental health services – not on laws such as Giffords’s group supports that primarily impact law-abiding citizens.

“We have hundreds of thousand of permit holders, and, by in large, those gun owners are extremely safe and law-abiding citizens in the community,” Strawser said.

Strawser agrees certain people shouldn’t have guns, but he says some goals of the coalition go too far.

“We believe that is where the focus should be, not on the kind of laws that this organization has pushed that will really impact law-abiding citizens,” Strawser said.

Denial. Fallacy.

Does anyone challenge this lunacy? In what way will laws that expand background checks to all gun sales to stop felons, domestic abusers, those who are dangerously mentally ill and others who should not be able to buy guns affect law abiding citizens? They don’t say. They just say this stuff and then pretend it’s true and enough of our leaders buy it that we fail the majority of Americans and Minnesotans who agree with common sense solutions.

This is simply not OK. This is lunacy and denial. This is the influence of money over lives that has kept our country from addressing the public health epidemic staring us in the face.

We’ve had #enough. Are our leaders going to take their heads out of the sand and do something? Are they going to listen to the nonsensical rhetoric that is not based on evidence and fact brought to them by a small group of citizens who believe that passing reasonable laws will affect them in some way?

It’s time for courage. Thank you Gabby Giffords for having the courage to stand up, even after your heinous injuries and life long disabilities to challenge the status quo and demand that we do something and do it now. We just can’t wait any longer. Saving even one life will be worth the fight.

 

UPDATE:

Well, I didn’t think I would be adding to this post. But there has been another mass shooting in the state of Washington leaving 5 dead. If one of the gun rights folks who read my blog want to share with me an explanation or what could be done better or differently than trying to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them and educate the public and gun owners about the awesome responsibility of owning guns. The risks of owning guns are great and can lead to death and injury. More guns are not making us safer.

Armed America- not polite at all

polite?An armed society is a polite society? Anyone with common sense knows this to be untrue. Let’s look at an article in “The Truth About Guns” about this oft used statement:

The accuracy of that image of an “armed/polite” society in the 19th Century West is not only debatable, it’s irrelevant: There are plenty of “armed societies” in the modern-day world, and most of them can be described as anything but “polite.” (…)

But there’s another problem with the “Armed society=Polite society” equation. Assume arguendo that the saying is true. Ignore the above evidence to the contrary and say, for the moment, that people are more polite when they know there’s lots of heat being packed.

What does that say about us, as gun owners? After all, the tiresome refrain of all anti-concealed-carry arguments is that if more ‘ordinary’ people are packing pistols, they will whip them out and start firing on the flimsiest pretext. Cut me off in traffic? BLAM! Take the last drop of half-and-half at Starbucks? BLAM! Look at me funny? BLAM!

Gun owners [rightly] view this assumption as dangerous nonsense, that the vast majority of people jumping through all the hoops necessary to obtain a CCW permit are sober, rational, and caring adults who would never allow their emotions to take hold of them and cause them to use deadly force inappropriately. Even when they’re not sober, rational or caring.

But doesn’t that Heinlein aphorism say otherwise? Doesn’t it imply, at least on its face, that the whole reason an armed society is a polite society is that in an armed society, the penalty for “impoliteness” might be summary execution?

So this gun owning blogger believes that the statement is generally wrong but he offers a qualifier:

If anything, the saying is backwards. Being “polite”—having a shared set of values that includes placing a high value on peaceful civic discourse—is a necessary pre-condition for the arming of a society. Arms in a “polite” society remain the tools of good citizens to defend themselves against bad ones. But arming a society without those shared values is a recipe for chaos, for violence for, well, Somalia, Beirut, Pakistan et al.

“An armed society is a polite society” sounds cute. It sounds witty and cool.  It impresses all the gun enthusiasts on the bulletin boards. It makes for a great t-shirt to wear at the gun show. But it’s just not true and if it was, it would be a bigger argument against arming ordinary citizens than anything the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence could possibly devise.

Hmmmm. So the problem with the writer’s logic is that everyone in America who has a permit to carry a gun has shared values. The arguments are mounting every day in our country against this argument. It’s not just the Brady Campaign “devising” the arguments. The public has had #enough. And the writer ignores the fact that the gun rights extremists are pushing for permit less carry in many states and some already have this dangerous law. The public is not clamoring for these laws. It’s the corporate gun lobby who represents an decreasing minority of gun owners who push these laws in state legislatures:

Given its high profile, it’s easy to assume that the NRA represents the voice of American gun owners. But in fact, the organization’s membership numbers and survey data point a different picture. Only a small fraction of the nation’s gun owners are NRA members. Even among NRA members, there is widespread dissent from some key points of the organization’s orthodoxy. And on many gun control issues, the majority of gun owners who aren’taffiliated with the NRA hold opinions closer to those of non-gun owners than to those of NRA members.

Let’s start with the membership numbers. In recent years the NRA has said it has 5 million dues-paying members. There’s some reason to be skeptical of this figure, but let’s assume 5 million is right.  Those 5 million members only comprise somewhere between 6 and 7 percent of American gun owners. That would imply that the overwhelming majority of American gun owners — over 90 percent of them — do not belong to the NRA.

1 in 10 gun owners belong to the NRA. Amazing. Take note elected leaders. As I spent time at a table at a local conference attended by 2600 people, I spent some time talking to gun owners who agreed with the literature we were passing out and our views on the issue of gun violence prevention. None of the people we talked to belonged to the NRA and, in fact, they said they don’t like the organization at all. One man told me that the gun rights extremists, like open carriers, are ruining it for the rest of the law abiding gun owners and hunters who just want to use their guns for hunting and sport. They believe in safety and saving lives before they pledge allegiance to an organization that does not represent them.

But I digress.

Let’s take a look at the last week of the American armed and impolite society.

The Minneapolis- St. Paul area have seen at least 5 gun deaths in the last week. That was before the most recent week-end shootings:

And if that was not enough, an Aitken area Sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed by a suspect who had terrorized his wife days before. The man had been hospitalized because of concern about his behavior. More from the story:

A week before he killed an Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy at the St. Cloud Hospital, felon Danny L. Hammond, 50, terrorized his wife and threatened to kill her after she told him she wanted to leave their marriage of 12 years, authorities said.

Korena Hammond told authorities that her husband went into a rage on Oct. 10 after she told him her plans. He held her hostage at their home overnight, pointing a 9-millimeter pistol at her head, forcing her to eat food that he said was poisoned and capturing her when she managed to flee the locked house. The next morning she went to her father’s house after Hammond agreed to let her go, according to a criminal complaint released Monday. (…)

A week later, Hammond was at St. Cloud Hospital early Sunday morning. He was not in custody at the time, and was being treated for medical reasons related to a domestic incident, according to authorities. Hammond was being supervised by law enforcement at the request of hospital staff.

According to the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Hammond got out of bed and then struggled with Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven M. Sandberg, 60. He somehow took control of Sandberg’s gun and fired several shots. Sandberg was fatally struck by at least one bullet. A St. Cloud Hospital security guard shot Hammond with a Taser. Hammond fell unconscious as a result and despite lifesaving efforts died in the hospital.

This is yet another case of domestic abuse that could have ended with the shooting of this man’s wife but instead tragically ended with the shooting of a law enforcement officer. And the old myth of an armed person being able to protect him/herself is proven wrong over and over again by incidents such as this one. The officer got into a fight with the suspect but the suspect got his hands on the deputy’s gun and was able to shoot him. It’s not the first time this has happened. Being armed does not guarantee that one can keep oneself safe.

It’s not only Minnesota. These kinds of incidents are happening everywhere. You can’t make some of them up because they point to the risk of guns in public places and in homes.

I am adding this one which just crossed my “desk”. A new gun permit holder shot himself in the leg while attending a movie in a Kansas theater:

A man was transported to Salina Regional Health Center on Friday night after he apparently accidentally shot himself in the leg midway through a movie at Central Mall.

Salina Police Department watch commander Sean Furbeck said the incident remains under investigation, but the gunshot wound likely was self-inflicted. He said police were not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident, which occurred at about 8:30 p.m. in one of the small theaters behind the ticket sales area. (…) “I feel really sorry that guy shot himself, but at least he didn’t shoot someone else,” Myers said. “That would have been 10 times worse.”

10 times worse. We have had 10 times worse actually. Remember the Aurora theater shooting?

Let’s start with a shooting at a ZombieCon event in Florida– Florida again which has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. From the article:

Chaos broke out at a zombie-themed street festival in downtown Fort Myers, Florida, after shooting left one man dead and five other people wounded.

Crowds of festivalgoers fled screaming through the streets after the shots rang out late Saturday at ZombiCon.

“It cleared out fast and cop cars and ambulances came,” said Savannah Holden, who watched the panic unfold from a hotel balcony.

One man died of a gunshot wound at the scene, police said, and five other people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Four of them were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Seriously. This is ludicrous. Notice that what most people did was to run away rather than try to shoot the shooter. Why? They were taken by surprise. They had no idea from where the shots came and their first reaction was to flee.

On another note, remember that gun extremists love to shoot at zombies on the gun range. They have zombies that are the faces and bodies of famous people like President Obama. Check out this site called Bleeding Zombies. There are the torsos of football players, terrorists, Nazis, etc. Why? What do shooters imagine while shooting at these targets? I think we know. This is our American gun culture gone totally out of whack.

Follow the money.

And then there was this shooting at the historical Tombstone, Arizona site:

Two people were shot in Tombstone, Arizona, during a gunfight reenactment when one of the actors allegedly used real bullets.

One of the actors, Tom Carter, was late to the performance and his weapon wasn’t checked, according to News 4 Tucson. During the shootout, he allegedly hit actor Ken Curtis with a real bullet.

Both were members of the Tombstone Vigilantes performance group.

“The Vigilantes immediately stopped the show and Tom was relieved of his weapon,” Bob Randall, the city’s marshall, said in a statement cited by the Tucson Sentinel. “During inspection of his weapon, it was discovered that there was one live round in the cylinder withfive expended casings indicating the gun had held six live rounds prior to the skit.” (…) Mayor Dusty Escapule told the Sentinel that the Vigilantes won’t be allowed to perform reenactments “until it can be determined all weapons are safely loaded with blank ammunition as required.”

Right. Guns are dangerous. When will that simple fact become part of our everyday language? Until it does, zombies- real or not and cowboys- real or not- will be shot every day.

And let’s get our history straight. The re-enactment of a shooting at the historical town of Tombstone is most likely a myth. Here’s the truth about guns and the “Wild West”.

This article in Politico after the shooting of Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona written by historian Katherine Benton-Cohen sheds light on what really happened in Tombstone:

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, during a press conference about the Tucson shootings, called Arizona “the Tombstone of the United States.”

Some journalists gave the word a lowercase “t,” but the sheriff was clearly referring to the infamous silver-mining town 70 miles from Tucson — site of the shootout at the OK Corral. (…)

The irony of Dupnik’s remark is that Tombstone lawmakers in the 1880s did more to combat gun violence than the Arizona government does today.

For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.

In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits. The Earps (who were Republicans) and Doc Holliday maintained that they were acting as law officers—not citizen vigilantes—when they shot their opponents. That is to say, they were sworn officers whose jobs included enforcement of Tombstone’s gun laws.

Today, in contrast, Arizonans can legally buy guns without licenses, and are able to carry concealed weapons without a permit. The state bans cities from passing their own, stricter laws. The legislature will consider a bill this session that would force schools to allow guns on campus — like Pima Community College, which the alleged shooter attended. (…) Arizonans, myself included, love to tout their vaunted independence and Western values. But when we perpetuate the idea that Arizona is some unchanging Wild West, we fall into the trap of a myth that only serves to embolden those who refuse to support commonsense restrictions on purchasing firearms.

Thanks to Arizona’s lax permit to carry laws, the Tucson shooter could carry his gun with little or no training. What shared values are involved in not requiring Brady background checks or some kind of knowledge of guns and how to shoot them before allowing people to carry guns around in public places? Carrying a gun in public places is an awesome and dangerous responsibility. This is the opposite of common sense. 

Just like the myth of an armed society being a polite society, so is the myth of gun wielding cowboys in the American western frontier. Yes, shootings happened. But there were also laws to address where and who could carry guns in towns. What are Western values?  Are they any different than the values held dear by the majority of Americans who know that keeping their children and communities safe from the devastation of gun violence is more important to an insane adherence to the second amendment.