Parkland

It’s Valentine’s day. It’s the second anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that changed the trajectory of the gun violence prevention movement. Many hearts were broken on Valentine’s Day 2 years ago. They were shattered and remain broken.

The birth of March For Our Lives and young Americans getting involved in the issue of gun violence understanding that they could be next ones shot has changed the movement forever. New gun laws have passed in many states as a result.

Two years ago today changed the lives of yet more parents, more grandparents, more sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and friends. School shootings have become regularized. Our kids are targets. It’s an American tragedy.

And by the way, students involved in March For Our Lives, Brady’s Team Enough and Students Demand Action are not going anywhere. They are still actively involved in pushing for stronger gun laws. Students understand what some adults just can’t get right. Gun laws save lives, not the other way around.

Some adults irresponsibly continue their lies about guns. They continue to tell us that someone surely could have stopped that shooter two years today if only they had had their gun. If only…..

A new video about the myth of guns for self defense came out the other day from GVPedia. Check out the facts:

Thank goodness for facts. The gun rights extremists don’t like them.

Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. That is why we need to have strong gun laws to stop so many people who can be dangerous with them from getting them in the first place. That is why we need to keep pushing for safe storage of guns ( most school shooters get their guns from home). That is why we need to counter the dangerous myths pushed by gun rights extremists.

Lives depend on it.

We should be celebrating as a country that finally good things are happening that can save lives. Finally organizations are providing facts to shed light on the gun lobby myths. But it’s America, the home of the NRA and the run rights extremists who hate gun laws even if they may save the life of someone in their own family.

A new movement called Second Amendment Sanctuaries is crisscrossing the country as gun extremists have decided that following gun laws is just not for them. In light of all of the mass shootings and everyday shootings, how is this possible? It’s beyond common sense, that’s for sure.

In other states, like New Mexico, it became wide spread.

Now, close to where I live, a northern Minnesota county decided that they, too, would become a sanctuary for guns and rights. What does this mean exactly? From the article:

The motion goes on to resolve that “public funds of the county not be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Roseau County, or to aid federal or state agencies in the restriction of said rights.”

Roseau County Sheriff Steve Gust said the resolution won’t change local law enforcement’s operations, since one of the resolution’s main intents is to oppose “red flag” gun laws, which allow courts to temporarily remove guns from people who are found to be a risk to themselves or others. Red flag laws have been proposed in Minnesota but not passed.

A template resolution, circulated by members of the New House Republican Caucus over the past few months as they encourage grassroots organization in support of the Second Amendment, specified that a sanctuary designation means that counties can refuse to send law enforcement officers or other county employees to enforce “unconstitutional” laws.

The thing is, gun laws are NOT unconstitutional. The “Red Flag” law, for example, is constitutional in the states where it has passed. Let’s see what the objections are to these laws ( from the article):

Many conservatives oppose all restrictions on access to firearms, arguing that they infringe on the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association has offered support for the concept of keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous people, but it has opposed state red flag laws in practice, arguing that they go too far by allowing courts to confiscate guns from people who have not committed a crime. The organization has also complained that red flag laws in states like Oregon deny the targets of the protective orders due process of law, by allowing orders to be issued without the target having a chance to be heard. The N.R.A. has not supported any state red flag law that has yet been enacted.

Brady has challenged the idea that gun laws don’t need to be enforced:

“Second Amendment sanctuaries” are built entirely upon a tightly held and inaccurate belief that common-sense gun safety laws are unconstitutional. This movement is a clear backlash orchestrated by the gun lobby in response to recent wins in gun reform. Over recent years, voters across the country have elected lawmakers committed to preventing gun violence by passing common-sense and evidence-based measures like universal background checkssafe storage laws, and extreme risk laws. The extreme gun rights advocates behind so-called “Second Amendment sanctuaries” want to stop these laws before they can go into effect.

THE TRUTH? THESE GUN SAFETY LAWS DON’T INFRINGE ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT

According to these gun rights extremists, common-sense gun safety laws infringe on their Second Amendment rights. But the truth is that the Second Amendment is not under threat — and coordinated efforts to purposefully mislead the public or refuse to enforce public safety laws are dangerous. The gun safety measures that are being denounced by extreme gun rights advocates were passed by democratically elected legislators and were signed into law by state governors. Common-sense gun safety laws do not interfere with the rights of gun owners — but they do keep guns out of the hands of those who cannot or should not possess them.

100 Americans a day are killed by bullets. The school shootings like the one that happened two years ago today that killed 17 people carried out by a young man who should not have had a gun happen because of easy access to guns. It’s the guns. Just maybe, had a Red Flag law been enacted in Florida at the time of the shooting, someone would have reported the shooter to authorities and just maybe, at least temporarily enough to avoid the shooting, his rights to have guns would have been temporarily removed.

Our kids need sanctuaries in their schools from shootings. Our country needs a sanctuary from shootings in malls, places of business, homes, clinics, army bases, colleges, on the streets, in bars and restaurants and Walmart stores.

A documentary about the Parkland shooting is now being shown in some theaters and in selected cities. It is the stories of the victims and their families. We see how the violence that day affected not only the victims and their families but the survivors and the PTSD suffered by so many after witnessing the horrors of the shooting. Two students who survived the Parkland students have now died from gun suicide. The irony and tragedy of this is unspeakable.

In the aftermath of such tragedy, declaring second amendment sanctuaries is just plain nonsensical and ludicrous. For in real life, someone’s daughter, son, mother, father, uncle, friend, sister or brother are shot every day. Second amendment sanctuaries are an insult to the victims and their families. They had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That was taken from them in just seconds.

Their families had the right to watch them grow older and contribute to our cities and counties all over America. They would have gone to college maybe or found a job somewhere and met someone to love and be in a meaningful relationship and maybe have families of their own. Maybe one would have become an astronaut. Maybe another would have become a world renowned scientist. Another- an artist or a dancer. Another a Pediatrician. Another a politician. Endless contributions to society and potential snuffed out by bullets.

The rights of Americans to live without fear of being shot is the most important right

Please look at the photos of the 17 who died two years ago today- on Valentine’s Day. Look at their faces. Say their names.

In memory:

Traveling with your gun

It seems that the American public is no longer safe no matter where they are. A California shooting on a Greyhound bus may be a first for the scene of a mass shooting– One dead and 5 injured. Until firearms carry laws passed in the early 2000s in many states, there weren’t so many shootings in public places. Shootings took place at home mostly in the form of domestic shootings or suicides. They still do but mass shootings have become a regular happening. The Columbine school shooting was one of the first mass (school) shootings that caught the attention of the public in a big way because so many victims were left dead and they were kids.

Speaking of guns and buses, does anyone remember last winter’s incident involving a school bus driver and a “law abiding” carry holder in Minnesota?:

A Minnesota man who shot and wounded a school bus driver on a Minneapolis freeway during a snowstorm has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Thirty-two-year-old Kenneth Lilly, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty in August to first-degree assault for the February attack that left Thomas Benson deaf in one ear and unable to continue working as a bus driver due to nerve damage in his hand.

Another article about the shooting says this about the shooter:

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office says Lilly was cleared in a previous shooting, in which he shot and killed a 16-year-old armed robbery suspect in 2015. At that time, the county attorney found that no criminal charges were “appropriate.”

It appears that the man, a supposed security guard, has a trigger finger and should not have had that gun on that day. His anger combined with a gun has now left him serving time.

Unfortunately and tragically times are changing. Guns are so easily and readily available to just about anyone. No matter if they can pass a background check- they can get a gun. No matter if they are a domestic abuser- they can get a gun. No matter if they are dangerously mentally ill or a felon, they can get a gun. No matter if they live in a state with strong gun laws, they can get a gun. California is one of those states where gun deaths are actually low compared to some states and were strong gun laws have been passed. But the weak laws in neighboring states allow guns to come into California anyway:

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. But the tragedy that played out on Sunday, in which three people were killed and 12 wounded, illustrated a familiar problem for states that have ratcheted up their own gun laws in recent years, only to see them neutralized by neighboring states with more lax rules.

The above article was referring to the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last July where 3 were shot dead and 17 wounded. Have gun will travel to other states. Have gun will travel on buses and to malls and Congress on your Corner events like the one that killed 6 and left U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and others permanently injured and disabled.

The gun lobby, of course, will tell you that the world is dangerous so you must carry a gun to protect yourself or have one at the ready at home. The opposite is true of course. Many times “law abiding” gun owners and gun carriers are the shooters. “Unintentional shootings” happen far too often. Mistaken identity has left more than a few dead or injured. It happens primarily in America where gun rights advocates insist that the second amendment protects them and allows them to have guns no matter what.

A Super Bowl ad funded by the Michael Bloomberg campaign got it right. Watch the ad for yourself:

Galandrian Kemp who speaks about George, her murdered son, ends with these words: “You have a right to live. No one has a right to take your life and dreams”

Exactly. That is what this is all about. There is no need to travel with a gun. One can’t even compare defensive gun uses to the number of daily gun deaths. Bodies are piling up as I write. They are killed on buses, in cars, in homes, in malls, on the streets, in schools and offices, in hospitals, in every corner of America. But rarely are guns used in self defense. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of today 3583 Americans have died by firearm. There have been 132 defensive gun uses. Common sense tells us that guns are more often used to kill someone than in self defense.

Yes, some choose to carry firearms. And sometimes they are used in legitimate self defense. Mostly the firearms in homes and carried are never fired to kill or injure another human being and most gun owners are safe with their guns.

We can stipulate to all of that. But given that the number of gun deaths and injuries are the highest in our country of all industrialized democratized countries in the world, it is worth discussing why the minority of gun owners ( more extreme in their positions) resist attempts to prevent and cure our national public health epidemic. Given that we all have the right to our lives and dreams it seems like a no brainer.

There is a responsibility to safely store and handle lethal weapons. With rights come responsibilities. Lives can be saved if gun owners think twice or three times before using a gun in anger, disputes, depression or against themselves. Lives are changed in just an instant when a gun is the weapon.

There is also a responsibility to reign in your rhetoric when you are an elected leader. For example, it’s a pretty dangerous idea for a state lawmaker to say it’s legal to shoot communists. We don’t have to use much imagination to know who he is talking about. (And who, really are communists? We know the right and Trump are going to use that word to describe the Democratic candidate no matter who he or she is. Let’s take a look:

Rep. Rodney Garcia, a state lawmaker in Montana, told a roomful of Republicans he believes the U.S. Constitution says socialists can be jailed or shot simply for being socialists. Garcia initially made the statement at an election event, then he reiterated it to a Billings Gazette reporter. And then, (…) Garcia was not able to say where he finds that in the Constitution, the Billings Gazette reported.

Anthony Johnstone, a law professor at the University of Montana, told The Washington Post that “nothing in the Constitution of the United States authorizes the government to punish socialists or anyone else on the basis of their political beliefs.” In fact, the First Amendment prohibits punishing political speech, and the Constitution of Montana “expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” Johnstone said. All state lawmakers swear an oath to uphold those doctrines.

Never mind….. rights.

He should get an ethics violation at the least. And does he have a carry permit? I question how he will use it if confronted with a candidate running for office who is in the left position of many Democrats. You don’t get so shoot people with whom you disagree politically. You just don’t.

Unless of course your are Donald Trump who believes he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose his supporters.

You can’t make this stuff up.

After experiencing the anger of Minnesotans 2 weeks ago at a hearing that I mentioned in my last post, I get the feeling that we can’t overcome this anger to get to a solution that will move us forward towards saving lives. We are not the enemy as one man told one of the bus riders who traveled to Hibbing, Minnesota to attend a hearing on gun bills. We disagree about how to get to the solution. If those folks are truly law abiding gun owners, they have nothing to fear. But the NRA and right wing extreme talking points have fueled anger, fear, paranoia, misinformation and hyperbole.

In the end, we ought to be safe traveling on buses and in the mall, and in our homes, and our kids should be safe from shootings in their schools. Arming more people is just not the solution. And allowing easy access to guns for those who clearly should not have them is just plain stupid and dangerous.

Our better angels should prevail. In my city, there will be a Better Angels training to get people on opposite sides of controversial issues to engage and try to get to some place where we can agree. Our country has become so polarized over the last few decades that I wonder if that is even possible. The current occupant of the White House tweets many times a day to foment the polarization. Never before has a President been so demeaning and called so many people names. Never before has a President engaged in hourly lies to misinform the public and cause damage to the national psyche. And never before has a President encouraged violence in tweets or excused it for that matter.

Never before has social media and more mobility been a factor in some of the violence and polarization. People travel with their guns to shoot people, to attend rallies, to attend hearings and they come from out of state and from far away.

Take this article from the Star Tribune about the increasing gang violence in the Twin Cities:

She offered another, simpler explanation: As society becomes more mobile, many young gang members, lacking stable housing, are staying with relatives or girlfriends around the metro area. (…)

Bill Finney, another Ramsey County undersheriff and former St. Paul police chief, suspects that teens feuding online set up meeting spots at transit stations along the light-rail line to settle their differences in person. Last year, he witnessed such an encounter as two boys wielding knives greeted another pair getting off the train. The attack resulted in a stabbing, Finney said.

Before the internet, graffiti was the medium of choice to diss a rival, experts say. The emboldened could, under the cover of darkness, spray paint an anonymous message on an adversary’s property.

But an explosion of social media has accelerated those disputes. Today, teens flock to Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube to disrespect one another through flashy rap videos without ever leaving their homes. The words are not veiled, and neither is the poster. Retribution is swift.

At the end of the above article mention is made about getting the guns off the streets. That is really the main problem here. Easy access to guns allows the violence to increase and results in tragic loss of life. The gun rights extremists often write off gang violence as an excuse to do nothing about the violence. Gang members have families who love them and when they die, their families mourn for them. We can’t just write off a whole group of citizens. Sometimes the violence of gangs harms and kills innocent people like the mother of my friend Bunny Beeks who as sitting in her car when a bullet flying in the street hit her and killed her.

Never before has there been such an outright display of weaponry as we have seen in Virginia and Kentucky in the past few weeks. A meme is going around with a photo of the armed Kentuckians going around the metal detectors at the state Capitol while others, unarmed, had to go through the detectors. And by armed, I mean AR-15s strapped around their shoulders and chests. Check out the photos in the linked articles and tell me if you would feel safer surrounded by these folks. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is not normal nor should it become normal. It will take elected leaders to step up and call out this dangerous and bullying behavior if the rest of us are to feel safe. I have been told by some in the gun rights community that I should not fear being surrounded by people carrying guns. They are, after all, law abiding citizens. My response? If I feel unsafe surrounded by armed citizens then I feel unsafe. They don’t seem to understand that the majority of us do not care to see people carrying guns around in public. And particularly people dressed in masks and military gear.

We are not at war- or not yet anyway. But I fear that with the increased polarization and the increase in armed rallies and citizens ready to engage in civil war, we just may see one.

That would be tragic to say the least.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

I need to add something to my original post that supports my view that we don’t need armed people everywhere to respond to crises. According to this article. the Greyhound bus driver in the incident where a shooter killed 1 and injured 5 was unarmed. He talked the shooter down without a gun pointed at him:

After the gunman opened fire, the bus driver pulled over to the shoulder and “was able to persuade the shooter” to get off the bus, Sgt. Brian Pennings with the California Highway Patrol said during a news conference Monday morning.

The suspect “voluntarily” got off the bus, leaving a black handgun behind, Pennings said. Officers located him on the shoulder and took him into custody without incident.

The bus driver, who was not injured, “handled the situation professionally and appropriately to minimize any more possible victims,” Pennings said.

Even if the driver had been armed, how was he to respond with a gun while driving the bus and keeping the other passengers safe? This is the myth of the gun lobby suggesting that if only someone had a gun…….

Hostility at gun bill hearings

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To continue where I left off in my last post, the threats and hostile acts by a minority of angry gun rights extremists continue. We now have information that revealed that one of the organizers of the extremist group “The Base” has lived in Russia and has been directing operations of the group from there:

The FBI has described the group as a “racially motivated violent extremist group” that “seeks to accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethno-state.” (…) One video posted online in March 2019 shows Nazzaro in Russia wearing a T-shirt with Vladimir Putin’s face and the words, “Russia, absolute power.”

“The Base” is considered to be a neo nazi militia group watched by the Southern Poverty Law Center and some of whose members were arrested before the pro gun rally in Virginia last week:

In the days leading up to the rally, the FBI arrested multiple members of “The Base,” a white nationalist group where some members hold neo-Nazi beliefs. Court documents show some members discussed attending the rally in Richmond with the intent of killing people.

The pro gun rally ended without violence, miraculously given the anger, tension and guns that were mixed in with the annual “lobby” day sponsored by the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Prominent on the website of the vcdl is this statement: ” The 2020 Legislative Session started January 8, 2020 and represents the greatest threat to gun rights Virginians have faced in modern times! 

The “funny” thing about “The Base” operations coming from a man living in Russia, who appears to really like Putin, is that we know that the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election by sending one of their own to influence the election through the NRA. Remember Maria Butina? The Russians do understand that gun rights go together with Republicans and that money and power go together. Sowing discord and even violence in America is one of Putin’s aims. Can we say he is succeeding to a certain degree? And can we say that President Trump is helping out by tweeting his support of this movement of violence against Americans?

This is about more than gun rights.

The thing is, there are no threats to gun rights when laws like universal Brady background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Order bills are passed in the name of public safety. Not one of these folks can tell us how this will affect their very own gun rights or those of their friends- at least no reason that makes any sense and is factual.

I had this “discussion” this week- on Tuesday- when the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 4 gun bills in Hibbing, Minnesota, home of Bob Dylan located 1.5 hours to the north of my city of Duluth. The Republican leaders opined that holding the hearing in Hibbing would give rural folks a chance to speak up about gun issues:

Senate Republican leaders said they opted to hold the hearing after years of “dogging” from all sides of the issue and they chose Hibbing because they wanted rural constituents to have a stronger voice in the debate.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it just isn’t true. I have been going to hearings at the Minnesota state Capitol for many years. There are just as many rural and urban gun owners and leaders there as the people like myself speaking for common sense gun legislation. People travel to wherever the hearings are held to make their viewpoints known.

Metropolitan gun lobbyists traveled to Hibbing to testify. Very few local gun owners testified. Instead, they brought in a lobbyist from NRA headquarters to speak on behalf of gun rights. Two men from the Twin Cities area testified on behalf of the gun owners of Minnesota. Some rented hotel rooms so they could make it to Hibbing for the hearing. Only two speakers on the side of gun violence prevention were from outside of northern Minnesota. One was state Public Safety commissioner John Harrington and the other was a woman whose father was shot 3 years ago. She lives in a small town north of the Twin Cities.

So when one of the gun rights “extremists” in the room asked why the Duluth Police Chief was there to testify, the answer is that he is at least from close by. Why was an NRA national spokesperson at the hearing?

The Hibbing hearing, unfortunately, magnified a stereotype about gun owners that most gun owners hate and don’t fit into. There were hundreds of angry men and women, some armed, in a smallish standing room only room brandishing their anger and bullying tactics from the beginning. One man interjected himself into a press conference held by the Democratic Senator (Ron Latz) who was bringing the background check and extreme risk protection order bills to the committee. This man yelled out questions and comments often yelling over the press. He did the same as I was being interviewed by a local T.V. reporter. Did I have to answer his questions just because he was there to bully and intimidate? No. But he insisted on a “conversation” with me about the hackneyed “slippery slope” argument.

At the beginning of the hearing, a man sitting in front of me yelled, “Where is the flag? No flag no respect. I’m outa here.” And he got up and left.

Nice.

I’m sure these folks are regular people with families they love just like I do and my friends do. They go to work and send their kids to school. Unfortunately the area where they live is economically depressed with many mining jobs lost leaving lots of anger and frustration. But something seems to happen to them whenever guns and gun safety reform come up. At the hearing, many insisted on being loud and interrupting and not listening. The others applauded their uncivil behavior. Our very own President has given “permission” for this kind of behavior. He is modeling it whenever he speaks. So what can we expect?

When any of us ( there were about 50 of us from the Duluth and Iron Range area in orange Protect Minnesota shirts and red Moms Demand Action shirts) were engaged by them, they mostly tried to shout over us.

I was on a bus that took many who had never attended a hearing before or never been in a roomful of angry armed people. Some were quite intimidated and worried about this. I can’t blame them. The crowd was racaus, rude, belligerent, and boorish as they interrupted the proceedings, yelled out comments and questions, insisted on answers, and several came close to being ejected. The Democratic Senator Ron Latz was personally verbally attacked by many.

The chair of the committee, Senator Limmer, lost control at the outset and never regained it. Here is my letter to the editor about that:

Sen. Limmer and the Republican Senate were under pressure to hear the bills, given that gun-safety reform is at the top of the list of concerns for Minnesotans and Americans; 84% of Minnesotans support requiring background checks on all gun sales. The group of angry folks who came to the Hibbing hearing reflected a minority of Minnesotans and gun owners.

Their angry voices reflected fear of losing something. Our fear is of losing lives to senseless gun violence.

As I said in my letter, one of our supporters was poked in the back by a man behind her who kept asking what she thought of comments made by one of his own. This is physical harassment. One man clapped his hands right next to the ears of a friend of mine sitting in front of her. Others booed at victims and even at the Chief of Police. They had no compunction about doing this-so sure were they that they deserved their rights to intimidate and bully others.

I am a League of Women Voters debate and forum moderator. We practice the Speak Your Peace Rules of Civility Project and state them at the beginning of every event. This hearing was the total opposite of peace and civility.

What is this fear and anger really about? As I have said probably thousands of times in this blog and in other places, if these people are law abiding citizens they will not have to worry about a thing. If they believe it is inconvenient to show a permit to purchase a gun at a licensed dealer and also to a private seller, I wonder how they feel when they stand in line at the license bureau to renew their driver’s license or their car license plate?

It’s inconvenient to bury a loved one who was shot. It’s inconvenient to read about your family in the newspaper and have reporters surround your family to take photos. It’s inconvenient to go to court where the killers of your loved ones stand trial and you have to re-live the trauma. It’s inconvenient to have to go through the personal effects of your loved one and decide how to part with their things. It’s inconvenient to have to speak with your back to a hostile crowd in a hearing room of armed people and know their anger over perceived loss of rights extends to you.

It took me several days to recover from the day at the hearing. The righteous and obnoxious folks we encountered at the hearing have no empathy for what it feels like to be surrounded by people with misplaced anger and hostility. We are not the enemy. We disagree about how to approach public safety. But we know the majority happens to be with us. We wish them no harm or ill will. We are not angry with them except when they verbally attack one of us. We do not want their guns. Their rights will not be taken away.

But too many of our loved ones are.

There is no need for them to threaten us or bully us. It’s not necessary. They will have their guns if they go through background checks. If they, in a moment of anger or mental anguish, may harm themselves or someone else, they may have guns temporarily removed for their own safety. Because if one of those “law abiding” gun owners shoots someone in a moment of anger, they will never be the same. Their lives will be as upended as the victim but killing another human being is a very serious thing and an awesome responsibility.

They don’t have to argue with us about defensive gun uses, or tell us that people kill themselves with knives too, (but check the lethality of guns compared to knives- apples to oranges) or about the Dickey Amendment or about the myth about the slippery slope as they did last Tuesday. Those are side issues and deflect from the bottom line. And we do have facts that are not being considered by those who insist we are wrong and the enemy.

In America, we shoot too many of our own. Too many of our own die by gun suicide. We want to change that and, contrary to NRA hype, it can be done without interfering with rights and gun ownership.

Too many of our own are shot “accidentally” ( 4 year Indiana old boy dies when shot by father’s gun while wrestling) What law owning and carrying father intends for that to happen? But seriously, what was he thinking? If you refuse to listen to those of us just trying to tell you that guns are a risk and needed to be treated as a threat to your own safety or that of your family, perhaps these regular incidents would not happen and more children would be alive. If a gun carrier is so cavalier about safety that he carries his gun in his pants ( without a holster apparently?) bad things happen. What gun carrier wrestles with is little boy wearing a gun?

He must be devastated. How tragic this is and my heart goes out to all of them. This will be their nightmare for the rest of their lives.

Where is common sense?

That is all we are asking.

I tried to tell one of the angry men about the Gun Violence Archive and that he should look at it to see how many people have died from gun violence compared to defensive uses of guns. He talked over me and didn’t want to hear it but I am going to leave you with this just in case.

He told me I should join the NRA after I tried to tell him the truth. I told him I would not do that and that my sister had been shot to death in a domestic shooting. He did not know what to do with this information but sometimes one must be blunt to get the point across.

Just a few more broken hearts

We’ve had another of those weeks. We’ve had just a few too many shootings and more than a few broken hearts. It’s America after all. What do we expect? We’ve also had some scary incidents like this one where a woman with a gun decided to threaten a McDonald’s employee over giving her jelly instead of ketchup. I mean wouldn’t that just make you so mad that you would want to kill someone? And if you had a gun you could.

She should have her gun rights and permit to carry taken away from her. She is clearly dangerous to others. From the article:

She was arrested Tuesday and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Oh right. She possessed the weapon unlawfully. How does that happen? Where did she get her gun?

Another “law abiding gun owner” was in the news this past week for leaving her gun around for her toddler to find. The toddler, thinking it was a toy gun, put it in his mouth and shot and killed himself last year. The Colorado woman was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Responsible gun owners lock up their guns so toddlers can’t find them. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Kids and guns don’t go together well.

We had another mass shooting at a military base. There have been a number of these. Pensacola Navy Base suffered through it this time. A Saudi air force member in the U.S. for training at the base opened fire and killed 3, injured 8 and law enforcement then killed him. Sound familiar?

Investigations are continuing about whether this was a terror attack on the U.S. I believe all mass shootings are terror attacks but if this shooter was associated with an actual known terrorist group, then it will likely be labeled a terror attack. I believe that would the first official one since 9/11. Time will tell. He bought his gun legally by the way. Sometimes legal guns and law abiding gun owners do bad things with their guns. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others.

One thing of grave concern is this:

The night before the attack, Lieutenant Alshamrani showed videos of mass shootings at a dinner party, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation.

Only in America could a would-be mass shooter have videos of mass shootings available to him. Only in America. Only in America can we have so much to write about regarding shootings and firearms incidents. Only in America do these things happen so regularly that we often pay them attention briefly and move on. We’ve already moved on.

Oh yes, there was almost another mass shooting in San Diego last week but the potential shooter stupidly posted things on his Facebook page that were alarming. Police were able to gain a search warrant:

Steve Andrew Homoki, 30, was arrested and charged with multiple felony assault weapons charges, possession of a high capacity magazine, and child endangerment.

San Diego Police say Homoki posted graphic videos online depicting assault weapons being pointed at unknowing pedestrians outside The Sofia Hotel in downtown San Diego.

California has passed an Extreme Risk Protection Order so law enforcement can take guns away from those who are a danger to themselves or others. Gun laws work. Thank goodness we didn’t have to wake up to yet another mass shooting last week.

So with more broken hearts this past week, the victims and survivors’ families will never move on. That’s the American tragedy. I wrote an opinion piece for my local newspaper last week after 2 heinous domestic shooting incidents in Minneapolis. It sickened me to think of a father, as I wrote in my last post, shooting his young sons as he greeted them at the door and they ran out into the snow. We ought to all be outraged by this. Many of us are. But not the ones who can do something about it- namely the Republican led U.S. Senate.

Last week was the annual national vigil for victims of gun violence started after the Sandy Hook shooting 7 years ago. As is the tradition, victims come forth with photos of their loved ones and speak their names. There are speakers and reflections about gun violence- once again. It’s a broken record and it’s broken hearts over and over and over again.

In Duluth we will have a community gathering on Friday to highlight how gun violence affects us all. It does. If we had any common sense we wouldn’t let it continue unabated.

So this was last week. A new week has begun. No doubt there will be “just a few shootings” again.

It’s in our hands to do the right thing. We will keep pushing, lighting candles, demanding action, ringing bells, writing articles, testifying at hearings, lobbying, rallying and whatever it takes.

End Family Fire in Minnesota

It’s hard not to despair every day about the deaths due to firearms. Minnesota has had a rough week but then, who hasn’t when it comes to gun violence? I have been asked how I don’t get too depressed or how do I keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally and even physically faced with the involvement with the gun violence prevention movement?

The last question first- my family, friends, faith community, local community and statewide and national gun violence prevention friends keep each other healthy. We mourn. We ring bells. We act. We support each other and carry on in the names of the victims. For what else can we do? Everyone handles the stresses differently. I immerse myself in photography, exercise, reading books, spending time at our cabin and with our family enjoying watching my grandchildren grow into fun and productive human beings. Their sports activities keep us busy. Their school activities- musical and otherwise are an outlet and provide happiness. Travel is also a great way to forget about the violence and the world’s problems.

Now to the first about Minnesota. This week 2 Minnesota law enforcement officers used guns to kill themselves. Suicide by gun. Not uncommon as it turns out. But 2 in one week- unrelated to each other? From the article:

A study released in September found that police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.The rate of 13 out of 100,000 deaths by suicide in the general population rises to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers, with 167 police officers taking their own lives in 2018.

Police officers risk their lives every day on the job. They see the carnage caused by homicides, suicides, domestic abuse, auto accidents and the like. It has to be very stressful to experience this every day on the job. The unexpected happens and officers respond.

Officers also have easy access to guns. When contemplating suicide, if there is an easy way out, a gun is the fastest and most efficient.

So what should we do about this? Police departments are providing officers with ways of handling stress and dealing with their emotional health. It is not enough and more recognition of the serious risks should be discussed more openly. It is difficult for people trained to be tough and authoritative to admit that they have vulnerabilities and difficulties handling their stressful and dangerous jobs.

Brady’s End Family Fire is a program designed for discussion of the risks of guns in the home. No matter who the gun owner happens to me, a better understanding of the actual risks posed when a gun for self protection or used on the job can still cause unintentional or intentional deaths.

So that is the lesson for some Minnesota teens who last week in St. Paul “accidentally” pulled the trigger on a stolen gun and killed a friend. This tragedy was so avoidable in many ways:

The St. Paul Police Department says Jones-Morris was shot Wednesday afternoon at a home on the 100 block of Annapolis Street, near the city’s border with West St. Paul. Police say a 15-year-old boy told investigators he accidentally shot Jones-Morris while playing with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded.

That teen and a 16-year-old boy were charged in the shooting Thursday. The criminal complaint says the 16-year-old admitted to stealing the gun from an SUV last week. Both are being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

“So many people are just broken down and shocked,” said friend Alex Hogg.

How many times does “so many people are just broken down and shocked” have to be quoted in an article about the gun death of one of our teens whose life’s potential will never be reached? This young man was a football and basketball star at his school and had many friends. His personality was a happy one- making others laugh.

Let’s talk about some of the precursors of this avoidable death. The teens stole a gun from a car. That was illegal. What about the “responsible” gun owner who left a gun in his/her car easy to steal? What is his/her responsibility here? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. Teens can’t buy guns. Stealing is one easy way to get one.

Second, teens cannot be responsible with guns. Guns are not toys to be “played with”. Everyone who touches a gun should have some kind of training on how to operate a deadly weapon and the risks of having one in their hands. How often do we hear about people who did not realize there was a bullet in the chamber?

Efforts to safety proof guns have been rebuffed by the corporate gun lobby. Smart guns could save lives and in this case, would have. But the technology is not there yet. My opinion is that if we can create the will and technology to send Americans to the moon and into space, we can develop better guns that will keep us safer.

Safe storage of guns whether in cars or homes would save lives and this case would have. Stronger laws for safe storage and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns would save lives. But we aren’t passing those laws in many places either.

And it doesn’t have to be a law. It’s just common sense really isn’t it? Responsible gun owners understand that their guns are to be respected and gun safety is key to avoid the gun incidents I have written about here. But even in the hands of responsible gun owners, things go wrong. Combined with anger over just about anything, a domestic abuse, a bad grade in school, despair, depression, drug and alcohol use, or “playing” with a gun and/or cleaning a gun, tragedy and heartbreak can be an unfortunate and deadly outcome.

There was one more incident this week in Oklahoma that I want to talk about. Yet another 3 year old found a gun left carelessly in a bathroom in a public place.:

The restaurant, located near May Avenue and Grand Boulevard, has a sign on the door that reads, “No handguns,” but a customer brought one in anyway and left it behind by mistake.

“I got a call from my daughter, and she was quite alarmed.” Dennis Pealor said.

Pealor told KOCO 5 that his daughter’s family was eating brunch Sunday at La Baguette when his son-in-law escorted their 3-year-old to the bathroom.

“Immediately, she points to this item on the toilet paper holder and says, ‘Daddy. What’s that?'” Pealor said.

According to a police report, a semi-automatic handgun was found in the stall. The report states that a 77-year-old man from Duncan used the restroom and left the restaurant, forgetting the weapon was in there.

No handguns allowed but someone who thought he could ignore the law brought his gun in anyway? Why? What is so dangerous about a restaurant? And then he leaves the gun in the toilet stall? Good grief. This is what happens when more people carry guns around in public. We are not safer.

These incidents have become too common place but also had the owners understood the risks of guns by applying the End Family Fire tenets, carelessness that could have led to an awful outcome would be avoided.

And my last concern is about the irresponsible United States Senate for its’ failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act. This has never happened before. Too many women and children lose their lives to domestic violence- and most to firearms. This is national disgrace:

The bill would eliminate the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Of course. The NRA.

For 30 years, Minnesota has been keeping track of the numbers of people who have died from domestic violence:

Known for years as the annual Femicide Report, it started in 1989 as a way to fill in a gap in reporting gender-bias violence against women and girls. There was no other state or national group collecting this kind of data at the time, and to this day no state agency collects comparable data.

“Every month or so a woman, and or her children, and or her partner or mother or neighbor got killed, and it was like a flash in the pan,” said Julie Tilley, who first decided to start collecting the names as a staffer at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

“One of our goals was not only to honor the victims of this horrendous violence but to make this violence visible. It was so clear to us at that time that people weren’t seeing what was happening all around us.”

The Clothesline Project is a visual display of tee shirts designed by family or friends of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. We must make the violence visible. I once found my sister’s name on a tee shirt at a display by the project. It was a very emotional moment for me as I held on to the shirt with her name as the clothesline stretched out with the many other names.

We must say their names and see their faces. It’s the stories of the victims that should change the conversation. That is why I do this advocacy.

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

We all remember the many victims of mass shootings that have occurred in November- Thousand Oaks, CA one year ago on Nov. 7 leaving 12 dead, Sutherland Springs,Texas church shooting 2 years ago on Nov. 5 leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded ( for just 2). Minnesota has seen an upsurge in shooting deaths this year. What will we do about it? That remains to be seen but we have to #dosomething. It’s in our hands to make our kids, teens and communities safer.

We are better than this.

Halloween 2019 was deadly

It was a scary Halloween this year. 4 are dead and more injured at a Halloween party at an Airbnb. Who brings guns to a Halloween party and why?:

“The killings shocked neighbors and residents in Orinda, where homicides are especially rare. The last killing in the small East Bay city about 15 miles east of San Francisco was in 2012, when a man hacked his girlfriend to death with a machete. Before that, the city’s only other homicide this century was in 2002, when Susan Polk killed her estranged psychotherapist husband.

Now that is ghoulish.

But this was yet another mass shooting. It may have been domestic in nature but we don’t know that yet. The thing is, after shootings like this, it is often noted that the community is a quiet community where shootings and violence don’t happen. We can’t say that anymore because shootings happen anywhere there are people who decide to bring guns with them or where people have guns in their homes. More guns means more shootings and we have more guns than ever now which means we have more shootings and more deaths than ever.

In another Halloween shooting a little 7 year old girl dressed in a bumblebee costume was shot by a “stray” bullet meant for someone else as she was trick or treating in the Chicago area. Don’t people with guns know that there are small kids out and about on the streets on Halloween Eve when they decide to bring their guns to the streets to do whatever they do with them? Also if the person who shot the gun was a “responsible” gun owner, why shoot bullets when you know they very well may not hit their target? And why have a target anyway? Why do people want to kill each other with bullets? What’s all the anger about? Why should Americans have to experience this level of violence in their neighborhoods? Why aren’t we doing anything about it?

From the article:

“Obviously the little girl wasn’t the target. We think two gangs were having a dispute and one of them shot at the other,” Johnson told reporters Friday morning. “She just was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

She was actually in the right place at the right time. It was the shooter(s) who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They always are. And further, from the article:

“Those involved don’t deserve to be in our city,” he said. “I’m disgusted but committed to doing everything we can to find the cowards that would engage in a gun battle during the early evening hours while children are trick or treating.”

It’s the guns. These gang members could have had a fist fight and it would not have ended in this kind of tragedy. Even a knife fight would not have ended this way. But they have chosen guns because they know that guns kill. Where is common sense?

The answer is simple. Guns kill people. They are designed to kill people and kill they do at an alarming rate. When Americans are convinced that they need their guns for self protection ( since that seems to be the reason) this is the consequence. A gun bought ( or stolen or bought in a straw purchase or on the streets) is more likely to be used in a shooting of someone you know or love than to be used for self protection.

Unfortunately for that 7 year old who is in critical condition and for the 4 killed in an Airbnb senselessly it’s too late to have this discussion. And until we do something about the shootings it will be too late for thousands of Americans.

But it’s not too late for us to demand that our leaders #DoSomething about gun violence. Apparently President Trump has given up any pretense ( and it was pretense all along) of any further progress towards stemming the tide of gun violence. Shame on him and the Republicans who refuse to deal with the daily carnage.:

“A lot of the people who put me where I am are strong believers in the 2nd Amendment, and I am also,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.Then he argued that any efforts to restrict gun sales would inevitably lead to confiscation of privately owned weapons from law-abiding citizens, although no one has proposed that drastic remedy on Capitol Hill.“They call it the slippery slope,” he said. “And all of a sudden everything gets taken away. We’re not going to let that happen.”

Wrong. This is such nonsense and gun lobby lying and paranoia. What is taken away are people’s lives. And if does not want to alienate his base, what about the loved ones of gun violence victims? Why doesn’t he care if he alienates them? Because……. NRA……. money………he’s a chicken.

The gun advocates often criticize gang gun violence and Chicago for all of the shootings. Yes. Chicago has shootings but their crime rate and gun death rate are down. Other cities are experiencing a lot of gun violence like Minneapolis and St Paul. The thing is, what are these critics willing to do about all of the violence? Don’t they really care that when gang members get guns they kill not only themselves but often innocent victims? They are chickens.

The gang members who shot the bullet that ended in the neck of a 7 year old are chickens. They don’t have a way to solve their problems without hiding behind a gun? Trump can’t deal with gun violence without hiding behind lies and gun lobby deceptions? What are these people afraid of? They have no courage or common sense. They are hiding behind their masks of cowardice and complicity with a small minority of voters, a corrupt NRA and the gun manufacturers. They think they are protecting themselves and their own election chances and reputations. They should be protecting us from daily shootings.

Our voices need to be loud and clear about who are the brave ones and who are the bullies and the chickens. We must call them out for their profiles in cowardice.

Remembering the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting

Today is the anniversary of one of our nation’s ugliest hate crimes- the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh one year ago today. It is yet one more anniversary of a heinous mass shooting where Americans are reminded of the easy access to guns to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Only in America does this happen on an almost daily basis. In fact there really isn’t one day of the year when there is not an anniversary of a mass shooting.

But I digress. A hate crime against one group, one religion, one political group, one group based on sexual preference, etc. is un American and our own brand of terrorism. That day one year ago, it was Jews who were the target of a gunman:

Mr. Leger was the most visibly wounded that morning of Oct. 27, 2018, when a gunman killed 11 Jews and wounded other worshipers and police officers at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue building in Squirrel Hill. Among the dead were members of all three congregations sharing the building — New Light, Tree of Life and Mr. Leger’s own Dor Hadash.

The victims were Tree of Life members Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill, husband and wife Sylvan Simon, 86, and Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg, Joyce Fineberg, 75, of Oakland, Irving Younger, 69, of Mount Washington, brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill and David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill; New Light Congregation members Melvin Wax, 87, of Squirrel Hill, Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill, Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross; and Congregation Dor Hadash member Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood.

There were several memorials in Duluth after this shooting- one outdoors with the community and a bell ringing naming each victim. The other took place a few days later at our local synagogue with an interdenominational service in the small space crammed with community members and leaders. Both were touching reminders of how the Jewish community is affected by hate and threats to their existence.

The shooter used the weapon of choice for mass shootings- an AR-15, was anti-Semitic and had posted on a social media site about his hate for Jews. From this entry in Wikipedia:

The immediate rise in the months of August to October was connected to the 2018 US midterm elections,[35] with a similar rise having occurred during the 2016 US election,[30] with the midterms being a “rallying point” for far-right extremists to organize efforts to spread antisemitism among the populace online.[31] The intervening years between 2016 and 2018 saw rising indicators of antisemitism in American public life, including a 57% rise in antisemitic incidents in 2017[33][32] in context of rising hate crimes against other groups including Muslims and African Americans as reported by the FBI,[33] a wave of vandalizations of hundreds of Jewish gravestones in Pennsylvania and Missouri,[31] and a doubling of antisemitic incidents on university campuses.[34] In 2017, the widely publicized Charlottesville riots featured Nazi symbolssalutes, and the slogan “Blood and Soil“,[34] amid explicit and implicitly racist and antisemitic rhetoric. Online, the reports found a large proportion of the antisemitic material was spread through the medium of conspiracy theories concerning wealthy Jewish individuals including billionaire George Soros, with Columbia University’s Jon Albright claiming these represented the “worst sample” of all the hate speech he had seen on Instagram.[30]

Do I have to remind my readers that the 2020 election is about one year away? Do I have to remind my readers that our very own President engages in the language of hate and violence in general and demeans his opponents, the media, anyone who disagrees with him, calling them names and intimating that violence might just be OK? And so, some of his followers actually may take action. Pray for a peaceful and safe election.

One such recent example came from a major league baseball umpire – one of Trump’s followers, who made a threat on social media about using his gun to shoot people if Trump should be impeached:

Drake posted this message to Twitter on Tuesday: “I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020”

Drake later deleted the post.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Drake apologized to victims of gun violence, fellow umpires and his family, and acknowledged he had caused a controversy for MLB.

His apology seemed insincere to me. It’s too late once those words have been written. We understand exactly what he meant. An AR-15 is the weapon of choice for mass shooters. He just may have done this had he not been called out publicly and he should be watched closely just in case. Now he has tainted his own career and reputation and also his own family and the umpires’ league.

This- all because of hate of others. This- all because we have no common sense when it comes to restricting the sale of assault rifles or checking to make sure that everyone can pass a background check. This- America the violent.

And of course, there was another mass shooting last night at a party to celebrate the homecoming at Texas A&M. “Only” 2 are dead but 12 injured. Good grief. Young adults and teens can’t celebrate parties without gunfire and death? From the article:

Authorities believe the shooter may have been targeting just one person at the party of about 750 people outside Greenville, 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of a satellite campus of the Texas A&M University System, and that others may have been shot at random, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said. Authorities were still looking for the suspect, Meeks said, and had not yet identified him.

This happens far too often as it did in my sister’s shooting- one person was the target but often others are also shot just because they happened to be there and because it can be done so easily with guns as the weapon.

Today we remember the victims of one hate crime. Others followed including the shooting at Poway Synagogue in April of 2019 leaving one dead and three injured. Take a guess at the weapon used. If you guessed an AR-15 you are right.

And this, dear readers, is why many of us want an assault weapons ban. It is getting harder and harder to defend the use of these types of guns for any purpose other than killing many people at a time.

I will leave you with this- we are better than this. It is in our hands to stop the carnage. So let’s do something about this and demand that our leaders do the same. I don’t know how many more will be killed before we get this right and neither do you. It can and does happen anywhere.

Hate crimes are on the rise. Domestic terrorist shootings are on the rise:

It’s time to dismantle the artificial legal wall between domestic and international terrorism. Violent ideology that’s headed toward violent action and facilitated by websites, blogs, chat rooms, or other forums needs to be addressed regardless of its origins in racism, hate, religion and left or right-wing extremism. Let’s have one law that treats all violent ideologies the same and makes acting on those ideologies a crime.

This is the United States of America. We can’t let this continue as is. What is happening to our country? Please join me in doing everything you can do to stop and prevent hate crimes, domestic terrorism, domestic shootings, suicides, “accidental” shootings that occur in large numbers in America.

And remember the victims and survivors on this mournful day of remembrance. Say their names. None of them or their families and the community will ever be the same.