Las Vegas costs

Costs - Puzzle with Missing Piece through Loupe.Las Vegas is known for its’ casinos, hotels and restaurants where people go to ( hopefully) make some money and spend some money on shows featuring singers and other stars.

It is also now known for the cost of loose gun laws, bump fire stocks and lasting emotional, physical and health care costs for the victims and survivors of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting. The dead have been buried, leaving families with the actual financial cost of a funeral. And now the families and friends are spending their time and energy wondering why this happened to their loved one and how they will spend the rest of their lives without that person.

The sounds of weeping.

The survivors are traumatized and many will need counseling. They can’t get the scene out of their heads- the noise of the gunfire- the noise of the screaming- the noise of the dead and injured- the noise of people running for their lives-the noise of the sirens. And some will face astronomical financial costs as long as they live.

We all pay.

Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and the lack of courage of many in Congress, the carnage continues every day and Americans pay billions every year to cover the costs of the shootings.

But I digress.

In this article there is a video where the sounds of screaming and the rapid fire of the gun are heard. It was frightening.

The sound of Congress doing something about changing gun laws after the massacre?

Silence.

The sound of the media 4 weeks out- silence.

We have already forgotten the Las Vegas shooting.

This is an American tragedy.

The victims and survivors have not forgotten. Time will tell if their voices will join the thousands of others who have experienced the loss of a loved one or friend, the injuries from bullets or the trauma of being at the scene of the shooting.

This is the cost of not doing anything about gun violence in America.

Listen to the “Sounds of Silence.”

We will not be silent.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut along with Connecticut Senator Blumenthal and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin made some noise this week by introducing yet another bill to extend Brady background checks to all gun sales.

It appears that Congress will be silent on banning bump stocks even though they made some noise about it.

It is inexcusable that we have allowed them to get away with ignoring their responsibilities for protecting the public against insanely loose gun laws and allowing just about anyone to purchase just about any gun or accessory they want because they are cowards.

There will be a cost for this abrogation of responsibilities.

Congress members should pay with their seats. The rest of us are paying with our lives and the loss of loved ones.

There is no common sense.

Let Congress members visit this woman whose life is forever changed by the shooting as she sits in her wheelchair in therapy knowing she will likely never walk again. Let them hear her story. Let them understand that our healthcare system is broken and will not pay for this woman’s care for the rest of her life.

Would they be silent if this were one of their own?

Would they pay what it takes to prevent shootings in America?

The victims went to a concert the night of October 1st. They were not silent that night until after the bullets started flying and the carnage began. They had to do things they never thought possible( article from National Public Radio):

SIEGEL: First, had you experienced anything like this, and did you sense your training kicking in at all during the – during this?

LACY: I’ve never experienced anything at this magnitude. I’ve seen a lot in 20 years in Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Panama, Turkey but nothing like this where you’re supposed to be out having a good time and you don’t expect something like this to happen. My training kicked in immediately, and I bolted and looked towards the – where the shots were being fired from. And then I started trying to assess the wounded and trying to get people out of the area so we could take care of those that needed help and get those others that could move out of the area so they were not – no longer in harm’s way.

The man was in the military and said this to the interviewer:

LACY: You know, if you want to describe what war is, I guess this is what looks like war but on a civilian scale. These people didn’t deserve it. And I’m just glad that there were true Americans that stayed behind and helped those that were wounded and helped the individuals that were deceased.

It was worse than war- on a civilian scale, as he said.

This woman came close to death. She describes the scene– listen to her, Congress members. Or can’t you bear the thought of the blood and carnage? Her family talks of how much this will cost and whether they will be able to afford the cost. Loss of work, loss of mobility, loss of functioning in everyday life, loss of freedom, loss of security. From the article:

At the hospital, people were lined up along the wall. “Just so many people, just stacked, and blood—just tons and tons of blood,” Sheppard said. She was lying on a gurney next to a girl who had been shot multiple times in the leg. “I was breathing really hard, and I was like, screaming and making noise, and I was really, really, really, really, really, really struggling.” She hollered that she was going to throw up, was given a bucket, and began vomiting blood. An X-ray machine was brought into the room. She heard someone say, “Surgery, immediately.” Her last memory before she woke up, five days later, is of a doctor—no one at the hospital knows who it was—grabbing her face with both hands, looking in her eyes, and telling her, “You’re gonna fucking make it. You’re gonna fucking do this.”

One of the misperceptions that accompanies a mass shooting is that those affected are divided into the victims, who are killed, and the survivors, who live. The news cycle moves on—as it already has, a month later—and the collective notion, insofar as anyone who wasn’t there or didn’t lose a loved one thinks about it, is that those who survived are in the process of moving on, too. But, for those who were injured, existence is transformed.

“…and I was, like, screaming and making noise….”

The silence of Congress is deafening.

Whose rights come first? The right for anyone to own and carry any gun wherever they want and to shoot innocent people? Or the right to live free from gun violence in our communities?

I know my answer. Congress is silent.

 

Not even bump fire stocks?

spinelessReally Paul Ryan? Not even bump fire stocks?

Halloween is approaching and our Congress is scared and scary in more ways than one. Our leaders are failing us in more ways than one. Our leaders claim that care about Americans. If they actually did, they would grow a spine and stand tall for the majority and do it proudly and feel good about it.

They are lapdogs for the NRA and other special interests.

The cynical and evil leadership of the NRA suggested that they may be able to support a ban on bump fire stocks. NOT. Not even that very small measure will pass muster with this group of disingenuous group of guys who represent the industry that sells these things.

So where are we? We are where we are after every one of the nation’s mass shootings. Lapdog and weak politicians with no backbone are afraid to do what they know is right. Because…..rights.

Rights? Where are the rights of Americans to be safe when going to concerts, shopping at malls, going to college classes, sitting at work or school, having a drink at a nightclub or at a military base? They don’t count. Death is not their concern. If it was one of their own though, they would care. 

The gun issue is not untouchable. We will make it touchable. We will demand answers and demand solutions. Politicians will have to address it. They will not be left to avoid it any more. Some are already changing their tune:

Another Democrat who had once been in the NRA’s favor, Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.), also donated a sum matching his past NRA contributions this week. Walz, who is running for governor and was under pressure from a Democratic primary opponent, sent $18,000 to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit group that helps the families of service members who are killed or severely wounded.

“I’m doing what I can to get past the political attacks and back to addressing this problem,” Walz said, who also held an “A” rating.

They want to be elected and perhaps they are finally waking up to the common sense of the American voters. I have personally spoken with Rep. Tim Walz who is the only Democratic candidate for Governor with an A rating from the NRA. That is poison for him. We need to make it poison for all candidates. Gun violence is one of the most important issues of our day. It’s a public health epidemic that we are ignoring.

Speaking of NRA money, who does get the most money from the NRA anyway? Let’s take a look from the article:

Below are the top 10 career recipients of N.R.A. funding – through donations or spending to benefit the candidate – among both current House and Senate members, along with their statements about the Las Vegas massacre. These representatives have a lot to say about it. All the while, they refuse to do anything to avoid the next massacre.

Senator John McCain heads the list and had this to say about the Las Vegas shooting: ““Cindy & I are praying for the victims of the terrible #LasVegasShooting & their families.”” He has taken $7,740,251 from the NRA in his career as a Senator. It goes on from there. You get the picture.
No- your prayers and thoughts are insincere as long as you don’t have the spine to stand up for the victims and actually do something to prevent at least some shootings.
American support for stronger gun laws is at an all time high according to this latest polling after the Las Vegas shooting by Quinnipiac:
American voters say 63 – 27 percent that it’s possible to make new gun laws without interfering with gun rights. Republicans voters say 51 – 37 percent that it’s possible to make gun laws that don’t interfere with gun rights and voters in gun households agree 57 – 33 percent. “The Las Vegas massacre echoes though a survey that shows American voters want stricter gun laws and a ban on high-capacity clips and bump stocks, the device that makes a lethal weapon even more lethal,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. -m
 So Speaker Ryan and Republicans in control of our country- what say you?
Shame on them all. We need much more than a ban on bump fire stocks.
What we need is a comprehensive bill to make America safe again, including a ban on bump fire stocks, a reduction in the number of bullets in an ammunition magazine, a ban on certain types of assault rifles and the accompanying features that can be added to make them more deadly, universal Brady background checks, research into the causes and effects of gun violence, adequate funding for the ATF, stronger straw purchasing and gun trafficking laws, mandatory training before owning or carrying a gun, mandatory secure storage of guns, child access prevention laws, gun violence protection orders, limiting who can carry a loaded weapon around in public, and yes, perhaps even a system of gun registration.
These are my personal ideas by the way. Some of them, but not all, are shared by other gun control groups. But I am writing for myself on this blog post.
What we don’t need is concealed carry reciprocity, the NRA’s wet dream, that would leave us all with gun carrying yahoos walking around anywhere we are gathered in our communities without a shred of training with that gun and no permit to carry it. What we don’t need is for the deregulation of gun silencers so mass shooters can carry out their massacres making much less noise so law enforcement and victims can’t locate the shooter in order to flee or stop him.
Even Speaker Ryan got a spine for just a little while after the Las Vegas shooting. But never trust that the gun lobby will let it go away. They will be back. They will scare the lapdogs who carry their water into voting on a bill that makes no common sense and is a slippery slope to to doing away with the 1934 Gun Control Act.  
I have spoken to many hunters and gun owners before and since the Las Vegas shooting. They agree with every one of these measures. And yes, to the gun extremist who doubted that my husband was a hunter and gun owner, he is. And he agrees with me and would even were he not married to me.
Oh, and I forgot to add the repeal of PLCAA and the Tiarht amendment and bringing law suits against gun manufacturers and sellers.
Speaking of that, the Brady Center to prevent gun violence has done just that. A class action law suit was filed earlier this week against the maker and sellers of bump fire stocks on behalf of the 22,000 or so concert goers whose lives were affected one way or the other by the heinous shooting of 58 of them and the injuring of about 450, some still in serious or critical condition.
Here is just one story to think about:
Like the rest of America I learned of the latest mass shooting in Las Vegas last Monday morning. My first thought was there will be fatalities. Families like mine receiving the devastating, life-altering news that a loved one has been murdered. That friends and family members will never come home again. More lives taken by bullets. These families will unknowingly and unwillingly join the sad club that no one wants to join. Tragically this club continues to grow, because a small loud vocal group of extremists love their guns more than they love their families. So I cry out to you America, it’s time to rise up and out shout the extremists to honor the 58 lives cut down at a music concert. It’s time to rise up and help me and thousands of other gun violence survivors, so that your family won’t receive the devastating phone call that a family member has been murdered by a disturbed man with a gun. Pick up your phone and call your U.S. Congressman and Senator and demand they fight for gun safety laws.
Speaker Paul Ryan- where are you? Senator Mitch McConnell- where are you?
Hiding in plain sight behind the second amendment with absolutely no backbone or will to protect your fellow Americans from senseless shootings. We know how the Las Vegas shooting happened Speaker Ryan, since that was your excuse to do nothing. It was the guns stupid. It was our nation’s feckless gun laws that allow easy access to weapons of mass destruction meant for war that allowed this to happen.
Get a backbone. Get some common sense for the love of God. If you are too weak to even consider challenging the corporate gun lobby over bump fire stocks that were used to massacre 58 Americans in cold blood, you don’t deserve to be sitting in your seats. Go home and be with your families and let those who are bold, courageous and with backbone do what needs to be done.
The thing is, every country has angry men. Every country has people who are dangerously mentally ill or who are felons or domestic abusers. But only in America do we have these people accessing arsenals of weapons to inflict mass destruction.
We are better than this.

#LasVegasShooting

crying#Enough 59 dead. Hundreds injured. So much more information yet to come. I will be blogging about this when I am less exhausted and less angry about what just happened in America. There is no excuse. There is no reason for this. There is no common sense. Congress has no backbone. The gun lobby is an insane extremist organization that deceives the public about the risks of guns. Not everyone should be able to buy a gun. Some people are too dangerous for guns. Weapons of war should not be available to just anyone. All guns should have a background check. Stronger gun laws WOULD prevent some of the shootings. More guns have not and do not make us safer. Someone with a gun could have done nothing to save lives in this shooting.  American gun laws are very lax. The American gun culture is totally out of whack. The second amendment does not mean this. We all have a right to be safe in our homes, at concerts, in schools, malls, nightclubs.

And Congress wants to act to loosen regulations about gun silencers this week.

Insanity,

Where is common sense?

I mourn the victims and mourn with their families. We all have PTSD. The 2 deadliest shootings in the country happened in the last 2 years. When is the next one? What will we do? Nothing is not an option. It never was. Demand action. Thoughts and prayers are nice but we need much much more than that.

Vigils occurring all over the country- again. #Enough.

We are better than this.

“Good” grief

Charlie BrownI often use the words “good grief” to describe my anger, frustration, distaste, exasperation, disbelief and any number of other emotions when other words do not suffice.

Charlie Brown, the iconic character in Charles Schultz’s  Peanuts cartoons, which also became television specials, used this term often to express his frustration.

So how do these words find themselves into my post today? How does the funeral of a friend, a summit on gun violence as a public health issue, a hunting accident, an officer’s response to tragedy,  a racist incident at a Minnesota college, a road rage incident, the acquittal of a St. Louis police officer, tabling at a local festival and a gun suicide intersect?

Grief. Anger. Victims. Awe. Inspiration. Organizing. Keeping children safe from gun injuries and death.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend. We met his family at church many years ago and his wife, in particular, became my friend and a member of my church book group. As she always does at funerals, my minister wove his story of love, compassion for his family and community, his humor, his fun loving life style and his courage in the face of his cancer diagnosis into the sermon. He was a volunteer firefighter and a Viet Nam veteran. No one was left without a tissue. We were all touched by his 3 adult daughters telling us about their dad and his 3 sons-in-law reading the verses. There were so many things we hadn’t known about our friend and it took his death for us to find out. He was an avid hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, volunteer, grandparent to 6, and good man who made his mark on his circle of friends and the community at large. The grief of this family over the loss of a man who died too young will continue through their lives and they will live with the hole left by his death.

Grief is grief no matter how a death happened. With my friend it was cancer. There are many causes of death, of course. Suicides take the lives of way too many Americans and are on the rise in Minnesota. In Minnesota suicides by gun account for about 75% of gun deaths.

One of the topics of the Protect Minnesota 2 day summit I attended last week about gun violence and public health was the prevalence of gun suicides across the country and in Minnesota. There was much discussion about access to loaded guns, discussions about how much mental illness contributes to suicides and about other conditions or behaviors that contribute to suicides and suicides by gun.

An article in the Washington Post written by the wife of a gun suicide victim says it all:

I believe my husband’s decision to end his life two years ago was made seconds before it happened. His fate was sealed only when he reached for one of his guns for the last time. Once the hammer started to fall, that was it.

When our American gun culture doesn’t consider the risks of guns to those who should so clearly not have them, we have a serious public health crisis. Yes, it is a crisis.

I do not oppose the Second Amendment, but we desperately need to start changing the conversation about gun ownership in this country. My husband was a casualty of a jacked-up marketing fable that convinces men, women and children that their castles are unsafe unless they are guarded with guns.

Far more guns kill people in suicides, accidents, mistakes or fits of rage than from an intruder in the night. Families, partners and friends must acknowledge this reality when discussing having guns in the home. We also need politicians to support policies that give families the power they need to save their loved ones.

We can save our loved ones by enacting sensible and common sense measures such as requiring a Brady background check on all gun sales and Gun Violence Protective Orders. In fact, these make so much common sense that the majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. We can prevent at least some of the grief of gun deaths and injuries.

At the Protect Minnesota summit we heard from a panel of survivors, each of whom had lost a loved one to gun violence or had survived a shooting. To say the least, it was powerful and emotional and full of the grief of the survivors. This is why those in the gun violence prevention movement do what we do. We really don’t want others to feel the grief we have all felt.

survivors

There is a lot of grief to go around and some of it is actually in the form of anger. At the Protect Minnesota summit mentioned above there were local and national speakers highlighting ways in which we can reduce and prevent urban gun violence. Much of it was based on the racism associated with shootings in urban areas. And a lot of time was spent on how and why young men of color “need” guns that often end up in the wrong hands or in gun crimes, and worse, gun tragedies.

So when the “shooting” incident reported by a security guard at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul made the media rounds, it first appeared to be another school shooting. A campus was locked down and law enforcement were called to the scene looking for the perpetrator. As it turned out, the perpetrator was the security guard himself who had irresponsibly brought his own firearm to work and “accidentally” discharged it, shooting himself in the shoulder.  He said he was afraid he would lose his job if he reported the truth and so he fabricated a shooter- of course a young black man wearing a hoodie:

Police arrested Ahlers, 25, on Wednesday, after he told investigators during questioning that he accidentally shot himself with his handgun and lied about it because he feared losing his job, according to St. Paul police. St. Kate’s prohibits people, including security guards, from carrying guns on campus.

St. Kate’s terminated Ahlers on Thursday. University President Becky Roloff said in a statement that the university “strongly condemns racial discrimination, racial stereotyping, and racial profiling of any kind. The statements attributed to the former employee concerning the race of an alleged suspect are deeply troubling and do not reflect our values.”

The man lost his job. A campus was locked down for nothing. Police were involved in an unnecessary search for a black man. And there are no “accidental” shootings. There is irresponsible handling of a deadly weapon however.

A St. Catherine University security guard put African-American men at risk of being hurt or killed during an intense manhunt in St. Paul, after he allegedly falsely accused a black male of shooting him, community leaders said Friday.

There were real implications to what Brent Patrick Ahlers told police, said community activist Robert McClain. He received calls regarding three people stopped by police during the search for the “suspect” Tuesday night, including by officers with guns drawn.

“When they look for someone who they assume is an active shooter, they don’t look in a nice way,” McClain said. “They don’t stop and ask questions in a nice way, so you victimize people who haven’t done a thing.

Good grief.

Law enforcement officers are a part of our communities and there to serve us and protect us from harm. Sometimes that does not work out well and there are plenty of recent incidents of officer involved shootings of young black men gone wrong that have left families and communities grieving. The latest outcry has come in St. Louis where the last two days have seen protests after the acquittal of an officer who shot and killed a black man.

We have a lot of work to do regarding relationships between law enforcement and communities of color. It is understandable that people of color are angry over the acquittals of officers after shootings of black men. This is a uniquely American problem and it is because of all of the guns in our communities. Officers are armed and citizens are armed. It doesn’t work out well and racism plays a part. When everyone is armed, too many people do not feel safe.

But officers are often involved in non-violent support of their communities. A story in the Duluth News Tribune caught my attention this morning. It is written by a female officer who comforted a young girl during the rescue of her father and sister in their drownings in Lake Superior. Officers are often traumatized by tragic incidents and sometimes even leave the force. But this officer chose to write a beautiful story about how she spent hours with a young girl who had lost her father and sister. Thanks goodness for officers like this one and their dedication to their communities and the victims of tragic incidents.

There was a law enforcement panel at the Protect Minnesota summit last week. All participants were caring, dedicated and educated individuals who cared a lot about how gun violence affects their communities and they are working to lessen the impact of gun crimes and gun violence. They all agreed that they saw too many gun suicides and too much urban violence and they want to work with us to solve important problems and lessen the grief that devastates families and communities.

And we know that many officers are themselves victims of shootings when trying to intervene in incidents or in actual ambushes by people who hate officers or have a grudge of some kind.  We have our very own home-grown terrorists. This is yet another element to our gun violence epidemic that we are ignoring at the risk of losing lives.

Good grief.

The grief that comes with a violent and sudden death never goes away. Another story in the Duluth News Tribune this morning was so poignant and difficult but I am grateful for the man who told his story of grief over an accidental shooting that took the life of his son while hunting decades ago:

He allowed Mark to move ahead a few steps. Just then, a grouse flushed along the trail.

“When a grouse flushes, your instinct is to be quick,” Kern said.

He was. He shouldered his shotgun and swung on the fleeing bird. In that split-second, he wasn’t aware that Mark had moved directly into the path of his shot.

“I shot him right in the back of the head,” Kern said. “Killed him instantly.”

He speaks openly about that day, not without showing some emotion. He shares his story with others from time to time. He hopes it might serve as a powerful reminder to other hunters about the importance of safe gun handling, about being aware of where one’s hunting partners are, about understanding the finality of an ill-advised shot.

…”the finality of an ill-advised shot.” Bullets are often final.

Hunting season is happening right now in Minnesota. Every year we hear of hunting accidents involving guns and too often it is one family member or a friend shooting another family member or friend. The guilt and pain that comes with that must be unimaginable. But this man goes on with his life as best he can and lives forever with his grief. More from the linked story:

Over the years, Kern has regained his inner strength and a sense of who he is. He believes strongly that each of us has “a force” within. A kind of energy. A spirit.

He cannot, of course, forget what happened on that long-ago September day. He doesn’t try to bury the memory. He fully acknowledges the reality of what he did.

“This happened to me,” he says.

The loss of a child is too painful to consider but it has happened to members of my family and to friends. Most have thankfully not been due to gun deaths. Yesterday my chapter set up a table at a local event to educated the public about how they can reduce the chances that a child will be “accidentally” shot in the home of friends. The ASK campaign encourages parents and gives them the language to ask that awkward question. Most gun owning families actually think this is a good idea and if they are storing their guns unloaded and secured, they can avoid the awful tragedy of an “accidental” shooting. It was ( and is) well received and allowed us to have many great conversations with parents and others about the risks of unsecured guns and other issues related to guns and gun violence.  ASK

Every day in America about 7 children a day die from gunshot injuries. Some survive and survive with lifetime physical and emotional injuries and PTSD. (PTSD was a topic of discussion also at the Northstar conference on gun violence and public health.) A road rage shooting that is now being reported in the media has left one innocent little boy with terrible head injuries but hopefully not with long term disabilities related to the shooting. The article is titled: ” Children Under Fire”.

Good grief.

How can this be a title for a story? It can be because in America, people carry guns around with them in their cars. And stupidly and tragically, they shoot other people when they get angry over their driving.  From the article:

“Stop!” Hill screamed, turning to check on her son, who, just before midnight on Aug. 6, had become one of the nearly two dozen children shot — intentionally, accidentally or randomly — every day in the United States. What follows almost all of those incidents are frantic efforts to save the lives of kids wounded in homes and schools, on street corners and playgrounds, at movie theaters and shopping centers.

Good grief.

(…) On average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015, according to a Post review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet striking a growing body every 63 minutes.

In total, an estimated 8,400 children were hit, and more died — 1,458 — than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade.

Many incidents, though, never become public because they happen in small towns or the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.

Caring for children wounded by gunfire comes with a substantial price tag. Ted Miller, an economist who has studied the topic for nearly 30 years, estimated that the medical and mental health costs for just the 2015 victims will exceed $290 million.

Good grief.

There is nothing good about grief. In America, the grief of families because of gun violence is remarkable, avoidable, preventable, and a national public health epidemic. We can do something about all of this but a minority of gun extremists and the corporate gun lobby get in the way of common sense. I wonder if they read about these incidents or have experienced the grief associated with gun deaths? I don’t wish it on anyone but stories must be told in order to make change.

In this post I have told quite a few stories. They involve victims, law enforcement officers, survivors, the grief experienced by the family of my friend, children, communities and families.

And I haven’t even touched on domestic shootings like the one that took my sister’s life. But they, too, happen every day. More grief.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is October– soon. I will write more then.

We are better than this.

The perfect storm

sunThough the sun is out in my neck of the woods and we are about to have a gorgeous early fall day, it feels bad in much of the country. It feels unsettling and people are apprehensive.

Wildfires are consuming many areas of the western U.S., including in Glacier Park where I visited with my grandchildren last summer. The area around beautiful Lake MacDonald is experiencing flames and smoke and there is concern about the historic lodge there which we visited while we were in the Park. One other historic lodge, the Sperry Chalet, has already burned. Friends are posting photos on Facebook of ash from the fires in Washington and Montana falling on their decks and homes. Another friend told me that her son lives in the Columbia River Gorge and they are worried about his home. Some people can’t be outside because of the smoke and ash.

Here is my photo of the Lake MacDonald lodge.  IMG_3034

Ordinarily this news would occupy the 24/7 cycles but Hurricane Harvey came along devastating the Houston area. We hardly had time to digest that awful tragedy before the warnings came about Irma. The survivors of Harvey are still in shelters, many having lost their homes and belongings. It will be a very long time for recovery.

But Irma. I can’t come up with any words that haven’t already been used to describe this monster storm. I have been watching the news on and off all day as things unfold in front of our eyes. Surely this will be horrific for millions.

And so September has been a bad month so far. Oh- there was a major earthquake in Mexico while we were paying attention to Irma warnings.

Some friends and family members have homes or condos in Florida. I have spoken with many of them and so far they are safe but the fury has not yet begun. To be continued….

But hey, people can feel good about the fact that Governor Scott has made sure they can all carry their concealed guns without a permit during the emergency of the hurricane. That’s reassuring. Because why in the world does someone need a gun while hunkering down sheltered in place during one of the nation’s worst ever hurricanes? Because- rights……..

And as if on cue, a Sheriff had to warn Floridians not to actually shoot their guns at the hurricane because of a ludicrous “event” created urging people to do just that. Really sometimes you just can’t make up the lunacy of some gun rights enthusiasts. I can actually envision this happening, can’t you? Because that is how far afield gun rights extremists have gone. It would be great if shooting at a hurricane would make it go away. This is not funny. Lives are at risk.

Where is common sense?

It almost didn’t seem relevant to write about gun violence incidents which continue unabated in spite of the natural disasters around us. So I wasn’t going to write for a while. But then this story came to my attention from Columbia, South Carolina that just begs for our attention. A two year old found a loaded gun in his home and shot and killed himself. Unfortunately incidents like this happen far too frequently and often no one knows they have happened. The boy’s father, bereft at the shooting, then shot and killed himself.

This is unimaginable. There are no words to express the grief and heartache of this family.

Too easy access to loaded guns become everyday tragedies.

But there are words to express the total lunacy of some gun owners in our country. As I have said, most gun owners are responsible with their guns. But the gun culture encourages loaded guns around homes and people are not responsible with their guns. There is no mandatory training to operate deadly weapons designed to kill people. Owning a gun is an awesome responsibility. Firearms are deadly weapons and need to be treated with great respect. All it takes is an instant and a family is changed forever.

It is mandatory to go through driver’s education and to get a permit while learning to drive. It is mandatory to pass a test in order to drive a vehicle because of course, accidents can happen and it’s just plain a good idea to make sure people are as safe as they can be on the roads. We all know that this does not assure that there are no accidents. So on the other end, it is now mandatory for car manufacturers to install seat belts and air bags and other safety features and mandatory for us to wear those seat belts. It is saving lives. That’s a good thing.

Sadly we are not focused on the right thing when talking about gun violence. The conversation becomes polarized immediately with people on both sides blaming and making statements that don’t make common sense. What if we focused on the victims instead of on whose side politicians are on as they try to avoid or make policy? When we do focus on people instead of policy and objects, we understand that families all over America have suffered the devastation of gun violence. At some point they don’t care what the politicians or the the gun rights or gun violence prevention sides are saying. They just want their loved ones back. Impossible.

This article found that most articles about gun violence focus on policy instead of on the victims and survivors. 

There is much good advice at the end of this article but I picked out these to highlight:

Depoliticize gun violence by appealing to common values. Sidestep political opposition by crafting messages that emphasize universal values like safety, opportunity and freedom from fear. Focus on storytelling instead of data. Highlighting personal stories will bring statistics to life, create empathy and overcome stereotypes about who is impacted by gun violence.

This is about California but can be extrapolated to every state. The difference would be that California has strong gun laws which does cause some complacency. Other states with much weaker gun laws also seem to be complacent but unwilling to do something to save lives by not passing stronger gun laws.

We can actually save people from dying or being injured from firearms with the right conversation and the right policies. The narrative needs to shift to how to save lives. That is what this is all about. Personally my family have been hunters and gun owners. My husband owns hunting guns which are locked safely away in a safe without the ammunition. This is just common sense. We don’t want grandchildren to find those guns. We don’t want them to be stolen and in the hands of those who should not handle them or can’t be responsible with them.

This is simple. It is not rocket science. It’s common sense. As I watch coverage of the coming wrath of Irma, I have heard those who have decided not to leave their homes or heed the warnings. I pray they will be safe but know that some will not because they opted not to be responsible. The same is true of firearms owners. Policy is made for all to protect us from ourselves and others. Laws and rules are not punitive on the front end. They are there to protect us.

Let’s protect our children and families. And let’s pray for the potential victims and survivors of Irma.

The sun will come out- maybe not tomorrow but it will come out in Florida and reveal the devastation. It will shed a bright light on what is needed from us as a country to help the millions affected by hurricanes, flooding, loss of property, belongings and most likely lives. As a country, we will work together to rebuild. Lives can not be replaced but belongings can. My sister’s life cannot be replaced after her shooting death. But we have our memories of her vivacious and beautiful personality and yes, a few of her belongings to bring us pleasure.

25 years later- unhappy anniversary

crying womanThis will be a long post. But then again, 25 years is a long time since the death of my sister. It’s a long time to have worked on gun violence prevention. It’s a long time living with the fact that we seem to be febile in the face of the gun lobby influence and have allowed lapdog politicians to do their bidding. And while the fight to prevent gun violence continues so do the deaths due to firearms injuries.

Too many families  mark the anniversaries of the death of a loved one to gun violence. What an unhappy anniversary. It brings back the memories of the phone call and/or the visit from law enforcement announcing that a shooting had taken the life of your child, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandchild or grandparent or a good friend. Gun violence has a ripple effect so the broader community and sometimes the entire country is affected by heinous shootings. It is in our consciousness and our collective memories and our collective culture.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara. She was a beautiful lively, talented artist and pilot. She was a biker, a very good downhill skier, a tennis player, a beauty queen, a mother and step-mother, very involved in her community and a world traveler. In high school her friends called her Bugs. I still am not sure why. Because she grew up in Duluth, some of her friends still live here and I run into them occasionally. They always have fond memories to share of her as she was loved by many.

In spite of the fact that her estranged husband ( 2nd husband) killed her, the adult children from her first marriage and adult child from her second marriage along with the adult children from his first marriage remain close to each other. His first wife has taken on the role of grandmother to the grandchildren my sister never met. My husband, my children and I all remain close with all of them. It was because of my sister’s ability to love and draw people together that we have remained a close family.

We could have been angry and divorced ourselves from his family, but my mother was forgiving to a fault and kept them all close. The thing is, we loved them all and had no idea that my soon to be ex brother-in-law was capable of shooting and killing two people. That is how it often is. Family members are surprised proclaiming that the shooter was such a nice person or a quiet guy or the family seemed to be so happy. What went wrong? It was so unexpected. That is the risk of having a gun so accessible in situations of anger and domestic disputes.:

DID YOU KNOW?  Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of homicide.

    • States with the highest levels of gun ownership have 114 percent higher firearm homicide rates and 60 percent higher homicide rates than states with the lowest gun ownership (Miller, Hemenway, and Azrael, 2007, pp. 659, 660).
    • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
  • Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).

Stunning.

I will always remember the night of the phone call about my sister’s death- actually on August 6 because her body and that of her friend were not discovered until the next day. When my nephew told me that my sister had died I assumed it was a plane crash since she was a pilot. Or anything else besides a shooting. How can one imagine that happening to a loved one? The violence. I often wonder how it would have been for her in the seconds before death after 1,2 and then a third bullet entered her body. Unimaginable. I can’t go there.photo of Barbara

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. I won’t repeat the figures here again but we know that a lot of people die needlessly from firearm injuries. We also know that we are NOT helpless to change the trajectory of the number of gun deaths. More guns means more gun deaths. That is just a common sense fact.

We are not dealing in common sense though. Tragically we are dealing with a powerful and well funded corporate gun lobby that has become an arm of the extreme right wing of our nation. They use the second amendment as cover for their ever increasingly extreme agenda, aimed at arming anyone everywhere. We will not be safer as a country.

On this 25th anniversary of my sister’s death, I want to also remember the 5 year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin,   6 died that day because of a hate filled white supremacist who killed just because. That is the American tragedy playing out regularly every day, week, month and year.

This shooting was just one of the very many mass shootings in America. Only in America is this a regular part of a nation’s culture. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have some suggestions:

Stop making this about the second amendment. It is about preventing gun deaths and injuries.

Stop the ludicrous assertion that passing a universal background check to require Brady background checks for all gun sales will inevitably lead to gun confiscation. That is a lie.

Challenge the NRA and other extreme gun rights groups when they cross over a line and stoke up lies and fear. Take this latest from Dana Loesch of NRA TV, for just one example:

Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, is yet again making headlines for controversial reasons. On Friday, during an interview with Grant Stichfield on the NRA TV channel, Loesch equated penalizing gun owners with shaming rape victims. Her comments were in response to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress indicating an increased rate of gun thefts in Southern states — with most of the stolen firearms ending up illegally trafficked and utilized in robberies and violent crimes. Texas, Georgia, and Florida topped the list with over 8,100 thefts of licensed firearms between 2012 and 2016. The Center for American Progress suggested implementing laws enforcing stricter storage guidelines for gun owners.

Loesch argued that focusing on gun owners rather than on those stealing the guns is analogous to shaming victims of sexual assault:

Good grief. What nonsense. No wonder some gun owners are moving away from this organization.

So we should encourage more reasonable gun owners who generally agree with the gun violence prevention groups to raise their voices. Many believe the NRA has become too extreme for them and have left the organization. Here is just one who wrote about his displeasure with the NRA:

As a gun owner and defender of the Second Amendment, I’m here to tell you the NRA has lost its ever-loving mind.

The nation’s largest firearms organization began its slide into moral degeneracy as late as the early 2000s, when actor Charlton Heston became its five-term president (a feat for which the NRA’s rules had to be changed to allow him to serve longer), before going public with his battle with Alzheimer’s disease and retiring. Under Heston’s firebrand leadership, the NRA’s rhetoric shifted its focus from working with lawmakers across the country to defend Second Amendment rights, to recasting the group as the front-line warrior in a crusade against the entire progressive movement in a culture war that they claimed had engulfed the country. (…)

A responsible NRA would be working for, not against, universal background checks on all firearms sales. As a responsible gun owner, it’s my job to ensure anyone I transfer a weapon to is in fact legally permitted to possess one. That’s the bare minimum due diligence that should be expected of me, and the vast majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. But not the NRA.

Pass the law to close the gap with Brady background checks that now allows private sellers to sell guns without knowing whether the buyer is a felon, a domestic abuser or someone dangerously mentally ill.

Pass laws to require safe storage of guns.

Strengthen gun trafficking laws.

Crack down on straw purchasing. The Brady Center won a settlement against a Florida gun dealer and announced it today. The message from the gun dealer who sold a gun through a straw purchase which was used in a fatal shooting:

“We must exercise great caution and due diligence with great responsibility in preventing firearms from getting in the wrong hands of people who seek to harm us all. I support laws that protect our Second Amendment and the laws that protect our society from criminal elements who would abuse that right to the detriment of others. I encourage all gun dealers, including the new owner of my gun shop, to implement such measures.”

Hold every gun dealer and every gun owner responsible for being safe with guns and business practices. Lives can be saved.

Educate parents about ASKing if there are loaded, unsecured guns in homes where their children play. One big question could save a life.

Form coalitions of like minded people who are interested in keeping people from shooting themselves or others such as faith groups, gun owners, law enforcement, mental health organizations, domestic violence associations, health care providers, communities of color, LGBTQ community, educators, parents, business leaders and other gun violence prevention groups.

Crack down on irresponsible gun dealers. (See above article about the Brady Center settlement against an irresponsible gun dealer)

Don’t loosen gun carry permit laws. New research suggests that the passage of the conceal (and open) carry laws have led to more gun violence.

Change the conversation about the risks of guns to families and communities. Push back when bad advice or faulty information is in the public domain like the recent Dear Abby column about kids and guns. After the Brady Campaign and other organizations and volunteers weighed in Abby wrote a column with new advice and changed her mind. 

Remember the victims and survivors and make sure their stories are told. They are the voices of the movement to prevent shootings.

Stop saying our thoughts and prayers are with you and do something about the gun violence epidemic. TAKE ACTION.

Join one of the many gun violence prevention groups working to end gun violence at the local, state and national level. Join them in sending emails, postcards, making phone calls, lobbying at offices, tabling, speaking out, going to rallies, bell ringings, other events. They need you.

Work together for common sense.

I will end by suggesting that the current culture of incivility, sometimes including our own friends, on social media is disturbing. It starts from the top. With a President who has mentioned violence at rallies and said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing supporters, we have hit some new lows in civility. With trolls making rude and offensive comments when they disagree with someone, how can we have a civil society? It’s a frightening trend.

With members of both parties attacking each other and then the other party, how can we expect civility? With more armed people walking around with loaded guns in public, can we expect civility?

Social media allows a platform for organizing and promoting causes as well as keeping in touch with each other. But when it also becomes a platform for open criticism of even other friendly organizations or candidates or friends and family members, how can we expect people to settle disputes peacefully and without use of force? With the wide gap between Americans politically, the fear and paranoia is real. What we don’t need is ramping it up to include the idea of violence against each other and particularly with guns. Gun rights and the second amendment go only so far. The NRA’s leaders and lobbyists and other gun rights organizations have increasingly associated themselves with one political party in our country. The rhetoric has become more violent and suggestive of “second amendment remedies”. Why? The question should be asked and answered.

We are better than this. I am sure we all want to leave our country and the world a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren. That is what my sister would have wanted and that is why I am persisting. In her name I carry on. I stand on the legacy and lost lives of the 825,000 Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since 1992. That’s right. 25 multiplied by 33,000 is that much. In 1992 when my sister was shot and killed gun deaths were actually higher than 33,000 per year.

And last, I want to pay tribute to Jim Brady who died 3 years ago yesterday. I met him once and immediately was taken by his sense of humor and engaging personality even as he suffered from the decades long firearm injuries he suffered in the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan. Jim and his wife Sarah persisted in spite of the terrible situation in which they found themselves, and got the Brady Law passed. Lives have been saved as a result.

I honor all victims of gun violence on this anniversary of my sister’s shooting death. Many things have changed since her death but one thing has not- gun violence is a thing. It’s a thing that needs fixing.

Shed a tear. Ring the bell. Light a candle. Pick a flower. Think for a minute the horror of losing a loved one in a shooting. And then take action and do something about it.

Why I #wearorange

Orange-square

I wear orange for the children. I wear orange for the victims of gun suicides. I wear orange for the women who didn’t realize how unsafe they would be in their homes with a loaded gun sitting around. I wear orange for the victims of school shootings, mall shootings, airport shootings, warehouse shootings, shootings in driveways and cars, shootings of innocent people from stray bullets. I wear orange from terror related shootings from those caused by mentally unstable young men, racist and intolerant men, indefensible self defense shootings, shootings of and by officers, shootings of kids and teens carrying “fake” guns, shootings of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, children, grandchildren, grandparents, cousins and friends.

I wear orange because we have a looney tunes gun culture that encourages people who have no business doing so, to buy, carry and own guns. I wear orange because our country’s gun laws are amazingly and dangerously lax. I wear orange because some of our elected leaders and the corporate gun lobby have no common sense. It’s all about power, control and profit over human lives and safe communities.

I wear orange for my sister, Barbara, who was shot and killed in a domestic shooting during a difficult and contentious divorce. I wear orange for Carin, for Shelly, Hadiya, Ben, Reema,  Carolyn,  Daniel,  Alison,  Jordan,  Christopher, Veronika, Jesse, Sam, Reuven, Daryl, Alicia, Neva, Jamar, Cindy, Matt, Laura, Jan, Alex, Michael,…………

Tomorrow my Brady Campaign chapter along with Protect Minnesota will hold a bell ringing at our Memorial Bell Garden, the only garden dedicated to victims of gun violence in the country. Our Mayor will issue a proclamation making it Gun Violence Victims awareness day in Duluth. There will be speakers representing clergy, health care, educators, parents of young children, gun owners and gay/lesbian people. We will ring the bell for victims of gun violence including the 49 victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting marking the upcoming one year anniversary on June 12th.

One of our landmarks will be lit orange tomorrow evening in honor of gun violence victims.

Enger Tower

We honor victims and survivors. We remember them. We will not forget and we will demand the change that will make our communities and families safe from gun violence. Orange calls attention to us. It is bright and loud and not easily missed.

You can check out wearorange.com for more information about the origin of the day and watch the video on the website. We are turning America orange. Join us. Post a photo of yourself on Facebook wearing orange. Attend a local event marking the day and the week-end. Contribute your time, talent and money to a gun violence prevention group of your choice in the name of a friend, survivor or loved one.

The only way change will happen is to work together with others to make it happen.

Make it happen.