Another anniversary-Columbine

Columbines blooming fresh in the springtime. Colorado state flower.In my recent post, I wrote about the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. That mass shooting occurred on April 16, 2007- ten years ago.

“April is the cruelest month” wrote T.S. Eliot.  The poet could never have predicted how true that has become for America. The poem deals with depression and what April can mean for those who are suffering from depression. Eliot’s poem takes on new meaning considering those who suffer from grief and loss over loved ones shot and killed and/or injured in the month of April. There are too many to count since 1999.

Today is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Yes, remember that mass shooting? It was the first school shooting to really capture Americans as it unfolded almost in real time. It was the first one that made people wonder how it could have happened and also what in God’s name could we do to stop school shooters from randomly shooting classmates.

An article with facts about Columbine provides us with the basics about the shooting. There are facts in the article but they were not fast. It was a slow moving shooting that day. The grief of the families and friends has not healed fast. Grief is under the surface until something triggers the day. A birthday. A holiday. And today, an anniversary of that day.

The article names the victims. They were somebody’s son, daughter, niece, nephew, sister, brother, father, uncle, friend. They were real people who in an instant became named victims.

Cassie Bernall, 17
Steven Curnow, 14
Corey DePooter, 17
Kelly Fleming, 16
Matthew Kechter, 16
Daniel Mauser, 15
Daniel Rohrbough, 15
William “Dave” Sanders, 47
Rachel Scott, 17
Isaiah Shoels, 18
John Tomlin, 16
Lauren Townsend, 18
Kyle Velasquez, 16

We must also remember that 20 were injured and now live with their memories and injuries- physical and emotional.

Some have already forgotten and don’t want us to remember. Others will never forget. Just as I will never forget the night I learned that my sister had been shot and killed. That memory never goes away.

And those of us who have lost a loved one look back and wonder what could have stopped the event? Was there anything anyone could have done? Can we make sure other families don’t have to remember these anniversaries?

We could, at the least,  try to stop the shooters from easily accessing guns they shouldn’t have in the first place.

Here is how the Columbine shooters obtained their guns, being too young to purchase on their own:

Robyn Anderson, a friend of Klebold and Harris, bought the shotguns and the Hi-Point 9mm Carbine at The Tanner Gun Show in December of 1998 from unlicensed sellers. Because Anderson purchased the guns for someone else, the transition constituted an illegal “straw purchase.” Klebold and Harris bought the TEC-DC9 from a pizza shop employee named Mark Manes, who knew they were too young to purchase the assault pistol, but nevertheless sold it to them for $500.

They planned ahead. Nobody knew. That is often the case but also too often someone knew that something was not right but didn’t report it or do anything about it. From the “fast facts” article above, a statement from the mother of one of the shooters:

In the first television interview since her son Dylan killed 13 people at Columbine High School, Susan Klebold speaks to Diane Sawyer. Klebold states that “If I had recognized that Dylan was experiencing some real mental distress, he would not have been there,” she says. “He would’ve gotten help. I don’t ever, for a moment, mean to imply that I’m not conscious of the fact that he was a killer, because I am.”

We have done little or nothing to change gun laws and our gun culture in spite of horrendous mass shooting after mass shooting. We see the same things. We talk about the same things. We watch the coverage of shootings repeatedly on the news but nothing changes. The gun lobby says it’s not the guns,stupid and we couldn’t stop these shootings no matter what we do. And Presidents attend memorial services. And families grieve. And politicians put their heads in the sand and hope no one asks them what they want to do to stop shootings from happening so families don’t have to continue remembering the day their loved ones were shot. And we go on and on and on……

This article urges passage of stronger laws and points out that states that have laws requiring all gun sales to go through a background check have fewer shootings. In other words, laws do matter. Facts matter. From the article:

Research shows that background checks are effective when it comes to saving lives. States with universal background check laws experience 48 percent less gun trafficking, 47 percent fewer deaths of women shot by intimate partners, and 17 percent fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults. States with universal background check requirements also have a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, and 31 percent fewer suicides per capita than states without these laws.

We CAN do something. We can pass stronger gun laws such as requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. We can pass Gun Violence Protection Orders so that families and friends can ask that guns be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. We can pass stronger laws against straw purchasing. We can wake people up to the fact that if something doesn’t seem right, it isn’t and action is necessary. We can identify that there are risks to owning guns and casually selling them to just anyone. We can hold “bad apple gun dealers” accountable and make sure guns are not being sold or exchanged with people who clearly should not have them and end as crime guns.

We can’t let Columbine be forgotten. That is what the gun lobby wants. If we forget the victims- their names and faces, maybe we will just go along and do nothing to cause “trouble” for politicians. They want to avoid the unavoidable. They want to gain the favor of the gun lobby who represent an increasingly small group of Americans who think that the “guys with the guns make the rules.”  Or they just don’t want to deal with what has become a national public health epidemic. It is not and will not be easy. But that does not mean we shouldn’t do it.

Victims continue to speak out but who is listening to them? Tom Mauser, father, of  Columbine victim Daniel Mauser, has reached out to the NRA and wants them to listen. To no avail. With every subsequent mass shooting, he will comfort other parents if they ask for him to do that. He understands. He is active in the movement to prevent gun violence. In his words ( from the article):

“For the first 10 days, I didn’t speak to the media at all. I was just in shock. […] And then suddenly, I was so angry knowing that the NRA was meeting in town that I went and spoke in front of 12,000 people.

[…]It can be shocking. After I spoke, I suddenly realized I’m going to start getting calls from the media, I’m going to start getting people who are angry at me. You really have to be prepared for that.

[…]It can get pretty overwhelming. When you become an activist, you tell your story a lot. You live that story every day anyhow, it’s not like you don’t think of your loss. But when you go in front of other people and speak about it, it’s so much more. “

We have our stories. We have the facts on our side. But the facts and our stories don’t seem to be enough. They should be but we are living in a world where big money speaks and makes policy that advantages corporations and thumbs its’ corporate and political nose at the victims and survivors.

The truth is that on April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were brutally and shockingly and unexpectedly murdered for no reason other than two seemingly angry and possibly mentally ill young men wanted to shoot other kids. There is no other explanation.

What say you gun lobbyists and gun extremists? Is this OK with you? Is it just about mental illness? What if these two couldn’t have so easily accessed guns? What then?

The Columbine is Colorado’s state flower, thus the name of the school. Often names of flowers have significant meanings. For the Columbine flower there is a message:

Wherever your journey takes you stay steadfast in your faith, love and friendships. Believe in things that are not yet seen.

We have not yet seen the majority of America’s leaders step up to the challenge of gun violence. There is actually common ground on solving the issue of gun violence. The majority understands that doing something about this epidemic will save lives.

Where is common sense?

Gun lobby distractions

Motivational speechThis post has been edited to update it since it was first posted.

 

Ever since Donald Trump was elected, chaos and distractions have been the rule and the name of the “game.” Lies, tweets, providing false news stories, ignoring or denying some very real dangers to our democracy from the Russian interference in our election, National Security Advisor fired, failed immigration orders, failed health care plan, etc. Not one department or policy area has been left alone. The long tentacles of those in absolute power are reaching far and wide. Gun policy is no exception. Licking their chops, the corporate gun lobby has pursued with some success an agenda that includes getting more guns into the hands of more people in more places. On the face of it, you have to wonder why anyone would want this. It makes no common sense that as a culture and civilized society we would choose to have loaded guns everywhere carried by just about anyone.

Executive VP of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre knows the rules well. He once said this and he meant it:

No Wayne. You made up the rules. This is not how Americans want our gun culture and our gun policy to be.

It seems to be of utmost importance to a minority of Americans who make claims that the second amendment gives them a right to do whatever they want with their guns because…. inalienable rights to own a gun.

Let’s talk a minute about rights. What are they? Is the meaning of the word clear to us all? I took a look at this Wikipedia article about the word rights:

There is considerable disagreement about what is meant precisely by the term rights. It has been used by different groups and thinkers for different purposes, with different and sometimes opposing definitions, and the precise definition of this principle, beyond having something to do with normative rules of some sort or another, is controversial.

And herein lies a basic problem with the arguments over gun rights. The several sides of the issue of gun rights and gun violence prevention would meet in the middle of the issue because that is where the majority stands and has stood for decades at least. In the interest of saving lives, the two sides approach it from different angles. One side, the majority, believes that people can have rights to own their guns but those rights come with responsibilities and common sense. The other side, claiming rights to the same life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness believes that that includes owning and carrying guns in order to protect their rights and lives.

Unfortunately for the one side, gun deaths are not decreasing and instead are staying the same year to year or increasing. More guns in more places carried and owned by more people who should not have them has not made us a safer nation. Those are facts. In states with more gun ownership and weaker gun laws, gun deaths are higher than in others on average. From the report from the Violence Policy Center:

“Year after year, the evidence is clear that states with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death,” says VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “States with strong gun violence prevention laws consistently have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. In states with weak gun laws and easy availability of guns, the rates of death by gunfire are far higher.”

The nationwide gun death rate in 2014 was 10.54. The total number of Americans killed by gunfire dipped to 33,599 in 2014 from 33,636 in 2013.

America’s gun death rates — both nationwide and in the states — dwarf those of other industrialized nations. The gun death rate in the United Kingdom was 0.23 per 100,000 in 2011, and in Australia the gun death rate was 0.93 per 100,000 in 2013. (These are the most recent years for which data is available. Data for these countries is available at GunPolicy.org, hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.)

State gun death rates are calculated by dividing the number of gun deaths by the total state population and multiplying the result by 100,000 to obtain the rate per 100,000, which is the standard and accepted method for comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

Another report from the Violence Policy Center about the impacts of gun violence:

VPC research finds that in 2014, gun deaths even outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline thanks to proven public-health based injury prevention strategies informed by consumer product safety regulation standards designed to reduce death and injury.

To reduce the toll of gun violence in America, a similar public health approach is urgently needed. Today, guns are the only consumer products in the United States that do not have to meet federal health and safety standards. The federal government should regulate firearms for health and safety just like any other consumer product.

I met with a young man last week who had attended a meeting at which I spoke in January. He was interested in the issue of gun violence prevention from the point of view of a gun owner who agrees with background checks on all gun sales and other reasonable  measures. Several people he knows and even relatives have died in hunting accidents and gun suicides. He did not think of these as gun violence but has changed his thinking and understands that his involvement would be instructive for the cause of gun violence prevention.

On the same day as this man attended one of the Protect Minnesota trainings he also attended a conceal carry permit class. His take? He never wants to carry a gun. When the permit trainer and a lawyer explained the responsibility of a gun carrier if they decide to aim their gun at someone or actually shoot someone, he determined that that was not for him.

This gun owner does not see things as black and white but rather he sees the world from the point of view of someone who likes to hunt and own guns but understands that his rights are limited in the interest of public safety.

But some do see this as black and white and getting their way. A recent article from The Trace does a good job of outlining why the gun absolutists want to trample on the rights of the rest of us to be safe:

“We’re the Trumps,” he said. “We’re the grassroots.”

Like President Trump and his top advisor, Stephen Bannon, constitutional-carry activists are unconcerned by any wider distress their agenda may cause. Like the new White House, they see the trampling of existing norms as the removal of obstacles.

“Once you cross over this PC concept,”  Harris said, “then you have an enormous number of issues that come out of the gate.”

Those issues include the abolition of gun-free zones in schools, and deregulation of tightly controlled weapons categories, like suppressors and machine guns, which have been subject to strict laws for nearly a century. Rather than a drastic break with current public safety standards, he said, such changes would merely represent government “getting back on sound fundamental principles.”

This sums it up. Like Trump and his extreme advisors who want to disrupt just about everything our country has done or stood for in the last few decades, these gun absolutists want their way no matter what. No matter the lives lost as a result. No matter that public safety will be in danger. No matter that the majority of Americans don’t want what they want. No matter that over 32,000 Americans die every year from gunshot injuries. No matter that about 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries in gun suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun discharges.

No matter common sense.

This is where we are now. No compromising. No discussion. Executive orders or bills passed with no hearings, no expert testimony, no input from citizens. Just pass things and get your way no matter whose rights you trample or what process you didn’t follow.

People identified with severe mental illness and can’t manage their affairs can now purchase guns. People who don’t have permits to carry loaded guns around in public being able to carry everywhere and anywhere. Does any of this make any sense even with rights?

The answer, of course, is NO.

We are being distracted from the gun violence epidemic before us that we can actually address with strong gun policy and good research about the causes and effects of gun violence. We are being distracted by the agenda of the gun absolutists whose view of the world and the gun culture is far different from what Americans actually want and need.

Here is a great article from Peter Ambler of Americans for Responsible Solutions about the need for research and understanding the risks of owning guns:

It’s time for Congress to stop serving at the will of the gun lobby and to start providing the resources our institutions of public health need to understand our country’s gun violence epidemic so that we can do something about it.

Gun violence robs communities of their leaders, schools of their students, and families of their loved ones. We know that if we gave our scientists and researchers the opportunity, they would produce results. How much longer will we have to wait before we let them try?

That is what we should be talking about now.

With their very own nominee , Neil Gorsuch, about to take the oath of office for the next Supreme Court Justice, the gun lobby and gun abolutists must be feeling jubilant at getting their way once again. Time will tell if that works out for the absolutists.

Meanwhile, we need to work on the real problems and not the solutions looking for a problem.

We are better than this.

Let’s get to work. Join an organization that is working on gun violence prevention and gun safety reform. Listen to the facts and act when you see that your voices are not being heard. Make noise. Speak up. Stand up for the victims and their families and friends and ask your elected leaders to do the same. Ask them to hear the real stories of victims.

Just as Trump seemed to have changed his mind about his policy in Syria after seeing the photos and videos of children strangled after exposure to serin gas, show your leaders photos of those whose lives were lost to senseless gun violence. Here is my photo (of my sister who was shot in a domestic related shooting incident by her estranged husband):

photo of Barbara

 

 

Thanksgiving memories

Rowan branchSo many Americans will have empty seats at their Thanksgiving tables this year because of senseless acts of gun violence. Some will be because of gun suicides, the most common form of gun violence in America. I send my hugs and condolences to those families. But wishes, hugs and forms of sympathetic expressions are just not enough.

And for the families of the 4 officers who were shot in just one day, 2 of whom were allegedly targeted by some ill intentioned person with a gun, there will be no normal Thanksgiving and maybe not for many years. One officer died from his injuries. From the article:

McManus said he believed Marconi was slain because he was a police officer.

“I think the uniform was the target, and the first person who happened along was the person he targeted,” McManus said. (…)

In St. Louis, a police sergeant was hospitalized in critical condition but expected to survive after being shot twice in the face Sunday night in what the police chief called an “ambush.”

In America ambushes by armed people against armed law enforcement officers have happened with some regularity.  Tacoma. Philadelphia. Pittsburgh. Iowa. New York. And others. So much for having a gun for protection ( as do officers) keeping you from getting shot by someone else with a gun.

Families are grieving. They have lost sons, brothers, uncles, fathers. They have lost sisters, mothers, daughters and aunts. And many of the deaths were avoidable if we only would put our heads together to prevent a portion of the devastation. We can do it. Of course we can. But we haven’t. It is an American tragedy that has been playing out for decades.

Those of us who have lost loved ones to gun violence can be thankful for the memories that make us both sad and happy. We can be thankful that we still have other family members and friends and that we can make the most of what we have. I know I am thankful for all of the wonderful people I have met over the years through my volunteer work with various gun violence prevention organizations. I feel thankful that there is a network of victims and survivors nation-wide who can share their stories and help each other get through the bad times. And I am thankful that so many of them have become stronger people as a result of their stories and their advocacy.

Today is the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. If you were alive then, you can’t forget where you were or the aftermath of that tragedy. Just thinking about it now makes me anxious because the days right after the assassination were so potently sad and full of fear and anxiety for Americans. We watched much of it unfold on national television which made it all the more horrible.

The Kennedy family has suffered 2 such assassinations and have had empty seats around their Thanksgiving tables for a long long time. The pain and memories never go away. My family has had an empty chair for almost 24 years now. Holidays are always times that bring forth memories and now, we can mostly find happy ones. But the hole left in our hearts never goes away.

And so it is in America.

We could strengthen our laws to stop at least some people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them by requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. But we aren’t doing that. We could do more about lost and stolen gun legislation and launching public health campaigns about the dangers of not storing guns safely at home. ( 400 guns were stolen by teens from the home of a felon who could not possess them.)

Does one person need 400 guns? What was the felon going to do with these guns? How and why did this felon even have these guns given that he can’t legally buy them from federally licensed firearms dealers? And what were the teens planning to do with them?

Sigh.

We could be talking more about the danger of unlocked, loaded guns in homes where children live. Why aren’t we doing more about this? The gun lobby doesn’t really like this kind of talk.

We could be talking more about the risk of loaded guns for people who may have mental or physical health problems that could make them dangerous to themselves or others. But we aren’t really doing much about that either.

The thing is, most Americans have common sense and actually want something to be done. The Center for American Progress did a post election poll of Trump and Clinton voters. The results may surprise some people but not me. I know that all polling, at least about gun violence prevention measures, has been the same for decades. They show strong support from Republicans, Democrats, gun owners, non gun owners and even NRA members for requiring background checks on all gun sales.

102 Pass legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales, including those sold online or at gun shows. ……………………………………………………… 57 31 9 3 88 12 76 Trump Voters………………………………………………… 47 35 12 6 82 18 64 Clinton Voters ……………………………………………….. 68 25 5 1 93 7 87

What about this does the gun lobby and its’ minions in Congress and state legislators not get?

Oh right. It’s the gun industry and the corporate gun lobby that have those folks at their mercy. How sad is that? And Donald Trump says he’s going to “drain the swamp”?

I have my doubts. If he decides to stay beholden to the lobbyists of the gun industry who manage to get their way in spite of what the public wants and in spite of the continuing gun violence epidemic in our country, he will be adding swamp monsters and filling it up.

But victims and survivors move on with their lives. Many of them work hard for gun violence prevention measures and speak out against the deceptions presented by the corporate gun lobby. More guns do not make us safer. There is proof of that in every day incidents that leave innocent people dead from their gunshot injuries. An armed society is certainly not a polite society and gun free zones do not lead to more gun deaths.

Let’s be thankful for those who have common sense. Let’s be hopeful that our Congress and state legislators stop following the money and being lapdogs for the gun lobby. Let’s also be hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump will be willing to shake things up regarding the gun lobby’s influence on our country’s gun policies.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Be safe out there. As I often write, gun violence does not take a holiday.

Lies about President Obama’s executive orders

Daily News coverYesterday was an overwhelming and emotional day for people like me who have been working for so long on the issue of preventing senseless gun deaths and injuries. Those of us who have been affected directly by gun violence only want to prevent at least some of the senseless shootings. And what President Obama has done with his executive orders will do just that.

I cannot even describe my feelings adequately for what I consider to be a very bold, emotional, brilliant and amazingly cogent speech by President Obama. The room was filled with people I know personally or through social media. Standing behind the President were people I have met, heard speak at meetings and with whom I have shared stories. I saw Lucy McBath, Daniel Hernandez, Richard Martinez, Mark Barden, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, Jennifer Pinckney, former Rep. Gabby Giffords and many others who had been affected by mass shootings, domestic shootings, suicides, gang violence. I saw many many advocates who have worked tirelessly to get something done to stop the carnage.

And that is what made me cry. A friend said yesterday, ” Today the President cried. Why aren’t we crying every day?”

crying President

Good question.

While the speech was on TV, I was on BBC radio live talking about the reaction to the speech as a gun violence prevention activist. It was an interesting experience for me to say the least. I was contacted early yesterday morning to ask if I would be on the show World Have Your Say.   It starts about half way through the show. Other participants were a man named Marshall from California and Brian Jeffs from Michigan who co-authored a book titled, “My Parents Open Carry”. Yes, you read that right.

There were several political commentators as well. The BBC and the world was very interested in what the President would have to say and the reaction. Some of my friends were also on different BBC shows, or Australian TV or Al Jazeera. That’s because the world understands that what is going on in America is simply beyond the pale. No other civilized country not at war sees the daily carnage experienced here in America.

While we were live on the BBC program, we listened to President Obama’s speech, also live. I watched on my TV with the mute on so I could also see what was happening.

And so my reaction to the President’s speech was total delight and a sense of relief that finally something was going to happen. This is huge for the gun violence prevention movement no matter what the gun rights extremists want to say about it. The predictable reaction of the gun lobby’s lapdog politicians was on display of the front page of the New York Daily News ( as seen above)

Here are the myths coming from the NRA and gun lobby in a Media Matters article.

While I was on the BBC program yesterday, one of the gun rights activists kept saying that under the new regulations he would not be able to sell a gun to his brother. He is wrong. I have been on 4 conference calls Monday, yesterday and today about the President’s executive orders to better understand them. Today I asked that question of one of President Obama’s staffers who had worked on the orders. Her answer was that unless he sells guns to his brother and then to several of his neighbors and some other folks he knows privately so that he is actually doing business as a seller of firearms, he will not be affected by this.

Also during the BBC program I said that if you are a law abiding gun owner, you would not have to be worried. The BBC tweeted out the meme below with that quote from me (below)

BBC twitter

The gun rights activist on the program really couldn’t answer the BBC show host when she asked him why he is worried if he is law abiding. That is because he likely knows that he, himself, will not be affected by tightening up the laws already on the books. He buys most of his guns from a federally licensed dealer where he has to comply with the regulations and get a background check. He mentioned that sometimes he just likes to get his guns from a private seller. Never mind that he doesn’t need to buy guns this way. So this guy will still be able to buy his guns in spite of what Donald Trump has proclaimed in his response.

What I suggest is that we all have some common sense as even conservative Fox news host Bill O’Reilly has suggested.  The NRA could hardly wait to issue a statement discrediting the President’s comments with the usual talking points that make little sense given what is actually contained in the regulations and orders. Please read the executive orders.

Here is an explanation from Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign on the Bill Press radio show today:

All I know is that we are celebrating because we know that what just happened is huge. This has never been done before. The gun issue is rising to the top of the issues to be discussed in the upcoming Presidential election and down ballot elections. There is much interest. There is also much misinformation- some just from ignorance or not knowing what is in the orders. Other is purposeful deception and disinformation combined with the usual fear and paranoia.

I look forward to the discussion in 2016 and to the melt down of the gun rights folks and corporate gun lobby as more and more people come on board with the idea that we can actually do something to prevent some gun deaths and injuries. Gun owners and NRA current and former members are coming on board now. Check out this CNN interview with Mark Carmen who is a Republican gun owner and never voted for President Obama. He is also a veteran and a former police officer. Mark knows what he is talking about and he intends to get responsible gun owners to join his cause. He was at the event yesterday and sang high praises for the President. He’s on board. He will base his vote on the gun issue.

And do please watch the upcoming CNN town hall meeting with President Obama and a lot of people I know tomorrow night at 8:00 P.M. Eastern time. It should be another good chance to educate the public about the proposed regulations and about what they will mean. By the way, the President, Attorney General and the ATF have already sent letters to Governors and appropriate state and federal agencies to let them know what to expect and how to carry out the new regulations.

But the NRA has declined the invitation to participate in the town hall meeting. I guess they don’t really want to be part of the discussion or the solution. They would rather lob verbal and visual bombs at the President and anyone who is proposing common sense. Raising money with their incessant fear mongering and ugly memes about the President like the one Ted Cruz put out for the purpose of fund raising is what they are good at. Trying to save lives? Not so much. If they can’t be nice, I guess we ignore them.

We’re on our way to changing things in America at long last. This is great news and it will save lives. It’s all good for our children and our communities. We’ve had #enough and we thank President Obama for his courage, for his commitment, for his passion, for his strength and for his caring about the daily carnage.

enough President Obama

 

 

 

Our national failure to honor gun violence vicims with action

we failed themThis past week gun violence prevention groups, the religious community and others attracted thousands of supporters in vigils, marches, bell ringings, protests and other activities. The gun violence prevention community is strong and getting stronger. Newtown Action Alliance and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence have for 3 years now organized people around the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the nation’s most heinous school shooting. We all know about it, right?

And yet, in spite of all of this and in spite of overwhelming public support to change our gun laws, our Congress has turned their backs on the American people for years. That is going to change. We can not be ignored any longer.

In my city of Duluth we held a bell ringing to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting and the many many others of mass shootings in 2015 and “every day ” shootings. 70 attended on a cold, blustery day to support our efforts. Local clergy, law enforcement, community activists and elected leaders joined us to ring our bell in memory of lost loved ones. I got a note after the event from one of the police officers who rang the bell. Here is what he said:

I just wanted to say thank you for organizing and asking us to be part of today’s bell ringing.  My heart was broken as I listened to people tell of all the losses due to gun violence.  Thanks to both of you for being strong and sharing with us.  A few years back I was involved in an incident where a violent suspect we were trying to arrest broke into a house and shot a 21 year old girl as he was trying to evade us.   The girl survived, I often think of her and wonder how she is doing, she experienced something many of us only see when we watch a horror movie.  I know she has had huge struggles at times.  I thought of her today during the ringing.

Thanks again for working so hard on this, you are so appreciated.

I know that some of my readers are gun rights enthusiasts and don’t appreciate anything I do. So be it. But the fact is, the nation wants change. The national gun violence prevention events started with a vigil at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill to which many victims of gun violence were invited to speak. Candles were lit. Tears fell. Victims gathered together for support, ready to go out into the country to change things.

Everytown  posted about marches all over the country last week-end with hundreds in attendance at each. The Brady Campaign has posted photos of the march in DC with activists there and in other places in the country. Moms Demand Action held many orange walks with hundreds of participants. We’ve had #enough. Thousands are texting to call and calling our Representatives and Senators. Independent state groups have held events with hundreds in attendance in good weather and bad. Over 300 people marched in Denver, for example. Children carried candles in Pennsylvania. North Carolina activists lit candles as well. Folks have made cards for victims, posted photos of why they are acting on web pages and Facebook and Twitter. Faith groups rang bells, had events, included litany in services and preached about gun violence. This has not happened before. 350 people protested outside of the NRA headquarters yesterday. The public is engaged.

We are acting and we will honor the victims with our actions. The gun lobby is acting in its’ own self interest and making profits while doing it. There is no common sense to any of this.

The Center for American Progress has released a great report with actions that can be taken by the state executives. If Congress fails to act, we will get state executives to act. Whatever it takes is what we will do. It’s all hands on deck. We’ve had enough. We want action. Thoughts and prayers are nice and fine but they don’t get Congress to do anything. It’s an American tragedy that we have turned our backs on the victims of gun violence and have done virtually nothing.

We should have acted after Columbine. But we didn’t. We should have acted after Virginia Tech but we didn’t. We should have acted after the Aurora theater shooting or after the Tucson shooting when one of their own, Representative Gabby Giffords, was shot and seriously injured in a public meeting with constituents. But we didn’t. And we didn’t act after the Umpqua community college shooting, nor the Charleston shooting of 9 innocent black people, nor the Fort Hood shooting or the Navy Yard shooting or the Tamir Rice shooting, or Trayvon Martin, or for goodness sake, the shooting on live TV of 2 young Roanoke, Virginia journalists.

We should be acting every day to keep 89 Americans from being shot in domestic homicides, homicides committed in anger or fear, suicides or children “accidentally” shooting themselves or others with guns they have accessed and shouldn’t have. We have failed to act. We have failed the victims.

How can we keep ignoring this? It’s the question that should be asked at all presidential debates and all candidate debates going forward. Our politicians need to know that if they don’t change, we will change them. They have failed us. They have failed to do their jobs. We’ve had enough and we are ready for action. Let’s get to work.

In my sister’s name and her memory, I will not let this inaction continue. I can’t fail to do something about her senseless and tragic shooting death. I will not let my elected leaders ignore my voice or the voice of the many victims we honored in the past week.

 

We’ve had enough!

Brady #enoughI got into a short exchange with someone on a friend’s Facebook page who insisted that I sounded angry about the Umpqua campus shooting that killed 9 people. This guy didn’t think anyone should be talking about a solution to our latest national tragedy. If we wait to talk about these tragedies until a sufficient time has passed, we will never be able to talk about what is needed to stop the next one. The rate and frequency of mass shootings is increasing and the every day shootings continue unabated.

The corporate gun lobby would be very happy if we didn’t talk about the carnage. Because discussing the problem and the solutions keep the issue front and center and remind the public of the victims. But we will not be silent. People are angry right now. Just as we were angry after 9/11. And then we began the discussion about solutions immediately and continue it even until today.

Why not talk about our American tragedy of gun violence right now? It’s past time to have the discussion and the actions we should have had and taken a long time ago.

And speaking of 9/11, President Obama, in his remarks about this latest shooting, asked the media to do some work and find charts comparing the deaths of Americans by terrorism since 9/11 and the deaths of Americans by guns. It didn’t take long for the media to comply. That’s because the comparison is simple. Few have died from terror attacks by comparison to those who have died from gunshot injuries. Vox and others have provided us with instructive charts showing the real devastation in our country and why we need to put all resources we have towards the national public emergency before us. You can see the stunning comparison and decide for yourself whether our priorities are in the wrong order. From the article:

More than 10,000 Americans are killed every year by gun violence. By contrast, so few Americans have been killed by terrorist attacks since 9/11 that when you chart the two together, the terrorism death count approximates zero for every year except 2001. This comparison, if anything, understates the gap: Far more Americans die every year from (easily preventable) gun suicides than gun homicides.

We’ve had enough of this. Collectively Americans have had enough. Our politicians are playing games with the lives of their constituents by not acting yesterday to do something about gun violence.

A number of letter writers in today’s Star Tribune reflect what the majority of Americans believe about guns and gun violence. Common sense is alive and well but ignored by our elected leaders whose decisions not to deal with laws that could save lives are shameful and dangerous to our communities.

The Brady Campaign/Center to Prevent Gun Violence has a new #Enough! campaign. The intent is to put pressure on our elected leaders to reflect the desires of the majority to get something done to save lives. Watch their website and social media for more information to come. One of the most effective measures to keep guns out of the hands of people who could be dangerous to themselves or others is requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. Congress could do this today if they had the courage and the will.

Two bills are sitting on the desks of our Representatives. One is HR 3411 sponsored by Congresswoman Jackie Spears and the other is HR1217 sponsored by Congressmen Peter King and Mike Thompson. The bills are ready to go. So let’s push for them to be heard and voted on. Lives could be saved with the passage of either bill. Where is the leadership when it comes to saving lives?

Meanwhile, while we are waiting for our leaders to choose to stand with victims and families, people are dying every day. We’ve had enough. The families have had enough. Communities have had enough. And the bodies are piling up. The Umpqua campus shooting has provided 9 more of them. 9 more families are grieving along with friends and the entire community. The ripple effect of gun violence goes wider and wider every day. Every community is affected at one time or another. And now Roseburg, Oregon is the current center of the public’s attention and sympathies.They are mourning now. Soon enough, they will have to move on and live around the hole left in their hearts and their families by the loss of a loved one. Reality will set in. We can hope that some of these families will join us in our efforts to prevent others from going through their loss and their pain.

The names of the 9 victims of the Umpqua shooting have now been released. Look at the photos and read about the lives of the victims who were just going about their every day business at a college campus. In memory:

Lucero Alcaraz

Treven Taylor Anspach

Rebecka Ann Carnes

Quinn Glen Cooper

Kim Saltmarsh Dietz

Lucas Eibel

Jason Dale Johnson

Lawrence Levine

Sarena Dawn Moore

Shhhh…. Let’s not talk about guns or gun violence

shhhOne can’t have a civil discussion about guns and gun violence. It’s the “third rail” of politics as this article discusses:

Somewhere amid these social media discussions, I typically read this line, “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” It’s the ultimate outcome of such third-rail topics. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it’s a metaphor for issues so highly charged that they’re untouchable. It refers to the dangerous, high-voltage third rail of a railroad track.

However, the parents of slain TV news journalist Alison Parker have intentionally grabbed this third rail and claim they aren’t letting go until their last breaths. They didn’t want to grab it, they feel compelled to after their daughter’s killing last week.

“They messed with the wrong family,” Andy Parker told media, referring to NRA supporters and lawmakers who voted against passing stricter gun laws.

Kudos to the Parkers for coming out shooting, so to speak, about this hot-button issue. They could have retreated to their home, locked the doors and grieved in private.

Indeed, the public grief of victims and survivors of gun violence makes people uncomfortable. Few people want to engage in an honest discussion with you when you just happen to mention that your sister was shot and killed by her estranged husband. Good grief. Poor woman. It’s too painful. I can’t talk about this because it’s too awful. It’s too painful.

And yet, as the victims pile up year after year after year with no end in sight, there are more and more and more loved ones and friends left behind. It’s unavoidable. One can hardly escape the pain of those of us who walk about our loved ones. It’s inconvenient to hear the stories but people like Andy Parker, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, Richard Martinez, and many many others are speaking up and speaking out. They are going to be heard whether people want to listen or not.

The gun rights advocates just hate it when people affected by gun violence speak out soon after a shooting . We are told that organizations working on gun violence prevention are “dancing in the blood of the victims” if we speak out for stronger gun laws and a change to our gun culture soon after a shooting. They want us to wait. Wait until when? If we waited until the carnage stopped our voices would be silenced forever. This hypocrisy is offensive, insensitive and self serving.

The week-end after Labor Day is a high school class reunion for me. A friend is coming from Vermont and will stay with me. A few years ago her husband, also in my class, shot and killed himself. ( Vermont- a state of high gun ownership and where most gun deaths are suicide and most suicides are by firearm)

I reached out to my friend after reading her husband’s obituary in my local newspaper which didn’t mention suicide of course. But I just knew that the cause of death, not being listed as suicides tend to be,  wasn’t right. On a visit several years after his death she and I shared our stories. She is ready to be involved in some way and I believe she will make her voice heard. But her concern expressed to me in an email about arrangements for her visit was what she would say to people who knew her husband and may or may not have known about his gun suicide. My advice was to just be honest and forthright and discuss it if people wanted to. And if some of our former classmates are uncomfortable with the inconvenient truth, so be it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk. Because just perhaps we can talk about what it means to have guns in the home for self defense that end up being used to kill oneself or another intentionally.

I just love this post from Mike the Gun Guy as he talks about the latest video posted by Molly Ann Weymer that has gone viral. An innocent looking sexy woman lying on her back talks to the camera about the difference between an attack gun and a self protection gun. From the post:

And this is the point at which the video takes a brilliant turn.  Because after a few additional Ma’ams, Molly says to the storekeep, “I watch the news, and I know there are guns that attack people and guns that protect people and I would like the protection kind of gun.”  She then goes on to say that she bought a “pink one” because that was more “feminine” and here’s the kicker: “If we can just figure out how to get all the murder guns and the attack guns and not keep selling them and just sell protection guns, I think that would be great and solve a lot of problems.”

Now I’ve been following the gun debate for more than forty years, and this is the first time I have heard the two sides of that debate referred to simply in terms of what a gun can do.  Of course a gun can be used for self-defense, but the same gun can also be used to inflict great harm against someone who isn’t a risk or threat to the gun owner at all. And by verbally juxtaposing the words ‘attack’ and ‘protection’ with the idea that we are talking about different kinds of guns, what Molly Ann has done is reduce the whole argument about guns to what it really is: a dispute about what a gun represents in its most finite form. Because what protection means to the pro-gun community is what attack means to people who want to regulate guns.  And Molly Ann Wymer has expressed this better than anyone else.

Herein lies the problem of our American gun culture. We are confused (on purpose of course by the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists) into thinking a gun for self defense will never be used as an attack gun or a gun to kill a loved one or even oneself. This is a huge misperception that needs to be challenged. Good for Molly Ann Wymer for simplifying the debate. For those loved guns keep getting used against people who know and love each other either intentionally or accidentally. No one wants to talk about this. And the big secret that no one wants to admit is that the majority of gun deaths are due to suicide.

One of my favorite sources for research and information is The Trace. In one of the latest posts, the point about the gun deaths that take place privately in homes due to domestic shootings or suicides is highlighted. From the article titled “Just Another Bloody Summer”:

The total numbers, the numbers that matter, are these. Between the start of Memorial Day Weekend and August 28 (the date when the most recent statistics were pulled), an estimated 3,702 people were killed by guns in America. Another 8,153 were wounded. That’s according to preliminary data from the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks incidents of gun violence through media reports and police blotters. And it amounts to 81 more shooting deaths and 959 more gun injuries than during the same period in 2014.

Statistically, then, this summer’s increase in firearms casualties has not been huge. What has seemed potentially significant is the effect on perceptions. David Chipman, a former ATF agent, believes that “people have been blown out of their detachment and denial.” If there is a lasting shift (and time will certainly test his assertion), it will owe in part to the way the summer of 2015 mixed together horrors too-familiar and new: Innocent churchgoers standing in for innocent school kids, a Tennessee Naval Reserve facility instead of a Texas army base, a movie theater shooting sequel, a workplace rampage that in a depraved twist was documented with not one but two cameras. Americans may have come to expect an Aurora or Newtown or Fort Hood on a semi-annual basis, but there yet remain varieties of brutality for which we aren’t prepared, have not already pre-processed.

Has anyone not been affected by the carnage inflicted on innocent church members, military members, journalists and movie goers in the shootings that have been the source of much talk and consternation? I doubt it.

The article goes on to talk about the mass shootings, the “not so mass” shootings and the numbers -which are staggering. And then, of course, there are the shootings by and of police officers which cannot be avoided even if inconvenient to discuss. From the article:

While theories falter, there are numbers, again, to be reckoned with: TheGuardian has counted 298 people, 61 of them black — seven of them black and unarmed — shot by police this summer. On the other side of the thin blue line, twelve police officers were killed in June, July, and August, eight of them in one ten-day stretch. One of them, Darren Goforth, a deputy sheriff ambushedwhile pumping gas in Harris County, Texas, was approached from behind by a man who emptied 15 rounds into his head. Firmin DeBrabander, a Baltimore resident and author, looked at the first set of numbers and the second set of numbers and saw a place where the interests of the Black Lives Matter movement and law enforcement overlap. “Neither can advance their stated missions — saving lives, affirming the value of all lives — amid a profusion of guns, which so easily waste lives,” he wrote in the Washington Post.

Indeed. It is the profusion of guns. This is unavoidable and inconvenient. But it just can’t be kept quiet. Yes, police officers have shot armed and unarmed people alike- many people of color, some not. Fear for their own lives or some sort of racial prejudice or questionable decision-making and/or police practices have led to far too many shootings. On the other hand, with so many armed citizens on our streets, officers can’t be blamed for fearing for their own lives. It’s the guns in both cases. Officers in other countries don’t carry as many guns because they don’t encounter armed citizens on their streets or in homes.

And more from the article:

The Conley story was unusual in that it generated national coverage; shootings that take place within four walls can seem too quotidian to attract much attention. This does not make them any less brutal. In one week in August, a mother of three was fatally shot by her boyfriend in Covington, Tennessee; a man murdered his brother in Toledo, Ohio; and a firefighter wasshot at home by a woman in Jackson County, Mississippi. “It’s a domestic,” the local sheriff said. “He’s been shot and he’s dead.” A shooter, a body, another family tragedy. The numbers from the Gun Violence Archive tell that there have been hundreds of domestic victims this summer. (Even when we do pay attention to gun deaths that take place at home, we still often overlook a still bigger category, the gun violence no one talks about: the thousands of gun suicides that occur every summer, part of the upwards of 21,000 suicides-by-firearm recorded each year.)

A majority of Americans now believe that a home with a gun in it is a safer home, as the pollsters at Gallup tell us. When a gun kept for self-defense is a gun kept at the ready, loaded and unobstructed by locks or passcodes, it becomes a gun that can find itself into a child’s hands. Here is Fred Grimm, a popular columnist for the Miami Herald, assessing the damage done this summer in his state alone, when “Florida kids discovered their parents’ firearms and the statistical probabilities trumped all that home safety propaganda pushed by the gun lobby.” An 11-year-old boy finds his mother’s semi-automatic pistol and shoots his 9-year-old brother in the face. A three-year-old, likely searching for an iPad, instead discovers his parents’ loaded Glock 9mm and shoots himself in the head.

Shhhh. Let’s not talk about this. Let’s avoid the discussion. Let’s not listen to the voices of Andy Parker and the other victims who are speaking out and will not be silenced. Plug your ears. Cover your eyes. Maybe it will go away. And then again, maybe not.

I mean when incidents like this are reported on a daily basis in local media outlets, how can we avoid the idea that guns are dangerous and people with guns are also dangerous. From the linked article:

A 23-year-old Phoenix man is in critical condition after shooting himself in the head while trying to show that a handgun could not be fired while he had the safety mechanism engaged.

The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office said Christen Reece fired his handgun Wednesday while shooting with six other people outside Overgaard in eastern Arizona.

Good grief. The sub header of the article says not to point a gun at yourself or others. Good advice but it just isn’t working. This just doesn’t happen with knives or hammers. Sorry. It’s an inconvenient truth but it doesn’t.

The answer is common sense and so much more. We are reaching a point of no return. If we don’t change things soon, almost everyone in America will know someone who has been affected by senseless gun violence. Things just have to change and people like me and those who are writing such great articles and doing the research that must be done are exposing the inconvenience that gun violence is a serious problem. We can’t not talk about it. It’s past time to have the conversation and insist on solutions.