Another anniversary

photo of BarbaraEvery year on this day, I write a memorial to my sister, Barbara Lund. I try not to dwell on the day my sister was murdered by her estranged husband. It was a day that changed the “age of innocence” about gun violence for our family. I mean, really, who ever thinks that a family member will be shot to death? My sister was in her second marriage but trying to get out of it after more than 20 years together with the man who would eventually kill her. The most vulnerable and dangerous time for women is when they are leaving or attempting to leave a relationship.

I wish we had all known then what we know now. I have no idea whether a tragedy could have been averted but I have learned that not doing something is not an option.

On Aug. 5th of 1992 my sister, now in a new relationship after a long and protracted and contentious divorce process, drove to her estranged husband’s home to deliver some paperwork that he needed to sign. ( He was also in a new relationship) She went with her partner because, as we learned later, she was actually nervous about her estranged husband. She knew he had guns in his home. Apparently, something I learned later but was not aware of, he did keep a lot of guns around his house.

We don’t know some of the details because my estranged brother-in-law killed himself months after the shootings of my sister and her partner leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions. ( That is another story) We do know that he said he thought he was killing her lawyers and doesn’t remember much except that he sort of blanked out during the shooting. That is often said by shooters. The loud noise. The sudden death. The blood. The chaos.

There is much more but you don’t need to know all of the details to know that when a gun is at the ready, disputes over relationships and divorces turn deadly in an instant. Even the shooters are surprised by it and often take their own lives at the same time in desperation. Taking a human life ( or two) is something no one, unless maybe those serving in the military or law enforcement, expects will happen.

What I know now is that my life changed as I got involved with advocacy groups like the Brady Campaign  and Protect Minnesota and others to prevent families from devastating, insidious, tragic, senseless and mostly preventable shootings.

There are ways to keep guns away from people who should not have them and change the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. Brady background checks will and do save lives if we expect that all buyers should have one no matter what.  Extreme Risk Protection Orders (Red Flag laws) also can save lives. Look at what has happened in Florida just since the laws passed there in response to the Parkland shooting and the pressure put on lawmakers by the outspoken and courageous students:

Hundreds of gun owners in Florida have been ordered to give up their guns under a new law that took effect after the deadly Parkland shooting in February, according to a report published Monday.

The Risk Protection Order, signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott just three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas, aims to temporarily remove weapons from gun owners who have been deemed by a judge to possibly be a threat to themselves or others.

 

Yes. We can save lives.

Let’s do it together.

There are many issues before us during this chaotic election season. Gun violence is just one of them that has now taken hold and supported by the majority of Americans. Lawmakers are feeling this and have become more outspoken about the issue. I am a Democrat. For many years I have been working on my own elected leaders to be bold and speak out. It is finally happening. It took many years of advocating, meetings, vigils, sending emails, making phone calls and insisting on change.

That is what we have to do with so many other issues like health care, immigration, the economy, getting big money out of our politics, medicare, social security and the environment. It won’t happen overnight but suddenly it will take hold.

The Parkland shooting has moved the needle at long last on the issue of preventing gun violence. It wasn’t the Sandy Hook shooting or the Aurora theater shooting or the Las Vegas shooting or the Pulse Nightclub shooting, many of which took more lives than the Parkland shooting. But it was an accumulation that threw the public over the edge. Thanks to those courageous and outspoken students for the change we are seeing in our country.

It takes us all working together raising our voices and persistence.

We all have our stories to tell. Some are about the loss of life due to bullets. Some about insidious diseases or conditions. Some are about suicide by any means. Some are about immigration or about health care or about losing a job or about cancer, or Parkinson’s, or depression or Alzheimer’s or heart disease. All of these are in my family. Many of these are in families of people I know and care about.

At some point there is an intersection of the issues and that is this-  making us all safer, healthier and caring for one another when it needs to happen.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic where it intersects with health care. Gun violence is an economic issue as deaths by gun cost our law enforcement, legal and health care system a lot of money. Gun violence has an intersection with immigration. Gun violence has an intersection with education as so many of the mass shootings have happened in our schools. Gun violence has an obvious intersection with domestic abuse and violence.  

And to add to this list, gun violence intersects with terrorism and national security because we know terrorists can buy guns in the U.S. and we aren’t stopping them from doing so because of a big gap in our laws. This is a matter of national security as well. And if we don’t think the fomenting of fear and paranoia against the media and the increased presence of militia and other hate groups who are armed isn’t another big issue, we are not paying attention to a serious problem.

And yes, gun violence intersects with big money in politics as the NRA has become a lobbying and big money influencer in our politics and elections. That is why so many of our leaders won’t stand up and do the right thing.

We don’t need a repeat of what happened last August in Charlottesville but the same group is gathering in Oregon and a “Unite the Right” rally on the National Mall in D.C. next week-end. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong.

Many of these issues are the American tragedy. Failure to deal with all of them is failure to keep America safe and do the right thing for our citizens.school

When common sense prevails, we will all be better off.

On this day I remember not only my beautiful sister Barbara Lund but all my friends and people I don’t know who have suffered the grief of the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets shot out of guns that are too readily available.

As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, ” We all do better when we all do better.

Nothing could be more true.

 

UPDATE:

I posted this before I went to church this morning and I was inspired by the service to write more.  It was the annual outdoor service under a tent near the vegetable and wild flower garden planted behind the parking lot. There was great music, a wonderful children’s time, a great sermon and the closeness of the congregation gathered together in this sweet sultry summer morning. The minister of my church reminded the congregation that this was the 27th anniversary of her first service at our church.

In an odd confluence of events, it was one year after she began her ministry that my sister was murdered. On August 7th after our family finally learned of the news of the murder and all family members were informed, I called my minister to share what had happened with her. Her response was as it always is with her- so supportive and caring and kind and gentle with just the right things to say. After all of that, though, she told me that her husband, who had not yet moved to Duluth because he hadn’t found a job yet, was on his job as a Police Officer in Minnetonka, Minnesota on August 6th. He was one of the first officers to enter the home of my estranged brother-in-law, now taken to the mental ward of a Twin Cities area hospital by his lawyers ( another long story). He was one of the first officers to find her body and that of her partner. He was there. He saw the horrific scene.

Once and only once, I had the nerve to talk to him about the crime scene. I think I didn’t really want to know the details. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful, talented, high spirited sister I knew who was trying to be happy. The last time I saw her was at my daughter’s graduation from high school less than 2 months before her murder.

This morning’s church service was a reminder to me about how supportive my minister and everyone in my church has been to me over the years. One year after my sister’s murder, I asked my minister to lead a celebration of life for my sister on the shore of Lake Superior. Friends and family attended. The minister read the eulogy from my sister’s memorial service as it was held quite privately in a church in the Twin Cities so not many of my friends attended.

Since that time, our chapter has held many vigils and events around gun violence prevention and I have led many mission moments about gun violence- too many. My minister has spoken many times at our vigils and has spoken out publicly about this issue. Gun violence has a ripple effect you see. The people in my church are affected by what happened to me and they support my efforts and they support stronger gun laws and preventing shootings.

I am humbled today by all of the emotions and the memories. I know that the majority is with me. If only the leaders of our country would step up and be with us so we can save lives.

church service

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Vigil for Las Vegas shooting victims at my church in Oct. 2017

 

Listen up- The last school shooting

listenLet’s make the Parkland shooting the last school shooting said one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students interviewed after 17 of his school classmates were slaughtered.

The last school shooting took the lives of 17 Parkland, Florida students and educators and traumatized the entire nation. The injured will recover, some with life long debilitating injuries, others left with only the trauma. We are all traumatized.

The thing is, Columbine should have been the last school shooting. Virginia Tech should have been the last school shooting. Sandy Hook for sure should have been the last school shooting. Our kids are sitting ducks. But ducks are better protected from bullets than kids given that duck hunters must use a plug to prevent a hunter from using more than 3 shots at a time. It’s to sustain the duck population for future hunters.

Who is sustaining the population of our children?

Something is different this time. Teachers, students, parents, law enforcement and the media- all speaking out in stronger and more urgent voices asking the “adults” in Congress to act on behalf of our children.

Insanity is the word that comes to mind.

We are all exhausted but we are not numb and we are not stupid. We understand what is going on here. We get that our loose gun laws are killing our precious human resources and snuffing out the potential of dozens of kids to live a productive life with their friends and family.

Last night 300 people came out for a vigil outside of NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Some of my friends were there.

1000 people came out in Parkland to honor the victims. But without action, none of this matters.

Speaking of the NRA, I can’t even begin to add up the media articles and stories about how much that organization has contributed to the mayhem and carnage. The time has come to turn on the corporate gun lobby, whose profit motive has become the main reason for existence. It is not your father’s or your grandfather’s NRA any more.

Listen to the voices of gun owners and former NRA members.

Listen to the voice of just one teacher:

Don’t tell me teachers should be carrying weapons in the classroom — we’re not police.

It’s our job to assign books, create lessons and lead discussions that make students think critically and help them see the world a little differently: I want them to read “The Outsiders” in my class and remember it when they’re adults and their kids are reading it.

Don’t tell me there’s nothing we can do about guns. Yes, Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms — but it’s not limitless. And we all have the right to live.

Listen to the voice of the Broward County Sheriff:

““If you’re an elected official, and you want to keep things the way they are ― if you want to keep gun laws as they are now ― you will not get re-elected in Broward County,” Israel told a crowd that erupted in cheers.”

Listen to the voice of just one parent:

“Stop accepting blood money.”

Listen to the students. They are our future. They are being massacred in every more frequent mass shootings. But they are fighting back:

“Please, this is the 18th one this year. That’s unacceptable. We’re children. You guys are the adults,” David Hogg said during an interview on CNN.

And well they should. Read this frightening article about real and not so real threats made by students after the Parkland shooting.  My God. What is going on? Where are the adults in the room?

Remember that every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Talk about the influence of even the Russians in our gun violence epidemic in America.

The NRA has a connection with the Russians.

The NRA has connections with our President. The Brady Center went to court to get a white paper written with the help of the NRA presented to the President right before his inauguration.

So can we talk?

Talk about Brady background checks.

Talk about Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Talk about Assault Rifles:

Equally important for a gunman looking to do a lot of damage in a hurry: AR-15-style weapons are fed with box magazines that can be swapped out quickly. The standard magazine holds 30 rounds. Equipped in this way, a gunman can fire more than a hundred rounds in minutes.

The Parkland shooter had “countless magazines” for his AR-15, the local sheriff said. And there is still one more reason the weapons are so popular in states like Florida: They are easy to buy — and for Nikolas Cruz, 19, the shooting suspect, far easier to obtain than a handgun.

The Washington Post goes further about another assault weapons ban:

He calls the results “staggering.” Compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths. (…)

On a scale of effectiveness ranging from 1 (not effective) to 10 (highly effective), the expert panel gave an average score of 6.8 to both an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines, the highest ratings among the nearly 30 policies surveyed. (…) More strikingly, substantial numbers of gun owners supported the measures as well: 48 percent of gun owners in that poll said they would support a ban on assault style weapons, and 44 percent said they favored a ban on high-capacity magazines. A Quinnipiac poll conducted later in the year showed similar numbers.

Talk about research on the causes and effects of gun violence.

Talk about how much money our leaders are getting from the NRA.

Ask all candidates what their plans are for preventing shootings and saving lives.

And yes, talk about the Second Amendment:

Ideally we would also rethink the Second Amendment in an age where firearms are far more lethal than in the 18th century and where we no longer require minutemen to protect our liberties from the redcoats. But it’s not necessary to repeal the Second Amendment. The courts have consistently upheld gun regulations in the past, including a federal assault-weapon ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 and a Maryland ban that went into effect in 2013.

Yet instead of instituting such common-sense safeguards, Congress is moving in the opposite direction. Early in 2017, Congress passed and President Trump signed a bill that revoked an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for mentally ill people to buy guns. Toward the end of the year, the House passed legislation that would force every state to honor concealed-carry permits — meaning that a resident of Oklahoma could pack heat in the District of Columbia or New York City.

And talk about all of these things with common sense conversations and actions.

Talk about the insanity of American gun laws and shootings as the rest of the world is watching this insanity unfold. This article highlights an Australian perspective into our shootings.

Do we love our children as much as we love our guns? That is a very important question that needs an answer.

Make this the last school shooting. Because the last one has started a movement and a conversation that is not going away. The accumulation of bodies and inaction by Congress and state legislatures if finally just too much for a nation that sees more gun violence than any other democratized country not at war. Our kids are the victims of knock-off military style weapons used in war. As one friend said, our children have become war correspondents, live streaming a shooter killing their friends and texting parents as the shooting occurs.

With the help of adults, students are going to take national action as the Women’s March has organized a national student walk-out set for March 14th.

We shouldn’t have to do this. This is an American tragedy.

Listen up Mr. President. Spend more than 6 minutes “listening” to the victims of the shooting at the Parkland hospital. Your tone deaf anemic, robotic statement a day after the shooting did not even mention the word guns or gun violence. Your lack of passion and empathy was disheartening and disturbing. Have a nice week-end on the golf course at Mar-a-Lago.

We are better than this.

We have had #Enough.

No more silence- remembering Sandy Hook

newtown-imageJust because @realDonaldTrump was elected to be our next President doesn’t mean the gun violence prevention groups are going away. In fact, they will be louder than ever. They must be because lives depend on it.

Gun violence will not stop. Mass shootings will continue. Our families and communities will not be safe from gun violence until we do the right thing.

26 children and educators are shot and Congress does nothing.

33,000 Americans will die every year unless Congress does the right thing.

No more silence.

Today is the 4th anniversary of what most can agree was the worst mass shooting in our country though it took fewer lives than some of the other mass shootings. You know what I’m talking about.

Sandy Hook, December 14, 2012.

20 first graders brutally shot to death and 6 educators who tried to protect them.

We should not have to protect our school children from gun massacres. America is unique in that we have more mass shootings than any other democratized country not at war. And when a mass shooting happens other countries with common sense do something to at least try to stop the next one. And in most cases, it has worked.

Of course. That is because common sense informs most of us. The fact that our Congress could not even pass a simple law to require background checks on all gun sales several months after the Sandy Hook shooting is a shameful and hideous black mark in our history.

So we are here again- mourning, lighting candles, speaking, singing, ringing bells, marching, writing emails and letters and making phone calls. Making noise.

There will be events all over the country today. You can check it out here. Newtown Action Alliance was formed after the Sandy Hook shooting and invites victims from all over the country to Washington D.C. for the national vigil. It is a sober and reflective day with tears and hugs. It is a remembrance of all victims of gun violence. It is a reminder that our leaders have not done the right thing.

It has been 4 years and yet our leaders have not done the right thing.

My local chapter viewed the award winning film, “Newtown” on Sunday. It was a powerful testament to the resilience and resolve of the survivors of that shooting. Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. Some choose to do so in silence. Some have become activists. None will ever be the same. And again, we see the ripple effect of gun violence in the Newtown community. Every one of our elected leaders should be required to view the film.

We rang the bell 26 times. We discussed what we will do next and why we haven’t done the right thing yet. The attendees were frustrated and puzzled. They want action. They want change. They want our leaders to do the right thing.

Today we will hold a candlelight vigil at a local church.

The sad thing is, that even if those leaders who are lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby did view the film, ring a bell, light a candle or attend a vigil, it may not crack through their refusal to buck the gun lobby to do the right thing. They know the right thing. Will they do the right thing?

Sigh.

The Brady Campaign has this to say about the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting:

“In the wake of this unthinkable tragedy, America demanded action from Congress. And when Congress failed to act, Americans took matters into their own hands. With a successful vote in Nevada this fall, seven states have expanded Brady background checks to all gun sales since the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary. Today, half of all Americans live in states where Brady background checks are ensuring felons, domestic abusers, and dangerously mentally ill people can’t buy guns. We’ll continue this state-by-state march until Congress steps up and finishes the job for all Americans.

“Some in the gun lobby’s world might see Newtown’s tragedy, and others since, to be the unavoidable consequences of ‘doing business’ today. We don’t accept that. The Brady Campaign and an overwhelming majority of the American people have a different vision, and we’re not giving up. Buoyed by four years of inspired progress, we fight on to make this the better, safer nation that the children and educators we honor today deserved.”

The American people want Congress and state legislators to listen to them and do the right thing. 

But will they?

Will they read these names and see these photos today?

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In memory:

1. Charlotte Bacon (DOB 2/22/06)

2. Daniel Barden (9/25/05)

3. Rachel Davino (7/17/83)

4. Olivia Engel (7/18/06)

5. Josephine Gay (12/11/05)

6. Ana M. Marquez-Greene (4/4/06)

7. Dylan Hockley (3/8/06)

8. Dawn Hocksprung (6/28/65)

9. Madeleine F. Hsu (7/10/06)

10. Catherine V. Hubbard (6/8/06)

11. Chase Kowalski (10/31/05)

12. Jesse Lewis (6/30/06)

13. James Mattioli (3/22/06)

14. Grace McDonnell (11/04/05)

15. AnneMarie Murphy (07/25/60)

16. Emilie Parker (5/12/06)

17. Jack Pinto (5/6/06)

18. Noah Pozner (11/20/06)

19. Caroline Previdi (9/7/06)

20. Jessica Rekos (5/10/06)

21. Avielle Richman (10/17/06)

22. Lauren Russeau (6/1982)

23. Mary Sherlach (2/11/56)

24. Victoria Soto (11/4/85)

25. Benjamin Wheeler (9/12/06)

26. Allison N. Wyatt (7/3/06)

 

No more silence. Listen to our voices. Look at the photos. Read the names. Hear our stories.

Do the right thing.

#endgunviolence

#honorwithaction

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.