A summit of gun violence prevention leaders and advocates

There are so many things to talk about.

I have just made a trip to Washington D.C. for the joint Brady Campaign, Americans for Responsible Solutions summit- A Nation United for a Safer Future.  I have been involved in this movement long enough to have met many leaders and victims from all over the country. Many of us met and continued our friendship through the Million Mom March and now Brady Campaign. I also have met and know people involved with Americans for Responsible Solutions. Social media has allowed us all to connect and become friends. Many victims and survivors attended the summit.

Here were just a few of the victims and survivors in attendance.

A mother whose daughter was shot at the Aurora Theater; a mother and father of a young woman reporter shot on live T.V.; a young woman whose mother was shot in the Clackamas Mall shooting just days before the Sandy Hook shooting; a mother and a father whose college students survived the Virginia Tech shooting; a father whose son was shot when a friend was handling a gun; a mother whose 13 year old daughter was shot by a gun stored openly and loaded in the home of a friend; a man whose mother shot and killed herself; the woman who kicked the ammunition away when the Tucson shooter stopped to re-load his gun; a father whose son was shot in the Isla Vista mass shooting; several women whose family members had committed suicide by gun; a woman whose brother was shot and killed many years ago; me- who lost a sister to bullets during a domestic shooting; Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign whose brother was shot and injured in the terror attack on the Empire State Building; a woman who had lost two children to shootings; two women whose children were shot and injured in the Jewish Day Care Center in Los Angeles; a man whose mother was shot and killed when a shooter was looking for someone else and mistakenly shot and killed her and wounded his father…….

Aside from victims and survivors, attendees included law enforcement officers, interested advocates, leaders of national and state organizations, clergy, staff members of the two organizations, politicians, lawyers, health care providers, NAACP leaders, film makers, a founder of the Women’s March, and many others.

Politicians who spoke to and with us:

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly.

Senators Cory Booker, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Connecticut Representative Esty, California Representative Mike Thompson, Rhode Island Representative Dave Cicilline, Representatives Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy from Florida and others.

Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General

Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama.

But we didn’t just listen and react to these amazing speakers. We took action.

Hundreds of participants lobbied on Capitol Hill and had great visits, “armed” with information about two concerning bills that would make us all less safe if enacted:

H.R. 38- Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 ( Arm Everyone bill). This bill would, if it became law, override steps that states have taken to protect public safety and put citizens at risk. It would leave states with no power to decide who carries hidden loaded guns ( or openly carried) within their own states and communities.

H.R.367- cynically called the Hearing Protection Act. This bill is meant to do what the gun lobby loves- increase sales of accessories to guns ( gun sales are down right now) and attempt to undo the 1934 National Firearms Act which requires individuals who purchase gun silencers and machine guns to undergo strict background checks, fingerprints, payment to register and license the gun/silencer and a waiting period. These regulations work. We just don’t see silencers used in crimes since that act became law. If this bill were to pass, we could expect to see silencers sold without Brady background checks through private seller internet sales and private sellers at gun shows. It also creates threats to law enforcement and would make it more difficult to respond to mass shooters as the sound of gunfire would be muffled and dispersed. There are many items sold to protect hearing while using firearms that make more sense.

Can we just talk about the fact that conceal carry weapons holders DO kill and threaten people with their guns even after going through a permitting process? Read the Violence Policy Center‘s report- Concealed Carry Killers. And can we also talk about the fact that 11 states now allow people to carry guns with no training or permit requirements.?Without a system of universal background checks, these people could be prohibited purchasers who will be allowed to carry their guns everywhere. How will we know the “good guys” with guns from the bad guys with guns? I have not heard an answer that makes any sense. The idea that it’s OK to normalize the carrying of guns everywhere by anyone is not only ludicrous, it is irresponsible and dangerous.

On “The Hill”, we had some great conversations, a chance to thank those who have voted against the gun lobby sponsored bills and who have led the charge and the conversation about the need to prevent gun violence. And we had a few victories when Congress members changed their positions after meeting with our groups of victims and advocates.

The importance of the summit and visits to Capitol Hill cannot be overstated. Advocates who had never attended a summit before were engaged and energized. They now know they can do this. People like me came away re-energized and encouraged that, in spite of the Republicans in charge, the issue of gun violence and the prevention of it has more support than ever before. It’s only Congress (doing the bidding of the corporate gun lobby) who stands in the way of common sense. And while they are doing that, 32,000 Americans ( give or take)- real people- someone’s family member or good friend- are killed by guns. It happens every day.

During the summit we all engaged our minds about legislation, other actions, and changing the conversation about this public health epidemic. There was much to think about and actual incidents that reminded us about why we were there. Among just a few:

Americans continue to die by bullets in alarming numbers. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of shooting incidents. It’s not pretty.

And here are the reasons people get shot in Aor shoot others from Parents Against Gun Violence::

reasons people shot in April

And ISIS is telling its’ members to buy guns in America because it is so easy:

“The acquisition of firearms can be very simple depending on one’s geographical location,” the article read. “In most U.S. states, anything from a single-shot shotgun all the way up to a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle can be purchased at showrooms or through online sales — by way of private dealers — with no background checks, and without requiring either an ID or a gun license.”

The Rumiyah article specifically touted gun shows where these unregulated sales are often easiest.

And the officer who shot a black teen in Texas was fired and charged with murder. 

And Gander Mountain management bet wrongly on gun sales and lost. (Go figure. When Democrats are in office, the gun lobby scares people into buying guns in high numbers. When Republicans are in charge- no worries.)

“In 2016, at a rate of more than twice a week, a child under 18 years old was shot and killed with a loaded, unsecured gun”. This is from the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance, a new organization that presented information at the summit. One can look up current information of  shootings of and by children on this site. Who cares about the children?

And in just another average day in America, two young people are dead in a murder/suicide at a Texas college campus. Domestic disputes often spill over into public places and also way too often are the cause of mass shootings.

Asking about loaded, unsecured guns in homes can save lives. (ASK campaign)

And a health care bill passed in the House that will leave millions of Americans with no health care and lower taxes on the wealthy.

And those those with mental illness will have easier access to guns than health care.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic.

Many gun deaths and injuries are preventable and avoidable.

If we are to have the serious conversation we need and deserve to have, recognizing that there is a problem in the first place that can actually be fixed, or cured, or prevented or reduced in severity and frequency, is the most important thing we can do. Using some common sense in arguments and discussions will lead to responsible solutions.

On my plane back home from DC were at least a half dozen members of Congress, including my own, anxious to get back home for the recess ( didn’t they just have one?). While waiting to board, I spoke with my own Representative who introduced me to a Senator from a neighboring state- a Republican. We had a good discussion about health care and gun violence. We did not agree on much. But his main reason for being skeptical or against common sense solutions to save lives is one of the gun lobby’s myths. He actually believes that organizations such as the Brady Campaign and Americans for Responsible Solutions are out to get his guns. He is a lapdog for the gun lobby and will do their bidding no matter what anyone says to him.

As long as some of our politicians are in the pocket of the corporate gun lobby, we can expect to see bills that could become law that will actually make us less safe and lead to an increase in gun deaths and injuries. Is there anyone who thinks that is a good idea? The American public agrees that passing strong gun laws is a good idea.

Please make sure your own elected leaders are doing the bidding of the people and not the corporate gun lobby. We can make a difference if our voices are loud and clear about saving lives. For that is the bottom line.

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

 

 

Guns in everyday life

at the RotundaUnfortunately “everyday shootings” and other incidents involving guns leave families devastated or lead us to wonder why so many American guns lead to so much gun crime and injuries and deaths.

Where to start? How about this one? A Colorado woman was charged with 35 felonies the other day because of stupidity and dangerousness with guns:

A woman was charged with selling stolen guns out of a parking lot and a man was charged with threatening his girlfriend’s family, and another man was charged with trespassing and acting out, according to reports. They all made their first court appearances on Monday with 35th District Court Judge Jack Barker presiding.

Meredith M. Atwell, 37, of Huttig, was arrested Friday and charged with selling nine stolen firearms, and potentially more, said Capt. Charlie Phillips of the Union County Sheriff’s Office. (…)

Phillips added 13 counts of possession of a firearm by a certain person and 13 counts of theft of a firearm, making a total of 35 felony counts.

Deputies say they have connected Atwell to stolen guns from Camden, Magnolia, El Dorado, and other parts of Union County.

“And all of this was to supply a drug habit,” Phillips said.

Deputies are looking for more guns and seeking out more arrests connected with the case.

You can’t make this stuff up. If we want to know where crime guns come from, here is just one incident about stolen guns and a whole bunch of other crimes all to “supply a drug habit.”  Guns and drugs are a bad mix. We should do something about both. Luckily for all this did not lead to someone losing a life. But given time, it would have.

And did you hear the one about the Minnesota man who shot at a letter carrier’s car and then somehow was found dead in his home of a gunshot wound? :

Authorities say the mail carrier was making deliveries late Monday morning when gunshots shattered the rear window of his vehicle in Polk County. A deputy who responded was confronted by Huderle armed with a rifle. Huderle fired at the deputy, striking the squad car.

Investigators say an officer with the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force returned fire. Huderle was later found dead outside his home with a high-powered rifle.

Why? I guess it’s “have gun, will shoot”. Be careful out there.

How about a Minnesota border patrol agent who used his own service gun and shot and killed himself in broad daylight in the parking lot of the border crossing area?:

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer apparently shot and killed himself in the parking area of the U.S. port of entry at the Pigeon River on Sunday afternoon. (…) “This is an extremely tough loss,” Eliasen said, describing the deceased as a veteran officer who had lived in the region for some time. “He was well-known and respected in the community and protective service agencies, and our hearts and prayers are with his family, colleagues and community during this difficult time.”

Veteran officer or not, legal gun owner or not, this sad and tragic case is why we have so many gun deaths in America. Over half of all gun deaths are suicide. We are not having an adult conversation about the risks of guns and how having a gun can result in a homicide, accidental shooting or suicide close to home. Suicide by gun is most often fatal- there is no chance to change your mind or have a second chance at life. Now another Minnesota family is devastated and to the outside world, nothing seemed to be wrong. If there were mental health or other problems that led to the fatal decision of the officer, it’s an American tragedy that the man had a gun convenient to him to end his life.

Gun violence restraining ( or protective) orders can save lives.  Sometimes families and friends know when someone is having mental illness problems or other problems that would make that person a danger to him or herself. They could report the person to law enforcement and guns can be temporarily removed.

But we are not passing laws that will allow that to happen. Why? The corporate gun lobby and their lapdogs in Congress and legislators all over America don’t represent the majority of people who understand that common sense laws could save lives.

Too sad and disturbing really.

The American political world is so topsy turvy right now with every day and almost every hour of every day bringing us more scary and disturbing revelations about our own President that these incidents almost feel trivial. They are not to those involved.

Take, for example, the recent London terror attack also involving  gunfire. The only one to die by gunfire was the perpetrator who was shot by an officer. London officers usually do not carry guns but some near the Parliament buildings do actually carry guns now. This deliberate decision was decided out of common sense and the idea that public safety does not depend on guns. From the above article:

And yet more than 90 percent of the capital’s police officers carry out their daily duties without a gun. Most rely on other tools to keep their city safe: canisters of mace, handcuffs, batons and occasionally stun-guns. (…)

Giving everyday police officers guns sends the wrong message to communities, so this thinking goes, and can actually cause more problems than it solves.

Although there are higher numbers of armed police guarding Parliament, the attacker who rushed the gates Wednesday was shot dead by a relatively rare member of the country’s security forces — one who had been trained to use a firearm.

Some of these gun-wielding officers patrol the city in pairs, others are members of crack response teams — units dressed in body-armor, helmets and carrying long rifles — who are called to the scene of violent incidents like these.

In most instances, they don’t use their weapons.

So different from our own armed society and along with it, heavily armed law enforcement officers. More from the article:

It’s a world away from the United States, where cops killed 1,092 people in 2016, according to figures compiled by The Guardian.

Of course it’s easier for police to remain unarmed if civilians do the same. Out of every 100 people in Britain, fewer than four of them owns a firearm, according to GunPolicy.org, a project run by Australia’s University of Sydney. In the U.S. there is more than one gun per person.

Ah. There’s the rub. Fewer gun owning citizens means less need for officers to carry guns and fewer gun deaths. Such common sense is needed in America right now. Instead, we have the opposite. Read below.

Predictably the NRA’s first response to the London attack is…. you guessed it….more guns for Americans. If only those victims would have sensed a car coming towards them to mow them down, they could have shot at the driver. Or if only someone had stopped to shoot at the victim as he went after the officer with a knife instead of running away from the danger as they were told to do. Sadly an officer is dead but another officer trained with a gun shot the alleged terrorist.

We ought to be thinking about how we can stop terror attacks without having guns enter every conversation. The real conversation about guns should be about preventing our own homegrown terror due to the number of mass shootings, domestic shootings, shootings of young men of color,  easy access to guns by children and teens, and gun suicides. But we have the NRA and the corporate gun lobby putting their fear and paranoia front and center to stop the conversation we should be having.

And speaking of the NRA, this great article from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence points out the connection between health care and guns:

While mental illness is not a significant risk factor for violence against others, mental illness does increase the risk of suicide. About 90 percent of those who die from suicide experienced symptoms of mental illness prior to their death, and these individuals are often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated. Speaker Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is expected to come up for a vote today, fails those at risk of suicide by stripping mental health care from individuals who depend on it.

In drafting the AHCA, House Republicans had the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to improved mental health care. They had the opportunity to prioritize individuals living with behavioral health problems. They had the opportunity to save lives.

But, predictably, they didn’t take it.

The Republican health care did not pass for lack of votes in their own caucus and lack of leadership. In addition, the bill was a horribly written bill designed to rig the system in favor of the wealthy and take health care away from the poor, middle class and sick people. Such cynicism is unacceptable and proved to be fatal to the passage of the bill, thank goodness. Mental illness health care has improved under the ACA and would have suffered under the now dead Republican health care act.

You may remember that NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre tried to excuse and deny the Sandy Hook shooting of 20 first graders by passing it off to mental illness ( and presumably not much to do with access to guns):

At moments, the NRA and supporters almost sounded like liberal gun-control advocates. “We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed,” Mr LaPierre told NBC television on December 23rd last year, days after the Newtown murders. The NRA backs the FBI-run instant background checks system used by gun dealers when selling firearms, Mr LaPierre noted. It supports putting all those adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system, and deplores the fact that many states are still putting only a small number of records into the system. (…)

Mr LaPierre’s line is both clear and not. He supports improving the quality of the federal database used for background checks, but opposes using that same database more often, calling any talk of universal background checks a ruse paving the way for the creation of the national gun register that the government craves, so it can confiscate America’s guns.

He talks of improving mental-health treatment, but then uses the harshest possible language to describe the mentally ill, telling NBC:

We have no national database of these lunatics… We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that’s got these monsters walking the streets.

So what is really going on? Interviewing the Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, he accused the NRA of a “bait-and-switch”, in which the gun lobby is trying to appear constructive without allowing any gun rules to change.

Let’s just enforce the laws already on the books (unless we don’t like them) and not try to solve the problem of easy access to guns because…. rights.

We need to fix our background check system, our mental health system, our healthcare system,  our lack of attention to stolen guns and straw purchasing along with gun trafficking and many other policies that can make us safer. But do we?

No.

As an aside, there are fixes to Obamacare that can keep the good things about the law, including paying for mental health care, but change the things that have not worked. But for the far right, it is all or nothing and no adult conversations to try to find middle ground.

The sad reality in America is that there are places where people can meet in the middle because the public actually is in the middle on health care, on guns, on access to women’s health care, the environment and so many other crucial issues. As long as we have fealty to ideological extreme positions on these issues, we will be worse off.

We just have to be better than this.

Back to public health and gun violence, Protect Minnesota and volunteers from the Brady Campaign chapters , the public health community and other organizations had a great lobby day this past week with health care providers and others visiting their legislators The volunteers delivered packets containing the lists of reasons gun carry permits have been denied or revoked by county. Each legislator got a packet containing information about the county they represent. Research and facts matter. This is information the gun lobby does not want known. But it is now.

About 200 people gathered in the Capitol rotunda for a rousing rally and to hear fantastic speakers from the public health community as well as victims of gun violence. If only the public could hear the many amazing speeches about the effects of gun violence and the “cure” for gun violence.

One of the speakers, Athena Adkins, spoke about the tragic and avoidable death of a young law clerk last spring n the office where her husband works .  She spoke about the horror when learning that the bullets were intended for her husband:

According to the criminal complaint, Petersen had hired attorney Dan Adkins from the law firm but was “displeased with the way his case was being handled.” He expressed his concerns to Adkins via phone calls and text messages before and on Thursday.

“On the afternoon of April 7, Petersen fired [Adkins] by text message and demanded his money back,” the complaint said. “Petersen expressed a belief that [Adkins] was ignoring his messages.”

Adkins was in court at the time and couldn’t respond to Petersen, according to the complaint.

When Petersen arrived at the law firm, located above St. Paul’s historic W.A. Frost & Company restaurant in the 300 block of Selby Avenue, he apparently found only Passauer. Adkins and colleague James Gempeler arrived at the firm just after the shooting and found Passauer fatally wounded, sitting in his desk chair. He was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m. (…) “It’s unbelievable,” he said Friday of what transpired in the law office. “Gun violence is totally out of control. It’s amazing how it impacts the victim, the victim’s family, the whole neighborhood.”

Yes. It is amazing isn’t it? The impact of gun violence is like a whirlpool sucking everyone into it. The bullets were intended for Adkins but the law clerk was there and in the way of the shooter’s anger and desire for retribution for a perceived wrong. A gun made this all so quick and easy.

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser.:

Petersen has a lengthy and violent criminal past that includes convictions for drive-by shooting, second-degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, first-degree damage to property, aiding and abetting in the sale of narcotics, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, drunken driving and disorderly conduct, court records show.

Sigh.

These are the people who could be able to carry loaded guns in public if some in the Minnesota legislature have their way. We won’t know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys” with guns in a permitless system. It’s easy for the “bad guys” to access guns with no background checks and carry them around to shoot someone with whom they have a beef. Way too easy.

Another speaker, a Youth Program Developer and Mental Health worker at HCMC  (Hennepin County Medical Center) spoke about the proliferation of guns in the neighborhoods of color. He spoke about how easy it is for the youth to get cheap guns on the streets and the need to prevent that. Guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchases  and get onto the streets from traffickers who obtained their guns with no background checks ( or even with them), straw purchasing or stealing them.

Stand Your Ground laws disproportionately affect people of color. None of us would be safer if that bill became law but some members of the House Public Safety Committee prefer to only think about their own self defense in public where the need for a gun is rare indeed. Most shootings happen in homes or in places where no one has a chance to react given the surprise effect of gun violence. In spite of what the gun lobby loves to say, and did say in the public hearing regarding this bill, guns bought for self defense more often get used to harm someone known to or loved by the shooter. From this report( linked)  by the Violence Policy Center:

The center also dives into the thorny thicket of how often the presence of a gun stops a crime — either violent or against property, such as a burglary — from happening. The gun lobby trots out an annual figure of 2.5 million such instances. But an analysis of five years’ worth of stats collected by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey puts the number much, much lower — about 67,740 times a year. (…) So what conclusions can we draw from this? The notion that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun is a romanticized vision of the nature of violent crime.

So far the two dangerous and unpopular bills are not included in an Omnibus Public Safety bill but we know that the gun lobby minions are pressing for their inclusion. Most members of the legislature do not want to have to vote on these measures. They understand that they are NRA and corporate gun lobby bills pushed onto the public but not sought by the public. Never mind. The gun lobby wants its’ way. They want more loaded guns in public carried by people who shouldn’t have them and they want people to be able to shoot first and ask questions later. It defies common sense and the facts.

#Factsmatter. People are dying every day in American and on average, one a day in Minnesota. This is simply not OK. More and more people are discovering the truth about the extreme agenda of far right politicians and pushing back.

Gun suicide prevention

suicide_20kThis week is National Suicide Prevention Week. We can’t talk suicide without talking about guns. Why? Because suicide by gun is the majority of gun deaths in America.

From this article in The Trace, written for this week of awareness about suicide:

 

In 2014, there were 42,773 suicides, and 21,334 of these were carried out with a gun, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicides comprise two-thirds of all gun deaths. The typical victim of a gun homicide is a young, black male. The typical suicide victim is a middle-aged white man. Roughly 80 percent of suicide victims are men, and 83 percent are white.

Young people are also at an elevated risk of gun suicide. Among those aged 10 to 19, there were 2,259 suicides in 2014. Nearly half of those deaths — 41 percent — involved firearms, according to data from the CDC. The only more common cause of death for young people is accidental injuries, a category that includes traffic accidents and drownings.

Some gun rights advocates deny these statistics, or I should say, ignore them. To them, suicide by guns don’t matter. I have heard in comments on my blog and in other places from some of these folks that if people want to kill themselves we should let them. This Philadelphia father (Farid Naib) would totally disagree with that:

The video, which coincides with National Suicide Prevention Week, highlights how quickly things can go wrong for kids, who lack the perspective to realize things are not as dire as they seem. Farid and his two children had just returned from a ski trip, and “life was about as good as it could be.” But after Cayman received an email from school saying he was failing a course, he found the gun, took it to a remote section of the family’s large property and killed himself. “This was in the space of 20 or 30 minutes,” says Farid, who’d always believed there’d be warning signs if a child was contemplating suicide. “There were none. Kids get upset. And they make bad decisions when they’re upset. Having a gun in house that they can access, you give them the ability to make that bad decision permanent.”
Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/09/11/cayman-naib-father-brady-campaign-video/#EeE5Faq7t23YMw5s.99

Farid Naib has told this story very poignantly because, as you can imagine, the pain is almost unbearable. It was his own gun that he had for self protection. And now his son, Cayman is dead over a momentary bad day. I have seen Mr. Naib speak at a conference and heard him tell his story. It was not easy but he knew that telling his story may help others understand the risk of guns in their homes and the tragic results that could occur as a result.

As part of my work to prevent gun violence, I have met people from all over America who have lost loved ones to gun suicide. It is a violent death. And it is often avoidable. Suicides by gun count in the total number of gun deaths in America. Why would they not?

Mental health is certainly a public health and safety problem. Easy access to guns is also a public health and safety problem. The combination is lethal.

Please read this blog post by a young woman who lives with a mental health disorder and why she knows a gun would be a terrible idea for her. From the writings of Bryan Barks who works for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:

Now, after years of therapy and the right combination of medications, I have my bachelor’s degree, live in DC, and have been able to pursue a career in a field I am passionate about — gun violence prevention. I lead a normal life, though I am aware of my bipolar disorder every day and struggle with my moods often — even in periods of relative stability.

While I try not to relive the most painful parts of my past, every time I think of the lives lost to suicide by firearms — nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths — I think about how different my story could have been if guns were involved. (…)

I know there are responsible, law-abiding individuals who have personal reasons for owning guns. But when someone in a household is in crisis, temporarily removing the quickest, most effective means of suicide can be life-saving. To call suicide inevitable is to give up on people with mental illness — people who could be successful, happy, full of life with the right treatment plan. Retrieving guns after the worst has passed is easy. Retrieving a life lost in a moment of desperation is impossible.

Guns matter. If family members and friends recognize some of the signs or understand that having a gun around during times of depression, crisis, family problems and other problems, lives could be saved. The image at the top shows the truth of the matter. Many people who survive suicide attempts don’t try to kill themselves again. A gun is much more lethal than other methods and ends in death more efficiently and quickly.

My brother-in-law committed suicide by jumping off a very high bridge. He knew it would be fatal and it was an awful event in the lives of our family. He was my husband’s only sibling. Between us we have each lost a sibling- one to suicide, one to homicide. We understand how devastating this loss of a loved one can be. We have handled our grief in different ways. My husband is more quiet and pensive and thinks about things we maybe could have done differently to recognize his brother’s depressed state and intentions. That’s typical when someone commits suicide.

Another brother-in-law , my sister’s first husband, had undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and could be angry and volatile. It was difficult to raise a family and deal with his ups and downs. He never owned guns for which we were all thankful. It was her second husband, with depression and a lot of anger who used his gun ( he owned many) and shot and killed her.

My brother, who served in the Viet Nam war has PTSD along with Parkinsons disease, depression and is now a former alcoholic. He owns many guns, even his service pistol. When we realized that his mental, emotional and physical status was such that he could become a danger to himself, we took the guns away and they have not yet been returned to him. He gave us permission to do this. Other families can do the same.

Which brings me to the issue of military suicides:

With nearly half of all suicides in the military having been committed with privately owned firearms, the Pentagon and Congress are moving to establish policies intended to separate at-risk service members from their personal weapons.

The issue is a thorny one for the Pentagon. Gun rights advocates and many service members fiercely oppose any policies that could be construed as limiting the private ownership of firearms.

But as suicides continue to rise this year, senior Defense Department officials are developing a suicide prevention campaign that will encourage friends and families of potentially suicidal service members to safely store or voluntarily remove personal firearms from their homes.

This is a serious public health and safety problem and guns cannot be ignored as part of the problem and the solution. But it is not something we can’t work to solve.

My path has been to get involved in ways to reduce gun deaths of all kinds by educating people, lobbying, learning about the issue, being involved in my local Brady Campaign chapter and the independent state group, Protect Minnesota as well as serving on the Board of Trustees of the Brady Campaign. I have traveled to Washington DC for meetings and conferences and meetings with my Congressional delegation many times. I have spoken to groups large and small, written OpEd pieces, testified at the state legislature, organized events, and many other things. It’s been a path of some victories and many challenges.

Because of the people I have met who have lost loved ones, I am determined to continue what I am doing to make a difference. Telling stories about the risks of guns to families is important. Many gun suicides are unreported in the media so we don’t often hear about them. Families are bereft, may feel “guilty” about a family suicide or reluctant to speak about it. But more family members are speaking out. And, as it turns out, laws can matter.

In states with strong gun laws and less gun ownership gun suicides are lower than in other states. A Harvard School of Public Heath study reflects the facts:

The lesson? Many lives would likely be saved if people disposed of their firearms, kept them locked away, or stored them outside the home. Says HSPH Professor of Health Policy David Hemenway, the ICRC’s director: “Studies show that most attempters act on impulse, in moments of panic or despair. Once the acute feelings ease, 90 percent do not go on to die by suicide.”

But few can survive a gun blast. That’s why the ICRC’s Catherine Barber has launched Means Matter, a campaign that asks the public to help prevent suicide deaths by adopting practices and policies that keep guns out of the hands of vulnerable adults and children. For details, visit www.meansmatter.org.

The Violence Policy Center confirms what the Harvard School of Public Health reported about the rate of gun ownership and the rate of gun deaths:

“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.”

And far too often murders are also suicides in progress. Suicidal people with guns seem to want to take others with them. Their angry or depressed states of mind seek a final solution for their own problems by taking the lives of others. From this article:

What can we do to stop the killing? Murder-suicides are nearly always committed with a gun, and it is critical to stop potential killers from having easy access to firearms. One important step would be to restrict access to guns for individuals who have a history of domestic violence or have threatened suicide. Policymakers at the state and federal levels should pass stronger domestic violence prevention legislation to help keep guns away from domestic abusers. States should also establish domestic violence task forces. In addition, we need aggressive enforcement of laws that prohibit individuals with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction or who are the subject of a restraining order for domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm.

Finally, we should establish a comprehensive, nationwide database to track murder-suicides, in order to fully understand the scope of this problem and how we can stop it.

Suicide is commonly misperceived as a solitary, desperate act. Yet our research shows that murder-suicides claim the lives of spouses, intimate partners, and children — and nearly always involve a gun. We must immediately take steps to help prevent this especially horrific form of domestic violence.

As we study the issues of gun violence, we can learn more about the causes and effects and some are drawing a line from suicidal people to mass shootings. From this article:

Mass murder is a form of suicide in that the perpetrator of such atrocities is often an enraged and fatalistic individual who intends to die at the scene of the massacre. From this perspective, the increase in mass shootings over the last ten years is very consistent with the increase in suicide.

To sum this up, guns matter for those considering suicide. Gun suicides account for the majority of our country’s gun deaths. We don’t have to accept this nor should we. As a country we don’t sit back and accept the rate of death from auto accidents or smoking. We dig in and do something about reducing the chances of death and injury. Gun suicides are preventable. The fact that we are doing little to stop them is a sad commentary on our American gun culture. If we but do some common sense things and have the necessary national discussion we can save lives.

It’s past time to deal with the tragedy of suicide and gun suicides in particular. Let’s get to work. Join an organization working on gun violence prevention and get involved. The organization with which I am involved is the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and also the state independent group, Protect Minnesota. They can use your help, your energy, your financial donations and your talents.

 

 

 

 

July 4, 2016- Who will protect the children?

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American Banner

On this Independence Day, I will again remind my readers that what goes up must come down. My friend Joe Jaskolka knows this all too well. His story is told here by my friend who writes the New Trajectory blog. Joe survived the bullet that lodged in his brain that New Years’ Eve of 1999 when he was just 11 years old. Someone celebrating their second amendment rights changed Joe’s life forever. I have met Joe and his father. I know how his life is now. Who protected him that night from someone with a gun? No one could have predicted this.

As The Trace wrote last New Years, the odds are low of being hit by a bullet fired into the air:

But if the odds of being hit by celebratory gunfire are indeed low, so too are the odds of ever being caught for engaging in it in the U.S. Cases where authorities can precisely pinpoint the location of the gun — let alone identify the shooter — are incredibly rare. The legal consequences for those who do get caught are mixed, with charges ranging from the misdemeanor to felony level and fines ranging widely.

And why do people do this in the first place? On one level, the answer is the obvious one: It’s recklessness, frequently abetted by drunkenness.

People may actually not realize that the bullets they launch into the air will inevitably land somewhere, with potentially disastrous results. But on another level, there are basic economics at work.

Many municipalities ban outright the sale of another New Year’s staple: fireworks. That means residents have to be able to afford to travel outside city limits or even cross state lines in order to buy them. Meanwhile, ammunition can be plentiful, already at hand, and, in many cases, simply cheaper.

But when guns, celebration and possibly alcohol are mixed together with people whose rights don’t come with responsibilities, these kinds of shootings happen often enough that we should be very concerned that your child or grandchild could be affected next.

Anyone with common sense should understand that bullets shot into the air do come down somewhere. What are they thinking? Not much apparently. Those guns bought for self protection more often than not end up harming or killing some other innocent American citizen. 

So my purpose in writing about this is that, before I met Joe Jaskolka, I never thought about the possibility that someone would be injured or killed by celebratory gunfire. I want others to know that this is possible and to make sure there are not armed people nearby celebrating on our national holidays by shooting bullets into the air.

Fireworks also injure people every year. Interestingly, this article reveals some statistics about fireworks injuries:

As states have relaxed laws related to fireworks sales over the past decade, emergency doctors saw an increase in both the number and severity of fireworks-related injuries among young people, the data show.
They determined that the number of patients under age 21 treated and released by emergency departments between 2006 and 2012 rose modestly: from 4.28 per 100,000 people in 2006 to 5.12 in 2012. Significantly larger increases were seen in injuries requiring inpatient hospital admission, which skyrocketed (if you’ll pardon the pun) from 29% of cases in 2006 to 50% in 2012.

Laws matter as it turns out and are there for good reason- to protect children from avoidable injuries and death.

Rights come with responsibilities. On this day when we celebrate freedom, independence and love of country, we should take our responsibilities very seriously.

A few days ago, a story circulated about a 3 year old Kansas child who was visiting a home in Tennessee with his parents. Unfortunately and tragically for all concerned, the boy found a loaded gun in the home, not stored away from small hands, and he shot himself in the face.

He died.

What caught my attention on the news story video was the sign in front of the house that promoted the owner’s second amendment rights with the saying: “protected by the second amendment”.

Who was there to protect that child from the owner’s second amendment rights?

The second amendment does not, according to the gun lobby, guarantee the right of the rest of us to be safe from those who promote it with no restrictions, regulations or moderation.

This is not acceptable and should not be accepted as fact.

Who will protect our children from those who are not practicing their second amendment rights responsibly? Most gun owners are safe and responsible. But many of them refuse to participate in efforts to make sure all are responsible.

What can we do?

Pass safe storage laws so guns must be stored safely or there will be a penalty.

Pass Child Access Prevention Laws and enforce them to make adults responsible for leaving loaded guns within easy reach of children.

Make sure all gun sales come with a Brady background check.

Pass laws to make sure domestic abusers don’t have guns. Children ( and women) are often shot during domestic shootings.

ASK  if there are unsecured, loaded guns in the homes where your children play.

Require everyone who buys a gun to have training with a firearm before walking out of the gun store or gun show with said gun.

Restrict the number of rounds allowed to be used with firearms.

Restrict the features that can be added to assault type rifles to turn them into weapons of mass destruction.

Charge gun owners whose guns are used by children to kill themselves or others.

Contact your elected leaders and demand that they act to save the children.

Join an organization working to prevent gun violence. It’s about prevention.

Understand that any restrictions on firearms does not lead to confiscation of guns or taking away second amendment rights. Remember that these are myths promoted by the corporate gun lobby.

Report anyone using a gun irresponsibly at a celebratory community or family event.

Don’t assume anything. Take irresponsible gun use seriously. With rights come responsibilities.

Change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America.

On this day of national celebration, please remember that we are better than this and must act to keep our children safe from devastating gun violence.

A new NRA website called sharethesafety.org is promoting the purchase of guns for others who can’t “afford” them. This is the exact opposite of everything we know about gun safety. A brazen attempt to arm people in neighborhoods where supposedly people can’t afford guns is a ludicrous and dangerous promotion of gun sales to make a profit off of death and injury. We already know that our young people of color in these kinds of neighborhoods are already quite heavily armed and causing death and mayhem every day in inner city urban neighborhoods.

Minneapolis has seen an increase in shootings in affected neighborhoods this year. Recently a beloved woman, Birdell Beeks, was shot by a stray bullet in her neighborhood. All we need are more guns legally or illegally owned  killing innocent people.

Please read the Violence Policy Center’s “Blood Money” if you don’t believe me.

It’s not sharing the safety. It’s sharing the death.

This is the American we have. Is this the America we deserve to have or want? I think not.

Remember that more people have died from gunshot injuries in American than all Americans who have died in wars. Is this patriotic and love of country?

Only in American, the nation we are celebrating today, do shootings of and by toddlers take more lives than terrorists do:

In the US in 2015, more people were shot and killed by toddlers than by terrorists. In 2013, the New York Times reported on children shot by other children: “Children shot accidentally – usually by other children – are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.”

Children and innocent Americans should not be collateral damage. If we take this seriously like we do death by any other cause,  we will do something about it. If we love our country and are patriotic, we will do whatever it takes to save our children from a country dripping in guns and bleeding from gun deaths and injuries like no other country not at war.

#Enough.

Be safe out there today and Happy Fourth of July.

 

UPDATE:

Disclaimer- It turns out that the website, sharethesafety.com is a hoax and a parody about the NRA.  Sometimes parodies reflect the truth and in this case, we can all believe that the NRA would promote the buying of guns for people who can’t afford them because they often use that myth as a way to complain about gun restrictions. What I also find interesting is that low-income Americans can barely afford clothing, food and the necessities of life. It’s likely they won’t need a gun to live their daily lives. The other point is that there are young people who don’t have a lot of money to afford guns but can easily get them on the streets cheaply. Easy access to guns for those who shouldn’t be able to get them is a serious public health and safety problem in our country. Guns are weapons designed to kill other people. They should be expensive and more difficult to access.

According to the above article, the NRA has filed an official complaint about the men who launched this hoax website. It hit too close to home apparently.

Worlds collide

I remember the episode of Seinfeld where the character “George Costanza” chastised Jerry Seinfeld for inviting his fianceé, Susan, to a movie. George was upset because he wanted to keep Susan away from his world with his friends. Here is the segment:

I had an exchange on my last post with one of my readers about the lawful ownership of tanks by private individuals. In my world, the people with whom I associate would find this to be just plain ridiculous and would wonder why in the world anyone would want to own a tank much less the legality of such ownership. One can assume that these tanks are not operational and only for the purpose of collecting them. But again, why?

An article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted this world of tank owning:

When their insurance agent inquired about their plans for the tank, the Neal brothers emailed back, “We are going to use it to take over the world.”
Says Ken Neal, 45: “A tank is cool.”

A tank is also expensive, with good ones going for the price of some houses.

Sigh.

In Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine he asks if the right to bear arms should be extended to nuclear bombs and other such military armaments. Does it? How far can we go with the amendment that was written more than 200 hundred years ago by the founding fathers that are so often “quoted” or mis quoted by gun rights extremists. From the film:

Is this the world envisioned by our founding fathers?

A Facebook friend, involved in gun violence prevention, posted this photo of a quote from the Jefferson Memorial while on a recent trip to Washington D.C.

Thomas Jefferson quote

 

The world has changed since Thomas Jefferson wrote this quote while reflecting on the Constitution. I think everyone can recognize that. Since then several wars have occurred leaving behind new types of arms. ( and by the way, more Americans have died from gun violence just since 1968 than from all Americans killed in wars since the Constitution was written). Now some of these arms ( weapons) are marketed as “common sporting rifles”. AK 47s have been converted to become an ordinary civilian weapon for mass shooters or those who believe the government is coming for their guns.

The inventor of the AK 47 expressed regrets for how his invention has been used in wars and in civilian deaths around the world:

“I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?” he wrote.

“The longer I live, the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man to have the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.”

AR 15s are also used by mass shooters such as at Sandy Hook Elementary school where a teen shooter knew perfectly well that using an AR 15 would inflict as much damage as possible in a very short time in order to kill as many first graders as he could. From the article:

“It’s a favorite among sportsmen, target shooters and competitors,” Stewart told CBS News. “It’s also popular as a home defense platform.”

Lightweight and easy to master with about 30 minutes of instruction, the AR-15 was invented in 1959 for the military, but was modified for civilian use beginning in 1963.

“The AR-15 is America’s rifle,” Stewart said. “You’re going to find more of those in safes at home than you’ll find of any other rifle in the country.”

Civilian use of the weapon is an abiding issue though.

There once was a nationwide ban on such assault weapons, imposed in 1994 following a number of mass shootings in the ’80s and ’90s.

When it was lifted ten years later, gun rights advocates cheered and sales rose.

Now the parents of those first graders and the relatives of the adults also killed in that heinous shooting are suing the manufacturer of the AR 15 because said manufacturer knows that these types of semi automatic rifles originally designed as war weapons that can take large capacity ammunition magazines are actually not common sporting rifles but meant to kill a lot of people in one place at a time in short order.

Worlds collide. The world of gun rights extremists is not understood by those of us who want safer communities and fewer people shot to death or injured by the many guns that are now accessible to average Americans. And vice versa. Was this the vision of our founding fathers? Doubtful. They had the common sense to realize that the world would change long after their own deaths and that the country and its’ Constitution should also change to reflect different times. They set down some principles that have helped govern our country for the last 200 plus years. For the most part they have worked well. But when it came to only white property owners having the right to vote, the new world had to change. Slaves were no longer. Black people were freed and demanded the right to vote. Women decided that they had the same rights as men to vote and demanded that right. It took a long time to get there which, looking back, seems almost surreal.

And so we plod along trying to make the world a safer place and hoping that gun deaths and injuries can be prevented with stronger gun laws to reflect the current world. The internet has provided a new market place for the sale of guns where private sellers can connect with private buyers and exchange guns for money with no background checks. Let’s look at just one of many hidden camera videos of how easy it is to buy any gun on-line.

“When you need the money you need the money.”

Sigh. Follow the money.

The founding fathers did not anticipate this world. When the Brady law was enacted, there was a provision for private sellers to be able to sell collections of guns at gun shows and other places without having to ask for background checks. The world has changed since 1994. Private “collectors” now set up tables at gun shows with the same types of guns and as many sometimes as licensed dealers. And they don’t have to require background checks from buyers. Another Brady Campaign hidden camera video to show the real world of private sales at gun shows:

Colin Goddard (in the video) was shot and injured at the Virginia Tech mass shooting.

Guns don’t fall out of the sky. They are not powder rifles any more. One more video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence to show you what I mean about the changed world of guns since the second amendment was written by our founding fathers:

 

Mass destruction is possible with the weapons developed since the 2nd amendment was written. Weapons designed for military use are now available to citizens. And some gun extremists actually believe they will be at war with their own government. This kind of fear and paranoia is stoked by the corporate gun lobby where profits are the bottom line. And so resisting all common sense measures to stop guns from going from the legal market to the illegal market are stopped by their nonsensical rhetoric.

And so the devastation continues with almost daily reporting of toddlers accessing loaded guns owned by their parents or other relatives who think their rights to own guns apparently don’t come with the responsibility to keep others safe from shooting themselves or others. Domestic shootings continue unabated. Gang shootings are taking the lives of young people of color in our large urban cities. Gun suicides are taking the lives of too many older white men and young (mostly) men and teens.

Worlds do collide. Truth is often stranger than fiction. Just look at the Presidential race if you don’t believe me. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is ramping up the nonsense and fear by making claims that if Hillary Clinton is elected as our President she will methodically order the confiscation of all of the more than 300 million guns in circulation in America. If you believe this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. 

So what now? Will we ever be able to convince a majority of our elected leaders to support the views of the majority of Americans without fear of being attacked by the minority but well funded and mythically powerful corporate gun lobby. Yes, a lot of Americans own guns but fewer homes have guns than in many years. Some Americans own many guns. Yes, a lot of Americans hunt and use guns for recreation but they don’t oppose stronger gun laws. Yes, a small minority of Americans like to carry loaded guns around in public and seem to think they have some sort of constitutional right to do so (can you find that in the wording of the second amendment?) But do they realize that carrying a gun in public is more often to result in incidents like those below than actually using that gun in self defense?

Kentucky concealed carry permit holder discharges gun “accidentally” in hospital.

South Carolina student “accidentally” discharges gun in a school and shoots himself.

3 year old finds gun in Dad’s backpack and shoots and kills himself.

This is the real world. It is not fiction. This is where the world of the gun extremists and gun lobby collide with the world of actual daily shootings that could be avoided and prevented if we put our heads together to make it happen.

Slowly but surely, the public is recognizing that we can do something about the devastation of gun violence in America. As more people are affected by gun violence or are made aware of the truth of the matter, they are joining the many organizations and individuals working to prevent gun violence. And politicians are recognizing that supporting reasonable gun laws that don’t affect law abiding gun owners or take away rights is a winning issue.

We are better than this. Let’s get to work because we’ve had #Enough and refuse to be intimidated by those who make claims that are not true. We may never bring the two worlds together but we can bring the majority who reside in the middle and believe we make changes together to save lives.

 

Violence by bullets

Basic RGBWe live in a violent country.  Unfortunately, violence has always been in human nature. Various ways of committing violence over time have resulted in too many deaths to count. Why are we so violent? The search for answers to that question has been centuries long and will always be with us. But we are living in this time right now and so are dealing with what is front of our faces every day. There is an understanding that purposely killing another human being is violence no matter the method. When people die by bullet(s) their deaths cannot be called anything but violent.

Mike the Gun Guy has written a blog post about suicide by gun and whether or not it should be considered in the category of gun violence. It is important to make this point because most gun deaths in our country are due to suicide. If the gun lobby wants to lower the number of people they believe are killed by bullets, they throw out the numbers of suicides. It doesn’t fit with their idea that a gun for self defense in the home can be used in other ways rather than self defense. I will discuss this later in this post. For now, let’s look at what Mike has to say:

But let’s drop the euphemism and look at reality: “States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups.  It remained true after accounting for poverty, urbanization and unemployment.” The link between gun ownership and suicide is particularly evident among teens, according to researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and the fastest-growing age-group prone to suicides are teens. Since 2007, the overall rate of gun suicide has increased by 12%, the gun suicide rate among teens is up by 42%.

First of all, in a paragraph previous to the one above, Mike writes about the National Shooting Sports Foundation actually offering safety tips to gun owners on its’ website and comes close to saying guns are a risk in homes. That’s good news. In a recent blog post, I argued that if people understood the risks of owning guns they would, at the least, be more aware of their responsibilities to keep guns locked up and away from small kids and teens. One of the age groups with high rates of gun suicides are teens.

But then, Mike talks about the use of the word violence to refer to gun suicides:

Don’t think that suicide isn’t gun violence?  Think again.  Here’s how violence is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Notice it doesn’t say ‘someone else,’ because that’s a crime called aggravated assault.

Violence means damage and there’s nothing out there that can damage someone as effectively or quickly as a gun, particularly when you don’t even have to aim.  As far as I’m concerned, at least when it comes to suicide, maybe the GVP community should just drop the ‘V.’

I say we don’t drop the “V”. Violence happens every day. But most of the violent deaths are committed with firearms. And most of the firearms deaths are suicides. There are solutions to this kind of violence. I write about them in almost every post. Common sense leads us to the conclusion that, since firearms are the cause of so many deaths and injuries, something should be done about the access to them, who should have them, how they are stored, how the firearms are sold, what sex, race and age group die in the highest numbers, etc. We are already doing some of this research but we need a lot more if we are to deal with gun violence as a public health epidemic.

So now I want to talk about the idea of guns for self defense since that is the reason a lot of people buy guns. The Violence Policy Center has released a new report about guns for self defense. From this press release about the study:

The study finds that in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, there were only 211 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the SHR. Twenty states reported zero justifiable homicides in 2013. That year, there were 7,838 criminal firearm homicides.

In 2013, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 37 criminal homicides. This ratio does not even take into account the tens of thousands of lives needlessly lost in gun suicides and unintentional shootings that year.

The study also finds only a tiny fraction of the intended victims of violent crime or property crime employ guns for self-defense. Over a three-year period from 2012 to 2014, less than one percent of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a firearm, and only 0.2 percent of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a firearm.

“Self-defense is the big lie that the firearms industry and gun lobby use to promote gun sales. The fact is that any gun is far more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional killing than in a justifiable homicide,” states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “A gun is far more likely to be stolen than used in self-defense.”

Guns are designed to kill people so if a gun is purchased for self defense isn’t that because the owner intends to use it at some point to kill or injure another human being? If people were warned about the risks like smokers are when they buy a pack of cigarettes, would it make a difference? Maybe. If people had mandatory training before being able to acquire a gun, would it make a difference? Maybe. So why not do these things because they certainly wouldn’t hurt anything and they just might prevent some senseless gun deaths?

When States United to Prevent Gun Violence set up a phony gun shop in New York City and explained to prospective gun buyers that the type of gun they wanted to buy was used in a recent mass shooting, the buyers changed their minds. Reality hit. Take a look:

Guns do have a history. All guns start out as a legal purchase but get into the illegal market in several ways- sold without a background check to someone who shouldn’t have a gun or to someone who intends to sell the gun without a background check to someone the seller does not know; stealing; straw purchase; trafficked on the street. If a gun doesn’t have its’ own personal history, the type of gun sold does and perversely, after a mass shooting, some Americans rush out to buy the very type of gun used in that mass shooting.

Where is common sense?

I watched  the movie American Gun. It is a movie that traces the history of a gun used to kill a man’s daughter. In the end ( spoiler alert) the gun used to kill his daughter was his own gun that had been stolen. Guns have histories.

Back to talking about the word violence. Many gun violence prevention organizations do use that word for a reason. People who die from gunshot injuries die a violent and usually sudden, unexpected death. There is no way around that. Whether the bullets came from a gun used in a suicide, a homicide or an “accidental” shooting, the bullets cause a violent reaction to a person’s body. And so we have:

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The Violence Policy Center

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Protect Minnesota, Minnesotans working together to prevent gun violence

States United to Prevent Gun Violence

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

And many more too numerous to list here.

Violence is pervasive in America. Gun violence accounts for much of violence. Our media is littered with reports about shootings and shootings cause violence to the bodies of the victims. It is a violent death for sure. Bullets are designed to do damage to soft tissue inside of a person’s body.

A new study also suggests that gun violence is worse than we thought it was. Vox.com has reported here:

Beyond the implications for policy research, the findings are simply alarming. It’s hard to imagine that America’s gun violence problem is actually worse than we think, given that the country, even after the big drop in crime over the past few decades, still fares much worse than its developed peers. But this study shows that may be the case. At the very least, we’re not counting a lot of shootings as shootings.

How can we not count shootings as shootings? Sometimes when shootings result in only injuries or minor injuries, they are not counted. A shooting is a shooting because it results in less safe communities and a gun culture where too many people become victims of devastating violence that has a ripple effect.

Unless we have the common sense to talk about the issue for what it is, nothing will change. Perhaps if we showed photos taken by law enforcement at shooting scenes our legislators would change their minds about doing nothing about the violence. Perhaps if one of the gun rights extremists who argued with me at the hearing this week in the Minnesota Senate on the background check bill had seen a photo of my sister lying in a pool of blood at the shooting scene, he would have had just a little empathy for why I am trying to prevent gun deaths.

More on this in my next post.

I just know we can do better than this. Not addressing gun violence as encompassing all kinds of gun deaths is putting our heads in the sand. More guns have not made us safer and to the affected families, no matter what the cause of the gun death, it was a shooting that took the life of a loved one in a dramatic, sudden, unexpected and violent way.