Happy Mother’s Day

pitcher_flwrs_csIt’s that day when we remember our mothers. Mothers deserve our respect. Everyone has one for one thing. My sister was shot and killed in 1992, leaving behind 3 children and 3 step children. Her grandchildren were born after her death so they never got to know her and her adult children do not have a mother to whom to send flowers and a card.

Mothers started a movement in 2000 with the Million Mom March which I attended. It was on Mother’s Day and was meant to call attention to the fact that mothers cared a lot about losing children, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and others to gunshot injuries. All we wanted were some common sense gun measures that would save lives. President Clinton and Hillary Clinton were there that day to support the mostly mothers in the crowd,

The mother who started the movement, Donna Dees-Thomases was so incensed about the shooting at the Jewish Community Day Care in 1999 that she got a permit for the march thinking that maybe 50,000 would show up. And then Columbine happened. And then the country was tuned in to school shootings and 750.000 showed up on the National Mall to demand changes to our gun laws.

Some of the mothers whose children survived the shooting at the Jewish Community Center marched in 2000 and have remained active in efforts to stop gun violence.

But Congress chose not to listen to the mothers who marched that day.

The Brady Campaign merged with the Million Mom March and its’ chapters continue to work for gun safety reform.

One small measure passed after the Virginia Tech shooting- to require states to send the records of those who were adjudicated mentally ill to the FBI data base so people like the shooter of 32 at Virginia Tech would be prohibited from buying guns at Federally Licensed Dealers only. Many mothers lost children on that day and some of them whose children survived have become activists for gun violence prevention.

Let us not forget though that this symbolic measure is not enough to stop someone intent on harming others from getting guns from private sellers at gun shows or on-line. Because…..rights?

And then the Aurora theater shooting happened. I have come to know one mother who lost her only daughter (Jessica Ghawi) in that horrific shooting. Her mother Sandy has been working ever since so that other mothers won’t suffer the pain she has suffered.

After that shooting, what did Congress do?

Right.

 

 

And then 20 small children were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2014. Mothers lost their precious children in what has become a marker for the cowardice of Congress failing mothers and others by not passing a background check bill that came before them.

The NRA opposed the bill. Enough said.

I know the mother of a young TV journalist, Allison Parker, who was shot on live TV by someone who should not have had a gun. Her anguish is palpable but Barbara is not deterred by the cowardice of our leaders.

The meaning of mother’s day for those mothers and the families of mothers who have lost their lives to gun violence is forever changed.

After Sandy Hook, Shannon Watts started a movement called Moms Demand Action. Shannon Watts is a mother. So are most of the members of MDA. They are also fathers, brothers, sisters, and others who work to prevent gun violence. She is also threatened and mocked by the NRA and others who must be quite unnerved by hundreds of thousands of mothers demanding change.

What has happened since then? Some states have passed universal background check laws. Some have passed assault weapons bans.. Some have passed Extreme Risk Protection Orders. 

But in defiance of the majority and of mothers, many states have also made it easier for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them. 

Shameful.

 

It’s more than a shame. Shame is not enough for the lack of leadership and courage by many of our leaders. The mothers and others in the groups I have mentioned represent the 97% of us who are asking for change in the name of the dead and injured. The corporate gun lobby and specifically the NRA represents about 7% of gun owners and even fewer of the entire nation.

 

Mothers and women continue their efforts to demand change. The Women’s March after the inaugural of our 45th President in protest the election of a man who does not support issues that affect most women and their families. Many mothers were there that day and our kids watched as we marched in DC and all over America in one of the biggest marches in DC. Gun safety reform was one of the issues and continues to one of the issues of concern for the Women’s March.

The student movement that began on Valentine’s Day of this year after the Parkland shooting has stirred up the country and changed everything. The mothers of those students are proud of their kids and the courage they exhibit that our leaders have not. Again- a record breaking crowd in DC came out on March 24th to March For Our Lives and let our leaders know that change must happen.

The President made some initial noise but as always, he sputters and spouts and preens for the cameras and then does nothing. Or worse, he goes in the opposite direction.

How can you raise the hopes of victims and survivors and then crash them after such a horrendous shooting?

Shameful and cynical.

We’ve collectively had #Enough. We know we are better than this but our leaders are failing us. They are letting mothers and others die senseless and avoidable deaths because they lack the courage of the mothers, students and others who are raising their voices and fighting back.

They are letting our children be sitting ducks in our schools. They are failing the next generation.

But change is coming. Mothers will not be silent. Remember the origin of this holiday:

The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Mothers and others just want our leaders to do the right thing. Doing it soon will save the lives of many.

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Star Tribune editorial board published this piece for today’s edition:

Gun violence is not a Democrat-vs.-Republican issue. It’s not a rural-vs.-urban issue. And despite what leaders are telling you, there is ample time left to pass legislation that would make a real difference. When they need to beat the clock, legislators pass massive bills in minutes with virtually no discussion. That’s not an ideal way to legislate, but make no mistake, it happens. Avoiding debate all session and then claiming a lack of time is cowardly and falls short of the leadership Minnesotans expect.

Republicans should pass their school security package as a stand-alone bill, knowing Gov. Mark Dayton would sign it. They should pass enhanced criminal-background checks. That issue has been discussed for years at the Capitol.

“What is it going to take in Minnesota and American society to curb gun violence?” Serier asked an editorial writer. “In our schools we have to have active-shooter drills for kindergartners. That is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever heard of. If that’s the world we’re living in, it’s time to change it.”

Will it take mothers losing more children and children losing more mothers?

The answer is yes since nothing is being done to stop the devastation.

Pass the bills supported by almost everyone. Give mothers a gift that will last forever. Give flowers and gifts but the lasting gift of knowing that we can prevent some of the senseless shootings in our communities will at the least give mothers peace of mind.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. Enjoy your families. Keep working for common sense and making our families safe from gun violence.

Keep marching and keep advocating.

The odds of the game

Blank Red Dice Shows Copyspace Gambling And LuckIn my last post, I wrote about the “game” of gun rights advocacy vs. the “game” plan for the gun safety reform advocates. The game is not over yet but we lost a skirmish in Minnesota this week as the Republican led legislature rolled the dice and came down on the side of cowardice:

But Republicans who control the state Senate, with support from three DFL senators, rejected Latz’s bids to attach the two amendments to a wide-ranging spending bill that the Senate considered on Thursday. The bill dedicates nearly $20 million for schools to hire counselors or school resources officers, update building security and develop mental health programs. It also increases the frequency of school employee background checks and provides grants for schools to audit their security.

The Senate votes were the biggest test to date of whether gun control supporters at the State Capitol could seize political momentum from the renewed national debate over guns in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, where 17 people were killed. Lawmakers across the nation have been considering similar gun regulations, and a recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found that 9 in 10 Minnesotans favor mandatory universal criminal background checks.

In light of new polling data showing strong support for universal background checks and majority support for an assault rifle ban and other safety measures, it’s remarkable that the speaker of the House, Kurt Daudt said this (from the article):

“Could gun legislation be something where the NRA supports it and it actually could help keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals? That’s the sort of thing we would need to look for,” said Daudt, who said he personally does not support universal background checks or the temporary removal of firearms, known as “red flag laws” or extreme risk protection orders.

Daudt said he sees no scenario where further gun restrictions pass in Minnesota this year.

He may or may not realize that the NRA represents a minority of Americans and even fewer gun owners. But he still opines that the approval of the NRA is needed on the watered down bills presented to them for a vote. Why? Good question. From the article:

Other studies show that gun owners strongly support more gun-safety regulations, including a federal database of gun sales, banning people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns and prohibiting ownership by those with a mental illness.

It’s not about rights and the second amendment. It’s about keeping our communities safe from the devastation of gun violence. But nevertheless, they persist in their lies and innuendos. 2000 gun rights advocates gathered at the Minnesota Capitol yesterday, many armed. Were they afraid of each other? Why armed? To make the point that the “guys with the guns make the rules.” What rules?

Here are some of the wild and false statements made at the rally:

Lee said that he and other NRA leaders, including Wayne LaPierre, “were heartbroken over the senseless murders” in Parkland, but that gun-control supporters had exploited the shooting. “The ‘antis’ most recent tactic is to use the un­developed emotions of children to advance their cause,” he said.

Earlier in the rally, O’Neill said that she and other legislators supporting gun owners are “concerned for protecting life.”

“None of us wants to see an innocent person’s life taken away from them,” she said. “But taking guns away from law-abiding citizens is not the answer.”

Katie Peterson, a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Minnesota, came to the rally carrying a sign and wearing an NRA hat. She said she recently became a gun owner and felt it was important to show up and support the Second Amendment.

Peterson’s sign read: “After witnessing and experiencing abuse, I realized, I am my protector.”

She said that having a gun would have helped protect her during a domestic sexual assault she experienced.

Let’s stop right here. Having a gun will not protect women during domestic assaults.:

But the available evidence does not support the conclusion that guns offer women increased protection. Myriad studies show that the NRA and its allies grossly misrepresent the actual dangers women face. It is people they know, not strangers, who pose the greatest threat. There is also strong, data-based evidence that shows owning a gun, rather than making women safer, actually puts them at significantly greater risk of violent injury and death.

In some places and in some instances, women have, in fact, used guns to successfully defend themselves. But the case that gun rights advocates make when pitching guns as essential to women’s personal and family security goes beyond the anecdotal, leaning heavily on an oft-cited 1995 study by the Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck — a study built on faulty research. (…)

Women who were victims of attempted or completed crimes used guns to defend themselves just 0.4 percent of the time, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. (The survey uses a representative sample of 90,000 households in order to estimate national crime rates.) A Harvard study found that, of the more than 300 cases of sexual assault reported in the sample of NCVS data between 2007 and 2011, none were stopped by a firearm. Of the 1,119 sexual assaults reported in the NCVS from 1992 to 2001, a different study revealed that only a single case was stopped by defensive gun use. And, as we have shown in previous articles, even these numbers from the NCVS likely overestimate the true rate at which women protect themselves with firearms.

The truth matters.

None of the measures proposed would take away anyone’s second amendment rights. If they want their guns, have at it. But let me just say that if that is the case, you may be rolling the dice against yourself or your family because the chances of your needing that gun for self defense are minimal compared to the chances of being shot or using the gun to shoot someone while in your home- as in a domestic shooting or a suicide or a child finding that gun and using it “accidentally” to shoot him/herself or someone else in the home.

From the above linked article:

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.” (…)

Even if someone wanted to use a gun in self-defense, they probably wouldn’t be very successful, says Mike Weisser, firearms instructor and author of the blog “Mike The Gun Guy.” He says many people who carry a gun aren’t properly trained to use it in this way, and there is no performance validation standard for police officers.

“If we don’t even have a minimum standard, not for training, but for performance validation for our law enforcement,” he says, “how in God’s name is anybody going to say, ‘Well, just because you have a gun in your pocket, you know how to use it in self-defense?’ You don’t.”

But never mind the facts. The die is not cast yet. Gun safety reform advocates were present at the Capitol all week showing support for a sit-in supporting passing a few life saving measures. The point was made but legislators chose to close their eyes and ignore what their constituents want.

Common sense tells us, along with strong public opinion, that passing background check and extreme risk protection orders will not result in gun confiscation. The truth of the matter is that most gun owners undergo background checks anyway when purchasing guns from licensed dealers. Have their guns been confiscated? No.

The truth of the matter is that extreme risk protection orders will save lives and only temporarily remove guns from people who are clearly a danger to themselves or others. Remember the Nashville Waffle House shooting? Remember the Isla Vista shooting? Remember the Wisconsin Azana spa shooting? Remember the Virginia Tech shooting?

Memories are short apparently. And it’s too late once another person who should not have had a gun in the first place either shoots strangers, loved ones or him/herself in a state of anger, domestic abuse, severe mental illness, etc.

Why not prevent shootings in the first place? We already know that guns are not the first answer to preventing shootings. Check out the “hero” in the Nashville Waffle House shooting. But the gun rights advocates are sure that their just being at the scene as if unfolds will assure that they will save the day. The fact is it just doesn’t happen.

The Sutherland church shooting ended when the shooter left the scene. A gun owner pursued him and shot him but did not prevent the shooting in the first place.

Another small minority of Americans have permits to carry guns. Just having the permit does not mean the person will be carrying that gun wherever they go on a daily basis. In fact, many people have the permit as a way to legally purchase guns and just to have it. Carrying a gun around is inconvenient and a burden on the person carrying. Permit holders do actually make mistakes- sometimes deadly, sometimes not. “Accidentally” shooting someone you know or love is inexcusable and avoidable. Leaving loaded guns around where others can find them is avoidable and senseless. There should be no “mistakes” or “accidents” with guns. They are deadly weapons designed to kill people.

Check out this, this, this and this for just a few. With rights come responsibilities.

The “game” needs to be played fairly with the facts at hand and with the idea in mind that representing one’s constituents really does mean playing the hand on the side of gun safety reform.

The Minnesota legislature may have won a pyrrhic victory but they have not won the game. The cost is in human lives. The cost may be too great to sustain. Losing seats in November may the cost. Time will tell.

Virginia Tech remembered as shootings continue in America

Virginia Tech Shooting AnniversaryTomorrow is April 16th ( one day from the late tax day deadline this year)

I want to first remember the victims of the Virginia Tech mass shooting which happened on April 16, 2007. It was the worst mass school shooting after Columbine and still remains one of our country’s deadliest mass shootings. 32 died and 17 were injured. The effects of that shooting, even 11 years later, live on for those who were there, those left behind and the entire community. Gun violence has a ripple effect. No one forgets. The corporate gun lobby wants us to forget. They are not succeeding. If anything, we are remembering more and more as more and more of these kind of shootings and every day homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings continue apace.

The young man who got his hands on a gun and shot up the Virginia Tech campus should not have had a gun and was clearly irresponsible with his gun. Not only was he irresponsible, he intentionally murdered innocent people. He was a supposed “legal” gun owner as his name was not in the FBI database flagging him as prohibited to buy a gun. It should have been but our loose gun laws allowed him to purchase that gun and kill people. Why did he want his gun? For self defense? No. To kill people.

Many gun owners are responsible with their guns and own them for hunting or sport. Many gun owners are not interested in shooting at people who they believe might do them harm because they are not paranoid. Most gun owners don’t just shoot first and ask questions later. In fact most Americans don’t do this because most Americans don’t own guns in their homes for hunting, sport or self protection. And they are more safe than those who do as it turns out.

I write all the time on this blog about the rare instances of needing a gun for self protection in your home or in public and the rare incidents of said uses of a gun. NPR posted this article a day ago about this very topic.:

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tellsHere & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.”

The gun rights advocates beg to differ with little evidence or actual facts- from the article:

But the research spread by the gun lobby paints a drastically different picture of self-defense gun uses. One of the most commonly cited estimates of defensive gun uses, published in 1995 by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, concluded there are between 2.2 and 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually.

One of the main criticisms of this estimate is that researchers can’t seem to find the people who are shot by civilians defending themselves because they don’t show up in hospital records.

“The Kleck-Gertz survey suggests that the number of DGU respondents who reported shooting their assailant was over 200,000, over twice the number of those killed or treated [for gunshots] in emergency departments,” crime prevention researcher Philip Cook wrote in the book Envisioning Criminology.

Kleck says there is no record of these gunshot victims because most instances of self-defense gun use are not reported.

Hmmmm. Really? Why not report these incidents if it is so important to you? Because they are not happening, that’s why.

“The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” Hemenway says. “It’s a well-known problem in epidemiology that if something’s a rare event, and you just try to ask how many people have done this, you will get incredible overestimates.”

In fact, Cook told The Washington Post that the percentage of people who told Kleck they used a gun in self-defense is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliensThe Post notes that “a more reasonable estimate” of self-defense gun uses equals about 100,000 annually, according to the NCVS data.

Check out this chart from the Gun Violence Archive for facts:

You can see for yourself how often guns are used defensively and how many end up being used to kill or injure someone by comparison.  Not even close.

The NRA extremists in the form of their leaders and their minions, have ratcheted up the fear and paranoia for so many decades that they have convinced a certain segment of gun owners that they should be afraid of their own shadows. They are afraid of the wrong thing.

Three incidents from the past day or two prove my point.

 

This one involved a black teen who got lost while looking for his school. He innocently knocked on the door of the home of one of those aforementioned paranoid and racist homeowners:

A black teenager was nearly shot and killed by a racist homeowner after missing his bus and trying to ask a neighbor for directions. (…)

“I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady’s door,” Brennan told the TV station. “Then she started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High, and she kept yelling at me.”

“Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun,” the teen added. “I saw it and started to run — and that’s when I heard the gunshot.”

The shot missed the fleeing teen, and Brennan said he kept running until he found a hiding place, and that’s when he broke down crying.

His crime was being Black and lost and knocking on the wrong door, apparently. And more from the boy:

“My mom says that black boys get shot because sometimes they don’t look their age, and I don’t look my age,” he said. “I’m 14, but I don’t look 14. I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic.”

He was one of the lucky ones who did not become a statistic. But way too many do.

This gun owner should be held accountable for, at the least, reckless discharge of a gun and at the most, intent to injure or kill someone. Let’s see how this one turns out.

Another teenaged Oklahoma boy did, however, become a statistic. His own father shot and killed him in his haste to shoot first and ask questions later. Without that gun in his hand, his son would be alive today. And what did he do wrong? Let’s look:

When Tony Rutherford, 47, arrived in the middle of the night, he saw his older son’s pickup truck cut across a field. It was supposed to be parked.

According to the release, Rutherford “gave chase and fired his rifle at the driver several times.”

At least one of those rounds hit the driver, who was pronounced dead at the scene. That driver, found slumped over in the driver’s seat of the pickup, was later identified as Rutherford’s 13-year-old son.

“What is unique about this case is that we have a father who thought he was protecting an older son’s property, and in fact, he shot and killed his younger son, not knowing it was his younger son,” Jennifer Brown, OSBI spokeswoman, told KOAM.

Unique? No actually, incidents like this happen often enough in America as to be of grave concern. I have written many many times in this blog about family members “accidentally” killing each other when they mistake them for someone else and don’t use an ounce of common sense.

The boy’s death was totally avoidable and senseless. How will that father be able to live with what he did?

And then there is this, all too common stupid and dangerous use of a gun- an 8 year old had a loaded gun and fired it off while walking home from school with friends!:

Detectives said the gun is legally owned by a family member of the child.

Police said that the child took the gun that morning without the owner’s knowledge, and carried it to Harper Elementary in his backpack.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Lock up your darned guns everybody. Safe storage can save lives. Where is common sense?

Do I have to remind you all that these two gun owners were “law abiding” until suddenly they weren’t? And the parents of the 8 year old? I have no words. They were the “good guys” with guns that NRA VP Wayne LaPierre loves to talk about. As recently as the CPAC convention, mentioned in the above linked article, La Pierre was using the same old unprovable and nonsensical argument about those good guys out there with guns. And this happened just a week after the Parkland school shooting that shocked the nation and caused everyone to take a different look at the National Rifle Association. Take a look at the continuing rants of this man who represents a group that represents a very small minority of Americans- about 1.5% of us.

Wayne- we actually hate the shootings.

Gun ownership is going down. The NRA’s reputation is in the toilet. They are now part of the Mueller investigation.

What LaPierre and others sometimes talk about but don’t often do much about is that gun ownership requires not only common sense but responsibility, training, and restraint. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill. And kill they do. They are the only product on the market not regulated for safety. There are no training requirements to own a gun and very few for carrying one in public.

We are changing the culture and the conversation more slowly than we should since the body count is increasing every year.  

Finally the messaging of the corporate gun lobby is falling apart. It’s well past time for that to happen. Just as with gay marriage, the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke and driving while drunk changed laws and the culture, so too will allowing loose gun laws to lead to a national public health and safety epidemic.

Candidates and lawmakers are now publicly stating their support for measures that will save lives and claiming their “F” rating from the NRA proudly.

Yesterday I attended my congressional district convention as a delegate. Not one of the democratic candidates running or current sitting lawmakers were against passing reasonable laws to protect our kids and communities from the devastation of gun violence. Even those in districts where many gun owners and hunters live agreed that something has to be done. I had many conversations with these leaders and candidate as did many in the room. Gun violence prevention was on the top of the list as issues of concern.

The Parkland students and students all over this country are telling lawmakers that they are no longer willing to listen to their BS representing gun lobby speak. Students and others in the Virginia, Maryland, DC area came out for a rally at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia yesterday.  They ( we) are not going away any time soon. We are more committed than ever to getting things done to save lives.

We are better than this and the public has had about #enough.

#Neveragain.

 

 

Virginia Tech-moving stones

Virginia TechIt’s Easter tomorrow for those who practice the Christian faith. It’s also the Passover season for Jews. What will the victims and survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting be doing and thinking about on the 10 year anniversary of what was our nation’s most deadly and heinous mass shooting until the Sandy Hook shooting took the lives of 20 first graders and 6 educators and the Orlando nightclub shooting took the lives of 50- yes 50 innocent Americans?

When will we ever learn?

The grief of the Virginia Tech shooting victims is matched by the grief of 90 families a day after a gunshot injury became a gun death due to homicide, suicide or an “accidental” gun discharge. This is the daily carnage and the daily news in America in spite of holidays, families pleading for common sense and brave elected leaders willing to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and demand that the devastation be, at the least, reduced and at the most prevented.

We know there is no way to stop all shootings but shouldn’t we at least try? When a public health epidemic that takes the lives of so many people every year (32,000-33,000) we always get busy to study why and then recommend changes or cures that can prevent the cause of the disease or cause of death.

In America, instead, we are making things worse by loosening gun laws at the state and federal level. Why? Good question. I don’t really believe that the gun lobby wants people to die. They couldn’t could they? They must be affected by the photos and videos of all of the shootings that take place on a regular basis everywhere.

So why do they resist gun safety reform and efforts to prevent shootings so vigorously?

It’s a question that we must ask and it needs an answer.

Following the money is one answer. Power and control is another.

Meanwhile, while we are trying to figure out how to work around the money and profits of the gun industry and the outsized power of the NRA and other organizations, mass shootings continue unabated:

Perhaps because Virginia Tech’s fatality count was so high, most of the school shootings that followed didn’t receive the attention they might have in the decade prior to the massacre.

Are these kinds of shooting becoming normalized to the public or is it they don’t want to hear about them because they feel helpless to do anything about them? They are NOT normal and we can’t let them become normal. It is simply not normal for someone to walk into a school and spray bullets around killing random, or sometimes, selected victims.

And of course, the “everyday” shootings happen without much media coverage and every day, ordinary people’s lives are changed forever. You may know some of these people. They are living close to you- in your neighborhoods and communities. They are remembering lost loved ones every day. This is not normal.

Memorials to victims have become normal. Flowers, candles, teddy bears, hearts, cards, bell ringings, stones.

Memorials sprout up all over the country. In the case of Virginia Tech it was stones. From the article in The Trace:

Without realizing it, the kids at Virginia Tech were propelled by the same instinct that leaves mourners in America’s cities searching their surroundings for a way to honor shooting victims whose deaths often go unnoticed outside their neighborhoods. In Lexington, Kentucky, last fall, high schoolers laced track shoes to a chain link fence in homage to a slain 15-year-old runner, Trinity Gay. After a homicide in New York City, lampposts sprouted roses and sidewalks glittered with liquor bottles. In Cincinnati, a menagerie of stuffed animals was deployed to guard the home of a 9-year-old. (…)

The permanent memorial was dedicated with a ceremony on August 19, 2007, four months and three days after the massacre. Thousands of people gathered on the lawn that day, sporting their Hokie colors of maroon and orange. The university president spoke. A bell tolled 32 times. Each original stone had been placed in a mahogany box with a hinged lid, like a miniature coffin. Later, the boxes would be delivered to the families of the victims.

Uma Loganathan can hardly remember the dedication; grief seems to have blurred many of her memories from that time. What she does remember is that first semicircle of stones set earnestly upon the grass, their rough edges befitting of her sorrow.

“Befitting of her sorrow”…. Can anything befit the sorrow we all feel after losing a loved one to gun violence? Or having a close call as did my friend Lori Hass, mother of a Virginia Tech survivor?

Like other survivors, I got into this GVP movement because of what happened. But that’s in the past and what we’re working for is a future where there’s less gun violence and where we’re doing more to prevent it. Our goals are to take the evidence and the policies that work and begin to apply as many as are appropriate. For example, we understand that domestic violence situations become exponentially more lethal when there’s a firearm introduced. Road rage with a firearm can turn lethal. Confrontation in the streets become lethal when there’s a firearm. Toddlers have killed more Americans than terrorists if you look at the numbers over time — all because somebody was careless and left firearms out and unsecured.

Lori Haas speaks during a vigil outside the U.S. Capitol on April 16, 2013, to remember those murdered and demand congressional action on gun legislation.

ALAMY

We want policies that make us all safer. We think domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to guns. We think that there should be a background check on all buyers — how do you stop a prohibited buyer from purchasing a gun if you don’t do a background check to figure out if he or she is prohibited? We believe that you should have to have hands-on training around concealed carry. We think there should be penalties so that gun owners must properly store and secure their firearms so that children can’t get access to them. We think there should be limitations on the type of firepower that everyday citizens can carry on our street. The efficacy of a lot of those policies have been proven in other states and those states have fewer deaths. New York’s gun death rate per 100,000 is in the low, low single digits. Virginia’s is 10.9.

It’s devastating for all of the families, me included, to relive the trauma each time another school shooting occurs. And you can’t help but relive it. What we’re also really traumatized by is the fact that someone else is now added to the club nobody wants to be in: the one where your loved one’s been shot and killed or injured. But [that] club is strong, the club is active, the club is compassionate and supportive. I know dozens of families from dozens of mass shootings. Every day we have gun violence in America, so there is a camaraderie that’s very understood by those [who have experienced it].

Ten years ago tomorrow, the feelings will re-emerge of how things went down that day ten years ago. Lori gives a very moving testimony to how one family experienced the horrendous shooting of 32.

Tomorrow will also be Easter. A stone figures prominently in the Easter story. Stones can be moved but they are hard to move and they are hard to destroy. Tombstones are made of stone for a reason. They signify a marker where a loved one is buried and they are there mostly forever. So are the memories of our lost loved ones.

Tomorrow, please remember these 32. See their photos. Say their names.

We Will Not Forget

Families have approved and released these official biographies and photos of our 32 fallen Hokies. Please join us in remembering and honoring their lives by clicking on their names or photos.

And then work with Lori Hass, Colin Goddard, Andy Goddard and the millions of us involved in preventing the next one of these shootings. Colin has been an advocate for gun violence prevention since he was shot and injured in the shooting. The film, Living for 32, features Colin’s story and his efforts to expose the lack of Brady background checks on all gun sales.

We should not have to erect stone memorials to victims. We should not have to move stones to get the attention of the public and elected leaders about our deadly gun violence epidemic. We should expect that our leaders do this without question in the name of the victims and common sense. If we are to change the conversation and change the culture, we need more than memorials, thoughts, prayers, flowers, etc.

WE NEED ACTION. Get involved in the name of the victims and just because losing 90 Americans a day to gunshot injuries is not normal and not acceptable. Let’s get to work.

 

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.

 

April- shooting anniversaries and an important birthday

April foolEvery April, some families have to stop what they are doing and remember an awful anniversary. The country also remembers certain April dates as those of mass shootings and violent events that we can’t forget:

April 13- Thomas Jefferson’s birthday

April 15- Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shooting of one of the perpetrators and eventual capture and shooting of the other

April 16- Virginia Tech shooting

April 19- Oklahoma City bombing by gun rights extremist

April 20- Columbine shooting

April is a cruel month according to poet T.S. Eliot:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
This of course refers to the spring weather which has been particularly cruel in Minnesota this year. We are one day wearing winter coats and boots and shoveling and the next sitting outside in short sleeves and enjoying the spring sun.
But for the victims of these now famous shootings and attacks, April is unforgettable. How can we forget the 32 shot dead at Virginia Tech? How can we forget the first big school shooting that left 12 dead and the country reeling? How can we forget the Oklahoma bombing that left 168 innocent people dead. The man who committed this heinous act was a gun extremist and had anti-government sentiments. The Boston Marathon Bombing did end with shootings and left 3 people there to watch the finish of the race dead.
And what does Thomas Jefferson’s birthday have to do with any of this? Let’s take a look at this article that dispels the myths associated with some of his quotes that are used by gun extremists and far right political extremists:
Saul Cornell, a professor at Fordham University, said some quotations may need context, especially those from the “losing side” of debates. He added that he believes both sides of the gun conversation tend to oversimplify the Founding Fathers’ historical intent.
“Without being too professorial about it,” he said, “depending on what theory of the Constitution we use, you can get very different interpretations of the Second Amendment.”
Cornell, who is the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at the school, said the Constitution incorporates lessons learned while the nation was under the Articles of Confederation. He said the turmoil of Shays’ Rebellion stirred up fears of mob rule among many leaders.
He also compared the militias of early America to a form of taxation, saying that citizens had what Jefferson referred to as a “right and duty” to be armed. That is, they were required to buy weapons in addition to being allowed to possess them. Militia membership was often compulsory, Cornell said.
He questions whether the Founding Fathers would have welcomed the idea of people taking up arms against their newly hatched constitutional government instead of using governmental procedure to settle differences, which sometimes is referred to as the “ballots vs. bullets” debate.
The quote that has sometimes been used by extremists is: ” The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” So what does that mean? From this article in the Huffington Post by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:
Those who hold the belief that the Second Amendment gives them an individual right to take violent action against our government should it lapse into “tyranny” have isolated Jefferson’s “tree of liberty” quote in order to justify a radical ideology. The truth is that Jefferson’s views on private rebellion were far more thoughtful and nuanced. While scholars like Saul Cornell have acknowledged that Jefferson affirmed an individual right to keep arms for private purposes, he never described disorganized or spontaneous insurrection as a right. Jefferson instead envisioned“a universally armed citizenry organized into well-regulated militia units based on a system of ‘ward republics’” as a deterrent against “usurpers” and a key guarantor of a healthy republic.
In today’s hyperbolic and sometimes even violence-prone political environment it is important to understand that armed Americans ready to fight against their own government or for a particular candidate is not a democracy. We use ballots- not bullets- and hopefully common sense, to change our leaders. Our Founding Fathers wanted it that way. I doubt that they envisioned armed Americans ready to fight their own government or use their guns to intimidate and bully other Americans.

Some wonder if April has some significance when it comes to violence. This article explores that idea and comes to the conclusion that in America, at least, mass shootings occur in any and every month and we know that shootings happen every day of every month to the tune of 90 a day.

For my family August was a cruel month. For others it was December when 20 first graders and 6 educators were shot dead by a young angry mentally disturbed man who should not have had access to guns.

Gun violence is cruel and devastating. In American it is particularly and uniquely so.It doesn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t be thinking about certain months or certain dates in light of violent events that took place then. Too many families hate the anniversaries of the shooting deaths of their loved ones or friends.

It’s past time to change the conversation and do something. Today a petition with 200,000 signatures to ask Congress to repeal the PLCAA law was delivered. A protest outside of the hotel where the NSSF was meeting also happened. The National Shooting Sports Foundation opposed the Senate background check bill in 2013 much to the great consternation of gun violence prevention activists and victims. It is located in Newtown, Connecticut where the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

April is a busy month for activists whose mission it is to call attention to our American public health epidemic and ask our leaders to do something about it. The month starts out with April Fools’ Day. We will not be fooled by the false and deceptive rhetoric of the corporate gun lobby. And we can’t let our elected leaders be fooled either. It is no joke to have a loved one’s life cut short by a bullet. And that is why we are acting today, this month and every month.

Check out the Facebook page of Newtown Action Alliance and the Twitter feed of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for photos showing the activists working for victims. This is what change looks like. Let’s keep going and make it happen.

Virginia Tech remembered – and other April shootings

Virgina TechAs poet T. S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month.” It’s true. It’s so disturbing that the month needs to be remembered for so many shootings:

April 2, 2014- the second Fort Hood shooting that killed 4, including the shooter and injured 16 more.

April 14, 2003- John McDonough High School shooting where a 15 year old student was shot and killed by 2 men with an AK47. 3 others were injured.

April 15, 2013 -The Boston Marathon bombing, of course, killed 3, injured many and caused terror to many. But it also did involve several shootings when one of the bombers shot and killed a police officer and the other suspect was shot and injured by law enforcement authorities after a long search that terrorized the Boston area for days.

April 16, 2007- The Virginia Tech shooting victims will be remembered again today on the 8th anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in America. 32 were left dead and 17 others injured after the shooter, a severely mentally ill student who obtained a gun legally, opened fire on fellow students and professors before he shot himself.

And then, of course, we shouldn’t overlook the Oklahoma City bombing by gun extremist Timothy McVeigh on April 19, 1995 that killed 168 and injured 680. McVeigh was a gun rights extremist and militia member who was anti-government. In an interview with McVeigh years after the terror attack he admitted to the same rhetoric we hear from today’s gun rights extremists:

Once the Branch Dividian siege began in Waco, Texas, McVeigh became convinced that the government was the ultimate bully, trying to take away people’s guns.

McVeigh even drove to Waco during the siege.

“You feel a bond with this community. The bond is that they’re fellow gun owners and believe in gun rights and survivalists and freedom lovers,” said McVeigh.

Dan Herbeck: “The ultimate thing that sent him toward Oklahoma City was Waco with the Branch Dividian people being killed and he told us from that day forward he decided he was going to become a terrorist.”

McVeigh believed he and the Militia Movement were now at war with the U.S. government.

Sometimes these beliefs turn into action and unfortunately, that is what happened in Oklahoma City in 1995.

April 20, 1999- Two students obtained guns from a friend who bought them at a gun show with no background check, shot and killed 13 people and injured 21 at Columbine high school in Littleton, Colorado. This school shooting propelled a lot of Americans into action about gun safety reform and is still remembered today because it was the first school shooting in modern memory with so many victims and marks the beginning of an era of school shootings not seen in any other country in the world. You can see the list in this article, stunning because of the continued carnage and lack of action to prevent more of them.

April 25, 2003- Pittsburgh area junior high student shot his school principal and then himself at his school. The 14 year old carried 3 loaded handguns to school that day. The guns came from his own home.

This, of course, is just one month of 11. In America, we speak of school shootings and mass shootings as if they are just part of the landscape. That is the sad truth and it should be a shameful truth. But our elected leaders continue to ignore the facts about gun violence and vote with the corporate gun lobby instead of standing up for the victims and survivors.

Where is common sense?

Today we remember the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. Tomorrow- others- and the next day and the next day and the next day……..

We are better than this. It’s past time to change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. We can do something to reduce and prevent shootings. But we are not and that’s the American tragedy. Every day in America, another Virginia Tech happens when 32 Americans are killed in gun homicides. And that is only some of the 80 Americans who die daily from gunshot injuries. We have to get this right- lives depend on it.

Remembering:

Ross Abdallah Alameddine

Jamie Bishop

Brian Bluhm

Ryan Clark

Austin Cloyd

Jocelyne Couture-Nowak

Kevin Granata

Matthew Gwaltney

Caitlin Hammaren

Jeremy Herbstritt

Rachel Hill

Emily Jean Hilscher

Jarret Lane

Matt LaPorte

Henry Lee

Liviu Librescu

G.V. Loganathan

Partahi Lumbantoruan

Lauren McCain

Daniel O’Neil

Juan Ortiz

Minal Panchal

Daniel Perez Cueva

Erin Peterson

Mike Pohle

Julia Pryde

Mary Read

Reema Samaha

Waleed Shaalan

Leslie Sherman

Maxine Turner

Nicole White

I will also remember some friends I have met through my gun violence prevention work- the brother of a victim, the mother of a survivor and a survivor of the shooting.