Blogging for gun safety reform and changing the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Common sense gun laws and gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.
Today it’s another anniversary of the nation’s first mass school shooting that broke our hearts as we watched, horrified at the images of students hanging out of windows and walking out of the school, hands over their heads. 12 died that day in 1999. We mourned together. The Columbine shooting was the first of what has since become a national epidemic of school shootings that have taken the lives of our precious children in numbers unimaginable. 20 six year olds were massacred in December of 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. 32 at Virginia Tech. 16 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And it continues.
Time after time, we have rallied, lobbied, marched, rung bells and lit candles. The bodies have piled up as we watch our lapdog politicians ignore the devastation and the horror. We have heard the excuses. We have heard the nonsensical rhetoric of the corporate gun lobbyists and leaders deceiving us and lying to us over and over again. We have heard them say that trying to prevent shootings won’t make a difference because people will get guns anyway even though we are trying to stop the “anyway”. We have heard them say that only good guys with guns can save us from the consequences of our failure to enact laws that could save us from the shootings. We have heard them offer thoughts and prayers while refusing to take the action necessary to stop having to offer thoughts and prayers.
Today we remember the victims of the Columbine shooting. Yesterday and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow we have and will remember the more than 100 who die of gunshot injuries every day in America.
I have been in a nonsensical “discussion” on a Facebook posting of a local TV station about the mass shooting in Indianapolis. In a ridiculous series of comments, which I must conclude come out of ignorance or political adherence to the destructive and dangerous views of the corporate gun lobby and Fox news, President Biden was blamed for the mass shooting. Yes. You read that right. Oh, and also the Democrats.
Here are a few of the comments to which I replied copied from the Facebook page:
” I would like to know…let’s say in the last ten years…how many of these mass shooters were on Doctor prescribed medication?
“It’s almost daily now… And all they want to do is take away our guns so we can’t defend ourselves from these crazy people. Think about that…”
” Funny how there’s always mass shootings when Democrats are in office…. weird….”
” Let me guess its the guns fault not the person using it.”
“To many f’n nutjobs running around. Primary reason that I have my CCW. I hope it never happens, but I just might be the guy in line behind one of these nutjobs and you can rest assured that I will take him out long before he starts shooting!!!”
” Funny how every single time the dems push for more gun control, there ends up being a bunch of shootings to support their agenda.”
” You can’t carry at fedex while you’re working. Gun free zone gun control failed.yet again. Sad for all the families.”
“Why is it sense Biden and the democrats took the office,, were getting alot more shootings,,mmmm”
mmmm. You get the idea.
Why not blame everything but the American gun culture and the millions of guns that can be accessed by private citizens? Why not blame the Republican lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby for their refusal to act to save lives in the face of a national public health epidemic? Why not blame the NRA whose leaders have stood in the way of any kind of gun safety reform legislation that might actually allow most of us to be free from daily gun violence? Why not blame the outrageous lies and myths perpetrated by the corporate gun lobby over the last few decades such as ” the guys with the guns make the rules” or “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” or guns will be taken away from law abiding gun owners and not criminals if we pass a national background check bill to require background checks on all gun sales?
I have responded to this stuff for so long it is not necessary to do it again. It’s exhausting to tell the truth in the face of lies. The thing is, most Americans want stronger gun laws. Most Americans don’t carry guns around. Most Americans don’t even own guns. Most Americans understand who is to blame.
According to the article quoted above, this shooting could have potentially been prevented if we had Extreme Risk Protection Orders in place in all 50 states and by requiring background checks on all sales. The shooter had his gun removed by law enforcement a year ago at the request of his mother. So where and how did he get this gun? We don’t know yet. From the article cited above:
There have been reports in various news sources that the shooter used an AR15 style rifle for the shooting. Another person reported that an employee went to his car in the parking lot and got a gun out but the shooter shot that person. If true, so much for having a gun to prevent mass shootings and protect oneself.
Long before the shooting, Hole had been known to law enforcement. Last spring, after his mother reported her fears that he would attempt “suicide by cop,” he was questioned by authorities, and the police temporarily detained him for mental health reasons, FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said.
With Hole’s shotgun seized and not returned, it was unclear how he had obtained the rifle used Thursday night.
And then there is this satire, which sometimes is the only way to make a point in a ridiculous discussion blaming everything but the proliferation of guns in America, from The Onion:
Let’s just look at the real problem. This Washington Post article writer gets to the facts and the truth about our American national tragedy played out on an all too regular basis:
Earlier this month, Biden announced limited measures to tackle gun violence that included a crackdown on self-assembled “ghost guns.” But more stringent measures face an uphill battle in a divided Congress, where Republican lawmakers have long opposed any new gun limits.
Nearly 20,000 Americans died last year as a result of gun violence, not including suicide – 25% higher than in 2019, and more than in any other year in at least two decades, according to figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is those decades that many of the gun violence prevention organizations and individuals have been working hard to stop and prevent the gun violence that we now see elevated to numbers not seen since many of us began this work. In 1992 when my sister was murdered, the number of gun deaths were in the 40,000 plus range. Then the numbers came down during the late 1990s. In 1993 the Brady law was enacted requiring a background check system to be established called the National Instant Check System. Under that system, in place since then, over 3 million people have been prohibited from buying guns at federally licensed gun dealers. But the law left a big gap allowing for the private sales of guns with no background check required. 1 in 5 gun sales go without a background check. What if we allowed 1 in 5 people to drive without a driver’s license or training or 1 in 5 doctors to treat patients without getting their medical degree and the training required? What if allowed 1 in 5 passengers to board planes without going through the TSA checkpoints? Or what if allowed just anyone to teach our kids?
So what next? President Biden understands common sense. He understands that gun violence in America. From the article quoted above:
“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence,” he said. “It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation. We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives.”
Later on Friday, Biden said U.S. firearms deaths are a “national embarrassment” and called on Congress to ban military-style “assault” firearms.
“This has to end. It’s a national embarrassment,” Biden said at a White House press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
It is more than an embarrassment. it is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes every day. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of shootings of all kinds. This is what has happened so far in 2021- there have been 148 mass shootings so far and including all forms of gun violence, 12, 515 American souls have died of gunshot injuries. When we study methods of death in our country, if that many people had died so far to this date, we would be demanding that something be done. We have been. But nothing is happening.
Ignoring these deaths, these victims, these numbers, this terrible tragedy is just not sustainable. Blaming everything but the truth does nothing of course. That’s the point. If we do nothing, the bodies will pile up. It could be your loved one or friend next. So many are dying that it’s inevitable that all of us will be directly affected by gun violence. For sure all of us suffer from the PTSD and exhaustion of stories about gun deaths in the news.
On the 14th anniversary of the shooting of 32 at Virginia Tech, we now also have an anniversary of the 8 shot in Indianapolis. On April 20th, we will remember the 12 victims of one of the nation’s first mass school shootings- Columbine. We are all to blame that we have done virtually nothing to protect our kids and our citizens from suffering from shootings.
We are all to blame.
In memory and honor with action:
Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.
Yes, Virginia, there is hope. After the 2019 elections when gun violence prevention was the top issue and the reason the state turned “blue” the Virginia legislature is taking up long neglected gun safety reform bills.
The first bill passed was to ban guns at the Capitol complex. The question is why anyone feels the need to carry a loaded gun while at a hearing for a gun bill- or for any bill for that matter. If the reason is intimidation, they have failed. The gun safety reform groups are unarmed and unafraid and will not be bullied and intimidated by the “gun guys.”
From the above article:
The policy, which was set to take effect at midnight Friday, pointedly applies not just to visitors, who until now have been allowed to bring weapons into the building if they have a concealed-carry permit. The ban also applies to senators and delegates — even those who are law enforcement officers.
But as a practical matter, Capitol Police Col. Steve Pike said, the policy will not be enforced with lawmakers. Requiring them to pass through metal detectors would probably slow them down as they travel between the Capitol and the adjacent Pocahontas Building, which the ban also covers. In addition, he said, legislators are immune from prosecution during the session, under a law intended to ensure their performance of the people’s business is not impeded.
A practical matter? It seems pretty impractical to me to allow lawmakers to remain armed. For what possible reasons should they be armed now that their constituents are not. “Accidents” have happened. Take this one in Kentucky:
Democratic Kentucky State Rep. Leslie Combs doesn’t think her accidental discharge of a firearm in the state’s capitol building Tuesday afternoon was a big deal. “I am a gun owner, it happens,” Combs told reporters after the incident.
Combs was apparently in the process of unloading her Ruger 380 semi-automatic handgun when it fired into the floor of the Capitol annex. No one was harmed by the gunshot, so she reported the incident to state police about two hours later. the lawmaker told the Courier-Journal that she has a concealed carry permit, and often brings the gun to work in her purse. Here’s more from Combs:
“I was purposely disarming it to put it up because I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to use it any more… I had had it in my purse I carry usually, and I thought I’m going to put that sucker away.”
I say put those “suckers” away permanently. We know what else happens but I will not use the word here. And “it” happens far too often when so called law abiding gun owners are irresponsible with their guns. Even when they think they are responsible, guns are deadly weapons and things go wrong. That seems like a good reason to practice common sense and just not carry the “sucker” around with you everywhere you go.
The list is endless. Look them up for yourself. These don’t get a lot of attention but they should. Guns carried around loaded in public places are dangerous and should be re-considered. It’s time to change the conversation about the role of guns in public places.
So it was a good first step for Virginia to ban guns in the Capitol buildings in the name of public safety. Next up, other bills concerning public safety and gun safety reform. Today 4 bills passed out of the Virginia Senate. This is cause for celebration and I’m sure my Virginia friends are ecstatic right now as well they should be.
Let’s take a look at the Virginia Senate bills ( from the above linked article):
The bills now headed for the full Senate would require background checks on all firearms purchases, allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others, let localities ban weapons from certain events and government buildings, and cap handgun purchases at one per month.
All common sense measures and all supported by the majority of voters in Virginia. The majority in the country and in almost all states want to make the country safer from gun violence and one very important way to do that is to pass stronger gun laws. It’s going to happen state by state and it will happen in the country as soon as we vote out those who oppose the public.
Voting with the NRA and the gun lobby is a losing proposition right now. The public is far ahead of some of our elected leaders who are still dinosaurs as far as gun laws go. There is still nonsensical talk about gun registration and gun confiscation as well as taking away rights. But in Virginia as in many states, there have been several high profile mass shootings and other shootings that have called attention to the lax gun laws and the devastation from bullets. The Virginia Tech shooting resulted in the death of 32 and others injured. The shooting of a young Richmond T.V. reporter Alison Parker on live T.V. was horrendous and unspeakable. And the latest was the mass shooting at Virginia Beach killing 12. Virginians just don’t want to get shot nor do they want their loved ones and friends to be shot. They want laws that will prevent and reduce some of the shootings.
And if the NRA and any other gun rights advocate can say how these stronger gun laws will affect their lifestyle, have at it. If they can tell us how doing nothing is saving lives, tell us about it. If they can claim that we are safer now after allowing so many guns to be carried in public places, give us some facts to show that. If they can tell us why they object to everyone getting a background check before purchasing a gun, tell us about it. If they can tell us why the background check system already in place has inconvenienced them and caused terrible consequences for themselves or their families, please step up. I may even print the answers and examine the logic.
But the hearing will be held on Republicans’ terms: no votes will be cast and the meeting will be held in gun-friendly Hibbing.
The chair of the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Dec. 19, announced that he would take the panel on the road next month to talk about the plans to require background checks at the time of transfer of a firearm and to allow law enforcement to remove a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.
“Gun friendly Hibbing.” We know where Hibbing is and it is not all gun friendly. We have many Minnesotans for common sense gun legislation living in northern Minnesota and they will be there. But nice try. Sneaking around in small towns to get the “gun guys” out in large numbers is so obvious as to be suspect to say the least.
Criminal background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order bilsl are life saving bills favored by the majority of Minnesotans. 97% of Minnesotans want universal background checks. That is almost unanimous and includes the gun owners in Hibbing, Mn. Of those 75% were Republicans. The Senate Republicans are on the wrong side of the isse.
2020, as I wrote in a recent post, has started out as violent as 2019 ended. Just check out the Gun Violence Archive for the latest information about shootings.
There is hope. There is a change in the issue of gun violence. The NRA is weak, pathetic and corrupt. Our leaders are finally catching up to the public. So I look forward to more progress in 2020 and making elected leaders accountable for their actions. We are not having their excuses any more.
It’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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.” (…)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tomorrow 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.
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.
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 toldThe 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 aliens. The Post notes that “a more reasonable estimate” of self-defense gun uses equals about 100,000 annually, according to the NCVS data.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I remember the episode of Seinfeldwhere 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?
“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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Every 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.