Gunned down in America

Super Bald Eagle Character - 2America- the land of the free and home of the brave. Also the country of guns, guns, guns. The last few weeks have given us another full frontal view of what it means to “bear arms” in a country with almost as many guns as people. So here are just a few of the things that have happened that we need to think about:

So let’s review. Fewer Americans own the majority of guns in the land of the free. People are open carrying these guns in small numbers but have managed to pass laws to allow people without proper vetting to carry guns in public. And in states where standing your ground is considered to be brave, if a shooting should happen while the “law abiding” shooter claims self defense the shooter does not have to face the usual legal process for killing someone.

More mass shootings happen in the land of the free and home of the brave than in any other country and they have increased in frequency. Some lawmakers are willing to sacrifice common sense for their adherence to a powerful gun lobby that represents a distinct minority of Americans. Follow the money. Conceal and open carry laws allow for the proliferation of guns on our streets and in our neighborhood public places. And we have learned from a study cited in an article above that people who own and carry guns do so in fear of other people. Law enforcement officers can’t tell “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns. And are black men legally carrying guns more likely to be deemed “bad guys” with guns than white guys with guns? I’m just asking.

“Law abiding” gun owners are not locking their guns safely away from being stolen by those who shouldn’t be able to get their hands on guns. We don’t pass laws that include mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns and we have no laws requiring that guns be locked securely away from ammunition. Guns make it to the streets and the illegal market when they are stolen. Of course the fact that we allow those very same people who are deemed to be prohibited purchasers at a federally licensed firearms dealer to buy those very same guns from private sellers on-line or at gun shows and flea markets is ludicrous and dangerous.

We are free to own and carry guns in America. But we should be free from devastating gun violence as well. We don’t have to sit by and let this happen. The corporate gun lobby, through it’s lapdogs in Congress,  has suppressed research about the causes and effects of gun violence. Luckily for the brave amongst us, there are non-government researchers who are showing us the real problem with guns. They are a risk to those who own and carry them and become a risk to other innocent people as a result. We know, thanks to research and surveys done by credible sources, that fewer Americans own guns but own a lot of them on average. That being the case, how do we get our elected leaders to stop bowing to a very well funded and vocal lobby which represents mostly themselves and not average gun owners in the land of the free?

Maybe exposing their votes and their acceptance of campaign contributions from the gun lobby will help. The Brady Campaign has released a new lapdog scorecard showing who are the lapdogs for the gun lobby in Congress. Check it out. You can click on your own state and find out. The thing is, the majority of Americans, gun owners or not, and even NRA members, support strengthening our gun laws. If this is the land of the free and home of the brave, the brave need to speak out and do the right thing in the name of saving lives.

The model of fear is a bad idea when dealing with deadly weapons. Some in our country have ramped up fear of others, fear of those who don’t look like us, fear of shadows lurking in every corner awaiting a chance to get us. If you don’t believe me, you can look at this new campaign ad made by the NRA about why gun owners should fear Hillary Clinton and vote for Donald Trump. It’s another big lie but it gets people to the gun stores. Follow the money.

Fear is not a good way to make laws and change the conversation. It is counter productive and leads us to fear the wrong things. Why are we not fearful that just about anyone can gain access to a deadly weapon and carry it around in public or use it for bad intentions? Why are we not concerned that those on a no-fly list are not on the no-buy list for guns? Though not a perfect solution, it sure seems like we ought to be able to stop at least some dangerous people from being to get guns.

If you think all of this is insane, please get involved to make the changes we all deserve. That would be changes to gun laws to make them stronger so we can prevent some of the daily carnage. It also means changing the conversation to make people think twice about whether or not a gun for self defense makes sense for them. And if it does, at the least, make sure these folks have good training in using a deadly weapon designed to kill other people and have the common sense to lock up their guns unloaded to avoid stolen guns or someone, like a child or teen, accessing the gun. And make darned sure that dangerous people or those who could become dangerous to themselves or others either can’t get guns or have them removed until the danger is over or permanently, whichever happens first.

We have work to do. But we also have to counter erroneous claims by the corporate gun lobby that have become common talking points in our country. If we are the land of the free and home of the brave, we need to be brave enough to stand up for the truth and against those whose claims about freedom do not reflect reality.

Violence by bullets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is common sense?

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

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

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The Violence Policy Center

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Protect Minnesota, Minnesotans working together to prevent gun violence

States United to Prevent Gun Violence

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

And many more too numerous to list here.

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

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

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

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

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

More on this in my next post.

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

 

 

A love affair with guns

love_and_deathbAmericans love their guns. They love them too much if we are to believe the statistics about the daily carnage in our country. And yes, let it be said that most Americans who own guns for hunting or casual use are careful and legal with their guns. That said, let’s also say that the fact that too many of those otherwise “responsible” and “law abiding” gun owners are not.

The difference between being irresponsible with your hammer or not careful with your knife and not being responsible or careful with your gun could be a lost life. Why? Because hammers and knives, when used for their stated purpose, can cause some bodily injuries or maybe even get used in homicides or to harm others but the infrequency of that compared to gun deaths and injuries is a fact. And guns inherent and obvious use is to kill a person or an animal.

Americans love their guns to death. Most gun deaths are suicide in our country. And then there are those pesky “accidental” discharges killing our children and toddlers once a week or so.

So, on Black Friday, apparently Americans bought enough guns to arm the Marine Corps. Stunning. And what is even more stunning is that many of these guns went to people who already own other guns. The truth is that fewer people and households own guns. But those who do own many of them. From the article from The Trace (linked):

Ater Thursday’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College claimed ten lives in Roseburg, Oregon, officials revealed that Christopher Harper Mercer, the gunman behind the attack, had owned a stockpile of 14 firearms. The number elicited shock from the gunman’s father live on CNN: “How was he able to compile that kind of arsenal?” Ian Mercer asked. But as it turns out, owning ten or more firearms isn’t all that uncommon: According to a forthcoming study of gun ownership conducted by Harvard researchers, more than six million Americans already do. In other words, there are more people in America who own ten or more guns than there are residents of Denmark.

Amazing and concerning.

Take a look at this video clip of a Bill Maher show about how we love our guns and love to openly carry them for effect  ( or at least how the minority of us love their guns).

And what does this have to do with recent mass shootings? It is not only my view that the easy access to guns has caused a lot of mayhem on the home front. It is now speculated that the shooters in the San Bernardino mass shooting were able to amass a virtual arsenal of weapons, ammunition and bomb making materials. It’s easy for that to happen in gun nutty America. Does anyone remember that Congress allowed the restrictions on certain types of assault rifles, including certain features, to expire?:

Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza reportedly used a Bushmaster .223 rifle, a type of AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, to gun down 20 children in their first-grade classrooms on Friday.

AR-15s were one of 18 semiautomatic weapons banned under a 1994 law that expired in 2004 despite broad public support and a drop in gun fatalities, USA Today reported at the time.

Since then, killers have used semiautomatics to target victims en masse at Virginia Tech; theFort Hood military base; anAurora, Colo. movie theater; aSikh temple in Wisconsin; and now an elementary school in Newtown, Conn..

Let’s see. Are we safer from mass shootings now that that has happened? What kind of weapons are often used? Right. AR-15s or AK-47s.

Sigh.

High capacity magazines designed to attach to assault weapons are easy to buy in our country. Perhaps we need to restrict the amount of ammunition one can buy at once and require background checks for ammunition as well. Remember the Colorado movie theater shooter’s on-line purchases of thousands of rounds of ammunition? The victims’ families do. It’s kind of hard to argue that it’s OK for someone to be able to buy this much ammunition with no background check or even with a background check for that matter. We are not talking your average deer or pheasant hunter here.

We don’t know yet how the San Bernardino shooters obtained the 2 assault rifles used in the shooting but all guns start out as legal purchases so presumably they can be traced to their original owner. But it’s easy enough to buy as many guns as one wants or needs for some kind of attack right here at home- terror attack, domestic shooting, school shooting, or whatever.

And don’t get started on California’s strict gun laws before you read this from the article above:

Despite California’s relatively tough gun laws, it is not difficult to legally buy semiautomatic rifles that critics call assault weapons but are marketed by gun makers as “modern sporting rifles.” C.D. Michel, a Long Beach lawyer who has brought numerous legal challenges against gun ownership restrictions, said that “none of these laws have proven to be effective.”

“There’s a substitution effect,” said Mr. Michel, who counts among his clients the National Rifle Association. “If you ban Rifle X, people will use Rifle Y. When you strip away the prohibited features, you have a bare rifle, if you will, that is not necessarily a banned assault weapon.”

Go online, and it is not hard to find semiautomatic AR-15-style rifles offered for sale as “California compliant.” This is despite a series of laws dating to 1989 that banned a number of specific brands, as well as certain generic features.
Also, Californians can still legally possess assault rifles that they owned before the prohibitions went into effect as long as they have registered them with the state. More than 100,000 such weapons are registered.

The ban on high-capacity magazines, as well as the requirement that a magazine be affixed to the gun, was meant to prevent firing dozens of rounds from a single magazine and then quickly reloading, as has happened in many mass shooting cases. The development of the bullet button took advantage of a provision in California law allowing the sale of a gun with a magazine that could be removed with a “tool,” rather than simply by pressing a release-catch with a finger.

You can see how gun lobby amendments or loopholes get added to otherwise strong gun bills so they get their way anyway.

Insidious.

And worse than that, it’s easy for those who are prohibited from buying guns legally from also getting them legally because we haven’t made it illegal. You know what I mean- buying guns from private sellers at a gun show, on-line a flea market or maybe from a relative or friend who doesn’t know that you are a domestic abuser.

And what about those “everyday” gun deaths that don’t get the attention they deserve. Those are the ones that take the lives of most Americans killed by guns. You know, like my sister’s in a domestic shooting. Those. Vox has again done us a great service by putting the data in a form that is easy to understand, even for our Congress members and legislators. From the article:

We know that many of the everyday gun deaths are preventable. The research, helpfully aggregated by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center, shows that after controlling for variables such as socioeconomic factors and other crime, places with more guns have more gun deaths. The research is actually a bit weaker for mass shootings — in large part because such tragedies are, thankfully, somewhat rare, so they’re difficult to study. But the basic point is that we know restricting access to guns — and, better yet, confiscating guns — could help prevent thousands of gun deaths.

We don’t make sure that people like the shooter of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs have their guns taken from them because they could be a danger to themselves or others. So we let them keep their guns because…. rights. And now, of course, 3 innocent Americans just lost their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Often love affairs end in separation or divorce. It seems like the time is here to divorce the corporate gun lobby from the elected leaders who have been frightened into doing their bidding- sort of like the power and control an abusive partner has on their spouse or partner.

Yesterday the Senate was forced to take a vote on background checks and the terror gap loophole in our gun laws that allows known terrorists on the no fly list to purchase guns anyway legally. The Senate, while debating repealing Obama Care once again and taking away the rights of women to legal health care options, in it’s pandering to the gun extremists, voted to allow extremists, terrorists, domestic abusers, felons and others to be able to buy guns legally. The Brady Campaign sent a letter to Congress  just hours before the shooting in San Bernardino warning Congress of the dangers to Americans if we don’t close the terror gap and require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

Sigh.

You can’t make this stuff up. In the face of 2 horrendous mass shootings, home grown terror or otherwise, our Senators failed us. Here is the list. You can thank those who had the common sense to understand that keeping our country safe from domestic abusers with guns who target a clinic that provides services to women they are trying to deny, should be a priority. And you can ask what the others were thinking when they voted to allow terrorists to get guns legally and to allow just anyone to purchase a gun with no background check.

It’s time to divorce the pandering, fear, paranoia and money interests from our own supposedly deliberative body of law makers who should vote their consciences rather than their fear of being re-elected. Do we have a democracy any more?

Those who voted no on these life saving measures will be held accountable. The American public is in no mood to just accept this any longer. They just may divorce some of their leaders and vote for those who are willing to stand up for the victims and survivors and understand that more guns have not made us safer. Indeed, the opposite is what is happening every day. 89 American families a day are mourning their loss of a family member to gunshot injuries.

This is the definition of insanity. We are better than this. It’s past time to demand common sense action. Go ahead and pray for the families if you think that will help. And think about them every day. As long as it isn’t your loss, it’s easy to divorce yourself from the carnage. But when suddenly it’s your loss, it’s a different story to tell.

Schools, shopping malls, Planned Parenthood clinics, hospitals ( a Denver hospital was held hostage by a gunman yesterday), colleges, gatherings of public employees in a public building, and any other place where shooters choose their targets should be free from gun violence. And no, you gun rights extremists,  guns carried by law abiding gun carriers just don’t make a difference in shootings like this. That nonsensical argument needs to be put to rest once and for all. When the shooting began at the Planned Parenthood clinic, a gun permit holder wanted to get involved. He was told to get away. How would law enforcement know if he was the shooter in question or just a guy with a gun trying to take matters into his own hands.

And the love affair also extends to carrying guns around in nearly all public places, sometimes openly carried, by a bunch of folks who are flaunting their gun rights just because they can. There are plenty of people who shouldn’t be carrying guns but do so anyway because of flaws in our laws. Check out this article in the Star Tribune by someone who admits that he has enough prior mental difficulties due to depression and PTSD that he is a person who really should not be allowed to carry a gun. But he got his Minnesota permit anyway.

But debating the supremacy of public policy vs. my civil rights is of little use for the moment, because for the next five years I can walk into any federal firearms licensee storefront in Minnesota and walk out with a semiautomatic pistol, high-capacity magazines and all of the ammunition I can afford.

How many permit holders are there like me in Minnesota? That’s impossible to tell. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year 6.7 percent of U.S. adults 18 or older experience a major depressive disorder. And nearly two-thirds “do not actively seek nor receive proper treatment,” according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

Doing the math, Minnesota can expect that thousands of the more than 200,000 citizens with permits to purchase — as many as 8,900 — will experience a major depressive disorder this year. Like me, they’re not appearing on the sheriff’s radar. Unlike me, they don’t receive treatment.

So we have more than a serious problem. It is really an emergency. But our legislators and Congress members put their heads firmly in the sand and hope it will go away. What they are really hoping is that they don’t have to deal with gun issues. Why? Because in their heart of hearts most of them actually are on the side of reasonable gun laws just like me. But they are afraid to say so because the gun extremists, a mere minority of Americana and even of law abiding gun owners, might go after them. So what? 92% of Americans and even gun owners and NRA members want their leaders to do the right thing.

One has to ask then, who are our leaders truly representing? Not me. Not you. Not the way too many victims and survivors. Not gun owners.

Who?

We need the question answered.

UPDATE:

Within moments of my posting this one, I ran across this disgusting article. One of the Senators ( Presidential candidate) who voted against common sense yesterday is going ahead to host a second amendment rally even in the wake of the latest mass shootings. Let’s see if you can guess who this is before I provide a quote. Did you get it yet? Here it is ( from the article):

According to a report in Politico, the event was previously scheduled, but not canceled because Cruz spokesman Catherine Frazier told Politico “even in the midst of horrific events like this, we should never rush to take away the basic liberties enshrined in our Constitution that are guaranteed to law-abiding American citizens.”

As Politico pointed out, the Crossroads Shooting Sports boasts that part of its mission is to “glorify God in all we do and to be a positive influence to all who come in contact with CrossRoads Shooting Sports LLC.”

Yes, of course. Senator Ted Cruz flaunting gun rights while the families of the latest victims have not yet buried their loved ones.  I would say shame on him but he won’t listen because his mission is all about getting elected no matter what and pandering to God and gun rights extremists.

God help us all.

 

UPDATE #2:

Just when you thought things couldn’t be more ridiculous, I ask you to take a long look at the family of Nevada Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore packing heat for their Christmas card photo. Nothing says merry and happy and joy like a 5 year old holding a Walther P22.

She loves her guns and her right to look totally out of touch with America and likely many of her constituents. May she have a safe new year though with kids bearing arms, that is iffy.

 

 

 

An abomination

San Bernarndino shooting
Image from Huffington Post

 

 

 

An article in the Atlantic called it what it is- an abomination. From the article:

Three years ago, after that week’s American gun massacre (the one at a movie theater in Colorado), I wrote about our horrific shared understanding that these killings will go on. Similar things happen in other countries, but nowhere else do they keep happening. Australia, Norway, the U.K., Canada—societies like these do something about it. A society like the United States doesn’t. Can’t. The shootings are appalling. And our public paralysis is worse. (…) It cannot go on. And at this moment, I can’t bring myself to complete the thought by saying, but it will. This is an abomination, and it is a political choice.

Is it paralysis? Perhaps. It is, as some have said, a choice. It’s a choice to ignore the carnage because…. rights. That is an abomination. Where are the statements from the gun lobby about the latest carnage? Maybe they are beginning to feel like the rest of us- speechless.

What can we say any more that we haven’t said before? How can Congress stand by and offer only thoughts and prayers without offering to do something to stop the slaughter of innocent Americans? It is, after all, the job of Congress to protect the “homeland”. Where are they? Offering tweets.

The twitter world was on fire yesterday and last night. And one person got it very right when he started screen shooting the tweets of some of our leaders and added his own comments about how much money each of them had taken from the NRA. Make no mistake about it, that is the problem. Follow the money to the paralysis.

Insanity.

Last night, MSNBC host Chris Hayes interviewed Igor Volsky of Think Progress who tweeted out the connections to the NRA to those offering thoughts and prayers. You can read his tweets at the link just above. Check out his comments last night on MSNBC.

The shooting in San Bernardino was just one more in the daily list of mass shootings– the 2nd just yesterday if you read the linked Washington Post article. Is this the tragedy that will make the changes we deserve? Will this be the one? Will Congress stand up at long last and tell the NRA and others in the gun rights world to stand down?

Common sense is worthless if it doesn’t lead to action. And that is what the gun lobby is banking on. But the steady drip drip drip of the mass terror attacks on American soil as the victims pile up is finally entering the collective conscience of the 92% of Americans who support common sense gun legislation. They are acting. They are phoning Congress and signing petitions by the thousands. Last night the Brady Campaign asked people to text to call US Senators and thousands responded within minutes. #enough. You can watch what Brady Campaign President Dan Gross had to say about the latest “terror attack” in our country as he spoke on CNN.

The American public has had #enough. They had #enough a long time ago.

The media has also had #enough. Vox is doing a great job of charting or unique gun problem pointing out that: “The research on this is overwhelmingly clear. No matter how you look at the data, more guns means more gun deaths.”

With more than 300 million guns circulating in America and owned by even fewer people, it is inevitable that the carnage will increase. That many guns means that many people could be angry enough or paranoid or fearful enough to use their legally purchased guns. ( according to the LA Times article I linked to above about the latest shooting, the guns used were legally purchased). When guns are readily available in a moment of anger, depression, while drinking alcohol, or just “fooling around” they will cause death and injury.

And further, when the guns not legally purchased get into the hands of those we prohibit from purchasing them legally, we have a double problem. There is absolutely no reason not to do a Brady background check on each and every gun sale in our country. The gun lobby has made up reasons not to do this. They are wrong- so wrong.

Yes, America, we have a problem. It is spiraling out of control. Can we put our heads together and gain control of the situation? I believe we can. It’s not rocket science. We sent people to the moon. We can do this, too. Congress should drop all of their other nonsensical business ( repealing Obamacare for the umpteenth time, threatening to shut down the government, voting to keep Syrian refugees out of the country and blah, blah, blah) and roll up their sleeves to prevent the daily carnage. But first they need to drop their fear of the NRA and the corporate gun lobby.

We’re waiting but the longer we wait, the more bodies will pile up. If Congress members were like the rest of us, they were watching the drama unfold on live TV yesterday and last night. It looked like a scene out of a war movie. We are at war with each other. Armored vehicles with SWAT teams looking for armed citizens in tactical gear with assault rifles. Combat on our streets. Law enforcement outgunned by every day citizens with arsenals and tactical gear, all dressed up for battle.

We are better than this.

Congress? Are you with us?

 

Guns for terrorists, lies and elections

pinocchioThis post has been edited since first posted to include new information.

It’s no surprise that we are in the middle of the 2016 Presidential election. Candidates are posturing about all issues before them but in light of the Paris terror attack, the rhetoric has become hysterical and downright deceptive. The lying is absolutely stunning to me and the fact that Americans are buying it is what I am truly afraid of. When Donald Trump can drum up the fear and anger of Americans to get elected, we have a serious problem that we should all fear. How can we believe someone who claims that there were people in New Jersey who cheered when the Twin Towers collapsed? This claim received a “pants on fire” rating from Politifact. 

When we elect a President, among other things, truthfulness should be at the top of the list. This person will be the leader of the free world that is now more dangerous and complicated than ever.

One area of discussion that most of the Republican candidates don’t want to have is the ability of terrorists to be able to legally buy guns in America from licensed firearms dealers. An article from Media Matters sums it up nicely: 

NRA: Rep. King “Is Pushing A Scheme To Deny Your Second Amendment Rights” With Terror Watch List Legislation. The NRA’s online magazine America’s 1st Freedom misidentified Rep. King as a Democrat in an article opposing the legislation, writing, “Amid the horror and outrage over last week’s Paris terrorist attacks, on the pretext of stopping terrorism, New York Democrat Congressman Pete King is pushing a scheme to deny your Second Amendment rights — and deny your right to due process in the bargain — by banning firearm sales to anyone on the FBI’s so-called Terrorist Watch List.” [America’s 1st Freedom, 11/20/15]

Anyone can get a gun through a private sale with no Brady background check. So the argument that terrorists will just get their guns somewhere else is true but ludicrous. We can prevent that as well as most Americans understand and want us to do.

And let’s get this straight. Republican Congressman Peter King is pushing for a bill that would keep terrorists from having guns. He’s not a Democrat. Are the people who write this stuff ignorant or clever?

Why in the world would the gun lobby oppose a bill like this? It would not deny law abiding citizens’ right to bear arms or due process. And yes, there are problems with the list:

So, clearly, the watchlist itself needs improvement and that ought to come first. But nonetheless, there surely are many thousands of people who are legitimately on the list. And those who are should surely be barred from legally obtaining firearms.

But as usual, the National Rifle Association has stood in the way of legislation that is designed to prohibit terrorists from purchasing firearms legally, and that obstructionism goes back to 2007.

Naturally, one the NRA’s arguments is that terrorists will just acquire firearms illegally, so such a law would only hurt “law-abiding citizens.” The gun lobby also trots out its standard rap about this kind of legislation being “sponsored by gun-control extremists.”

We just don’t need those kinds of false statements. It’s all hands on deck right now. Let’s fix the problem in a bill that will prevent those who are actual terrorists from being able to buy guns. If we truly care about the safety of America, we will get to work post haste and get this done. We can’t wait for the politicians who are clueless, deceiving us or so in bed with the corporate gun lobby that they are afraid, to get on board. The time is now to act.

The New York Daily News has been on the attack against the NRA’s opposition to closing the terror gap and now going after their fearless leader, Wayne LaPierre in this latest publication. So where is Mr. LaPierre? Where is a statement from the NRA about a bill that could save Americans from a terror attack? From the article:

At issue is the NRA using their overwhelming influence with lawmakers to block a law that would ban anyone on the terrorist watch list from purchasing a gun.

The bill, known as the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, was proposed in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 people in Paris dead and hundreds more injured. Gun control advocates say that a legal loophole allows suspects on the terrorist watch list to purchase guns while the same list prevents them from flying on U.S. airlines.

The bill was originally proposed in 2007, but has been blocked by conservative lawmakers who are heavily backed by the NRA.

According GOP House member and bill co-sponsor Rep. Peter King of Long Island, the NRA is opposed to any bills that might stop anyone from purchasing a gun.

“Anything which they feel restricts the use or the ability to retain a gun they’re opposed to,” King said.

The Daily News doubled down on their attacks on the NRA for their intransigence on sensible gun legislation, with a lead story Monday morning that began: “Under the gun, with its leader nowhere to be found, the NRA faced a fusillade of new criticism Sunday for prioritizing gun rights over prevention of a Paris-style massacre in the U.S.”

I found this response by the NRA-ILA to the discussion about the terror gap:

Regardless of whether the transaction is given the green light to proceed or is denied, the encounter is noted at the time and its import is assessed in the same manner as all newly discovered pieces of intelligence about the subject of the investigation. … What the attempt to buy a firearm means in a counterterrorism investigation, and as a result the subsequent actions it warrants, necessarily must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Of course, just because and individual is allowed to purchase a legal item doesn’t mean that person is thereafter beyond the reach of law enforcement. If authorities knew, for example, that a person were buying fertilizer to make a bomb, they obviously wouldn’t sit on their hands simply because the fertilizer purchase was legal.

The same would obviously be true of the otherwise-lawful purchase of a firearm by a person who officials had evidence intended to use it to commit a terrorist act. In this regard, current law, coupled with the FBI’s procedure, could actually produce useful and actionable anti-terrorism intelligence.

On the other hand, prohibiting every purchase by a watchlisted individual gives real terrorists under investigation or surveillance an easy way to determine whether their acts have drawn the government’s suspicion. All they would have to do is go to a gun shop and attempt to buy a gun. If they were denied and knew they had no other basis of denial, they would know the denial was watchlist related.

What? So we shouldn’t try to stop them at the point of sale because our system will get around to investigating who they are later? Really? And within hours, we could have a terror attack. And if a terrorist were denied a gun sale at a licensed dealer, he/she would know the denial was watchlist related? And so?…. What then? The terrorist would be stopped and would have to find another way to get a gun which is, as we know,  far too easy in our country. That is also why we need to require a Brady background check on ALL gun sales.

If we stop terrorists at the point of sale, just perhaps a terror attack would be averted, at least for a time. Meanwhile, the FBI would know for sure that that person was attempting to buy a gun. If someone on the Terror Watch List buys a gun, it just can’t be for sport. This kind of faulty reasoning by the gun lobby is ludicrous and potentially dangerous for us all.

It’s not time to be making things up about guns and terrorism in the silly season known as election time in America. Donald Trump appears willing to say just about anything to pander and ramp up the fear and hysteria. One of his latest deceptions is that black Americans commit the most murders in America. From the article:

The statistics, purported to be gathered by a Crime Statistics Bureau in San Francisco this year, appear to be fabricated. The Crime Statistics Bureau cited in Trump’s tweet does not exist. The FBI, which does gather official crime statistics for the U.S., has not yet released them for this year.

Last year’s FBI statistics show that the numbers in Trump’s tweet are incorrect and appear to be aimed at perpetuating racist myths about black people and crime.

In 2014, about 82 percent of murders involving white victims were committed by other white people, while only 14 percent were committed by black people, according to the FBI.

Among murders involving black victims, just under 90 percent were committed by other black people, while 7 percent were committed by white people.

Crime experts have concluded that homicides are most likely to occur among people of the same race because people are usually murdered by someone they already know, and most people primarily know people of their own race.

What we absolutely don’t need is Trump’s hyperbole and fabrications because it gives excuses for Americans to feel terror and fear that is unwarranted considering the facts. The rhetoric is leading to armed Americans “patrolling” the streets because of fear of “the other”. In Texas armed open carriers appeared outside of a Mosque making dangerous claims:

“We tried to talk to the mosque before we did this, but they wouldn’t return our messages,” said David Wright, dressed in black all the way from his backwards baseball cap to the barrel of his tactical shotgun. “So here we are.”

Wright said he organized the rally in the wake of an Islamic terrorist group’s massacre of Parisian civilians this month. Like millions of Americans, he wants to block Syrian refugees from U.S. shores, lest they replicate the attack here.

But like a fraction of those millions, he was convinced that Irving’s mosque had established the country’s first Islamic court earlier in the year—a false rumor that started online but grew in popularity after Mayor Beth Van Duyne made it the focus of speeches to Tea Party groups.

“They shut the illegal court down,” Wright said, incorrectly. “And then, they threatened to kill the mayor.”

Thus, the guns. A protester with a bandana over his face showed off his AR-15 to traffic. A 20-year-old who wants to join the Army and ban Islam in the United States carried a Remington hunting rifle while his mother held the sign.

“They’re mostly for self-defense or protection,” Wright said, eyeing his 12-gauge. “But I’m not going to lie. We do want to show force. … It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.” (…)

“My initial impression was they were using them for intimidation,” Palmer said. “I doubt that they’d be happy if some of the Muslim churchgoers here showed up at their Christian church, their Baptist church, their Methodist church tomorrow morning with rifles slung over their shoulders.”

Palmer said the police chief personally warned mosque leaders about the rally. They in turn urged their worshippers to steer clear of the group, which calls itself the Bureau of American Islamic Relations and had recycled some of the signs it took to a Richardson mosque last month, on a national day of protest against Islam.

The worshippers largely took that advice, ignoring the protest until it broke up after a couple hours. The Muslims in the tiny audience declined to share their opinion — instead offering praise for freedom of speech and variations on “no comment.”

But back on the sidewalk, a man who wore a name tag that read “Big Daddy Infidel” and was afraid to give his full name worried about the day he would be forced to use his hunting rifle to take a human life.

It’s just a matter of time before some of these folks, armed to the teeth, will act on their fear and cause our very own terrorist incident. And that is exactly what Daesh would love to have happen. I wonder if that is what Trump and other candidates would love to have happen? Because if they don’t stop their own dangerous and false claims, they will be igniting a group of Americans who are ready to fight on the streets against their own and/or against those they fear will hurt them.

This is why we have a military and National Guard. We don’t need untrained and uneducated heavily armed people patrolling our streets with their military style assault weapons ready to go to war.

These are complicated and dangerous times. We need common sense and the facts. Potential and actual insurrectionists with guns are dangerous and have no common sense. We have our own home grown terrorists and mass shootings that need our attention. For example, 16 people were just shot and injured in a New Orleans neighborhood. From the article:

A manhunt was underway across New Orleans on Monday after 16 people were shot during a gunfight at an impromptu music video recording at in a city park, authorities said.

The victims were all in stable condition.

The shooting broke out late Sunday at Bunny Friend Park in the Upper Ninth Ward where about 500 people were gathered for the video shoot, officials said.

“At the end of the day it’s really hard to police against a bunch of guys who decide to pull out guns and settle disputes with 300 people between them,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a news conference.

Why isn’t this a terror attack? Where is the outcry over this mass shooting?  No one died, thank goodness. But does the scene look familiar? Two or more gunmen opened fire at a crowd of people. Chaos and panic.

Sigh.

Also in New Orleans a Tulane University medical student was shot by a robber when the student attempted to help the woman being robbed of her purse. Yes, it’s scary being on the streets of America. What the gun lobby wants us to do is arm ourselves as if this student could have stopped the robbery had he pulled out his own gun. It would have been another gunfight on the streets with potential collateral damage.

Since I posted this, I came across this article about the New Orleans shooting:

Landrieu said the shooting that erupted in a crowd of nearly 500 people is akin to terrorism.

“Dead is dead, whether it’s national terrorism or domestic terrorism,” he said.

“This is senseless. We will never stand for it,” NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said.

The answer is not more guns on the streets. It’s fewer guns on the streets carried by those who shouldn’t have them. We are ignoring what is before our very eyes every day.

Where are our priorities?  There is a lot of work to get done. Let’s get together and make it happen.

UPDATE:

Vox has done some research on the topic of discussion- terrorism. They found what I have been saying and many have been writing about. The chances of a Syrian refugee committing an act of terror against America are far far slimmer than an American radicalized citizen shooting up a bunch of innocent people. And many of these are labeled right wing extremists- they are radicalized by religion and ideology. Let’s look at what Vox wrote about:

Domestic terrorism kills a small number of Americans each year; far more die from gun violence annually. But what gets lost in the national conversation on domestic terrorism is that terrorist acts are largely perpetrated by American citizens already living inside America’s borders. Radicalization — whether it’s jihadist extremism or right-wing extremism — more often than not starts at home in the US rather than entering the country from abroad.

When will we admit to the facts? The safety of Americans depends on our getting this right.

 

We’ve had enough!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucero Alcaraz

Treven Taylor Anspach

Rebecka Ann Carnes

Quinn Glen Cooper

Kim Saltmarsh Dietz

Lucas Eibel

Jason Dale Johnson

Lawrence Levine

Sarena Dawn Moore