The NRA- again

A screenshot of image taken at House Judiciary Committee hearing

In the last year or so I have written plenty about what is going on at NRA headquarters in Virginia. It is not pretty. In fact, it is downright ugly. The organization is in what I would call meltdown mode. The IRS 501 C3 status is in question. Russians have infiltrated the organization in what appears now to be to aid in the election of President Trump in 2016. In fact, before 2016 the Russians were palling around with the NRA in a new article revealing what many of us have long suspected:

The report pulls back the curtain on the cozy relationship Russian agents had with the NRA by focusing in part on a 2015 trip gun group leaders took to Moscow. Russian agent Maria Butina, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison earlier this year after pleading guilty to conspiring against the U.S., worked in tandem with former Russian government official Alexander Torshin to get NRA officials to Russia. (…)

In a January 2015 email to David Keene, Butina bragged that Torshin’s appointment to the Central Bank of Russia was “the result of a ‘big game’ in which he has a very important role,” and said the new role would allow Torshin to travel to the U.S. more often to meet with NRA leadership.

Now, to add insult to injury, it looks like the NRA is willing to get involved in the 2020 election as well in what could be an illegal quid pro quo with the President. How could it possibly be anything else when we learned yesterday that the President met with the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre to allegedly ask him for help funding his impeachment defense? And by help, I mean in dollars, not sense. In return, apparently, according to the article, LaPierre wanted something – for the President to drop any talk of working to stem the epidemic of gun violence in the country he leads.

From the article ( in case you think I am making this up):

President Trump met in the White House on Friday with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and discussed prospective gun legislation and whether the N.R.A. could provide support for the president as he faces impeachment and a more difficult re-election campaign, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

During the meeting, Mr. LaPierre asked that the White House “stop the games” over gun control legislation, people familiar with the meeting said. It was not clear whether Mr. Trump asked Mr. LaPierre for his support, or what that support would look like.

Of course La Pierre denied that he wanted something in return but in observing his behavior for decades now, we all understand that LaPierre would like nothing better than to stop any talk of background checks, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or assault weapons, or funding research into the causes and effects of gun violence, or any gun measures that would reduce gun violence.

Why is the word “game” used so often here? The fact that 100 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries is not a game. The fact that American lives are being snuffed out almost weekly in mass shootings is not a game. The fact that our children are slaughtered regularly in their schools is not a game. The fact that Americans have such easy access to guns that daily suicides and homicides occur all over our country is not a game.

More and more this is like reading a spy novel. It is happening right in front of us in broad daylight. The victims are now the entire country, the rule of law, honesty, national security, American lives, extortion, shakedowns of foreign leaders, resignations of people involved with the President, truth, gaslighting of America, and other ramifications of this corrupt behavior.

This past week I traveled to Washington D.C. for a meeting and then attended the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the assault weapons ban. Listening to the testimony was sobering. Even more sobering and disturbing was the lengths to which some Republican members of the committee went to distort the truth about what banning certain types of assault weapons would mean. It was stunning to hear one of the witnesses called to the hearing by the Republicans on the committee proclaim that she and other women loved their AR-15s so much that taking away these guns from women would be taking away a woman’s right to choose. We all knew what that line meant.

Another line made for quoting was a woman who was an ex-police officer proclaim she would not comply with any law to ban assault style rifles. What happened to law abiding citizens and officers of the law? And more to the point, what does that really mean? I think we understand the not so veiled inference that people will keep those guns and be ready to use them.

Representative Buck of Colorado even had a photo of himself with former Representative Trey Gowdy flashed on the screen in the room showing the two of them fondling an AR-15 with an American flag design on it. The purpose of the photo was to ask one of the pro gun witnesses if that looked scary to her. This line of reasoning is losing its’ relevance given the rash of mass shootings in our country. Of course AR-15s and the like are scary weapons. It is not just the design. It’s the damage done by them and the loss of human life that we should all be scared of.

One of the witnesses was a trauma surgeon from El Paso who was called to the hospital to attend to the gunshot victims of the El Paso Walmart shooting. His testimony was hard to hear as he described the injuries to the victims. The father of one of the Parkland students was in the room. A survivor of the Las Vegas shooting was in the room. Other victims were there. They understand full well what those injuries mean. They mean death and severe injuries. When you listen to the surgeon describe the injuries and how different they are from handgun bullet injuries, you know that assault style weapons are, indeed, scary. He noted that he this was like a war zone scene rather than a hospital because of the number of victims, the amount of blood and the types of injuries.

You can watch the graphic video here:

Stunning. This is an American tragedy that has left a trail of carnage and NRA lapdogs in Congress do nothing about it and have done nothing about it for decades. We were there to let them know we wanted them to #DoSomething.

Sitting next to Dr. Tovar is Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley who testified about the smell of bleach at the scene of the mass shooting in Dayton as clean-up efforts began. This is what stuck with her and this is the ripple effect of gun violence and the memories that never go away.

After the hearing we attended the rally to #endgunviolence on the Capitol lawn where hundreds of victims and survivors were there to listen to speeches from Congressional leaders who actually care about ending gun violence. Following the rally another smaller group walked into the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This group stayed for 90 minutes with a staffer who heard their stories and wondered why McConnell has refused action on an issue of grave national importance and urgency.

So now we know that our efforts have been fruitful in bringing the issue of gun violence prevention to the forefront of election issues. But we also know that our very own President will make a deal with the NRA to stop any more discussion because of his corrupt behavior and possible impeachment. What a sad state of affairs. Common sense is nowhere to be found amongst the Republicans and the NRA.

All I know is that something is changing. The waves of support are strong and getting stronger. Common sense will prevail in the end.

Back to school with guns

School is starting all over our country. In some school districts, staff can bring their guns to school. This has not worked out as expected in so many places but facts don’t seem to matter when it comes to guns and school safety.

As I always say, there are no “accidents” with guns. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill animals or humans.

School safety has taken on a whole new definition in the days of school shootings. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999 and now the 20th anniversary, about 700.000 Americans have died from gunshot injuries- a good proportion of them our precious students. Congress has still not acted since Columbine, thus the large toll of human life.

We all remember the Columbine shooting as the marker for our “new normal” where kids are shot up regularly in our schools. It is also a new normal for the victims and the trauma never goes away.

While I was working as a special educator in my local school district, lockdown drills were a part of our routine. Schools are not necessarily made for the type of safety needed from a school shooter. No building is actually. Schools and kids are not bulletproof.

Remember the slaughter of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012? That surely is another important marker is school shootings because no one could believe that Congress would DO NOTHING after that heinous shooting. And remember when Wayne LaPierre said “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”? That was , in a way, a new low in NRA opposition to common sense gun laws. The NRA and Republicans and some Democrats stopped support for doing the right thing even though the nation supported action.

And then came the Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. This massacre of 17 high school students changed things forever. This time the students were old enough to fight back and fight back they did. They started a national movement and a huge country wide March For Our Lives. And now, because the adults are doing nothing, they have their own well thought out plan for stopping school shootings and every day shootings.

But companies are making a profit trying to make everything bullet proof. I mean, why not? If we refuse to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them with the result that we are all less safe in public places, why not try to bullet proof people? Thus, there are bullet proof backpacks that make parents feel better about sending their kids to school and making sure they come home again.

I hope everyone understands that backpacks are not with the kids all day. Some are in closets in elementary classrooms and some are in lockers where they will be inaccessible. During some classes, backpacks may not be allowed or usable. Lunch time? Likely not wearing a backpack. Phy Ed class? Not wearing a backpack.

In addition, the company that makes them actually tested whether the backpacks would stop a bullet. Note that the backpack was on the front of the dummy, not the back where kids wear them. And also note that the backpack did not stop bullets from an AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

So much for those. They have been pulled from the shelves in some places.

Companies are also profiting on training programs such as ALICE. I have written about this one before. ALICE is mostly to train kids and staff to take measures that could make them less safe from a shooter. It makes some sense on the face of it but in reality often the “countering” techniques like throwing something at the shooter, or interrupting the shooter can work in reverse.

We do hear about people interrupting shooters by hitting them with a chair from behind or tackling them as in the Tucson mall shooting. That does sometimes work.

But we are talking here about kids taking the responsibility for saving themselves instead of the adults who can do something about the gun violence epidemic preventing the easy access to guns in the first place.

Some Colorado school districts have provided buckets of kitty litter and tourniquets so kids can survive from the bleeding from a gunshot wound and go to the bathroom if they are trapped in a classroom for a long time.

The buckets are just one strategy teachers are being taught to respond to lockdowns and school shootings. Lopez says she was also given a Sharpie marker to indicate what time a tourniquet was applied to a bleeding student, and candy to give diabetic students to maintain their blood sugar during a long lockdown.

So it’s come to this.

Where is common sense?

As kids head back to school, it will be inevitable that school shootings will begin again. There are some things that can be done and I’m not sure the above measures are the right ones. Lockdown drills happen regularly and they are scaring our kids:

Over the past two decades, the drills have ramped up in intensity — with some schools going so far as to use fake blood and fire blanks at students. A drill last month at an Indiana school prompted outrage when teachers were shot execution-style with pellet guns, leaving them injured.

At the same time, students’ anxieties have swelled. Some are not told that the lockdowns are just drills, prompting them to send what they believe are final goodbyes over text to their parents or faint or throw up. Others are afraid to go to school in the days following the drills.
As a result, a growing number of schools are experimenting with ways to lessen the toll of the drills while still doing everything possible to keep students safe. For some school districts, that means using age-appropriate language; for others, it involves having guidance counselors or school psychologists available during and after the drills.

In a recently released video, by Brady, “Morning Routine”, the morning routine includes putting a bullet proof vest on a little girl as she goes out the door for her school day. The father watches with a worried look on his face:

So it’s come to this.

We all have PTSD from shootings and the ripple effect has grown so wide that we are all affected by shootings in one way or the other. We are raising a generation of lockdown kids and increasing anxiety about going to school.

We have done little if anything to stop school shootings. There are some things that can be done that don’t require lockdowns or laws.

Parents must store their guns safely at home since most school shooters get their guns from home. Talk about End Family Fire as a way to discuss the risks of guns in the home.

If you see something, say something. In the weeks since the El Paso and Dayton shootings dozens of people have been arrested for threats made to shoot up people in public places. One such threat came from an Albert Lea, Minnesota 15 year old girl who made threats on social media to shoot up a school.

I don’t believe that arming staff is a good way to deal with active shooters either. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to be in the right place during a shooting and also to be able to actually hit a moving human being also shooting at you. There have been many instances of staff members leaving loaded guns in bathrooms or accidentally discharging their guns. In last May’s Colorado STEM school shooting an armed guard accidentally shot one of the students. He should not have had his gun:

In a statement, STEM School Highlands Ranch said it didn’t know the guard was armed until the shooting occurred May 7 on the campus that includes students from kindergarten through high school.
“While it is more common to have armed security personnel at high schools, it is uncommon at elementary schools,” the statement issued Monday said. “Given the diverse population at our school, we made the decision to request an unarmed guard in an effort to balance these different interests.”

There are many reasons that arming staff is not a good idea.

Let’s just say it like it is. Our politicians need to DO SOMETHING to protect us from gun violence. It can be done in conjunction with respecting gun rights. The bottom line is that gun rights in the clothing of the second amendment, has stopped us from protecting the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Since January of 2019 there have been 22 school shootings according to his article. That does not include the beginning of the last school year from September through December. What we want is to reduce that number through new laws, awareness, safety practices, safe storage, and any other method we can use.

This is about saving lives and protecting our children. For the sake of my grandchildren and yours and your children, it’s time to get involved and engage. Let’s get to work.

Schizophrenia about guns and solutions to gun violence

As we could have expected, nothing is happening so far to prevent the next mass shooting which will inevitably come- likely soon. Well, I should take that back. Something is happening- it’s happening minute by minute.

It’s all about the President. Since the El Paso and Dayton shootings he has changed his mind and changed his messaging at least a half dozen times. Background checks are on. We have a strong background check system already. Background checks are off the table. It’s mental illness. That’s what pulls the trigger. And the latest is a ridiculous scheme to detect changes in people’s mental moods that could result in some sort of awful violent event which will kill people.

Here is that scheme, introduced into the public realm just this afternoon:

The White House has been briefed on a proposal to develop a way to identify early signs of changes in people with mental illness that could lead to violent behavior.
Supporters see the plan as a way President Trump could move the ball forward on gun control following recent mass shootings as efforts seem to be flagging to impose harsher restrictions such as background checks on gun purchases.

First of all- gun control? This is about people control. And it’s gun violence prevention. Second, how does one detect early signs of change in people with mental illness? What is mental illness?

The idea that we are blaming mass shootings and the daily gun violence carnage on mental illness has been debunked over and over again. Here is just one article about that myth:

Just 3 to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to mental health problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whereas mentally ill people are more than 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than are the general population.
“Social contagion,” or the spread of violent ideas, is another strong contributor to gun violence, according to researchers.
Carla Marie Manly, a Santa Rosa-based psychologist, defines social contagion as “the spread of attitudes, behaviors, or ideas via conformity and imitation,” in an interview with Healthline.
““The shooters become driven to study previous perpetrators to learn their methods and to obtain validation,” she said in the Healthline interview. “Given our society’s media-driven focus, mass shooters seek the infamy that will come with their actions — the same notoriety given to prior shooters.”

But never mind. The President, in his unhinged and crazy way of thinking keeps right on going. He wants to make it about mental illness, not guns.

There is something else to think about here from the article above:

The Suzanne Wright Foundation re-approached the administration last week and proposed that HARPA include a “Safe Home” — “Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes” — project. Officials discussed the proposal at the White House last week, said two people familiar with the discussions. These people and others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversations.
The attempt to use volunteer data to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” would be a four-year project costing an estimated $40 million to $60 million, according to Geoffrey Ling, the lead scientific adviser on HARPA and a founding director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. (…) Mental illness can sometimes be a factor in such violent acts, experts say, but it is rarely a predictor — most studies show that no more than a quarter of mass shooters have a diagnosed mental illness. More commonly shared attributes of mass shooters include a strong sense of resentment, desire for notoriety, obsession with other shooters, a history of domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms.

Further- this project is being pushed inside the White House without any research or concern that it won’t work. But whatever:

Trump has reacted “very positively” to the HARPA proposal, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions and has been “sold on the concept.” But it’s unclear whether the president has reviewed the new “Safe Home” component of the proposal and creating an entire agency would be a huge lift in Congress. (…) Trump has a close personal relationship with Bob Wright, who founded the Suzanne Wright Foundation after his wife passed away from pancreatic cancer. Wright is the former chair of NBC and was in that job while Trump headlined “The Apprentice.”

Ah yes, here’s the rub. He’s close personal friends with the founder of the foundation that this project is about. Now we understand. But have they thought about hipaa laws? Have they thought about how people won’t “volunteer” this information? Have they thought about mining data on people that is private and could be used to actually harm someone? From the article:

The idea is for the agency to develop a “sensor suite” using advanced artificial intelligence to try to identify changes in mental status that could make an individual more prone to violent behavior. The research would ultimately be opened to the public.
HARPA would develop “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence,” says a copy of the proposal. “A multi-modality solution, along with real-time data analytics, is needed to achieve such an accurate diagnosis.” (…)

Those familiar with the project stressed it would not collect sensitive health data about individuals without their permission. The government is simply trying to identify risk factors when it comes to mental health that could indicate violent behavior, they said.
“Privacy must be safeguarded. Profiling must be avoided. Data protection capabilities will be the cornerstone of this effort.”

I don’t believe this for a minute, do you? Facebook and other forms of social media have been collecting data on us for a long time now to target us for political reasons or to market goods to us. What is to stop this silly plan from getting private health data from people and using it to place them in an institution?

Red Flag or Extreme Risk Protection Orders would allow family members o report a family member who could be a danger to themselves or others for whatever reason- severe mental illness, maybe dementia, anger issues, relationship difficulties, domestic violence, etc. This proposed bill, already passed in the House, would deal with easy access to guns by people who should not have them. And, according to the above article, it is working. This is common sense.

Trump and his handlers, enablers and sycophants are avoiding using the word guns at any cost. They don’t want to anger the corporate gun lobby after all. Don’t get Wayne LaPierre angry. The organization he leads is “they who should be obeyed” or else. But the NRA’s Board members are abandoning ship and members are leaving in the face of charges of corruption and financial mismanagement.

Thankfully the House Judiciary Committee is going to come back to Washington early to deal with our public health epidemic. Whether the Senate, controlled by the “grim reaper” will ever take up the bills already passed in the House is unlikely. But the shootings will continue and they will be held accountable for not acting.

Since Congress has not acted beginning after the Columbine shooting, there have been 349 people have died in mass shootings. In “overall” gun deaths, however, using 19 years times an average of 33,000 = 627,000 gun deaths.

Congress must #DO SOMETHING. The country is demanding. Two recent polls show interesting results given who ordered the polls. The first is a Fox news poll showing broad support for the gun measures already passed and proposed in Congress:

A Fox News poll found that “overwhelming and bipartisan majorities of voters” support background checks on gun buyers, as well as taking guns from people who could pose a danger.
The numbers are indeed overwhelming, in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

For starters, 90 percent of those surveyed favor criminal background checks on all buyers, and 81 percent want “red flag” laws that allow police to seize guns from people shown to be a danger to themselves or others. (…)

hen we come to the partisan divide. While Democrats most often blame easy access to guns (79 percent), white nationalism (62) and Trump (59), Republicans point to inadequate mental health services (60 percent) and bad parenting (54); just 32 percent fault easy access to guns.
On just about any other issue, 90 percent approval would translate into congressional action. But the politics of gun control have always been treacherous, and as even the most horrendous mass shooting—Las Vegas, Orlando, and so many others—fades into the past, Washington politicians find it easier not to act.

Bad parenting? Good grief.

The second poll by a Republican firm shows more strong support by suburban women for common sense gun laws:

72 percent said they think gun laws should be stricter, compared to four percent who said they should be less strict and 23 percent who said they should be kept as they are now.
55 percent said they think stricter gun laws would help prevent gun violence.
90 percent support requiring universal background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales, which would require all gun owners to file with a national firearms registry.
88 percent said they would support requiring a 48-hour waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and when the buyer can take possession of that gun.
84 percent back a national red flag law that would permit law enforcement to temporarily retain firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
76 percent said they would ban the purchase and use of semi-automatic assault-style weapons like the AK-47 and the AR-15.
And 72 percent would support banning the sale and possession of high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines, which allow guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before needing to be reloaded. (…)

“Suburban women have made it clear that they are ready for Congress to address the gun violence epidemic plaguing this country,” said Sarah Chamberlain, the president and chief executive of the Republican Main Street Partnership, in an email. “Our mission is to equip our members of Congress with pertinent information like this polling so that they may best address the needs of their suburban districts by crafting appropriate legislative responses.”

The public is making it clear. But it couldn’t be more muddled. With changes in rhetoric and tweets every few hours, there is no cogent policy ideas, no proposals to save lives, no empathy towards victims, no understanding of the severity of the public health epidemic we are experiencing.

It’s sad. More than that, it’s maddening and it’s causing chaos and exhaustion not to mention depression. Oops, I should be careful if I say that because the new agency being pushed by the foundation that has the President’s attention might put me into some category of mental illness requiring an institution or whatever they propose to do with people who show early signs of mental illness. I might become violent.

We are experiencing national PTSD and schizophrenia. The person who is talking about mental illness linked to gun violence is becoming increasingly erratic and it should concern us all.

A Pyyhric Victory

Since my return home from my trip to Greece, the Minnesota House of Representatives has passed an Omnibus Public Safety Bill containing both background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order provisions. The vote happened at about 2:00 a.m. last Tuesday after the gun rights Republicans tried every trick in their tired old bag to weaken the bills. Stand Your Ground and Constitutional Carry- ever favorites of the now imploding NRA were tried but failed. One Representative suggested that, in the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, other things besides firearms should be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. He suggested cars, knives, golf clubs and bats for just a few. Yes. He said that.

He is wrong of course since the other items, except for auto accidents, don’t come anywhere near to killing as many people as guns. But never mind the facts.

This is the first time ever that a common sense gun safety reform bill has passed in a Minnesota legislative chamber. There was a rally on Monday which I attended and at which I spoke, to call attention to the bill and make noise about wanting it to pass. They heard us in chambers and knew we were there. Also there were a couple of obnoxious gun rights guys, dressed in suits can carrying their tripod with iPhone around on it to record the rally. Paranoid as they are, they must find out what we are doing and report it to their fearful followers in case we do something like spread out in the area and start confiscating their guns.

There was a group of students visiting from their school who these guys decided to record without asking permission. Several of us stood between the phone guy and the kids and answered questions about what we were doing. They were uniformly against the gun guys and understood the stakes for themselves when people who shouldn’t have guns use kids in schools as sitting ducks. Listen to the kids.

All in all it was a good day. We spoke with legislators and made our cause known. Speakers were inspiring, including Governor Walz who pulled his pen out of his pocket and said he was ready to sign the bill into law.

It was a Pyrrhic victory and we knew that. It will now be in the hands of a conference committee where the Senate, full of gun rights members, will not vote in favor unless a miracle happens. Why? Great question. No gun registration or confiscation will occur. No legal gun owners rights will be affected. There may be a few minutes of extra time involved in getting a background check from private sellers but so what? Not a reason to oppose. We know the reason. Follow the money and the influence of the corporate gun lobby.

From Minnesota DFL

The Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka declared the bills dead. My sister is dead. Hundreds of Minnesotans die every year. We can’t make them alive again but he can make the bills alive again. We can save lives and stop people from becoming dead in senseless and avoidable shootings.

The number of gun rights advocates calling and emailing the legislators are smaller by percentage than the majority of us who have demanded the passage of the bills. We are the majority but most of us are not single focused or paranoid and care about many things in our lives. To be more exact, the number of NRA members, the ones making the noise, in America compared to the total population is less than 10% of gun owners.

In fact, from the article above, after the Parkland school shooting, 97% of gun owners wanted to strengthen our gun laws. Remarkable. And also from the article:

A question remains. If gun owners across the country like Ware no longer identify with the organization, and polls show that they increasingly support gun control measures, who is the gun rights group fighting for?

Good question. And the other question that I asked on Monday in my speech was of whom are the legislators so afraid? This small group? The biggest problems is that the NRA is now an arm of the Republican party and part of the overall ideological bent of the party. It almost has nothing to do with guns anymore. They are a paper tiger but they have managed to wield a lot of influence anyway. Money talks. Corporations are people.

As the bodies pile up, our legislators will need to explain the real reasons they oppose reasonable gun laws. The archaic thinking that goes with their opposition is going out with those who are clinging to the old world order of mostly white guys having power and control. And when the NRA explodes, the road to victory will happen more easily.

Times are changing. Laws will change. The culture will change. Minnesota will change its gun laws. It may not be this year, though I still am hopeful. But it will change. Gun safety reform is here to stay and will be one of the most important issues of the upcoming campaigns and elections. We are not afraid any more of the “guys with the guns” who believe they make the rules.

A country at unrest

Modern medicine concept: Anxiety on Yellow Brickwall .I have not written for a while due to campaigning for candidates who actually care about saving lives by supporting gun violence prevention efforts. It’s refreshing to know they are out there representing the majority of Americans who agree with common sense.

Today was a day of what appears to be homegrown terrorism that we have not seen for a while in our country. I remember when the DC Snipers terrorized Washington D.C. and the surrounding area. Just a few guns and people were afraid to leave their homes. It was a frightening time. We have had many home grown terrorist attacks in this country using mostly firearms.:

A recent government report shows that from Sept. 12, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2016, there were 85 deadly attacks in the United States by violent extremists.

Most of the attacks were carried out by far-right violent extremists. But more people died during attacks connected with Islamic jihadist extremists.  (…)

Of those 225 deaths:

• 106 individuals were killed by far-right violent extremists in 62 separate incidents;

• 119 individuals were killed by radical Islamist violent extremists in 23 separate incidents;

• The number of people killed in a given year ranged from one to 49. (…)

GAO noted that 41 percent of the deaths caused by a radical Islamist during the reviewed period happened in one incident: the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. In June 2016, Omar Mateen, born in the United States to Afghan parents, killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

But today it was pipe bombs sent to the offices or homes of Democrats. Something is terribly wrong with this no matter who was targeted. Republicans are arguing that Congressman Steve Scalise was targeted by a left-wing nut job was just as bad as what happened today.

It’s true. That was a devastating attack on an innocent lawmaker just enjoying a baseball practice with his colleagues. But what good does it do to bring up this comparison? What it feels like to me is that the Republicans are just not willing to deal with the “elephant in the room”.

But now that President Trump has been in office for the better part of two years, we have seen out of control rhetoric coming straight from the mouth of the guy at the top. The President is supposed to be a role model and there to soothe Americans in crises and tamp down dangerous rhetoric. But Trump has no compunctions about intimidating and fomenting fear and potential violence against the media and his “political enemies”.  The examples just keep adding up.

Who is going to speak out against this? Who in the Republican party will call out the dangerous rhetoric coming out of the mouth of their own leader?

The angry mob is the latest insult issued by the President,  trying to make those of us in pussy hats the “bad guys”.  This is purely to get his base riled up and riled up they are. The other day he extolled the virtues of the Montana Congressman who body-slammed a reporter.

The crowd laughed.

For Trump, that was A-O-K.  I can give many other examples but his attacks against the press- ( focusing on CNN)  all except state TV ( oh- er FOX news) is what authoritarian rulers do. Where are we?

CNN President Jeff Zucker responded:

CNN’s President Jeff Zucker blamed President Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for the series of bomb threats that surfaced on Wednesday.

“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” Mr. Zucker said in a statement.

“The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that,” he continued.

And as it turns out, Trump’s daughter-in-law signed her name to a campaign email attacking CNN even after the pipe bombs were discovered:

“Here’s what CNN said. What do you say?” the email states. “I have some breaking news for CNN… That is the real America that exists outside of the liberal bubble.”

“It’s time for us to give the media another wake-up call from the American people,” the email continues. “The President needs you to take the Media Accountability Survey to do your part in fighting back against the fake news’ attacks and bias against hardworking Americans.”

The email asks for responses to the survey by 11:59 p.m.

One of the questions is: “Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?” with the options Yes, No, No Opinion and Other.

While such emails are generally scheduled ahead of time, the campaign would have had the option of canceling in light of Wednesday morning’s events.

I ask you- who is the enemy of the people?

Is there no decency in Trump world?

The press attacks have been drawn into sharp focus when, a Washington Post U. S. resident who was a Saudi citizen, was brutally murdered in istanbul allegedly and most likely by the Saudis at the top. Is it any coincidence that Trump is a good friend to these folks or that his son-in-law has fostered the relationship?

It’s very hard to avoid the obvious here. When the bully-in-chief spouts and encourages violence at his “rallies”, what should we expect? And worse yet, just tonight at a rally in Milwaukee the crowd was getting warmed up by yelling “Lock Her Up” in reference to one of the recipients of the pipe bombs. 

The election is over. President Obama is not the President anymore. Trump is not running against Hillary Clinton any more. CNN is a respected world-wide media company but Trump hates them because they tell the truth about him.

These are scary times. Americans are armed to the hilt and ready to go in case of insurrections. But who will start this? Not the women with pussy hats.

There is a rise in right wing violence in our country. Consider what happened in Charlottesville last year. Isn’t it more than a coincidence that the President actually called himself a Nationalist a few days ago? :

The response to this development from Trump and his apparatchiks has been to spread fantasies about mass immigration of violent, criminal brown people; to demonize Muslims; to cook up nightmares about an exploding crime rate that’s concentrated in cities with large black populations. All these dark forces are contrasted with Real America, the Silent Majority who want to Make It Great Again. During the election, Trump shared disgusting propaganda that radically inflated the prevalence of black-on-white crime. This week, Trump has even combined some of these greatest hits, unleashing the insane lie that there are “unknown Middle Easterners” embedded in a caravan of Central American immigrants and refugees headed for the U.S. southern border.

This rhetoric, we are continually reminded, is effective

These are dangerous times. I now am convinced that Trump could walk out onto 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and his supporters wouldn’t care. 

Please remember that the NRA spent more money to get Trump elected than in previous Presidential elections- $30 million. They understood that this guy would support their dangerous agenda.

Do remember that the NRA’s spokesperson Wayne LaPierre has said that “the guys with the guns make the rules” and on NRA TV, Dana Loesch has issued statements of hate and violence against liberals and the media. This is not your grandfather’s NRA. This is an extremist group.

Do you remember when Alex Jones ( friend of President Trump) made up conspiracy theories claiming that Sandy Hook and all mass shootings didn’t happen but the victims were actors? I do. The families do.

This is more than despicable. It is so disgusting there are hardly words and it adds to the hate and dangerous rhetoric exhibited by some who have loud voices in the media who should be hiding in a basement somewhere. But they have been given voice by the current party in charge because it keeps the base all revved up and ready to vote.

It is just a matter of time before someone is killed because of a political atmosphere filled with hate, paranoia, fear and made-up stories about mobs and caravans ( paid for by Democrats) and people who opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court.. 

The country is full of anxiety created by a chaotic President whose M.O. is yelling, blaming, crowing about himself, lying and cheating. Let’s hope the perpetrator of the terror threats is found soon and held responsible. Then we will know what this is all about. With 2 weeks to the election, it is vitally important that this person is caught.

We are better than this.

Guns and potato chips

potatochips_005350I frequently run into stories about people getting shot in arguments about simple things or objects just because. I have written about arguments over lawn mowers, garbage cans, property ( that’s a more common cause for a shooting), dogs, etc. But here is a new reason for shooting someone- eating my potato chips. Yes. It’s true. A South Carolina man shot and seriously injured his cousin after said cousin ate the chips he told him not to eat.

But the story started changing after the victim recovered enough for further questioning. The teen told investigators that Langdale shot him after warning him not to eat his salt and vinegar potato chips.

 

“Do not touch my chips, or I’ll shoot you,” Langdale allegedly told the victim according to a sheriff’s incident report, obtained by the Charleston Post and Courier.

People are killed for much more serious arguments actually. My sister is dead over a serious argument during a contentious divorce. No one should die because of that but a gun and several rounds of ammunition were available to my now dead estranged brother-in-law. And the result was 2 dead people. All because of money and a divorce.

I really am not fond of vinegar flavored potato chips. They are sour tasting to me but many love them. I guess a man with a gun loved them a little too much and now he is arrested for attempted murder.

It is about the guns after all. This man was presumably a “good guy with a gun” until he wasn’t. That’s the thing. It only takes seconds to make that very serious decision to use a loaded deadly weapon in the heat of the moment to seriously injure or kill someone.

Each of us has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in America. Too often that right is taken from us for reasons that are beyond our control- like disease, weather ( Hurricane Michael), war, poor health, poverty, no health care, etc.

In our country, we can count on the daily carnage of gun violence as one way to take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every day in our country is an American tragedy and yet we do nothing.

When will we ever learn? It’s not for lack of trying of course because many people like myself have been sounding the alarm and asking for common sense for decades now. And for that we have been treated like an “angry mob” and those bad people who will take away the guns of all of those “good people” and “law abiding” armed citizens.

The “angry mob” that our President and the GOP has now concocted as a reason not to vote for the Democrats is unarmed. The other angry mob walks around with AR15s strapped to their bodies and shows up in public places with loaded guns to intimidate the rest of us. Remember Charlottesville?

This is dangerous rhetoric fomented by our very own President and assisted by the corporate gun lobby with the promotion of fear and paranoia. Remember Wayne LaPierre and the “guys with the guns make the rules”?

No Mr. LaPierre. They don’t.

Let’s hope the rules are not made by armed citizens.  When that rhetoric is part of our national daily media, guys with guns get the idea that they just might be justified in shooting someone over potato chips or elections.

Elections are coming up. It’s October with less than a month to go. Peaceful and fair elections have always been the American way. Without that, we are not a democracy.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month.

The statistics are chilling. When a gun is in the home, women are at great risk during domestic arguments. 

This week I attended the annual fund raiser for Safe Haven which is a shelter for abused women in Duluth. Every year, either a woman who has been abused and used the shelter tells her story to the audience or a film is shown with interviews of some of the women who have been abused. Out of the 3 stories told by the women interviewed for this year’s film, 2 of them had experienced the terror of their abuser holding a gun to her head or having a gun aimed at her during the abusers abusive tirades. They lived to tell their stories.

A former District Court Judge was the keynote speaker for this event. He had seen a lot of domestic abuse cases over his years as a local attorney and then a judge. He spoke about seeing generations of men who had come before him as abusers- a grandfather, then his son and then his son. His message was that violence begets violence. Violence is not the way to win arguments or elections. But it can become the ultimate control over others.

I am adding this new report by the Brady Campaign about domestic violence and guns:

Every hour, 1,141 people become victims of domestic violence. About 3 people are shot and killed every single day by an intimate partner with a gun. Millions more are victimized, threatened, intimidated, or terrified into silence by the presence of one. They will survive with emotional (and sometimes physical) scars of the time that a person they loved hurt them. The stories of Sara, Kate, Rachael, and Kimberly are the voices of real people who have been affected by the intersection of domestic violence and guns in this country. Sara and Shelley didn’t survive their attacks. We owe a duty to them and to the survivors who lived. It is our job to call on Congress and state legislators to pass meaningful laws to prevent more men and women from becoming victims of domestic violence every year.

There is much much more to the above linked report including the real stories of women who have survived domestic violence- or not.

Loaded guns can become weapons of terror within seconds. The assumption is, or what I am told anyway by those who own guns for self protection, that a gun will be used to save the lives of one’s family during a robbery or an assault of some kind. But the thing is, owning a gun is risky business. Unless the owner is properly trained ( which many are not), stores guns securely in a safe away from the curious hands of a child or teen- or a burglar, they can be used to harm others. 

There are certain facts here. A gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill or injure oneself or someone in the home than it is to be used for self defense. There are real risks associated with gun ownership just like the risks of driving while drunk or smoking in public places.

Check out the Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire site to learn more about the risks.

And I will end with some observations I made while tabling a few days ago for Protect Minnesota at the St. Louis County Health and Human Services conference. This conference is attended by social workers and health care personnel from all over the state and is always full of people ready to learn. Our table was a popular one. Many stopped by to take information and have conversations.

One woman took lots of our information about safe storage of guns, ASK, and talking points about gun violence prevention. She told me she was a social worker who went into many homes of families who needed services for one reason or another. In one home, a woman lived alone with her children after being abused by her spouse. She told the social worker that she kept a loaded gun in the dresser drawer next to her bed just in case he came calling. This horrified the social worker as she asked the woman if her children were also in that bedroom. She said that her 3 year old slept with her.

So the social worker explained the risks of having this loaded gun around unsecured both to herself and her children. They went to a local Goodwill store and found a gun safe there for less than $10 and brought it home. The gun is now secured in this small safe hidden in the bedroom closet.

That is common sense.

Also at that 2 day conference, we gave away 200 trigger locks before 10:00 a.m. of the first day. People support what we do and what to be safe if they own guns.

Had that South Carolina man had his gun safely stored and not at the ready in his hands, his cousin would not have suffered serious injuries over a dispute about potato chips and the shooter would not have been arrested. Both lives have been forever changed because of the gun.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With some common sense and awareness about the risks of loaded guns we can save lives. With stronger gun laws, we can save lives.

That is the bottom line.

 

NRA convention hypocrisy

nogunsat NRAWell, it’s that time of year again. The NRA convention trots out good old Wayne LaPierre, bearer of fear and paranoia, to whip up the crowd and make everyone want to go right out to buy a gun to protect themselves from all of the evilness out there. It’s mostly in the form of Democrats and those silly liberal gun violence prevention activists. We are a scary bunch for sure. We’re coming for their guns but just haven’t figured out how to find out where they are and how we would get them.

Never mind. They say we’re still coming. It’s going to be Armegeddon for sure. Or maybe a Civil War. That would be fun.

And for the first time in history, a sitting President addressed the convention for the 3rd time ( once as a candidate). Does anyone remember when the President sat in a room in the White House assuring victims and survivors after the Parkland shooting that he would do something about the epidemic of gun violence? Yes. He said he would. And then he taunted politicians about their fear of the NRA. What’s to be afraid of anyway?

Let’s watch what the President said and then reflect on the 180 degree turn around after spending time with NRA leaders:

We are talking about the lives of our children. Such hypocrisy and disingenuous ( and even lies) are disturbing to say the least. We are better than this.

Trump also believes (in his speech to the NRA) that the NRA just loves the country. Take a look:

“This is a great organization that loves this country,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Dallas. “The NRA is a truly great organization that loves this country. And we have a record crowd.”

This is Trump’s fourth consecutive address to the NRA’s annual meeting, but his first remarks to the group since the tragic Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that left 17 dead and sparked a national student-led push for gun law reform.

“The world is watching and we’re going to come up with a solution,” Trump assured a group of people affected by the nation’s deadliest school shootings during an emotional White House listening session one week after the attack.

Not true. Trump will NOT come up with a solution. He’s lying. Neither will the country loving NRA. They have shown us time after time that they don’t care about the lives lost. Remember when Charleston Heston went to the NRA convention in Denver right after the Columbine shooting? I do. So do the victims and survivors of that shooting. You can see his famous remarks:

Back to the meeting the President had with victims and survivors- He suggested a few good measures that would actually save lives and prevent some of those victims and survivors from having to advocate for preventing devastating shootings. What happened? The NRA came calling. And soon enough, Trump stopped talking about preventing shootings and was back to his bluster and hypocrisy.

#WeCallBS

And does it make any sense at all for the President to carry on at the convention so soon after all of the talk about gun violence in light of so many recent mass shootings? Here are a few of his ludicrous remarks:

Mr. Trump, as he has in the past, made the case for arming teachers, and getting rid of gun-free zones.

He also mourned the Parkland shooting victims.

“Our entire nation was filled with shock and grief by the monstrous attack on a high school in Parkland, Florida,” Mr. Trump said. “We mourn for the victims and their families.”

WHAT? Come on.

Back to the NRA convention, the crowd got a double barreled pleasure since VP Pence also showed up. Have you ever seen Pence with a gun by the way? Does he even hunt? I don’t know if he has much in the line of gun creds but he sure has been cozy with the NRA. 

And neither does Trump. But what they do have is Republican extremism and that’s what the NRA is all about today.

They are not your grandfather’s NRA. They are all about fear and terror:

You don’t have to be a media critic to parse the message: The NRA was casting virtually everyone but gun-owning conservatives as enemies of the state, seemingly encouraging its audience to arm themselves against their fellow Americans. Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory, a single black mother from New York, published an open letter on the group’s web site calling on the NRA to take the video down. “The video you sponsored,” she wrote, “suggests armed violence against communities of color, progressives, and anyone who does not agree with this administration’s policies.”

“I’m here to tell you: Not a chance,” replied Grant Stinchfield, Loesch’s angry-white-male counterpart, in an NRA TV video that called Mallory out by name, along with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson. “We don’t apologize for warning America about chaos creators who want to impose their will upon us through their violence and lies.”

Dana Loesch, NRA TV personality and spokeswoman for fear, will be talking at the NRA convention. She represents the new face of the NRA since it has become an extremist organization. From the linked article:

The NRA of Loesch and Stinchfield would have been utterly unrecognizable to the organization’s membership as recently as 50 years ago. From its founding in 1871 throughout most of the twentieth century, the NRA was largely a firearms-safety and marksmanship-training organization. The NRA kept its members informed about legislation affecting gun owners, but it had no official lobbying arm, and it was a political nonentity. But with the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, everything began to change.

Yes. And everything is beginning to chance the other way, at long last. Activists, including Victims groups will be visible and noisy outside of he NRA convention.

Carry Guard insurance, sold by the NRA, is now in trouble as well:

In a Wednesday announcement, the New York State Department of Financial Services said the NRA’s Carry Guard program “unlawfully provided liability insurance to gun owners for certain acts of intentional wrongdoing,” and that the group solicited coverage to New York residents without a license from the state. Lockton, the world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage, has agreed to pay the state $7 million for the violations, and will terminate Carry Guard policies held by New Yorkers.

Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo described the conduct as “an egregious violation of public policy.” (…)

Following the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Chubb disclosed that it had decided not to renew its contract to underwrite the program. Lockton also stated its intention to no longer act as broker and administrator for Carry Guard.

“It’s a major step back,” Peter Kochenburger, the executive director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut Law School, told The Trace’s Mike Spies in February. “To keep this going, the NRA will have to find another insurance company to underwrite this. It’s hard to imagine another publicly traded company, or a company like State Farm, stepping in.”

It turns out that companies are not happy with the idea that they may have to pay out if some “good guy” with a gun shoots someone intentionally and gets away with it. I wonder why?

I wonder, by the way, if they will send Ted Nugent out to offend people? At least his images and some products with his name on them will be there.

Oh, and among the items featured on display at the shopping area of the convention is a gun that looks like a cell phone. I’m pretty sure I wrote about this before. But let’s marvel at the total lack of sensibility and common sense involved with this new weapon. What could possibly go wrong?

Does anyone remember the recent shooting of Stephon Clark?

What could possibly go wrong with a gun like this? I can’t even begin to enumerate how wrong this is.

Sigh.

Police officers, ever on the alert when they are in tense situations, have mistaken all kinds of common objects for guns.  It seems ridiculous on its’ face but it’s America where just about anyone can own and carry a gun.

Also featured at the NRA convention is a gun free zone. No good guys with guns to protect the President and Vice President. What are they afraid of?

The Brady Campaign has a great new report out with a timeline about what the NRA has been up to in the past year. The report, titled “Fear and Fanaticism; a year like no other” is spot on. Given the number of horrendous mass shootings in the past year, setting a record of the number of deaths (Las Vegas) the country has had a deadly year. The report includes a list of some of the shootings and the response by the NRA.

mass shooting image Brady

There’s a new atmosphere out there after the Parkland shooting. The majority of Americans have found their voices and they are speaking out. For too long, people resistant to the extremes of the NRA have remained quiet. It’s easier that way because the trolls and critics pounce and it’s not pretty.

Not this time. There are many people like me at the NRA convention this year letting them know how we feel. We aren’t having their nonsensical rhetoric and their myths. And we are getting ready for the fall elections when the issue of gun safety reform will be front and center. Candidates will have to decide on whose side they stand. Preventing shootings and protecting our families from devastation really has no side. It’s a human and moral issue and part of our American values. It’s not about gun sales. It’s not about rights. It’s not about power and control. It’s not about money and influence.

It’s about our lives. That is why students and others came out in very large numbers to March For Our Lives events all over out country. They are not done yet. In fact, they have only begun and many will be voters in the mid-term elections.

It’s Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

#NoRA

UPDATE:

I used the hashtag #NoRA but did not include the article referring to the latest effort against the powerful organization. A group of 100 celebrities and activists have sent a letter to Wayne LaPierre in which they have pledged to a series of actions to reduce the influence of the organization on politicians:

In an open letter to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, which was first obtained by TIME, the more than 100 members of the newly formed NoRA Initiative — short for No Rifle Association — pledge to reduce the NRA’s influence in American politics through a series of voter registration drives, nationwide art campaigns, demonstrations and boycotts. (…) She says the group has “surprises up our sleeves,” including for events timed to the NRA’s annual convention in Dallas May 3-6. “When like-minded people come together for the common good and for a cause they believe in,” Milano said, “they can move mountains.”

I look forward to the actions and to changing the influence of the corporate gun lobby’s money and influence that has led to inaction to save lives.