NRA Convention myths and facts

Trump NRAStarting tomorrow Atlanta will host the annual NRA Convention. It should be yet another testament to the more and more extreme agenda of the leadership of the NRA. Nationally and in states all over the country, the gun lobby’s leaders and lobbyists have been pushing for ever more dangerous laws to undermine public safety.

Donald Trump will speak at the convention on his 99th day in office. He must believe that the American public will find this to be one of his key accomplishments in his first 100 days. The accomplishment will be for the corporate gun lobby and, if you follow the money,  for gun industry profits.

There is little real support for these bills except for the NRA’s leadership and lapdog politicians. Americans for Responsible Solutions released new polling data that shows that most gun owners and NRA members do not agree with the agenda of the organization:

As the National Rifle Association (NRA) prepares to kick off its annual convention in Atlanta later this week, a new national survey of gun owners finds overwhelming opposition to the dangerous policies and positions supported by the Washington gun lobby. The poll, released today by Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, also finds that a many gun owners believe that the NRA has become increasingly out of touch with them on important gun safety issues and shows that a majority of gun owners believe the NRA has lost its way, straying from its original purpose and mission. (…) The poll illustrates a disconnect between the views of gun owners and the priorities being pushed by the gun lobby. Key federal legislative priorities named by the NRA, including federally mandated concealed carry, deregulating the sale of gun silencers, and eliminating gun-free school zones, receive very low support from gun owners themselves.

There is a disconnect not only between gun owners and the corporate gun lobby but between the general public as well. That is because the NRA and other pro gun organizations are out of touch with the real America. Their agenda is all about power, control and money. In a recent post, I mentioned that the NRA has become now a talking head for the agenda of the political far right:

The right-wing conservatives now ascendant in Washington are not so shy about their ties to the gun group, and the NRA and its allies are championing policies that would formerly be regarded as fringe. At the federal level, the NRA’s top legislative priority is a bill that would require states to honor each other’s laws governing the concealed carrying of handguns. Another gun-rights measure pending in Congress would legalize silencers, and a third would abolish gun-free school zones.

So let’s review, shall we?

The NRA now has a “seat” at the White House like in no prior administration.

The NRA spent $30 million to get Donald Trump elected.

The NRA spent political capital and actual capital to make sure that the open Supreme Court seat went to someone they wanted- Neal Gorsuch.

At least one NRA Board member, Ted Nugent, has dined at the White House with Donald Trump- last week. You can’t state clearly enough how offensive Ted Nugent has become and yet still retains a Board position with the NRA. Why was he dining at the White House along with someone who seems to share his views- ex VP candidate Sarah Palin- the one who shoots bears from a helicopter and loves her guns. Ted Nugent is not what we would call a fine upstanding citizen who should be dining with any President in my opinion.

The NRA’s extreme agenda is now in the “mainstream” of our government and will be apparently pushed by our very own President.

Americans continue to die from gunshot injuries at the alarming rate of 90 per day and around 32,000 a year.

Mass shootings continue on a pace more rapid than in past years.

Veterans are shooting and killing themselves in gun suicides daily but the House and perhaps the Senate will decide that not only is that OK, they will make it more possible.

Alex Jones, right wing conspiracy theorist and who believes the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, is a friend of our President.

Common sense is nowhere to be seen at the federal level concerning a national public health epidemic.

Americans generally do have common sense about gun policy, but as long as the corporate gun lobby has a hold on our political leaders, the public’s wishes will be ignored.

“Corporations are people” but corporations don’t get shot and killed. The gun lobby is a corporation formed by the gun industry and the leaders and lobbyists of the pro gun movement. As long as this is the case, we can expect to see shootings continue unabated.

Here are some facts to lead us into the week-end’s festivities:

While the NRA has been placing friends and allies in the Trump Administration and getting favors in return, it has also been relying on relationships with legislators and even President Trump’s own family to push its legislative goals in Congress. NRA allies in Congress and the White House have already delivered some quiet victories for the gun lobby that will endanger public safety. In February, Congress passed and President Trump signed legislation behind 3 responsiblesolutions.org #ResistTheGunLobby closed doors that eliminated a President Obama-era rule that prevented mentally impaired individuals from accessing firearms.12 The rule had required the inclusion of records into the NICS background check system of recipients of Social Security disability benefits who also required a fiduciary representative to manage their benefits because of a disabling mental disorder.13 And in March, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would make it harder to keep guns out of the hands of veterans with severe mental illnesses by effectively prohibiting the Veterans Administration from sharing those records with NICS while also removing the 174,000 records already included in the system. This will put the veterans who most need our support at increased risk of doing harm to themselves or others. The most recent statistics available from the VA found that an average of 20 veterans per day die from suicide.14 While these are early victories for the NRA, their real agenda is focused on policies that would undermine law enforcement and put public safety at risk, making communities across the country less safe.

And more, from the ARS article, from the mouth of NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre:

In January, before President Trump was even sworn in, LaPierre made the NRA’s new mission clear, warning members that the “forces that conspired to keep Donald Trump out of the White House are coming together to sabotage his administration,” seeking to “inflict their revenge.”46 A month later LaPierre compared antiTrump protestors to “terrorists” and joined Trump’s attacks on “leftist media” and the “fake news.”47 LaPierre and NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox are both slated to speak alongside Trump at the NRA’s annual meeting.48

Revenge. What is that exactly? And what are we talking about here? What I am talking about is public health and safety and protecting lives. The NRA and corporate gun lobby don’t seem to care a whit about that because… rights……money……loyalty…….power……control……..business.

The alternative facts and fantasy of more guns everywhere making American great again continues. Facts don’t matter when it comes to the gun extremists. They want what they want. And what they want is not good for America. A visit to the NRA headquarters is featured in a recent New York Times article takes on the fantasy world of the gun lobby in which we put our heads in the sand and ignore our real problems with guns and gun violence. From the article:

The film star stands tall at the National Rifle Association’s National Firearms Museum — true, only as a cardboard cutout of himself. But the cardboard fantasy of the good guy gunning down the bad guy is what makes the museum work as an enjoyable escape from the life-and-death reality of American gun carnage.

There are thousands of ingenious, gleaming rifles and handguns in displays about America’s gun-rich history of colonialism, immigration, expansionism and vigilante justice. But it is the gallery devoted to Hollywood and its guns and good-guy shooters that best illustrates the power of fantasy now driving the modern gun rights debate.

“Go ahead, make my day,” Clint Eastwood growled famously to a movie bad guy before dispatching him — kaboom! The museum narrative identifies the actual movie guns, not the actors, as having the “starring” roles in assorted western and terrorist-fantasy shootouts. The gallery includes some of the blank rounds actually fired in movies, as opposed to the live rounds bedeviling real life beyond the film screen.

During a visit, the difference between “acting” and “acting out” necessarily comes to mind. Why is there no stream of gripping films about the thousands of troubled Americans with easy access to guns who can lethally act out their darkest grievances on family and society day after day? Shooters nowadays must rise above the B-movie level to get noticed amid the 30,000-plus annual toll of gun death. They need a different twist in motive or a record-high death toll — or maybe the live delivery of death on Facebook, as happened last week — to jolt a jaded public. Inert politicians, of course, remain far more sensitive to the gun lobby than to routine gun mayhem.

(…) The N.R.A.’s latest priority is rooted in its ultimate fantasy that society will be safer if ordinary Americans are allowed to routinely pack a pistol. The organization is pushing Congress to pass a national concealed-carry reciprocity law to make it easier for people with state concealed-gun permits to carry their firearms nationwide. This is part of the campaign to make gun possession ubiquitous among ordinary citizens. All states permit some concealed carry, but under vastly different safety controls. That is why opponents wisely fear that national reciprocity is a ploy to sell more guns and undermine stronger local and state gun controls.

Fantasyland for sure. Evidence and real shootings every day lend the lie to the fantasy about more guns making us safer. Survivors and family members have found out that what they see on TV or in the movies is fantasy. What happens in real life is no fantasy.

The fantasy is that the NRA leaders and lobbyists live in fantasyland as they promote their agenda. One has to wonder when this fantasy bubble will burst. In the ARS polling ( from article above) an interesting question was asked and here is the answer:

  • The NRA is out of touch with gun owners on gun safety issues. 67 percent of the gun owners feel that the NRA used to be an organization dedicated to gun safety, but it’s been overtaken by lobbyists and the interests of gun manufacturers and lost its original purpose and mission. Less than 50 percent of gun owners feel that the organization represents their interests.

It’s past time for a change. As the myths and fantasies of the NRA continue to be perpetuated by those at the top, including now our President, people are dying. It doesn’t have to be this way.

 

UPDATE:

This Media Matters article sets the record straight about the myth that the NRA is a Civil Rights organization as often touted by their leaders:

Despite targeting a civil rights hero, the NRA has routinely attempted to co-opt the civil rights movement by, among other things, calling gun regulations “equally as unconstitutional” as Jim Crow laws and bemoaning that “too many Americans don’t think of the Second Amendment as a civil rights issue.” In August 2015, NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action media liaison Lars Dalseide compared a Seattle ordinance that would fund gun violence research by imposing a tax on the sale of guns and ammunition to Jim Crow-era poll taxes.

In March 2014, NRA board member Ted Nugent wrote in a column for conspiracy website WorldNetDaily that gun owners “must learn from Rosa Parks and definitely refuse to give up our guns,” in response to a law that banned assault weapons following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Nugent went on to call Rosa Parks his “hero” and has previously called himself “Rosa Parks with a Gibson.”

The NRA can in no way be compared to our nation’s real Civil Rights organizations and actions taken to push for those rights. The organization was founded on the idea that it would support hunters and hunter and gun safety. The fact that the leaders and lobbyists use their efforts to increase profits of the gun industry and their control over elected officials by couching it in civil rights language is dangerous and fantasy. I am betting that even many who pay their dues to the organization have no idea that the leaders make this claim.

Nugent is no Rosa Parks.

Wayne LaPierre is no John Lewis.

False facts are not facts.

Myths are fantastical thinking.

The definition of fantasy:

  1. obsolete :  hallucination

  2. 2:  fancy; especially :  the free play of creative imagination

  3. 3:  a creation of the imaginative faculty whether expressed or merely conceived: such asa :  a fanciful design or invention a fantasy of delicate traceryb :  a chimerical or fantastic notion His plans are pure fantasy.c :  fantasia 1 the organ fantasy of Johannes Brahmsd :  imaginative fiction featuring especially strange settings and grotesque characters spent the summer reading fantasy —called also fantasy fiction

  4. 4:  caprice served to fulfill the king’s fantasies

  5. 5:  the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need an object of fantasy; also :  a mental image or a series of mental images (such as a daydream) so created sexual fantasies

  6. 6often attributive :  a coin usually not intended for circulation as currency and often issued by a dubious authority (such as a government-in-exile)

 

 

 

Gun lobby distractions

Motivational speechThis post has been edited to update it since it was first posted.

 

Ever since Donald Trump was elected, chaos and distractions have been the rule and the name of the “game.” Lies, tweets, providing false news stories, ignoring or denying some very real dangers to our democracy from the Russian interference in our election, National Security Advisor fired, failed immigration orders, failed health care plan, etc. Not one department or policy area has been left alone. The long tentacles of those in absolute power are reaching far and wide. Gun policy is no exception. Licking their chops, the corporate gun lobby has pursued with some success an agenda that includes getting more guns into the hands of more people in more places. On the face of it, you have to wonder why anyone would want this. It makes no common sense that as a culture and civilized society we would choose to have loaded guns everywhere carried by just about anyone.

Executive VP of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre knows the rules well. He once said this and he meant it:

No Wayne. You made up the rules. This is not how Americans want our gun culture and our gun policy to be.

It seems to be of utmost importance to a minority of Americans who make claims that the second amendment gives them a right to do whatever they want with their guns because…. inalienable rights to own a gun.

Let’s talk a minute about rights. What are they? Is the meaning of the word clear to us all? I took a look at this Wikipedia article about the word rights:

There is considerable disagreement about what is meant precisely by the term rights. It has been used by different groups and thinkers for different purposes, with different and sometimes opposing definitions, and the precise definition of this principle, beyond having something to do with normative rules of some sort or another, is controversial.

And herein lies a basic problem with the arguments over gun rights. The several sides of the issue of gun rights and gun violence prevention would meet in the middle of the issue because that is where the majority stands and has stood for decades at least. In the interest of saving lives, the two sides approach it from different angles. One side, the majority, believes that people can have rights to own their guns but those rights come with responsibilities and common sense. The other side, claiming rights to the same life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness believes that that includes owning and carrying guns in order to protect their rights and lives.

Unfortunately for the one side, gun deaths are not decreasing and instead are staying the same year to year or increasing. More guns in more places carried and owned by more people who should not have them has not made us a safer nation. Those are facts. In states with more gun ownership and weaker gun laws, gun deaths are higher than in others on average. From the report from the Violence Policy Center:

“Year after year, the evidence is clear that states with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death,” says VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “States with strong gun violence prevention laws consistently have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. In states with weak gun laws and easy availability of guns, the rates of death by gunfire are far higher.”

The nationwide gun death rate in 2014 was 10.54. The total number of Americans killed by gunfire dipped to 33,599 in 2014 from 33,636 in 2013.

America’s gun death rates — both nationwide and in the states — dwarf those of other industrialized nations. The gun death rate in the United Kingdom was 0.23 per 100,000 in 2011, and in Australia the gun death rate was 0.93 per 100,000 in 2013. (These are the most recent years for which data is available. Data for these countries is available at GunPolicy.org, hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.)

State gun death rates are calculated by dividing the number of gun deaths by the total state population and multiplying the result by 100,000 to obtain the rate per 100,000, which is the standard and accepted method for comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

Another report from the Violence Policy Center about the impacts of gun violence:

VPC research finds that in 2014, gun deaths even outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline thanks to proven public-health based injury prevention strategies informed by consumer product safety regulation standards designed to reduce death and injury.

To reduce the toll of gun violence in America, a similar public health approach is urgently needed. Today, guns are the only consumer products in the United States that do not have to meet federal health and safety standards. The federal government should regulate firearms for health and safety just like any other consumer product.

I met with a young man last week who had attended a meeting at which I spoke in January. He was interested in the issue of gun violence prevention from the point of view of a gun owner who agrees with background checks on all gun sales and other reasonable  measures. Several people he knows and even relatives have died in hunting accidents and gun suicides. He did not think of these as gun violence but has changed his thinking and understands that his involvement would be instructive for the cause of gun violence prevention.

On the same day as this man attended one of the Protect Minnesota trainings he also attended a conceal carry permit class. His take? He never wants to carry a gun. When the permit trainer and a lawyer explained the responsibility of a gun carrier if they decide to aim their gun at someone or actually shoot someone, he determined that that was not for him.

This gun owner does not see things as black and white but rather he sees the world from the point of view of someone who likes to hunt and own guns but understands that his rights are limited in the interest of public safety.

But some do see this as black and white and getting their way. A recent article from The Trace does a good job of outlining why the gun absolutists want to trample on the rights of the rest of us to be safe:

“We’re the Trumps,” he said. “We’re the grassroots.”

Like President Trump and his top advisor, Stephen Bannon, constitutional-carry activists are unconcerned by any wider distress their agenda may cause. Like the new White House, they see the trampling of existing norms as the removal of obstacles.

“Once you cross over this PC concept,”  Harris said, “then you have an enormous number of issues that come out of the gate.”

Those issues include the abolition of gun-free zones in schools, and deregulation of tightly controlled weapons categories, like suppressors and machine guns, which have been subject to strict laws for nearly a century. Rather than a drastic break with current public safety standards, he said, such changes would merely represent government “getting back on sound fundamental principles.”

This sums it up. Like Trump and his extreme advisors who want to disrupt just about everything our country has done or stood for in the last few decades, these gun absolutists want their way no matter what. No matter the lives lost as a result. No matter that public safety will be in danger. No matter that the majority of Americans don’t want what they want. No matter that over 32,000 Americans die every year from gunshot injuries. No matter that about 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries in gun suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun discharges.

No matter common sense.

This is where we are now. No compromising. No discussion. Executive orders or bills passed with no hearings, no expert testimony, no input from citizens. Just pass things and get your way no matter whose rights you trample or what process you didn’t follow.

People identified with severe mental illness and can’t manage their affairs can now purchase guns. People who don’t have permits to carry loaded guns around in public being able to carry everywhere and anywhere. Does any of this make any sense even with rights?

The answer, of course, is NO.

We are being distracted from the gun violence epidemic before us that we can actually address with strong gun policy and good research about the causes and effects of gun violence. We are being distracted by the agenda of the gun absolutists whose view of the world and the gun culture is far different from what Americans actually want and need.

Here is a great article from Peter Ambler of Americans for Responsible Solutions about the need for research and understanding the risks of owning guns:

It’s time for Congress to stop serving at the will of the gun lobby and to start providing the resources our institutions of public health need to understand our country’s gun violence epidemic so that we can do something about it.

Gun violence robs communities of their leaders, schools of their students, and families of their loved ones. We know that if we gave our scientists and researchers the opportunity, they would produce results. How much longer will we have to wait before we let them try?

That is what we should be talking about now.

With their very own nominee , Neil Gorsuch, about to take the oath of office for the next Supreme Court Justice, the gun lobby and gun abolutists must be feeling jubilant at getting their way once again. Time will tell if that works out for the absolutists.

Meanwhile, we need to work on the real problems and not the solutions looking for a problem.

We are better than this.

Let’s get to work. Join an organization that is working on gun violence prevention and gun safety reform. Listen to the facts and act when you see that your voices are not being heard. Make noise. Speak up. Stand up for the victims and their families and friends and ask your elected leaders to do the same. Ask them to hear the real stories of victims.

Just as Trump seemed to have changed his mind about his policy in Syria after seeing the photos and videos of children strangled after exposure to serin gas, show your leaders photos of those whose lives were lost to senseless gun violence. Here is my photo (of my sister who was shot in a domestic related shooting incident by her estranged husband):

photo of Barbara

 

 

Guns in everyday life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too sad and disturbing really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, predictably, they didn’t take it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No.

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

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

We just have to be better than this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser.:

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minnesota not so nice

people_1_night_visitI was unable to attend the hearings on permitless carry and Stand Your Ground at the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. I watched much of the testimony streaming on the House website. It was the usual back and forth by gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates. Some things never change.

But things will change if several bills heard in the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee are given a yes vote. We may not know how individual members would vote on each bill since they were laid over to be likely included in a larger omnibus public safety bill. That is the way to hide controversial bills which may not pass through the entire body to pass anyway. And it’s a way to force a vote on unpopular policies. They can’t vote against something that also includes good stuff. This is politics and it’s the way it works. But we don’t have to accept it.

You know that real people have lost loved ones when firearms are used to kill them in senseless acts of violence. That is why we ( since I also have lost a sister in a domestic shooting) don’t want to make it easier for other families to lose loved ones like in the testimony of Rev. Rolf Olson, who I know personally. Here is his testimony ( from the above link) :

The new law would allow gun owners to legally carry weapons in public without a permit. It generated emotional testimony, including from Richfield Lutheran Church pastor Rev. Rolf Olson, whose daughter was murdered answering a Craigslist ad.

“People who couldn’t pass a criminal background check and have never learned how to handle a gun safely would be able to carry one in public,” Olson said. “How would that protect public safety?”

He brought a photo of his beautiful daughter and displayed it during his testimony. Did the legislators look at Katherine Olson’s photo? Did they care?

No answers, of course, from those who want the bill to pass. None of them have lost a loved one and several of them were packing heat at the hearing. Remember, there was not a public clamor for people who are not trained or go through a background check to carry loaded guns in public. It will simply NOT protect public safety. Rev. Olson knows about that.

If politicians are so afraid to take votes on individual bills or not allow amendments on bills, it just has to mean that they understand the bills are really not popular and their other members will not vote on them when they stand alone.

If you want to see the testimony, view it below.

The first bill heard yesterday was H.F. 0188 , Permitless Carry.  Much of the testimony centered on the fact that it is a natural constitutional right to carry a gun so really no restrictions should be placed on those who get to carry a loaded, lethal weapon around with them in public. The “arguments” from my side of the issue were made for us by one of pro gun rights testifiers. He said that we would say the Heller Supreme Court decision had some language in it that puts some limits on the right to keep and bear arms. He would be right. But he asked the legislators to ignore this and remember that when we point out the some of the words of the late Justice Scalia, writing for the majority should be ignored. Just pay attention to the totality of what the bill really means. Here, in Scalia’s own words, is why the pro gun advocates want to ignore his words:

The late justice also more generally offered the belief that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” For instance, Scalia said concealment laws were permitted at the time of the Constitution’s ratification and should be permitted today.

The issue that Scalia left future courts to grapple with is what constitutes a protected weapon. He wrote that the Constitution protects weapons that could be carried and were in common use. What he didn’t say in the opinion—and what the court has deferred ruling on—is whether an AR-15 fits the bill for a common weapon. On one hand, it’s certainly not rare. There are more than a million in circulation. On the other hand, it’s not as ubiquitous as ordinary rifles and handguns. At some point, the John Roberts court will wrestle with the questions Scalia left unanswered, or the justices will leave it to the political process.

So far the gun rights advocates and their lapdog politicians in the Minnesota legislature have not suggested the open carrying of AR-15s but I’m sure they would like to- and most likely without a permit or training either. That’s the way it goes in the world of the “guys with the guns make the rules”. (Wayne LaPierre):

Common sense does allow for people being able to read the entire opinion, including the words of the conservative Justice Scalia. Just because you don’t like the words doesn’t mean he didn’t write them. And it doesn’t mean that having regulations and restrictions on some guns, who may carry them and where they may carry is unconstitutional.

I thought that one of the best questions was asked by Representative Hillstrom who wondered how officers would know if someone who was packing heat when asked or when pulled over in a car was legally able to carry if there was no permit to show. One of the bill’s authors, Professor Joe Olson, looked puzzled and really couldn’t answer the question. Isn’t that the main point? How will we know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys with guns”? (Wayne LaPierre again) Carrying without permits means no mandatory training, no background check in order to get the permit, and allowing 18 year olds to now carry guns. What could possibly go wrong?

Maybe this?:

A University of Central Florida fraternity was suspended after one of its members was accused of holding a gun barrel to a student’s head as part of a pledge activity, according to documents released by the school.

The argument on the pro gun side was the usual- there has been no blood running in the streets since conceal and carry was passed in Minnesota in 2003 and 2005 ( repassed after Church lawsuit)  except when there is. About one Minnesotan a day dies from a gunshot injury and this has been a pretty deadly year so far. Domestic homicides, gang and drug related shootings, and accidental discharges are among the many shootings that occur in our state, less regularly than in some states, but regular enough to be of concern. And suicide by gun accounts for 80% of the gun deaths, but never mind them. Conceal and carry holders can and do commit suicide by gun. Besides, why isn’t one senseless death one too many?

Minnesota gun permit holders have killed themselves or others as it turns out and also been denied for some pretty interesting and good reasons. That information was given to each legislator on the committee. And they might appeal their denial and win:

Since 2003, at least 299 people deemed too dangerous or otherwise unfit for a gun-carry permit were able to obtain them on appeal to the sheriff or a judge, a Star Tribune analysis shows.

In a system that prosecutors say is heavily weighted in favor of permit seekers, it’s nearly impossible to find out why the denials are overturned. State law protects the privacy of gun owners, prohibiting law enforcement from releasing any data that could identify them — even if they have criminal records.

In Hennepin County, one applicant had a felony conviction for manufacturing and dealing crack cocaine. Another in Ramsey County was suspected of shooting at a law enforcement officer. An Olmsted County applicant was a confirmed gang member. Each got a permit on appeal.

Yup. And those people could be carrying without a permit if the bill passes.

But never mind. Let’s proceed to make it easier for those folks to have and carry guns around in public.

Sigh.

I suppose we could have brought former Representative Gabby Giffords in to testify given that she was shot by a young man who shouldn’t have had a gun but was allowed to carry one anyway in Arizona, a permitless carry state. His mental illness wasn’t enough to adjudicate him and make him a prohibited buyer. So he was legally carrying a gun but with no apparent training and no permit to carry it because…. rights.

But why deal with actual cases? They don’t seem to matter when the corporate gun lobby comes to town to testify, as they did in Minnesota.

The argument that one has to get a Brady background check when buying a gun anyway so if you carry said gun, you should be good to go, was trotted out. Really? Where is common sense?

A new study shows that about 22% of gun sales go without a Brady background check. That is down from the 40% we have been using, lacking more current research. But finally,  we have this figure from a Harvard study:

For years, politicians and researchers have estimated that as many as 40% of gun transfers are conducted without a background check – a statistic based on an extrapolation from a 1994 survey. Gun rights activists had decried that estimate as outdated and inaccurate.

The new survey, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that the current proportion of gun sales conducted without a background check is about half of the figure cited by prominent Democratic gun control advocates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It also found that gun owners in states that require background checks on all private gun sales were much less likely to report acquiring a gun without a background check than those in states with no universal background check law – a potential indication that efforts to boost screenings at the local level are succeeding, even in the absence of federal legislation. (…)

The new survey also found that in states that had passed universal screening laws by 1 July 2013, just 26% of gun owners said they had obtained a gun through a private sale without a background check, compared to 57% of purchasers who live in states without such requirements.

Overall, researchers found that half of guns transferred privately in all states within the past two years were obtained without a background check.

So a gun purchased without a background check through a private sale, a straw purchase, stolen or trafficked in some way can now be carried in public by its’ owner. Yes. It’s true. There is no way to make sure the person carrying can pass a background check if they don’t have to have one in order to get a permit.

Sigh.

And then, for the hearing on HF 0238, the ubiquitous Stand Your Ground bill, the gun lobby trotted out the discredited John Lott who runs around testifying in favor of the idea that more guns make us safer. And surely, people have the right not to retreat in a potentially dangerous situation but the bill would allow a situation perceived to be dangerous to shoot without retreating as has been in law. Shoot first and then find out if the person ( who may now be dead) was armed or meant bodily harm.

A testifier on my side, Rachael Joseph, testified about the shooting of her aunt Shelly, killed in 2003 in the Hennepin County Courthouse. I have included her story here in my blog before. But then she went on to talk about the danger to people of color and immigrants who, because they are considered the “other” by far too many people, are at risk when Stand Your Ground laws are enacted. We already know about Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Rachael wanted to talk about the recent shooting of 5 black men at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter gathering in 2015. Four white men drove to the Twin Cities with the idea in mind of causing trouble. They shot into the crowd, injuring 5 and then tried to claim that they themselves were in danger from unarmed people in the crowd.

This seemed to bother one of the legislators who claimed that people in the crowd instigated the shooting and therefore this case should apparently not be used. It must have been a surprise to him when a jury didn’t believe that and recently convicted one of the men involved in the shooting. 

But never mind actual cases.

One of the more interesting and disturbing testimonies came from a young man who claimed to be a hunter and gun owner. He suggested that it was time to shoot the bad people and become a state of lynching again. It was so offensive that the crowd murmured and booed and one legislator interrupted to say he should stop his offensive remarks. Check it out:

One speaker, identifying himself as Ross Koon of West St. Paul, caused perhaps the greatest disturbance of the hearing when he went on a tirade in ostensible support of the “stand your ground” bill.

After talking about the need of frontiersmen to bear arms against “marauding savages” or defend against “a lawless uprising of our valuable workforce,” he added, “It was not lightly that we took to weapons and rope to ensure the purity of our nation.”

The tirade caused those in the audience to wonder aloud whether Koon was a plant or trying to be ironic, with others saying it was hard to tell these days.

Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, and Rep. John Considine, DFL-Mankato, took the man seriously.

“Mr. Chair … this testimony is offensive,” Considine cut in over the speaker.

“Maybe to you but not to a lot of people in the room. We never shut down any of the opposition, we’re certainly not going to shut down … ” Cornish said.

“Marauding savages and talking about lynching black people?” Considine asked.

The speaker then took his tirade up a notch, saying “As we face hordes of illegals and so-called refugees, it is of the utmost importance that we be granted broad liberties to kill with impunity. … It’s time to kill the scary people. It’s time to make Minnesota lynch again.”

“All right … yeah that was rather offensive, but last time we had these hearings if we shut anybody down on either side we’d get booed and hissed, so I thought I’d just let him rave on,” Cornish said.

It turns out that he was using satire in his testimony and was not affiliated with either of the sides who signed up speakers for their remarks. His satire did make a point, however, even if we don’t like it. But the committee chair didn’t think his remarks were offensive to a lot of people in the room?

Sigh.

Should these bills pass the legislature and get to the Governor’s desk, we can hope for the sake of public safety that he won’t buy the arguments. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the NRA and corporate gun lobby are making the rounds to states all over our country pushing for these ridiculous laws.

We will have to think harder about what happens if our kids ring the wrong doorbell or run through someone’s yard after dark or try to sell candy to a neighbor. We will have to think harder about whether someone we see carrying a loaded holstered gun in public was actually trained to carry that gun, knows anything about guns or can pass a background check.

82% of Minnesotans support background checks on all gun sales. I can safely say that the public does not want these bills.

We will not be safer.

 

 

 

 

An agenda of lies

flying-monkeysSo, it seems that lies are what will form the policies important to Americans in the new administration. I have cited some of the many myths and lies promoted by the corporate gun lobby, most specifically by Mr. Wayne LaPierre. Now LaPierre has a seat in the White House so he is whispering his lies into the ears of the President and, on that basis, new rules and policies will be issued. They are already starting.

The House voted to overturn an Obama administration order that those on Social Security disability benefits who cannot manage their affairs should not be able to buy guns legally.:

The rule sought to limit the ability of those with mental illness to purchase guns but drew criticism for casting too wide a net and not providing the opportunity for due process. Opponents of the rule, including the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, also said the broad range of reasons that could be used to designate someone for the SSA database include conditions that should not stop a gun purchase.

The question is, do we err on the side of safety or not? Brady background checks save lives. There is a reason for them. There are some people who should not have guns, period. If this is an overreach as some have claimed, why not find a middle ground or a place where safety comes first. The corporate gun lobby is just waiting to roll back all gun safety regulations. Guns everywhere owned and carried by anyone is their alternative fact. It flies in the face of common sense and safety.

But never mind. Common sense is nowhere to be seen and will be nowhere to be seen for years. The public safety and health of our nation’s citizens is at risk. We will not be safer when people who are so disabled, mentally, that they can’t manage their affairs own and carry guns around. In what world does that even compute?

Take my brother, for example. His increasingly fragile health due to Parkinson’s Disease with concomitant mental problems and some dementia, should deem him unsafe with a gun. Luckily his guns are stored at a friend’s home so I will not worry about this as his sister and caretaker. There are days when he mentions suicide. For him, access to a gun would be dangerous to himself and others. His balance is awful, he falls frequently, sometimes he has episodes of hallucinations due to his PTSD and Parkinsons’.

But the gun lobby thinks this is just okey dokey for all of us.

They are wrong but they will get their way. Sadly, that is what things have come to in America. Caring for people’s health and safety finds itself at the bottom of the list of priorities. It’s all about profit and stroking the egos and fund raising of cronies.

In our “new America” anything goes for the gun lobby. They have been drooling about this moment for a long time. This article from The Trace pretty much sums it up:

They’ve become viable because we’ve seen a rightward shift in American politics, generally speaking. Ideas that are viable today would have been seen as far too extreme 20 years ago. The rightwing itself has become far more conservative. There’s all kinds of data on this. Democrats, ideologically, are pretty much where they’ve been over the last 20 years. But Republicans have become far more conservative. That’s part of the reason why Trump won. The gun bills the NRA pushes are part of this larger rightward shift — that, and the never-ending drumbeat from NRA that gun rights are under attack. The inevitable consequence of all the apocalyptic rhetoric is that you continually move toward what would have been considered an extremist agenda in years gone by. Part of the reason the NRA keeps moving in that directions is that it has gotten much of what it wants. The NRA has to keep developing new measures to enact to have a purpose, maintain support, and keep the base motivated.

Follow the money and the influence.

So we have a power hungry President who sows conflict and chaos and owes the gun lobby who sow fear and paranoia. Not a good combination.

People who have narcissistic character disorder, as many ascribe to our new President, use “flying monkeys” to scare the public and intimidate them into believing in their false statements and agendas. A former family member of mine is a narcissist. There is no way to argue with people who exhibit these traits. They are always right even if they are patently wrong and their flying monkeys and sycophants agree and even foment more fear and lying. Blaming the victims and gaslighting are their MO.

We are here now.

Take last night’s appearance by Presidential advisor Kellyann Conway on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews . When asked about the extreme and controversial immigration executive order, her defense, and indeed the reason it was done had to do with a non-existent massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Unfortunately Matthews did not call her out on her bold and blatant lie but others did.

Below is from the Brady Campaign President, Dan Gross:

Conway’s comments were made during an interview on MSNBC during which she also stated, “You just look at what’s happened in Orlando in San Bernardino…and avert your gaze…and look the other way and say ‘eh, things happen.” We agree, which is why, in light of the “Bowling Green Massacre,” we are calling on the administration to take action to keep guns out of dangerous hands, including terrorists. It could start by signing this draft Executive Order.

The draft Executive Order would be based on facts and a willingness to prevent gun violence and save lives. But we know that alternative facts are the name of the game at the White House now. Conway did not get away with her lie. And it’s possible she actually believes that this event occurred which is even more frightening.

Does she (and to Trump’s flying monkeys) know that 33,000 Americans a year are killed by gunshot injuries? Do they know that toddlers kill more people with guns than terrorist? Of course not. Or if they do, either they don’t believe in the truth or they have chosen to ignore it because of their dangerous agenda.

Shouldn’t we be doing something about this urgently? It’s an American tragedy and a public health crisis. Where are the executive orders?

Conway also lied about the Orlando shooter, who she frequently cites as a reason we need draconian immigration rules. The Orlando shooter was born in America. How would extreme vetting at the border have stopped him from shooting up 49 gay people at a nightclub?

Simply put- it is a lie.

Being surrounded by liars, conspiracy theorists  and flying monkeys will lead to destruction from within. Meanwhile, how will the country fare?

It’s going to be a long 4 years, if our President lasts that long. A President who lies and believes in his lies or lies intentionally or lies to protect himself or lies to promote a dangerous agenda will soon be caught with one too many of them.

It’s only been 2 weeks. The nation is suffering from PTSD. And if that is also by design, the meanness and evilness of that is hard to square with a country based on democratic principles and the rule of law.

We are better than this.

 

 

Toddlers and guns

dartgunGuns are not toys. They are deadly weapons designed to kill other human beings. Children sometimes think they are toys or their curiosity about guns, perhaps natural for some reason, can lead them to pick guns up. Children, and especially very young children and toddlers just can’t be taught to be responsible with guns no matter what the gun lobby may say. About 7 children a day die from gunshot injuries in America. And what are we doing about it?

In the last few weeks, a host of articles, PSAs and other information have been released about toddlers and guns and kids and guns. In what other country would anyone even think they had to alert the public to the dangers of toddlers with guns? This is insanity. It’s also dangerous to ignore it but ignore we have.

Let’s start with this article written by Zak Cheney Rice for Mic.com:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Cheney Rice’s article was written to compare the ugly rhetoric about Muslims during this election in which one Donald Trump has raised the idea that all Muslims should be banned because of course, they are dangerous to Americans. Are they? Sure there have been some recent terror attacks committed by people who happen to be Muslim extremists. But there have also been far more home grown terror attacks committed by Americans who are not Muslim.

So let’s get back to kids, and particularly toddlers with guns. How do toddlers get their hands on guns? Are they dangerous human beings who should be prohibited from guns? Not unless their parents or another adult make them so. For without the adults, toddlers would not be anywhere near loaded guns. So keeping toddlers from getting guns is the responsibility of “law abiding” gun owners.

A new PSA was released on this subject last week. Check it out:

This edgy PSA may be scary and some may say, too much. But you can’t miss the point. A Washington Post article talks about the PSA:

“This PSA is satire,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said. “But the public health crisis it calls attention to is anything but. Whether the trigger is pulled by a toddler, a convicted felon, domestic abuser, or terrorist, we have a problem in America with guns too easily falling into the wrong hands. And that translates to hundreds of lives lost or changed forever every single day.”

There is so much here to write about that it’s difficult to unpack but this quote from the above linked article refers to yet another article written about this public health epidemic:

Last week, the Associated Press and USA Today released findings from a 2½-year analysis of minors killed by firearms. The study — which looked at accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger from Jan. 1, 2014, to June 30 of this year — analyzed more than 1,000 incidents in total, according to USA Today.

So now let’s look at this USA Today article:

The findings: During the first six months of this year, minors died from accidental shootings — at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults — at a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate.

Tragedies like the death of Bryson Mees-Hernandez play out repeatedly across the country. Curious toddlers find unsecured, loaded handguns in their homes and vehicles, and fatally shoot themselves and others. Teenagers, often showing off guns to their friends and siblings, end up shooting them instead.

This is an American tragedy.

Two friends have started a new campaign to call attention to toddlers and children who kill with guns. They are determined to prevent these shootings. The Childrens Firearm Safety Alliance has been launched to find solutions to this under reported epidemic. From the link:

The prevalence of these incidents is astounding, even though we don’t have anything near adequate data on this type of tragedy. Reporting by the Washington Post has found about one shooting by a young child a week in America. This is likely an undercount, as many instances do not make the news unless it’s a parent or a sibling who dies. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds that at least six children are injured in an unintentional shooting every day. (…)

A new national initiative announced in mid-October seeks change. The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance is coordinating physicians, law enforcement, prosecutors, lawmakers and other advocates to look at what can be done nationally through policy work, legislation and education around gun safety.

It has promoted the hashtag #NotAnAccident and propagated this disturbing tidbit: You are more likely to be shot by a U.S. toddler than by a terrorist. The ongoing psychological trauma of these shootings shouldn’t be discounted. What an awful burden it must be for someone to carry through life knowing that, as a young child, he or she took a life or caused serious injury.

Keeping a loaded gun unsecured and within easy reach of a toddler ought to be considered a criminal act of negligence. A portion of the law that was struck down in Heller understood this. It’s time to admit that upholding a person’s right to own a gun doesn’t need to conflict with efforts to keep young children’s tiny hands away from pulling triggers.

Tiny hands can pull triggers.

Others have entered the messaging about toddlers and guns. Gary Younge  who writes for The Guardian, has a new book out about kids who have been shot. I listened to an interview with him yesterday on Minnesota Public Radio. The title of Younge’s book says it all- Another Day in the Death of America. Younge is not writing in general about kids all over the world and guns. He is writing about the particular tragedy of kids and guns in America. While on air yesterday, he made that point. This is not happening in other countries and he should know as he is British. From the linked article:

Samuel is one of the 10 people known to have been killed by guns on 23 November 2013. That’s the day Guardian journalist Gary Younge randomly selected for this book, after which he spent 18 months unearthing the stories that lay behind these young lives and their premature deaths. It is a gripping account that leads the reader through places as disparate as the vast corn and soya fields of Michigan and the killing fields of Chicago, where gunfire is now so common that dogs are said to have stopped barking at it. It’s a journey through a deeply troubled America that will make its reader want to join the author in howling at the moon.

Howling at the moon. Indeed, that is what we all should be doing and in fact many of us have been. But our howls have been ignored by those who could make a difference by passing policies that could prevent some of the shootings and by awakening the country to the problem that is that kids and guns do not go together. The corporate gun lobby would have us believing otherwise which is deceptive at the least and has led to way too many parents and adults thinking a gun in the home will protect them from evil. But the evil is coming from their own guns found by children and used in “accidental” shootings.

Changing the conversation and changing the gun culture to reflect what the majority of Americans actually believe and practice rather than what the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre espouses, would result in fewer gun deaths. Because safely storing guns away from the hands of children and teens will make everyone safer. Because even though telling children not to touch guns is not enough.Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill and with rights come responsibilities. Because more guns have not made us safer.

But, not to be forgotten, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has a new warning and more lies for voters just before the election.

Yikes!

Take a look at the fear mongering in the video produced by the NRA and almost total hysteria about guns being taken away and the end of the world, apparently, if that were to happen. It won’t of course but fear sells and that’s the point. More fear for some people equals more gun sales. And more gun sales and more guns in more homes can lead to more small children shooting themselves or other kids ( or even parents).

Good grief.

Nuts.

We simply cannot sit back and let our children’s lives be placed at risk when there are solutions. Even responsible gun owners make mistakes and/or listen to the wrong message about what owning a gun means.

We need to tell the truth about the dangers of loaded guns in our homes.

Parents and adults can do something pro-active about the kids and guns epidemic. One common sense solution is to ASK if there are unlocked, loaded guns where children play. The Brady Campaign’s ASK campaign gives language to parents to have the difficult conversation that could save lives. Asking saves lives.

Also at the Brady Campaign web site, you can find this great report called The Truth about Kids and Guns.

The Trace is also keeping track of kids and guns incidents and other articles concerning gun safety for kids.

Kids can take a pledge to help end gun violence through this Student Pledge to End Gun Violence:

The Student Pledge Against Gun Violence is a national program that honors the role that young people, through their own decisions, can play in reducing gun violence.

Why not get kids involved in decisions that can make them safer?

Everytown for Gun Safety has also been collecting information about child gun deaths and solutions that can prevent the devastating loss of a child to an avoidable death.

The American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been on board with child safety and guns for a long time. Gun violence is a national public health epidemic and needs to be treated as such.

And we can’t forget the years long push by the Children’s Defense Fund to talk about kids and gun violence and the need to prevent our children from dying from gunshot injuries. Their long time slogan- Protect Children Not Guns says it all.

The Gun Violence Archive has become the source that collects the necessary data for us all to understand the American tragedy of gun deaths and injuries. According to their charts, 553 children from 0-11 have died from gunshot injuries in 2016. Teens from 12-17 who have been killed or injured accounts for 2571 incidents. This is stunning and simply unacceptable. The fact that we do accept this without howling says a lot about America.

But the fact that so many are finally uncovering the facts and exposing them can only lead to stronger policy solutions and a change in the conversation. As a result, our kids will be safer from gun deaths and injuries.

If we can’t protect our children from avoidable unintentional, or even intentional, injury and death who are we as a country?

With all of this evidence and research, we know we have a serious problem that must be addressed.

We can do much better and we must do much better if we truly care about the health and safety of our children.

 

Active shooters

shooting fingerYesterday a report of an active shooter at Andrews Air Force Base was reported on the news. For a while, the facility was put on lock-down while things were checked out. It was discovered that the base was having an active shooter drill. Someone at a medical facility on base reported seeing two men walking around with rifles and called 911 to report it.  As it turns out, the two men were apparently part of the drill.

This is America. Guns are everywhere and are encouraged to be carried everywhere. We really don’t know the difference between a “good guy” with a gun and a “bad guy” with a gun even though Wayne LaPierre has some people believing there is a difference at first blush.

This is America. “Good guys” with guns kill people every day. Take the recent Orlando shooting for instance. The shooter was not prohibited from buying a gun at a federally licensed firearms dealer. There were some warnings- many in fact- but none that would rise to the prohibited purchaser category. There’s the terror watch list on which the shooter’s name was placed for a while. But such people can get guns in America.

The shooter was a domestic abuser and had mental health problems according to his first wife. It’s easy for those people to get guns in America since we don’t require Brady background checks on all gun sales so anyone can get a gun easily.

It’s easy to get guns in America. The bar is low. By definition the Orlando shooter was a “good guy”. How does Mr. Wayne LaPierre explain that? He is not asked that question because he doesn’t answer questions like that. There is no logical explanation and so he gets away with spewing his hate, fear and paranoia and, stupidly, some people believe what he says.

Take this Texas mother. She believed the fear, apparently. Having posted on social media that she didn’t want her guns to be taken from her, she was a proud American gun owner:

Christy Sheats wrote often online about her faith, and on several occasions she posted about her support of the Second Amendment and her right to bear arms.

“I have 10 guns. Obama wants 8 of my guns. How many guns do I have?” said one meme, over a photo of bullets and a gun. “That’s right, I have 10 guns.”

She captioned the photo: “That’s right! #merica.”

Yes. “#merica.”

And then, in the heat of anger and mental illness and marriage problems, she took the anger and her guns out apparently on her husband by killing the people he loved the most. When officers confronted her, she aimed at them so they shot her.

Should this woman have had a gun given 3 admissions to a hospital for mental illness and suicidal behavior? (see article above)

This is America. She was a “good girl” with a gun apparently.

She was an active shooter.

Today I attended a panel discussion at Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs  in Duluth for visitors from Moldova. DAIP is an internationally recognized program training communities all over the world about the Duluth model and the coordinated community response. The Chief of Police, the Mayor, the County Attorney, the County Sheriff, a local judge and someone from a local corrections facility explained their own role and then answered questions.

What do you suppose one of the questions was from the Moldovans? Are there weapons often involved in domestic disputes? What happens if there is? Do you take them away? What happens to those weapons if you take them from the abuser?

The answer from the Chief- we have to assume that everyone is armed! Yes. The visitors laughed nervously but then realized he was not making it up. He said that with 300 odd million guns in America, we can guess that many of the domestic abusers will be armed and that officers go prepared for that realization; that there will be an active shooter.

Women are more at risk to die when there is a gun in the home. Domestic disputes are the most dangerous calls for law enforcement. Actually everyone is more at risk when there is a gun in the home according to many studies:

A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.

This is America. We have active shooters everywhere- in our homes, in schools, malls, airports, nightclubs, movie theaters, on the streets, at air bases- everywhere.

We have good guys with guns who shoot people every day intentionally or by “accident”. Check out the site, Gun Violence Archive, that is keeping track of shooting incidents ( active shooters) all over the country.

I don’t know what you call children who regularly find their parents’ guns and shoot themselves or someone else by “accident”. A bad boy or a bad girl?

What do you call a teen or an older white male who shoot themselves with guns in great numbers in America? “Bad kid”? “Bad man”? Active shooter? Or Veterans whose suicide gun rate is very high and we are doing little to stop it? Are they “good guys” with guns?

This is America.

Two days ago Americans all over the country went to visit their House members while they were at home in their districts. They delivered beach balls ( Protect Minnesota), letters, sat-in, asked for common sense, thanked them for standing up for victims during the “sit-in” last week and made some noise. It turns out that most responsible gun owners don’t belong to the NRA which is the main lobby group opposing anything that might make us all safer. We asked our Representative to represent the more than 80% of us, even gun owners, who want them to act.

After Orlando, things changed. Votes may happen. Even Speaker Paul Ryan is feeling the heat. He knows he has to at least stop terrorists from getting guns. I mean, that is a no brainer but you’d never know it from the reaction of the Republicans in the House and Senate. They act as if stopping terrorists and others who shouldn’t have guns from getting them is un-American. I mean- everyone has a “sacred” right to own a gun, right?

But when the NRA writes gun policy legislation, as this vote (above) would be, it’s like the fox guarding the hen house:

“House Democrats will keep up our efforts to push for the majority to allow a vote on gun violence legislation, but bringing up a bill authored by the NRA just isn’t going to cut it,” said Drew Hammill, an aide to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. The NRA denied writing the legislation.

Let’s have some legislation that will actually work rather than weak legislation that may not work so the pro gun lobbyists and leaders can say the laws don’t work anyway so why pass any. This kind of cynicism is not OK and will not save lives but rather is window dressing. Time will tell what will take place.

Many of our leaders know this. They are afraid of the wrong people. They are afraid of the guys with the guns. They should be very afraid of the families and friends of the victims and those who know that we can do better.

So back to active shooters and the Moldovans.  Moldova has a rate of firearm deaths of .79 per 100,000. No wonder they were nervous when the Police Chief gave his answer. Active shooters are very rare in their country.

Only in America do we have regular active shooter drills in businesses, military bases, tourist attractions, medical clinics, schools, etc. If this is the new normal, it puts the onus on our leaders to make sure we are safer from active shooters by making sure there are far fewer of them just like we did with air raid drills when I was a child. From this post by Mike Weisser at Mike the Gun Guy:

Crouching under a wooden desk is about as much of a positive response to nuclear attack as giving someone a week-long course in armed force and then have them walking through a school hallway looking for a kid with a gun. The whole point of nuclear non-proliferation is the recognition that once the weapon is out there, the chances of it being used go way up. Trump seems to be unaware that this is why a basic consensus exists that the world needs to be a nuclear-free zone.

The same argument can be made about gun-free zones which, despite the nonsense peddled by the NRA, make every place safer if guns aren’t allowed. And it’s no violation of anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights to leave the gun at home.

We did something about regulating and controlling nuclear weapons to make the county and the world safer from those kinds of attacks. Not one has happened since our own country bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Let’s take back our country and stop the fear mongering. We do have active shooters every day. But arming more people to try to stop the shooters makes no common sense given reality. More guns and more armed people have clearly not made us all safer.

#Enough. #DisarmHate