Category Archives: Uncategorized

Northstar Conference Call for Presentation Proposals

The Northstar Conference Planning Committee is currently seeking proposals for presentations of 20, 30 or 60 minutes by individuals with appropriate academic credentials and/or recognized professional expertise related to the study or field of gun violence prevention that:

 1.    Present data-driven and evidence-based research or information about gun violence and its prevention.

 2.    Relate to one or more of three general topic blocks:

·       health care, mental health, suicide prevention

·       domestic violence, criminal justice, policy and legislation

·       socioeconomic factors, disparities, urban gun violence

 3.    Have clearly-defined educational objectives.

 4.    Are culturally sensitive and take into account the diverse backgrounds and outlooks of those in attendance.

 

The Planning Committee is particularly seeking presentations that address the following topics:        

·       racial and ethnic disparities

·       adverse childhood experiences

·       suicide risk factors and prevention among veterans, seniors, youth, and the LGBT community

·       domestic violence risk assessment and prevention

·       opioid addiction and gun violence

·       the effects of mass incarceration on gun violence

·       gun violence in the media

·       successful community policing strategies

·       effective legislation, public policy, and legal practices

Proposals may be submitted anytime until August 15, 2017, and will be evaluated on a rolling basis as they are received.  Click HERE for a presentation proposal form.

Minnesotans and background checks

state-fair
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Minnesota State Fair attendees, a pretty good cross section of Minnesotans from all over the state, have once again confirmed that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is something that ought to happen. From the report released after the Fair closed:

2. Should criminal background checks be required on all gun sales, including private transactions and at gun shows? Yes…………………………………………… 86.2%……………… (5,556) No……………………………………………. 11.5%………………… (739) Undecided/No Opinion ………………. 2.3%………………….. (150)

These poll results are consistent with all other polls taken about this issue both in Minnesota and nationally. Not once have a clear majority of Minnesotans said they don’t want background checks on all gun sales. That being the case, what has been the response of our Minnesota legislators?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk_-XWpUFmU&w=560&h=315]

Sigh.

In 2013 the Minnesota legislature had an opportunity to pass a law to require background checks on all sales at gun shows and on-line. In spite of several polls showing strong support from Minnesotans taken by the Star Tribune and by KSTP news network, the bill never got a vote in the House.

Aren’t we better than this? A small minority of Minnesotans think, apparently, that felons, domestic abusers, those adjudicated mentally ill, fugitives and others who definitely should not have guns should be able to buy them anyway- and buy them legally. Or, is this denial? Or is it something else? What could it be?

Selling guns without background checks is not illegal if one is a private seller. Why? Because we have allowed our legislature to be bullied by the gun lobbyists and leaders who make false claims that requiring the very same background checks now performed by federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs)extended to private sellers would lead to gun registration and confiscation. This kind of ludicrous claim should not be accepted by our legislators any more.

Why have they believed it before? Fear. Fear of whom? Money? Influence? Fear of losing? The small minority of noisy gun owners who have drunk the kool aid of the far right have kept up this mantra of fear and paranoia for so many years that it is hard to break through it with the truth.

The truth is that Brady background checks will save lives if applied to all gun sales. The gun lobby hates the fact that over 2 million gun buyers have been prohibited from purchasing from federally licensed dealers since the Brady law took effect in 1994. What don’t they like? They have made false claims that those who have been denied shouldn’t have been. But this article from The Trace highlights the numbers and the reasons why someone was denied purchasing a firearm. Felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, illegal aliens, someone under indictment, unlawful users of controlled substances, and others have not been able to purchase guns from FFLs.

We should be thankful and relieved that these prohibited purchasers who tried to buy guns were denied. But they are NOT denied if buying from a private seller at a gun show, an on-line site, classified newspaper ad or flea market.

This is stupid, dangerous and ludicrous. It makes no common sense.

No one is saying that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales will lead to no gun deaths. We know better. There are many ways for prohibited people to get guns. This is but one way to cut off an easy market for those who shouldn’t have guns. Not closing down this “loophole” is insanity at the least and dangerous and irresponsible at the most. And, of course, requiring background checks IS constitutional and has been for over 20 years.

It’s time for a change. The public understands this issue very well. Some in our Congress and legislatures are in denial and in the pockets of the corporate gun lobby and those who believe their gun rights include the potential need to overthrow their own government. These are strong views believed by some and they can have these views whether or not we require background checks on all gun sales. But they should not prevent us from passing laws that will save lives and change a culture that has included allowing easy access to guns by people who should not have it.

If we but follow the money we also see the influence of the gun manufacturers on the gun lobby and vice versa. If sales of guns are important enough to prevent our passing laws that will save lives, we need a change in the conversation, the culture and policy. There is no proof that gun sales will go down if background checks are required on all sales. Is there proof that law abiding gun buyers will stop buying guns from private sellers if they have to undergo a background check identical to the one they undergo at an FFL?

Questions need to be asked and answered. We’ve had #Enough.

Wear Orange- June 2nd

Wear OrangeIn one week , on June 2nd, people all over the country will participate in Wear Orange Day- national day of awareness for gun violence prevention. There will activities such as walks, proclamations by Mayors, gatherings of participants wearing orange, posting of selfies and photos on social media, turning city structures orange and generally remembering victims of gun violence.

The day was started by friends and family of 15 year old Hadiye Pendleton, a young Chicago girl who was shot on the street when she became the innocent victim of bullets flying in her neighborhood. One week before her shooting, Hadiye had been with her school’s band playing at President Obama’s 2013 Inauguration.

Hadiye was one of about 90 Americans who were shot that day. Since she was killed, more than 3 years have passed leaving another 100,000 dead and more than 200,000 injured. Yes. That’s true. If these deaths were reported on the nightly news like the deaths of our military members who were killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were, the public would be outraged. Does the public know that more people have died from gunshot injuries since 1968 in America than all Americans have died in wars since the Revolutionary War?

Actually the public is outraged but our leaders are afraid to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and do something that makes common sense to stop the shootings. How can one not be outraged by what is happening daily in our homes, on our streets, in our public places, at gun ranges, in cars, schools, workplaces, military bases and anywhere else where people gather? Take these for example:

In Minneapolis, shootings have increased dramatically in the North side neighborhoods. From this article:

In roughly the first five months of the year, 123 people have been shot in Minneapolis — 97 of them on the North Side — compared with 65 during the same period last year. At the current pace, north Minneapolis will eclipse last year’s total of gunshot victims by late September. Aggravated assaults, which include shootings and are considered a key measure of a city’s safety, are up 14 percent across Minneapolis.

Lots of talk in the article about solutions including working with the youth, more police presence, concern about increased gang presence and some mention of easy access to guns:

Much of the violence, they say, stems from the increasingly easy access to guns on the streets and young people’s willingness to use them in response to insults exchanged on social media and in online music videos.

“It is ridiculous,” said Council President Barbara Johnson, adding that she’d heard from constituents of her North Side ward complaining of having their houses shot up. “We’ve got neighborhoods being held hostage by these jerks.”

Indeed. Neighborhoods held hostage by youth with guns. Are we at war? And, of course, one of the solutions would be to pass stronger laws to regulate how guns get into the hands of the hostage takers. But in Minnesota a state pre-emption law prohibits cities from passing laws stricter than state laws. More from the article:

Council Member Cam Gordon, who is on the Public Safety committee, said that some of the blame rested with a three-decade-old state law that stripped cities of the power to regulate firearms and ammunition within their limits, except regulations targeting the “discharge of firearms.”

“I believe it is time for the Legislature to restore that authority and to give us more flexibility in determining how best to register and regulate handguns in Minneapolis,” Gordon wrote in a blog post addressing the problem.

In other words, we can do something about this but our leaders won’t let us.

Sigh.

Other incidents that should make us all go out to wear orange on June 2nd are below:

A 7 year old girl was shot and killed when a felon ( prohibited from owning guns) gave a 3 year old a rifle while the family was target shooting and the 3 year old, not nearly old enough or responsible enough to be handling a gun, shot the gun. The bullet hit the 7 year old, killing her. People have been arrested.

Sigh.

A Texas gun company made a gun with a “Hello Kitty” coating on it that makes it look like a toy. From the article:

 “We do have some critics that think we shouldn’t make a gun look like a toy, but I disagree. Gun safety should be taught in schools and should be taught by families,” says Lemley. He says that taking the mystery out of guns can make for a safer society.

Children are dying every day from “accidental” gun discharges. Apparently these folks don’t get into what happens with their wares once they leave their shop.

Sigh.

Or there’s this one, as just one of many other examples I could provide here but don’t have the space to do: A gun left in a cabinet was found by a teen ager who discharged the gun, killing a friend:

The Glock had been left in a kitchen cabinet, loaded and chambered. Brooklynn’s friend accessed the gun while they were in the kitchen. There were no charges in Brooklynn’s death. It was ruled an accident.

This kind of tragedy is preventable, and it starts with the responsibility of adults. Our home state of Nevada is among 14 with child-access prevention laws that impose a weaker standard for criminal liability. Brooklynn’s death by an unsecured gun, and the complete failure of the justice system, was the catalyst for my husband and I to create the Brooklynn Mae Mohler Foundation. Our goal is to educate others, with the hope of preventing these senseless tragedies from affecting more families. No parent should ever have to endure this daily agony.

The mother of the victim wrote this heart wrenching article for Vogue which is doing a series of very personal articles about gun violence leading up to Wear Orange day. There is something to do about these avoidable and horrific gun deaths. ASK if there are unlocked, loaded guns in the homes where your children play. It’s a simple solution requiring no law changes and it changes the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. The ASK campaign can and does save lives.

I don’t think I have to write more do I? Too many innocent Americans die every day from a gun epidemic that should have the attention of our law makers. Our neighborhoods and homes are littered with dead bodies and people injured by bullets who will suffer life-long affects from the bullet wounds.

This is a public health and safety epidemic of epic proportion left ignored by the people who can do something about it. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and the folks who believe them, we are doing little or nothing to prevent 90 Americans a day from dying from gun suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun deaths.That is why wearing orange and doing so nation-wide to call attention to the epidemic is not only important but necessary.

I will be wearing orange on June 2nd. Will you?

We’ve had #Enough and know that we can do better than sitting back, shrugging our shoulders and saying nothing can be done. That is not true. There are many solutions to the problem of gun violence. It starts with you. And then your friends and family. And then your city, your state and the nation. Join us.

MN Law enforcement support for broader background checks on firearms purchases….

It’s not just wild-eyed activists pleading for expanded background checks on firearms purchases.  This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune describing law enforcement influence at the Minnesota legislature shows there are many police and law enforcement leaders who also want to work towards reducing gun violence.   Our thanks goes out to Dennis Flaherty, Director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) and Andy Skoogman, Executive Director for the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, only to name two from the article.

http://www.startribune.com/law-enforcement-flexes-muscle-at-minnesota-capitol/380052581/

 

 

Gun violence has a price……..

Gun violence has a price.  Not only for the victims.

(Below follows an article about former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak from the Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Rybak rejected the advice that mayors should best be associated with bearing good news and decided that he would be on the scene whenever a young person died from gun violence. He wanted families to know that their children mattered, that the mayor would sit with them on their front steps or in the pews because they mattered.

He also knew that any note of false sincerity or a pat phrase would be rightly resented, so he’d take a moment to imagine himself in the same situation, if his family had suffered such tragedy.

Rybak recalled turning to City Council Member Don Samuels, after going to several funerals in two weeks. “Don,” he said, “in my mind I have killed my kids six times in the past two months.”

Then, one afternoon, he suddenly realized that he couldn’t do it anymore. In 2012, a disgruntled employee killed six people at Accent Printing, many of them people he’d met just six weeks earlier during a visit to the business. As he walked through the Accent parking lot back to his car, he knew that he could not run for a fourth term. As he wrote: “Accent was the final straw.” ”

http://www.startribune.com/r-t-rybak-says-he-s-here-to-stay-in-a-city-he-loves-like-a-middle-schooler-s-crush/379951871/

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America’s new “OK Corral”

It is becoming more and more difficult to narrow the topic for my blog posts because there are so many shooting incidents to write about. But this article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press gave me pause. From the article:

“Jones said someone then threw a punch and “hell broke loose,” the complaint said.

“Jones said it was the OK Corral outside with everyone shooting,” the complaint said. “Jones said people were shooting everywhere.””

OK then. This quote is from a man, Jones, who we learn later in the article, cannot legally possess a firearm but had one anyway. And even though this incident in a local bar reminded him of the OK Corral. He was trying to “protect himself” he said. And so it goes in America. Bullets are flying everywhere and people feel like they need guns to protect themselves from others who have guns to protect themselves. And felons and others who are prohibited purchasers can easily get guns to add to the mayhem.

This is not OK.

Yesterday I attended my Senate district Democratic convention in Duluth. I ran into a man I had met recently at another event who wanted to talk to me about the gun issue. I was wearing my “Minnesotans Against Being Shot” tee shirt from Protect Minnesota which garnered a lot of attention and reaction because- who wants to be shot? Anyway, this man suggested that we write a resolution for next year’s party platform to lower flags to half staff for every mass shooting in our country. Though this is not amusing, it struck me as genius. Because, as we discussed, the flags would be at half staff almost every day.

For example, in the last few days there have been two heinous ( aren’t they all?) mass/spree shootings that have taken the lives of many innocent Americans, including children. The first, in Ohio, left 8 dead and several injured, including infants for goodness’ sake. From the article:

A fourth crime scene with an eighth victim, a 16-year-old boy, was established near Left Fork Road’s intersection with OH 772 in Pike County.

Three small children, a now 5-day-old, a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old survived the shootings. The Pike County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office have not said who is currently caring for the children.

Five days old? No words.Who does that? The shooter is still at large and the victims were related. This is likely another domestic shooting where the shooter and the victims knew each other. That is the most common type of homicide in our country- not a stranger shooting where a victim needed a gun for self defense. Most victims need to defend themselves from people they know as it turns out.

The next mass/spree shooting took place in Georgia. Five dead and the shooter shot and killed himself as too often happens. From the article:

In Columbia County, investigators say you can count the number of murders in a year on one hand. Although some of those murders have been violent in the past, Captain Andy Shedd says Friday night’s killing spree is something he’s never seen in all his years on the force.

“It is shocking and you try to wrap your head around it and you of course try to maintain your professionalism,” said Shedd.

Five people were killed Friday night by Wayne Hawes before turning the gun on himself.

Investigators are calling it a domestic violence attack involving his estranged wife and her family. Shedd tells News Channel 6 that the last time anything close to this happened within the county was back in the 1980’s.

And surprise, surprise, another shooter who was a prohibited purchaser but was able to get a gun anyways because….. America. From the article:

According to the Columbia County court system, from 1989-2002 Wayne Anthony Hawes had been arrested and charged with Battery, Assault, Several Speeding charges, Shoplifting, Selling Cocaine, 2 DUI charges, Obstruction of Police, Fleeing or Attempting to Allude Police, Reckless Driving.

This is just not happening in countries where gun laws are strong and people who shouldn’t have guns have a very hard time getting them. But in America- no problem. Felon? Go to a private seller and buy one with no background check. Domestic abuser? Use a straw purchase to get someone to buy a gun for you. Adjudicated mentally ill? Steal a gun from a friend, relative, or anyone who has guns unsecured in their homes. Have a grudge with your estranged wife or a family member?  Get a gun and take care of it. That’s the American way. Every day in America is a “shoot out at the OK Corral.”

And back to the OK Corral comment, let’s look at what that was all about in the first place because there are myths about the American wild west and guns that need to be examined. Here is the history of the shooting at the OK Corral:

After years of feuding and mounting tensions, on this day in 1881, the “law and order” Earps and the “cowboy” Clanton-McLaurys engage in their world-famous shoot-out near the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, leaving three men dead and three more wounded.

By today’s standards of mass shootings, 3 dead is not a lot. Sadly that is the truth of the matter. But here’s the truth about guns in the wild western areas of America:

The 1881 gunfight in Tombstone, Ariz., was actually sparked by an effort to enforce the town’s Ordinance No. 9:  “It is hereby declared unlawful to carry in the hand or upon the person or otherwise any deadly weapon within the limits of said city of Tombstone, without first obtaining a permit in writing.”

That’s right, City Marshal Virgil Earp and his brother Wyatt were attempting to enforce a gun-control law that cowboys were evading — a law that was rather common in the West, according to historians.

“Carrying of guns within the city limits of a frontier town was generally prohibited. Laws barring people from carrying weapons were commonplace, from Dodge City to Tombstone,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA’s School of Law and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. “When Dodge City residents first formed their municipal government, one of the very first laws enacted was a ban on concealed carry. The ban was soon after expanded to open carry, too. The Hollywood image of the gunslinger marching through town with two Colts on his hips is just that — a Hollywood image, created for its dramatic effect.”

…”ban on concealed carry”…. Yikes. That could not happen in today’s America because the corporate gun lobby got its’ way and convinced state legislators that it’s just a peachy idea for just anyone to carry loaded guns around just about everywhere. It’s working out well, don’t you think? The American gun culture encourages gun ownership and self defense and the result? Read what I wrote about above.

I grew up watching cowboy “shoot ’em up” movies. Roy Rogers. Wyatt Earp. The Lone Ranger. It was mythical and fantasy given that we knew those kinds of incidents were not actually happen in our own communities. But then, something happened in my family to change that idea and I became aware of what was actually happening in America. After my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting, I got involved in how to prevent that from happening to other families. Since then we have experienced too many heinous mass shootings to count. This is the real America actually. The “Wild West” was nothing compared to what’s happening today.

So let’s review shall we? In the last several days or week in America, shooters are shooting up bars like the mythical days of the OK Corral. But in reality, the America of today is more deadly than the America described by a man (who couldn’t legally possess a firearm) who was involved in a bar shooting where bullets were flying everywhere. A spree shooting in Ohio with the shooter still at large, appears to be a domestic shooting leaving behind 8 dead and infants who have somehow survived their gunshot injuries. A Georgia man shot up his family and also himself because of some kind of domestic dispute leaving 6 total dead.

half staff flagLower the flags to half staff.

Where is common sense?

Guns kill people

Yes they do. Guns are the only product sold to consumers that are not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They are also in a unique category called deadly weapons that mostly includes guns and certain types of knives. Guns are designed to inflict harm and kill people ( or animals in the case of hunting). I write this often on my blog. When I post actual articles about “accidental” discharges or incidents involving so called “law abiding” gun owners I get the usual remarks from gun rights folks. They agree that these incidents are irresponsible and careless.

Maybe they shouldn’t have had a gun? No, that is usually not mentioned because the goal of the gun lobby and gun rights extremists is for just about anyone to have guns and have them just about anywhere. And so that is the push- selling guns to as many people as possible without apparent regard to whether that person knows even the tiniest thing about a gun before walking away with one.

I am going to digress for a second here because today is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. I wrote about April anniversaries in my last post. The Columbine shooting was the one that we saw endless video of through media outlets. Who can forget the images of teens walking out of a school building with their hands up or running in some cases or trying to get out of the windows of the building to safety? And images of the memorials and the aftermath of our country’s in a series of heinous school shootings.This was a visual reminder that indeed, guns do kill people. Here is a disturbing video from surveillance cameras in the Columbine High School cafeteria before, during and after the shooting took place. That day, guns killed 13 and injured many others and left an indelible imprint on the American psyche.

When it’s real people and we see it live or almost in real time, it’s different than watching people get shot on TV shows or movies and now, videos and video games. But truth is stranger and more real than fiction. States United to Prevent Gun Violence produced a film about the effect of real shootings called “Gun Crazy“. Watch as film goers sit in the theater with popcorn seeing real shootings rather than a violent movie. When it’s real, it’s too much. When real people have to see the real bodies of a child or a loved one who has been shot and killed by bullets, it’s  unforgettable. Nothing is ever the same.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ayr6E-hFIsc” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Yes. Disturbing. We are gun crazy.

Back to guns killing people, why do people buy and own guns and who are they? Some are gun collectors. I know a few of those folks and they are nice people whose passion happens to be collecting guns- some older antique guns, some modern guns. You can really only use one at a time but if you like to handle he guns, work on them, look at them, admire them, take them to the gun range and shoot them or take them hunting, that is one thing. Some are hunters and that is the only reason they own guns. My family falls into that category. Some buy guns for target shooting and sport. And some buy guns for self defense. Still others buy many guns just in case they need them to fight against their own government. And, as it turns out, many of these people support common sense gun laws.

And unfortunately, some buy guns to kill someone they know and even love and that is the only reason they buy or access a gun. Such was the tragic case of a Minnesota man who went out and bought a gun so he could shoot his family and himself in a murder/suicide. He bought that gun one day before the shooting knowing what he was going to do. Without that gun, he must have thought he could not have accomplished this awful thing.

Can we stop incidents like this? Not all of them of course. But we do live in a country abundant with guns at the ready for anyone who wants to shoot someone or his/herself. Some people know exactly what they are going to do with a gun. Others are just careless or irresponsible as has been mentioned. But whatever else we say or don’t say or intimate or excuse, we must say the truth. Guns are dangerous and can kill or otherwise harm someone known to the owner whether or not they intend it.

So when I read this article, it resonated with me. I particularly liked the title: “Guns are designed to kill so why are we shocked when they do?” From the article:

In our national mythology, guns are symbols of liberty and autonomy, self-determination and control. When they harm us and there is no obvious person to blame, we want to believe they only do so “somehow.” Such linguistic tics subtly attribute gun failure and misuse to forces beyond our control, which is more comforting than admitting they are born of the choices we make.

The article ends this way:

Gun accidents happen because we live in close proximity to machines designed to kill; they eventually will do what they were made to do, though perhaps not at a time our choosing. Whenever this happens, the true culprit is obvious: A culture that refuses to learn the lessons of its past.

At a time of our choosing is an important phrase. Some shootings are actually accomplished at times the shooter has chosen and even thought about ahead of time. Many are not. Many are spur of the moment shootings that happen in an instant of anger or in the muddled thinking of depression or having too much alcohol or mishandling a gun or just leaving it sitting somewhere where it can be used at a time not chosen to kill or injure someone. That’s how it is with guns. They kill people. One killed my sister. Or I should say the bullets from that gun- 3 of them- caused internal injuries that killed her almost instantly. The person with that gun that day was angry over a contentious divorce. We don’t know what prompted it since there was not a trial where we could hear from him in his own words why he picked up a gun that day and shot two people. We don’t know if he met them at his door when they came to deliver some papers with the gun and got them inside the house. He killed himself 3 months after the shooting. What we do know is that he shot and killed two people while angry and depressed. Without that gun accessible, two people would not have died that day almost 23 years ago.

A woman once asked me why I didn’t think they ( my sister and her friend) could have been killed as easily with a knife. Maybe she was thinking of the now famous case where O.J. Simpson was on trial for killing his ex-wife and another man with a knife. He was not found guilty as we know but someone killed those two people and we are not sure how it was managed. Most knives are not really designed to kill people but they do kill. At a much lower rate than guns in spite of the nonsensical arguments that come from the other side about that. There have been “mass knifings” which have most often injured the people who were attacked but not killed them. One such happened in China on the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 26 innocent people. In China, 23 were injured and none killed.

And the answer is “no” to the woman who asked me, by the way. My now deceased brother-in-law was able to threaten and intimidate two people with a gun because it’s hard to run away from someone with a gun. A gun can be shot from close up or far away. Bullets have long trajectories. That is why they are so effective.

I’m writing and talking about common sense solutions to our gun violence epidemic. One of the things that has to be talked about is the risk of guns to their owners and others in the vicinity. I have asked whether guns are accessible when I hear of someone in a contentious divorce or domestic situation. At least some of our leaders recognize that domestic abusers certain should not have guns. In Minnesota and a handful of other states recent laws were passed to allow law enforcement to take guns away from domestic abusers who have exhibited behaviors that resulted in a restraining order and/or order for protection. Even the gun friendly legislators supported these laws and came together to make women and children safer from those who should not have guns. Hopefully that is a realization that guns can be a risk and can become deadly quickly in domestic disputes.

There are many ways we can deal with our gun violence epidemic if we treat it as the public health problem that it is. Passing laws requiring background checks on all gun sales is one. Requiring and encouraging safe storage of guns. Stopping bad apple gun dealers and stopping gun trafficking is another. Education about the risks of guns, of course, would help. Asking if there are unsecured loaded guns in the homes where your children play. Suicide awareness programs recognizing that access to guns can result in a senseless avoidable death. And this is not just about the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program which was the subject of a recent segment of Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal show.

I hope you will join me in supporting solutions that will stop the proliferation of guns in our communities and the devastating gun violence that is taking too many lives.

 

Road rage in Minnesota

It’s happened again. Someone decided to take out their anger over a traffic problem with a gun. Why do people carry guns in their cars? That is the question. Let’s look at what happened in Minneapolis yesterday:

A 39-year-old woman who honked at a vehicle that cut her off was shot four times in rush-hour traffic on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis Tuesday.

Police spokesman John Elder said the woman was southbound near Groveland Avenue at 5 p.m. when she was cut off by a beige four-door Jeep Cherokee with tinted windows.

She honked at the car, which then slowed down next to her driver side, and a passenger shot at her multiple times with a black handgun, Elder said. The victim, who was shot three times in the arm and once in the stomach, drove several blocks and called 911. She is hospitalized and expected to survive her injuries, police said.

The shooter has not been found yet but no doubt he will be. When he is, many questions need to be asked. Was he a law abiding permit holder? Was the gun legally obtained or illegally obtained. How did he get the gun? And the biggest question- why shoot someone over a honk?

This is not the first time road rage incidents have ended in injury or death by gun and not the first time in Minnesota. Five women were shot at in January as they were being driven on a freeway in an Uber car- just in January of this year. The shooter has not yet been found.

I could list many more in Minnesota and in states all over the country but you get the picture.

So shouldn’t we be able to drive on roads and freeways without fear of being shot? I say the answer is a resounding YES. So why allow guns in cars in the first place? Before Minnesota passed a law in 2005 to allow “law abiding” gun owners to carry guns around with them wherever they go, this was just not happening. Or if it was, it was pretty rare. Sure, some who have illegal guns have likely been carrying guns around all along. But now we have made it part of our every day culture as if it is normal. It’s not.

Further, we have not even discussed children finding guns in their parents’ cars or permit holders shooting themselves while fiddling with guns in their cars. It happens often and I have written about this before. Most recently a Florida child found his mother’s gun in her car and shot it off “accidentally” sending a bullet flying through the front seat, injuring his gun loving mother in the back.

Senseless.

If you look at the image in this post, you can see a man shaking his fist. No one died or was injured as a result. But when a gun is there at the ready, the result is very different. And that is the problem with allowing guns everywhere we play, drive, live, learn, work, eat and walk.

No wonder 141 public health institutions, including the Minnesota Public Health Association, have signed a letter to Congress asking for an end to the funding prohibition for the Centers for Disease Control to study the causes and effects of gun violence. It is the health care providers who treat the injured and deal with the deaths. They understand perfectly well that bullets cause death and injury. They deal with health risks every day and they want some answers. They also understand that, like other public health epidemics, we can do something about it if we understand how it is caused. That is the American way. It’s all about common sense. We all deserve the questions and the answers and most importantly, the victims deserve a chance at live so their families will not be left with a large hole in their lives due to the shooting of a loved one.

If you believe its normal for people to be shooting at innocent drivers and passengers while they are going about their daily business, you are part of the problem. But since I know that most of you agree with me, the time is now to express your frustration and concern over a public health and safety issue that many of our leaders have chosen to ignore. Lives can be saved. And lives are taken every day in senseless avoidable incidents like the ones above.

If you’ve had #Enough of this craziness, let your legislators and Congress members know that you expect them to stand up for the victims and not the gun lobby whose interest lies in profits over saving lives. Get involved. Speak up. Write letters. Send emails. Make phone calls. Join a gun violence prevention group. That is how change will happen. A bill to require background checks on all gun sales is sitting in the Minnesota legislature waiting for a hearing. Protect Minnesota supports this legislation and is asking legislators to sign on and bring it to a hearing. It won’t get a hearing if you don’t make some noise. Similar background check bills are sitting in Congress waiting for enough co-sponsors to bring them to committee hearings. That won’t happen if you don’t make noise.

 

More anger in Minnesota

In my last post I wrote about a road rage incident that left an innocent woman with gunshot injuries just because she honked her horn at another car. The shooter has still not been apprehended though I suspect that will eventually happen since there is a photo of the car now on the internet.

Since that last post, there was another shooting in Minnesota- a fatal shooting at a St. Paul law office involving an angry man who decided to “settle” his differences with his lawyer by shooting the law clerk sitting in the office. He was apparently so angry that he didn’t realize he allegedly shot the wrong person. But never mind. When people who shouldn’t have guns use them in the heat of an angry moment, nothing matters to them. I know that from personal experience.

The shooter in this case was  prohibited purchaser. From the article linked above:

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.

Where did he get the gun and the ammunition given that he couldn’t buy it from a licensed dealer? There are many ways. From a private seller on-line or at a gun show. From a friend through a straw purchase. He could have stolen it. Or maybe someone who didn’t know his violent and criminal past just gave it to him? Or he bought it on the street from someone else who may have come by it illegally or legally, for that matter.

It is important to know these things if we are to prevent at least some of the daily shootings in America. Anger and guns don’t mix. A violent criminal past and guns don’t mix. Alcohol and guns don’t mix. Dangerous mental illness and guns don’t mix. But too often, this is the mix that ends in death.

A study was done recently about guns and anger. From the article:

Angry people with ready access to guns are typically young or middle-aged men, who at times lose their temper, smash and break things, or get into physical fights, according to the study co-authored by scientists at Duke, Harvard, and Columbia universities.

Study participants who owned six or more firearms were also far more likely than people with only one or two firearms to carry guns outside the home and to have a history of impulsive, angry behavior.

“As we try to balance constitutional rights and public safety regarding people with mental illness, the traditional legal approach has been to prohibit firearms from involuntarily-committed psychiatric patients,” said Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke Medicine and lead author of the study. “But now we have more evidence that current laws don’t necessarily keep firearms out of the hands of a lot of potentially dangerous individuals.” (…)

Kessler, Swanson and co-authors reason that looking at a prospective gun buyer’s history of misdemeanor convictions, including violent offenses and multiple convictions for impaired driving, could be more effective at preventing gun violence in the U.S. than screening based on mental health treatment history.

As for those who already own or have access to firearms, the researchers suggest the data could support “dangerous persons” gun removal laws, like those in Connecticut and Indiana, or a “gun violence restraining order” law like California recently enacted. Such laws give family members and law enforcement a legal tool to immediately seize guns and prevent gun or ammunition purchases by people who show warning signs of impending violence.

We should heed the results. One of the problems with our gun violence epidemic is that we don’t have enough data to show us who has the guns, how they got them, when they use them, if they carry them, why they use them, and who they shoot. Medical groups and some common sense Congress members are trying to fix that but, of course, the gun lobby will have none of it. Even though they claim that criminals should not have guns but will get them anyway, they do nothing to make sure they don’t get them in the first place.

Sigh.

It appears that an awful lot of shootings are done in moments of anger.

When I’m angry, I do feel like I want to do something to the person with whom I am angry or the person who wronged me. But what I want to do is to get them to stop what they are doing or apologize if an apology is due. Or I want them so suffer some consequence. But do I want them dead? No. If I had a gun, could I use it in an angry situation? Possibly.

Angry confrontations should not result in death. But too often they do. Guns happen to be the most effective weapon when it comes to killing or injuring others. When a gun is at the ready, it just may be used in the wrong way. Most gun owners are responsible with their guns and their guns. But since others are not, it’s time for all of us to get together and do something about this uniquely American problem where there is about one gun per person.

One of the things, aside from legislation, that can fix some of our problems with gun violence is education and awareness. Where are friends and family members when they know someone should not have a gun but has one anyway? Where are friends and family members when they see violent tendencies in someone they know and love and also know that person has a gun? Doing whatever is necessary to make sure guns are not in the hands of a person like this can save lives. Gun violence protection orders like the one introduced in the Minnesota legislature and other states as well, can help.

This is all about common sense and public health and safety. Anyone who thinks there are other motives needs to think about what has happened in Minnesota in the past week. It’s not OK and we’ve had #Enough of senseless shootings that devastate our families and our communities.

About Flying Bullets

Yes, it’s true. There are bullets literally flying around in some of our neighborhoods at will with no end in sight. Eventually they stop but they really don’t know where to stop and sometimes stop in an unintended place. Of course, if bullets stop at an intended target, that is also very bad and often deadly.

The gun rights advocates love to refer to Chicago and all of the gun deaths there to make their case that Chicago ( and Illinois) have strong gun laws, so why all the deaths? That’s a good question.

A recent senseless shooting, as if they all are not, points to the ease with which guns fall into the hands of those who intend harm. A young Chicago area teen who had participated in a campaign to end the violence, was shot in the back by a stray bullet in his neighborhood. The bullet was apparently intended for someone else who could have also been killed or injured. This young boy will never be the same. Nor will his family and friends. He was trying to stop the very thing that happened to him from happening. From the article with a quote from the shot boy- Zarriel Trotter:

In a 2015 public service announcement, Trotter spoke out against gun violence.

“I don’t want to live in my community where I have to keep on hearing of people getting shot and people getting killed,” Trotter said in the video.

Good grief.

Why are so many bullets flying in some of our communities? Where are the guns and bullets coming from?

For one thing, all guns start out as legal purchases. Guns go from manufacturers to licensed gun dealers where they are sold with background checks. Private sellers get their gun collections (hopefully) by undergoing background checks at a federally licensed firearms dealer and then often sell them to people who are not required to undergo a background check in most states. It’s easy. Just like that a transaction is made with no background check and the seller has no idea to whom he/she is selling a deadly weapon.

For some reason, the gun rights extremists love to claim that this does not happen. But in most states, in fact, it does. In Illinois, since I brought it up earlier, all gun sales require background checks or verification of a Firearms Owner Identification card at gun shows-even private sellers. So then, where are the guns coming from that are used in the many shootings in Chicago neighborhoods? Presumably the shooters and those committing crimes are not law abiding gun owners?

Gun trafficking from states with looser gun laws, is, of course, the undeniable answer to the question. This great article from The Trace shows the map of recovered crime guns and from where they enter the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. A small number even come from my state of Minnesota. Apart from private no background check sales, straw purchasing and allowing illegal sales also provides guns to our streets. So “bad apple” gun shops like Chuck’s Gun Shop and Pistol Range in Riverdale outside of Chicago provide many of the crime guns used to kill innocent people inside the city of Chicago. A small number of gun shops like Chuck’s in states all over our country, knowingly allow straw purchasing or other bad practices that provide guns to those who shouldn’t have them. From the article:

The suit claims that the stores are not forced to be vigilant about sales to minors and to straw purchasers—those who buy guns for others who aren’t allowed to. The stores are immune from lawsuits for the results of their gun sales thanks to a law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, pushed through Congress in October 2005 at the behest of the gun industry. So the plaintiffs are going after the cities where the stores are located to force them to institute common sense rules to prevent improper gun sales. In Illinois, municipal governments, not the state, are responsible for making such laws.

But something can be done about this. So why not? If the gun lobby is correct that criminals can always get guns, why would they object to common sense measures to make sure they don’t get them?  Here are the measures demanded in the above mentioned law suit against the bad apple gun dealers:

The suit suggests several changes in the cities’ gun ordinances. As outlined by the Tribune, they are:

–Mandating background checks for all gun store employees;

–Deterring theft through adequate surveillance and exterior lighting;

–Training managers and employees to identify signs of straw purchasing;

–Requiring dealers to maintain an alphabetical log of all gun sales where the gun was later recovered at a crime;

–Requiring mandatory inspections of a store’s inventory to help detect theft and trafficking of guns, and;

–Requiring video cameras to record the point of sale to discourage buyers who may use false identification.

But in a depressing admission to reality, here is a quote from the article: “The suit will be a tough one to win, according to George Mocsary, a law professor at Southern Illinois University who specializes in firearms law. He told the Tribune that for a civil rights claim to work, there generally has to be an intent to harm a particular individual or community, such as African-Americans.  “I suspect that it will be dismissed,” he said.”

Sigh.

Further, the gun lobby has made sure that the ATF- the agency responsible for monitoring and regulating licensed dealers, is vastly understaffed and underfunded. Why? Good question for which I don’t have an answer. From the article:

“If you want an agency to be small and ineffective at what it does, the ATF is really the model,” says Robert J. Spitzer, author of The Politics of Gun Control. Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland, says the ATF’s critics, in particular the National Rifle Association (NRA), have been “extremely successful at demonizing, belittling and hemming in the ATF as a government regulatory agency.” The result, he says, is an agency with insufficient staff and resources, whose agents are “hamstrung” by laws and rules that make it difficult or impossible to fulfill their mission.

So we have an agency that could make this better but thanks to the ever deceptive gun lobby, they are “hamstrung” in their job. Lives are being lost every day thanks in part to these ludicrous efforts to actually stop us from preventing gun deaths and injuries.

The sad reality is that young people in communities of color in large urban cities are affected by gun violence in greater numbers than their counterparts. This is not OK. We know that gun violence can strike anyone of any race, age, or socioeconomic level. Domestic violence, suicides and homicides occur everywhere. But we also know that we must address the availability of guns in affected communities if we are to be serious about saving at least some lives. In my state of Minnesota, young children of color have been killed by stray bullets flying around in their neighborhoods, leaving families to mourn the lost potential of their children.

One June night of 2012, Terrell Mayes, Jr., 3 years old, of Minneapolis, was hit by a bullet that came through the siding of his home. He died. From the article:

“You keep ’em in, you keep ’em in, but yet and still that bullet, that devil, came right through the wall and took my baby,” said Marsha Mayes,…..”

Babies dying from bullets…..

This article suggests that gunfire is common in the neighborhood where 3 year old Terrell was shot and killed. Are we at war? Gunshots should not be common in any of our communities. Is there any explanation at all for how an 11 year old girl can be shot and killed by a stray bullet while she is sitting in her home doing her homework as happened to Tyesha Edwards of St. Paul in 2002?

There is no explanation for this kind of senseless violence. Even passing stronger gun laws will not change some of this. We don’t have throw- away lives. Our children are our future. We must protect them from violent and avoidable deaths.

A gun culture that has been formed over many years’ time and with the help of a corporate gun lobby that wields too much money and influence will be difficult to change. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s past time for far too many. But lives can be saved with common sense and resolve. No one should be afraid to challenge the false notions that we shouldn’t do anything about our national public health epidemic because it won’t work. If that were the case, we wouldn’t try to solve any of our public health and safety problems. Life would be a free for all with no laws or rules for anything. People would be dying from all kinds of preventable diseases and accidents. That is not who we are as Americans.

It’s a ridiculous deception that nothing can change because of the second amendment. The second amendment to our Constitution was written before 90 Americans a day died from gunshot injuries due to homicides, suicides and “accidental” discharges or shootings. It was written before the common sale of semi-automatic assault type guns to average citizens. It was written before there were 300 million plus guns in the hands of Americans. It was written before regular mass shootings in our schools and public places. It was written before some of our leaders decided it was a good idea for just anyone to be able to buy guns without making sure they are people who should be prohibited from having a gun. It was written before the “wisdom” of the corporate gun lobby pushed our state legislators to pass laws to allow people to carry loaded guns around into every nook and cranny of our communities. You get the picture.

We’ve had #Enough of this. Communities and organizations working together can change the conversation and change the culture about guns and gun violence. As long as guns and bullets are so available and seen as “necessary” in some communities, our children will be at risk. Perhaps when children and teens see adults getting serious about addressing the violence epidemic, they will model what they see. For
every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first come through the hands of an adult.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Stand up and demand change.
  • Join an organization working for change.
  • Talk about the risk of guns in the home.
  • ASK if there are guns where your children or teens hang out.
  • Store your guns safely away from children and teens and to keep them from being stolen.
  • Talk to your friends during difficult domestic issues to make sure guns are not readily available.
  • Tell your legislators and Congress members that you expect them to support legislation to require background checks on all gun sales.
  • Support other legislation to make sure guns are not easily accessible to domestic abusers, felons, those adjudicated mentally ill, gang members, and others who should not have guns.

Together we can do this.

UPDATE:

Of course, it was a holiday week-end but one wouldn’t anticipate that 5 people were shot in Minneapolis over the holiday. It’s true. And some truly stunning facts:

The shooting comes as gun-related violence has risen in Minneapolis — much like in other Midwestern cities, such as Cleveland and Chicago.

Fifty-four people have been shot in Minneapolis through March 21, the last day for which police data were available, an 86 percent increase over the same period last year. In north Minneapolis alone, 43 people were injured in shootings, compared with 15 last year, police records show.

Meanwhile, the city is also coping with a rise in violent crime, which has jumped 5.3 percent compared to this time last year. In downtown, serious crimes like aggravated assaults and rapes have increased 21 percent, while the Second and Third police precincts have seen a sharp rise in the number of robberies, records show.

Bullets flew in Minneapolis last week-end. One dead and 4 injured. It’s time for that to stop.