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The Gun Sense Chronicles

Introduction

Speechless.

The country was speechless after Sandy Hook. It took America’s breath away. It was like Americans got a gut punch we never thought possible. The news that a fellow American had killed elementary school children was unbelievable. Sure our government would stop this kind of terrorism, like many others, I sent thoughts and prayers to the bereaved in Newton, Connecticut during a moment of national silence.

After months of no government action, in September 2013, I wrote the blog post below. I thought it would be the first and only piece I would write about gun violence. I felt sure our government would take action to stop the gun violence. I was wrong.

At first our legislators reasoned it was too early to talk about gun violence. Feelings were too raw to be rational. Their reasons proved irrational. Over the years, time has shown us it doesn’t matter who gun violence: victimizes: old – young, black – white, church-congregations, theater-goers, concert-attendees, Walmart-shoppers.

No person in the US is safe from gun violence. Instead of legislating laws, our Congress sends thoughts and prayers. Our Senators and Representatives suggest a moment of silence, but silence has stretched on for decades. They are deaf to the thoughts and prayers of their constituents because they are more afraid of losing gun lobby campaign contributions than they are of losing our votes.

In updating that first blog post, I found I have written nine articles over the last six years. I thought, “Why not put them together?"

So, I revised them all. I write this in the hope these updates break the silence. I write in the hope thoughts and prayers become an uproar so loud that local, state, and federal governments must take action to stop the carnage.

Gun Safe

A Culture of Fear or a Nation of Security?

Originally Published Mon Sep 02, 2013

One day, last December, I woke up to a beautiful, bright morning. Sunlight filled the snow-covered ground with an icy sea of stars. It brought back the memory of snowbound days when childhood friends and I littered our neighborhood with our sleds and toboggans. In those days, our snow forts, snowmen, and snow angels became a neighborhood of their own.

hibernating bearsWe no longer see that in the modern world. TVs, video games, and computers take the place of outdoor play for many children, and though we often blame it, technology isn't at fault.

Our children live in a world of fear. The everyday traffic dangers on America’s busy streets added to the increasing reports of human predation and the risk of gun violence give parents cause for concern when their children are out of sight.

On that late-autumn day, December 14, 2012, a single event justified this country’s parental fears. A lone gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 people, mostly children, in less than five minutes.

Sandy Hook reminded me of the traumas that Irish children had undergone during the conflict in Northern Ireland. Some American schools brought Irish children to the US, giving them a break from the day-to-day trauma of bombings and gunfire. I don’t believe responsible Irish parents would risk transferring their children to today’s violent America.

NRA anti-gun control proponents send their diatribes over the American airways. We need more guns, they say, to protect America’s children. Their spiels are just more corporate “big brother” efforts to keep Americans scared.

I know that most NRA members are just regular Americans like me. However, memberships make up only a small part of NRA funding. Americans must remember that most NRA funding comes from gun sellers and weapons manufacturers. Otherwise, when three-quarters of their membership are in favor of tighter weapons control, why is it that the NRA ignores their wishes?

NRA speakers like Wayne La Piere are fond of citing statistics. However, remember that it is easy to manipulate statistics to prove a point. For instance, La Piere maintains that assault weapons cause only 2% of all gun crimes. Whether true or false, a 30-magazine assault weapon can destroy more lives than a six-shooter and more than the muskets our forefathers considered when they penned the second amendment.

Automobile owners must follow extensive government regulations, beginning with vehicle registration and mandatory purchase of a vehicular license. In some states, vehicles must pass a regular inspection to comply with regulations.

Automobile drivers must pass both written and behind-the-wheel tests to qualify for a license to drive. The government can revoke or withhold drivers’ licenses for physical or mental conditions that affect a license applicant’s ability to drive safely or responsibly. It can prohibit those who suffer from conditions such as alcoholism and other medical conditions from driving. Drivers must also undergo regular eye tests, and those with other physical impairments must have their vehicles outfitted with extra controls.

Despite the NRA’s 2% statistic, regulations on assault weapons and their owners should be at least as rigorous as those for automobiles.

The answer to our violent culture is not to grow our children in a world of fear and more guns. The answer is to take the precautions that allow them to enjoy a safer, more secure nation.

What do we want our children to remember about their childhoods? A sea of sunlit stars on snow or a field of white crosses, and the deluge of tears that accompanies them?

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Shoot Du Le Jour:

San Bernadino Today—Where tomorrow?

Originally Published Wed Dec 02, 2015

San Bernadino, California is the location of today’s mass murder. How long before we have a murder every hour? When will we quit talking and start doing something about guns in the US?

After the last shooting, (You know. The one last Friday in Colorado,) I began to write a post on how many shootings between Columbine and now. I recalled half a dozen of them right off the top of my head. I did a search to look back and see how many I had missed. WHOA!

Not only had I missed dozens, Columbine wasn’t the first… not even second in the long line of mass shootings plaguing this country. In fact, I found records of four other school shootings before Columbine. Of all types of mass shootings—workplace, school, churches, shopping malls—the school shooting at Columbine was number 11. Who would ever believe these heinous crimes would become mere statistics in a list?

As I read the Sandy Hook statistics, I realized I had believed this horrendous crime would never become just another statistic, but it had. Yet, I’m sure this crime will never be just a statistic to the parents of the children or the families of the teachers who died.

arm our teachers with pencils not gunsThe first school shooting I found happened on the playground of a Stockton, California elementary school in January 1989. A gunman turned an assault weapon on a playground, killing five children and wounding 29. The attack lasted only minutes.

In Iowa in 1991, a university student, upset about not receiving an academic honor, shot six people. Four died.

The next occurred in 1993 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Two middle school students killed five people and injured ten.

Yet, these school shootings were not the first mass shootings in the long and shameful line of them. Over the last 31 years, I have found news stories on 41 mass shootings which left 397 Americans dead.

The first recorded mass shooting in the US happened 35 years ago. An out of work security guard killed 21 employees and customers at a McDonald’s restaurant before a police sniper ended his life. Two years later when a Postal Worker went postal and killed 14 coworkers, wounded 6 others and then, killed himself. The term postal wasn’t in common use before then.

So today, mass murder number 41, San Bernadino, has the media’s attention. Who among us holds the hope in our hearts that it will be the last in this series of tragedies?

At this writing, the victims at San Bernadino are 14 Dead, 17 injured—10 of those critically. Last Friday our President said, “Enough is enough,” when a gunman killed 3 and injured 9 people in Colorado, but I guess it wasn’t. What will be?

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Grass Roots Gun Sense

Originally published June 24, 2016

Power to the People

don't be a victimAs the House Democrats held the floor of the House of Representatives during the sit-in for common sense gun legislation, I remembered the old slogan, “Power to the People.” Until the sit-in, it seemed Americans were powerless to do anything about gun violence. The sit-in gave us hope.

Then yesterday, I woke up to a disappointment.

The House Democrats quit their sit in. How could they? I was ready to watch them sing “We Shall Overcome” for a week as they sacrificed their holiday because the Republicans had the audacity to leave Washington without allowing a vote on common sense gun legislation.

What can the American people do? I thought.

I looked back over recent current events to see what the American people had done about common sense gun reform in the past. We have done the same thing our congressional representatives have done.

Nothing.

Well, that’s not true.

What we haven’t done are the common sense things that the American public can do. We have not taken the positive actions that might achieve some positive results. The media tells us that 90% of Americans agree that we need common sense gun control. It’s reasonable to believe that a part of those 90% are NRA members.

How Many?

We have been counting on legislators to change what’s wrong with America’s gun laws. Real change has always begun with the grass roots of the American public. We can remind our elected officials that they are accountable to We the People, who put them in office and will hold them as accountable for their inaction as their actions.

If we cannot take a bite out of the crimes that are gun violence, we can take a bite out of the purses of those who profit from guns.

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Ammunition Notes

Originally Published Mon Feb 20, 2017

Keep Aim on Gun Sense

good guys with gunsNews today focused on National Security. However, security should begin at home. With the ongoing turmoil in the Trump White House, it is easy to lose sight of many of the issues that remain unattended. One of those issues is comprehensive gun legislation, which would be a major step in improving the safety of the American public.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne La Pierre is fond of saying “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun”. He's said it during every gun tragedy since the school shooting in Newtown Conn

Who’s the Bad Guy?

Let us not forget that former VP Richard Cheney shot a friend in the face with his gun. I’m not suggesting Cheney is or is not a good guy, but if he is a good guy, he made a big mistake with his gun. Although the evidence here is anecdotal, similar anecdotes are too often in the news.

Open carry laws enable many folks to walk around with guns holstered on their hips or slung on their shoulders. Most of them may well be “good guys”.

How good are the good guys with their guns?

While a shooter may be a marksman on the firing range, his competence may falter under stress. It is much easier to shoot a bullseye, a tin can, or a bottle than it is to shoot a living, moving target. It is also easier to take a life hunting than it is to defend yourself under stress.

Free To Be Gun Free

Some people want a world where they may carry a gun to be safe. I want a world where there is no need to carry a gun to be safe.

What’s Your Answer? With comprehensive gun legislation, the mentally ill, felons, and thieves would have less opportunity to have them in hand. Those who would be careless in securely storing them and using them responsibly would be held accountable for their negligence. Is that too much to ask?

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America Under the Gun

Originally Published Nov 9,2017

Many of today’s gun owners are up in arms.

They see a government that seeks to disarm its citizens and which will twist the facts and turn them inside out to accomplish its goal.

I understand about hunting.

under the gunI live in a low-crime area where hunting is a part of the harvest. Curbing wildlife damage to crops and livestock, licensed hunters help keep over populations of wildlife from starving during the bitter winter months.

I also understand collecting. I don’t collect guns, but I collect Teddy bears. Over 100 of the critters ‘live’ with me. While I don’t foster any live bears, my collection includes ceramic, wood, pewter, rubber, and plush. Sometimes I walk past a bear and I hear his mute lips calling out to me in deaf tones. I love bears. I understand why some people love guns.

Common sense gun control isn’t disarmament.

Many hunters and collectors agree with common sense gun regulation(1,2). Like most folks, concerned with gun violence, they want proof fellow gun owners know when and how to use their weapons. They want safeguards that ensure all gun owners are capable and mentally stable enough to use them.

Common sense gun regulation can result in fewer guns in the hands of criminals. This means law enforcement will face less risk in doing the job our tax dollars pay them to do.

Government officials justify inaction with platitudes like, “Now is not the right time to talk about common sense gun control.”

When it rains, you can’t fix the hole in the roof. When it stops, there is no need to fix the hole until your home fills up with rot and mold. The slaughters like those in Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, and Sandy Hook are fast filling our country with the cancer that is the cost of gun violence.

The problem with guns is a legislative hole Congress needs to fix… now.

^

Guns for the Money

Originally Published February 15, 2018

Yesterday, another school shooting.

This one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Brower county Florida. Dozens of hearts broke when a gunman murdered 17 highschool students and terrorized dozens of children, teachers, and parents.

My blood boiled as, for the first time, I listened to a CNN pundit discussing active shooter drills. Have we sunk so low that instead of taking hands on actions and logical steps to protect our children, we depend on them to protect themselves?

CNN’s Jake Tapper called the Stoneman Shooting “the new normal in America” I say if that’s true, it’s time we change normal.

I have been writing about gun violence and sensible gun regulation since 2013. I thought I was keeping up pretty well until I heard the Stoneman shooting is the 19th school shooting this year!

These days, unless they are as or more extreme as the last one, mass shootings don’t even make a front page or TV news headline.

A Moment of Silence, That’s What We Do

In a CNN interview, Senator Bill Nelson (D Florida) commented, "[Congress] will have a moment of silence because that’s what we do.” He is right. Congress’s continuing silence on common sense gun regulation is ear-shattering.

Florida’s other Senator, Republican Marco Rubio, issued his standard schtick of “thoughts and prayers.” The thought of “thoughts and prayers” is numbing. We need to quit electing and paying legislators who only pay lip service to American problems. A sign on Twitter reads, “Policies, not prayers.” I agree.

Policies Not Prayers

guns for the moneyWhen most American voters favor common sense gun regulation and Congress does nothing about it, is it because of the money the NRA and other gun lobbies funnel into re-election campaigns? This funding gives them a vote, not in the voting booth, but in the most critical arena of all: our nation’s Capitol building.

We need to keep corporate America and special interests out of our voting booths. We the People should be the only voters in the United States. One person, one vote, should be the rule and the rule should prohibit groups from voting in our elections and contributing to the campaigns of our candidates.

I wrote my representative and state senators about this. If you write yours, maybe we can convince them to put some reins on campaign finance. Then we can elect legislators who won’t find it necessary to kowtow to the NRA or arms vendors and manufacturers. Congress may pass the common sense gun regulation legislation many people are, in fact, dying for.

When we stop the gun lobby’s ability to buy our Senators and Representatives, it will be the first step in stopping senseless massacres like the one in Parkland. Putting an end to these spurious campaign contributions could mean No Guns for the Money.

That’s the way it should be.

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Activism

Walking the Walk

Originally Published March 13, 2018

CNN Says about the Parkland students:

"They're the most formidable foes the NRA will face — and it's because they're so young."

When kids lead, adults follow.

If that sounds backwards to you look at the ages of our Founding Fathers in 1776, when they wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Name Date of Birth Age in 1776
Benjamin Franklin 1706 70
George Washington 1732 45
John Adams 1735 41
Thomas Jefferson 1743 33
John Jay 1745 31
James Madison 1751 25
Alexander Hamilton 1755 21

Ben Franklin, at 70 years old, was the Grandpa of the group, followed by next-eldest George Washington at the ripe old age of 45. John Adams was 41 and each of the others in this group of national leaders was under 40 years old. Alexander Hamilton was the “baby” of the group at 21.

These young men laid out a plan to break away from the most powerful empire of their time and create an infant nation that would become the most powerful in the world.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students remind us that youth can speak to power, can start change, and that youth itself is a powerful force. These young survivors of the Parkland massacre bring firsthand authority to the gun debate and are showing the adult population how to solve problems.

Problem solving starts with being willing to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. Days of impassioned speeches, protests, and sit-ins barred Florida legislators (including Governor Rick Scott) from turning a blind eye.

A comment on a Vox news post made me remember another time when young people did what they could to get the job done. Their headline read:

“How the baby boomers — not millennials — screwed America”

— with a subhead fashioned to rub salt into the wound:

“The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this because I’m a boomer. My generation had high ideals and big plans. Looking at the trouble today, it is easy to surmise none of them came to fruition. But that’s not true.

gun sense rallyA friend commented, “It is Baby Boomers who were the rank and file of the Civil Rights Movement. It is the Baby Boomers who were the core of the Anti War Movement. It is the Baby Boomers who pushed for legislation for the Women’s Movement.”

I needed that reminder. The young heroes of the 60s were those who let society know about the problems in the US. “We Shall Overcome” was not a promise. It was a battle cry.

The problem isn’t  boomers were a do-nothing generation. The problem is we became complacent with a little progress. We closed our eyes as the world continued to change around us. These intelligent and brave young Floridians have opened our eyes again. All over this country their peers have come together to support them. We boomers need to get off our keisters and join them. Walk the walk with them to a better future.

As my friend concluded, “Our Common Goal across generations needs to be to work for the Common Good of our country.”

^

Gun Violence

Tears and Fears

Originally Published Wed May 08, 2019

Yesterday I watched the interview of an eighth-grade girl in tears as she admitted that she was afraid to go to school. She feared that one day she would go into school and never come back out. Sometime yesterday, that is exactly what happened to a young man in Colorado.

weeping girlIn the 15th school shooting of 2019(1), Kendrick Castillo, a young man just four days from his high school graduation, was killed and eight other students were injured.

Today I watched one of the survivors of that shooting describe what happened to him and his classmates. Their teacher hid them in the classroom closet. The 12-year-old student said he had his hand on a metal baseball bat because “if I was going to go down, I was going down swinging.(2)”

Anchor Brooke Baldwin asked the boy’s father how difficult it was for him and his wife to process what had happened to their son as well as his reaction to this tragedy. He said that he didn’t believe that he and his wife had processed it yet. He said that, for most of the day today, they were both on the verge of tears.

I wondered, What feelings or combination of feelings their tears might represent.

Well, that is today. Tomorrow another “news cycle” will replace this one. We will be engaged by another government scandal, national disaster, international crisis, or possibly a shooting elsewhere. We could look at it as the “new normal,” but unfortunately this normal is no longer new.

Come to think of it, we could use a new normal:

The question remains: How do we do it?

Resources

  1. CNN, Michelle Lou. “There Have Been 15 School Shootings in the US so Far This Year.” CNN. Accessed 8 May 2019.
  2. "CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin.” CNN, 8 May 2019.

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Gun Sense

We Need It Now

Originally Published Mon Jun 13, 2016 | Updated Thu Oct 31, 2019

This blog-post, the last of my series, is out of order. I originally wrote it in 2016, after the Pulse shootings in Orlando, Florida. This is a follow up and revision to the post I wrote then. At that time, the Pulse Shooting was the most deadly mass-shooting massacre in our history, I felt sure that something would at last be done to control gun violence in the United States.

I was as wrong then as I had been back in 2013.

On that Saturday morning, reports that from the preceding Wednesday through Friday, 303 gun shooters dropped the hammer on other Americans shocked us. Among the stories, the murder of Christina Grimmie happened on Friday. Then Saturday night… a massacre, 49 dead at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Devastating news.

When is enough… enough?

We keep saying “never again” until the next time.

Legislators send their thoughts and prayers to the victims’ families, but they do nothing. Over the last three years more shootings have happened—too many bodies to count—and this all remains true.

The second amendment says:

"… being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

That’s all it says. The law considers a professional boxer’s hands as weapons, but no one wants to take away a boxer’s hands. A baseball bat can be a weapon, but many of us have one for sport and for protection. If you ever watch old monster movies, you know sometimes the arms we bear are shovels, rakes, and hoes.

Law professor David Cohen writes in Rolling Stone magazine that Congress should repeal the Second Amendment. At first, I leaned towards agreement, but I don’t any longer. The second amendment doesn’t need repealing. It needs revision—a rewording and an addition of specific terms of what firearms are appropriate for citizens and what is the proper use of those weapons.

The phrase “right to bear arms” is ambiguous. It’s common knowledge you can’t walk around with a rocket launcher on your shoulder. You also can’t drive on the city streets in a tank with a gun turret. The amendment doesn’t address those situations, but they are among the actions people with good sense refrain from. You can’t build and keep a nuclear missile in your basement, either. Because… common sense.

Forget the terms pro-gun and anti-gun.

There is no reason for either. I grew up in Southern Minnesota, the location of the last remnant of Laura Ingalls’s Big Woods, Nerstrand State Park. As I grew up, every winter the state DNR set out bales of hay for the deer so they wouldn’t starve. Deer are prolific breeders. Deer hunting keeps the herds down and also helps keep surviving deer from starving in the winter. The same applies to moose, elk, geese, ducks, pheasants, squirrels, rabbits, and other wild animals.

I don’t hunt. I don’t want to hunt, but I do understand the necessity.

Hunter-gatherers, is part of who we are. Some hunters use firearms, some fish, some bow-hunt, and others enjoy the challenge of honing in on a clay pigeon or a target.

I’m more of a gatherer than a hunter. I enjoy seeing living things grow too much to kill them on purpose, but all humans are killers, even if we don’t mean to be. Don’t we all swat our share of mosquitoes, flies, and step on ants and other little insects that live in the grass?

Instead, Shoot for Common Sense Gun Regulations

deadline clock Guns may be necessary, but we need to ensure they are not a necessary evil. We need to hunt up and gather some gun sense and that’s one hunt I’m happy to join.

We need laws to keep hunters, hobbyists, and collectors happy but laws that limit firearm access to criminals and the mentally ill. We need compromise from both the anti-gun lobby and the pro-gun lobby. After all, none of us are pro-murder any more than we are pro-accidental death.

No one favors a law that sanctions maiming another individual. Neither does anyone want another Orlando, Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown, or Parkland.

When I first revised this post, I realized the Parkland shooting was missing in the original post because it hadn’t yet happened.This also applies to the Las Vegas massacre in which 59 concert goers were killed as well as others missing from a revised tally.

Less than one-month ago (at this writing), a gunman walked into a bar in Kansas, killed five, and injured four. The 'incident' didn’t even make the evening news. These tragedies aren't headliners any more. They are 'incidents.' Normal becomes abnormal.

It has been three years since the Parkland shooting, seven years since Sandy Hook, 20 years since Columbine, 30 since the first school shooting, 31 since the countries first mass shooting, and still little has been done other than thoughts, prayers and 'moments' of silence that may continue into infinity. In radio, these moments are called 'dead air' a term that, today, rings a hollow truth.

When is enough… enough?

Compromise is how the American Government has always changed law. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, "We can’t please all the people all the time," but we can come close if both sides sit down and work out their differences. That seems to be something Congress has forgotten.

Let us, We the People, not forget it.

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