Can we do anything about gun violence in the U.S.?

Seems like we have to reset this one every few weeks and that's not normal or OK.

Seems like we have to reset this one every few weeks and that’s not normal or OK.

Once again, Americans are reeling at the sight of another mass shooting. In what’s become all-too-commonplace, we react with horror, sorrow, anger, and discussion, but at the end of the day, we all know this will happen again. President Obama said as much during his remarks addressing the shooting in Oregon, and regardless of your politics, every American probably agrees with Obama when he said it’s likely he’ll have to address another mass shooting before his term is over. However, in our efforts to end the horrific violence caused by guns, we address a few key issues: the ease in which potential shooters access guns, how we handle mental illness in the United States, and whether any reasonable limitations on gun ownership are appropriate if it means preventing another mass shooting like we’ve seen across the country, year after year.

The following piece attempts to address a few key issues. First, we must try to find a way to prevent mass shootings from ripping apart communities across the country and if reasonable gun legislation is off the table (despite overwhelming support in most parts of the country), we need another solution. We simply cannot accept mass shootings as normal, or something that cannot be prevented because the Second Amendment prohibits the adoption of any legislation preventing some individuals from accessing firearms. The piece takes a look at perhaps a key psychological reason why it’s so challenging to pass reasonable legislation aimed at ending the scourge of gun violence affecting Americans every single day. Additionally, we must consider our rhetoric towards guns–especially the paranoid notion that someone is coming for them–which may–or may not–be contributing to gun-related violence in the United States.

What’s laid out here isn’t a series of concrete solutions to gun violence, but perhaps it will provide us with an outlet for deeper discussion–on both sides of the aisle–on what can be done to make sure we can end the evils of gun violence and mass shootings in the United States.

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Crawling

Friends of the Everblog, I am certain we are all gearing up for the Labor Day Weekend, right?  If you are anything like me, the grilling, laughter, and (perhaps, more than one) beer are well and truly anticipated.  I’ll just use my soapbox to share with you a few pieces of what I think are good news events.  Nothing too heavy, I promise.

Keeping in mind what Labor Day is all about, I found this to be rather encouraging.

On Thursday, the protests involved workers at nearly 1,000 restaurants in more than 50 cities, organizers said, spreading to areas of the South and West including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Raleigh, N.C.

Workers have garnered the courage to strike.  Now the only question is will we – consumers – support them in spirit…  And in choices?

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This past week, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  It was a wonderful opportunity for all to ponder and pontificate on exactly what his words meant to each of us.  And (our resident Pinhead)  Bill O’Reilly told us what he thought.  What is possibly good about this?  After having made such a ruckus about conservatives being excluded, he admitted he was “Wrong“.

Last night during my discussion with James Carville about the Martin Luther King commemoration I said there were no Republican speakers invited. Wrong. Was wrong. Some Republicans were asked to speak. They declined. And that was a mistake. They should have spoken.

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Meanwhile, down in Florida…Republican, David Simmons (an author of the state’s Stand Your Ground law), would like to tweak the controversial legislation.  Especially where cases of Neighborhood Watch programs are involved.

…something that would affect the ability to go ahead and follow somebody else, for example, and confront them. That’s generally believed to be outside the parameters of anyone who’s participating in neighborhood watch and this is something that I think needs to be debated.

Would that this could have occurred sooner, but it is happening  now.  In all fairness, this is the second time Simmons has filed this particular bill.  He hopes it will actually receive a hearing this year.  And, what do you know?  I agree with a republican.

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Even though I don’t “light up”, I think the Department of Justice was correct in its decision to not tell me I can’t.

The Justice Department said it would refocus marijuana enforcement nationwide by bringing criminal charges only in eight defined areas – such as distribution to minors – and giving breathing room to users, growers and related businesses that have feared prosecution.

This balanced approach to handling marijuana usage just may work.  States (Colorado and Washington) are given authority to handle the situation, with an assurance that the federal government will only step in if it is proven that they are not up to the task.  I know, I know..it’s the DoJ.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

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Allow me to leave you with this:

progress

The past fifteen years, we have been doing a hell of a lot of crawling.  But crawling is moving forward.

Support those union workers.

Accept (or gloat) when someone who is wrong…admits it.

Continue to speak out, loudly and proudly, against dangerous legislation.

Remember that there is a delicate balance between individualism and collectivism.

We won’t be crawling forever.   As long as we all have a dream…or two.

Be safe and enjoy!!

Liberty and Justice for All

To the Parents of Trayvon Martin:

I am so sorry.  So very sorry.

As a mother, I am tempted to say something insensitive like I feel your pain.  Perhaps even I can imagine how you must feel.  But, both are lies.  I can not feel your pain, nor can I even begin to fathom how badly this must hurt.  My brain can not wrap around the excruciating, soul-wrenching pain you must be in.  So, I am left with…I’m sorry.

I, like millions of others, am sorry that you will never again hug or kiss your boy.  We are saddened that his life ended in such a senseless, tragic, and  preventable way.  It breaks our hearts that it took nothing more than traversing the street – in a hooded shirt – for Trayvon to become a “suspicious” person.  To be thought of as “up to no good”.  To be stalked, and murdered.

Those millions and I are further sorry that our justice system failed you. We were shocked that your son had barely been retrieved from the ground before his killer was home.  Home.  We were upset that it took national flash mobs to ensure an investigation.   We were angry that his character was attacked and his named maligned.  We were livid at the notion that somehow Trayvon has less of a right to be on that street than his attacker.  We were determined to stand with you, and all who loved your son, while the wheels of justice turned.

We were stunned and outraged that, after all was said and done, George Zimmerman was convicted of nothing.

While we may not know how you feel, we did feel.  We do feel.

We feel that it is shameful, in America, that the way your son was dressed garnered suspicion and began this entire train wreck of events.   We know that the pervasive racism in this country continues to give credence to ridiculous stereotypes like the one your son came face to face with.  And that is wrong.

We feel that it is completely and totally unacceptable that our children are being stalked and killed due to someone else’s irrational fears.  We know that, in this country, the acts of rogue vigilantes should be discouraged.

We feel that if Stand Your Ground is a right of some, it is a right for all – Trayvon included.  He had just as much right to be where he was that night as his shooter did.

We try to imagine the confusion and fear your son must have felt that night.  We teach our children wonderful lessons about America.  We continually remind them that they can be anything they so desire, if they try hard enough.  We recount the horror stories of the past in order for them to appreciate the freedom and equality they enjoy now.  We tell them that their clothes, their hair styles, their shoes don’t matter.  Because what matters is on the inside.

I am certain Trayvon learned differently that night.  I am sure he didn’t have the foggiest idea why he was being pursued.  How could he?  His pursuer only knew he “looked off”.  He learned what hundreds of thousands of young, black males already know.  He learned that, for some, fitting a profile is deadly.  He learned that stereotypes can get you killed.  He learned that, sometimes, adults are wrong.  Sometimes, you don’t have to look for trouble, because trouble looks for you.

And that is the hardest thing to admit.  We were wrong.  We failed him.

Regardless of how hard we wish it, we will never be able to change the horrible events of that sad night.  But there are things that we can do.  We can’t give you back the child of your heart.  But we can work so that his dying was not in vain.  We can’t give you justice for his death.  But we can fight to change laws, removing them if necessary.  We can’t get rid of every irrational person.  But we can fight for a society that does not condone irrational actions.  We can’t heal you.  But we can stand with you.

We can stand with you in our communities and states.  We can stand with you in our jails and courthouses.  We can stand with you in the voting booths.

Our sympathy is a start, but we can do more.  We will do more.

Because liberty and justice for all is more than a slogan.

Our hearts, heavy and broken, are with you.

Sincerely,

America

Guns, Mental Health and Florida’s Failure

To say that Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, is not popular is a massive understatement.

He helped make Florida the first state to require those seeking assistance (welfare) undergo a drug test. Unsurprisingly, this move didn’t save the state money. It cost the state money.

Governor Scott has most recently signed a bill that stigmatizes those who seek treatment for mental health issues.

I have to pause here. This latest move infuriates me.

The bill infringes on a Florida citizen’s right to bear arms. You know, that thing better known as the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution?

Via:

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday that will close a loophole that allowed dangerously mentally ill people to admit themselves for treatment, then quickly check out and buy a gun.

The legislation was one of the most significant gun bills to pass this year’s legislative session and was supported by Democrats, Republicans and the National Rifle Association…

The gun bill addresses people who doctors say pose a danger to themselves or others. Their names will be put into databases to prevent them from buying guns.

If the patient doesn’t agree to be voluntarily admitted for treatment, an involuntary commitment petition would be filed. Patients who voluntarily committed themselves would do so with the understanding that they would be barred from purchasing firearms.

If patients refused to give up their gun-purchasing rights, the involuntary commitment process would proceed.

The bill includes a pathway for people to petition the court to regain their gun-purchasing rights after they are treated. A doctor would have to agree that the person should regain the right.

Maybe it’s not clear why this bill isn’t good. After all, I don’t want guns in the hands of people who will do bad things.

But I don’t want people to do bad things. And I don’t want a gun. Still, rights are rights.

But there’s a faulty assumption here. For starters, having a mental illness that requires hospitalization doesn’t mean a person is bad, or is unable to determine right and wrong. People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be targets of violence than to commit acts of violence. See this, this, this, and this.  (I could go on…)

This bill may actually keep people from getting help and treatment they need.

The stigma around mental health is huge, and to get people to seek treatment is hard enough. But now, with this bill, there’s a state-sanctioned stigma. It’s now permissible by the State of Florida to stigmatize someone having a hard time through no fault of their own and seeking help.  It’s permissible to take away a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

I could go on (and on and on), but this bill is just terrible. Stigma by the state for severe depression? Loss of constitutional rights for an eating disorder? (Which, by the way, I was hospitalized for at age 15.)

It’s now legal in Florida. Assuming you get treatment.

This law does nothing productive to curb gun violence. It does nothing to address the real issues behind gun culture, the pervasive violence in our society. This law certainly doesn’t help and only hurts a group of already vulnerable people who society tends to shame anyway.

I leave with this this fantastic  image, but keep in mind, this was supported by Democrats and Republicans–shame on you.

1008915_581744405202989_1790337221_o

Thank you, Justine, for this sadly relevant image!

Guns and Children

This is not a post about gun-control legislation. It is about gun owners’ responsibilities. Adult gun owners’ negligence regularly results in fatalities and injuries due to children gaining access to guns and lax safety measures. Numerous stories are reported about kids killing others or being killed or injured by their friends or family members.

Of course, these are always referred to as accidents. However, they are really not accidents and are entirely preventable. Here is a [very] short-list of child-related gun incidents just over the past several months:

June 3 – In Arkansas, while playing, 15 year old Nico Sanders shoots 16 year-old Trevor Hargrove in the chest.

May 8 – In Texas, a 2-year old dies of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

April 30 – In Kentucky, a 2-year old girl was shot and killed by her 5-year old brother with a .22-caliber rifle he had received as a gift.

April 9 – In South Carolina, a toddler died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

April 8 – In New Jersey, 6 year old Brandon Holt, was shot in the head by his friend and neighbor, an unidentified 4-year-old boy; Brandon dies on April 9.

April 7 – In Tennessee, a woman was shot in the stomach by her 2-year-old child.

April 6 – In Tennessee, a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed the wife of a sheriff’s deputy.

March 24 – In North Carolina, a father cleaning his shotgun shoots his 10-year old son in the head.

March 13 – In Washington, a 3-year old shoots, kills self.

There are so many other tragic incidences like the ones above. Do a quick Google search if you don’t believe me.

In the case of Trevor Hargrove, his mother, Kim, seemed almost casual about his shooting injury. She told a news station:  “They’re good friends, it was just an accident, and I just want all parents to know to keep guns locked up and teach your kids gun safety. Just because the clip ain’t in the gun doesn’t mean there’s not a bullet in the chamber and somebody can get hurt really bad.” Seriously? If this were my child, the Sanders would have a lawsuit and criminal charges thrown at them so fast their heads would spin.

These are tragedies that can be prevented by taking common sense measures.  Guns should never be out in plain sight or even tucked under a pillow or stored in a drawer in a back bedroom when children are around. Guns should be locked in a gun cabinet or a safe and the keys hidden. If for some reason a gun must be out in the presence of children, be damn sure it is unloaded, then double checked that it is unloaded, and do not leave it unattended for even a second, especially if it is loaded. The sheriff in the above April 6 incident put his gun on the bed, turned away, and in a matter of seconds the 4-year old grabbed the gun and pulled the trigger.

Gun owners love their guns; we get that. They have a right to own guns, but with gun ownership comes a great deal of responsibility. Those who cannot responsibly store their weapons should have them confiscated. In addition, there needs to be some sort of punishment for an adult’s gross negligence that causes harm or death to another person, especially when the killer is a child. Think of the guilt and the stigma of having killed someone that these children will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Adults are responsible for the children—their own and other peoples’—in their home at all times. How many more kids have to die or become killers before grown-ups take seriously keeping guns out of the hands of children, especially toddlers? Slate’s Justin Peters has been writing regularly about this very topic. He advocates for stronger child access prevention laws, gun-safety education campaigns, and incentivizing gun owners to purchase gun safes and install trigger locks.  These “accidents” are highly preventable, so gun owners, prevent them.

Cross-posted at The Feisty Liberal

Down the rabbit hole, Out through the Chocolate Factory

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where-” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“-so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice Added as an explanation.

Lewis Carroll

Down the rabbit hole.  Our nation is down the rabbit hole.

Collectively, we feel trapped, confused, helpless, and angry.  We are afraid.

I, too, feel all those emotions.  But, what I feel the strongest is frustration.  Like Alice, all I want is to get… SOMEWHERE.

When did we fall down the rabbit hole?  Does it matter?  I would love to say it is irrelevant how we got here.  But, I can’t.  On our journey, we stumbled over our own fear..er..feet.  We’ve fallen, and can’t seem to get up.

We read our children stories, like Alice in Wonderland, hoping to teach them the importance of life choices.  We encourage them to dream and set goals.  We help them develop courage, determination, and perseverance.  We teach them that not trying is the only true failure.

Well, look at us!  Aren’t we quite the hypocrites?  Even now, when our inability to act is harmful to our children, we do nothing and go nowhere.  From our comfortable spot in the pit, we point fingers.  We blame blacks, women, gays, immigrants, republicans, democrats, or the poor.  Our children, remembering what they’ve been taught, see the grown-ups bicker, complain, and remain…stuck.

We stress to our children the value of education, yet do nothing about this and this.  If we proclaim that education opens doors for our sons and daughters, shouldn’t it actually do so?  We must prepare our children for adulthood by improving ALL of our schools.  Wealth and/or vouchers shouldn’t be necessary to receive a quality education.  Nor should college costs ride a person’s back well into middle age, forcing them to take up residence in a parent’s basement.

We teach our youth to play by the rules, yet allow this.  If we want them to know that playing by the rules is the right thing to do, we must ensure that they grow up in a world where that is expected.  Of everyone.  Corporations are allowed to (legally) cheat the system.  This is a no-brainer, right?  It’s broken, we fix it.  Ah, that would make too much sense.  So, our kids grow up observing that greed is the key to success.  There goes the sharing is caring lesson.

While we are pointing fingers on climate change, things like this happen.  Why is this even a continuing debate?  Overwhelmingly, scientists agree that our planet is being stretched too thin.  Natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy and the massive tornado in Oklahoma, are going to continue.  We have been warned, again and again, about this.  Is this garbage really easier to believe than 97% of scientists??

As we bicker about who is more patriotic, tragedies like Sandy Hook go unaddressed.  Unless you count this.  Our children are told repeatedly that violence is not the answer because it never solves anything.  Ha!!  Have you noticed that our culture is becoming more violent by the day?  Yeah, kids have, too.  When we have opportunities to come together, and make decisions that will save their lives, we should take them.  Perhaps, they need to give us a pep talk about bullying, eh?

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  
J. K. Rowling

Let’s choose a direction.  We’ll never get somewhere, if we don’t.  Our children deserve that much.

To them, everything is magical.  Anything is possible.  Adults know better.  We are aware that no Cheshire Cat or Elder Wand exists.  Life is a series of choices (or unfortunate events, depending on perspective).  We learn from mistakes, and try again.

Enough crying and complaining!  The next generation is watching.  If there is an outcome we desire, let’s elect representatives who will help us achieve it.    Those that don’t..replace them.  Occasionally, we will learn that our ideas aren’t good ones.  If that happens, we change direction.  Life has taught us all that there is often more than one way to get where you’re going.  Remember, the failure is in not trying.

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Roald Dahl
 
Choose to educate yourself.  Then, choose to act.
 

Virginia is (Not) for Lovers

Virginia.  My (sometimes) beloved home state.

Home to our nation’s first leader, George Washington.  Home to our most (mis)quoted founder, Thomas Jefferson.  The birthplace of presidents.

Home to Historic Jamestown and  Mount Vernon.  Home to (my favorite) Virginia Beach. <Lover’s Paradise!

But be careful, all you lovers!  Virginia is also home to these gentlemen.

GOP_Convention_0a891-534

Steve Helber/AP – Republican nominee for Governor, Ken Cuccinelli, right, is joined onstage with the other members of the ticket, E. W. Jackson, left, his wife, Theadora, Attorney General candidate Mark Obenshain, and his wife, Suzanne, and Tiero Cuccinelli at the end of the Virginia Republican convention.

Ken Cuccinelli.  What can you say about this contender for Governor?  For starters, you could say he is a Tea Party darling.  Mr. Ken Cuccinelli is anti-Obama, anti-health care reform, anti-abortion, anti-environmental protection, and anti-gay rights.  As attorney general, he fought back against the Affordable Care Act.  He has also compared his fight against abortion to the slavery movement.  Oh, did I forget to mention that he feels the Attorney General’s office is “special”? 

Mr. Cuccinelli is for the extreme right-wing.  He is not for lovers.

Reverend E.W. Jackson.  Reverend Jackson is a relative newcomer to Virginia politics.  He beat out six potential contenders to nab the nomination for Lt. Governor.  I am reluctantly proud to admit that he will be this state’s first African-American nominee for a statewide post in over twenty years.  Why reluctantly?  Here a few of Jackson’s statements:  “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was.  The Democratic Party and the black civil rights allies are partners in this genocide.”  He feels “Obama clearly has Muslim sensibilities.”  Lastly, he vows to “get the government off our backs, off our property, out of our families, out of our health care, and out of our way.”

One can only assume that remaining true to his Christian faith, he would also be a Tea Party fave.  A lover’s…not so much.

Mark Obenshain.  You’ve just got to love this guy!  Mr. Obenshain favored and introduced a bill requiring women to report a miscarriage to police within 24 hours or face criminal charges.  Can’t you just feel the love??  Nothing says love like forcing a woman, who has just endured the agony of miscarriage, to have the wherewithal to inform local police of her situation.  Mr. Obenshain is a defender of liberty.  Er…certain liberties.  He opposes abortion and health care reform.  From his website, we can get a sense of what he’ll fight for.  From his page, “With the Attorney General called upon to issue opinions and go to court on issues like the right to bear arms and the right to make one’s own health care choices, and with overbearing federal agencies saddling farmers and small business owners with excessive and unwarranted regulations, Virginia cannot afford to elect an Attorney General without a firm commitment to defending liberty.”

Obenshain..Tea Party dream.  Lover’s nightmare.

In order for that motto to hold true, Virginians, there needs to be some love somewhere, no?   Perhaps love and compassion for women suffering the loss of a child?  Perhaps love and equality toward lovers of the non-traditional variety?  Perhaps love and comfort of the ill who need medical care?  Perhaps love and respect for our nation’s leader?  Nah… I’m kidding! That one is pushing it!!

You know what?  Forget love.  That is not what I, as a Virginian, am asking for.  I am asking for a balanced approach to leadership.  I am asking for, at least, a slight left turn towards fairness.  I am asking for less tea, more water.  Water is neutral, right?

How about this slogan…Virginia is for Equality??

Give it a practice run.  It might stick.