Toys for us and others

This will be the first Christmas in a long while without retailer Toys R Us, who went out of business. Or, as my youngest son aptly called it when he was a younger, “Toys for us.” The “Toy Story” movies register the impact of the store on our lives.

Toys are no longer for kids and sometimes disguise themselves as what they are – useful products. A mobile phone is far more than a phone, but the “wanna new phone” marketing that occurs is estimated to cost a user $75,000 over a lifetime. Do you have to have the latest and greatest new phone? Just think, if you skip a few new phone upgrades, you reduce that number a great deal.

But, while our younger generation is accused of a more materialistic mindset, I must confess how proud I am of kids who are making statements on the need to address better gun governance and action to combat climate change. Yesterday, in Australia, tens of thousands of kids age 5 to 18 boycotted school to protest en masse for more action on climate change. While their President and lead environmental person said these kids should stay in school to learn something, I think these two men need to learn a few things.

Earlier this year, we saw kids make a huge difference in Florida when the state legislature passed a few gun governance bills in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Could the legislature have done more? Yes, but the kids forced them to act. The kids live in fear and are not burdened with lobbyist dollars and threats as are the legislators.

Toys are important as a distraction and even to make our devices more utile. Yet, these kids stepped up and made their voice heard. Given what they are protesting, it would behoove the legislators to listen. “They ain’t playing.”

Question for gun owners

Since legislators are more concerned with keeping their jobs than doing their jobs, I felt the need to pose the issue on better gun governance to gun owners. Doing nothing is obviously not the answer, although that seems to be the course too many advocate. My newspaper was kind enough to print the following letter to the editor, with a few edits. Please feel free to adapt and use if you concur.

“After yet another mass shooting in America (this time in my home town), in addition to three shootings over two days in Charlotte, doing nothing to address this issue is not working. I believe we can still honor 2nd Amendment rights and enact better gun governance. I have shared with legislators the suggestions that have majority support in the country. My question is for gun owners – what do you suggest we do to govern the ownership of a device designed to kill? We govern car ownership to keep the driver, passengers and others safe. Surely we can add better governance to gun ownership.”

Since I wrote this, there was another shooting incident in Charlotte this morning at an elementary school. Fortunately no one was hurt. Our law enforcement do a highly credible job, but stopping gun violence is extremely difficult in America.

Trying to solve that gun death thing

I am hopeful, but not optimistic that tangible change will be enacted by Congress to reduce the risk of gun deaths in America. The kids who are protesting have already brought on some change with Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart and Kroger announcing changes on gun sales policy and other companies eliminating discounts offered NRA members.

If change occurs it will likely be the result of the retailers paving the way and dragging Congress along. What we may end up seeing is something like integrated background checks and an age 21 restriction on assault weapons. We may see some funding for more security in schools. While these changes would help,  they are not near enough to help reduce most gun deaths and respond to what the significant majority of Americans want per repeated surveys. Here are a few thoughts:

– Let’s start with data and ask the CDC to track gun death data, which has been forbidden by Congress since the late 1990s. Then, we can measure progress of various initiatives.

– Next, we can ask for background checks on all gun transactions which should be a given since most Americans favor this. Plus, if someone is credibly reported on by a reasonable number of concerned citizens and a potential problem is deemed possible, the police must be able to seize weapons while more indepth review is undertaken via a legal process.

– Next, we could have an elongated waiting period, again favored by most Americans. Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicide, with suicide being the top reason for gun death in most states. Waiting a few more days will hopefully reduce impulsive suicides and may flag something.

– Then, we can address the mental health aspects. We could start by changing the law passed by Congress last year adding mentally disabled Social Security recipients to the eligible gun rolls. We could stabilize the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act and encourage Medicaid expansion both which have mental health benefits. We could also add funding for more school counsellors and psychologists which many states pulled back on. This could go part and parcel with funding more security in schools.

– Finally, we could reduce accidental deaths with more required training and finger printed triggers, so kids won’t do damage with weapons they find.

Personally, I would ban all assault weapons and bump stocks, but that is a hard sell in America.  I would not arm teachers as the solution to school gun deaths is not introducing 700,000 weapons to campuses, which would increase risk and not solve a problem. Shooting at someone shooting back at you is not something many are up to, especially if outgunned and in a chaotic environment. Let’s add security staff and measures.

Whatever we do, we must holistically addresses all gun deaths. I did not touch on poverty, drug industry, entertainment violence and lack of civility that cause gun violence. But, we must invest in these areas. What do you think? Am I off base? Do you have other ideas?

When adults act like kids and kids like adults

I am so proud of the teens and young adults who are leading the charge for better gun governance. I have long been advocating for such and am in a constant state of disbelief that legislators fail to act.

The best quote came from a teen being interviewed on PBS Newshour when she said “When the adults act like kids and the kids like adults, then something is wrong.”

The sad truth is many of these adults are in the pockets of the NRA who dictate their response. It is largely a Republucan stance, but the NRA funds some Democrats as well.

What I also don’t care for are the conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones, Rush Limbbaugh et all who purposefully detract from genuine concerns calling these kids actors and staged. We should not lose sight of Jones’ continual claim that Sandy Hook is a hoax. This is an egregious misuse of a license to communicate online and both need to be called on the carpet.

The kids have to push for change as well as deal with these so called adults questioning their veracity. That is a shame, as these kids should be applauded. I must confess I am not one who would encourage applause for either Limbaugh, Jones and their ilk.

Right now, these kids are rightfully calling attention to the legislators’ conflict of interest. They are on the side of the Angels on this.

We should consider solutions that address the holistic nature of the problem. Rather than highlight what should be considered as I have done in multiple posts, I would like to simply say these kids should be heard and heeded.

If the politicians fail to do so or respond with window dressing, they do so at their peril.

And the band played on

Earlier this week, a fifteen year old decided that he should bring a gun to school in Marshall County, Kentucky. Two teens are dead and 18 more are wounded. Less noticed is that there were 81 other shooting incidents that same day in America leaving 28 dead and 40 wounded per the LA Times.

Per the New York Times, the Marshall County shooting was the eleventh on school grounds just this year, with three occurring the very same week in Winston-Salem, NC, New Orleans, LA and Italy, TX, Just toward the end of last year, there were shootings at the following high schools:

– 9/13/2017: Freeman High School in Rockford, WA where a 15 year old killed one and wounded three students.

– 9/20/2027: Mattoon High School in Mattoon, IL where a 14 year old wounded one student.

– 12/7/2017: Aztec High School in Aztec, NM where a 21 year old former student killed three students.

The two horrific shooting tragedies last year at a church in Texas and concert in Las Vegas were not enough to elicit action – now isn’t the time to make knee jerk actions we were told by serious minded leaders in the pocket of the NRA. I am still dismayed that after Sandy Hook Elementary shooting which killed twenty-six, now was not the time was said then as well.

Well, let me ask a simple question. When is the time? How many children, teens and adults have to die for it to be time. The LA Times reports that 60% of Americans want  gun laws to be stricter. An Elon Univeristy survey a couple of years ago pegged universal background checks and elongated waiting periods at even higher rates of preference by Americans.

To be brutally frank, we are well passed time. For those who give the standard NRA fed response that certain changes would not stop certain crimes, the answer is “obviously doing nothing isn’t preventing them either.” Politicians it is time to stop worrying about keeping your job and start doing your job. We need leaders to think  more like parents and grandparents and less like politicians scared of lobbyists.

Yet another gun story

The title represents a quote from a local news broadcast in my home city – yet another gun story. America’s obsession with guns continues full tilt and we cannot expect anything to be done about it at the federal level for the time being.

We have a problem with gun deaths that does not look like it will abate anytime soon. To discover for yourself, for one month, count the number of gun death stories in your local newspaper or on your favorite news station.

Yet, we have one political party and a few in the other that do not recognize the gun problem for what it is. These folks are backed by one of the more strident lobbyist groups in the NRA.

While these legislators don’t recognize the problem, most gun owners do. Most gun owners do not belong to the NRA, which tends to care more about gun sales where they used to care more about gun safety.

A few questions still remain unanswered:

– why has one political party prevented funding of the study of gun deaths by the Centers for Disease Control?

– why have we not lengthened the waiting period for guns when experts have said it will reduce the probability of suicide, the most significant gun death by far?

– why have we not extended background checks on all weapon purchases?

– why did this political party lead Congress to eliminate people on social security mental disability from the watch list for background checks?

– why do we not require every new weapon with finger print control to reduce children deaths or the death of the owner?

– why do we not codify every bullet to help in solving crimes?

Please note, with the exception of limiting people who don’t pass background checks and elongating waiting periods, none of these suggestions will greatly hinder the rights of Americans to buy guns.

But, we should not stop there. We need more civility in our discourse. We need every gun owner to complete a safety course. We need to improve areas of poverty where crime fills a void. We need to condemn pseudo-news and entertainment sites when they use hyperbole. Alex Jones of Infowars said the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax – that is just asinine and offensive.

Let me close with a provocative statement. One of the reasons shooting deaths by police officers are increased is these officers recognize that more people are armed and they have to make quick judgements that are sometimes fatal.

We have a gun problem in America. Common sense steps are achievable that will make a difference. One thing is obvious – doing nothing has not.

Two shooting stories bookend the issues


Shooting tragedies are too commonplace in the US. Just pick up a newspaper in any city on any day and count the gun shooting stories. Last week, we had several shooting deaths, but two stand out, one that is becoming a too common accident and the other an act of terror by a lone gunman in Ft. Lauderdale.

The first accident is yet another toddler who found a loaded weapon and shot someone, in this case his mother. She fortunately survived, but the other part of the story is the father was in law enforcement and knows better.

If you Google four year old shoots six year old, many child shootings can be found of all ages. These are accidents, but are highly preventable with training and consistent practice. Also, there is a movement to place a finger printed triggering mechanism which will prevent a child or adult from firing your gun. Sadly, the NRA is against this.

The Ft. Lauderdale mass shooting shows yet again, it is very difficult to stop a motivated lone gunman. With our freedom and readily available guns, even our highly skilled police and FBI cannot prevent all of these events from happening.

We must take a series of measures that will permit better gun governance. Gun advocates will state certain measures would not prevent certain shootings, but it is apparent that doing nothing won’t either.

Background  checks on all weapon sales will help. Extended waiting periods will help with the most predominant American gun death of suicide. The finger printed trigger will help with child shootings including using a parent’s weapon for suicide. Putting people on our no-fly list on a restricted gun sales list will help. With the exception of not selling to someone who is on watch list, the other measures are reasonable safeguards which do not infringe on 2nd amendment rights.

My frustration is we do not address this issue as parents. We address as politicians. Congress is too scared of the NRA to do the right things. Until we start addressing thiese issues, we will continue to have these problems. It is that simple. And, it matters not who is in the White House.

 

Why so many gunshots?

In the United States, we live in a world where too many folks are shot. With guns so rampant in our country, it makes a difficult job for our police officers even more challenging. This may explain in part a bias to act when fear sets in. There are many fine police officers who do their jobs well day in and day out. Unfortunately, we do have an increasing number of situations that have arisen, where police officers may have acted rashly or too quickly. We need to evaluate these both within the profession and through the court system when necessary.

Yet, one of my concerns that does not get talked about enough is why are so many shots being fired? I am clearly concerned about the racial profiling that appears to be going on, as people of color are the ones being killed by police officers more so than other races. But, the number of shots is appalling to me as it seems double-digit shots are fired to subdue an alleged attacker in too many incidents.  What happened to shooting to wound an attacker? Why is it necessary to shoot a teen or twelve-year old boy eleven, fourteen, or sixteen times?

Bruce Springsteen wrote and powerfully sang a song a few years ago called “American Skin.” It is sometimes referred to by its subtitle of “41 Shots” which is the number of shots fired to kill a non-English speaking suspect who did not understand what he was being asked. He thought the police were out to get him and ran. When he pulled out his wallet, he was shot 41 times.

The fact that more Black youth are being shot is troublesome, but the number of shots the police officer feels obligated to use to defend himself or herself is also troubling. We need to be asking ourselves why? Why so many shots? Why are the shots fired so quickly? Were there no other actions that could have been taken?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling book “Blink” he mentioned the circumstances behind the Springsteen song. The essence of the book is we use gut instinct which is really our in-tune subconscious that sees situations before our conscious mind can register what is going on. In one example, he notes how a fireman told his colleagues to back quickly out of room as his experience was giving him an uneasy feeling. The fire was not burning as per the norm. What his subconscious experience told him was correct – the fire was actually beneath the room they entered and if they went in, they would be consumed by the fire when the floor collapsed.

Gladwell notes the same is true for police officers. We must train and retrain how to recognize danger and when danger is not present. Those few instances in the “blinking of an eye” matter. This is why the job is so hard. A judgment call has to be made and, unfortunately, those calls are not always right. With adrenalin flowing, the reaction can be to shoot often. I hope that is all it is. I would hate to believe there is an unstated rule somewhere that if an officer shoots someone, they need to be lethal. Yet, we must ask these questions, as the number of shots used to subdue someone are too common and too many.

The best suggestions beyond the training and retraining are two-fold. The police union needs to be as involved and engaged as a pilot union is around an air crash. We need all parties looking to see why something happened, not with the primary motivation to say the police officer was not without fault. Good people make mistakes. Good police officers make them, too. Let’s understand why and use that information to avoid it going forward. And, it needs to be said, not all police officers are equal in experience, talent and temperament, just like everyone else.

The other good suggestion is more community policing. Encounters with law enforcement officers should not only happen in negative situations, where you messed up or someone thinks you messed up. The more interactions that are positive will help reduce crime. More police officer visibility will help reduce crime.

Let me end that we need to get to better answers. A better answer does not include police officers getting shot. That serves no purpose other than making a bad situation worse. And, a life is lost. Saying All Lives Matter is 100% correct, but this theme usurps the reason for the Black Lives Matter protests. We need to help police officers serve the community better in a tough job. That involves training, evaluation and improvement and community policing. It also involves understanding that difficulty.

I recognize fully that as a White man I am treated differently and can go anywhere I want, treatment that a Black man is not afforded even when dressed in a suit. When a Black man is stopped by the law, he knows he must move deliberately or this may be the last thing he does on earth. Black youth are given “the talk” by their mothers to do this very thing – be respectful and move slowly. This is sage advice for all of us, but please know how hard a job the police officer has, even when less biased to act. All it takes is an instance and someone is dead. So, we must respect the law, while we still seek answers. But, we do need answers.

 

Just a typical day in the news – shootings abound

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post regarding recent headlines on various shooting deaths that had appeared in recent press. The post can be accessed with the link below to “And the band played on as more people are shot.” In that post, I referenced that you could test my theory and pick up any paper on any day and count the number of gun deaths. So, with that in mind, here are domestic gun related headlines from the March 31, 2015 edition of The Charlotte Observer.

– 2 arrested after firing shots at Waffle House

– Man charged in Anson killing

– Mistaken identity murder case goes to jury

– Man charged after boy 8, shoots friend

– Officers named in Gaston County shooting

– Robbery suspect demands his charges be dropped (this relates to a slain couple)

– Youth group invites peers to discuss suicide

The above includes six stories about gun deaths in a metro area that counts about 2 million people. The last story is not specifically about a gun death, but I included it as it is trying to prevent gun deaths. With the significant abundance of gun deaths in America related to suicide, prevention has to be a part of the equation. It noted that “More than 1 out of seven Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school students said they had seriously considered a suicide attempt in the past 12 months…according to a recent Youth Risk Behavior Study.” With homes owning a gun having 3x the rate of suicide as homes without a gun, this is should be alarming to parents.

Test my theory with your own paper. Pick a day and count the gun stories. Better still, track them over a week or month. The end result is we have to do a better job of gun stewardship and governance. For politicians who say certain changes will not solve our gun death problem, the answer is neither will doing nothing.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/and-the-band-played-on-as-more-people-are-shot/