Monday, April 30, 2018

Music Video: "Sound of Surviving" by Nichole Nordeman

HERE is a link to the YouTube video, where you can also find links to purchase the song and contact information for the singer, Nichole Nordeman.


They told me I’d never get to tell my story Too many bullet holes It would take a miracle These voices Inside my head like poison Trying to steal my hope Silencing my soul But my story is only now beginning Don’t try to write my ending Nobody gets to sing my song This is the sound of surviving This is my farewell to fear This is my whole heart deciding I’m still here, I’m still here And I’m not done fighting This is the sound of surviving These pieces The ones that left me bleeding Intended for my pain Became the gift you gave me I gathered those pieces into a mountain My freedom is in view I’m stronger than I knew And this hill is not the one I die on I’m going to lift my eyes and I’m going to keep on climbing I’m still here Say it to the ache, lying there awake Say it to your tears I'm still here Say it to the pain, say it to the rain Say it to your fear This is the sound of surviving This is my farewell to fear This is my whole heart deciding I’m still here, I’m still here And I’m not done fighting No, I'm not done fighting And I am still rising Rising, I'm still rising And I'm not done fighting This is the sound of surviving Music video by Nichole Nordeman performing Sound Of Surviving. (C) 2017 Capitol Christian Music Group, Inc.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Arm Teachers In Florida? Parkland School Board Says No. One Teacher Disagreed - And Had A Gun Accident

After the Parkland shooting, there was tremendous pressure on the Florida Governor Rick Scott to take action.  He signed into law a bill called the "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act" which raised the age to buy all firearms to 21, imposed a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases, provides new mental health programs for schools, and restricted access to guns from people who show signs of mental illness or violence.

But, in a nod to the NRA and President Trump's call to arm teachers, the act also now allows Florida schools to choose to arm their teachers and staff.  It's a provision that is vocally opposed by teaching organizations, child advocacy groups, Florida school students, and even the families of school shooting victims. 

Nevermind that no school shooting was ever stopped by an armed civilian who wasn't law enforcement. And, as I've pointed out in a prior post, at least 23 incidents have been CAUSED on school grounds by armed individuals, including guards, who were supposed to be the sort the NRA claims will protect our children.

The Parkland school district isn't playing along -- the very school district where the shooting occurred -- and is refusing to arm their staff:
“I have not met one teacher or one student who is in favor of arming teachers in Broward County,” board member Laurie Levinson said. 
The school board instead wants the allotted money from the bill to go toward armed school resource officers, CBS Miami reported. 
“We should definitely launch a campaign to persuade the governor, for those districts who do not want to arm their employees, that they give us the money to keep kids safe in other ways,” board member Robin Bartleman said.
(And they aren't the only Florida school board to reject the notion).

Well, actually, there was one teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was open to the idea of packing heat on campus.  Science teacher Sean Simpson supported his students in their calls to bring tighter gun regulations, but he also stated about arming teachers: 
"I know there are some of us that are willing to take the training if it was offered and probably be another line of defense."
He was on campus when the shots rang out and the shooter killed 17 and injured 15. So why aren't the gun nuts trumpeting his assertion to arm himself on campus?  Probably because he promptly had an accident with his loaded gun:
[Simpson] told deputies he accidentally left the gun in a stall at the bathroom at the Deerfield Beach Pier during a visit to the beach Sunday. While going back to retrieve it, he heard a gunshot and once back inside the bathroom, saw 69-year-old Joseph Spataro holding the gun.  
He left his loaded gun unattended in a public bathroom and a homeless man found it and fired it "to see if it was loaded." Luckily no one was injured. Oopsie! So much for that NRA poster child!  According to responding deputies:
"There was a reasonable likelihood that the firearm could have ended up in the hands of a child or the discharge of the firearm could have wounded another person or child."
Imagine if he had left that gun in the school bathroom instead!  It's happened before, again, and again, and again.

Both Simpson and the homeless person are facing charges, but so far Simpson hasn't lost his job as a teacher.  I can only wonder what his students are thinking of him as they deal with their shooting-induced PTSD.  At least they can rest assured that neither he nor any of the other teachers will be allowed to carry on campus!


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Assault Weapons For Hunting? "A Good Clean Kill"

Pro-gun extremists like to argue that assault rifles, like the AR-15, are "modern sport rifles" that are perfect for hunting (like THIS SITE, which adds "It's even fun for kids"). Well, anything that throws a projectile can be used to hunt, technically.

I don't hunt, but all the serious hunters I know scoff at the stupid and transparent attempt to rebrand these weapons, and many hate them with a passion. I've posted before on the growing movement of hunters against the NRA. But with the number of hunters decreasing every year, and the rising cost of hunting as a hobby, the gun lobby wants to try to tap a new generation in any way it can. Why not increase your firepower?  Why kill one deer when you can take out the whole herd with one ammo magazine?  How much firepower is too much?

Well, leave it to Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr to point out the ridiculous nature of this position, in this excerpt from the movie "The Magic Christian" from 1969....

Just a "good clean kill." ....

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Far-Right Continues To Attack The Parkland Teen Survivors

Today it was reported that an entire website has been started with the express purpose of trolling and hating a teenage shooting survivor who has dared to call for more gun regulation. It is only the latest of a long list of such attacks by Conservatives and pro-gun forces against him and the other teens who survived the Parkland shooting....

If a person survives a plane crash, then publicly calls for better air safety, do people attack their character? What about if their child dies in a building fire and they advocate for better building codes? Or their friend dies in a multi-car crash so they call for better speed enforcement?  What is the response from lawmakers and pundits?  Usually it is very understanding.

Are any of these survivors lambasted as "soulless liars"? Or compared to Hitler? Or told that they should be learning first aid instead of talking out? Or pronounced that they should have been smacked more as children? What sort of person says such awful things to victims, survivors, or their families?

And what if they are saying these things about child survivors who saw dozens of their friends killed and injured, and had to run past their bodies to escape? 

Yet I see this all the time when the issue is gun violence-related. Survivors and victims are ignored by the Conservative gun-loving crowd ... until they call for sensible regulation to keep the shootings from happening again.  And then the gun crowd comes out shooting, so to speak, attacking the character of those survivors who dare to speak out.  The right-wing hate machine starts up.  It happened to my friend Colin Goddard after he survived the Virginia Tech shooting and advocated for stronger laws.  It happened to Lucy McBath after her 17 year old son, Jordan Davis, was shot to death and she called for justice and change. It happened to David Wheeler, who lost his 6 year old son in the Sandy Hook shooting and testified for change. And so on....  Anyone who speaks out about gun violence and calls for change is immediately trolled, smeared, and threatened. It's even happened to me.

Sadly, we are seeing it again.  This time, they have come out to troll and hate on the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  The fact that these are children makes the attacks even more pitiful.

These teen survivors are brave, well-spoken, and passionate, and we need to respect them, not tear them down.

There have been so many attacks on these teens by the far right that I've started to lose track. So I decided to make a sort of laundry list of them, here, though it is by no means complete (for instance, I didn't bother going to all the pro-gun blogs to see their reactions) and is just a sampling.  Read them and tell me if this is a sign of an intelligent reaction. When the facts don't support the extremists, they resort to name-calling, conspiracy theory, and outright hate speech.

How have the teens handled it?  Far better than many adults would. In fact, I'm impressed how they cope with the constant attacks and remain focused on the need for change.  In the words of teen survivor David Hogg, when asked what he thought of the attacks on his character and the conspiracy theories:

“I don’t care,” Hogg said. “I don’t. I have bigger, more important things to focus on than these stupid conspiracies that aren’t true in any way, shape or form, have no validity, and don’t hold their weight. At all … these people are going to keep trying to take us down but that’s how we know what we’re doing matters … whenever someone tries making a change that matters, and a change for the better, there’s always someone that tried stopping them.” 

And the teens have been wildly successful in their effort: The nation's largest-ever one-day march and rally; State legislation pushed forward; Conversations on gun violence in nearly every living room. Their passion, honesty, and progressive attitude is very much at the heart of it all.

Here's the list I have so far (which I will update when I find more), more or less in chronological order, of some of the major attacks on the Parkland teens. As you can see, a great many of them target Emma Gonzales and David Hogg, the two most outspoken teens:

This sort of hatred, trolling, and conspiracy theorizing isn't just rude and disgusting, it's dangerous. Weak-minded (and armed) people who listen to this may believe it and act out violently as a result. It's happened plenty of times before (remember the "Pizzagate" shooting?).

I think you can see how toxic these extremist Conservatives are to their own cause.  I applaud the Parkland teens for their courage, and thank them for trying to make a new trajectory for our communities and nation away from gun violence.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Music Video: Hallelujah Parody - Letter to Wayne LaPierre, NRA

Parody of "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen - Based on the arrangement by Pentatonix.

LYRICS TO THE HALLELUJAH PARODY Open Letter to Wayne LaPierre You see yourself the defender of the amendment passed to you from above, and any change that happens must go through ya. While other freedoms slipped away with nothing standing in their way, you waved your gun and claimed your hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah We’ve heard you say these words before, about the guns that you adore. There really is no point in talkin’ to ya. You pride yourself the ears and eyes of five or so million other guys, and think your words will draw their hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah Your mind is stuck in sixty-five when cold-war commies were alive. And those who wanted change were out to screw ya. And gun controls of any kind mean liberal commies in your mind who'll steal your rights then raise their hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah Your logic is profoundly flawed, with teachers for your new vice-squad. You’d arm them to the teeth but they see through ya. Your rigid stance results in death. You claim that right with every breath, howling through your broken hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah We think it’s time that you step down. Just walk away and pass the crown, before someone decides they need to sue ya. The arms race lost, it would appear and you’ve become the thing you fear an echo of your bloody hallelujah. Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Music Video: The President Sang Amazing Grace

“I was driving when I heard ‘The President Sang Amazing Grace,’” Joan Baez told The Atlantic, “and I had to pull over to make sure I heard whose song it was because I knew I had to sing it.” The 77-year-old folk legend included the song in her final album, Whistle Down The Wind, released in early March. Originally written and performed by Zoe Mulford following the 2015 mass shooting in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Baez’s rendition of “The President Sang Amazing Grace” has been animated in a powerful new video.

Read more about the song and video at The Atlantic, HERE.

Nine men and women were killed by a lone gunman in a church in Charleston. Less than a week later, President Obama visited the church to lead the eulogy and led the congregation in singing "Amazing Grace," which is the subject of the song and video. Read more about that mass shooting, HERE.


Monday, March 26, 2018

On Guns In America -- Tom Mooney

This is a guest post by a lifetime gun owner and hunter, Tom Mooney. Tom is very much in line with the majority of gun owners (and myself) in calling for reasonable gun regulation to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them and prohibit the sale of assault rifles.

Thank you, Tom, for sharing your post....

I have a confession to make. I am a gun owner. To most people who know me that probably doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, I’m the guy who brings venison stew to the potluck and shares my homemade wild game jerky. That meat comes from somewhere, and my guns are one of the tools that allow me to bring that lean, organic, healthy meat home to my friends and family. In light of our ongoing epidemic of gun violence in this country and the latest horrific example of it in Florida, I think it’s important for people like me to speak up. I believe my views represent the majority of gun owners and that fringe groups like the NRA do not represent us. Gun ownership is actually at the lowest level it has been since the late 70s, down from around 50% of households in 1977-1980 to around 30% of households now. Gun owners are definitely in the minority overall and a radical minority of those, combined with gun manufacturers represented by the likes of the NRA, have managed to completely dominate the conversation around guns in this country for decades. It’s time we change that, and my aim is to counter the narrative put forward by the NRA about gun owners and give my non-gun owning friends and fellow citizens a view into how I think and how I believe most gun owners think, about the issues of gun violence and gun control in this country.
I grew up in Montana, which has a robust gun culture, for lack of a better term. I received my first hunting rifle as a gift from my Grandfather when I was 13. It was a .300 Savage model 45 Super Sporter manufactured some time between 1928 and 1936 from what I’ve been able to find out. It lived a hard life behind the seat of his pickup for many years and was in pretty bad shape when I got it. I restored it to good shooting condition and took pride in the work and time it took to get it there. I still have that rifle, but it’s been retired from service now and stays safely locked away and out of the elements. it’s the only physical object I still have left from my Grandfather and the sentimental value of it is priceless. After I had put in the work to get the rifle in good shape, I took the Montana hunter’s safety course and went on my first hunt that Fall. This was a rite of passage that had a profound impact on the rest of my life. It was when I gained my love of the outdoors, an appreciation for time spent with family and friends in nature, and an understanding and respect for the circle of life. The thing about it is that it was never really about the guns per se. The gun had value because it was a gift from my Grandfather who I respected immensely and it was a tool that opened up opportunities to have adventures in the mountains with friends and family and bring home meat for the freezer. I won’t deny that there wasn’t some fascination in my teenage mind with the power I perceived that the gun gave me. However, the culture I grew up in, with a family that emphasized the utilitarian nature of the gun, and the formal safety training I recieved tempered that effectively. I was lucky to grow up in what I would term a “healthy” gun culture, that emphasized safety and looked at the gun as a tool not as an integral part of identity or as a means of exerting power.
Today I own a total of 3 hunting rifles including the one my Grandfather gave me 25 years ago, a .22 caliber rifle for cheap target practice, and a shotgun. No hand guns or assault rifles here. I admit I’ve struggled over the years with how to safely store them and to do my best to be a responsible gun owner. For a long time they just sat in my closet completely unlocked with ammo on the closet shelf right above. I figured it wasn’t a big deal since I didn’t have kids and I trusted the people I lived with. That was a bad choice in hindsight, however. All it would have taken is a single break-in, or a friend of a friend who I didn’t know and trust to get a hold of one of them for a tragedy to ensue. Today, I don’t have a proper gun safe since they are expensive, heavy, and hard to handle, but the guns do stay hidden and pad locked in hard plastic cases with trigger and bolt locks in place and bolts removed on the hunting rifles. Even if someone did manage to take one, cut the locks on the case and gain access, they would find an inoperable weapon. The ammunition and bolts stay locked in a small safe in a seperate location. I do not find the need to keep one easily accessible for “home defense”, and I certainly don’t have the need to carry one with me all the time. All the statistics show that a gun in a home is more likely to hurt the owner or a loved one than it ever is to be used against a hypothetical intruder. As much as the NRA would like people to be scared of things like home invasions so they keep buying guns, the truth is such crimes are exceedingly rare. The chances of being struck by lightning, eaten by a shark, or hit by a car walking down the sidewalk are probably greater than the chances of being a victim of a home invasion. As a result of this plain logic and risk assessment, I keep the guns as inaccessible as possible.
Now with that background on my personal history and relationship with guns out of the way, on to the nitty gritty of what we do about the gun violence epidemic in this country. As with so many of these big issues, there are multiple, intersecting issues at work. Among them is the culture of toxic masculinity that has given rise to the #MeToo movement and the growing awareness of the pervasiveness of rape culture and mysoginy in our society. Gun violence at it’s core is really a problem of male violence. It is the horrific end game of the endemic issues the #MeToo movement has brought to light around sexual assault and domestic violence that pervade every corner of our society. Sexual assault is not about sex, it is about power. Gun violence is much the same. We have an entire generation of men, white men in particular, who feel their power in society diminishing as the country becomes more mulicultural; Who have seen the middle class hollowed out, and good-paying, traditionally male jobs in manufacturing dissappear. This loss of societal and economic power among white men is one piece of the puzzle in explaining the rise of this toxic gun culture. Feeling powerless over their own lives, I believe many men turn to guns to give them a sense of that power back. As someone who has seen the devastating power of guns first hand, with the ability to bring down a 600 pound animal at 200 yards with a single well placed shot, I can understand the allure. It certainly does give one a sense of power, an almost god-like feeling of holding the key to life and death in your hands. The problem with this, and where it becomes toxic is that it gets wrapped up in people’s core identity. Instead of looking at guns as a tool, the gun and the power it brings, become a core part of who they are as a person. I believe this is part of the reason it has become so hard to talk about gun control in this country. Because for many people, it’s not just about guns, it’s about a core part of who they are and how they relate to the world. When you talk about limiting access to guns, they hear limiting access to one of the only things they feel they have left to give them a sense of power in the world. Obviously this is a huge issue, with many economic and cultural facets that won’t be solved any time soon. In the meantime, our children are dying and we absolutely must do something about it NOW!
What we can do now, while we continue to work on the cultural and economic issues that are at the root of the problem, is to join the rest of the industrialized world and pass common sense gun control legislation that keeps lethal weapons out of the hands of mass murderers and reduces the damage they can do in any single incident. The fact is that higher rates of gun ownership in a country are directly correlated to higher rates of gun violence. While it’s important to not conflate correlation with causality, it’s also just sort of common sense. The more guns there are and the more easily they are accessed, the more likely it is that they will be used to commit crimes. Again, the rest of the world has figured this out, it’s not rocket science. Now, the gun lobby would have us believe just the opposite. That they way to curb gun violence is for everyone to carry a gun. Arm teachers, arm doctors, arm Grandma in her wheelchair. Well, following that logic the United States should be one of the safest countries in the world since we have the most guns of just about any country in the world. As we are all painfully aware at this point, that is just not the case. No other comparable country has the level of mass shootings or gun violence in general that we do. Not to mention, I don’t think that is a society that most of us want to live in. A place where everyone is walking around armed to the teeth isn’t a civilized country, its a war zone, and that’s not where I want to live. Therefore, I believe our immediate goals need to be to limit access to the deadliest weapons and take steps to start to reduce the overall number of guns in this country. To be clear, I’m not advocating banning all guns, and I’m not advocating confiscation by force. As you know by now, I own guns, and I’d like to keep them and continue to hunt thank you very much. The fact is though that I don’t need assault rifles to do that and I don’t need an arsenal of 50 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition to do that and neither does anyone else. So, here are some the steps I belive we can take, and that as a gun owner I would fully support:
1.) Ban the sale, manufacture, and import of semi-automatic military style rifles, assault rifles, whatever you want to call them. Just as a side note, one of the favorite diversion tactics of the radical gun lobby apologists is to turn the argument to what is and what isn’t an assault rifle. I’m not going to play that game. We all know what they are. It’s like porn, you know it when you see it. I would define them as lightweight weapons that fire small caliber, high-velocity rounds at a high rate of fire that are designed to do maximum damage to as many human bodies as possible in as short a time as possible. The AR-15 is the most notorious example since it is the weapon of choice for mass shooters lately, but there are many others. Obviously part of this would be coming up with objective criteria that define what these are. We put a man on the moon, I don’t think coming up with criteria for this should be beyond our ability. These weapons are meant for one thing, to kill enemy combatants on a battlefield. No self-respecting hunter would use one and there’s no reason for any civilian to have them. If you think you’re going to fight the government with your AR-15, you’re delusional. If that’s your concern and your interpretation of the second amendment, then we better all have tanks, Apache helicopters and nuclear missiles because if the government did decide to turn against the people you’re AR-15 isn’t going to help a bit. In reality, they are used to mow down school children and concert goers. Be real and stop living in some kind of right-wing militia fantasy land where you and your AR-15 will be heros in some hypothetical revolution. Kids are dying now, and these weapons being so freely available are a huge part of the problem. if you want to play with battlefield weapons, go join the army, I’m sure they’d be happy to have you.
2.) Ban the sale, manufacture, and import of things like bump stocks and other parts that make it easy to convert a semi-automatic weapon to a fully automatic weapon.
3.) Ban the sale, manufacture, and import of high capacity magazines. If you can’t hit your target with 4 or 5 rounds, then you need a lot more practice and have no business with a weapon in the woods or anywhere else.
4.) Limit the amount of ammunition that can be purchased at one time. We do this with Sudafed for God’s sake, and it has been very effective in combating the methamphetamine epidemic. We should do the same with ammunition. You don’t need thousands of rounds of ammunition for hunting or even target practice.
3.) Raise the age limit for purchasing any kind of gun to 21.
4.) Institute mandatory universal background checks at the Federal level.
5.) Institute a mandatory waiting period of at least 10 days for any weapon.
6.) Require safety training and licensing for gun owners, just like we do for cars.
7.) Require that liability insurance be carried on all guns, just like we do for cars. I believe this would discourage the small percentage of gun owners who have massive arsenals because it would be prohibitively expensive to insure at some point. In my opinion this would be one of the best ways we could start to reduce the overall number of guns that are out there, without confiscation, just by letting the market do it’s thing.
8.) Require by law that guns be stored safely.
9.) Institute a nationwide voluntary buyback program. This worked very well in Australia. They had a school shooting in the 90s and part of their response to it was to start a nationwide buyback program that drastically reduced the number of guns at large in the country. Guess what, they haven’t had a school shooting since.
That’s my list of common sense gun control legislation that I would be fully behind and that most gun owners I have talked to would be fully behind as well. Would it make my life a bit more complicated? It sure would, but if a bit of inconvenience for me will save the life of even one child then it’s worth every bit. Purchasing a gun is a rare thing for most gun owners. Maybe a few times in a lifetime. Having to go through a few more steps, waiting periods, etc. would not be that big of a deal for most of us. It would have a bigger impact on collectors and the “prepper” set who feel the need to have a massive arsenal. But you know what, I don’t care. Their hobby or paranoia isn’t worth the lives of children.
One last point that I’d like to make about gun control is that as with everything in America we have to think about the racial aspect of it. The fact is, some of the first gun control laws were put into place in California with the full backing of the NRA, as a reaction to the Black Panther movement and black folks openly carrying guns. if we are not careful about how we institute and execute gun control legislation it will become just another tool like the “war on drugs” for targeting communities of color and perpetuating the national shame of mass incarceration of black and brown people.
Also, here are some organizations that I’ve contributed to that are doing good work around this and countering the likes of the NRA. I urge you to do the same.
  • Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
  • Everytown for Gun Safety
  • Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (I included BHA not because they are promoting gun control obviously, but because I believe they promote a more “healthy” gun culture; one focused on the gun as a tool and as a means to enjoy the outdoors, kind of what the NRA used to be before they were infiltrated by gun manufacturers and zeaolts. Their conservation work is also tremendous.)

Addendum by Baldr: There is a growing movement of gun owners against the NRA, as well as a number of organizations (such as Gun Owners for Responsible Gun Ownership) and Facebook groups (such as Gun Owners Against the NRA) of responsible gun owners who support commonsense gun regulation.  See my prior blog post on this, HERE.