Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Monday, August 5, 2013

"An American Tragedy"

For some reason, the book An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser remains on my favorite list of novels. I read it a long time ago but remember it well. The tragedy of love gone wrong and obsession often leads to tragedy. A young man, Clyde Griffiths, is too ambitious and ends up murdering the young woman who fell in love with him because he wanted another woman. Why murder her instead of just telling her it was over? That is the tragedy. So it was when my sister was shot and killed 21 years ago today over a contentious divorce. A tragedy for sure. Why murder a woman just because you are upset over a divorce and money? Why? Senseless for sure. I remember well the phone call to inform me of her death. I remember where I was and what I did when I heard the news. I remember who I called. I remember that my mother had just arrived at her cabin in far northern Minnesota with a relative. I remember that we waited until the next morning to call her so she wouldn't have to spend the night at the cabin with the news. I remember how surprisingly stoic she was as she grappled with the news of her oldest daughter's horrific death. Many phone calls later, many tears later, many unbelievable conversations with my sister's adult children and my own kids, many visits from good friends who brought food and hugs, many decisions later, we put Barbara to rest.

But the pain and memories never really go away. When a loved one is taken in so violent and sudden a way it's just too hard to take in at the time. One wonders if there was pain? What does it feel like to be shot in the chest and the head at nearly point blank? Did she feel anything? Did she know what was happening? What did my now deceased and ex brother-in-law feel when it happened? He said he thought he was shooting her lawyers and that he blanked out. How does that work? Does someone in such a rage and a depressed state of mind just not feel anything? Do they understand what they have done really? Is that why so many shooters and murderers also kill themselves? If they were that miserable or that upset over their own lives or that angry with the world, why not just take your own life and not take anyone else with you? That, too, is an American tragedy. More Americans actually die from gun suicides than from gun homicides. The availability of guns make all of this very easy and very quick. No time to change your mind once the trigger is pulled. That is the American way.

My sister's senseless death should not have happened. But similar incidents play out almost every day. It's the stuff of novels only it's real life. Domestic violence takes the lives of way too many women. We can do a lot to prevent the likelihood of death and injury due to domestic disputes. There are organizations that work with men who abuse to keep them from actually doing something worse. Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, on whose board I serve, is just one. I have come to know other women who have been abused or lost a loved one due to a domestic dispute. There are too many of them. We can change that.

Knowledge and awareness helps make that change that is needed. To that end, let's review just the past few days, shall we? It might help you in your decision to help change gun laws and the current gun culture. Check out the Kid Shootings blog and Joe Nocera's The Gun Report. One incident in both blogs was about a 7 year old Michigan girl who was swimming in her backyard pool and shot in the arm by a stupid and dangerous law abiding conceal/carry permit holder who was target practicing too close to where other people live.
Police tell us the man in his 30s also has a concealed weapons permit and should have known what he was doing.    The mother, Jodi Scherer tells Newschannel 3 that bullet barely missed hitting her daughter in the chest and whizzed right by her 2-year-old sister's head who was standing next to her.    "All of a sudden they all started screaming and running, and I was like what's wrong? And I ran up and Abby said, I’ve been shot!" said Scherer.    Scherer is calling it a freak accident and says she's thanking God one of her six children didn't die Tuesday from a gunshot wound.    
"It came from the field and actually hit her up here, I mean how does that happen?" said Scherer.     Michigan State Police tell us the man who lives on the other side of the field was shooting his handgun for target practice, when the last bullet went awry traveling at least 200 yards across a cornfield and hitting 7-year-old Abby Wrobel in the arm as she was standing on her pool deck.     
"It felt like a firework was going inside my arm," said Wrobel.    Scherer says her neighbor, who has three kids of his own, should have known better.     
"I mean you can literally hear my kids playing at that house down there when they're outside. So he knew there were kids down there, he should have never been shooting this way," said Scherer.     
Now Scherer says her kids are afraid to swim in the pool, and run inside when they hear gunshots nearby.   "It went in like boom! And it sounded like a firework," said Wrobel.  "I cried more than Abby did. I think people should be more careful with their guns," said Wrobel's sister.   
 Scherer says she couldn't agree more and wants her neighbor prosecuted to the full extent of the law.    "You know I could have easily lost a child yesterday, and it’s just scary," said Scherer.     
Michigan State Police say they are now requesting a charge of "Reckless Discharge of a Firearm Causing Injury."    We talked to the man's wife. She declined to go on camera, but tells us her husband is extremely shaken up by the accident, and plans on apologizing to the Scherers this weekend.
This is not OK. How can anyone read this and the many other examples of shooting incidents without despairing or wanting to do something about it? A child could have been fatally wounded. Everyone was lucky this time. Guns are dangerous. Bullets travel far. This is part of the American gun culture gone awry and an American Tragedy. It's the stuff of novels only it's real life.

Speaking of real life and the American tragedy one year ago today, a domestic terrorist, shot up a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. There were six dead people and four wounded after the mass shooting, too typical of America, was over. The shooter was affiliated with a white supremacist group. Hatred. Racism. Intolerance. Easy access to guns. He was discharged from the army for misconduct, drinking while on duty and absent without leave. I would say that is a dis qualifier for gun ownership. But never mind. American gun laws are so lax that guys like this can get guns legally. That is an American tragedy.

Senseless. Unacceptable. Tragic. Preventable.

Today the Oak Creek community will remember the victims. I have already seen photos and articles on Facebook from friends who are in Oak Creek for the many memorial events. There are beautiful photos of the victims along with the Sandy Hook school shooting victims. For how can we remember victims of mass shootings without thinking of the victims of the other mass shootings? Only in America. It's not a novel. It's real life.

The Oak Creek community has found constructive and healing ways to remember the victims. There was a memorial run and other activities. We must remember the victims. For that is why I do what I do. That is why I write my blog. That is why our gun laws need to be strengthened and our gun culture needs to change. Without some common sense to go with the tragic daily carnage, the gun rights extremists would just get away with their messages of fear and paranoia that have led to way too many shooting tragedies. Because of the victims, we are not going away. Because we know that we can prevent gun injuries and deaths, we are not going away. Because we know that common sense gun laws will make a difference, we are not going away. We are better than this in America.

The Sikh community is opening the doors of its' temple for the one year anniversary. It must be difficult for them to do so but they are reaching out to the community to let people know that they are Americans who happen to practice a religion that many do not understand. This is America. People of all faiths and all colors should be welcome here. The fact that they are not is an American tragedy. We have a lot of work to do.

I got the idea for the title for this post from this article, written about the Sikh community on the one year anniversary of the horrific mass shooting: 
Three days ahead of Monday’s anniversary, the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin – Oak Creek held events to mourn the loss of loved ones, share community meals, and to raise money for charitable causes through a memorial run/walk event. U.S. Attorney James Santelle also held a memorial observance in Milwaukee on Friday afternoon.
The temple invited everyone to participate in all the events, stressing the survivors’ desire for unity and peace. “Your presence would show that this is not only a Sikh tragedy, but also an American tragedy,” a statement on the Temple’s website read. “We must fight this violence not with more violence but by coming together with kindness and love.”
On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist shot and killed six people attending religious services at the suburban Milwaukee temple. The shooter also seriously injured another temple member and shot a police officer before taking his own life.
Though Sikhism is the fifth largest organized religion in the world and boasts approximately 30 million members worldwide, Sikhs have been victims of violence since the Sept. 11 attacks led many Americans to fear men wearing turbans and beards. One Sikh man was murdered in Arizona just days after 9/11.  In response to the massacre in Oak Creek, a panel has recommended that the FBI start compiling statistics on violence against Sikhs and other groups.
This is not a novel. It's real life in America where we live with the kind of hatred and intolerance that led to the shooting of 6 innocent people. Mass shootings and average every day shootings of individuals are part of the American culture. Acts of intolerance and extremism such as that in the Sikh Temple shooting are simply not OK. Acts of every day violence because of fear and paranoia of those who are different are not OK. Acts of violence against women because of anger over separations are simply not OK. Situations where gun owners carelessly shoot off guns near where children play are not OK. Leaving loaded guns around where children can find them is not OK. These are American tragedies.

In memory of August 5th tragedies:

My sister, Barbara Lund

The Sikh Temple victims:

Paramjit Kaur

Prakash Singh

Sita Singh

Ranjit Singh

Satwant Singh Kaleka

Suveg Singh


I found this article to be hopeful for America. A former "skinhead" and racist has formed a relationship with the son of one of the victims of the Sikh Temple shooting. From the article:
It wasn't easy for Kaleka to meet Arno Michaelis, a 42-year-old who admits he contributed so heavily to the white-power movement that he might have helped influence the shooter. Kaleka knows Michaelis' history -- his lead singing in a white supremacist band, the white-power and swastika tattoos, the countless fights and more than a dozen arrests.
But he also saw the good work Michaelis has done since he quit the racist movement in the mid-1990s. Kaleka, 37, wanted his father's death to be a catalyst for peace, and he saw in Michaelis a partner whose story could reinforce the message that it's possible to turn hate into love.
"We were both hoping ... we could take something tragic and turn it into something positive -- a learning experience for the entire community," Kaleka said. "We were both on that same mission, in our different ways."
Michaelis had written a book called "My Life After Hate," in which he describes how he lashed out at the world starting in kindergarten and how the birth of his daughter made him realize he needed to change. He also works with kids on community service projects.
Now here is some common sense.


  1. We must remember, too, that each shooting isn't just about the victim and the shooter, but their relatives, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and all those people that the event touches in some way, radiating out through the community. This is a society problem, and it takes everyone in the society to work to prevent more such tragedies.

  2. Sending you love, support, and understanding.

    We shall ""fight the fight"" until our last breath.

    you. are. my. hero.

    PS. I wonder if Barbara and Kay have met yet))

  3. Kim,

    We need to fight the fight, as you say. But fight to win. My thoughts, after about 8 years as a sensible gun law activist, is that we need a fresh approach regarding strategy & tactics.