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.
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers, guns and gun violence prevention

Thanks to One Million Moms and Dads Against Gun Violence for sharing the image to the left. On this Father's Day it seems pretty appropriate to consider hugging our children and children hugging their fathers. Of late, though, we have experienced images of open gun carriers holding guns across their chests and backs and loving the attention as they trot them around in malls, restaurants and other stores. This love of guns is a uniquely American phenomenon. Americans love their guns. Do they love them too much? For how else can we view the events of the last few months with Open Carry advocates showing off their guns along with their kids in ridiculous displays of manhood ( and sometimes womanhood). What kind of father (parent) does this? We all know the kids in the photos can't legally buy guns or carry them in public. What example is this providing for our children? Armed children are seen in third world countries or countries at war. We are not at war unless I've missed something.

We have to hope that the fathers of America are providing examples to their children of what it means to be a father. The children in the photos from the link above must love their fathers. But now they, too, will grow up in a house where guns are seen as the answer and not as the dangerous weapons they are. But I digress. Let's look at the origin of Father's Day:
"In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day. However, many men continued to disdain the day. As one historian writes, they “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.” (...) 
When World War II began, advertisers began to argue that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day may not have been a federal holiday, but it was a national institution.
In 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday at last. Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts."
My dad was a mellow and gentle guy. He fought in World War II but rarely spoke about the horrors of his time spent in North Africa and Italy. In retrospect, my brother and I have recognized some undiagnosed and unrecognized PTSD symptoms as he experienced some panic attacks. But he hid it well. My dad loved the outdoors, specifically fishing and hunting. I spent a lot of time as a young girl in campgrounds and cabins along the Gunflint and Arrowhead trails in Northern Minnesota. I helped my parents build their dream cabin on one of the lakes along the trail. Though I didn't like to fish, I went along for the ride, often bringing a book to keep me company in the boat or a cabin or tent. Hunting was not my love but my dad exposed me to it anyway. Shooting a .22 was just not my cup of tea. Sure it was fun to shoot at a can or a target somewhere in the woods but when it came to shooting at animals, not so much. Both of my parents loved to hunt and did so as long as they could into their aging years.

One thing I know is that there were no handguns or assault rifles around and not many had them. There were no, or very rare, school shootings. Yes, maybe some kids accidentally shot themselves with hunting guns. Sometimes there were gun suicides. Dads didn't carry guns around in public or make ridiculous shows of themselves carrying assault rifles strapped around their chests with their young children alongside them. As the cartoon image on the right shows, I grew up watching these kind of cartoons, sometimes with violence, but kids did not shoot other kids nor did we hear a lot about the kind of gun violence so common in today's world. There was some common sense about guns back then. In no other developed country not at war do we see dads walking around in public "hugging" their guns.

Take a look at this article in Salon featuring Josh Sugarman of the Violence Policy Center, about the changes in the corporate gun lobby that have aided and abetted our current gun culture. The NRA is not your father's or your grandfather's NRA any more. The change came about when some in the corporate gun and lobby world decided that the National Rifle Association should be all about rights rather than responsibilities. And now we have a country with regular mass shootings and daily carnage due to Americans shooting each other. But I digress again. Let's get back to fathers and guns/gun violence.

Domestic shootings mostly involve men abusing and/or killing women. Most of the killings are with guns. Fathers killing mothers certainly is not what we want for our communities and families but it is what we have. Unfortunately my family has experienced this kind of violence.

In the last few weeks we have seen the raw emotion of one particular father as he openly grieved the loss of his son Chris Martinez, shot in the Isla Vista spree shooting. Richard Martinez managed, with a few words, to change the conversation about gun violence and expose the culprits in the American tragedy of gun violence. He is without his only son today. His father's day will never be the same. Nor will that of the father of the shooter.

The fathers of the children shot at the Sandy Hook elementary school have been without their children for 18 months now. Two of them wrote this piece on the occasion of Father's Day:
We understand that pain all too well. But before Dec. 14, 2012, we didn’t think it could happen to us, despite seeing reports of other gun violence and hanging our heads in this same disbelief. Richard Martinez didn’t think it would happen to him. The families who lost loved ones to the shootings since Santa Barbara didn’t think it would happen to them. They now join the terrible club of parents who have lost children to gun violence, a club that grows by thousands every year.
Our question is the same: Why aren’t we doing something about this?
We know that Father’s Day is meant to be a day when fathers sit back on their couches, watch sports and take it easy. But this Father’s Day, we ask you to do one thing differently. Look at your children, your beautiful, growing, pesky children who bring you so much joy and sometimes cause you so much heartache, and ask yourself — really ask yourself — this: Am I doing everything I can to keep them safe? Because the answer to that question, if we all answer honestly, clearly is no.
No. We are not doing enough to keep our children safe. Some parents have to find this out the hard way. Fathers of those shot and those who shoot others will think of their losses today.The father of the young man who shot those 20 children mourns his son in a different way. From this New York Times article:
Since that morning, Mr. Lanza cannot go an hour without thinking about his child. And now, he says, he wishes his son had never been born.
“You can’t get any more evil,” he said in his first public comments since the shooting. “How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot.”
In a series of emotionally wrenching interviews with the writer Andrew Solomon, Mr. Lanza detailed his son’s medical history and increasing isolation, his former wife’s struggle to deal with their troubled child and his own role as the father of the person who committed one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history. Mr. Solomon, author of “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity,” recounts the interviews in an article in this week’s issue of The New Yorker.
This is too sad and tragic to contemplate. The one thing that is certain is that the shooter's mother was wrong to have exposed Adam to guns and to make them so easily accessible to him. But when we live in a country where guns are viewed so cavalierly, this scene repeats itself many times. As, for example, the recent school shooting in Oregon where the shooter got his guns and ammunition from his own home. His parents have publicly apologized for what their son did without acknowledging that the guns were too easily accessible to their son. Today will not be a good father's day for that family not to mention the father of the boy who was shot at the school.

Far too many dads leave loaded guns around where their children can access them. This Texas father won't be having such a good Father's Day. He is now charged after leaving a gun where his 3 year old found it and shot himself in the foot:
Deputies said a 3-year-old boy was injured after he found a gun in his family’s Humble-area home late Wednesday.
Deputies with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office were called to Fawn Park near Storm Cove View around 10:15 p.m.
The boy reportedly shot himself in the foot; paramedics took him to the hospital in stable condition.
The sheriff's office later said the child found the gun on his dad's nightstand. The dad is now facing charges of making a firearm accessible to a child.
Why not lock up loaded guns in homes? What are parents thinking? In America we are so cavalier with guns and require no training for those who purchase deadly weapons that these type of accidents are happening on a regular daily basis. There is no common sense to America's lax gun laws.

Senseless and avoidable.

Father's Day is supposed to be a happy day for dads. For many it is not. Our basic problem is that the public wants stronger gun laws but they often feel helpless to act in the face of the constant shootings. But something's changing. There are more gun safety reform organizations in the mix now with many more vehicles for involvement and advocacy. That is a good thing for America. Now if Congress would catch up with the public sentiment on this issue and realize that the corporate gun lobby is a paper tiger, we could get something sensible done. One of the reasons the Senate took up a background check bill after the Sandy Hook massacre is that those members who are parents and grandparents just couldn't imagine the massacre of those small children happening to their own families. The video of Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a long time supporter of gun rights, crying with the Sandy Hook families is poignant to watch. As a grandfather of young children, the pain of these families was all too palpable for him. When it hits too close to home or to the emotions of those who can change gun policy in America, something just may happen. The video of a choked-up Senator Joe Manchin is below:



And Manchin and other Senators are renewing their public statements in support for gun safety legislation  after hearing the anguished outcry of Richard Martinez and the heinous ambush of two uniformed armed police officers in Las Vegas. It's scary out there. If right wing extremists are targeting government employees, what and who are next?

It's clearly time for change. Let's get to work. And please do think of what the two Sandy Hook survivors wrote in the piece above. Father's Day can be happier for many others if we but do the right thing today and deal with our nation's public health and safety epidemic head on.

Happy Father's Day. If you value the future for your children and grandchildren, you can get involved and insist that our country do the right thing to keep them safe from gun violence. And the fathers and grandfathers in our mostly male Congress can make a difference if they think of their role to keep our children safe before their role of being re-elected.

UPDATE:

It never surprises me that moments after publishing a post, yet another article comes to my attention that fits with my post. So Happy Father's Day to this Ohio father who "accidentally" discharged his gun while driving with his two small children. This father is an irresponsible gun owner for sure. Unfortunately there are way too many of them out there.

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