Gun Violence

The Mass Shooting in El Paso: What You Can Do!

It’s been three years of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, but it’s been twenty years of mass shootings. We’ve been subject to spectacular shootings like that which happened in El Paso TODAY in which 20 people were gunned down and shot to death and two dozen injured as of this writing — You know how these things change over time — EVERY DAY! Apparently, a 20 year-old man from Alan, Texas took his gun and manifesto, maybe?, to a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and shot dozens of people.

It used to be after a mass shooting, we were then subjected to requests to (a) not politicize the shooting until people had a chance to grieve (and the news cycle move on) and (b) send our hearts and prayers to the survivors. The, the Parkland shooting happened and the Parkland Kids put an end to that. We don’t hear that no more. Or at least not in so many words. Gov. Greg “I’m embarrassed that Texas is second to California in gun sales” Abbott did ask for prayers and wants to focus on the mental health issues faced by the shooter and not how he got his fucking gun.

If you’re as fed up with the bullshit coming out of Repube asses over gun violence — and other issues –you’re in luck because we live in an activist era, and there is a level of participation for all of us! So, instead of shouting into the abyss of social media about gun violence, I’m giving you some options for participating in our democracy! I’m using the occasion of this shooting to discuss what we as citizens can do to further the gun reform agenda TO-FUCKING-DAY!

Science fact: taking action and helping others is a good way of coping with stress! So, here’s your chance to contribute to the solution because there is plenty that we can do. You have a smorgasbord-ish menu of choices to choose from. I know you are busy, especially today, so I’ve divided the post into three sections:

  • The Quick Dip: if you just want to do something quick just check Work Your Member.
  • The Shallow dive: if you are feeling up to joining a group or finding an event near you check Advocacy Groups.
  • The Deep Dive: if you want to learn more than you ever wanted to about gun policy and gun violence statistics, check out Wonky Sources of Information.

QUICK DIP: Work Your Member

You should call your member and have a long and hard heart-to-heart talk with whoever answers the phone. Remember, two things, though, (1) ask to talk to the person in charge of gun issues and (2) no matter how angry and upset you are, be polite; it is another human being on the other end of the line. Here’s how:

Call My Congress

Use the website, Call My Congress, to find the following information for your member:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Party affiliation
  • Next election
  • Twitter handle (if he or she has one)
  • Voting record
  • And C-Span appearances

What else could you ask for, right? What about information concerning gun issues to talk to your member about?

Common Cause

Common Cause does Call My Member one better by including contact information for federal, state, and local elected government officials. They have a locator based on street address that returns every elected federal, state, and local government officials. Did I mention that they tell you about your federal, state, and local elected officials? Well, they do. It is comprehensive, too. They tell each person’s name, office, party affiliation, and contact phone number. They also include links to their website and social media accounts. Now that’s a class act. Just like you’d expect from Common Cause.

Make the Call: Five Calls

Five Calls is the place where you can make your voice heard! Isn’t that nice? This website will help you (1) determine who your members of Congress are, (2) keep up with current issues that concern Congress including (a) impending legislation, (b) hearings, (c) other actions that Congress takes like passing resolutions and holding potential witnesses in contempt, (d) scripts for discussing specific issues, (e) an easy method for recording the outcome of your call, and (e) keeping up with the issues that are important to you by emailing you their write ups on the issues. They make it easy. I use them all of the time.

Hey, here’s a timely for instance (but I list the particulars below, so you don’t have to follow an extra link if you really only want to call on this issue): Demand Action Against Gun Violence! How ’bout that. It’s almost prescient, but predicting mass shootings and gun violence in America is a trick that makes everyone a Jean Dixon-class psychic.

America’s disproportionately high rates of gun-related deaths are both tragic and shameful. Congress can save lives by passing common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence.

The Script

If the phone is answered, ask to speak to the staffer that is responsible for gun legislation issues. Remember, no matter how angry and upset you are, be polite. It is another human being on the other end of the line.

Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [your location].

I’m calling to urge Representative or Senator [NAME] to take action to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in the United States by…


  • Closing the loophole that lets people buy guns at shows and through private sellers without background checks
  • Instituting universal background checks for ammo and gun buyers, a measure 80% of gun owners support
  • Funding evidence-based community anti-violence programs, like Ceasefire, which have been shown to reduce shootings
  • Reinstating a federal ban on the purchase of high-capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons, which is supported by at least 65% of Americans.

Thank you for your time and attention.

IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: Please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied.

If you call your member, let us know how the calls went in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.

SHALLOW DIVE: Advocacy Groups

Perhaps you’re feeling like it is high time to do more than just call your member about issues. Perhaps you’re feeling like you would like to connect with other like minded individuals on the issue of gun violence in America. Perhaps you wanna get out in the street and scream and shout your anger, frustration, and incredulity until you are horse!

Moms Demand Action

Moms Demand Action is one of the most venerable and successful gun reform advocacy groups going. If you are not a member, perhaps you should think about it. For example, if you were in the DC area, you coulda joined them for a spontaneous march on the White House last night! Even if you’re not, you can use their extensive website to find out all kinds of useful information or find local events:

EveryTown for Gun Safety

There does seem to be some kinda link up between Moms Demand Action and EveryTown, so don’t get confused if you’re finding information from one organization being linked to by the other. You should know that EveryTown was started by parents of the children massacred in the Sandy Hook shooting. They have stuff you can do and learn that is different than Moms Demand Action, though. They also have stuff that is the same, so I won’t go through that.

  • ACT: This gives you seven actions you can take to end gun violence. It includes joining Moms Demand Action and taking advantage of joining their events. But it also includes, a link to join the Gun Sense Action Network. You too can spend an hour each week educating voters or signing up volunteers! A link to starting — or joining, I guess? — a Students Demand Action group for teens where they can turn their outrage into action which is healthier than turning it into vandalism, right? I don’t know that it is related to the Parkland Kids, but maybe? And, a petition supporting the Violence Against Women Act since so much of the violence perpetrated against women involves the use of guns. Makes sense, right?
  • Learn: This is their version of the fun facts about gun violence in America! You can learn about how to make Better Background Checks! Wow! We can skip background checks and go straight to better background checks. Who knew? Disarm Domestic Abusers! A follow up to the Violence Against Women Act. You can learn all of the ramifications that various gun laws and policies have on domestic violence. You can learn so much that I’m sure you’ll be as nauseated as I am! Combating Daily Gun Violence! You know the kind that doesn’t make a big splash on the front page of the news websites you frequent or get mentioned in your social media feeds.
  • Gun Law Navigator: This is my favorite page on their website. Although it is linked to through their Learn page, it is an interactive guide to gun laws state-by-state. Talk about keeping up with what you should be telling your state and local elected officials!

Brady United Against Gun Violence

You remember James Brady, right? He was Reagan’s Press Secretary and survived being shot in the head during Reagan’s assassination attempt. The Brady’s were so upset that they started the tradition of starting gun reform organizations after suffering personal gun tragedies by starting Brady United Against Gun Violence. They were responsible for getting the assault weapons ban passed in 1994. Gee that only took 13 years! The Sandy Hook survivors, Gabby Gifford, and the Parkland Kids have all followed suit. Maybe Rep Roger Williams (R – Mass Shootings) should too. Oh wait, he doesn’t have to, he’s got the NRA!

There’s a lot of overlap in the information and other stuff between all these websites, so I’m going to focus here on some of the things that makes Brady special… and there are many. Feel free to explore them all the pages, though!

  • Resources, Litigation: I did not know this, but Brady gets involved in court cases between victims and survivors and corporations and other perpetrators. Man, that’s cool. They cover some of their cases on this page.
  • Resources, Legislation: They keep a running explainer of the various legislation coming up in Congress. For example, the red-flag laws, HR 1236 and S 506, enhanced (better?) background checks, HR 1112, expanding (better) Brady background check, HR 8 and S 42. Well, there you go. And if that doesn’t make for a long hard one with your member, I don’t know what will.
  • Resources, Reports: They keep a long list of links to reports that they’ve produced. It’s an impressive list. Everything from the results of a court case against the ATF revealing the influence of the gun lobby on their actions to suicide and guns.

This little walk through the three biggest and best known gun reform advocacy groups has resulted in some really big finds. If you’ve kept up with me this far, I hope you, like me, have bookmarked some of these sites.

If you join one of these groups, go to an event, or use them to advance some other participation, tell us about it in the comments. I’d really love to know how it went at a march, town hall, or meeting with your member.

DEEP DIVE: Wonky Sources of Information

As if those advocacy groups hadn’t satisfied your wonky needs for today, you can sink your brains into and wrap your thoughts around these fun sites.

Firearms Research from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center

The Firearms Research page of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center of the Harvard School of Public Health is one of my go to sites when I need the latest and best research on gun violence. They have a wide range of academically sound research here.

I won’t even attempt to summarize any of the information found on these pages. There is way too much of that to do it justice. I have used information from here in past posts and will in the future, though. However, I will highlight some of the more obscure yet interesting things you can find here just to wet your whistle and prime the pump a bit!

  • Suicide (means matter): I tire of trying to educate trolls about suicide. They use the old wives’ tale that someone bent on suicide will find a way to discount the 20,000 gun-related suicides that happen in this country every year. It isn’t true. Means matter. Take away the means of committing suicide, and you will prevent the suicide. This result is because most suicides are impulsive. The person has reached a crisis point, they come up with a plan, time, place, and means, and BAM! they do it! Take away anyone of them — I used to work suicides as both a hotline person and medical social worker — and you can prevent the suicide. The easiest one to take away is the means. It really is that easy. Okay, it isn’t easy, but it really does work that way.
  • suicide: Guns and suicide have an interesting relationship. No matter how you slice it statistically, guns correlate positively with suicide, yet individuals, households, states, and regions with more guns do not have higher mental illness rates. Go figure. Additionally, suicide by gun is far more frequently fatal than suicide by another other means because guns, and especially head shots, are incredibly lethal. Much more so than any other source of injury.
  • Gun Threats and Self-Defense Gun Use: Another favorite trope of trolls is the good-guy with a gun crap. Guns are not used millions of times a year for self defense. Just because you’ve read about it in the news media doesn’t mean it’s happening much more often than we realize. It is just the familiar availability heuristic at work. In fact, most uses of guns in self defense are usually instances of gun use in an escalating argument. That’s not really self defense. That’s usually just being an asshole. In fact, few incarcerated criminals have been shot by law-abiding citizens. I guess you could argue that the ones that were died, but maybe.
  • Miscellaneous: What’s interesting here is the finding that more guns correlates positively with more gun crime. Not surprising to anyone but the gun-nut trolls. Also, filed under not surprising except to gun-nut trolls, is that guns do not make for a more polite society. In fact, the opposite is true: states with more guns have lower levels of both social trust and civic engagements. The most interesting point here is that we need less — not more — lethal weapons for civilians and police to use.

Boy, howdy, isn’t that Harvard full of good stuff? If you find a favorite nugget of gun-nut disinformation refuted in the Harvard material, why not put it in the comments for us all to enjoy!

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF)

This is an easy one. About the only information that the Kaiser Foundation gives on guns is the number of firearm deaths per year. But, their webpage allows you to break it out by individual or multiple years and by state. So, that’s cool. What’s interesting is that you can see a significant uptick in gun-related deaths in 2014 and continuing unabated until 2017. To go from approximately 10 per 100,000 deaths per year to 12 over a two year period is huge. Try to understand that!

From the Kaiser Family Foundation

Does it correlate with any of the nonsense about Obama coming to confiscate your guns and the rise of conspiracy theories to placate the Repube base’s misery? The fear of an impending Clinton presidency? The violence encouraged by the Ol’ Pussy Grabber?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The CDC is a beast. I find it hard to locate the information I want on it, but still, it has so much information that it has to be included in any discussion of guns, gun reform, and gun violence. I find it much better to rely upon someone else to sift through the site and report on how they used it. Still the CDC has been trying to make their data more easily accessible. Here’s some of what I found this afternoon:

  • Ten Leading Causes of Death and Injury: The charts that you’re interested in are the ones with the title, 10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group Highlighting Violence-Related Injury Deaths, United States, YEAR (I’ve linked to the one from 2016. I believe the latest one available is 2017). A quick perusal of the chart reveals that firearms were the fourth and fifth leading cause of violence-related injury deaths that year with 22,938 firearm-related suicides and 14,415 firearm-related homicides. See? Fun! Right?
  • Widgets: Just because I’m easily amused, I’m including a link to the CDC’s widgets page! Ha ha! You can now have a variety of widgets on a website that you can put widgets on. So if you want a widget showing the incidents of Q fever in the US, you can!
  • I’m guessing that one of the reasons that finding information about gun-related violence, injury, and death on the CDC website is the long prohibition that the US government has placed on federal funds for gun research. That prohibition has been loosened recently — thank you Parkland Kids — but the operative term here is loosened.

The Giffords Law Center

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is yet another organization spawned by gun violence. The Bay Area law firm of Petite & Martin was the scene of a mass shooting on 1 July 1993 in which eight people died and six were wounded. It led to the formation of the organization that would become the Giffords Law Center.

They provide an amazing website chock-a-block full of all kinds of nerdy and wonky fun! They provide expert legal research into all matters gun in the US. They help write and defend gun reform laws, too. They have lots of information that may not be easily found anywhere else.

  • Front Page: Right on their main page, they have links to most of the good work they do. For example, a link to their report on the annual summer spike in gun violence. They attribute it to rising temperatures, so with climate change, will we see more gun violence? Probably not since it isn’t the heat per se, but the being out of doors more and schools being on hiatus just gives rise to more social interactions. Their case study of Oakland’s reduction in gun violence. They list five core components of the reduction: (1) A thorough analysis of violent incidents and trends; (2) Respectful, in person communications with high-risk residents; (3) Relationship-based social services; (4) Narrowly focused law enforcement actions; and (5) An intentional management structure. That don’t sound too hard. And, they provide a link to their assessment of gun laws in all 50 states!
  • Ghost Guns: In their policy area (found in the gun laws menu), they had a listing for ghost guns. Ghost guns, it turns out, are firearms that are untraceable by law enforcement and often not found by metal detectors. They include guns assembled from kits and 3D printers. Who knew? They go on to explain that most states do not regulate these types of guns, but really should. There is a huge explainer about the guns and why they need legislative attention.
  • Gun law Fact sheet: They produce these lovely pdf fact sheets on various aspects of gun laws. They are have some spiffy graphics and colors and stuff. In their fact sheet on gun research, they report that most causes of death receive federal research funding proportionate to their burden on society, except for gun-related deaths… hmmm I wonder why? Could it be because cancer and heart disease don’t have multi-million dollar lobbying groups behind them? Christ, even the auto industry relented and allowed safety research so that motor vehicle-related deaths would decrease. Research into sepsis and intestinal infections receive more money than gun research does!

Well, kids this has taken me all day to assemble including frequent breaks to help around the house, but between researching and writing this and my jet lag, I’m exhausted. I’ll leave you with it. I hope to hear about the amazing information found in the links in the comments. I’ll update this post with links to past posts.

9 replies »

  1. There was a study (couldn’t find the reference) a few years ago that found that for people with no history of suicidal thinking, the time from first thought to action was 10 minutes or less (7 minutes for teens and children). Guns are by far the most consistently lethal method, and the most consistently severely disabling in a failed attempt. As a therapist and crisis counselor, I never dealt with a survivor of an attempt by gun, but lots of them who had done pills or cutting or other methods. That includes many who immediately regretted the attempt and sought help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy Bob!
      There was a great article in the NYT Sunday Magazine about suicide attempt survivors. I remember two of their interviews vividly — but maybe not accurately, you know how memory is. One of them was by a man who jumped from the SF bridge, which few survive. He described having climbed over the side and was holding on by his hands looking up at his grip. As soon as he let go, his first thought was, “What have I done?” As soon as he was falling, he didn’t want to die. Another was a woman who had shot herself in the head with a small caliber handgun, maybe a .22? When her husband found her, she came to conscious and said, “I don’t want to die!”

      According to the CDC, 30% of all gunshot wounds and 90+% of all gun shot wounds to the head are fatal. Nothing else comes even close to those statistics. If you look at the ten leading causes of death, you’ll see suffocation and poisoning as either suicide, homicide, or accident follow closely behind gunshots, but the drop off in numbers is 20,000 deaths or more.

      The one good thing about Trump, he’s opened up an era of mass activism. If we can sustain it for the next two years, we might could wash all of them out, impeach us some judges, and maybe, just maybe, right the course.


      Liked by 1 person

      • I have know of 2 survivors of attempt by gun. One was the father of a friend who just missed the fatal brain parts with a small caliber hand gun. Unfortunately, he was a Psychologist and they couldn’t hold him in inpatient because he knew all the answers to the tests. The other was a client of the clinic where I worked who was paraplegic due to a motorcycle accident and tried to use a shotgun. He missed his brain and took off his face. He is probably still having reconstructive surgeries 20 year later. Sometimes, tryig to kill yourself with a gun and failing is worse than succeeding.

        Indeed, some of the judges Trump has appointed are at best unqualified.

        Liked by 1 person

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