Another Day Another Terrorist With A Gun

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I can’t remember the last time I have gone a day without reading about the tragedy that is gun violence or a month without hearing of a mass shooting. This morning I woke to reports of a mass shooting only to realize it wasn’t El Paso, but Dayton. Each time social media is filled with hateful people that cannot, or will not, have a civil conversation about a serious topic. Respectful disagreements can help move people to common ground, but what is most often reflected in society is matched in Congress and the result is more dead bodies and more grieving families. The policy changes that are needed will not be easy, but they are doable without changing the 2nd Amendment. More importantly, we are capable as individuals of changing our neighborhoods and ourselves. We cannot let fear be the enemy of reason. The House of Representatives has taken the first step, but the Senate refuses to do anything, but pray. Clearly, God has answered them with legislation from the House, but they do not have ears to hear.freed-heart-understanding-mind.jpg

For those of us that have lost someone, we love to senseless gun violence each new incident is a reminder that brings the pain rushing back. If you love your guns and the 2nd Amendment more than your neighbors then it will be impossible for you to understand my pain and the pain of every other person who has ever been impacted by gun violence. Each year on September 30 I remember my twin brother who was shot four times (two in the chest, one in the side, and one in the back) and died on my parent’s living room floor.  The bloodstain on the carpet is forever etched into my memory. He was not killed by an intruder, but rather in an argument with our brother. They had fought many times before resulting in typical injuries from fistfights. The problem was that a gun was lying on the table.  Without the gun, he would probably be alive. The police called it a “family matter” and did nothing. In fact, because my other brother was never charged with a crime he legally purchased many more guns.

The argument that the 2nd Amendment is without limit is not true and is usually followed by the statement that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is reposted without adequate consideration to what this actually means.  In fact, people who own guns are more likely to kill people either accidentally or intentionally. Not all gun deaths come from People with guns do kill people.

This year alone there have been:

  • 33,028 incidents
  • 8,734  deaths
  • 17,308 injuries
  • 251 mass shootings
  • Of those, 390 were children and 1,796 were adolescents (http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/)
  • And how many thousands of grieving families, lost incomes, children without parents, wives without husbands, and parents without children?

Additionally,

In the civilian population deaths from firearms are believed to be a good indicator of firearms violence. The rate of nonfatal gunshot wounds is estimated to be 2.6 times the rate of fatal gunshot wounds. You can find the death rates from firearms by state at http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=113&cat=2.

The 2nd Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that one should own a gun.  I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life and only bread evil in one’s soul. Yet this isn’t the only right we have that we can and should decline. Let us decline the right all actions that take a life – abortion, the death penalty, and war. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is a moral obligation.

It is true that it takes a person to pull the trigger, but without a gun, it is much harder to kill. People do kill people, but people with guns are more likely to do so either intentionally or accidentally. “The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot merely be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence.  My wish is for a day that no American chooses to avail themselves of the 2nd Amendment right. Peace is an amazing feeling and it begins in our own homes and hearts. Put fear aside, love your neighbor, and choose life. Don’t let the lust for an instrument of evil that has taken so many lives and caused so much pain replace reason and compassion. Don’t let your fear win.


Scoop and Run: A Plan for the 4th on the National Mall

The first time I attended the July 4th fireworks in DC it was with a friend’s family who attended every year. As we were on the metro headed to the mall she informed me that when the final volley of fireworks began to “scoop and run”. Pick up all of your stuff and run to the metro as fast as possible to be on the train that would be waiting. Otherwise, we would be stuck in the crowds for hours.

My advice to anyone attending the July 4 celebration this year is to be prepared to scoop and run. Know your exits, know where the metro is, know your way to walk across the bridge if it is too crowded and for goodness sake don’t drive. But also know where there is a safe area close to you. What shops and restaurants are open where you can get through the door and out of the crowd? Be prepared that some places in the event of mass demonstrations will go into lockdown quickly. If you are in you will stay in and if you are out you will stay out.

Events of civil unrest in cities across the United States raise awareness of injustice in our society and they appear to be on the rise. Yet, it is those moments when civil unrest occurs that we often fail to recognize the human dignity of every person. Civil unrest can lead to physical violence as it did recently in Portland. Our instinct may be to respond as we would in a disaster and seek help from police and places like the medical aid stations. However, this may be the wrong action during the unrest. Because of heightened tension between the police and the general population they may view your rapid approach as a threat rather than fear. The presence of police in the medical aid station may not be possible and even if possible, it may only attract the unrest to the area and thus be undesirable.

I doubt there will be any civil unrest at the July 4th fireworks in DC, but if I were ever going to encourage caution this would be the year. Anytime a large, nationally televised event is politicized it increases the risk of clashes. Politization may include the “baby Trump” balloon, flag burning, and white supremacists. We also know that inequalities in society, culture, and finance have resulted in civil unrest, rioting, and intentional violence throughout our history. When one group is given special privileges at an event that has always been egalatarian it increases the risk of problems.

10 tips to a safe July 4th on the National Mall

  1. Stay hydrated and be aware that there are sometimes long lines at vendors. Dehydration alters your ability to think clearly.
  2. Wear sunscreen just because I’m a nurse and we remind you of the obvious.
  3. Dress appropriately for long walks and hot weather. Running or walking shoes will be better than sandals.
  4. Bring your fanny pack first aid kit or put a small one in a bag.
  5. It is always better at large events to carry your belongings in a clear plastic tote bag so that everyone can see there is nothing of danger in it.
  6. Do not bring anything with you that could be perceived as a weapon.
  7. If you see people with weapons other than police move away as quickly as possible and notify law enforcement.
  8. Be aware of your surroundings and know where the exits are located.
  9. Do not engage people who are protesting. Even if you think you agree with them sometimes people surprise you with what offends them and when you are hot and tired your own response may even be a surprise.
  10. Be cool, be calm, be alert, be gone if trouble begins.

I hope everyone has an enjoyable July 4 and remembers that the day is a celebration of our independence. It is a time to celebrate a great nation and remember that children will be present.

Nurse Leaders’ Response to Civil Unrest requires preparation. It is a good time to go through your checklist before the events begin on July 4.

 


Is Abortion the Ultimate Child Abuse

I recently read a twitter post about abortion that referred to abortion as the ultimate child abuse.

…It is immoral as well as a violation of human rights and it is also the ultimate child abuse. – Bishop Rick Stika

When I suggested it was not one person seemed to think that means I was insane. Approximately 700,000 children are abused in the United States each year and over 1300 of those dies. Additionally, Child Protective Services serves over 3.4 million children a year. Sadly 78% of the time the abuser is a parent.

In 2017 a couple was sentenced to 130 years in jail after their 9-month-old twin girls were found emaciated, with maggots in the wounds and crib, cat feces on the walls, and they each weighed around 8 pounds. Then there was the case in 2018 of a 4-year old that was so severely burned that the toe fell off and they found burned skin in the bathtub. Supposedly the mother had left the child unattended in a hot bath for an extended period of time. Only after returning and finding the child and then waiting 30 minutes was 9-1-1 called. The child died of the injuries, but only after extreme suffering. There are the parents that sell their children for sex and are only found after years of repeated rapes. Then there is the rape and murder of an 8-year old that was so horrific the medical examiner cried during the trial. There are too many of the cases in our country and so long as we see abortion as the worst form of child abuse we will fail to have the mindset to address child abuse and will continue to think it acceptable to put children in cages for being from another country.

A fetus is not cable of feeling pain until 28-30 weeks after conception because the nerves that carry pain stimuli to the brain are not developed. Nor does a fetus have the ability at that time to feel fear. As horrible as abortion maybe it is not as horrific in my mind as is a two-year-old or six-year-old that is tortured and abused until it is finally killed and all the time feeling horrible fear and pain.

I’m Catholic and understand that many believe that abortion is the ultimate evil act, but I think there are worse things than being killed before you can feel pain and fear. I do not understand how anyone can deny that torture of a fully sentient and aware child is more horrific to that child than is being aborted before 28 weeks. If that means I’m a bad Catholic then we have a difference in opinion in what it means to be good or faithful. When one can’t see the horrors we inflict on children it is no wonder that we do so little to protect them.

There are many evils in the world and when you only allow yourself to see one and turn a blind eye to the others maybe it is time to recognize that you are failing many and giving others the false belief that there is only one grave evil that can be done to children.

 


A Hearing without Truth

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. – Albert Einstein

I was able to watch part of the Kavanaugh hearing today. It was all I could do not to cry for our country. We have lost the ability to have a civil discussion partially because those we elected to represent us care more about themselves than the truth and the victims of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is not about sex. Let me repeat this. Sexual assault is not about sex. It is about violence, power, and control of the other person. Today, the 21 people who hold this nomination in their hands were exhibiting verbal violence, abusive power, and control over the other person. The only thing missing was the attempt at sex to disguise it.

I believed Dr. Ford and at times felt sorry for Judge Kavanaugh though I did not believe him. No rational person would believe his statement about his drinking and his yearbook even if one believed the rest of what he said. The Senate could take some lessons from nursing. Even if you think a patient is a horrible human being, a murder, a rapist, or name your evil, treat the person with respect and dignity. Provide compassionate care and the best possible treatment. If you cannot treat the other person with respect and compassion then request to be replaced in the provision of their care. It is a simple rule. Do the best you can do it all the time. Treat all patients as you would want your mother or father treated.

The next thing we teach is that to provide the best care we must work together as a team. High functioning teams build on the strengths of each team member and show respect to all. If we start yelling at each other or treating each other with disrespect then the patient will be the one that suffers the most.  More importantly, when we are focused on ourselves we forget the patient.

I was embarrassed for our country. This does not represent the best in our country. How hard is it to focus on finding the truth and for each American to care more about the truth than political affiliation? The only person that seemed to handle themselves with dignity was Dr. Ford. Everyone else needs to be sent back to kindergarten to learn how to behave. The truth matters and if we cease to care about the truth we are lost.

Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth. CCC 2467


Gun Ownership is a Moral Issue

Gun ownership is a choice and a moral decision that has a significant consequence to the entire community. I can choose to own a gun or I can make the moral decision to decline the right to bear arms. This is not to say that all people have a choice to make. Some, by virtue of their professions, must own or carry a gun – police and military. Others may need one for a legitimate reason – ranchers. However, most of us do have a choice. Choosing not to bear arms does not impact anyone else’s Second Amendment right.

Can you remember the last time we have had a day without reading about gun violence or even a few days without hearing about a mass shooting? We average over 9 deaths a day from guns and a mass shooting almost every day. We ask ourselves what is the cause and we hear guns, mental illness, inadequate laws, immigration, gangs, terrorism, and a culture addicted to violence. We look at other similar countries and ask why they don’t have the same problem and the only differences are easy to access guns and/or culture.

In our culture we let fear overrule reason. The argument that the Second Amendment is without limit is not true and is usually followed by the statement that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is reposted without adequate consideration to what this actually means.  In fact, people who own guns are more likely to kill people either accidentally or intentionally. People with guns do kill people and are more successful at doing so from a distance than by any other means.

This year alone the Gun Violence Archive has documented 52,436 incidents, 13,164 deaths, and 307 mass shootings. This doesn’t even begin to address the actual impact of wives that lost husbands, parents that lost children, children that lost parents, and the countless friends and neighbors that feel the loss.

 

gun violence

Make a Moral Decision

The Second Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that one should own a gun.  I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life and only bread evil in one’s soul. Yet this isn’t the only right we have that we can and should decline. Let us decline the right all actions that take a life – abortion, the death penalty, and war. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is a moral obligation.

“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow [wo]men and cooperate with them.” –Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

I frequently wonder if we give enough thought to what it means to make a moral decision. I worry that we are so stuck in ideology and bound with fear that keeps us from a rational contemplation of the very serious issue of gun violence and violence in our culture. I am certainly not the sole arbiter of truth, but I have an opinion I hope you will hear and consider

Six-Steps in Considering the Morality of Gun Ownership

  1. Gather the information on injuries and deaths related to firearms.

People will give various reasons for wanting a gun. They list the least benign as a desire to kill Bambi or Thumper. Some genuinely believe they need to defend self or family and a gun is the only mechanism. Others have a false belief that a rifle will protect from an abusive government that has nuclear bombs, tanks, and other massive munitions. Whatever the stated reason one must consider whether the purchase of the gun to achieve the end is morally right? Do the circumstances (living in a dangerous neighborhood, traveling alone in an unsafe neighborhood, going to school) affect the action? Do the risks outweigh the danger of a gun in the home? This year alone defensive use is barely higher than unintentional shootings. In other words for every person that uses a gun in self-defense, another is accidentally shot.

The more I deliberated the more I reflected on Matthew 5:21-26:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

I came to the conclusion that I could not live with a primal instinct to defend my home or self by the use of lethal force over a possession. Nor could I live with accidentally harming another.

  1. I identified the ethical problem. The ethical dilemma was between the individual rights or good versus that of the rights and the good of the community.

It is certainly true that guns are sometimes used for self-defense. This year there have been 1,724 times guns have been used for defensive purposes. Of course, that pales when compared to 54,436 gun incidents in the same time period of which 1,699 were accidental shootings. Is the fear one person has for his or her safety more important than the safety of those around who are by all evidence at greater risk due to the presence of the gun? We are one of the nations with the greatest number of guns per capita and we are one of the nations with the greatest gun violence. People can cite urban vs. rural, and this city or that, but in the end, we are one nation with one shared problem that is violence committed using a gun.

  1. What approaches can I use to analyze the problem?

I first approached the problem from a veil of ignorance, which is to say if I were the person who was the least powerful and the most vulnerable what would I want? I concluded that while I wanted to live and be safe, but for that to happen it would be best for no one to have a gun. I also wanted all those around me to live and be safe. The risk to others from a gun in the house was greater than the risk to others and me without one.

I then used a disaster framework to consider what actions I could take to avoid risks that didn’t involve owning a gun. When considered within a framework it is easier to see that there are actions that can be taken, provided the public or individual has the will to do so, to keep oneself safer. For example, self-defense class, active shooter training, non-lethal force, security systems, and even owning a dog.

  1. After gathering the information, determining the moral dilemma, and using a framework to logically examine the problem it was time to make a judgment to determine which means are best under the current circumstances.

There really are only a few practical alternatives: 1) accept the status quo, 2) actively advocate for a rational change in gun laws, and 3) decline the right to bear arms and encourage others to do the same. I do not see repealing the Second Amendment as a practical alternative and thus it is not included. There are those that disagree with me including the editors of America Magazine. The Second Amendment is too ingrained in the culture, has too big of a lobby supporting it, and would not be supported by the majority.

  1. Act

Once I made the decision to decline the right to bear arms it was time to act. A moral decision occurs when the intellect and the will come together, but without action serves little purpose. First, I am acting for myself in pledging never to own a gun. I decline the right to bear arms. Second, like many other pledges, people may take I encourage others to also take the pledge and to share that they have. Third, I will never be silent.

  1. Evaluate the process and outcomes

The final step is always to determine if the choice and the action was effective. Only time will tell.

I pledge that I will never own a firearm of any kind. My heart will be guided by love and there will be no door opened for fear. When that door of fear is cracked it lets in evil and blots out reason. Not just the reason that comes from a well-developed human conscience, but the reason imparted through faith. When fear enters evil works to darken our souls to the inherent value of all life. That evil convinces us that property is of such great value that we can ignore the commandment not to kill and choose things over people. Fear causes us to listen to evil telling us that there are good guys with guns and that no harm will come from this instrument of death. Arm yourself with reason and faith and there will be no need for a gun.

“The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot merely be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence.  Don’t let the lust for an instrument of evil that has taken so many lives and caused so much pain replace reason and compassion. Don’t let your fear win. Decline the Right.

 


Another Mass Shooting, More Prayers

Sunday I wrote about it being 15 years since my twin brothers murder and today I wake up to the news covering yet another mass shooting. This one occurred in Las Vegas with more than 200 injured and 50 dead. It is the worst mass shooting in United States history. I also woke to the empty rhetoric of politicians who say they are praying for the victims. Pray, if they actually do, is all they do. In fact, they do nothing or worse block those that try.

What motivated a 64 year old man to kill so many? How did he get an automatic weapon? Can you remember the last time we have had a day without reading about the tragedy that is gun violence or a month without hearing about a mass shooting. We average over 9 deaths a day from guns and a mass shooting every day. Each time social media is filled with hateful people that cannot, or will not, have a civil conversation about a serious topic. Respectful disagreements can help move people to common ground, but what is most often reflected in society is matched in Congress and the result is more dead bodies and more grieving families. The policy changes that are needed will not be easy, but they are doable without changing the 2nd Amendment. We cannot be silent in the face violence. We cannot let fear over rule reason.

Embed from Getty Images

For those of us that have lost someone we love to senseless gun violence each new incident is a reminder that brings the pain rushing back. If you love your guns and the 2nd Amendment more than your neighbors then it will be impossible for you to understand my pain and the pain of every other person who has ever been impacted by a gun violence. Each year on September 30 I remember my twin brother who was shot four times (two in the chest, one in the side, and one in the back) fell at my mother’s feet where he died on my parent’s living room floor.  The bloodstain on the carpet is forever etched into my memory. He was not killed by an intruder, but rather in an argument with our brother. Without the gun, he would probably be alive. The police called it a “family matter” and did nothing. In fact, because my other brother was never charged with a crime he legally purchased many more guns.

The argument that the 2nd Amendment is without limit is not true and is usually followed by the statement that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is reposted without adequate consideration to what this actually means.  In fact, people who own guns are more likely to kill people either accidentally or intentionally. People with guns do kill people.

This year alone there have been:

In the civilian population deaths from firearms are believed to be a good indicator of firearms violence. The rate of nonfatal gunshot wounds is estimated to be 2.6 times the rate of fatal gunshot wounds. You can find the death rates from firearms by state at http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=113&cat=2.

The 2nd Amendment is our Constitutional right, but it does not mean that one should own a gun.  I have the right to own a gun and choose not to because I believe they are implements of violence and are designed to take life and only bread evil in one’s soul. Yet this isn’t the only right we have that we can and should decline. Let us decline the right all actions that take a life – abortion, the death penalty, and war. If we value life then sometimes we make decisions not because it is our legal right, but because it is a moral obligation.

It is true that it takes a person to pull the trigger, but without a gun it is much harder to kill. You can’t kill over 50 people with a knife from the 32nd floor of a building and injure over 200 more. People do kill people, but people with guns are more likely to do so either intentionally or accidentally. “The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society” (USCCB). The sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person cannot merely be about abortion or assisted suicide, but must include protecting all life and that means stopping gun violence and all violence.  My wish is for a day that no American chooses to avail him or herself of the 2nd Amendment right. Peace is an amazing feeling and it begins in our own homes and hearts. Put fear aside, love your neighbor, and choose life. Don’t let the lust for an instrument of evil that has taken so many lives and caused so much pain replace reason and compassion. Don’t let your fear win. Don’t allow politicians to continue to say they will pray, but never act. There works are lacking any evidence of faith.

Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

 


Civil Unrest in Saint Louis

As a resident of Saint Louis, I have been shocked and appalled by the level of racism I’ve seen in this region. From people referring to “those people” talking about Jews to fear about traveling to perfectly safe areas of the city. The fear expressed by people of going into the city and interacting with African Americans was something I haven’t experienced in my lifetime even though I grew up in the rural South. This doesn’t even touch on the highly-segregated neighborhoods and churches.

Saint Louis has the potential to be one of the best cities in the country in which to live. It has nationally recognized universities, state of the art healthcare facilities, good transportation, excellent food, museums, parks, and affordable entertainment. Yet, we are rapidly being known for civil unrest rather than what should be the focus, civil rights, equality, and a new approach to law enforcement.

How we define civil unrest, how we define law enforcement, and how we define our personal roles and responsibilities impacts how we prepare and the seriousness with which we prepare. Civil unrest is “disharmony, expressive dissatisfaction and/or disagreement between members of a community, which leads to a situation of competitive aggression that may find expression as disruption of organization, conflicts, damage to property and injuries” (Kelen, Catlett, Kubit, & Hsieh, 2012). I must ask myself

  • What have I done to create a more harmonious environment?
  • What have I done to de-escalate potentially violent situations?
  • What have I done to recognize and confront racism?

The level of civil unrest in the United States had been relatively consistent until the 1960s when there was a significant increase with the onset of the Vietnam War. After the end of the war, the civil unrest declined but has been steadily increasing since 1980 (see Table 1).

Civil Unrest in the United States

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 3.18.15 PM

Adapted from Armstrong Economics and Wikipedia Contributors.

In the last few years, almost all the civil unrest in the United States has been related to police shootings of black males. I will never know what it feels like to be a black man that fears the police or a police officer that fears black men. I have never felt called to be a police officer, but respect those that are and can only pray that they exercise good judgment, self-restraint, and patience during times of civil unrest. It is not disloyal for an officer to recognize when a fellow officer failed the badge. I wonder what would happen if rather than standing in riot gear you all joined hands in prayer with the protestors and acknowledged their pain.

I am called to be a nurse and as such, I want all nurses to be prepared during times of civil unrest. I want you to also show good judgment, self-restraint, and compassion when discussing these issues at work. Many of those you work with have different experiences and may live in areas that are impacted. Be their strength. Be the kindness they need. Listen with their ears.

Please take the time to read Nurse Leaders’ Response to Civil Unrest in the Urban Core and let’s do all we can for our city and its citizens.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Mt 5:9