How About Us?

In the wake of repeated high-profile acts of horrific gun violence, there are some segments of the population that are completely forgotten - most notably, the approximately 80,000 Americans that are physically injured every year... let alone those psychologically injured, many of whom bear similar scars.

Read More

Thoughts on suicide.

The suicide rate among men is 5x higher than the rate among women - and 3x higher for white men vs. Latino or African-American men.

People between the ages of 45 and 54 have the highest rate of suicide... almost double that of those between 15 and 24.

States such as Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, Alaska, and Utah have suicide rates that are almost double the national average while the rate of suicides in New York and New Jersey are approximately half the national average.

Approximately 85% of the instances where someone uses a gun to try to end their life do indeed result in death.

So... is this the collision of easy access to guns (and weak gun laws that create such easy access) with the impulsive nature of suicide and the stigma that men of a certain age might have towards seeking help for depression and other related issues?

I don’t know. Sounds like it to me. But thoughts?

IMG_0479.PNG

Yes, this is as bad as it sounds.

Yes, this is as bad as it sounds.

So get this: 28 states have legislatively adopted "Stand Your Ground" laws - meaning: 

"individuals can use force without retreating, in order to protect and defend themselves or others against threats or perceived threats. They may use any level of force if they reasonably believe the threat rises to the level of being an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death."

Another eight have adopted it "in practice" - not legislated, but it exists as a result of precedent or jury instructions.

That's 36 states whereby people - based solely on their own perception of threat or danger - can murder with impunity. And, to the great surprise of absolutely no one, the adoption of these laws has yielded the following stats:

Read More

"I'll have the Kool-Aid... and make it a triple."

I stumbled upon this article from a while back and, while I do believe the author has her intentions in the right place, I think she's been listening to the wrong sources.

1. Banning assault weapons would do almost nothing

"...banning these guns would not do much to save American lives. Only 3.6 percent of America’s gun murders are committed with any kind of rifle, according to FBI data."

OK, 3.6 sure does sound like a small number. But another way to think about it would be that it's 25 times higher than what occurs in 22 other high income nations. If we could bring our number in line with the rest of the world - at the expense of access to a product that was never even designed for consumer use in the first place - isn't that worth doing?

2. Owning 17 guns really isn’t that extreme

"Just 3% of American adults own half the country’s guns, a new Harvard/Northeastern study estimated—and they own an average of 17 guns each.

As one gun rights activist put it, “Why do you need more than one pair of shoes? The truth is, you don’t, but do you want more than one pair of shoes? If you’re going hiking, you don’t want to use that one pair of high heels.”

Call me when a pair of shoes gets stolen - goes unreported because freedom - and gets used in a crime. I’ll wait.

3. Only a tiny fraction of America’s guns are used in crimes

“American civilians own between 265 million and 400 million guns. That’s at least one gun for every American adult. But the vast majority of America’s gun owners—and their guns—aren’t involved in this violence.”

Um, congratulations? See #1.

We can do better - without impacting the vast majority of responsible gun owners.

4. Gun crime dropped even as Americans bought more firearms

First off, it's irresponsible to assert that the whole of the gun violence epidemic has to do with crime. For example, a woman is 5x more likely to be killed by her abuser if there's a gun present, there's a straight line between easy access to guns and incidents of suicide, and - in 2016 - someone in the United States was more likely to be killed by a toddler gaining access to an unsecured gun than by a terrorist.

But assuming one still wants to confine the conversation to crime, the author falls into the dreaded "causation/correlation" trap. There are many reasons for the drop in crime that have nothing to do with a rise in gun ownership... and, just as it's both true yet irrelevant that the number of people who drowned by falling into a pool correlates with the number of films Nicolas Cage has appeared in, it's somewhat obtuse to assume that it does.

Happy Birthday, Prince Luis.

I first photographed Luis about two years ago. We spoke a lot then and have continued to speak a lot about choices and environment... about how the choices people make are so much about what seems normal in their environment.

We also talked a lot about breaking cycles. Luis, who never had a positive male role model in his life, is beyond thrilled to be a father and looks forward to giving his son the kind of influence that he never experienced.

Right place, right time.

I read an article this morning that spoke about victims of gun violence being "in the wrong place at the wrong time" and it kinda made my skin crawl. Because here's the thing about almost everyone I've photographed during the course of this project: they, by and large, had every right to be where they were and to be doing what they were doing when their incident took place. (And even the ones that were maybe engaged in questionable activities didn't deserve to die or be permanently maimed for their sins.)

They were in schools and churches, at parties, walking down the street, sleeping in their beds, suffering from depression... and going to the movies.

The shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, CO - which took the lives of 12 people, wounded 70 more, and left scores of witnesses forever scarred - was five years ago today. I don't know what I can say that hasn't been said by so many others, except to share the words of Sandy Phillips... whose daughter Jessica was among those killed:

“If people only knew… if they only knew what it’s like to be in our shoes for even a day, this problem would be gone."

Gun violence isn't about "Chicago". It isn't about good guys vs bad guys and it isn't a case of "I don't need to worry about this because my kids go to a 'good' school". It's about what happens when ordinary people are living their lives and doing everyday things in a country with over 300 million guns... and a money-driven lobby that uses fear as a tool to put even more guns in the hands of even more people.

Do something.

Nobody blamed the light saber.

(Full disclosure: this post was written by a guest author, Chad R. MacDonald. The only Star Wars movie I've ever seen is the first one. Once. When it came out in the theaters. I support the premise wholeheartedly but all the references are completely lost on me.)

IMG_0315.JPG
 

There is a popular Star Wars internet meme that pops up from time to time. It talks about how, when Anakin Skywalker turned to the Dark Side and killed younglings, nobody blamed the lightsaber.

No. Nobody blamed the lightsaber. But it never should have fallen into Anakin Skywalker’s hands. Yoda, Mace Windu, and the Jedi Council could see this. They said no. They knew there was something terribly wrong with him. He shouldn’t own such a powerful weapon.

But Senator Palpatine, hungry for power and motivated by his religion, manipulated events so that the lightsaber would fall into the boy’s hands. He knew the violence that would come of it. Indeed, he planned on it. His future as Emperor hinged upon it.

The senator made greater and greater power grabs, finally ousting the elected leader. He began building an army of unquestioning clones to solidify his power base. He created conflict after conflict, sacrificing his minions along the way, to keep the people distracted from his selfish climb to the top.

Anakin was buffeted with war and tragedy, while his fears were played upon by this evil man. He eventually succumbed to the unrelenting fear and rage and did horrible things. He killed innocent people. Friends. Children.

Palpatine became Emperor. With all humanity stripped from him, Skywalker became Darth Vader. He continued to commit monstrous atrocities in the name of his religion. He justified to himself he was doing the right thing.

The Emperor continued to build the military to overwhelming numbers while flooding the galaxy with munitions. Soon, even a freighter captain couldn’t go anywhere without a sidearm, regardless of his seven-foot tall Wookiee partner. The galaxy was ruled by violence and fear.

So, no, don’t blame the lightsaber. Blame a dark and greedy sub-culture justifying itself with religion and false patriotism, while glorifying violence and promoting fear. They created the atmosphere that put this weapon in the wrong man’s hands. And it caused the deaths of countless people.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Don’t let them scare you.

Grieving in life, and in the media.

Writing in the New Republic, Mychal Denzel Smith argues that black families feel obliged to "mourn in public"... and poses the question: 

"Do we actually care enough about the people to say 'you get to choose how you grieve'? You get do that without our pressure, without feeling obliged to teach us, because we care about you as a person and whether or not you'd survive?" 

Listen to the piece yourself and share your thoughts.

http://www.wnyc.org/story/grieving-life-and-media/

#ForeverAkeal

When I spoke with Natasha about the murder of her son Akeal, one of the many things that broke my heart was learning how difficult it was get the police to give the case the attention it deserved.... to not have them write off the death of yet another black child as gang related and to not have them rush to judgement about Akeal's character.

As a parent, it's simply unfathomable to think of having to defend the life of my child in the days following his murder.... and I don't take lightly the luxury and privilege of not having to experience the absolute height of "adding insult to injury". Learning that, while all gun violence is horrific and incidents cannot be compared against each other, not all survivors and family members are walking the same path is something that will stay with me forever.

Akeal was shot on this day in 2012 and his murder is still unresolved.

IMG_4101.JPG

SCOTUS turns down case on bad gun bill.

The Court ruled that states and localities can make their own determinations about who can carry a concealed handgun in public... which, in my mind, makes the idea of "concealed carry reciprocity" that much more difficult to become reality.

Some say a concealed carry permit should be like a drivers license... accepted wherever you travel. On the surface, this sounds like a very reasonable argument.

Difference is, however, the requirements to obtain a drivers license are - more or less - the same from state to state while the requirements to carry a concealed weapon vary widely. For example:

- 11 states require no training whatsoever
- 15 states allow permits to certain types of domestic abusers
- 22 states allow permits to convicted stalkers
- 15 states issue permits to people under 21 (18-to 20-year-olds commit gun homicides at a rate nearly four times higher than adults 21 and older)

Additionally, reciprocity would have allowed a person denied a permit **in his home state** to get an out-of-state permit and carry back at home.

A wise (and somewhat surprising!) decision by the Court.