Mass shootings are about guns. Period.



My friend DC likes guns. DC is a good guy, a hard worker, a family man who spends a lot of time with his kids; he is calm and measured of character; he is that thoughtful neighbor you call with any kind of emergency, the guy who would do anything for you. DC is a responsible hunter, a good shot. I trust DC with guns.

But I do not like guns. I watched the men in my family terrorize their wives with guns; my step-grandfather shot himself shortly before my stepfather was born; my maternal grandfather liked to get drunk and threaten my grandmother with his shotgun; a boy in my first grade class accidentally shot his baby brother in the head, and when he came back to school he’d stopped talking and peed his pants everyday; a friend’s teenage nephew suffered from depression and shot himself in the chest in front of his mom.

I am, understandably I think, afraid of guns.

But do I want to ban guns? Of course not. The fact is, liking guns or not liking guns is irrelevant. What matters is what works.

In business, we look to other companies for best practices. And for best practices on guns, look no further than Japan.

Japan has a population of 127 million. Japan does not ban guns, yet Japan does not have mass shootings. In 2014, they had six gun deaths. Six, compared to 33,594 in the United States.

How? In Japan, you can own a shotgun or an air rifle. To become a gun owner, every three years you must attend class and pass a written test, attend shooting class and pass a test, pass a mental health exam, pass a drug test, and file your passing grades with the police along with where you will be storing your guns and ammo in your home, which the police will inspect once a year.

Here in the U.S., we will talk about anything but guns. There must be something else to blame.

Document the mentally ill. Are there no mentally ill people in Japan? What about anger and depression? Can being angry or depressed be adjudicated as a mental illness?

It’s the violent video games. Japan has some of the most horrifically violent video games out there.

It’s bad parenting. All of the parents in Japan are wonderful?

Raise the age limit to 21. The Vegas shooter was 64 years old. The Sutherland Springs, TX, church shooter was 26. The Emanuel AME Church shooter was 21.

Arm the teachers. Who will monitor their training and ability? Who will pay their liability insurance? What happens the first time a teacher shoots a child? Won’t school shooters — most of whom are current or previous students — know which teachers have guns? How does arming teachers prevent mass shootings like Vegas and Sutherland Springs?

Provide funding for active shooter drills. Again, school shooters tend to be students. They have been through the drills and will know how to circumvent the protocol, and where specific teachers and students are hiding.

Armed guards in schools. A good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. New York has 36,000 well-trained police officers. They report their officers only hit their targets one-third of the time.

Banning high velocity assault weapons won’t save lives. Dr. Heather Sher, the radiologist for the recent Parkland, FL shooting, argued in The Atlantic, “Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks.… If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him.” But “an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle that delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim, [leaves] nothing to repair.”

In math, we are taught to look for the common denominator. What is the common denominator in every mass shooting? Is it mental illness, video games, bad parents, age limits, or ‘gun free zones?’ No. It’s guns. Mass shootings are about guns.

Mass shootings are about easy access to high-velocity firearms by people intent on killing the most human beings, causing the most carnage, with the least need for accuracy, in the shortest amount of time.

My opinion is irrelevant.

My friend DC’s opinion is irrelevant.

Liking or not liking guns is irrelevant.

Mass shootings are about guns. And we will continue to watch our children die until we stop picking sides and talk honestly about that.


32 years in Kentucky


Protesters await Sen. McConnell outside the Lawrenceburg VFW, 2-21-2017


Kentucky is dying. Black lung, COPD, emphysema. This month’s Journal of the American Medical Association reports “the largest cluster ever reported of advanced black lung, also known as progressive massive fibrosis, was confirmed in an area that includes southeastern Kentucky.”

Coal miners like Roger Cook worked for 32 years. He died at 61 of black lung.

Then there is our opioid crisis where 1,471 Kentuckians died in 2016 trying to tamp down their pain, with even higher numbers expected for 2017. A friend of ours got a call that his granddaughter was dead on her porch. Fentanyl. She left behind two little girls who will now go to live with their father, also an addict.

We aren’t even surprised anymore. This is Kentucky life, and death.

President Trump said we were going to win so much we would get tired of winning. But so far, the only winners here in the Bluegrass here are Morphine, Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Alprazolam, and Heroine.

Though Kentucky rates well for quality of life (#27 out of the 50 states), according to U.S. News and World Report we rank #49 for quality of healthcare, #38 in higher education, #45 in economic opportunity and #46 in fiscal stability.

Which begs the question: how does our senior senator, the man who has represented Kentucky for 32 years, explain numbers like these?

I met Senator McConnell a year ago, Feb. 21, 2017, at a small, ticketed town hall, a paper-plate buffet at the Lawrenceburg VFW. We said hello when I handed him the spoon for the potato salad, while outside a large group of angry, frustrated protesters chanted for change, held back by police and chainlink.

When it came time to talk, the senator threw the audience his tired, go-to bones—“elections have consequences, winners make policy and losers go home”— before scampering out the back door the minute questions turned tough. Too bad, as he missed the heavily pregnant young woman, a cancer survivor toting a toddler on her hip, trying to ask about healthcare before being screamed down by a retired local surgeon in a red MAGA hat.

“Make America Great Again!”

I know the senator is busy, dealing as he must with the White House scandale du jour, and main stream media is swept up with porn star payments and a president who can’t be bothered to denounce Nazis, fight for new gun laws, or read his daily intelligence brief.

But meanwhile, Kentucky is back here dying, desperate as we are to keep our kids from killing their classmates with easy-access guns, terrified of losing affordable healthcare, and trying to figure out exactly how black-lung coal miners like Roger Cook (see above, dead now) might go about fulfilling the new Medicaid work requirements while quite literally suffocating to death.

While our senior senator hides out in Washington D.C., Governor Bevin sends thoughts and prayers, focused as he is on cutting teacher pensions and getting our underfunded schools to consider Bible Literacy classes, but how much manpower and money will be needed to manage a Medicaid work requirement for people too sick to work?

This is not winning. This is lunacy.

In a couple of months, Kentucky’s unseemly problems will be swept aside for our annual, crowning spectacle: the Kentucky Derby. But will anyone in notice, amidst the fancy hats and mint juleps and million dollar thoroughbreds, that it’s the immigrants—the brown people Congress and the president are so keen on deporting—who keep this tradition going?

If he has a minute, maybe Senator McConnell could share this staple of the Bluegrass economy with the president.

Kentucky is dying, and we have so much need. We need healthcare, education, infrastructure, an addiction recovery plan, sensible gun reform, money for teachers, new economic opportunities, and paths to citizenship for the people doing the work.

The senator was right last year at the VFW, in his speech over the paper plates and potato salad. Elections have consequences. Losers go home. And the senator has squandered 32 years. I’d say his time is up.

Where no one sees guns as part of the problem



This message was written on a wall Tuesday in a middle school bathroom, one of three shooting threats the district received.

This week our small, rural town received threats of gun violence at all 3 schools. Two little girls, ages 11 and 13, have been charged. People are taking about school discipline, blaming bad parenting, calling for regulations on violent video games and movies, demanding a return to corporal punishment, praying for more God in the schools.

Guess what no one is talking about?


You’ll find my full story here, at The Washington Post.

As always, thanks so much for reading.



Thoughts and prayers … or how I don’t want to hear about your love of guns


Photo credit: The Christian Post


I am not going to tell you about the need for gun control. I am going to tell you how much campaign cash the following Republican senators have received from the NRA:

John McCain, Arizona   $7,740,521
Richard Burr, North Carolina   $6,986,620
Roy Blount, Missouri   $4,551,146
Thom Tillis, North Carolina   $4,418,012
Cory Gardner, Colorado   $3,879,064
Marco Rubio, Florida   $3,303,355
Joni Ernst, Iowa   $3,124,273
Rob Portman, Ohio   $3,061,941

Our kids are killing each other, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t care just now to hear the love-songs about how you grew up with guns, how you hunted with your daddy and forged “an unbreakable bond,” how your granddaddy passed down the family tradition, or that you simply love the architecture and beauty of guns.

There have been 18 school shootings so far this year.

The year is 45 days old.

The first mass school shooting — Columbine — happened two decades ago. But sure, let’s stick with the abundance of “thoughts and prayers” because it is obviously working.

I do not want to hear that you’re an avid deer hunter and deer are a scourge so we should all be thankful and you are doing our community a favor by thinning the herd and we should say thank you thank you so very much for your service.

American suicide methods, as documented by the Centers for Disease Control:
Poisoning: 6,808        Suffocation: 11,407       Firearms: 42, 826

The Vegas concert shooter killed 58 and injured 851 in less than 10 minutes. Tell me again how a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun.

I don’t want to hear about your patriotism, your beloved Second Amendment. You, personally, are not what our founders meant by the words “well-regulated militia.” If you want to make a real argument about why you need your guns, don’t hide behind a Constitution that I doubt you have ever read.

46,445:  that’s the number of Americans killed by guns between 2012 and 2016.

I am not going to tell you about gun control, because you’ll want to call gun violence a mental health issue. Do countries with sensible gun laws and low gun mortality rates not have mentally ill people? Please explain.

Five years ago, twenty 6 and 7 year olds were massacred at Sandy Hook. We did nothing. We will continue to do nothing.

Yesterday, a 19 year old walked into a Florida school and killed 17 kids. I am not going to tell you about the need for gun control because I don’t care to hear about your need for freedom.

You are free. Just say you love your guns and be done with it. I’ll send thoughts and prayers.


All the president’s (abusive) men


Photo Credit: The Los Angeles Times


Turns out there are sick people everywhere this winter, even in the White House, only it is not the flu that’s getting them down. It is the piling up of violence against women, of harassers and abusers, of sick men.

Last week we learned staff secretary Rob Porter flunked his security clearance, but that did not stop him from working in the West Wing, handling the most classified information. When the president learned of Porter’s violent history — there is a photo of his first ex-wife with a black eye; the second ex-wife filed a restraining order against him — the president was enthusiastically sympathetic. For Porter.

“It’s obviously a very tough time for him,” President Trump said. “It was very sad when we heard about it. He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent.”

He’s innocent. He said it very strongly.

Prior to his election, Trump often assured us, “I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people.” And yet, he maintains a sickening pattern for excusing men who abuse women. Recall his outright dismissal of child molestation and rape allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore (a man he does not even know). “He denies it. In fact, he totally denies it,” Trump told reporters. “He says it didn’t happen.”

He totally denies it. Says it didn’t happen.

Trump has a habit of throwing his unquestioning heft behind credibly-accused men in his orbit: Cory Lewandowski, Andy Puzder, Steve Bannon. When Roger Ailes was forced out at FOX News, Trump’s response? “[Women] are saying these horrible things about him. It’s very sad because he’s a very good person.” And when Bill O’Reilly left FOX following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and doling out millions in settlements, Trump stood by him, too, saying, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong. He is a good person.”

I don’t think he did it. He is a good person.

Abusers are sick, like drug addicts are sick. They defend, lie, obfuscate, and excuse. They lay blame everywhere but at their own feet. This is how they justify being abusers themselves.

President Trump has often said, ”I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” Yet 19 women have credibly accused him of sexual harassment and assault; he told Billy Bush on the Access Hollywood Tape, “You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. When you’re a star they let you do it”; he tweeted that a sitting U.S. senator (Kirsten Gillibrand) offered him sexual favors for money; he once told radio host Howard Stern it was okay to call his own daughter a “piece of ass” adding, “if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her. Isn’t that terrible? How terrible? Is that terrible?”

He joked, when his wife Melania was five months pregnant, that he’d seen “beautiful women that for the rest of their lives have become [a] horror” after giving birth. You know, they gain like 250 pounds. It’s like a disaster,” adding he’d give his wife a week to lose the baby weight. He then reportedly paid a porn star $130,000 to deny the Vegas sex-romp they had in the weeks after Melania gave birth.

But he totally denies it. Of course he does. He is a good person.

Chief of Staff John Kelly recently stood before the White House press corps and reminisced, “When I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor.” Yet after seeing photo evidence of spousal abuse, and knowing for months about the FBI report, Kelly still called Porter “a man of true integrity and honor.”

There is a pandemic in and around this White House, and it has nothing to do with the flu. As many as 40 staffers and appointees cannot be granted proper security clearance, making them national security risks, vulnerable to blackmail. And our president is Patient Zero.

Too bad there’s not a flu shot for abusers and their enablers.

After Porter left his post at the White House, another unrelated allegation. The ex-wife of speech writer David Sorensen informed the press that she reported his violent history to the FBI, that he ran a car over her foot, put out a cigarette on her hand, threw her into a wall, and more.

I suspect the president and his Chief of Staff will say he is innocent, a good person, a man of true integrity and honor.

Aren’t they all.


Roe v. Wade is not about abortion, it’s about power


Mom and Butchie 1972 - Version 3

My mother, at 27


On January 22, the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, protesters marched on the mall in Washington D.C. and House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed the crowd. “Can we just thank God,” he said, “for giving us a pro-life president back in the White House?”

The president whom, until he ran for president, was not pro-life. But the crowd cheered anyway, and waited for the president to speak to them, to cheer his voting base on.

I was seven years old in 1973, the day the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law and made abortion legal in the United States. Roe v. Wade stated that a woman had the right, the choice, to privately end a pregnancy. By then my mother, age 27, had already given birth to three children. And for her first two pregnancies, she was unmarried and had to get married, twice, to men who would go about destroying her life.

I have often heard people say my mother had a choice, that if she did not want to chance getting pregnant, she should not have had sex.

It’s funny, I have never once heard anyone say those words about the men who got her pregnant.

It is easy to forget, after 45 years, what life was like for women before Roe v. Wade. Women threw themselves down stairs and off horses. Girls were sent away under false pretenses, like “visiting a sick aunt,” only to return with a shameful, lifelong secret, never knowing what happened to their babies. Wealthy families sent their pregnant daughters overseas for secret, expensive abortions, with no one the wiser. You could only get birth control if you were married.

Women had no rights. Women had no choices. And women died.

More than 90% of abortions, we know statistically, “take place within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute. When they happen after that, it’s likely due to problems in a much-wanted pregnancy [because fetal anomalies] aren’t noticed until the second trimester due to screening and testing schedules.”

And yet, on Jan. 29, Maj. Ldr. Mitch McConnell shunned statistics, facts, and common sense, and brought his fight against women’s rights to the Senate floor, demanding a vote — a vote he knew he would lose, and did lose 51-46 — to ban abortion after 20 weeks.

There was no reason for this vote. Informed people, including McConnell, know that “women who have abortions after 20 weeks are often those who have pregnancy or health complications, partially because most don’t get their first ultrasound until around then, according to [Dr. Elizabeth Case, an OB-GYN who works and lives in Kentucky]. ‘We routinely don’t do our ultrasounds until 20 weeks, and that’s going to leave women no option for how to proceed if they have a baby that’s not going to survive,’ Case said.”

There was no reason for the vote, excepting McConnell’s shameless political need, on the eve of the president’s first State of the Union, to distract from sordid stories about the man “God put in the White House.” The man who joked on the radio, when his wife was five months pregnant, that he’d seen “beautiful women that for the rest of their lives have become [a] horror” after giving birth. You know, they gain like 250 pounds. It’s like a disaster,” and that he’d give his wife a week to lose the baby weight. The man who reportedly paid a porn star $130,000 to deny the romp they had in the weeks after his wife gave birth.

Sadly, pro-life proponents would not need the likes of McConnell or the president if they supported organizations like Planned Parenthood who offer free birth control, prenatal, and well-baby care. When Colorado clinics offered free birth control, they saw a 42% drop in teen abortion rates and, in turn, “the infant caseload for Colorado WIC, a nutrition program for low-income women and their babies, fell by 23 percent.”

With efforts to close clinics like Planned Parenthood, pro-lifers defeat their own cause. Which begs the question: is being pro-life about babies being safely born, or is it, primarily, about the right to claim moral superiority? The right to righteousness.

Roe v. Wade did not create abortion. Women have always had, and will continue to have, abortions. Roe v. Wade ensured women’s safety, gave women the right to make difficult, private medical decisions, and gave poor women the same rights as wealthy women who had the cash for a good doctor and a week in Rome to recover.

When President Trump addressed his supporters at the pro-life rally on the mall last week, he said, ”Americans are more and more pro-life, you see that all the time.” But in the latest Gallup poll, only 18% of voters believe abortion should be illegal.

The fight to overturn Roe v. Wade is not about abortion, just as McConnell’s fight for a 20-week ban is not about protecting the unborn. These fights are about power, who has it and who does not.

Just two months before the Roe v. Wade decision, my mother gave birth to her third child, and what I remember most about those days is the tension in our tiny house: the screaming matches over lack of money (for food, childcare, rent); the late-night brawls between my young, trapped, furniture-throwing parents; the mornings filled with fear and regret, a crying infant, and the sweeping up of broken glass.

What happened to my mother is what happens to the poor, to the powerless, to women who do not have rights. Remember that when you watch powerful men like McConnell, righteously, take the Senate floor.


Picking our battles: on Bible class and Trump’s wall



It’s just a shirt. That’s what I kept telling myself on the silent-treatment ride home after back-to-school shopping with my teen daughter. We’d just gone a few rounds at the mall over her having to have a particular, oversized, $90, blue and green flannel shirt.

All mothers of teenagers know this scene. There was no way, no way on earth, I was paying for that ridiculous, unnecessary, overpriced shirt. No way, until I pulled out my credit card and bought it. We have to pick our battles.

I feel the same about President Trump’s border wall. His wall is ridiculous; his wall will cost billions of dollars we don’t have; his wall is a structural impossibility along the border terrain and will not keep anyone out. But so what. Let’s give him the money. Let’s let him have his wall.

We have smaller but important battles closer to home, like the latest about whether or not to teach Bible literacy at our public high school. You can’t throw a rock in this county without hitting a church, and don’t most of these churches have youth groups and Bible study and Sunday school and church camp?

Setting aside the obvious incendiary arguments, let’s take on the practical. Who would we hire to teach such a class, who would be acceptable? Do we have a religious preference, because what happens when the Baptist teacher we’ve hired gives his or her take on a Bible story, and the Catholic, Methodist, or Evangelical kid goes home and tells Mom and Dad it’s not the same as what he learned from grandma or their longtime pastor?

If we’re going to teach the Bible at our public high school, will we also be teaching math at church? Of course not, but in the Jan. 17 issue of this newspaper, Superintendent Sheila Mitchell said, “What we’re waiting on is some information from the department on how to determine guideline standards for the curriculum if we were to create one.”

What information are we waiting for exactly, besides how much controversy such a class will inevitably create?

And Principal Chris Glass said, “[We’ll] see where we go after the water clears. I like to give our kiddos options.”

If it’s real options we’re after, why wouldn’t we consider options our kids can’t get at our local churches — classes that could make them more knowledgable, understanding and tolerant (more, in theory, Christian) — like the study of Judaism, Buddism, Islam, Hinduism, Atheism?

As odd as it sounds, the national debate over President Trump’s wall and our local debate about whether to teach the Bible at our public high school germinated in much the same way: a possibly well-intended concept that is neither needed nor practical, and what is the cost in both implementation and fallout?

Trump’s wall, the story goes, was never even Trump’s idea. A “wall” was simply the metaphor used by his earliest advisers as they schooled the real estate mogul on the basic concepts of border security. “Look at it like this, sir,” you can almost hear them saying, “you’re a builder. Imagine building a big, impenetrable wall to keep the bad guys out.”

Excited about the concept, the metaphor fresh on his mind, Mr. Trump belted out at his next campaign rally, “I’m going to build a big, beautiful wall!” The crowd erupted with cheers. To keep the cheering going, he followed it up, “And Mexico will pay for it!” and the cheers grew louder.

But now he’s the president. And Mexico’s not paying. And he’s stuck. For three years he’s promised a wall, but how does one border wall keep out bad guys arriving by air, by sea, through our computers, social media, power grids? It can’t. Of course it can’t. As a friend recently said, it’s a 3rd century solution to a 21st century problem.

The president’s $20B wall, much like my daughter’s $90 shirt, is more symbol than substance. It’s just a wall. As any mom of a teenager knows, we have to pick our battles. To keep the peace, let’s let him have this one and move on.

Here in Anderson County, we can’t afford enough teachers, but we’re talking about adding Bible class? All due respect, we don’t need more information, and we don’t need more options. We need to pick better battles, like how to attract and keep the best, most qualified teachers, and how to pay them every dollar they deserve.