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To honor Orlando victims, let’s once again work to make the impossible possible

REUTERS/Steve Nesius
The fight to prevent gun violence is and will continue to be a hard conflict — one of the hardest ever fought in our state and country.

Sunday was a terrible day. In Orlando. And everywhere else in this nation, including Minnesota. The worst mass shooting in American history. 50 people dead (so far). Over 50 injured (some critically). Hundreds of people terrified and traumatized. Scores of law enforcement officers put in harm’s way. A single individual took it upon himself to fire his hate from a military-style AR-15 into the bodies of young people who were dancing and laughing and having fun — because he believed them to be gay. And because he could legally purchase an AR-15.

Rev. Nancy Nord Bence

Protect Minnesota had a booth at the Golden Valley Pride Festival on Sunday. There were large crowds, happy children, adorable overly friendly dogs. And there was deep sadness about the shootings in Orlando. Everyone realized that it could have happened here, to our loved ones. The festival organizers agreed to allow Protect Minnesota to host a rally against gun violence. It was a good event: Sen. Ron Latz, Sen. Ann Rest, Rep. Peggy Flanagan and Rep. Mike Freiberg all spoke about the need for better gun legislation like comprehensive background checks. The crowd clapped and cheered.

Can we make a difference?

Afterwards I did several press interviews. One reporter asked, “After so many mass shootings, with both sides of this issue so polarized and entrenched, why do you think anything Protect Minnesota does will make a difference?”

It was a good question. Protect Minnesota has been fighting the gun lobby for 25 years and the fight just gets harder every year. In the first 160 days so far this year, there have been 133 mass shootings. Why do I think we can make a difference?

I answered, “Look around you. We’re at a gay pride festival, four years after Minnesota became the first state to defeat a same-sex marriage ban, three years after Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage, and less than a year after the Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a constitutional right for all, including gays and lesbians. A decade ago any of these achievements seemed absolutely impossible. I believe we will defeat the gun lobby and pass common-sense gun reform the same way we achieved gay marriage: by engaging tens of thousands of people throughout the state in the effort. By sharing our stories and raising our voices, forming partnerships, mobilizing supporters, and doing the hard work.”

We must keep at it

Thomas Paine said “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” The fight to prevent gun violence is and will continue to be a hard conflict — one of the hardest ever fought in our state and country. But the lives of the 50 who were shot to death in Orlando Saturday night, and the 32,000 others who will be killed by guns in America this year, call on us to keep at it. To work toward the glorious triumph. To dedicate ourselves — our lives, our time, our resources — to making the impossible possible. Again. 

Let’s do it. Let’s honor the victims in Orlando. Let’s Protect Minnesota.

The Rev. Nancy Nord Bence is the executive director of Protect Minnesota.


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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/13/2016 - 01:01 pm.

    The rest of the story….

    Writing about the awful tragedy and attack in the Orlando nightclub without once using the words terror, war, ISIS, or radical Islam is troubling.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/13/2016 - 02:37 pm.

      Pay attention

      If you read up on this guy, he didn’t have any connection to ISIS and really didn’t know much about Islam. He cited ISIS for his actions, but he real animus was gay people.

  2. Submitted by Kevin Vick on 06/13/2016 - 02:10 pm.

    Better Gun Legislation Looks Like…..

    Nancy, the perpetrator of this heinous crime passed a number of background checks as a security officer at a correctional facility and a court house among other places. Please tell me how the so called “universal” background check legislation you advocate for would have stopped this event let alone any other mass shooting?

    What do the Aurora movie theater killer, the Tucson killer, the Charleston church killer, the Santa Barbara terrorists, and now the Orlando terrorist all have in common? They all passed background checks and in a number of cases, multiple background checks.

    California is the utopia of gun control with registration, both state and national background checks, the so called “assault” weapon ban in place, waiting periods, magazine capacity limits, the list goes on and on. Yet the Santa Barbara terrorists were undeterred. France has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world including the outright ban of semi-automatic “weapons of war” for civilians, yet armed terrorists killed scores of people in two recent attacks.

    Please be specific in answering the question I’m asking. How would so called “universal” background checks have stopped the Orlando killer, let alone any other mass shooting? The “it won’t stop every shooting” argument doesn’t hold water as the gun “safety” crowd uses each mass shooting as an example of why more gun control is needed.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/15/2016 - 01:54 am.

      In common

      What do the Aurora movie theater killer (James Holmes, who murdered 12 people and wounded 70), the Santa Barbara terrorists (Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who killed 14 at a social services center), the Orlando gay-slaying “terrorist” (Omar Mateen, who killed 50 people and wounded another 53, some of whom are still alive but in critical condition), and (as a bonus example) Newtown Elementary School child killer, Adam Lanza (who blew away 20 six and seven year old kids and six adults), have in common?

      Assault rifles: Bushmasters and AR-15s.

      What do the Tucson killer and the Charleston church killer have in common?


      Dylann Roof, who confessed to killing nine people at a prayer meeting (imagine you and your wife, or your wife and daughter or son, or you mom and dad or brother or sister or best friend getting shot to death at a prayer meeting, if you can) at the historic black church in Charleston (because he hoped it would start a “race war”), used a .45-caliber Glock pistol.

      Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old Tucson super market “sport shooting” artist who shot U.S. Representative Gabriella Gifford through the head at point-blank range and killed six people (on the side) used a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol with a 33-round magazine (which every “personal defense” or small game hunting gun owner will tell you is an absolute necessity: The “well-regulated militia” members referred to in the Constitution only had single-shot muskets, but, had they been able to see the future, the “Founding Fathers” would have been totally down with every American “bearing” 33-shot semi-automatic pistols and, of course, Bushmasters and AR-15s, right?).

      But, when it comes to assault rifles, don’t tell me. Let me guess. . . “We tried an assault weapons ban but it didn’t work, so, because they understand the meaning of common sense, it wasn’t renewed by Congress.”

      But then. . .

      “During the decade of the assault weapon ban, there were half as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade before, and a third as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade after.”

      But that doesn’t mean anything real, does it, because “we all know” that even though that mass killing (and regular, everyday killing) stuff is all sad and unfortunate (and your thoughts and prayers have gone out to ALL the torn up loved ones of those dead kids and adults) there just isn’t anything that can be done about it because that’s the essence of the American “Can Do!” spirit and every American’s second amendment rights are (way) more important.


  3. Submitted by Michael Thompson on 06/13/2016 - 03:47 pm.

    Common sense gun reform

    What exactly is “common sense gun reform” and how would it have stopped this weekend’s shooting? Please explain.

    Here’s the fact that so many “common sense gun reformers” miss: mass killers don’t care about the law. Perhaps there are examples where someone, bent on mass murder, said to himself: “well, I really want to shoot up this gay bar/school/university, but first I’ll have to get by background checked.” If someone is determined to shoot 50 people, do you really think they’re going to care one iota about background checks?

    Additionally: what do Virginia Tech, Orlando, Newtown, Luby’s (look it up) and San Bernardino all have in common? All these killings happened in “gun free” zones. Maybe it’s just a corollary illusion, but my guess is that mass killers have better luck mass killing in “gun free” zones. Even the gym at Fort Hood where Nadal shot up the place did not allow weapons in the area at the time. Now a business having a “gun free zone” sign at their front door seems like a cool and safe idea. It’s neat and trendy. But when it comes to someone shooting up a place, it has about the same deterrence as hoping the wind blows the shots away. Could lives have been saved in Orlando had it allowed weapons? I dunno. But the sign sure didn’t do much.

  4. Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/15/2016 - 03:54 am.

    Dear Reverend Nancy,

    I think you’re right. I think that’s the way things will go (years of struggle in which each year seems harder than the last and then, all of a sudden, poof!). I thought that when I read what you had to say and, coincidentally, I thought of what you had to say a couple of hours ago when I was watching Tavis Smiley’s interview with Robert Greenwald in which he talked about the exact same thing . . .

    “The prolific filmmaker discusses his latest documentary, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA.

    “Robert Greenwald is the founder and president of Brave New Films (BNF), an award-winning television, feature film and documentary filmmaker. He has produced and/or directed more than 50 TV movies and miniseries. Greenwald turned to documentary filmmaking in 2002, inspired by pervasive voter rights abuses in the 2000 U.S. presidential election. He found audiences eager for substantive investigations of social issues, told through personal stories, and chose to bypass the usual gatekeepers by devising creative means of distribution, first through house parties, and ultimately through the Internet and social media. The documentaries produced by Brave New Films have been streamed across all seven continents and have been viewed over 70 million times and counting. Greenwald has received numerous awards, including a Peabody, AFI’s Producer of the Year Award and 25 Emmy nominations. Making A Killing: Guns, Green, and the NRA is BNF’s latest feature-length documentary.”

    Not sure exactly how it works (and you may be light years ahead and already tuned-into it), but he mentioned that he and his organization is making the film available for free to any interested individuals or groups who are working toward the same objective so that it could be shared, person-to-person, teachers-to-classes, clergy-to-congregations, etc.. This link leads to that organization’s web site and the basic related info:

    Keep up the good work!

    And by the way . . . For those who feel they’re in the (True) American majority when it comes to the futility of things like expanded background checks and other fairly rational things that MAY help, this topic always gets me to checking into a few of the (probably annoying) facts. For example, there is this from Pew Research:

    “Currently, 85% of Americans – including large majorities of Democrats (88%) and Republicans (79%) – favor expanded background checks.”

    “Nearly eight-in-ten (79%) favor laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns.

    “70% back the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales.

    “57% support a ban on assault-style weapons.”

    (But our elected representatives — our Republican representatives in particular — can’t do anything about ANY of those things?)

    And when it comes to “American Exceptionalism” and what some see as out collective “lack of humility” and stubborn refusal to take a look at (and MAYbe learn from and, God forbid, even implement a little of) what other, more successful, countries are doing:

    “The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 – the most recent year for comparable statistics – was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1 per 100,000 in the UK.

    “Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK.”

    And from the broader perspective:

    “So many people die annually from gunfire in the US that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq.

    “The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime.

    “11,385 people died on average annually in firearm incidents in the US between 2001 and 2011.

    “In the same period, an average of 517 people were killed annually in terror-related incidents. Removing 2001, when 9/11 occurred, from the calculation produces an annual average of just 31.”

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