Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Post shooting anniversary reflections

The April anniversaries of two of our country's worst mass shootings have just passed. They were remembered with words, tears, editorials, reflections, names of the victims and then suddenly they are over. With each passing anniversary of a mass shooting or the death of a loved one who was shot in an "every day" shooting, those who work to prevent the next one say the same things. We want change. We want something to happen by way of common sense measures to stop some of the carnage. Why? Because this is happening in our country. This. Again, over Easter week-end, the shootings continued unabated and the column written by Joe Nocera of the New York Times continues to keep track of them for us. In this holiday Week-end Gun Report, here is what went down concerning gun violence:
  • A Kansas man was arrested for shooting at people on highways
  • A 2 year old was shot by his 3 year old sister with a rifle sitting around the house 
  • A 16 year old trying to put a gun in the waistband of his pants accidentally shot himself 
  • A 12 year old boy accidentally shot a 15 year old girl while they were sitting in a car 
  •  A 17 year old shot himself while cleaning a shotgun 
  •  Several gang related shootings occurred in several cities in the country
  • A man was shot while fleeing a "gunman" 
  • A bicyclist with a gun shot someone else
  • Someone was shot while mowing his lawn
  • A police officer accidentally shot himself
  • A hunter accidentally shot his father-in-law 
  • A man was shot in a burglary
  • There were the usual shootings of people during arguments and the always occurring domestic shootings
  • Shootings happened at basketball courts, parks, in cars, outside and inside of homes, in yards, stores, college student parties, bars, at birthday parties, hotels, garages, and other gun free and guns allowed zones
  • There were the usual drive-bys and stray bullet shootings as well
Will someone please explain to me how these shootings were self defense in nature? Will someone please tell me that these shootings were all perpetrated by the "bad guys with the guns"? Will someone please explain to me how more guns leads to a safer and more polite society? Will someone please explain to me why guns don't kill people? Will someone please explain to me why we tolerate this continual carnage on a daily basis? Will someone please explain to me why our nation's leaders aren't doing anything about one of our nation's worst public health and safety problems?

Other countries get this right. After heinous mass shootings, they have changed their gun laws. This article explains what happened in Australia, Finland and Scotland after mass shootings. From the article:
He said, "Australia is a safer country as a result of what was done in 1996. It will be the continuing responsibility of current and future federal and state governments to ensure the effectiveness of those anti-gun laws is never weakened. The US is a country for which I have much affection. There are many American traits which we Australians could well emulate to our great benefit. But when it comes to guns we have been right to take a radically different path." (...)  
As Reuters noted, the Dunblane massacre led within two years to gun control laws that effectively banned civilians from owning handguns.
Britain had tightened regulations after the 1987 Hungerford massacre, which also killed 16 people, said CNN. The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, as it's known, made registration of shotguns mandatory and banned semi-automatic and pump-action weapons. Firearms amnesties after Hungerford and Dunblane netted thousands of firearms and rounds of ammunition.
CNN noted that while the ban initially seemed to have little impact, the number of crimes involving guns have dropped in recent years. In 2010/2011, there were 11,227 offenses, 53 percent below the peak number. Crimes involving handguns also dropped 44 percent between 2002/2003 and 2010/2011. (...)  
In the wake of the shootings, Finland raised the minimum age for firearm licenses from 15 to 20 for short weapons and to 18 for hunting guns, according to Agence France Presse.
"No one in a country like Finland needs to have a gun at home," said Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja in August 2011, following the rampage by Anders Behring Breivik, in neighboring Norway.
While we know these sorts of laws and measures won't happen here in the U.S, we also know that we can pass some laws to Finish The Job concerning background checks to stop at least some who shouldn't have guns from getting them. We can start talking about whether or not it's a good idea for loaded guns to be around where children play and hang out. We can start talking about suicide and access to guns. We can make sure domestic abusers don't have guns. But after the Columbine shooting in 1999, we turned our backs on doing anything. From this Mother Jones article written by Ben Dreyfuss:
Both responses, "never again" and "don't bother trying," offer statements about the USA. The former says "America is the greatest country on Earth. We went to the moon. Surely, we can stop kids from getting shot to death at school! If the Brits can do it, so can we. " The latter says, "No, we can't. We're America. The greatest country on Earth and the cost of the liberty that makes us so is that our kids may get shot to death at school."
Every time there is another mass shooting and nothing happens it becomes a little easier to believe that the "don't bother" crowd is right.
Nothing changed after 13 people were killed at Columbine, or 33 at Virginia Tech, or 26 at Sandy Hook. Each of those tragedies came with the same breaking-news urgency as Columbine, but none generated the same sense of expected action because fewer and fewer people actually believed things could change. The last 15 years have been a lesson in how "never again" can be cowed into "I need a drink."
And that's insane.
Fifteen years after Columbine rattled America to its core, people still get shot while they're at school. People get shot while they're at work. People get shot eating. People get shot drinking. People get shot watching movies, shopping, driving, swimming, skipping, and playing baseball. It's 2014 and in America people get shot doing basically any goddamn thing you can think of.
Dreyfuss ends by saying "They don't have to." Of course not. We don't have to continue on the road we are on. We can take the "road less traveled" and make the changes we deserve. From the Robert Frost poem, linked:
" TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,        10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."    
Can we look at ourselves and say we have done all we can do to prevent senseless shootings? No. Can we at least have some national reflection on the topic without it turning into an ugly "gun grabbing" conversation? It doesn't seem so. Can we agree that some measures will stop some shootings? I hope so. Can we converge on a road that leads to more public safety and fewer gun deaths? One would think so. Is it understood that not every law will stop every shooting? Let's look at it like this writer, Jack D'Aurora, looks at it:
Almost every day we read about gun deaths. What’s behind this problem? The National Rifle Association tells us, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Let’s go with that. The FBI reports that in 2012, people killed 144 babies, 422 kids age 12 and under, 1,327 teenagers, 96 husbands, 498 wives, 140 mothers, 126 fathers, 168 boyfriends, 494 girlfriends and thousands of others, for a grand total of 12,723 people — with guns.(...) 
The numbers will not go down dramatically until we change focus. If we’re serious about reducing gun deaths, we need to stop debating whether more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens result in less crime. It’s the wrong issue, and the evidence is inconclusive. (...) 
Part of the challenge is that we don’t know enough about gun violence to immediately come up with answers. Complicating the problem is that gun violence is multifaceted. CNN columnist LZ Granderson doesn’t see a single cure for gun violence because each form has its own characteristics. Think about it. People are shot in armed robberies, domestic violence, mass murders and gangland killings; children are killed by guns left unlocked, and guns are used to commit suicide.
What might work for one type of gun violence might not work for another. Banning assault weapons might help reduce mass murders, but assault weapons aren’t the reason so many kids are killed when guns are left unattended. Requiring that weapons be locked at home might reduce the numbers of kids who are accidentally shot, but it won’t change the number of deaths perpetrated by gang members. Background checks will help keep guns out of the hand of felons but won’t do anything about stolen guns.
Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters- these are who are shot every day. Gun violence is devastating our communities and our families. Why we are not doing something about this is beyond explanation really. But that doesn't mean we can't and we won't. You can act by talking to your elected leaders and candidates about their solution to gun safety reform. And then you can let them know that you want them to act and not hide behind their fear of the corporate gun lobby. Reflections, research, responsibility, reasoned discourse and realizing that change can happen will lead to a safer society. Let's get to work.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter on the 15th anniversary of the Columbine shooting

Today is the 15th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. You remember that one, I'm sure. On April 20, 1999, 2 teen-agers brought guns to their high school and started shooting. In the end 13 were dead ( including the shooters) and 24 injured.

Memorials to the dead have already occurred given that today is Easter Sunday. Once again, family members have to come together to remember their loved ones. From the article:
"Coni Sanders is the daughter of one of the victims and she wishes taking the stage wasn’t part of hers.
“Hate overwhelmed two boys enough to take people from our lives and now this is what we do around Easter,” said Sanders.
Sanders and dozens of others wiped away fresh tears.
“I know my dad is with me every day, coaching me silently like he did the kids at Columbine,” said Sanders.
Folks gathered to find comfort after losing their loved ones in the shootings.
“We are part of an unwanted family. None of us asked to be part of this family, family of survivors of mass tragedy,” said Sanders.
Unfortunately, that family is growing.
Tom Sullivan lost his son in the Aurora theater shootings.
“Thank you for the courage you have all had since that day. It has certainly strengthened me in my private moments,” said Sullivan.
Sandy Phillips lost her daughter.
“Their lives meant something. Not just to their families, but to the communities that they lived in,” said Phillips.
Now two families came together and made the pilgrimage up the hill to the Columbine Memorial leaving flowers in memory of the students killed and the grieving families.
“We support each other, love each other, we help each other through. But at the same time, none of us wanted to be here today because this wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Sanders.
Sanders says the memorial serves as a symbol of peace in the community."
Yes, "unfortunately that family is growing." I wrote a few days ago about the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting. Every year, the pain returns. Memories are still vivid. In no other country do we mark anniversaries of mass shootings like we do in America. In no other country does a mass shooting like that of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Navy Yard, Sandy Hook, Northern Illinois University, Fort Hood, Red Lake, and the many others go unanswered by elected officials. The answer is to promote gun safety measures to keep senseless shootings from happening. And where stronger gun laws and a sensible gun culture that does not promote more guns in every nook and cranny of public places people are safer. It's a fact. Generally speaking, weaker gun laws correlate with higher rates of gun deaths. Why do we ignore the facts?

Shameful and pathetic.

The memorial services are often seen as symbols of peace in the community. That is what survivors want. Peace. No more mass shootings. No more every day shootings. No more memorials. No more funerals and memorial services. No more bell ringings or candle lighting services.

But this is the America we have. It is not the America we deserve. People of peace and good will should be able to come together to pass common sense measures to prevent at least some of the daily carnage in our communities. We must be insistent that that happen or we will continue on a trajectory to seeing our next generation of Americans devastated by gun violence. Do we care about this national public health and safety epidemic? If not, why not? The question needs to be asked and answered.

Today I wish peace to all. And Happy Easter to those who celebrate the holiday.

Please join me in efforts to support peaceful communities where gun violence does not occur on a daily basis.

In memory:

Cassie Bernall

Steven Curnow

Corey DePooter

Kelly Fleming

Matthew Kechter

Daniel Mauser

Daniel Rohrbough

William "Dave" Sanders
.
Rachel Scott

Isaiah Shoels

John Tomlin

Lauren Townsend

Kyle Velasquez

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The gun lobby against the rest of us

Things are changing in the gun violence prevention movement. We are organizing. We are raising money. We are getting the 90% activated so something can finally be done about our national public health and safety epidemic. We are stronger than ever- many organizations stronger. Watch for much more because we are on the move. The people's lobby is ready to make things happen.

Everytown for Gun Safety is happening. Adding that to the newly energized Brady Campaign, the new Americans for Responsible Solutions, the Sandy Hook Promise, the Newtown Action Alliance and the many other new social media groups, we are ready to take on the challenge of changing the gun culture and changing the hearts and minds of our leaders and those they have failed to represent. I mention the many other organizations working on this issue regularly on this blog so I won't list them all here. We have all been beating the drum for many years but without the financial resources that it apparently takes to make change. Money talks in America. We all know that. The NRA and other gun lobby groups have had the landscape mostly to themselves for the past 30 years and the policies they have pushed have added to the daily carnage in our country. There is big money associated with the gun lobby. The stakes are high for them. They have their second amendment rights to protect after all. The policies they have opposed could save lives. And we have done little to make the changes we all deserve. That's why change is coming.

And don't believe anything the gun rights extremists whine about concerning Mayor Bloomberg and his money. The hypocrisy of their cries is ludicrous given the money in the gun rights movement.

The reason we need to take on the well funded and powerful corporate gun lobby is because of the events of the past few weeks. ( and of the past few decades for that matter). If we don't think we have a public health and safety crisis in our country after an armed military member with mental health problems brought his problems to the Fort Hood military base along with his gun and shot up his fellow soldiers, then put me down as skeptical. If we don't think we have a public health and safety crisis in American after a known militia/KuKluxKlan/ hate group member took out his hatred at a Jewish Community Center in Kansas City yelling "Heil Hitler" to the press, then call me amazed.

Thankfully the public and most people with common sense agree with me. The landscape is changing. As a group, we are speaking out more loudly. And when the main stream press starts investigating what is actually happening and calling out our leaders for their failure to act, things are changing. Neil Mcdonald, wrote today for the Washington Post, about the national public health crisis that is our shameful ignoring of a serious problem right before our very eyes every day. From his article:
Three days after Frazier Glenn Miller tried to kill some of the Jews he has spent his life despising (the self-styled paramilitary warrior actually wound up gunning down three Christians instead), the National Rifle Association's website remains silent about the attacks.
Instead, the site features, among other things, a Fox News appearance by the NRA's chief legislative lobbyist about the need to defeat Barack Obama's nominee for surgeon general.
The nominee, a doctor named Vivek Murthy, has publicly called gun violence, which kills thousands of people a year here, a "public health crisis."
Imagine. The gall of the man. Clearly a poisonously biased partisan unfit to serve as a guardian of the nation's medical well-being. (...) 
Americans, to quote the NRA, need to understand the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
It would no doubt apply the same logic to Terri LaManno, a Catholic mother of three, active in her parish, whom Miller went on to shoot dead at the nearby Village Shalom assisted living centre where she was visiting her mother.
She, too, paid the price for walking around in public unstrapped. And by the way, why didn't that retirement home have armed guards?
As for Miller, a Hitler-loving, Ku Klux Klan follower, he was, at least until the moment he started firing, exercising his Second Amendment rights.
Referring to Miller, the Kansas City shooter, Mcdonald says this ( from the linked article):
But if he acquired the pistol and shotgun he used Sunday from a private seller or at a gun show, the law says no background check is necessary. And the NRA is determined to keep things that way.
It's a matter of liberty, you see. The fact that criminals aren't allowed to own guns doesn't justify the government invading the privacy of peaceful, law-abiding gun lovers. 
The NRA also opposes a bill by House Democrats that would take guns away from felons, fugitives and spouse abusers.
In this article, Mcdonald refers to a book by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens ( from the linked article) and then concludes with this:
Aside from the aforementioned federal legislators running and hiding from the NRA, state legislatures are unlikely in the extreme to approve any such constitutional change. Some have been on a gun-happy spree for years.
Eighteen states now allow residents to walk around in public with pistols on their hips.
The state of Georgia's "guns everywhere" law, which takes force this summer, would allow people to carry guns in nightclubs, schools, churches, some government buildings (if proprietors allow), and excuses anyone who inadvertently takes a gun through airport security.
The NRA really likes that law. It's terrible to be a victim in America, but it's sure a great time for militias.
It's not a great time for the annual 30,000 or so victims of gun violence. It's not a good time for America when armed citizens confront government agents in Nevada over cattle grazing rights. It's not a good time for America when it's necessary to write The Gun Report which appears regularly in the New York Times to call attention to the daily carnage caused by firearms.

But we know we can do better. And that is what we are about. Joining forces with Mayor Bloomberg's new group, the many other gun violence prevention groups who have been working so long for common sense gun laws are changing the conversation. And then we are going to change the hearts and minds of not only Americans but of the elected leaders who represent them. So far they have failed to represent those among us who have lost loved ones. They have failed to keep us safer from the gun violence that devastates our families in communities all over America. Every town experiences gun violence. Any town can have a mass shooting. Every American could experience the grief of losing a loved one in a shooting death. I know that from personal experience. This is everyone's problem. We can't let Congress and legislators get away with thinking it's everyone else's problem but theirs. Enough is enough. It's time for a change. Let's get to work.

UPDATE:

It was just a matter of time before the NRA weighed in on the new group formed by Michael Bloomberg and the new report from physicians daring to mention the risk of guns to their patients. A "twin threat" according to Fox News' Megyn Kelly. Watch what Chris Cox of the NRA has to say about both. Hypocrisy, fear and paranoia all around. From the article, linked above:
Cox highlighted the NRA's membership in his attack on Bloomberg's plans, but left unstated that -- like many advocacy groups -- the NRA receives significant non-membership funding. According to the NRA's public tax forms, the gun organization received more than $86 million in contributions and grants in 2012 separate of membership fees. A significant portion of the NRA's corporate funding comes from the gun industry. In a 2013 report Violence Policy Center revealed that since 2005, the gun industry has given the NRA between $19.3 million and $60.2 million.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Another Virginia Tech anniversary

Once again, the Virginia Tech shooting anniversary is here. It has happened every year since 2007 when we first heard of the heinous shooting of 32 people on the Virginia campus. We know that the shooter had serious mental illness and his name should have been on the list of people who can't buy guns from federally licensed dealers. But it wasn't. After the shooting, a federal law was passed to make sure the names of people who have mental health histories get to the FBI's date base so licensed dealers will know not to sell them guns. From this article:
"Since the Virginia Tech shooting, about half of the states have enacted laws authorizing and requiring the submission of mental health records to NICS, as described below.  States that have enacted such laws have, in fact, subsequently submitted greater numbers of records. Of the states that had submitted the top 15 highest numbers of records as of May 2013, 14 (93%) had  enacted such laws, while only two of the 15 poorest performing states (13%) had enacted such laws.11
Despite the huge increase in the number of individuals identified in NICS, records of many individuals prohibited from possessing firearms because of their mental health histories are still missing from the database. The greatest gains in the numbers of state records submitted to NICS largely reflect the efforts of a small minority of states,12 and as of May 2013, 15 states had still submitted less than 100 records each.13
When mental health information is submitted to NICS, it can be effective at preventing firearm transfers by licensed dealers to dangerous people. In 2005, of the total number of prospective purchasers who were denied following an FBI background check, only 0.5% were denied for mental health reasons.14 By 2010, this number had risen to 1.8%.15  During the first three years after Virginia began submitting certain mental health information to NICS, Virginia’s disqualifying mental health records resulted in 438 denials of firearm purchases.16
Although some states have cited a concern for privacy as a reason that records have not been submitted to NICS, the mental health records submitted to NICS only identify the individuals through names, birth dates and similar data, and include no clinical information.17 In addition, as described below, access to information in NICS is tightly controlled."
Here is more about the 2007 law (from the article above):
NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007
In January 2008, President Bush signed into law the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, which, among other things:
  • Provided financial rewards and penalties to encourage states to provide to NICS information relevant to whether a person is prohibited from possessing firearms, including identifying information regarding people adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to mental institutions;28 and
  • Authorized grants to assist states in establishing and upgrading their reporting and background check systems.29 In order to be eligible for the grants authorized by the Act, a state had to implement a “relief from disabilities” program that met the Act’s requirements.30
According to the Government Accountability Office, 15 states received NICS Act grants during at least one fiscal year from 2009-2011.31 
Of course, as I say often on this blog, until we pass a law requiring background checks on all gun sales so that those who fall into the category of "adjudicated mentally ill" don't get a gun through a private seller where no background check is required, we will not have "finished the job" concerning our background check system. We can make it harder instead of easier for shooters like Cho and others who would do people grievous harm to get guns. And why not? Inconvenient? Maybe a little bit. But if your son or daughter or mother or father or aunt or uncle or good friend was one of the 32 shot to death on April 16, 2007, you would know what inconvenience is. And for the wounded, the memories are still vivid.

Families never forget these anniversaries. The sister of one of the victims, Emma Goddard, writes here about that day 7 years ago now when she heard the news that her brother, Colin, had been shot in the rampage. This is a story of a family and a young man with the courage to carry on. They work hard for the reforms that can make our country safer from the gun violence that so affected them on that day. I know Colin and his dad, Andrew. They are both amazing men- inspiring, intelligent, committed, both with an engaging sense of humor and with the common sense to know that we can prevent the next shooting if we try hard enough. Emma tells this story with the grace and dignity I would expect from their family. Stories are important but only in America do we have so many stories to tell. Every day there are more stories of people whose lives had significance. Because of a senseless shooting, we have lost the potential for the victims to achieve their dreams, to become an artist, a singer, a physician, a scientist, an athlete, an engineer, a mother, a father, a grandmother, a minister, a good friend.......

So on this day, we remember the 32 who died on that day 7 years ago. The linked website is dedicated to the memories of the 32 who died that day. You can see their names and read more about each victim. There are 32 stories here with all of the families and friends of those who miss them and still grieve for them. Gun violence affects communities all over America. The ripple effect with each shooting extends beyond those closely affected to the many others who knew them, or a family member, or lived on campus and experienced the chaos of that day, or who was injured that day, or lived and live in Blacksburg, Virginia, or who have dedicated their lives to changing our gun culture so others will be safer. Every year, we experience anniversary after anniversary without making the changes we need to make. Every year, our elected leaders let more shootings and more shooting anniversaries pass with no action. It's time for that to change. Let's get to work in memory of those whose lives are lost every day.

We will not forget:
   
    * Austin Michelle Cloyd

    * Matthew Gregory Gwaltney

    * Jeremy Michael Herbstritt

    * Rachael Elizabeth Hill

    * Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan

    * Daniel Patrick O'Neil

    * Minal Hiralal Panchal

    * Erin Peterson

    * Leslie Geraldine Sherman

    * Michael Steven Pohle Jr.

    * Julia Kathleen Pryde

    * Lauren Ashley McCain

     * Ryan Clark

    * Emily J. Hilscher

    * Ross Alameddine

    * Caitlin Hammaren

    * Matt La Porte

    * Jarrett Lane

    * Henry Lee

    * Juan Ortiz Ortiz

    * Daniel PĂ©rez-Cueva

    * Mary Karen Read

    * Reema Samaha

    * Maxine Turner

    * Christopher Jamie Bishop

    * Kevin Granata

    * Waleed Mohammed Shaalan

    * Liviu Librescu

    * Nicole Regina White

    * G. V. Loganathan

    * Jocelyne Couture-Nowak

    * Brian Bluhm