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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Monday, April 14, 2014

Guns, hate and intolerance make a bad combination

This post has been updated since first posted.


Only in America. There has been a spree shooting in Kansas City targeting people at a Jewish community center and nearby Jewish facility.  From the article:
"Shots were fired behind the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in a parking lot about 1 p.m., Douglass said. One male died at the scene, another male died at a hospital. The gunman then fled and opened fire at nearby Village Shalom, killing a female, before later being arrested near an elementary school. Two other people were shot at, but the gunfire missed them, Douglass said.
Douglass said it was too early in the investigation to determine if the shootings were hate crimes. The Jewish festival of Passover begins Monday.
“We know it was a vicious act of violence, and we know obviously it was at two Jewish facilities. One might make that assumption,” Douglass said."
Was it a coincidence that the shooting occurred at a Jewish Community Center in the days before the Passover? Perhaps that question will be answered in the course of the investigation. But it seems to be a point of discussion. From this article:
The man accused of killing three people in attacks at a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement complex near Kansas City is a well-known white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader who was once the subject of a nationwide manhunt.
Frazier Glenn Cross, of Aurora, Mo., was booked into Johnson County jail on a preliminary charge of first-degree murder after the attacks Sunday in Overland Park.
At a news conference, Overland Park police Chief John Douglass declined to publicly identify the man suspected in the attacks. But an official at the Olathe jail, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case, identified the suspect as 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Cross, of Aurora, Mo.
Hate, intolerance and guns do not go together. It's 2014. What's going on? Yes, we know that religious and racial intolerance has existed for centuries. We haven't managed to solve that yet. As a Rabbi friend said to me today, "We are all in this together." Indeed we are. Bullets affect us all at one point or another. They know no race, religion, sex or age. The Sikh Temple shooting victims in Wisconsin found that out in 2012. Thousands of people find it out every year in America. But just because we haven't solved it yet doesn't mean we shouldn't try. And we aren't trying hard enough to stop at least some of the violence that is experienced every day in our country.

More from another article:
A white supremacist yelled, "Heil Hitler," after he was taken into custody in connection with the Passover Eve fatal shooting of three at two Jewish-related sites in the Kansas City area.
Three people are dead after a man opened fire at two Jewish-related sites in the Kansas City area Sunday. View pictures from the scenes here.More >
A 14-year-old boy and his grandfather were killed outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. They were apparently inside a car. A female was killed a few minutes later in the parking lot at Village Shalom, an assisted living facility.
The suspect shot at two other people, but the bullets did not hit them, said Overland Park police Chief John Douglass.
A dozen or more shots may have been fired based on evidence at the scenes.
The victims apparently did not know their killer, Douglass said.
Glenn Frazier Cross, 73, was arrested at 1:28 p.m. He is being held by Overland Park police on multiple charges including premeditated first-degree murder, according to online jail records.
Cross, who also goes by Glenn Miller, is a known white supremacist and known for his anti-Semitic thoughts. He is a former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He is a perennial candidate for office, including running in 2006 against then-U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO. He ran against Blunt in 2010 when Blunt was elected to the Senate.
And now we have added yet another high profile shooting to the list of many. More victims. More grieving. More names to add to the already too many. This article quotes the mother of the young boy killed, also the daughter of the man shot, making comments about the shooting:
“I knew immediately they were in heaven,” Mindy Corporon told the crowd of hundreds who had gathered at an interfaith service after the shooting earlier Sunday at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.
She was talking about her father, Dr. William Corporon, and her 14-year-old son, Reat Underwood, who were killed while sitting in their car next to the White Theater at the center here in this suburb of Kansas City.
“And I know they’re in heaven together.”
The crowd cried. You could hear the gasps and the sobs as her words sunk in.
Aren't we tired of the families of victims making statements such as this? Isn't this something we should be working on together so that those every day shootings, as discussed in my last post, become less frequent? Why are we not dealing with this national public health and safety epidemic? The question needs to be asked and answered. And now more families and communities grieving, burying their dead. I like the way the Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign put it in this release:
While the circumstances of Sunday’s heinous shooting remain under investigation, allegations of extremist behavior and hateful intolerance are deeply troubling, particularly as our communities prepare to celebrate Easter and Passover, as well as honor the lives lost to gun violence seven years ago this week at Virginia Tech and 15 years ago at Columbine.
Troubling. Senseless.

Meanwhile, we just celebrated the anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights law. World War II ended many decades ago. And yet, there are people living in the past. What is this about? There had been warnings issued to those in the Jewish communities because of the upcoming Passover celebrations and the April 20th birthday of Hitler which seems to be significant to anti-Semites. Coincidentally, the Columbine shooting happened on April 20th of 1999. That anniversary comes on the Christian Easter holiday this year. Let's hope there will be no more violence. So far, April has not been a good month and in the past has been the month of other mass shootings like Virginia Tech  (April 16, 2007) and though not a shooting, related in some way because of Timothy McVeigh's extreme views about guns, the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995.

Speaking of the Oklahoma City Bombing, White Supremacist groups are on the rise in America:
The number of hate groups operating in the United States continued to rise in 2008 and has grown by 54 percent since 2000 — an increase fueled last year by immigration fears, a failing economy, and the successful campaign of Barack Obama, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC identified 926 hate groups active in 2008, up more than four percent from the 888 groups in 2007 and far above the 602 groups documented in 2000.15
"Barack Obama's election has inflamed racist extremists who see it as another sign that their country is under siege by nonwhites," said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, a SPLC quarterly investigative journal that monitors the radical right. "The idea of a black man in the White House, combined with the deepening economic crisis and continuing high levels of Latino immigration, has given white supremacists a real platform on which to recruit."16
Hate. Fear. Paranoia. These are home grown terrorists. Maybe we should look to ourselves before we criticize other countries for their terrorist activities. More Americans have been killed in shootings on American soil since 1968 by mostly other Americans than in all of Americans killed in wars in our history. 

It's no coincidence that the election of our first Black President has caused an increase in hate groups and the purchase of guns. You can see where the hate groups reside on a map on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Is it a coincidence that the dots on the map congregate mostly around the red states of the southeastern part of our country? But these groups are found all over our country. This is frightening. And these are the "guys with the guns" that the corporate gun lobby encourages with it's message of fear and paranoia. And our gun laws make it all too easy for these folks to amass arsenals of weapons. Ironically, Kansas is about to bar local governments from making gun laws. Good idea, right? More irony- the folks killed on the premises of the Jewish Community buildings in Kansas City were Christian.

Sigh.

From the SPLC site, an article posted reveals more about the Kansas City shooter:
Miller is a raging anti-Semite who has posted more than 12,000 times on Vanguard News Network (VNN), whose slogan is “No Jews, Just Right.” VNN founder Alex Linder has openly advocated “exterminating” Jews since December 2009. Miller, a close partner to Linder, has called Jews “swarthy, hairy, bow-legged, beady-eyed, parasitic midgets.” Miller is also one of VNN’s largest donors and he printed and distributed thousands of copies of VNN’s newsletter, The Aryan Alternative.
This isn’t the first time a VNN user has been arrested for violence. On January 17, 2011, less than 12 hours after posting on VNN, Kevin William Harpham placed an improvised explosive device concealed in a backpack along a Martin Luther King parade route in Spokane Washington. The lead sinkers in the radio-detonated IED were coated with Warfarin rat poison, evidently intended to increase bleeding.  Had the device functioned, dozens of men, women and children would have been killed or injured. Harpham also distributed The Aryan Alternative.
Our research shows that racist killers are hiding among us in plain sight. A forthcoming two-year study by the SPLC will show that nearly 100 people in the last five years have been murdered by active users on another prominent racist website, Stormfront.org.
Why and how did this man have guns? Good question, right? He was imprisoned on a weapons charge, making him a felon. But it's all too easy to get guns through straw purchases, by stealing them and from private sellers who don't have to perform background checks. This is the gun culture we have encouraged in this country. It just makes no common sense. What kind of a country are we?

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is keeping track of insurrectionists on its' Insurrectionist Time Line. If you weren't concerned before reading this you should be now. This is not the America we want or deserve. Gun violence is devastating to way too many families in communities all over America. Again, The Week-end Gun Report in the New York Times provides us with the most recent reports of the daily carnage due to gun violence. From the article:
According to the Gun Violence Archive4,900 people have been injured by gun violence in America and 2,978 have been killed since Jan. 1, 2014.
This is simply not OK. It's time for a change. How long will it take? What will it take?

UPDATE:

It looks like one question I asked is now answered. The shooter got his guns through straw purchases. From this article:
He obtained firearms from a "straw buyer," a middleman with a clean record who could buy weapons legally and then sell or give them to Cross, allowing Cross to avoid federal background checks, a U.S. law enforcement official said. He had three guns when he was arrested Sunday, authorities said.

Last May, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to make straw purchasing a felony crime and to increase penalties for this crime. From the article:
The measure, which addresses a practice known as straw purchasing, passed the committee by 11 to 7; the only Republican to vote in favor was Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa. Mr. Grassley’s nod on the measure, which already had two Republican co-sponsors, was significant because he is the most senior member of the committee. The panel is made up of 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans.
Some Republicans on the committee spoke out against the bill, including Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who said the legislation seemed intended “to show we are doing something,” but in the end would not be effective in halting gun crimes.
Preventing people from buying guns for people with criminal records and others who cannot pass a background check, which also leads to illegal gun traffic across state lines, is but one part of President Obama’s regulatory agenda for guns. (...) 
Most gun safety experts say they believe that straw-purchasing and background check measures work in tandem. A failure by Congress to pass more than a modified straw-purchasing bill would be a victory for the National Rifle Association, which opposes each measure.
Shortly after their vote on the straw-purchasing bill on Thursday, the committee ended its work, apparently to accommodate a classified briefing for some of the members, and completion of its work was postponed until next Tuesday.
Mr. Grassley’s support for the straw purchase bill came in part for an agreement on his amendment requiring a high-level person at the Department of Justice to personally sign off on future “gun-walking” sting operations similar to the Fast and Furious investigation. A gun that was allowed to pass into Mexico during that investigation was later found at the scene of a shootout in which a Border Patrol agent was killed.
The bill is languishing in the Senate and has not seen a floor vote.

The shooter could not have passed a background check. To avoid it, he got someone else who could to make the gun purchases for him. This is illegal. We can make this practice harder to stop these kinds of gun purchases. But we have failed to do so. Three people are dead. Where is common sense?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Every day guns?

This post has been updated since first posted.

Some things are done most every day by most people. Take brushing your teeth for example. Eating meals. Getting dressed. Maybe going to work. Going to school on school days. Exercising perhaps? Strapping on your gun? Shooting someone? For as regularly as people brush their teeth, others are being shot in homicides, suicides or accidental shootings. In fact, 88 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. Yes, there are every day shootings. Is this like every day clothing or every day shoes? Shootings are as regular as the sunrise and sunset. We have come to expect them. Sometimes we pay little attention to them- most of the time in fact. That is because they don't usually affect us- until they suddenly do. I know that from personal experience. Now I am hyper aware of the every day devastation to families all over our country.

The mass shootings get our attention for a few days or a week or so. And then we move on. All except the families and friends of the victims. We have public memorial services and then forget about what just happened to attract our national attention for a few days. Some mass shootings ( many in fact because they are every day type shootings) happen under the radar- except to the families and friends of the victims. This one, for example, in an article written by the husband of a victim of a mass shooting in California that took the lives of 4 people:
On Thursday afternoon, February 20th, police say Cherie Rhoades walked into a Tribal Community Council meeting with two 9mm handguns and killed my wife, three Tribal members and critically injured two others. When she ran out of bullets, she grabbed a butcher's knife and attempted to kill everyone in the building before law enforcement arrived. There were nineteen people in the building that day and Rhoades is reported to have made statements that she intended to kill all of them. This was told to me by eye witnesses and from police reports. Also, the entire incident was captured on security video surveillance cameras that were installed in the Tribal offices not long ago. Since it was common practice to record the minutes of Tribal meetings, it was all captured on audio tape as well.
I watched the story of the shooting get international media coverage, and then fade away a few days later, seemingly accepted as a fact of life in our culture. It became painfully obvious to me that these shootings have become so commonplace in our lives that no one seems to bat an eye anymore. This senseless killing has to stop. What was once an unspeakable act has now become a viable solution for some people to solve their issues. It almost appears to me that Sandy Hook and the gunning down of innocent children marked a turning point in this country. When we as a people could not take action after such a horrible tragedy, I fear it opened the flood gates for these shootings to happen more and more.
"...these shootings have become so commonplace in our lives that no one seems to bat an eye anymore."

The corporate gun lobby doesn't like to talk about the every day shootings like the one I linked to above. Many of them involve law abiding gun owners. The narrative of recognizing that violence affects us all at some point doesn't fit with their idea that guns make us all safer. If we pass any regulations at all on who can own them, who can carry them or where they can be carried, suddenly it's all about them. It's all about their rights to do whatever they want with those guns and take them wherever they feel entitled under the guise of the second amendment.

In Connecticut, "law abiding gun owners" showed up in force, assault rifles hanging from their backs and handguns in holsters, to protest the recently passed common sense laws passed after the nation's most heinous shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. You've got to love the photos of these folks strutting around with their guns as if sane people want to see this on their streets and in their restaurants and other public places. From the article:
The rally drew like-minded supporters from nearby New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and others as far away as Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi and even Montana. Capitol police indicated that the crowd exceeded 3,000 attendees while other observers put the total closer to 5,000 at the rally’s peak . . .
Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League (CCDL) sponsored the rally. Scott Wilson, president of the CCDL, told the crowd that Governor Malloy referred to “us all as the fringe of the fringe.” He said the governor told gun owners that they “lost” and should “just get over it”.
Watch it here and then listen to one man say it's the criminals who are the ones who have the guns while hundreds of others like himself were openly displaying the guns owned by "law abiding" gun owners whose guns will not be taken from them, by the way, under the new law if they but register their assault rifles as required.

These folks ARE the minority of us in America. They are the fringe. They are paranoid and have been scared by the corporate gun lobby into believing their rights are being infringed if any reasonable regulations to keep the rest of us from being shot in every day shootings are passed. And so, in Texas, folks are advocating for people to be able to open carry their handguns. This, just days after the Fort Hood mass shooting. From the article:
The meeting comes less than a week after a shooting rampage at Fort Hood that left four dead, including the gunman. The massacre renewed calls among gun activists to loosen laws stopping Texans from openly carrying handguns. Current law requires, in most cases, that handguns be concealed and those carrying them to be licensed.
Numerous advocates representing themselves, gun rights groups and others said reducing barriers in the way of openly carrying handguns would make the state safer and is a constitutional right, among other reasons.
Tara Reilly-Mica, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, said all 50 states have some sort of concealed carry law and several states have no licensing requirement to openly carry a handgun.
“We aren’t plowing new ground here,” Reilly-Mica said. “We are talking about changing a method of carrying.”
Those opposed to loosening gun restrictions, such as Hilary Rand, with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said a lack of restrictions on rifles and shotguns, so-called long guns, already poses problems for law enforcement.
Committee member Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, was skeptical of the need to alter or loosen handgun laws.
“I don’t see the need to carry the gun out in the open so that anybody and everybody can see the gun,” Hinojosa said.
The committee is charged with discussing interim charges, including border security and possibly removing barriers to Second Amendment rights.
In 2013, the Legislature passed several laws incrementally loosening gun restrictions including shortening concealed handgun courses, allowing for online renewal of concealed handgun licenses and no longer requiring a social security number for the concealed handgun application, among other laws.
These folks want others to see them with their openly carried guns. It's an image thing for them. It's their identity. It is a display of force and it leaves a not so subtle message to those who see them. Watch out. Don't pull anything funny. I'm armed. It also is an unnecessary display of lunacy. The thing is, most people do not want to see openly carried guns in their every day lives. And the other thing is, everyone knows that people with guns kill people. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill another human being. They are not the same as someone carrying an umbrella, or a mixer or a hammer or a vase or another object around.

And further, they don't like any inconvenience when it comes to applying for, or renewing permits to carry guns in public. Loosening regulations to carry lethal weapons in public is just plain a bad idea. Can one renew a drivers' license on line? Not in my state. You have to actually show up, likely wait in line, fill out the forms, take a vision test and pay your money to a real person. Why? Driving a car is an awesome responsibility that should be taken seriously. But guns in Texas and other states? Not so much. Why are guns and their owners treated differently? That's a question that needs to be asked and answered.

We are not at war, the last time I checked, on American soil. The idea of every day citizens walking around every day with openly carried guns doesn't happen in any other democratized and civilized country not at war.

As an aside, I asked a man I knew to be a gun owner the other day whether he had a permit to carry a gun. He told me that his son had won a permit to carry class voucher for two at an auction several years ago so the two of them got their permits. I asked if he carried his gun around with him. He said he had never done so. He didn't see a need. I wonder how many folks who get their permits actually carry their guns? They are inconvenient to carry- bulky around your waist on your pant leg- maybe hot in hotter climates. They do actually fall out of holsters or pants and discharge. This is just one example. You can find many more on the Ohh Shoot blog. Or you can read about more here. One of the incidents in this blog post happened in my very own state of Minnesota. Read about it:
This week's derp title has to go to Fred Petersen of Stockton, Minnestoa. Mr. Petersen is an NRA-certified firearms instructor, who nonetheless managed to shoot himself in the hand. Now, it must be noted that he's not the first NRA-certified instructor to accidentally shoot himself. Not by a long shot. But he wins the crown this week for evidently deciding to answer his wife's query/challenge as to whether or not his .38 Special could be fired while it was still in the holster by actually sticking his hand in and pulling the trigger.
“The gun was pointed in a safe direction,” Petersen said, “but my finger was not in a good spot.”
So as you can see, it was the fault of the finger, acting on its own volition, and putting itself in a bad spot, quite independent of Mr. Petersen's wise counsel. Other than that, the gun was absolutely pointed in a "safe" direction. Clearly, it is only with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight that we can, from the safety of our own homes, point out that it all could have been done more safely had he used his NRA training to unload the gun before running the experiment.
Sigh. Lunacy.

Read more about how a gun tucked into a man's pants was mistaken for his wallet. He shot himself in the butt. Or this Indiana Police Chief who shot himself in the leg with his own gun? Right. Where is common sense? Or this one-a Cleveland man threatening to shoot his 9 year old daughter when she accidentally stepped on the dog's tail. Yup. You read that one right. Crazy, right?

I write about that often enough that we should be concerned. And sometimes someone steals a gun out of the holster and it gets used against its' owner. Yes. This happened in Michigan. Check it out from the linked article:
I’m inclined to say that this illustrates pretty clearly why it’s stupid for regular people, as they’re walking around town, to be carrying firearms, but maybe I’m missing something… At any rate, it’s just a good thing for us that an unarmed good samaritan was nearby, who was able to keep this handgun out of the hands of the would-be thief. It really would have really pissed me off, if this gun had been stolen, and then used to commit other crimes in our City.
Agree completely. These are the people we are going to trust to carry their guns openly in public? What could possibly go wrong?

What's more, in Florida, the corporate gun lobby is agitated about people not being able to have guns in national emergencies or riots, etc. From the article:
Under a bill backed by the National Rifle Association and other gun groups, riots could be the newest safe haven for those carrying firearms without a permit.
HB 209, which is expected to be voted on Friday by the Florida House, would allow people with clean criminal backgrounds to conceal firearms without a permit during emergencies — including riots and civil unrest like the 1996 racial disturbances that rocked St. Petersburg — declared by the governor or local officials.
"To allow people to go into a riot while concealing a gun without a permit is the definition of insanity," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. "The bill is crazy. It's absurd."
Supporters of the bill say it's intended to give gun owners the opportunity to protect their property while they are evacuating from a disaster or crisis, such as hurricanes, floods or worse.
"We tell people to be prepared during hurricane season to take care of yourself for three days," Florida Carry general counsel Eric Friday said earlier this month. "That means food, water, and also the ability to protect yourself because emergency services aren't available."
Those concealing a firearm without a permit can be punished with up to five years in prison for the third-degree felony. Under the proposed legislation, that penalty could be waived during emergencies.
Gualtieri and the Florida Sheriffs Association have been lobbying for weeks to make changes, pitting them against the sponsor of the Senate bill, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. That's SB 296.
A key objection is that it's not clear in the legislation when it's okay not to have a permit for the concealed firearm. Both bills say no permit is needed for those "in the act of complying with a mandatory evacuation order during a declared state of emergency."
What could possibly go wrong with a bunch of paranoid folks with loaded guns in a national emergency or a riot? Lunacy is happening every day in America. The lunacy is that elected leaders can be swayed by this nonsense to do the bidding of the well funded corporate gun lobby while at the same time tolerating and ignoring the every day devastation right before their very eyes. They should all be reading The Gun Report. From the latest post: 
More than 300 people banned from owning guns—including felons, fugitives and people with histories of mental illness—were able to buy them in Maryland last year because state police were flooded with background check requests, The Baltimore Sun reported yesterday. And because of a loophole that allows gun dealers to release firearms after waiting a week, regardless of whether a check is done, 51,812 guns were handed out prematurely.
State police said the system was overwhelmed by a surge in gun sales sparked by the Newtown massacre, as well as a new handgun licensing requirement and a ban on the sale of assault weapons, which took effect on Oct. 1. Of the 128,640 applications received last year, 40 percent of firearms were released before a background check was completed, and state police did not see the applications until months later. Luckily, police are aware of only one instance in which a gun released to a prohibited buyer was used in a crime, a carjacking in January.
THIS is lunacy. And then the report goes on to list the actual dead and injured in states all over  the country. There were 39 shootings incidents listed from Monday to Wednesday. The report ends, as it always does, with this:
According to the Gun Violence Archive4,556 people have been injured by gun violence in America and 2,782 have been killed since Jan. 1, 2014.
Since there is a new Gun Report out, I want to share that there are 27 more shooting incidents since Wednesday of this week. I'm just reporting what's in the news.

The ones who died won't be brushing their teeth, going to work or school, eating meals with their families, celebrating holidays, kissing or hugging a loved one or all of the things living people get to do on a regular basis. Lunacy. It's time for a change. Are you with me? Let's get to work. Tell Congress to Finish The Job on gun background checks to make our communities safer.

UPDATE:

The crazy Florida bill to which I referred, above, has caught the attention of others. Cliff Schecter writes for the Daily Beast. From his post:
How do you take an unstable situation, be it a Hurricane Sandy-ish storm making shore, an accident causing mass casualties or a riot, and make it even more fun (read: awful) for those unlucky enough to be caught in it? Why add in the carte blanche right of amateurs to carry assault weapons and pistols with high-capacity magazines, and that ought to do it. Of course an idea this ridiculous could only happen in one place: Florida. (...) 
Their can-do spirit comes in the form of the disgruntled marching into a school-board meeting in Panama City and firing on the assembled members in an attempt to get his wife’s job back. Shooting a man for texting his babysitter from a movie theater. And returning a Glock pistol and assault rifle to a gentleman named Wayne Rogers, after he shot his “drinking buddy.” And killed him. Did I mention Rogers is blind? 
You can read about much more lunacy in this blog post. One thing we know for certain-we are living in crazy times when the "guys with the guns" are managing to pass crazy laws that will only be worse for public safety. Sanity needs to prevail. Pay attention everyone. This is the crazy every day world in which the gun lobby wants us all to reside. I, for one, am not interested.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gun free zones?

Another one of the gun lobby myths is that shootings only happen in gun free zones. Of course that is because they must convince our elected leaders to allow them to carry their guns everywhere to protect people in all of those gun free zones from shooters. Shooters, as we know, stop to read the signs posted outside of schools, hospitals, malls and other places where some states allow signs banning guns inside. They read the signs, think to themselves that this place doesn't have anyone with a gun inside. And then surely no one will shoot back at him/her and he/she will be able to shoot up a bunch of people unimpeded. All of this in a split second's time. Except for when they don't read the signs or stop to think about what they are doing before they start shooting. This incident, for example, happened in a police station. I think we can all agree that police stations are not gun free zones. From the article:
A gunman opened fire in a Los Angeles police station on Monday night, shooting an officer seven times in the arms and torso as he returned fire, leaving both men badly wounded, Los Angeles Police Department spokesmen said.
The shooter walked into the lobby of the West Traffic Division at about 8 p.m. local time and told two officers at the desk that he had a complaint, then pulled a semi-automatic handgun and fired repeatedly at one of the officers, Los Angeles police officials said on Tuesday.
The officer, a seven-year veteran, fired back, as did his partner, a policewoman with four years on the force, striking the gunman multiple times, police Commander Andrew Smith said.
Yup. Maybe this guy should have thought about all of those armed people inside before entering a police station with his guns. The reality is that people bent on shooting someone don't stop to think whether there are guns inside or not. And, as my readers know, there have been shootings of police officers in communities all over America. They happen regularly. Officers of the law are armed in America. Don't shooters know that? Of course they do. Then why do they go ahead and shoot anyway? Why don't they go down the street to a gun free zone? Like maybe a home where people have guns to protect themselves.

Oh right. How will a shooter know whether a homeowner has a gun or not? They don't. But sometimes they enter homes anyway and sometimes someone gets shot. Sometimes. Most of the time, home intruders enter homes during the day when no one is home. Maybe that's because they don't want to confront someone, armed or not. I don't believe for one minute that whether there is a gun inside or not makes one bit of difference to a shooter.

The majority of homicides actually occur amongst people who know each other. And one of them is often armed so it is not a gun free zone. They happen often in a home where a gun is present. Not a gun free zone. Children shoot each other and themselves in homes armed with guns. Suicide by firearm often happens in an armed home- not a gun free zone.

So what is this myth that gets taken for reality? It's just that- a myth. The corporate gun lobby is fooling us into thinking we all must be armed and that no place should be a gun free zone. They are wrong. It is the guns allowed zones where many of the shootings happen. States all over the country are rushing to loosen gun laws to make sure there are few, if any, gun free zones. Kansas as just one of the most recent examples.

In the latest Gun Report by Joe Nocera of the New York Times, there is a forward to the list of the latest shootings about the new Kansas law. From the article:
With just one signature, it will be legal to openly carry firearms in Kansas, nullifying city and county gun regulations across the state.
The legislature voted on Saturday to send an open carry bill to Gov. Sam Brownback, and it’s a good bet he will sign it. The National Rifle Association considers the measure a nationwide model for stripping local officials of their power to enact restrictions on the sale of firearms and impose rules on how guns must be stored and transported. Existing ordinances would be erased, and tax dollars could not be used to finance gun buybacks.
“The gun lobby likes to prevent people who believe in sensible gun laws from having a say in protecting their own communities,” Jonathan Lowry, director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Associated Press. “It’s cynical, and it’s dangerous public policy.”
And then the report goes on to list the latest shootings. By my count, 35 were injured, 17 killed, 6 children were victims of injuries or death in 19 states in just a few days. There was one stray bullet incident, a couple of accidental shootings, a couple of domestic shootings, some random shootings, and almost all in guns allowed zones. I say this because homes can be assumed to be guns allowed zones. Also cars in states that have conceal and carry laws. Yards? Not sure about that one but since it's legal to carry wherever you go in many states, yards and streets can be assumed to be guns allowed zones. The one man found dead near an elementary school? That could be a gun free zone.

So you see what I mean? Where's the logic behind saying that most shootings happen in gun free zones? I'm afraid there is none. So the next time you hear someone try this bit of "logic" please challenge them. They are not telling the truth. The truth is in the numbers. We are the most heavily civilian armed country not at war in the world. We also have the great distinction of having the most gun deaths per capita than any industrialized country not at war. Coincidence? I don't think so. In countries where most of the public ( and even private) spaces are gun free, the result is very few shootings.

It's time to change the conversation about guns and gun violence in America. What we have now is clearly not working. Are you ready to join me? Let's get to work and ask our leaders to stop listening to the deceptive "logic" coming from the corporate gun lobby. For once that happens, they will be free to support public health and safety measures that will save lives and keep our communities free from the gun violence that is so devastating. Common sense measures to keep us safe from gun violence can save lives. In the end, it doesn't matter whether shootings happen in gun free zones or guns allowed zones. That argument deflects from the main problem- that there are just plain too many shootings in America. And more guns will not solve that problem.

Thanks to One Million Moms and Dads Against Gun Violence for the image. And no, pro gun advocates, don't write and tell me that people without guns get shot. Sometimes they do. Sometimes people with guns get shot. Often people with guns shoot themselves. Far too often toddlers and small children with guns shoot themselves or others when they get their hands on unsecured guns. And often enough to be concerned, people with guns accidentally shoot themselves or others. But what we know for sure is that people with guns are the ones who shoot other people. Whether they are law abiding or not, they shoot people. That is the truth of the matter.

UPDATE:

Are gun shows and other places where NRA and other gun rights group members gather gun free zones? I'm just wondering. Personal guns are not allowed inside of gun shows. So that would make gun shows, oddly, gun free zones. What about NRA conventions? They are gun free zones as it turns out. Go figure. I thought these folks advocated for guns everywhere. Why not inside of their own convention? Aren't they worried that someone will know it's a gun free zone and start a shooting spree? I'm just asking. And then this NRA event where a man accidentally shot himself in the leg with his own gun:
Yesterday a man apparently accidentally shot himself at an NRA and police sponsored event outside Bethlehem Pa. Sarah M. Wojcik of The Express-Times in Easton reports that a “New Jersey man participating in a program at the Steel City Gun Club [in Bethlehem, Pa] was injured…when he accidentally shot his own leg.”  Even more interesting is the fact that The Express-Times says the man was there “as part of a program put on by the National Rifle Association and hosted in part by the Bethlehem Police.”
Ah. It was at a local gun club where guns are allowed. In fact, though, there have been a number of accidental shootings and even suicides at gun (shooting) clubs. I guess it doesn't matter if there are guns allowed or not. People get shot just about everywhere. And when guns are allowed, we can see that people are not necessarily safer.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The blame game about the Fort Hood shooting

(This post has been edited since first posted)

According to conservative Congressman Steve Stockman, the Fort Hood shooting is all the fault of "gun control activists". I guess that means me. I didn't realize that a shooting would become my fault for not wanting shootings to happen in the first place. Representative Stockman is always good for a great quote. From the article:
"In the wake of Wednesday’s shootings at Fort Hood, Rep. Steve Stockman today blamed gun control advocates and renewed a call to end gun bans at military bases.
“Only the most out-of-touch radical would try to disarm soldiers,” said the Clear Lake Republican, who lost the U.S. Senate primary in March. “It’s time to repeal this deadly anti-gun law before it creates another mass killing. This is another tragedy created by anti-gun activists.”
Stockman introduced the Safe Military Bases Act last September, after a mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., that left 12 people plus the gunman dead. Cosponsors include several Texas Republicans: Reps. Michael Burgess of Lewisville, Louie Gohmert of Tyler, Pete Olson of Sugar Land, and Randy Weber of Friendswood. The bill would would strike down laws passed in the 1990s that prohibit most service members from carrying weapons on base."
It's hard to know what to say so I guess I'll just leave it here for you to digest.

Let's talk about some facts should we? Yesterday this "out-of-touch radical" wrote that some early reports suggested that the Fort Hood shooter had been in an argument with others on the base right before he started his shooting rampage. Also it turns out that he had not served in a combat role while in Iraq nor had he suffered any injuries while there or at any time while serving. This article explores that more. From the article:
The man who gunned down three fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and wounded several others before killing himself suffered from mental illness and may have argued with other soldiers before the rampage, the base's commander said Thursday. 
The shooter in Wednesday's attack -- which occurred at the same Texas military facility where an Army psychiatrist embarked on a massacre in 2009 -- was identified as Spc. Ivan. Lopez, 34, originally from Puerto Rico.
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the senior officer on bsae, told reporters there is a "strong possibility" that Lopez had argued with one or more comrades before he opened fire, killing three people and wounding more than dozen others before taking his own life.
"There may have been a verbal altercation with another solider or soldiers and there is a strong possibility that may have immediately preceded the shooting," Milley said.
The general did not say what sort of dispute may have occurred, and he said there was no evidence that Lopez deliberately targeted his victims.
Lopez's unstable mental health is believed to be the underlying cause of the attack, Milley said. The general said Wednesday night that shooter had been undergoing treatment for depression and anxiety and was taking medication, including the sleep aid Ambien. 
Fort Hood shooter told doctors he suffered traumatic brain injury
Although no diagnosis had been made, Lopez was also being evaluated to determine whether he had post-traumatic stress disorder, Milley said.
Investigators have also been told that Lopez may have been upset because the Army had refused to grant him personal leave, CBS News has learned. A family spokesman in Puerto Rico told The Associated Press that Lopez had been upset when he was granted only two days' leave to attend the funeral of his mother, who died of a heart attack in November.
An Iraq war veteran, Lopez claimed that he had suffered a traumatic head injury. If he did sustain such an injury, it was not in combat.
Arguments should not end in mass shootings but often they do. And, from the article, the shooter purchased his gun on March 1 and was apparently a legal gun owner. So now where do we go with the conversation about mass shootings in America?

This morning on MSNBC's Jansing and Company gun rights advocate and discredited John Lott showed up to talk about why it's so important to arm people on bases and other places to stop these mass shooters. Lott wrote a piece, linked above, explaining his rationale. A retired Colonel took the opposite view and said that no responsible commander would want to arm base personnel. Here is an article about the show that I watched and the video, below:



Why should anyone listen to John Lott? His ideas have been found to be false and he has been discredited long ago. I am willing to bet that the public is not on Lott's side. Remember, it is a small minority of Americans who have permits to carry guns- maybe 4% or so give or take. So to think that one of them will just happen to be at the site of the next mass shooting to stop a shooter or prevent a shooting? What are the chances of that happening? Very slim. But of course, what they want is to make sure a lot more folks get their permits to carry loaded guns with them everywhere they go. This is one way to push that idea. And when someone with a permit has happened to have been at a mass shooting, such as this one in Tucson after Jared Loughner had been wrestled to the ground by citizens, he realized that he might have shot the wrong person in the chaos of the moment. Of course. What they are ignoring is that some permit holders are not responsible gun owners and some law abiding gun owners are irresponsible. Check it out here and here.

This is the same old movie played by the gun rights advocates and the corporate gun lobby. They continue to say that more guns would make us safer when the opposite has been true for many many years. Their specious claims need to be challenged publicly and soundly. Continued high profile mass shootings seem to bring out the ludicrous reasoning of the gun lobby and their followers. But maybe this time, we aren't buying it. I am just wondering which mass shooting will be the one to change the hearts and minds of our elected leaders.

When even some Republicans acknowledge that we need to deal with those with severe mental illness and access go guns, then maybe we are getting somewhere. This article quotes House Speaker John Boehner on the subject and also explores the complications of discussing guns and mental illness. But the conversation needs to continue. From the article:
Of course, not everyone is silent when it com it comes to keeping guns away from the mentally ill — more than a few Republicans threw their weight behind the notion Thursday, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.)
“It’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons,” he said Thursday. “This is an issue we need to continue to look at.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) agreed but acknowledged that it’s a bit taboo to talk about.
“It’s a complicated issue… but idea that people who are dangerously mentally ill should not have access to weapons, I don’t think that’s a controversial position,” he said. “I think what’s controversial is how do you apply that without violating people’s second amendment rights.”
I wonder if Rep. Boehner will be scolded by the gun lobby for admitting the truth? Even mentioning the word guns or "gun control" or gun safety or gun reform after a mass shooting has become taboo. Yes, it's complicated, Senator Rubio. Part of the reason it's complicated is because of the comments you read above. The corporate gun lobby and their followers taint the conversation with their tired old arguments that have kept us from dealing with our national public health and safety problem. This is not my fault by the way. Whose fault is it that we can't talk about guns after a shooting? Whose fault is it that we can't even study the causes and effects of gun violence? Whose fault is it that crazy laws that the one in Missouri (below) is passed? Whose fault is it that gun laws have become looser rather than stronger allowing more people who shouldn't have guns to get them anyway? Whose fault is it when careless gun owners leave their guns unsecured and children shoot themselves or others? Whose fault is it that my sister was shot by her estranged husband? Whose fault is it that too many other women die from domestic shootings? Whose fault is it that crazed young men whose names didn't show up in the FBI's system to stop them from buying guns were able to buy guns and shoot up elementary schools, college campuses and shopping malls?

A film of "good guys" with guns must be looping in the heads of those who believe the carnage is my fault. They must see themselves with their gun, finger on the trigger, heart racing, zeroing in on a "bad guy" and hitting the mark to save the day. They will, of course, know exactly who that "bad guy" is. They will, of course, shoot the right person and they will, of course, kill that person. They are espousing the idea that shooters look for "gun free" zones to carry out their acts of mayhem and murder. Never mind that the Fort Hood shooter had to know that there are armed military police and security guards on our military bases. They are not "gun free zones". The argument just doesn't work when we actually deal with the facts. So the idea that we must make every place in America a "loaded guns allowed" zone is not true.

Another ludicrous idea coming from the gun lobby is to just stop following the laws that are already on the books. In Missouri, the gun lobby managed to get the legislature to support a bill to nullify federal gun laws. Great idea, right? From the article:
Missouri, which is home to the Council of Conservative Citizens and Sovereign Citizen Movement as well as hosting way too many right wing extremist attacks just passed a bill in the House that nullifies all federal gun laws in their state. You may remember when The Missouri State Highway Patrol released a report called The Modern Militia Movement, documenting the extremist problems in their state and the typical backlash politics that followed? And it's usually law enforcement that feels the brunt of the violence. Are Conservatives just trying to arm all the lunatics in Missouri?
Yes, apparently. Since Missouri decided to overturn the state law that required people who want to buy a handgun to get a background check for the permit to purchase that gun, gun deaths have increased in their state:
Universal background checks before gun purchases can have an enormous impact on reducing firearm-related deaths, according to testimony presented before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
While gun rights lobbyists, led by the National Rifle Association, claim criminal background checks before all purchases are impractical and unnecessary, research from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that strict guidelines may actually reduce gun-related homicides.
Missouri, the site of President Barack Obama’s recent gun control speech, had a firm “permit-to-purchase” law in place until 2007, when it was repealed. The law -- which both the Missouri Sport Shooting Association and NRA helped overturn -- required Missouri residents to obtain a sheriff’s permit before purchasing a concealable weapon.
Although, under federal law, gun dealers are already required to run background checks on individuals purchasing handguns, that regulation only applies to licensed dealers. The Missouri law went one step further by mandating background checks on the sale and transfer of firearms between individuals and unlicensed dealers. (...) 
“Preliminary evidence suggests that the increase in the diversion of guns to criminals linked to the law’s repeal may have translated into increases in homicides committed with firearms,” Webster said in his written testimony to the Senate. “From 1999 through 2007, Missouri’s age-adjusted homicide rate was relatively stable, fluctuating around a mean of 4.66 per 100,000 population per year. In 2008, the first full year after the permit-to-purchase licensing law was repealed, the age-adjusted firearm homicide rate in Missouri increased sharply to 6.23 per 100,000 population, a 34 percent increase. For the post-repeal period of 2008-2010, the mean annual age-adjusted firearm homicide rate was 5.82, 25 percent above the pre-repeal mean.”
Webster also said those changes were inconsistent with the national firearm homicide rate, which reportedly dropped 10 percent during that 2008 to 2010 period.
Laws matter. But never mind. The Missouri House members, obviously bought and paid for by the corporate gun lobby, want to rid the requirement to also have a background check when purchasing from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Yes, you read that right. For that is a federal law that would be nullified if the nullification bill would be signed into law. Anything goes in this gun rights film, now showing in legislatures all over the country. Given what happened in Missouri when they overturned the state law, I can't wait to see what happens next in this ludicrous and dangerous film.

Meanwhile the real film, showing every day in America, is of the carnage of so many dead and injured. Just check out the latest Gun Report by Joe Nocera of the New York Times if you don't believe me. He ends every report with this statement (which changes every time of course):
According to the Gun Violence Archive4,327 people have been injured by gun violence in America and 2,660 have been killed since Jan. 1, 2014."
Stunning.

Many of the daily shootings are preventable and avoidable. The corporate gun lobby would rather wait until after a shooting is already under way instead of stopping the shooting in the first place. People like me, whose fault it is that the shootings are happening, would prefer preventing the shootings from happening at all. Is that so bad?

What we need in this country is a very serious national conversation about the causes and effects of gun violence based on the facts. We won't have it as long as people like John Lott and Congressman Stockman deny the idea that guns actually cause a lot of violence in this country. Where is common sense?