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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Friday, December 19, 2014

Guns and chandeliers

You just can't make this stuff up. An armed woman was shot to death by a guy with a gun in a fight over a chandelier. When a gun is available it may get used against you. This one lends the lie to the gun lobby idea that having a gun for self defense is a good idea because it will save your life. Wrong. Let's take a look at the incident ( occurred on Nov. 28):
"Shutter-type window treatments and a chandelier was at the center of an altercation that claimed the lives of a father and daughter who had bought a foreclosed Rosedale Park home, according to testimony Wednesday during a preliminary examination for the man charged in the shootings.
Alonzo Long Jr., a 22-year-old relative of the current homeowner, was charged Dec. 1 with fatally shooting 72-year-old Howard Franklin and his daughter, Catherine Franklin, 37, during a gun battle outside the home around 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28. (...) Moments after Long entered the home, Williams said he saw the gunfire and then saw Catherine Franklin stumble out of the home holding a gun in her hand and collapsing on the front porch.(...) It is not clear who fired the first shots in the altercation. More details about the incident are expected to come out Jan. 2 when the preliminary examination continues."
A gun battle. We are talking about a gun battle inside of a home. Are we at war or living in the Wild West? We will learn more soon enough. But clearly having a gun in this situation did not protect the woman from being shot. And it's possible that if she pulled out her gun it escalated the situation. The thing is, guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill. They are a risk to their owners and others. Had there been no guns in this case, there would very likely be no dead people. Add these 2 to the stats for gun homicides in 2014.

Some people should not have guns.

Check out just a few:

  • A Tennessee boy shot his sister in the face at his grandmother's home. She did not die but see if you agree with me that this statement from the woman is just plain insanity: "Boylan tells WREG she lost a daughter to a gun accident years ago, and she’s incredibly thankful she didn’t lose a granddaughter to the same tragedy Sunday night." Apparently she learned nothing from the first tragedy which took the life of her own daughter. This is total irresponsibility and negligence. And the article ends with this wise statement: "The family is urging people to put their guns away and get a lock, so they don’t have to go through this family’s living nightmare." Right. But some people are just not getting the message.
  • There's an armed gunman on the loose in Waco, Texas after he fired 13 shots at a news station meteorologist. This happened in a parking lot in broad daylight for reasons we may or may not find out if the shooter is found and the victim starts talking about the incident. Anyone who thinks he could have defended himself if only he had had a gun is insane. These things happen so quickly there is no time to think. According to officers, he likely saved his life by getting into his car and driving away from the scene. People should be safe from shootings in the morning in parking lots. There are too many guns on our streets. 
  • A Philadelphia police officer shot and killed one of his girlfriends in spite of having 75- yes 75- harassment and stalking charges against him. From the article: " Philadelphia police officer with a history of stalking and harassing his former lovers fatally shot his ex-girlfriend and wounded her daughter on Monday, police said." As the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence posted on their Facebook page today:" We will say this... In contemporary America, if you want to become romantically involved with a guy who's into guns, you better be damn sure he's not capable of snapping. Otherwise, you are taking on real risk that could lead to tragedy." He snapped. People snap. When people with guns snap, the result is often tragedy. Be careful about who you are dating. Domestic shootings like this are all too common. Angry men ( it is mostly men) with guns are potentially dangerous. Guns change the equation.
You may remember my writing about a law languishing in the U.S. Senate sponsored by my own Senator Amy Klobuchar. The law would remove guns from stalkers like this police officer. This was a shooting waiting to happen when the evidence about the officer's behavior is now revealed. He had been on administrative leave, according to the linked article and had had his service weapon taken from him. A big question here is why he remained on the police force at all. It's time for all of us to realize that dangerous and threatening behavior like the officer's in this case are predictors of trouble and at the least, people like this should not have access to deadly weapons. But in America, we make it easy for these people to get guns. Until we do something to finish the job and make sure background checks are completed on all gun sales we can expect to see more of these domestic shootings.

But of course the NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby are fighting bills like background checks for all sales and bills to make sure stalkers and abusers don't have guns because......... because......... because...... Hmmm. Why would we want people like the officer ( above) who shot his ex-girlfriend to have access to guns? Is there any good reason to oppose the bill? But never mind common sense. The corporate gun lobby has none of it. Sales are more important than lives.

Meanwhile, back to looking at how we can prevent some of these avoidable deaths, take a look at this new set of facts about gun violence by Dr. Garen Wintermute of U. of California, Davis. Wintermute's thorough report shows us how gun deaths are creeping back up again after slowly decreasing. Suicide is increasing among some age groups, genders and race. Older white males are killing themselves in pretty high numbers. And as if we haven't been paying attention, young black men have the highest rate of gun homicides. According to Wintermute's charts, overall, middle aged white men have the highest gun death rate. Let's check the possible reason for this. It turns out that white Southern men are most likely to be gun owners of Americans surveyed.

Back to Dr. Wintermute's charts, he shows what many others have shown. States with the weakest gun laws and high gun ownership have the most gun suicides and homicides.

So are there conclusions to be drawn from all of this? I would say yes. First of all, it's clear that in the incidents I wrote about above, having a gun in the home or on one's person resulted in tragedy. Without the gun- no death, period. Too many people with guns snap and in an instant, lives are lost. Too many children have access to loaded guns and in an instant, another child is dead or injured. Too many felons, domestic abusers and dangerously mentally ill people have access to guns and use them in deadly shootings on a regular basis in America.

Looking at the facts from what Dr. Wintermute pulled together from actual gun deaths, it turns out that more guns have not made us safer. Indeed, the opposite is true. Those with more guns have a higher chance of being killed by that gun in a gun homicide, suicide or "accident." In other words, guns are contributing to an American public health epidemic which is going to eclipse auto accidents soon for the number of violent deaths of Americans. Deaths from car accidents are going down- most likely due to increased awareness, education about drunk driving, stricter penalties for drunk driving, increased safety features on cars and generally more safety awareness. That is what is needed for the gun violence epidemic. And it can be done if the corporate gun lobby gets out of the way and lets common sense take over. This is a no-brainer. More guns=more gun deaths. Stricter gun laws=fewer gun deaths. More pubic awareness about safe gun ownership can lead to saving lives. Changing the culture of guns is key to saving lives. Gun owners need to be safe and more responsible with their guns. And don't bring guns to an argument about chandeliers.

Let's get to work.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bad day for the corporate gun lobby

This blog post was already started before I watched The Rachel Maddow Show last night. She was clearly on the same page as the rest of us "gun grabbers" after Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed for his new job as Surgeon General early last evening. Rachel gets it. Things didn't go so well yesterday for the gun lobby, sometimes known as the National Rifle Association (NRA). And here's why:

Things are not as they once were for the NRA and the corporate gun lobby. The persistence of people who believe that changes must happen in our country is leading to small successes. And those small successes will build on bigger and more important ones. Common sense wins in the end over political wrong headedness.

It was also a bad day for the tired old false mantra that more guns make us safer. In Virginia ( again) a high school student was found to have a cache of weapons and ammunition in his car parked in the school's parking lot. Inexplicably, from the article, this statement was made:
Both the school superintendent and Middlesex Sheriff’s Officials said there was no indication Martin planned to attack the school. They said he was very cooperative when he was brought to the front of the school to asked about the weapons.
If this young man was not going to attack the school, what or who was he going to attack? 18 year olds should not have guns like this in the first place. Where did the guns come from? Stolen? At home? In the second place, it is unlikely that a kid is carrying weapons and ammunition around in his car for the fun of it. If not the school, perhaps he was planning to attack a shopping mall or a movie theater or any number of places where mass shootings happen on a regular basis in America.

And in Pennsylvania, a spree shooting occurred leaving 6 dead and the gunman still on the loose. This was clearly a domestic dispute gone very wrong. It was also a case of someone with known PTSD and a drunken driving charge who also had a gun(s). There are some people who should not guns. Governor McAuliffe (above) understands that. Most of the world and even most Americans understand that. But the corporate gun lobby defies common sense and tries to claim that just anyone should be able to purchase weapons in America. And innocent victims suffer as a result.

The thing is, many of the gun deaths in America are preventable. Guns are dangerous weapons designed specifically to kill others. Not everyone should have them. The violence that occurs as a result is devastating to families all over the country on a daily basis. We can change that if we put our heads together for a national conversation not based on fear and hyperbole. We can change things if we change laws and change the conversation.

It was a very bad day for the families and friends of the Pennsylvania victims and it will be a bad day for the shooter once he is found and if he is found alive. It was a very bad day for the family of the 18 year old Virginia student found with an arsenal in his car. It's a bad day for America whenever incidents like the ones above happen and the ones I write about every day.

And the corporate gun lobby does not know what to do with the demonstrations of insanity of the open carry advocates who flaunt their weapons in public to make some point that alludes most sane Americans. These folks claim to be "law abiding" folks who intend no harm. So it was a bad day for Texas Open Carry advocates who learned that one of their own killed her ex-husband and one other person 5 days ago:
A woman charged with shooting and killing her ex-husband and stepdaughter has strong connections to groups advocating for expanding open carry gun laws in Texas.
Local news outlets on Wednesday reported that Veronica Dunnachie was arrested and charged with shooting and killing her ex-husband and step daughter.
Buried in some of the initial reporting on the arrest of Dunnachie seems to have been an active participant in open carry groups in Texas. The local ABC affiliate, WFAA, noted that Dunnachie's Facebook page is photos of her engaged in open carry firearm advocacy activities. WFAA also noted that one of her profile pictures included the text "Sometimes removing some people out of your life makes room for better people."
Veronica and Russell Dunnachie were going through a divorce, according to court records.
Clearly those guns did not make this family safer.

Every day these incidents happen is a bad day for the corporate gun lobby and a bad day for Americans. Let's get to work and change the news. It's happening slowly but it's happening. And while things are changing we will continue to keep the victims in mind. For that is why we do this work.


UPDATE:

In case you hadn't heard, the body of the Pennsylvania spree shooter was found in the woods near his home. He killed himself by "cutting" himself in his abdominal area. Now there will be some mystery surrounding what caused a man to kill so many people. But hopefully more information will be revealed in the next few weeks. Here's a bit more information about the life of a man so desperate he was willing to do anything.




Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sandy Hook- two years later

Today is the second anniversary of the shooting of 20 first graders and 6 educators at an elementary school which name has now become known for the most horrendous school shooting in America- or likely the world. Given the nature of the shooting, it became world news immediately and the world mourned. Not only did the world mourn, but collectively the world was stunned that anyone could so brutally murder small children for no apparent reason. And then the world wondered how a country like ours could tolerate the proliferation of gun violence day after day after day. It's no secret that our gun laws allow easy access to guns for just about anyone who wants them. And our gun culture has created a cavalier attitude towards guns. This attitude contributed to the idea that the mother of the troubled shooter thought maybe exposure to guns would help his mental and learning difficulties. She was, of course, totally wrong about that. The majority of guns used in school shootings come from home. Easy access to guns is a serious problem.

Let's look at just a few of the things that have happened since that awful Friday 2 years ago.
I could go on. But I want my readers to read this message from Nicole Hockley, a Sandy Hook parent. The letter is written to the mom she used to be. If you read nothing else today, this should be the one thing that gets your attention. From her letter:

Taking action to protect children from gun violence can take many forms. For some people that means fighting for policy and political change — that can be a long, frustrating road, and certainly not the only option. Small but meaningful actions create change. If you have five minutes, start a dialogue at the dinner table about gun violence with your kids. If you have two hours, host a conversation with other parents. If you can dedicate one day a month, work with educators on how to better recognize the signs of children who may be troubled and reach out to their parents immediately. But to do nothing? That doesn’t honor the dead and doesn’t protect the living.
One of the most important actions families, schools, employers and communities can do is learn the signs of someone in crisis and then intervene before they hurt themselves or someone else. We need to teach kids better anger management and conflict resolution skills, because much of gun violence stems from anger and fear. Learning other ways to deal with anger and fear rather than striking out at someone is a good first step. We need to recognize the signs on social media— and know the difference between someone who is just angry and someone who poses an imminent threat. Lines of communication always need to remain open between ourselves and our children.  
I am beginning to feel some of my old optimism returning, because more and more people are engaging around this issue. Our conversation is gaining momentum. I sense a sea change is coming. I know everything we’re doing at Sandy Hook Promise will protect more children. We’re fighting a good fight. 
But after every sort of victory, there’s also a moment of incredible sadness for me, for whatever happens, I know I still can’t bring Dylan back. That hole will never be filled. No matter how many lives get saved in his name, or in the name of others, I can’t go back. But you can go forward and make a difference. 
Yes, you can make a difference. We can all make a difference. It's way past time for that to happen but there is hope that, with resolve and armed with the facts and passion for saving lives, we can make change happen. In the name of the murdered children and educators, please join us in making change happen.

In memory:

Charlotte Bacon
Daniel Bardon
Rachel D"Avino
Olivia Engel
Josephine Gay
Dylan Hockley
Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung
Madeline Hsu
Catherine Hubbard
Chase Kowalski
Jesse Lewis
Ana Marquez-Green
James Mattioli
Grace McDonnell
Anne Murray Murphy
Emilie Parker
Jack Pinto
Noah Pozner
Caroline Previdi
Jessica Rekos
Avielle Richman
Lauren Rousseau
Mary Sherlach
Victoria Soto
Benjamin Wheeler
Allison Wyatt

(Nancy Lanza, mother of the shooter, appears on some lists. She was the first murdered with her own guns by her own son who then went to the school and murdered the others.)

UPDATE:

I would like to share this great column by Cliff Schecter, writing for Daily Beast:
There’s no doubt that horrible day was a tipping point that had been building like a tidal wave: a mass-shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (and the killing of others with her in Tucson, Ariz.) and many other incidents, whose names you don’t remember, in the two years leading up to Newtown. But I’ve been writing and talking about this issue for over a decade, tracking how we’ve let the equivalent of those who think there should be no drunk driving laws decide which laws should regulate guns. Before Newtown, it was a lonely beat. No longer.
Change never comes easy, which is why Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Clearly, we still have a long, long way to go before we even have even the most basic sanity in our gun laws on the national level. But from public perception to the numerous defeats suffered by the ignominious sand-pounders known as the National Rifle Association in recent elections, the arc has begun to pick up the pace.
This is by no means to imply that manic, fluoride-phobic, tri-corner hatted half-wits are not still trying to dragoon the United States of America into governing via armed warlord. They control way too many state legislatures—which just got worse with the 2014 election—and have applied their usual lack of critical thinkingand rain dancing to how we handle guns in many states. They continue to find willing recruits among an aging white working class that’s seen its domination over women, people of color and other “others” decline, and that needs to embrace some symbol of power. 
Yes, we have work to do. But thanks to Schecter and the many others writing about the need for change to our gun culture and our gun laws, I believe change can and will happen.




Thursday, December 11, 2014

National vigils in memory of gun violence victims

Sunday will be the 2nd anniversary of the shooting of 20 small children and 6 educators. It will also be a reminder to the country that we have done nothing to change the gun culture that grieves after mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook and then moves on to other things. Meanwhile, families all over America grieve for loved ones lost to gun violence or they wake up in the morning to deal with life long disabilities due to injuries from bullets.

Yesterday I wrote about an inflatable Santa carrying an AR-15 on the roof of a Texas gun shop. The clash of cultures couldn't be more clear. Are we going to save lives and make our communities safer or not? Unfortunately, as a country, we have chosen the latter. That is a national tragedy.

Vigils will be held today through the week-end all over the country. There will be a memorial bell ringing today in my city which involves several community groups and local churches. We plan to engage those in attendance in the start of a community dialogue about gun safety reform and what we can do better or different to make us safer. We can't let lives lost go in vain. We know that the majority of Americans agree with us. So holding vigils is a way to remind America that it's past time for us to do something positive in the names of our loved ones and their families. For common sense tells us that we must finish the job regarding background checks and we must urge those with guns to make sure those who shouldn't have access to them don't get them. We have work to do and it's past time to do that work. Congress and state legislatures have failed us. It's time for serious national attention to be paid to an issue of grave importance. Lives depend on our doing the right thing. P

Below is the video that will be shown at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. today during the vigil there. The Newtown Action Alliance, States United to Prevent Gun Violence and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence have joined to sponsor the vigils. Others will show the video as well. The photos are just a few of way too many. After the vigils, action is required. Let's get to work.