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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gun laws in Croatia

Our next stop is the country of Croatia. This "new" country was formed after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and has become a vacation destination for many. We will be finding ourselves along the Adriatic Coast visiting some Medieval and Roman ruins and enjoying ( hopefully) the sun along the beautiful coastal cities. This long article about Croatia explains the complicated history of the Balkan nation, including the many conflicts and wars. Unrest has reigned in this part of the world for centuries- the most recent the violent conflicts of the 1990s which ended with the American bombing. War crimes and ethnic cleansing was a terrible display of human nature gone wrong. Who can forget the trial of Slobodan Milosevic former President of Serbia for war crimes?

Also as a new member of the European Union, Croatia is struggling economically. We will be happy to contribute in our small way to their economy while traveling there.

Croatia's rate of gun ownership is high compared to the to other European countries. 8.3 Croatians per 100 own guns. Croatia ranks 54 of 128 countries when it comes to gun ownership while the U.S. is ranked number 1- a distinction of which we should not be proud. The rate of gun homicides is .04/100,000 far below that of the U.S. while suicides were 2.37 per 100,000. There were a total of 2 unintentional gun deaths in Croatia in 2012. Possession of handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles are only allowed with licensure. A genuine reason for gun possession must be given and a domestic abuse incident or assault disqualifies someone from possessing a firearm in Croatia. In order to get a license to possess a firearm one has to go through a training course. Registration of firearms is a requirement as well as only being allowed to carry a gun if concealed and unloaded and with a permit.

I found this blog written by an American living in Croatia. The writer was wondering about why the gun culture and gun death rate was so different in Croatia than in the U.S. He came to some of the same conclusions I am making but some of the comments add more insight into why people are not shooting each other in Croatia.

Again, as with Italy and Slovenia, strong gun laws lead to safer citizens. The facts are important to understand when talking about the link between strong gun laws, a culture that does not place rights over public safety and a low rate of gun deaths. All of these countries have common sense when it comes to the role of guns and gun violence in their countries.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Gun laws in Slovenia

Now we are in Slovenia, just hours away from Venice. Venice, Slovenia and Croatia form a triangle near the Adriatic Sea coast. Slovenia was once a part of the former Yugoslavia which broke up in the 1990s after the war in the Balkans that killed thousands. But Slovenia requested and won independence from the Yugoslavian Federation in 1992 before the Balkan wars. World War II took the lives of thousands of Slovenians both by the Italians and the Germans. Modern day Slovenia is prosperous and full of opportunities for recreation and outdoor activities of many kinds. It's a small country with a lot of open space as well as mountains, lakes and rivers.

Let's take a look at the gun laws in Slovenia. The rate of privately owned firearms is 13.5 per 100 compared to the U.S. 101 per 100 people- seriously. I didn't make that up. The rate of gun deaths in Slovenia is 2.44 per 100,000. Firearms homicides are .05 per 100,000 while the gun suicide rate is 2.34 per 100,000. There was 1 unintentional firearm death in 2010 in Slovenia. Private possession of handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles are strictly regulated and only allowed with special authorization. Licensing, registration and providing a good reason for the necessity to own a gun are required in Slovenia as well. Safe storage of guns and ammunition is also required. Oddly citizens in Slovenia are allowed to carry guns in public with no permit. For some reason, with only one unintentional gun death and just over 1 gun homicide, apparently Slovenians are more careful with their guns than gun owners in the U.S.  And there is no gun lobby to ramp up fear and paranoia about gun rights.

As with my other posts about gun laws in countries that I visit, there is an inescapable comparison to strong gun laws and few gun deaths and injuries. People are allowed to own guns but have to go through a process to get them that must make one think about their own responsibilities towards the firearms.

I am looking forward to a peaceful and non violent trip to the country of Slovenia where common sense has worked to keep people safe from gun violence.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gun laws in Italy

So we are traveling to Venice and then on to Slovenia and Croatia. It makes a nice triangle of travel. Two other couples are joining us for this trip, one of which is of Slovenian descent. He will meet with some of this relatives. As always when I travel, I like to write about the gun laws where I find myself.

So let's take a look at the Italian version of guns, gun laws and gun violence. About 7 million Italians own guns. According to the link, Italy is 15th in the world when it comes to gun ownership. Italy had 798 gun deaths in 2010- about 1.31 per 100,000. Most of their gun deaths, as in the U.S. are due to suicide. There were only 53 unintentional gun deaths in Italy in 2010. There are some gun manufacturers located in Italy.

From this article, we learn more about the Italian gun laws:
I used to tell people that you can’t even own bullets in Italy, let alone a gun, but that isn’t exactly true. In this duly elected democratic country of Italy guns and bullets are not outlawed, but they are strictly controlled. The Italian Constitution does not recognize a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms. There are strict rules about who can own a gun and for what purpose. Private ownership of military style weapons (e.g. machine guns) is strictly forbidden and military ammunition is also forbidden. Guns are also limited to a certain capacity (e.g. maximum 15 rounds in handguns), and there are also restrictions on the total amount of ammunition which can be owned and how and where guns must be stored (e.g. in a locked cabinet).
To obtain a gun license applicants must be 18 or older, prove they can handle and use a firearm safely (new gun owners are required to attend a  firearms course at a registered shooting range and earn a certificate of completion), certify that they have a clean criminal record (which is verified by the Police) and must not be mentally ill or be a known abuser of, or addicted to, alcohol or illegal drugs. (...) 
All private firearms must be registered at the local police department within "72 hours" after purchase or transfer. This time limit starts from the time the firearm is actually taken to the place where it is to be registered, for example, the firearm may be bought on a certain day and picked up a week later from the retailer; only then is the owner required to register the weapon.
Citizens are allowed to own: up to three common firearms ( such as 10-gauge shotguns, and some .22 rimfire rifles), and up to six weapons that have been specifically engineered and/or manufactured for shooting sports.  An unlimited number of hunting weapons (both rifles and shotguns) and up to eight antique or historical weapons (designed before 1891, regardless of when produced). In addition, an unlimited numbers of single shot muzzle loader replicas, are allowed with no registration needed. An unlimited numbers of airguns under 7,5 Joules of muzzle energy, specifically approved by the Ministry of Interior, do not require registration either.
Carrying guns in public places
In Italy it is illegal to carry any type of weapon in a public place, but the law provides the following exceptions: A hunting license, along with a special hunting permit issued by the region of residence, allows Italian citizens to carry hunting weapons only during hunting season and only within the confines of game reserves. When transporting them outside game reserves, the shotguns must be kept unloaded and locked in their case.
Concealed Carry License
A concealed carry license allows a citizen to carry a handgun for personal defense; this license is usually much more difficult to obtain than other firearm licenses, and must be renewed every year (while hunting and shooting sports licenses are valid for 6 years), and the applicant has to provide a valid reason to carry a concealed gun (e.g. a salesperson of valuable goods such as jewelry). 
So things are quite different in Italy pertaining to guns, who can buy them, how many can be owned, where they can be carried and requirements for registering the guns with the government. God forbid. People in Italy have to register their firearms. What next? Surely they will be confiscated next, right? Wrong. The American corporate gun lobby loves to insist that gun registration will surely lead to confiscation. It's natural. And woe unto whoever tries to challenge this infamous myth and outright deception.

Anyway, we don't hear about many shootings in Italy. They do happen obviously but very infrequently. That's because as a country, there is some common sense regarding the role guns play in their society. There is no second amendment. No hysteria. No hyperbole. No fear and paranoia. And yet, the country still exists and people still manage to live their lives. Surprised?

The government has it's own problems of course. The now former Italian Prime Minister. Silvio Berlisconi ,is widely known to be corrupt and womanizer among other things. Here is another article about Berlisconi. Italian politics are always colorful. Matteo Renzi is the current Prime Minister but that could change in a hurry as it seems to do. He seems promising as written in the above linked article:
And yet there are reasons to believe that Renzi, the leader of the center-left Democratic Party, will prove to be one of the more intriguing and long-lasting figures in Italian politics. At thirty-nine, he is the youngest Prime Minister in Italian history—younger even, by a couple of months, than the young Benito Mussolini when he was asked to form a government in the wake of his March on Rome, in 1922. Renzi’s youth matters because Italy is a country that has devolved into a gerontocracy: positions of power are occupied by men in their fifties, sixties, and seventies, while youth unemployment is above forty per cent. The job market is bifurcated between extraordinarily well-protected older workers who cannot be fired and younger people working on “precarious” temporary contracts, often making about a thousand euros (less than fourteen hundred dollars) a month. An astonishing percentage of young people live at home well into their thirties, waiting for a full-time job and the opportunity to marry. The most ambitious and energetic seek their fortunes overseas—in the U.K., France, or the United States. American universities are filled with brilliant young Italian academics who find it easier to break into the U.S. system than that of their own country, which functions, much like the country’s political system, according to the principles of cronyism, nepotism and seniority.
We have traveled to many countries where the unemployment rate is high and young people are struggling. It's hard to know the underlying problems while enjoying the beauty, history and culture of so many interesting countries. We traveled to Italy in 2006 on a trip to Tuscany and Umbria and fell in love with that part of Italy. Venice will be a totally different experience and one we have not had since we traveled many years ago just out of college.

In spite of all of that, we intend to enjoy the usual wonders of Venice, including a boat tour of some of the islands nearby where glass blowing takes place. I know we will enjoy the food and wine as well.

Ciao from Venice.

Playing around with guns

I didn't intend to write this post today but I just can't help calling attention, once again, to something that I have written about before on this blog. What is it about guns that some people don't get? Why does someone with a gun believe he can just play around with it and not have something happen as a result? I have a feeling that some gun owners think nothing bad could ever happen to them because of course, the guns are for their own defense or for recreation. But happen they do. This Florida man thought he could do a "Tombstone" stunt with his gun. Now his sister is dead leaving behind a young child. You can't make this stuff up. But when guns are everywhere and everyone has one with not enough training and is actually encouraged to have guns, this is going to happen. Until we have a serious conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our every day lives, I expect to be writing about more of these incidents.

But more from this article:
Eric Stayton attempted the same stunt Saturday night at his home in Chaires, where about a dozen friends and relatives were celebrating the birthdays of his sister, 39-year-old Renee Chaires, and her 23-year-old daughter, reported the Tallahassee Democrat.
Chaires, a hair stylist who would have turned 40 this week, was standing next to her daughter in the home’s carport when the 50-year-old Stayton began twirling his gun in the air. 
As he attempted to holster the weapon, it slipped from his hand, struck the concrete floor, and fired. 
A single shot struck Chaires in the neck, and she later died.
This man was very likely a "law abiding" gun owner by the way. It only took seconds before he wasn't but apparently he will not be charged with this stupid "accidental" death. There should be no "accidental" gun discharges. People need to be very responsible with their right to own and carry guns. Why even have a holstered gun at a family party? What's to be afraid of? Leave your gun at home or safely stored when others are around. The fear and paranoia promoted by the corporate gun lobby leads people to think they must have their guns wherever they go. And if you choose to wear your gun around even at family events, keep it in the holster. What's so difficult about that?

So what's the answer? Obviously laws won't help. It a culture thing. It's a gun thing. It's an American thing. Something needs to change in the way we talk about the risks of guns in homes. Common sense needs to happen, actually. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill another human being. They are not toys or play things and shouldn't be used as entertainment at a family party. Too many people are dying in senseless deaths. What we are doing now is just not working. Let's get to work and make the changes we deserve to keep families and communities safe from devastating gun deaths and injuries.