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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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Breaking news- mass shootings and gun insanity as far as the eye can see.

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I refer my readers to my other blogging site (www.commongunsense.me)  where I make most of my posts and respond to comments. 
On Thursday of this week, the breaking news was all about mass shootings. One could not look at any news media without the interrupted programming reporting about the shooting of Marines at a Naval recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And today, the news is that another victim has died of the injuries sustained in Thursday's mass shooting. Also on that day, the jury of the Aurora theater shooting trial returned a guilty verdictCommon sense happened. In addition, there was news about the upcoming trial of the Charleston church mass shooter. America was consumed by mass shooting.
What we didn't hear about that day was that 80 other Americans died from gunshot injuries and hundreds more sustained injuries. What the news media did't talk about was a spree shooting in Maine that killed 2 and injured 5. How did this guy get his gun, by the way?
Will there be a day when we won't be talking about another mass shooting? When will we do something about all of this? Congress took a break from their work while families were grieving and people were being shot. This statement from the Brady Campaign is perfect:
The two stories dominating news headlines across the country both center on the issue of gun violence – an epidemic that kills 89 people in America every day, and injures hundreds more. Congress’ response to a grieving nation: another three-day weekend.
“Today marks one month from the Charleston church shooting, while just yesterday four Marines were killed while serving their country on US soil and the Aurora movie theater shooter was convicted for murdering twelve people. Gun violence leads the news today in every congressional district in America, and this doesn’t count local shooting incidents that fail to make national news,” said Brady Campaign President Dan Gross. “The issue of gun violence is very much on the public’s mind and the last thing Congress should be doing is taking another break. Our elected leaders should make it a priority to take immediate action to keep guns out of the wrong hands and that starts by taking a vote on H.R. 1217.”
Isn't it time for them to get to work on solving one of our country's most pressing public health and safety problems? When 32,000 Americans die in one year from gun injuries, isn't it time to break out common sense, put our collective heads together and start working on solutions? For there are solutions and we are ignoring them.
I write often about, at the least, requiring background checks for all gun sales. 92% of Americans, and yes, even gun owners, favor this solution. Why is this not the solution? Why would we even think about allowing anyone who purchases a deadly weapon to not go through a background check? It's insane.
A group of faith leaders has written about another solution and is imploring President Obama to use it in this New York Times piece:
For more than a year, we and fellow religious leaders across the nation have worked to persuade President Obama to use what we believe is the most powerful tool government has in this area: its purchasing power. The federal government is the nation’s top gun buyer. It purchases more than a quarter of the guns and ammunition sold legally in the United States. State and local law enforcement agencies also purchase a large share. Major gun manufacturers depend on these taxpayer-funded purchases. For the government to keep buying guns from these companies — purchases meant to ensure public safety — without making demands for change is to squander its leverage.
Some of the leading brands of handguns purchased by the government — Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, Beretta, Colt, Sturm, Ruger & Company — are also leading brands used in crimes. Among the brands of handguns recovered by the Chicago Police Department at crime scenes between January 2012 and October 2013, all six of these companies ranked in the top 11. When police officers carrying Glocks are recovering Glocks at crime scenes on a regular basis, shouldn’t this prompt questions about whether the police department could use its influence to reduce the number of guns that end up in the hands of criminals? When Smith & Wessons turn up frequently in the hands of criminals, shouldn’t questions be asked when Smith & Wesson seeks a contract with the federal government?
There are specific suggestions made by these faith leaders that could lead to safer practices of selling guns to make sure guns don't fall into the hands of those who shouldn't have them. Why would we not require these gun dealers to more accountable for what they are doing? They are selling deadly weapons designed to kill people.
Along the line of common sense solutions suggested in the above linked piece is another article that highlights the gun sale policies of Walmart, the nation's largest seller of guns:
Current federal guidelines offer dealers a degree of discretion in the small percentage of cases where background checks don’t clear within two hours and are placed under review, after which many retailers will opt to proceed with the sale even if an approval or denial hasn’t been issued when the three-day mark passes. Walmart’s own background check policies have surpassed federal requirements since 2002, when the company decided that it would no longer sell guns to customers without a completed approval from NICS. The company refuses to sell a gun without a concrete all-clear from the federal system.
“The fact is, a gun dealer is not required to sell a gun to anybody,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tells The Trace. In default proceed sales, he argues, it’s safer not to. In a 2000 FBI study, the agency found that a person whose background check takes over 24 hours to complete is also 20 times more likely to be a prohibited purchaser. “Walmart realized that it’s just not good practice as a responsible corporate citizen to supply guns to those people,” says Lowy.
Walmart, the nation’s largest gun retailer, sells rifles, shotguns, and ammunition in some 1,700 outlets. (It doesn’t offer handguns, except in the state of Alaska.) In 2008, the company adopted even more rigorous standards by implementing a 10-point code of conduct as part of a partnership with the gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In addition to refusing default proceed sales, Walmart agreed to videotape all firearm transactions, require background checks for all employees handling or selling guns, and create a system to trace guns sold by the company that are later linked to crimes, among other measures. (Mayors Against Illegal Guns is an earlier iteration of Everytown for Gun Safety, a seed donor of The Trace.)
Other gun dealers need to follow these simple good practices when selling guns. Lives depend on it.
Making sure kids and teens don't access guns can also save lives. The ASK campaign is all about asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where your kids play and hang out. Making sure if you are gun owners yourself, you do the same, is crucial.
The solution is not more guns, by the way. There is absolutely no evidence that works. In fact the opposite is likely true. For example, this Georgia navy recruiter accidentally shot himself in the leg with his personal weapon carried into a recruiting center. But now, of course, Republican Presidential candidates and gun rights activists are suggesting that if only those Chattanooga victims would have had guns, they could have protected themselves.
Pandering.
How would that have worked? The shooter shot from a distance spraying the buildings with bullets and it happened by surprise as these events always do. Perhaps military members working in these facilities should be armed but armed and trained. But even then, it may not stop the next armed attacker from spraying bullets from a distance. Like in any situation where a gunman shows up, chaos ensues and more guns do not ensure more safety and fewer deaths.
Even armed officers and law enforcement are shot and killed or injured in "guns allowed" zones. One of the first victims in Chattanooga was an armed police officer who was injured and couldn't stop the shooter. I have written often about the shootings of armed officers in Tacoma, WashingtonPittsburghNew York and other places.
Arming more people is not the answer. The answer is to have fewer armed citizens. There are far too many guns circulating in America. There are far too many people who shouldn't be abel to have guns who can access them far too easily. The evidence is mounting that in America we make it easy for shooters like the Aurora shooter, the Columbine shooters, the Charleston shooter, the Chattanooga shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter and all of the others to gain access to deadly weapons.
Despite these advantages, even the NCVS is almost certainly overestimating defensive gun use. The fact is that defensive gun use is an inherently rare phenomenon: Any survey, no matter how well designed, will produce a final estimate that is much higher than its true incidence because of false positives. Not only is this a well-established statistical phenomenon, it’s also supported by new data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) — the most comprehensive and systematic effort to catalog every publicly available defensive gun use report — which finds that there were fewer than 1,600 verified DGUs in 2014.
In response to GVA data, pro-gun advocates have been forced to argue that the reason researchers can barely find .064 percent of the 2.5 million DGUs a year claimed by Kleck and Gertz is because virtually nobody reports their defensive gun use to the police. This argument is problematic. For starters, it would seem to imply that the vast majority of people using guns in self-defense are irresponsible citizens who use their firearm to ward off an attempted crime, and then, perhaps uncertain about the legality of their action, are leery of interacting with the police. It would also imply that while these citizens ostensibly stopped a crime serious enough to justify brandishing a firearm, they aren’t at all concerned about informing the police about a criminal who remains on the street.
The only thing we can know for sure is what we have empirical data on: Namely, that there is a reliable floor for defensive gun use estimates at around 1,600 a year. In addition, according to the most recent data on defensive gun use, we have reliable evidence showing that owning a firearm does not give individuals any significant advantage in a criminal confrontation, and they are no less likely to lose property or be injured by using a gun in self defense.
Facts matter. We need to re-think our insane gun culture and the claims made by the corporate gun lobby. For saving lives is the most important thing we can do and if the facts point to stronger gun laws and discussing the role of guns and gun violence in our communities that don't fit with the claims made otherwise, it's time to change the conversation.
As if to punctuate the evidence about our daily news and breaking news reports about shootings, Everytown for Gun Safety has a new report about the trends in mass shootings and other shootings. It is not a pretty picture. You can read the facts for yourself but surely the report reveals that more guns and more easy access to guns had made our country far less safe. Let's look at just one fact, though, considering the shootings of the past few weeks:
Here's some further evidence to support this point. Last year, Media Matters noted that response rates to mass shootings are generally within minutes of the first shot fired. During the September 2013 Navy Yard shooting which claimed 13 lives, for example, local police arrived within two to three minutes and members of the Yard's armed security force had already fired at the shooter but failed to stop him. In 2012, Mother Jones found absolutely no evidence that even a single mass shooter had considered whether someone in the area could legally be carrying a firearm. Instead, shooters choose locations based on their personal connection to the site — and don't seem to care much about whether someone might be firing back at them. Perhaps that's because many mass shooters are suicidal; Everytown says that in 42% of incidents, the shooter killed themselves.
Facts matter. We can't let this trend continue.
Today is my birthday. I have much to be thankful for. So today I will celebrate with the usual cards, birthday cake, time with friends, calls from family and time at our beloved cabin on a lake.
Too many people will not be celebrating birthdays. Too many families will not be able to celebrate the birthdays of their loved ones, killed by gun violence. It's all around us.
We are better than this.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bullets and Fireworks

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July 4th is the iconic American holiday. I plan to spend it with my family at our cabin enjoying the sun and the water as well as time spent together. We will go to a nearby fireworks display as will millions of Americans. Every year, people are harmed by fireworks of some kind. Last year, several were killed, including this Detroit man. From the article:
It happened following a barbecue on Plainview. A witness says the victim picked up an explosive to set it off when it shot in his direction.
"I tried to notify the media, the legislature, anyone I could that legalizing these powerful professional-grade fireworks is wrong for Michigan," said retired police sergeant David Malhalab. "There is no price you can put on a life, a hand, a child, an eye, a mother or a father."
So legislatures also have regulated certain types of fireworks because of their potential to harm citizens. There are known risks, including fires started by fireworks. This report, including numbers for injuries, deaths and fires, shows the dangers of fireworks. In 2014 over 10,000 people were treated for fireworks related injuries and 11 people died. Young children were among the highest age group treated for injuries. Most of these were from misuse or malfunctioning of the fireworks.
So we know that fireworks can be harmful and hopefully your own family will be safe from any injuries or problems associated with the usual fireworks displays or family celebrations with smaller fireworks.
We also know that guns can be harmful and celebratory gunfire on this holiday has caused "accidental" injuries and deaths. Given that gun owners should understand that bullets that are fired into the air must come down somewhere, it's really hard to understand why celebratory gunfire still occurs. Warnings are already issued in some places:
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office will be taking a zero tolerance stance on any and all illegal gun use and gun crime during the holiday.
"There are many ways to safely celebrate with family and friends. Discharging  a firearm is NOT one of them," said Sheriff Al Nienhuis.  "It's just too easy for people to get hurt.  Leave the firearms at home, in a safe and secure location."
Good advice. But it will not be followed by some who feel the need to bring their guns with them wherever they go. From the reports above, the risks of being injured by fireworks are greater than any risk of having to use a gun for self defense in a public place where families gather to enjoy the holiday celebrations.
A stray bullet hit a Missouri woman just under her eye while she was watching fireworks on Independence Day.
The bullet is thought to have come from a rambunctious reveler who shot his gun into the air to honor our freedoms. Spoiler alert: Celebratory gunfire is not one of them.
"I'm sure they were celebrating," Janet Brewer told the Daily News. "There was no one around us who had guns. It had to come from a distance."
Brewer, of Fenton, is not against the Second Amendment but thinks irresponsible gun ownership is “way out of hand.”
“We are trying to get out there just how dangerous shooting something in the air can be,” she said. “I’m just lucky to be here. If it were an inch higher, it would have gone through my eye and gone through my head and killed me.”
The second amendment does not guarantee that one can do anything with one's gun. With rights come responsibilities. Let's look at more incidents involving stupid and dangerous behavior with guns on July 4th.
An 11 year old Kansas girl died when a bullet fired from over a mile away hit her and killed her during a July 4th celebration. Here is a quote from the girl's mother:" “A gun is not a toy; it should not be out at any point of celebration, because that’s how my daughter lost her life. A bullet traveled quite a distance and hit her in the neck,” she said."
A gun is not a toy. It's a weapon designed to kill and needs to be treated as such. Here's an article about a 7 year old Virginia child who was killed by July 4th celebratory gun fire and about celebratory gun fire in general. Gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates all agree that people should not shoot guns into the air.
My state of Minnesota has passed some strict regulations about where certain kinds of fireworks can be used and which ones are banned. Some fireworks are not allowed in public places and some are banned for private citizens. So here's a question? Most fireworks are not allowed in public spaces but loaded guns are. Does this make any sense? I say no. It's time to think through what public safety actually means. If it's not safe for fireworks in public, why is it safe to allow people to carry guns in public places? Isn't it time for this to change?
July 4th should be a holiday for fun and time with families and friends. And it should be a safe time for all. So be careful out there with fireworks and take the advice of the Sheriff from the above article: "Leave the firearms at home in a safe and secure location."
Happy 4th to all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The numbing and silencing of America


On Monday my chapter of the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence ( also affiliated with Protect Minnesota) organized and held a bell ringing in memory of the 9 victims of the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting. It was well attended and very powerful. There were 3 local clergy from different faith persuasions giving remarks as well as the pastor of the local AME church where we held the event. Another community activist involved in the community of color also made remarks. As is our tradition, we had 9 people from those gathered come to the front of the church and hold a photo of each of the 9 victims. When they said their names, our bell was rung. We finished by ringing the bell for all other victims and survivors and joined in a hopeful song.
We are numb in this country. We hardly know how to respond any more to these kinds of shootings. But this one seemed different. 9 people were targeted because of the color of their skin. I have not seen this much activity on-line, on social media, in the American media, in media from around the world in events held, in comments made- ever since I have been involved in the issue of gun violence prevention. It has stunned me. People want to talk about it. A friend stopped me in the grocery store. She wanted to talk about it. People saw me on TV as I was interviewed about the bell ringing. The public is outraged and numb.
We have been numbed down and dumbed down after years of these kind of shootings. But this time, things are happening. In a surprise move, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina made an unexpected statement yesterday with her support for taking down the confederate flag from the Capitol area. She was given accolades. I ask what took so long?  Black Americans have had to endure the insult of the flag that represents so much historical pain and suffering for too many years. It's inexcusable.  And, what's worse, politicians have supported it- some out of ignorance, some say it's out of respect for history ( which ignores a big chunk of that history) some out of fear of those on the far right who seem to be still fighting the Civil War.
Along with removing the Confederate flag, Governor Hailey should also be looking at some changes to her state's gun laws.
Regarding the Confederate flag, though, quickly Walmart, Sears, Amazon and now Ebay are removing any confederate stuff from their stores or on-line site. Guns, not so much. They will still sell guns- the instrument of the terror and White Supremacist act that occurred last week in Charleston. Shouldn't we wonder why they were selling this stuff in the first place? Why did it take a heinous race based shooting to begin a national discussion that should have happened long ago?
Offensive stuff for sure.
It's been a week now. And the country has been reeling with the uproar caused by this shooting. The Charleston community has reacted with grace and peacefully, even using the word forgiveness and sometimes hope. That is what we heard at our bell ringing event on Monday.
Maybe this time there is hope. Adam Gopnik wrote this for the New Yorker:
Against this, of course, was the suggestion, by a board member of the National Rifle Association, that responsibility for the massacre lay with the clergyman within the church, for opposing laws that would allow “concealed carry” in places of worship. Had he not taken that stand, the argument runs, there would have been a pitched gun battle in the church—a better thing, apparently, even though it would have only fulfilled the gunman’s mad fantasies of race war. Pitched gun battles in a Charleston church or a Connecticut elementary school, of the sort that some in the N.R.A. apparently dream of, would more likely be horrific blood baths, with crossfire and injured bystanders, not some well-tuned and well-timed action-movie scenario.
The reason that we have gun massacres in numbers wildly out of proportion to any other rich country is because we have too many guns. When gun massacres have happened elsewhere—as they sometimes have, in Canada and Scotland and Australia and elsewhere—the common-sense response has been to change the laws, and, almost always, after the laws are changed the massacres end. In the United States, they continue. It seems like a good bet that changing the law here would change that.
In the areas of gun crime where there has been extended study, we know for certain that serious gun control works to end, or at least limit, gun violence. It is as robust a correlation as any in the social sciences, as sure a thing, as I’ve written before, as knowing that antibiotics act to limit and end infections. You go looking for sane counterarguments in favor of overarmed America and find that none exist. Guns don’t protect anyone from anything. Their presence simply increases the odds of domestic tragedy, of a domestic altercation turning into a homicide (or a suicide). The data confirms what common sense suggests: not even the most desperately paranoid among us could possibly be perpetually prepared for an actual home invasion—as very rare as such incidents actually are. The fantasy of the armed homeowner bravely repelling the evil armed intruder is just that. The number of justified homicides is overwhelmed by the number of gun tragedies. In 2012, thirteen states, including New Jersey and New York, reported no justifiable homicides at all. Not one. The notion that gun possession could stop, rather than increase, the number of casualties in the home is another fantasy created by violent movies and television programs, and is only possible in them. (Violent crime is dropping under the gun-control regimes in Europe and Canada as well, just as it has in the States. We’re still the only country that has gun massacres so routinely that our leader has to figure out what new thing he can say each time out.)
Gopnik goes on to write about the Confederate flag and why people who still pledge allegiance to it and to their own gun fetishes and fear and paranoia are so dangerous:
Another, parallel claim—what might be called the insurrectionist one—insists that guns are necessary to enforce a constitutional right to threaten and subvert the duly elected government as gun owners might see fit. This is a view that one Abraham Lincoln rather fiercely resisted, and put an end to in the eighteen-sixties. Amid the arguments over the Confederate battle flag flying in Charleston, the one that insists that the flag represents, above all, an effort to make slavery a permanent state for black people is probably the most relevant. But it’s also worth remembering that the defeat of the Confederacy involved exactly the defeat of the notion that the threat of insurrection was ever to be regarded as an acceptable political act. As Lincoln said, in his first inaugural, “No government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” You can’t say you need to have a gun to threaten the government.
Gopnik finishes with things I have written here many times before:
On most public issues, there are two reasonable views, even when one view seems, to put it mildly, cruel—the view, say, that poor people should be left without medical insurance. But on gun control there aren’t. All the facts are in; all the social science is long settled; the constitutional positions are clear, if contested, and the wiser way known and shared by mankind. On one side are facts, truth, and common sense. On the other, an obsession with dark fantasies of individual autonomy and power—the sheer fetishistic thrill of owning lethal weapons. On one side is the sanity and common sense shared by the entire world; on the other, murder and madness and a strange ongoing American mania. If we don’t change, then, well—it will happen again, again. And then again.
Will we choose sanity and common sense or will we choose madness?
Who is ultimately responsible for dozens of gun lobby sponsored bills advancing not just in Missouri each year but in other conservative legislatures? We are. Who is responsible for the many legislators who remain silent during floor debate, even though their districts suffer the most gun violence in the state? We are.
Who is responsible for a Congress which continually fails to advance policies like universal background checks even though 90 percent of us, including gun owners and NRA members, overwhelmingly support these common sense measures? We are.
Who is responsible for re-electing a Congress which ignores majority opinion in favor of standing with the gun lobby? We are. Who is responsible for the myth that one can't get elected if they stand up to the profiteering of gun manufacturers? We are.
In our silence, we have forgotten that we hold the power to save lives.
Our power is our vote -- the power that the majority of Americans don't utilize unless it's a sexy presidential election year. Most Americans have no clue who represents them in state houses (where most gun laws are being passed) or even in Congress, which is exactly how the NRA wants it. On top of that, the NRA knows exactly who votes and who doesn't because voting records are public and available to anyone. (...)
Our silence on election days is increasing the carnage and suffering. We cannot afford more silence. Please help.
Silence is killing us.
Don't be silent. Don't be numb. Wake up. Stand up. Raise your voices. Make noise so your elected leaders hear you. Demand that they listen to the voices of reason whose concern is for the victims.
We have been dumbed down as well by the myths and illogical arguments foisted on our leaders and too many Americans by the corporate gun lobby. They have succeeded for too long now but the latest carnage in Charleston, South Carolina is pushing the country to speak out and speak the truths that have been too long ignored. We need the courage of conviction on the gun issue as is starting to happen on the flag issue. There is a right about some things in our culture that, when evil exposes the terrible wrong, just has to be acknowledged. There really is such a thing as common sense.
But instead of standing up for common sense, our legislators and Congress have left with us with a mess. What just happened in Mississippi where police can't arrest a guy with a gun in a Walmart store who terrorizes the public points out how insane we have become when it comes to gun rights. And if that isn't enough, Iowa has passed a law allowing blind people to carry guns in public because- rights...... Insane. It's a mess.
These kinds of stories represent what's gone terribly wrong about rights. These things shouldn't be normal. The people don't want this kind of behavior to be normal.
But we can fix what's wrong. Our leaders have also been touched by the Charleston shootings in a way that perhaps they weren't even touched after the Sandy Hook shooting. It's a national shame that the corporate gun lobby stopped the country from acting according its' conscience after the Sandy Hook shooting. Maybe this time the organization whose board member tried to blame the victims for the shooting will have to sit down and be quiet for a change. Senators Manchin and Toomey have admitted that they are willing to pursue gun safety reform legislation of some kind. Is there hope?
There just has to be change and there just has to be hope for our country. This family surely lost hope in a hurry on Father's Day when a father who had a gun decided to shoot his children, his wife and himself for reasons we may never know. This. This is why we just have to change the conversation about guns and gun violence in our country.
Is the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting the one that was one too many? Is this the one? Are the other mass shootings that occurred on the week-end after the Charleston shooting too many for us? Is the murder/suicide of a young family ( just one of many that occur regularly) enough for us?
Will we decide we won't continue to be numb and we refuse to be dumbed down and numbed by the gun lobby?
This article ends with a great quote that fits with everything I have written in this post about our political leaders and the need to have them stand up to the gun lobby:
Despite the assertion that pro-gun forces are winning the battle for public opinion, support for reasonable gun laws remains strong. According to a poll by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, 83 percent favored background checks for all gun sales, while 80 percent supported prohibiting anyone with a temporary domestic restraining order from buying a gun.
“It’s noteworthy that attitudes among gun owners were well over a majority for a whole range of different measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” said Johns Hopkins associate professor Colleen Barry.
This fight isn’t lost, then. Far from it.
It’s time to speak up and speak out.
To fight fog with facts.
And to be every bit as determined as the other side.
It's been foggy. It's been numbing. It's been void of the facts for far too long. But things are changing. We may be coming out of our numbness and our fog.
Most people have. Everytown for Gun Safety produced this video. Watch it. We can now add "Charleston". Time to stop being numb.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64G5FfG2Xpg&w=560&h=315]

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Gun insanity reigns

This post is cross-posted at www.commongunsense.me where I am now doing most of my blogging and moderating comments. Please check it out.
The political cartoon I have used here is going around on social media. It is a pretty good depiction of what most people think about the guys who openly carry their assault rifles in public to make some kind of point that alludes the sane majority. And it also points to the insanity of our gun culture. Just as gun deaths are going up, so are the attempts to weaken gun laws and "normalize" gun carrying in public. It's antithetical to the real problem of gun violence in our communities and definitely not what we need.
What we need in our country is a serious national discussion about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities- not the insanity taking place in communities across America. Why is it happening? The answer is important. What or who are these guys afraid of? Their behavior makes no sense given that crime is going down in our country for many reasons. And President Obama has not taken away anyone's guns during his two terms. The gun lobby has made claims about why we need an armed America but they are specious- not supported by the facts.
On the other hand gun deaths are going up for many reasons. And most of the deaths are suicides or homicides among people who know each other rather than random acts of violence by "the  (feared) other". People like themselves ( "good guys with guns") are shooting people on a regular basis intentionally or not (accidents). Shouldn't we examine what is going on here and then deal with this national public health epidemic in ways that will affect lives and make us safer?
In America I thought we rolled up our sleeves and worked together on things that kill our children, sisters, brothers and friends. Why? Because we don't want our loved ones dying from something preventable.  Or we engage and rally supporters and the public to educate them about the causes and effects of serious problems and then ask our elected leaders to make changes to laws, if that is what's needed. Or maybe it's not a law. Maybe it's awareness that will lead to changes in behavior that can also save lives or prevent injuries. But the gun lobby has seen fit to prevent research about saving lives due to gun violence. And that is insane and troubling to say the least.
Certainly that is what happened when MADD called attention to the insanity of drunk drivers being responsible for the deaths of their children. Recent changes to our acceptance of same sex couples have led to changes in our marriage laws to allow people to marry who they love. We now recognize that second hand smoke can cause health problems. Public health campaigns encourage cancer screening tests which can save lives. Some of these efforts resulted in laws, others not.
Something interesting is happening with awareness about gun deaths and injuries, much of which changed after the shooting of 20 small children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The public is far more engaged on this issue and new polling has shown continued and mostly unchanged support for changes in laws that could save lives. With more groups and organizations pushing for change, it is inevitable that change will happen. But there's an opposite push by a minority of well funded and increasingly bold gun extremists that makes no sense given the facts. Rather than trying to prevent gun injuries and deaths by highlighting the risks of guns, these zealots are exposing America to an underbelly of extremism that is potentially dangerous and certainly not in the mainstream or the interest of public health and safety.
Meanwhile things are getting crazier and crazier in gun world. What is the deal with the open carry activists anyway? They are pretty much making fools of themselves while also calling attention to the potential dangerous result of laws that have made it possible for gun extremists to carry any kind of gun they want to carry in public places. Our legislators should be re-thinking their favoring of the corporate gun lobby's nonsensical notion that openly ( or concealed) carrying loaded guns in public places is a good idea. The "proof is in the pudding".
I don't have to give all of the examples of permit to carry holders having problems with their guns in public places do I? It's been written about by me and many others repeatedly. But further, in a civil society not at war citizens don't carry loaded guns around in public. I've traveled in countries where armed military are on the runways at airports or in public places because of unrest and potential violence. Is that us?
Grisham tells officers that he is within his rights to loiter roadside with high-powered weapons. “This is public property,” Grisham says. The cop, however, informs Grisham that he has actually been standing on private property, and that he and his cohorts are guilty of criminal trespassing.
Grisham asks why cops felt compelled to give a warning armed with AR-15s. When police pointed out Grisham too was in possession of a large weapon, he dismissed the concern since the gun was “on [his] back.”
“I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’m minding my own business,” Grisham complains to police. “Do you know why I’m feeling this way right now?”
“I feel threatened,” Grisham explains loudly, “because you are a police officer and you have people with rifles here that are threatening me.”
Grisham and his partners in crime elected to leave rather than escalate their dispute with law enforcement. But when he gets to his car — a silver minivan with an Open Carry Texas logo on the front driver’s side door — Grisham turns back toward cops to shout at them first before getting in. “You guys wanna come up on us like we’re some sorta terrorists, then I’m gonna respond in kind,” Grisham yells toward police, before exchanging a few more tense words, and driving off.
That last utterance from Grisham pretty much says it all doesn't it? What kind of sane person who doesn't want to call attention to himself or who isn't looking for a confrontation does this? Grisham has had his problems with the law. When the new carry law is enacted in Texas will he even be able to carry a pistol legally? From the article:
That being said, it seems like Mr. Watkins and Open Carry Texas leader CJ Grisham, two men who’ve dedicated much of their adult lives to being radical anti-government wackos fighting for gun rights in Texas, might finally be getting their wish as a current proposal would pave the way for Texans to openly carry handguns. There’s just one slight catch – neither man would qualify to do so under the proposed law. Under current laws anyone convicted of a Class A or B misdemeanor is prohibited from carrying concealed handguns for 5 years, and anyone arrested on either of those charges loses their concealed license until the case is resolved. Well it just so happens that Grisham was arrested during a hike carrying an AR-15 and charged with interfering with an officer’s duties, while Watkins was arrested this past September while he and his group of anti-government activists were out harassing police officers in Arlington, Texas. It’s believed that the requirements under this new proposal would mirror the state’s current laws concerning concealed handgun licenses, which means that if convicted, neither Grisham or Watkins would be allowed to openly carry handguns for at least 5 years. Naturally, neither man believes that any form of license should be required to carry guns. As always they’ll cite the “shall not be infringed” fragment of the Second Amendment – while completely ignoring the whole “well regulated” part at the very beginning.
These are the "law abiding" "good guys" with guns who are promoting ever more lax gun laws so that they can do whatever they want with their guns. People can't do whatever they want with anything in our country. We have laws for a reason. That's a democracy in action.
The Open Carry nonsense is gaining traction- but not for the reasons the Open Carry folks want. Check out this parody about Open Carry on a recent Daily Show segment. The Texas pool party incident that has everyone talking took on a different meaning looking at it through the lens of satire about Open Carry. And can we talk about the totally different reaction by one set of Texas police officers towards mostly black teens in a disturbance at a swimming pool and another set of Texas police officers towards a bunch of insane men carrying assault rifles and yelling at and harassing the officers?
Something is wrong in America.
Here's another "law abiding" good guy with a gun waiting to break a law. I thought that was just for criminals. Remember another gun lobby myth- that if we make stronger gun laws, the criminals won't follow them anyway. Based on that mythical analysis we should not have any laws I guess. But I digress. An Open Carry Missouri activist, looking all "svelt" decked out in his finest, decided that the law about not allowing people with guns in his local zoo was just not for him:
In April, Open Carry activists marched on the Ohio State university campus to ‘educate’ kids attending school there. When a man named John informed the group that children as young as 5-years-old will be attending dance classes nearby, and politely requested that those participating leave their weapons in their vehicles until right before the walk, Jeffry Smith declined.
He said, “If children are scared, then it is because they’ve been socialized to be so.”
“It’s a zoo, not an amusement park. It’s a zoological institution. The difference between the zoo and Six Flags is that the zoo is public,” Smith said.
Under Missouri law, guns are prohibited in amusement parks, but Smith questions if the zoo is actually categorized as one. (...) The St. Louis Zoo said that it bans all weapons.
I guess when you are a white guy with an AR-15 and a pistol on your hip,you can do anything you dang well please with that gun. And why do people need guns in zoos? Maybe a peacock will get out of control and attack? Or a lion could escape I suppose. Or worse- a bear. I mean, we have bears and deer in my  back yard regularly where I live but I don't need my gun to get rid of them nor would I use it that way. Or armed at an amusement park? You just never know when you might get stuck at the top of the ferris wheel and need to shoot yourself to safety. Insanity.
No, this guy is just strutting and showing off because he thinks he can. He mistakenly believes that his second amendment rights include doing anything he wants with his guns. And he believes that we should just socialize everyone to love having people like him around everywhere we go. And as for the kids, they will learn that we are a country at war with ourselves over gun rights- a war not seen anywhere else in the world. Wars in other parts of the world are where people actually get killed with those AR-15s or loaded guns in public. Oh right........Sandy Hook. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Gabby Giffords. Aurora Theater..............
Or there's the NRA's own Ted Nugent exclaiming on his Facebook page that President Obama should be assassinated. He's done this before, of course, and got the attention of the Secret Service. One day, his rantings just may result in a tragedy. Do these folks actually think through what they are saying or is the fear and paranoia real? Hard to tell. Nugent is a performer- and a bad one at that.
So how to counter this insanity? Here's an idea from a University of North Dakota professor that is worth considering. Refusing to enter an eating establishment or other business that allows folks with openly carried weapons inside is one thing. Walking out without paying may work, it may not. The businesses are stuck with the laws in their states but most could post signs that say guns are not allowed or welcomed inside. But the gun rights extremists say they can and will ignore those signs and carry anyway. The laws are not meant for them. Insanity reigns.
The thing is, a civil society is a society where people help each other and care about each other enough to not to harm or inflict violence on others. Certainly having guns openly carried discourages the idea of civility. How can one have a serious conversation with someone displaying an AR-15 over their shoulder? And why an assault rifle? There is a clear message sent by the carrier of these guns. Don't mess with me. "Molon Labe"- come and take it. We get the message. It's flawed and full of potential problems. Our message is that we don't want you carrying these guns around with you in places where our families hang out. Leave them at home where you can use them for self defense, or um,  for whatever people think they need them. 
As I said before, we need a serious national discussion that is beginning to happen in spite of efforts to stop it ( by the corporate gun lobby). There are films and plays in the works. There are publications and studies. There are protests. There are blogs and new web sites. There are Tweets and Facebook pages and new studies showing consistent support for common sense when it comes to stronger gun laws.
June is gun violence awareness month. June 21st is ASK day encouraging parents to ask about loaded unsecured guns in homes where their children play. We have had more than enough incidents of kids "accidentally" killing kids to know how important it is to ASK. On June 22nd, HBO will run a documentary about gun violence victims. titled "Requiem for the Dead".  The film is full of incidents taken from news media reports and Facebook and Twitter links to actual deaths of real people. As long as real people die every day, these kinds of films will be important as a documentation of the facts.
Please join me in efforts to take the insanity out of our gun culture and gun laws. Too many people are dying every day. What we need are cool, sane, calm and reasonable voices with the facts at hand if we are to influence the decisions made about gun policy. Lives depend on our getting this right.
UPDATE:
I am updating this post to include this blog post by Mike the Gun Guy. It's all about the appearance of Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign on Sean Hannity's FOX news show the other night. From the blog:
But nice-sounding platitudes aside, I find it interesting that someone as pro-gun as Hannity would give Dan Gross an opportunity to appear before a large Fox audience to prove, if nothing else, that he’s not Lucifer in disguise.  Because although Hannity threw in a couple of red-meat comments that are de rigueur on Fox when anyone mentions guns, such as his fear of the ‘slippery slope’ of gun control, he basically let Dan tell the audience how much gun owners had in common with supporters of the Brady Campaign, which is entirely contrary to what usually erupts from the NRA.
Ever since the Brady law was voted in 1994, the NRA and other pro-gun groups have kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-Brady commentary designed to convince gun owners that any expansion of background checks is nothing short of a conspiracy to take away all guns.  Here’s a typical comment from the NRA in 2013 after Brady mounted a video to mark the 20th anniversary of the original background-check law:  “The Brady Campaign’s proposed expansion of federal background checks would force even many family and friends to get government permission for firearm transfers amongst each other and subject all lawful gun transfers to federal paperwork and recordkeeping requirements, the prerequisites for a national registry.”  Of course this statement is simply untrue, but it plays directly into the old slippery-slope gun control nonsense that Hannity found necessary to mention on the show.
I have been saying recently that the smartest thing Brady and Everytown have done is to move into the safety space which until now was owned lock, stock and barrel (pardon the pun) by the NRA. But while everyone’s in favor of safety, there’s one safety issue which puts the two sides as far apart as the Brand Canyon’s rims, and Hannity gave it away when he said that no matter how many laws were passed to prevent guns from getting into the ‘wrong hands,’ criminals wouldn’t obey laws anyway, so what was the point of passing more laws?
The pro-gun community falls back on this argument every time that any new measure is proposed that would increase regulation of guns.  The problem is that if we only passed laws that criminals would obey, there wouldn’t be any laws at all. Which is actually what the pro-gun community would prefer as regards gun ownership, particularly when a Democrat happens to be renting living space at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
You may remember that I wrote something very similar earlier in this post. It's true. Another gun lobby myth that doesn't hold water. It's time, as I have said before, to de-mythify the gun lobby arguments so we can deal with the facts when dealing with saving lives.