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, October 18, 2014

This is the America we have- is this what we want?

More and more, there is evidence that we are living in a country where crazy ideas trump the truth and reality. Such is the case with our country's gun laws. In no other country not at war do we see the incidents that I, and others, write about on a regular basis. It is coming down to public safety versus a huge and profitable gun industry. On what side will our leaders come down?

Do we really want a country where the first amendment right to free speech is canceled because the supposed second amendment right to carry a gun wherever one goes no matter what trumps it? In Utah, the answer is, apparently Yes. A woman critic of video games who is a feminist and blogger, had to cancel a recent speech at a Utah college because of threats of a mass shooting. In Utah, people with gun carry permits can carry in colleges and apparently no one can stop them from bringing guns into a public venue. What a crazy world we have created. From the article:
“Anita Sarkeesian has canceled her scheduled speech for tomorrow following a discussion with Utah State University police regarding an email threat that was sent to Utah State University," the announcement on the university website said. "During the discussion, Sarkeesian asked if weapons will be permitted at the speaking venue. Sarkeesian was informed that, in accordance with the State of Utah law regarding the carrying of firearms, if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue.”
Shortly after the announcement, Sarkeesian took to Twitter to criticize the gun policy.
"Forced to cancel my talk at USU after receiving death threats because police wouldn't take steps to prevent concealed firearms at the event," she tweeted. "Requested pat downs or metal detectors after mass shooting threat but because of Utah's open carry laws police wouldn’t do firearm searches."
Gun rights have trumped the right of people to be safe from gun violence. This is disturbing. It is also stupid and dangerous. Why do we put up with this? Why do we put up with people openly carrying assault rifles into places where we shop and do business like at Kroger's stores? What could possibly go wrong? Check this out to find out. And it's not even Halloween yet. Here's the question. How do we know the difference between a supposed "law abiding" gun carrier with an assault rifle and someone who means harm? The answer. We don't. This insistence by the gun rights extremists, who represent a subset of gun owners, can only be a bad thing for those who just want to have their guns for hunting, recreation and maybe for self defense at home. They do not represent the majority of gun owners who agree with common sense when it comes to gun safety reform. 

And then there's this in Rochester, Minnesota. A man who insists on carrying his loaded gun, only partially concealed, to the edge of a school zone, has set off a controversy with neighbors and parents. This is about what kind of communities we want for our children. Most people do not want people with loaded guns around school zones. There is no reason for this to happen. But some who represent a subset of gun owners, insist on forcing their loaded guns in places where others gather claiming it's all for protection. Having a gun in the home for self defense is one thing. But purposely carrying near a school zone and pushing the limits is another. This story is about rights vs. rights. We need to decide, as do our elected leaders, what is the right thing for the overall public safety of the majority. There is enough evidence that carrying a loaded gun around can be potentially and actually harmful for us to understand that something unexpected can happen with a loaded gun. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill another human being.

This "Gun Fail" blog by David Waldman at Daily Kos is keeping track of how often "law abiding" gun owners have problems with their guns. It's not funny. This is serious business. He is not making these things up-he actually provides links to the actual articles about the actual incidents. Let's check it out:
Anyway, here's a quick and dirty run-down on the numbers in our most-frequently reported categories. From around mid-August to early September, we saw 11 "home invasion" shootings, that is, where someone has accidentally fired into their neighbors' home or property, not counting two additional instances of firing into a neighboring hotel room. There were also 11 target shooting accidents of various kinds, five hunting accidents, five accidents while cleaning still-loaded guns, six various FAILs involving law enforcement or security officers, three shootings of people mistaken for intruders, two accidental shootings arising from attempted interventions in ongoing attacks or robberies, three accidental discharges while out shopping or dining in public, and the first accidental discharge in the classroom of the still-young school year.
The really alarming numbers, though, were among those who accidentally shot themselves (33), those who accidentally shot a family member or significant other (11), and kids who were accidentally shot (29). Among all the carnage, 17 of the 100 incidents on the list resulted in fatalities.
The thing is, this is what's actually happening in our country. Loaded guns are a risk to us all. These should be enough to make our hair stand up. So to those who want to "open carry", your claims of being perfectly safe with your guns in public are not necessarily true. The public is not buying it and your antics are not helping any of us feel safer.

We live in a country where private sellers sell guns to people who shouldn't have them. This couple had a bad feeling about a person to whom they sold a gun. Never mind. They wanted to make some money so they sold the gun anyway. It was perfectly legal because we allow this in our country. Crazy, right? From the article:
It turned out their instincts were right — John Christian Parks had an eight-felony-long rap sheet, for meth dealing and escaping from jail, and was developing paranoid, white-supremacist views. Still, the couple, who did not know who Parks was, sold him the gun for cash and later also sold him a Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle — the same type of gun used in the Sandy Hook massacre.
“We had a bad feeling about it,” the wife told me this week. “But my husband and I are not criminals. We just sold him the gun. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
I am not naming this couple because she is right — it’s currently perfectly legal in our society to sell your assault rifle to another adult, no matter how sketchy, out behind a gas station. The law says you can’t knowingly sell to someone barred from owning a gun. But in our state, when it comes to guns, ignorance is often bliss.
“You aren’t required to require anything, depending on what you know. I require cash,” was how one private gun salesman summed up this state’s Wild West gun-selling rules at the Northwest Firearms online forum. (...) The assault rifles the couple sold to Parks later turned up in the woods in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. There, Parks and some friends, including one with a warrant out for his arrest, had gathered with two truckloads of semi-automatics to shoot at exploding targets. Parks was convicted of being a felon in possession of a gun and sentenced to eight years in prison.
He had also bought a third semi-automatic rifle from an online gun market, Gunbroker.com. The FBI found emails that Parks sent to the online seller, such as this one:
“May Yahweh protect you ... from foreign and DOMESTIC enemies that are trying every day to dismantle the constitution and the republic to bring a communist socialist dictatorship where the American is the enemy and the sheep to be lead to the Gulag FEMA camps to have a fate as much of our Russian kinfolk did in the 20th century under the Bolshevik Revolution I.E. Jewish Zionist revolution = TORTURE and DEATH! Hail VICTORY!”
Sure, you can have a gun.
At the end of Parks’ case, the judge, Thomas Zilly, said that above all else it showed “how easy it is for anyone to buy firearms online or on the street.”
The article was written in favor of Initiative 594 in Washington State that would require background checks on all gun sales. The citizens of Washington have decided to take common sense to the public rather than to rely on their state legislators because like in Washington, we know that our lawmakers are not representing the views of the majority of their citizens. They are in the pockets of the corporate gun lobby.

So the big question here is- Is this the America we want or deserve? We can decide this together and make us all safer from gun injuries and deaths. The fact that we haven't done so already speaks volumes about the American gun culture of fear and paranoia foisted on us by the corporate gun lobby. It's time for that to change. There are better ideas for public safety that need to be embraced by our elected leaders. But they are still living in the dark when it comes to public safety. It's time to shed light on the lack of courage of our leaders and the outsized influence of a gun lobby that represents a small minority of voters. Let's get to work. Surely we are better than this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Time to "Protect All Women" from domestic abuse

From Center for American Progress
October is Domestic Abuse Awareness month. In spite of the many efforts to prevent domestic abuse, it is endemic in our world and in our country. Yesterday, Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP) , located in Duluth, received a very prestigious award. From the article:
"The World Future Council, an international policy-driven organization, announced the Duluth Model as the “gold star” winner of the Future Policy Award for 2014. The model was selected from among 25 initiatives, laws and policies from around the world that were previously named as finalists.
“We just love that it’s a policy that’s being awarded — not just people,” said Melissa Scaia, executive director of the nonprofit Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs. “There are people who created it and now people who are moving it forward.” (...) 
The policy was selected for its “coordinated community response,” World Future Council officials said.
Karin Heisecke, the organization’s senior project manager for ending violence against women and girls, said many national and local jurisdictions around the world have implemented domestic abuse laws and policies, but rarely do they translate well from paper to practice.
“The Duluth Model is exemplary in that it really addresses what other laws and governments have not achieved,” Heisecke told the News Tribune in a telephone interview from Geneva. “It’s important to have a policy on paper, but you need to get all of those stakeholders — all the people involved in the implementation — to work together for it to be successful.”"
Domestic abuse needs a community and a community response in order to protect women ( it is mostly women affected) from the abuse inflicted upon them by the men and/or partners in their lives. The comment that really struck me from the press conference I attended yesterday was from Minnesota Representative Mary Murphy:
“It’s kind of bittersweet that we’re winning an international award for the work that’s been going on for so long, and yet we have no less need for the help that we have to give to the people that come for our service,” she said.
Indeed. We have "no less need for the help" for this international problem. As we know, women and children all over the world are abused in many ways. It is a reflection of the power and control used by the abusers to keep the abused alone and afraid. That is why we need a community response and a coordinated community response as the Duluth model represents.

I sit on the Board of DAIP and I'm proud of the work of the organization. Last week I attended a lunch for the Safe Haven Shelter for battered women in Duluth. A woman who had used the shelter services spoke passionately and tearfully about the abuse she had suffered and the help she received from the shelter. This woman is a professional in the community as is her now ex-husband. Domestic abuse knows no boundaries. It can, and does, happen to any family.

Way too often the abuse leads to a tragic end. The Violence Policy Center has released its' annual report about the affects of domestic abuse. From the report:
The Violence Policy Center has published When Men Murder Women annually for 17 years. During that period, nationwide the rate of women murdered by men in single victim/single offender incidents has dropped 26 percent — from 1.57 per 100,000 in 1996 to 1.16 per 100,000 in 2012.
However, the rate of women killed by men in the United States remains unacceptably high. A 2002 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that the United States accounted for 84 percent of all female firearm homicides among 25 high-income countries, while representing only 32 percent of the female population.
This information from the report concerns the use of firearms in domestic deaths:
Firearms — especially handguns — were the weapons most commonly used by males to murder females in 2012. Nationwide, for homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 52 percent of female victims were shot and killed with a gun. Of the homicides committed with guns, 69 percent were killed with handguns.
The overwhelming majority of these homicides were not related to any other felony crime, such as rape or robbery. Nationwide, for homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 85 percent of the homicides were not related to the commission of another felony. Most often, females were killed by males in the course of an argument between the victim and the offender.
We know this information and have known this for years. And yet, we still allow domestic abusers to purchase firearms with no background checks because they can buy from private sellers at gun shows and on the Internet. This is unacceptable. If we truly care about saving lives, we need to pass measures to keep domestic abusers from buying guns and also to make sure they have guns removed if they are abusers. There are some people who should not guns.

In June I attended a conference sponsored by the Center for American Progress about the topic of domestic abuse. I wrote a post about it then. I have written often on my blog about domestic abuse and shootings. One of my posts is here.  This issue is near and dear to my heart since my sister was shot by her estranged husband in a domestic shooting as she was trying to get out of her marriage. It's why I do what I do. And we know why some survivors of gun violence do what they do. Former Representative Gabby Giffords is now traveling the country to urge the passage of a bill with her organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions. You can sign a petition on her website urging Congress to take action to protect women. A bill has been introduced to get guns away from stalkers. We know that women who are stalked by their abusers too often end up being injured or even killed by their stalkers. Women are threatened every day with guns and by stalkers who have guns. Making sure these abusers don't access guns will save lives.

And the Center for American Progress has updated information about domestic violence:
Five women are murdered with a gun in the United States every day, most often by an intimate partner. From 2001 to 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in this country by an intimate partner using a gun—more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in action during the entirety of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. A key factor in reducing murders of women is, therefore, preventing dangerous domestic abusers from having easy access to guns.
The Center for American Progress has also formed a new website called Protect All Women. We need to disseminate this important information about the risks for women in America- especially when their partner/spouse/abuser have a gun. This website is a great advocacy site for those who are interested in the safety of women all over our country. Check it out for how your own state is doing to protect women from abuse and the tragic deaths that sometimes come with the abuse.

This is stunning information. What are we going to do about it? If the corporate gun lobby cared more about saving lives than making profits, we could put our heads together and do the right thing that makes common sense. Women are killed at an alarming rate in our country. We have a lot of work to do to change that and prevent the violence that is devastating to far too many families. Every day I read about another domestic shooting. This is not happening in other developed countries not at war. It's way past time to do something about this American tragedy. We are better than this. Let's get to work.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

More pathetic, stupid and dangerous antics from the gun lobby

There should be no surprise at the disturbing lengths the gun lobby, this time in the form of the NRA, will go to defend non defensible ideas. Try this one. A Maryland Sheriff has stated that he will not enforce federal gun laws and is ready for a civil war against his own government. From the article:
"The National Rifle Association's media arm is defending a Maryland sheriff who warned that the enforcement of gun laws could lead to a civil war between his county and the federal government.
Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis made national headlines in September after telling a local news station, "As long as I'm the sheriff in this county, I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my citizens of their right to bear arms. I can tell you this, if they attempt to do that, it would be an all-out civil war, no question about it."
According to USA Today, Lewis made similar comments to a Delaware NBC affiliate, warning of a civil war with the federal government over the enforcement of a hypothetical ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
In response to Lewis' comments, gun safety group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) launched a petition calling for the revocation of Lewis' Maryland Police Training Commission certification. According to CSGV, "It is difficult to see how a law enforcement officer who is threatening to wage war with the United States government meets any recognized standards of public service. In the wake of his threatening comments, Sheriff Lewis should not be given the responsibility of training law enforcement officers in Maryland."
The NRA's media arm, NRA News, responded to CSGV's petition, terming it "pathetic" and downplaying the inflammatory nature of Lewis' comments. (...)
Lewis is a vocal critic of gun regulations enacted in Maryland in 2013 in response to the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He is also a member of extremist organization Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, and reportedly attended the group's 2014 meeting. The group ascribes to the discredited theory that the county sheriff is the ultimate legal authority in the United States. The group's leader, Richard Mack, made headlines for claiming he and other supporters of lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy "were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front" in case violence broke out during an April standoff between Bundy supporters and federal law enforcement."
First of all, does anyone remember the Civil War? 620,000 were killed. Of course, the total number of gun deaths in America just since 1968 have eclipsed the total number of Americans killed in all wars since we became a country.  But I digress. The extremist gun rights view of America is potentially dangerous and can only lead to bad things.

Second, pathetic is the word that should be ascribed to the NRA's defense of people like Lewis who is an elected official. We don't need elected officials who refuse to enforce our own laws. Is he saying then that background checks on gun sales at federally licensed dealers will not longer be enforced? If he is, then he is saying it is fine for domestic abusers, felons and dangerously mentally ill people to buy guns anywhere with no checks. That sounds like a great idea, right? You just can't make this stuff up. The thing is, these are extremists and sometimes insurrectionists, whose fear and paranoia are ramped up by a profitable corporate gun lobby whose interest lies in the money and not in saving lives. If this man truly believes that there will be a civil war that he will actually instigate, we are in for a rough time. Either that, or he is in for a rough time. This flies in the face of all common sense and of public health and safety.  I, for one, am very happy that the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and other groups are exposing this extreme behavior. It often flies under the radar until a shooting occurs like the one in Nevada and we find out that the shooters were of the ilk that hates their own government and taking innocent lives be damned. 

And then there's NRA Board member, Ted Nugent- again. Seriously- why is this guy anywhere where people can hear his offensive and incendiary remarks? This time he's telling his audience of minions that because President Obama is not a Christian, in his "professional" and "wise" opinion, people should vote for Republicans. Because, well because, um er because- (from the article):
National Rifle Association board member and conservative commentator Ted Nugent
suggested that President Obama is not a Christian and touted Republicans as "the only chance we have" to kill "the wolf at the door" during the 2014 midterm elections.
Ah yes. It's to "kill the wolf at the door". What the he$% does that mean? A dog whistle to those God fearing Christians out there who listen to his show? The wolves are coming everyone. Get your guns. The liberals are coming for them soon enough. You know, like they've been doing now for the last few decades. They've been advancing to your door to confiscate your weapons. Amass your AR-15s and ammunition because they must be killed or else.......... Well, you get the picture. This guy is spewing total nonsense and worse. Fear and paranoia reign in his world and that of his listeners. What an exciting world it must be for them. And, please remember that Nugent is a director on the Board of the NRA. Fine fellow. Check out the rest of the board members if you want to be amused or worried.

I mentioned in my last post that the NRA lobbyists and leaders have done all they can to stop the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to become our nation's Surgeon General because he happened to mention that gun violence is a public health threat. Well now Ebola is a public health threat and we have no Surgeon General to deal with it. And the NRA successfully managed to "gag" doctors in Florida who want to keep their patients safe from the epidemic of gun violence. Ebola is a public health threat and so is gun violence as Mike Weisser points out in this article:
But let's not forget that the CDC isn't allowed to figure out what to do about gun violence and if it were up to the NRA, every state would follow Florida's lead in gagging doctors who want to talk to their patients about guns. If 30,000 Ebola deaths in Africa constitutes an epidemic, what do you call 30,000 gun deaths which have occurred every year in America for the past twenty years?
The NRA and the corporate gun lobby are not in favor of public health and safety measures that affect the American public. We do have a "wolf at the door". It's not what the corporate gun lobby would have you believe though. We should be "waging war" against anything that takes the lives of 30,000 people a year. The "civil war" that the gun extremists are talking about is already here. We are killing each other every day with the guns that are promoted for recreation and self defense but get used way too often to kill family members and friends.

Just remember. These are the actions of extremists and they are supported by the corporate gun lobby. A Facebook friend of mine just posted that her husband was ready to do some hunting. Just because he is a hunter he gets stuff from the NRA and this time he has received mailers from both the NRA and the candidate running with their endorsement- a tea partier and gun dealer. The flyers are clear that if the Democrat is elected, her husband's right to hunt and own a gun will be in danger. She is upset enough about the propaganda spewed by the mailers that she is going to give another donation to the candidate who believes that gun owning and gun safety reform are not mutually exclusive. And he represents the majority of gun owners and even NRA members. 

It's past time to change the gun culture and gun laws in America. People are dying every day and we do nothing to reduce or prevent these deaths. We can't stop all gun deaths just as we can't stop all diseases and causes of death. But we sure as heck should be trying hard. Let's get to work.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What is wrong with this picture and other gun news?

In my last post, I talked again about the fallacy of the "bad guys" with the guns and the need for the "good guys" to protect themselves from these awful people who are lurking around in every nook and cranny of our communities. The problem with this false idea is that the "good guys" with guns are killing people every day. Take this Ohio domestic shooting as just one example:
"Police said that Samson shot his wife multiple times with a 40-caliber handgun and records show that the Terre Haute doctor held a Federal Firearms License, which effectively enabled him to trade and sell weapons from his property - in a manner similar to a gun store owner.
Indeed, according to Advance Indiana, police recovered a literal arsenal of weapons from the home, including assault rifles, hand guns and several hundred rounds of ammunition."
Just another "good guy" with a gun and a "law abiding" gun owner exercising his second amendment rights. You just can't make this stuff up.

Every day I run into articles about the dangers that come with too many people who shouldn't have guns killing or injuring others or "good guys" making mistakes. Take the incident of an Oregon "law abiding" gun owner who had just purchased his handgun and decided to carry it holstered so everyone could see it and maybe be afraid or be impressed? Someone else with a gun saw it too and decided he wanted that gun. He robbed the man of his new gun. You just can't make this stuff up. Some gun owners who open carry are like male peacocks. They are showing off to get a response. It doesn't always go so well. Why display a weapon openly? Most of us don't understand it but the "Open Carry" movement is still trying to prove something to the public, believing they can "educate" the rest of us about the value and safety of carrying guns around in public. We aren't buying it.

And then there is the increasing concern of those who have guns in educational facilities and the risks involved. Doesn't this Illinois "law abiding" former FBI member know gun safety? Guns in schools are simply a really bad idea. This guy was darned lucky something tragic didn't occur. You just can't make this stuff up. But it's happening every day in America. What's wrong with this picture?

As I mentioned in my last post, we have things to fear in this country. There is increasing concern and talk about the Ebola virus. Some of it is hyped up in ignorance or purposely which is a really bad idea. But we need all the "boots on the ground" we can have to deal with a public health issue and to make sure Americans are safe. I remind my readers that we have gone without a Surgeon General in our country for quite some time. Why? Because the NRA lobbyists and leaders have decided that the nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, might just do something about gun safety reform to keep us safe from the gun violence epidemic. It's time for that to change. Common sense tells us that no matter what else a Surgeon General does, surely that person is needed to engage and inform the public about health and safety concerns. Some Democrats and most Republicans are afraid to confirm this man. Shame on them for their lack of courage. What difference does it make since this great article points out that at election time, the NRA endorses mostly the Republican candidates anyway. From the article:
Howard Wolfson, a political strategist now employed by Bloomberg’s pro-gun control PAC, Independence USA, saw a similar effect from Begich and Pryor’s NRA freeze-out. “It’s not clear to me what their votes got them other than grief,” he said. “If this is how [the NRA] rewards their friends, I certainly wouldn’t want to be one. They would have been greatly advantaged politically by voting the right way. They would have actually made friends rather than take heat from the people they sided with. That’s a very teachable moment. You do the thing you know is wrong for political motivations and then the people who you think are going to help you hurt you. That will be long remembered in the Democratic caucus.” (Pryor’s campaign declined to speak on the record for this story. Begich’s campaign did not return calls, nor did the NRA.) (...)  
All of which is to say that even some pro-gun-control politicians and advocates are still wary about where and how to make themselves heard—which, let’s face it, undercuts their own effort to persuade other elected officials and the media that gun politics are heading in their direction. But that shift is happening, regardless. There’s still a ways to go—for one thing, it’s quite possible that Republicans will reclaim the majority this fall even without guns being a big rallying cry for the right, which will all but doom the prospects of bringing Manchin-Toomey back for another try in the next two years. But if there is another vote, it’s quite possible that Kay Hagan will be in the Senate for it and Mark Pryor and Mark Begich won’t. And their colleagues may well draw a lesson from that, one that will further erode the ancient, self-perpetuating notion of NRA omnipotence.
Let's hope our leaders realize that siding with the corporate gun lobby is a really bad idea given the consequences of not acting on laws that could save lives. What is wrong with us? We have been led to believe some things that are simply not true by a mythically powerful organization representing a large industry- the gun manufacturers and sellers. Meanwhile, according to the Violence Policy Center, more Americans are affected by gun violence than car accidents in some states. And men continue to murder women with guns at an alarming rate.

It is a sad state of affairs when our elected leaders are willing to sacrifice the lives of their citizens because of fear of the corporate gun lobby. There is a lot wrong with this picture. Let's get to work to make the changes the majority of Americans want and deserve. While we are diddling around and showing our feathers, people are dying. It's a national shame and a tragedy. We are better than this.

UPDATE:

It didn't take long to find yet another example of a "law abiding" "good guy" with a gun doing something very tragic and stupid with his gun. A Pennsylvania State Trooper was killed when another trooper's gun discharged in a training session and hit him in the chest. These things are avoidable and senseless. In America we treat guns too cavalierly and too many incidents like this are happening. What is wrong with us?