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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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Two mass shootings in the last 12 hours- just another day in America

Only in America. There have been 2 mass shootings in less than 12 hours. The first one happened in the library of the Florida State University. 3 students were injured. The shooter was shot by armed campus police. It sounded frightening at the least. One student was apparently saved by a book he had taken out from the library. News shows have shown a photo of the book with a bullet hole in it. Below is the message that is making the rounds on Social Media from one of the students in the library to her parent.



This is something no parent wants to see. Parents should know that their children are safe from gun violence while at college. But of course in America, colleges seem to be the location of many of our country's mass shootings. For that matter, so do high schools and then again, middle schools and elementary schools.

From another article we are learning more about the shooter who allegedly was a former FSU student and a law school graduate. From the article:
She said she had known him since he was about 13 or 14 and that he ran cross country with her kids and stayed at her house a lot. She said he lived with his grandmother after coming out of a "bad situation" with his parents.
"He was having some financial issues and moved back home and decided he'd come back to Florida to work," she said. "My heart's broken. In a million years I wouldn't have thought he'd do something like this. He was struggling, having decided that what he was doing out there was not good. He had some issues and just decided he'd come home.
In America, a lot of "troubled" people have easy access to guns and live in a country where guns are seen as some kind of solution to a problem or a way to seek some kind of revenge or take one's own life but decide to take others along. One person interviewed for the story above thought the shooter wasn't in his right mind. Who is when they decide to go somewhere and shoot up a bunch of people? Many people have financial, family, emotional and other problems. People all over the world have similar problems. But in America some of these folks shoot other people over their problems. Our history is littered with the names of shooters like this man allegedly was. The shooters at Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Tucson shopping mall, an Aurora, Colorado theater, Sandy Hook elementary school, Marysville high school, etc. You get the picture. It's a picture we shouldn't have to see. Where is common sense?

The second shooting was what appears to be a domestic shooting. Two small children are dead in a New Jersey home and another adult and child are injured. This, too, is an all too familiar scene in America. It happens in every state. And it will continue to happen as long as we turn the other way and refuse to take on the gun culture promoted by the corporate gun lobby. Surely we are better than this.

UPDATE:

I want to add two things to this post. The first is an article that echos what I wrote about the two reactions to mass shootings expressed by the gun extremists as opposed to most Americans. From the article:
The gun lobby acknowledges the problem of mass-shooting incidents in the United States. Its solution calls for arming more people who could potentially stop a shooter and for rapid-response training focused on minimizing casualties. This is part of an increasingly pervasive, insidious gun culture that accepts mass shootings as inevitable. But by this logic, the first victims—friends, loved ones, children—are expendable. The first victims of a mass shooting are a mangled human sacrifice on the altar of Second Amendment rights.
Until a shooter pulls the trigger to begin his slaughter, he is merely a guy with a gun. The gun lobby insists that the government should allow people to carry firearms into all public places. (Gun advocates continued to push for expanded open-carry legislation the morning after the Tallahassee shooting.) After all, who are we to judge a man simply because he is proudly displaying a gun by his side? In this world, the first victim is merely an alarm for others to respond. (...) With reasonable preventative measures off the table, gun advocates are making it easy for violent or unstable individuals to access and use firearms in acts of mass violence. In arming bystanders as a solution, the NRA and other pro-gun groups are simply telling first victims and their loved ones that their lives are worth less than gun owners having to consent to a basic background check. For the rest of the victims, well, you had a chance to arm yourselves.
Right. The second article is the statement from Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign about the Florida State University shooting:
“Our thoughts are with the victims of this morning’s shooting at Florida State University, as well as their families and the entire FSU community. While the circumstances of this horrible incident remain under investigation, this morning is yet another reminder of the gun violence in our country that claims nearly 90 American lives every day and injures more than 100,000 every year.
“We know that there are real solutions to reduce and prevent gun violence – from passing laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to inspiring safer attitudes and behaviors around guns in the home. Today’s tragedy should serve as an urgent call to action to every American tired of living with the gun violence in our schools and homes and on our streets to raise our voices in support of the solutions we know exist.”
Florida received an “F” grade in our 2013 state scorecard analysis because of its weak gun laws – in particular for its lack of expanded Brady background checks that would prevent criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing guns without a background check.

UPDATE #2:

I think we can safely say that we are living in a crazy and dangerous country when a second shooting occurred on a college campus in one day. This time, the potential shooter was a man acting strangely on a Louisiana campus who was stopped by armed officers before he did harm to others:
Shreveport Police Department spokesman Cpl. Marcus Hines said the man pulled out a handgun during a struggle with two Centenary College Department of Public Safety officers. In response, one of the officers fired at least one gunshot at the man in front of Magale Library, where he collapsed.
The officers were escorting the man off campus because he had been exhibiting "peculiar behavior," Hines said.
Why so many people acting peculiar with guns? Where do the guns come from?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gun safety=ASK(ing) about guns in homes




In my next in the series about gun safety reform, I want to write about kids shooting other kids with unsecured guns- particularly kids playing with friends. Why not ASK if there is a gun in the homes where your children and grandchildren play? It's an awkward question but a necessary one. The above video is from the site of the ASK campaign, a Brady Center campaign. Given the number of accidental deaths of children in America due to gun discharges why wouldn't we make this part of our every day practice? Asking could save the life of your child or grandchild. Asking equals safer homes and communities for children. I just wrote about safe storage of guns and deaths and injuries to children where that did not happen. In some cases, the gun discharges and kills the child holding the gun or a sibling. But some families experience the death of a child who was playing with a friend.

Check out the ASK campaign for a lot more information about how you can do this simple thing to save a life. As it says, "asking saves kids". There are a lot of other things we do to prevent serious harm or death to our children. We certainly find out if a parent will be home when our young children go to play. Will there be peanuts or other foods a child might have an allergic reaction to and become ill? Who is living in the home? If the parent will be driving your child, is there a child car seat or will they put the child in a seat belt? Will parents supervise an activity taking place at the home or while your child is with a friend? Is there a dog in the home that could be a danger or frightening to a child? Is there a swimming pool? If so, is it fenced in and if the kids swim in the pool, will an adult be there with the children? Are their poisonous or other dangerous materials around in the home?

Our children are our most important resource not to mention beloved by their families. We can't do enough to protect them from harm. So asking a simple question is not too much to ask.

From the ASK website linked above:

From the Childrens Defense Fund which releases an annual report about children and guns:

U.S. children and teens are 17 times more likely to die from a gun than their peers in 25 other high-income countries combined.
• U.S. children and teens made up 43 percent of all children and teens in these 26 countries but were 93 percent of all children and teens killed by guns.
• In 2010, children and teen gun death rates in the U.S. were over four times higher than in Canada, the country with the next highest rate, nearly seven times higher than in Israel, and nearly 65 times higher than in the United Kingdom.
• U.S. children and teens were 32 times more likely to die from a gun homicide and 10 times more likely to die from a gun suicide or a gun accident than all their peers in the other high-income countries combined
Why then, given the facts, are we not more alarmed about the rate of gun deaths among our own children and teens? These statistics are more than frightening. When children die from other causes, we rush to prevent the next child from dying. We take products off the market. We admonish parents to heed safety advice and change the way they do things in the home. We have public safety campaigns. Where are our leaders when it comes to protecting our children from a national public safety problem? Where are responsible adults and parents/grandparents? Guns in the home are a risk to our children and teens. The very least we can do is lock up the guns securely and ask about guns in the homes where children and teens hang out. There is no second chance.

This is just one more common sense measure to take when considering safe homes and safe communities. This is something on which we can all agree. If you don't believe me, check out this list of tragedies of kids shooting friends with an unsecured gun in the home:

Do I have to go on or will you promise to ask if there are guns in the homes where your children/grandchildren and teens hang out? There is a pledge on the ASK website. Please take the pledge. It could save a life and if you ask, others will follow, saving more lives. I have friends who have lost children from gun accidents suffered while playing with guns at the home of a friend. Even years later, the grief never goes away. So, for them and the thousands of others who have suffered from the loss of a child from an avoidable accident, please ASK. This is simple. Let's get to work.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Gun safety= safely secured guns

It is unimaginable that in a country that claims to care so much about health and safety, so many kids have access to guns. And when kids have access to guns, bad things often happen. Yes, parents take their teens and 11/12 year olds hunting. That is with supervision, hopefully, and a gun safety course or two. I live in Minnesota. It's a hunting state. I grew up around hunting guns and in a hunting family. I get that. I was taught to shoot a hunting gun but didn't particularly care for it. There were few handguns around in homes. Our gun culture has changed from guns being used mostly for shooting sports and hunting to now guns being stockpiled for protection against ? and to use against their own government in a supposed insurrection. Crazy right?

Right. So it should be no puzzle that so many people who own guns and claim they are safe with them have so many accidents with legally owned guns. But it is puzzling, given this reality, that we aren't taking measures to change the way we do things. Guns have become a product treated cavalierly and without the respect and responsibility owed to a product dangerous enough to kill another human being. It is my contention that anyone who buys a gun from any place must have training on how to use the gun and also how to make sure it is safety stored. So I'm puzzled as to why this doesn't happen. And young kids and even teens are not old enough to take on that responsibility even sometimes with adult supervision.

Some parents expose their very young children on purpose to guns. I have even seen photos from Facebook pages that get passed around of babies holding guns- taken as a joke or supposedly "cute" by their parents. The thing is, it's not cute. Some parents actually give their very young children guns of their own, made by the clever gun manufacturers for children. The child-sized "assault" rifle for example. This video mocks the actual product. But it's for real. You may remember when this little Kentucky boy got his very own assault rifle as a gift and shot his sister with it. She really is not in a better place no matter what her family says. Guns are not for kids. In some undeveloped countries children are forced against their will to become citizen soldiers. Remember the movie Blood Diamond? Tragic to say the least. That is not America- is it?

Safe storage of this gun in the home of a Minnesota family would have meant that we wouldn't have read this headline: Wadena Boy, 14, shot in head while "messing around" with handgun. What is wrong with this picture? A lot, of course. This headline clears it up: "Wadena boy accidentally shot in head was playing a game...." From the article we learn:
Further investigation by the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s office into the accidental shooting of a 14-year-old boy near here Thursday has revealed he was playing a game with a .38 caliber revolver when he was struck in the head by a self-inflicted gunshot.
The accident at his rural residence about five miles north of Bluffton or 10 miles northwest of Wadena occurred about 8:30 a.m.. The victim’s 12-year-old brother was the only other family member at home at the time of the accident.
The sheriff’s department said it’s not known if the victim knew there was a live round in the weapon.
Playing a game? Where do kids get ideas like this? Guns are not toys and should not be treated as such. Where were the parents? Why was this gun laying around for these 2 kids to mess around with when the parents were not at home? What do these kids see at home? What have they been taught about guns and gun safety? And even if they were taught about gun safety, kids and teens are curious and no matter what you tell them, they will get their hands on a gun if it's easy enough to do. It is just not enough to talk to kids about guns and not touching them. When there are kids and teens in the home, people with guns must practice safety and secure their guns locked away from ammunition and unloaded. But if you ascribe to the paranoid fear of the corporate gun lobby, perhaps you think a loaded gun is a must to stop a random burglary or home invasion. Those are very rare indeed.

Guns in the home are much more likely to be used to harm someone in the home than to ward off a criminal:
Having a gun in your home significantly increases your risk of death — and that of your spouse and children.
And it doesn’t matter how the guns are stored or what type or how many guns you own.
If you have a gun, everybody in your home is more likely than your non-gun-owning neighbors and their families to die in a gun-related accident, suicide or homicide.
Furthermore, there is no credible evidence that having a gun in your house reduces your risk of being a victim of a crime. Nor does it reduce your risk of being injured during a home break-in.
The health risks of owning a gun are so established and scientifically non-controvertible that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2000 recommending that pediatricians urge parents to remove all guns from their homes.
Notice that the recommendation doesn’t call for parents to simply lock up their guns. It stresses that the weapons need to be taken out of the house.
Many would disagree with that last sentence. But I am wondering if the parents of the 14 year old Wadena boy regret their decision to leave their gun around for a teen to access.

And more, from the article:
Children aged 5 to 14 in the United States are 11 times more likely to die from an accidental gunshot wound than children in other developed countries.
Nonfatal gun injuries occur at the average rate of 20 a day in the United States — and that doesn’t include pellet-gun injuries (which average 45 day) or injuries that don’t involve a bullet wound (like powder burns and recoil injuries).
“One study of nonfatal accidental shootings found that the majority were self- inflicted, most involved handguns, and more than one third of the injuries required hospitalization,” writes Hemenway. “Injuries often occurred during fairly routine gun handling — cleaning a gun, loading and unloading, target shooting, and so on.”
If the Wadena boy survives his injuries, he may have life long physical and emotional problems associated with his gunshot injury. And that will cost us all a lot of money. Gun injuries are expensive:
It costs over $2 billion a year in hospital charges to treat victims of firearms-related injuries.
That was the major finding of a study released today at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA). 
The high figure underlines the need to treat gun violence in the U.S. as a public health issue as well as a law enforcement challenge, according to physicians and advocacy groups contacted by The Crime Report. 
“We are talking about huge numbers of people being hurt every year,” said Dr. Eric Fleegler, an emergency pediatric physician at Boston Children’s Hospital who has published extensive research on firearm injuries and mortality.     
“These are not just problems for an individual but also an incredible burden on our healthcare system."
I could, of course, write volumes about kids and access to guns. I have written a lot of words on the topic as have the many others of us who are just asking for some common sense. For a while I contributed to the Kid Shootings blog but those of us writing couldn't keep up with the volume of shooting incidents of and by kids. The one thing we always said on that blog was; "Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult." Also the Ohh Shoot blog keeps track of "accidental" gun discharges. One recent post was about 3 toddler shootings in just one week! Yes, I said 3 toddlers got their hands on guns and shot someone with a gun in just one week. In what other democratized country not at war does this happen? It's a puzzle for sure. This is the America we have. Is this the America we want or deserve?

 It is possible to be safer from gun injuries and deaths. It is possible to protect our children from devastating gun injuries and deaths. Safe storage of guns is just one of the many ways to accomplish this. We can save lives if we think about it and separate this safety issue from the politics and the ugliness of the usual "conversation."

11 states have laws concerning safe storage and/or devices for locking gun triggers. If you look at this link to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence you will also see that the majority of school shooters get their guns from their own homes or from someone they know. It is crucial for so many reasons to lock up guns at home. Also at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence you can find where states have passed Child Access Prevention Laws, my own being one of them. Too often parents or adults are not charged under this law because of the pain and guilt already experienced by the adults who allowed a child access to a gun and shot him/herself or a friend or relative. But one case in Minnesota was prosecuted successfully.

I ran across this article moments after I posted this so I am going to now include it as yet another example of irresponsible adults allowing kids access to guns. In New Jersey, a girl is in the hospital after being shot in the stomach by her brother while the mother was showering. Yes, she was a nice lady and a "good" mother. Or was she? This wouldn't have happened if she had been good enough to think through the potential consequences of leaving a loaded gun around the house unsecured. It is just one more tragic, avoidable and senseless example of why guns need to be stored, unloaded, where young hands can't get them.

Check out projectchildsafe.org and take the quiz regarding gun safety and safe storage of guns. As is written on this site, this is something everyone can agree on. The Brady Campaign and other organizations are also working on this. Check out the new Brady Campaign's project- Imagine a Future where no child is killed with a parent's gun. We should be able to imagine this, right? The Brady Campaign has also launched The Truth about Kids and Guns. I suggest reading about how easy access to guns is killing our kids and how we can change that. Yes, we can make our communities safer. Yes, we can prevent the devastation of gun deaths and injuries.

Lock up the guns.

Let's get to work and save lives. This is a puzzle we can solve. We are better than what we are now doing.

UPDATE:

Sadly the Wadena, Minnesota teen who "accidentally" shot himself in the head while playing games with a gun has died of his gunshot injuries.

UPDATE #2:

A Florida father got a 10 year probation sentence for allowing his 3 year old daughter to access his gun and shoot and kill herself with it. From the article:
While her father was in another room, Zuri had picked up Chambers' loaded 9 mm semi-automatic pistol off a table in the house on the 1200 block of North O Street. She accidentally shot herself in the head.
Chambers, who left the West Palm Beach courtroom, without speaking to reporters, has already moved with his wife and 1-year-old daughter to Portland, Ore. to try to rebuild their lives, defense attorney Michelle Suskauer said.
Thomas Chambers (left) leaves a Palm Beach County courtroom Tuesday with his defense attorney Michelle Suskauer. Chambers, 41, was sentenced to 10 years probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter for the Feb. 13 accidental gunshot death of his daughter, Zuri, 3, in Lake Worth. (Marc Freeman/Sun Sentinel)
"This is the worst thing that can happen to anyone, to lose a child, especially in this fashion," Suskauer said. "It's a heartbreaking situation. There really isn't any penalty that you can craft that is worse than what he has to live with for the rest of his life."
Lock up your guns. It isn't worth the pain and anguish suffered by these parents.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Gun safety = common sense

Will we be wise enough as a country to do what it takes to keep our communities safe from devastating gun violence? Common sense is the overarching message behind all gun safety measures. Every day I see articles about senseless incidents of "accidental" shootings or people who get angry over ridiculous things and because a gun is at the ready, innocent people are shot or threatened. Take this one that just came across my "desk." Threatening your own daughter over a game of Battleship is a really bad idea. From the linked article:
A 68-year-old Utah County man was behind bars Tuesday, accused of having pointed a gun at his teenage daughter during a drunken dispute over a game of Battleship.
Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said deputies used GPS tracking to follow 911 calls from the 17-year-old girl’s cellphone to the suspect’s travel trailer Saturday night, parked near West Mountain. The teen told deputies that while playing the game, she had confronted her father about cheating — and he responded by pointing a rifle at her.
The girl was on an approved visit to her estranged father when the incident occurred. She has since been returned to her foster home.
We have learned over the years that drinking and driving don't go together. MADD succeeded in a campaign to establish laws against driving while drunk and change the legal limit of alcohol permitted for drivers. It has changed the culture of driving and it was wise, considering the stakes. It has saved lives. So what about drinking while in possession of a gun? If we had strict penalties and a campaign showing dead people as a result of a drunk person shooting someone like we had with the wrecked cars from accidents caused by drunk drivers, perhaps something would change.

And as an aside, gun deaths are about to eclipse auto accidents as a cause of death in some of our states. From this article comes some wise advise about gun safety and keeping kids particularly safe from gun deaths and injuries:
Children are more likely to be the victims of an accidental shooting. Accidental shootings resulted in the 785 deaths of youths aged 1 to 14 between 1999 and 2010. In the 15 to 19 age group, 1,095 youths lost their lives to a gunshot wound; adults are less likely to be victims of accidental shootings.
While accidental shootings are significantly lower than homicides, these deaths are unnecessary and adversely impact families and our communities.
Is response to senseless murders and accidental deaths of thousands of people, many advocates of gun control have been pushing the federal government to pass stricter gun control laws , but is this really a viable solution for reducing the number of fatal shootings?
Most likely it won’t. Though restricting the number of rounds available in magazines could limit the death toll of mass shootings it won’t prevent them altogether, neither will having armed guards at schools.
Let’s remember, there was an armed guard at Columbine High School in 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and injured an additional 21 people.
Education and shift in the way our culture glamorizes guns may be the solution. Unfortunately, the majority of accidental shootings among youth occur because they have easy access to their parent’s or guardian’s firearms. These deaths can be prevented when their parents are responsible and keep their firearms from their children’s reach. Teaching children that guns aren’t toys and emphasizing their deadly nature can also prevent a number of these unnecessary accidental deaths.
So again, common sense, wisdom and responsibility can make our children and families safer from the devastating gun violence that affects far too many people. It seems that would mean it's time for a campaign like MADD to lower the deaths from guns. And it could look much like the one that just happened in the state of Washington. Those voters were wise enough to know that requiring background checks on all gun sales would lead to safer communities. Nevada voters will get their chance to show common sense and collective wisdom as well regarding safer communities.

Common sense tells us that if gun owners had a very clear understanding that they shouldn't have their gun near them or on them while they are drinking fewer shootings involving alcohol would surely occur. I write about incidents like the one above often on this blog. I also write about totally stupid and dangerous incidents involving guns by "law abiding" gun owners who sometimes shoot others for reasons that just don't make sense. (Not that any shooting really makes sense unless it is a clear case of justifiable self defense.)

You may remember one of my more popular posts- Guns and board games. Apparently even playing games while having a gun on one's person is also not conducive to safety. It is also not wise.

The gun lobby has managed to convince legislators all over our country, including my own in Minnesota, that it's OK for those who carry loaded guns on their bodies can drink in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Sure, many of these folks don't cause trouble. But why take that chance? Why allow loaded guns in bars? It just makes no sense and this letter to the editor says it well. Does a bar tender ask for a gun permit before serving someone alcohol in a bar to make sure that person won't drink too much and then get into an argument or accidentally leave a loaded gun sitting around where others can gain access? It is clearly not wise and can lead to tragic consequences.

You might find this article interesting about the relationship between guns and alcohol consumption. From the article:
You're twice as likely as people who do not have a gun at home to down five or more drinks in a single sitting. You're almost two-and-a-half times more likely than people who do not have a gun at home to get behind the wheel of a car when you have, by your own admission, drunk "perhaps too much." And you were just a little less likely than that (2.39 times as likely to be exact) to consume 60 or more drinks per month.
And compared with gun owners who kept their firearms at home unloaded and under lock and key, those who said they sometimes carry a loaded weapon for personal protection or who keep a weapon loaded and unlocked around the house were more likely to do things like drink and drive, and to engage in what substance abuse researchers call "binge drinking."
Here's the problem: These two broad categories of behavior are often related. Of the 395,366 firearms-related deaths reported in the United States between 1997 -- when this data were actually collected -- and 2009 -- the latest date for which the tally of firearms-related deaths is available -- about one-third are thought to have involved alcohol. In 2007, 34.5% of suicide and homicide victims in the United States had alcohol in their systems at the time of death, and 60% of those were considered acutely intoxicated.
Obviously one very important gun safety measure is to practice common sense while under the influence of a gun.