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.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Guns and Blueberry Pie

I ran across this article in the Star Tribune about the author who moved into the house next to Sarah Palin's in Wassila. He intends to write a book about Palin and lived in Wassila for 3 months while doing his research. While there, Joe McGinniss had some interesting interviews and exchanges with local residents. Many of the Wasilla residents were so reluctant to talk  about Sarah Palin as to be almost paranoid about talking or letting their names be used. They seemed fearful of some sort of revenge on the part of Sarah Palin. Really? How could that be? Does this woman have that much power over people or is so vindictive and mean that people are actually afraid of her? How odd for someone who is supposed to be just your small town moose stew making, apple pie baking , hockey mom. What is that all about?  

Other experiences with neighbors in Wasilla included several offers of guns. People came with blueberry pies and then offered guns to Joe McGinniss. Puzzling. Why did the residents of Wasilla think that McGinniss needed guns? Did they think his life was in danger living right next door to Sarah Palin? Or does the "Wasilla Welcome Wagon" automatically include guns? What is everyone so afraid of in Wasilla? Bears? Moose? Have there been a lot of attacks by animals there in recent times? I checked this site and found that there had been 3 brown bear fatal attacks and 1 black bear fatal attack in Alaska since 2000. There wasn't information about injuries.  Is the murder rate high in Wasilla? or in Alaska? How about suicide?

Alaska does actually have the 2nd highest firearms death rate per 100,000 in the country, behind Washington D.C. No wonder people think they need guns in those places to protect themselves. The gun laws are, of course, vastly different between  Alaska and D.C. Washington D.C. had banned handguns in homes until the Supreme Court Heller Decision. Many of the crime guns in D.C. come from guns obtained in neighboring states where the gun laws are much more lax, such as Virginia. The decision struck down a law that had been in place since 1975. The newly passed D.C. gun laws ( see above link) are now under attack again from people who would like to do away with almost all gun laws in the place where millions of tourists travel, where diplomats and important politicians from all over the world come, and where our own Congresspeople and Senators walk the streets.

Generally, Alaska gun laws are not that dissimilar from Minnesota's but there is such a patchwork of gun laws state to state that it's sometimes hard to discern whether one state is more strict or more lax than another. One major difference is: " Alaska does not require a permit to carry a concealed firearm. On June 11, 2003, the Governor of Alaska signed legislation amending Alaska Statutes § 11.61.220 to allow anyone age 21 or older who may legally possess a firearm to carry a concealed firearm without having to obtain a permit."

From the data I have looked at, Alaska appears to have the highest rate of suicide by gun in the U.S.  Many of the suicides are among the Alaska Native American population. Some people don't want to include gun suicides in their configurations of overall gun deaths. One of the comments on my previous posts said this: "I agree that 30,000 people dying is too many--but somewhere between 2/3 to 3/4 of those people directly contributed to their own death. Ignored are the crimes that were thwarted because of guns, or the crimes that were not even attempted because the criminals were afraid of being shot. 192,000 women a year stop a rape with a gun. Rapists succeed more than 10 times as often when their victims are unarmed. According to a brief filed in the McDonald vs. Chicago supreme court case, when Orlando Florida police announced that they would offer gun training to women rape decreased to a fraction of its previous total--while rising in the rest of the state, and the rest of the country. "

So, this person changed the subject somewhere in there. But I wonder why we haven't heard about 192,000 women a year who have stopped a rape with a gun? Surely that is newsworthy.  I did find this article which is pro women having guns for self defense but makes some sweeping statements about "anti-gun" groups being against women using guns. I also found this commentary from the Wall Street Journal written in 1988. The author is David Kopel and the source is the Cato Institute. The article provides anecdotes and references to 2500 women in Orlando being trained in the 1960s with guns after which rape incidents purportedly went down by 88%. I saw no footnotes or actual articles about this phenomenon nor could I find the McDonald brief referred to by a commenter about this effort. This is what I found about David Kopel: " Kopel opposes gun control and is a benefactor member of the National Rifle Association. His articles on gun control and gun violence have been cited in the Opposing Viewpoints Series.[6] In 2003, Kopel wrote in National Review "Simply put, if not for gun control, Hitler would not have been able to murder 21 million people [7]." He recently contributed an article to the 59th Volume of the Syracuse Law Review entitled "The Natural Right of Self-Defense: Heller's Lesson for the World.""  Perhaps the person who made that comment could provide more information so we can access the source and know whether the evidence is credible.


  1. I am overweight--should we ban fatty foods, shut down the local ice cream store because I can't control my eating?

    The McDonald Brief I was referring to:

    And I don't think it was really a subject change-Counting only the negative isn't reasonable--that is like saying ban hospitals because medical errors kill tens or hundreds of thousands a year. Guns have both costs and benefits, and it is important to consider both. We may rank the factors differently, but it is dishonest to completely ignore the ones that do not support your position.

  2. I don't recall saying anything about banning fatty foods though some states are requiring that McDonald's and others let their customers know how much fat is in the food they are buying. Different subject all together but if you want to start a crusade for that one, go ahead. I was not ignoring the argument you made. I want some proof in peer reviewed journal articles or actual articles that show what you found. I will check out your link when I have more time. Right now- too busy baking.

  3. Here are a few links that support a different view from the one that a comment above supports: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1204942&rec=1&srcabs=1241655



    I looked at the above link and it shows a table of content but not the content so I can't read it. I have found that to be frustrating in doing my own research as well. The above links are only to abstracts which don't tell the whole story. If either of us has the time, we can check on the content of the links.

  4. Japete,

    Re being able to only to see the table of contents:

    If you haven't checked with your local library, it might be a good idea.

    Our public library allows a person to log on and then access research periodicals, journals, and papers under the auspices of the library credentials.

  5. Great idea- in my spare time after answering all the questions you guys are raising here.

  6. I do not think we should ban high-calorie food because I can't control my eating, nor should we ban guns to theoretically prevent suicide. In general, government should only protect us from others, not from ourselves. Likewise, gun deaths due to the deceased's own criminal activity should not count as strongly as the deaths of innocent victims.

    Not sure which link you were talking about with only a table of contents--the one I sent opens up a complete PDF, the links to SSRN have a "one click download" that in turn opens what appears to be the full content.

  7. We have sunk to a new low. I thought I had heard it all from you guys. I think you should be in charge of deciding how much each death should count. A death is a death. How would you propose counting these gun deaths? To the families of the deceased, one person is as dead as the other. They all died from a gun injury. I just don't get this line of reasoning. It makes no sense at all.

    Your link only brought me to a table of contents as far as I could tell. Sorry.

  8. The life of a criminal committing a violent act is just as important as his victim? Based on that logic, the Hostage Rescue people should never shoot to save just one hostage, has to be at least two--is that right?

    If a man starts beating his wife, should she be allowed to shoot him during the beating if it is the only way she has to make him stop? I mean, he didn't kill her last time, he probably won't this time either, and a death is a death...

    If you do not start violence, you should not receive violence. If you do start violence, you should be stopped even if it requires deadly force to do so--you have forfeited your right to nonviolent treatment.

    A gun, a rope, poison, high places, car exhaust--by themselves won't cause a suicide. It takes the conscious effort of a person to decide which method to use. I do not believe that a person would skip suicide if their preferred method was not available.

    As for the link--the table of contents is old fashioned, you can't just click on the items in the table, you have to actually navigate to the pages yourself.

  9. Whatever. I don't believe I said the life of a criminal committing a violent act is just as important as his victim. Many of the shooters of others are not criminals until they pull the trigger. Most homicides are among people who know each other- domestic in nature. They also often take their own lives in the process. They do deserve punishment for sure and should be put away. As to whether they all deserve to die, that is not for me to say. You present some cases that justify self defense. I won't disagree with that. A gun is the most often used form of suicide because it is the most effective and is quick. As you will read in my post today, I know people who have killed themselves in many other ways, including sitting in a car in a closed garage ( that one I don't mention in today's blog).

  10. I can hardly get over some images conjured up in this discussion, namely, Mike B’s teenager who has an assault rifle and ammunition in his room. I’m the first to agree that life is dangerous and unpredictable, but not in the same sense as this boy and his father. I don’t think the risk of my home being invaded by a murderer is very high, nor do I fear the appearance of jack-booted government thugs at my door. I honestly think that having these kinds of fears bespeaks a high, almost pathological degree of fear or anger or both.

    I don’t think most Americans share these fears. I think those who do and those who act on those fears by arming themselves and threatening violence against the government can be considered extremists. I know they feel otherwise. They usually characterize themselves as patriots and talk about their devotion to the constitution and to freedom. The most extreme outliers talk of the need to “water the tree of liberty…” and so on. To me, it seems odd to claim to be a patriot when you profess the need to be ready to violently overthrow the duly elected government of our country. This seems to me the precise opposite of patriotism. I think Americans, at some precious point in our history, maybe right from the start, disavowed political violence. Why would we want to change that?

    I sincerely hope that Mike’s son, at his tender age, is also thinking about school or girls or sports or his future education or the possibility of travel and adventure, etc. I know this bespeaks some prejudices on my part, but I think, on the whole, they are healthier ones than being preoccupied with the threat of personal attack.

    And then there’s the image of the individual whose female friends include some who carry guns on their person (in a holster, purse carry not being a good idea). This kind of thing, it seems to me, only becomes reasonable if you share the extremist sentiments I talked about.

    I think it was actually a sign of advancing civilization when people in America no longer had to be armed against their fellow citizens. Why is it a good idea to go backwards to that kind of thing? I have an image of the old, wild, lawless west, probably from watching all of those westerns. Wasn’t it when law and order was established that people safely gave up carrying their weapons around and just used them for sport or protection from animal predators or putting food on the table?

  11. I will agree that most homicides are among people who know each other, but from what I understand of the statistics, the nature of most of these relationships can't be stretched to be legitimately called domestic. The relationship of "known to each other" includes drug dealer and customer, gang members who have met their rivals, store clerk and patron, people who met in prison or simply residents of the same neighborhood.

  12. I think it was actually a sign of advancing civilization when people in America no longer had to be armed against their fellow citizens.

    For the majority of American history being armed was thought of as the sensible, prudent thing to do. It would appear some of us (the ones afraid of inanimate objects have regressed since then.