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.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Professor Plum killed him in the Kitchen with the Candlestick

Today's blog explores the various methods of murder. I have been told that my sister could just as easily have been murdered with a knife, a hammer, a "nice lamp" or an ice pick as a few examples. The person who wrote about the "nice lamp" did take it back and apologized saying he meant to write ice pick. O.K. I will give him some slack on that one. Still, to be questioned in that way about the murder of someone you love takes one aback. It takes me aback because it is insensitive for people who have no idea about the circumstances involved or the people involved to pass judgement in this way.

But I digress. Let's talk about murder weapons. If you read murder mysteries, as I sometimes do, you find that just about anything can be a weapon. In one I just read, Immoral by Minnesota mystery writer Brian Freeman, the murder weapon was a vase. It was used to hit a young girl from behind; it caught her unawares and the blunt force of the wound from the heavy vase killed her. I'm sorry if I gave away the secret of this murder if you want to read the book. The developers of the game of Clue, of course, came up with more than a few instruments of death including a candlestick, a rope, a knife, a revolver, a lead pipe, a wrench and a new one- poison.

There is also the famous novel, American Tragedy  by Theodore Dreiser. I have never been able to get that one out of my mind though I read it a long time ago. A young man whose girlfriend was pregnant while he wanted out of the relationship, takes this innocent young woman out in a boat on a lake. He knows she can't swim. Voila- the boat capsizes and the girl drowns. Of course, the young man swims to shore and claims an accident but the book is all about his haunting thoughts before and after he kills her. How could we forget Raskolnikav in Dostoevsky's Crime and PunishmentThe murder weapon in that famous novel was an axe.

Since I live near the largest fresh water lake in the world, there have actually been some incidents of intentional drownings of spouses, girlfriends, etc. There was also a much publicized murder of a wealthy woman whose adopted daughter and son-in-law famously murdered the old woman by smothering her with a pillow and bludgeoning her nurse to death with, of all things, a candlestick. Actually, though most believe the daughter was guilty, she was found not guilty in the trial and has had a lot of problems since that time with suspicious deaths of her subsequent husbands. That's another story.

Just recently, though, there have been two domestic shootings in the headlines locally. And then someone was beaten, though not to death, on the Lakewalk at night. A young college student was accidentally run down by a car driven by a young woman under the influence of alcohol. The honor student lived but is permanently damaged and just now trying to get his life back. We all know how many car accidents there are leaving many dead. Some, I guess, are intentional. There was a recent series on PBS- a murder mystery series, in which a man purposely drove his car off the road, killing his mother-in-law. Knifings- we all know about the O.J. Simpson case. There have been a recent rash of knifings in China, killing a lot of school students. Awful stuff.

But let's examine some facts about murder weapons since the topic keeps coming up. You may remember my link to the website of the CDC (WISQARS report) which displayed the boxes showing causes of death in different age brackets. I have already talked about some of this in a comment I made on one of my blog posts. So I took a look at this site again and clicked on the red "homicide" boxes. What I found was that in every age category through the age of 34 except one ( ages 1-4) firearms accounted for the greatest number of homicides by far. Check out how far out the bar goes for the firearms cause of death in the graphs. There is no mistaking that this is a fact. Coming in second was different in each age category. Other (1-4), suffocation (5-9), cut/pierce ( 10-14),  cut/pierce (15-24), cut/pierce (25-34). It goes down to others such as fire/burn, poisoning, struck by/against, drowning, transportation related, etc.  But none of these death causes come close to firearms as the leading cause of homicide in 2007 in the U.S. I suppose that ice picks would fall into the cut/pierce category and then lamps would fall into the struck by/against and hammers would fall into the struck by/against as well.

You should really check this out for yourself. It's pretty interesting. My assumption then is, based on the evidence from the official website of the Centers for Disease Control, that people in most age categories are much more likely to be killed by a gun than by other methods. People die from all kinds of causes, natural, accidental, intentional and not intentional ( homicides). I have known people who died from many of these. Some are good friends and relatives. As just a few examples, my brother-in-law jumped off of one of the highest bridges in the country and killed himself; a friend of my daughter's killed himself by hanging from a rope tied to a tree- pretty emotional stuff for 18-year-olds to handle; the brother of a good friend of my son's suffered permanent traumatic brain injuries in a car accident; he can't walk, can't talk or do many things for himself. He, too, was a friend of my daughter's. A good friend's 17 year old son died from complications of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. And yet another good friend lost her only son in the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis. I know someone whose son was beaten to death in St. Paul. I could blog about all of these sources of death and work to prevent them. I have chosen to blog about gun deaths and injuries since that is the one closest to my heart.

I also know a lot of people whose loved ones died from gun injuries- by accidents with guns, suicides or homicides. Their stories are amazing and they are all courageous in their work to prevent others from suffering the same grief. Many murder mysteries could be written about the stories we have all lived. And on this day of remembrance of the victims of 9/11, my heart goes out to the people who will be remembering their lost loved ones and friends. Anniversaries are painful.


  1. Japete,

    While the CDC WISQARS is a great source of data -- congratulations on actually providing links to data, I'm impressed -- another source of data is the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    According to the data, an offender was armed with a weapon in an estimated 20% of all violent crime --- yet a firearm was used in only 7%

    Again, seems that focusing on the firearms instead of violent crime means you are focusing little more then half of the violent crime where a weapon was used.

    How much sense does it make to focus on only 7% of violent crime?

    Seems that Robbers like firearms more -- an estimated 40% of robbers involved a weapon.
    Yet again, only 24% of those weapons were firearms.

    How much sense does it make to focus on less than a quarter of the robberies?

    And at the same time, your efforts to enact "sensible gun laws" act to prevent people from defending themselves with firearms.

    How much sense does that make?

    Of serious nonfatal violent victimizations, 28% were committed with a firearm, 4% were committed with a firearm and resulted in injury, and less than 1% resulted in gunshot wounds.

    In only 4%, just 4% of 'serious nonfatal violent victimizations -- was a firearm used and that use resulted in an injury.

    Of course, this focuses only on the negative aspects.

    The "Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Fireams" by Cook and Ludwig confirmed the Kleck and Gertz study estimating between 1,500,000 and 2,500,000 defensive gun uses per year.

    Even the National Crime Victimization Survey (with very differing protocol) estimated 108,000 defensive gun uses.

    With firearms not being used in the majority of crimes and the positive aspects regarding self defense; Seems to me that it is the folks seeking to enact gun laws that not being sensible.

  2. You are missing the point, sir. I am providing in this blog, the causes of homicide. As you can see, the cause that rises to the top in almost every age category, as I have pointed out. The purpose of this blog was to present the facts about causes of murder. I did not write about armed robberies or defensive use of guns here. I try to stick to one topic, though not always, in each blog. I provide links in almost every blog. I'm surprised you didn't notice that because they are there. I have links to articles or research in most of my blogs. I am familiar with the Kleck and Gertz study. Some of your buddies have pointed it out to me. It is not the topic of my blog, of course. But here is another link that you might find interesting. http://www.opposingviews.com/counters/gary-kleck-numbers-often-disputed. Kleck and Gertz wouldn't be "shills" for the NRA would they?

  3. Japete,

    Kleck and Gertz wouldn't be "shills" for the NRA would they?

    The answer to that question would be -- NO.

    Here are his own words on the subject
    When I began my research on guns in 1976, like most academics, I was a believer in the "anti-gun" thesis, i.e. the idea that gun availability has a net positive effect on the frequency and/or seriousness of violent acts. ...This is not the same as saying we know the anti-gun position to be wrong, but rather that there is no strong case for it being correct. The most prominent representatives of the skeptic position would be James Wright and Peter Rossi, authors of the best scholarly review of the literature.[40]

    [Subsequent research] has caused me to move beyond even the skeptic position. I now believe that the best currently available evidence, imperfect though it is (and must always be), indicates that general gun availability has no measurable net positive effect on rates of homicide, suicide, robbery, assault, rape, or burglary in the U[nited] S[tates].

    Let's not forget that the Ludwig and Cook study -- commissioned by the Clinton Administration confirmed Kleck and Gertz's information. Surely you aren't going to claim Clinton, Ludwig or Cook are also NRA shills?

    And isn't it a little hypocritical for you to be calling out someone as NRA shills when you won't disclose your position on the Brady Campaign Board?

    I'll disagree with your statement

    I am providing in this blog, the causes of homicide.

    Let me off a differing version of what you said that might just more accurately reflect what I've seen of your blog.

    I am providing in this blog, the tool used in approximately 70% of homicide.

    A firearm isn't the cause of homicide. Guns, contrary to your assertion, rarely 'just go off' and firearms never 'just go off' in a homicidal manner.

    Firearms are a tool used by criminals to commit a violent act.

    I keep hearing much about how we need "common sense" and "reasonable" laws to deal with firearm related crime --- yet when I point out the fact that most violent crime isn't firearm related you say I'm missing the point.

    I'm not.

    Think about the lack of common sense display in focusing on just "gun deaths".

    Even if you succeed in your goals, how much have you reduced death and injury?

    Probably not a bit. Criminals won't give up, criminals wont stop because they can't get firearms easily

    (Never mind the inanity of thinking organizations that smuggle in hundreds of tons of drugs can't also smuggle in firearms).

    That was the point of the Study by the Australian Government.

    Let me quote a section of that study (the one you didn't let out of moderation on your other post)

    Another factor for consideration is the change in weapon use. Since 1989-90, the proportion of homicides committed with a firearm has declined, while the proportion committed with a knife or a blunt instrument has increased. However, only the change in firearm-based homicides is significant (Kendall’s tau = -0.62, p<0.05). the trend firearm-based homicide correlates positively=”" with overall homicide rates(kendall’s=”" tau=”0.51,”><0.05),which suggests that differential firearm use is associated with, but not necessarily impacting on,patterns of homicide occurring in australia over the past 20.

    Simply stated, banning firearms isn't impacting the homicide rate in Australia.

    Now how much sense does it make not to learn the lessons from the United Kingdom and Australia?

  4. I guess you missed what I have been saying and blogging consistently. I am focusing my efforts on gun deaths and injuries and how to prevent them. Someone else can blog about other things if they so choose. I do not ignore the other things you mentioned. People who do research focus in on one area of concern and study it and read about it and write about it. I am no researcher for sure. I am just a citizen who has been affected by a gun death in my family. That changed my life forever and caused me to delve into the area further. I don't have to justify or rationalize to you or anyone else. This is a blog. This is not research. And, by the way, I would be more than happy if I was being paid for what I am doing, but, alas, it's not happening. What are your qualificatiions, by the way, to be saying that I have none and know not what I write about? Are you an expert in this area? As for the U.K. and Australia, it is always a controversy as to what the results actually show. Your side sees it from one angle and mine from another. I don't know if we can get past that or not. All I know is that per 100,000, the U.S. is so far ahead of other countries, a widely recognized fact, that it begs for some examination. Here is a link to what I am saying: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate Now, Wikipedia is suspect, as anyone knows, for scholary research on anything. But this one does come up with quite similar figures to others I have read. The U.S. in 2004 had 15.22 or 11.66 ( depending on some variables) total gun deaths per 100,000 and 7.07 homicides per 100,000. Australia?- 2.94 total and .44 homicides per 100,000. The U.K.- .46/.38 total gun deaths, and .07 gun homicides per 100,000. So I question your conclusions, above. The lesson I get from examining gun laws in the U.K. and Australia is that something must be working in those countries. And as to my association with the Brady Campaign or not, it makes no difference. This is a personal blog. No one is sponsoring. No one tells me what to write. No one is paying me. No one knows what I am writing about until it is published. I write from personal experience and I provide links to factual articles. If whoever said that my links to articles about gun deaths are anecdotes wants to believe that the actual deaths didn't occur just because I provided the link, that is his problem. I don't make them up. I just find the articles and link them.

  5. Japete,

    Thanks for hitting the common refrain of demanding credentials....right on schedule.
    When you can't argue facts, argue credentials,eh?

    You are raising a straw man argument seeing how I haven't questioned your credentials to discuss the issue.

    What I've talked about is your associations.

    Let's see you've called Kleck and Gertz "shills" for the NRA, you've pointed out that Dave Kopel is a benefactor member of the NRA.

    You seem to have no trouble questioning other people's associations but have a problem coming clean in your own associations.

    All I know is that per 100,000, the U.S. is so far ahead of other countries, a widely recognized fact, that it begs for some examination

    That is true, America is ahead of some countries but not others. Certainly Mexico is far ahead of America -- even in "gun deaths". Certainly the availability of firearms can't be blamed nor can the 'lax' gun laws since Mexico has very restrictive gun control laws.

    The lesson I get from examining gun laws in the U.K. and Australia is that something must be working in those countries.

    Maybe the lesson you get is because you focus solely on 'guns' and not the cultural, poverty, education, population density or other factors that impact homicide rates.

    Focusing on 'gun deaths' can often blind a person to other factors that have higher correlation and causal impact on crime.

    If whoever said that my links to articles about gun deaths are anecdotes wants to believe that the actual deaths didn't occur just because I provided the link, that is his problem

    Talk about missing the point completely.

    Let's look at Mirrian Webster for the definition of anecdote
    : a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident

    No one is claiming the incidents didn't occur but individual incidents are not statistic. Or do you claim that every incident is representative of the statistical whole?

  6. " When you can't argue facts, argue credentials,eh?" Back at you. That is exactly what you guys have been asking and demanding of me. I am not blind to other factors. I read about them all the time and certainly consider them. As I have said- repeating again for the many dozens of times, I am focusing my efforts on gun violence prevention. To that end, I work with all sorts of other groups- domestic violence, faith communities, groups of hunters, civic organizations, minority groups, groups of people working towards peaceful solutions to disagreement with their communities, etc. I can spread myself in only so many directions. Are you working on these issues as well? Or have you chosen to concentrate on the second amendment and your rights? What are your other involvements so that you can comment on mine?

    I get your point about an anecdote. One story does not make the statistical whole. But as a large group of media stories about people shot to death every day, eventually, they all become a statistic. So my sister's death was one story in the year she was killed. But by year's end of that year, combined with all the other stories, they made up a statistic that got recorded at the CDC and other places that keep track of statistics. Without the gun deaths that made up the stories, there would not be the statistics. Since I have been working on this for over 10 years now, I have heard and seen so many stories that I know they all become a statistic. What I am doing is putting a human face to the statistic so people will think of the statistics as real people losing their lives to a bullet. That's important to me and does actually work, especially when speaking to groups or to elected officials.

    As to the Mexican gun deaths- of course they are related to the drug cartel and America's craving for illegal drugs. Just this morning at my church, I sat in a room with a mother and her two daughters from Columbia who are in this country on political asylum. They told their moving story about their husband/father who was assassinated before their eyes by a paramilitary group who came to their home. In the discussion, we touched on the issue of our government's complicity in providing the guns and military equipment to help make these murders possible. It is a fact that a large percentage of the guns used to murder Mexican citizens in the drug war going on there come from U.S. gun dealers. They are traced to dealers in Texas and Arizona in particular where thousands of dealers are selling guns, some knowingly, to members of the cartel or those who are straw purchasing for them. There are also hundreds of gun shows in these areas. I blogged about a Minnesota Mexican American who was contributing to this pipeline of guns to the drug cartel until he was recently apprehended by the authorities. One can assume that, given that the populations of the cities along the U.S.border are not necessarily large, many of these guns are purchased by Mexicans involved in the drug trade. Also, Mexican gun laws are very strict so it's difficult to purchase guns legally in Mexico.

    Now, I could get involved in that issue as well, but time does not allow it. Others in my church and community are very involved. To the extent that I can, I support their efforts and they support mine. Isn't it great that people have chosen to become educated and involved in so many different issues? Everyone is not involved intimately with everything but we all understand the inter connectedness of our causes and support each other. I work well with many groups working on issues about which I care.

  7. So basically Joan's position is the following.

    Family shot to death by man with a gun.

    Quick!, we need "reasonable laws" including bans on weapons that millions of Americans own.

    Family stabbed to death by man with a knife.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

    Joan doesn't care about violent crime or death in general, she just has an irrational fear and hatred of guns.

  8. Joan,

    Why won't you answer the simple question:

    What 'common sense' or 'reasonable' gun laws would have stopped these murders?

    It really is a simple question. If the laws you advocate are designed to reduce gun death and injury, then how would those laws have stopped this case?

  9. Bob- I will answer the questions I want to answer no matter what you all say about it. I didn't raise a question about that in my post. I am calling attention to how easy it is to use a gun to solve a problem and when it is available. I was not writing that article in the context of a law. It is an incident similar to those that happen daily in our country. It is awareness that guns are dangerous and when close by, get used far too often. It is a message that people ought to think more about whether having loaded guns around their home unlocked is a good idea.

  10. Joan,

    You say firearms are used too often.
    You say you want to implement (more) gun control laws and those laws are 'reasonable' or 'sensible'.

    yet you can not -- or will not describe (how is that for thoughtful discussion) -- how those laws you advocate would be able to stop crime.

    You focus on 'gun death' but mostly, if not exclusively, when the criminal uses them. No discussion about the positive uses of firearms - how they are used to save lives, prevent rapes or assaults.

    I am calling attention to how easy it is to use a gun to solve a problem and when it is available

    This is one of the things I find most interesting -- you don't seem to be focused on how to prevent people from seeing firearms as a way to solve problems. You simply focus on the firearms.

    Why not focus on the criminal behavior, why not focus on the violent behavior -- not the tool used?

  11. That's your gig, not mine. My focus is what you described above. Simply because you don't or won't agree that it has any validity doesn't mean I should change my focus. It's my blog. I won't be blogging about defensive use of guns so don't wait for it.

  12. How'z 'bout that if someone uses pretty much any other weapon besides a gun, it's more likely that someone can (a) defend themselves against that attack and (b) the attack is less likely to be lethal?

    If I notice all the "pro-gun" self-defence" blogs they tout how good guns are for self-defence based upon--lethality.

    Other form of defence aren't as "good" as guns.

    And don't give me crap about just showing a gun since someone will take you out if you aren't willing, or hesitate using your gun.

    Personally, I know a lot better methods of self-defence than firearms.

  13. Laci,

    Just what are you saying in that first paragraph?

    Are you saying that criminals shouldn't use firearms or that crime victims shouldn't use firearms?

    You are correct about other forms of defense not being as "good" as guns. I agree with you.

    Personally, I know a lot better methods of self-defence than firearms.

    And what are those better methods of self defense?

    Are those methods equally available to 5'2 95# females or senior citizens?

    Are those methods equally easy to learn to use by a single mother of 3 kids and a busy schedule or do they take years of practice?

    Are those methods going to put crime victims health in jeopardy -- like pepper spray would in the case of a person with asthma ?

  14. Well, Laci? I see that Bob is lying in wait for your comments and my posts so he can be provacative. You can answer or not.

  15. Please Laci, tell us what handheld weapon is effective and easily employed by people of differing physical abilities.

    My 87 year old grandpa can still use a handgun. He cannot effectively defend himself in hand-to-hand combat from a group of young men (at least not without being seriously injured at best)

    Surely if there are more effective handheld defensive weapons you should go to your local PA police and tell them to adopt this newfangled technology and get rid of their guns.