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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Too many accidental shootings

What do Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, San Antonio, Texas, Manchester, Vermont, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, Hemby Bridge, North Carolina and the state of Wisonsin have in common? All were communities where, since Nov. 22nd, someone was killed or injured accidentally with a gun. The count is 4 dead and 6 injured in one week and those are just some that have been reported on this blog site- Ohh Shoot. Thanks to this blogger who writes about gun accidents, sad as they are. Guns are dangerous, as we all know. Some people are careless and some parents use loaded guns around very small children apparently without thinking.

What to do about this? Safe storage would surely help. Think before you shoot would be a good idea. Check your gun while cleaning to make sure it is not loaded. Common sense is not always used by "responsible" gun owners. Accidental shootings happen far too often on an almost daily basis. Though they account for the smallest number of gun deaths, after suicide and homicide, the victims' families are grieving another lost life. The person who shot another has to live with the consequences for a life time. Those who shot themselves accidentally are no longer with their families and friends who must wonder on a daily basis what could have been done differently to prevent this senseless loss of life.

We love our guns in this country. That love affair with guns leads our country to have a very high number of gun deaths and injuries. Changing the atmosphere would be a huge task given the number of guns in the hands of law abiding citizens and prohibited purchasers. But shouldn't we at least give it a try? We try to prevent breast cancer deaths through awareness campaigns, fund raisers, making sure women do breast exams and get Mammograms as prescribed by their doctors. We try to prevent deaths caused by smoking or exposure to second hand smoke through media campaigns, smoking cessation programs, smoking bans in public places, law suits against the tobacco industry. We try to prevent car accidents through law suits, mandatory seat belt and air bag laws, speed limits, educational campaigns, more awareness of drinking while  driving, changing how teen-agers can drive when they first get their license, etc. We are not trying hard enough to prevent or reduce gun deaths. We can't. The powerful gun lobby won't let us. Sometimes laws don't stop things. A law may not stop an accidental gun discharge ending in an injury or death. Some ideas have been suggested to make trigger locks mandatory or "smart gun" technology but there are enough problems with both that they are not going far. I don't know the answer either. I would like to have one and hope that someone will come up with something that will satisfy the needs of the gun safety and gun violence prevention side as well as the gun rights side. Any ideas out there?


  1. "Any ideas out there?"

    know and follow the 4 rules.

    "The powerful gun lobby won't let us."

    Remember that the "powerful gun lobby" is just people like me who remind politicians that if they vote in ways we don't like, they will get voted out of office. Notice how they listen to people like me and not to people like you? That's because we are the side with all the votes.

    Keep in mind that the VAST majority of "gun deaths" are deliberate acts, not accidents. Accidents are actually quite rare. Check the Wisquars data and compare accidental firearm death rates to other common accidents and you will find that they are relatively uncommon, and generally declining, mostly due to better safety education. The 4 Rules, plus mandatory hunter's safety classes, plus mandatory blaze orange have made accidents decline. The guy who taught Hunters Safety here, the local game warden, explained that the introduction of mandatory blaze orange for deer season cut hunting accidents in half.

    The moral? Don't worry so much. The problem is minor, and getting less every year. We, the gun owners, are dealing with the problem through education and policing our own when it comes to safety violations. Ask me about the time I yelled at a cop for (inadvertently) pointing a gun at me. We police our own.

  2. http://www.nrainstructors.org/searchcourse.aspx

  3. " Ask me about the time I yelled at a cop for (inadvertently) pointing a gun at me. We police our own. " I don't know what to see to that one, Sean. I know that accidental gun deaths are not many. Does that mean we shouldn't "worry" about them, as you put it? Are you saying those lives are expendable so let's not do anything or try to stop accidental shootings? I hope not. That would be a pretty bad position for you to take. I'm not sure elected leaders would like that idea.

  4. Thanks, jedge. Anything besides NRA shooting safety classes?

  5. Some gun owners, myself included, prefer to refer to accidental shootings as negligent discharges (ND). I'm not saying this to nitpick, but I wanted to point out that it's only accidental in the sense that it was unintended by the shooter; the gun did not malfunction in the majority these cases. The person handling the weapon just wasn't following the rules.

    I think a lot of it is poor trigger discipline, your finger should not be on the trigger at all until you're ready to fire, whether you think it's loaded or not. You should always behave as if it's loaded and ready to fire anyway.

    This might not be an ideal comparison, but it's sort of like driving. Operating a car, especially an automatic transmission, is very simple when you get right down to it. But if you take your eyes off the road or if your attention is elsewhere, it's easy to drift into another lane or run a red light.

    Guns are the same way in regards to controls; there aren't many and they're not complicated to handle. When people have accidents, it's usually because they weren't paying attention, not because they were too complex or because they didn't know better.

    I'm not saying that training is useless and we should just give up, but it only goes so far, some people are just aren't attentive or worse, reckless. Again, take driving as an example. Almost everyone takes the driver's test and gets a license at some point. Yet, there are still speeders, DUIs and just plain bad driving. It's not because they don't know the rules, it's because their head is in the clouds or they simply don't care.

  6. Joan,
    I disagree that the "powerful gun lobby" is doing anything to prevent negligent accidents. They may be trying to prevent laws that you would assume are reasonable but in some way restrict citizens. Personally, I do not agree with mandatory seat belt laws or helmet laws. I don't believe it is the job of the government to fine me because I didn't put on a seatbelt. I guess that's just my politics, not yours.

    So you have no problem with the Eddie Eagle program being brought to schools? It is my understanding that the Brady group, and possibly you, don't want it in schools. Is it because A)it is something the NRA is doing, which you cannot abide B) some other reason that I cannot think of.

    As you say, we should be doing what we can to help stop negligent gun deaths but education is the key. It seems to me that you just glossed over Jedge's suggestion and I feel as if you will mine as well.

    We bring all kinds of presentations, demonstrations and exhibitions into the schools. So will you support the introduction of that into schools? It doesn't cost the schools anything and teaches children what to do if they should find a firearm. It does not promote firearm ownership. It simply educates children to "STOP! Don't Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult."

    Since the program's launch, fatal firearms accidents in the Eddie Eagle age group have been reduced by more than 80%. It is believed that gun accident prevention programs, like Eddie Eagle are a huge factor in that decline.

    As for mandatory trigger locks, do you mean mandatory in the home, subject to prosecution or mandatory trigger locks for each sale of a new firearm (which already exists)?

  7. Yes, I have a problem- I've gone over this before.
    No, I won't support the Eddie Eagle program in the regular curriculum of the school day.
    As for trigger locks, hopefully in homes or also sold with guns- subject to prosecution? What do you mean?

  8. I don't think the absolute number of accidental deaths is as relevant as the rate. As an analogy, what is safer:

    - 100 deaths from Cause X in a group of 10,000
    - 200 deaths from Cause X in a group of 100,000

    I'd argue that the latter situation is better, personally, even though twice as many people died.

    Luckily it is pretty trivial to pull the data to check out historical deaths from firearms accidents to see how the rates have changed over time. NRA has conveniently built a chart (http://www.nraila.org/issues/factsheets/read.aspx?id=120) which was actually one of the first results from a quick google search. If you don't trust the NRA, then you can easily hit up the CDC and pull their data here: http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate10_sy.html

    They had data for 1997-2007 easily available.
    1997: .30 (824 deaths out of 279,040,181 population)
    2007: .20 (613 deaths out of 301,579,895 population)

    The death rate is down by 33% over the last decade! Moreover, so are the absolute number of accidental gun deaths! You can filter the data by age and it is down for kids as well as adults. That's great progress, in my opinion. If we could reduce any other major category of death such as car accidents by 1/3 over a decade it'd be huge, great news.

    This is one issue where I think the "gun lobby" has done more than the gun control proponents. Education about safety is an excellent way to reduce accidents. The NRA teaches safety classes nationwide. In contrast, none of the gun control groups offer instruction on safe handling of firearms. The issue isn't technology, it is training and education.

    People think of NRA as a political lobbying organization. However, that's just part of what they do. A huge chunk of the organization is relatively non-political and focused on running training classes for shooters and range masters.

    Likewise, hunter's ed and other such efforts have much more to do with safety gains than anything organizations like AHSA have contributed.

    Like so many things, education is the key.

  9. Chris- yes I agree with your statements above. Most gun deaths by all causes have decreased since the late 1980s and early 1990s, thankfully. There are still too many and we can't let the fact that the large number ( rate per 100,000) of gun deaths has fallen stop us from continuing to work on measures to reduce the number more. That's what I'm all about. I do understand that the NRA does a good job of its' training and with hunter's education, etc. I agree about education. I am trying to educate people as well. We have different end goals to our education pieces. And please don't respond back that my end goal is total confiscation of guns or taking away rights.