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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary is as scary does

There are some scary folks out there who have extreme views concerning guns. On this Halloween, let's talk about some of them. After you read my post consider a few questions. Where are the people who might be willing to have an exchange of ideas that could lead to some compromising on the issue of gun control? Are they there? Where do they live? What do they really want?  Or are they so uncompromising that nothing will be enough for them?

Here are a couple of reasons why I think that there will be no compromise for some. First is this article by Cliff Schecter about the NRA and the gun rights movement. From the article:
"If you are looking for the literal embodiment of dysfunction in American political culture and the institutions that serve it, look no further than the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the deadly and divisive role it plays in shaping the political agenda. Specifically, the radically and reliably dishonest, dangerous and deranged legislation they foist upon the American people day in and day out through their purchase of most Republican and many Blue-Dog Democratic officeholders."
And further, Schecter goes on about who are the politicians who make the gun laws in our country.
Finally, because carrying concealed weapons in grocery stores and parks just wasn’t enough, the NRA decided to start pushing bills to allow concealed weapons in bars–which makes sense because nothing I can think of goes better together than six shots of Jack and a loaded Glock. Of course, “technically,” only non-drinking customers are allowed to take their guns into bars.
Somehow, however, this doesn’t seem to explain how the sponsor of this ultimately successful bill in Tennessee, Rep. Curry Todd, was pulled over in Nashville driving drunk with a loaded gun in his car. In fact, police at the scene claimed he was “almost falling over at times.” I mean, didn’t he read his own legislation?
Meanwhile, over the past 6 months, 3 Republican state representatives in Ohio who thought concealed guns near booze to be smart policy (the legislation also passed in Ohio) also thought non-concealed drunkenness and driving to be a a swell idea.
Yes, these are definitely the people you want making decisions when it comes to deadly weapons.
So whether it is the conspiracy nuts, dishonest hypocrites or drunk drivers, this is who is charged with making decisions about who can have a gun these days.
And speaking of politicians who make the laws, check out the encounter at a local Virginia legislator candidate forum. Tea Party supported Republican candidate Carin Merrick has been having some problems answering questions about her positions on gun control. In addition, she has so far refused to release the answers to the NRA questionnaire she has received but doesn't want the public to know about. Can you blame her for not wanting to give answers to these kinds of extreme questions?
Also, as the person who forwarded these questionnaires to me (and who works intensively on this issue in Virginia) points out, many of the questions in these surveys misstate the facts, are disingenuous in a variety of ways, and are cleverly designed to trap and trick the candidates answering them. Probably the smartest thing 2011 candidates in Virginia can do is not respond to these questionnaires at all, because they really can't win if they do so. Even more troubling, think about what Virginia - and America - would look like if these groups get their way on many or most of their demands? Extremely powerful and deadly concealed weapons anywhere and everywhere, held by people who have received minimal if any scrutiny or training.  Basically, it's Virginia (and America) as the Wild West. Does that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, or does it perhaps send a chill down your spine? Personally, I'd vote for the latter.
The article linked above also points out what Virginians answer to polling questions about gun issues in their state. They are consistently in favor of common sense.
Here in Virginia, Hart Research has found that Virginians overwhelmingly support gun safety measures like requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns (95% favor); requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check (89% favor); and requiring sellers at gun shows to run a background check (88% favor). To a slightly lesser extent - but still strong majorities - Virginians support requiring gun owners to register guns (67% favor) and also support banning the sale of high-capacity ammo magazines (66% favor). Also, around the country, large majorities (69%-80%) oppose allowing guns in bars, in government buildings, or on college campuses.
But never mind the facts. We know there are reasonable people who own guns. We also know there are unreasonable people who make up their own paranoid and fearful world in which those of us who want reasonable gun control measures are out to take away their rights and their guns. They are wrong, of course, but they have managed to frame the issue their way. It's time for that to change. But some unreasonable extremists are fighting hard and fighting with aggressive, rude, insulting, threatening, inappropriate and downright evil words.

Such as the case at New Trajectory, when fellow blogger Baldr Odinson had to stop anonymous commenters. I suggest that you read the comments to see why it is impossible to have a reasonable discussion about gun issues with the people who troll gun control blogs. These comments are over the top and express the hatred, bigotry, and anger of a minority. Or let's hope so, anyway. We know that the NRA has some pretty scary board members who set the tone for their members. So are these folks on the blogs representing the views of the gun rights community? If not, it is up to them to monitor their own. If not, they are complicit in allowing such incendiary, scary and hateful views to represent them all.

And speaking of hateful and racist- a Texas concealed carry permit trainer won't teach classes to Muslims, not Christians or Obama supporters. Promoting racism while teaching people how to shoot guns they intend to carry around in public is a scary idea, not to mention distasteful and ugly. These are radio ads run by the training instructor about his classes.
“If you are a socialist liberal and or voted for the current campaigner in chief, please do not take this class. You have already proven that you cannot make a knowledgeable and prudent decision as under the law,” he added. In an interview with a local ABC affiliate, Keller made it clear he was serious: “I will give up my license to teach before I will teach them.”
But now he will likely be sorry he decided to be so openly racist and bigoted because once the ads got so much attention this happened:
As the Southern Poverty Law Center’s HateWatch blog noted, “It’s not clear whether this type of discrimination is lawful,” as business owners have considerable discretion in whom they serve. The Texas Department of Public Safety, which certifies individuals to teach concealed handgun lessons, said discrimination puts instructors’ certification at risk of “suspension or revocation,” but that they need a formal complaint with evidence before they can act.
But just maybe Robert Farago who writes The Truth about Guns  is willing to have a reasonable discourse about the gun issue? He discovered that another gun rights blogger had posted a photo of new ammunition. The website to which Farago refers is advertising a high capacity magazine all dressed up as a scary phallic symbol. Nice. Check it out for yourself.
But this . . . this is obscene. I’m not speaking here of the unspeakable amount of ammo this would provide a spree killer. I refer to the image’s phallic connotations. Gun grabbers often accuse gun rights enthusiasts of “over-compensating.” This image will erect bigger barriers between us. So to speak.
Really? What Farago is suggesting is that selling items such as the one in the ad above just makes the gun bloggers and gun guys look extreme, stupid and ridiculous. He's right. And finally comes this thoughtful article written by a Wisconsin gun owner and hunter. The writer knows that gun control does not threaten him or other rightful hunters and gun owners. He gets it as, do the majority of gun owners, actually, in most polling data year after year after year. ( discussed before on this blog). Here are some of his words:
But for many gun advocates, it's not about the guns, but what their firearms represent. Their guns are to them what freedom of speech is to me: the tangible evidence that we are free people. Add to that the culture war mix of rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal, and all of the markers that come with those things, and you end up with a potent stew of political conflict.
But what if we thought about guns as a public health issue? If we had a drug that was killing 30,000 people a year, 17,000 by suicide, wouldn't we declare that an epidemic and do something about it?
How many mass shootings, everyday rampages and lonely suicides will it take until        we come to our senses about gun violence in America? And why has the gun control movement been so ineffective in going up against the National Rifle Association, even though most Americans would support stricter gun laws?
Part of the answer is in just how unreasonable the NRA can be. I'm convinced that it is a conscious strategy -- oppose even the mildest restriction so that nobody even dares propose really meaningful controls.
The NRA's zealous unreasonableness has turned out to be a brilliant strategy. They've learned that if they oppose everything, even the most concerned public official won't dare to propose any real steps to get at the problem. We should be debating why handguns and automatic weapons even exist in our society, not just how easy we can make it to carry a loaded firearm across state lines.
I'm a Wisconsin sportsman and gun owner, and I can tell you that the extremists in the NRA don't speak for me. Not even close.
What's needed is a new movement of responsible sportsmen who recognize the fact that there is so much unnecessary death, injury and suffering that goes on in this country thanks to our lax gun laws. I'm not worried that laws clamping down on handguns and automatic weapons will affect my hunting options one bit. My shotgun has as much in common with a machine gun as a Piper Cub has with an F-16.
Now here's someone expressing common sense. He is not a scary gun rights extremist. He is a Wisconsin hunter and gun owner who has seen the extremes to which the NRA and its' bought and paid for politicians will go to please the minority. He's willing to state the obvious and the truth and challenge the views of the gun rights advocates who are so unwilling to compromise that their positions are too extreme for most gun owners. Their positions are based on fears and unwarranted paranoia. This time of the year can cause some folks to act on those unreasonable fears. Such was the case at a fateful Halloween party for Japanese exchange students in 1992 that ended up killing Yoshihiro Hattori in a tragic shooting. Hattori and a friend went to the wrong house by mistake and rang the doorbell. They sure did pick the wrong house- that of a paranoid gun owner ready to shoot to kill. You can read the account of the incident and subsequent trial of the shooter but here is something instructive:
Peairs defense counsel's strategy consisted of a claim that Hattori had an "extremely unusual manner of moving", one which any reasonable person would find "scary", and emphasis on Peairs as an "average Joe", a man just like the jury members' neighbors, a man who "liked sugar in his grits".[3]
(...) District Attorney Doug Moreau concentrated on establishing that it had not been reasonable for Peairs, a 6-foot-2, well-armed man, to be so fearful of a polite, friendly, unarmed, 130-pound boy, who rang the doorbell, even if he walked toward him unexpectedly in the driveway, and that Peairs was not justified in using deadly force. Moreau stated, "It started with the ringing of the doorbell. No masks, no disguises. People ringing doorbells are not attempting to make unlawful entry. They didn't walk to the back yard, they didn't start peeking in the windows."
Unfortunately, a Halloween costume combined with an innocent mistake resulted in a senseless death. The gun owner said he would never own a gun again. He made a serious mistake that took the life of an innocent person. Happy Halloween everyone. Don't be too scary or too scared and stay safe.


  1. "Halloween costume combined with an innocent mistake"


    "What might have been the definitive example for Japan-U.S. media distortion, however, was the case of Yoshi Hattori, the young Japanese exchange student shot to death by Rodney Peairs. When it occurred, I was a student at San Francisco State University, and wanting to get the straight details on the case, I accessed the college's LexisNexis account, and found court transcripts and other records which told a much different story than I'd heard popularly--and which put the incident in a completely different light than how it was represented in the press.

    When I ask people to recall how young Hattori got shot, the general recollection was that Hattori went to the wrong address, was met by an aggressive, paranoid homeowner who raised a gun and yelled "freeze"; that Hattori thought he said, "please," and walked towards him, and then he got shot. That is the general story that was released in the media, and if you do a search on the story on the web, you will find that even today, the story persists.

    But it is far from the truth. Vital facts were left out; the story was abbreviated, and was not told from all perspectives. Here's what I was able to piece together so many years ago from the materials I found.


  2. Nice try jdege- "quick on the draw", as always. But it's just more excuses from the gun rights side.

  3. Didn't Hellerman "prove" that owning a gun for protection was XX times more likely to kill a family member than an attacker?

    So despite his bad intentions, isn't that Texas gun trainer saving the lives of Muslims and Obama supporters?

  4. The "Wisconsin gun owner" doesn't realize that a moderate alternative to the NRA has been tried several times, with the same results: Moderate gunowners approach gun control advocates and suggest compromise, and discover that gun control advocates are unwilling to compromise.

  5. Now that's a scary comment, Jay. I rest my case

  6. "But it's just more excuses from the gun rights side."

    That blog entry was from a pro gun control writer. And his conclusion was that Peairs was at fault.

  7. " Knowing the whole story makes a difference. With all of these facts stated, the Peairs' actions are far more understandable. There was still a tragic error and the fault was Mr. Peairs', but one can see now that Peairs was not the violent, paranoid gun nut he was made out to be in the press. Context and perspective are crucial for a clear view. The public, especially in Japan, was outraged when Peairs was cleared of wrongdoing in criminal court; if one knew the true story, one would not be surprised at all. Although Peairs made the error of stepping outside and was ultimately responsible for Hattori's death, what he did was within the law, especially under Louisiana's "shoot the burglar" statute."

    I read it a little differently jdege. He was trying to get at making sure the media told the whole story. He came up with some interesting and questionable assertions- the contact thing, for one. I don't think this is a pro gun control blog. It appears to be a liberal blog, politically, so the writer is likely to be pro gun control, I guess.

  8. jdege- I have decided that you only get up to 2 comments per blog post. You dominate my blog with your comments. There is no reason for you to keep up the back and forth. You will always find fault with whatever I write. Here you have picked out a detail and totally ignored what my main point was. Don't send any more comments. They will not be published. That way, you are free to enjoy Halloween night without thinking about my blog.

  9. Your treatment of jdege is typical. The comments section of a blog ought to be open to all readers. I can't see how one can dominate the blog if everyone is free to comment. My policy on my own weblog has always been to take all comers who aren't obviously spam. But then, at my core, I'm a true liberal--libertarian in today's language. Liberty, especially when no one will be harmed by its exercise, is a great condition. Free expression leads to great ideas.

    But you say that there's no reason for jdege to keep up the back and forth. I thought that you wanted dialogue. What you have forgotten is that dialogue is not an echo chamber. You might find that many of us are willing to discuss when you take us seriously and don't belittle us. In that spirit, you are always welcome to comment on my weblog without fear of censorship. I'll respond to you if it seems appropriate, but that's the fun of conversation. Life is hard, as I know all too well, and we humans must seize the joy of it wherever we can. Perhaps you have different sources, and I wish you well in those.

    I don't know if you'll put this comment on-line, but I offer it to you anyway. I disagree with you, but I do not hate you or wish you ill. I wish you to be free to live the life that you want, and all I ask is that you return the same courtesy. As I said, you are welcome on my weblog any time you wish to visit or to comment.

  10. Thanks for the sermon, Gregory.

  11. I hope it helped. Do you have any detailed response?

  12. "Where are the people who might be willing to have an exchange of ideas that could lead to some compromising on the issue of gun control?"

    Where indeed. I think I asked here once what you would be willing to compromise on and I know I asked Baldr once on his blog, to know avail.

    The only ground rule I set was that "compromise" meant just that. That we would would not be negotiating about how much of what I already HAVE I get to keep, but a give and take where I would offer, for example, additional background or training requirements in RETURN for easier access to currently restricted firearms.

    If I recall correctly, I once inquired about what it would take for your side to agree to easily available suppressors (silencers), figuring that something like that might be an easy win for both sides, as they are either required or easily available in many countries that otherwise have very strict gun ownership laws and are not a problem there.

    Didn't get anywhere. So I am truly curious. When you say "compromise" what that means for you.

    If all I ever see are calls for me to give up, or put with additional access restrictions or legal requirements with nothing in return for putting up with the hassle, then we are not talking about "compromise" we are talking about "capitulation" and that's just not going to happen.

    Obviously I speak for no one, but I'd love to have a rolling discussion about real compromise and what that might look like on both sides.

    What do you think your side could offer us that we don't already have in return for something you want?

  13. Dear 18Echo. I am only one person who belongs to several gun control organizations. I don't negotiate on this blog about giving you something for something you would give me. Who are you? Are you a Congress person who could actually do something to pass a law? No. I work through my legislators and Congress people to get laws passed. Reasonable laws such as background checks on at the least, gun sales at gun shows is not a compromise but something that should happen. The only people who would compromise anything would be criminals, mentally ill people and domestic abusers who couldn't buy guns at gun shows. Other than that- you know my positions. I am seeking common ground on a few issues. That is why I write my blog. I believe my positions on issues are quite clear here. Compromising will involve a whole lot more people than little old me and you. I am talking about compromise in a broader sense. You are taking it too literally to mean that you and I can make compromises on this blog.

  14. And by gun show you mean any private sale? Or will I still be allowed to transfer guns between my family members and friends without a FFL?

  15. The bills I have seen in Minnesota and nationally have a provision for transferring between family members without an FFL but not friends.

  16. "The bills I have seen in Minnesota and nationally have a provision for transferring between family members without an FFL but not friends."

    Do the bills you have seen include provisions for ensuring that the government not know who owns what guns?

  17. No- that's because we all want to know exactly who you all are and then we have a plan to come to get your guns. I, personally, am going to go door to door asking for the guns in every household in my town. I am working on getting the over 80% who agree with the background checks at gun sales, and for all sales for that matter, to join me in my efforts. That's quite a large group of folks who are coming for your guns. Get ready. You never know when it's going to start. We're planning to start right here in Minnesota but given that winter weather is upon us, it may take longer than expected because of snow days and bitter cold, etc.

  18. Well then you should not say sales at guns shows but all private sales.

  19. I fully understand that neither you nor I carry any actually weight to effect change and you are right that I was taking it literally. but I had a reason. My reason was that if you and I cannot find common ground then the politicians that, in theory anyway, represent our respective interests are not going to either. As you point out, I am not a congress person that could pass a law, but I vote for one, and he listens to me and 3-4 million like minded people that contribute to his reelection and vote on some issues as a very large block of voters.

    At the moment neither side trusts the other's motives or believes that they could negotiate in good faith. If nothing else, this blog has made that abundantly clear.

    I was imagining something along the lines of a 'mock' compromise negotiation, where you and I representing, well, you and I, explore if there is any room for actual compromise or if this is just going to be a political war.

    Perhaps it would take a neutral blog somewhere, with nothing but anonymous posts.. I don't know..

    "... it may take longer than expected because of snow days and bitter cold, etc..." What? You mean I've been sitting up at night, peeking out my windows for no reason? Well, ok.. We can pick this up in the spring or early summer. Perhaps July, since the arthritis is not so bad in my trigger finger then. You must be warned, however, that by then we have stockpiled zucchini and know how to use it.

  20. Yes, of course, Anthony. I believe I stated that some bills deal with only gun shows and others with all private sales. Obviously at a gun show, everyone who buys a gun there would be required to have a background check from an FFL regardless of who they are- relatives and friends alike.

  21. You are, of course, familiar with Minnesota's permit to purchase.

    For those who are not:

    1. These are available from the local PD. They are free, are good for one year, and are non-discretionary. A background check is run, and if passed, the permit is issue.

    2. Anyone who purchases a pistol or an assault weapon from a licensed dealer is required to have a purchase permit.

    3. Anyone who transfers a firearm to a private citizen, without checking that the recipient has a purchase permit, becomes guilty of a gross misdemeanor if the recipient commits a violent crime with it within one year.

    Suppose, for sake of argument, that the purchase permit law was extended so as to:

    1. Apply to all firearms sales.
    2. Be required for all private transfers. That is, transferring a firearm to someone who did not have a permit would be a crime, regardless of whether or not the recipient used the firearm in a crime of violence.

    Would you consider that to be sufficient to close the loophole you are so concerned about?

    If not, why not?

  22. I have allowed 4 comments on this post from you jdege. You are nothing if not persistent and sitting around waiting to find something wrong with anything in my blog posts. That not withstanding, this has been considered by folks on my side of the issue. If all private sellers, no matter where they sell, had to see a permit to purchase, good for one year, it is conceivable that that would close the loophole. In essence, that is a background check for a one year period of time for the buyer but not for every gun purchase. Presumably, a person wouldn't go from a legal purchaser to a prohibited purchaser in that length of time. Concerns would be for domestic abusers and those who have trouble with severe mental illness that surfaces during that time. As to the sellers, what is your vision of the Brady Background check system? One large flaw in this is, of course, that it would only be for one state- ours- and other states do not require permits to purchase for handguns and assault weapons. That is why we still need a federal background check system to make sure the same laws apply to all so people can't go to other states to purchase their guns. And what about hunting guns which are also used to kill people? I know of quite a few gun deaths caused by bullets from hunting rifles. I will allow another comment from you jdege since you are asking reasonable questions this time.

  23. Maybe nobody is reading this anymore, but I just found this as my blog is referenced by "jdege" at the start. In the main article, the Hattori case is characterized as one where "They didn't walk to the back yard, they didn't start peeking in the windows." Actually, this is not fully precise. The two boys, arriving late at night, uninvited, dressed in costumes two weeks before Halloween, walked to the carport door after seeing window blinds there moving. The carport is not the backyard, but it is also not the front door--it is considered by many more of an "inside" door.

    Jdege's characterization of my conclusion is oversimplified but essentially correct: Peairs was clearly at fault for having come out the door at all. Once outside the door, he put himself in a situation where he would have to deal with a confrontation--and Hattori, missing a contact lens, not understanding "Freeze" in English, thinking it was a friend, and possessed of the unfortunate habit of running up to friends when he saw them, unwittingly engaged Peairs in that situation.

    Essentially, it was like a person setting a bear trap on their front lawn because burglars were known to trespass. If an innocent kid walks into the bear trap, he'll get maimed or killed. It's the fault of the bear trap owner for being stupid enough to create the situation where such a thing could happen. You play with lethal toys, you are responsible for the outcome. Too many people think it's like a movie where it'll always be a clear-cut shoot-the-bad-guy situation, or a picture that the gun advocates paint where if you show a gun, you'll control the situation. Real life is far messier.

    All of this is excellent evidence that guns should NEVER be sold without the owner having safety training, just like we do with cars. Without gun safety training, it's like you might imagine the roads would be like if no one were required to take any driver training before getting a car.