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, December 12, 2011

Officer down....

Last week there were a number of killings of law enforcement officers in America. Several were wounded as well. This one in Brooklyn, NY is just the latest of the incidents. This officer was responding to a burglary and was surprised by one of two burglars who had broken into a home. From the article:
Officer Figoski, a father of four daughters and the brother of a retired city police officer, was shot with an illegal semiautomatic weapon, Mr. Bloomberg said. He had made over 200 arrests, nearly half of them felony arrests, Mr. Kelly said. He worked out of the 75th Precinct, one of the city’s most crime-ridden, where has has spent most of his career.
An illegal semiautomatic weapon used in a crime should be no surprise. But it would be good to know why it is illegal. Perhaps we will found out more in later details. But I digress. Back to officer shootings...

The Virginia Tech shooting of an officer seemed totally bizarre and senseless as details are emerging about the shooter. From the New Trajectory blog comes this information:
You see, Ashley had no previous criminal record.  He had shaved his head and was known to run rather than walk, but otherwise showed no clear signs of mental illness.  He was a student, attending part-time at the business school at Radford University, 16 minutes away from VT.  He was of legal age to purchase a firearm and have a concealed carry license.  He is described as being friendly, nice, and quiet.  He never talked about guns, drank, or used drugs (although he owned a gun and had visited a shooting range), wasn't a loner, and had been a star football player in high school.  And he was academically achieved, having served on Student Government committees and been on the dean's list at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in Southwest Virginia in recent years.  This is a young man who seemed to have everything going for him.  It's unclear if he had a concealed carry license, but there was nothing stopping him from getting one. 
Another officer was shot in Virginia on a busy freeway as traffic was whizzing by. A man who had already been stopped for erratic driving and was fleeing on foot was apprehended by the officer who had him in his patrol car when the suspect grabbed the officer's gun and the officer was shot in the leg. He then shot the suspect with another gun and mortally wounded the man. As usual, there will be more about this investigation going forward. But this is another bizarre shooting as they often are. Things can go terribly wrong when a lethal weapon is involved and most particularly with guns. In this case, the officer was shot with his own gun at first. This does raise the obvious question about why gun owners believe so completely in their own ability to defend themselves when confronted by someone who is dangerous to them? There are plenty of cases of armed officers and or gun owners whose own guns have been used against them. This one in my own state is one very tragic case of an officer responding to a domestic case and ending up losing his own life as the suspect grabbed his gun and shot him to death.

And in North Carolina, a Sheriff's deputy lost his life when he responded to a domestic disturbance. So, by my count, in the matter of just a few days, 3 officers were killed and another several injured by people with guns. And those are just the ones that have been brought to my attention.

So how many law enforcement officers lose their lives to gun injuries in America? From the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, we learn this about gun fatalities of officers in 2010:
Firearm fatalities increased 24 percent, from 49 deaths in 2009 to 61 in 2010. Even more alarming, multiple fatality shootings accounted for nearly 20 percent of all fatal shootings. Five incidents occurred in: Fresno, CA, San Juan, PR, West Memphis, AR, Tampa, FL, and Hoonah, AK, accounting for 10 officer deaths.
And further, when looking at some graphs on the website linked to above, we learn this:
For the second year in a row, officers continue to be shot  in ambush style attacks. In 2010, twelve officers were killed in these vicious attacks accounting for 20 percent of all fatal shootings.  Eight officers were killed responding to domestic violence calls, a drop from 12 in 2009. 
Good grief. What is going on? Ambush style attacks? That seems like calculated shootings of officers by people who do not like the police. Such was the case in 2009 in Tacoma, WA where 4 officers were gunned down in a surprise attack as they were going over records in a coffee shop. And in Pittsburgh, PA in 2009, 3 officers were gunned down by a gun permit holder "lying in wait" in a domestic disturbance call. That's 7 in one year who were ambushed. What is going on in our country? Are officers such a threat or hated by certain people for whom "revenge" or an act of violence is a message? Officers are outgunned in America. Some of the commenters on this blog believe they should be armed just like police officers. After all, since police can't or won't ( as some claim) respond quickly enough when you need them, you yourself need to be as heavily armed as police officers. What kind of world do we live in when civilians become their own little militia or law enforcement entity? Something is wrong with this picture.

We do know from the Violence Policy Center that 11 law enforcement officers have been shot by gun permit holders since 2007 when they began collecting the data. That might not seem like many to some but to the 11 families and the friends of these officers, it is 11 too many. Gun permit holders are not as safe with their guns as they are claimed to be by the NRA and other gun rights advocates. If they were, we wouldn't have the kinds of accidental and intentional shootings that occur regularly in our country. On the VPC website linked above, we also see that in total, 385 Americans have been killed since 2007 by gun permit holders. Police officers are certainly at risk here as they pull people over for traffic violations or confront armed people in homes and on our streets.

Now let's look at the UK for example where, for the most part, police officers don't carry guns. But then, citizens in England don't either.
In the year 2007-08, there were 6,780 Authorised Firearms Officers, 21,181 police operations in which firearms were authorised throughout England and Wales and 7 incidents where conventional firearms were used.
Seven cases of use of conventional firearms by trained officers in the UK? You must be kidding!
This website shows numbers of total gun deaths in the UK through 2006 and then breaks out the injuries and deaths of officers. Check it out. Zero officers where killed through 2006 by guns in the UK. Here is a good article from the BBC about gun laws and the strict gun licensing laws in the UK that make that country so different from the U.S. It also leads to almost no police officers losing their lives to bullets and very few shootings by officers themselves.

Sometimes officers or former officers violate the law by shooting a family member or friend with a personal firearm. This ex-officer had his own problems and almost took it out on a bunch of people innocently celebrating at a holiday party at a Missouri hotel. Clearly this was a domestic case that officers often respond to themselves, placing them at great risk for their own lives. This officer shot and killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend in what seems to be a custody battle. Would this have happened without that gun? I submit that it wouldn't have. Common sense gun laws actually work. We can see that from the examples I provided for the UK. They can work in America too if the gun lobby and its'  bought and paid for elected leaders would support legislation to make our communities safer.


  1. Thank you for the mention, Japete.

    Here is another site dedicated to the memory of fallen officers and analysis of the increasing trend (up 9% compared to last year): http://www.odmp.org/ (the Officer Down Memorial Page). 3 have been lost in my home state of Oregon this year, including one killed in my town of Eugene by a dangerously mentally ill person who had purchased her gun legally at a gun and sporting good store.

    Our law enforcement are community heroes who put themselves into potentially life-threatening situations every day. We and our lawmakers should do all we can to support them, including listening to their expert opinion on gun regulation. There's a good reason why police departments and police chiefs advocate for tighter gun regulation and background checks.

  2. Here is yet another officer who died from injuries sustained many years ago when he was shot in a hostage situation. How sad for his family- they have watched him struggle with life long injuries until he died. http://www.odmp.org/officer/21041-police-officer-anthony-tony-alan-giniewicz

  3. So then why do the annual surveys (from their own organizations) of rank and file officers always come back that they SUPPORT Citizens Carry Rights and OPPOSE any so called " assault weapon " ban ???

    Are you suggesting they are somehow "suicidal " ?

    Or maybe they know and understand the limitations of their profession ?

  4. The UK does not permit gun ownership for self defense. They ban ownership of all handguns and all pump action and semiauto hunting rifles.

    You say that "common sense gun laws actually work. We can see that from the examples I provided for the UK. They can work in America too"

    Yet at other times you deny that you would want the kind of laws I listed above, which they have in the UK. Huh?

  5. I don't know. That's a mystery to me given their chances of being shot.

  6. japete

    "I don't know. That's a mystery to me given their chances of being shot"

    Perhaps it has something to do with the Oath they Swore and the reverence with which they treat that ? I know when I did it it was one of the most solemn events in my life.

    You know there really are people out there that are willing to risk their lives for something larger then themselves ( like soldiers and cops ) that would sooner sacrifice their own lives then infringe on others rights.

  7. What does that mean? I don't know that the two are connected.

  8. Maybe police officers know that they can't be everywhere, all the time. AND, if they really care about the citizens safety, they KNOW that people need to be armed to protect themselves.

  9. Maybe is the operative word here.

  10. japete

    "What does that mean? I don't know that the two are connected. "

    Could you be more specific please ? I said more then one thing you could be responding to.

    If your talking about my comment about being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, then I would be surprised you dont know of such a thing.

    Your a parent, like me. Can you say there would ever be a moments hesitation to save your child from harm, even if it meant the likelyhood of giving up your life in the process ??

    I doubt it.

    Ive been a volunteer Fire Rescue/EMS for the better part of twenty years, I've lost count of the number of times I have put my life on the line and at considerable risk ( including numerous injuries ) in order to save someone else from harm. Do I want to die ?? Of course not, but there are noble causes that are worth making that sacrifice for. Most cops and soldiers and lots of ordinary Americans agree there are often things greater then themselves that are worth possibly dying to protect/defend, like the Bill of Rights and Freedom.

    Thats what I was getting at. I get the sense that in general, most Anti Gun People cant conceive of the idea that other people would willingly risk their lives, by their own choice, to defend an "ideal "

    I tried to explain the psychology of it last week but you said it made you angry and sad and you didnt want to think about it.

    If you want to understand people, you have to separate what YOU would, or wouldnt do and projecting it onto everyone else.

    I strongly believe your inability to do such is why you wrote that you cant understand why rank and file cops would support Carry Rights and the like given the propensity to encounter a criminal ( or someone of criminal intent ) with a gun.

  11. I don't believe that police officers do what they do to protect rights to carry. They are doing a great and dangerous service to their communities and are protecting public safety. I don't need you to explain psychology to me. I studied it in college. Police officers do not ALL believe in the right for people to carry their loaded guns wherever they go, by the way. I know plenty who oppose recent conceal and carry laws that are Shall Issue and allow more people to carry around in more places.

  12. "japete"

    Police officers do not ALL believe in the right for people to carry their loaded guns wherever they go, by the way. I know plenty who oppose recent conceal and carry laws that are Shall Issue and allow more people to carry around in more places.

    And I never said ALL cops did. I said, earlier, that everytime LEO organizations do surveys of the rank and file street cops, that they always come back the same. The majority of street cops support carry rights and not renewing the semi auto rifle ban.

    The ones that you usually see on TV at press conferences or in the media touting the " need more gun laws " line are universally, white shirt supervisors or Chiefs who have to worry about the political realities that go with their job. You wont be Chief for long if the Mayor/Council are in favor of gun control and you publicly come out against it.

  13. Yes, as if they are all lemmings.

  14. "japete"

    "Yes, as if they are all lemmings."

    Im not sure what your trying to say with this .

    I was pointing out that there is often a vast difference of opinion between the guys actually on the street vs the Supervisors and Chiefs that have to take into consideration how their public comments might negatively effect their retaining their positions.

    "I don't believe that police officers do what they do to protect rights to carry"

    I said ALOT more then just this simplistic paraphrase. But I can assure you that most cops that arent just looking for a secure paycheck do indeed take their Oaths VERY seriously, and that Oath includes protecting the rights of people, even in cases where they might not personally agree.

  15. Yes, surely officers take an oath- or at least it looks that way from this link- http://www.theiacp.org/PoliceServices/ExecutiveServices/ProfessionalAssistance/Ethics/WhatistheLawEnforcementOathofHonor/tabid/150/Default.aspx

    I'm sure there are some who don't agree with some of the laws but must uphold them anyway. As to your right to carry, the Heller decision did not get into the right to carry guns in public except to say that restrictions can be made on where guns can be carried and who can carry them. So you were being specific as to your right to carry which is what I objected to in your statement. The oath of office is broad. I can find officers ( not elected) who agree with me and I have. Just as you can find some who agree with you. Where does that leave us?

  16. Here's just one example

    I am responding to the full-page ad with Mike Carroll, former president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The ad blamed U.S. Rep. Dent for not opposing a bill that would force Pennsylvania to accept concealed carry gun permits from every other state. I am a recently retired police officer with more than 30 years in law enforcement, and I want people to know that it is not the law-abiding citizen with concealed carry permits that the police have to worry about, it is the criminal who illegally carries stolen weapons. My former partner, Officer Robert A Lasso of the Freemansburg Police Department, was shot and killed on Aug. 11, allegedly by a borough resident who had a shotgun in his possession.

    The criminal will always get a gun to carry illegally; these are the people police have to worry about. Congressman Dent was just standing up for our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. Pennsylvania is part of the United States, and if these other states issued concealed carry permits to their law-abiding citizens, who are we to say their rights do not exist in Pennsylvania? Please remember, it is not the law-abiding citizen who shoots police officers.

    Peter L. Pavlovic

    Upper Milford Township

    Where does it leave us ? I suppose a good place to start would be in acknowledging that police DO NOT universally support further gun control OR oppose Carry Rights

  17. or acknowledging that police do not universally support pro gun rights. I could send you letters as well but I am done with this one.

  18. japete

    "Good grief. What is going on? Ambush style attacks? That seems like calculated shootings of officers by people who do not like the police"

    Ambush style attacks on Police are hardly anything new by any stretch. It was standard operating procedure for the Black Panthers, SLA and others since back in the late 60's and early 70's. It most certainly still goes on today, but you make it sound like this is some kind of new phenomena

    Im NOT saying it isnt a bad thing, because clearly it is. But it certainly doesnt have anything to do with the availability of firearms.

  19. police officer firearms deaths reach a 20 year high- http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/07/20/Police-firearm-deaths-reach-20-year-high/UPI-95341311191682/

    http://articles.sfgate.com/2009-12-13/news/17220867_1_police-officers-gun-related-mark-dunakin- " "There's an increasingly desperate population out there," said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "Other than in rare cases for ideological reasons, we really haven't seen people taking on the cops head-to-head. Something is amiss. It should be cause for grave concern.""

    If you have definitive information to back up your assertion, please provide it.

  20. Here is an article about the illegal gun used to shoot the Brooklyn police officer- http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/gun-killed-officer-peter-figoski-virginia-store-weapon-killed-9-month-old-rayvon-jamison-article-1.991223

  21. As requested


    The Black Panthers


    Theres plenty more, but I didnt want to flood the post.

    All anyone needs to do is perform a Google Search using different variations of the keywords such as " Ambush Police " Black Panthers " " SLA " "MS 13" , FBI warns of Ambush Attacks on Police ", etc.

    The first link documents such things going on for well over 100 years. Like I said, its hardly a new phenomena. From a purely tactical sense its perfectly logical to surprise someone you feel or believe is your enemy to gain the upper hand, its as old as violent confrontation itself.

  22. Thanks for the links. We still don't have total numbers of law enforcement officers killed in a given year as my source indicated. It appears that death by firearm of law enforcement officers is at one of its' highest numbers in 20 years or so. Some in the article are instances of law enforcement being called to a crime or an event already in progress. The Columbine shooting was listed there which was a surprise attack as almost all school shootings are. But the shooting of the officer at Virginia Tech was totally unprovoked- the officer was not responding to a crime scene. It was an execution. The same is true of the officers in Spokane, Washington- totally unprovoked by anything. The case of the Pittsburgh officers was a man lying in wait to shoot them. That has certainly also happened in the past. My point is that it appears to be happening with more frequency and my link bears that out.

  23. From nydailynews.com on the Brooklyn cop shooting:

    In the weeks leading up to Pride’s deadly encounter with Police Officer Peter Figoski, one Brooklyn judge let him walk knowing there was an active warrant for his arrest on shooting charges in North Carolina.

    Two weeks later, Pride didn’t show up for court, but a second Brooklyn judge put an arrest warrant on hold to give his lawyer a chance to track him down.

    As long as our legal system acts in this manner, no amount of gun control is going to help. This is exactly what gun owners mean when they say "let's try enforcing the laws already on the books first".

  24. I agree with you, including the gun laws.