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, January 20, 2012

Oh dear- or the American gun

Some shootings just fall under the category of "oh dear." What else can you say to this one? An Ohio man accidentally shot himself when his concealed gun went off as he took his seat belt off in his car. His kids were in the car with him and his wife was returning a video. From the article:
"It is unclear whether the man carried his gun in a holster or his pocket. The family friend says it likely was loose in his pocket.  It has also not been determined whether the man was a licensed gun owner, however his wife indicated to investigators she knew he carried a weapon with him from time to time, said Capt. Scott.
"If you're going to carry a concealed weapon, put it in a reputable holster," Capt. Scott said when asked about general gun safety tips."
This story has been in my queue for a while since I have written about some other things in the mean time. But it is one more illustration of how law abiding gun owners are not always responsible with their guns. The result is often injury and, yes, death. There has been a go around on my recent posts about using guns for self defense to shoot intruders or to actually shoot someone you love by mistake. This, too, happens when people have guns around. Sometimes an intruder is justly injured or killed. Sometimes not. Sometimes guns for self defense result in a justifiable killing, sometimes not. What we know for certain is that Americans have a love affair with their guns. Or at least some Americans. Fewer than half of American homes report having a gun inside. About 1/3 of Americans report personally owning a gun as per a recent report from the Violence Policy Center. Of these, many own many guns. From the report ( with longitudinal information from 1976-2010 gathered by National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago):
 From 1985 to 2010, the  percentage of Americans who reported personally owning a gun dropped more than 32 percent. 
During this period, personal gun ownership hit its peak in 1985, when 30.7 percent of  Americans reported personally owning a gun.  By 2010, this number had dropped nearly 10 percentage points to a low during this period of 20.8 percent.   
In 2010, slightly more than one out of five Americans reported personally owning a gun.
And since I first wrote this post, several other stupid and dangerous gun incidents have come to my attention. And these, again, readers, are just a few that I know of. This Pennsylvania gun permit holder was arrested for shooting his gun into the air a few days ago. One wonders when some gun toting people will start to understand that what goes up must come down somewhere. And my friend over at the Ohh Shoot blog has written about this case of a young man who had bragged about his guns on his Facebook page was so arrogant that he held one of his father's guns to his head, assuming it was not loaded, and shot and killed himself. Oh dear, again. From the story linked to in the blog:
Jared Hyndrich was playing with his father’s pistol around 1:40 a.m. in the 1800 block of Opeechee Beach Road.
 According to police, Hyndrich’s parents were asleep in the home at the time of the incident.  
Police say Hyndrich was in a room with a friend when he put the pistol to his head and fired one shot.
So, while thinking of actual shootings by law abiding gun owners, let's take a look at the gun of choice for felons, gun owners, police officers, those who want to kill others and people who want a gun for self defense. Apparently the Glock has become this weapon. I read an article in Business Week by Paul M. Barrett, which examines the Glock's popularity.
"Before Glock arrived on the scene in the mid-1980s, the U.S. was a revolver culture, a place where most handguns fired five or six shots at a measured pace, then needed to be reloaded one bullet at a time. With its large ammunition capacity, quick reloading, light trigger pull, and utter reliability, the Glock was hugely innovative—and an instant hit with police and civilians alike. Headquartered in Deutsch-Wagram, Austria, the company says it now commands 65 percent of the American law enforcement market, including the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration. It also controls a healthy share of the overall $1 billion U.S. handgun market, according to analysis of production and excise tax data. (Precise figures aren't available because Glock and several large rivals, including Beretta and Sig Sauer, are privately held.)"
The author goes on to talk about how the Glock has been used in some of the most high profile shootings in America.
"With all those customers and that visibility, it's no surprise that the Glock has also been the gun of choice for some prolific psychopaths. Byran Uyesugi used a Glock 17 to kill seven people at a Xerox (XRX) office in Honolulu in 1999. Seung-Hui Cho, who murdered 32 at Virginia Tech in 2007 before killing himself, used the same Glock 19 model that Loughner is accused of firing in Tucson. Steven Kazmierczak packed a Glock 17 when he shot 21 people, killing five, at Northern Illinois University in 2008.
The smooth-firing Glock did not cause these massacres any more than it holds up convenience stores. But when outfitted with an extra-large magazine, it can raise the body count. The shooters in Arizona, Illinois, Virginia, Hawaii, and Texas could not have inflicted so many casualties so quickly had they been armed with old-fashioned revolvers. In its 2010 catalog, the manufacturer boasts that while the Glock 19 is "comparable in size and weight to the small .38 revolvers it has replaced," the pistol "is significantly more powerful with greater firepower and is much easier to shoot fast and true.""
People like Cho and Jared Loughner understand that a powerful gun is needed to carry out their carnage. Other mass shooters have also understood this as another report from the Violence Policy Center about the Glock and mass shooters. Notice that they didn't choose knives or clubs. They knew full well that a powerful pistol like the Glock would do a lot of damage. That is why they chose it. Guns are designed to kill and guns are dangerous weapons. The carnage is great at the scenes of mass shootings or even scenes of individual killings. So what do Americans do about these scenes of destruction leaving behind many victims and survivors along with the grief, the long term emotional and physical wounds left behind when these kind of shootings happen? Virtually nothing, of course. This is America. Perversely, the opposite happens. The sale of the guns used at the crime scene goes up. Only in America.
"For that the company can thank a remarkable chain of unintended consequences—including gun control opponents who fueled public interest in Glock and gun control laws that boosted sales. The more gun foes tried to ban or curb Glock's weapons because of their potency, the more the company turned those attacks to its advantage. Even the tragedy in Tucson has been a boon. Bloomberg News reported on Jan. 11 that $499 Glocks were selling briskly in Arizona. "We're doing double our normal volume," said Greg Wolff, owner of a pair of stores in Phoenix and Mesa called Glockmeister."
The writer goes on to share the rise of the popularity of the Glock for police departments and criminals alike. He highlights some mistakes made by those in the gun control movement. ( We never make mistakes!) and how the NRA and the gun industry cashed in on mistakes and honest attempts to limit the carnage from shootings. This one came after the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was passed:
"Seventeen-round Glock clips that had sold for less than $20 quintupled in price over the next few years. The unintended consequence of the law was that more high-capacity weapons and magazines ended up in stores, at gun shows, and on the street. Indeed, "the Clinton gun ban," as the NRA called the legislation, created a fascination with large clips that hadn't existed before in civilian gun circles.
The Austrian company found new ways to feed the demand the law had unintentionally created. Having supplied scores of major police departments with 9mm weapons in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Glock gave these agencies the opportunity to trade in their modestly used pistols for brand-new ones. The exchanges earned the company powerful customer loyalty and gave Glock another large batch of pre-ban magazines that could be resold on the burgeoning used market. In one exchange in late 1994, Glock received 16,000 used high-capacity clips and more than 5,000 older pistols from the Metropolitan Police Dept. of Washington, D.C."
And then, of course, came some changes to the American landscape. People were given permission by state legislatures all over the country to legally carry loaded guns around in public. Glock was right there to help them out and to create a new market.
"At the same time, the NRA—a powerful and, for the industry, inexpensive lobbying arm that is funded mostly by gun-owner members—was stepping up a nationwide campaign in support of state laws that gave civilians the right to carry concealed handguns to shopping malls, Little League games, and almost anywhere else. Pocket Rockets were ideal for suburban concealed carry. Before 1987 only 10 states had right-to-carry laws. In 1994 and 1995 alone, 11 states enacted such statutes, bringing the total to 28. "The gun industry should send me a basket of fruit," Tanya Metaksa, the NRA's chief lobbyist at the time, told The Wall Street Journal. "Our efforts have created a new market." Today, 48 states allow concealed carry; only 10 of those require applicants to provide a reason. Arizona, Alaska, and Vermont do not demand any kind of permit at all."
The one thing wrong with the statement above is that the NRA is now funded in great amounts by the gun manufacturers with a vested interest in keeping gun sales high. The organization is now representing the money interests of those who sell guns and not so much its' own members. Follow the money. The writer discusses gun control efforts and his views about the topic, some of which I find to be right on, others of which I don't share. But he concludes with this:
"The rise of the Glock and other semiautomatic handguns cannot be linked to variations in overall crime rates. But that doesn't mean it would be pointless to take small steps to reduce mayhem, such as restricting magazine capacity. One lesson of Tucson is that there is a difference between a 33-round clip and an 8- or 10-round clip. The only way to make a limit work, though, would be to ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of all clips larger than the cap. Reviving a porous 1990s-style limit would backfire. Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), among others, is working on a new restriction. "We are optimistic it will plug the loopholes in the 1994 law," says Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, a gun control group that is consulting on the bill. Even if quite modest, however, the provision seems unlikely to receive serious consideration in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Glock's victory, and that of its industry, won't be reversed anytime soon."
Barrett will be releasing a book about the topic of the Glock and the American gun industry along with, presumably his ideas about gun control, the gun lobby and where we are now concerning the issue of guns and their prominence in the American culture. I don't know if he will address the common sense ideas that could stop some of the mayhem from gun violence which, along with the prominence of guns, is part of the American culture. He addresses this, in part, here:
"High-efficiency weapons make American criminals deadlier, and in extreme cases, such as Tucson, large magazines make them deadlier still. Compared with other industrialized Western democracies, the U.S. does not have an especially high level of crime, or even violent crime. What it does have is "a startlingly high level—about five times the Western European/Canadian/Australian average—of homicide," UCLA public policy professor Mark A.R. Kleiman writes in his 2009 book, When Brute Force Fails. The U.S. "also has an astoundingly high level of private gun—especially handgun—ownership," an estimated 100 million civilian handguns. Gun homicide rates are higher in the U.S., Kleiman argues, because robberies, residential burglaries, and aggravated assaults committed with guns are all more lethal."
I disagree with some of Barrett's conclusions but much of what he said is very cogent and to the point of the current situation regarding guns, the gun lobby and the movement to prevent gun injuries and deaths. First of all, I don't believe that Al Gore lost the 2000 election because of the gun issue. First of all, lest we forget, Al Gore won the popular vote.  To me, that is a win. Secondly, the NRA loves to have everyone believe this myth because it serves their purpose very well. They want the public and politicians to be very afraid of them and to back off of any attempts to support common sense legislation that might actually result in making our country safer. The NRA spends huge amounts of money in all elections but in Presidential election years, the figure goes way up. If they has so much influence, how is it that they lost in the the 2008 election in spite of spending more money than ever before to defeat a candidate for President? They will do the same in 2012 and in all likelihood, will lose that effort as well. But that won't stop them from spewing hatred and lies about President Obama and what, in their distorted view, he will do with your gun rights and your guns.

Secondly, the efforts of the gun control community are continuing. We have the dubious distinction of representing the victims and survivors of gun deaths and injuries in our efforts to change the political landscape. Sometimes the victims can't speak for themselves. One would think that would help with the effort. But we face an uber powerful and well funded opposition in the NRA and the other gun rights groups who have won the war of words but not of hearts and minds. We are not going away and know that the majority in the middle- the "silent majority" who often don't get involved, are supportive of our efforts. Our hope, of course, is that some day, the extremism on both sides of the issue will go the way of the typewriter and we can work together to create safer and better communities where those who believe in gun rights and owning personal guns can believe that the gun violence prevention community is not their enemy and vice verse. There are honest differences of opinion but that should not stand in the way of making guns less accessible to people who should not have them. Getting around the culture of guns is another difficulty but if we actually worked together, we can also agree that the American love affair with guns doesn't have to result in the highest number of gun deaths compared to all other industrialized countries not at war. Rights of gun owners will be placed right along side of the rights of Americans to be safe from senseless shootings. I am ever hopeful. That is why I write this blog.


  1. "People like Cho and Jared Loughner understand that a powerful gun is needed to carry out their carnage."

    If that is the case, why did they choose a 9x19mm handgun? Why would they pick a weak gun if they understood they needed a powerful gun?

    All of your husband's deer rifles are vastly more powerful, and far more accurate. If Loughner had been on a rooftop a hundred yards away with a deer rifle or two the carnage would have been a lot worse - and Giffords would not have survived a gunshot to the head.

    1. Of course, that is the total opposite of the what we know. Sure he could have used a rifle. But he chose a Glock for it's concealability until he pulled it out. It has a magazine the likes of which could not have been used in my husband's hunting guns. You can't try to change the way things happened. Glock pistols are meant to be powerful small guns that can be used easily in shootings. That is why so many people use them. You totally missed the point.

  2. Your business week article is funny "With its large ammunition capacity, quick reloading, light trigger pull, and utter reliability, the Glock was hugely innovative"

    One of the more popular firearms is the 1911. Interestingly it was first released in 1911 it was a magazine fed and other than mag size fits all the descriptions the article made of the Glock and the design is more than a hundred years old. In fact there are hundreds of guns that were on the market before the Glock that fit the authors description. While it was innovative it is hardly because of anything the author described.

    1. It's always reassuring to know that you guys are such experts on any subject concerning guns and know so much more than just about anyone else who dares to write about guns.

    2. Ignoring the sarcasm, you are more correct than you realize. I'd be willing to bet that as a group, the gun people that comment on your site are not just 'anyone' that owns a gun but enthusiasts for the shooting sports. Just like anyone that enjoys a hobby, they tend to know an awful lot about it. A reporter, on the other hand, writes about many different subjects but is not an expert in anything other than writing so they rely on research and other sources.

      It occurs to me that (for better or worse) this is also why you feel that we are nitpicking when it comes to terminology like 'clip' vs 'magazine' or 'assault rifles' etc.. In our hobby there are so many models variants that, amongst ourselves, we best speak very precisely. If I say"clip" I actually mean the part that is used to load a magazine, not the magazine, because I'm asking someone a question where the part matters. This means that when we hear/read the terminology used improperly it is 'glaring' to us, even though the average person wouldn't even know there IS a difference.

      "your" side should note that being accurate is important if you want to persuade 'us' that what you are writing has merit. For our own amusement we keep databases of 'movie gun screwups' just to laugh at them, so imagine how we read an article that mentions 'assault clips'. We can tell you the year and models of guns used in westerns and if they belonged in that time frame..

      Douglas Hofstadter used to write a column is Scientific American called "The Amateur Scientist" He said that the most difficult part of his job was accepting that no matter what subject he wrote about, the worlds foremost expert in the subject was likely to read what he wrote.

      You may not get that level of reader but I bet you get domain experts when you comment about a specific gun.

      BTW: Anthony was right. Glock was an innovative design, just not for the reason listed in the article. It's primary innovation was reliably mating a polymer frame to it's metal parts. At the time, no one thought it could be done.

      With the exception of "assault clips" I'll try to not nit pick. The term 'assault clip', however, makes my eye twitch ;-) and is fair game.

  3. Last September at the Gun Blogger Rendezvous I spent many hours talking to Paul Barrett and have continued discussions with him via email since. And he will be attending a shooting event I am hosting in April. He readily admits he is a novice in the field of firearms and still has a lot to learn.

    He has also agreed with me with there is no data to indicate a legal limit on the capacity of firearm magazines would result in a net increase in safety of the public. And even in his book he states that efforts to pass such a law would fail and would hence be a waste of time and effort.

  4. It would fail, not on it's merits but because of the influence of the gun lobby.

  5. Ms. Peterson I believe you are making a false argument here, in that you argue for some balance between the "rights of gun owners" and the implied conflict of those rights with the existence of "senseless shootings" that occur.

    Senseless shootings and other forms of senseless violence occur where individual gun rights are honored by government and society, and in places where gun rights are completely denied to everyone, and places where there are some guns and some rights. Senseless shooting occur worldwide, in all political systems, and in all societies. Nobody believes senseless shooting should occur, except maniacs and tyrants.

    This is a classic false argument, a slander against gun rights, in making such an illogical connection between gun rights and senseless shootings. There is no connection between the two, period.

    Rights of gun owners do not include any subset of senseless shootings. Rights of gun owners cannot be in conflict with safety from senseless shootings, since "gun rights" do not allow gun owners to senselessly shoot anyone, ever.

  6. Mikee,

    I think I understand what you are saying but I also think you missed a major point. Every day in America, people with guns and gun rights shoot people in senseless acts of violence. Many of these shootings are committed by law abiding gun owners. How do you explain this? When people have guns, they often use them to shoot loved ones and friends. More guns do not equal fewer gun deaths. That is a fact.

  7. "More guns do not equal fewer gun deaths. That is a fact."

    perhaps, but in contrast, more guns do in fact equal less violent crime, as evidenced by the recent larger number of guns in circulation, and the decreasing levels of violent crime.

    so we have a choice - do we reduce the number of gun deaths by reducing the number of guns, but at the same time allow more violent crime to occur? or do we continue to reduce the level of violent crime by allowing more guns to circulate, at the cost of a few more gun deaths?

  8. There is no linear relationship between adrop in crime rate and number of guns.

  9. it may not be linear, but there is a statistically significant relationship between less guns and more violent crime, as well as more guns and less violent crime.

    1. I am talking about the relationship between guns and gun deaths. You folks always try to turn to violent crime. Those are different numbers and different relationships. And you just can't make a relationship to the numbers of guns and less violent crime. If violent crime is committed with guns, how does that work anyway? There are lots of factors involved in less crime in general. In states with higher gun ownership, there are more gun deaths. That is the number I am concerned with on this blog.