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.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reflections on Trayvon Martin, guns, children and teens

So in the last few weeks, virtually hundreds of articles and media reports about the shooting of Trayvon Martin have surrounded us. You would have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the shooting of the 17 year old Florida boy shot by a man claiming self defense. I have gone over a lot of details and provided a lot of links to stories. I have had to create a separate folder in my e-mail inbox for Trayvon Martin stories.

On the way to church this morning, we saw a group of teens walking along the street with hooded sweatshirts on. It happened they these were black teens. But it could have been white teens. It's a sunny, but chilly day in my neck of the woods today so it is not a surprise to see people with hoods of their jackets or sweatshirts up around their heads for warmth. But after the Trayvon Martin case, a hooded sweatshirt will never look quite the same. A hoodie. A black boy(or girl) with a hoodie walks through the neighborhood. What do we think? Do we think that it automatically means trouble. How about an adult that we don't recognize with a hooded sweatshirt? Do our sensors go out now? What is that person doing in the neighborhood? Will he/she be on the way to robbing a house? Will he/she be on the way to causing trouble down the block? Should I be afraid? What will I do? Should I get my gun out? If I do, will I shoot someone for walking in my neighborhood because I don't know him/her? There have been some recent home burglaries in my neighborhood. Does that mean someone should be shot for that crime? Some cars have been broken into. Should I shoot a person who is outside near a car?

But I digress. Back to church. While there this morning, I saw a young black man ( older teen) who had been a student of mine many years ago. He is hearing impaired and has had some speech/language disabilities. For a while, he had some academic and behavior issues. Thanks to the love and support of his parents, who adopted him, he graduated from high school and is now living on his own working at two jobs. He is quite tall and handsome and one could be reminded of Trayvon Martin. He is a soft spoken and kind young man who cares about his family and friends and making himself into a responsible citizen.  I spoke with him after church in a combination of speech and some sign language and finger spelling. He knew a little about Trayvon but he misses a lot of the news because of his hearing impairment. He asked me a few questions about the incident. Was Trayvon causing trouble or into drugs or something? I said no. He asked what he was doing then to cause the shooting. When I told him he expressed concern. He, too, could be at risk. At the end of the conversation, I asked him how he was doing. He said he was great and also that he was lucky to be alive. Indeed he is.

So what about the U.S. and the gun deaths and injuries of children and teens? Trayvon was not the only one. His death is finally the one that has called attention to some of our insane gun laws. His death has exposed some racial tensions that have been simmering in our country for many years. His death has been an eye opener for out country. This new report from the Childrens Defense Fund should also be an eye opener. It is dedicated to the memory of Trayvon Martin. Every year, the CDF puts out a report and titles it- "Protect Children, Not Guns". So here are a few of the sobering facts from this year's report:
In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States and 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740—one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years.
The 5,740 children and teens killed by guns in 2008 and 2009:
• Would fill more than 229 public school classrooms of 25 students each;
• Was greater than the number of U.S. military personnel killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan (5,013).2
The number of preschoolers killed by guns in 2008 (88) and in 2009 (85) was nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2008 (41) and 2009 (48).
Black children and teens accounted for 45 percent of all child and teen gun deaths in 2008 and 2009 but were only 15 percent of the total child population.
Black males 15-19 were eight times as likely as White males of the same age and two-and-a-half times as likely as their Hispanic peers to be killed in a gun homicide in 2009.
The leading cause of death among Black teens ages 15 to 19 in 2008 and 2009 was gun homicide. For White teens 15 to 19 it was motor vehicle accidents followed by gun homicide in 2008 and gun suicide in 2009.
The most recent analysis of data from 23 industrialized nations shows that 87 percent of the children under age 15 killed by guns in these nations lived in the United States. The gun homicide rate in the United States for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24 was 42.7 times higher than the combined rate for the other nations.
Of the 116,385 children and teens killed by a gun since 1979, when gun data by age were first collected, 44,038 were Black—nearly 13 times more than the number of recorded lynchings of Black people of all ages in the 86 years from 1882 to 1968. Even so, more White than Black children and teens have died from gun violence.
Some of this bears repeating. "THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH AMONG BLACK TEENS AGES 15-19 IN 2008 AND 2009 WAS GUN HOMICIDE." (Caps are mine). If this is not something to wake you up, I don't know what is. Also, when it is put in the terms of how many classrooms the dead bodies of children killed by guns in 2008 and 2009 would fill--- 29---- why are we sitting here reading this blog? Trayvon, along with all of these student, will not be sitting in a classroom any more. What in the world has this country been doing? What in the world have our elected leaders been doing and thinking? Many have been listening to the NRA and the fear mongering while enough children have been killed by guns to fill up 29 classrooms. Where is common sense?

A new blog, Kid Shootings, is keeping track of the stories of kids being shot by guns or shooting others with guns. I urge you to read this blog here. If you don't believe the statistics, the real stories don't lie. Here is just from the latest entry:
A 14-year old Stuttgart, Arkansas boy was cleaning in a home with two other minors, including a 15-year old boy.  The boys found a loaded, unsecured .38-caliber Ruger handgun, which had been reported stolen.  The 15-year old was playing with it and shot the 14-year old in the buttocks.
Do incidents found on the Kid Shootings blog and in real life matter to our leaders? Who has their ears when voting on conceal and carry laws, now passed in 49 states and Stand Your Ground laws, now passed in over 20 states? Were they listening to this Utah gun blogger? Were they reading his blog as he tried to explain all the reasons why carrying a gun in public was a great idea? Were they reading about how he taught others how to safely carry a gun in public in his classes for permit holders? I hope not. Even he could not stop himself in a moment of passion and anger, or for whatever reason, when this happened:
Police Friday said they believe Landon S. Jorgensen killed his live-in girlfriend and her 5-year-old daughter before turning the gun on himself.
The three were found dead Thursday in a double murder- suicide in the rural southern Utah town of Central.
Friday, Washington County Sheriff's Lt. Rob Tersigni said a preliminary investigation showed that Jorgensen, 24, shot and killed 25-year-old Adria Jordan Parker and her daughter, Eliza Kate Parker, before shooting and killing himself.
More about Jorgensen from the article:
Jorgensen is a former U.S. Marine and gun enthusiast, according to neighbors and investigators. He had a blog, "Guns, Freedom and Politics: One young man's perspective," in which he said he aspired to own a gun shop and shooting range one day. Jorgensen was also the former president of the Red Cliff rifle group.
Jorgensen taught a tactical pistol class as late as June, a post on the Southern Utah Pistol & Revolver website states. He also offered to teach a class for people to receive their Utah concealed firearms permit. 
(...) On his blog, he wrote, "I am a USMC veteran and was medically discharged for my back issues. When I was discharged I immediately got into being a firearms instructor. My passion is to teach people the correct way to use firearms so that they can be both safe and fun."
He listed "Arguing With Idiots" by Glenn Beck as his favorite book.
He shot his girlfriend, her 5 year old daughter and then himself. Why? What a senseless loss of life. Who can shoot a 5 year old child? It's unimaginable. Guns do not make us safer. They don't even protect the people who proclaim that they will even teach others how to be safe and have fun with guns. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. And kill people they do- more in America than any other industrialized country in the world. It's the laws, stupid. It's our gun laws. There is no other way to explain it. We have insane gun laws in our country that have now, after much work and lobbying by the uber powerful and well funded NRA, resulted in an almost cavalier attitude about guns while trying to convince us, falsely, that guns have made us safer. They have not. How much more proof do we need?

Today in church, I announced an upcoming "hoodie" rally in my community to honor Trayvon Martin. Several people spoke with me after church about how the Trayvon Martin case had really gotten to them. At long last, people have had enough. Trayvon Martin is us. He is our children. He will not be sitting in a classroom where he has a right to be and where he should be.  George Zimmerman is the NRA. From this blog by Brady Campaign President Dan Gross:
But make no mistake, it is not a surprise that it happened in Florida, the NRA’s closest thing to an armed utopia.   In fact, much more so than any of the shills they had promoting their agenda in their big budget propaganda campaign, George Zimmerman is the embodiment of the gun lobby and its vision for America.
George Zimmerman is the NRA.
And now the NRA has made it abundantly clear that their vision is of an America that looks just like Florida, a nation where it’s easy for criminals and dangerous people to get, carry and use guns — a nation without any gun laws, where just about anybody can get a gun and use it anywhere.  Their spokespeople use fear, bordering on paranoia to justify flooding our streets with armed and violent people, and the result is more tragedies like Trayvon Martin
Zimmerman represents the crazed thinking that has led to dangerous laws that have resulted in more pre-school aged children ( from the CDF report above) to die from bullets than law enforcement officers in 2008, 2009! Really everyone. When is enough enough? There are things that can be done. I will write more about them in another blog.


  1. While at face value, those statistics are alarming, they're not at all surprising when you consider the percentage of those 'child' gun deaths which are from gang/drug related violence. Which in actuality, highlights a much larger problem compated to law-abiding gun ownership.

    The Zimmerman/Martin situation, while tragic if once ALL the facts come out prove that Zimmerman was not justified, certainly isn't representative of the real issues surrounding gun homicides in the US or violence as a whole.

    1. What a ridiculous thing to say. First of all, it is unsupported by any facts. Second of all, it is trying to avoid the fact that there are too many children and teens killed by guns; third- it you think pre-schoolers and elementary aged children are involved in gang activity and shooting each other, provide the evidence of that ludicrous assertion. And fourth- what about the Utah gun blogger? Was he involved in a gang? No- he was a law abiding gun owner until he wasn't. And now he is dead. The big problem is law abiding gun owners who leave their loaded guns around for kids to find and use. Did you read the Kid Shootings blog? That is what a lot of this is all about. And what is the real issue surrounding gun homicides, molon? Was Zimmerman a law abiding gun owner? That can be questioned considering that he had been charged with a prior crime. Domestic abusers killing partners/spouses- where do you place them on your spectrum of gun incidents? Where do you put someone like Jared Loughner? Was he part of a gang? No, he was a law abiding citizen until suddenly he wasn't. The majority of gun deaths, by the way, are not stranger deaths but people who know each other. Yes, that would include gangs. But you guys are done trying to blame this on gangs. That is a specious argument without any facts to back it up.

    2. "Was Zimmerman a law abiding gun owner? That can be questioned considering that he had been charged with a prior crime."

      Charged. Not convicted of anything.

      Due process of law.

    3. "And fourth- what about the Utah gun blogger? Was he involved in a gang? No- he was a law abiding gun owner until he wasn't. And now he is dead"

      He was also a Marine that could've had issues with PTSD and fallen through the cracks in the VA. Very tragic that it came to an end the way it did. But, afaik, nothing has been released on his background, mental history, etc. That wouldn't justify it but I have a feeling it's not as simple as "he was a law abiding gun owner until he wasn't". As a former Army Medic and civilian Paramedic I can tell you that PTSD is a beast and a scary thing to deal with.

      "The big problem is law abiding gun owners who leave their loaded guns around for kids to find and use."

      +1 to that. safe storage and training kids to never, ever pick up a firearm without an adult present. My dad taught me that and I knew the consequences if I did pick up one of his guns (I grew up in the south during the 80's so guns were a part of my life from the time I could hold a .22)

      "Where do you put someone like Jared Loughner? Was he part of a gang? No, he was a law abiding citizen until suddenly he wasn't."

      No, he was a person that the system should've marked as not eligible for gun ownership. His documented mental issues should've flagged him.

      This is my first comment on your blog..I've been lurking for quite a while..I do agree with you on some points but I think the call for a complete ban is an overreach and something that I am opposed to. I'm certainly for more training for CCW holders and I think (for the most part) CCW holders do strive to be better, more responsible gun owners..Again, just my opinion and totally based on my own anecdotal evidence of CCw holders I know/train with.

      Hmm..no idea why I'm showing up as "Unknown" when I try to leave this comment using my google acct.


  2. With Denver as an example, it was found that even though only 14 percent of teens are in gangs, these teens are responsible for 89 percent of violent crimes. Teen violence is quite prevalent with involvement in gangs.
    Gangs exist in every state, where in the 1970s they existed in less than half of the states.
    A gang member is 60 times more likely to experience death by homicide than the general population
    One-fourth of gang members are aged 15-17
    The average age for a gang member is 17 to 18 years old
    There are more males in gangs than females, although the number of females in gangs is on the rise.


    Although overall crime in the United States has continued to decline over the past three years, the relative amount of crime inflicted by gang members appears to have increased. The new FBI report claims that gangs are responsible for 48% of violent crime, on average, in most jurisdictions.


    One of the major differences between modern-day gangs and gangs of the past is their greater use of firearms. Modern-day street gangs recruit youths who possess firearms, and gang involvement promotes the use of them (Lizotte et al., 2000; Sheley and Wright, 1995). In a Rochester, New York, study, the rate of gun carrying was about ten times higher for gang members than it was for nongang juvenile offenders (Thornberry et al., 2003). Gang members who owned and/or carried guns also committed about ten times more violent crimes than one would expect from their numbers in the sample population. In the NYGS, jurisdictions experiencing higher levels of gang violence—evidenced by reports of multiple gang-related homicides over survey years—were significantly more likely than those experiencing no gang homicides to report that firearms were “used often” by gang members in assault crimes (47 percent vs. 4 percent of the jurisdictions, respectively) (Egley et al., 2006).


    There's lots more where this came from, japete. Pretty interesting reading.

    1. Molon is harassing me about not publishing his comment. Good grief. Get a life. These articles don't prove that most of the gun deaths of children and teens are due to gang activity or people involved in gangs. It just proves that gangs cause a lot of problems in our communities, including violent crime. No one disputes that. But to attribute most of the gun deaths of children and teens to gangs is not true and it's not supported by facts. Apparently Molon, you haven't read the many postings at Kid Shootings. See if you can find a lot of gang activity there.

    2. I've kept up with the posts over at Kid Shootings and most are just copy/paste or links to original articles. I would be more likely to trust that site if there were follow ups to the original postings.


    3. The site is meant to report the cases and not to do a lot of commentary. There are sometimes follow-ups.

    4. Don't think this one supports your figures molon- http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_10.html

      this one shows murder by and of intimates and non-intimates ( which includes people who know each other) http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/intimates.cfm

      From this one though one can't click on the links -http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/htius.pdf "Most homicides with known victim/offender relationships involved people who knew each other"

      And this one- http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/city.cfm

      And this one from here-http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/firearm.htm " Contrary to popular perception, most homicides do not occur as the result of an attack by a stranger but stem from an argument between people who know each other and are often related. For firearm homicides in 2000, where the victim-offender relationship could be identified, more than half of the victims were either related to (eight percent), intimately acquainted with (16 percent), or knew (45 percent) their killers. Only 31 percent of homicide victims were killed by strangers. For female victims, where the victim-offender relationship was known, the majority (58 percent) were killed by their intimate acquaintances. "

  3. "The majority of gun deaths, by the way, are not stranger deaths but people who know each other."

    Nope. The majority of 'gun deaths' are suicides.

    1. Sorry, the majority of gun homicides.

    2. According to FBI expanded Homicide Data, Table 10 56.5% of murderers are either unknown or are strangers to the victim.