So let's take a look at a few incidents at grocery stores where nearly everyone goes regularly.
This one in Oklahoma is interesting. A woman and man sitting in a car outside of a grocery store at 1:00 a.m. when a passerby claimed to have spotted a gun. When the police came, the woman refused to get out of the car and made a "threatening move". They did not find a gun on her person. Does this sound familiar at all? Suspicion that someone may have a gun is real. The first response is to shoot because police officers ( and others) know how easy it is to become the targets of someone with a gun on the streets. After conceal and carry laws passed in most states, not only criminals but now "law abiding" people carry guns on our streets and in public places. How do officers know the difference between a permit holder and a criminal? How will a permit holder know the difference? Fatal decisions are made. That is the vicious circle of having so many people carrying guns around in public. There is fear, suspicion and paranoia, often ending in injury and death. Without the suspicion that this woman had a gun, as reported by a passerby, how would this have ended differently?
I wrote about this one before. Here is a Wisconsin permit holder who shot an armed robber in the process of robbing a clerk at a grocery store. What would have happened if he had not come in with his gun and shot the robber? We won't know. But there is another scenario. The robber could have taken the money and run and maybe gotten away with the robbery but no one would have been shot. The man with the gun could have actually shot one of the other customers which would have been obviously bad. And he could have noticed the sign on the door saying weapons were not allowed and he, himself, would have gone elsewhere to shop and would have been none the wiser. Another scenario is that the permit holder could have been shot himself once he aimed his gun at the robber.
These are but a few incidents. I have also written about people shooting themselves as they jam their loaded guns into their waistbands on the way into a store. In those cases, they would have been safer without their guns. Then there was the one about a man who shot himself in the car outside of a grocery store as he was unbuckling his seat belt. The man died. Or what about this tragedy when a 3 year old child got out of his car seat while his parents left 2 small children alone in the car with a loaded gun. It ended with a death while the parents were in the convenience store. The father was a "law abiding" gun permit holder. About 3% of Americans eligible to do so have permits to carry loaded guns around in public. That is not a lot of people. They tell me, these permit holders, that they need their guns for self defense of themselves and their families wherever they find themselves. They can't be everywhere to presumably take care of unexpected violence in unexpected places. So to presume that they can prevent shootings or other violence whenever a shooting or some other crime takes place is a false assumption. We would have to presume that a permit holder would be present wherever and whenever a crazed person or felon decides to commit a shooting or other crime in order to stop it. Such, of course, is not the case nor can it be expected to be the case. There are occasions when someone is available in an instance of unexpected violence to "save the day". Instances of guns used for self defense, however, do not come close to incidents of shootings and gun crimes. This article shows us some facts about guns for self defense in comparison to guns used in instances of crime:
Those who have made the choice to carry a loaded gun believe they are doing so for good reasons. The majority of us who do not also have our good reasons for not doing so. But from the article above:Proponents justify these laws by invoking the most frightening scenarios, in which people are confronted by armed assailants and possession of a gun would purportedly save their lives. Indeed, there are documented cases in which the display or discharge of a gun did ward off or immobilize/kill an attacker. Sound public policy, however, requires that we move beyond anecdotes and examine the evidence exploring the net benefits or costs of defensive gun use.FBI statistics for 2010 indicate that for every justifiable homicide by a private citizen using a firearm there were approximately 50 criminal homicides with a firearm. When suicides by firearm and fatal gun accidents are considered, there were about 115 deaths through the misuse of a firearm for every justifiable homicide in which a private citizen shot and killed another in self-defense.When all violent crimes are considered, the Department of Justice's National Crime Survey reports that in 2010 there were 338,000 violent victimizations with a firearm - excluding another 9,000 gun homicides. That was four times as many as the estimated 85,000 defensive gun uses per year. Two national surveys by Harvard's Injury Control Research Center found that respondents, over a five-year period, were three to four times more likely to report hostile gun displays at them than to report self-defense gun uses.
The number of gun owners who can actually use their weapons to ward off an attacker is very low. A Justice Department study found that each year just 1 percent of all victims reported using a firearm to defend themselves, even though 25 percent of American adults are gun owners. Moreover, gun experts note that combat in the real world is highly stressful, and a very small percentage of bullets hit the target.
Furthermore, stressful situations can lead to errors in judgment and to overreaction, which may have been factors in the Martin tragedy. The evidence is overwhelming that the use of firearms in a conflict increases the likelihood of a fatality.So we have a health and public safety problem in this country. We have a gun culture that suggests that we should accept the carrying of guns in public places to make us safer. That is what we were told when the conceal and carry laws were passed in almost every state in the nation. And yet, it just isn't working out that way. Permit holders are shooting people in public places and private places alike. This report from the Violence Policy Center is keeping track of the fatal shootings. Does the gun lobby and its' minions think that these 402 people killed by permit holders are collateral damage and the price we should pay for their freedom to carry loaded guns in public? I'm just asking. In addition to the statistics in this report, there are numerous incidents of shooting accidents by permit holders that don't result in death and some of them occur in places where gun permit holders are supposed to be learning about safety ( this one at a gun safety class) or just practicing their skills ( this one at a gun shooting range).
I write about permit holders discharging guns accidentally or purposely in public all the time on this blog and provide evidence of actual incidents of such. George Zimmerman was the most recent high profile example of a gun permit holder using a gun in a situation that could have ended without someone being killed. Without a gun in Zimmerman's hand, Trayvon Martin would be alive today. Yes, there are incidents of shootings in and around grocery stores. There are incidents in churches, in bank buildings, in schools, in parks, in restaurants and just about everywhere. Most gun deaths and injuries do not occur in grocery stores, however. They often occur on the streets of the poorest urban neighborhoods in the country, like Philadelphia as one glaring example. This week-end, police chiefs are meeting in Washington D.C. to try to figure out why gun crimes are so prevalent in some cities and not others:
Laws can make a difference. To think otherwise is stupid and dangerous. When laws regarding gun policy can be made only by contacting the lobbyist of the NRA for permission, we have a problem. So, back to where shootings occur, other than on the streets of major cities where guns are easily obtained and readily available. Let's talk about guns in the home. Shooting accidents, suicides and domestic homicides occur often in homes or places people call home such as apartments. From the linked article above about guns and self defense:The survey found that, using conservative estimates, the cost to taxpayers of the crimes committed with firearms during the week of April 4 to April 10 was more than $38 million in medical care, social services, criminal justice costs and other expenses.In many cases, the victims of the crimes resembled the perpetrators. During the week in Philadelphia, for example, a 20-year-old woman known as Peanut who had five prior criminal convictions and arrests stretching back to the age of 13, was responsible for two shootings on two different days. Her second victim, shot 16 times, was a drug dealer who is now in a wheelchair but refused to cooperate with the police. (...)Chief Flynn recounted pleading with a state senator to include a provision in Wisconsin’s concealed weapons law that would ban habitual criminal offenders from obtaining permits. The senator, he said, told him, “Here’s the phone number of the National Rifle Association lobbyist in Washington, D.C. If it’s O.K. with him, it will be O.K. with us.” The provision was not included, Chief Flynn said.Straw purchasing, in which a proxy buys guns for convicted felons, is another problem, participants said. Chief Art Acevedo of Austin said his officers regularly observed women buying as many as 30 guns, including semiautomatic weapons, at gun shows and then passing them on to men. Austin had 39 gun crimes during the survey week, including 20 robberies at gunpoint and 11 aggravated assaults.Identifying the causes of gun violence, however, is easier than finding solutions, the police chiefs present conceded, and better policing will not be enough to solve it.
Another study by Dr. Kellermann and his colleagues found that guns kept in the home were four times as likely to be involved in accidents, seven times as likely to be involved in criminal assaults or homicides and 11 times as likely to be involved in attempted or completed suicides than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.Guns in the home are often bought for self defense. People who make that choice need to practice safe storage and common sense so that the gun is not used by accident or on purpose. If you don't believe that guns in the home are dangerous or that gun owners are not careless with those guns, please check out the Kid Shootings blog for proof positive. Every day, posts to this blog provide us with real life examples that show that guns do not make us safer and do not make for a more polite society. Children are dying at the rate of 8 a day from gunshot wounds. Children in public places and in homes face dangerous situations that can end their lives. Take a look at the latest article on the site:
A 58-year old fan was using "loud and profane" language while watching a Little League game in Quilcene, Washington. When another fan told him to watch his language in front of the kids, the man went to his vehicle, retrieved a .32-caliber handgun, then came back and threatened the other man with it, then pointed the gun up into the bleachers where other adults and children were seated.I rest my case. Presumably this man was a "law abiding" gun owner. Was he a permit holder? Likely. What if he had shot off that gun as it was aimed at children and parents alike sitting innocently in the stands of the Little League game? People shouldn't have to worry about going to a Little League game and being faced with a stupid gun owner in a rage, ready to shoot of his gun instead of or in addition to his mouth. The gun rights extremists like to tell us that these situations don't happen or if they do, it's because someone is stupid. Exactly. When our crazy gun culture thinks it's perfectly O.K. and safe for so many more people to carry loaded guns in more public places, the incident linked above, and many others like it, happen in real life. They can turn into tragedies in a matter of the seconds it takes to pull the trigger. When a gun is available, every day confrontations can elevate to dangerous situations endangering lives. Guns are dangerous. Guns make a difference. Guns can be the difference of the taking of an innocent life when it just plain does not have to happen and wouldn't happen if a gun were not at the ready.
I added some comments but have decided to include an update to this post. The Violence Policy Center has just released this new report about conceal carry permit holder shootings. Here is what they found:
Why, again, does the NRA and its' minions lobby against releasing data about permit holders crimes? I guess the answer lies in this new report.From July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, 38 lives were ended by Michigan concealed handgun permit holders in non-self defense deaths according to the April update of the Violence Policy Center's (VPC) Concealed Carry Killers on-line resource (http://www.vpc.org/ccwkillers.htm. The Michigan concealed handgun permit deaths are comprised of: five pending criminal homicides (including the murder of a law enforcement officer); four criminal homicide convictions; and 29 suicides. With these latest additions, the total number of people killed since May 2007 in incidents not ruled self-defense involving private citizens legally allowed to carry concealed handguns as tallied by Concealed Carry Killers has reached 440. (Besides the fatality category and legal status, no other additional information is available regarding the Michigan deaths.)VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, "Michigan is one of the few states that releases any data about non-self defense deaths associated with concealed handgun permit holders. The Michigan deaths represent only a 12-month period from a single state. If we could obtain similar data for every state that issues concealed handgun permits, the numbers would be staggering. The public deserves to know the truth. The Violence Policy Center urges that information on crimes committed by private citizens legally allowed to carry concealed handguns be collected and analyzed through the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reports."
And speaking of "law abiding" gun owners shooting people in places like gun ranges and gun shows where presumably people should be safer from shootings, here is a new blog post by New Trajectory showing how many shooting incidents actually happen in these places where gun rights extremists hang out. From the post:
And then the blog's author goes on to list the incidents. I guess maybe hanging out at the gun range is rather dangerous. No place is safe as long as their are loaded guns.So I would say that shooting ranges and firearms safety classes should be pretty foolproof for safety. Wouldn't you agree?Except they aren't.In fact, so far in 2012, I've counted at least 10 incidents at shooting ranges, some deadly, some injuries, some near-misses. Let's review, shall we?