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.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When to stand your ground...

Now where was I? Some days so many incidents and articles come up about the issue of guns and gun violence that it's difficult to decide about what to write. But the article below caught my attention because of, again, the different perspectives presented by folks on the issue. The Trayvon Martin case has a lot of people talking about the American gun culture and the idea that arming citizens for self defense has led to bad ends in many cases. When is enough force enough? This article takes a look at Oregon's recent stand your ground shooting cases. And what do the gun rights extremists think about these cases?
Apparently there is bad gun violence and good gun violence. Police and the mayor this week raged against a spike in deadly crime-related shootings on the street while gun-rights activists have been cheering a jump in self-defense shootings at home. As noted earlier this week, gun-rights columnist Dave Workman thought the recent accidental shooting deaths of several children were balanced out by the increased body count of home intruders. (...) 
Columnist Workman thinks the shootings send a message not only to would-be burglars but to political opponents of guns: they're out of step. "Not surprisingly," he writes, "anti-self-defense gun prohibitionists at Washington Ceasefire have been silent" in the wake of the shootings. "Each one of these incidents provides a stark contrast to their big-bucks advertising campaign, launched last month, aimed at discouraging private gun ownership."
But all such cases aren't easily justified, especially in tragic instances involving mentally ill intruders. Nor do armed homeowners always act within the law. Snohomish County prosecutors said in January said that the 2011 shooting death of Dylan T. Jones, 23, by an Everett homeowner could have been avoided, and that the shooter didn't need to use fatal force to prevent Jones from taking a boat from his property. But they lacked enough evidence to prove the homeowner committed a crime.
As well, this month a Marysville man who shot at two teen boys who'd triggered a motion detector as they walked by his home was himself arrested. The Associated Press reports that Kenneth Aubry told police he'd recently been burglarized and thought his car was being prowled, so he fired two shots in the dark. Charged with assault, Aubry has pleaded not guilty.
So is there "good gun violence" and are there shootings that "balance out" other shootings? The thing is, many in the gun rights community seem to think that certain people are expendable. We can do without those kids with guns who shoot each other in gang related activity. We can do without those mentally ill people who try to break into a house not knowing what they are doing. We can do without those black kids walking around in the dark on our streets at night. We can do without the druggies who do bad things to keep up with their habit. We can do without those teens who might want to steal something from your garage. We can do without teen-agers walking around in the neighborhood who trigger off a motion detector. There are some fine lines here between legitimate self defense and being able to shoot someone in fear as a first resort.

The gun lobby has made all of this possible with their message of fear and paranoia. It's right there in the quote above when Workman says, "anti-self-defense gun  prohibitionists"....People like me and other "gun grabbers" get labeled as such because it sells guns to the poor folks who believe in the messaging of the NRA. It doesn't matter to them that that is not what we are saying. If it sells memberships in the NRA and gets people to the gun stores, that's all well and good. And if a few people become collateral damage for the cause, so be it. In the last month or so, this kind of talk has been on full display as the recent NRA convention unfolded. The speakers at the convention went out of their way to "target" the usual suspects- the media, the President and Attorney General Eric Holder. They hate all three ( and more) with a vengeance. The extremism is frightening and now NRA Board member Ted Nugent has provided us with an example of how far the NRA is willing to go:
Lately Ted has been complaining that he has to follow rules that “nobody knows about” (danger, Glenn Beck link!) You see Nugent just cut a deal for breaking the law while hunting black bears in Alaska (PDF Link to his plea to avoid jail time and $100,000 fine). I’m not a lawyer, but by reading this plea you can see that in exchange for a reduced sentence he is obligated to do certain things.
1) Be on probation for two years
2) Pay a $10,000 fine
3) Not hunt in the State of Alaska or on any United States Forest Service lands for one year
4) Make PSAs about the hunter’s responsibility for knowing the rules and regulations for the hunting activities they engage in
So now Nugent needs to REALLY pay attention to the rules, because if he fails it will breach his agreement and the United States which can them “withdraw from this agreement and may reinstate prosecution against [him] on any charges arising out of the investigation in this matter.”
Nugent has provided us with a great example of the NRA's true agenda. He ignores the rules, says whatever comes to mind, makes threatening remarks that get him the attention of the Secret Service and brings guns on stage with him for concerts. Great guy, Ted. And right here in my home state of Minnesota, an insurrectionist, White Supremacist group has been uncovered.
According to the affidavit, Johnson was a former member and Minnesota leader of the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist group, and had gone on to form his own group, called the Aryan Liberation Movement.
With the new group, Johnson planned to "recruit and train other white supremacist sympathizers toward a final goal of committing acts of violence against the United States government and minority individuals," the affidavit said.
Thomas came to the FBI's attention when he hosted National Socialist Movement meetings in 2010 and discussed forming the new group with Johnson, the affidavit said.
Thomas also has prior convictions and is prohibited from having firearms until 2013. But last May, he sold an undercover FBI agent several weapons, including a semi-automatic handgun, a pistol-grip shotgun, a laser sight and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, according to the affidavit.
Who are the certain "left-wing individuals" that these guys had in mind? This sort of fear of government and the willingness to use violent methods against the government and those with whom one disagrees is promoted by the fear and paranoia of the gun lobby. I just watched the HBO documentary film, "Gun Fight" featuring Colin Goddard, surviver of the Virginia Tech shooting. Colin came to Minnesota for the showing of the film at the Minneapolis International Film Festival. The film was made to show the two sides of the gun issue and the politics involved. It is clear when some in the gun rights community are interviewed in the film, their view of the second amendment means being at the ready to fight the government. The hyperbolic rhetoric is uttered with such assurance that there just is not another side. This issue is complicated and nuanced. It is not black and white as the gun rights extremists argue. My side has been too timid in its' message and willing to compromise. One would think that's a good thing but  for the NRA and its' minions, there is no compromising. Period.

What a sad state of affairs. To allow an issue of such grave importance to have been hijacked by the NRA and the gun rights extremists is a tragedy. It's like other issues of our times. No compromise. And the NRA has become a conduit for other far right extreme issues as well. That, too, has been on full display after ALEC was exposed for its' influence over state laws regarding gun rights and other favorite conservative causes. From the linked article:
Lisa Graves with the Center for Media and Democracy said the way ALEC works, "We know a bill cannot be approved as a model bill if the private sector members, like the NRA or Walmart, don't want it to become a model bill."
Josh Horwitz heads an advocacy group called the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He said the NRA's role with ALEC cements his view that the NRA is really a base for the conservative movement.
"People think the NRA is just a gun group. It's really not." Horwitz said.
Horwitz's group has created a cheeky website, "Meet the NRA.org." It lists the NRA's board of directors, and it has a rolling information bar that features some of their more colorful statements.
The NRA's board includes Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and David Keene, former chairman of the American Conservative Union. The board also includes Robert Brown, creator of Soldier of Fortune magazine, and rock guitarist Ted Nugent.
Spitzer said the NRA has gotten involved in some other non-gun issues.
For instance, he said, the NRA fought hard against campaign finance reform in the days of McCain-Feingold. "They were taking a very much free-enterprise, government-hands-off-the-campaign-process (approach)," he said.
But Spitzer said the NRA will always be primarily about guns and what they stand for in the individualist American mythology.
He said the NRA's work is cut out for it, because gun ownership is on the decline in America.
This declining number of gun owners are being paid far too much attention by our elected leaders who have allowed themselves to be intimidated by an extremist organization. Speaking of elected leaders, this article caught my attention yesterday. If you read nothing else on this post, please click on the link below and then demand action from our elected leaders. Share it with friends. Tell the world that the U.S. is allowing dangerously mentally ill people to have loaded guns to do without whatever they please. The article reveals that many people who have lost their gun rights because of serious and possibly dangerous mental illness are getting their right restored even though they shouldn't. That is all because the NRA wants everyone to have a gun. So what if they are felons. They can get guns from gun shows, by stealing from homes of gun owners, by getting their own rights restored and through straw purchases, for a few. So what if someone has demonstrated that they would not be responsible with a gun. No one should have their gun rights taken away. Until, of course, they pull the trigger in a mass shooting, a suicide, or a single homicide. Whose rights get taken then? This new article from the New York Times presents some startling information about people with mental illness having their rights restored when it's obvious they shouldn't:
Across the country, states are increasingly allowing people like Mr. French, who lost their firearm rights because of mental illness, to petition to have them restored.
A handful of states have had such restoration laws on their books for some time, but with little notice, more than 20 states have passed similar measures since 2008. This surge can be traced to a law passed by Congress after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech that was actually meant to make it harder for people with mental illness to get guns.
As a condition of its support for the measure, the National Rifle Association extracted a concession: the inclusion of a mechanism for restoring firearms rights to those who lost them for mental health reasons.
The intent of these state laws is to enable people to regain the right to buy and possess firearms if it is determined that they are not a threat to public safety. But an examination of restoration procedures across the country, along with dozens of cases, shows that the process for making that determination is governed in many places by vague standards and few specific requirements.
But here is what is happening in real life, from the article:
The issue goes to the heart of the nation’s complicated relationship with guns, testing the delicate balance between the need to safeguard the public and the dictates of what the Supreme Court has proclaimed to be a fundamental constitutional right.
Mike Fleenor, the commonwealth’s attorney here in Pulaski County, whose office opposed restoring Mr. French’s rights, worries that the balance is being thrown off by weak standards.
“I think that reasonable people can disagree about issues of the Second Amendment and gun control and things like that, but I don’t believe that any reasonable person believes that a mentally ill person needs a firearm,” Mr. Fleenor said. “The public has a right to be safe in their community.”
In case after case examined by The New York Times, judges made decisions without important information about an applicant’s mental health.
Raise your hand if you think this is a good idea. Since when is it a good idea to have dangerously mentally ill people walking around with loaded guns? It's not, plain and simply. But the NRA doesn't care about public safety. They only care about a trumped up argument about rights and selling guns. Why else would they be in favor of dangerous people having gun rights restored? If you can think of one, let me know. We should all be screaming from the roof tops about the facts presented in this article. It is downright frightening. Our communities are and will be much less safe because of the NRA.

And so, the saga continues. The NRA as an organization stands its' ground about Stand Your Ground and other extreme gun bills under the guise of "freedom and liberty". The "gun control" side stands its' ground about standing up to the NRA and extremism for the cause of prevention of senseless shootings. The two sides are far apart, or so it seems. Actually, though, there is more agreement than it seems. When asked specific questions about gun legislation or the gun culture, Americans come together to support common sense. That has been shown in poll after poll of which I have written here many times before. If we don't demand that our leaders side with the citizens' lobby over the gun lobby, we will be complicit in allowing dangerous people to have guns. That is unacceptable.

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