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, June 24, 2012

Guns and fires

You know, the gun lobby provides us bloggers with enough to write about without having to search too far. In my last post I wrote about the floods in my home town and how insidious they were, much like the NRA and its' agenda. Today, I ran across this article about target shooters starting wild fires in Utah and other Western states where conditions are tinder dry. Who knew? But firing off a gun does leave a spark and when conditions are dry, fires start easily. So why then don't shooters consider not target shooting during times when it's not a good idea? The fact that one of the latest tactics of the extreme NRA is to claim that even in national emergencies governments can't ban the use of guns, if even temporarily, says it all, doesn't it? From the above article:
In Utah, for example, a state law prohibits the state from enacting emergency bans on guns, putting Gov. Herbert in a position of instead asking county governments to issue emergency rules for outdoor gun use as wildfire conditions prevail across the West.
In North Carolina, gun rights activists have successfully fought legal battles to make sure governors can’t ban guns during emergencies.
Moves to protect gun owners from emergency gun bans is an emerging front in the national debate over gun rights.
In March, a committee in the Colorado legislature killed a proposed bill that would have restricted the state from banning citizen-carry of guns during an emergency. “Common sense dictates that in an emergency situation… guns only make things worse,” a witness from the League of Women Voters told Colorado legislators at a hearing.
And then at the end of the article comes this predictable statement from extremist Alan Gottlieb:
“Citizens do not surrender their civil rights just because of a natural or man-made disaster,” Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said in support of a lawsuit in North Carolina filed by gun owners after a 2010 snow storm put a gun ban into effect.
Right. Citizens absolutely do NOT surrender their civil rights- ever, ever, ever. No matter that thousands of acres of land are burning. No matter that in national emergencies people do not necessarily think straight and may just use a gun when they shouldn't. No matter that the common good and public safety are more important at times than individual rights. There just are times when, as communities, people should pull together to do the right thing and help out. But apparently not to the gun guys. They have to have their guns at all times even if they themselves can be dangerous. There just is no common sense when it comes to the common good for the gun rights advocates.

And this fire in Colorado was also started by target shooters. People have been asked to evacuate their homes. The fire will destroy all in its' path. Insidious. Just like the NRA's version of America that says we should not try to curtail the use of guns in a national emergency. Just let the wild fires burn on but don't monkey with gun rights. How sad and ludicrous is this? From the article:
The fire that officials believe was started Thursday by target shooters was 30 percent contained Saturday evening, with full containment expected Tuesday.
Will these folks be held responsible for the damage done or is that outside of the possible because the NRA would get its' undies in a bundle over this, too? This is a large and destructive fire:
"Even though we lost 21 (structures), which is a huge tragedy, we saved many homes because of firefighters' efforts," the Post reported Estes Park Fire Chief Scott Dorman as telling evacuees.
Firefighters contending with the largest and most expensive fire in Colorado history gave up some ground before the weekend. Crews stationed near threatened homes Friday had to retreat for their safety, and containment slipped from 60 percent to 45 percent.
The fire near Fort Collins has scorched more than 118 square miles and destroyed at least 191 homes. 
Let's look at more about this issue. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA issued a temporary ban of guns in some places. The NRA rose up and demanded changes so people could "protect" themselves from property crimes. From the article:
Gun rights groups had sought the change, saying the original policy violated Second Amendment protections for gun ownership. Kinerny said FEMA made the change after consulting with lawyers.
FEMA said it has been general policy for several years to prohibit guns at such parks anywhere in the country. But two gun rights groups — the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation — said they found out about it only this month as a 600-trailer encampment opened near Baton Rouge.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre praised the change. “It is wrong to force citizens to give up their constitutional rights in order for them to get a needed federal benefit,” he said in a news release.
Col. Greg Phares, chief sheriff’s deputy in Baton Rouge, had asked for a firearms ban at the park. He expressed frustration Monday, saying FEMA gave him conflicting information on whether there was such a ban in the first place. He also said gun-rights groups overreacted.
“I never looked at it, and I don’t look at it now, as a Second Amendment issue,” Phares said. “We had asked for FEMA to say firearms would not be permitted on site, just as you can’t bring firearms into the federal building, into the Legislature in Baton Rouge, into an LSU football game.”
We all know that wild fires have many causes- some man made and some from natural causes such as lightning strikes. But when we know we can prevent fires by not allowing people to shoot their guns or even temporarily ban the use of guns, why would we not do that? Consider the alternative which is spelled out clearly in the articles above. These emergency measures are there for good reasons. But the NRA doesn't trust government. The NRA wants the minority of folks who own guns and carry guns to determine public safety rather than the people who are actually charged with doing so for the good of our communities. There are obviously two sides to this issue. One only cares about individual rights, period. The other cares about what's good for all. People do have a right to be safe from man made disasters. Never mind what's good for us all. The NRA is pushing its' views and inserting them into other laws. In my state of Minnesota, one of the provisions of the Shoot First bill, now vetoed by Governor Dayton, was to stop the state from temporary gun bans in national emergencies. People are busy with other concerns in national emergencies. People are distraught and emotional. Do we really think it would have been a good idea for the folks trapped in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina to have guns inside? Terrible idea for obvious reasons. We do have the awful incident of officers shooting innocent Black people during the deluge in New Orleans and the lawsuit that followed. Corruption and violence perpetrated by police officers should not be tolerated. It just adds to the mistrust that some have of law enforcement. I happen to have great respect for law enforcement in my neck of the woods.

I understand that some do not and there are some legitimate reasons for it. As a country though, we have decided on a public system of law enforcement to carry out and enforce the laws in our communities. These professionals protect us and put their lives at risk every day to do so. That is the rule of law. For the most part law enforcement does a fine job. There are incidents of course, of things going wrong. But in times of national emergencies, I trust in law enforcement and the government to carry out their charge to keep us safe. I don't believe there are ulterior motives when law enforcement invokes rules to temporarily restrict the use of private firearms. They have the interest of the public in mind and that is their job. To undermine that, as the NRA does in these cases, is to cause more potential harm to the community. It is for the common good.

Who is in charge here? A small group of single minded people with guns or the duly elected government of our country? The gun blogosphere is replete with articles about governments seizing guns and the need for guns to fight against government "tyranny" as they perceive it. They love to go back to the Nazis and equate anything that looks to them like that time to what the "gun grabbers" in the U.S. have in mind. These are straw man arguments and totally paranoid. These folks are insurrectionists, ready to fight their own government. In times of national emergencies they especially want their guns for that purpose. Remember, NRA Executive V.P. Wayne LaPierre has famously misinterpreted the Constitution when he says that "the guys with the guns make the rules." Sadly, in some cases, he is right. And that is the dark version of America espoused by the NRA and its' minions.

UPDATE- July 3, 2012

This new article has come to my attention about the Sunflower wild fire in Arizona.
Arizona's 18,000-acre Sunflower Fire started when a Mesa man loaded a fire-producing shell into a shotgun and fired it during a bachelor party outing in May, according to a complaint filed in federal district court.  
Steven Shiflet, 23, faces three charges in connection with the May 12 incident in the Sycamore Creek area. Each charge carries a maximum of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Shiflet and four of his friends traveled there from Mesa for a camping trip and bachelor party on May 11, the complaint stated. The group had numerous guns and were shooting at various targets for about two hours on the morning of May 12, according to the complaint.
Shiflet then loaded a shell into a shotgun and fired it at a soda box, the complaint said. Shiflet said he believed the round would shoot out flame or act like a flare gun, according to prosecutors.
Smoke appeared in the brush just behind where the shot was fired and Shiflet and his friends were unable to stomp it out, according to the complaint. Investigators said the Sunflower Fire started near the intersection of Forest Road 25 and Sycamore Creek.
According to the complaint, Shiflet called 911 from his cell phone at 10:18 a.m. and reported the fire. He voluntarily surrendered the guns.
Shiflet also handed over a shotgun shell and said it was the exact same type of round that he had fired just seconds prior to the start of the fire.  The warning on the packing reads, "Shoots 100 feet of fire, setting everything in its path ablaze. Warning: Extreme FIRE HAZARD," according to the complaint.
Just a few guys with their guns out to have a good time. Stupid and dangerous. What did someone expect when loading a fire-producing shell into a shotgun?


Here is another article about the young man who started the Arizona wildfire that has burned thousands of acres and demolished the homes of many people:
Federal agents began investigating the fire the day after its ignition. Witnesses provided probers with the license plate number of a GMC Yukon that was seen departing the Sunflower Fire. The vehicle was “occupied by five white males in their 20’s,” reported Lucas Woolf, a Forest Service agent.
After tracing the SUV to Pace, Woolf approached him on May 19 (the day of Reeder’s wedding) and said he wanted to talk about the Sunflower Fire. “I think that we may have had something to do with that,” Pace replied.
Woolf then interviewed Shiflet, who recalled firing an “orange shotgun round” at a soda box, expecting the round to “shoot out flame or act like a flare gun.” Shiflet provided Woolf with the “exact same type of shotgun shell that he fired” on May 12, triggering the massive blaze.
A warning on the Fiocchi 12 gauge round’s packaging made its danger clear: “Shoots 100 feet of fire, setting everything in its path ablaze. Warning: Extreme FIRE HAZARD.”
On June 22, Shiflet was named in a three-count misdemeanor criminal complaint accusing him of causing the Sunflower Fire, which has destroyed 17,618 acres (and is now 80 percent contained). A Tonto National Forest spokesperson estimated that fire suppression efforts have so far cost $6 million.
Shiflet was served with a federal summons last Wednesday by a federal agent who met up with him at a McDonald’s in Phoenix. Shiflet, who did not respond to a TSG message sent to his Facebook page, is scheduled to appear July 13 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. (6 pages)


  1. The problem with what you're saying is that civil rights themselves need to be suspended when the government says it's needed.

    That's the ONLY time civil rights have ever been suspended. They will NOT get suspended any other time. If civil rights get suspended because a government official says they need to be suspended 'for the greater good' then you end up with places that have a full-on gun ban all year 'round.

    Any time you leave civil rights of any kind up in the hands of people, it WILL get abused. Maybe not right away, but it will.

    If you want to advocate for 'common sense' change, then I suggest (at least for situations like this) you lobby to have the rules changed governing this. Mandate that when X environmental conditions are met, then you must have some form of fire suppression ON HAND, whether it's a water hose, fire extinguisher, SOMETHING. Perhaps mandate that the only ammunition to be used be copper jacketed lead when those same conditions are met.

    You CANNOT and SHOULD NOT EVER leave the ability to suspend civil rights in the hands of any human being.

    1. Why don't you work on that Tango since it's your folks who are starting the fires?

    2. Getting the idiots who insist on target shooting in tinder dry conditions to have water with them.

    3. I think it's 100 times better than the alternative of stripping civil rights on a whim. You're right, it's not easy. Again, it's better than the alternative.

      There's proposed legislation they're working on that will limit when you can target shoot depending on the environmental conditions, limiting it to existing, improved ranges. We'll see how it goes. I can't say I'm opposed to it.

  2. I have a problem with your statement that government officials, police officers in this case, have a charge to keep us safe. The Supreme Court has said many times over that the police have NO DUTY to protect us. See Castle Rock vs. Gonzales (and many more).

    If you want a valid example of guns holding back tyranny, then look up the history of Athens, Georgia, circa 1946.

    1. That's ludicrous. Yes, the Supreme Court determined there was not a Constitutional duty to protect. But if you don't think officers operate on the idea that they are there to protect the community, then I have bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

    2. I agree they DO operate on the idea to look out for the public. I do NOT think they have a charge to do so. While their patrol cars say "To serve and protect" the Supreme Court has unfortunately debunked that.

      I like cops... I just understand that they're under no obligation (or charge) to protect myself or my family.

  3. A recent trend in target shooting is to shoot at exploding targets. Some people make their own, but they are also available commercially, and they aren't illegal anywhere, as far as I know. These have started many forest fires. In Utah alone, there have been 20 forest fires started by exploding targets:

    Example videos:


    1. Thanks, Baldr. The videos you sent were great examples of how it is possible for fires to start from target shooters.

    2. Well at least that is plausible. I was wondering how copper (used for non sparking tools) and lead could cause sparks.

  4. Dumb and dumber- http://m.fox16.com/display/574/story/826117fa3a7eef77e00c4ad5a395f6d9

    Teen starts fire in Arizona by shooting at Mason jar of gasoline!!

  5. I don't understand the use case for tracer ammunition. Aside from eye candy, you can't really use it to sight in a rifle since it has different ballistics from conventional rounds. It's not uncommon for outdoor ranges to ban those and steel core bullets as well due to fire risk.

    I think it's appropriate to suspend the discharge of firearms in certain locations under specific circumstances, similar to burn bans.

    That however, should not mean people must surrender their right to carry. For example: You can bet I'm getting a night in the slammer (at the least) if I fired a gun into the air in my neighborhood, but that's entirely different from a self defense situation.

    In my view, the executive government may prohibit the discharge of guns in certain public locations, but they should not prohibit the possession of guns themselves.

    I view this as a non-debate.

    1. You are correct on most counts. The ballistics on tracers are absolutely disgusting. They're used with fully automatic machine guns in the military to aid in aiming. Since the weapons shake FAR too much to bother using the iron sights, tracers are used to walk the rounds into the enemy. Tracers also deflect incredibly easily as well. During night firing especially, you will see rounds hit seemingly nothing and bound straight into the air. The rounds are hitting the wood, dirt, rocks, WHATEVER... and it does that.

      With standard ammunition, the round will 'splatter' in most cases, deflect in others. Standard ammunition is either pure lead or copper jacketed lead. When the ammunition is going 1500 feet per second and hits a rock, the physics of it are very similar to water in that the lead just splatters. Copper jacketed ammunition won't spark and cause fires. It's the jackasses firing tracers or blowing up reactive targets that cause fires.

      Note, in Utah tracer ammunition is already illegal to fire ANYWHERE with the exception of established military bases. See UT UC65A-3-2.

      Reactive targets, targets that blow up when shot, are illegal on federal land, but I'm not entirely sure about state land since I don't use them. Lots of money on them for short effect. These targets WILL have an extremely exothermic reaction. For those that don't know what that means, the chemical reaction that takes place (very rapidly in this case), exerts intense heat.

      The shooters in Utah (those 20 fires were NOT all started by shooters, regardless of what the SL Tribune says) started the fires doing things that were plain stupid. They were not out there shooting steel targets. They weren't shooting targets on wooden backdrops.

      They were either illegally shooting tracers or other non-standard ammunition (think steel core), shooting explosive targets (not necessarily an illegal activity), or doing something else like smoking or burning trash.

  6. Thank God that Illinois has sensible laws on self defense and doesn't have Stand Your Ground laws or this innocent woman might not have spent 19 months in jail. http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20120625/news/706259597/

  7. If only this family had followed the rules for safe gun storage this 14 year old would not have gotten his hands on a gun and the 37 year old would not be recovering in a hospital. Where is the common sense?


  8. Robin- your snarkiness is annoying. You have not heard me say on this blog that there are not legitimate self defense cases. When there are, a judge and jury finds them to be so. Every state has self defense laws. We don't need Stand Your Ground laws. So stop sending me cases of them. I see them. I know there are legitimate self defense cases. In the one about the 14 year old, it's a good thing he knew how to use that gun. As you know, I provide copious numbers of cases here where kids and teens do not know how to handle guns and end up shooting themselves or someone else. Just look at the posts over at the Kid Shootings blogs for those examples.

  9. One would think that the gun rights extremists might even give their agenda a rest in the interest of public safety. But no. This article (http://www.havasunews.com/articles/2012/07/07/news/doc4ff7bb05a4d96483771127.txt) points out that some just have to get in a word about their paranoid world: " “This is a golden opportunity for people who are anti-Second Amendment to try and blame shooters for everything,” said Noble Hathaway, president of the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association.

    But government officials call the restrictions a common-sense approach, and said they will be lifted as soon as conditions permit.

    “We had so little winter moisture in Arizona that we are just in extremely dry conditions,” said Carrie Templin, a spokeswoman at the Arizona office for the Bureau of Land Management. “It doesn’t take much to start a fire.”

    BLM has issued an outright ban on discharging firearms in the Hassayampa and Lower Sonoran areas, although licensed hunters are exempt from the ban. The bureau has banned the use of tracer ammunition and explosives in its Kingman, Lake Havasu, Yuma, Safford and Tucson districts.

    Most national forests in the state – Coconino, Prescott, Coronado, Tonto and Kaibab – have banned the discharge of firearms except while “engaged in a lawful hunt.” The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest still allows target shooting, but has banned black-powder guns." There is, of course, actual proof that target shooters have started some of the wild fires in several western states. And no one is even thinking about the second amendment here. Give it a rest for Pete's sake!!!