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.
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Saturday, July 21, 2012

A dark night indeed

Of the movie goers who showed up at the movie complex in Aurora Colorado to see the Midnight release of "The Dark Knight Rises", the latest Batman movie, 71 of them were shot by a gunman. For the families of the victims it was a dark night, indeed.

I would like to share the press release from the Brady Campaign about the shooting:


WE DON’T WANT SYMPATHY FROM THE PRESIDENT OR OTHER ELECTED OFFICIALS; WE INVITE AMERICANS TO JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN TO HOLD POLITICIANS ACCOUNTABLE TO ACT 

Statement from Brady Campaign President Dan Gross in response to the massacre in Aurora, Co.

“On behalf of the Brady Campaign, I send our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and survivors of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

This tragedy is another grim reminder that guns are the enablers of mass killers and that our nation pays an unacceptable price for our failure to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We are outraged. We understand that President Obama has just spoken and so might Mitt Romney.

As someone who has suffered the lasting impact of gun violence, and president of Brady, I can tell you that we don’t want sympathy. We want action. Just this past April 16, the anniversary of the worst mass shooting in American history, 32 victims of gun violence joined us to demand Congress take action to stop arming dangerous people.

Today we are meeting with activists across this country as we continue to call on the American people to add their voice for change through our petition against arming dangerous people at www.bradycampaign.org We are insistent that our elected leaders take action to prevent future tragedies. Political cowardice is not an excuse for evasion and inaction on this life-and-death issue.”"

As one of these activists, I am overwhelmed by the articles, blogs and stories on the electronic media about this worst mass shooting in the history of the country. It's hard to know what to say, what to write, what to do. All I know is that doing nothing is not an option. That's what we have been doing for years. Worse yet, we've been actually making it easier for mass shootings like this to happen. We let the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban sunset in 2004. Even Mitt Romney used to support this ban on military style weapons. Some of the assault type weapons and high capacity magazines used by mass shooters would not have been available to James Holmes. So, for instance, Bass Pro Shops and Gander Mountain where this shooter bought his guns legally, would not have been able to sell him the AR-15 rifle used in the shooting. The NRA has made any discussion of the Assault Weapons Ban toxic. And 12 people are dead in a massacre at a movie theater. We let anyone buy guns from private sellers with no background checks. We don't monitor bad apple gun dealers adequately because the NRA fights funding for the ATF which is responsible for dealing with public safety issues such as this. We have a gun culture that is uniquely American. We have a lot of shootings. We have a lot of victims. We have a lot of guns. Some say we have a lot of gun laws. If the gun laws worked and more guns made us safer, why do we have the most gun deaths of any high income country not at war? The gun lobby is wrong. The gun lobby should be held to account for this gun culture. Our elected leaders are too scared to take on the NRA. All they have to do is stand up together and say, "Enough." Will they?

I found several articles that speak to the issue better than I could. The first is this from Washington Post writer E.J. Dionne:
For all the dysfunction in our political system, a healthy pattern usually takes hold when a terrible tragedy seizes the nation's attention.
Normally, we engage in a searching conversation over what rational steps can be taken by individuals, communities and various levels of government to make the recurrence of a comparable tragedy less likely. Sometimes we act, sometimes we don't, but at least we explore sensible solutions.
Unless the tragedy involves guns. Then our whole public reasoning process goes haywire. Anyone who dares to say that an event such as the massacre at a Colorado movie theater early Friday morning demands that we rethink our approach to the regulation of firearms is accused of "exploiting" the deaths of innocent people.
This is part of the gun lobby's rote response, and the rest of us allow it to work every time. Their goal is to block any conversation about how our nation's gun laws, the most permissive in the industrialized world, increase the likelihood of mass killings of this sort.
First, the gun lobby goes straight to the exploitation argument -- which is, of course, a big lie. You can see this because we never allow an assertion of this kind to stop conversation on other issues.
Nobody who points to the inadequacy of our flood-control policies or mistakes by the Army Corps of Engineers is accused of "exploiting" the victims of a deluge.
Nobody who criticizes a botched response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to a natural disaster is accused of "exploiting" the victims of a hurricane or a tornado. Nobody who lays part of the blame for an accident on insufficient regulation of, say, the airlines or coal mining is accused of "exploiting" the accident's victims.
No, it's only where a gun massacre is concerned that an absolute and total gag rule is imposed on any thinking beyond the immediate circumstances of the catastrophe. God forbid that we question even a single tenet of the theology of firearms.
The lobby then goes to its backup moves. The problem, it insists, lies in the failure to enforce existing laws -- conveniently ignoring that the NRA's whole purpose is to weaken the gun statutes we already have.
The worshipers of weapons also lay heavy stress on the psychological disabilities of the killer in a particular incident to create a sense of futility and resignation. Crazy people, they say, will do crazy things, and there is nothing we can do about this.
Never mind that more rational laws would help keep guns out of the hands of people with a history of mental illness. Never mind that it's harder to get a license to drive a car than it is to own a gun.
Never mind that even a Supreme Court ruling that gave an expansive reading of the Second Amendment nonetheless acknowledged the right of the people through their legislatures and Congress to enact sensible gun regulations.
Oh, yes, and then there is their trump card: We'd all be safer, says the gun lobby, if every last one of us owned a gun.
Why is there so little pushback against assertions that are so transparently designed to prevent rather than promote dialogue? The answer lies in a profound timidity on the part of politicians in both parties. The Republicans are allied with the gun lobby and the Democrats are intimidated.
Sure, there are some dissenters. Many of the nation's mayors, led by Mike Bloomberg of New York and Tom Menino of Boston, have tried to organize a push for carefully tailored laws aimed at keeping guns out of the wrong hands. But they are the exceptions. President Obama has done little to challenge the NRA, and yet it attacks him anyway.
There are many reasons for this politics of timidity, not the least being a United States Senate that vastly overrepresents rural voters relative to suburban and urban voters. (The Electoral College overrepresents rural voters, too.)
Add to this a Republican Party that will bow low before any anti-government argument that comes along, and a Democratic Party petrified of losing more rural support -- and without any confidence that advocates of tougher gun laws will cast ballots on the basis of this issue.
So let's ask ourselves: Aren't we all in danger of being complicit in throwing up our hands and allowing the gun lobby to write our gun laws? Awful things happen, we mourn them, and then we shrug. And that's why they keep happening.
We are complicit unless we decide not to be. Don't shrug. Act. Enough. It's time. Even high school students get what's going on regarding the silence on gun issues after mass shootings in America. This California student, Julianna Joss, wrote a great piece for Huffington Post. She is more articulate than our elected leaders and calls them out for their pandering when they should be considering public safety:
Whatever the stance, no matter how divided or controversial, the American public needs leadership. As a student and frequent moviegoer, I need to know that these situations will never happen again. Is it too much to ask to be safe in my high school or watching a movie on a summer night? Voters should be not concerned with where a politician's stance ranks on the political spectrum; they too want to see proactive action towards avoiding such tragedies. Americans need assurance and they expect definitive, explicit leadership. President Obama may be running for re-election, but he first and foremost is our nation's leader. The absence of public discourse on the issue of gun control has been truly deafening.
This is not the time to curry favor with special interest groups; it is the time to place the betterment and safety of the country highest on the public agenda. While many may have divergent views on what the role of guns play in ensuring personal safety and personal freedom, this should not inhibit action. I encourage our politicians to set aside the controversy and political expediency. I urge them to take strong-willed and bold steps toward a constructive and sensible direction.
Bold? Is that possible? Not when the NRA is in charge. Sigh. The third one is this essay from Bill Moyers. In his video essay here is what stands out:
Bill Moyers says Friday’s deadly shooting in Colorado is yet another tragic indication that our society — and too many of our politicians — covet guns more than common sense or life itself. The National Rifle Association in particular, Bill says, “has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel and deadly hoax.”
You can watch the video here:





I couldn't agree more with Bill Moyers. We are fooling ourselves. So I'm going to post a few more links to articles that say what needs to be said about this latest American mass shootings. This one talks about how our country can do something about gun violence if we but have the will. Australia managed it. So can we. And this one is particularly good because it gets to America's short attention span when it comes to gun violence prevention. That is by design of the NRA. From this article:

According to Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, there isn't anything wrong with showing sympathy, but there has to be more. "You have to question how genuine that sympathy is if it's not accompanied by talk about solutions to the problem."

Opponents of gun control have a powerful rhetorical argument in their arsenal. "The gun lobby is very effective at saying that 'Now is not the time to exploit these events for political purposes,'" Rand said. "Their goal is to delay so that the pressure comes off of policy makers, the immediacy fades and everyone turns their attention to something else."

Gross agreed. "That's the arc that these things always take and they know it," he said. But, Gross said, the "now is not the time" argument would only be genuine "if history showed that there ever is a time to discuss the role of gun policy in preventing these tragedies."
And Rand said it's appropriate to start talking about solutions right away. "It's not politics, it's public health," she said. "You have an industry that manufactures a product that is completely unregulated from a health and safety standpoint."
Now is the time. If not now, when? But when the NRA decides the national conversation about gun laws, this is what we get. No national conversation. No mention of the word guns by our politicians. No common sense gun laws. Instead we get hypocrisy. We get daily carnage. We get mass shootings. We get politicians saying stupid things like this:  

During a radio interview on The Heritage Foundation's "Istook Live!" show, Gohmert was asked why he believes such senseless acts of violence take place. Gohmert responded by talking about the weakening of Christian values in the country.

"You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of terror like this takes place," Gohmert said.

"Some of us happen to believe that when our founders talked about guarding our virtue and freedom, that that was important," he said. "Whether it's John Adams saying our Constitution was made only for moral and religious people ... Ben Franklin, only a virtuous people are capable of freedom, as nations become corrupt and vicious they have more need of masters ... We have been at war with the very pillars, the very foundation of this country."

Ernest Istook, the host of the show and a former Oklahoma congressman, jumped in to clarify that nobody knows the motivation of the alleged Aurora gunman. Gohmert said that may be true, but suggested the shootings were still "a terrorist act" that could have been avoided if the country placed a higher value on God.

"People say ... where was God in all of this?" Gohmert said. "We've threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God's name, they're going to be jailed ... I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don't want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present."
Gohmert also said the tragedy could have been lessened if someone else in the movie theater had been carrying a gun and took down the lone shooter. Istook noted that Colorado laws allow people to carry concealed guns.
Sigh. Such crazy talk should not be acceptable in America. Enough.


And we get politicians raising money over the shooting:

The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama released a fundraising letter late Friday afternoon requesting donations over an early report on ABC News that suggested a member of a Colorado tea party group may have been the shooter. The on-air report, delivered by ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross on "Good Morning America," was inaccurate, and Ross issued an apology and a correction later that day.

The fundraising letter, which was written on behalf of Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz, asked for money to "fight back" against the media.
Sigh. Enough. A new report said that the shooter purchased over 6000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet. What for? From the article: " The firm sells equipment to military and police personnel -- as well as weekend warriors, Weinman said." I rest my case. I recommend reading the rest of this article. It's frightening assessment of the ease of mowing down many movie goers in a short time should give us all pause. More than Enough. The shooter bought a 100 round drum magazine for his assault rifle. Here is a picture of one. Why should any civilian be allowed to purchase such ammunition? Only death and destruction is on the mind of someone who buys a round of ammunition like this. And if anyone wants to suggest that a gun permit holder could have saved the day, let that person come forward and explain just how that would have worked. It would be ludicrous and silly logic. 


Where is common sense? Families are grieving. Families have lost loved ones in a sudden and unexpected way. We should be able to go to movies, to malls, to bars and restaurants and all public places without fear of being shot to death. Enough. The silence about the shootings from our politicians is deafening. Enough.


UPDATE:


I would like to add one more cogent article about the Colorado theater shooting. That would be from New York Times writer Gail Collins who gets it so right:
In our country, the mass shootings come so frequently that most of them go by virtually unnoticed. Did you catch the one last week in Tuscaloosa? Seventeen people at a bar, hit by a gunman with an assault weapon.
People from most other parts of the industrialized world find the American proliferation of guns shocking, but, really, they have no idea. Even most Americans don’t know that Congress has, in recent years, refused to consider laws that would ban the sale of assault weapons capable of firing 100 bullets without reloading, and declined to allow the attorney general to restrict people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing weapons.
The country is not nearly as crazy as its politicians make it out to be. (A survey by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found 82 percent of N.R.A. members opposed letting people on the terrorist watch list buy guns.) Although it could certainly use a little leadership.
After the latest shooting, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York laced into Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for limiting their post-Aurora remarks to expressions of sympathy for the victims.
“I feel your pain and I’m working on it,” he snorted in an interview. “Romney passed a ban on assault weapons back when he was governor and now he says he’s against it. Of course, he’s done that on almost everything. Obama, when he was elected, said I want to reinstate the ban on assault weapons and he’s never done it.”
But presidential candidates look at this issue and see the same thing other elected officials do: a rich, fierce, loopy lobby on one side, and, on the other, people with petitions, slogging along.
I'm slogging along. 

9 comments:

  1. To Nick who sent a comment- you are insulting me and you know it. Try again without the insults. I completely disagree with your views, by the way, as you might expect. Saying you would rather die in the theater standing up with your gun is just not logical. A gun in the theater was not the answer. A gun in the theater was the problem. Prevention is the answer. No one is coming for your guns, by the way. Did you remember that the Assault Weapons Ban grandfathered in the guns already owned? Crazy as that was, it was a compromise. It left a whole lot of assault weapons out there to be stolen and sold on the illegal market. It left a whole lot of assault weapons to be used by law abiding citizens before suddenly they weren't. No one said it would prevent all shootings. We will never do that. But we certainly should try. Doing it your way- which is to do nothing- is not an option any more. If you are not planning to go out and shoot up a theater full of people with your guns, you have nothing to worry about.

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  2. One further comment to Nick who said he would stand up and take the bullet and try to hit the shooter in the dark, crowded theater. That would be really stupid given the circumstances. It's dark. The guy is wearing a kevlar vest and other protective clothing and there is chaos. Who else would your bullets hit while trying to hit a shooter in a dark theater? You would add to the carnage. Also, I am guessing that, though you bluster, you would most likely have done what the others did- run for cover or get under the seats, etc. Being in the actual situation is quite different than what is in your mind as a brave guy who would shoot someone in situations like this.

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  3. For us in Europe the USA is a total irrational sort of democracy. It looks like pressure groups like the NRA influence politicians more than anxious voters do. This is no "friendly fire" in wartime it is the freedom to buy automatic weapons and carry them freely in public. What a tragic idea about a "right to carry a fire arm" causing more dead and wounded civilians than in so many USA wars.
    Cowboy time is over guys, pistols are out, these are mass destruction weapons !
    Politicians are obvious frantic about standing up against such 'right'. How weak they prove to be.
    Is there hope for savety in your streets and theaters ? No, unless politicians do what they should have done long time ago: forbid automatic weapons for civilians. And reglect the NRA as a pressure group without responsibility.

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  4. Sure, Nick, you go ahead and pull out your little concealed weapon in a crowded, very dark theater full of people screaming and running around you, trying not to shoot innocents in the chaos, and try to shoot through the tear gas at a person who is wearing full-body ballistic armor and firing an assault rifle, and hope no one, including the police, mistake you for the shooter in the process. See how successful you are.

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  5. jefvrie: "No, unless politicians do what they should have done long time ago: forbid automatic weapons for civilians. And reglect the NRA as a pressure group without responsibility."

    Jefvrie, automatic weapons weren't used in this horrific crime. Automatic weapons can be purchased by civilians in some states through a very long and arduous process. They are also extremely expensive - and no automatic weapons made after May 1986 can be owned by a civilian. It's extremely rare to see them used in a crime in the United States.

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    1. I'm pretty sure the person who commented ( who is European) doesn't get the difference between the semi-automatic assault rifles and full automatic weapons. I don't blame him. The semi automatic weapons have been involved in countless incidents of mass shootings leading to hundreds of senseless deaths. Further, we know there are kits available to make semi autos into automatic weapons. That should not be but it is. People do own them. I have written about that on this blog. There was a recent case of an undercover agent offering to sell automatic weapons to a would be terrorist. That should not be but it is. The distinction is academic. The gun lobby loves to dwell on the minutia and quibble about terminology while people are being shot to death every day.

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    2. Maybe that is because an assault rifle is by definition fully automatic vs the assault weapon. It might help if you used the terms correctly

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    3. Right. Whatever terminology is used, people are dead just the same. The public doesn't discern the difference much. To them, when bullets are fired in rapid succession, they know there is a terrible shooting going on. Picking on the terms is pretty lame given the tragedy that unfolded. I suggest that you guys don't do that right now. It doesn't do your side any good at all.

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  6. ***Gohmert also said the tragedy could have been lessened if someone else in the movie theater had been carrying a gun and took down the lone shooter.***

    Damn
    I D I O T !

    And we wonder why our country is going to hell in a handbasket..

    Great Post, J.

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