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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Friday, July 6, 2012

Can we compromise on public safety?

There's a lot to write about, just as I thought there would be, since I last posted. The NRA's version of America is alive and well in this July Fourth week. News of shootings from celebratory gunfire at July Fourth celebrations, more news about George Zimmerman's status, "responsible gun owners" leaving loaded guns around where kids can find them, and more. Let's get started.


George Zimmerman just can't get a break. That's what happens to dishonest people who go around shooting people in nefarious claims of self defense. The judge on the case is not happy with him:

"Under any definition, the defendant has flaunted the system," Lester wrote in the order. "The defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so."

Lester said he was granting bond because Zimmerman posed no threat to the community, and Florida law requires that most defendants receive bond if they pose no threat and can assure their presence for trial. The judge's order requires Zimmerman to be electronically monitored and residing in Seminole County, prohibits him from opening a bank account or obtaining a passport and implements a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Zimmerman had been allowed to leave Florida under the conditions of his first bond release.

Prosecutors previously argued Zimmerman and his wife talked in code during recorded jailhouse conversations about how to transfer the donations to different bank accounts. For example, George Zimmerman at one point asked how much money they had. She replied "$155." Prosecutors allege that was code for $155,000. Their reference to "Peter Pan" was code for the PayPal system through which the donations were made, prosecutors said. 
It turns out that Zimmerman is now out on bail with a "down payment" on the one million dollars. It looks like he and his lawyer are raising money for Zimmerman. I wonder who is giving? I am adding this article after writing the original post to update my readers about the Zimmerman release from jail. From the article:
George Zimmerman was released at 2:49 p.m after being fitted with an electronic monitoring device that will provide his "real-time" whereabouts at all times.
Zimmerman's parents, Robert and Gladys, put up their home as collateral to get their son released, according to papers released by the Seminole County Sheriff's office.
He posted the bond a day after Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester gave him a second chance at bail Thursday while saying Zimmerman "manipulated" and "flaunted" the court during his first bond hearing in April and may have planned to flee with more than $130,000 collected through a personal website.  (...) 
Zimmerman's legal team said the bail would be hard for him to meet and made a fundraising pitch Thursday that led to more than $20,000 being donated in less than 24 hours.
A safe house was set up for Zimmerman, who is required to remain in Seminole County, while his legal team searched for a more permanent location.
"Once Mr. Zimmerman's release has been secured, we will change our focus from securing bond to the defense of the charges against him," his lawyers said in a written statement.
Setting up a legal defense fund is not common but at times necessary during high-profile cases, which often become very expensive, according to legal experts. Though not unethical, the funds must be carefully run to avoid fraud and conflict of interests, they said.
In other news, this Minnesota couple was engaging in "responsible" gun owning behavior for sure:

The Hautalas’ difficulty stemmed from an incident that occurred on June 28, 2010, according to a certified letter sent to the couple on March 18, 2011. That letter announced their license would be revoked but offered them the opportunity to appeal the decision. The Hautalas did appeal, and this month’s final decision was the result of that process.

The letter said St. Louis County officials received a report on July 1, 2010, about the incident three days earlier. It said a child riding in the back seat of the couple’s van found the gun and reported it to Shannon Hautala.

The gun was in a pouch behind the driver’s seat and not in a case, the letter said. Anthony Hautala explained that he had placed the gun there during a trip out of state and forgot to take the gun out of the vehicle when he returned. He acknowledged he didn’t have a key lock engaged on the gun, the report said.

About the same time, the Hautalas failed to report a medical condition and failed to report a change in household membership to St. Louis County as required under their license.

The county notified Hautala on Aug. 26, 2010, that he was found responsible for maltreatment (neglect), and that he had a right to request reconsideration. After Hautala made that request, the county responded on Sept. 27 that the maltreatment determination had been affirmed and he had the right to request a fair hearing. He didn’t make that request.
The Hautalas had been licensed to provide foster care for up to two children, according to the Department of Human Services.
No foster children were staying with the Hautalas at the time of the incident, said Mark Snyder, who oversees child foster care for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health and Human Services, and none were assigned to them while the issues were being resolved. There were no criminal charges, Snyder said.
In a telephone interview, Tony Hautala said the incident occurred “after a week’s trip. I forgot about it and when I went to get it, it was a day too late.”
But Hautala said he practices responsible gun ownership. He said he has a “carry” permit and that his children have been trained around guns and understand proper gun etiquette. Children in their care are not abused or mistreated in any way, he said.
Raise your hand if you think this man was practicing responsible gun ownership.

Several people were injured in celebratory gun fire incidents on the Fourth of July. In Philadelphia, 3 were injured in celebratory gun fire. In New Hampshire, there could have been a tragedy from celebratory gunfire at a Fourth celebration but luckily, no one was injured or hurt. There were several other incidents as well. A Lansing, Michigan woman was seriously injured in the head by a bullet fired in celebration.  In other shootings, one 14 year old was shot on the Fourth of July in Southern California when gunfire began on the street. Five people were injured, one seriously, in Nashville when "gunmen" opened fire in a neighborhood

There were more. These were just a few that I found. Here's a good one. I guess you can't stare at people these days. You never know if some stupid and dangerous person with a loaded gun will pull it out and threaten you. Perhaps if that someone shoots, he/she will claim self defense because of an errant stare. You just can't make up this stuff.

Also this week the extreme NRA leadership has been at their fear mongering again. This time, it is concerning the U.N. wanting to pass a small arms treaty to actually protect human life and keep people all over the world safe from gun violence. In many cases, women are the victims. But here, from this Media Matters article about this ridiculous NRA agenda:
Marking the start of July's month-long United Nations conference to negotiate a small arms treaty, National Rifle Association top lobbyist Chris Cox authored an op-ed for The Daily Caller making the hysterical -- and baseless -- claim that the treaty could "seriously restrict your freedom to own, purchase and carry a firearm." In fact the proposed treaty seeks to regulate the international trade of firearms - curtailing the illicit arms trade that keeps weapons flowing to human rights abusers -- and will not change ownership rules domestically.   
Cox also made the reality-defying argument, citing conditions in the Sudan, that a treaty to restrict illegal small arms proliferation would harm citizens in countries ruled by human rights abusers. To the contrary, the United Nations has noted that "[m]ore human rights abuses are committed with small arms than with any other weapon."
But according to Cox's theory "the world's socialist, tyrannical and dictatorial regimes" will use the treaty to "implement international gun registration requirements, bans on commonly owned firearms, tracking and registration of ammunition purchases, and create a new U.N. gun control bureaucracy" thus fulfilling "President Barack Obama's vision for America." 
Where does the NRA get this stuff? Can you just say anything to hype up fear of non-existent plans to ban guns, require gun registration, and regulate ammunition purchases? I guess so. The big question here is why they continue to get away with this stuff. It is ludicrous. But more, it is dangerous because people are being shot in countries all over the world with small arms, some of which come from our own country. But never mind, the NRA doesn't seem to care much for public health and safety these days. Once upon a time, the NRA actually did care and worked on a few compromises. It happened in the compromise to the Brady bill which was finally enacted in 1993 after years of back and forth and difficult arguments pro and con. The NRA compromised with supporters of the Brady Bill in 1991 to require police to do background checks on all gun sales. Say what? Here is the wording, from the article: 
Mitchell`s plan includes the Brady bill`s seven-day waiting period, along with provisions included in an unsuccessful House alternative proposed by Rep. Harley Staggers Jr., D-W.Va., and backed by the NRA that would require police to conduct criminal-background checks before a handgun sale is made."
Did I read this right? At some point in time the NRA backed a provision to require police to conduct criminal background checks on all handgun sales! Today, of course, they refuse to back any plan to close the loophole left in the bill to require those very same criminal background checks on sales by private sellers. When the bill was passed private sellers were not included in the requirement for background checks on purchasers of their weapons. In fact, these private sellers sell the very same guns and ammunition sold by the Federally Licensed Firearms dealers just down the aisle at gun shows, but background checks are not required. From the above article by John Rosenthal, he lists the sensible gun bills the NRA has successfully opposed:

NRA OPPOSED Federal and State laws requiring criminal background checks or proof of identification for all gun sales. Only federally licensed gun dealers are required to perform criminal background checks, and 33 States do not require background checks for private gun sales. For years, domestic criminals and international terrorists such as al Qaeda and Hezbollah have legally bought assault rifles at U.S. gun shows without detection. Thanks to NRA lobbying efforts even people on suspected Terrorist Watch/No Fly lists are allowed to legally purchase firearms.

NRA OPPOSED a federal ban on military style assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips like the firearm used to shoot Rep. Gabby Giffords and those used at most school shootings. The NRA has even opposed a ban on .50 caliber sniper rifles capable of disabling an armored vehicle, an airplane or a helicopter at distances of over a mile.

NRA OPPOSED National Consumer Product Safety Commission manufacturing and marketing standards for firearms. Toy guns, teddy bears and every other consumer product, except real guns, are regulated by the federal government. Guns are legally marketed as being "capable of penetrating 48 layers of soft body armor," having finishes "resistant to finger prints" and "capable of taking down an aircraft." These lax standards result in manufacturers marketing directly to criminals!

NRA OPPOSED Federal and State gun licensing and registration laws.

NRA OPPOSED national Safe Storage/Child Access Prevention requirements for firearms.
NRA OPPOSED a ban on armor piercing ammunition designed to penetrate the soft body armor worn by police.
NRA OPPOSED funding for personalized gun technology -- even though 17 percent of police officers are killed by criminals with their own service weapon. Additionally, many children's lives could be saved by simple and inexpensive safety devices.
NRA OPPOSED Federal and State permitting requirements for gun purchases including concealed handguns and military-style assault weapons.
NRA OPPOSED strict sentencing requirements for gun traffickers. The federal maximum sentence for illegal gun trafficking of 200 guns in one year is less than five years in jail.
NRA HELPED ENACT restrictions on law enforcement; the FBI must destroy gun purchase records after 24 hours, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is prohibited from regulating gun shows, flea markets and private gun sales. Police agencies are prohibited from sharing critical crime gun trace data -- even with other law enforcement agencies. Until recently, police (not criminals who use guns) could face 10 years in jail if they violated this law.
Rosenthal aptly points out the very serious problem in our country. We could have passed laws to save lives but we didn't. That is because there is a version of America imposed by the NRA and their minions that would rather allow human lives to be taken than to prevent that from happening. When it comes to public health and safety, compromise needs to consider human life and victims. Instead we have seen the above opposition to common sense and what is morally right. Instead we have seen every state but one (Illinois) pass a version of the NRA's conceal and carry agenda. Once passed, however, the NRA continued to push for more and more of its' agenda. One wonders what's next? Stand Your Ground laws have received a lot of public scrutiny after the Trayvon Martin shooting as well they should. These laws have nothing to do with public safety. They are laws designed to benefit the 2-3% of Americans who have chosen to pack heat in public and think they will need protection from prosecution if they shoot someone in claimed self defense. Several studies have shown that the laws actually may increase the murder rate in states where they have passed. From the linked article above:
Either way, though, these findings call into question two fundamental claims about the effectiveness of Stand Your Ground — that it makes people safer and that it is only used when people are faced with a life threatening situation. Those two statements run entirely counter to the observed effects of Stand Your Ground — more violence and less safety. 
So back to where I started. Incidents involving guns, some resulting in death, occurred as always, during this Fourth of July week-end. Many shootings are avoidable and preventable. We are doing nothing to make sure they are avoided and prevented. People who were previously law abiding gun owners were in the news this week as well. They were law abiding until suddenly they weren't. We know we can do better. We also know that the public agrees but often doesn't know what to do about it. The time is now for people to speak up. Even reasonable gun owners agree in poll after poll that some common sense gun laws should be passed and they understand that their own rights to own guns/or hunt with guns will not be affected. Public safety is compromised by the NRA's agenda. We can and should compromise to increase public health and safety in communities all over America.

UPDATE:

As to my previous post about the Fourth of July, I have put up several links to more shootings in the comments section. But this one deserves it's own comment here. It turns out that 17 people were shot in New York City over the Fourth of July holiday! Really? That is staggering. From the article:
The Fourth of July shootings mirror 2011's violent Labor Day weekend during which 67 people were shot within three days and one bloody shootout left two cops injured and two people dead.
Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have repeatedly called on Washington to enact stricter gun laws. It was reported in April that the National Rifle Association donates more money to New York politicians than any other state, specifically to prevent the implementation of microstamping, a technology that marks a unique code onto gun shells when fired.
I rest my case.

4 comments:

  1. I missed this one- http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/18956668/2012/07/05/man-injured-falling-bullet-fireworks-show

    Florida man shot by celebratory bullet.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A question - wasn't it ILLEGAL to be firing guns where this celebratory gun play that resulted in injuries or deaths occurred?

    If so, why aren't the police charging the celebratory shooters?

    I can't imagine the point of shooting guns in celebration, rather than at a specific target. Whatever happened to the rules of safety, like knowing where your bullet is going?

    I suppose we should be happy they didn't blow up a gas line or start another forest fire, but not that happy. We should be frowning at the whole scope of the gun culture; it's nuts and it clearly endangers other people.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Congrats, from this member of the gun culture, for actually getting it right.

    Shooting a rifle into the air is a clear rule 4 violation ( know what your target is, and what lies beyond it ), and cops should be arresting dumbasses who engage in this kind of negligent behavior.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Should, but given the nra promotion of lax gun laws, they don't make a lot of the arrests they should. That was the problem for Fast and Furious.

      That microstamping would make doing so a lot easier to prove.

      Kristopher, don't assume that because we oppose lax gun laws we are unfamiliar with firearms or how to use them safely and proficiently. It is the illegal, irresponsible, and unsafe guns to which we object, as well as the fallacies of gun culture.

      So while you may have thought you were paying me a compliment, in reality it was a little condescending. Rule 4 is as true of hand guns as long barrel firearms.

      Delete