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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Monday, July 9, 2012

Gun guys getting away with illegal activity

Are law enforcement officers just plain afraid to deal with the gun guys when they do something wrong for fear of being attacked by them? Or why else would this situation in Illinois not end in some sort of charge against the offender? I find this one particularly interesting because it pitted gun owner against gun owner. One gun owner and NRA member who lobbies for conceal and carry at the Illinois Capitol called the offender irresponsible. Yes, it happened. I guess even gun owners can get mad when a bullet from an unregistered "gun range" in a neighbor's yard comes flying into his house. From the article:
"Debra Gaskin said the officer who came out to their three-acre property said there was nothing he could do, that range shooting was legal in some parts of Will County, especially where the houses were far apart. When she persisted, insisting that firing into a person’s home was not legal, he called another officer. Together, the officers went to the neighbor’s house. Bill Gaskin, having returned from work, did the same.
Sheriff’s police spokeswoman Kathy Hoffmeyer said deputies found a makeshift shooting range on Joseph Merritt’s property. It had three shooting areas, about 30 yards wide and separated by 10-foot-high concrete block walls, Hoffmeyer said.
“The homeowner said he always believed that the range was safe,” Hoffmeyer said. “And when he found out why the deputies were there, he was physically upset and concerned.”
Merritt was unable to be reached for comment. He did not have a working phone number listed.
Bill Gaskin said Merritt apologized and offered to pay for the damage caused by one of the 25 or 30 shooters at the target practice event he was hosting that day.
Gaskin said that event was run by DMZ Tactical in Homer Glen. A man named “George,” of DMZ, who would not confirm his last name, says he was at the event but insists he did not run it. He said he also apologized for the wayward shot.
“We do everything possible to keep it safe,” “George” said. “This was an accident.”
Bill Gaskin said his encounter with “George” turned ugly after he asked about the shooting instructor’s credentials.
“George” on Thursday told the SouthtownStar that he’s been teaching people how to shoot since he got out of the Marines in the 1990s. His website describes his mission as “tactical firearm training for the rest of us.” DMZ Tactical has been in business for a couple of years now, “George” said, although it is not registered with the village of Homer Glen nor with the Illinois secretary of state’s office. The address listed on his website leads to a box inside a UPS Store.
Still, “George” insists, “It’s not illegal, it’s done legitimately, and we’re as safe as possible.”
He also accused Bill Gaskin of being “anti-gun.”
Bill Gaskin said he is a member of the NRA and Illinois Rifle Association.
“I’m not anti-gun, just anti-irresponsible shooting,” he said. “I lobby in Springfield each year for conceal and carry because I believe in it. I don’t believe in irresponsible gun practices.” (...) 
Though Merritt has agreed not to host any more events at this address, Bill Gaskin said he’s concerned for the safety of others.
Curt Paddock, director of the Will County Land Use Department, said shooting is allowed in Will County on property zoned C-6 commercial, according to county ordinances. Paddock said no properties in the area where Gaskin lives appear to be zoned C-6.
He says his office will investigate, if the homeowners file a complaint.
So why didn’t sheriff’s police cite Merritt? Hoffmeyer said deputies found a spent 9 mm round on the floor of the son’s closet.
Sheriff Paul Kaupas said the deputy interviewed the homeowner and the shooting party’s host and everyone cooperated.
“It doesn’t appear there was any criminal intent,” Kaupas said. “The state’s attorney’s office will review the case. It’s not illegal to shoot a gun on your property unless zoned otherwise, but that sanction would come from them (land use) based on our report.”
The police report described the incident as non-criminal damage to property. But according to Sect. 24-1.5 of Illinois’ gun law, reckless discharge of a firearm, which endangers the bodily safety of an individual, is a Class 4 felony.
“I just don’t understand,” Debra Gaskin said. “They could have killed my son.”"
Never mind public safety. Stupid and dangerous all the way around. No felony charges though the law says there should be. What's going on? Why not? Further, who needs "tactical firearm training"? What country do we live in again? Are we at war? We have stray bullets flying around in neighborhoods coming from the law abiding and the not so law abiding. We have children being shot to death by stray bullets. We have a close call where a teen or two could have been shot by a guy who says it's perfectly legal to do what he's doing and saying he was trying to keep it safe. How can shooting guns at targets in your back yard possibly be safe when you have a makeshift gun range too close to homes? As "dog gone" noted in a reply on a recent post on this blog, don't shooters need to follow the bullet they shoot and know where it is going? Don't responsible gun owners know to follow gun safety rules? Why are gun ranges in neighborhoods in the first place? Don't shooters know how far bullets can fly? Where is common sense? This is the version of America the NRA loves. Raise your hand if you think this is a good idea.

17 comments:

  1. Trying to keep it safe, and keeping it safe, are two different things, obviously.

    The police SHOULD have cited these guys for reckless firing of weapons, and they should have determined who the shooter was and charged them --- if they had the round from the kid's closet, ballistics could have made a match to the gun, presumably.

    I hope the homeowners sue and file a complaint, and I hope they file a complaint as well against law enforcement for not doing their job, particularly so far as a proper investigation is concerned.

    If you are shooting repeatedly, whether you intend to shoot someone or someone's house, you clearly intend to shoot in their general direction. This wasn't an accidental discharge that went in an unfortunate direction; this was part of intentional shooting. That should be enough for reckless endangerment.

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  2. Why no felony charges? The law specifies "reckless discharge", and the legal definition of 'reckless' in both negligence and criminal cases is "careless to the point of being heedless of the consequences." As a disinterested observer, I'd say someone who set up concrete block barriers for his range doesn't fit the 'reckless' standard. IANAL, YMMV, but the DA seems to be of like mind.

    Who needs "tactical firearm training?" Who needs golf training, or tennis lessons, or flight training? No one. But we live in a free country where individuals have the right to pursue happiness as they see it, whether it involves flying aircraft over homes, hitting golf balls (which can kill), or shooting firearms, within the law of course.

    I'm curious what you would consider "too close to homes." There isn't any description in the news report on the distance from the range to the house, or of the construction of the range apart from the 10-foot block walls. If a bullet left the range, there is a problem that needs to be addressed, but it doesn't follow that there is insufficient distance. I've seen commercial, properly zoned shooting ranges in the middle of shopping malls with residential housing just a couple of hundred feet away, all perfectly safe.

    The problem here seems to be the use of metal targets, which can deflect bullets up. Perhaps the range would be safe with wood and paper targets, but without knowing more details, I can't tell.

    As to the more, ahhh, rhetorical questions, by definition responsible gun owners know to follow safety rules, gun ranges are in neighborhoods because it certainly is possible to have a safe shooting range almost anywhere, so if zoning permits it is a legit use of property. The range owner is responsible for safe operation and any consequent damages, just as the shooter is responsible for each bullet (all bullets come with a lawyer attached!). Thankfully, only property was damaged in this case.

    And thanks for listening to my opinion.

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    1. Gun ranges don't belong in residential neighborhoods, period. Bullets fly. People get injured or killed.

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    2. If your standard is "people get injured or killed" then we probably need to ban pools and spas from residential areas. Approximately 100 children drown every year in backyard pools, and that isn't even counting the potential for spinal injury. Lawnmowers are pretty dangerous too, not only to the operator but to anyone nearby due to flying debris. The American Assoc. of Pediatrics reported more than 200,000 mower-related injuries in 2010.

      I don't expect I'll change your mind, but when ranking things that are dangerous in residential areas, I'd rather have a properly designed range next door than an improperly maintained mower or an unfenced pool.

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    3. We don't need to ban pools. We do already have strict regulations for the purpose of keeping children from drowning in them. If you build a pool in your back yard, you must fence it in. Public swimming pools have to have life guards. It's a terrible thing when children drown. But drownings don't come any where near the number of gun deaths of children of certain ages. Lawnmowers- are they designed to kill people? NO. Yes, people have accidents but I haven't heard of any lawnmower homicides or suicides by lawnmower. Your arguments are not even worth considering when you say things like that. Think about it. Until you can prove to me that lawnmowers are weapons designed to kill, we don't have anything to talk about. All household items are capable of injuring people- knives, chairs, tripping on toys, falling down the stairs, putting fingers in a socket, etc. When it comes to causes of death, they don't come close to guns. Guns are among the top 10 causes of death in America in most age categories. In some age categories, firearms are the second or third cause of death in America. That is quite different from lawnmowers or pools. Try something else based on fact. Incidentally, are you suggesting a ban on guns then? I am not but I was wondering why you used the word "ban" here.

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  3. Who needs firearm training? Everyone who owns a gun. Actually change that to just plain "everyone". Training is the single best way to "prevent gun injuries and death". Acording to your banner this is what you are striveing for. If this is truly your goal you should be promoting all forms of gun training.

    Obviously there is a problem with this "unregistered gun range" however the article does not give enough information to determinw what the problem is. It could be improper construcion, unsafe rules, failure to inforce the range rules, or any number of other issues. It is very possible to have safe gun ranges in residential neighborhoods, as shown by the hundreds of such ranges that do exist with no problems. Condemning all gun ranges becuse a single unregistered gun range had a problem is like condeming all doctors because one unlicensed doctor botched an operation.

    Gun training combined with accessable safe ranges where you can practice is probibly the best combination to prevent accidental and unneeded gun injuries and death. A goal that everyone supports.

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    1. Of course, people should be trained when they carry guns around. You are aware though, that no training is required to buy a gun. Some states require no training for permit holders. That is a major problem, to say the least. Gun ranges are fine. Who needs "tactical" training as if going to war. That is not necessary. The average gun owner is not going to be in situations that require tactical training. Some of you gun guys imagine yourself in situations like that where you will be fighting against your own government on the streets of America. A makeshift gun range in a residential neighborhood is just plain wrong and dangerous. Find places outside of town. Even those have had problems however. In Texas, there was a shooting of a young boy playing basketball on a school's playground when a bullet from some guys target shooting in a woods nearby ( in a rural area) hit the boy. In my area, several guys were target shooting in the woods when a bullet from one of their guns flew across a major highway and ended up shooting a little girl on her way into her church. These are totally irresponsible and unacceptable. Guns are inherently dangerous and should be treated with the ultimate respect.Too many gun owners are cavalier about this and don't practice the rules of safety. If even one life is lost as a result, it is one too many.

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  4. japete writes: "You are aware though, that no training is required to buy a gun."

    This depends on the state. Massachusetts, for example, requires training prior to purchasing or possessing a firearm.

    "Who needs "tactical" training as if going to war. That is not necessary. The average gun owner is not going to be in situations that require tactical training. Some of you gun guys imagine yourself in situations like that where you will be fighting against your own government on the streets of America. "

    Most "tactical" training isn't about going to war. It's about how to safely and effectively use your firearm for self-defense. It's quite similar - and sometimes the same - training that police officers receive in similar situations. In many cases, it's actually taught by police.

    For example, several local firearm training companies here in the Twin Cities are led by local police officers - who provide the same sort of training in their day job to their fellow officers.

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    1. So that means that people can act as if they are police officers on the streets and stop criminals, respond to domestic abuse situations, etc.?

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    2. japete writes: "So that means that people can act as if they are police officers on the streets and stop criminals, respond to domestic abuse situations, etc.?"

      Absolutely not. And that's not what's being covered in this sort of training either.

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    3. But you just said, Bryan, that local police officers provide the same sort of training in their day job to their fellow officers. How can you say it isn't training people to do the job of police officers? You aren't making sense.

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    4. A firearms instructor can teach courses on the defensive use of a firearm to other officers and civilians - the same set of general skills apply.

      That's what we're talking about here - firearms training. Not a law enforcement skills class on how to make an arrest, respond to domestic abuse situations, and so on. No one is trying to make a permit holder into a police officer.

      These sorts of classes are offered through Minnesota by a number of firearm instructors who happen to be police officers in various jurisdictions in the state.

      Given that you've frequently critical of the sorts of training that permit holders receive, even in Minnesota with our fairly stringent training requirements, I would think that you would be in support of permit holders obtaining additional training.

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    5. I am in support of training. But remember, the article said this guy was training people as if they were in the DMZ or what the heck does the name mean anyway? This man has a military mentality and that is what he was trying to do. When you use the name DMZ, it means something, right? That is not needed.

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    6. That's the name of his company. There's nothing in the article that talks about the details of the training. Besides, it's a free country - are you suggesting that this sort of training should be regulated or prohibited/banned?

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  5. apete writes: "No felony charges though the law says there should be"

    The Illinois Criminal Code does not say this.

    In order for a person to be charged with the Class 4 Felony "Reckless Discharge of a Firearm" - there needs to be:

    1) Criminal Intent - which did not exist in this situation.

    2) The Reckless Discharge of a Firearm - as defined in the statute, and in line with the Illinois Criminal Code's definition of recklessness - which was not at all met in this situation.

    Both of these have to exist - neither did, and thus there were not any criminal charges.

    Was this stupid? Yes. Ignorant of safety guidelines? Yes. Assuming the individual in question is a NRA Certified Instructor, which I think he's claiming to be in the article - it's triply stupid. He should know better.

    But criminal? No.

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    1. If it isn't, it should be. It sounds like there will be more investigation yet.

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