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

Just who are the guys with the guns?

As NRA Executive V. P. Wayne LaPierre has said, "The guys with the guns make the rules."



He then goes on to say that our Founding Fathers understood that "freedom rides with a firearm on its' side." What does that mean exactly? Can one only be free if one is carrying a firearm in one's pocket or in a holster on their side? That's pure and simply just nonsense. According to this article in the Star Tribune, many Minnesotans have been convinced by LaPierre's polemics and do, indeed, only feel right when they holster up. From the article:
"Actually, the gun usually goes on with the pants," said Cannon, who tucks his loaded Ruger .357 Magnum revolver into a holster he conceals inside his waistband. He positions it far enough forward on his right hip so that he can drive comfortably, but far enough back so that the grip doesn't poke out and alarm someone at work or in the grocery store.
He's not a vigilante. He's not a nut. He's just another average Minnesotan who has acquired the power to kill.
Cannon, 59, a gray-haired production artist, is one of 103,000 state residents with a permit to carry a handgun -- more than 10 times the number there were a decade ago. They, in turn, are part of a growing "carry' culture across the country: a record 8 million people who have taken on the means to use deadly force if they decide it's necessary.
So 103,000 Minnesotans, 1 in 40, carries a gun. That is about 2% of the population of Minnesota, assuming the writer of this article excluded those under 21 who can't get a permit to carry, in which case, as I have figured out before, about 3%. Reading the article could lead you to believe that the number of legal gun carriers is large. It is not. It is small. Not very many people choose to carry loaded guns around in public. Further, the article didn't really explore very deeply the fact that though 103,000 have their permits just to exercise their rights, they don't often carry a gun around with them. So the number of folks carrying loaded guns around is very likely even smaller. The gun guys think this is all great. They will make us safer in public places as they pronounced during the hearings in 2003 when the Minnesota Personal Protection Act passed into law. The problem is, it hasn't. Yes, it is true that there has not been blood running in the street. Or has there? There have certainly been about the same number of shootings in the state as there have been for years. As Heather Martens, Executive Director of Protect Minnesota said in the article:
The law "has not been a net benefit to our society in any way," said Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota -- Working to End Gun Violence. "They promised that if lots of people had guns everybody would be safe. Here just [recently] we had a 5-year-old child killed while sleeping on a couch. I think we were sold a bill of goods."
State data shows that since the law took effect, permit holders were convicted of 882 non-traffic crimes, including 66 assaults, two robberies and two killings. Many were committed with guns. Martens said it debunks the notion that all permit holders are law-abiding.
In response, Andy Rothman, one of the Minnesota gun guys who worked to get the law passed said this:
Rothman responded that permit holders commit much less than their share of crime, citing as an example that though one in seven Minnesotans has a DWI on their record, only one in 545 of the state's permit holders got one after getting a permit.
"No one ever claimed permit holders would be perfect," Rothman said, "but the numbers show (they) are consistently orders of magnitude more law abiding than the general public.
The problem with Rothman's statement is that those of us opposed to the law were told that these would be law abiding folks. There would be no trouble. So while there have not been an increase in murders or crime as a result, there is a difference between someone who isn't carrying a gun getting a DWI and someone who is. Since guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill another human being, if you are carrying while drunk, there is a greater chance for harming another individual with a gun in your hand. Rothman and the reporter left out some other statistics that show a slightly different picture of those "law abiding" gun carriers. Protect Minnesota has recounted just some of them. The Violence Policy Center has been keeping track of the number of "law abiding" permit holders who have killed another human being since 2007. The number is 467. To some that might seem like a small number. To the families of the victims, it is one too many. In addition to the killings, however, there are numerous accidental shootings that sometimes kill, sometimes not, with guns belonging to law abiding folks and some of the permit holders. You can check them out at the Ohh Shoot blog. You can also check out how many times kids find guns in cars or at home where their parents ( many permit holders) leave them around loaded. You can check those out at the Kid Shootings blog.

I have written many many times about gun permit holders accidentally shooting someone or themselves with their loaded guns in public places. Check this one out. Or this one. And this one about guns in purses and back backs. Also this one and this one as well about guns accidentally discharging at gun shows. I have written about this one quite a few times because it shows how dangerous some law abiding gun carriers ( or in this case the parents of a teen girl carrying) can be in places like Starbucks. The readers of my blog and other gun guys don't believe these incidents can happen. Check it out here. When they do, they blame them on people who are stupid with their guns. In Minnesota we had one recent case of a man carrying his gun on the street when he was mugged. The robber took the man's gun and used it to rob him. Did the gun make a difference in stopping the robber? No. You can see how easy it is for someone else to get the gun away from a permit holder. And the victim couldn't defend himself: " The victim hurt his arm and wasn’t able to defend himself. Merriweather allegedly searched the victim, eventually finding a pistol, and put it to the victim’s head while demanding valuables. The victim lost the gun and his wallet during the attack, police said." The gun was not found, as far as I know, and could be found by someone who shouldn't have a gun like a child or a teen or another criminal or a gang member, thereby contributing to the illegal guns on the streets. Don't forget that Minneapolis has had 2 recent shootings of young children by stray bullets in the neighborhoods. I have written about them both.

This most recent example of an off-duty police officer shooting a woman when his loaded gun dropped out of the holster is a prime example of why loaded guns carried around in public are not a good idea. Presumably the officer was a "law abiding" gun carrier. He was until he suddenly wasn't. And now an innocent woman is dead. This was senseless, avoidable, stupid and dangerous. Guns are dangerous. From the article:
A 25-year-old woman is dead after she was struck by a bullet from an off-duty Detroit police officer's holstered gun — which apparently discharged while the pair was dancing, police said.
The incident happened at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday during an outdoor gathering in the 12000 block of Archdale.
According to police, the woman allegedly embraced the officer from behind while dancing and accidentally caused the weapon to discharge.
Is there a lesson here? Don't dance and carry? Don't hug someone packing heat? Was alcohol involved? Alcohol and guns just don't go together. It's too late once a gun goes off to find out if someone has reached the legal limit. This is all part of the NRA's version of America. It looks to me like people should be protected from those who carry their guns legally. The thing is, when the "gun culture" as it was described in the article above, is pushing for more guns in more places, then everyone thinks it's O.K. And how do we tell the criminals, gangs, domestic abusers, adjudicated mentally ill people and other prohibited people from the legal gun permit holders? The criminals must love the idea that they could be walking around with a gun strapped to their hip just like this guy from the article above:
Rothman says he is among the relatively few state residents who exercise the right under the law to carry openly, his pistol strapped to his left hip.
"Education is the reason," he said. "Many people don't know that carrying a gun can be perfectly legal, and [they] emotionally equate guns with illegal violence. When they see a neatly groomed suburban dad innocently shopping with this undeniably adorable young kids, it challenges that preconception."
Exactly. I know I feel really comfortable when I see a neatly groomed guy with a gun on his hip while he is with his "undeniably adorable young kids." Really? Come on. I am willing to bet that most people do not feel comfortable with this scenario. Most people don't want to have loaded guns around while they are with their families. It will not make them safer. In fact, it may very well make them less safe. If more guns made us safer, we wouldn't have the highest rate of gun deaths per 100,000 than all other modernized countries not at war. This is just nonsense. It is what the "guys with the guns" want you to think. It's simply not true. And further, it is increasing the sale of small concealable guns and the holsters and ammunition to go with them. Follow the money. New markets for guns are created every time a law like this gets passed. And the NRA doesn't stop with conceal and carry laws. They have gone on to get the Stand Your Ground laws passed in many states. You would have to be living under a rock if you didn't know about the Trayvon Martin shooting and the attention paid to those dangerous laws. And the U.S. House passed the National Conceal Carry Reciprocity Act which would allow people in states with much looser gun laws than Minnesota's to carry in Minnesota. Great. Just what we need. More dangerous people walking around with loaded guns everywhere we go. This is the version of America the NRA has created. This is the culture of guns that is prevalent in America. It is the minority getting their way because of the bullies in the NRA leadership. This is not the America I want nor is it the America the majority of Americans want in poll after poll after poll. In Minnesota, 82% agreed that there should be background checks on all gun sales in a University of Minnesota poll. Never mind. Our leaders are listening to the wrong people. They are listening to the guys with the guns.

If we all want to be safe from gun violence on our streets, we will do what's the moral and right thing to do. We will tighten rather than loosen laws regarding on who can carry loaded guns and where they can carry them. Common sense tells us that loaded guns on our streets does not make for more peaceful and safe communities. That is what the Brady Campaign, Protect Minnesota and the many other state and national groups who oppose people being shot are all about.

UPDATE:

If you want evidence for how easy it is for dangerous people to get gun permits in some states, here it is. Florida is not sending records of dangerously mentally ill people to the FBI's NICS. From the article:
Last month, the Sun Sentinel reported that Florida wasn't completing background checks for gun carry permits on those applicants whose fingerprint card submissions repeatedly were illegible.
The latest development raises additional concerns about the thoroughness and reliability of the state's concealed weapon screening process.
Efforts have intensified nationwide to pool information about potentially unstable firearm holders since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, when 32 people were gunned down bySeung-Hui Cho,who had been ordered by a court two years earlier to undergo mental health treatment.
Since then, states and the federal government have been working to share information through the NICS system to prevent anyone from obtaining firearms if they have been ruled mentally incompetent or committed to a mental hospital.
Florida law enforcement does check the NICS system, and its nearly 8 million records in total, when screening gun purchases made through licensed firearm dealers. But Florida can't use the NICS system for concealed carry permits because a criminal justice agency doesn't administer the licensing program.
As a result, gun control advocates say, Florida could be missing potentially vital pieces of information for weeding out individuals with a history of mental illness.
And members of the U.S. House who voted in favor of the National Conceal Carry Reciprocity act don't find this to be alarming? Where is common sense?

UPDATE #2:

It should be noted that the article in the Star Tribune is very one sided as it is based on a news release from Gun Owners of America and then the reporter got one token quote from Protect Minnesota. When reporters write articles, they should be balanced with more information from each side. Such was not the case in this article. Until that happens, the public is not served with adequate and accurate information.

UPDATE #3

I requested a response from the Violence Policy Center to the Clayton Cramer "academic" research that finds fault with the Conceal Carry Killers report linked above and on the website of the Violence Policy Center. Josh Sugarman, Director of the VPC kindly responded to my request for more information. Here is his response to me:


"Only in the pro-gun world does adding actual footnotes make a paper “academic.”  And contrary to your commenter’s assertion, as far as we know it hasn’t been published, peer reviewed, or risen above the general thrum of pro-gun blogs and tweets.   Below is a paragraph from his introduction with some notations from us.

"This paper provides a detailed analysis of the incidents, finding that many are incorrectly described.  A few of the criminal cases have been settled in favor of the accused.”

 [Actually, any criminal homicide case where we are aware of an acquittal or charges being dropped is deducted from the tally and the vignette is removed from the site . We even have a link on the Concealed Carry Killers website where people can send us information with reliable sourcing (each vignette in Concealed Carry Killers has the sources listed in a, yes, footnote) regarding any specific case.  In cases of unintentional deaths resulting from the gun of a Concealed Carry Killer, even if no charges are filed, the death remains in the tally.]

“Some are criminal cases that are still pending.”

[In a word, yes.  To cite just one example:  George Zimmerman.  While this percentage is relatively small, once again, when new information is available—and the vast majority are eventually convicted—the information is updated.]

“Many of the incidents are single suicides, which while sad, are not criminal matters or public safety concerns, nor relevant to may-issue vs. shall-issue concealed carry licensing.

[The VPC believes that we should not be licensing suicidal individuals.  More importantly, we’re sure that the victims of the suicidal permit holders who lost their lives in the 33 murder-suicides documented in Concealed Carry Killers share this view.]

“A number involve situations where possession of a concealed weapon license is completely irrelevant to the tragedy that unfolded.”

[Our point is that no private citizen who is suicidal, homicidal, or reckless should be allowed to legally carry a gun in public and that you can’t screen all of those who are a danger to themselves or others out.  Moreover, the NRA and other concealed carry advocates set the very standard that we use, as we cite on our Concealed Carry Killers website:

“In 1996 at a Dallas, Texas, press conference, Tanya Metaksa, then the executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, promised, ‘As we get more information about right-to-carry, our point is made again and again...People who get permits in states which have fair right-to-carry laws are law-abiding, upstanding community leaders who merely seek to exercise their right to self-defense.’  This assertion [was] summarized by Metaksa in the blunt and absolute assertion that ‘these citizens don't commit violent crimes.’"

The bottom line is that we use “The Metaksa Standard.”  It’s nice that Cramer keeps judging our information by his own standards—suicides don’t count, someone’s “barely guilty” (our personal favorite)—but that doesn’t change the information, or in the case of those found “barely guilty” the lives destroyed by the CCW holder.  One example of his willingness to create his own standards to fit his pro-gun worldview is his detailed discussion of how it would be impossible to confirm that Connecticut mass shooter Omar Thornton had a CCW.  This is based on his interpretation of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)—which is completely wrong.  We suggest that Cramer file a FOIA—just like we did to obtain the information that we couldn’t possibly have obtained.  On the application under “Reason for Permit” Thornton wrote “job”—the job where he gunned down his coworkers. ]

“In some cases, these incidents involve licenses issued in ‘may-issue’ states, and licensees who are retired police officers, who are almost always issued such licenses even in the strictest of ‘may-issue’ jurisdictions."

[The VPC opposes the legally carrying of handguns by private citizens in public—period.  And the cases in Concealed Carry Killers back us up.]"

Thanks to Josh for his cogent response correcting the misinformation spouted by the gun bloggers and the gun guys. It's always good to deal with the facts.


4 comments:

  1. japete writes: " Don't forget that Minneapolis has had 2 recent shootings of young children by stray bullets in the neighborhoods"

    What does this have to do with permit holders?

    "Since guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill another human being, if you are carrying while drunk, there is a greater chance for harming another individual with a gun in your hand."

    What data do you have to support this claim?

    "Protect Minnesota has recounted just some of them. The Violence Policy Center has been keeping track of the number of "law abiding" permit holders who have killed another human being since 2007. The number is 467"

    The problem with the VPC report is that it's highly inaccurate and slanted towards that organization's point of view. Clayton Cramer does a pretty good job analyzing the latest version of the VPC report in a fully documented published academic paper at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2095754

    As we've previously discussed, the aggregate data here in Minnesota, as documented by the BCA, supports the position of those of us that believe in an individual's right to self-defense and to keep/bear arms - that a permit holder is significantly likely to be a long-term law abiding citizen and commits violent crime at a rate less than 1/10th that of the general population.

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    1. The gun taken by the robber from a gun permit holder is now most likely some place it shouldn't be. Who knows where those folks who shot 2 little boys with stray bullets got their guns? I don't have to support any "claim" that someone with a loaded gun while drinking is potentially more dangerous than someone who has been drinking who doesn't carry a loaded gun around. That is a no brainer. As to the slanted VPC report, you provided me with a link to a paper written by Clayton Cramer, a well know gun right activist and author in support of gun rights. And he is not slanted? Come on Bryan, you can do better than that. You missed the point about gun permit holders. They are supposed to be law abiding. They have been given permits to carry dangerous loaded weapons around with them in public places. That makes it even more incumbent upon them to follow the laws and not be involved in illegal activity. If even one of them shoots someone while law abiding, that is one too many.

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  2. japete writes: "As to the slanted VPC report, you provided me with a link to a paper written by Clayton Cramer, a well know gun right activist and author in support of gun rights. And he is not slanted? "

    Clayton Cramer published a fully sourced academic paper and has a history of credible academic research on the issue. VPC is a political organization with a political agenda.

    Cramer's report is exceptionally well documented - with all of the sources clearly identified. It's pretty easy to distinguish the facts. Do you disagree with what he claims in his paper? If so, what?

    For example - in the introduction - Cramer outlines the following findings:

    "This paper provides a detailed analysis of the incidents, finding that many are incorrectly described. A few of the criminal cases have been settled in favor of the accused. Some are criminal cases that are still pending. Many of the incidents are single suicides, which while sad, are not criminal matters or public safety concerns, nor relevant to may-issue vs. shall-issue concealed carry licensing. A number involve situations where possession of a concealed weapon license is completely irrelevant to the tragedy that unfolded. In some cases, these incidents involve licenses issued in ―may-issue‖ states, and licensees who are retired police officers, who are almost always issued such licenses even in the strictest of ―may-issue‖ jurisdictions."

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    1. The only agenda the Violence Policy Center has to collect data and write reports about gun violence statistics. They are based on real live incidents and shootings. They don't have a political agenda any more than Clayton Cramer does. He has an agenda. Are you trying to say he doesn't? So if someone writes on your side of the issue, they have no agenda? I don't accept that Bryan. The link you sent is one that accepts research from anyone who wants to submit it. The VPC is reporting on shootings of permit holders. If they shoot themselves in a suicide or a homicide/suicide, it doesn't then count as someone misusing a gun? You are trying to dismiss the fact that permit holders are not all law abiding. You can't because the facts speak for themselves. It happens that I trust the VPC more than I trust a gun right advocate who has a clear agenda.

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