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 28, 2012

Monkey see, monkey doesn't see

After the Aurora mass shooting the inevitable ridiculous arguments by the gun rights advocates have been prominent on comments to my blog and on other articles after the Aurora shooting. I mentioned some of them on my post about excuses of the gun guys. There are plenty of them but none of them make sense, of course. That is because there are no excuses for the huge number of shootings in our country. The gun guys know this. It must make them nervous because they have no sensible answers. Here is one recent comment on my last post by a gun guy:
"The design and manufacture of firearms is less regulated than that of toy guns for the simple reason that firearms are intended to be sold to adults, who are presumably competent to be able to learn to handle chemically-powered drills for making holes at a distance (basically, this is all a gun is), and a child, who presumably isn't. Of course, seeing a warning that it was a dangerous device which should not be used without reading the owner's manual, stamped onto the barrel of a Ruger .357 magnum revolver, gave me cause to suspect that there had been someone stupid with a good lawyer in the past, but most adults do handle firearms, and cars, and matches, and all sorts of other hazardous things, pretty safely. There is no obvious need for regulation of firearm design...unless safety is not the goal."
Come again? This bears repeating-" presumably competent to be able to learn to handle chemically-powered drills for making holes at a distance..." Does it matter that some of theses holes are in the heads or chests of innocent victims? I'm just asking. I can't even get into the nonsense about "chemically driven drill". That's a first on this blog and, of course, makes absolutely no sense. But there's more from this same person:
" If you bother to check, you will find that the portions of the U.S. population which have the highest percentage of LEGAL gun ownership also have the lowest incidence of murder, firearms accidents, etc. And illegal gun ownership is already, well, illegal, so the laws aren't going to be able to do much about the crime problem with those portions of the populace. The problem is not with guns; guns are simply specialized power tools, and will not do anything unless someone picks one up and does something with it. The problem is with culture; someone prone to violence will commit violence, whether guns are available or not (and guns have only been available for a few centuries, while violence is, sadly, as old as Mankind). But culture is hard for the government to effectively change (and, judging from past performance, it probably would not improve matters...); it is far easier to get people worked up over power tools."
Yup. Let's just not do anything about laws because they won't change the crime problem. That is another terrible excuse for doing nothing. Too bad this person has been listening to those who have been feeding him fear and paranoia; it keeps him giving money to support the million dollar salaries over at the NRA office in Virginia. Indeed, the problem IS the culture. We have a culture carefully and cynically crafted by the extremist leadership at the NRA who don't give a dang about people dying every day as long as gun sales are protected. The plain and bald fact is that guns account for the highest number of homicides and suicides in America. We make it very easy for those intent on violence to actually carry it out by providing them with the "tools" er, ah, the weapons. I have no idea what the last sentence written by the gun guy ( above) means, by the way. I haven't seen too many people get worked up over power tools. Have you? But I have seen a lot of people get worked up over guns on both sides of the issue.

As to the idea that it's really only those criminals who shoot people? As to the idea that responsible gun owners don't shoot people? Total fallacy. I write about the incidents of law abiding people shooting people all the time on this blog. But never mind. The gun guys are like the monkeys who don't want to see, hear or say the truth. If they did, it would interfere with their long held but flawed views about guns and how safe they make them and their families. Oh, and of course, they will make us all safer as well if only one of them happens to be in the place where a mass shooter shows up to gun people down. They will save the day. Until they don't. See Tucson shooting where a permit holder almost shot the wrong person after Jared Loughner killed 6 people at a shopping mall. Why? He didn't know who the shooter was in the crowd and he didn't want law enforcement to think he was the shooter. Oh, and maybe his bullets would have hit the wrong target or gone astray? This is reality.

I hate to keep linking to articles like this one to prove my point but I will anyway because the gun guys just seem to ignore stories like this one. They don't fit with their narrative. When 2 people in a relationship have guns and get into an argument, one of them is bound to be shot. That is what happened in this story about a domestic dispute gone wrong.
42-year-old Pete Tano, of Hatfield Township, Pennsylvania was estranged from his wife of 17 years, Christina. According to court documents, the couple got into an argument in January when Tano arrived at her apartment and saw another man there. Christina told Tano to leave and when he didn't she "panicked and grabbed her gun" , a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver. 
Reports indicate that she was waving her gun around and told Tano to get out but instead he pulled out his own gun, a 9 mm Glock semi-automatic handgun. 
Christian testified that she dropped her gun, hoping Tano would drop his, but instead, he swung his arm down at her. She said she went to block the blow with her hand, but his gun hand struck her head and the gun fired, shooting through her wrist, a Marilyn Monroe poster and into the wall. 
Christina testified that Tano told her, "You know I didn't mean it," and then called 911. She later yelled at Tano from the stand, "You know because you can't ever control your jealousy I can't ever control my last two fingers."
The bullet injured Christina's ulnar nerve and resulted in the loss of all feeling and strength in her left pinky and ring fingers.
Tano pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of recklessly endangering another person and was sentenced Thursday to 23 months in the county jail. The judge reduced the sentence to five months already served and placed Tano on parole for the remainder of the 23-month sentence.
Guns in the home are 22 times more likely to injure or kill someone in the home than to be used in self defense. And this more recent abstract confirms what most understand to be true.The linked story above is just one of many examples of the truth of that statement. Women are at particular risk for domestic shootings. In fact, firearms account for most domestic abuse killings.
A recent study shows that access to firearms increases the risk of intimate partner homicide more than five times compared to instances where there are no weapons. In addition, abusers who possess guns tend to inflict the most severe abuse on their partners. (J.C. Campbell, Webster J, Koziol-McLain, CR, et al. 2003. Risk Factors For Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results From A Multi-Site Case Control Study. (American Journal of Public Health. 93 (7).)
Women are twice as likely to be shot and killed by intimate partners as they are to be murdered by strangers using any type of weapon. (Tjaden P., Thoennes N. Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice: 2000. NCJ 18781.) (Rothman E. F., Hemenway D, Miller M, and Azael D. Batterers' Use of Guns to Threaten Intimate Partners. Journal of the American Medical Women's Association, 2005. 60 (1): p. 62- 68.)
Firearms- especially handguns- were the most common weapon used by males to murder females in 2003. (When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2003 Homicide Data: Females Murdered by Males in Single Victim/ Single Offender Incidents. September 2005. Violence Policy Center. Washington, DC. Available at: http://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2005.pdf.)
In homicides where males used firearms to kill females, handguns were clearly the weapon of choice over rifles and shotguns. In 2003, 77 percent of female firearm homicide victims were killed with handguns. (When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2003 Homicide Data: Females Murdered by Males in Single Victim/ Single Offender Incidents. September 2005. Violence Policy Center. Washington, DC. Available at: http://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2005.pdf.)
Approximately 700 American women are shot and killed by intimate partners each year. (Homicide trends in the U.S Intimate homicide and Homicides by relationships and weapon type. Washington D.C.: U.S Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics; 2002.) 
The cost of domestic violence is nearly $67 billion per year, roughly 15% of total U.S crime costs. (Miller T, Cohen M, Wiersema B. Victim costs and consequences: a new look. Washington, D.C.: U.S Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice; 1996.NCJ 155282)
In 2002, background checks noting domestic violence misdemeanor convictions and restraining orders kept 22,000 abusers from purchasing firearms. (Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2002, BOJS; Disarming Domestic Violence Abusers, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, September 2003.)
There's a funny thing about facts. They have a way of exposing the lies. If you don't believe me, just read more of the stories on the Ohh Shoot blog. Or just read the many stories of law abiding gun owners leaving loaded guns around for kids to find on the Kid Shootings blog. This should not be happening. But happen it does. Every day. This is why the logic, if you can call it that, coming from the NRA and its' minions is so dangerously flawed. 

One of the other things that some have tried to say is that the Aurora shooter got his guns illegally. None other than Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in fact, said just that.



He is horribly wrong. The type of guns and ammunition bought by the shooter was perfectly legal in America. Being wrong about something like this is dangerous because it is yet another excuse for why we shouldn't talk about ways to protect our communities after national tragedies like mass shootings. That, dear friends, is the problem. That is the problem with letting the "guys with the guns make the rules."Let us remember that the NRA endorsed Mitt Romney. He is beholden to an extreme and mythically powerful organization who, by many accounts, should take credit for the ridiculous number of shootings in America. I am not alone in this thought. Peter Dreier, Professor of politics at Occidental College agrees with me:
It is no accident that the United States ranks first in the world — by a wide margin — in gun-related civilian deaths and injuries. Compared with every other democracy, we have the most guns and the weakest gun laws. The shooting at the Aurora movie theater was not an isolated incident. We’ve almost become used to a regular diet of gun-toting rampages.  The most visible of them — like Columbine, the Virginia Tech killings and the Arizona shooting that nearly claimed the life of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and left six others dead — stick in our minds, but there are many others. Even more Americans are killed each year in one-on-one shootings.
The NRA has two knee-jerk responses to this. The first is that the Second Amendment gives all Americans the right to possess guns of all kinds — not just hunting rifles but machine guns and semi-automatics. Efforts to restrict gun sales and ownership is, according to the NRA, an assault on our constitutional freedoms. The second is the cliché that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” To the NRA, gun laws have nothing to do with the epidemic of gun-related killings.
Both of these arguments are bogus, but the NRA has the money and membership (4 million) to translate these idiot ideas into political clout to thwart even reasonable gun-control laws.
Even in countries with strong gun-control laws, some people will get their hands on a weapon and destroy others’ lives.  The tragic killing in Norway one year ago is testament to this reality. (Although let’s recall that Anders Breivik bought $550 worth of 30-round ammunition clips from an American gun supplier for the rifle he used to kill 69 Norwegian kids at a summer camp. Thanks to American laws, it was a legal online purchase.) But the shooting in Norway was an infrequent occurrence; it is, in fact, one of the safest countries in the world. In contrast, the U.S. is off the charts in terms of murder rates. In other well-off democratic countries, gun violence is rare and shocking.
According to the most recent comparative figures, the U.S. had five murders for every 100,000 inhabitants. Finland was next with only 2.3 murders per 100,000 residents, followed by Canada (1.8), Belgium (1.7), France (1.3),  England and Australia (both 1.2), Netherlands (1.1), Sweden (1.0), Germany (0.8), Norway (0.6) and Japan and Austria (both 0.5). In other words, America’s murder rate is more than eight times greater than Norway’s.
These statistics translate into real-life tragedies. In 2010, there were 12,996 murders in the United States and 8,775 (24 a day) were caused by firearms. Suicides and unintentional shootings account for another 20,000 deaths by guns each year. Of course, many more people are injured — some seriously, and permanently — by gun violence.
Many gun-related deaths are committed by people who purchase their weapons legally. Others purchase or steal them illegally, but their ability to get access to guns is due to our lax laws on gun ownership.
The news media will spend an inordinate amount of effort trying to figure out what was in Holmes’ head before he put on his protective gear, carried three guns into the theater, and began his attack. On Sunday, when Meet the Press host David Gregory asked Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper whether this Aurora incident should lead to a discussion of gun control, he avoided the question entirely and instead focused on the killer’s state of mind, calling him “demonic,” “twisted,” and “deeply, deeply disturbed.” Although the psychology of the murderer may be fascinating, it should not be the major focus. There are plenty of deranged people in the world, but in most well-off countries they can’t easily get their hands on a firearm.
The U.S. has more guns per capita than any other well-off democratic country. But the danger isn’t simply the number of guns; it is the type of guns we allow people to legally purchase. Other countries permit hunting rifles. But many Americans believe it is their right to own an assault weapon.
Here’s where the NRA comes in. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1990, the gun rights lobby has contributed $27.7 million to candidates for Congress and the White House, 86% of it to Republicans.
There is a lot more in this article worth reading. Depending on sources, there are as many as 32-34 Americans murdered a day by guns. This is totally backwards and upside down. The NRA should not be dictating the conversation about guns. Elected leaders need to stop listening to this extremist organization that doesn't even represent its' own members any more. That is why our country should be not only embarrassed but mortified that this senseless loss of life is allowed to continue unabated.  Shame on our elected leaders for hiding in the face of national tragedies. Shame on all of them. If this cartoon doesn't explain it, nothing does.

I wrote this piece for my own newspaper today. As I come closer to the 20th anniversary of my own sister's shooting, nothing has changed. More on this later. We can and we must do better than we are doing right now. Letting the minority of gun owners make life and death decisions for the rest of us while ignoring the real health and safety problem is not acceptable. The opinion piece linked below was also printed in my local paper today. Please read it. The writer is among the 90% of gun owners who don't belong to the NRA:
Even though citizens have been supportive of the unfettered right of an individual to bear arms, the 60 percent majority of Americans in a 2011 Gallup Poll who called for stricter enforcement of current gun laws and the 90 percent of gun owners who are not members of the NRA will not take kindly to this blatant threat against our own police.
Up until now, the NRA has stretched the Second Amendment to its breaking point, from demanding open exchange and possession of military assault rifles to permitting a fully armed populace at this year’s Republican National Convention and even blocking the restriction of guns on campus at the University of Colorado.
But since governors, congressmen, judges, and even our presidents remain cowed by the NRA, American citizens need to take matters into their own hands. They need to propose a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would alter if not abolish the Second Amendment. There is plenty of precedent for this kind of initiative, as in the case of the 21st amendment being passed to abolish the 18th which ended Prohibition.
And the World Wide Web makes it possible for an organization such as the Brady Campaign to circumvent NRA puppets in Congress by mobilizing state conventions for legally getting such an amendment on the ballot.
In this the most violent country in the civilized world, in which more than 100,000 people are victims of gun violence each year — including 12 recently killed and 58 wounded by an armed man in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater — the language of such an amendment can be crafted to ensure reasonable gun rights for Americans while protecting, rather than jeopardizing, lives and devastating innocent families.
McGrath has a bold suggestion and provides some food for thought. If the NRA is so extreme that our elected leaders refuse to act, then perhaps the people will decide. Who does the NRA represent? If only 10% or so of gun owners belong to the NRA, how can the NRA make claims to represent American gun owners? It's a question that is begging to be answered.


UPDATE:


Here is yet another provacative article about concentrating our efforts on the guns and not the killers.
The largely unnoticed elephant in the room is how astoundingly easy it always is for the killers to buy supercharged firearms and unlimited rounds of ammo. The ubiquity of powerful weaponry is what makes the US such a dangerous place to live. Guns do kill people and the number of people depends on the number of guns and the number of rounds they can fire in a given period of time. Successful political scare tactics have buried open discussion of the most obvious of simple truths- that the wide circulation of powerful semi-automatic weapons will inevitably result in a lot of preventable deaths. So don't be at all surprised when there are a couple of mass murders every year- it is built into our current system. The US has the one of developed world's worst statistics for mass murders and gun deaths because we have so many powerful guns floating around and gun laws that allow murderers easy access to them.
Add to the mix the egregiously vitriolic and verbally violent discourse of demagogic politicians and talk show hosts- egging on those vulnerable to physical violence and providing them with a seeming justification for their callous brutality. And I wonder about the collective conscience of those working in the video game and movie industry who have promoted a grotesque culture of violence.
There is no psychiatric solution for mass murder. Armchair analyses of the individual culprits are interesting (but harmful) distractions. We really have only two choices: 1) accept mass murder as part of the American way of life, or 2) get in line with the rest of the civilized world and adopt sane gun control policies. The smart money is betting on the gun lobby and Hollywood- and betting against the future victims and their families.
So it's literally your money or your life.

UPDATE #2- I stand corrected. Mitt Romney has not yet received an endorsement from the NRA. He did claim he was endorsed in his 2002 run for Governor of Massachusetts, however. It turns out that he wanted the endorsement but didn't get it. Can this guy get anything right? But Mitt Romney did receive the endorsement of crazy NRA Board member Ted Nugent. That should be scary to any sane person:
People for the American Way (the organization behind Right Wing Watch) released a statement demanding that Romney rebuke Nugent, who sits on the NRA's board. "We don't expect moderation from Ted Nugent," PFAW President Michael Keegan said. "But we do expect a major presidential candidate like Mitt Romney to rebuke a prominent supporter for spewing hate-filled and violent rhetoric against the President of the United States." (...)
Though the wild rhetoric is from the weekend, Nugent had already endorsed Romney in early March. He also once threatened to kill Obama and Hilary Clinton and effusively praised Sarah Palin in the 2010 TIME 100 issue.
Nugent is hardly the only musician to be associated with Romney in recent weeks. After KISS frontman Gene Simmons was quoted as saying he supported Romney's fiscal policy, outlets were quick to say the rocker endorsed Romney. Simmons quickly disputed the accounts, taking to Twitter to tell fans, "I HAVE NOT ENDORSED MITT ROMNEY FOR PRES."
Nugent was more direct. "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year," he said. "If you can't galvanize and promote and recruit people to vote for Mitt Romney, we're done."
And what's the best way to "galvanize and promote," Ted?
"We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November. Any questions?"
Right. This is a guy you definitely want on your side. Mitt Romney did speak at the 2012 NRA convention, obviously hoping to get an endorsement. 

UPDATE #3- I must rest my case once again. This Florida law abiding gun permit holder killed a salesman in cold blood as the man was in his driveway when the man came home:
Roop later told police that he shot Rainey in the head “for effect” and that he had three no trespassing signs on his property. Roop said he feared for his life.
“I’m not going to give him the chance to do something to me,” he told police. “I was in fear.”
An off-duty Collier County sheriff’s deputy was nearby and heard the gunshots. When she arrived at Roop’s property, she found Rainey dying on the ground while Roop was in his garage reloading his handgun.
“He was telling the officer, ‘he stepped on my property, he trespassed, I’ll kill anybody that steps on my property,’ somewhere along them lines. It was just unbelievable,” one witness told the The News-Press. “She never flinched. She deserves a medal. I don’t think he was done [shooting].”
The deputy ordered Roop to drop his weapon and held him at gunpoint until police officers arrived.
Roop’s neighbors described him as “the neighborhood crazy.” Roop has a concealed weapons permit and approximately 14 firearms.
Again, I rest my case. Fear and paranoia and guns do not go together.


4 comments:

  1. japete writes: "Let us remember that the NRA endorsed Mitt Romney."

    The NRA has not endorsed a presidential candidate in the 2012 race.

    "There's a funny thing about facts. They have a way of exposing the lies. "

    Exactly. Just like how the Minnesota, Texas, and Florida data on permit holders shows that they are significantly safer than the general population - and significantly less likely to commit a crime than the general population.

    But those are facts you don't believe in.

    "They will save the day. Until they don't. See Tucson shooting where a permit holder almost shot the wrong person after Jared Loughner killed 6 people at a shopping mall. Why?"

    I find it interesting that you use this as an example against permit to carry laws - considering that this individual did exactly what we would want him to do. Not draw his weapon and/or fire when he is unsure of the situation he is encountering. Why would we criticize him for this action?

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    1. If the NRA hasn't already, they surely will. Mitt Romney spoke at their convention. He sought and got the endorsement of bad boy Ted Nugent- a great example of an American citizen if I ever saw one. He is an NRA Board member. Regarding not drawing a weapon when you are unsure- what about all those guys on your side who are exclaiming that if only they had been at the theater with their gun, it would have been different? They would have shot the guy and gone down shooting. Unfortunately for your side, Bryan, too many people say stuff like this and give the rest of you a bad name.

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  2. Yup Japete - Mitts on R-money is trying very hard to get the NRA endorsement, he just doesn't have it yet publicly. But given that he's running against Obama.......is there really any chance in hell the NRA, which is a far right extremist group, will endorse anyone else (or not endorse SOMEONE)? No.

    We had an interesting discussion over the weekend on Penigma with a cc permittee from MN who was convinced the correct response to being in the Aurora Co. theater was to try to engage James Holmes in a shootout, despite the poor visibility, the high probability of hitting other people, and that James Holmes was wearing bulletproof gear. He reall didn't think any of that should limit his 2nd Amenment right to shoot in that theater, no matter how many people he shot as a result.

    Yeah, that is precisely the kind of thinking we don't need, and the kind of thinking we see in the shoot first laws that has increased the homicide rate rather than kept anyone safe in those states, including where vigilante shoots other vigilantes instead of the bad guys.

    And lets not forget the accidental gun accidents where someone drops or accidentally fires their guns at WalMarts ever two to three weeks. Safer? Hell no. We were all safer with fewer guns total, and fewer guns in public.

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  3. Good article, Japete.

    Yes, the gun guys live in another world, it seems. They live in a world where the facts don't matter, where statistics don't matter, where lives don't matter. They bury their heads in the sand and repeat the 2A like a mantra to drown out the violence.

    Just this weekend, I listened as the executive director of the pro-gun extremist group, Oregon Firearms Federation, denied that guns are designed to kill people, including the one on his hip. I listened as he denied there was such as thing as an assault rifle. I listened as he claimed that increasing firepower in the hands of civilians was a natural evolution of society and that there should be no limit set. It defies reality and all common sense to state such things, but he is the leading force in introducing pro-gun legislation in Oregon each year. It is dangerous and does not reflect even his own members. I know this, because after the debate, one of his members emailed Ceasefire Oregon apologizing for his leader's emotional behavior, said the executive director doesn't represent him, and that he hopes to have a more civil conversation with someone from Ceasefire Oregon.

    See the debate here: http://www.katu.com/politics/Your-Voice-Your-Vote-gun-rights-164113986.html?tab=video&c=y

    ReplyDelete