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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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Three in 3 weeks?

Well, there's been a third mass shooting in 3 weeks. The shooter was, again, having mental difficulties. This time in College Station Texas. From this article:
"Police identified the shooter as Thomas A. Caffall, 35, of College Station. Caffall's mother, Linda Weaver, reached by The Huffington Post, said her son was having "difficulties" with his mental health in recent years.
"The minute I saw the TV I knew it was him," said Weaver. "I've been that worried about him."
Caffall opened fire from inside his single-family home, according to Rigo Cisneros, 40, who witnessed the shooting from across the street. Cisneros, an Army medic and Afghanistan veteran, saw police exchanging gunfire with Caffall, who remained within the house. Caffall was shot several times by officers who stormed the house after a shootout that lasted roughly 30 minutes, Cisneros said. (...) 
A Facebook page belonging to Caffall features several photos of assault rifles, including a Czech-made version of the AK-47. On the page, Caffall identified himself as divorced, with “Christian” religious beliefs. He lists a series of snipers, including Carlos Hathcock and Vasily Zaytsev, as "inspirational people."
“I am pulling a cross between Forrest Gump and Jack Kerouac (without the drugs),” Caffall wrote on the site. “I'm on the road, permanently.”"
So why does someone put up photos of AK-47s and other assault rifles on their Facebook page? Why do some of these dangerous people with guns advertise that they love guns? This is part of the problem of our crazy gun culture in America. Buy a lot of guns. Stockpile assault weapons, sometimes AK-47 type guns. Worship guns- especially the ones with a lot of capability of killing many people at a time. Is it macho? What is it? Who wants to own guns like this? It appears that quite a few young men who have serious mental health problems want them. It appears that quite a few older guys who hate President Obama, are into militia groups, or neo-Nazi sympathies love guns like this. It appears that some men who have unreasonable and trumped up fear of their own country and tyranny love guns like this. At one time not so long ago, Congress decided that it was not a good idea for citizens to be able to buy certain types of assault type weapons. But then, under great pressure from the NRA, Congress changed its' mind. It didn't have anything to do with whether it was a good idea to have an assault weapons ban like almost every country in the world. No, it had to do with the NRA. And so, we have men with problems getting guns that they shouldn't be able to have in the first place, killing innocent Americans. Where is common sense? From the linked article above:
With all of the important issues dominating the political debate, the economy, health care, International Affairs to name a few it had slipped my mind that we did not have an assault weapons ban. Then a tragedy like the one in Aurora, Colo., reminds us of it. Maybe it had slipped my mind because banning assault weapons should be a no-brainer. No NRA lobbyist can argue that assault weapons are sold for any other purpose but to kill people. You can't use them for hunting or target shooting and they are not efficient for protecting your home and family. Therefore the only reason a person would buy one is to aggressively go out and kill people. The NRA wants to argue that any attack on guns is an attack on freedom. However no one should have the freedom to buy a weapon that is just intended to kill others.
President Obama once favored a ban on assault type guns. Mitt Romney once favored a ban on assault type guns. America still favors a ban on assault type guns. Never mind. The shootings continue unabated. The sad and unfortunate thing here is that because this latest shooting only involved 3 dead, including the shooter, it is already off of the front page of most major newspapers. 32 Americans are murdered every day in America. The stories appear in the local papers where the local shootings occur and then disappear. We go on to the next tragedy or political story and continue to do nothing to stop the carnage. Americans are weary of daily shootings. They are weary of mass shootings. In polling data, as I have discussed before, they say they are in favor of sensible laws that might actually prevent people like the shooter, above, from getting guns, let alone assault type weapons,  in the first place. Instead, we do nothing. Doing nothing is not an option. We are better than this. Enough.

UPDATE:

This post from New Trajectory adds much to what needs to be said about both the shooters in the last mass shootings and the kind of weapons they have used. From the post:
Of course, the gun lobby and their lap dogs want us to think that assault rifles have nothing at all do to with killing large numbers of people.  If you listened to them, you’d think these “sport rifles” were only made to do target shooting and to shoot varmints. 
Caffall linked to an article advertising that you could get a free AK-47 with the purchase of a truck, in Florida.  “anyone looking for a new car needs to read this!” he wrote.
He had interesting quotes.  One, inaccurately attributed to George Orwell, stated, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” 
He then quotes Edmund Burke with an “intellectual quote of the day”:  "People crushed by the law, have no hopes but from power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to the law; and those who have much to hope and nothing to lose, will always be dangerous."
As you can see from another screencapture (which is a partial representation), his likes included pages for gun companies and organizations, like the NRA, Mosin-Nagant, Beretta, vz. 58, Glock, Dragunov.
His list of “inspirational people” included snipers Vasily Zaytsev, Simo Hayha, and Carlos Hathcock, and gun inventors like Mikhail Kalashnikov, John Garand, Samuel Colt, and John Browning.
There's much more that's worth reading from this post. But this is the world created by the NRA. All you have to do is read the comments on this post from some of my readers to see that they are trying to excuse the Texas shooter for posting photos of his guns on Facebook. All you have to do is read the comment that tries to make claims about why assault weapons are nothing to worry about. Here are some excerpts from these comments which you can read in full right here on this post:
"Actually you are wrong when you state that "assault weapons" are not used for hunting. They are extremely popular for hunting. The beauty of the AR style rifles in particular is that they can change calibers by only changing the upper receiver which can be had more economically than buying a complete new rifle.
The term "assault weapon" made up by your side to encourage confusion about what they are and to help your side try to take them from us. I have to admit that the pro-crime side is very good at doing this."
Right. These are guns that most people find to be not only unnecessary but dangerous for very obvious reasons. But the excuses now coming from the gun rights extremists expose them for their agenda of trying to normalize this kind of gun in our communities. And then I really like this excuse for the Facebook photos of guns and other propaganda from the far right:
" "So why does someone put up photos of AK-47s and other assault rifles on their Facebook page? "
Probably for the same reason that people put up pictures of their pets, their children, their cars, their homes, and any other thing that they have and want to share with their friends. 
Outside of your world having a firearm is not something shameful. I personally wouldn't put pictures of my weapons online because I don't want to give thieves or gun-banners(I just repeated myself) ideas.
You can see that the answer to my question was that posting photos of your assault guns is just the same as putting up pictures of your pets or your children or you homes. Really? Raise your hand if you believe this. America, this is the problem. Some people have no problem with this stuff and even encourage it. That's the American gun culture- alive and well. Except it's sick. Others whose comments I am not posting have been asking me to be specific about which features of assault rifles I don't like. They are snotty in their asking me because they want me to name features so they can catch me on something. What difference does it make about the features? That is a diversionary tactic. The plain and simple truth is that the American public in general does not like assault type weapons and don't want to be seeing them on our streets. They understand that these kinds of guns can kill a lot of people at one time. If we didn't have them so readily available, other kinds of guns could be used and do and will be. That's a sad fact. But if we make sure civilians don't get to buy and use weapons usually considered for the military in war zones, and the high capacity ammunition to go with them, we would be a lot better off and our streets would be safer for the innocent. Where is common sense?

20 comments:

  1. Actually you are wrong when you state that "assault weapons" are not used for hunting. They are extremely popular for hunting. The beauty of the AR style rifles in particular is that they can change calibers by only changing the upper receiver which can be had more economically than buying a complete new rifle.

    The term "assault weapon" made up by your side to encourage confusion about what they are and to help your side try to take them from us. I have to admit that the pro-crime side is very good at doing this.

    “The semi-automatic weapons’ menacing
    looks, coupled with the public’s confusion
    over fully automatic machine guns versus
    semi-automatic assault weapons – anything
    that looks like a machine gun is assumed to
    be a machine gun – can only increase that
    chance of public support for restrictions on
    these weapons.” Josh Sugarmann

    The Department of Justice did a study and was unable to find that the "assault weapon" ban accomplished anything even by calling anything with over a 10 round magazine as an "assault weapon." Further, since a weapon that had all the components that your side used to define an assault weapon were acceptable on weapons that either had no detachable magazine like an SKS or didn't have a pistol grip like a Mini 14 or a M1A we have to assume that the only thing wrong was that they looked scary. Isn't that what Sugarmann meant when he said "menacing looks?"

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    1. I don't believe the public is confused. Semi automatic weapons are guns that shoot a lot of people in a very short time. The public understands that one. Though some hunting rifles are semi-automatic and are used to kill people as well, it is the assault type weapons that are doing the most damage in the shootings. Gun owners understand the difference. Most hunters do not use assault weapons for hunting. They may use semi automatics but they know assault type weapons with their features used to kill many, are not needed to shoot deer and other animals. Hunters don' t need them. Most do not have them or don't use them. It is only the gun rights extremists who try to claim they are no different and that people can use them for hunting. You don't need them. You just want them. There is a difference. You can't win that argument. It is a specious and unsupportable argument that you guys have been throwing around for much too long. We're not buying any more. You might have fooled some with it but it's not working. And if a gun is menacing looking, how do you think the public will react to it? Weapons of war are not guns that most people think are O.K. for civilians. That is for good reason Are we at war? Are you at war? Why do you need these kind of guns? I'm anxious to hear your response.

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  2. "So why does someone put up photos of AK-47s and other assault rifles on their Facebook page? "

    Probably for the same reason that people put up pictures of their pets, their children, their cars, their homes, and any other thing that they have and want to share with their friends.

    Outside of your world having a firearm is not something shameful. I personally wouldn't put pictures of my weapons online because I don't want to give thieves or gun-banners(I just repeated myself) ideas.

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    1. Come on Robin. That just is plain ridiculous. Why do you guys try defending stuff like that? You are better off not saying anything than trying to defend it. It makes you look really bad. Come up with something better. Your response is just foolish.

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    2. Crazy people who obssess over lethal weapons are nothing like people putting up photos of their growing, cute kids.

      One is about ways of killing people; the other is about sharing a nurturing experience.

      Duh!

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  3. Thanks for the link, japete. Caffall was so dangerous that his own mother and stepfather called him "crazy as hell" and a "ticking time bomb", fearing that he would come and "do something" to them. Yet, in America, it is perfectly acceptable for someone like him to have as many guns and ammo as he wishes... until he pulls the trigger and murders someone. Unfortunately, that's too late for the victims in this shooting. We are better than this.

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  4. This is a recurring theme, but the theme centers around Americans who are so stressed, they snap violently. It is not perfectly acceptable for someone like him to have as many guns and ammo as he wishes.... When I was living with a woman who was severely depressed, my guns were either on me, inside a safe for which only I had the combination, inside a steel box for which only I had the key, or rendered inoperable. I always knew where my guns were when she was around. When I tried to find help for my friend, it took weeks to try to find someone, because there is so much stress in America that virtually every psychiatrist, psychologist, and counselor is unavailable to accept new patients.

    Something about the American culture causes many Americans to fracture under stress with a rare few doing so violently. The national voice should be focused on making psychological help more easily available for those who need it, than focusing on how many rounds a magazine holds.

    But you know it's so much easier to say "magazines with more than 10 rounds are illegal", than it is to understand why Americans have so much stress and how this stress can be reduced. Apparently, it's also acceptable in American culture to bury one's head in the sand after becoming aware that someone in their circle of influence is having mental "difficulties" and also has access to guns.

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    1. Yes Migo. And something about the American people allows for too easy to guns for people who "fracture under stress" You just don't see regular mass shootings or individual shootings like this in other countries. All countries have mentally ill people who are stressed out. But all countries don't have a gun culture like our own. We have to do something about both.

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    2. Migo wrote:"but the theme centers around Americans who are so stressed, they snap violently."

      Um NO, factually inaccurate.

      Taking a look at a random sampling of dangerously mentally ill men out of the last 60 mass shotings post January 2011 (there are few women who do these mass shootings) they were emphatically NOT just normal men who snapped under stress.

      That argument tries to promote the notion that the shooters were somehow victims of stress that was forced on them, in an attempt to excuse as well as explain their actions.

      The reality is that these dangerously ill people suffer from illnesses like schizophrenia, dangerous forms of bi-polar disorder, and other illnesses which both distort reality, can result in hallucinations, and paranoia, and where there had been a distinct period of violence in their behavior.

      No other country, no civlized country, no SANE country allows so many people, including criminals, drug users of chemicals which induce paranoia and hallucinations, convicted criminals, and individuals who have demonstrated violent or obsessive behavior like domestic abusers and stalkers, to buy guns.

      There is no justification for our current gun policies which are far far far too lenient. Those policies are a significant part of why we have mass shootings, and why we have so many instances of domestic abuse with firearms, and why we have far more killings of law enforcement officers with firearms compared to other countries. We have far more firearm murder suicides, we have far more deaths and injuries of children, and we have far mor just plain suicides with firearms, all of which are avoidable and preventable with intervention and fewer firearms.

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  5. "They are snotty in their asking me because they want me to name features so they can catch me on something. What difference does it make about the features? That is a diversionary tactic. "

    No need. The ban is not coming back, though, on the outside change that it does, firearm sales are up 30% for that type of weapon.

    Increased sales is all you accomplish by calling for a reinstatement of the ban.

    No doubt an unintended consequence, but quite real.

    Further, it would be impossible to ban them now for one simple reason.

    Heller and McDonald.

    There they made it clear that weapons in "common use" were immune though a "dangerous AND unusual" weapon might be regulated.

    Current estimates put the so called 'assault weapons' at several million, perhaps as high as 8. That is 'common use' by any standard and bu no means "unusual".

    So to make any 'real' difference you would have to attempt to ban the current possession of such weapons.

    I posit that such a law would be both ignored (at best), and found unconstitutional as soon as it passed.

    As for the George Orwell quote. You are right. What Orwell actually said was

    "PACIFIST: Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf."

    (quite right)

    From Notes on Nationalism as he notes what a PACIFIST, nationalist, must think.

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    1. You are wrong about Heller and MacDonald. Read it. Justice Scalia doesn't agree with you.

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    2. japete is correct. Read Heller MacDonald.

      Better yet, read Laci's writing on it which includes the specific quotes which apply.

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  6. You almost have me convinced Joan. It makes sense on the surface. Reduce the number of rounds that a gun can shoot and lives will be saved. That's what seems to bother you about assault weapons – the fact that they can shoot so many bullets.

    It makes sense to me, except for one thing. According to the FBI, violent crime started plummeting in 1992 two years before the Assault Weapons Ban took effect. As you know, that ban also limited magazine capacity to 10 rounds. Violent crime continued to fall during the ban until it expired in 2004, and then it continued to fall. There was no increase in violent crime after the ban expired, which I would expect if there was a connection between magazine capacity and violence. So year after year the number of guns with magazines greater than 10 rounds increases while violent crime decreases.

    All countries have mentally ill people who are stressed out, but why is it so violently bad in the US? Why are there not more Akihabara massacres in Japan or more Breivik's in Norway?

    What I am noticing is that the source of violence covered by the media appears to be caused by people with great mental distress and that mental distress was known to others who might have been able to restrict their access to firearms if there were provisions in place that would have allowed them to do so. Since the Assault Weapons Ban did nothing to reduce violence in the US, it seems the next reasonable step is to prevent those with great mental distress from gaining access to firearms, at least until that mental distress is resolved. If we could keep guns away from people like Holmes and Loughner, we would all be very happy without having to institute another ineffective ban.

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    1. Migo- I do appreciate your civil comments and willingness to engage on the issue. Crime was going down anyway. Those on the gun rights side try to say it was because of the passage of conceal and carry laws. I don't believe that one. Those on my side are saying that the Brady Law was enacted in 1993 and has prohibited almost 2 million prohibited purchasers from getting guns. Who should we believe? We likely will each choose to believe our own sides on the issue. Facts do speak loudly however. Assault type weapons account for few of the overall shootings in our country. But when they are used, they are used to kill many people at one time. That cannot be discounted. There is a culture in this country that believes ordinary citizens should own guns like this. No other country agrees with that. No other country has a gun culture like ours. No other country has a rate of gun deaths such as ours. I am convinced that changing the culture to make it unacceptable for citizens to own any gun they want would change our overall ability to keep our communities safe from senseless acts of violence. When things are accepted, people think they can just do anything they want with those guns they have for "self defense". We have come to a tipping point in our discussion about the gun issue. I hope you and I can be part of the solution.

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    2. It makes sense because in those cases where someone like Patricia Maisch was able to intervene to stop a mass shooting, it has usually been either because a magazine jammed, or because the shooter had to stop to change magazines.

      We have no practical need or use for expanded magazines when so many are used in crimes against unarmed people, in mass shootings, and against law enforcement.

      Time for them to go. The typical firearms enthusiast or hunter can manage just fine without them, using multiple smaller capacity magazines instead.

      Unless you don't value lives. It is that simple, that basic, that fundamental an issue.

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  7. These comments also came from "dog gone"- sent to me personally-

    " And yet the Department of Justice recommended the ban be renewed. And that study found:
    That study by Christopher S. Koper, Daniel J. Woods, and Jeffrey A. Roth of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology, University of Pennsylvania found no statistically significant evidence that neither the assault weapons ban nor the ban on magazines holding more than 10 bullets had reduced gun murders. However, they concluded that it was "premature to make definitive assessments of the ban's impact on gun crime," and argue that if the ban had been in effect for more than 9 years, it is possible that benefits from the law might begin to be observed.[10]

    And we have this analysis which claims that the number of assault rifles used in crime decreased 66% after the ban.

    The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence examined the impact of the Assault Weapons Ban in its 2004 report, On Target: The Impact of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Act. Examining 1.4 million guns involved in crime, it determined that since the law was enacted, "assault weapons have made up only 1.61% of the guns ATF has traced to crime — a drop of 66% from the pre-ban rate."

    I would argue here that when we have 60 mass shootings in 80 weeks, many of them committed by mentally ill men who have legally bought entire arsenals of weapons and ammunition, and where overwhelmingly most use assault rifles and expanded capacity magazines, that we need more studying, and further, that the benefits of denying those dangerously crazy people any weapons, but least of all the kinds of weapons that kill so many people -or in this case wounded others besides those killed -- that it is time to ban them.

    The up side to hunting is not greater than the upside of denying these crazies this equipment.

    Convenience for amusement versus mass killings? Where the heck are the values and the capacity for logic of those who oppose a ban?

    Assault rifles are, as Japete points out, weapons of war, not hunting. The only even remotely appropriate place for them is in video games, not people's homes. "

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  8. Guns are weapons of war. And hunters could use bows and arrows or spears and show their true prowess. Banning and confiscating all guns would allow this whole country -- current gun owners included -- to take a huge sigh of relief.

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  9. I think it's interesting that "dog gone" and I say almost exactly the same thing but arrive at completely opposite conclusions. Perhaps our conclusions are biased by our experiences and preferences? I've been surrounded my whole life by people with mental illness, mostly depression and anxiety, and I know that most mental illness is manageable and treatable. More importantly, I recognize that guns in this context are simply too dangerous.

    I agree with "dog gone" that many of these killers didn't just snap and were ill long before, but whether they were ill long before like Loughner and Cho, or whether they snapped more recently like Holmes, they still had mental issues that were known to others who did nothing to keep them away from firearms. I think "dog gone" and I agree that these people should never have been able to legally buy firearms. It's one thing if they bought guns from another private party where it's impossible for the private party to access NICS, but they bought guns from FFLs, and as you're so fond of saying, we can do better than that.

    The conclusion ...that if the ban had been in effect for more than 9 years, it is possible that benefits from the law might begin to be observed.[10] could also be truthfully written as ...that if the ban had been in effect for more than 9 years, it is possible that benefits from the law might not have been observed... I''m not playing with words, because the facts lie in the measurements, the numbers, themselves. The FBI reports that 8,775 firearms were used to murder in 2010 (the most recent year for which data is available), yet we know that there are about 300,000,000 firearms in the US. That means that approximately 299,991,225 guns were not used to kill people in 2010. The assault rifles that my friends and I own are part of those 299,991,225 guns.

    We also know that a high proportion of mass murders are mentally unstable which is why I believe we can do so much more by targeting laws aimed at that sub-group than enacting laws that cover those 299,000,000 non-violent guns.

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    1. I don't know about your figures, Migo. 100,000 people are shot every year. Of those, 30,000 die of their injuries. This includes homicide, suicide and accidental shootings. How could only 8 775 firearms have been responsible for that carnage? It just doesn't add up. Even if it did, it's 8775 firearms used in gun deaths that shouldn't have happened. That is the point that dog gone and me are making. These should not be happening. We can prevent them if we but try. It involves better services and MORE FUNDING for mental health services as well as a look at our loose gun laws. I think you should be out there campaigning for more funding for social programs, not less as the far right is suggesting.

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  10. Well, Migo is probably right about this one. He said 8775 guns were used to commit murder (not overall deaths). With about 11,000 murders with guns each year, 8775 could be right given the propensity of mass murders with a single gun.

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