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, September 22, 2012

Guns and voters

Really folks. You just can't make up some of the things that go on in the name of politicians pandering during elections and raising money involving guns. Check out this video about what's going on in one Virginia race:



This guy isn't even running until 2015. How excited can people be about contributing now? So to add to the excitement, just come out and shoot a machine gun and take a conceal and carry class. What better way to ramp up gun sales? The NRA is very involved at election time. This one isn't even subtle. I just don't get why shooting a machine gun or taking a conceal carry class should have any bearing on elections. It shouldn't actually and the fact that it does says everything about our American gun culture.

Here's another politician ( Mayor of a city) who has clearly chosen the wrong thing to do regarding guns, all because he doesn't have the courage to say no to a big business venture in his home town in Georgia. Mixing guns and alcohol has been proven to be a bad idea. Never mind, a large new gun range wants to combine a shooting and drinking venue in its' new business venture. From the article:
A gun shop in Powder Springs, Ga., has received permission from local officials to open a firing range that serves alcohol, WSB Atlanta reports.
“Georgia law allows persons with gun permits to bring their weapon into a restaurant that serves alcohol. We are taking it even a step further,” Kristina Brown, co-owner of the Governor’s Club gun shop, told WSB.
Speaking to city council members Monday, Powder Springs Mayor Pat Vaughn said he shared residents’ concerns about mixing firearms and booze, but nevertheless supported the council’s decision to approve the liquor license, West Cobb Patch reports. “I think they have some pretty good safety measures in place,” Vaughn said.
One of those safety measures prohibits customers who order a drink from re-entering the firing range, which will be separated from the club's cocktail lounge, Brown tells WSB.
First of all, people shouldn't be allowed to bring their guns into places that serve alcohol, period. Secondly then, why would anyone sanction that and add to the appeal? In Powder Springs, Ga, money has trumped public safety. The irony here is that if someone orders a drink at the bar/restaurant and is carrying a gun, that's perfectly O.K. But that same person won't be allowed to re-enter the firing range. Why is that? For the safety of the folks inside the firing range? What about the safety of the folks in the bar? Sure, a permit holder is not supposed to be drinking and carrying but bartenders don't ask people if they have a gun tucked away before serving them a beer. Er uh, in this case, will everyone who is served a drink at this bar be carrying? That should be interesting. How about an ounce of prevention? I am betting that this Mayor knows better than this but he is under the influence of the gun culture. People under the influence of power and money don't do the right thing for the safety of their citizens. And being under the influence of alcohol while carrying a gun has proven to be deadly. At the end of this article, the Mayor says this:
“We have a $3.5 million investment here,” Bert Brown told the Powder Springs city council, according to Patch.
“Unfortunely [drinking] is part of our society,” he added, “and this is hard even coming from my mouth, but there’s a certain amount of concern that we would not be successful with this type of product if we did not have the ability [to serve alcohol].”
Really, Mayor? So drinking is part of our society. Guns are part of our society. We know the dangers of too much drinking. We know the dangers of too many guns in too many public places. Those things are unfortunate. And it's truly unfortunate that the Mayor convinced the City Council to combine these two activities in a business venture and make some money by encouraging people to engage in risky behavior. Raise your hand if you think this politician sold his soul to make a deal with gun rights extremists and folks with money. Money trumps public safety.  He will have to live with this decision. Let's hope nothing goes wrong. Lives could be at stake. As I said, you just can't make these things up. Dr. Garen Wintermute of University of California, Davis, has some recent research about guns and alcohol:
Here's the problem: These two broad categories of behavior are often related. Of the 395,366 firearms-related deaths reported in the United States between 1997 -- when this data were actually collected -- and 2009 -- the latest date for which the tally of firearms-related deaths is available -- about one-third are thought to have involved alcohol. In 2007, 34.5% of suicide and homicide victims in the United States had alcohol in their systems at the time of death, and 60% of those were considered acutely intoxicated.
A very large body of research tells us that people who abuse alcohol or drugs are at far higher risk of committing acts of violence and self-harm. Although laws in some states bar the sale of guns to those with alcohol abuse problems, they're often drafted in terms that aren't very specific, and therefore aren't very effective -- forbidding the sale of firearms, for instance, to "habitual drunkards."
Perhaps Mayor Brown should reconsider before it's too late. If anything should be discussed around the gun issue by politicians, it should be about the fact that we have too many gun deaths and senseless shootings in America. Once Georgia passed a law allowing guns in places that serve alcohol, they had to find another way to ramp up gun sales and encourage people to carry their guns in these places. What's next? This is the ubiquitous slippery slope. Our elected officials should be pressed to talk about the issue of gun deaths and injuries and be asked what they intend to do about an important national health and safety problem that is being largely ignored. Instead they are thinking about the power and influence of the gun lobby and what it can do for them. That is truly unfortunate.This article from Huffington Post talks about the differences between the two political parties regarding gun policy. From the article:
What makes this political divide interesting is the manner the political parties are touting the Second Amendment. The Republicans see their interpretation of arms bearing as "antedat[ing] the Constitution and... confirmed by the Second Amendment." In other words, Republicans view the Second Amendment and their entire platform as restoring the Founding Fathers' values.
Meanwhile, the Democrats platform asserts progressive American values that they believe are in line with the issues and problems we face today. This includes addressing the problem of gun violence, with Democrats hoping to strengthen background checks, close purchasing loopholes, and devise "commonsense improvements" that protect the community at large.
Seeing that Republicans are claiming to be restoring our past and Democrats are touting progression, one would assume the Republicans' laissez-faire approach to guns syncs with eighteenth century legal understanding. Not true. In fact, it is the opposite.
To members of the founding generation, the entire purpose of government was to advance the public good through a well-regulated society. According to William Blackstone, a highly influential 18th century jurist, the "public good" was "nothing more essentially interested in the protection of every individual's private rights, as modeled by municipal law." This required combining and uniting the "individual, with the general interest," which is "most effectually done, in a democratic republic" through laws enacted by the people's representatives.
Part of this "public good" included preventing breaches of the peace and public injury with arms. As early as the Norman Conquest, restrictions on the carrying and using of arms began appearing in the legal discourse. And as early as 1328, the Statute of Northampton made it unlawful to not only bring a force affray, but even prohibited the act of going armed "by night or day, in fairs, markets, nor in the presence of the King's Justices, or other ministers, nor in no part elsewhere."
So the Republicans and gun rights extremists who love to quote our founders and adhere to the strict wording of the Constitution no matter how much things have changed since it was written, want to preserve a false life style. They are saying that guns have been used for self defense of the country and individuals since the beginnings of our country and that that is what the founders intended when the Second Amendment was written. Then they hide behind this false view of the amendment to stop any reasonable restrictions on guns and gun owners even when the founders had those restrictions in mind when the second amendment was written. They believe that the second amendment means they should be able to defend themselves against government tyranny while practicing the same themselves by their actions. More on this from the article:
In 1705 Michael Dalton also wrote that the Statute of Northampton prohibited the "wear[ing] or carry[ing] any Guns, Dags or Pistols charged" in the public concourse. Preparatory self-defense was not an excuse. As Dalton noted, "persons... so armed or weaponed for their defence upon any private quarrel" were not immune because they could seek the assistance of constable to have "the Peace against the other persons" enforced.
What makes the Statute of Northampton of such importance to the historic gun rights-gun control debate is it remained part of the common law despite the adoption of the Second Amendment and contemporaneous state "bear arms" provisions. A contingent of legal scholars, backed by gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation, dismiss this influence by contending the Statute of Northampton included a specific intent or mens rea requirement. In other words, they argue the statute must be interpreted as an assault with a deadly weapon equivalent.
This interpretation is intellectually suspect for a myriad of reasons; primarily because numerous legal commentators stated it was the act of carrying "Armour or Weapons, not usually worn, [that] may strike a Fear into others unarmed." This included the very influential Blackstone, who wrote the "offence of riding or going armed, with dangerous or unusual weapons, is a crime against the public peace by terrifying the good people of the land."
Still, even if we ignore the historical evidence and demote the Statute of Northampton to a mere prohibition against carrying "dangerous or unusual weapons" among the public concourse, it is within the legislature's purview to decide which weapons are in fact "dangerous" and should be regulated, limited or prohibited. Just pause to consider this historical fact: an average eighteenth century rifleman could discharge two rounds per minute, giving a company of thirty riflemen the power of 60 rounds of ammunition per minute. Today, a number of firearms easily exceed this. It cannot be logical for eighteenth century law to prohibit the carrying of a charged single shot pistol, but for the Republican platform to assert an "antedated" constitutional right to publicly carry a firearm that carries six, 12, 15 or more shots today. This is not even taking into account 21st century demographic changes, especially the vast population shift from the countryside to urban areas.
The point here is not that public gun prohibitions are the definitive answer to solving or ending gun violence. There may be some truth to the argument that more guns in the hands of properly trained, law-abiding citizens deter crime. Instead, the point is that public gun regulations to preserve order and prevent public injury are part of our Anglo-American tradition, and it is a subject that has always been regulated by the legislatures in the interest of the common good. It is for this reason that the Republican's laissez-faire interpretation of the Second Amendment is worrisome. Not only does it seemingly foreclose an open and honest discussion on the dangers of gun violence, but it implies an armed society facilitates law and order, not government order. And if this is the Republican platform on guns, the Founding Fathers are shaking their heads at the Republicans and nodding in support of the Democrats push for "an honest, open national conversation about firearms."
Given these ideas, there is a clear choice in this election. Should we elect politicians who believe that, against all odds and all evidence to the contrary, more guns in the hands of more people in more public places make us safer? Should we elect politicians who support the idea that gun owners should form their own militia groups and own their own arsenals in case they need to fight against terrorism or tyranny? Do we elect politicians who espouse a view of our country that embraces their own interpretation of the second amendment to include preparation for war against the government, as Iowa Representative Steve King recently did?:
Congressman King said we need to exercise our Second Amendment rights in order to help protect them. “Raise our children with gun safety and bring them out to the range, get them comfortable with guns and make sure they understand both the danger and the responsibility with it.”
“And they understand the danger of a country that could be taken over by tyranny one day if we fail to do our job.” King said this, as well, about the responsibility of protecting Second Amendment rights.
During his speech to the crowd, Congressman King described how he gave an interview on a radio show while his sons sighted in a new rifle. During that interview King said you could hear the report of the rifle. “The report of that rifle echoes through three generations of our family, and more if my grandchildren are raised in the same fashion I was, my grandmother was, our children were.” King said the sound of that rifle has echoed over a century in his family.
If we fail to do what job, Congressman King? What is meant by that statement? Is that a dog whistle to those who believe in the tyranny of the far right gun extremists who espouse insurrectionism? ( also see link above from Coalition to Stop Gun Violence) Or should we elect politicians who believe that in order to deal with the gun violence in our communities, we surely need to have an open discussion about the causes and the solutions? I know how I will vote. What will you do? Common sense says that, as a country, we need to do what's right and best for our neighbors and ourselves and, by extension, our country. We should not be taken to the lowest common denominator on this issue. When the lives of fellow Americans are at risk every day, we have a problem and we need to raise the issue up and deal with it at the highest level of honest discourse. Politicians should stop being afraid to even mention the word guns in political discourse. They are failing their constituents who elect them to protect their communities and keep them safe and secure from violence of all kinds. Public safety should be at the top of the list of topics for discussion, not at the bottom. Honest politicians should not be promoting their own elections by luring people to fund raisers where attendees are encouraged to carry guns in public and shoot machine guns. Weapons of war should not be idolized by ordinary citizens. Weapons of war should not be touted by elected leaders. We are better than this.

ADDENDUM:

Apparently this machine gun thing is quite popular among NRA bought and paid for politicians. Here is an article about a machine gun fund raiser in Ohio:
Ohio State Rep. Ron Maag wants to show voters he’s a straight shooter.
The two-term Republican, who is running for re-election, hosted a “machine gun social” today at the Lake Bailee Gun Club in Hamilton, Ohio.
“Lots of full auto guns you can pay to shoot,” said an advertisement for the event, which was posted on Maag’s website.
The 66-year-old tweeted a picture of a bald eagle that flew above the range today.
“Great day at the Machine Gun Social. Come join us,” said another tweet.
Neither he or his opponent, Mike Kassalen, support increasing gun control laws, according to their websites.
That goes without saying. So much for reasonable discussion about public health and safety.

7 comments:

  1. I just looked up Patrick J Charles, the author of the HuffPo article. His book sells for $40 on Amazon.com, which is a same since he sounds like the type of person who is writing the book I want to see published on the Second Amendment. There are other works that back up his claim that guns were not used primarily for self-defence, such as Richard Maxwell Brown's No Duty to Retreat.

    Deadly force has only been made an option, and a first option at that, fairly recently in US jurisprudence--other Common Law jurisdictions do not follow this line of thought.

    Maybe the price is a good thing, since the astroturf comments haven't hit the Amazon review of The Second Amendment: The Intent and Its Interpretation By the States and the Supreme Court--yet.

    It may also be beyond the understanding of most of the gun rights crowd as well.

    But,the public good, or General Welfare, has fallen from the interest of the right, which is a shame since it is something which the constitution was intended to ensure.

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  2. Virtually every restaurant I've ever visited has a bar. Also, since those who carry concealed weapons must eat, these restaurants must have many patrons with concealed weapons. Yet, I struggle to remember the last time I had to step over the dead bodies from the last shootout before I entered a restaurant to sit down at the bar for a meal.

    If I were to accept your fears as fact, then alcohol itself should be banned because those who drink would suddenly forget their values and morals and, like Dr. Jekyll, suddenly become murderous creatures. We actually tried that unfounded argument in 1919 and it failed.

    Those who get violent after too much alcohol were already carrying that violence or depression before they got drunk. So the issue isn't about bars and guns, it's about potentially violent people having access to weapons which is a different topic entirely.

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    1. I believe you are wrong. The "proof is in the pudding." If 1/3 of gun deaths are related to the shooter drinking alcohol, what more do you need, Migo? It is a problem. To deny it is stupid. It's just ludicrous to say that those who drink too much would be violent anyway. With a gun, that violence becomes more deadly. There are no excuses. My brother almost died of alcoholic liver disease. I know that this means for families. The issue is absolutely about bars and guns. Why let people carry guns into places where they clearly drink too much? Prevention is the best way to deal with this.

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    2. I think you're missing my point. Of those 1/3 gun deaths related to alcohol, how many of those shooters were suffering from depression or other issues before they drank? How many of those gun deaths occurred within a public bar? What is the ratio of those incidents to the number of people who conceal carry inside establishments where alcohol is served?

      It's stupid to deny that drinking and driving is equally dangerous, yet I'm not aware of any laws that ban anyone who drives from entering any establishment where alcohol is served. The reason is simple. Most people who drive to an establishment where alcohol is served are responsible. Banning anyone who drives from entering a place like Olive Garden would eventually close every restaurant with a parking lot, because most people don't walk to restaurants.

      Similarly, most people who carry and drink are responsible. Banning people who carry from entering establishments where alcohol is served would require TSA-like security checks at every restaurant entrance because it's impossible to detect a properly concealed weapon. Such a draconian measure, like removing parking lots from restaurants, would financially cripple most establishments simply because a very tiny number of patrons are irresponsible.

      In other words, it's not common sense to enact a ban or other policy in a private establishment when an overwhelming number of patrons will behave responsibly anyway. In fact, I'm certain that drinking and driving is of greater concern to bar owners and governments than those drinking and carrying concealed weapons. I've seen far more advertisements targeted at drinking and driving than ads aimed at drinking while carrying a gun.

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    3. You continue to offer excuses. You change the subject to driving. Laws are in place to fine [people or find them guilty of manslaughter if they kill someone while driving while drunk. Thankfully, MADD and other efforts have done a great job of calling attention to his awful public safety problem. Now, my own kids don't drive after drinking more than a few beers. When they were younger, they would designate a driver or take a cab. They took it seriously. Bartenders will often stop serving to people who have had too many drinks. They will find a way home for those folks. Still people drink too much and drive. We can't stop all bad behavior. We know car accidents kill people. Cars are not designed to kill people but we do something anyway. But what are we doing about drinking and guns? Not much. In fact, we are encouraging it. You seem to have missed my point. Was that on purpose?

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    4. I'm assuming your point wasn't simply about banning the serving of alcohol at firearm ranges, because that oddity is quite rare. Rare enough, that I would hardly say it's being encouraged. I assumed your point was that guns should be banned at establishments that serve alcohol. Was that assumption correct?

      But what are we doing about drinking and guns? Not much. Exactly, because most businesses must realize that they can't effectively prevent someone from illegally carrying a gun into their establishment. Exactly how do you ban a woman from entering a bar with a gun in her purse? Should the business ask that all purses and backpacks be surrendered or inspected? Should they put patrons through metal detectors? Most won't because they can't financially afford to put 99% of their patrons through a hassle designed to capture a very small number of people. Patrons would just skip the hassle and go elsewhere. I don't know what it's like where you live, but restaurants and bars operate on a thin margin over here. It doesn't take very much to force one to close. These aren't excuses. They're financial realities.

      I also don't want guns banned in such places. My experience has been that the overwhelming majority of people who drink, do so responsibly. There will always be exceptions, but as you said, we can't stop all bad behavior.

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    5. It's pretty simple Migo. No one should be carrying a gun in bars and places that serve alcohol. That's the way it was for years before you guys managed to get the loosed conceal carry laws passed in so many states. That was common sense.

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