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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In memory- what has changed?

Today we are reminded of the horror of this day 11 years ago when terrorists changed our country. We remember the victims. There were 2,996 victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001. Following the attacks, our country sent American military troops into Afghanistan and Iraq. To date, 6,280 Americans have died in those two wars. If you check this website, linked, above, you can see the total Americans killed in wars since the Revolutionary War. We remember them all in different ways in different times and at memorials in different places in our country. That is as it should be.

What has changed? Well, for one, Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the terror attacks of 2001 was killed in a covert action on May 2, 2011. That was a big deal. Justice can never really be done but it lent some closure to the victims of the terror attacks. We now have much stricter security at airports, ports, just about everywhere actually. Americans have grown used to taking their shoes off at airport screening and placing their belongings in bins so they can be x-rayed. We have a department of Homeland Security now. That's new. The twin towers are gone and have been replaced with a new tower in Manhattan. The Pentagon has a new wing. Cars can't drive near the White House or most of the major buildings in the nation's capitol.

Terrorists are diminished around the world but still are active in attempts to do harm to Americans or others all around the world. We are always on the alert and vigilante. There is a terror watch list which keeps track of people who are known terrorists but is controversial because of the names of people placed on the list in error. This helpful article explains how you get on the list and how to get off if your name is there in error. People on this list can purchase guns even thought most should not. It is known when they buy guns but they are not prohibited from buying guns. If we passed a law to place these names on the FBI's National Instant Check System, the people whose names are on the list could not buy guns legally from federally licensed firearms dealers. Seems like common sense to me. From the article:
The working group is led by Ruben Gallego and Jackie Rodgers, both veterans and gun owners. Gallego, a former Marine infantryman and now a Democratic member of the Arizona legislature, argued that closing the gap was a smart move. "You wouldn't allow a known terrorist to get an airplane," he said. "Why are we are going to allow known terrorists to go pick up weapons?"
Both men said they were motivated by the threat to men and women in uniform, who have been targeted by shooting attacks over the past few years. In addition to shootings at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009, that same year a military recruiting station in Little Rock, Ark., was fired upon. Terrorist suspects also attempted to purchase weapons to attack Fort Dix, N.J., in 2007.
Rodgers, who served in the Army, said that veterans are uniquely placed to understand the issue. "A lot of veterans are gun owners," said Rodgers, who served in the Army. "And if you have veteran gun owners supporting this, they are speaking from both sides, from an understanding of being a gun owner and from an understanding of the potential of terrorism."
A 2011 report by the Government Accounting Office found that from February 2004 to February 2010, "individuals on the terrorist watch list were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,228 times; 1,119 (about 91 percent) of these transactions were allowed to proceed because no prohibiting information was found."
Gallego said that such numbers represent "a clear and present danger."
For years, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) has introduced legislation in Congress to close the watch list loophole without success. "It goes to committee and just sits there," he told the New York Daily News in 2009. "It's been going on for a while."
This "clear and present danger" has been a bugaboo with the NRA who, of course, uses the second amendment to declare that even these folks should not be prohibited from buying guns. The gun rights extremists love to argue this one based on civil rights and gun rights. Some of their concerns are founded and supported by civil liberties groups. I happen to believe that erring on the side of keeping terrorists from legally buying guns is a good idea.

Preventing terrorists or anyone else for that matter, who shouldn't have a gun from getting one is a pretty good idea in my opinion. That is because we also remember that about 30,000 Americans a year die from gun injuries. Simple math tells us this: Since 2001, on average, 330,000 Americans have died from bullets. Of those, about 120,000 ( give or take) were gun homicide victims; the rest due to suicide and accidental shootings. One could argue that we are at war right here in our own country. We have had 4 recent mass shootings, killing multiple people. We have stray bullets flying on our streets, killing innocent children. We have police officers shot at with multiple bullets (15) by a White Supremacist in Wisconsin who also shot up a Sikh temple. We have plenty more of these folks around who have so much hatred, fear and paranoia, that just one slight or one event can spark a deadly outburst.

Here is a blog by New Trajectory whose author has made a time line of crazy conspiracy theories cooked up by gun rights extremists to promote their agenda.  It's worth reading all of these examples. If they weren't so stupid and dangerous, they would be almost laughable. From the blog article:
Fear and paranoia are the stock and trade of the gun industry, at least in the self-defense market.  You wouldn't buy a gun for self-defense unless you had an unhealthy dose of fear to drive the purchase.  Unless you make your livelihood in law enforcement, security, bail bondsman, or some other high-risk job, or are actively being stalked, then chances are that fear is better characterized as paranoia, since the average citizen isn't likely to ever need a gun to protect themselves, and having a gun actually increases your chance of being killed.
If you doubt that last statement, consider the facts.  A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to harm you than to protect you.  And if you carry that gun on the street with you, you are 4.5 times more likely to be killed.
But the gun industry wants you afraid -- very afraid.  Not just of the bad guys, but even of our government.  Be afraid of the stranger on the street, too, and in coffee houses, restaurants, and schools.  You never know what they may be thinking, so you'd better carry a loaded gun with you at all times!  Guilty until proven innocent.
These paranoid ideas can lead to bad things in the name of "defense of the country". The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of home grown terrorist- militia-hate-groups. We have more than enough examples of these individuals and/or groups acting out their hate with guns in our country. From the website linked above:
Currently, there are 1,018 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others.
And their numbers are growing.
Yikes. Seriously. This is nothing to sneeze at. Guns are very available to people like this. That is what we should actually fear. Recently I read this interesting article by a journalist who wanted to know more about the gun culture in the U.S. There is so much in this article that it's difficult to know where to begin. After reading most of the article about how this woman journalist spent time at a gun shop and a gun range and interviewed many gun owners, some of the comments really "hit the mark" about the American gun culture. From the article, there are these paragraphs that outline what some in the gun rights community believe about forming their own army, just in case:
"I guess the most surprising thing is that everyone thinks guns are so normal," I said. I told him it wasn't like that where I come from, not like that at all.
He nodded in consideration, and I wondered if he understood. I offered him a piece of gum, and he took it, and for a while we just chewed and admired the passing mesquite. "Think of just the hunters," he said. "Thirteen million in this country. That's 13 million Americans trained with firearms—the equivalent of the largest army in the world." He flipped his visor down to cut the sky. "Anyone thinking of invading this country has to take that into consideration."
Well, wow. Hunters? Hunters rising up? It took me a moment to conjure the image. I wondered whom Richard imagined an army of guys dressed in orange rising up against. Al Qaeda? The Chinese?
I asked him who. Who?
He shrugged, said it could be anyone, another country, anyone. He said the whole point of guns was personal responsibility: taking care of yourself, your family, your neighborhood, your country. The more people there are with guns, the safer the society. "That's part of what has made this country great," he said. "That we have the freedom to make sure we're safe, that we have the means to protect ourselves, to be ready for the occasional wackos out there."
I hadn't come here to discuss the Second Amendment, but it kept coming up, as pervasive as the constant hot sunshine. People wanted to talk about it, explain it.
"The largest army in the world," Richard said again. "Bigger than China's. And if you think Afghanistan and their populace is well armed, wait till they try to come into this country. It should give you some cause for comfort."
"The largest army in the world" is ready to defend our country in the guise of hunters. Really? This would be interesting, for sure, and likely a total disaster. I thought that's what the National Guard was all about. Or the military. But I digress. The hunters I know have no intention of becoming part of a citizens' army. But then, they are not extremists. They just love to hunt.

So, what has changed? In some ways, September 11, 2001 changed everything. Folks like the man in the article above are ready with their guns to defend our country against Al Qaeda. Did they think like this before the terror attacks? Did people like the Sikh temple shooter fear people who didn't look like them before September 11, 2001? Was there anti Muslim sentiment before September 11, 2001? We did have the Ku Klux Klan. We did have neo-Nazi groups. Fewer states had conceal carry laws before 2001. We had the Assault Weapons Ban until 2005. Now people who have fear and paranoia in their heads own more assault type guns previously banned. Why? What do they fear? The terror attacks were unsettling. I remember that feeling as if it were yesterday. I remember the fear I felt on that day and the anxiety. But the first thing on my mind was not to go out and buy a gun or to organize an army of citizen gun owners to fight the "enemy" at home. But then, I am not a part of the American gun culture. Today I will remember the many victims of violence in our country and hope we can prevent future attacks against Americans and also to prevent future gun injuries and deaths. After September 11, 2001, Americans came together to do something- to change some things- to make us all safer. We can do the same for the prevention of senseless shootings. I know we can because we are better than this.


  1. Fear is everything to the pro-gun movement. Fear of your neighbor. Fear of anyone you don't know. Fear of your government. And these pro-gun fears have definitely been more expressed in recent years.

    Thank you for the link to my timeline of pro-gun conspiracy theories. But the gun guys are afraid of the wrong people. Here are some REAL conspiracies and criminals from among their own militias, which considered themselves "patriotic" too:

    And, let us not forget, all those fearful conceal carry permit holders who, themselves, turned out to be murderers and criminals:

  2. "This "clear and present danger" has been a bugaboo with the NRA who, of course, uses the second amendment to declare that even these folks should not be prohibited from buying guns."

    Not really. In actuality, those who oppose the denial of gun rights (or any rights) to those on the TWL use the 14th Amendment and more specifically, the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to declare that these folks should not be prohibited from exercising ANY COTUS right.

    "I happen to believe that erring on the side of keeping terrorists from legally buying guns is a good idea."

    On this, I agree with you 100%, japete. Should someone on the TWL be charged, tried, and convicted of being a terrorist then by all means, deny them the firearm purchase.

    However, being 'suspected' of terror activity or in many instances, not being suspected of anything and just being unlucky to have a certain name type which gets you on that list is vastly different than being a convicted terrorist.

  3. There is excellent grounds for preventing people on the terrorist watch list from getting guns or explosives. It is because there is something in which they are involved that makes them a danger.

    I suppose you also advocate on 9/11 that we shouldn't let terrorists fly into skyscrapers either, but not until after they have hijacked airplanes?

    Or would you agree that reasonable efforts to prevent those things from happening are desirable? If so, then that should include the sale of firearms, which might have - as just one example - prevented two murders and the accumulation of some $87,000 in firearms and ammo by the militia insurrectionists who chose the acronym of F.E.A.R.? Or the old white flabby and crabby militia nuts in Georgia who were trying to make ricin, and who had collected a significant number of weapons etc.? We should just let them until after they kill others, and then do something about it?

    There ARE appropriate occasions for intervention and interdiction.

    I agree with you that anyone on the watch list should be able to find our if they're on it, find out WHY they are on it, and if they are wrongly on it, have the means in place to get off of it.

    Which we DO have. There are multiple ways to find out if you are on that list, including through a credit check. If you're on it, wrongly, you get off of it by contacting the agency that put you on it. Every agency has personnel specifically to review cases of people inaccurately or misteakenly added to the watch list, and in those cases to correct it.

    It is stupid to err on the side of danger when there have been so many attempts to harm the innocent citizens of this country.

    But I suppose you are all in favor of purging LEGAL eligible VOTERS from the voting rolls because of essentially non-existent 1-in-15 million cases of voting abuse?

    There is something very backward and deficient in the feeble attempts at reasoning by the right; they mistake, utterly, any real threat to elections from voter fraud, but they completely ignore the very real and demonstrable threat from terrorists.

    You are not merely regressive molon labe, you are deficient in your reasoning, and utterly flawed in your notions of comparative risk.

  4. Dear Molon- this is my blog, not yours. There are no unmoderated comments on my blog. I moderate ALL comments and I publish those I want to publish. Your comments are often demeaning, accusatory and just plain ridiculous so they don't get published. You guys would love to take over my blog. You will not. If you don't like it, go somewhere else with your comments.

    1. Japete has not published all of my comments; there were a few she emailed me about in friendly fashion inquiring about some rewording to make a comment conform better to the rules, so that it was clear I was following those same rules just like you have to do.

      The reason my comments are consistently published is that I'm rigorously more factual than you are, and I make good arguments that many of you have difficulty rebutting effectively - as in you don't and can't.

      Your gun culture is increasingly a failure, and increasingly, just a matter of time, we will as a nation and a society and a culture evolve away from it. You simply represent the die hard worship of violence of our social past.

      It is a fact of psychology and to a lesser degree of sociology that there is a last intensification of behavior and belief before extinction of that behavior or belief.

      I think the gun culture is in that last intensified gasp now. It is merely a question of how long a view one takes to see these things transpiring. They don't occur in days or weeks, they occur in years.

    2. Does this look like a failure? This has been occuring over decades, not years, weeks, or days. Guns are everywhere in our culture, far beyond those who own guns. They are in virtually every popular video game. They are in countless TV shows, especially, surprisingly BBC TV shows. If the gun culture were dying, how could shows with excessive gun use like this one, or this one, or this one,, etc. continue to be popular? A common point about these shows and video games is that the demgraphics are tomorrow's generation, not yesterday's. The number of guns being purchased today exceeds every purchase made in previous years.

      I think the gun culture is in that last intensified gasp now... That's your opinion. My opinion is that as long as the population continues to increase without bound and resources become more scarce, like jobs and prisons, people are increasingly going to turn to the gun for protection. Gun use and glorification has been steadily increasing in our culture over decades, not decreasing.

    3. And what's worse, Migo, is that you think this is all good. That is our biggest problem.

    4. And then there is this- http://www.vpc.org/press/1104norc.htm

      " Household gun ownership peaked in 1977, when more than half (54 percent) of American households reported having any guns. By 2010, this number had dropped more than 20 percentage points to 32.3 percent of American households reporting having any guns in the home--the lowest level ever recorded by the GSS. In 2010, fewer than a third of American households reported having a gun in the home.

      Personal gun ownership peaked in 1985, when 30.7 percent of Americans reported personally owning a gun. By 2010, this number had dropped nearly 10 percentage points to 20.8 percent--the lowest level ever recorded by the GSS. In 2010, slightly more than one out of five Americans reported personally owning a gun.

      Male gun ownership peaked in 1990, when 52.4 percent of males reported personally owning a gun. By 2010, this number had dropped more than 19 percentage points to 33.2 percent--the lowest level ever recorded by the GSS. In 2010, only one out of three American males reported personally owning a gun.

      Female gun ownership has fluctuated within a narrow range with no recent signs of increase. Relatively rare, female gun ownership peaked in 1982 at 14.3 percent. In 2010 the female personal gun ownership rate was 9.9 percent. Only one out of 10 American females reported personally owning a gun in 2010."

    5. The closer we get to the election, the more paranoid and fearful the far right extremists are that Obama will be elected and supposedly take away their guns. So they go buy guns. Fewer households own guns but people who own guns own more of them in their arsenals. They are ready to fight a war against their own country. This stuff is scary stuff, Migo. Like Lemmings, they would jump off a cliff if the NRA told them to. Do you support that kind of nonsense?

    6. The fear that causes pro-gun extremists to stockpile guns prior to an election is no different than the fear that causes ant-gun extremists to rush to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds after a mass shooting. Both actions are unfounded in fact and based on belief.

      The real danger lies in what happens to those guns after the fear dissipates. Those excess and unwanted guns are then transferred through private sales without background checks. Others are left forgotten in a closet where they can be stolen or taken by young hands. It would be better for everyone if those guns remained on the shelves of FFL dealers available for purchase by those who truly want and need them, after the NICS check, of course.

      However, for that to work, there has to be a strong belief that those guns will be on the shelves next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. In order for that to happen, the anti-gun proponents need to stop agitating the pro-gun stockpilers. Don't you see what's happening? The two extremes are colliding, much like protons at the LHC, and they're leaving behind a complicated mess.

      The President's message, briefly described here hinted at a reintroduction of the AWB. This message spread faster than all the combined forest fires out here in the west. Just try Googling this and see how many pro-gun sites picked up on it, which of course leads to wild speculation and stockpiling.

      I'm a centrist. I don't support either extreme view. I believe that gun sales would decrease if more people, especially politicians, based their decisions on fact, instead of opinion and belief.

      Finally, I don't believe VPC quoted polls any more than the stuff NRA emails me. It's difficult to know exactly who owns guns because they are not registerd. What is fact is that the number of guns being sold in the US continues to increase, and like the young woman in this article, I don't beleive they're all being stockpiled.