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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Friday, November 16, 2012

Gun laws make a difference

One simply has to peruse the many news reports of gun discharges and/or intentional shootings to understand what is actually happening in America every day rather than what the gun enthusiasts claim is happening. So there are shootings. Shrug. Sigh. We can't do anything about them. Passing gun laws won't change a thing, they claim. So just leave us alone and, I guess, let the shootings continue. We can't change the laws. We can't change the gun culture. Just leave us alone with our guns and let more people have guns because then there will be less crime and we will all be safer. Well, they are wrong. The claims that gun laws don't matter are specious and ludicrous. If gun laws didn't matter, countries that have strict gun laws would have much higher gun death rates. The fact that the U.S. has among the highest gun death rate of most other civilized countries not at war shows exactly why gun laws matter. I refer to this often in my blog posts. Laws against smoking in public places work and they are saving lives. Laws against speeding work and they are saving lives. Laws against certain behaviors in certain places work- "no shirt, no shoes, no service" as one example. No littering laws work to a certain extent. No loitering laws have worked. Laws against rowdy and noisy behavior in neighborhoods work. They make our lives more livable and clean. Laws against jay walking work. They save lives. Laws requiring seat belts and air bags in cars work. They save lives.

Several new studies and reports show how common sense gun laws work and why some gun laws are a bad idea because they actually lead to more deaths. That is obviously an inconvenient fact. David Hemenway, author and researcher, has written this about Stand Your Ground laws:
A new study by economists at Texas A&M University, available through the National Bureau of Economic Research (2012), uses police data and concludes that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with a significant increase in homicides and that these homicides are classified as murders.
Using public health data, economists at Georgia State University also recently (2012) found that passage of a Stand Your Ground law is associated with a significant increase in homicides, and particularly homicides of white males. They conclude that "these findings raise serious doubts against the argument that Stand Your Ground laws make public safer."
Researchers also find striking racial disparities in how Stand Your Ground laws play out once a defendant claims self-defense. John Roman and Mitch Downey of the Urban Institute find that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, twice as many homicides are deemed justified as in non-Stand Your Ground states. In the Stand Your Ground states, when white shooters kill black victims, 34 percent of the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable, while only 3 percent of deaths are ruled justifiable when the shooter is black and the victim is white.
Have Stand Your Ground laws had some beneficial impact by allowing law-abiding citizens to protect themselves? The evidence doesn't show that. The Texas A& M study finds no evidence that Stand Your Ground laws deter crimes: rates of burglary, robbery and aggravated assault are unaffected by the laws. Instead, too often the law is used to protect criminals rather than innocent victims. In a review of the close to 200 Stand Your Ground cases heard in Florida courts since 2005, the Tampa Bay Times finds that most people who raise a Stand Your Ground defense have a criminal arrest record. Indeed, in more than 1/3rd of Florida Stand Your Ground defendants who killed someone have previously been arrested for threatening someone with a gun or illegally carrying a weapon. The law has been used to free gang members, drug dealers fighting with their clients, and perpetrators who shot their victim in the back. Indeed, in most of the Florida Stand Your Ground confrontations, the victim was not committing a crime that led to the confrontation, and was not armed.
The best available research makes Stand Your Ground laws look like a disaster.
A disaster. So, the effect of Stand Your Ground Laws has been, in many cases, to protect criminals from arrest and prosecution in murder cases. And more deaths due to these laws is clearly a case against the laws. Is this what the NRA wants? This is the emerging result of the laws now passed in many states across the country. Gun laws matter. When the NRA and its' minions scream that we should just enforce the laws on the books, which ones are they talking about? Is there any evidence that laws are not being enforced? Or are they getting away with another myth-another lie? The Stand Your Ground laws have been pushed by the NRA and passed under the guise that people would be safer with the laws in place. That notion has been challenged. The laws have protected the wrong people as was predicted by those who opposed them. And they have not done what the proponents claimed they would. What now? If we are all about saving lives and preventing shootings, these laws need to be re-examined.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has new information about state gun laws that show the need to pass better laws in order to reduce and prevent gun injuries and deaths:
State gun laws are critical because our federal gun laws are extremely weak and leave enormous gaps. For example, 40% of all gun sales can be completed without background checks because federal law doesn’t require checks for firearm sales between private parties.3 Unless states step in and adopt their own smart laws, federal gaps like these allow guns to easily flow into the hands of criminals.
Gun laws, however, vary widely from state to state. Some states, like California, have adopted a broad variety of important laws to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands; many others, like Arizona and South Dakota, have adopted few or no good laws.
In our 2012 edition of Gun Laws Matter, we have ranked all fifty states based on 29 policy approaches to regulating firearms and ammunition.
States received points for having smart laws in each policy area, with stronger laws receiving more points. For example, states were awarded points if they have laws that:
Require background checks on all firearm sales;
Prohibit the sale of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines; and
Require law enforcement to evaluate an applicant’s alleged need before issuing a concealed handgun license.
The report ranks states according to the number of gun deaths and also by the existing gun laws in the state. You can click on the map of your own state and find out where it ranks. My state of Minnesota gets a grade of C for gun laws which isn't great but not awful. But Minnesota actually ranked 7th for lowest gun deaths in the country. We are doing some things right but we could do better. There is a lot of good information about state gun laws in this report which show that gun laws do matter in lowering gun death rates. The study concludes with this:
As we found two years ago in the first edition of this publication, states need to adopt strong gun laws because gun laws really do matter. Many of the states with the strongest gun laws also have the lowest gun death rates nationwide. Conversely, many states with the weakest gun laws have the highest gun death rates. While more research is needed to determine the precise relationship between state gun laws and gun death rates, the data supports the common sense conclusion that gun laws are a significant factor in a state’s rate of gun deaths.
Conceal and carry laws are not quite working out as planned either. There have been few cases of people using their concealed or openly carried guns saving lives in public places. Two recent incidents of conceal carry permit holders doing stupid and dangerous things with their guns are proof about why the laws are not working out as the gun rights extremists promised they would. A legal permit holder who carries his gun everywhere made a huge mistake when he walked into an Oklahoma hospital with his loaded gun. Does the Oklahoma conceal and carry law work? Was this man responsible with his gun? Was it used in self defense? The answer is a resounding NO to all three questions. From the article:
A gun went off at a Tulsa hospital where the speeding bullet barely missed flammable medical equipment. 
Tulsa police said a man made a dangerous mistake during a doctor’s appointment at St. John Medical Center. 
Officers responded to a call at the hospital on Monday and learned a patient’s gun fell out of his jacket in the doctor’s room and fired. 
No one was hurt.
"It's clearly a violation and you have to follow the rules,” said Tulsa Police Sergeant Kurt Dodd. 
Signs posted on the doors at St. John Medical Center warn patients they can’t bring a gun into St. John. It’s the hospital’s choice, hospitals are not required to prohibit firearms under the self-defense act. 
"He stated he always carries his gun with him," said Dodd. 
A Derringer, small two-shot pistol with no trigger guard. Officers said when it fell out of the 72-year-old man’s jacket in the doctor’s office the gun went off. 
"It made a big impact on the floor and missed the oxygen tanks," said Dodd. "Extremely dangerous and thank goodness no one was hurt." 
Dodd said the man didn't say why he brought the gun into the hospital. 
"I can't think of many reasons people bring guns into a hospital,” said Dodd. 
Instead, police said gun owners should leave it at home or in their car. 
Gun safes are less than $200 at Tulsa Firearms. 
"You can program in your own code,” said Tulsa Firearms, Curtis Leos. 
You can bolt the gun safes under your seat in your car. 
Indeed. Why was the man carrying his gun into a hospital where the signs clearly say he can't? Because he thinks he needs a gun everywhere he goes. Couldn't he have left it in his car? Couldn't he have left it home? Guns are just not needed in hospitals and not wanted for very good reasons. As more and more people are convinced by the NRA and its' minions that there is a need to carry a gun everywhere in public, these cases will continue to show up in your local media. In this case, the man was lucky the bullet discharged from his gun didn't set off an explosion in the hospital. Such irresponsible and bizarre behavior cannot be excused by the gun lobby as just a careless gun owner. How many careless gun owners make a problem big enough to do something? These are preventable incidents. How? By not allowing so many people to carry so many guns into so many public places. But the NRA has convinced law makers in 49 states that carrying guns everywhere is a fine idea. How did they do that? - intense pressure by the gun lobby making law makers fearful of what would happen if they dared to speak out against it.

In Colorado, the Supreme Court recently struck down a law allowing college campuses to ban guns on their campuses. But then a staff person accidentally discharged her weapon on a Colorado college campus injuring two people:
The gun went off in the office of a staff member of the School of Dental Medicine, said CU spokesman Dan Meyers.
Meyers said the gun belonged to a staff member who has a concealed- carry permit. The staffer and another person in the office were injured. Neither person was hospitalized.
The staff member is on administrative leave, Meyers said.
It was not clear if the other person in the office was a student or another staff member.
While this is the first injury at the school resulting from a concealed-carry weapon incident, the college has dealt with the matter previously.
In March, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld an appeals-court ruling that struck down CU's gun ban. The court said the Board of Regents overstepped its authority by refusing to allow permitted concealed weapons on campuses, in leased buildings and in any area under the control of university police.
In August, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs amended student-housing contracts, segregating students who possess a valid concealed-carry permit.
University officials said both campuses will establish a residential area for students over the age of 21 with a permit. In all other dormitories, guns will be banned under the new policy.
Those with a permit may still live in dorms on both campuses but may not have weapons in possession while in those general living quarters, officials said.
Will something now change or will Colorado have to wait until more law abiding permit holders do stupid and dangerous things with their guns? We shouldn't have to ask the question. If these two incidents are not enough for you, please read the Ohh Shoot blog for many more incidents of law abiding gun owners discharging weapons accidentally in public or at home. It is not pretty and it's all taken from actual media accounts. Facts matter.

The public has been fooled by the NRA and its' minions. As I have written in my latest few posts, the NRA lost big in the 2012 election. Media Matters writes about the denial of the NRA in the aftermath of the elections and the blame of the media sources who have called them out with the truth. The favorite tactic of the gun rights extremists is to demean it's critics and call them names. It's not working.  In a post on the NRA-ILA website, journalists who wrote about the NRA losses in this election were named "dim journalists." Name calling is meant to deflect from the truth. But the truth hurts this time around and it's going to be difficult for the NRA to justify the results of its' failed efforts. From the Media Matters linked article above:
As an attempt to continue projecting itself as an organization that can determine the outcomes of elections, the NRA is now touting the success of three state ballot initiatives preventing states from banning hunting as evidence that money given to the NRA was well spent.
But the hunting ballot initiatives -- which were not even opposed by NRA nemesis the Humane Society -- are not what the 2012 elections were about for the NRA. In 2011, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced an "All In" campaign to remove President Obama from the White House that compared a potential Obama second term to a 2004 tsunami that killed over 250,000 people in South Asia.
LaPierre explicitly stated the NRA's desired outcome for the 2012 elections: "Either we defeat Barack Obama ... or we lose this election and lose it all.
So now what? Will NRA members hold their leadership responsible for their abysmal failure in the 2012 elections? We can hope for some common sense. We already know that many NRA members disagree with their own organization regarding gun laws. If NRA members realize that the organization's leadership is lying to them about their effectiveness in election spending the organization may just become another group of people with a cause but no money or power. That would be scary to a lot of folks and most especially to the gun industry which benefits from the NRA's hysteria and paranoia every time a Democrat is elected President. Actually, perhaps the NRA wanted President Obama to win because the gun industry has benefited already. From the article:
Owners of guns have been stocking up because they are concerned about a potential tightening of regulations on assault weapons in the president's second term.
In October the number of background checks on people applying to buy guns, an indicator of future sales, increased by 18.4 per cent.
There was a similar jump when President Obama was first elected in 2008. A total of 12.7 million background checks were carried out that year, up from 11.2 million the year before, and the number has been rising since then.
Shares in weapons manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger also surged after Mr Obama's re-election.
The gun control debate in America was re-ignited by the July 20 massacre at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, in which suspect James Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 during a screening of Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises." He used a semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round magazine. (...) 
Mel Bernstein, owner of Dragonman Arms in Colorado Springs, told KOAA-TV that sales of semi-automatic weapons had boomed in recent days.
He said: "We're going from normally six to eight guns a day, to 25. I stocked up, I got a stockpile of these AK-47s, we're selling these like hot cakes. Luckily I had an idea of what was going on because it happened with Clinton."
Mr Bernstein said he normally orders up to 7,000 rounds a week from distributors but could now only get hold of 3,000 because of demand.
John Kielbasa, owner of Fernwood Firearms in Hankins, New York, told CNN: "Sales are up. I had a guy waiting here first thing in the morning (the day after the election.) He came in, bought two AK-47s. It's going to be good for me for business."
Why? Why do people need to stockpile AK 47s if their guns are meant for self defense in their homes? What in the world are these folks afraid of? We are talking about weapons of war. What are they planning? What do the gun rights extremists believe is going to happen to them? This is just plain nuts. The last Republican President, George W. Bush proclaimed his support for renewing the Assault Weapons Ban but let it lapse, allowing for the gun industry to go back to legally selling the previously banned guns. I'm sure he was under intense pressure from the NRA. They won that one. Lives have been lost as a result. Most Americans believe that assault type weapons are just not needed in their homes or on the streets. Of course not. There is no need for them. But the NRA has convinced themselves and their members that there is. Why are these gun owners so gullible, as President Carter says in the linked article above? They believe in the myths. It's time to change the hype and myth surrounding the NRA. Facts matter. Gun laws matter. As a country we are better than this. Let's get busy and make common sense changes in order to prevent senseless shootings.

UPDATE:

Tell me again why we should have just about anyone buying assault weapons and high capacity magazines? The nation has avoided another terrible tragic theater shooting because a Missouri mom reported her own son. From the article:
His mother contacted authorities Thursday, saying she worried that with this weekend's opening of the final film in the popular Vampire movie series, her son "may have intentions of shooting people at the movie," police wrote in the probable cause statement.
She said she thought the weapons — two assault rifles and hundreds of bullets — resembled those used by a gunman who opened fire inside a theater in Aurora, Colo., during the latest Batman movie in July. That attack killed 12 people.
Lammers was questioned Thursday afternoon and told authorities he bought tickets to a Sunday "Twilight" screening in Bolivar and planned to shoot people inside the theater. The town of roughly 10,000 people is about 130 miles southeast of Kansas City.
According to the probable cause statement, Lammers also planned to "just start shooting people at random" at a Walmart store less than a mile away. He said he'd purchased two assault rifles and 400 rounds of ammunition, and if he ran out of bullets, he would "just break the glass where the ammunition is being stored and get some more and keep shooting until police arrived," investigators wrote.
Lammers stated he wanted to stab a Walmart employee to death and followed an employee around a Walmart store before officers got involved in 2009, according to police.
When asked about recent shootings in the news, Lammers told police "he had a lot in common with the people that have been involved in those shootings," the probable cause statement said. Investigators also wrote that Lammers said he "was quiet, kind of a loner, had recently purchased firearms and didn't tell anybody about it, and had homicidal thoughts."
Police said Lammers bought one firearm Monday and another Tuesday. He then went to the Missouri town of Aldrich to practice shooting because he "had never shot a gun before and wanted to make sure he knew how they shot and how they functioned," the probable cause statement said.
Hamilton said it appeared that Lammers obtained the firearms legally but that police were continuing to investigate "to determine how in fact he was able to obtain a permit."
Gun laws matter.

15 comments:

  1. "Using public health data, economists at Georgia State University also recently (2012) found that passage of a Stand Your Ground law is associated with a significant increase in homicides, and particularly homicides of white males"

    The first full year of "Stand Your Ground" in Florida was in 2006. The FBI's Uniform Crime Report shows that between 2006 and 2011, the numbers of murders dropped from 1129 to 984. During the same period, violent crime went from 128,795 to 98,199.
    Floride has formed a task force to determine what if any changes should be made to their law. Then it will be up to their state legislature.
    What about laws that dont work? For example, our immigration laws arent working, or at least not being enforced. In fact several states have passed laws restricting their law enforcement officials from enforcing them.
    And just a few weeks ago, two states have decriminalized marijuana laws. Again, conflicting with federal law. That is going to be interesting.

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    1. Yes, and Florida- instead of forming an honest task force - put ONLY pro-shoot first law proponents on that task force.

      It is absolutely useless, not even half-way decent political theater.

      Florida republican officials are apparently neither honest nor do they act in good faith --- but then the way they intentionally screw up elections is just one more example.

      I look forward to them losing some of their rights to make those decisions.

      And I believe you are wrong about your statistics. There is a great deal of conflicting opinion over what were homicides, and what were murders in those shoot first killings.

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    2. Dog gone,

      Violent crimes committed by firearms continued to drop from 25,184 in 2010 to 24,737 in 2011. The number of justifiable homicides increased in 2011. Seventy felons were killed by police officers, compared to 56 in 2010. The number of felons killed by private citizens increased to 48, compared to 40 in 2010.

      http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/Content/News/April-2012/FDLE-announces-lowest-crime-rate-in-41-years.aspx

      The study that Japete included in her posting suggests that justifiable homicides are under reported, therefor wouldn't that cause the murder rate to be higher?

      The major disadvantage of these data is that they are widely believed to be underreported; Kleck (1988) estimates that around one-fifth of legally justified homicides are reported that way to the FBI

      http://www.nber.org/papers/w18134.pdf?new_window=1

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    3. Again, we are talking apples and oranges. I am not writing about crime rates on this blog. I am concerned about gun deaths and injuries which become crimes once the gun is shot if it is a homicide. I am not talking about burglaries, rapes, and other crimes. The studies I linked to show an increase in homicides in stand your ground states. How do you explain that? Kleck and others like him have always been convinced that self defense shootings are under reported. There are also specious claims about a million self defense uses of guns with absolutely no empirical evidence. The fact that the number of felons killed by citizens went up confirms what the report I linked to said actually. Are you happy that more felons were killed by the way? Felons certainly deserve to be punished for crimes committed but not all deserve to be killed for their crimes. We don't know what the crimes were which would be interesting information. And by your comment and the fact that you quote Kleck, I assume you think it's a good thing that more gun owners have been killing "felons" . What about George Zimmerman? I assume you think he was justified in killing a teen-ager who was not a felon or committing a crime. Where does that shooting fall into your point of view?

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    4. Japete,

      I quoted Kleck because he was mentioned in the study you were using in your post, and by my thinking if the homicide isn't ruled as justified, then it would be listed as a criminal homicide and be added into that number which would reduce the perception of the effectiveness of the stand your ground laws.
      The portion of the report you included in your post suggested that it had no effect as a deterrent to other crime, so I felt that the statistic documenting the drop in violent crime was germain.
      Keep in mind that felons killed by police officers rose at a higher rate that the rate of increase of killings of felons by private citizens. I wish I could find some numbers about documented stand your ground cases that didn't involve a death. No one seems interested in that though I think it would provide more data.
      The goal of defensive firearm use is to stop, not to kill. Felons make a choice to commit their respective offenses. They decide to initiate force against someone else. I have a hard time feeling much sympathy for someone who uses force against another and that person actually defends themselves and the felon comes out the loser. They already have to contend with the mean police, and now the victim might fight back? Perhaps they should pick another line of work.
      What do I think about the Travon Martin killing? I don't really know what happened there. Tat shooting isn't being looked at as a stand your ground defense. Mr. Zimmerman's attorney is taking it to trial where he will be judged by a jury of his peers under standard justifiable homicide laws.
      I think the truth likely falls somewhere in between the rhetoric thrown about on both sides. I imagine we'll find out sometime next year after the trial.

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    5. Enough Mark. This conversation is getting to be a petty back and forth about how many people are being killed by guns and who killed them. There is a glaring fact here. TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE SHOT TO DEATH IN THE US every year. That is my point. We need to do something about it. Arguing over this crap is stupid. I'm done with it. Go do your guard thing and leave the blog alone for the week-end. You have forgotten one large and glaring fact- most shootings are not committed by felons. They are people who are have a domestic dispute, they are mentally ill, they are someone angry with the victim and they shoot. They become felons in a matter of seconds once the trigger has been pulled. Just look at the mass shootings. Almost all were committed by people with no prior felony record. So what's that all about? You guys can never explain that one away, try as you might, and it appears to me that you are trying to do that with your comments here. The gun guys don't want to deal with that inconvenient fact. And don't start sending me articles that try to show otherwise. I have had that discussion on this blog. The facts speak for themselves.

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  2. You said "The last Republican President, George W. Bush proclaimed his support for renewing the Assault Weapons Ban but let it lapse, allowing for the gun industry to go back to legally selling the previously banned guns. I'm sure he was under intense pressure from the NRA. They won that one."

    How exactly was he supposed to sign a bill that was never placed on his desk?

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    1. As you know, Congress was under the same pressure. The President knew that so he was lucky not to have to make a decision about signing such a bill. We can all be pretty sure how that would have turned out. Republican presidents used to be able to be in favor of gun control. Not any more. Sad.

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    2. He could have put forward an executive order, he could have done more to lobby congress for that bill.

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  3. Send me a link to your source. The task force studying the Florida law so any conclusions may be biased.

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    1. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-stand-your-ground-task-force-recommendations-20121113,0,839803.story

      The task force was ordered by the Governor as a response to the Zimmerman/Martin shooting.

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  4. Mark- I couldn't get your latest comment to publish. You sent an article about the task force. I meant to your statistics. I need to see that link.

    But here is another article about the task force- http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/13/3095729/stand-your-ground-task-force-has.html

    Check it out. Not much happened. The task force members were stacked in favor of the law.

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    1. Sorry- now the comment finally published. I am well aware of the task force. That is what I linked to in my post.

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  5. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-5. This is for 2011.

    http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/data/table_05.html. And this is the data for 2006. Sorry for the delay, was driving down for my reserve drill this weekend.

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    1. This report does not separate out gun homicides. It is not the same comparison.

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