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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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Some questions for Wayne LaPierre

When Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, broke the silence of the organization and rattled on in his press appearance last week, he blamed everything but guns for the daily carnage in America. He blamed the lack of armed teachers and/or security guards in our schools among other lame excuses for weekly mass shootings. There are so many problems with that idea that it's hard to know where to begin. But here are just a few of the folks and organizations who have come out against that idea:
Mr. LaPierre, what makes you think you know more about school safety than those who are the closest to our children, our teachers and our schools? Why should we not listen to their collective voices which represent many more millions of people than the NRA's claimed "4 million members"? And who else does the NRA really represent? Follow the money for the answer to that question which LaPierre won't answer. It's a national travesty that the gun industry profits after high profile mass shootings and any discussion of restricting guns is "forbidden" in the wake of shootings like the Newtown school shooting. Considering this, does industry profit trump public safety? It's time for a change and it sounds like the NRA is not interested in coming to the table if it can't get its' way. That was the tone when Wayne LaPierre tried to answer questions posed to him on Meet The Press on Sunday. Here is a video clip from the linked article above in case you missed the lies and obfuscation of the NRA's LaPierre:


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Bullying elected leaders and the American public is not the way this is going to work. We've had enough of that behavior.

There are many problems with arming our schools. This article points out why that idea would likely not stop a shooter but only minimize the damage:
Bill Bond is one of the few who knows the school shooter scenario firsthand. He was the principal at Heath High School in Paducah, Ky., in 1997, when a 14-year-old opened fire on a student prayer group. Bond came out of his office to confront the gunman face-to-face. He said he has no doubts about how that day would have ended if he had done what Gohmert suggests.
The shooter "stood against a wall and shot eight kids and three of them died. That took 12 seconds. It is fast," said Bond, who is now the specialist for school safety for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. If he had been running toward the shooter with a weapon in his hands, he believes, he would have been shot. "I was able to take the gun from him, but I believe if I had been armed, I would have been dead."
When a former student killed seven people at a high school in Red Lake, Minn., in 2005, Bond noted, the first target he went for was the unarmed school security guard. And against a gunman with an arsenal like Lanza's, Bond said, even a police officer with a handgun would have had little chance.
Many police officers, on the other hand, claim that while they might not be able to stop a determined shooter's first bullet, they can minimize the scope of a tragedy. Their claims may be supported by the fact that Adam Lanza apparently killed himself, ending his rampage at Sandy Hook, only when he heard police were getting close to the school.
"You may not be able to stop the first [shot]," said Kevin Quinn, a school police officer who is president of the National Association of School Resource Officers. "Even in my own school, where I'm sitting in my office 50 feet from the first door, if someone broke in the front door and fired one shot, I can't stop it."
What cops can do though, he argued, is "attempt to minimize the damages, minimize the casualties ... every second could mean several lives." (...) 
To stop determined shooters from killing children anywhere, Dodge said, "we'd have to put fences up around our school parking lots, and we'd probably have to do the same around shopping malls and parks and everywhere kids go."
That is not necessarily a bad idea, said Quinn of the school police officers' association, who suggested there should be more police everywhere children congregate. "The way things are going now, it sure as heck couldn't hurt," he said.
But Dodge argued for a different path -- one that looks at school safety as a consequence of the larger problems with violence in America. "Isn't it more straightforward to just get rid of the guns?"
Yes. Let's look at the real problem. It's the guns. America has the most guns of developed countries in the world ( about 300 million) so why don't we have the fewest gun deaths, Mr. LaPierre? I have been seeing a lot of posters going around on Facebook since the Newtown school shooting. These are meant to show how ridiculous it is to put more guns into our public places as a way to prevent gun violence. For example, when trying to prevent drunk driving, we have not suggested that people should drink and drive more. Or to stop health problems and potential death from smoking, no one suggests that people should smoke more. Prevention is the answer. And then there's the cost. But who thinks or cares about how much it would cost to arm our schools? If guns are concerned, anything goes. After all, if we spend money to arm our schools, then we create a new market for guns and send our teachers, principals and "volunteer shooters" to the gun stores to get their guns for the job. Here is a great article about the cost, just in the state of Minnesota, to arm teachers:
Putting an armed guard in every Minnesota school would require the hiring of hundreds of police or security guards and could cost in the neighborhood of $138 million.
"The cost would be just astronomical," said Scott Croonquist, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, who senses that opposition to the NRA's proposal from his 43 Twin Cities area districts goes beyond the cost factor.
"They don't feel the answer would be to bring more guns into the schools," he said.
A few districts already station armed police in schools. But those officers spend little of their time standing in the schoolhouse door to block intruders.
That's a very small part of it," said Lt. Andy Smith, head of the Minneapolis juvenile unit. "It's such a much more complex job than being armed security."
Minneapolis schools spend close to $900,000 annually to station 16 officers in schools, along with the cost of a supervisor and school patrol officer. That's just part of the tab. The Police Department underwrites the cost of cars, radios and summer salaries. St. Paul has a similar but smaller program.
School groups contacted on Monday said they lack hard information about the number of schools currently with armed protection. It's more common in the metro area and in secondary schools, said Gary Amoroso, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. He said he'd rather see conversations on addressing gun control and mental health issues.
For officer Mike Kirchen at Lucy Laney at Cleveland Park Community School, his day is likely to start with a high five or fist bump with North Side students as they stream off the bus. It's part of what he sees as his main job -- developing a relationship with the kindergarten through eighth-grade students.
"Our No. 1 job in schools is to connect with kids on a personal level," Kirchen said. Sometimes students pull him aside to talk about things that happened while they were out of school. One example was a seventh-grader who wanted to talk about police officers shooting his neighbor's dog, something Kirchen said he was able to talk through with the student.
Well, LaPierre, where does the money come from? Everyone knows that states are strapped for money in these difficult economic times. How much would it cost the taxpayers to prevent shooters from getting guns in the first place? The cost to taxpayers for universal background checks would be zero since the buyers would have to pay for the background checks. Locking loaded guns up at home would cost the taxpayers nothing. It does, and has, cost money to make schools more secure by having only one unlocked entrance leading to the office where visitors must sign in. But the Newtown shooter shot through a window to get in. He got his guns at home where his mother had lots of them and he knew where they were. It's the guns.

But I digress. I don't even know if the above cost for arming schools includes all pre-schools, private schools and colleges. I don't know if it includes more than one armed person per school. I mean, really folks, let's think this through. How many doors are there in an average college or university? How many buildings does an average university have? Should we have an armed person in each building and at every door to stop someone from entering? Or should we spend the money to put in metal detectors at every door? I'm sure students would think that was a great idea. Late for class? You'll be even later because now you will have to go through security at every door you enter. Good idea, right?

And then, LaPierre blamed, among other things, violent video games for the gun violence in our countries. First of all, kids and adults play violent video games all around the globe. It's only in the U.S. that the shootings occur. That's a bogus argument from the get-go. But I'll bet LaPierre didn't count on a reporter for the New York Times researching whether there is a link between the makers of the violent games and the makers of the real guns. From the article:
The video game industry was drawn into the national debate about gun violence last week when the National Rifle Association accused producers of violent games and movies of helping to incite the type of mass shooting that recently left 20 children and six adults dead at a school in Newtown, Conn.
While studies have found no connection between video games and gun violence, the case of Medal of Honor Warfighter illustrates how the firearms and video game industries have quietly forged a mutually beneficial marketing relationship.
Many of the same producers of firearms and related equipment are also financial backers of the N.R.A. McMillan, for example, is a corporate donor to the group, and Magpul recently joined forces with it in a product giveaway featured on Facebook. The gun group also lists Glock, Browning and Remington as corporate sponsors.
Makers of firearms and related gear have come to see video games as a way to promote their brands to millions of potential customers, marketing experts said. Magpul and Electronic Arts made a video posted on YouTube about their partnership.
“It is going to help brand perceptions,” said Stacy Jones, the president of Hollywood Branded, a company that specializes in product placement in movies and television shows.
Follow the money. So then let's actually do something about violent video games. Let's stop them from using real life images of real guns so potential gunmen amongst the millions of players of the games don't get practice to use the real gun. Let's stop the game companies from linking to the real guns so kids and young adults playing the games don't see how easy it is to buy the real thing or get their hands on the real thing so they can be the next shooter of young children at a school. Or would that cut down on sales of actual guns that might stop the next shooter from shooting up a school? I'm just asking and I'm asking you, Wayne LaPierre. Is that what you meant when you talked about the link between video games and shootings?

And is it really true that since Israel arms guards in their schools, and it works so well, why don't we do the same? Is it true that the reason they have armed guards is to protect children from crazed gunmen? Here's an article about why and how it works in Israel:
Israel’s policy on issuing guns is restrictive, and armed guards at its schools are meant to stop terrorists, not crazed or disgruntled gunmen, experts said Monday, rejecting claims by America’s top gun lobby that Israel serves as proof for its philosophy that the U.S. needs more weapons, not fewer.
Far from the image of a heavily armed population where ordinary people have their own arsenals to repel attackers, Israel allows its people to acquire firearms only if they can prove their professions or places of residence put them in danger. The country relies on its security services, not armed citizens, to prevent terror attacks.
Though military service in Israel is compulsory, routine familiarity with weapons does not carry over into civilian life. Israel has far fewer private weapons per capita than the U.S., and while there have been gangster shootouts on the streets from time to time, gun rampages outside the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are unheard of.
Oops. I guess LaPierre "stretched the truth" yet again. It turns out the Israel's gun laws are quite strict compared to ours. Why is that not a surprise? Will LaPierre and others continue to get away with their lies to stop any reasonable measures to prevent gun injuries and deaths in America where we actually live? The fact checking has begun and the media is now providing the public with the facts. The facts are not pretty and don't fit with the NRA's version of America. Are you reading the facts, Congress? Are you listening to the truth at long last?

But I digress again. Instead of arming every school and stopping kids from playing video games, would a better idea be to restrict access to the guns in the first place? Why is that not the most common sense answer to the question of how and when the next shooter will perpetrate a horrendous act of mass terror in our country? Why, Mr. LaPierre, is that not the answer? Why do you insist that restricting the sale of, the requirements to purchase of and the manufacture of some types of weapons not the answer? You will have to answer those questions if you are to maintain the mythical power and control you have seized. America needs the answers to these questions. American children and their parents deserve the answers to these questions. We are better than the proposals that you have suggested so far. What a disservice to the lost lives of so many Americans that your only answer to the problem of too many senseless shootings of children is more guns. Where is common sense?

UPDATE:

I need to add another group in favor of reasonable gun laws, including banning assault weapons- Emergency Room Physicians:
“Emergency physicians see the tragic consequences of gun violence every day,” said Dr. Andy Sama, president of ACEP.  “Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and to everyone affected by this terrible event in Newtown. We deplore the improper use of firearms and support legislative action to decrease the threat to public safety resulting from the widespread availability of assault weapons.  We also are urging policymakers to restore dedicated funding for firearms injury prevention research.”

ACEP’s policy on firearm injury prevention endorses limiting the availability of firearms to those “whose ability to responsibly handle a weapon is assured.”  It also calls for aggressive action to enforce current laws against illegal possession, purchase, sale or use of firearms.

“The nation’s emergency physicians call for increased funding for the development, evaluation and implementation of evidence-based programs and policies to reduce firearm related injury and death,” said Dr. Sama. “We will fully support legislation that supports the principles of ACEP’s policy on firearms injury prevention.”

The lack of mental health resources in the United States has contributed to a significant increase in vists to the emergency department. Psychiatric emergencies grew by 131 percent between 2000 and 2007, according to a recent study in Annals of Emergency Medicine. This is symptomatic of the lack of resources for these patients.  


13 comments:

  1. "Oops. I guess LaPierre "stretched the truth" yet again."

    Japete, as we've discussed before, both sides stretch the truth and play with statistics to achieve their goals.

    As was discussed in another article from the Minneapolis Red Star, Minnesota does allow selected permit holders to possess firearms in schools, and was noted in the article, some schools have allowed that.
    http://www.startribune.com/local/184205071.html

    Israel does have a Civil Guard, an equivilant of local police reserves who's membership allows citizens to own handguns and issues them an assault weapon while on duty. In 2004, there were about 70,000 members out of a population of just under eight million in an area about the size of the New York metro area.
    Perhaps this would be an example of volunteer school security that has been suggested since the civil guard does serve as security in schools and other facilities.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Guard_(Israel)

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    1. And I should have expected you to be the first to challenge every point made in my blog post. We will not be having volunteer school security guards in our schools, Mark. That is a ludicrous idea for so many reasons. We live in America, not Israel. We have our own terror attacks in the form of ordinary citizens with guns shooting at our kids in schools. You missed the point about Israel and guns. Where have I stretched the truth in this post?

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    2. My apologies Japete, I wasnt referring to your post, but on the larger organizations, be they the gun industry, or the gun control industry.
      You were using Israel as an example of restrictive gun laws, and I was showing that they also use volunteers to staff armed security in their schools. If someone enters a school with the intent to harm children, it doesnt matter what their motive is, be they palastinian terrorists or a mentally disturbed person.
      I would also argue that anyone who shoots at children be they at school or elsewhere cant really be considered an ordinary citizen.

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    3. Dear Mark- number of public K-12 schools in the U.S.= almost 140,000 (http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84)

      Number of public schools in Israel= probably less than 100 but hard to get that info. this site lists most of the schools and I counted 69 - http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/bibisrael1.html

      Who will be the "volunteer" guards? About 2% of Americans have permits to carry guns. Many of them likely have full time jobs. So where do we get all of these hundreds of thousands of volunteers?

      But let's not let reality and facts get in the way when we are talking ideas coming from the gun lobby.

      Any ideas, Mark?

      Also, the organizations on the side of gun violence prevention have done some great research based on facts. You will not find an organization to which I link that does not do research and use facts on which to base their positions. In addition, research institutes such as Harvard, UC Davis and many others are doing research. Unfortunately, the NRA has made sure to squelch research and facts by cutting funding for the CDC and other government organizations that might shed some light on much needed statistics. The NRA doesn't like facts because they interfere with their lies.

      I would remind you that many of the mass shooters were "law abiding" citizens and law abiding gun owners because they weren't prohibited purchasers on the FBI's NICS system. We only found out later that they were mentally ill and should have been on the list or that they were a felon and shouldn't have had guns. The NRA has made sure that there is easy access to guns for these folks.

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    4. Japete,
      K-12 school population of Israel is just over one million, while Minnesota's school population seems to be about 842,000. And Minnesota has about 2,637 public schools. I'm betting that the number of schools in Israel are somewhere in the area of ours.
      Also keep in mind that any legislative "cures" in the form of another assault weapons ban would have no effect for a long time. The 1994 AWB was in force for ten years and there was no reliable quantitative improvement shown which is likely why the law wasnt renewed in 2004.
      You have used the VPC as a data source for your posts in the past and they cherrypick statistics as much as any other group that pushes their own agenda. That is why I try to avoid using data from sources on either side of the debate.
      We have also talked about the fact that some states dont seem to share data regarding adjudicated mentally ill persons with the NICS system. There are several things that could be done to improve the NICS system that would be much easier to implement and have a more immediate effect.
      I also have an issue with Minnesota allowing some felons to retain their right to vote and possess firearms. That is something else we disagree on.

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    5. You will have to provide me with proof of any cherry picking, Mark. We've gone around about this one before. You can't just say that without proof. Do you think that link I provided was not right about the Israeli school numbers? Find me something to show differently. An AWB needs more teeth. That was the problem with the last one- too may loopholes in order to get the gun guys to sign on. Felons are not supposed to possess guns in Minnesota but the NYTimes article showed that some are getting their rights back and shouldn't. Voting doesn't kill anyone. And that's a fact.

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    6. Japete,

      My source for the number of enrolled students in Israel is here:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Israel
      If your number of schools in Israel is correct, using one million k-12 students, that would put the population of each school at 14,492. I got my numbers regarding Minnesota schools here:
      http://minnesota.educationbug.org/public-schools/

      As for cherrypicking the Violence Policy Center doesnt list Washington DC in it's list of gun violence statistics, yet uses it in an article about how traffic deaths are less than gun deaths in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
      http://www.vpc.org/press/1210dmv.htm
      http://www.vpc.org/fadeathchart11.htm
      Even the FBI lists DC in it's charts by state:
      http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-20

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    7. Just a point of clarification- there is no use arguing over the number of schools in Israel vs. Minnesota. What's the point again, Mark? The numbers still are vastly different for your purpose of wanting volunteers in every school. But I will add another little detail. One can only put up buildings in certain areas where building is possible. Think of the militarized areas of Israel and the square miles in area. Israel has about 20,000 or a little more square miles on which to build schools. It is about the size of the state of New Jersey. http://geography.about.com/library/cia/blcisrael.htm

      Minnesota has more than 85,000 square miles on which to build schools and other buildings except on lakes which cover a good bit of area. But then there are bodies of water in Israel as well. So let's compare apples to apples. And I'm done having this ridiculous argument. It is distracting from the points I am making. The NRA knows that and distracts as much as possible to deflect any attention away from the real problem- too many guns and too weak gun laws.

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  2. You are wasting your time and mine, Mark. The one VPC article is comparing STATE gun laws and deaths. DC is not a state. The other does include DC in its' analysis. What's your point? That's a pretty silly thing to pick out and not something major at all. Find something else. But don't find it tonight. I'm done with your silly arguments. Have a nice evening and don't be checking too many websites for more useless facts.

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  3. Howdy Japete,

    I just ran across this article that speaks to the challenges to get states to report those adjudicated with mental health issues to the FBI for entry into NICS.

    "where Virginia shares files of about 180,000 people and 19 other states have shared less than 100 names each; meanwhile another 19 states have policies allowing someone who has been found to be mentally ill in court to get a gun."

    The good news is that Minnesota is not one of the 19, though it is frustrating that they dont list them.

    http://www.salon.com/2012/12/26/most_states_ignore_mental_illness_background_checks_for_gun_buys/

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    1. What's your point, Mark? I know this information and have put it on this blog. Minnesota does not do very well reporting the names though a law was passed to do so.

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    2. The last time we discussed this issue you had assured me that there was a law in place. This article notes an improvement in Minnesota's compliance, though not to the degree of Virginia.

      "Eight states—Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon—all “more than doubled their numbers of mental health records” in the national database between October 2011 and October 2012,"

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    3. Mark- there is a law in place. As usual, the NRA minions supported it because they had to but they didn't provide adequate funding or resources to get it done. In Minnesota, it took a while to figure out which agency would be responsible and who was going to turn in the names. The number of names sent in are not nearly enough in almost every state.

      Do you have to try to catch me on every little detail? It is very annoying. People are dying out there. Arguing about these picky things is a waste of time and a diversion. If you have a useful comment that isn't accusing me of something, please send it in. Otherwise, you would be wise to keep quiet. At some point you may have to admit that I am right about the things I include in my blogs. I research things and provide links. But that is never enough for you. Have a nice night, Mark.

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