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.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The NRA's clown show

It started with the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting. The NRA went silent for almost a week and then let its' CEO Wayne LaPierre go before the press in a no questions asked press conference to reveal its' ideas for keeping our children safe from shooting massacres. Most were stunned by his performance. And then, LaPierre doubled down on Meet the Press 2 days later making himself look even more clownish and evil. In fact, he said: “If it’s crazy to call for putting police in and securing our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy.” Clowns are known for entertainment. They amuse people mostly. We don't see too many clown shows any more. Some kids and even adults are afraid of clowns. Clowns can actually be evil looking. Right now in America, we are experiencing a resurgance of clowns in the faces of our Congress and state legislators. Some of our leaders are unable to govern. Our country is unable to do the right thing to protect its' children from massacres in schools and to prevent mass shootings in movie theaters, work places, places of worship, shopping malls, etc. This clown show is killing people. It is not funny. Real people are dying in large numbers and Congress is acting like a bunch of clowns, unable to make the right decisions, not only on the gun issue but on our fragile economy. But I digress.

The NRA clown show is reponsible for squelching research and gathering of statistics about gun deaths and gun violence patterns. Why? They don't want us to know about the true nature of gun violence, its' causes, how many people are actually shot, the cost of gun violence and anything else that might burst the myths spouted by the NRA. From the article:
In the 1990s, politicians backed by the NRA attacked researchers for publishing data on firearm research. For good measure, they also went after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for funding the research. According to the NRA, such science is not “legitimate.” To make sure federal agencies got the message, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) sponsored an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget, the exact amount it had spent on firearms research the previous year.
But last summer, Dickey recanted. No longer in office, he wrote an editorial stating that “scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries and that ways to prevent firearm deaths can be found without encroaching on the rights of legitimate gun owners.”
Too little, too late. And further, the writer of the article, Paul Thacker, asked Garen Wintermute, researcher and physician from the University of California, Davis some questions:
Garen Wintemute: The National Institute of Justice had a highly respected program of research in the field, smaller than CDC’s. That program ended several years ago when its program officer, a strong advocate for research on violence, retired. A number of private foundations also provided funding for this research, particularly in the 1990s, but many of them have left the field as well. Today, to my knowledge, there are fewer than five.
And more:
PT: About as many people in the United States are killed in auto accidents as by firearms. How does the amount of research and number of scientists in auto safety compare to firearm safety?GW: I believe that 2012 will turn out to be the first year in which the United States has more deaths from firearm violence than motor vehicles.An entire federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has as its mission the understanding and prevention of death and injury on our roads and highways. It reports fiscal year 2012 funding of $62.4 million overall for research and analysis: $35.5 million for vehicle safety and $26.9 million for highway safety. These funds are well spent. For nearly 50 years, this agency has worked to reduce death and injury. And it has succeeded. (...)PT: Have you experienced personal attempts at intimidation for your research? How about colleagues?GW: I won’t speak for colleagues. The president of one of the largest handgun manufacturers in the country once told me, face to face, how much money he had committed to an intimidation effort and advised me to keep my life insurance paid up. There was a time when federal law enforcement agents recommended that I wear a ballistic vest. There is a wanted poster on the Internet.PT: What does the best research tell us about ways to limit gun violence in this country?GW: It tells us that no one intervention is sufficient, but that an array of measures are effective, in different ways. We can set meaningful restrictions on who should have firearms, particularly when comprehensive background checks are in place. We can limit where and how firearms may be used, and what firearms should be owned by civilians. We can map and disrupt criminal firearm markets.(...)PT: What are some of the biggest gaps between what the research tells us and what the American public believes to be true about guns?GW: Here are 3 important myths:1) Rates of firearm violence are decreasing. In fact, overall mortality from firearm violence has remained absolutely steady for a decade, after decreasing from the early 1990s to about 2001.2) Criminals can’t legally buy guns. Felons and persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors can’t. But others with a long history of misdemeanor crimes such as assault and battery, resisting arrest, and brandishing a weapon can buy all the firearms they want. So can alcohol abusers.3) Nothing can be done because so many guns are in civilian hands. There are a great many firearms in the United States (perhaps 250 million to 300 million), but most of them are not in circulation. Many studies have shown that new guns figure disproportionately in crime, and we know both from research and decades of law enforcement work that effective interventions can be taken, no matter how many guns there are.
This is all part of the NRA clown show. It's a joke. Because of good writing like that in the above article, the side show is on full view. Real people are being shot every day by real bullets. This is not a circus. It's time to wake up and do something. It's time to stop this clown show and deal with reality.

The show has even influenced the ATF, the agency charged with "enforcing the laws already on the books." The NRA clowns have managed to stop the show concerning the appointment of a permanent ATF director and the funding of the agency:
In an age when data is often available with a few keystrokes, the A.T.F. is forced to follow this manual routine because the idea of establishing a central database of gun transactions has been rejected by lawmakers in Congress, who have sided with the National Rifle Association, which argues that such a database poses a threat to the Second Amendment. In other countries, gun rights groups argue, governments have used gun registries to confiscate the firearms of law-abiding citizens.
Advocates for increased gun regulation, however, contend that in a country plagued by gun violence, a central registry could help keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and allow law enforcement officials to act more effectively to prevent gun crime.
As has been the case for decades, the A.T.F., the federal agency charged with enforcing gun laws and regulating the gun industry, is caught in the middle.
Law enforcement officials say that in theory, the A.T.F. could take a lead role in setting a national agenda for reducing gun crime, a goal that has gained renewed urgency with the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. But it is hampered, they say, by politically driven laws that make its job harder and by the ferocity of the debate over gun regulation.
“I think that they’ve really been muzzled over the last several years, at least, from doing their job effectively,” said Frederick H. Bealefeld III, a former police commissioner in Baltimore. “They’ve really kind of been the whipping agency, caught in the political turmoil of Washington on the gun issue.”
The bureau’s struggles are epitomized by its lack of a full-time director since Congress, prodded by the N.R.A., decided that the position should require Senate confirmation. That leadership vacuum, Mr. Bealefeld and others said, has inevitably depleted morale and kept the agency from developing a coherent agenda. (...) 
The persistent controversy over the A.T.F.’s role, historians say, also contributed to its neglect in the financing bonanza that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. While other law enforcement agencies like the F.B.I. have benefited from greatly increased budgets and staffing, the A.T.F.’s budget has remained largely stagnant, increasing to about $1.1 billion in the 2012 fiscal year from just over $850 million a decade ago.
The bureau’s tracing center performed 344,447 gun traces in the 2012 fiscal year, but its staffing is no higher than it was in 2004, according to its chief, Charles Houser. Still, he added, the center manages to complete urgent traces in about an hour, and routine traces are done within several days.
The distrust between the A.T.F. and gun rights groups is longstanding. The bitterness runs so deep that some critics of the agency are still angry about events from more than 40 years ago. Alan Gottlieb, the founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, cited a 1971 case in which A.T.F. agents raided the apartment of Ken Ballew in Silver Spring, Md., in the belief that he was stockpiling unregistered grenades. Agents found a cache of weapons, according to a lawsuit filed in the case, and Mr. Ballew was shot in the head after pointing a revolver in the agents’ direction.
The 1992 siege of Ruby Ridge in Idaho and the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Tex., are also sore points, Mr. Gottlieb said.
“Waco is not something that made us feel warm and fuzzy about A.T.F.,” he said.
Mr. Gottlieb said the “low point” came with the bungled gun trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious, in which A.T.F. agents, in an effort to trace guns to a network based in Arizona, did not quickly intervene as the weapons were smuggled over the border to Mexico. Last Wednesday, in a development that may inflame the controversy further, Mr. Grassley sent letters to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General demanding an investigation and requesting more information about why a gun bought by an A.T.F. agent involved in Operation Fast and Furious was found at the scene of a homicide in Mexico
Time to move on, Mr. Gottlieb. It's 2012 and we've just had a horrific shooting of 20 young children. That side show is over now.

And what about the NRA influence in general on the Republican party and even judicial nominations? Common sense would make us think that our leaders would seek information about a nominee's ability to be fair while serving on the bench. You would be wrong if you think that is the case. In our upside down world of NRA mythical rule over one party in America, even when the gun issue is not even an issue, the NRA makes it one in order to keep its' ludicrous hold on politicians:
At least Supreme Court confirmation debates take place in the light of day. Members of the public can tune in and decide whether they are persuaded that Elena Kagan represents “a clear a present danger to the right to keep and bear arms,” to quote the N.R.A.’s statement of opposition to her nomination. (Justice Kagan had never owned or shot a gun, but since joining the court has taken lessons and gone hunting with Justice Antonin Scalia, pronouncing the experience “kind of fun.”)
But the N.R.A. has begun to involve itself in lower court nominations as well, where it can work its will in the shadows. It has effectively blocked President Obama’s nomination of Caitlin J. Halligan to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that has been vacant since September 2005, when John G. Roberts Jr. moved to a courthouse up the street. The president has submitted the name of the superbly qualified Ms. Halligan to the Senate three times.
When the Democrats’ effort to break a Republican filibuster failed last year, Senator Murkowski was the only Republican to vote for cloture, perhaps liberated by the fact that she won her last election as a write-in candidate, thus freeing herself of party discipline – which in the Republicans’ case effectively means discipline by the N.R.A. In this year’s Republican Senate primary in Indiana, the N.R.A. spent $200,000 toward the successful effort to defeat the incumbent, Richard Lugar, attacking the six-term senator for, among other sins, having voted to confirm “both of Barack Obama’s anti-gun nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The NRA and Grover Norquist ( also on the board of the NRA) have managed to scare us with an evil clown show that has kept our country's leaders from making difficult and necessary decisions to keep our country safe and from imploding financially. To the rest of the world we are becoming a laughing stock. But there is nothing to laugh about when little children and fire fighters are shot to death in cold blood. Our country is now held hostage by some very ideologically extreme people and organizations whose views are way out of the mainstream.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, this article shows photos of people proudly displaying their AR15 Bushmaster rifles, recieved as Christmas gifts. This year, of all years, when the whole country and now the whole world knows that this rifle was used to massacre 20 kids and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 2 firefighters in Rochester, New York, and 12 movie goers in Aurora, Colorado, is just not the year to be happy about this kind of gift. Where is common sense? The insensitivity to the real life shootings in America is beyond belief. It's another side show that is making the NRA and its' minions into fools and thugs. As I said in my last post, serious questions need to be asked about an American gun culture that worships assault rifles at Christmas time right after the most horrific shooting in our country's history. Why advertise about your new assault rifle on social media sites? At the least, keep it quiet. Why do gun rights clowns need to appear macho and look tough and say ridiculous things like "Don't break in this place" while displaying their new assault rifles?  We are better than this.

There are solutions to the side show issues highlighted above. The center ring should involve action. Congress should be pressured to appoint a permanent director of the ATF and fund the organization properly so it can do its' job. Congress can fund research into gun violence at agencies such as the CDC. Congress can stop allowing the influence of the NRA on judicial nominations. Congress should and can pass reasonable gun laws to keep our children and communities safe from the daily carnage from shootings. Congress should not listen to the ridiculous and unproven ideas of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA to arm teachers or hire armed guards for all of our schools. It is a distraction and a side show from the real issue- more guns do not make us safer. We need to have fewer guns in fewer places to prevent gun injuries and deaths. There are too many victims. It's beyond time to do the right thing.


As I have said, I can't keep up with the articles written about the need for gun control measures and the need to expose the NRA's lies. Here is another article:
Gun advocates are throwing around a lot of rhetoric and data about guns and violence in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, but the majority of it does not stand up to scrutiny. One major fallacy is that gun laws do not work. Gun advocates are using distorted figures and lies to argue that since our existing gun laws are not working, we should have fewer such laws and more guns on hand.
The lies should end now.
The strongest gun laws in the United States are piecemeal acts put into place by states. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco-based group that provides legal expertise for gun violence prevention, California actually has the nation’s strongest gun laws. Critics point to the high number of gun-related deaths in the state and call them proof that these laws don’t work. But this simple-minded reading of the numbers does not delve far enough into the realities of this complex system of laws and regulations to prove that the state’s laws aren’t working. (...) 
A perfect example of the effectiveness of gun laws is the state of Hawaii. That state has some of the country’s strictest gun laws and, as an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it is perhaps the hardest state to transport out-of-state weapons to. Hawaii had the country’s lowest rate of gun deaths per 100,000 residents in 2011, FBI data show.
One huge need is for a federal registry of stolen firearms — a recommendation close to one from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Secondhand dealers should be required to check any weapon against this list to reduce the flow of ill-gotten weapons through our society. Such a registry would allow law enforcement to quickly determine where a criminal’s weapons came from — a check now often too cumbersome to do except in the most serious of circumstances. That ability also would provide the data necessary to permanently determine the effectiveness of gun control.
The idea that the state is the proper level at which to regulate weapons possession dates back to the time when guns were transported by horse and wagon. However, since the popularization of the automobile, the flow of weapons has changed, and gun laws have not kept pace. Within a matter of hours, a firearm bought legally in one state can be transported to another place where it is illegal. And federal laws on the books have not even begun to close the loopholes that exist due to the ability to purchase weapons on the Internet.
Gun laws work. Now is the time to pass and enforce stronger federal gun laws to close the loopholes that result in the annual deaths of thousands of Americans due to gun violence.
Why let the clowns decide on the safety of our children?


I almost missed this new article, just posted recently, making the very same points I did about funding for research about gun violence:
That ban on funding — and similar prohibitions in a few states — sent an intimidating message to scientists across the nation, shutting down research. The bans exist to this day, frustrating efforts to understand the epidemic of gun violence that has gripped this nation in such savage forms as the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown two weeks ago.
The bans should be reversed and research funding restored for the sake of saving lives.
In an online article in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week, two public health physicians — Arthur L. Kellermann and Frederick P. Rivara —argued that society would know more about how to prevent mass shootings like Newtown if the CDC and other federal agencies still studied why they happen.
The doctors noted that over the past 20 years, the number of Americans dying in motor vehicle crashes has decreased by 31 percent and deaths from fires and drowning have been reduced even more — by 38 percent and 52 percent respectively. Much of the progress came from translating research findings into effective interventions, they wrote in the JAMA paper.
Given the chance, they asked, could researchers achieve similar progress with firearms violence? "It will not be possible to find out unless Congress rescinds its moratorium on firearm injury prevention research."
Drs. Kellermann and Rivara went on to note that "since Congress took this action in 1997, at least 427,000 people have died of gunshot wounds in the United States, including more than 165,000 who were victims of homicide."
Deep-sixing government-sponsored research into gun violence because a powerful special interest is afraid it might be embarrassed by the conclusions is itself an embarrassment to this country. It says something very ugly about our priorities.
Banning scientific inquiry is something banana republics do.
Indeed. We are fast becoming similar to a banana republic. When one special interest group has this much power in a nation as large and supposedly democratic as America, something is wrong. It's time for a change.


  1. Why is it that Vermont, New Hampshire and Utah (among others) all have murder rates so much lower than Hawaii's, yet have much looser gun laws? Vermont has no restrictions at all on who may carry a loaded, concealed gun, yet it's safer than Hawaii, New York or California, which have very strict laws.

    The correlation you posit does not exist.

    1. Sure it does-

      " But a new study by a San Francisco organization reaches the opposite conclusion: States with the most restrictive laws, including Connecticut and California, have lower rates of gun-related deaths, while states with few limits on firearms have the highest rates.
      In 2009 and 2010, the most recent years for which information is available, California had the nation's strongest gun controls and the ninth-lowest rate of gun deaths, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which favors firearms regulation.
      Connecticut had the fourth-strongest gun laws and was sixth-lowest in gun deaths, while Hawaii ranked fifth in gun control and had the lowest death rate.
      At the other end of the scale, the report found that Alaska, Louisiana and Montana - all graded F for gun control - had the highest rates of deaths caused by gunfire, more than double California's rate. The law center graded all 50 states and gave an F, for weak regulation, to 24 of them.
      In 2010, the report said, quoting the federal Centers for Disease Control, California had 7.88 gun deaths for each 100,000 residents, compared with rates of 3.31 in Hawaii and 20.28 in Alaska.
      More research is needed on the links between specific weapons regulations and fatalities, but "the data supports the common-sense conclusion that gun laws are a significant factor in a state's rate of gun deaths," said the report.
      Since the report's release last month, The Chronicle has forwarded it for comment to four pro-gun organizations: the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Gun Owners of America and its state affiliate, Gun Owners of California. None replied to calls or e-mails.
      Similar studies
      Other recent studies have reached similar conclusions. A researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported in July that states requiring comprehensive background checks before gun purchases had lower death rates than those without such requirements. And Richard Florida, an economist and urban studies theorist at the University of Toronto, found lower death rates in 2011 for states that ban assault weapons and require trigger locks and secure storage for guns.
      But as long as the federal government leaves gun regulations largely up to each state, the effectiveness of any state's laws is inherently limited, said Laura Cutiletta, an attorney at the law center that conducted the study.
      California, for example, bans most semiautomatic rifles, including the Bushmaster .223 that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 students and six educators at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school this month. But the rifles are legal in neighboring Nevada, and can be taken easily - though illegally - to California."

      Have discussed this many times on this blog.

      Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Tough-gun-laws-linked-to-fewer-deaths-4145605.php#ixzz2GXYoJBFS