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, January 8, 2013

It's about the victims

An article I read, linked to below, was written by a gun owner who loves to shoot her guns. But the Newtown school shooting changed her mind. The thought of little children's bodies riddled with bullets is too much for us all. We are still heart broken after the Aurora shooting, after the Sikh Temple shooting, after the Trayvon Martin shooting, after the Jovan Belcher shooting, after the Virginia Tech shooting. We just can't over the grief and horror of one mass shooting after another and one tragic domestic shooting or "self defense" shooting after another. There's no time to grieve in this country. We move quickly to the next national shooting tragedy.

Last year on this day, we had vigils all over the country to honor the memories of those shot at a Tucson shopping mall. We couldn't get over the shooting and injuring of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the death of 6 others, including a 9 year old girl. We remember them today as we still grieve for the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting victims. How can we be doing this again? What is wrong with a country that refuses to stop the shootings? The NRA. That's what's wrong. Our elected leaders are afraid of the wrong people. They have let themselves be fearful of a minority of Americans who believe in the extreme views of Wayne LaPierre and some pretty scary NRA board members. Actually, they should be afraid of what these guys say but not afraid to challenge their rhetoric of fear and paranoia. There is no backbone. They have bent to the will of the extremes. After the Tucson shooting, they should have stood up and said "no more." But they didn't.

Our leaders should be afraid that if they don't do the right thing, they will lose their jobs. Americans have awakened. We are not fooled any more. We are way ahead of our Congress and our bought and paid for legislators. We are tired of inaction and we want that to stop. Yesterday I was on a national briefing call led by Brady Campaign President Dan Gross. Dan encouraged us to act and to let our leaders know that the time is now. On the call were Tucson shooting survivor and now U.S. Representative Ron Barber. He watched his boss get shot. He said he was conscious through the whole shooting which took about 45 seconds to down 19 people with a 30 round ammunition magazine. Colin Goddard was on the call. He survived the Virginia Tech shooting. The shooter was dangerously mentally ill and should not have had access to a gun. Sandy Phillips, mother of Jessica Ghawi, was on the call. She had just heard the testimony about that shooting with details of that awful day.  Her daughter was shot by a deranged gunman who bought 1000 rounds of drum style magazines on line. Why should anyone be able to do that in America? How can Phillips go on with her own life? But there she was, speaking to thousands of Americans who called in to hear the message from the Brady Campaign. She can only go on with hope that at long last, something is going to be done. How can elected leaders look at Sandy, Ron, Colin and the many other victims in the eye and say they still fear the NRA. Sandy is not afraid to challenge the outdated and mythical power of the extremists in the gun lobby. She has more courage than all members of Congress put together. What a sad state of affairs.

Some NRA members have shown courage as well. They are writing and speaking out urging our leaders to have the courage they are showing. I highlighted some of these in a recent postThis one is particularly articulate and compelling and describes a gun culture at gun ranges that I have not read about before. From the article:
"Gun ranges are neither glamorous nor genteel. They are noirish, solid concrete bunkers, staffed on the retail front-end by armed men who are often brusque, irascible, and do not mind being blithely rude. Single-mindedly utilitarian, they are oppressively cold in winter, hot in summer, and drafty, having been designed for the sole purpose of containing high-caliber, high-velocity ordnance. The acoustics are nightmarish; earsplitting reports, random whumps, and dull thuds. The air is close, and redolent with the tang of gunpowder, fear, and testosterone. A gun range is a war zone with an enemy that is inanimate, but palpable, one that threatens but does not shoot back."
This does not sound like a place where I would like to spend much time. It's amazing that so many people do. What happens to these folks while inside of a gun range? The writer wonders that as well:
In the past year I have watched all types of people come and go at the gun range. And I have seen things; disturbing things. I saw a burly man with snake tattoos that began at his wrists, coiled up his arm and ended at his bald head. He was shooting one .45 handgun and wearing two others. I saw an obese woman in a WWII gas mask shooting a large bore revolver with uncanny precision. I saw a plump young man with a pony tail teaching his girlfriend to shoot, showing at least half of his bare rear end as he leaned forward on a bench rest. If she noticed, she was too courteous, or embarrassed to say so. It may have been a date.
I saw a father with a backwards ball cap swaggering through the crowd, his two young boys in tow. They had the same hats, the same walk. Too young to shoot, they were there merely to breathe in the gun culture. I saw a handsome, well-groomed, well-dressed young family with young teenagers. I had to wonder what on earth they were doing there.
I have seen cops, snipers, jocks, college-student looking types, tarted-up women, homies, hippies, hotties, housewives, bros, bubbas, businessmen, and lone-wolves who appear to be practicing for the Apocalypse. They are white, black, Latino, Asian, Christians, Muslims, and a Jew now and then. Armed with shotguns, assault rifles, .22, rifles, and black powder rifles, lever-action deer guns, .44 and .357 revolvers, .9mm and .40 and .45 caliber semi-automatic pistols, old and new, owned or rented, they blaze away at man-targets, silhouette targets, zombie targets, and bulls-eye targets, shredding paper and cardboard to kingdom come.
If there is any cultural common denominator, it eludes me. If there is any way to tell the good guys from the bad, the protectors from the predators, that is also beyond me: in the dark, they are indistinguishable. If they share one human experience it is fear, the fear that someone will invade their home in the dead of night, try and take something that is theirs, ambush them on the street, or in a parking garage, or at a stoplight, or come to a school to kill their children.
If and when that occurs, they want to be ready. They will arm heavily and train poorly for some vaguely catastrophic, remotely possible event. Or sadly, they will put a great deal of energy into trying to prevent something that has already happened.
Do the math. The more guns there are, the more likely some of these people will come to harm in altercations, accidents due to stupidity and ignorance, domestic violence, suicide, drunken misadventures, mental illness, crimes of rage, and mass murder. (...) 
The guns we played with as children are now real. Yet we continue to play with them as though they were toys. It is time for us to grow up.
As an owner and shooter of handguns, I feel no threat from those who advocate gun reform. In fact, I have become one of them.
Yes; we can defend our homes, with handguns that are registered and have been licensed after background checks, a waiting period, and legitimate training. Yes; licensed hunters may own rifles; ok, and shotguns, too. No; citizens do not need assault rifles. Unrestricted concealed carry laws may well turn out to be a very bad idea.
Let’s be frank. More guns equals more deaths. Things have spun out of control. There is overwhelming empirical evidence that massive gun control is necessary; right now.
Otherwise, we continue careening down the path to bloody madness.
This woman is frank. She is not afraid of the NRA's crazy theories any more. She doesn't need to use numbers and statistics to make her point. She is telling a compelling story and ends with the reasons reasonable gun owners should join in the efforts to stop the "bloody madness". But fear and paranoia trumps reason and facts for the NRA extremists. People are out buying more AR-15s in great numbers. They fear their guns being taken. They fear President Obama. They fear reasonable gun control. They fear their own shadows. They fear zombies. They fear anything that moves outside of their homes. Fear drives people and motivates them. If fear is not based on facts, it can lead to bad outcomes. Unreasonable fear is sending folks to gun ranges, to the gun stores, to arm themselves. Fearful people with guns do things they might not otherwise do. We have many examples of that. George Zimmerman. A grandfather in Rochester, Minnesota. Joe Horn. Michael Dunn. These are just a few of many about which I and others write. This fear has led to bad gun policy and has led to a nation full of guns and a nation full of gun deaths and injuries and numerous mass shootings.

I know that some of the more extreme gun rights advocates don't believe me. They won't believe the woman who wrote the article above revealing her change of attitude about guns. She will likely now be attacked by them for daring to be frank. That's too bad. I am encouraged by her words and heartened by her passion. She represents the majority of gun owners who don't believe that the NRA represents them when it's extreme leaders speak. They won't listen to the survivors and victims. Their stories are too painful even for them and they know that if those voices become louder, public opinion will change and we will do something about all the shootings at long last. It's possible to have common sense gun laws and the second amendment. They are not mutually exclusive. It's time for those reasonable folks to join in asking our leaders to stand up and do the right thing in the name of the victims of senseless shootings. We are better than this. Let's get to work.

In memory of the Tucson shooting, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelley got to work and have begun a new political action committee to raise money for efforts to stop the shootings. From this article:
The couple was expected to discuss the initiative in an interview airing Tuesday on ABC News. The network offered a preview of the interview Monday and during "Good Morning America" on Tuesday. Kelly described a meeting with a father of a Connecticut victim in which he "just about lost it" after the parent showed him a picture of his child.
When asked by Sawyer about when such violence happens to school children, Giffords responded: "Enough."
In the op-ed piece, Kelly and Giffords discussed what they deem lawmakers' inaction on curbing gun violence.
"In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimized tens of thousands of Americans, and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary – nothing at all," Giffords and Kelly wrote in the op-ed.
"This country is known for using its determination and ingenuity to solve problems, big and small. Wise policy has conquered disease, protected us from dangerous products and substances, and made transportation safer. But when it comes to protecting our communities from gun violence, we're not even trying – and for the worst of reasons."
They hope to start a national conversation about gun violence and raise funds for political activity, so "legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby."
"The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve fellow citizens and leaders who have the will to prevent gun violence in the future," they wrote. (...) 
Rep. Ron Barber, then a Giffords aide, was shot in the thigh and cheek, and went on to replace his boss in Congress. He supports an outright ban on high-capacity magazines and a new federal assault weapons ban while acknowledging there are millions of both already in circulation that will remain there.
"There's no way that those are going to be taken or collected - there's no way that's possible," Barber said Monday. "But if we can move forward toward controlling the accessibility or access to those magazines or assault rifles we can go a long way to minimizing or possibly preventing future tragedies."
Barber plans to mark the moment of the shooting at a private gathering with staff and family members. He will also visit a hospital to thank doctors who treated him and other victims and attend an evening prayer service.
Barber also is pushing for better mental health care and early intervention into school bullying, which he said can lead to serious mental health issues.
"I think it's a very complicated issue and no one or two or even three steps are going to address it or get rid of mass shooting in the future," Barber said.
Again, let's get to work. The time is past to do something. Congress has failed. In memory of the victims of the Tucson shooting (below), the Aurora shooting, the Newtown shooting, et al,  the national conversation is taking place and should lead to measures to stop the next mass shooting. We remember:

U.S. District Judge John McCarthy Roll, 63

Gabriel Zimmerman, 30

Christina Taylor Green, 9

Dorwin Stoddard, 76,

Dorthy Morris, 76.

Phyllis Scheck, 79.

A one day T.V. ad paid for by Mayors Against Illegal Guns is below:

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