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, January 24, 2013

New polling about gun violence prevention

So where are we today? Plenty of polling data has been taken since the Newtown massacre indicating broad support for a variety of measures to deal with preventing gun violence and dealing with mental illness. The latest is this Gallup polling taken about a month after the shooting:
"Given the chance to vote "for" or "against" each of nine key proposals included in President Barack Obama's plan to reduce gun violence, Americans back all nine. Americans are most likely to be in favor of requiring background checks for all gun sales (91%), increasing funding for mental health programs aimed at youth (82%), increasing funding for programs to train law enforcement and schools in responding to active armed attacks (79%), and increasing criminal penalties for people who buy guns for others -- so-called straw purchasers (75%). (...) 
These results are from a Gallup survey conducted Jan. 19-20. The question does not tell respondents that all nine proposals come from Obama's recently released plan to reduce gun violence; however, the wordings used to describe them intentionally follow the White House's "Now Is the Time" plan descriptions.
Notably, Gallup asked a question last week that gauged Americans' immediate reaction to Obama's proposed plan as a package, and found a slim majority, 53%, saying they would like their member of Congress to support it.
Obama's plan covers four major aspects of gun violence prevention -- gun laws, criminal justice, school security, and mental health funding -- and each of these is represented in the top four rated proposals.
Gun and Ammunition Bans Elicit Lowest, but Still Majority, Support
The two least-broadly supported proposals, but ones majorities of Americans still favor, are reinstating and strengthening the 1994-2004 ban on assault weapons (60%), and limiting the sale of ammunition magazines to those with 10 rounds or less (54%).
The 60% saying they would vote "for" the assault weapons proposal is higher than the 44% support Gallup found with a similar measure in December that described assault weapons as "semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles." Also, the current wording reminds respondents that this would be a renewal of a law that existed previously.
At the same time, the 54% currently voting for limiting gun magazines to no more than 10 rounds is less than the 62% Gallup found in December when describing this as banning "the sale and possession of high-capacity ammunition clips that can contain more than 10 bullets." Thus, it appears that attitudes are somewhat variable on these gun control issues, depending on nuances in how the proposals are described.
The three other specific policies tested in the new poll that garner somewhat lower -- although still majority -- support are federal funding for 15,000 street police officers (70%), federal funding for helping schools develop emergency response plans (69%), and banning the possession of armor-piercing bullets by civilians (67%)."
Given support for the measures proposed by President Obama, it looks like Congress is moving forward, as it should, to represent what most people have said they want after the Sandy Hook shooting. A majority of Americans supported these measures even before the Newtown school shooting. Support is now stronger, as has been discussed before on my blog posts. It is heartening to see the public and our leaders more engaged on the issue of gun violence prevention. They have come late to the "party" but at least they are coming along. Their voices are stronger than ever because they are tired of the massacres and don't want any more little children killed while going about their daily lives. Reasonable people get that gun rights can co-exist with reasonable gun laws and responsibilities.

A new ABC/Washington Post poll shows similar results:
Sixty-five percent also support banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, a high in three ABC/Post polls to test the idea since early 2011, and up by 6 percentage points since just after the Newtown shootings. Among other suggestions, 58 percent favor banning the sale of so-called assault weapons, 55 percent support the National Rifle Association’s call for armed guards in schools and 51 percent would ban semi-automatic handguns.
Notably, support for the most popular of these measures – expanded background checks, a gun database and banning high-capacity magazines – includes a majority of people who live in gun-owning households, a group that accounts for 44 percent of all adults in this country.
The intensity of support for all these proposals is also notable; “strong” support for each measure outstrips strong opposition, in most cases by overwhelming margins (save the two less-popular items, armed school guards and a semi-automatic handgun ban). For instance, 50 percent “strongly” favor banning assault weapons, twice the number who strongly opposes it. And 76 percent strongly support background checks at gun shows, while only 8 percent say they’re are strongly opposed. (...) 
Fifty-five percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, express worry about a mass shooting in their own communities, and 52 percent say the Newtown shootings have made them more likely to support some forms of gun control.
As noted, support for banning high-capacity magazines is at a new high in polling since 2011. But there’s no consistent change on other proposals. Support for background checks on gun show buyers is essentially the same as it was in the late 1990s; support for banning assault weapons is numerically up from its low in 2009  but still well below its levels in the mid- to late 1990s; and support for banning semi-automatic handguns has been essentially steady in recent years.
ACTION – Looking ahead to the possibility of legislative action, most Americans give the issue at least a high priority for the president and Congress to address, but not “the highest,” and more give greater priority to  ”addressing gun violence” (68 percent) than specifically “enacting stricter gun control laws” (59 percent).
While they reach majorities, both of these are lower on the list than other top-shelf issues, including the economy, cutting federal spending, restructuring the tax system and slowing the rate of growth in spending on Social Security and Medicare.
The higher priority for “addressing gun violence” versus “enacting stricter gun control laws” (in a split-sample test) likely reflects some compunctions about whether gun control measures will work. The public, for instance, divides on whether stricter gun laws or armed guards in schools would be more effective (43-41 percent), and as many or more blame gun violence on inadequate treatment of the mentally ill, and on irresponsibility among gun owners, as on other causes.
And not only that, the Senate may take up a bill to ban some types of assault weapons. From the article:
 U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, signaled on Tuesday that despite earlier indications to the contrary, he may allow a vote on a possible ban on assault weapons.
Reid, a longtime gun-rights advocate from Nevada, recently had indicated he would not permit a vote because the Republican-led House of Representatives likely won't go along with such a prohibition.
Powerful gun-rights groups oppose a ban on assault weapons and could seek to unseat any lawmaker who backs it, as they have tried to do in the past.
But after a weekly meeting on Tuesday with fellow Senate Democrats, Reid told reporters that he expects "to have a free amendment process" on gun legislation.
That process could result in other Democrats proposing a possible resurrection of a 10-year ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that expired in 2004.
Good news. Senators understand that doing nothing is not an option. As I write this, Senator Feinstein is introducing her bill to have restrictions on  assault weapons:
Feinstein’s bill will expand the criteria for classifying military-style assault weapons from a 1994 law, which lapsed a decade later. Her new measure will ban the sale of about 150 types of firearms, including some rifles and handguns, as well as the sale of high-capacity magazines, according to USA Today.
The bill will exempt firearms used for hunting and will grandfather in guns and magazines owned before the law’s potential enactment. However, the grandfathered weapons will be logged in a national registry.
The measure is expected to face a tough fight in the Senate, with many GOP lawmakers and the nation’s gun lobby vowing to oppose any new restrictions on gun ownership.
But Feinstein, a longtime proponent of gun reform, said she is ready to push her measure in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA).
“I have worked on this for a long time,” said Feinstein in an interview with USA Today. “I’m not a newcomer or a novice to guns.
"The NRA sort of specialized in trying to denigrate me, but I don't think there's anyone around that's spent 20 years on this subject, plus some," she added.
Calls to renew the federal assault-weapons ban, which expired in 2004, have grown after last month’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Finally, common sense measures are getting the hearing they deserve. It's way too late for the victims of many mass shootings, and most recently, the 20 young children who were massacred on December 14th in Newtown, Connecticut. Most Americans have agreed that we are better than this as a country. Most Americans do not want to see AR 15s in common usage because they understand that when there are so many of them in our communities and on our streets, the likelihood of their being used to massacre innocent people in public places increases. Most Americans understand that these weapons, made for use by the military, are not necessary for self defense or hunting. As they have become what the pro gun extremists call "common use", some believe these dangerous guns should be their right to own with no restrictions attached. It is nonsensical and up for question as well it should be.

The NRA lobbyists understood that as sales of guns waned because of less interest in hunting sports, a new market needed to be created for the gun industry. Our leaders were only too happy to comply with this powerful group of lobbyists and the industry by passing conceal and carry laws in all but one state  (Illinois) and allowing the 1994 assault weapons ban to expire in 2004. Gun sales have risen as a result. And as some Americans have been led to believe that they must have these guns for "common use", they have bought more and more of them. That means more guns in circulation leading to the inevitability of more shootings. The fear and paranoia perpetrated by the NRA leaders and lobbyists has also led to unreasonable fear of government. Assault type weapons are amassed in homes all over America, at the ready for insurrection. This blog post in the New York times offers the proper arguments against that ludicrous notion:
Opponents of gun control often argue that they need firearms for self-defense. Most of them mean that literally – defending themselves and their homes and families against intruders. Others have a more grandiose understanding of self-defense. They find gun control anathema because they believe that firearms safeguard the right to rise up against the American government.
They derive this argument from a complete misreading of various comments by the Founding Fathers, and the word “militia” in the Second Amendment—which the authors considered an alternative to a standing army. (See Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which states that Congress may call forth “the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” Note: Suppress insurrections, not start them.)
But the National Rifle Association has long encouraged the insurrectionist view. In 1995, shortly before the Oklahoma City bombing, Wayne LaPierre of the N.R.A. said the Clinton administration’s “semiauto ban gives jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our Constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.” An outraged George H.W. Bush resigned his life membership in the N.R.A. because such language offended his “sense of decency and honor.”

“It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us,” Mr. Bush wrote.
The guns-for-insurrection theme has since embedded itself into very heart of the Republican Party. In 2010, during her failed attempt to take away Harry Reid’s Senate seat, Sharon Angle called for “second amendment remedies” to deal with the “ever-growing tyrannical U.S. government.”
Last year, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said she wanted “people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax” and cited the oft-repeated Jefferson line that “a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing.” (Jefferson later moderated his views. He wrote in a letter to a Dutch diplomat: “Happy for us, that when we find our constitutions defective and insufficient to secure the happiness of our people, we can assemble with all the coolness of philosophers and set it to rights, while every other nation on earth must have recourse to arms to amend or to restore their constitutions.”)
In August, the Virginia Republican Committee called for armed rebellion if President Obama won re-election.
Just this week, Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas issued a press release (headed by a picture of a cannon and the phrase “come and take it”) that called Mr. Obama’s intention to issue executive orders on guns an “existential threat to this nation.”
“The very purpose of the Second Amendment is to stop the government from disallowing people the means to defend themselves against tyranny,” he said, adding that Mr. Obama’s gun control policies “are a direct attack on Americans that place all of us in danger.”
A newly elected Republican state legislator in (again) Texas announced on Tuesday that he plans to file a bill that would make it a felony for any federal agent to enter the state for the purpose of enforcing laws that would restrict ownership of semi-automatic rifles or limit the size of gun magazines.
“At some point, there needs to be a showdown between the states and the federal government over the Supremacy Clause,” Rep. Steve Toth said in a radio interview.
Perhaps he’s forgotten that we already had a showdown over the part of the Constitution that says federal law supersedes state law. It was called the Civil War, or in Texas, the War Between the States.
It’s possible to advance sensible arguments against federal limits on the sale and ownership of guns. The freedom to rise up in armed rebellion against a democratically elected government is not an example of one.
This is a dangerous and unacceptable view of America and has resulted in too many guns in the hands of too many people who shouldn't have them in too many public places and way too many victims. If you don't believe in this insurrectionist viewpoint, call your Representatives and Senators and tell them to support what most Americans want. Tell them not to support the extremist views of some on the far right who make a loud noise and threaten our public safety. Enough. It's time for a change. Let's get to work.


Here is an article about the press event to announce Senator Diane Feinstein's assault weapons bill:
Democratic lawmakers were joined by mayors, law enforcement officials and gun violence victims Thursday to introduce the first significant piece of gun control legislation to be put to Congress since the massacre in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead at an elementary school: The "Assault Weapons Ban of 2013," which would ban many so-called assault weapons as well as high-capacity ammunition magazines.
"Today we are introducing legislation that will help end the mass shootings that have devastated countless families and terrorized communities," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who said she is "incensed that our weak gun laws allow these mass killings to be carried out again, and again, and again in this country."
"And the last several years, the massacres were going on more and more," continued Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed and son was injured in 1993 when a man opened fire on a commuter train. "And going through it, I kept saying, 'what's wrong with all of us? How many people have to be killed before we do something?'"
Among the lawmakers present were the two senators from Connecticut as well as members of the House representing Newtown and Aurora, Colo., where a mass shooting took place in a movie theater last July. Victims of gun violence came to the microphone one by one to discuss loved ones killed by gunfire and their experiences in mass shootings. 
McCarthy, D-N.Y., said she has "watched the slaughter of so many people and I've met with so many victims over the years, and in Congress nobody wanted to touch the issue."
Thank you Senator Feinstein.

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