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.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Days at the Minnesota State Capitol

The last few days have been intense and interesting to say the least. I have been involved with the hearings in the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee. Several bills were heard, including a universal background check bill, an Assault Weapons ban bill, straw purchasing, trafficking, whether guns should be allowed in schools if a permit holder has permission and others. To say the least, it was intense. Lines of gun rights extremists formed early, taking up most of the space in the hearing room. Others on both sides tried to get in but had to sit in 2 overflow rooms with video feed of the hearing. People were dressed in orange tee shirts and to this outsider, it looked like they were having a great time. There was lots of discussion about guns and gun rights, confiscation and registration going on. Some of them were armed. Why they feel the need to be armed at the Minnesota State Capitol is beyond me. I don't feel unsafe around the capitol. But then, I don't feel there are bogeymen around every corner either. One of the Republican legislators, known for his gun rights extremism carries his gun every day in the capitol with a large capacity magazine, he bragged. He thought that the rest of us, the vast majority since he is in the very small minority of Americans who choose to carry guns in public, should get used to people carrying guns around in public openly holstered. Just like in Arizona. Then we wouldn't be so scared of people with guns. Gun deaths in Arizona?:
Between 2001 and 2010, Arizona has had 9,117 gun deaths—a rate of 15.48 deaths per 100,000 over that time span. The national average over the same time was 10.33 per 100,000. In 2010 alone, Arizona's gun death rate was 14.57, compared to the national rate of 10.26.
The thing is, 2010 was a bounce-back year for gun-related deaths: the 931 deaths reported that year reversed the trend of decline that we had experienced since the high of 982 gun deaths in '06, dropping to a low of 856 deaths in '09.
2010 was also the year that Arizona began to allow permit-less concealed carry—an interesting coincidence.
We won't know more about the possible relationship between Arizona's gun deaths and the CCW law until mid-2013, when the CDC will release 2011's statistics. Maybe it's an aberration—but then again, maybe not. 'Til then, just some food for thought.
I'm just saying. So let's not be scared, Representative. Whatever. He thinks we should get used to folks openly carrying pistols. I suppose he thinks we should also just get used to all those people being shot to death, too. Logic isn't involved in the gun rights extremists' arguments.

Where was I? Oh yes. One "gun guy" packing heat suggested that it would be awful if he was charged with a crime for wandering onto school property with his loaded gun if his little boy runs into a school playground to slide. Question. Why do people need to carry guns when they go out for walks with their kids? I'm just saying. Most people don't feel the need nor do they carry guns in public. It's only about 2% of eligible Americans who have their permits. And they are so victimized when people don't really want them to carry their guns in public places. For how are we to know the difference between a law abiding person with a gun openly holstered and a criminal with a gun in a holster? But that seems to be of no concern to these folks. They love their guns no matter where they are. So do people who want to do others harm. They love guns, too. And they have managed to kill about 11,000 or so of their fellow Americans in gun homicides on average for the past many years.

Assault weapons? Oh those. They are just your ordinary hunting gun, right? No. They are not nor should they be. There was a bit of a testy exchange with a retired FBI agent who testified in support of the assault weapons ban and the legislator mentioned above. Said legislator took issue with the agent saying he didn't know people who hunted with AR-15s. Mr. Legislator says everyone hunts with them. They don't but if he says so it must be true. He says it with so much authority that he doesn't expect to be questioned. You can read about today's testimony here. From the article:
Assault weapons are "weapons of war" no private citizens should own and should be banned, former Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan told a Legislative committee on Wednesday.
"They should not be legally in the hands of any citizen," said Dolan, testifying before a House committee in favor of a bill that would ban the popular rifles known as assault weapons.
He was countered by the NRA, gun-owners and gun-rights activists, who said the powerful weapons, plus high-capacity ammunition clips, are needed for self defense and for shooting competitions.
Chris Rager of the NRA told the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee that "semiautomatic firearms," including the popular AR-15, are used for shooting sports, hunting and self defense. He said  those who term the weapons "assault weapons" are "gun grabbers."
The committee has now heard seven hours of testimony over two days, and plans to resume at 10 a.m. Thursday in Room 10 of the State Office Building. A second hearing Thursday will be held at 6 p.m.
The committee is only hearing comments on bills this week, not taking votes. So far it has hard bills to require universal background checks, to allow mental health inquiries when people seek permits and Wednesday's bill to ban manufacturing and possession of assault weapons.
The bill would allow those who own the weapons to keep them, but would force them to register. The term "assault weapon" is defined not by the make and model but by characteristics such as the pistol grip, telescoping stock, and a non-burning shroud surrounding the barrel. Certain semi-automatic pistols that have some of these features would be included in the ban.
The committee, again overflowing with activists on both sides -- with the gun-owners-rights side in the great majority -- heard from John Egelhof, an NRA member, former FBI agent, concealed weapons permit holder and the first FBI agent on the scene of the 2005 Red Lake High School massacre.
"The only real use for these tools ... is to kill our fellow citizens," Egelhof told the committee. He said the bill is needed to protect the public and police officers from further mayhem.
The NRA and opponents of the bill said they need the weapons for self-defense and suggested that they may be constitutionally protected -- an issue that would have to be decided in court. Joe Olson of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance said the bill creates "deferred confiscation" of assault weapons by taking a person's weapon after he or she dies.
An opponent of the bill, Rob Doar of Cedar, appearing at the Capitol with a gun strapped to his belt, held up two rifles to show the difficulty of telling an "assault weapon" from a regular deer rifle, when they may be functionally the same weapon. 
Asked why he carried a gun into the Capitol, he said, "I carry a handgun most places I go. The Capitol isn't any different."
I could write much more but I'm still processing the whole scene of the hearings and my drive home to Duluth in snowy and black ice road conditions. Also, I'm leaving town tomorrow so I need to keep this brief. I will just end with my observations of the many gun rights advocates I encountered or listened to in the past few days. Here they are:
  • One of them was tweeting at me during the hearing. I suppose he was sitting behind me and thought he was being cute and clever. He was not. He was being a jerk and intended to bully and intimidate. Not appreciated. Rude. He started in on a woman new to the scene and involved with the One Million Moms For Gun Control. Tacky and unnecessary. Also insulting.
  • Intimidation seems to be the m.o. of this group. As I was sitting in the hall waiting for my ticket to get into the hearing, I heard some of the guys talking out loud about my group, knowing that I would have to hear it. Tacky and unnecessary. Rude.
  • At points in the hearing, the gun rights folks applauded and had to be told to be quiet by the Chair of the committee. It's not necessarily bad to applaud but everyone was told not to do this and the Republican legislator, mentioned above, had to remind the group that it made them look bad to do this. Do you think?
  • Most of them were men. They are passionate about their issue and don't seem to abide a different point of view. One of the testifiers today said that the assault weapons ban, and I think those who support it, were un American. Really? 
  • One man brought two rifles to show that assault rifles are no different from ordinary hunting rifles. Except that they are. They do look different. Yes, yes, we understand that there are "cosmetic features" that can be added and are often and usually found on assault type rifles. But these features are exactly what makes these guns so effective for mass shooters to use. A barrel shroud is meant to keep the shooter's hand from getting too hot while shooting all of those bullets from high capacity magazines. That's all. Except that is what makes it good to use in a mass shooting. If the shooter's hand doesn't get too hot, then he can just keep shooting people. A pistol grip, held up by one of the speakers today, is just to hold on to the barrel better if your hand is small or something. He admitted that it makes shooting more efficient. Except that making the shooting more efficient is just what a mass shooter wants to be- more efficient at shooting lots of people. 
  • Their claim that universal background checks will lead to registration is false. That is not in the background check bill. 
  • Their claim that the term assault weapon is made up by those on my side is false. Read about it here. Facts matter.
  • The "gun guys" get on the case of media and people like me for using the word ammunition clip rather than magazine. Today several speakers opposed to the assault weapons ban used the word clip. Oh well. I guess it's O.K. for them but not for us.
  • After the hearing, one many wanted to know why there were so many gun deaths in Democratic areas- like large cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, etc. With no proof that shootings mostly happen in Democratic areas, he made that assertion. Let's see now. Big cities often have more crime and thus more shootings. Many of these big cities just happen to be in "blue" states. "Red" states actually have more gun deaths per 100,000 than "blue" states. Maybe that's why more Democrats support reasonable gun laws- more of them are being shot!!?? Facts don't seem to matter to some of these guys.
There's much more but for now, I need to say that there wasn't much agreement that we can actually support common sense gun laws without infringing on the second amendment or confiscating guns-at least not from the gun rights side. We can and we must. There is nothing unconstitutional about regulating guns and who can own and buy them. The public lobby has spoken. The support for reasonable gun laws is high. Those in the room today did not represent the majority of NRA members and gun owners who have said they understand that their gun rights will not be infringed if we pass laws to prevent even just a few of the senseless shootings. For that is what this is about in the end. If we can't do something sensible to save the lives of fellow Americans and most especially our children, who are we as a country? This is about saving lives. This is not about gun rights extremists out shouting and out organizing gun violence prevention activists. This isn't about winning and inflicting insults and intimidation. This is about doing what's right and what's moral. 


  1. Barrel shrouds are not designed to be held on to. A shooter's hand is not meant to come into contact with the barrel during shooting, and barrel shrouds are meant to protect a shooter's hand against accidental contact with the barrel. Pistol grips and forward grips are designed for ergonomics, no matter how large your hands are. The truth is, so-called "assault weapons" are good at killing people(not that there is anything inherently wrong with that). But most of these "evil" features mentioned in the AWB were developed for firearms to have a slight advantage when used in COMBAT against OTHER people with firearms. They have no effect on someone's ability to massacre a bunch of unarmed people. A Remington 870 slide-action shotgun with a 5 shot tube magazine could have inflicted just as many fatalities at Sandy Hook Elementary School. If gun control advocates wanted to be taken seriously, they wouldn't worry about collapsible stocks and bayonet lugs, they would attack all semiautomatic firearms with detachable magazines or fixed magazines over 3 or 4 rounds.

    1. Good idea. That's my point. Why argue about the minutia? But that's what happens whenever we get into these discussions. Let's talk about what is doing the damage in the first place- high capacity magazines. Are you in favor of restricting the number of rounds in a magazine?

    2. No.
      First of all, if your target is a bunch of unarmed people, it doesn't matter how big you magazine is. You can reload with impunity.
      Secondly, why 10? Why is ten the magic number? Are lawmakers implying that it is OK to kill ten people?
      Thirdly, there are many legitimate uses for "high capacity" magazines. For example, defense against violent armed crowds of people, defense against a military force, hunting dangerous game like hogs.Also, fighting people like Adam Lanza.
      Fourthly, CRIMINALS DON'T OBEY LAWS. We don't need another black market. Also, pro-gun people who previously had no malice toward the law are going to become criminals(enthusiastically. Just look at the frenzied buying of weapons and magazines lately).These laws are easy to circumvent, and become easier in our modern age. Look at these videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFhIxey5AXM&list=UUsKjElNP5r8fXVYdGxuGo6Q&index=6


      This website contains instructions on building fully-automatic weapons with pipe and bench tools: http://thehomegunsmith.com/

      The purpose of the Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting or personal defense(That argument has no historical evidence). It's great for those things, but it was written into the Bill of Rights to ensure that the people of the United States would be armed, and thus able to resist a tyrannical government of the likes of the United Kingdom.
      You often frame people who prepare to fight the government as paranoid and delusional. Many of them are, and it's easy to find crazies on both sides of this issue(Pro-gun people have Alex Jones, anti-gun people have Jesse Jackson Jr. and Carolyn McCarthy- it's more "grossly misinformed" in her case). But history provides us with many examples of ruling bodies gone wrong. The United States government is in working order in its present state. But anyone who thinks that it could never possibly become broken is simply naive.

    3. Wow- I guess you are one of those folks who are paranoid and have changed the interpretation of the second amendment to fighting your own government. There is no way Carolyn McCarthy is an extremist. That is ludicrous. You can't have it both ways. What is the second amendment about? Heller decision made it about right to own gun for self defense in your home. I guess you don't believe in that decision. You are paranoid and delusional. There is no other way to phrase it. Don't call me naive just because I don't agree with you. That is arrogant to say the least and demeaning.

    4. In regards to Mz Mccarthy, the legislators who voted for the NYSafe act didnt show themselves in a good light. They were in such a hurry to pass the bill that they apparently didnt read it very thoroughly. For example, they sort of forgot to include an exemption that would allow law enforcement to possess "bad" magazines. This resulted in them having to go back and fix things. It seems a lot like what the Illinois legislature tried to pull at the last minute, only in their case it failed. It will be interesting to see how the citizens reply in 2014.
      Things are getting interesting in Illinois too. They are under a court order to enact a carry permit law by June because the court has determined that bearing arms means a bit more than keeping it in your house. I'm not sure what will happen if they dont meet the deadline. Perhaps it will revert to a permitless system like Vermont. That might be interesting.
      While I dont believe that allowing citizens to carry for self defense will solve all of Chicago's problems, it will at least allow them the option to attempt to defend themselves. The powers that be in Chicago and Cook County need to figure out that passing more gun laws isnt going to help.

    5. Yes, Mark, it will be interesting to see if carry permit holders can defend themselves against stray bullets flying in the streets and ending up killing innocent children sitting in their cars. It won't happen as you envision it. It never has and it never will. It will just add to the already too many shootings. "Mz" McCarthy? Is that meant to put her down?

    6. ""Mz" McCarthy? Is that meant to put her down?" As I stated, everyone who worked to pass that bill didnt show themselves very effective congresscritters by being so caught up in a mad dash to pass a bill that they couldnt be bothered to proof read it.
      If the voters really approve of the legislation passed, then it will be shown in 2014. And the state will get the laws they wish. Just as ours will, though thankfully, the Minnesota legislature is moving with proper deliberation to ensure both sides are heard.

    7. You do realize that Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy had nothing to do with the laws that passed in New York state, Mark? She is not in the New York legislature. She is in Congress.