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, June 25, 2013

Keeping us in the dark about gun violence

This post has been updated since first posted.

There is a disconnect between reality and the continued paranoia exhibited by and pushed by the corporate gun lobby. Let's look at the reality first. This article examines trends in gun crime and gun homicide. From the article:
"Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% think it is lower.
Looking back 50 years, the U.S. gun homicide rate began rising in the 1960s, surged in the 1970s, and hit peaks in 1980 and the early 1990s. (The number of homicides peaked in the early 1990s.) The plunge in homicides after that meant that firearm homicide rates in the late 2000s were equal to those not seen since the early 1960s.1 The sharp decline in the U.S. gun homicide rate, combined with a slower decrease in the gun suicide rate, means that gun suicides now account for six-in-ten firearms deaths, the highest share since at least 1981. (...)
Trends for robberies followed a similar long-term trajectory as homicides (National Research Council, 2004), hitting a peak in the early 1990s before declining."
There is much more in this article worth reading about gun crime statistics. The report gives possible reasons for the drop in deaths and crime but no definite conclusions. It's obvious that we need to continue to do more research in this area in order to further the debate about public policy to reduce and prevent gun deaths and injuries. But since the corporate gun lobby has made sure that no funding is approved for this kind of research, we are mostly left in the dark without the necessary research that could change the discussion and policies. The time has come to shed light on the real problem and the real solution without the hyperbole and paranoia that has stopped Americans from fully understanding the issue of gun violence. As long as Wayne LaPierre and the corporate gun lobby gets away with frightening everyone by saying "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" as if that is the truth, we will continue to operate in the dark.

Speaking of enlightening the public, new information has been released showing how often guns are stolen. Stolen guns account for a lot of crime guns and guns used in homicides. If we take a look at the article about the report, we can see that:
The nation’s gun dealers lost 10,915 firearms last year, including pistols, silencers and machine guns, contributing to the flow of illegal weapons that put guns in the hands of felons, gang members and drug dealers, according to a new report released Friday.
(...) The same report says that in Minnesota, 1,353 firearms were reported lost or stolen by gun dealers and gun owners last year. One of the largest thefts last year took place in July, when 30 handguns were stolen from a Gander Mountain store in Woodbury. 
The first-of-its-kind ATF report shows state-by-state the number of guns reported lost or stolen. These firearms “pose a substantial threat to public safety and to law enforcement,” the report concluded.
While the number is considered the most accurate count to date, it only shows lost and stolen firearms that were reported to authorities. The total number isn’t known because some states, including Minnesota, do not require gun owners to report if their weapons are lost or stolen.
Moreover, there’s no law requiring local law enforcement agencies to report lost or stolen firearms to federal authorities, further limiting the ATF’s ability to count lost or stolen firearms, the report noted.
Studies by the ATF in the 1990s suggested that stolen firearms supplied about 10 percent of the illegal weapons trade, with the rest coming from gun shows, straw purchases and corrupt gun dealers. Publication of those studies has since been halted by Congress.
A separate 2012 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 1.4 million guns were stolen during burglaries and other property crimes from 2005 to 2010.
According to the ATF report: A total of 190,342 firearms were reported lost or stolen to the National Crime Information Center, the FBI’s national clearinghouse of crime data.
This bears repeating: " Publication of those studies has since been halted by Congress." Indeed, Congress, under the thumb of the corporate gun lobby, has put a halt to any studies that might illuminate us about the causes and effects of gun violence in our communities. This is important information. Guns should be locked up and safely stored in homes so they don't get stolen. In addition, of course, it would stop the many shootings of and by little children who have easy access to loaded guns in their homes. Read more about that at Kid Shootings blog.

You can read the entire report about stolen guns gun here. I particularly like the first paragraph of the report:
On January 16, 2013, President Obama announced a plan to reduce gun violence in the United States. This plan included 23 executive actions, one of which called on the Department of Justice to prepare a report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and to make that report widely available to law enforcement. The following report was generated by ATF in response to the President’s directive. The report gives an overview, for calendar year 2012, of the lost and stolen gun file entries in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and of the lost and stolen firearm reports submitted by Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to ATF. This report will be updated and published annually.
Now this makes common sense. Why would we not want to know this information? Could laws be passed requiring reporting of lost and stolen guns? Sounds like a good idea to me. Why would the gun lobby and the gun rights extremists be against something like this? Safe storage of guns can prevent them from being stolen and possibly used to kill or injure an innocent person or be used in a gun crime. Good idea, right? This should be about saving lives, not profits of the gun industry.

We learned above that gun crime and gun deaths are lower now than in the 1990s. That's a good thing but it is still too high. Too many people are dying every day from gun homicides, suicides and accidental deaths. As I have said before, if that many people were killed or died from any cause, we roll up our sleeves and work to prevent the cause and change the outcome. But the corporate gun lobby and its' minions throw the second amendment around as if what it says is not subject to any interpretation but their own. Gun rights can and should co-exist with gun laws. With rights come responsibilities.

The flawed thinking of the gun rights extremists leads them to the conclusion that there are criminals around every corner waiting to attack them, thus they need their loaded guns in every nook and cranny and at the ready in their homes. It's hard to justify this illogical view of the world when gun crimes are actually lower than they have been for many years. And instead of guns being used for the intended purpose of self defense this is what happens all too frequently. You just can't make this stuff up- from the article:
A Herndon man has been charged in the shooting of a cyclist that was riding past his home on Saturday.
Town of Herndon police said officers responded to the 1200 block of Summerfield Drive in Herndon at about 7 p.m. on Saturday and discovered a man on the ground with a gunshot wound to his abdomen. Police said a preliminary investigation revealed that a gun was discharged from inside a house belonging to John E. Albers, 49.
Albers told police he was cleaning a handgun when it accidently discharged, they said.
“The investigation revealed that Mr. Albers did not know the cyclist. His handgun discharged when he was loading it,” said Lt. Jim Moore of the Herndon Police Department in a release.
Police said the unidentified adult male cyclist was taken to a hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. On Monday, police said he remained hospitalized but is expected to survive.
“He should make it through this,” said Lt. Ron Thunman of the Herndon Police Department, “but the injuries were pretty significant.”
Thunman said Albers was charged with reckless handling of a firearm — a class one misdemeanor — and not with the class 6 felony offense of willfully discharging a firearm in a public place resulting in bodily injury, as was originally stated in a police press release. No attorney information for Albers is listed in court records.
Stupid and dangerous. These kinds of incidents happen too frequently. They are what happens when people with guns are careless. They are what happens when people have been convinced that they need loaded guns in their homes to protect themselves from intruders or whoever is lurking to break in. In fact, most home burglaries occur during the day when people are not at home. Even this gun owner admits that and gives our advice about security systems and making sure that the house looks occupied to avert the threat of a home invasion. He also admits that he has a gun in his pocket around the house in spite of his own advice. Let's hope that works out for him. So more information is clearly needed about the dangers of loaded guns in the home. If people choose to have a gun in the home, they must accept the responsibility for that weapon. The corporate gun lobby that represents the gun industry rather than its' own members, doesn't want people to know about these stupid and dangerous incidents. But all you have to do is read the Ohh Shoot blog and you will see how often this happens. The American public deserves to know much more, especially after 12/14. We deserved to have more information before that be we haven't had it, thanks to the corporate gun lobby.

And when the city of Baltimore reports 21 shooting incidents and 8 dead in one week-end, we know we need more information. Who are the shooters? Where did they get their guns? Why aren't we trying to stop people who shouldn't have guns from getting them in the first place? Were these domestic shootings? Were they gang related? Was it a stray bullet meant for someone else and doesn't that make you think about a country at war? Why do we put up with this? The victims were loved by their families and friends. They shouldn't have to die so senselessly, so suddenly and so violently. From the article above:
"It could be your brother it could be your sister it could be your father it could be your uncle but I’m telling you that the devil comes to seek, kill and destroy," said Andre Witherspoon’s mother.
On Friday, Andre Witherspoon was shot and killed on Ducatel Street near North Avenue.
"They can't imagine what they've taken,” said Zelda Talley, Witherspoon’s sister. “He didn't deserve it; he was a good, genuine person."
More than one hundred people came to a vigil Sunday night at the scene of the murder.
Andre Witherspoon was just one of seven people killed in Baltimore City this weekend.
Sad and tragic.

Read Joe Nocera's Week-end Gun Report. Sad and tragic. He is reporting on the many many gun deaths just in one week-end in America and by doing so, he's shedding a bright light on our nation's problem with gun violence.

Things have changed post 12/14. After the massacre of 20 small children in their elementary school, the country mourned and started demanding the changes we deserve. President Obama has ordered research into the issue of gun violence and it's about to begin.  The gun lobby would love to have us operating in a vacuum and believe their often false claims and deception regarding gun policy. From this article:
This national ignorance is the cover under which the gun lobby hides. Its denialism and simplistic wishful thinking — the solution to mass shootings is more “good guys with a gun” — thrives and holds sway because we have failed to study the problem and base our policy decisions on a sound basis: evidence.
Things may be about to change. A new report pushes us one step closer to treating gun violence as a public health issue. If allowed to gain traction, this change in attitude will have huge consequences.
The report was issued by a panel of experts called together under executive order by President Obama after Newtown killings. The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council assembled the panel and has set priorities to focus research.
Obama is asking for $10 million in the 2014 budget to fund research. Time will tell if Congress has the backbone to follow through. It has folded before.
Money for such research was halted in the mid-1990s under pressure by the National Rifle Association. Ever since, we’ve been stumbling along as a nation, racking up more than a quarter million deaths by gunfire in the last decade alone. (...) 
Because we haven’t gathered a great deal of data on how guns are used in America — for self-defense, in crime, in suicides — we have permitted all sorts of magical thinking.
Hence, some have argued that the solution to mass shootings is to get rid of “gun-free zones,” which (they reason) create easy targets for killers to seek. Then there’s the argument that simply giving children more education about gun safety will lessen their chances of playing with a weapon. What does the evidence say? Well, studies conflict. More and better research would help assess policy proposals.
The president’s panel has selected five areas for focus: the characteristics of gun violence, risk and protective factors, prevention and other interventions, gun safety technology, and the influence of video games and other media.
The aim is not to take guns away from people. It’s about making gun ownership and use safer. It’s about respecting the lethal nature of the weapons enough to reduce accidents, suicides and gun use by the untrained and criminals.
The report took pains to address the fear of creating any sort of national database for gun ownership, a favorite bugbear of gun-control critics. It notes that “anonymized data should be used to protect civil liberties.”
In fact, more and better information could decrease the gulf between those who see gun ownership as an absolute and integral American right and those who regard guns as a serious public health problem. The two points of view need not be mutually exclusive.
Think about the great benefits to American society that have come from efforts to change attitudes about road safety, as well as improvements to roadway design. Countless lives have been saved by a process that began after the federal government began thoroughly studying car wrecks.
By understanding better how people were being injured, both government and industry could make sensible changes. Some key changes were instituted by law, such as speed limits and seat belt usage. Some were safety design changes initiated by manufacturers. After all, protecting the car’s “precious cargo” is a great selling proposition.
Wouldn’t the same argument appeal to a responsible gun owner? This model is less likely to be used by a child or stolen and used by a criminal due to biometrics.
We didn’t confiscate people’s cars. We simply mitigated the injury and loss of life they caused.
As the debate about funding research into firearms goes forward, note which organizations and politicians fight mightily against it. It will speak volumes.
The status quo is unacceptable. And those who fight research and understanding will be telling us that they are satisfied with the way things stand.
The thing is, the magical thinking, as this writer calls it, has led our lawmakers to act in the opposite way necessary to keep the public safe from the gun violence that devastates our communities. This is unacceptable and has just not worked. If we are kept in the dark by the corporate gun lobby then nothing will change to give us the safety we deserve and expect from our policy makers. We are better than this as a country. It's time to roll up our sleeves, do the hard work and shed much needed light on this important public health and safety problem. Lives depend on it.


Soon after I wrote this blog post, I learned of another report suggesting some parameters for research into the causes and effects of gun violence. The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council released this report earlier in June: 
"The complexity and frequency of gun-related violence combined with its impact on the health and safety of the nation's residents make it a topic of considerable public health importance," said Alan Leshner, chair of the study committee and CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  "Therefore, when developing its agenda, the committee took a public health approach that focused on gun violence problems associated with significant levels of injuries and fatalities.  Although this research agenda is an initial, not all-encompassing set of questions, it could help better define the causes and prevention of firearm violence in order to develop effective policies to reduce its occurrence and impact in the U.S.  Similar approaches to public health problems have produced successes in lowering tobacco use, accidental poisoning, and motor vehicle fatalities."
The committee said this public health research agenda should be integrated with research conducted from criminal justice and other perspectives to provide a much fuller knowledge base, as no single agency or research strategy could provide all the answers.  For the five research areas, the committee identified the following key research topics:

Characteristics of gun violence
Characterize the scope of and motivations for gun acquisition, ownership, and use and how they are distributed across subpopulations.
Characterize differences in nonfatal and fatal gun use across the U.S.
Risk and protective factors
Identify factors associated with youth having access to, possessing, and carrying guns.
Evaluate the potential risks and benefits of having a firearm in the home under a variety of circumstances and settings.
Improve understanding of risk factors that influence the probability of firearm violence in specific high-risk physical locations.
Firearm violence prevention and other interventions
Improve understanding of whether interventions intended to diminish the illegal carrying of firearms reduce firearm violence.
Improve understanding of whether reducing criminal access to legally purchased guns reduces firearm violence.  
Improve understanding of the effectiveness of actions directed at preventing access to firearms by violence-prone individuals.
Determine the degree to which various childhood education or prevention programs reduce firearm violence in childhood and later in life.
Explore whether programs to alter physical environments in high-crime areas decrease firearm violence.
Gun safety technology
Identify the effects of different technological approaches to reduce firearm-related injury and death.
Examine past consumer experiences with accepting safety technologies to inform the development and uptake of new gun safety technologies.
Explore individual state and international policy approaches to gun safety technology for applicability to the United States as a whole.
Influence of video games and other media
Examine the relationship between exposure to media violence and real-life violence.


  1. "Earlier this year, President Obama ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the existing research on gun violence and recommend future studies. That report, prepared by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, is now complete."

    Howdy Japete,

    I just came across this article about the study you mentioned and it seems to say it's complete unless there is more than one in progress. I haven't had a chance yet to read the study itself, but here is an article about it.


    1. Thanks. There is much more coming by way of research. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/01/obama-executive-actions-gun-list/61075/

  2. For the gun lobby, ignorance is bliss. As long as the numbers can't be shown, the public won't know just how bad the situation is, or how bad of an idea it really is to have a gun around.

  3. Oh, Joan. How long are you going to blame your favorite boogeyman, the "corporate gun lobby." Was it the corporate gun lobby that showed up by the hundreds to oppose the Paymar/Latz attack on individual liberty? No. Was it the evil NRA that decimated support for their unconstitutional gun grab in the 2013 legislative session? No. It was the passion and dedication of individual citizens who take the concept of personal accountability seriously, and who refuse to have their rights trampled in the name of leftist ideology. These people from all walks of life banded together to support volunteers from a grass-roots gun-rights organization to stand up to Paymar, Latz, and MAIG-sponsored hacks. Your predictable talking points about the corporate gun lobby and the NRA ring hollow to everyone except the other 4 members of Protect Minnesota.

    You know deep down that gun control ideology is morally bankrupt. You want government to have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and then to use that force to impose your ideology on others. You expect others to limit their ability to defend themselves due to your irrational fear of what they might do. Psychiatrist Sarah Thompson describes this perfectly:

    [1] People who identify themselves as “victims” harbor excessive amounts of rage at other people, whom they perceive as “not victims.”
    [2] In order psychologically to deal with this rage, these “victims” utilize defense mechanisms that enable them to harm others in socially acceptable ways, without accepting responsibility or suffering guilt, and without having to give up their status as “victims.”
    [3] Gun owners are frequently the targets of professional victims because gun owners are willing and able to prevent their own victimization.

    I have no moral responsibility towards you other than to do you no harm. Since my ownership of firearms does not impact you in any way, I am not morally obligated to take any further action.

    1. I will not comment on all of the nonsensical and demeaning comments made in the first part of this post. I will also not allow comments attacking victims. I will say, however, that the corporate gun lobby hired 2 lobbyists to come to Minnesota in the last session. Protect Minnesota represents the majority of Minnesotans which you conveniently forgot about in 2 polls taken by the Star Tribune and KSTP. As to your advice to victims, we don't want it or need it. You cite a minor "professional" who gives workshops but is not a practicing Psychiatrist. She had so many of her own personal problems that she gave up her license to practice medicine and is in no way an esteemed professional in her field. These are her opinions more than any professional recommendations. She quotes John Lott and other pro gun folks in her writings. Here are some things to know about Sarah Thompson- again, not a Psychiatrist. http://www.fearlesslife.com/sarah/sarahs_story.html http://www.fearlesslife.com/sarah/sarahs_story.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byron_Katie

      I don't believe we will find any of her writings in professional medical publications.

      I don't need any more demeaning assertions about what victims are feeling and why we are doing what we do. Those are non-starters on this blog and will not be published. I only publish this one to show my readers to what extent pro gun extremists go to demean victims.