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.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What's wrong with America?

Something is going terribly wrong in America. Yesterday I wrote about guns and tampons and what's going on in the Texas legislature. Today I write about what just happened in Florida. These are sad days in America. It was wrong that 20 first graders were massacred on 12/14 and the U.S. Senate failed to act on a simple background check bill that would save lives. It was wrong that Jared Loughner could get a gun and a permit in Arizona and attempt to assassinate U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and kill 6 innocent people. It was wrong that James Holmes bought thousands of rounds of drum magazines on-line with no background check and massacred 12 people at the Aurora movie theater. Virginia Tech was wrong. Columbine was wrong. Mass shootings are wrong. It's wrong that 8 children a day die from gun injuries. Losing 32 Americans a day in gun homicides is wrong.

The victories won by the far right extremists are taking us backwards. Public safety is compromised. Women's rights are compromised. Why is this happening? Good question. It's largely happening in states where legislatures are conservative and conservative Governors are in charge. For example, Wisconsin was one of the more recent states to succumb to the NRA lobbyists push to allow citizens to carry loaded guns in public places. The 50th state (Illinois) to hold out just passed a permit to carry law over the objections of the Governor. And things are changing for sure, but not for the better. As an example, 2 permit holders just had a shoot-out in Wisconsin:
Two Milwaukee men — each with a state permit to carry a concealed weapon — traded dozens of shots in a rolling shootout through two sides of town and down a freeway, the kind of scenario concealed-carry opponents feared would turn road rage incidents deadly.
No one was killed or injured in the June 26 incident, according to a criminal complaint that charges just one of the men, who says he feels like he's being punished for being a victim.
"I can assure you, he was definitely the aggressor," said Eric Adamany, 27. "It absolutely blows my mind he's not been charged." Adamany estimated people in the other vehicle fired 50 to 100 rounds at his car.
Prosecutors won't talk about the case, and the second shooter couldn't be reached for comment Friday. But the gunfight is bound to spark more debate over concealed carry.
According to a criminal complaint:
Shortly after midnight, a man on the south side flagged down a police officer near S. 6th St. and W. Oklahoma Ave. in Milwaukee to say he had just seen gunshots coming from a black car at the stoplight.
Sheriff's deputies, alerted to the possibility of two vehicles involved in a gunfight on I-43, saturated the area near the North Ave. exit. One deputy was flagged down by Adamany near North Ave. and King Drive.
Adamany had put his black 9mm Beretta handgun on his blue 2002 Audi A4.
Meanwhile, another deputy was talking to Roy Scott a couple blocks away on N. 4th St. Scott told the deputy he was carrying a .40-caliber Ruger handgun.
Both men admitted they were in a gunfight but said the other had fired the first shot. Both were arrested and interviewed by Milwaukee police detectives. (...) 
Mayor Tom Barrett said his security staff brought the story to his attention as soon as it appeared Friday on JSOnline.
"This has always been one of my concerns (with the concealed-carry law) — that things like road rage could turn out like the wild, wild West," he said. "Here we are."
Nik Clark, president of Wisconsin Carry Inc., a gun rights advocacy group, said both Adamany and Scott's actions fell well outside of any kind of responsible gun owner training.
But he also said their irresponsible gun use is outweighed by at least five instances in Milwaukee in which permit holders stopped crime or saved a life with their weapons.
"The fact that we now have a single instance where a CCL holder may have broken the law (and will certainly lose their right to carry as a result) doesn't change the reality that concealed carry works," Clark said.
In another recent case, a concealed-carry license holder was charged in a shooting. Phillip Green, 40, is charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the May shooting death of Ernest Banks. According to the criminal complaint, the two men got into a fight after visiting taverns together. Green told police he fired when he feared Banks was about to attack him again.
Does this seem right to you? Does it seem right to you that people with permits should be shooting their guns off in a road rage situation, endangering themselves and others? I don't happen to believe that concealed ( or openly carried) loaded guns are necessary on our streets nor that they do much for public safety. There were a few cases in the article about permit holders stopping a crime or protecting themselves. In one case,  a robbery had already occurred but the permit holder made chase anyway and shot at the robber. This could have resulted in some innocent bystander being killed or injured. The permit holder was shooting in a busy street. In time, we will see more of these types of cases. When loaded guns are promoted for individual safety in public places, there will be more public shootings. When gun permit laws become looser, as they have, with some states requiring no training whatsoever, there will be more public shootings. When the corporate gun lobby and the NRA lobbyists who represent the gun industry continue to promote fear and paranoia, there will be more shootings. When that fear and paranoia leads people to be suspicious of others in public places, there will be more public shootings. When that suspicion of others in public makes a gun permit holder more bold about using his/her gun, there will be more public shootings. When an ordinary argument or fight occurs in public and a permit holder pulls out his/her gun, there will be more shootings. When states that have passed permit to carry laws also then pass "stand your ground" laws, there will be more cases of questionable self defense. When there are more cases of questionable self defense, we may see more trials like the one that just ended, making 17 year old Trayvon Martin's shooting a mockery of, and the result of, our laws.

There are really no words for how I feel about the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case. The jury found him to be not guilty. Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. There is no question about that. I believe that Zimmerman purposely targeted a 17 year old who was doing nothing more than walking to his father's home. He suspected him of something he wasn't doing. He could have and should have stayed in his car to wait for the police. Instead he got out of his car and we don't really know what happened after that except that a fight ensued and Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. George Zimmerman is alive and lied several times about his story to law enforcement. That seems wrong to me. It's wrong that young black men are found to be suspicious for doing nothing wrong. It's wrong that someone was made bolder because of a gun. It's wrong that a law allows someone to shoot another person in claimed self defense and get away with it. There was a fight after Zimmerman continued his pursuit, even though he didn't have to pursue. Without George Zimmerman's gun and the belief that Florida law would support a claim of self defense Trayvon Martin would be alive today. Without the corporate gun lobby pushing the ownership and carrying of guns by more people and in more public places, this crime may not have happened. Where is common sense?

And just to add insult to injury, this young black woman was charged and found guilty of trying to shoot a husband who was trying to abuse her- in Florida again:
A Florida woman who fired warning shots against her allegedly abusive husband has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville had said the state's "Stand Your Ground" law should apply to her because she was defending herself against her allegedly abusive husband when she fired warning shots inside her home in August 2010. She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order.
CBS Affiliate WETV reports that Circuit Court Judge James Daniel handed down the sentence Friday.
Under Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing requirements Alexander could receive a lesser sentence, even though she has never been in trouble with the law before. Judge Daniel said the law did not allow for extenuating or mitigating circumstances to reduce the sentence below the 20-year minimum.
Does this seem right to you? Where is common sense? George Zimmerman had had a restraining order against him by a former girlfriend because of domestic violence. Trayvon Martin, according to the above article, was not a perfect teen and had had some problems. But he was the victim and now dead. He couldn't speak for himself. This evidence was not allowed in at the trial. Did it matter? We don't know. But we do know that George Zimmerman's qualifications for a permit to carry were questionable, given his past. But he got one anyway. Does that seem right to you? Thank you Florida. Florida conceal and carry law allows for very little training in how to shoot a gun. From this article, even some of the trainers believe the laws should be stronger regarding the training:
Krawtschenko knows he is losing business to those kinds of trainers, who churn out students faster and cheaper.
He has written to the governor's office and the licensing division seeking licensing reform — efforts that have produced little results. “There's got to be mandatory qualifications for obtaining a concealed carry license,” Krawtschenko said.
Over the years, other instructors have lobbied for similar change. In a 2006 letter sent to the governor's office and the licensing division, retired Col. James Otto, Sr., a firearms instructor, outlined his concerns about the three-hour licensing classes taught at gun shows. Otto noted that his training classes take three to seven days.
“As an NRA certified firearms instructor and range safety officer, I can no longer trust those carrying permits until I inquire as to their instruction,” Otto wrote. (...) 
Stories of poor training are easy to come by.
In a 2009 complaint letter to the licensing division, Fort Myers attorney J. Patrick Buckley III warned of a gun shop class where, after only 90 minutes of training, students either fire a blank at a Dumpster behind the business or “in the store's restroom, at a toilet.”
Charlotte County Sheriff's Lt. Brian Harrison knows of one gun shop that offers classes where students fire a couple of rounds into a clearing barrel behind the shop. (...) 
“Florida struck a good balance,” said Caranna, who said he is worried an “arbitrary” training requirement could erode Second Amendment protections.
“What's the limit?” he said. “There are people in Tallahassee who will say if you haven't taken an 18-week infantry course, you're not qualified to carry a weapon.”
“It's a slippery slope,” he said. “It would be like saying that before you can write a letter to the editor, you need to take a journalism course.”
Really? Let's look at the rate of gun deaths in Florida:
Murders by firearms have increased dramatically in the state since 2000, when there were 499 gun murders, according to data from Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Gun murders have since climbed 38 percent — with 691 murders committed with guns in 2011.
Only partial numbers are available for 2012, but from January to June, there were 479 murders in Florida — 358 of them committed with a gun. That's an 8 percent increase in gun murders compared to the same period in 2011.
Guns are now the weapons of choice in 75 percent of all homicides in Florida. That's up from 56 percent in 2000.
The rise in gun homicides in Florida comes at a time when the overall murder rate has declined in Florida, and violent crime has dropped statewide. (...) 
There's no clear answer as to why gun murders have increased so dramatically. But one fact is hard to ignore: Floridians own more guns than they did a decade ago, when the gun murder rate was significantly lower.
Concealed carry permits and the state's so-called "stand your ground" law also have emboldened more people to carry firearms, leading to more opportunities for gun murders.
Gary Kleck, a criminology professor at Florida State University and an expert on guns, said the number of people applying for background checks to buy firearms has increased significantly since 2004. Last year, the state processed nearly 800,000 background checks. And after the Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown, Conn., Florida saw a run on gun sales. In the first three months of this year, the state processed 294,185 background checks, nearly as many as in all of 2004.
Most of those who apply for gun background checks in Florida — 98.5 percent in 2010 — are approved. That's in part because of problems with record keeping. Florida lags behind other states in submitting records on mental illnesses to a federal database used in gun background checks, according to a report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. (...) 
A police shooting in Orlando highlighted Florida's gun show market. Angry over a car accident, David Alyn Penney is accused of unloading 30-round clips from two assault weapons at a home on Alabama Avenue in St. Cloud on Nov. 21, 2011. When cops arrived, Penney allegedly turned the guns on the officers, shooting one in the foot and injuring a rookie cop with shattered glass.
Nobody died in the exchange, but investigators later learned that Penney bought the assault rifles at a gun show shortly after his 18th birthday. Prosecutors have cut a deal with Penney in which he will plead no contest in exchange for serving eight years in prison; a judge has yet to sign off on the agreement. Prosecutors indicated in court that Penney's mental health is the reason for the short sentence — a mental health history that might have been discovered if a background check had been required before he bought the assault weapons. (...) 
Ladd Everitt, communications director for the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, disagrees. He said it's no coincidence that gun murders rose at a time when gun ownership increased in Florida. In addition, Everitt said high-profile "stand your ground" cases have given gun owners greater confidence to settle disputes with firearms.
"The point of the shoot-first law was to embolden people to carry guns out in public," Everitt said. "This creates more chances for shootings, and Floridians probably feel much more emboldened to take those shots because they know there's a law that might protect them."
Gun laws matter. Guns matter. A Texas A&M study recently released explains how Stand Your Ground states show higher gun homicide:
Still, based on the available data, it appears that crafters of these laws sought to give good guys more latitude to defend themselves against bad guys. But what Hoekstra's data suggest is that in real-life conflicts, both sides think of the other guy as the bad guy. Both believe the law gives them the right to shoot.
In a separate analysis of death certificates before and after stand your ground laws were passed in different states, economists at Georgia State University also found that states that passed the laws ended up with a higher homicide rate. (...) 
"The imperfect but growing evidence seems to suggest that the consequences of adopting stand your ground laws are pernicious, in that they may lead to a greater number of homicides — thus going against the notion that they are serving some sort of protective function for society," he says.
And in murder cases, Donohue says, the laws might end up being a refuge for some defendants.
"I've been hearing from defense lawyers around the country that if they happen to have a criminal defendant in a stand your ground jurisdiction, pretty much no matter what happens, you can say, 'Well, I shot the guy, but I felt threatened and had a reasonable basis for fearing injury to myself,' " he said.
Does this seem right to you? We have work to do. We are beginning to see more evidence that permit to carry laws are too loose and the result is making us all less safe. We are beginning to see more evidence that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, there are more gun homicides. We have just seen evidence that one man got away with shooting a black teen in part because he was carrying a gun that turned a non lethal situation into a lethal situation. Too many people die every day from gun injuries. Instead of making it easier for people to get guns and gun permits, we should be making it harder. And yes, I believe this is about race. As a country we have much work to do to get this right. Who are we as a country? Until we are bold enough and do the right thing, the daily carnage will continue. The shootings like that of Trayvon Martin will continue. More "George Zimmermans" may just get away with murder. And it will be wrong. We are better than this.

1 comment:

  1. Seriously, an unarmed person goes to the store and buys something. He is then accosted on the street by an armed person who kills him. Then, the person who kills him claims self-defence.

    Isn't that obviously a ridiculous proposition?

    One cannot exceed the reasonable amount of force necessary to stop the threat without becoming the aggressor. That is how self-defence is supposed to work under the rule of law.