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, September 19, 2013

Data, denial, deflection, death and de-bunking gun myths

In the aftermath of mass shootings, the gun rights advocates get into denial mode and try to deflect the facts by arguing over nonsensical things. Like, for example, what one person wrote to me saying the media made a mess of the coverage of the disaster by daring to mention that an AR-15 had been used in Monday's mass shooting at the Navy Yard. Yes, CNN's Piers Morgan made a big deal about AR-15s in a "debate" with some gun rights folks on his program after the Navy Yard Massacre. From the article:
"Ferguson told Morgan the Navy Yard was a gun-free zone, so gun control was “a failure in this base with all the best security in the world.” Morgan complained that the bigger failure is the “failure to do anything” in the wake of countless tragic shootings. After Richard Feldman brought up the lack of a real conversation on mental health, Morgan cried, “You guys just never accept that the gun itself can never be part of the problem!”
Lott argued that gun-free zones are “magnets” for tragedies like this to occur, and fought with Morgan over the accuracy of gun massacre statistics. Morgan also shouted down the idea that a military installation was a “gun-free zone,” pointing out the armed security the NRA wanted after Sandy Hook was present at the base “and it made absolutely no difference!”
Ferguson shot back that if someone is in the Navy and being trusted with hi-tech equipment and classified information, “why the hell wouldn’t we trust you to bring your weapon to work with you?” Morgan sighed and scolded the panel for being so intransigent in their views about guns. He shouted, “Think about your position! Think about how it helps save American lives! Because it doesn’t! More guns is not the answer!”"
Morgan has long advocated for common sense about guns and gun violence and regularly gets into arguments with the gun rights folks on his program. He doesn't like assault rifles. He doesn't like shootings. He doesn't like the death and destruction. Most people don't, actually. So the media naturally started talking about a possible assault rifle in the Navy Yard shooting. I mean why wouldn't they? So many mass shootings have involved AR-15s and other assault type rifles. In America, that's the way it is. We have come to expect another mass shooting with another assault rifle. Why be in denial about that? Was that the fault of the media? Did it matter in the end? What is all the fuss from the gun rights guys about this? Does this deflect from the tragedy that unfolded as the day went on and we learned more and more information? It turns out that the shooter was only able to get his hands on a shotgun. The handguns used apparently came from the law enforcement officer he disabled after shooting him. So yes, death and destruction can happen with any gun- shotgun, hand gun, assault rifle. Guns are dangerous. They are designed to kill. That is the point.

Rachel Maddow has done us a favor by demonstrating the sad and ludicrous fact that mass shootings have become more frequent in recent years.

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So what should we think about this? Why have mass shootings increased? What is going on? I believe the nation should demand to understand the reasons behind this trend and demand that we do something. Anything. This is not OK. Facts matter. And denial is simply not the answer. It's not working. We are at a tipping point in this country. Are we going to shrug our collective shoulders and move on to the next mass shooting without deconstructing what happened in this one? Probably though we are learning some new things about the mental state of the shooter. Yes, we need to do something about mental health. Are we? Our health care system is under assault by the far right who don't seem to think the government should be involved in providing any health care to anyone. People can't sometimes get coverage for mental health issues. So let's get together and decide that mental illness is a serious problem in America. But are we doing anything about how those with mental illness can access guns? Shouldn't we? Why wouldn't we? We are in denial. The corporate gun lobby has made sure that just about anyone can get a gun these days.


The gun rights folks just keep up their drumbeat that nothing would have stopped this shooting anyway so why bother to do anything proactive. They say that passing any laws will punish them. They haven't explained how requiring them to go through a background check for every gun sale would actually punish them. I mean, how could it possibly do that? Is it punishment for law abiding gun owners when we stop someone who shouldn't have a gun from getting one? This is nonsensical. This myth needs to be debunked and debunked soon. The next mass shooting is around the corner. Here is what Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign said in a press release about the Navy Yard shooting:
In recent years we've experienced mass shootings in a supermarket parking lot, an army base, a movie theater, a temple, shopping malls, universities, high schools, elementary schools, and now a naval facility, and after every one the corporate gun lobby's friends in Congress obstructed the will of the American people and stood in the way of sensible solutions to gun violence. Americans deserve better than this.
While it is too early to know what policies might have prevented this latest tragedy, we do know that policies that present a real opportunity to save lives sit stalled in Congress, policies that could prevent many of the dozens of deaths that result every day from gun violence.  As long as our leaders in Congress ignore the will of the people and do not listen to those voices, we will hold them accountable. We hope Congress will listen to the voice of the people and take up legislation that will create a safer America."
New information shows that Aaron Alexis actually wanted to use an AR-15 but was unable to buy one due to Virginia's gun laws that don't allow out of state residents to purchase an assault type rifle. In other words, he was denied access because of a gun law. Amazing. Gun laws work. Imagine how much more damage could have been done by the shooter with the rifle he really wanted to use. Dan Gross is right. There are policies that can work to prevent this senseless carnage.

As always, after a high profile mass shooting, we learn more information about the shooter in the days after the shooting. It appears that Alexis had his Texas gun carry permit even though he had demonstrated by his actions that he was someone who should have been denied. A gun carry permit allows people to purchase guns because they have been deemed to be law abiding in passing the state's background checks in order to get that permit. This writer ( linked article) is wondering whether we ought to take a different and new look at our system of granting permits for people to carry guns:
Something is very wrong with this system. Common-sense, rational gun owners must recognize this as a clear case when background checks failed to identify the warning signs of someone who really should never have been allowed a gun permit. (Update: I originally wrote that he was armed to the teeth, but subsequent reporting indicates he only had one weapon, a shotgun, when he entered the building.) The federal background check that gave him security clearance to enter the Navy Yard also badly failed.
Two particular incidents, as reported in today’s Dallas Morning News, were cause for concern and offered sufficient warnings for his gun permit to have been yanked. In Fort Worth, he reportedly had tussled with the woman who lived in the apartment above his in 2010, apparently because he thought she made too much noise. One day, there was a bang from down below, and a bullet passed through the floor of the woman’s apartment, just a couple of feet from where she was sitting.
The bullet came from a gun Alexis owned. He did not report the incident to the police. They had to bang repeatedly on his door before he would answer, and he responded to police queries as if it were all an afterthought. What? Ohh, that! No big deal, he suggested. Cooking while cleaning the gun. Slippery hands. You know. Stuff happens.
Responsible gun owners know that the first thing you do before cleaning a gun is to make sure there are no rounds present and that the chamber is clear. Alexis’ story to the Fort Worth police sounds bogus, especially when coupled with his prior history of angry outbursts.
Yet, he apparently continued to have a conceal-carry permit. Or perhaps his permit was issued after this incident? Either way, the answer should be troubling to everyone.
Troubling indeed. Having the facts is important to the "discussion" surrounding our nation's gun culture. Inquiring minds need and want to know the answers to the questions raised after mass shootings. Somehow we never get to answer the right questions. Denial again? Putting our heads in the sand and allowing the gun rights advocates to have the loudest voices is just not OK. Lives depend on our getting this right.

And sometimes humor tells the story better than anything else. So check out the video below of John Oliver of the Daily Show exploring mass shootings and Australia's gun laws:

Gun laws matter. Guns matter. But people are the problem according to Van Cleeve. Yes, indeed. People who shouldn't have guns get them anyway. That is the problem. And that is because of our loose gun laws. Australia did it. We can do it. We just need some resolve and the courage shown by Australian law makers against a whole lot of deeply divided and delusional gun owners who said all the things that the gun rights folks say in America after a mass shooting. We need to discern what we should do and yes, have a discussion based on facts.

In the midst of the news about the nation's latest mass shooting, there was actually some good news. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has issued statements and is running full page ads in large media markets announcing that guns will no longer be welcomed in his stores. It's about time. He doesn't want to take sides but he also knows that having guys with AR-15s hanging in and around his stores is just not a good idea. I wrote about this recently and many times before on this blog. Thank you to Schultz for seeking to deal with armed citizens by saying "No thank you." He is hoping the "gun guys" will honor his request. Time will tell if they can resist their antics and continue strutting around with assault rifles over their shoulders to make their stupid point that guns aren't the problem. From the article:
Schultz insists that his decision was not bottom-line driven. A recent "Skip Starbucks Saturday" sponsored by a gun-control group had no impact on sales, he says.
Rather, he says, Starbucks has had "a number of episodes" in its stores over the past few months regarding guns "that made our customers feel quite uncomfortable."
As a result, Schultz says, Starbucks has heard from numerous customers who don't want guns in the stores. He declined to state how many. But, he says, "It got my attention."
Schultz declined to state if he carries — or has ever carried — a gun. "This isn't about me, he says. "It's about the company."
Who wants to support gun carrying folks making a point when mass shootings are on the rise? Who wants to encourage folks with guns in their workplaces when there have been so many shootings in work places? Who wants to be responsible for a potential shooting inside of their place of business when so many mass shootings are happening around us? The American gun culture has changed dramatically. When the "guys with the guns" swagger around in public with loaded guns openly displayed and the daily shootings and mass shootings keep happening, there is a disconnect. The American people understands this. What we need now is for them to raise their voices and demand the changes that can lead to safer communities and prevent the devastation due to the gun violence that is so pervasive. Again, from Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign about the decision by Howard Schultz:
“Starbucks today announced it is asking customers to leave their guns behind when customers visit its establishments. We are glad Starbucks is starting to take this issue seriously and is listening to the voice of its customers and the voice of the American people. This is an important first step and we hope Starbucks will continue to reassess its gun policy so its customers, including families with children, continue to feel safe.”  
That is what this is all about. After Monday, we added 12 more dead to the toll of gun violence victims. This is serious stuff and demands serious solutions. Public safety should be the prime mover of common sense solutions to pervasive gun violence.

And I will end with this piece with another episode of The Rachel Maddow show presenting us with the problems with doing anything at all about gun violence in America. This video, with facts to go with it, should be a wake-up call. But depressingly our elected leaders are in denial and refuse to act. We must demand that they act. We can't sit by and let this insanity continue. It's time for common sense in America. From the video:

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Death. Denial. Deflecting the truth. Not enough data or ignoring the data. Debunking the myths doesn't seem to move us any closer to dealing with the death and destruction. Shame on us. We are better than this.


Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, wrote this piece for Huffington Post about how Aaron Alexis slipped through the background check system. After reviewing all of the past dangerous behavior and mental illness of the shooter, Horwitz concludes with this:
How many mass shooters have we now seen legally purchase guns despite a mountain of evidence that they were a threat to themselves and/or others? Seung Hui-Cho, Steven Kazmierczak, Nidal Malik Hasan, Jared Loughner, James Holmes, Wade Michael Page, Andrew Engeldinger, Ian Stawicki, Aaron Alexis, etc. The list is endless.
Let's be clear. This problem is not insurmountable. We are the only free country on the planet that allows dangerous individuals like this to arm themselves like Rambo. The solution is before us. Our legislators on Capitol Hill have simply lacked the willpower and leadership necessary to seize it.
It's time to implement a modern, 21st century universal background check system that uses evidence-supported designations of dangerousness to keep guns out of the wrong hands. We are all tired of waking up to the same nightmare on a regular basis and witnessing the slaughter of our fellow Americans. We must demand our legislators stop drinking from the NRA trough and start fulfilling our Constitution's promise of "domestic tranquility."

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