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.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sad, but true

Too many things are sad, but true, concerning gun violence in America. I recently ran across this article, written after the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting:
"Ours is the only Constitution that explicitly protects “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”  But the Second Amendment is anything but clear about what those Delphic words were intended to mean at the time they were enacted.  Its words read as follows:
“a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
In 1793, “arms” meant musket rifles that fired one shot and had to be reloaded.  Today’s assault weapons bare little relationship to those primitive weapons.
Moreover, the concept of “bearing arms” generally relates to the military use of weapons.  Hunters and homeowners do not “bear arms.”  They carry weapons.  That is why until 2008 most constitutional scholars interpreted the Second Amendment as conveying a collective, rather than an individual, right to possess weapons as part of “a well regulated militia.”  But in a surprising decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, a divided United States Supreme Court struck down a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession in the home and other restrictions on the right of an individual to own self defense weapons.  The Court left open the difficult question of what sorts of regulations the federal government or the states could impose on gun ownership.  Congress and the States would seem to retain considerable power to impose reasonable regulations, since the Second Amendment itself uses the words “well regulated,” even in modifying the word “Militia.” 
Yet the gun lobby opposes virtually all attempts to regulate the purchase or possession of guns even at flea markets, gun shows and on the internet. The bottom line is that guns are pervasive in America with nearly half of American homes containing at least one gun. (...) The frontier origins of the United States may help to explain both the Second Amendment and the desire of many Americans to own guns.  But today there is no rational need for so many unregulated guns in our country.  Military weapons are omnipresent in Israel, a nation threatened both by external military enemies and internal terrorism.  Sometimes these weapons are used to commit crimes, but not nearly on the scale experienced by the United States.  Unless attitudes and laws change in the United States, we will see more and more avoidable tragedies of the kind experienced in Colorado."
The sad thing is, since the article was written we have suffered the most heinous mass shooting in our history when a teen who should not have had access to guns massacred a bunch of first graders. And yet, it's sad but true, we have done nothing to prevent more of these kinds of shootings. Since this article was written, the Navy Yard shooting happened as have other mass shootings and everyday shootings.

Sad, but true.

And speaking of the massacre of last December, the official report of the Sandy Hook shooting has now been released. There are many sad details in the report which don't really answer the main question of why Adam Lanza went to an elementary school and shot up first graders and teachers. But sadly, we did learn that Adam Lanza's mother was going to buy him a handgun for Christmas last year in spite of all of his problems with learning disorders and/or mental illness. There is much more to think about in the report.

Another article about the Sandy Hook report, by Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post, wonders why Adam Lanza's mother exposed him to guns. And that is the question of the year for sure. Perhaps when you, yourself, are into guns, you just don't get why your whole family should not also be into them and exposed to them. There are many good reasons why small children should stay away from guns. There are many good reasons why teen-agers should not have easy access to guns. There are many good reasons why a child or other family member with the disabilities and mental illness suffered by Adam Lanza should never be exposed to guns. Having worked with children with autism of varying degrees, I would say that kids and adults with the disability would not have the judgement to be responsible with guns. But, then, I'm just a normal person who doesn't believe that guns should be everywhere and owned and carried by anyone who wants them. Most agree with me, including Justice Scalia who wrote the majority opinion in the Heller case. And from the article above:
And still Nancy Lanza encouraged his interest in guns. She went target-shooting with Adam and his older brother. They took National Rifle Association safety courses. I can understand a parent, desperate to find a way to connect to an alienated child, seizing on a mutual passion. But no person with Adam’s bizarre behaviors ought to be around guns, let alone have them within easy access at home.
Few parents have to deal with the likes of Adam Lanza. Many parents, perhaps most, have to learn to find the balance between devotion and denial, empathy and enabling.
Nancy Lanza failed at that task. Searching her house after the shootings, they found a check she had made out to Adam. It was dated Christmas Day, and designated to buy a CZ 83 pistol.
The recently released report about the Sandy Hook shooting raised more questions than answers. But we do know that there was easy access to an arsenal of weapons and ammunition in the Lanza household. As we say on the Kid Shootings blog: Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Sad, but true.

Here's another sad story. A Mississippi man, and gun permit holder, who shouldn't have, carried a loaded gun into a church. The gun discharged and unintentionally shot a woman inside. From the article:
A Mississippi man with an “enhanced” concealed carry permit was arrested over the weekend for discharging a firearm inside city limits after he accidentally hit a woman with a shell in church when his gun discharged.
Churchgoers at Pinelake Church in Rankin County were preparing for service on Sunday morning when the 9mm handgun in Joseph Edgar Ray’s pocket discharged while he was sitting down, according to the Clarion-Ledger. (...) 
Pinelake Church Executive Pastor of Operations Rod Cadenhead pointed out in a statement that guns were not allowed on the property. In fact, a sign in front of the church says, “Carrying of a pistol or revolver is prohibited.”
“We are thankful for God’s grace and protection given this unsettling and unprecedented incident,” Cadenhead insisted. “We are committed to providing a safe environment for our church family to worship, and firearms are prohibited on our campuses.”
But McMillian told Raw Story that Ray had an “enhanced” carry permit that allowed him to ignore signs prohibiting guns, except in some places like schools and courtrooms.
“Most people go by the signs, we very seldom have stuff like that crisscross,” he said, adding that Ray was an “upstanding guy” and that’s why he wasn’t releasing his mug shot.
There are so many things wrong with this story. First of all, there's an enhanced permit so the permit holder can pretty much go anywhere with his or her gun(s)? I mean, why not? Of course. Silly me. Secondly, Ray was an "upstanding guy"? Really? Ray didn't want to follow the usual rules. Some places don't want loaded guns in their buildings or spaces- for obvious reasons. But the state law allowed him to carry his gun where signs prohibit most people from carrying guns. He thought that carrying a gun in church was necessary because well, because- because- er um- just because? Is there something dangerous about going to church? I guess the biggest danger comes from the "enhanced" gun carry permits held by "upstanding guys". Perhaps the law allowing for "enhanced" permits should be re-examined given the enhanced chances of something going wrong when a gun can go off while sitting down in a church or another public place. This is sad, but true.

Where is common sense?

And then there's the Open Carry movement. These sad and pathetic gun rights extremists are going to extremes to attempt to get the rest of us to accept that people openly carrying loaded guns around in our communities is normal and safe. (see story above)  Here are some observations about this crazy movement:
And so, the logic of open carry goes, regular exposure to armed “good guys”—on the street, at the farmers’ market, at Starbucks—will act as immersion therapy for the needlessly frightened. And if it doesn’t work? If people are still alarmed by the sight of the armed?
“Grow the hell up,” Idehen suggests in one of his many online videos hosted on the NRA’s website. “You don’t have a right to feel safe by taking away or severely limiting people’s means to protect themselves. We aren’t in kindergarten anymore where you’re allowed to wallow in your false sense of importance by limiting other people because of how you think it makes you feel.”
Ian Houston, a gun rights blogger in Eugene, Oregon, says though the extreme open carriers—people in fatigues who stroll through city centers with semi-automatic weapons—might frighten people at first, their efforts are no different from the nonviolent resistance employed by Dr. Martin Luther King in the fight for civil rights a half decade ago.
“It’s a peaceful movement,” Houston says. “The perception of those anti-gun mothers in Texas is they see weapons and they are afraid. And the perception of the people outside is that they see someone who is trying to take away their rights. They’re using those weapons not as a weapon to be violent with, but as a weapon to bring attention to their cause...They’re not using them to be scary. They’re using them as a way to say, look at me, which is what protests are for.”
But, ultimately, guns are not solely symbolic. Even if brandished as a symbol of freedom and expression, they were designed as weapons, and they kill people every day. Any fear that fact might provoke, open carry activists say, will have to be dealt with through education, not a restriction of gun rights.
Peaceful movement? Give me a break. There really is nothing peaceful about seeing armed citizens walking around on our streets. That's a picture of a country at war, not at peace. Further, I'm all in favor of education. But I prefer to be educated by intelligent people who are dealing with the facts. We don't need to be educated about the danger of guns in public places. We see the carnage almost every day in communities all over the country. Education won't change the deadly nature of guns. Common sense and passing reasonable gun laws can and will.

And how sad and ludicrous, actually, is the next article. Here is a Pennsylvania gun permit holder who tried to take a loaded gun into a judge's chambers. Not a good idea in the first place. He was going to refuse to say he had the gun but he got caught. It turns out his PA permit had been revoked for very good reason. But he also had a New Hampshire permit so he argued that he should have been able to use that permit to show that he was a "law abiding"permit holder. Never mind that he tried to take a gun into court. That seemed to have escaped him in all of his bluster about his rights. His guns were taken from him as well as his permit but he was just arrogant and stupid enough to challenge what happened to him. It didn't go so well. From the article:
The court issued its ruling in dismissing a State College-area man's challenge to the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's gun permit laws. Hobson L. McKown filed that challenge in appealing his 2011 conviction on a charge of carrying a firearm without a license.
He was arrested in September 2008 for trying to take a concealed pistol into a district judge's office.
McKown, whose Pennsylvania carry permit had been revoked several months before his arrest at the judge's office, claimed that he was still licensed to carry a concealed weapon at the time because he also had a carry permit issued by New Hampshire.
According to court records, McKown, 28, was arrested by State College police when he brought the pistol to the office of District Judge Jonathan Grine and at first refused to reply when a police officer asked him whether he was armed. McKown finally admitted that he had a loaded gun in his pocket.
His Pennsylvania carry permit had been revoked by Centre County Sheriff Denny Nau months before the incident at the district judge's office after McKown was accused of assaulting another person without provocation while he was drunk.
Why was he going to the offices of a judge in the first place? Likely not for a friendly visit. Why did he need a gun while going to talk to a judge? And more from the article:
On appeal, McKown mounted not only the constitutional challenge, but argued that his conviction should have been graded as a lesser misdemeanor, that his sentencing hearing should have been closed to the public, and that authorities should not have seized his weapons that were not firearms.
He prevailed on just one point. The Superior Court ordered that two Airsoft plastic pellet pistols, two crossbows, four knives and 17 canisters of ammunition be returned to McKown. Court records show that 11 firearms also were taken from McKown's house.
McKown is running a write-in campaign for a Centre County district judge seat in next month's general election. In an online posting, he describes himself as a "constitutional and criminal law frontiersman."
I submit to you that this guy is a poster boy for the stupidity and extremism of some of the gun rights folks in our country. Of late, these guys seem to be coming out of the woodwork for all to see. Is this who our elected leaders are listening to when trying to make and pass reasonable gun laws? The question needs to be asked. But the most ridiculous part of this story is that the guy thinks he can run to win a seat as a judge!!!! Where is common sense? Raise your hand if you think this guy should ever have a permit to carry a gun.

Sad but true.

And seriously, armed road rage incidents seem to be more often in the news. When permit holders carry their loaded guns around in cars, cutting someone off in traffic can become deadly. Check out this one in Arizona:
The two vehicles stopped, and Pearson got out of his Honda and approached Appleton's Toyota. He grabbed the lawyer's wrist, but Appleton says he was able to break free. Then, according to the lawyer, Pearson used the clamp-hold on his neck.
Appleton says he realized the time had come to act — or die.
"I'm getting lightheaded. I'm starting to lose consciousness," Appleton says. "And so I displayed the gun."
He raised his weapon. Pearson, he says, only "squeezed harder."
He says Pearson told him in a strangely even voice, "Don't shoot me with that gun." He says Pearson still was holding his neck.
The lawyer, a self-described marksman, says he aimed for what he thought was a non-fatal shot to his attacker's abdomen. But the bullet he fired severed Pearson's spine.
One dead. Lots of questions. Guns are dangerous. Bullets don't always go where intended. Is this self defense? What would have happened without the guns? Two men alive but roughed up? Why are there so many hot heads carrying guns around in public places? I'm just asking.

Sad but true.

This one falls under the category of shoot first/ask questions later. A Georgia man with Alzheimer's wandered during the night, only to be shot by a guy who must think everyone in his yard is a deadly threat to him:
Authorities in northwest Georgia say a man shot and killed a 72-year-old who he thought might be an intruder but turned out to be a wandering Alzheimer's patient.
Walker County police told the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/1bXSw3m ) that Ronald Westbrook had walked about 3 miles in the sub-freezing temperatures before knocking on Joe Hendrix's door just before 4 a.m. Wednesday.
One man dead, another perhaps charged or perhaps will get away with murder. Maybe he can argue that an unarmed 72 year old confused man was a deadly threat to himself. Whatever. Without the gun- a 911 call or maybe just waiting to make sure a person in your yard is not, indeed, dangerous or armed.

Sad but true.

And to end this sad but true post, I found this article in Media Matters exposing the NRA for lying once again to its' members about what groups supporting the prevention of gun violence are saying to their supporters. This is no surprise. But I do find it interesting that I get comments from some of my gun rights readers right after the NRA releases some of their missives. I just got one yesterday telling me I should be ashamed of myself for lying about what I'm saying. And the reasons for this? The words were almost identical to what the NRA sent out to its' members as posted in the linked article by Media Matters:
This year several ideological groups and news outlets are trying to prep their readers for the inevitable political conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table. But the National Rifle Association is taking a new tact -- it wants you to lie to your family members about gun violence.
In advance of Thanksgiving, Demand Action -- a project of gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) -- released a fact sheet called "Talking Turkey About Guns." According to Demand Action, "when talk around the table turns to politics and current events, you can help set the record straight on some of the most common myths about guns." The fact sheet offers a number of arguments in support of expanded background checks on gun sales and points out that the United States has more gun violence than any other developed country in the world.
The NRA responded to the fact sheet with a rebuttal titled, "Bloomberg is full of stuffing," a reference to MAIG founder and co-chair Michael Bloomberg. According to the NRA, Bloomberg is attempting to "put a damper on a favorite American holiday" and "he wants to turn Thanksgiving table talk to curtailing our Second Amendment rights." The NRA encourages its supporters to "take a few minutes before dinner to set the record straight about Michael Bloomberg's latest attempt to inject himself into every Americans' life."
The NRA rebuttal, however, is extremely dubious. Most glaringly, in two of its four sections it fabricates quotes that purport to come from the Demand Action fact sheet in a way that distorts Demand Action's points. The other two sections are also suspect. In one, the NRA falsely suggests that a claim in Demand Action's fact sheet was unfavorably fact checked by The Washington Post, when the Post fact check was about a claim Demand Action did not make. The other section fails to debunk a Demand Action claim by pushing the discredited theory that increasing gun ownership reduces crime.
And there's much more to read in this article. It's sad, but true, that the corporate gun lobby's fear and paranoia led them to lie to their members. The thing is, we are talking about people losing their lives to gun violence. This is not just about any old topic. This is about a national public health and safety problem that we are ignoring largely because of the myths and deceptions of the NRA lobbyists and their supporters. As a country we should be better than this. It's really past time for all of this to change. But finally, the NRA's myths are being exposed and they have some competition for the attention of the country concerning guns and gun violence. Groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Brady Campaign, Center to Prevent Youth Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Americans for Responsible Solutions and the many state groups and social media groups are debunking the corporate gun lobby's myths.

It's sad but true that myths and lies have turned the heads of our elected leaders. There is every reason to hope that that is going to change. Let's take a look at the Demand Action facts that have the NRA on the defensive:

You can click on the photo to see what got the NRA in such a tizzy. There's still time for you to talk to your relatives and friends about what they can do to demand action from our leaders. It's almost one year out from the massacre of 20 first graders and we have failed to act. 

Sad, but true.

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