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.
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Uniting our voices this Christmas season and beyond

So Christmas is almost here. If I were "politically correct" I would say "happy holidays". And why not? Some people celebrate the Christmas holiday and some don't. Some just celebrated Hanukkah. Some celebrate Kwanzaa. Some Americans are Muslim or another non-Christian faith. Some folks are not at all religious and don't celebrate the traditional holiday. Generally speaking though, this holiday is a festive time of the year with all of the lights and symbols that go with the season. The lights are meant to help us cope with this dark time of the year. And it can be dark both physically and emotionally for many.

The Christmas holiday can bring mixed emotions. It's a reminder of past happy holiday times with family or maybe it's a reminder of past unhappy family times with family. It's often a reminder of loved ones who have died and a time to remember them. My Dad died on December 23rd, more than 20 years ago now, of a stroke. It took him suddenly with no warning. Needless to say, Christmas that year was a blur. We tried to celebrate for the sake of the kids but nothing was the same. His funeral was the day after Christmas. We sang "Joy to the World" to make us all feel better at the end of the funeral.

So this year, the Davis family in Colorado will have an awful holiday season if they celebrate the holiday. They will never forget the date of December 21- the winter solstice. To them, it will always mean the death of a beloved and beautiful daughter, just 17, full of life and hope for the future. Claire Davis was senselessly shot in the head point blank by an 18 year old with a shotgun on a mission at Arapahoe High School in Colorado ( near Columbine and Aurora). Now- another funeral. Another gun death. Another one to add to the 30,000 a year who die from gunshot injuries. She was not a number to her family and friends. She was a living breathing human being until suddenly she wasn't. The shooter, a teen who could legally buy a shotgun and ammunition in Colorado, was just your average teen to those around him. Until suddenly he wasn't. And now, he, too, is dead from self inflicted gunshot wounds. He died immediately. It took 7 days for Claire Davis to die. From the article:
"Last week was truly a paradox in that we lost our daughter, yet we witnessed the wonderful love that exists in the world through the tremendous outpouring of support we received," read a statement posted by the Davis family on the hospital's Facebook page. 
The family said they felt "truly blessed" to have been Claire's parents.
"The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger," the statement read. 
Authorities said Pierson's attack lasted just 80 seconds. Officials believe the teen was angry after losing his coveted spot on the debate team.
"His intent was evil and his evil intent was to harm multiple individuals," Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said last week.
Upon entering the school, Robinson said, Pierson fired one round down the hallway. He then shot Claire, who just happened to be sitting nearby with a friend as he headed toward the library. Claire suffered severe head trauma, which put her in a coma. 
Robinson said Claire was an innocent victim who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
80 seconds. And no, Claire was in the right place at the wrong time. Kids should be able to go to school without being shot by other kids. But that's the America we have. Shotguns are meant for hunting. Should 18 year olds be able to buy them legally? I'm just asking. The NRA would love to lower the age for overall gun purchases. Good idea, right? The NRA lobbyists and leaders want more gun sales. If the age for legal purchase is lowered, there could be more gun sales. And there would likely be more gun deaths. But never mind common sense. When profit comes ahead of human lives, this is what we get. There's a reason why the legal age for drinking alcohol is 21. Our collective wisdom and our common sense have informed us that teen-agers can't handle the responsibility of drinking alcohol legally. Bad things can happen when teens drink illegally. Take this story of a 19 year old college student who almost froze to death on a cold winter night after being out drinking with friends.

We know that we can't stop all bad or illegal behavior with laws. But for goodness sake, we have to at least try to make it more difficult for accidents or tragic incidents to occur. For our public health and safety, our elected leaders make laws about most things in our lives. Without laws, chaos would ensue. We are a nation of law. But when it comes to guns, not so much. We need to decide what we stand for as a country. We need to have a collective wisdom and collective conscience and a sense that what we are doing is for good reason. But I digress.

Two other Colorado teens have been arrested for plotting to shoot up their school after the holidays:
Just a week after a disaffected teen severely wounded a fellow student at his Colorado high school before killing himself, police arrested two other boys Friday on suspicion of plotting to similarly shoot up their high school in the same state.
Trinidad High School, Trinidad Middle School and Fisher's Peak School in Trinidad were on "lockout" status — sealing children and staff inside — for most of Thursday until it was determined that the boys weren't in class. 
The boys — who weren't identified because they are juveniles ages 15 and 16 — face charges of making a credible threat to a school and felony inciting destruction of life or property, Trinidad police said Friday.
They'd been planning for at least six weeks to open fire in the high school once classes resume next month after the winter break, police said. 
Where were these teens going to get their guns? Most likely from home or stealing them. Guns are readily available for teens who get a crazed and dangerous idea in their heads that they can just go to a school and shoot it up. Easy Peasy. It's far too easy for people who shouldn't be able to access guns in America to get them. We make it easy. We can change that but we don't. Kids have access to guns in their homes if they are not locked up and secured with no ammunition nearby. Felons, domestic abusers and others who shouldn't have guns have easy access to them. Look at this video recently released by the Brady Campaign:




If we pass a law to require background checks on all commercial gun sales, we can make it less easy for people who shouldn't have guns from getting them. The law would not stop law abiding citizens from going about their business of buying guns if they so choose. Of course this law would not stop parents and others from leaving their loaded guns around where children can find them. That's another issue that should be addressed in a different way. For example, if this Arizona family had secured their loaded gun where their child couldn't have accessed it they would be celebrating the holiday season with their 3 year old instead of without him:
Police say an Arizona toddler is dead after accidentally shooting himself with his parent’s gun.
The parents said they "inadvertently" misplaced the gun.

Avoidable. Irresponsible. Tragic.

I write about these senseless deaths of children frequently. I contribute to the Kid Shootings blog where we can't keep up with the number of kids who shoot themselves or others or get shot by someone else. I admire Joe Nocera of the New York Times who has been writing about gun deaths (in his Gun Report) since Newtown. It is stunning. His latest column features my friend and colleague Griffin Dix from California, whose young son was senselessly shot by a friend who was handling a loaded gun in his home. Nocera will continue writing in the hopes that our elected leaders will wake up and do the right thing. He wants us to understand that this is a real public health and safety problem in America that we are ignoring because our leaders are stuck in their old ways of thinking that they can't fight against a mythically powerful gun lobby. They can, of course, but we have to make them realize that they can. Recent comments by Senator Joe Manchin, who co-sponsored the Senate bill that failed last April, reveal the difficulties with trying to get anything done in Congress regarding gun reform. If Manchin is right, we can expect our Congress to ignore what is happening before their very noses every day again in 2014. We can expect them to ignore the victims of senseless shootings and retreat to their pre-conceived and flawed ideas that our country won't do gun violence prevention.

We can prove them wrong. We have to make them realize that it is our children and our communities they we, and they, are fighting for. They know this but they won't admit it. It's a national tragedy and embarrassment that the massacre of 20 small children a little over a year ago resulted in a retreat by our Congress. Those families are going through their second Christmas holiday without their beloved children, sisters, and mothers. But they are not going to let Congress forget about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

This Christmas season, I hope that my readers and my own circle of friends and family enjoy their precious time with those they love. It's a dark time. It's a hopeful time. I am going to continue my work to prevent the gun violence that devastates our communities every day. The gun violence prevention movement is stronger than ever. The recent merging of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action brings a stronger force to the table and shows that we are not going away. We understand that there is fear and paranoia about things that will not happen if we pass those stronger gun laws. But that unreasonable fear and paranoia can't stop us from doing what's right. We can't let what we are doing now become the "new normal." That is why we changed laws about where people can smoke. That is why we insisted that cars come with seat belts and air bags. The "new normal" wasn't working so we changed what was normal. And we have saved lives as a result. That's what this is about.

The "new normal" should be that we will do everything we can to prevent the senseless and tragic shootings in our communities. As a country we should be better than this. And we are. If we don't stand for something, then who are we? There is hope this season that the next year will bring the changes we deserve. And that hope may just come from our children whose lives are peppered with gun violence and whose school days include lock down drills in case of a school shooter. That is not normal. And it's not right. A young Newtown teen is giving us hope. Please take a look at this video of Sarah Clements who has founded the Junior Newtown Action Alliance:



Such wisdom beyond the years of a teen-ager should give the rest of us hope and courage. Most especially our elected leaders. Listen to Sarah Clements. Listen to the voices of the majority- of the victims- of the survivors. Lives depend on it.

Yesterday at my church, we heard a beautiful and often discordant Advent Cantata written and composed by a young man ( Paul) who grew up in my church. He is now an independent musician/composer. His beautiful voice has graced us frequently in church. As part of the Cantata, Paul wrote this about Hope:
"Hope is a complicated concept. When discussed in church it is most often dealt with from a positive perspective. But there is also a darker side to hope; the idea that hope essentially must be born out of despair. We hope for a better world because of the sad state that we can find our present world to be in. This is the darkness of advent, the unwillingness to remain in a discordant present and the need to look forward to a more perfect future. The music you will hear in movement three will reflect this discord and may even feel uncomfortable. It will also convey a sense of urgency: the need to move out of this chaos. Hope does eventually deliver us, and in the fourth movement, the choir sings in unison as we learn how to fulfill our own hopes and fight back our own fears and the darkness of our world."
I am sharing this with Paul's permission. His words struck me in many ways. What I especially liked was the idea that we need to move out of chaos and into hope. If we look at the lives lost to gun violence, how can we not feel a sense of helplessness and despair? How can we feel hopeful? But then Paul suggests that if we sing in unison we can fulfill our hopes.

Let us sing in unison this holiday season and raise our voices to save lives. Speak and sing loudly about the need for stronger gun laws and the changes that can bring to our current state of chaos. When a life is taken suddenly and unexpectedly by a bullet, the lives of those left behind become chaotic and are forever changed. I am amazed at the strength and the hope shown by the many victims and survivors of gun violence who have chosen to fight for change in the names of their loved ones.

This holiday season, hope for a 2014 where Congress acts for change and acts to save lives. Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the season. Stay safe out there.

15 comments:

  1. japete writes: "If we pass a law to require background checks on all commercial gun sales, we can make it less easy for people who shouldn't have guns from getting them."

    Background checks are already required on all commercial gun sales. Anyone in the "firearms business" as defined by federal statute must hold a Federal Firearms License - and all FFL holders are required to complete a background check on all firearm sales.

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    1. No Bryan they are not. They are not required on people selling guns for profit as private sellers at gun shows and other venues. They are not required on Internet sales at places like Armslist.com where private sellers are selling guns with no background checks and making a profit. Those are commercial sales. They are not casual sales amongst family members or friends.

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    2. Japete, those are NOT commercial sales. They are private sales. Private citizens selling a gun to another private citizen. The last gun show I was at, there were NO private citizens at the show. They were all FFL holders conducting background checks with every purchase of a firearm. If we require a background check with every private sale of every firearm, how will it be enforced? There is no universal registration in the country. It would be an unenforceable law without universal registration. In EVERY single country where universal gun registration has been enacted, confiscation has followed right behind it. Not every gun owner is ready to snap and go on a shooting spree. Wake up.

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    3. Dear Tom- Yes they are commercial sales. Some "private sellers" are selling their gun collections in large numbers at gun shows. We know that from all of the folks on our side who attend gun shows and go through the transactions. They are commercial sales. The sellers are profiting from the sale. And they sell to just anybody. It could be a sale to the next mass shooter. Internet sales are now a large market for gun sales. No background checks. The sellers meet buyers in parking lots and make the sale and the exchange. In states where private sales require background checks, the seller takes the buyer to an FFL at the same gun show. It works. There is no universal registration- never has been with Brady background checks. It would be illegal under the proposed law. You guys are so paranoid about registration and yet you buy guns at FFLS and there has been no registration. Confiscation has not followed in other countries. There has been some confiscation of guns that were made illegal by the laws of the country. But countries that have strong gun laws do not have wide spread gun confiscation just for random reasons- like the government is coming for your guns. It's just not happening the way you say it is. And not every gun owner is ready to snap. But the ones that are kill people who someone loves and cherishes. I know that from personal experience. This is about preventing another mass shooting or preventing at least some of the every day shootings. I am wide awake and fully understand the consequences of gun violence. The nation has been asleep for too long and we are waking up more and more with each high profile gun massacre and each domestic shooting.
      Have a nice and safe Christmas.

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  2. At 18 years old our country deploys soldiers with firearms throughout the world. However, they're not responsible enough to own firearms as civilians here in the U.S.?

    More children die in drownings than firearm related deaths each and every year. Where is the call for background checks on anyone wanting to put a swimming pool in their backyard?

    More importantly, over the past twenty years firearm homicide is down 49% and total gun crime is down 75% while firearm sales and ownership are at all time highs. This is the most recent study released by Pew Research. In order to further reduce the already plummeting rate of gun crime in this country stop re-releasing recidivist gun criminals that continually re-offend. The DOJ reports that 70% of gun crimes are committed by those that have already been convicted of illegally possessing or transferring a firearm. Let's get our priorities straight in further reducing firearm deaths.

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    1. More very young children die from drownings than gun deaths. As children grow older, that changes. And guess what? When people have pools in their yards, they are required to fence them in. People can be sued if they don't. We take as many safety measures as possible to avoid children's drowning deaths. They have to wear life jackets in boats or there is a penalty. Firearm homicide has remained the same since the early 2000s. Crime is down but firearm homicides have not gone down for the last several years. In addition, firearms suicides have gone up. Homes with guns in them have decreased. Those who report that they own guns, own more guns. Most gun homicides are domestic in nature rather than random deaths committed by felons, etc. Your DOJ information has been misinterpreted by you. That does not mean that 70% of gun deaths are committed by those already convicted. Let's get the facts straight.

      Have a nice Christmas.

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  3. Actually, Bryan is correct in his response. A firearm being sold to an out-of-state buyer must be shipped to an FFL dealer who conducts the background check before the buyer can take ownership; the buyer must have the appropriate permit for his or her state. At a gun show, an FFL dealer must likewise perform a background check. The requirements vary depending on the type of firearm, but where I live, anything with a pistol grip (including some shotguns and many rifles) requires a background check. A private seller does not need to conduct such a check to an in-state buyer, as this transaction doesn't require an FFL due to not crossing state lines and thus not being federally regulated.

    Having purchased a number of firearms at gun shows, I have gone through a background check EVERY time. I have seen/heard people be turned away by sellers because they didn't have a permit or failed the call-in background check. The laws we already have on the books are quite thorough. Anyone who does not abide by the law is a criminal, whether it's illegally obtaining a gun or illegally using a legally-obtained gun. In both cases, criminals look for - and obvious do find - ways around the law.

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    1. Nope. You and Bryan are wrong. Sites like Armslist.com require no such thing. The sales are made through the seller and the buyer without having them go to an FFL. Check it out for yourself. Sales are advertised with no background checks required. I'm glad you are going through a background check. Many are not. Some private sellers turn buyers away. Some don't. Hidden camera videos show this to be true. Some just tell the buyer- cash and carry- no paperwork and out the door. We have the proof. The laws on the books are in no way thorough enough. they are allowing people who shouldn't have guns to get them anyway. How do you think criminals find a way around the law? By buying from private sellers with no background checks for one. By stealing from law abiding citizens for another. By straw purchasing for another. All guns start out as legal sales. They get into the illegal market in many ways. We have to stop that. Sounds like you are not interested in stopping illegal gun sales. That's what this is all about.

      Have a nice Christmas.

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  4. Let me tell you a story. This is why more gun laws will not work. They are not enforced. This is disgusting that this crack dealer only gets 365 days with 140 days served. He has prior gun offenses, he has a STOLEN gun. He is soon to be back on the street. Fix this before you work on more useless infringements on our natural rights to defend ourselves.

    On July 13 of this year, police served a warrant on 3747 Oliver Ave. N., the residence of DeWayne Day. They found a huge amount of crack cocaine (57.19 grams) a bit of regular cocaine (6.6 grams) and two weapons: a 12 gauge shotgun and a 44 Magnum. The 44 was stolen. Police also found a bit more than $1,000 and a digital scale.

    Judge Alexander gave Day a sentence of 365 days in the workhouse with credit for 140 days served. According to Roberta Englund, the sentence was "an egregious downward departure" from a possible sentence of 36/86 months for the guns and drugs noted in the criminal complaint.

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    1. I agree that that needs to be fixed. Not having all the facts in the case, not sure if it is as you say. It is no excuse for not fixing our background check system. we can walk and chew gum at the same time. Perhaps this guy wouldn't have been able to buy a gun in the first place if we had stronger gun laws. I am all about prevention rather than waiting until after a crime has happened. Hopefully you agree.

      Have a nice Christmas.

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  5. Really? Because I found this law on the books...

    (a) No person shall engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms, or importing or manufacturing ammunition, until he has filed an application with and received a license to do so from the Attorney General. The application shall be in such form and contain only that information necessary to determine eligibility for licensing as the Attorney General shall by regulation prescribe and shall include a photograph and fingerprints of the applicant. Each applicant shall pay a fee for obtaining such a license, a separate fee being required for each place in which the applicant is to do business, as follows: ....

    I even remember when the the BATF would watch someone purchase a firearm at a gun show legally for, say, $300. The undercover agent would then go up to the purchaser and say something like "Dude! I have been searching for one of those for years to replace the one I got from my grandfather! I'll give you $100 more than you paid for it! $200 more!"

    If you sold it you got busted for "dealing without a license." because you just made a profit.

    But seeing as there are actual laws on the books, why don't we enforce those laws instead of passing more laws that won't be enforced?

    I bet I have been to more gun shows than you and I challenge you to come show me how you can buy a gun at a gun show without a background check from a "dealer."

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  6. You are wrong Robin. I have been to gun shows with someone who specifically asked about buying a gun with no background check. One of the people in our organization has bought 2 guns with no background checks that he has displayed at legislative hearings. Here is just one video of how easy this is. http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/10/tonight-on-ac360-gun-show-hidden-camera-investigation/

    Get your head out of the sand. This is a real problem. Denying it does your side no good at all.

    Have a nice Christmas.

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  7. Dear Eric Miller from Minnesota- I hope you have a nice Christmas if you celebrate it. But what isn't nice are your comments left on my blog post. They will not be published because they are offensive, rude and obnoxious. Maybe in the new year, you will find out that using reasonable language may actually result in some kind of reasonable discussion. Until then, your comments are not welcome on my blog.

    Signed- "Libtard" "gun grabber" and one who "spews filth and lies and is full of garbage"

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  8. Regarding the Arapahoe CO shooting, it should be noted that the shooter killed himself after 80 seconds, as you noted. The reason he killed himself so shortly after entering the school is that he was confronted by an armed school resource officer. This is exactly what the NRA called for. Why did you omit that?

    Further, as you noted, the shooter was 18yo and used a shotgun (the same kind that Joe Biden recommends to his wife). 18 is the age of consent, the age a person can sign a contract, vote and join the military. With the exception of legally being allowed to drink, it's what we as a society has determined is the age a person becomes an adult. Should we reconsider the age of adulthood?

    Also, Japete, if a gun sale happens across state lines (buyer in one state, seller in another) it absolutely has to go through an FFL. That is federal law and claiming otherwise is unequivocally wrong.

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    1. No Paul- we have more than several hidden camera videos showing private sellers selling to people with no drivers license and not ID at all. The proof is right before our very eyes. Internet sales ( Armslist.com) require nothing in many cases. So what you are saying is just not true. I am right actually. Shooters often do kill themselves when an armed officer shows up the scene. Such was the case with Cho. Armed officers are trained for this type of thing. I actually don't object to armed officers in public places. The problem? How can they be everywhere in one building. The damage is already done. In the case of Cho at Virginia Tech, 32 people and dozens of others were already shot before anyone knew where he was on campus. And there have been virtually few if any mass shootings where an armed citizen stopped a shooter. Some have been security guards. Some law enforcement. We should reconsider the age at which people can buy guns- yes. Guns are designed as deadly weapons to kill people. At least when 18 year olds join the military they are trained with their weapons and use them in controlled circumstances.

      Have a nice Christmas.

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