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.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On the need for a gun at a movie theater

So I have done this little rhyme once before from the children's book, If You Give A Mouse a Cookieby Laura Numeroff. I love this book. I used it in my work with special education children and more recently with my own grandchildren. Numeroff also wrote If You Take A Mouse To The Movies. These books are whimsical and circular and just plain fun. What wasn't just plain fun was a man getting shot to death in a Florida movie theater over texting with his phone. Does anyone remember when the gun nuts proclaimed that if only someone in the Aurora theater had had a gun, they could have stopped James Holmes from shooting up a theater full of people. Right. I guess maybe that's what this shooter was thinking? Or was he thinking at all? Instead of using his gun in some sort of mythical notion of saving the day in case of a mass shooting, he used it in a fit of anger and pique at a man whose transgression was texting while in the theater. Oh my.

A judge determined that the movie theater shooter should not be allowed to go free. It looks like some pretty good reasons to me.

Here is a response that one of my Facebook friends posted today to what happened in that Florida movie theater.
"How to handle a situation in a movie theater where someone is texting during the previews, and you are annoyed: a) do nothing-the person will probably stop when the feature begins, b) move to another part of the theater OR c) nicely say to the person-"You may not realize it but the light/sounds from your texting is very distracting to me, and I would love to see the previews". The person replies: I'm sorry. I was just checking in with our babysitter and if I have to respond anymore, I'll take it outside." OR the person replies something negative/snarky. In which case I say a) nothing, and return to my seat OR b) go the manager and ask the manager to come into the theater and keep an eye on the person and intervene if necessary OR move to another part of the theater. See how easy that is? Too bad the murderer at the Florida theater didn't use his brain."
He should have used his brain instead of his gun. This man had another similar incident in that same movie theater in December. From the article:
During Reeves' first court appearance on Tuesday, prosecutors said they had heard from another theater patron who said the 71-year-old former Tampa cop saw her texting and "glared at her the entire time throughout the movie" during a screening about three weeks ago.
When the woman got up to use the restroom, Reeves followed her and "made her very uncomfortable," prosecutors said.
CNN affiliate WTSP later identified the woman as Jamira Dixon of Wesley Chapel, the Tampa suburb where Monday's shooting took place.
 Shooter charged with second degree murder Atty: Shooter had previous text incident Heroes step up at movie theater shooting Man killed in theater over texting
"He became just upset about the whole situation and kept staring and kept giving us dirty looks," Dixon told the station.
Dixon said she first heard about Monday's shooting on the radio while she was driving.
"I had to pull over the car because ... it could have been us," she said. "It was just so close to home. It really makes you think how things could have went."
Sounds like a lot of people were lucky that the shooter didn't "go off" before this. This was a shooting waiting to happen and the unlucky man was Chad Oulsen, the father of a 3 year old. Now that little girl will grow up without her father over being shot for texting and throwing popcorn in a movie theater.

Sigh. Some people should not have guns, period.

And from Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:
“We are very saddened to learn of the shooting death of a father and injury of a mother at a matinee movie screening in Florida yesterday. We offer our deepest sympathies to the victims and families impacted by these terrible tragedies.
Many in the media appear to be blaming texting as the reason for the shooting. Texting is not the issue. This incident is an example of what happens when there are more loaded guns in public places, without any concern about who can carry those guns and where they can carry them. Seemingly harmless disagreements can escalate into unfathomable violence. This is the vision the corporate gun lobby has for our America—where every person is armed anywhere they go – for the sole purpose of selling more guns. This is not the vision we have for a safer America. We know that solutions exist that can prevent incidents of gun violence, solutions that the overwhelming majority of Americans support. The Brady Campaign will continue to fight for those solutions on behalf of the American public until this is becomes the safer nation we all want and deserve – because we all know we can do better than this.”
This is not about texting. This is about the idea, promoted by the corporate gun lobby, that more guns in more public places will make us all safer. Incidents like the Florida theater shooting show us how easy it is to kill someone in a fit of pique if a gun is available. People don't deserve to die because of texting in a movie theater. Women do not deserve to die in arguments about divorce settlements. That one I know from personal experience. This is more than ridiculous. This is insane. When will it stop? When our elected leaders stop listening to the corporate gun lobby. And when they start listening to the voices of the majority of Americans who don't want to be shot in a movie theater by a "law abiding" gun permit holder because of his paranoia about danger lurking in every corner. We should all be more afraid of those "law abiding" gun owners. They are the ones who are committing more gun incidents in public places and in homes than any felons. Just check out the Ohh Shoot blog if you don't believe me. This should not be the new norm in America. We are better than this.

So here is my "story" about taking a gun to a movie theater:

If you take a gun to a movies
There may be a sign at the theater door saying guns are banned inside.
When you bring it in anyway
You will know you are doing so illegally.
Then you'll think you might just need to use your gun
And you'll have to find a reason.
On the way to watching the movie, you'll see a man texting on his phone and you might not like it.
Then you'll think about that gun in your holster.
And when you argue with said man, you will get more and more angry.
The man may throw popcorn at you.
Then he might say some angry things to you.
Texting is discouraged in movie theaters but sometimes people do it anyway.
The man should put his phone away before the movie feature.
But once he's texting, you get so angry
That you might just want to use your gun.
The man will probably be dead if you use your gun.
But you aren't thinking of that so you continue with your anger and get out your gun.
You'll shoot the man with your gun.
You'll also injure his wife.
When the shooting is done
You'll wonder what just happened.
And someone will take your gun away.
They'll arrest you and bring you to jail.
They might want to ask you a bunch of questions
Your lawyer will ask for no bail
And chances are a judge will say no and keep you in jail
He or she will want to know why you brought your gun to the movies.

And on to other Florida shootings, as if this one wasn't enough for a while. Inquiring minds want to know what the heck is going on in Florida? It has become the "gunshine" state for good reason. This latest domestic shooting of two teens by their own mother makes you understand that all of those guns and loose gun laws in Florida are bad for the health and well being of the citizens of that state. This incident is almost too horrendous to consider. But it happened and it happens every day in America.

 Insane and tragic.

And I can't end without commenting on the 30th school shooting incident since the Newtown shooting. That is more than 2 per month. How does a 12 year old boy get his hands on a sawed off shotgun? Why does a 12 year old boy believe he should go to a New Mexico middle school and shoot up classmates? From the article:
A New Mexico middle school teacher has been credited with saving many lives when he persuaded a 12-year-old boy into dropping his shotgun after he had wounded two students, according to officials.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said more students could've been injured if not for the heroics of teacher John Masterson, who confronted the alleged shooter Tuesday morning inside the gymnasium at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, N.M.
"He starts to turn and see that the young man shoots and shoots, and then pointing the firearm at Mr. Masterson," Martinez said at a Tuesday night news conference. "Mr. Masterson then begins to talk to him -- to put it down. The young man put the gun down and raised his hands."
Students Reunite With Family After School Shooting Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal/AP Photo
Students Reunite With Family After School Shooting
A girl identified as Kendal Sanders, 13, underwent surgery Tuesday night and her condition has been upgraded to stable, Martinez said. She suffered injuries to her right shoulder.
An 11-year-old boy is in critical condition after suffering more serious injuries to his face and neck. The young victim underwent a second surgery during the day, according to Martinez. The family of the boy wished to not disclose his name.
The suspected shooter, a seventh-grader whom police have not named, was transferred to an Albuquerque psychiatric hospital after a hearing Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, citing attorney Robert Gorence, who is representing his family.
Let me repeat the first sentence again:" A New Mexico middle school teacher has been credited with saving many lives when he persuaded a 12-year-old boy into dropping his shotgun after he had wounded two students..." No gun needed. A teacher persuaded the student to put the gun down. That is not the first time something like that has happened.

This is all unacceptable and senseless. This is the gun culture we have. Is this what we want? Common sense tells us very loudly, NO! Let's get to work to change gun laws and change the conversation about guns and gun violence. Lives depend on it.


Conservative writer David Frum, who I quoted in a recent post, has written on a similar line to what I have written here today. It's the 2 shootings coming so close together- a 12 year year old shooter injures 2 in a New Mexico middle school and an ex cop shoots a theater goer over texting in a movie theater. He's angry. We all should be angry. From his article, linked above:
Ridiculous doesn’t begin to capture it. Oulson was texting his three-year-old daughter. He and his wife were away from home together, and he’d kept their phones switched on so his child could reach him. Now that child is fatherless, and the wife is a widow. During the altercation, she placed her hand on her husband’s chest to restrain him. The same bullet that killed Chad Oulson struck and wounded Nicole Oulson’s hand.
Yet it’s possible the situation did not seem remotely ridiculous to the shooter.  If witness reports are accurate, Oulson was the first to raise his voice. Oulson was a tall man, well built, and thirty years younger than Reeves. Reeves may well have felt threatened. And isn’t that the very point and purpose of a gun? To be drawn when its owner feels threatened? “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.” (...) 
There was at least one adult who carried a gun in the theater in which Oulson was shot to death. Perhaps Reeves imagined that he might use his weapon to prevent some terrible crime. Instead, he committed one.
One statistic often tossed about in the gun debate is the claim that guns are used for self-defense some 2.5 million times a year, once every 13 seconds. That statistic is based on a set of surveys conducted before 1995 in which gun owners were asked whether they could remember using a gun to meet any kind of threat over periods that varied from one year to as many as five years. The phrasing of the questions could include anything from confronting an armed intruder to picking up a shotgun before investigating a squawk in the chicken coop.  This kind of hazy self-reporting, conducted almost a generation ago, is not likely to generate any kind of reliable information.
But there’s a deeper problem with arguments about “defensive gun use”—a problem forced home by the fatality in Wesley Chapel. When a gun owner self-reports that he or she brandished or used a weapon in self-defense, the gun owner stakes a claim that the person on the muzzle side of the gun was acting improperly and that the gun owner was acting appropriately and responsibly. Yet that is not always true. It is probably not even often true. Curtis Reeves was a man highly trained in the use of firearms: not just a police officer, but a police officer who had founded a tactical response unit. Yet the best-case interpretation of Reeves’ actions is that in a crisis, he panicked.
Panic and guns don't go together.


  1. The quote "An armed society is a polite society" comes from Robert Heinlein’s "Beyond This Horizon" where duels may easily occur when someone feels that they have been wronged or insulted is attributed as a custom that keeps order and politeness. One difference, Heinlein's world had a code where someone who didn't want to duel could wear a yellow ribbon.

    In reality, there doesn't seem to be an option for opting out of the violence.

  2. Most theaters across the country are “Gun Free Zones”, which translates into the criminal mind as “No Armed Opposition Zone”, and they can safely pursue their crime without fear of confronting an armed citizen. Rarely do theatres hire off-duty local law enforcement as security. The theatre owners assume responsibility for the safety of their customers once that customer has purchased a ticket if they have declared their establishments to be a “Gun Free Zone”, yet most ignore that responsibility. Criminals or those with criminal intent will ignore the signs in any case.

    I choose to not patronize those establishments that refuse to accept absolute responsibility for my safety while I am on their premises. There are plenty of theatres out there that do not prohibit the lawful carry of a firearm, and these are the theatres that I choose to patronize.

    1. The thing is, the shooter in this case was not a criminal. You seem to have ignored the fact that this shooting was perpetrated by a law abiding gun owner and ex police officer. Clearly it was not a gun free zone. The officer brought his gun in despite the warnings against it. Shootings happen in gun free zones and guns allowed zones with no discrimination as to which is which. How would you, as another law abiding gun carrier have handled this situation? Would you have shot the shooter for shooting the innocent man who was texting? Or just how do you envision yourself dealing with situations like this given that even armed officers get shot in surprise attacks ( see Tacoma coffee shot shooting and the many other police officer shootings)

  3. "The thing is, the shooter in this case was not a criminal. You seem to have ignored the fact that this shooting was perpetrated by a law abiding gun owner and ex police officer." - maybe. In the last few days to versions of this event has been published. I suspect that we will not really know the facts until a jury makes a decision and then there will probably be some supporters on both sides. I fully support the police, but being an ex police officer is not a guarantee that this person does not have legal and/or mental issues. This points up the big problem with mental issues and background checks, we really do not have a very good way to know "who is dangerous" vs "who is normal enough".

    1. Yes, I agree. Who is "normal enough" to be carrying a gun around? Perhaps we ought to think about that one and maybe should have thought more about it before we passed all of those permit to carry laws.