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, February 28, 2014

Finish the Job for public safety on the 20th anniversary of the Brady Law

Today is the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Brady law. Here are some facts from then and now according to this piece in the Washington Post. Some changes have occurred since the law was enacted in Feb. of 2014. For example, fewer people die from gun homicides now than then. Support for the NRA has stayed about the same in spite of the resistance of their lobbyists and leaders to any kind of common sense measures to save more lives. Guns are still found in a lot of American homes. People are not satisfied with our country's gun laws which could mean they want them to be stronger or they want them to be weaker. Background checks work to stop people who shouldn't have guns when purchased through licensed dealers. We have new markets now for guns than 20 years ago providing for more unregulated sales of guns. Congress is still under the thumb of the corporate gun lobby. States have passed measures to weaken gun laws.

So let's look at some other things. We aren't doing enough to save lives. Passing a background check law to require those same checks done through licensed dealers to those who are unlicensed at gun shows, flea markets and sell through the Internet would make us all safer. 40% of gun sales go without background checks. Virtually all other countries require strict regulations about who gets to buy a gun. We are still the country with the most gun deaths and injuries per 100,000 when compared to other industrialized countries. Other countries have passed laws to regulate guns and the people who own and carry them.Those laws have made a difference to public safety. We could do the same but we don't. Here is my letter to the editor from yesterday's Duluth News Tribune. I will quote myself:
Passing laws requiring background checks on all gun sales — or at the least, on sales at gun shows and Internet sites — is simple. Private sales amongst family members and friends would be exempt from background checks. There would be no registration or confiscation. This satisfies the fears of gun-rights advocates, and yet they strongly resist common-sense measures to assure guns don’t go to people who shouldn’t have them.
It’s time for a change to our laws. Ask Congress and state legislators to finish the job started 20 years ago and expand background checks to the private sales of guns. In the name of preventing the gun violence that devastates families all over America, we need to do a better job of public safety.
This is about saving lives. This is about what kind of country we want. This is about protecting our families and communities from the devastating loss of life that comes with our American gun culture. This is about what Joe Nocera of the New York Times reports in his regular Gun Report column. Here is the latest report about what's happening in our country. Today he wrote this:
Here at the Gun Report we often come across careless handling of firearms, which can be deadly, especially when children find and discharge them. But it looks like the A.T.F. is having the same problem.
A report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel yesterday catalogued several instances of agents stashing guns under the front seats of their cars, in glove compartments or leaving them on top of their vehicles and driving away. Agents also left their guns in bathroom stalls, at a hospital, outside a movie theater and on a plane. Often the agents don’t report the incidents.
“ATF has a stringent firearms and weapons policy for properly securing and storing firearms for which its almost 2,400 agents must adhere,” an A.T.F. spokeswoman said. Nineteen firearms were lost between 2009 and 2013, which accounts for less than one percent of the agency. But in 2009, two 6-year-old boys spotted an agent’s loaded Smith & Wesson .357 on a storm sewer grate in Iowa. According to agency guidelines bureau-issued guns “shall be stored in secured, locked locations.”
David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and an expert on law enforcement tactics and regulation, said of the matter, “There’s no doubt that people leave things around, but when you have an agency whose task it is is to focus on firearms, it would seem to me like an extra measure of care would be called for. People have to see there are real consequences. If you don’t do that, you might as well not have the rules. It’s just window dressing.”
And then he followed it up with the recording of the daily shootings from media sources all over America. The thing is, guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. Even law abiding gun owners and those who enforce our laws make mistakes, sometimes deadly ones. They also sometimes kill another person who they know or love on purpose in a moment of rage or jealousy. This Texas domestic shooting is just one example of many such other incidents. From this article:
A Texas police officer and his wife have been found shot to death in their Dallas area home in what investigators are calling a murder-suicide.
Sgt Nick Pitofsky, 47, of the Crandall Police Department, allegedly killed his 42-year-old wife, Vanessa, Tuesday morning before turning the gun on himself. (...) 
‘Nick was an extremely dedicated Police Officer for the City of Crandall and its citizens. Sergeant Nick Pitofsky will be deeply missed by his fellow Officers.’
Fox 4 reported on Twitter that a friend of Vanessa Pitofsky revealed that the 42-year-old woman had recently alerted people close to her that she was getting off Facebook because her husband was very jealous. (...) 
In a clip posted online just five days before the tragic murder-suicide, Sgt Pitofsky gave a rave review to a Mossberg 500 shotgun.
'I purchased this as a self-defense weapon for my household, essentially for my wife,' he chillingly says in the video.  
So let's review. This Texas police officer was well thought of and dedicated to his job. But he was also very jealous about his wife being on Facebook so he bought a gun specifically for "a self defense weapon for my household, essentially for my wife..." What he forgot to say is that he was so jealous of something about his wife that he went to buy a gun to kill his wife. "Self defense" weapons often get used to kill someone you know or love. Guns are dangerous. When a gun is around during a domestic dispute, circumstances can turn tragic in an instant. That is the gun culture we have in American. We have a lot of guns- a lot of gun owners. A lot of gun owners own a lot of guns. We have a lot of shootings. Many of them are domestic in nature and not in self defense. We have a lot of kids shooting themselves and others with guns left around by their law abiding owners. We have a lot of gun suicides committed with guns stored irresponsibly or just because a gun is available. We have a lot of "accidental discharges" or irresponsible gun incidents committed by law abiding gun owners and even by law enforcement officers. We sell a lot of guns with no background checks when we could easily pass a law to stop some dangerous folks from getting guns. Not all law abiding gun purchasers are careful or responsible with their guns. Sometimes law abiding people shoot someone in a split second. A gun makes that very easy to do. And then suddenly, that law abiding person is not law abiding any more.

The take away from all of this is that we can certainly do better than this as a country. No law will stop all injuries and deaths. No law stops all car accidents, or drownings or other accidental deaths. No law stops all felons from committing crimes. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't have laws for the common good in the interest of public safety. If we care about a civil society and whether or not we are doing all we can do to try to prevent deaths and injuries of our friends and family members, we will demand that our elected leaders change their collective minds and do the right thing. The national conversation has begun and it will continue. This is hard work. We're willing to work hard for change. We remember too many lives lost. We remember, like Sarah Brady remembers, that even when a loved one is severely wounded and left disabled for the rest of his life, as her husband Jim Brady was, the wheels of government work slowly when a noisy well funded group doesn't want something to happen.

Finishing the Job to expand background checks would save lives. That is the bottom line. As long as we remember that, the fight for common sense is worth fighting. The American public wants the background check system to be improved and strengthened. The American people don't like the high profile mass shootings that shed a light on our weak gun laws and make victims out of first graders, out of women in domestic shootings, out of innocent college students, out of theater goers, out of young men of color, out of children shot accidentally, out of mall shoppers. But the public is often unaware of the daily body count due to gun violence. The public is unaware that 40% of gun sales go without background checks. The families affected by shootings are aware and are telling their stories. Here is a story told by a concerned father who hunts and owns guns but understands the importance of laws to keep us safe from gun violence.

This father told a compelling story for all of us to read. From his blog:
On February 15, 2014, my family stopped at a gas station en route to my son's and daughter's combined birthday party. My wife took my daughter in to use the restroom and found an unattended pistol lying atop the toilet paper dispenser. It is our occasional habit, especially with gender-specific restrooms, for my daughter to have me wait for her outside the restroom door. And so an hour later it occurred to me that the decision to have my wife go in instead of me might be the only reason my little girl wasn't left alone in a small room with a loaded firearm on the day we celebrated her fifth birthday. (...) 
The pro-gun contingent likes to talk about responsibility. They talk about it in spite of the statistics. They talk about it in spite of the fact that gun owners whose weapons are used to accidentally kill children are rarely prosecuted, particularly if they're white. They talk about responsibility with a weird reverence, like Reagan-era Republicans talk about America in the 1950s. Their disappointment that we're not living in Mayberry is palpable, and they won't accept any other solution. Trouble is, I grew up in a Mayberry of my own, and I see the fault lines.
My father, in some ways, represents both the NRA's ideal of responsible gun ownership and the best arguments against the NRA itself. A lifelong (and prolific) gun owner and sportsman, my dad brought me up with an iron-fisted, zero-tolerance attitude toward improper gun handling. His attitude was informed by a lifetime of watching bullets and shotgun pellets rip into flesh, and by some relatives dead before firearms. I was not allowed to even point toy guns are other people. Imagine being raised in the South in the 1970s with that rule.
But guns were everywhere in my father's life, including in my hands quite a lot. I was taught how to use them safely... or as safely as a child can. But they were there, in the television shows (Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, John Wayne) we watched together on television, and in the drawer by my dad's chair. And for quite a long time, under the seat of my father's car, which is the unlikely starting point for dad's split with the NRA.
After an incident, the details of which are unimportant, my father decided to stop taking a gun with him everywhere he went. He had a moment — an exceedingly rare moment, among American gun owners — of recognition of his own limitations in which he decided that he couldn't necessarily trust his own judgment in all circumstances, and that it would be better to not always have a gun on hand as a potential solution. We have all made our share of mistakes; adding deadly weapons to that reality seems foolish.
Years later, Dad canceled his lifetime membership in the NRA over the organization's pro-assault weapon stance. He had grown up with a more moderate NRA that advocated for reasonable gun policies, and found it incomprehensible that the organization could support the private ownership of what he calls "people-killing guns"... that is, weapons with no legitimate purpose other than the destruction of human beings.
The destruction of human beings is what this is all about. This father gets it. His father got it. 90% of Americans get it. But our lawmakers are disconnected from what America wants.When we decide as a country that we won't tolerate the mass destruction of human beings occurring on a daily basis, we will make the changes we deserve. Until that time, the fact that we do tolerate this epidemic is morally unacceptable and irresponsible. You can make a difference. Read the new report (The Case for Finishing the Job to Keep America Safer) released by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for the facts. And then get yourself onto the Brady Campaign website for the tools you can use to affect change. And make sure you connect with your lawmakers and tell them to Finish the Job
started 20 years ago.

Here are more facts. In contrast to checking people to make sure they are law abiding, not dangerously mentally ill or a domestic abuser, states are passing laws to weaken this system.

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