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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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Can we change hearts and minds?

On Saturday, the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter hosted a community dialogue/training about gun violence prevention. It was held at my own church and meant to be a small group discussion for those who are interested in working on changing the conversation around guns and gun violence. I thought the meeting went well with opinions and shared stories of gun owners, religions leaders, a physician, political candidates, social workers, educators and interested citizens. The discussion was rational and reasonable. I did not intend to write about this at all but after the meeting I learned a few things.

Let me start here. One of our known Minnesota gun rights advocates signed up for the training. I know his name and I have been on the receiving end of his rudeness. In fact, he was kicked off of this very blog for his obnoxious, offensive and personal remarks about me. He has attempted to attend other of our events, meant for our members, and has been discouraged from doing so. These events are meant for our own members and those who want to engage in the changes we need in order to prevent gun violence. If we wanted it to be a debate, we would advertise it as such. We welcome the views of others who do not agree with us but in these trainings, we are trying to find a way to get those who agree to find solutions to our gun violence problem. We actually sought gun owners for this discussion and advertised through Facebook and our e-mail list of supporters. That is because we know that most gun owners support our efforts but are often afraid to speak out for fear of retribution.

Nevertheless this time we decided to see what would happen. I guess that finding out what our group of "gun banners" intends next was so important to this man that he got a friend to come along for an almost 3 hour drive on a beautiful Saturday morning to "participate". The friend was wearing what looked like a blue tooth phone. It was likely a camcorder- something like this one. He was "keeping an eye" on us gun grabbers. So now he has a recording of what went on at our training session. Is that OK? Time will tell.

What did these two gun rights advocates see and hear? They saw and heard people genuinely concerned about working on safer communities, free from gun violence. They saw and heard the Campaign Director for Protect Minnesota get us to engage with each other about our experiences with guns and gun violence, discuss the culture of guns and the history of the "gun control" and gun rights movements. They saw and heard people discuss their concerns and their hopes for what we can do to change what we have now and move common sense gun laws to the forefront of the agenda of public safety. I paired up with the guy with the recording device. He caught me saying that I grew up with guns in my home and that my family were all avid hunters. I learned how to shoot a gun as a teen. I didn't like it especially and never went hunting. But my parents hunted until their later years. My husband is a hunter. We own guns. They are in a locked safe and I don't know where the key is.

The man with the recording device was stiff. That is because he couldn't move much or his recording would have been screwed up. He wanted to make sure he didn't miss anything I presume. He said he hadn't grown up with guns. But he wanted to keep himself and his family safe and that he believed there were people who might harm them so he needed his gun to protect them. I asked if he had ever had to use his gun in self defense. His answer was "no".

After the meeting my "friend" issued what seemed to be a sincere apology for his previous attacks on me telling me he had not made personal attacks towards me. I disagreed with this assessment but I didn't bring it up in the first place. He told me that his wife said he shouldn't be writing awful things on the Internet about other people. I agreed. I told him that I expected to be treated with respect and dignity but that I haven't been and that many comments on my blog which don't get published are rude, offensive, arrogant, demeaning and meant to bully and intimidate.

I would like to believe him and trust in his apology. But I am not there yet. And here's why. He has gone to other events like this, uninvited, with the express purpose of trying to "change hearts and minds", one person at a time. He believes he can do that by educating the rest of us misinformed folks about the true nature of guns and gun laws. And he is writing about it on gun rights Facebook pages and most likely other places as well.

I have read what he wrote about a recent community discussion about gun violence at a Twin Cities church. He wrote that he told the group " I didn't understand why I was being persecuted for the actions of criminals, and also didn't know how I could help prevent gun violence outside of my realm of influence." Persecuted? Really? He didn't look like he was suffering to me. (By the way, I am not including a link to this post since I don't intend to provide his name for others to see.) I wrote in my last post about this faulty assessment of the world. These folks feel punished when we advocate for reasonable gun laws.

The thing is, we understand that these folks think of themselves as "good guys" with guns. And most of them likely are. But we also know that even "good guys" with guns kill others either intentionally or by accident. We want to prevent that from happening and we don't believe that loosening gun laws will help. We also know that stronger gun laws will not stop all danger and stupidity. But guns are different than other products. They are designed to kill others. There should be reasonable and strong restrictions on who can own them, who can carry them, where they can carry them, what kind of guns are reasonable in a civil society not at war, and how and where they are stored for safety to keep them away from those who shouldn't have them. These restrictions are just part of a civil society that we expect of other things that could cause us harm. They are for the good of us all.

And so, these guys may wonder why we don't always believe them when they say that guns make us safer and we should all just to get to know them and all will be well. If that is the case, I wonder how the friends of this state trooper felt after he accidentally shot his pregnant wife while cleaning his gun? Sometimes we need to protect people from themselves. Our American gun culture where guns are seen as inevitable, normal and not potentially dangerous at all times promotes carelessness. If there was better and more stringent training for those who own and carry guns, perhaps we would have fewer accidents like the one above. But remember, this was a law enforcement officer and not the first one who has shot a loved one by accident or intentionally.

The claim was made in the room that the gun rights advocates were better trained than law enforcement officers in Minnesota because they go to the gun range more often than officers are required to do. Of course, officers have all sorts of other trainings and requirements that gun rights advocates do not have. They, however, seemed sure they were better trained than the officers and will be just as safe or safer than law enforcement. On the face of it, it doesn't even make common sense. I'm quite sure no one in the room bought that deception. The gun rights guys wanted us to feel as if we should just trust them to protect us and be safe with their guns. Until we can't. Remember to read the Ohh Shoot blog or Joe Nocera's Gun Report for why not all gun owners are safe with their guns.

Catey Hill wrote about "What you don't know about the firearms business can cost you" in this piece for the Wall Street Journal.  Hill writes articles that appear in the Wall Street Journal and other business sites about the 10 things industries don't tell you or want you to know. This one also appeared in Sunday's Minneapolis Star Tribune in the Business and Money section of the paper. Here are the 10 points that Hill makes in her article:
  1. "Owning our product may be hazardous to your health."
  2. "Fear is good for profits"
  3. "Guns get special treatment under the law"
  4. "We need your kids to play with guns"
  5. "Gun control may work. We still think it's a bad idea"
  6. "Politically, we're practically unbeatable"
  7. "Under the "Gun Ban Obama', we're doing just fine"
  8. "Sometimes we aren't 'pro gun' enough"
  9. "We sell to people we probably shouldn't"
  10. "Ammo is our secret (business) weapon"
This world view and way of operating has cost a lot of lives in America. I say that because the corporate gun lobby has managed to stop most reasonable measures to save lives and has actually promoted weakening gun laws. Their rhetoric of fear and paranoia has kept those on the gun rights side believing that people like me are coming for their guns and their freedoms. As an aside, if you clicked on my link to the Minneapolis Star Tribune you may have noticed this article about a man who faked being a cop and shot a former high school buddy when the friend refused to agree to robbing gun dealers. The friend survived the gunshot wound. The shooting happened at a popular sports bar in the area. But I digress.

Actually Hill ( linked article above) hit upon some of the points we spoke about at our meeting on Saturday. It looks like an increasing number of people are becoming aware of the agenda of the corporate gun lobby and reporting about it. That is why we are doing our trainings and holding community meetings. Apparently that is also making the gun rights folks nervous enough to show up at our meetings to which they were not invited with suspected recording devices.

And while they are watching our every move, let's watch what their side is up to.  Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America just went off the rails and said some incendiary stuff.  From the article:
“Its real purpose is to serve as a restraint on government abuse,” Pratt said of the Second Amendment. “And since they want to be involved in government abuse, they kind of take it personally, I think. The Second Amendment is intended for people just like them — or perhaps we could say, like Piers Morgan — those who were born to rule and we were born to be ruled. And for us to have guns kind of upsets that order of things that they think ought to be.”
Pratt went on to tell Cunningham a story about an altercation one of his organization’s members had with an unnamed member of Congress about the gun issue. “Apropos of nothing, the congressman –- congresswoman, actually –- said, ‘You want to shoot me, don’t you.’” Pratt recalled.
“Well, that’s probably a healthy fear for them to have,” Pratt said of congress members who want to restrict gun rights, “even though that’s not the guy’s –- he wasn’t saying anything about that, it wasn’t in his demeanor. But you know, I’m kind of glad that’s in the back of their minds. Hopefully they’ll behave.”
So we should have a healthy fear that guys like Pratt intend to shoot members of Congress or others who "want to restrict gun rights"? OK. Done. So when my "friend" who showed up at our training on Saturday wanted me and others to believe he was just a regular guy who owns guns and means no harm, I suppose we could believe him. But then when we see him at the Minnesota State Capitol, openly carrying his gun and trying to intimidate the rest of us, pardon us for being skeptical. This does not mean that things can't change and that we can't have a reasonable dialogue and try to understand each other's point of view. But when one side is armed, or makes threats or bullies and insults, it changes the equation and the conversation. I'm just saying.

So to my "friends", the gun guys who came to our meeting, I would hope that they found us to be just average folks with an agenda to pass gun safety laws that have little or nothing to do with them, but are meant to keep us all safer from the devastation of gun violence in our communities. The man who wrote about his other experience, though, is convinced that ( from what I read): " It was at this point that I realized, maybe they're not all out to get me -- maybe they're just misinformed."

Ah. We are just misinformed. We don't always have the terminology right. We don't know as much about guns as they do. So I assume all they need to do is to inform us and correct our terminology and understanding about guns and we will jump on board with their agenda. At the end of his piece he said this:
"Molon labe may be fun to say, but it wouldn't have worked there."
"If you get a chance, I highly recommend you attend one of these "Respectful Conversations."  I'll be attending another at some point in the future. While I like to think that I imparted some knowledge to the other participants, I also walked away with more than I brought. I realized that as tempting as it is to dismiss those on the other side, doing so only polarizes them against us. By taking an extremely mild and thoughtful tone, showing great patience and respect, I was able to relate to them -- and them to me -- as people." 
""Hearts and minds!""
Indeed. We can relate to each other as people. Who did he think we were? So this is all about him taking a thoughtful tone and winning us over, one at a time. What about him? Did we win him over with our thoughtful and respectful tone? We can hope. But then he had to go and insert the words "molon labe" (meaning "come and take") in his post. How can we believe what he says when this is what molon labe means?:
We have adopted this defiant utterance as a battle cry in our war against oppression because it says so clearly and simply towards those who would take our arms.
It signifies our determination to not strike the first blow, but also to not stand mute and allow our loved ones, and all that we believe in and stand for, to be trampled by men who would deprive us of our God-given – or natural, if you will – rights to suit their own ends.
What this is about for me and those who support my positions is standing for not allowing our loved ones to be shot senselessly in schools, parking lots, malls, movie theaters, restaurants, homes and places where we go in our communities. The truth is that 30,000 Americans die every year from gun injuries. The truth is that reasonable gun laws can save lives. The truth is that guns are a risk to their owners at home and in public places. The truth is that guns are used rarely in justifiable self defense. The truth is that most gun owners do not object to the gun laws advocated by the gun violence prevention community. The truth is that the corporate gun lobby is funded by an industry and those who have a stake in keeping political and economic power and influence in our country.

I realize that in this modern world, people can bring small camcorders and cell phones to events and record what the opposition is saying and doing. And I also realize that private comments and private events get published on websites and show up on media sources. Let's hope we can trust that these two folks will act with good intentions. And if an apology is meant with sincerity then let it be sincere. But now that I know I was likely being recorded while having that private conversation with this man, I will be more wary of talking honestly with people like him. If these folks want to have a really honest conversation with people on my side of the issue, then have an honest conversation. Deception is just not the way to make change.

Deception and suspicion don't lead to a reasonable discussion that can go anywhere. It's time for real change to happen with real facts and honesty. Let's get to work.

UPDATE:

Just to punctuate my remarks about how safe those with conceal carry licenses actually are, check out this Ohio incident of a conceal carry instructor accidentally shooting someone:
Violet Township Trustee Terry J. Dunlap Sr. was charged yesterday with negligent assault in connection with the accidental shooting of a student taking a concealed-carry class that Dunlap taught last year. (...) 
Dunlap accidentally shot Michael Piemonte, 27, of Pataskala, while he was demonstrating a .38-caliber handgun. The bullet hit Piemonte’s right arm. The shooting occurred on Aug. 10 toward the end of a 12-hour day of training in gun handling and safety.
Dunlap is certified by the state to teach classes for Ohioans who are getting their concealed-carry permits.
He agreed to a one-year suspension from teaching firearms safety and training classes on Oct. 31, according to an agreement that he reached with the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission, which certifies firearms instructors. The Dispatch obtained a copy of the agreement yesterday.
The agreement says that the suspension shall be in place for a year after the Aug. 10 incident. It also says that the commission reserves the right to take further action regarding Dunlap’s certification to teach concealed-carry classes.
And this was the "good guy" with a gun that my gun rights advocate friend told us presumably gets a lot of training and will be safe with his gun. And this is why we have our problems with that statement. Further, why was the punishment for this incident a "slap on the wrist"? This guy shot someone and was clearly reckless and irresponsible with his gun. Should he be able to keep his gun and his permit to carry? What will make him more responsible the next time?

UPDATE #2:

Another "good guy" with a gun trying to intervene in a fight? From this article:
A man who was killed during a fight at an Austin, Texas club earlier this month apparently was accidentally shot by his best friend, KXAN reported Tuesday.
Oops. This is one more tragedy involving someone whose gun gets used to kill the wrong person. This gun, supposedly carried for self defense, killed a good friend of it's owner. Senseless. Without the gun- a fight and some injuries and maybe a few arrests.  

2 comments:

  1. "The shooting occurred on Aug. 10 toward the end of a 12-hour day of training in gun handling and safety."
    Why would anyone have a 12-hour day of gun training? For me, that is the important part of your story. Even truck drivers are not allowed to drive that many hours in one day. I agree there is a problem, but not that one exhausted instructor make a stupid mistake.

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    1. The problem with that excuse is that these kind of mistakes are happening far too often. I write about them consistently on this blog and I only write about a few that I happen to see or decide to put in my blog. Remember the instructor who was demonstrating with a loaded gun in front of a classroom? It went off and he shot himself in the leg.

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