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, March 31, 2014

Guns don't kill people?

It's a heavy lift to change the discourse and hearts and minds about gun policy in this country. It's partly because we have let some of the discourse and myths go unchallenged. Things like "guns don't kill people, people kill people" are left out there as if it were true. It's what the gun lobby says. "Guns make you safer." Buy some and have them at home for self defense just in case. Is this true? The "in case" rarely happens compared to the use of guns in homicides, suicides and accidental discharges in the home. Instead the "good guys with guns" are killing people every day. And we need stronger laws to enforce so that the laws on the books will actually keep guns away from criminals and others shouldn't be able to get them. So the idea that if we pass stronger gun laws, "only the criminals will have guns" is ludicrous on its' face. But that doesn't stop the gun lobby from saying these trite old things as if they are true. What will change this? Perhaps when the minority of folks in America who happen to own guns stop believing in the deceptions and the myths perpetrated by the corporate gun lobby who claims to speak for them. And certainly when the majority get activated and demand change.

The Gun Report column written by Joe Nocera of the New York Times and several of his colleagues provides us with many examples of what I am talking about. In the latest report he highlights several tragic domestic shootings:
"Mia Rodgers, 9, was shot and killed by her paternal grandfather, Ronald Fred Gregory, 67, last Friday. Gregory then shot and killed his wife, 71-year-old Barbara Gregory, before shooting himself. He survived, and now faces two counts of murder. Paul Rodgers, Mia’s maternal grandfather, said Gregory was “too obsessed” with the child. Mia’s mother died last year, triggering a custody battle.
Joe Helms understands the family’s pain. In 2007, his wife, Sandra Sue Glover, picked up their 7-year-old son, Jesse, at school, hours after being convicted of domestic violence against her husband. Glover went home and shot her son to death before turning the gun on herself. She did not survive.
“There just isn’t any reason in the world for anybody to kill a child,” Helms told the Rock Hill Herald Online. “Kids got their whole lives ahead of them. Whatever the problem is, shooting a precious little child and killing them doesn’t solve a damn thing.”
Helms said he often goes to his son’s grave, and still can’t understand why someone who claims to love their child would end their life at gunpoint. “My heart is broken for that little girl,” Helms said of Mia Rodgers. “Your heart, when it breaks like this, it don’t ever get fixed.”"
Did those guns make those families safer? The woman convicted of domestic violence shouldn't have had guns. But she did. It had only been hours since she was convicted. It doesn't take long for those who intend harm to shoot someone. She had been a "good guy" with a gun until suddenly she wasn't. Was the grandfather who shot his grandson and his wife one of the "good guys"? And they were convinced that having guns would make them safer ( apparently). It would be cynical to believe that good people buy guns because they want to do harm to another human being. Once they have the guns, though, bad things can happen even if not intended at the time of purchase. But I digress.

We haven't made the people in the examples above the "bad guys" with guns because our laws allow for a good many people who shouldn't have guns to have them anyway. In addition, our culture has been so changed by the notion pushed by the gun lobby that you must have a gun for self defense that there are guns around in a lot of homes. And when a gun is available, it just may get used against you or someone you love. In an instant, you can become a "bad guy with a gun." And that is what is happening every day in America. Just read the regular Gun Report (linked above) or the Ohh Shoot blog or the Kid Shootings blog.

Custody battles should not end at the barrel of a gun. Young children are stuck in the middle of domestic discord and can become innocent victims. Things escalate quickly in domestic disputes. That is why we need to do a much better job of keeping guns away from people involved in domestic disputes. There are 3 things in common with most of these deaths: availability of guns; domestic discord; and lives snuffed out permanently and violently in seconds. No one law can stop all of these shootings but we need to decrease the probability that lives will be taken.

On Friday, I participated in a lobby day and people's action assembly for Protect Minnesota. I told my story about my sister and other women who had lost their lives to gun violence, senselessly, in domestic shootings. Here is an article about the day from Minnesota Public Radio. The quote I love the best is this one:
"Minnesota has two million gun owners," Rothman said. "Minnesota has 165,000 carry permit holders. That's more than twice the size of the teacher's union. That's a pretty powerful demographic."
Rothman is assuming that there are two million gun owners in Minnesota. Is this true? And even if it were, would all "2 million" Minnesota gun owners agree with him, the gun rights advocate? Let's take a closer look here because it has been my contention that the gun lobby inflates their numbers to influence law makers and public opinion. Most gun owners support the common sense legislation that was heard in last year's legislative session and now again in this one. You'd never know it by the rhetoric of the gun lobby and the scene at the Capitol.

So the assertion is that there are twice as many gun owners as those who belong to the teacher's union in Minnesota. So what? What is the message here? Be afraid of those claimed 2 million gun owners? First of all, it is not only teachers who support our bill. It's physicians, accountants, faith leaders, lawyers, judges, store owners, business owners, store clerks, etc. Now that's a powerful demographic.

But let's unpack this more. The population of Minnesota is about 5.4 million. Of those, about 23% are under age 18 so wouldn't be legally able to own a gun. 18 year olds can own long guns in Minnesota. That leaves about 4 million adults over 18. Of those, approximately half can be assumed to be women so roughly 2 million or so are men. Are you following me? In my rough math process, if the assertion is correct, and it is mostly men who own the guns but not all, of course, almost every man in Minnesota would be a gun owner. What do you think? True? I know many men who own zero guns. I know some men who own several guns. My own husband owns 2 hunting guns. I know some women who own some guns. And I know some men who have collections or are hunters who own quite a few guns.

What I think Rothman wanted to say is that there may be 2 million guns in Minnesota, not gun owners.
But then again, we don't know how many gun owners there are in Minnesota. We can't ask that question. We don't have registration or licensing. There could be that many guns in Minnesota but only about 35% or thereabouts of Minnesota households have guns in them if the national figures apply to us. There are about 2.1 million households in Minnesota. So the assertion made in the article means that every one of those households has a gun in it because of the assertion that there are 2 million gun owners. What if 2 gun owners live in a house? What if only one gun owner lives in the household but has 6 guns? I know this is getting into the weeds but I think it's worth considering the answers to the questions. We do know that the number of permit holders is a small demographic compared to those who don't have gun permits- around 4% or a bit less of those who would be eligible to apply for one. That is not a powerful or large demographic by any one's standards.

So unless guns are people ( like corporations are now under a Supreme Court ruling, treated as individuals for the purpose of campaign spending), we should be looking at the numbers differently. It is their owners who count here, right? And their owners are largely in support of gun safety legislation to make us all safer from gun violence. How do we know that? Over many years of polling data we have seen strong support for at least gun background checks and that support includes gun owners and non gun owners. Even NRA members and gun owners support most of the gun safety measures that have failed in Congress and state legislatures. It is the owners who lobby and vote. The guns don't do that.

As of now, it's the people who own the guns, or are carrying the guns, who decide ( or not decide- as in an "accidental discharge") in a moment of rage, jealousy, depression, while under the influence of alcohol, etc. to discharge a bullet from a gun and harm or kill another human being. When making policy regarding deadly weapons designed to kill people, deception shouldn't sway politicians. Facts matter, as it turns out. Laws matter as well and in the end, human lives matter the most.

We could keep spinning the numbers and going back and forth. But the bottom line is, we need to be speaking the truth and unpacking the false assertions that end up influencing gun policy. I am not saying that gun owners can't and don't have an influence on what's happening regarding gun safety measures. But their influence is out sized compared to their actual numbers. The rest of us, the majority actually, are in favor. And that is what our elected leaders need to wrap their heads around.

While we are waiting for them to change their perception of who is the majority and who wants them to pass gun safety legislation, people are dying. Senseless.

So is it senseless? I like what Robert Koehler, syndicated writer, has to say about that. Why do we think guns and gun deaths are inevitable? From the article:
The gun is not neutral, a mere tool that can serve, like a knife or virtually any object with sharpness or bluntness, either a humble, utilitarian function or the most egregious of human impulses. If it were, there would be no gun lobby. There would be no NRA. A gun's mere possession changes human possibility. We're not going to get rid of it.
But the United States, number one nation on the planet in private gun ownership, with some 300 million of them in the hands of its citizenry -- slightly more than one for every man, woman and child -- averages approximately 30,000 deaths from firearms per year, about a third of which are homicides and two-thirds, suicides. This is not a statistic to shrug off, nor will the "bad" gun homicides be eliminated or reduced in number when greater numbers of the innocent and ordinary -- schoolteachers, for instance -- arm themselves in order to shoot back at the criminals and crazies. (...) 
That is, one can be armed and angry, armed and panicked, armed and confused, armed and lost or depressed. A gun in the hands of someone in one of these mental-emotional states will not change the situation for the better. It will magnify the darkness exponentially. And this is what's happening in our country.
After Sandy Hook, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, proclaimed at a hastily convened press conference: "There are monsters in our midst." 
Exactly.
(...) We are a society at war with ourselves as well as with much of the world. Gun control in various forms may contain that war, but only a shift in consciousness will end it. That shift must include the realization that power requires more than the means to point, shoot, kill.
"Exactly". So if we are to believe that the power of the corporate gun lobby comes from numbers of gun owners and numbers of e-mails sent and phone calls made, then yes, the gun lobby is powerful. Money talks. But their power is an American myth. If we unpack the numbers and look at who has the real power, it's us. It's the majority of Americans. Once our elected leaders get the spine to challenge the conventional wisdom that guns don't kill people and that the corporate gun lobby is all about profit for the industry, perhaps the shift in consciousness will come. The power lies with the will of the majority over the will of powerful interest groups. When corporations become people for the purpose of raising money and influencing public opinion, something has gone terribly wrong. When guns represent power and influence in public health and safety policy something has gone terribly wrong.

We are better than this. It's the people who vote who make the difference. Those people need to take the power back and make this about what's important to the safety of our families and our community. They need to go to the polls and vote for those who care about the public health and safety of all Americans. We need to let our leaders know that enough is enough and what we have now is not what we want or deserve. It's also not working. As long as the Gun Report continues to report the week-ends of shootings in America, we know what we have now is not working. By my initial count, according to the linked article, 62 were killed and 181 were injured in shootings in 38 states ( including Washington DC) in one week-end!! The shootings were stray bullets, drive-bys, domestic shootings, accidental discharges, gang fights, home invasions, fights at parties and suicides. It's time for a change. Let's get to work.

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