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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Friday, May 2, 2014

Another school shooting averted in Minnesota

This post has been edited since first posted.


Most kids carry books, backpacks, their lunches, iPads, sports gear, and other of the usual things they need, to school every day. That is what we expect. Some kids, however, have a twisted idea that they can carry guns to school and shoot their classmates. It happens on a fairly regular basis in America. Media shows are interrupted with "breaking news" and we see the flashing red lights and rows of kids walking out of a school with their hands in the air. It's an American scene. It's an American tragedy. We recognize it. We pay attention for a few days. We are maybe even horrified when it happens to 20 first graders in an elementary school. One of the first of such school tragedies to get this much attention was the Columbine shooting in 1999. After that shooting, we swore we would do something about it. We didn't.

It's now 2014 and we have made no progress, even after 20 first graders were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. So perhaps I should not be surprised to read several articles today about a planned school shooting that was stopped by the happenstance of a citizen in the town of Waseca, Minnesota being in the right place at the right time. This incident is chilling and another example of what our American gun culture has wrought. When a 17 year old admires the Columbine shooters and plans an attack on his own school on the anniversary of that terrible national tragedy, something is wrong. When a 17 year old student amasses bomb making materials and actually has a gun safe in his bedroom containing 7 guns, something is wrong. There were many references in the above article to the fact that this boy was "nice", "quiet", "shy", etc. There were no warning signs. Except maybe there were. When a 17 year old is allowed to have a gun safe in his bedroom with that many guns in it, what were his parents thinking? "Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult." That is what those of us who blog on the Kid Shootings blog say about the easy access of guns to kids. Of late, we have not been able to keep up with all of the incidents of shootings of and by kids. But Joe Nocera on the The Gun Report is doing a great job of that for us. That blog always starts with the incidents of kid shootings.

In what other country do we even have to keep track of kids shootings themselves or others? In what other civilized country not at war do we find kids amassing weapons in order to kill their own families and then a whole school full of other kids? This is sick and disturbing. And it's preventable.

But let's look at more from the article above:
John David LaDue had it all figured out. He would kill his mother, father and sister and then create a diversion to keep first responders busy while he went to Waseca Junior/Senior High School to wreak havoc.
There, the 17-year-old planned to set off pressure-cooker bombs full of nails and metal ball bearings in the cafeteria. Students who weren’t maimed or killed would be gunned down in the halls, he told police.
After his arrest Tuesday, the high school junior said he intended to kill “as many students as he could,” before he was killed by the SWAT team, according to charging documents filed in Waseca County District Court.
LaDue was charged Thursday with four counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree damage to property and six counts of possession of a bomb by someone under 18. (...) The criminal complaint said LaDue told police that he originally planned the attack for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre that killed 13 people in Littleton, Colo., in 1999. That was thwarted because that day was Easter Sunday and there was no school.
Markeson said police believe the attack would have happened “within the next few weeks” if it hadn’t been for an alert 911 caller who grew suspicious after she saw a tall, white male wearing a backpack open a storage unit, go inside and close the door.
Chelsie Schellhas was washing dishes Tuesday night when she noticed a boy with a backpack and a fast-food bag walking through her back yard toward the nearby MiniMax Storage Units.
“He walked through the puddles when there was a perfectly good road he could have walked on,” she said. “It just didn’t seem right to me because we see people come and go with their trucks, and they don’t come on foot and cut through people’s back yards. It was like he was blatantly trying not to be seen. That’s why I thought it was odd.” (...) LaDue said he had an SKS assault rifle with 400 rounds of ammunition, a 9mm handgun with ammo and a gun safe with more firearms, all in his bedroom at home. He gave an officer the key to the gun safe and the key to his guitar case, where he said they’d find his notebook.
He told police that he planned to kill his parents and sister with a .22-caliber rifle because it would make less noise than some of his other firearms. Then, he said, he planned to go to the surrounding countryside and start a fire. While police and firefighters were busy, he would go back to the school with bombs, firearms and ammunition. He planned to set off pressure cooker bombs in recycling boxes near the water fountains in the cafeteria and would shoot school liaison officer Jared Chrz “so that he did not stop him from his plans for killing more students,” the document said. (...) LaDue told police that “if he had brought a gun with him to the storage unit … he would have shot the responding officers,” the complaint said.
Seven firearms and three completed bombs were found in LaDue’s bedroom, the complaint said. Another three bombs, along with chemicals and other materials, were found in the storage unit. LaDue also had 60 pounds of metal ball bearings.
This is chilling and the community was understandably in shock. Quiet kids, shy kids amass weapons and bomb making materials right under the noses of their families. I don't know about you but I'm pretty sure I would notice that my son had a gun safe in his bedroom with 7 guns in it. 17 year olds can't buy guns in Minnesota but can have long guns in their possession if they are with an adult or in a home with adults present. But he had an SKS rifle. The boy knew enough about guns to know that a .22 wouldn't make enough noise to attract attention ( or so he thought). But he also knew that an SKS rifle with many rounds of ammunition would cause a lot of damage to a lot of people. (Check it out on this video). Where did he come by those guns? 7 guns? What were his parents thinking? Remember that Adam Lanza's mother intended to buy him a gun for Christmas of 2012 and thought it would be a good idea for her son to learn how to shoot guns because he was having problems with mental illness and learning disabilities. Taking your teens hunting under adult supervision is one thing. Allowing them to have their own guns in a gun safe in their bedroom is quite another. Even if it's legal for that kid to possess a long gun, is it a good idea for him or her to store them in the bedroom? Where is common sense?

It's past time for the national conversation we need to have about how to prevent gun deaths and injuries. It can happen in a rational, reasonable way if people of good faith and common sense come together with a common goal in mind. This is not about taking guns away from law abiding gun owners. This is not about the second amendment. This is about public health and safety. This is about prevention. Making it about anything else is cynical and deceptive. We can prevent at the least, some of the daily carnage due to gun injuries in our communities. In this case, a concerned citizen most likely saved Waseca, Minnesota from being the next sight of a mass school shooting.

We are better than this. This should be a wake-up call to the folks in Waseca and to parents and school staff all over the country. They know the drill. Word goes out on the media and word of mouth. It's a small town. Parents panic and show up outside of the crime tape at the school frightened to death that their child was one who was murdered. They wait. They cry. They hug friends and other family members. Press, emergency vehicles and law enforcement are everywhere. It's now on the national news. And next- who was shot? Who was killed? Who was the shooter? It couldn't happen here. But it did. And oh God- my child was one of the victims. Other parents cry in relief when theirs was not. We know the drill. Thank God it didn't happen this time.

More guns is not the answer to this. Keeping guns away from those who should not have them is the answer. We can do that if we but Finish The Job we started 20 years ago when we passed the Brady Law. But laws won't solve all of our problems. It's time to take another look at what we are doing with and for our kids. 3000 kids (give or take) a year die from gun injuries. That is simply not OK. Check out the Center to Prevent Youth Violence for ideas about how you can ASK if there are guns where your kids hang out or play. I wonder if any other kids in the town of Waseca hung out with this boy in his bedroom knowing there were guns there? And store guns safely so kids can't find them. That does not mean buying a gun safe for your 17 year old for holding guns, and lots of ammunition, in his own bedroom and giving him the key to the safe. This was potentially tragic on so many levels.

Enough is enough. It's time for a change.

UPDATE:

Apparently the SKS is not an assault rifle because it does not have a pistol grip. It was once used as a weapon of war and can be modified to take a larger magazine from what I can tell but does not have a detachable magazine. From the video I provided, however, one can see that the damage done by such a gun would be great. Assault rifle or not, this boy knew that the SKS would do some serious and deadly damage to human flesh, which you can plainly see on the video link I provided. It doesn't matter in the end actually. Guns are dangerous and do a lot of damage. Some do more damage than others. And the boy should not have had 7 guns of any kind in a gun safe in his bedroom. I have corrected my post to reflect that the SKS is not officially an assault rifle.

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