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, May 28, 2014

Listen to the voices of the victims after shootings

It is overwhelming to consider and weigh through everything that has been written about the Isla Vista shooting in Santa Barbara, CA last Friday. Since then, much has been said, mostly on my side of the issue. The gun extremists are being pretty quiet. I have received a few comments, though, about California gun laws being the excuse for not passing any more laws any place else that could stop some of the daily shootings in America. It's an excuse for sure. Yes, California has stronger gun laws than many states. Here they are from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. And more from the linked article:
"In addition, in 2007, California became the first jurisdiction in the nation to require handgun microstamping.
In 2010, California had the 9th lowest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. In 2008 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), 3,081 people were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in California.
Based on data published by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, California consistently ranks among the top ten suppliers of guns recovered after being used in crimes in other states. However, when population is taken into account, California is the fifth lowest supplier of guns recovered from crimes in other states. In addition, California is the fourth largest supplier (among the states) of crime guns to Mexico when population is taken into account. Note, however, that California supplies crime guns to Mexico at less than one-third the rate of Arizona, the top supplier of crime guns to Mexico."
There are suggestions for how to make the laws even stronger than this to prevent those who are mentally ill but not adjudicated, to have guns temporarily taken from them. Again, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is suggesting a possible solution. From the USA Today comes this editorial piece about how to keep guns away from those with serious mental illness and other people who exhibit "dangerousness":
Like other deranged killers, many of them young men with psychosexual problems, Rodger passed background checks and bought his guns legally. No judge had found him mentally ill and ordered him into treatment, the legal requirement for being blocked from buying a gun.
Nor would a ban on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines have helped. The three semi-automatic handguns the shooter bought would still be legal under the Senate proposals, and California's tough gun laws already ban high-capacity magazines, so he stocked up on smaller, legal ones.
What might have made a difference is something that's typically an afterthought in the gun debate: giving authorities greater ability to deny mentally disturbed people access to firearms.
In Santa Barbara, there was a huge missed opportunity after the shooter's parents saw their son's disturbing videos on YouTube and alerted authorities. Sheriff's deputies went to the young man's apartment — which held his guns, his ammunition and a detailed plan for his killing spree — but he easily convinced them he was no threat to himself or others, the threshhold for taking action.
Family members often know better than anyone when someone's mental state is deteriorating, so their concerns deserve to be taken more seriously than a potential psychopath's glib denials. In many but not all states, family members and others can ask a judge to have someone's mental health evaluated. That doesn't guarantee a person will be held and treated, says Doris Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, "but we've got to start somewhere." 
Treatment or no, someone in a deteriorating mental state should not have firearms. In a proposal backed by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, families could ask a judge for a "gun violence restraining order." If a judge agreed the person presented a credible risk for violence, the person would be barred from buying guns and have any guns he owned taken away.
Such a policy would not come easily. But this might be one of the best ways to separate the most deranged individuals from the most dangerous weapons.
Something different needs to happen. Many of the mass shooters we have read about recently have passed background checks. There are many reasons why they shouldn't have but that is the system we have now. It's not working as it should be. A"gun violence restraining order" is worth pursuing. And of course, we should Finish The Job and require background checks on all gun sales so people who shouldn't have guns don't fall through a dangerous crack. Nothing will stop all shootings. But doing nothing is not an option any more. Some things will stop some shootings. That's better than nothing.

Guns are dangerous and a risk for those who own them or carry them around. We do need to start looking at "dangerousness". Many people should not have guns. But we let them anyway and then say that nothing will happen. They are nice people. They are "good guys" with guns and they wouldn't do anything to harm anyone. Until they do. I once thought the same thing but I know better now after my former brother-in-law, a supposed "good guy" with a gun shot and killed my sister. We need to think differently about guns in the home. We need to understand that shootings like the one in Santa Barbara can and do happen anywhere and to anyone. It's time to look at this national public health and safety problem through a different lens.

Other countries do things differently and the result is a different kind of gun culture and fewer gun deaths. Cliff Schecter, writing for the Daily Beast writes more about this here:
Another favorite conservative retort to calls for stricter gun regulation has been to point to California's “liberal” gun laws, which supposedly didn’t help Santa Barbara at all. However, the fact that the shooter possessed only 10-bullet magazines and no assault weapon—or what he could legally buy—clearly did help. As terrible as this was, it could have been much worse if the gun fetishists had their way, and any manner of weapon or magazine was for sale.
Additionally, and I know this is a tough concept to understand, but we have these territories separated only by an imaginary boundary known as states. They border one another. People can drive across them at will, as they often do from Arizona—where gun laws are among the most lenient in the U.S.—to California. It is also quite easy to drive from California to Nevada, which also has lax gun laws. 
This might be why when John Patrick Bedell, another angry and troubled man with a hatred for his own government, decided to try to  assassinate public servants at the Pentagon, he went next door to Nevada to get his guns no questions asked, once he couldn’t pass a background check in California. Wow, that was hard!
Clearly knives can't kill as impersonally, as many, as fast or at as far a distance. Which might be why there haven't been presidents knifed from book depositories (or grassy knolls, whatever your preference), there aren't drive-by knifings, and we didn't storm Omaha Beach throwing knives.
Of course, there is one easy case study that proves the rule: Hawaii, which is separated from every other state by quite a bit of ocean. The Aloha State, which boasts the lowest gun ownership rate and among the strongest gun laws in our country, has the lowest gun violence rate, according to The Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence. Meanwhile, in Arizona, with those ridiculously nonexistent gun laws, you're five times more likely to die from a gun than in Hawaii. 
This pattern extends throughout the country, from lax regulation states like Mississippi and Alaska (18.3 and 17.6 gun deaths, per 100,000 people, respectively) to strong regulation states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts (3.5 and 3.6 gun deaths per 100,000, respectively). This really isn't that hard. 
And for those of you about to point out that cities like Chicago have both strict gun laws and horrifying gun violence, well, you might want to do some reading about how many of those guns came from Indiana, which has much less strict gun laws, or other parts of Illinois, where laws don’t come close to matching those in the city of Chicago. Use The Google, my friends. It's free.
If lax guns laws and more guns overall made people safer, the United States would be the safest place in the world. Instead, that designation goes to countries like Japan and England, which have actually taken on this problem with the seriousness it deserves. And then there is the special case of Australia, which was heading down the same path as us until 1996, when they had their own Newtown, known a the Port Arthur Massacre. They passed not weak-tea gun laws, but a comprehensive package (passed by their Conservative Party). The results have been stunning, as not only has there not been a mass shooting since then (there were 11 in the 10 years before they passed this legislation), but their suicides and gun-related deaths have gone way down too. 
In Santa Barbara, we had a young man who had been detained or interviewed three times by the police recently, including once for domestic assault. Both a social worker and his parents warned the authorities about his fraying mental state. But all of that led to no red flags popping up to stop him from buying three semi-automatic guns and enough bullets to take on the police department. 
In England, Japan, Canada and Australia, that would have been enough to stop him cold. In these places, as is common sense, requirements exist such as third-party references from family and/or friends, rigorous psychological exams and background checks. Any blemish on one’s record pointing to violence would have been a red flag during these tests. Additionally, there are waiting periods before one can receive a gun after initial purchase, making it more likely someone mentally unstable would be caught doing something else in the meantime, or perhaps even get the help he so desperately needed before obtaining a firearm. 
There are no excuses for what happened in Santa Barbara. The gun extremists think there are. And they are trying to say that nothing could have been done to stop the Isla Vista shooting. That is like saying that we should not do any more cancer research because people will die anyway. Or it's like saying we shouldn't pass any new traffic regulations after several accidents happen at the same dangerous corner. Or maybe we should just let people continue to smoke inside even though we know that second hand smoke causes a certain number of deaths per year. What's different about guns and gun violence?

We assess danger and risk and then we get busy to make it safer and healthier. That's the American way. The American way just simply cannot be weekly mass shootings and daily carnage in our homes and on our streets. We shouldn't have to read about the daily carnage in Joe Nocera's Gun Report, printed regularly in the New York Times. And to mirror what Nocera wrote, this Huffington Post article called attention to the 80 Americans a day who die from gun injuries without the press attention given to the mass shootings like that in Santa Barbara. These 2 reports should be sobering. Are they?

We are better than this. And we need to know that we have done more rather than less to stop some of our daily carnage. Common sense tells us that we are not doing nearly enough. And that's the way the corporate gun lobby wants it. The less we do, the more guns are sold. That is a sick and inexcusable way to legislate public safety. But that's the truth. And the father of one of the victims, Richard Martinez, has taken his anger and that truth to the public starting a national conversation. Included below, along with some of the many images I have seen, is a video of Richard Martinez speaking truthfully and emotionally about our lax American gun culture.

Yes, indeed. Real people died on Friday night. Real people die every day. Richard Martinez has every reason in the world to be angry and emotional. What in the world are we doing to protect our kids? Our politicians have failed us once again. They lacked the courage to do what they needed to do after 20 6 and 7 year olds were massacred on December 14, 2012. The corporate gun lobby had everything to do with the failure of a bill that had the majority vote in the Senate but not a super majority. Outrageous and inexcusable There are no excuses. So what if California has among the strongest gun laws in America and shootings still happen there? That means the laws need to be even stronger. And that means that other states need to pass laws at least as strong as those in California which has among the lowest number of gun deaths per 100,000 of the other 49 states. 

Don't listen to the voices of those who would make excuses for the guns and the gun violence. Listen to the voices of those who have lost loved ones. From a linked article above, read the words of a Sandy Hook parent to Richard Martinez and then tell me that nothing can be done:
Mike Barden, whose lost his son Daniel in the December 2012 carnage, penned an open letter welcoming Martinez to “a family born from the horrible circumstance of losing a child to gun violence.”
Barden wrote the heart-wrenching note after hearing Martinez fume at politicians for doing nothing in the wake of his son’s savage slaying.
“We have not met, but you are now part of our extended family,” Barden wrote on his Facebook page, Sandy Hook Promise.
“It is not a family we chose, but (it’s) ... one that’s only growing each day.”
Christopher Michaels-Martinez was randomly blasted by Rodger inside a deli just off the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The shooter, 22-year-old college student Rodger, took his own life after the minutes-long rampage.
“You will find your own path down this difficult road,” Barden advised Martinez. “But know that we are here for you and all of you who have been touched by this tragedy.
“Together we can and will build a safer world for all our children.”
Enough said. Now it's your turn to speak up and tell your politicians you expect them to do the same. Make a phone call. Send a post card. That's the only way change will happen in America. Let's get to work.


This excellent editorial in the New York Times highlights the need to do a much better job of screening those who buy guns. Every effort should be made to do so and those who would stop those efforts will be complicit in the continuing carnage due to gun violence. From the article:
In being bullied by the gun industry into rejecting one of the most effective ways of limiting the proliferation of guns — universal background checks — members of Congress have become complicit in shootings by anyone who should not be allowed to own a gun because of a criminal or mental health record. It is not just the mass shootings like the one in California that the nation needs to focus on (victims in these horrific events make up less than 1 percent of all gun homicides), but also the more than 11,000 individual deaths from gun violence every year, most of which get no attention, or the more than 19,000 annual suicides by gun.
The background check bill failed in the Senate a year ago, mostly because of Republican opposition. The gun lobby, determined to prevent a single restriction from being approved, spread vicious misinformation about the creation of a gun registry that left lawmakers quaking and raised ludicrous fears of government confiscation. (...) 
Last year, a consortium of top mental health professionals said the government needed to go further and ban gun possession from those who have been involuntarily committed to outpatient treatment if they pose a danger to themselves or others. People should also be unable to buy guns, the group said, if they have been convicted of a violent misdemeanor, subject to a domestic violence restraining order, convicted of drunken driving two or more times in five years, or convicted of two misdemeanors involving a controlled substance in five years.
Some of those policies have been enacted in California, but the group recommended that states go further. Specifically, parents or other relatives should be allowed to petition a court for a restraining order prohibiting gun ownership by those who pose a credible risk of harm to themselves or others.
There is no reason not to pass measures that could save the lives of our children and others who can become innocent victims of gun violence in a matter of seconds. It's time for Congress to wake up and do the right thing.


  1. I am a peaceful activist and i have written a song about gun sense legislation. I hope it will open hearts and minds which may have been closed. The title is, "We Are Their Mothers' Army" -- but it could also be, "Parents' Army", "Peaceful Army", "Grieving Army". Every time another senseless tragedy such as the recent one in Isla Vista occurs, so many of us wonder why in the world something hasn't been done to keep us safer. We citizens of the USA are 'family'--we are each other's 'villagers' and we need to step up and demand legislative action immediately so that background checks and safe storage of firearms are mandatory. Here is my song: http://youtu.be/Z3MgWPFolS8
    I recently was in Australia, where this kind of thing no longer happens. I was told the biggest concern they have for their children there is that they wear sun screen and hats when they go out for recess...I pray for the day when that is our biggest worry here.

  2. Your voice is also important to the cause. Sometimes music is a potent message and your song is that. Thank you for sharing this.