We could be doing a whole lot more to prevent gun injuries and deaths and therefore save lives. But we are not. That is a fact. Gun laws matter. In countries where people are allowed to own guns for hunting and even for self defense that have strong gun laws, there are few gun deaths and injuries. That's a fact.
It's also a fact that some gun deaths occur because there are people who shouldn't have guns who get them anyway. We have a gun background check system that allows a good number of sales to go without those background checks. That's because private sellers at gun shows, on the Internet and in other venues are allowed to sell guns without asking the buyer to go through a background check. That means that the seller knows nothing about the buyer. The buyer could be a minor, a felon, a seriously mentally ill person, a domestic abuser or a terrorist. Who would know if a background check is not required?
Our current Brady background check system, in place for 20 years now, through the FBI's National Instant Check System, has kept about 2 million people flagged as prohibited in the NICS, from purchasing guns. That is a fact.
We have already decided that there are some people who shouldn't legally purchase guns through Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers. But the fact that about 2 million of these folks have tried and failed shows that this is a good system. It has not led to gun registration or gun confiscation as the corporate gun lobby would have you believe. That is not a fact.
Some shootings happen because a prohibited buyer was able to acquire a gun anyway without a background check. That is a fact. We know this about the Columbine shooters. We know this about the shooter, Radcliffe Haughton, who shot up a Milwaukee area spa in a domestic mass shooting. There are other such shootings with guns acquired without a background check that may have stopped the purchaser.
Some shootings happen with stolen guns. People should lock up their guns to secure them from those who would steal them or small children who are curious or teen-agers who are thinking of suicide. Suicide by gun takes more lives than gun homicides. That's a fact.
Some shootings happen with guns that are straw purchased. That's a fact.
We have a lot of mass shootings in America. That's a fact.
As it turns out, most of the guns used in mass shootings were legally purchased and were semi-automatic handguns. And that's also a fact. It should be something about which to be concerned, right?
We can stop at least some of these senseless shootings by strengthening our gun laws. But we are not doing so. Except when, last week, Congress decided to support the Thompson amendment to appropriate more funds for states to send the records of those who prohibited purchasers to the NICS. That's a great idea and long past due. How could they have not supported this amendment after the Isla Vista shooting?
After mass shootings in America, there are always excuses and denial about gun laws not doing any good anyway, so why bother? That is a bad idea. Of course, laws can make a difference. We have passed laws to require seat belts, air bags, other car safety features and traffic laws about speed limits, passing zones, etc. People know these laws are for their safety. Deaths due to car accidents have gone down. We passed laws prohibiting smoking in public places. We have come to understand that second hand smoke is also dangerous to the health of those around the smokers. We already established that smoking is bad for the health of those who do it. Those are facts. Those under 18 can't buy cigarettes. Those under 16 can't get driver's licenses. Those under 21 can't buy alcohol. Sure, sometimes people break these laws. But without laws, in what kind of crazy place would we be living?
Sometimes "law abiding" gun owners are careless and irresponsible with their guns. Take this 61 year old Minnesota man who was drinking alcohol and watching a young father teach his daughter how to ride a bike. He threatened to shoot the man. He was darned lucky that didn't happen as was the father and his daughter. Guns are dangerous and a risk to those who own them. That's an inconvenient fact to gun rights extremists. People with guns should not be drinking while shooting or thinking of shooting. Just as with driving and alcohol we have come to understand and accept that it is just a bad idea to drive after drinking. There are penalties and there are sometimes deaths. We, as a country, seem to think differently about guns. We are afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom that gun owners are generally responsible with their guns. That's because these are the "guys with the guns". We have copious examples of intimidation tactics used by some gun rights extremists to get their way. See Texas Open Carry.
Shooters like to shoot their guns at targets. Sometimes bullets don't stay just at the target practice area. I write often enough about stray bullets coming from gun shooting ranges. This latest incident was more than scary.
People should not have to be scared of bullets flying through the walls and/or windows of their homes. Common sense should guide the location of gun target ranges. Common sense also tells us that these ranges should not be located near homes or schools and should be extremely well supervised. Guns are dangerous. They are designed to kill or injure other people. We can't afford to have careless gun owners in our neighborhoods shooting off guns at targets when bullets are flying into nearby homes. We can't have drunk and angry gun owners threatening our families in our neighborhoods. Guns are more likely to be used by you or someone in the home to shoot someone accidentally or on purpose or commit suicide than in self defense. That's a fact.
Men shoot women in domestic shootings way too often. I know that for a fact as a sister of a woman killed in a domestic shooting. This is a fact. Why does this continue to happen? Why are guns the answer? Why do men want to kill women? When a gun is available, it just might get used. This case in Indiana is tragic, as they all are, but because the man shot his pregnant girlfriend and their 11 month old child. Read the comments from the landlord. People are often shocked by these incidents. The guys don't seem like anyone who would do this. But then it happens anyway- far too often. It's a bad idea to have guns laying around the house unsecured in cases of any domestic unrest. I just spent part of a day with the mother of April Oles Magdzas. If this isn't one of the worst stories you have read, then tell me what is. PTSD, mental illness, domestic disputes and anger just don't go with guns. MInnesota and several other states have passed laws to get guns away from domestic abusers, those served with restraining orders or orders for protection or stalkers. This is a good idea and makes common sense. Senator Amy Klobuchar, my own Senator, is sponsoring a Senate bill to strengthen the federal law.
Am I missing something or don't we see guns at polling places in countries at war or undemocratic countries? I guess I would be wrong. In Alabama, we now have people openly carrying their guns into polling places. Yes. You read that right. It's a sad fact. What in the world is someone afraid of at a polling place? This is wrong, intimidating and just not necessary.
And to end this post, I need to mention that one of my readers, new to this blog, is harassing me about publishing his very long comment lecturing me about why "gun control" won't work. This was in response to a post written in April. I often don't publish comments to older posts. But never mind- he even found my personal e-mail address and demanded that I publish his comment. He knows who he is. This is not how things work on this blog. I publish comments that add something to the discussion but don't appreciate lectures and long screeds about things I have written. I understand that some folks don't agree with what I write. Here is just some of what he wrote:
"Here is the truth - the effect of nationwide gun control would simply be to change the source of the guns that are used to commit crimes. As current avenues of supply are cut off, other avenues will open. Gun smuggling across our incredibly porous borders would be big– along with which will come incredible violence just as we see with drugs smuggling today. You stated that you are not against legal gun ownership (which is good), but you must consider that legal gun owners will become even bigger targets as well. An increase in burglary and home invasions will result too as criminals attempt obtain guns for both themselves and to sell. Many of these will go bad for homeowners. An INCREASE in violent crime will necessarily result from cutting off easier avenues to supply illegal guns. Now I'm not advocating handing guns to criminals, I'm just pointing out a fact."These are assertions with no basis in fact. We have not tried to institute federal laws to require background checks on all gun sales. We can't say that it won't work. We also don't know if the result will be that other avenues of supply will open up. If we put enough funding into the ATF, which is woefully underfunded, and to strengthening ways to stop gun trafficking and straw purchasing, we can also prevent some gun exchanges through those channels. The idea that we should do nothing different is unacceptable given the scope of our national public health and safety epidemic. And then this commenter told me that if I don't publish his post, it will be because I am just another "emotional gun control advocate." Really? If the statements above are not an emotional reaction to what I wrote, I don't know that you would call them.
To punctuate all the reasons we need to do something to strengthen our gun laws and change the gun culture and the conversation about guns and gun violence, I offer, again, The Gun Report from the New York Times. Just take a look at the numerous incidents of shootings in just a few days' time and tell me that nothing should happen to change what we now have. Let's get to work.
Here's another fact. The NRA always waits to comment on the latest mass shooting. They keep their heads down and ignore the call for something to be done. And then the response is almost always inane. Take the response now to the Isla Vista shooting that happened a few weeks ago:
Really? California actually has among the nation's lowest rate of gun deaths and strongest gun laws. But never mind. Shootings do happen everywhere. There are so many guns and such easy access to guns in general that we have just come to expect them everywhere. And Cox and others like him just love to distract from the main problem of shootings by pointing deaths by stabbing. Yes, the shooter also stabbed 3 people to death. And then he killed 3 with a gun and injured 10 or so more. No one is ignoring the stabbing deaths. It's just that mass stabbings are much more unusual than mass shootings or even every day shootings. No excuses. Guns are more deadly than knives and account for the deaths of way too many Americans. And yes, we have too many homicides in general. But just because there are stabbing deaths does not mean we shouldn't do something about the gun deaths.During a June 3 appearance on the NRA's radio program Cam & Company, NRA top lobbyist Chris Cox addressed the Isla Vista killings, stating, "The blame needs to be placed on the politicians in California who time and time again their answer to these issues are more and more gun control laws."Cox also claimed that not enough attention had been paid by the media to the victims who were stabbed to death, adopting a similar argument used in a May 30 NRA commentary video that attacked media for using the word "shooting" when describing murders committed with guns.