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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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Back to school, machine guns and other gun news

I have been traveling with my family along the shores of Lake Superior and to a lodge on the Gunflint Trail in the wilderness area of Northern Minnesota. It was a great get-away- from all things technology related. No cell phone service. Only WiFi at the resort building but not anywhere else on the property. No T.V. It was the last family vacation before school starts. But before I left I saw the awful news about the 9 year old girl who accidentally shot the gun instructor at an Arizona Bullets and Burgers Gun Range. He died. First of all, this is a top tourist attraction. I'm not sure I know anyone who would go to such a place. Secondly, burgers with your bullets? Why not? Anything to get people shooting and then perhaps, buying. Follow the money.

This news is all over the media. It should be. Why in the world do 9 year old girls need or even want to shoot a machine gun? This is the American gun culture gone very wrong. I am guessing that this girl did not ask her parents to shoot a machine gun. There is something wrong when parents believe they should take their young children to a gun club to learn how to shoot a machine gun. Why does anyone need to learn how to shoot a machine gun? Machine guns are weapons of war and should only be used for that purpose. There is no reason at all for anyone to shoot a machine gun. Just because someone wants to doesn't mean they should. Aren't there some things that are off limits to the crazed gun nuts in our country?

The New York Times is thinking the same thing in this editorial about the heinous incident:
The familiar national ritual that inevitably accompanies these tragedies, wherever and however they occur, has already spun forth — first the how-could-this-happen-reaction (is it really not clear?), followed by a stultifying (actually, astonishing) conversation in which it is solemnly debated whether it’s a good thing to teach youngsters to fire battlefield arms (if they’re “properly instructed,” say the yeas).
It seemed particularly repugnant that the National Rifle Association put up a feature on its women’s Twitter account — “7 Ways Children Can Have Fun at the Shooting Range” — two days after the tragedy. It was taken down within an hour without explanation, according to The Huffington Post. Sadly, the public probably has low expectations in the way of greater gun safety laws after the latest outrage, however irresponsible and preventable it obviously was. After all, the gun lobby made Congress heel after 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., were murdered in a shooting spree two years ago.
Indeed. Those 20 children are not starting school yet again this fall. 8 children and teens die from bullets every day in America. Does the corporate gun lobby, the group that pushes for young children to shoot guns, have their own guns, and go to shooting ranges care? Apparently not. Another article deals with the typical NRA response to children and guns: 
The NRA headed by Wayne Lapierre with Ted Nugent on its board of directors doesn’t see a problem with giving 9 year olds Uzis or giving domestic abusers as many guns and bullets as they want.  They are on record saying they believe in forcing children to shoot their way to the next grade.  We already know that Lapierre’s real job is to promote gun sales in the name of pleasing his only real constituency: the gun manufacturers.  It’s also taking what’s good for gun manufacturers is good for the NRA to unimaginable levels of the macabre and the absurd and to the detriment of responsible gun owners who are members of the NRA.
The notion of training a nine year old to use an automatic weapon or a machine gun is crazy to most people, but not the NRA.  Life isn’t complete unless you are surrounded by the whole spectrum of guns.  And hey, let’s not make such a big deal about this story.  Kids just wanna have fun and there is no fun unless it includes a warm and fuzzy uzi.
Remember when the NRA was promoting mandatory gun training proficiency classes for children that must be passed before they move to the next grade? Of course you do. But when the natural push-back came, they took down their ludicrous video. What next for this group? There's not much the gun lobby doesn't push for in the interest of profit. Profit over common sense is the modus operandi of this group. Kids dying every day from bullets? No matter. Kids shooting machine guns? What's the problem?

Cliff Schecter wrote this article about the incident and gets it just right:
Needles to say, no other high-income country behaves like this with deadly weapons. The United States itself would never do so with any other item that caused so much murder and mayhem. 
Just last week a mom in Connecticut was charged with 10 counts of risk of injury to a minor for throwing a party for her 15-year old daughter and her friends where a condom was handed out and booze was readily available. Meanwhile, the parents of the 9-year old at Bullets & Burgers are free as birds. Too bad for the Connecticut party mom that she didn’t have the good sense to hand out shotguns instead.
The horrific shooting accident is not even the first incident of its kind. In 2008, an 8-year old boy shot himself in the head while also attempting to fire an Uzi at a target. This time the watching gun instructor escaped injury.
Worse than these newsworthy accidents, is what we allow to happen every day in this country. 
This is just plain nuts. And now, this little girl, the same age as my granddaughter, is going back to school having just killed another human being. How do you get over something like that? I say it's going to take a good long time, if ever. The parents of this girl have some serious thinking to do. The girl wouldn't go on her own to a shooting range to shoot an Uzi. This was her parents idea. And now she will forever live with what happened on a late summer day before school started in 2014.

Parents have a responsibility to keep their children safe from accidents and potential tragedies. Exposing them to machine guns is just plain stupid and dangerous. And it was no "accident" that a child with a machine gun would have trouble controlling it. How many kids die from guns every year? This story is also about this latest bit of gun insanity and quotes Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign:
We can accomplish a lot more by educating parents about the risks associated with kids having access to guns, we believe, than we can talking about changing policies at gun ranges.
Gun range owners can stop allowing children to shoot Uzis at gun ranges in an instant if they decided to do it. But the chances are slim to none because if people can't bring their kids for an afternoon of "family fun" the profit margin will be affected. Never mind safety. Policies can change. The loss of a life can not change. Once a life is taken, everyone's lives are changed forever. And the thing is, this one was avoidable as so many of them are. What needs to change is our gun culture. Guns and kids do not go together.

Products are recalled or not sold if they are found to be potentially dangerous to children. My daughter just told me something I did not realize. Kids' hooded sweatshirts don't have ties in them any more. It's too risky because kids can be strangled. But guns? Go ahead. Give your child one for Christmas. Teach them how to shoot an AR-15 or an Uzi. What's the problem? The total irony of one woman getting herself arrested for letting her 9 year old girl stay home and play by herself because she couldn't afford child care and the parents of a 9 year old girl allowing her to shoot an Uzi resulting in the death of the instructor should be enough for all of us to do some screaming.

Another irony is the fact that machine guns are heavily regulated in our country. And the NRA supported the law that made the sale and ownership of machine guns difficult. I wonder why. From the linked article:
These federal firearms laws imposed high taxes and registration requirements on certain classes of weapons—those used in gang violence like machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and silencers—making it all-but impossible for average people to own them. Gun makers and sellers had to register with the federal government, and certain classes of people—notably convicted felons—were barred from gun ownership. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld these laws in 1939.
The legal doctrine of gun rights balanced by gun controls held for nearly a half-century.
That is the reason we don't see more shootings with machine guns. I'm sure that today's corporate gun
lobby and the minions they have managed to scare with their predictions of fear and paranoia would just love to allow just anyone to be able to buy a machine gun for "daily use"- yes, even young kids. The image on the right is what we should be scared of.

Speaking of kids and guns, check this one out. What can be said when guns are found in the midst of children's toys in a Cincinnati home? This happened. What are people thinking? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill other human beings. Leaving them around with toys is an accident waiting to happen and totally irresponsible. How many more will I write about before things change?

We have a serious problem with guns in America and it's not going away any time soon. There are things we can do to change laws and change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Why don't we? Instead, we make it easy for people to get guns, to shoot guns and take another human beings' life. Crazy.

In most states anybody can buy any kind of gun without a background check. This article is written to expose the easy availability of assault rifles on the Internet and specifically on Facebook. Given that no background checks are required for these gun sales, even teens could buy a gun this way. But no matter. Only in America are we so lax that kids and teens are encouraged to shoot and own guns.

I say that our children should be able to go back to school without fear of being shot in their schools, at gun ranges, at home or on our streets. We should enjoy peace in our neighborhoods. I know that some believe that shooting guns is pleasurable and entertaining. It is also noisy and potentially dangerous. After spending some time in the quiet wilderness, broken by the sound of Loons, Eagles soaring over head, waves lapping on the shore of a wilderness lake, chipmunks, an occasional boat motor, canoe paddles, children's happy voices, campers having conversations, the wind blowing through the tall pines, dogs barking and the other sounds of living without the sound of gun fire, I'll choose that.

And yes, in the fall, there will be the sound of hunters shooting their guns. Hunting is a sport that my family loved. I grew up around hunting guns as did many of the people working in the gun violence prevention movement. But most of us did not grow up around AK-47s or Uzis. They weren't readily available in the first place. In the second place, the hunters I knew were people who loved being outdoors doing something that gave them pleasure. They didn't need to prove anything by shooting off 30 or more rounds of bullets.

Let's let kids be kids and do the things kids do. Exposing them to machine guns is a bad idea and not for kids. Further, what kind of communities do we want for our children? Too many of them are dying every day in senseless shootings. The little 9 year old girl who unintentionally shot a gun instructor is growing up way too fast and will have the weight of the world on her shoulders instead of being able to just play with her friends and go back to school to learn about what kids should be learning.

It's time to do some serious work to stop the senseless shootings. Let's get to work. We just have to be better than this as a country.

UPDATE:

My readers will be interested in knowing that the Bullets and Burgers gun range in question has been closed indefinitely. I ask you to read the interview with MSNBC's Chris Hayes and a friend of the victim. What he says is so out of touch with reality it's enough to make one sick. For example:
CH: "... why would you let an eight year old shoot an uzi?  I mean what's the possible upside? The downside is so horribly clear. What do you say to people that just look at this and their jaws are on the floor?"
SS: "Well, you know I tell you we've had probably 100,000 people shoot on our two ranges combined, and we've had of that probably 1500 to 2000 have been kids. The kids rent a lot of automatic weapons, we do birthday parties for children here, we do bachelor and bachelorette parties...
... we've got first aid kits and the god-darned things are brand new. Never had an injury in the place."
A first aid kit? You just can't make this stuff up.

Also, a lawsuit had been filed against the range before this by a citizen who was certain something was going to happen at the range:
8 News NOW checked on the Bullets and Burgers gun range and found out it had been scrutinized long before Monday's Uzi shooting death. 8 News NOW has uncovered a lawsuit filed against the gun range.
The man who filed the suit said he feared something like this tragedy would happen.
The Mohave County Sheriff's Office has not returned our phone calls since Tuesday. Sheriff Jim McCabe is not being made available for interviews.
The Bullets and Burgers gun range is now refusing to talk with us as well, but a man who sued over the gun range is talking.
"I stated on the record before the court, I said, ‘somebody is going to get killed up there," Lance Krig, who filed the lawsuit, said

UPDATE #2:

Sometimes sarcasm is the only way to go and Andy Borowitz wrote this about the shooting at the gun range:
Across the United States on Wednesday, a heated national debate began on the extremely complex issue of children firing military weapons.
“Every now and then, the nation debates an issue that is so complicated and tricky it defies easy answers,” says pollster Davis Logsdon. “Letting small children fire automatic weapons is such an issue.”
Logsdon says that the thorny controversy is reminiscent of another ongoing national debate, about whether it is a good idea to load a car with dynamite and drive it into a tree.
“Many Americans think it’s a terrible idea, but others believe that with the correct supervision, it’s perfectly fine,” he says. “Who’s to say who’s right?”
Similar, he says, is the national debate about using a flamethrower indoors. “There has been a long and contentious national conversation about this,” he says. “It’s another tough one.”


2 comments:

  1. Great blog you have here! I wish I had found it when I was writing my senior thesis on gun control! I am also a fellow passionate believer that something needs to be done about the gun violence problem in this country. Interesting comment about the man in CT that has been severely punished for providing alcohol and condoms to minors. I think this incident shows really well American values-- when it comes to drugs or sex, we act feel fervently about it, but when it comes to guns we don't care. Shows how deeply ingrained our gun culture is. My Australian boyfriend and I just started a blog comparing America and Australia, and the two most recent posts are about gun control, which I wrote. Check it out! http://american-australian-connection.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks. I like your blog as well. The more of us writing, the more we get the word out and hope to get people activated to get something done.

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