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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coming together about guns and gun violence

Will the shooting of a black teen in Ferguson, Missouri bring us together or leave us with more questions than answers and back to life as it was before the shooting? I found an article whose author believes that the shooting of Michael Brown may transform us as a country and lead to a better place. From the article:
""You have these moments in history where kairos time is speaking to us," said Williams, with a camera around his neck, seeking to document what he hoped would be a nationwide tipping point in how the nation treats African Americans. "Ferguson is this kairos moment."
Perhaps, he suggested, it would push America toward peace and civility.
Others have said as much.
"As Americans, we've got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that's been laid bare by this moment," President Obama said this week.
"What I'm seeing, hopefully, is a catalyst for change. Nothing wrong with protest. This country was founded on protest," said St. Louis County Det. Kevin Bentley as he worked crowd control last week, sounding more like a demonstrator than a peace officer.
One demonstrator, Torraquai Walker, 36, of Ferguson, this week summed up the nights of peaceful demonstrations. "I love it," Walker said. "This is the most unity I've seen in St. Louis in my adult life.... Everybody wants to be a part of it.""
People of good faith and good intentions can disagree about things. But in moments like we have had as a country watching what happened in Ferguson, Missouri there is an opportunity for us. Coming together with common sense on our minds and in our hearts to have the national discussion we deserve to have is necessary if we are to save lives and prevent senseless shootings.

There are many conundrums surrounding the Michael Brown case. There is evidence that black Americans are targeted more often than white citizens by law enforcement. I have written about that in previous posts. Just recently a San Diego man, who happened to be white, waved his gun around in public and he seemingly got different treatment than did Michael Brown who was unarmed. From the article:
Patrol personnel arrived to find Tamayo sitting in his car in a parking area near De Anza Cove. They contacted him by phone and spoke with him for about 15 minutes before he agreed to surrender. He got out of the vehicle, but soon returned to it and retrieved a loaded 9-mm pistol, the sergeant said. 
Tamayo then "pointed his gun recklessly at various people in the park," at a police helicopter circling overhead and at the nearby officers, prompting one of them to shoot him in the abdomen, Del Toro alleged. 
The suspect fell to the ground, but his gun remained within reach and he continued failing to comply with the officers' commands, Del Toro said. Finally, the personnel were able to subdue him with non-lethal rounds and take him into custody. 
This man was clearly a danger to himself and others and to the officers. He was shot but in the end he was subdued with "non-lethal" rounds. This incident was different from that in Ferguson but it seems to me that police could have chosen a different path and just shot to kill the man with as many rounds as it took. That is what happened in the Michael Brown shooting. The officer shot him with 6 bullets and seemingly shot to kill. We won't know all of the details in either case for a while obviously. But we do know that these two cases may just represent the disparity between how law enforcement treats people of color and how they treat white people in somewhat similar situations.

There is also the truth that officers' lives are in danger every day and because they are "outgunned" on the streets because of people with easy access to guns of all kinds, including military style assault weapons. Officers are also shot on a regular basis. The latest is the police chief of a small Texas town who was shot and killed during a routine stop:
A 24-year-old Texas man has been charged in the shooting death of a small-town police chief, a sheriff's spokeswoman said Sunday.
Joshua Manuel Lopez faces a charge of capital murder of a police officer in the killing of Elmendorf Police Chief Michael Pimentel, said Bexar County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Rosanne Hughes.
Pimentel was shot in the shoulder and abdomen while making a stop Saturday to serve an active misdemeanor warrant for graffiti. He was flown to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The conundrum here is that so many people are carrying guns with them that an officer has no idea whether he/she will be facing a "good guy" with a gun or a "bad guy" with a gun. That is the problem with guns everywhere. We are creating our own public health and safety problem rather than coming together to solve the problem in the best way for the majority who live and work in communities all over America. We need to decide what kind of country we want. At the least, we should expect that our law enforcement officers treat the citizens of their community equally no matter who they are. And we should also expect that in turn, the citizens of our communities treat law enforcement officers with respect.

So, again, what kind of country do we want? What happened in Ferguson has revealed some things about America that have been in plain sight but we have chosen not to see them. This is more than Ferguson. This is about us all. A Huffington Post article presented some numbers for our consideration. Is this the America we want? Our children deserve more. People of color deserve more. People with economic difficulties deserve better. We are a country divided against itself and we are killing each other in numbers not seen in any other civilized country not at war. As the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone famously said, "We all do better when we all do better." We can do better for the sake of safe and peaceful communities.

Do we want guns everywhere? Do we want officers shooting our young people? Do we want our young people to have easy access to guns that end up on our streets causing mayhem and tragedies? Do we want small children finding loaded guns and shooting themselves, a sibling or a friend? Do we want our young people shooting themselves in daily suicides? Do we want domestic disputes to turn deadly when a gun is available?

And do we want parents and teachers walking around our schools with loaded guns?  For example, this Georgia Dad thinks he should force his daughter's elementary school to let him carry his gun there. Why? What does he think will happen if he is not carrying his gun? Is he so fearful and paranoid that he can't go anywhere without his gun? When the Georgia legislators passed the "guns everywhere" bill last spring, is this what they thought would happen? Did they come together to discuss the safety of the communities rather than the wishes of the corporate gun lobby? Did they put their heads together to foresee that when guns are allowed everywhere, they will be everywhere even if we don't want them everywhere we gather? If this father thinks he will stop a school shooting in progress he should think again. Otherwise, what is the danger in a school? Kids are actually safer in their schools than in their homes from gun violence. Figuring that out is an important factor in deciding where guns are allowed. But the corporate gun lobby and its' minions keep pushing for more guns carried by more people in more places.

Does the corporate gun lobby ever come together with other groups to pass bills that are deemed to make us safer from gun violence? Rarely. They did manage it in Minnesota and a few other states in the past legislative sessions when they agreed that domestic abusers should not have guns. It is possible to come together about the role of guns in domestic abuse and we should be able to do the same to make it harder for all who shouldn't have guns to get them. More guns will not and have not made us safer no matter what the corporate gun lobby says.

But back to Georgia ( again) can we all come together and agree that in this Georgia home a gun contributed to the senseless murder suicide of a young family, including a baby? This is another domestic dispute gone terribly wrong. There are too many of them everywhere and most domestic murders are committed with guns.

And speaking of Georgia ( again) and police officers, this officer served time for sexually assaulting a woman after a domestic call and now got his gun rights restored. I plan to write more about this later but from this article:
Krauss was convicted of sexual assault against a person in custody, and this one instance of sexual assault is far from the only allegation against him. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “[h]is record was filled with allegations of misconduct: that he beat a prisoner so severely the man’s brain bled; that he threatened to fabricate charges against a suspect so he could sleep with the man’s wife; that he pressured at least 10 women for sex to avoid arrest.” The former cop, for his part, is unrepentant. When asked about his sexual assault conviction, he claims that “[t]here wasn’t any crime,” and that “I was dealt a bad hand.”
And yet, in July of 2013, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles restored Krauss’ right to carry a firearm. According to a Journal-Constitution tally, he is one of 358 violent felons who regained these rights over a six year period. That includes 32 violent felons who killed someone, and 44 who committed sex crimes. One man regained his right to own a gun in 2012 after serving a 10 year sentence for child molestation and aggravated child molestation. Some offenders regained their gun rights after being convicted of crimes such as armed robbery, burglary or aggravated assault.
Can we at least come together and agree that restoring gun rights to this former police officer, now an ex-felon, is a bad idea?

And what are people thinking when they carry guns for self defense and the guns discharge? Did anyone put their heads together to talk about how many stupid and potentially dangerous things could happen when so many people carry guns in public places? An incident at a Hilton hotel in Rye Brook, N.Y.  showed once again that guns have not made us safer.
An Englishman staying at the Hilton Westchester suffered bruises from a bullet accidentally fired through the wall Saturday by another hotel guest in the room next door, village police said.
The two were in their respective rooms about 1 p.m. when one of the guests, described as an upstate New York man at the hotel to attend a wedding, unintentionally discharged his gun as he went to put it away, Rye Brook police said. The wall slowed the bullet and so, by the time it came out the other end and struck the other man's leg, it only bruised him, police said.
The upstate man had all the necessary permits to own and carry a gun, said police, who were at the hotel investigating until close to 4 p.m. Police released no further information on the shooting.
This is not the first time this has happened. Read the Ohh Shoot blog for many more. Be careful out there. You never know what the hotel guest in the next room will be up to. How do you defend yourself against another "law abiding" gun owner with a gun when bullets are discharged "accidentally" and fly through walls? Where was the man with the gun going to "put it away"? Did he need a gun at a wedding? I'm just asking....... It seems to me the gun is safer when worn at most times but I am guessing that many permit holders find carrying guns around with them to be burdensome, hot, uncomfortable, etc. So they take them off and voila- someone is shot. As it turns out more people carry guns now than have ever before been able to thanks to the loosening of state carry laws. This article writes about that and more. My readers know that I am not a fan of open carry or concealed carry. I don't believe we are all safer when people carry their guns around. It is what it is now and incidents like the above happen often enough to raise eyebrows. But here is what I do like, from the article:
“I have been through all the safety courses that are necessary,” said Bird, who calls himself a “middle-of-the-road” gun owner. He has no problem with background checks and gun laws for legitimate gun buyers, as long as they are not too restrictive, he said. Bird grew up hunting and target-shooting with his father and has been using guns since he was 4.
This is my kind of gun owner. He, like the majority of law abiding gun owners, have no problem with background checks and certain gun laws. That is what I call common sense. I am thinking it is possible to come together and pass some reasonable gun laws that even the majority of gun owners support.

And can we all come together to agree that what this Iowa mother did was just plain not OK and stupid and dangerous?:
According to a police affidavit, 25-year-old Courtney Kie-Marie Owens had recently gotten a BB gun, and the 6-year-old boy repeatedly tried to play with it, the Quad City Times reported.
So on Tuesday, Owens decided to explain that the weapon was not a toy, and “purposely” shot him, the court document stated. The child was treated at scene for a red swollen hip, where he had been struck by a BB.
Where is common sense?

What happens to people when they have guns around? I'm just asking.......

The common thread in all of the above is a gun or guns. In some cases, the guns were shot intentionally to kill or injure another human being. In some, the guns were discharged accidentally, causing injury or death to another human being. But it's the guns and the bullets that caused the problems.

We have chosen not to deal with this problem in spite of yet another poll showing strong support for background checks on all gun sales. But the conundrum? If the word "gun control " is used, people are more divided. No one wants to be "controlled". But "gun control" is a term that means one thing to one group of folks and quite another to a different set of folks. And the corporate gun lobby has very cleverly associated any measure to keep us safer from gun violence with the term "gun control" rather than gun safety or gun violence prevention. From the linked article:
Ninety-two percent of voters, including 92 percent of gun owners and 86 percent of Republicans, support background checks prior to all gun sales, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.
The results indicate that, while the proposed shift to universal background checks has stirred intense partisan bickering inside the Beltway, it's not nearly as controversial throughout the rest of the country.
Supporters of tougher gun laws were quick to highlight the results, calling on House Republican leaders to take up legislation expanding background screenings to all commercial gun sales.
Rep. Mike Thompson (Calif.), a gun owner who heads the House Democratic task force on gun violence, urged GOP leaders to consider his bill to do just that.
"The only thing standing in the way of it passing is the Republican Majority in the House," Thompson said in a statement. "It's time they listen to the 92 percent of American gun owners who support background checks and bring our bill up for a vote — because if the Republican Majority would allow a vote, my bill would pass." (...) 
The Quinnipiac poll suggests Republican leaders are at stark odds with the public on the issue. It found that voters support universal background checks by a margin of 92 to 7 percent; gun owners support the change 92 to 6 percent; and Republicans back the idea 86 to 11 percent.
The survey also suggested a reason for the disconnect between the public support and the congressional inactivity. In short, many voters simply don't equate mandatory background checks with "gun control." Indeed, only 50 percent of the same respondents said they support "stricter gun control laws," the poll found, with 47 percent opposed.
"Americans are all in on stricter background checks on gun buyers and on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill," Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, said in a statement. "But when it comes to 'stricter gun control,' three words which prompt a negative reflex, almost half of those surveyed say 'hands off.'" 
So we have already come together about background checks. If 92% of Americans agree in poll after poll after poll, then Congress is afraid of their own shadows. It's time for them to come out of the shadows and do the right thing. Semantics should not stop us from doing the right thing in the name of public safety. After the Michael Brown shooting and all of the talk about guns and shootings, it really is past time to come together for an adult discussion based on facts and well thought out ideas. Let's get to work.

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