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.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Georgia on my mind

In my last post I wrote about a Georgia man who unintentionally shot a woman across the street when his gun discharged. This was a "law abiding" gun owner, by the way. Today I write another supposed "law abiding" Georgia good guy with a gun. He threatened school kids who were waiting for a bus near his yard with his gun. Seriously. Is this what's meant by an armed society is a polite society? Is this what it means that more guns make us safer? Is this what the Georgia legislature envisioned when they passed their "guns everywhere" bill recently? I hope not. But this is what they've got. More from the article:
"While a group of students waited for a school bus at the intersection of Pasadena Boulevard and Burbank Street – officers said Zimmerman threatened the children for being loud.
“The man came out and he said move away from my damn lawn,” a sixth grade student said.
According to the student, that’s not all Zimmerman said.
“Then he said he got two names on his bullet,” the student said.
Rhonda Harris’s two children were at the bus stop. She was shocked to learn Zimmerman allegedly approached students with a gun.
“Well they said that a man came outside complaining that they were loud and he had a gun and said that there was a bullet with their names on it,” Harris said.
Officers interviewed close to 20 students on Friday.
“I thought he was going to shoot us,” the student said.
“Immediately, I was just outraged, I was upset and I just couldn’t understand why he would come outside with a gun to complain about noise,” said Harris."
Is this what is meant by guns for self defense? What is going on here? When crabby neighbors are provoked by small incidents like kids making too much noise, is a gun the way to take care of the anger or concern? Kids are kids. They make noise all the time. So now, some people believe kids should be shot for making noise? And when a gun is at the ready, it just may get used. Because every day small provocations and stray bullets result in tragic shootings.

Speaking of "good guys" with guns, the Violence Policy Center has released a new report with new numbers for conceal carry permit holders killings. According to their numbers:
Individuals legally allowed to carry concealed handguns are responsible for at least 659 non-self defense deaths since 2007, a number that likely represents a fraction of the actual total, according to updated data released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC).
Details can be found in the latest update to Concealed Carry Killers, an online resource that offers examples of non-self defense killings by private citizens legally allowed to carry concealed handguns in public. Overall, Concealed Carry Killers documents 493 incidents in 36 states and the District of Columbia since May 2007, resulting in the deaths of 659 people.
Because there is no comprehensive recordkeeping of deaths involving concealed handgun permit holders and many states in fact bar the release of such information, the examples on theConcealed Carry Killers website are taken primarily from news reports and most likely represent a fraction of actual events. 
“State laws allowing concealed handguns in public do not make us safer,” states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “Our database shows that individuals legally allowed to carry concealed handguns regularly use their guns in homicides, suicides, and mass shootings. In all likelihood, the fatal incidents we have documented are only a fraction of the total, and they also do not include the frequent non-fatal incidents perpetrated by concealed carry permit holders.” 
In the vast majority of the 493 incidents documented (408, or 83 percent), the concealed carry killer either committed suicide (190), has already been convicted (164), perpetrated a murder-suicide (40), or was killed in the incident (14). 

That's something to be considered by state legislators all over the country. When the loosening of the laws regarding who can carry guns, where they can carry them and what kind of training permit holders should have did anyone wonder if the result could be that the gun carriers just may shoot others? Those of us who were opposed to the loosening of the laws raised the concerns but they fell on deaf ears. The corporate gun lobby was fierce in their support of the laws. We are beginning to see the results.

Speaking of legislators, I have been volunteering at a table for the Brady Campaign at the National Conference of State Legislators. People are in Minneapolis from all over the country. It has been a real treat to talk to so many state legislators who support the work of the Brady Campaign and want to be involved. The NRA is just in the next aisle over. People are getting hats and backpacks. Great. We have some maps up at our table showing our state report card. This has attracted a lot of attention. Folks are very interested to see the grade given by the Brady Campaign in their annual report card for state gun laws. We've had some great discussions with supportive legislators from states like Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma whose grades are "F". They would like to change things but, alas, they live in states where the corporate gun lobby rules. Georgia, by the way, got an "F" on the report card.

Many legislators just walked by to offer condolences for the death of Jim Brady. People understand what a hero Jim Brady was and what he did for the gun violence prevention movement. It was great to have so many people remember Jim and take the time to let us know that they cared. We also heard from some how grateful they were for the work we are doing and many have worked with Brady chapters or the Brady Campaign. Legislators from Alaska came by to thank us and express their frustration at the gun culture in that state where overall gun deaths are high. Alaska has a high rate of suicide by gun. There are a lot of guns in Alaska. The homicide rate among children and women is also very high according to the linked article above. More guns have not made for fewer gun deaths.

We spent some time talking to an Illinois state Senator about gun violence in his area. He represents a part of Chicago and he is concerned, of course, about what's going on in his city concerning violence. It's been a bad year for Chicago gun deaths. This latest one involving a 9 year old boy represents the tragedy of too many guns on the streets and innocent people dying as a result. More about this sad story:
Antonio was shot around 4 p.m. in the 1200 block of East 71st Street, a few blocks from where he had lived with his mother, older brother and older sister, according to police and relatives. His body was found near a railroad embankment on a block lined with two- and three-flats and single-story yellow brick ranch homes.
Police said a dispute between two factions of the Gangster Disciples gang has recently flared in the neighborhood, but they don't believe Antonio belonged to a gang and said he came from a good family that recently moved into the area.
No arrests have been reported and no description of the gunman has been released by police.
Murry said her son had run out of the house not long before the shooting, angry that he couldn't have some cake. "I know he was a little upset with me. He was in trouble. He asked me for something and I told him no," she said. 

There is broad support for reasonable gun laws in polling taken in individual states and nationally. A recent Politico Poll one revealed that the support is still there:
Ninety percent of Democrats support stricter checks —as do 71 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of independents, the survey found. Three-quarters of the overall survey respondents said the issue was “important” in evaluating candidates in the midterm elections, including 68 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents. 
Combine broad support for reasonable gun laws with current events and high profile shootings and it should result in some sort of action. It's not just laws that matter. It's a culture. It's racial injustice. It's mental illness. It's domestic violence. It's suicide. All of it and we should be talking about all of it. But we aren't. It's hard not to keep the shooting of the black teen in Ferguson, Missouri in mind any time we are talking about gun deaths. Interestingly, something state legislators should consider before passing stronger gun laws, is that our country has more shootings of any kind than other democratized countries not at war. And police shooting incidents are off the charts compared to other countries. Police carry guns of course all over America. Not in other countries. This article about police shooting incidents in the UK is interesting;
The Economist reported last week, in an article on armed U.S. police, that “last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times.” The number three resonated when the private autopsy of Michael Brown, the teenager killed by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson this month, concluded that Brown was shot at least six times. Many tweets contrasted the numbers, saying Wilson had fired more shots at Brown than British police officers discharged in all of 2013.
It seems to me that we have a lot of work to do in America. The shootings of and by police, domestic shootings, suicides, accidental discharges, shootings of and by kids, gun homicides- all are American phenomena that are occurring in every state of the nation. Georgia just happened to have passed the latest of the corporate gun lobby's ideas that guns everywhere will make us safer. It's time to stop the deceptions and let our legislators deal with the facts rather than fear and paranoia. One legislator told me today that she couldn't even fill out the NRA questionnaire because the questions were so ludicrous and leading to only certain answers.

The main theme and the word that came out of the mouths of many while chatting with us was "common sense." Where is it? It's time to insist that common sense approaches to the role of guns and gun violence are the ones that win approval in our legislatures. We can get that to happen if we work together and insist that legislators stand up to the corporate gun lobby and stand up for saving lives. Let's get to work.

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