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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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Scary gun stuff

It's not Halloween yet. But some scary things are going on in America concerning guns and gun violence. This will be a long post but I wanted to include some of the recent incidents and concerns that have been before us in the last week or so. There are enough to write a separate post for each but I don't have that much time so here goes....

Did you know that the TSA writes a blog about all of the guns and other dangerous things they find in traveler's carry-on bags? Yes indeed. It's true. People inconveniently "forget" they have loaded guns in their carry-ons. Most likely they remember not to take their water bottles and put their liquids in plastic bags, as required. They take off their shoes and coats, as required. But guns? Apparently those are not as important. Read more about this here and then check out the photos of what are found in people's carry-ons:
Last year, the TSA found a total of 1,813 firearms in carry-on baggage through checkpoints around the country. As of the end of June 2014, the TSA has already found 1,025. According to the TSA, people may travel with firearms only if they are unloaded, declared and checked as baggage in locked, hard-sided containers. If officers find a firearm in your carry-on, the result is a citation with fines of up to $7,500 or arrest.
At the bottom of the post, you can search to see the number of firearms found in carry-ons at all major airports. You’ll find that many of the airports included on this list cater to a lot of travelers, like No. 1, the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, which is the busiest airport in the U.S. Los Angeles’s LAX, which is the U.S.’s second busiest airport, however, is much further down the list."
Did you see the photo of the hand grenade? Unbelievable. They are supposedly hard to get but people have them for some reason that just can't be easily explained. This is scary stuff.

And then there are the sovereign citizens who are becoming more prevalent in our country. Scary folks those. This Texas man lured police to an open place and opened fire. This home grown terrorist was ready for battle with law enforcement and who knows who else?

Domestic disputes have been resulting in gun injuries and deaths all over the country. This one in Ohio was a pretty bad idea. The incident has gained national attention and well it should. Listen to this man's voice on the police 911 tape. Come on. What a scary guy. From the article:
"The officers got there and (Blake) kept saying it was an accident, but (Misty) was saying something different," Madeira Police Chief Frank Maupin said. "We don't feel it was an accident."
Maupin said Blake, 36, waited until his wife turned her back before he purposely fired a shot in her direction in their driveway in the 5000 block of Windridge Drive at about 2:40 p.m.
The bullet ricocheted off the ground and struck Misty in the head, leg, stomach and neck, Maupin said.
But when Blake called 911, he had a different story.
"I shot my wife accidentally,” Blake told a 911 dispatcher after the gun fired.
When officers arrived at the scene, they said Misty, 28, was on the ground in her driveway, covered in blood and repeating the words, "He shot me. Get him away from me."
Maupin said it was later determined an argument took place between the couple before the shooting -- and when Misty turned her back, Blake fired a shot.
This man sounds like someone who will say anything to excuse himself from his responsibility in an alleged intentional domestic shooting. Is he a "good guy" with a gun? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to injure or kill another human being. Far too often they are used in arguments and someone is dead. In this case, the shooter's wife was injured and able to leave the hospital. Both were lucky this did not end differently.

A shooting incident in Virginia illustrates the fallacy that having a gun for protection in your home and being at the ready to use it and then ask questions later is a good idea. What scares the gun guys should be scary to the rest of us. From the article:
A Frederick County, Virginia man shot his 16-year-old daughter early Tuesday morning, mistaking her for an intruder. According to WHAG-TV Channel 4, the man then crashed his vehicle attempting to rush the teen to a local hospital.
Tuesday morning, at around 3:30 a.m., said police, the man was getting ready for work when his home alarm system said that the garage door had been opened, leading him to believe that an intruder was attempting to break into the house. In fact, his 16-year-old daughter was trying to sneak back in after breaking her curfew.
Captain Donnie Lang with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said, “When he went to go investigate what had set off the alarm, he heard some banging and rustling around in the garage. At that particular point, he obtained a firearm that he had there in the kitchen area.”
Sensing that someone was “coming at him” in the dark garage, the man opened fire, striking his daughter in the torso. He quickly realized his mistake and tried to rush the girl to Winchester Medical Center nearby.
On the way, however, he crashed the car. Police and first responders to the crash scene took the girl to the hospital for treatment. She is currently listed as being in stable condition.
Good grief. I would say these two were very lucky. I hope the father with the gun thinks twice or three times the next time he gets scared of someone breaking in to his home. He should be more scared that he will shoot someone he knows or loves than a burglar. 

And then this domestic dispute in Minneapolis in a very public place during the daytime should scare a lot of people. Shooting another in a very public place is horrifying for all who are in the vicinity and sometimes bullets fly where they are not supposed to go. Taking domestic arguments to the streets happens often enough for us to be concerned. The linked article provides much information about what may have caused one man to turn a gun on another. Clearly, domestic and economic problems led to despair. But did it have to end violently? Desperate, angry or depressed people with guns can lead to gun violence that devastates way too many families. The family of the shooter in this case had already experienced a suicide by gun. Guns just make it all so much easier. And laws may or may not prevent incidents such as this one. But awareness and education about the risks of guns in homes and in public places could lead to a national conversation about the public health and safety epidemic in America. I suggest we have that conversation.

And of course the death of a black teen in the St. Louis area causing riots and protests is a pretty scary thing for all of us. Much more is to come out about the circumstances of the death of yet another black youth. But racial tension in that area, already allegedly fomenting, has added to the volatile situation. There is much to consider here. Black youth in America are affected by gun violence to a great degree . There are too many guns on the streets of our urban communities. Some of these young people feel as if they must have a gun because everyone else has one. Stray bullets flying in our streets are affecting innocent people as just one part of this problem. It has happened in the Minneapolis area here and here. And these are just a few of many. Gang activity is contributing to some of the violence. So one of our problems is dealing with gun violence from a racial justice point of view and to pass some laws and enact measures to get some of these guns off of the streets. Easy access to guns is just part of the overall problem of course. From the linked article just above:
My Crime Lab colleagues are exploring opportunities to disrupt underground gun markets. We believe that there are some real opportunities to deter straw purchasers, identify corrupt gun sellers, and more, Obviously, more work needs to be done there. (...)  
We can't use these fundamental factors as an excuse to wait in reducing crime. Indeed, crime reduction is essential to address business development and improved educational opportunities in our toughest neighborhoods. I take some heart from New York's experience. New York witnessed deep crime reductions in very poor neighborhoods that experienced many of the same economic and educational problems we see in Chicago.
It's not easy to figure out how to solve the problem of guns, gangs, youth and inner city violence. But some suggestions from the article include:
First, many of the people we most worry about getting hold of guns are pretty unsophisticated consumers. We have good opportunities to stop these often-young people with relatively simple measures such as reverse buy-and-bust operations.
Second, the criminal justice system has traditionally not taken the underground/illegal gun market all that seriously as a distinct issue. The legal risks are pretty low on straw purchasers and on people who sell guns to people they have reasons to know might be felons. It's easy to claim that a gun was lost or stolen if you give it to someone else who then uses it in a crime.
Committing a specific violent crime with a gun is taken very seriously. Yet just being caught with a gun -- or being involved in the supply chain of the illicit gun market -- isn't taken as seriously as it should be by many in law enforcement and the courts. If one hasn't specifically used that gun to commit (another) crime, we don't always respond with the urgency that we should. If judges don't take something seriously, and if the penalties are pretty light, these offenses will receive low-priority in the queue for police and prosecutorial resources. We must treat the illicit gun markets with the full range of tools and with the same determination applied to illicit drug markets. (...) 
When an 18-year-old kills someone with a gun, very often some adult had something to say about that young man having access to a gun, or whether, when and where that young man might be carrying a loaded gun when some otherwise manageable incident escalates into a shooting. If these young men are in some way gang-affiliated, homicides are often called gang homicides. Some homicides result from explicit conflict between criminal organizations. Yet in many, many cases, the actual altercation was over some personal or family beef quite peripheral to any larger gang issue.
I tell people that the typical Chicago murder follows the equation: Two young men + stupid beef + gun = dead body. Remove the gun from that equation, and you prevent many dead bodies.
There is some evidence that focusing on these adults can be helpful in reducing certain kinds of gun crime. If, for example, a young man is gang-affiliated, we want to ensure that the adults in leadership positions within these organizations understand that they will face personal consequences if that young person commits any kind of gun crime.
Finding out where the guns come from in the first place is key to interrupting the violence.

And the shooting in Missouri has raised a lot of questions that will eventually, hopefully be answered. But as a nation, we need to address the causes and effects of the violence that is affecting communities of color in ways that are different from other gun violence like domestic shootings, suicides and accidental shootings. What is happening in the Missouri town of Ferguson is scary stuff. This tragic incident is calling attention to overall race problems in America combined with law enforcement relationships with minority youth in areas where people of color form the majority. This problem also includes the propensity of law enforcement to single out minority people and the proliferation of guns in these communities. It all adds up to potentially tragic and now explosive situations. I have read quite a few articles about this incident but this piece struck me as particularly insightful. There is much to think about here and I hope the discussion about what happened in Missouri leads to some new and better communication and relationships as well as new thinking about our communities of color all over America.

And one other scary thing is the changing situations in both Afghanistan and Iraq concerning terrorists with guns. In Afghanistan, according to this article, guns provided by and left behind by the American military have gone missing and fall into the hands of terrorist groups. What is happening with ISIS in Iraq should also be a wake-up call to us about the easy access to small arms to groups like this that we have failed to stop. From the article:
While the U.S. supplies huge amounts of military aid across the globe, it has been less keen on developing nonproliferation programs with other U.N. member states to stop the illicit trade in small arms. In 2001, the U.S. and a small group of states including China, Cuba, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and Russia voted to block the creation of a more comprehensive system for monitoring weapons proliferation. They argued that existing standards set up under international law were doing enough to check the illegal flow of weapons. But a look at the growing power of insurgencies over the past several years suggests otherwise. Infamous terrorist groups like ISIS have stunned the world by overpowering well equipped armies, often using illegally smuggled or captured weapons.
Ultimately, ensuring accountability over future arms sales may do more to counter terrorism around the globe than dumping huge shipments of weapons on foreign armies incapable of tracking them.
How easy would it be for just a few of these radicalized young men or women to bring their guns back to the U.S. or obtain them legally or not in our own country and use them to terrorize cities in our own country? Remember when American military found documents suggesting that terrorists should just go to American gun shows to get their guns? From the article:
The murderous terrorist advocating that his terrorist brethren simply get their weaponry of choice for attacking America at American guns show is, of course, absolutely right, and has not discovered anything that home-grown domestic terrorists haven't been exploiting for years. There are no background checks for purchasing assault rifles or anything else at American gun shows. And while we do check whether you're on the terrorist watch list before you can get on an airplane, they don't check whether you're on the terrorist watch list before selling you a gun and ammunition to do some actual terrorizing with.
Because, apparently, having even the slightest rule in place to prevent a known or suspected terrorist from purchasing a freakin' assault rifle would be an infringement.
So now that we know actual terrorists are planning to use this route to equip themselves, are we doing anything about it? Nope.
And worse:
In addition, people on terrorist watch lists are not forbidden from purchasing guns and many have done just that. Gadahn's instructions come in the wake of Associated Press reporting that showed that more than 200 people with suspected terrorist ties bought guns legally in the United States last year. Following the AP report Representative Mike Quigley introduced an amendment to the Patriot Act that would give the Attorney General the authority to block gun sales to individuals on terror watch lists. The amendment was voted down. 
We have done nothing to stop that from happening. Remember the DC Snipers? Remember Mumbai? Terrorists with guns can paralyze cities all over the world and now even countries. And we now have our very own home grown terrorists who are ready to attack even those in their own country. This is scary. It's time to re-look at ways to keep guns from known terrorists without the corporate gun lobby interference. Acting out of protecting citizens from terror attacks just makes common sense.

There's enough to be scared about concerning the American gun culture and lax gun laws that are in evidence every day in our communities. And the international situation is also volatile and frightening right now. What the corporate gun lobby and the far right has done and is doing is fomenting fear and paranoia and anti-government feelings in our own country. This is making people afraid of the wrong things. They ( and we) should be more afraid of the daily carnage affecting our families and communities and we should be trying much harder to address the problems with sensible solutions. And addressing the easy access to guns by people in our own country as well as those from outside who wish us harm should be at the top of our list of priorities. Isn't it time for us to demand that our elected leaders do something? Let's get to work.

5 comments:

  1. an "inert" grenade is just that...inert, some people collect military memorabilia.

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    1. Why try to bring it on a plane inert or not?

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    2. Lets not even go there, I have issues with people who have carry on bags of anything on planes. :)

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    3. Agreed. But we have to go there because everyone who travels by plane should have a good idea of prohibited items after 9/11. "Forgetting" about loaded guns is irresponsible and ridiculous. Trying to carry a grenade in a carry on is- well I don't know what that is. Grenades connote all kinds of bad things to people. Leave the damned thing at home where it shouldn't be either. Are some people playing war or why the need for a grenade. I realize I might have just promoted going down a rabbit hole which I don't intend to do so don't anyone send me anything more about grenades in general. Thank you.

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    4. We have common ground here, we agree that "forgetting" "about loaded guns is irresponsible and ridiculous" there is no excuse to EVER forget about a loaded firearm none, zero,nada.

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