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.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Our flawed gun culture

posted on CSGV Facebook page
In my last post, I wrote about the horrible shooting of a gun instructor at a gun range when a 9 year old girl lost control of a machine gun. I also wrote that the gun range has now shut down indefinitely as well it should. The debate continues about whether young kids should be allowed to shoot guns like this and it's coming down on the side of NOT. The gun range where the horrific shooting occurred has already changed its' policy about minimum age for shooters of these guns in response to the shooting. So why not change other policies that could save lives? Oh, right, because of the corporate gun lobby and scared politicians. It's so typically American to wait for bad things to happen before changing the laws. This is especially true of gun laws where even though most of those proposed make common sense, nothing changes and lives continue to be lost. It is a national tragedy and a serious national public health and safety problem. Most people in America are in favor of reasonable gun laws and reasonable uses of guns. Most hunters and gun owners and even NRA members are sensible folks who understand that with rights come responsibilities.

The thing is though, the corporate gun lobby is not representing these reasonable folks and they encourage exposing young kids to guns among other things. And so, those who live with the fear and paranoia and the tactics of the gun industry to increase gun sales end up doing stupid and dangerous things with their guns. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill another human being. They deserve our respect and safe practices above all else. Way too many senseless and avoidable shootings take the lives of people all over our country leaving families with the devastating effects of losing a loved one so suddenly and violently.

This editorial posted by Jay Parini on the CNN website agrees with my assessment:
It's not as though we haven't had plenty of evidence that this gun thing in America isn't working. Since the ghastly massacre of elementary school children at Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012, by a deranged teenager, as of June there were at least 74 school shootings, on school grounds or in schools themselves. It's commonplace in this country now: A deranged shooter appears, armed to the teeth, out of his mind. Everyone ducks or runs for cover. The shooter proceeds calmly through the building, taking out innocents.
What kind of country have we become? Was this what the Founding Fathers had in mind?
The NRA will scream: The Second Amendment! The Second Amendment! Please be aware that most of what you think you know about the history of this amendment is nonsense. Many good books and articles exist on the subject, all neatly summarized by Saul Cornell a couple of years ago. He wrote: "If the nation truly embraced the Second Amendment as it was originally written, it would be the NRA's worst nightmare."(...) 
The National Rifle Association has tried to blur the historical truth about the Second Amendment. In fact, at its headquarters in Washington, the words of the amendment are emblazoned right in front of the entrance. Oops! They have emblazoned exactly half of this brief amendment, leaving off the embarrassing front part, about a "Well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State." (Notice also, the amendment says State, not Nation -- and these framers knew the difference, as it's a major difference noted elsewhere in the Bill of Rights.)
The idea that owning a gun in America was an individual right only dates to the 1980s. A bunch of right-wing think tanks got to work creating this individual right. In 1991, Chief Justice Warren Burger called this new wrinkle in the Second Amendment "one of the greatest pieces of fraud -- I repeat the word 'fraud' -- on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime." (...) 
Let's say, however, that hunters should have the right to possess and use hunting rifles. Why not, if they keep them unloaded except for when hunting? It should be just fine to belong to a gun club and shoot skeet or whatever. But nobody needs an assault weapon who is not fighting in the Middle East, or perhaps going after drug lords in Mexico.
Why, then, do Americans love their guns? I will make a bold suggestion. In a country where Americans sense, quite genuinely, that their freedoms have been taken away by the government -- as in the U.S. Patriot Act, as in NSA surveillance -- people feel powerless. It makes you feel more powerful if you can enhance your personal strength with a gun. There is the romance of the Old West, too, which reinforces this idea. It's "High Noon" all the time in America.
But this is dangerous and false thinking, and it leads to chaos. Chaos is what we now face on the streets in this country every single day. It's time for us to revisit the Second Amendment and get every assault weapon off the streets, for good.
The chaos continues daily in our homes and on our streets. It continues with the loosening of gun laws to actually allow more people who shouldn't have guns to get them anyway. In a recent post, I gave some examples of people who should not have guns and why we need to come together to make us all safer. I also wrote again about gun incidents and/or gun news in Georgia. One of the examples I gave that revealed how crazy the gun rights extremists truly are is the granting of gun rights to an ex-felon police officer who clearly should not have guns. There really are people who shouldn't have guns. There's more about restoring felons gun rights in Georgia and the increasing push by the corporate gun lobby to make sure everyone has a gun no matter what. From the article:
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles restored firearms rights for more than 1,400 felons between 2008 and 2013, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday. The board restored gun rights for 666 people last year, which is 10 times the number of pardons that restored firearms rights six years ago.
The overall number includes 358 felons who were convicted of violent crimes, 166 who were convicted of drug crimes and 32 who killed another person. Between 2008 and 2013, the board denied about 700 applications from felons looking to have their gun rights reinstated.
Board members declined the newspaper’s requests for interviews. The longest-serving member took office in January of 2009. Board spokesman, Steve Hayes, said the board’s turnover rate could explain an overall increase in gun pardons. In 2012 the number of violent felons who had their gun rights reinstated was 71. The number increased to 208 in 2013.
The fact that we don't require background checks on all gun sales, thanks to the corporate gun lobby, and then pass "Stand Your Ground" laws to make it easier for felons when they do have guns to get a free pass when they shoot someone, should be alarming. And the fact that some think it's a good idea for violent felons to get their gun rights and their guns back should be even more alarming. This article about the "guns everywhere" bill in Georgia reveals the depths to which the gun lobby extremists will go to actually arm felons and others who should not have guns. Crazy right?

There are some people who should not have guns. That is pretty obvious but in America we are loathe to stop them from getting guns.

Speaking of alarming, this video shows how police officers waste their time dealing with "law abiding" open gun carriers. How do officers know if someone carrying a loaded assault rifle or holstered handgun is a "good guy" or a "bad guy" with bad intentions? They don't and that is the conundrum and the nonsense about the Open Carry movement. Should these folks be allowed to carry their guns wherever and whenever they please? Is that what our Founding Fathers had in mind. I doubt it.

Under the category of- "you can't make this stuff up" comes yet another "good guy with a gun" doing something so heinous that he was arrested. This gun guy has been raping his young daughter for years. Stories like this should alarm us all. This man is not a "good guy with a gun" though he has been posing as one. Disgusting to say the least. From the article:
The star of the Discovery Channel’s reality show Sons of Guns was arrested Tuesday on charges of aggravated rape of his daughter.
According to FoxNews.com, the East Baton Rouge, Louisiana Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Hayden is accused of raping his 14-year-old daughter in a series of assaults that began with him taking her virginity at the age of 11.
TMZ reported that Hayden’s daughter is backing up the allegations, claiming that her father forced her to participate in oral and vaginal sex “almost daily” for the past three years.
When asked why she didn’t report the sexual assaults earlier, the girl said that she was afraid her father would hurt her.
“Don’t tell them nothing,” he reportedly told her, “because I’m all you’ve got.”
It looks like the Discovery Channel quickly ran from one of its' stars as well it should have. Sponsors are backing away after the arrest of Hayden for raping his own daughter. One would think that the networks' owners would do a better job of vetting the folks who appear on their shows and actually star in some of them. The infamous, offensive and NRA Board member Ted Nugent didn't do so well when his own show was cancelled on that network. Gun extremists are not necessarily "good guys with guns."

School is starting all over the country. Let's talk about arming teachers. Texas passed a law after the Sandy Hook shooting allowing teachers to carry guns in schools. One district has posted a warning sign. I've had this discussion before on my blog. People intent on shooting others don't care if it's a guns allowed or guns free zone. Shootings happen in both of them. And armed teachers are not going to stop school shootings. Keeping people who shouldn't have guns from getting them will go a long way in preventing some of our school shootings and all shootings, for that matter.

Look who the school shooters have been and where they got their guns. Two teens at Columbine high school ,who couldn't legally buy guns, got them through a friend who bought from an unlicensed seller at a Colorado gun show with no background check. A mentally ill young man who should have been on the list of prohibited purchasers but wasn't shot and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. A young mentally ill teen with concomitant developmental problems took his mother's guns, shot her, and shot and killed 20 young children at Sandy Hook elementary school. A mentally ill young man took his grandfather's law enforcement gun, shot his grandfather and wife and then shot up a school in Red Lake, Minnesota. A teen took a gun from his house and shot students at Rocori High School in Minnesota. A troubled 14 year old in Paducah, Kentucky, took guns from a neighbor's garage and opened fire on a group of students at the high school. A young troubled teen, living with his grandparents in Charden, Ohio, got his gun from his grandparents' home and killed fellow students at his high school.

The superintendent of the Ohio school does not want guns in his school even after this horrific shooting:
Bergant said it was fine for teachers to learn to use weapons in their private time. But permitting a teacher to carry a concealed gun, which is legal in Ohio, will not happen in Chardon, he said.
“That defeats our purpose,” Bergant said. “Our purpose is to educate children in a safe, caring environment. … We are not going to put bars on the school buildings. We are not going to put an iron dome over the top.”
Fetchik, the high school principal, agreed. The school now has an armed “resource officer”—a police officer whose salary is paid with funds from the local government and donations to the community after the shooting.
“I don’t want guns in school,” Fetchik said. “I want a trained resource officer. … That gentleman is prepared to deal with using that weapon, (and) not just pointing and pulling the trigger."
Do I have to go on? If we pay attention and act responsibly as well as prevent kids and others who shouldn't have guns from getting them we can actually stop some of the shootings. Securely storing guns is vitally important. Making sure people can pass a background check is another. Keeping guns away from troubled individuals in the first place is also vitally important and can save lives. That is a much better solution than arming teachers and having guns in every public place to defend against shooters who shouldn't have been able to get guns in the first place. We have it backwards, thanks to the corporate gun lobby and their minions.

And then there's the ALS challenge, going around on Facebook and YouTube. It's for a worthy cause for sure. The organization has now raised about $100 million to fund research for a cure and for treatment for those who have the awful disease. Unfortunately this Wisconsin law enforcement officer, recently diagnosed with ALS, shot his wife and her sister in what appears to be a domestic related shooting. ALS is a terrible disease and those who have it must have a difficult time living with the idea that the disease will result in their own untimely death. One can see why someone with the disease may be suicidal. Often suicidal people take others with them when they decide to end their own lives. This man did not end his own life, though there is evidence that he tried, but shot those who were apparently trying to help him. Perhaps someone like this should not have guns and family members need to be more aware of the dangerous potential. His friends had taken the ALS ice bucket challenge in his name to help pay for his medical bills. Awful stuff all the way around.

So concerning the ALS ice bucket challenge, this gun guy decided to do his own version of the ALS challenge. Ha ha. Very funny. I guess some folks think displaying their guns for stunts like this is amusing. Was he serious about raising money or did he just want to look ridiculous on YouTube? Note that he didn't mention giving a donation or even much about ALS. It was just at stupid "in your face" stunt to get attention.

A young "good guy with a gun" is shown in a photo going around on Facebook and other sites, with his baby in a carrier on his chest and his assault rifle strapped around his back. He is part of the Open Carry movement where folks with guns like this show up in public places like grocery stores (Krogers is the latest focus of the group), Starbucks, Target and other places where families hang out. The thing is, what's the point of this one? If someone were to attack or decide to start shooting up a Kroger store, how would this man defend himself or others? Would the baby become his shield? Imagine the sound of the gun close to the baby's ears. A woman who goes to my church lost her hearing as a young girl when her Dad shot off an assault rifle close to her ears. This is serious stuff. To trivialize the awful consequences of the potential for serious injuries or even death using his baby is just plain stupid and dangerous.

Further, according to the linked article above, this "good guy with a gun" has made some incendiary and threatening statements about shooting immigrants. From the article:
On his Facebook page is a Confederate flag, because of course. A possible family member (perhaps his wife) explains in the comments, “I am a firm supporter of slavery except I don’t want to use blacks…. I want to use liberals and those with skewed worldly views. Seems like a win-win situation to me.”
On Twitter, he explains how he’d like the children fleeing from violence to be murdered.
These folks are making fools of themselves very publicly. They are actually giving the Open Carry and gun rights movement a very bad name. What they are also doing is calling attention to our nation's lax gun laws that allow for this nonsense to even happen in the first place.

Is this really the kind of country we want? I don't think so. What we need is some common sense but it's in short supply when it comes to gun nuts and the corporate gun lobby. Not only is this a national embarrassment, it's a national tragedy taking place in communities all over America every day. No other civilized country not at war would tolerate the behavior I have written about in this post.

It's more than past time for a change to our culture of guns and gun violence and the role they play in our communities. All we want is safer communities. 

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