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, November 25, 2014

Ferguson and other violence before Thanksgiving

Courtesy of Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Well, the week before Thanksgiving is turning out to be a typical week for America and gun violence.  A 3 year old Washington child was shot by a 4 year old neighbor in the home of a gun extremist who left a loaded gun around for a child to access. A 9 month old New York baby was shot while his father was cleaning his illegal gun. A 9 year old was shot and killed by her father in Rochester, Minnesota. A Tallahassee, Florida anti-government guy set fire to his home and ambushed police officers in a residential neighborhood and killed one of them. And a Ferguson, Missouri woman is now dead because she was brandishing her new loaded gun in her car causing her husband to have an accident while driving and discharging a bullet from the gun- killing the woman. And then, the 4 deaths in a small South Dakota city due to a murder/suicide.

Oh and then there is the Oklahoma mother who was shot and killed by her 3 year old child who had access to a gun he shouldn't have had:
"According to Homicide Sergeant Dave Walker, the woman was home with her one-year-old and three-year-old children at the time.
They believe she was changing the baby’s diaper when the toddler fired the shot.
“My heart just goes out to this family. We have to pray. We have to pray for peace,” neighbor Vera Bennett said."
Yes, indeed. We need to pray for peace and for non-violence. We also need to pray for people to lock up their guns so avoidable "accidents" like this will stop. This is nuts.

And then we need to talk about the 12 year old Ohio boy who was shot dead by police because he was wielding what looked like a handgun but was an airsoft gun with the orange tip removed. The gun lobby has opposed measures for more regulations about even these "toy" or "pretend" guns that look like the real thing. This isn't the first incident like this involving an airsoft type gun. When your intent is, as that of the corporate gun lobby, to get more kids interested in real guns, then of course regulating the pretend guns for safety doesn't make sense. But is sure as heck makes no sense that our children are allowed to play with these guns without understanding the possible consequences. From this article:
In California, the NRA opposes a law similar to the one Ohio Rep. Reece has proposed. The legislation — SB 199, which is still pending passage — came after a Northern California sheriff shot and killed a 13-year-old child, Andy Lopez, who was holding a rifle that looked like an AK-47.
The NRA argues that children won’t pay brightly colored air guns the same respect as ones that look like real guns, potentially causing children to harm themselves accidentally.
Toby Hoover, founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, blames the NRA for undermining efforts to reduce the risk of these accidental shootings.
“We need a real education of people to realize if they’re carrying something that even looks like a weapon, they’re going to be assumed to have a weapon,” she said.
“The NRA has to stop opposing all safety regulations that could protect our kids from this violence,” Hoover said. “They need to join the rest of the country that want to save kids lives. It is all of our responsibilities.”
The NRA did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera.
Hoover said that it’s not Rice’s fault he got shot. It’s the responsibility of the adults who allowed him access to the realistic-looking replica and of the police who reacted with deadly force.
“We have to remember this was a child,” she said.
These are our children. What is the matter with us? Our often cavalier attitudes towards guns, even pretend guns, is leading to way too many tragic incidents that can be avoided with simple regulations. This is about preventing tragedy. Children do like to play with guns- toy guns and real guns, as it turns out. Police officers do get understandably nervous when young kids and teens have what appear to them to be real guns in public places. Why? Because young teens have been responsible for some of our nation's mass shootings. Sad, but true. More guns, even pretend guns, have not made us safer.

And finally, I can't not write about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri after the failure of the grand jury to indict a white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, a black unarmed teen-ager. We may disagree about the evidence so far released about how things went down that fateful August day. But there are some facts that are hard to dispute. Young black males are arrested in greater numbers than other young males. There have been more shootings of young black males by police officers than other young males. More black teens died of gunshot injuries than the same population of white teens in 2012, the year of the Sandy Hook shooting. The writer of this article points out the difference in how the media treats the gun deaths of people of color from that of white people. She has a point and the media should examine their own views about racial disparity when writing about violent incidents. From the article:
Yet, despite the disproportionate number of low-income children of color who are killed by gun violence, calls to action for the creation of effective policies to stymie gun violence remain muffled, if not unheard.  The manner in which local and national news media have historically framed gun violence in inner city neighborhoods versus suburban locales may, in fact, be the most substantial contributing factor to the indifferent response.
For years, the media has depicted racial and ethnic minorities in a negative manner, perpetuating stereotypes of racial and ethnic minorities as morally compromised, and hence, innately criminal.  For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, national news outlets described Blacks in search of food as “looting” while Whites were characterized as “finding” the same necessary sustenance.  Subsequent opinion polls discovered that members of the general public expressed greater support for White victims versus Black victims of Hurricane Katrina who were in receipt of government assistance.
Similarly, local news media have dedicated significant portions of their programming to highlighting crimes involving racial and ethnic minorities.  However, research has demonstrated that the proportion of news stories involving racial and ethnic minorities is often incongruent with the proportion of minorities actually living within the respective locales, resulting in an overrepresentation of minority groups in crime related stories.
In framing racial and ethnic minorities as the primary perpetrators of crime, local news stations have essentially compromised the public’s ability to associate minorities with the role of victim.  In fact, studies have demonstrated that crimes involving a White person as the victim and a person of color, Black especially, as the assailant are more likely to garner the attention of local news stations.  Conversely, research has revealed that crimes involving a Black victim are deemed ordinary, and therefore, not worthy of media attention.  Indeed, crimes involving both a Black assailant and a Black victim are widely perceived as a simple cultural peculiarity and not deserving of media attention, and ultimately, the attention of the general public and their respective political representatives.
We have a serious problem in our country with racial disparity when it comes to arrests, convictions, and imprisonments. We have a serious problem with relationships between law enforcement and people of color going back decades in America. We have institutional racism in America that is spilling out in politics, in incidents involving violence, in our social, economic and education systems and in our justice system. The communities of color are hurting in many ways that most of us who are not living in their communities can not possibly understand. Poverty- lack of jobs- poor education- violence- lack of opportunity- fear of being arrested- fear of a lot of things the majority of us don't think about on a daily basis.

The other problem we have in America is the militarization of our law enforcement not seen in most countries not at war. Since 9-11 that has increased out of fear of being attacked again by extremists. This only serves to increase the tension between citizens and the police. In Ferguson, we saw police outfitted in riot gear and "storm trooper" like uniforms. The rioters last night in Ferguson were wrong in their actions. They were understandably angry and frustrated. Michael Brown's family called for peaceful protests but that did not happen. Mistakes were made on both sides that led to further looting, rioting, violence, burning and civil unrest. What happened last night is a symbol of the underlying tensions in America about race and also about guns and violence.

There is reason to fear this over arming of our law enforcement. After watching the Ferguson law enforcement in their gear last night, one can understand that fear. But we also have more guns per capita than any other country not at war making it difficult for officers who are sometimes attacked by people who hate them. There have been enough examples of this (here, here and here) in recent years to lead us to understand the fear that law enforcement officers face every day.

But more guns is not the answer. Violence causes more violence. And mistrust of those who are different from us spawns suspicion and trouble. Police officers are heavily armed and often face heavily armed citizens in some communities in our country. It's a vicious circle. When so many people are armed, there is more suspicion that everyone actually IS armed or needs to be for self protection. And too often young black males get involved in this kind of circular thinking leading to more violence in their own communities. Some think a gun will lead to more safety for them but that is not how it is turning out. Also too often, law enforcement officers make wrong assumptions about young men of color leading to more distrust. It's time for us to examine who we are as a country and to come together to have a national discussion involving the many things that led to what happened in Ferguson last summer and before and since.

We may never know the full truth of what happened the day Michael Brown was shot by Officer Wilson. Brown is dead and couldn't speak on his own behalf. Wilson did get to speak on his own behalf. And that is what the grand jury believed. Our justice system is not perfect. Human beings are not perfect. At the least we ought to strive to make things better than they have been for that is what we leave for our children and grandchildren. From the linked article:
As the body count rises, as the names of the young black kids whose lives have been stolen from them are uttered during marches and across kitchen tables, momentum is building. Change is coming.
But it’s too slow. Too slow for Mike Brown. Too slow for Tamir Rice. Too slow for Akai Gurley. Too slow for Marissa Alexander. Too slow.
On this Thanksgiving, please take the time to reflect on the events of the past few days.  If you own guns, lock them up. You shouldn't need them sitting around your table enjoying great food and family. And remember that too many families will not be sitting around their tables enjoying their turkey and mashed potatoes this year because of senseless shootings. For many in the Ferguson community this Thanksgiving will be filled with anguish and deep concern about the grand jury announcement. Their community needs healing. The country needs healing. We all need to use common sense when it comes to guns, violence and how to work together for safer communities. We can have safer communities everywhere if we start truly and objectively examining who we are and what we want for our children and families.

Have a safe and good Thanksgiving.


I didn't think I would have to add to this post so soon. But this next one falls under the category of "you just can't make this stuff up." A tragic domestic shooting in New Jersey has left 2 people dead from a murder/suicide. But the irony is that the woman who was shot in this incident had posted a "meme" on her Facebook page which you can see at Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Facebook, in which she shared a photo of a grandma wielding an assault weapon saying that Grandma would not be getting run over by a reindeer this year. This was posted the day before she, herself, got shot. People who are cavalier with guns and don't think carefully about the risks to themselves or others. Shootings of and by gun advocates seem to be increasing or maybe being more often reported. And that just does not fit with the mantra of the corporate gun lobby that more guns are making us safer.

Stay safe out there everyone.

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