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.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The state(s) of gun violence

States are where the action is regarding gun violence policy and guns in the news. Let's start with Minnesota where, as I wrote in my last post, an adjudicated mentally ill man shot and injured 2 officers at a suburban city council chamber. I wondered where this man got his gun ( a hunting rifle). The answer is that it was a straw purchase.

Let's look at straw purchasing, which accounts for a fair number of crime guns getting into the hands of those who shouldn't have guns. Most state statues are weaker than federal law regarding straw purchasing. That is why the straw purchaser in the case above was released after being arrested. Let's look at more from this article:
"The evidence provided by law enforcement was insufficient to bring felony charges under state law, so justice required he be released,” the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said. 
According to law enforcement sources, Stanek knew Garant wasn't going to be held on the charges, so when he said it was in the County Attorney's hands Friday it was a little disingenuous. The problem with the case apparently has to do with the specific way the gun statute is written in Minnesota.
Changes need to be made to state laws so that straw buyers and gun shop owners have consequences for their actions. In the case I have written about, all were lucky that the 2 officers were not killed.
Some rare common sense came from the Supreme Court when a recent ruling found that the federal straw purchase law should remain as is. This case has been moved to the U.S. Attorney's office where federal charges could be brought. Watch for more about this one.

The shooter in the Minnesota case was not only dangerously mentally ill but also a dangerous and violent man. More from the linked article several paragraphs above:
Months before the New Hope City Hall shooting, the sheriff's office returned four shotguns to the family of Raymond Kmetz
The Sheriff's Office said none of the weapons returned to the Kmetz family were used in the New Hope City Hall shooting.
Kmetz told people he had a gun in every room of his house, and when they raided his old house in October of 2009, they found he wasn't exaggerating. Investigators discovered a small arsenal of four shotguns, four rifles, two handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
A few days earlier, Kmetz had called up a county prosecutors to say he "had a gun" and was on his way to the Hennepin County Government Center, and if a shooting started, "he was not the only one going down."
Ten, last August, five years after all those weapons were seized, two family members, who had power of attorney for Kmetz, asked the Hennepin County sheriff's officer for those weapons back. Remarkably, they were returned.
The legal issue here is interesting and a little tricky. Under the law, Kmetz can't possess a gun because of his mental health history. But he still has property rights to that gun, meaning he still has the right to sell it, or give it away.
According to the Hennepin County attorney's office, they advised the sheriff's office, "there was no legal reason not to give the guns to the two family members." So, prosecutors drafted a statement for the family to sign, which said they could be held "criminally and civilly liable," if they gave the weapons to Raymond Kmetz.
Luckily for the family members, these were not the guns used in the shooting. When do victims' rights trump gun owners' rights? Raise your hand if you think this man should have had his guns back or that his family members thought it would be a good idea for him to have guns in the first place. Insanity.

Just for the sake of comparison, what happens if a retailer, or even a "responsible" adult sells or serves alcohol to a minor in Minnesota? No equivocation. The penalties are strict with very few questions asked. Gross misdemeanor charge, fines possible civil action, loss of license and a possible sentence. But for straw purchases? Not so much. Gun laws are weak while others are strong.

OK then.

Connecticut passed some common sense gun laws last session which was the right thing to do after the Sandy Hook school shooting in its' state. This year, of course, the gun lobby is busy trying to repeal the newly passed laws and weaken others. Go figure.

The gun lobby is busy as usual in Virginia. Gun safety reform bills were put on hold by the state Senate.

In Idaho, the recently passed law allowing guns on college campuses is costing the campuses a lot of money. But never mind. Everyone will surely be safer with all of those guns around young adults with drug and alcohol problems, depression, problems with romantic involvements or their classes.

The North Dakota legislature decided that armed teachers and citizens in schools was a good idea.  The legislator who pushed the bill in a speech on the floor referred to the children sitting in the audience. I find that disgusting. Children have been killing each other or a sibling or friend with loaded guns accessed in their homes at an alarming rate of late. I refer to those instances often in this blog. What are we teaching our children? That they must be armed to feel safe in America? America is less safe than other countries all right. But it's not because people are not armed. It's because they are.


Moving on to Texas. Here's a law that makes sense. A bill is being considered in the House to allow teachers, already allowed to carry guns in schools, to shoot a student who they determine to be in some way dangerous:
Schoolteachers in Texas will be allowed to use lethal force against students without risking legal repercussions if a new bill being considered in the Lone Star State’s legislature becomes a law.
The bill –HB 868, or the “Teacher’s Protection Act” – affords educators legal immunity in the unlikely event that they happen to kill any of their students during school-sanctioned events.
Specifically, the bill – introduced to the Texas State Legislature on January 22 by Rep. Dan Flynn (R-Canton) – says “an educator is justified in using force or deadly force on school property, on a school bus or at a school-sponsored event in defense of the educator’s person or in defense of students of the school that employs the educator if, under the circumstances as the educator reasonably believes them to be, the educator would be justified…in using force or deadly force, as applicable, in defense of the educator or students.”
Indeed, the language does not limit any hypothetical action on the educator’s part to be done in self-defense: the proposed bill actually allows teachers to use deadly force on children if they believe another student or their self is in danger.
What could possibly go wrong?


In Wyoming, a bill to allow guns in schools just passed the House:
 Legislation that would allow people with concealed-gun permits to carry firearms into public schools and government meetings won easy approval from the Wyoming House of Representatives on Monday after a debate over rising gun violence in U.S. schools.
The bill, supported by leaders of the Republican-led House, would repeal “gun-free zones” carved out around elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities.
Passed on a 42-17 vote, the measure also would grant concealed-carry permit holders the right to take their guns into meetings of the state Legislature and local government meetings.
The gun lobby hates "gun free zones" thinking that guns are needed everywhere to protect themselves and others from those like themselves with guns. The hypocrisy and cynicism of this notion is stunning. Most shootings happen in "guns allowed zones" actually- like homes where guns are used by those who commit domestic homicides; and suicides; and little kids who get their hands on their parents' guns and shoot themselves or others. These are happening on a regular basis in our country. Our streets and public buildings are not gun free zones either but shootings happen in all of these public places. Also bars, and parking lots where guns are allowed have also been shooting zones. I could go on about the number of incidents as examples but don't have the space here. It's a false assertion that those who intend harm to others look for "gun free zones" to do their shootings. That is a convenient excuse for people who claim to need guns everywhere. They don't need the guns. They want the guns and they want to take them everywhere they go. It's a culture espoused by a minority of very vocal and passionate people. It's not shared by the majority.

After what happened at the city council chambers in New Hope, Minnesota, it sure seems like a good idea for more people to be allowed to carry their guns inside of public government buildings. Yes, there were armed officers there which didn't stop them from being shot even though other armed officers managed to shoot the shooter. So we definitely need more angry adjudicated mentally ill people to come armed to city council meetings and hearings at state houses. For it is also those people who come to "gun free" and "guns allowed" zones to commit their crimes. You can count on the gun lobby to explain this away by assuring us that all will be well as long as they themselves are there to save the day.

The problem with all of this nonsense is that it presumes that some armed citizen who knows exactly what he or she is doing will be in just the right place at the right time when a shooting happens. And they will surely be able to stop the next shooting in a public "guns allowed zone." Because you know- it's all just common sense. And it is simply not true. Facts show that more guns have actually made us less safe and that armed citizens do not save the day in shootings. Further, most shootings actually happen in homes rather than in public places. Most children are shot in their own homes rather than in high profile school shootings. And it is in the home where many guns are, lending the lie to being protected by guns in the home.

Guns at home are a definite risk to health and safety and should be considered as such:
Having a gun in your home significantly increases your risk of death — and that of your spouse and children.
And it doesn’t matter how the guns are stored or what type or how many guns you own.
If you have a gun, everybody in your home is more likely than your non-gun-owning neighbors and their families to die in a gun-related accident, suicide or homicide.
Furthermore, there is no credible evidence that having a gun in your house reduces your risk of being a victim of a crime. Nor does it reduce your risk of being injured during a home break-in.
The health risks of owning a gun are so established and scientifically non-controvertible that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2000 recommending that pediatricians urge parents to remove all guns from their homes.
The take-away here is that guns at home or in public are just not making those who choose to have them or carry them safer. In addition armed citizens in public places are not helping to stop shootings that occur in public and, indeed, contribute to the problem. The corporate gun lobby has deceived some of our citizens but most concerning is that they have deceived many state legislators and our Congress as well. Making policy weaker rather than stronger and making it easier for dangerous people to get guns is a really bad idea. And allowing more people to carry loaded guns around in public places sometimes with no permit or training is insane.

And speaking of guns in state Capitols and insanity, Minnesota's gun rights advocates are proposing that those folks who wish to carry their loaded guns inside should be allowed to do so without impunity. Currently those with permits to carry must register with Capitol security. They need to be legal gun carriers. That means that person has undergone a background check and the required training to carry a loaded gun around in public. With the new proposed bill, things will change- not for the better. Just having a permit to carry is sufficient enough even though Capitol police won't know if someone who is carrying a gun around in the Capitol has a permit.  I'm sure there is enough staff to stop all gun carriers to make sure they are legal, right? If not, it will be too late if one of these folks with a gun is actually someone with bad intent ( see New Hope shooting) and shoots someone inside before Capitol police get around to checking for his/her permit.

I must admit to not understanding this one and I know that my gun rights "friends" would be more than happy to enlighten me. But that won't be necessary. We will not agree. It is beyond explanation to have armed citizens walking around in our states' capitol buildings. There is no plausible reason for it given the facts. The general public doesn't want loaded guns around in the state capitol. Rather than assuring them that they will be safer, it unnerves them for obvious reasons ( see New Hope shooting, or repeat felon with a gun on the loose in Twin Cities suburbs and many more). And we do get that these are the extremists amongst us. They are not the majority of gun owners who have no interest in this kind of grandstanding and intimidation. In state capitols all over America, there are classes of young children touring the buildings and citizens coming in to lobby or meet with legislators and hold rallies of all sorts. What could possibly go wrong? Should we wait for it to go wrong before we decide that this is just plain insanity?

It is not normal for people to be walking around everywhere with loaded guns. It's not happening in any other civilized democratized countries not at war. Those countries have strong gun laws and few gun deaths as a result. Their culture is not steeped in second amendment rights. But the corporate gun lobby wants to push their own agenda on the rest of us, like it or not. Be careful who you vote for- enough legislators and members of Congress are either afraid to oppose the gun lobby agenda or they actually believe the insanity.

The state of the nation concerning guns is insanity. We sit by and watch the bodies pile up while the gun lobby works furiously with the help of their ALEC elected officials to keep us from doing what will actually keep our communities and families safe from gun violence. Laws like the one introduced in the Minnesota legislature along with a number of others proposed by the gun lobby in Minnesota are right out of the ALEC  play book.  Expect to see these laws introduced in state houses all over the country. ( American Legislative Exchange Council.) The thing is, 80 Americans a day die from firearms injuries. This is not about the second amendment. This is about safety and stopping people from being shot. The two are not mutually exclusive. But the gun lobby promotes measures to make it easier for the wrong people to get guns and for people to carry guns around in public places where they are not needed.

That really is the definition of insanity. And watch for more. If those of us with common sense don't make our viewpoints known and raise our voices, the violence will continue unabated. It's time for a change. Let's get to work. And by the way, while I have been writing this (yesterday) a police shoot-out in several Minneapolis suburbs.  The suspect, a man with a long criminal history, had a gun anyway and caused a huge uproar in the Twin Cities area. He was found dead in a home after leading police all over the area. This is a waste of resources and frightening to those involved. The possibility of a different outcome involving innocent citizens was on the minds of many. As long as we refuse to at least try to keep guns away from dangerous people like this guy, we can expect more of the same. Something is wrong in the state of Minnesota.


The straw buyer in the New Hope shooting has been charged with a federal crime:
When he came to collect the weapons, Garant, 42, of Golden Valley, allegedly told the gun shop's owner that he used the alias "Ray Kmetz" during the online auction to hide his true identity and then showed the store owner his driver's license.
He faces one count of making a false statement to acquire firearms on behalf of another person. (...) 
U.S. Attorney Andy Luger says investigators are able to identify illegal straw gun purchasers in most cases.
"Generally speaking when one of these weapons ends up being used in a crime, we're able to trace it back to the original owner and we're able to trace the relationship between the original owner and the person who used the gun for the crime," Luger said. "And that helps us make the connection and be able to charge the person as the straw purchaser."


  1. there is nothing wrong with the state of mn. well there is, but it is not because of weak gun laws, whats wrong is the people that are breaking the current laws that we already have. case in point, the straw purchaser in the new hope shooting admitted that he told the gun dealer that he used the shooters name on the gun website instead of his own to remain anonymous. how should the gun dealer have known any different? he lied and should be prosecuted for it. makes the gun dealer look bad and he did nothing wrong.

  2. As I said, some things could change in statute. The dealer saw 2 names and heard 2 names. Should he have been suspicious? Red flags were waving.

  3. "Red flags were waving". um...yes/no, some guys are very anal about using their real names on websites, they don't want to display their name to the world that they may have a gun/guns/large gun collection in their homes. they are worried that they might be targeted if the wrong people see their name or address. the guy lied on his 4473 I have filled enough out I should be able to tell you the question number but I can't, anyway it specifically asks it you are the intended purchaser, he LIED, I don't understand why he is not being prosecuted, it is a FELONY punishable by up to five years in prison. once again lets use the laws we have on the books.

    1. He has been charged with a federal crime. Minnesota law is weak and won't allow him to be charged unless he knew the gun was to be used in a crime or knew the guy he bought for was prohibited. Need to change that.

  4. my bad, I just read an article in the tribune that charges have been filed in U.S.court instead of Hennepin co. = good job. being held accountable.