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On Thursday of this week, the breaking news was all about mass shootings. One could not look at any news media without the interrupted programming reporting about the shooting of Marines at a Naval recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And today, the news is that another victim has died of the injuries sustained in Thursday's mass shooting. Also on that day, the jury of the Aurora theater shooting trial returned a guilty verdict. Common sense happened. In addition, there was news about the upcoming trial of the Charleston church mass shooter. America was consumed by mass shooting.
What we didn't hear about that day was that 80 other Americans died from gunshot injuries and hundreds more sustained injuries. What the news media did't talk about was a spree shooting in Maine that killed 2 and injured 5. How did this guy get his gun, by the way?
Will there be a day when we won't be talking about another mass shooting? When will we do something about all of this? Congress took a break from their work while families were grieving and people were being shot. This statement from the Brady Campaign is perfect:
The two stories dominating news headlines across the country both center on the issue of gun violence – an epidemic that kills 89 people in America every day, and injures hundreds more. Congress’ response to a grieving nation: another three-day weekend.“Today marks one month from the Charleston church shooting, while just yesterday four Marines were killed while serving their country on US soil and the Aurora movie theater shooter was convicted for murdering twelve people. Gun violence leads the news today in every congressional district in America, and this doesn’t count local shooting incidents that fail to make national news,” said Brady Campaign President Dan Gross. “The issue of gun violence is very much on the public’s mind and the last thing Congress should be doing is taking another break. Our elected leaders should make it a priority to take immediate action to keep guns out of the wrong hands and that starts by taking a vote on H.R. 1217.”
Isn't it time for them to get to work on solving one of our country's most pressing public health and safety problems? When 32,000 Americans die in one year from gun injuries, isn't it time to break out common sense, put our collective heads together and start working on solutions? For there are solutions and we are ignoring them.
I write often about, at the least, requiring background checks for all gun sales. 92% of Americans, and yes, even gun owners, favor this solution. Why is this not the solution? Why would we even think about allowing anyone who purchases a deadly weapon to not go through a background check? It's insane.
A group of faith leaders has written about another solution and is imploring President Obama to use it in this New York Times piece:
For more than a year, we and fellow religious leaders across the nation have worked to persuade President Obama to use what we believe is the most powerful tool government has in this area: its purchasing power. The federal government is the nation’s top gun buyer. It purchases more than a quarter of the guns and ammunition sold legally in the United States. State and local law enforcement agencies also purchase a large share. Major gun manufacturers depend on these taxpayer-funded purchases. For the government to keep buying guns from these companies — purchases meant to ensure public safety — without making demands for change is to squander its leverage.Some of the leading brands of handguns purchased by the government — Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, Beretta, Colt, Sturm, Ruger & Company — are also leading brands used in crimes. Among the brands of handguns recovered by the Chicago Police Department at crime scenes between January 2012 and October 2013, all six of these companies ranked in the top 11. When police officers carrying Glocks are recovering Glocks at crime scenes on a regular basis, shouldn’t this prompt questions about whether the police department could use its influence to reduce the number of guns that end up in the hands of criminals? When Smith & Wessons turn up frequently in the hands of criminals, shouldn’t questions be asked when Smith & Wesson seeks a contract with the federal government?
There are specific suggestions made by these faith leaders that could lead to safer practices of selling guns to make sure guns don't fall into the hands of those who shouldn't have them. Why would we not require these gun dealers to more accountable for what they are doing? They are selling deadly weapons designed to kill people.
Along the line of common sense solutions suggested in the above linked piece is another article that highlights the gun sale policies of Walmart, the nation's largest seller of guns:
Current federal guidelines offer dealers a degree of discretion in the small percentage of cases where background checks don’t clear within two hours and are placed under review, after which many retailers will opt to proceed with the sale even if an approval or denial hasn’t been issued when the three-day mark passes. Walmart’s own background check policies have surpassed federal requirements since 2002, when the company decided that it would no longer sell guns to customers without a completed approval from NICS. The company refuses to sell a gun without a concrete all-clear from the federal system.“The fact is, a gun dealer is not required to sell a gun to anybody,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tells The Trace. In default proceed sales, he argues, it’s safer not to. In a 2000 FBI study, the agency found that a person whose background check takes over 24 hours to complete is also 20 times more likely to be a prohibited purchaser. “Walmart realized that it’s just not good practice as a responsible corporate citizen to supply guns to those people,” says Lowy.Walmart, the nation’s largest gun retailer, sells rifles, shotguns, and ammunition in some 1,700 outlets. (It doesn’t offer handguns, except in the state of Alaska.) In 2008, the company adopted even more rigorous standards by implementing a 10-point code of conduct as part of a partnership with the gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In addition to refusing default proceed sales, Walmart agreed to videotape all firearm transactions, require background checks for all employees handling or selling guns, and create a system to trace guns sold by the company that are later linked to crimes, among other measures. (Mayors Against Illegal Guns is an earlier iteration of Everytown for Gun Safety, a seed donor of The Trace.)
Other gun dealers need to follow these simple good practices when selling guns. Lives depend on it.
Making sure kids and teens don't access guns can also save lives. The ASK campaign is all about asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where your kids play and hang out. Making sure if you are gun owners yourself, you do the same, is crucial.
The solution is not more guns, by the way. There is absolutely no evidence that works. In fact the opposite is likely true. For example, this Georgia navy recruiter accidentally shot himself in the leg with his personal weapon carried into a recruiting center. But now, of course, Republican Presidential candidates and gun rights activists are suggesting that if only those Chattanooga victims would have had guns, they could have protected themselves.
How would that have worked? The shooter shot from a distance spraying the buildings with bullets and it happened by surprise as these events always do. Perhaps military members working in these facilities should be armed but armed and trained. But even then, it may not stop the next armed attacker from spraying bullets from a distance. Like in any situation where a gunman shows up, chaos ensues and more guns do not ensure more safety and fewer deaths.
Even armed officers and law enforcement are shot and killed or injured in "guns allowed" zones. One of the first victims in Chattanooga was an armed police officer who was injured and couldn't stop the shooter. I have written often about the shootings of armed officers in Tacoma, Washington, Pittsburgh, New York and other places.
Arming more people is not the answer. The answer is to have fewer armed citizens. There are far too many guns circulating in America. There are far too many people who shouldn't be abel to have guns who can access them far too easily. The evidence is mounting that in America we make it easy for shooters like the Aurora shooter, the Columbine shooters, the Charleston shooter, the Chattanooga shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter and all of the others to gain access to deadly weapons.
A new study that draws the same conclusion as others, finds that guns for self defense are used very infrequently and that, indeed, do not actually make much difference and could make things worse for the gun owners. From the article in The Trace:
Despite these advantages, even the NCVS is almost certainly overestimating defensive gun use. The fact is that defensive gun use is an inherently rare phenomenon: Any survey, no matter how well designed, will produce a final estimate that is much higher than its true incidence because of false positives. Not only is this a well-established statistical phenomenon, it’s also supported by new data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) — the most comprehensive and systematic effort to catalog every publicly available defensive gun use report — which finds that there were fewer than 1,600 verified DGUs in 2014.In response to GVA data, pro-gun advocates have been forced to argue that the reason researchers can barely find .064 percent of the 2.5 million DGUs a year claimed by Kleck and Gertz is because virtually nobody reports their defensive gun use to the police. This argument is problematic. For starters, it would seem to imply that the vast majority of people using guns in self-defense are irresponsible citizens who use their firearm to ward off an attempted crime, and then, perhaps uncertain about the legality of their action, are leery of interacting with the police. It would also imply that while these citizens ostensibly stopped a crime serious enough to justify brandishing a firearm, they aren’t at all concerned about informing the police about a criminal who remains on the street.The only thing we can know for sure is what we have empirical data on: Namely, that there is a reliable floor for defensive gun use estimates at around 1,600 a year. In addition, according to the most recent data on defensive gun use, we have reliable evidence showing that owning a firearm does not give individuals any significant advantage in a criminal confrontation, and they are no less likely to lose property or be injured by using a gun in self defense.
Facts matter. We need to re-think our insane gun culture and the claims made by the corporate gun lobby. For saving lives is the most important thing we can do and if the facts point to stronger gun laws and discussing the role of guns and gun violence in our communities that don't fit with the claims made otherwise, it's time to change the conversation.
As if to punctuate the evidence about our daily news and breaking news reports about shootings, Everytown for Gun Safety has a new report about the trends in mass shootings and other shootings. It is not a pretty picture. You can read the facts for yourself but surely the report reveals that more guns and more easy access to guns had made our country far less safe. Let's look at just one fact, though, considering the shootings of the past few weeks:
Here's some further evidence to support this point. Last year, Media Matters noted that response rates to mass shootings are generally within minutes of the first shot fired. During the September 2013 Navy Yard shooting which claimed 13 lives, for example, local police arrived within two to three minutes and members of the Yard's armed security force had already fired at the shooter but failed to stop him. In 2012, Mother Jones found absolutely no evidence that even a single mass shooter had considered whether someone in the area could legally be carrying a firearm. Instead, shooters choose locations based on their personal connection to the site — and don't seem to care much about whether someone might be firing back at them. Perhaps that's because many mass shooters are suicidal; Everytown says that in 42% of incidents, the shooter killed themselves.
Facts matter. We can't let this trend continue.
Today is my birthday. I have much to be thankful for. So today I will celebrate with the usual cards, birthday cake, time with friends, calls from family and time at our beloved cabin on a lake.
Too many people will not be celebrating birthdays. Too many families will not be able to celebrate the birthdays of their loved ones, killed by gun violence. It's all around us.
We are better than this.