Oh the irony. It is playing out every day. What the gun lobby says about more guns making us safer is plainly not happening. Sure, there are the occasional incidents of a law abiding gun owner using a gun for legitimate self defense. Those on my side are not arguing that that is not the case. We are arguing that more often than not, a gun is used with bad intent to harm others and a gun in many situations emboldens the person with the gun and escalates a situation. In addition, guns are not needed in many volatile situations to change the outcome.
Yesterday a student brought a gun to a school in a Seattle suburb and fired off a few rounds. The boy was stopped by an unarmed teacher who tackled him before he could do anyone, including himself, harm. From the article:
A 16-year-old boy who fired two gunshots Monday inside a Washington state high school, hitting no one before a teacher tackled him, told detectives he never intended to hurt any students, a police spokesman said.
Three other staff members at North Thurston High School in Lacey, about 60 miles southwest of Seattle, quickly helped subdue the teen.
The boy told detectives “there were some issues in personal relationships,” Lacey police Cmdr. Jim Mack told The Olympian newspaper. Asked if the shooting could have been an attempt at “suicide by cop,” Mack said, “It definitely could have been.”
How would a teacher with a gun have changed this situation? Would the teacher have had a gun holstered on their person as some suggest should be the case? Would a teacher whose gun was stored somewhere in the school not near where the incident occurred have had the time, training or inclination ( given the fear and with adrenalin surging) to get to a gun? And then what? Would a teacher have shot this student? This appears to be a student with some problems who now will hopefully get some help. His life was changed by the incident. Other students lives have changed as well. But no one is dead. And a gun was not needed to stop the student with a gun.
By the way, where did this young student get his gun? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.
Others lives have been changed by bullets. This Texas man shot his own wife believing her to be a burglar in his home. This, by the way, is not the first of similar types of shootings. From the article:
According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the man was sleeping when he woke up to the sound of someone “scuffling” downstairs.
Deputies said he saw the front door open so he grabbed his gun thinking a burglar had broken in.
But when he fired, his target was his wife.
So far no charges have been filed. And that brings me to other such “accidental” shootings where no charges occurred or were rejected after a “law abiding” gun owner mistakenly shot someone. Sure, people have gun rights. Do they have rights to be irresponsible with their guns and then not be held responsible? This incident also highlights the irony of the “logic” that having a loaded gun around the home for self defense too often results in the injury or death of someone living in the home.
And what is the “logic” to people like this guy, ostensibly a “law abiding” gun owner, holding a neighborhood hostage bringing out a SWAT team to disarm the situation?:
Around 8:30 a.m. Monday, police were called out to 58 Randall Road after a gas worker who attempted to shut off gas service was threatened with a gun.
Several SWAT teams, a bomb squad and negotiators were called out to help. More than 20 shots were reportedly fired from inside the house toward officers and SWAT vehicles, police said.
Surrounding houses were asked to evacuate the area. Officials say Parker was believed to be armed with a high-powered rifle and possibly explosive devices.
All because of an angry guy with a gun- or from the sounds of it, someone who should not have had a gun, threatening law enforcement and a city worker with his loaded gun. It’s harder to carry out threats like this with some other kind of weapon or object. But when so many people succumb to the fear and paranoia promoted by the gun lobby, people like this use their guns with bad intent rather than in self defense. We all know how things can go terribly wrong with one armed citizen making threats. This is the America we have. Is this the America we deserve?
Speaking of the armed America we have and holding gun owners responsible when something goes wrong, Amanda Gailey of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, has written an article wondering about why negligence with guns is rarely prosecuted or found to be legal negligence:
Every year many gun owners, like Wilson, unintentionally cause death and injury yet face no legal consequences. In criminal and civil courts, the legal system often fails to hold negligent gun owners accountable for such harm.Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit effort that combs through more than a thousand media sources to collect information about gun violence, has verified more than 1,500 accidental shooting incidents in 2014. Data on the legal outcomes of these shootings is sketchy, but many cases of unprosecuted unintentional shootings are available—dozens from the first two months of 2014 alone remain unprosecuted.
The past decade has seen legal measures to prevent gun negligence systematically dismantled. The 2005 Protection of Legal Commerce in Arms Act statutorily inoculated gun manufacturers and dealers from most claims of negligence in gun deaths. This is even more dangerous than it may first sound. Many people unfamiliar with guns assume that they are designed with simple safeguards against unintentional shootings, but this is not always the case. Glock handguns, for example, have no external safety: If a round is chambered and the trigger is squeezed, the gun fires. As Aaron Walsh, a criminal defense attorney in Augusta, Georgia, put it, “With any other product in the world there would be no Glock company because they would be sued out of existence. You don’t have a safety? That can’t be right.” (…) Yet some of these cases are appalling. A man in Washington practiced drawing a loaded handgun and unintentionally shot and killed his girlfriend’s daughter. A man in Florida twirled a handgun on his finger and killed a pregnant woman. A man in New Mexico handed a loaded rifle to his six-year-old daughter, who unintentionally shot her sister in the neck. None of these gun owners was prosecuted. The district attorney in the New Mexico case told the Farmington Times, “The father did not follow basic and universally accepted firearm safety rules” but “the problem is that the standard for criminal negligence is higher.”
Ah yes. The 2005 “Immunity Bill” that offers protections to the gun industry that no other industry enjoys. Silly me. Shoot someone by accident? No worries. Rights will protect you. A gun discharges accidentally? No problem. The immunized gun industry will protect the industry, not the shooter or the weapon.
There is much more in this article that is worth considering. Ms. Gailey, like the majority of us and actually the majority of gun owners, knows that people who are negligent with guns should be held accountable. She writes about the fact that gun owners ‘ negligence is treated differently than in other cases of negligence resulting in the death of an innocent person:
When a surviving family member does sue a negligent gun owner for the death of a child or spouse, their lawsuits often fail. Andrew McClurg, a law professor at the University of Memphis, has written extensively on what he sees as a “right to be negligent” that has arisen from the failure of courts to hold negligent gun owners accountable. McClurg sees these rulings as flagrant violations of tort principles that result from strange mistakes in reasoning about risk—judges have ruled in favor of negligent gun owners because specific chains of events were unforeseeable. (…)
Findings in other civil cases against negligent gun owners suggest that political sensibilities motivate some decisions by the court. In one case McClurg examined, a gun owner kept a loaded handgun next to a tray of change in his bedroom, which he allowed his teenage daughter to raid for spending money. Sometimes she did this with her boyfriend; eventually, the boyfriend took the gun and used it to rob and murder a man who was leaving a restaurant. The victim’s family sued the girl’s father for leaving a loaded gun lying around where he knew minors could access it. The court declined to hold him liable, saying it was “not persuaded that society is prepared to extend the duties of gun owners that far.” This reasoning was not based on principles of liability, but on what the court thought the implications would be for gun ownership in America.
Indeed, political squeamishness about defining responsible gun ownership drives our failure to hold negligent gun owners accountable. It leads to statutes that protect recklessness among manufacturers and sellers, enables legislation that encourages gun proliferation, and shackles a legal system that ends up seeming more concerned about running afoul of the firearms lobby and its adherents than in protecting the public.
We do need to change this “squeamishness” to stand up to the corporate gun lobby. They have managed to make even negligence with a gun a right. It’s time for that kind of irresponsible attitude about guns to change. But instead, in many states, we are going the other way.
The corporate gun lobby has pushed for anyone to carry guns everywhere with little to no accountability, training or permit. This, of course, will suggest to a felon that he/she, too, can just strap their gun on their waists and walk around in public with no questions asked. Because there is a move afoot to allow those who do this to do so unencumbered by the fear that law enforcement can ask if you are actually a legal gun carrier, why wouldn’t someone with bad intent do this? Here’s another Texas case to consider:
Domestic terrorist Larry McQuilliams — an anti-immigration extremist who fired a machine gun at Austin Police headquarters, a federal courthouse, and the Mexican Consulate last November, before an Austin police officer shot him down — would have been safe from police scrutiny right up until the moment be began shooting had Texas lawmakers already passed the open carry law that’s about to land on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
That’s the opinion of Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who sat for an interview with Austin.com on Wednesday afternoon. His comments below follow a short essay published Tuesday in which Acevedo expresses dire concern about an amendment to House Bill 910 that would prevent police officers from asking people who are openly carrying handguns whether or not they’re licensed to do so. The Texas House passed that bill on Monday by a vote of 101-42, after defeating an amendment that would have allowed large cities to opt out.
“If [Larry] McQuilliams had a pistol… The only way we would have stopped him [if HB 910 were law] is if he had brandished that weapon in a threatening manner,” Acevedo told Austin.com. “Obviously, he went so far as to shoot up occupied buildings, actually shooting at police officers in front of the main headquarters, but had he been walking around the federal building or the Mexican Consulate with just a gun on his hip, we would have never been able to ask him anything about the gun or about whether or not he had a permit to have the gun.”
This seems like a good policy, right? I mean- why not protect terrorists and felons with guns because- rights? This is the extent to which our elected leaders are going to protect gun rights and appease the gun lobby. The irony of all of this is that when gun rights are treated this way, we are encouraging vigilantism and an “anything goes” culture that will not end well. This, of course, is the ideology behind Stand Your Ground Laws which have already shown that upstanding “law abiding” citizens like George Zimmerman can shoot an unarmed teen because- well, just because- and get away with it.
Reasonable gun owners understand the implication of proposed laws like this one- a gun shop owner from South Carolina commenting on the proposed bill to let anyone who wants to carry a gun carry one without training or a permit. He calls it reckless in the video interview in the link. Yes, it’s reckless. Why don’t our legislators understand this? They, themselves, are reckless when they are afraid to stand up to the gun lobby. What are they thinking? Where is common sense? In the video the gun shop owner said this: “…because I believe incidents will happen through untrained and uneducated people.” Great. Whatever. Does anyone care that “incidents will happen”?
There’s a pattern here, right? You can see it. Can our leaders see it? Or are they so blinded by fear of the corporate gun lobby that they have abrogated their responsibility for public safety to the industry itself whose main interest is profits? Logical?
Occasionally the justice system does work as with this Florida case of a 3 year old who found a gun in her mother’s purse and accidentally shot the mother:
The toddler had accidentally shot Gillilan with a handgun that she’d left in her purse, Davie police said.
Now, nearly three months after the Feb. 2 incident, Gillilan is charged with culpable negligence by storing or leaving a loaded firearm within easy reach of a minor.
Toddler shot mother, police say
Toddler shot mother, police say
Gillilan, who also has a 1-year-old son, told an investigator that the shooting, which happened at a home in the 4800 block of Southwest 59th Street in Davie, was her mistake.
“I should’ve never left the gun in my purse like that! I never do!” she was quoted as saying in a police report. “I’m just glad that I was the one who got shot, and not my boys!”
Gillilan said she usually kept the small-caliber, semi-automatic handgun in the trunk of her car, but she was in the process of transferring items to a new vehicle, according to police.
In front of the children, police said, she put the registered weapon in her purse in a bedroom. (…)
Gillilan is a state-licensed security officer with a firearms license, state records show. She told police that’s why she keeps a gun.
It doesn’t appear to matter that a gun owner is licensed or serving as a security or police officer. (girl shoots sister with father’s loaded service gun). Negligence with guns is happening every day. Without charges brought in order to encourage better gun safety practices, they will continue. With over 300 million guns in circulation or sitting around somewhere, negligence with these lethal weapons is inevitable. Just as with other consumer products, people misuse them and cause injury and death. When a drunk driver kills someone in an auto accident, there are laws intended to hold that person responsible- criminal vehicular homicide. These statutes passed in states all over America are meant as public safety laws to discourage bad behavior while driving cars, not as punishment to those who follow the rules. Legislators used a lot of common sense when passing laws like these.
Some states have Child Access Prevention laws meant to hold parents responsible when a child accesses a gun and uses it to accidentally kill him/herself or someone else. They are often not enforced because of the guilt already felt by grieving parents for a dead child. Further, the NRA has often opposed such laws, believing, as I wrote in my previous post, that their Eddie Eagle program will be enough to stop kids from gaining access to an adult’s loaded gun:
I’m not saying the Eddie Eagle program doesn’t work. I’m saying that to use a totally non-validated safety program as an excuse for opposing CAP laws is shabby at best, harmful and unsafe at worst. The real reason that unintentional gun injuries have declined over the past twenty years is because gun makers have phased in more safety engineering (e.g., floating firing pins) and states now require additional safety features such as loaded chamber indicators and minimum trigger-pull weights. But neither factor invalidates Shannon’s call for more comprehensive CAP laws. If the NRA was really serious about representing all those responsible gun owners, they would welcome laws that require guns to be locked or locked away.
So, where were we? Ah yes. We were discussing the “logic” of the gun lobby’s arguments against gun safety reform. Ironically, their opposition to common sense gun safety laws has contributed to gun negligence because of a gun culture that encourages anyone to own guns without proper training and the known risks of loaded guns in homes and public places. Denying the research and the facts is not making us safer. Loosening gun laws will not do the trick.
This is all part and parcel of the national conversation we need to hold about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Until we face this public health and safety issue head on, without the encumbrance of the second amendment holding us hostage, we will not solve the problem. And solve it we must. Lives are at stake.