Another gun lobby myth- gun free zones

no_guns_allowedI wrote in a previous post about gun lobby myths and I have written about them many times before. But it bears repeating that much of the gun lobby’s rhetoric is based on fear, paranoia and just plain deception without accompanying facts. While it is true that all sides of issues tend to exaggerate to make their point and catch the attention of the media, the public and our elected leaders, the corporate gun lobby is notorious for its’ mythical rhetoric.

Let’s look at the unbelievable myth that gun free zones make people more vulnerable to criminals with guns or those who mean harm to others. This article explores that very myth in the context of the Aurora theater shooters notes and musings about carrying out the shooting. The author of the article, Mark Follman, starts out like this:

It’s an argument we hear frequently from gun rights activists and conservative lawmakers: Mass shooters select places to attack where citizens are banned from carrying firearms—so-called “gun-free zones.” All the available data shows that this claim is just plain wrong. As I reported in an investigation into nearly 70 mass shootings in the United States over three decades, there has never been any known evidence of gun laws influencing a mass shooter’s strategic thinking. In fact, the vast majority of the perpetrators have indicated other specific motivationsfor striking their targets, such as employment grievances or their connection to a school.

The article contains images of the shooter’s notes made before the heinous mass shooting. The shooter took some time to think out how he could do the most harm and shoot the most people which he made possible with his weapon and ammunition choices. More from the article:

Nowhere in any of this extensive planning did Holmes make reference to gun regulations at the theater or the potential for moviegoers to be armed. Moreover, he had every expectation that he would not get away with his crime. In one sketch, he drew two other locations not far from the theater: the Aurora Police Department and a Colorado National Guard facility. “ETA response [approximately] 3 mins,” he noted. In his list of possible methods of attack, where he checked off mass murder using firearms as his choice, he also wrote “being caught 99% certain.”

Additional evidence from the trial underscores that Holmes clearly was not planning to avoid getting shot, killed, or apprehended. On an AdultFriendFinder.com profile he filled out shortly before the shooting, he wrote: “Will you visit me in prison?”

The shooter’s trial is now going on in Colorado and the families and friends are having to re-live the worst day of their lives every day the trial drags on.

The idea that people are less safe in gun free zones than in guns allowed zones makes no sense. Since most shootings happen in homes which can be guns allowed and of course, domestic shootings occur in homes with guns, how does the myth hold up? It doesn’t. Accidental shootings of course occur in places where guns are allowed. And what about the recent biker gang shoot-out in Waco, Texas? Clearly that shooting occurred where guns were allowed. 6 were killed. The same is true of intentional shootings of police officers such as the ones in Tacoma, Washington and Pittsburgh, PA. Officers are far too frequently shot by those who know they are about to threaten or shoot an armed individual. And isn’t a shooting range a guns allowed venue? I guess having all of those guns around didn’t protect this guy from getting shot at one. There are many other incidents about shootings at gun ranges.

And I ran across an article about a Sheriff’s deputy in Georgia who was injured by another deputy at a gun range where they were training with their guns. This is the 2nd one in just a few days at a gun range. So what’s the deal? How could these be happening? And happening they are. Rights? Where is the right to be safe from guns going off accidentally or intentionally in any zone?

The thing is, the gun lobby should be embarrassed about all of these shootings which disprove their myths. Maybe they aren’t paying any attention to the media stories because their agenda is all about driving up profits. Never mind the facts or that people are dying from gunshot injuries.

Common sense tells us that the problem is not that we have gun free zones in our country. It’s that we have too many guns in our country which are too easily accessed by those who shouldn’t have them in zones that include guns and zones that don’t. Most civilized, democratized countries not at war don’t allow people to carry guns in public and have many more restrictions on gun ownership in general with fewer guns per capita. What is the result? Mostly gun free zones, strong gun regulations on the weapons and the owners, and far fewer gun deaths and injuries than in America.

We understand the reason for pushing this myth. The corporate gun lobby and its’ minions want to be able to carry any kind of gun they want with as few restrictions as possible, including where they can carry them. We are not safer as a result. That bubble has already burst. My friend Cliff Schecter just wrote a column for Daily Beast about the gun lobby’s promotion of guns for domestic abusers and those who are mentally ill who shoot mostly women in pretty regular incidents and mostly in guns allowed zones- homes. Let’s take a look at more from his article:

The stats, of course, don’t lie, as much as discredited, sham researchers like the infamous John Lott try and tell you your nose is not in front of your face. This is why, on the same day as the first national Wear Orange Day, in which celebrities, policymakers, and regular Joes and Janes all across the country are sporting orange to honor victims of gun violence and say enough already, the U.S. House of Representatives is holding hearings on “Domestic Violence and Guns: An Epidemic for Women and Families.”

For an epidemic it is. Over half of all women killed by partners between 2003 and 2012 were murdered with guns. A gun’s presence makes a woman seven times more likely to be murdered by her abuser.

Much like the guy screaming about the end of the world on the street corner, when it doesn’t happen, the NRA just pushes back the timeline a bit, rinses and repeats.

And, of course, the simple stat that belies what the NRA and all those Twitter trolls posing with their AK-girlfriends spew out. You know, the ones suffering from Gunorrhea, who like to hock out one canard after another—more guns means less crime, good guys with guns are like Iron Man, and other assorted delirium and detritus—women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in other high-income countries.

How can we make any common sense of any of this insanity and crazy talk? It isn’t backed up by the facts. It’s pure fear and paranoia that has led to guns everywhere. This domestic shooting in Fargo, North Dakota is one of the latest tragic proofs of a domestic shooting in a guns allowed zone:

At this point, investigators believe Rick, while on a visit to Fargo, used a handgun to shoot his wife once in her body and once in her head before firing a shot into his head, Reitan said.

The husband and wife were both well-educated professionals who, before they separated, lived together in a newer development with ample houses and lush yards in southwest West Fargo.

As far as police know, the couple did not have a history of domestic violence, Reitan said. In the past three years, there were only two police calls to the home: both from neighbors concerned about the couple’s dog being left outside, police records show.

Rick had a business called Rick Professional Services that specialized in human resources and workplace safety, according to his resume on Indeed.com. In something of a twist, he gave a presentation last year in Fargo titled “Workplace Violence and Preparedness” on how to deal with active shooters, armed intruders and threats to employees, according to The Forum’s archive.

Did you get the irony here? “….he gave a presentation last year in Fargo titled “Workplace Violence and Preparedness” on how to deal with active shooters, armed intruders and threats to employees….” Really? What about threats in homes and active shooters in homes where guns are allowed. This is the myth of the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists playing out in every day life. Actual people are dying. Does it matter to the gun lobby?

And then we can talk about other “gun free” or guns allowed zones, particularly at airports?The juxtaposition of an article about a gun nut carrying his AR-15 around in the unsecured area of the Atlanta airport with the article about how many guns are actually missed by TSA screeners in the secured areas of airports. You just can’t make this stuff up. Let’s look first at the guy who is just worried that “something might happen” at the airport so he must have his assault rifle with a 100 round drum. Good grief. What the he&% is he expecting anyway? An ISIS attack? From the article:

Jim Cooley carried his assault weapon with a 100-round drum attached to it while accompanied by his wife as they dropped their daughter off, alerting the press later after he was stopped multiple times by authorities.

In an interview with WSB-TV, Cooley explained that he knew it was legal to carry the weapon into the airport as long as he didn’t approach any TSA checkpoints, explaining “You can carry in unsecured areas of the airport. Past TSA, never.”

While in the airport, Cooley was approached by a fire marshal asking him why he was carrying the gun, an Atlanta police officer who asked him if he had a carry permit, and then multiple officers who followed him to his car while taking pictures.

Asked why he carried the weapon, pausing to pose with it for a picture he later posted to his Facebook page, Cooley explained, “It shouldn’t matter what I carry, just that I choose to carry. You never know where something might happen.”

Yes. Something might happen all right and it won’t be what this guy expects. How do we know a “good guy” with a gun from a “bad guy” with a gun? Why couldn’t anyone carry an assault rifle into an airport unsecured area with bad intent? This is insane and crazy. There is no other word for it. And the Georgia legislature should be ashamed and thinking twice after this stupid and potentially dangerous stunt. Will they? No. Because they are spineless in dealing with the corporate gun lobby. They are the guys with the guns that get to make the rules. Right Wayne?

Now, about the TSA screening process allowing too many guns past the security checks:

In one case, an alarm sounded, but even during a pat-down, the screening officer failed to detect a fake plastic explosive taped to an undercover agent’s back. In all, so-called “Red Teams” of Homeland Security agents posing as passengers were able get weapons past TSA agents in 67 out of 70 tests — a 95 percent failure rate, according to agency officials.

“The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security,” Homeland Security officials said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time TSA officers have failed to detect fake terrorists and their weapons. “Red Teams” have been probing TSA checkpoints for 13 years, oftentimes successfully getting weapons past airport screeners.

However, this time, TSA agents failed to detect almost every single test bomb and gun, aviation experts said.

So one Georgia man is strutting around outside of the secured area of the Atlanta airport as if it’s his right to scare people because, well, because, ….. rights. On the other side, over 2000 guns were found on passengers at security check points in 2014 alone. This is insane and all a part of the crazed gun culture sponsored by the corporate gun lobby and its’ bought and paid for elected leaders. Raise your hand it you actually believe seeing someone with a loaded AR-15 at an airport makes you feel safer. Do we want guns at airports or not? We know that the gun extremists do but as to the rest of the country, I’m guessing the answer is a pretty definitive NO. Airports need to remain gun free zones for obvious reasons. So far there have been few, if any shootings at airports. People understand that guns are not allowed and will be taken away. The idea that this guy with his AR-15 in Atlanta will “save the day” is ridiculous and part of the many gun lobby myths that promotes this kind of behavior.

The other myth about gun free zones that is so insane is the number of kids who are getting their hands on loaded guns in homes that are clearly not gun free zones and shooting themselves, siblings, sometimes parents and acquaintances with those guns. Check out this article about this deadly phenomenon:

Nor is this an especially new state of affairs. American kids have been shooting themselves and each other for years now, but as the Second Amendment enthusiasts who crowd the comments sections will tell you ad nauseum, more U.S. children die in swimming pool accidents each year than by gunfire. The problem lies in discerning whether that data point is even accurate: after years of lobbying by the NRA and other gun rights groups, reliable federal numbers don’t exist on how many toddler shooting deaths are even happening each year, as The Washington Post reported last fall.

So we find ourselves at an impasse. American toddlers are getting their hands on guns at an alarming rate, and the government’s “hands are tied” to track the phenomenon. On top of that, few local or state governments seem to have the appetite to prosecute negligent parents or caretakers for leaving loaded guns lying around for their toddlers to find. Even activists in relatively liberal New York State are finding it an uphill battle to pass common-sense laws around safe gun storage.

The NRA’s singing Eddie Eagle mascot, which recently got a digital upgrade, tells children that if they see a gun, they should “Stop! Don’t touch. Run away. Tell a grown up.” Given how the NRA has lobbied against gun safety legislation across the country, this feels pretty disingenuous. The message the group seems to really be sending to kids is: “Stop! Lock and load. Ready aim, open fire!”

In all seriousness, it’s hard to say at this point what it will take to get a critical mass of Americans and their elected representatives to acknowledge that something’s gone deeply wrong here, and to do something about it. Our toddlers are regularly shooting themselves, their friends and their family members. How many bloodbaths will we all have to watch on the news, or live through personally?

The longer we drag our heels debating this issue, the more kids will reach for the gun in their parent’s glove compartment, with no singing eagle on the scene to warn them away.

No more words necessary.

And I remind my readers that the people who are pushing the myths are taking extreme positions and represent an increasingly small group of Americans. It’s time to base gun policy on what works best for the majority and what will protect public health and safety. The gun lobby’s tactics, myths and policy ideas are making us less safe. People are scared into buying guns without the least notion of how to be safe with them or keep their own families safe from intentional or unintentional shootings.

And, of course, I have not covered gun suicides which most often occur in guns allowed homes. This is one area where the gun lobby rarely travels. But we should look at this article from Vox that studied meta data to show that in homes where there are guns ( guns allowed) there were more suicides and also more domestic homicides and accidental shootings. Duh. There should be no surprises here. Let’s take a look:

While high rates of gun ownership are associated with higher homicide rates, theevidence around suicide is particularly strong. For example, a recent meta-analysis, which collated studies comparing suicide and homicide victimization rates for people with and without gun access, “found strong evidence for increased odds of suicide among persons with access to firearms compared with those without access and moderate evidence for an attenuated increased odds of homicide victimization when persons with and without access to firearms were compared.”

Gun free zones actually according to all data and actual incidents, do actually make people safer in contrast to the gun lobby myth. We don’t need more guns in gun free zones. The gun lobby just wants to sell more guns and using this myth helps with that agenda.

The gun lobby should just stop whining and start basing their assertions on actual facts. Then we could have a national discussion that we deserve to have. Yesterday’s #WearingOrange day for gun violence awareness must have been tough for the gun lobby extremists who just can’t get that the majority of Americans want the shootings to stop and don’t believe in myths.

Our leaders need to deal with the facts as well in order to make good policy. It’s past time for that to happen.

In the name of the victims of shootings everywhere, let us “demythify” the gun culture and deal with the facts. We are better than this.

#WearingOrange on June 2- national Gun Violence Awareness day

social_brady_wear-orange_facebook-cover-851x315-orangeOn June 2, the nation, or a good part of it anyway, will be #WearingOrange for a cause. The cause is a national day for gun violence awareness followed by the month of June with more awareness events and actions. The reason? The parents of one young girl are asking us to do this in her memory. For on June 2, tomorrow, she would be 18 years old. The reason they will not be celebrating her birthday is because she was shot and killed in January of 2013 just days after playing with her Chicago school band at President Obama’s inauguration. Her name was Hadiya Pendleton.

Here’s more about the day of gun violence awareness. Some New York lawmakers declared June to be gun violence awareness month in 2011.  The idea has since spread and now has the endorsement of gun violence prevention groups and other groups from all over the country representing tens of thousands of Americans, if not more. In 2013 a group of Hadiya’s friends promoted the wearing of the color orange in memory of Hadiya and other gun violence victims:

The color orange is a “hunter’s orange,” said Victor Taylor, a co-organizer of the project and a King senior.

“You know, when people are in the wilderness, and they don’t want to be shot by other hunters,” Taylor said. “You don’t want to be invisible.”

Hunters want to be safe from being shot while hunting. So do Americans want to be safe from the gun violence that takes far too many lives.

“You don’t want to be invisible”. Exactly. Victims sometimes become invisible. Every day in our country over 80 people die from gunshot injuries. There are many mass shootings in our country which get the attention of the public, the media and even lawmakers for a while. And then, the corporate gun lobby steps in and does their job of making themselves the victims of proposed changes to laws that would actually prevent senseless shootings. It’s totally backwards and insane, in fact, but it happens. It makes absolutely no common sense. But it is the America we have, not the country most people want or deserve.

And that is why we intend to make a difference. Mike the Gun Guy reflected on why this national day of awareness and the month of actions will make a difference:

I think that June 2, touted as Gun Violence Awareness Day, may mark a true turning-point in the argument about guns. The pro-gun community can lobby all it wants for laws that make it easier to own or carry guns, but fewer gun restrictions won’t really matter if the country’s dominant culture becomes anti-gun. And while the NRA has been promoting gun ownership as their response to the “culture wars,” the millennial culture that is emerging and will define the country appears to be solidly anti-gun. (…)

Gun Violence Awareness Day, as reported ruefully by Brietbart and other pro-gun blogs, garnered support from movie, song and media personalities like Russell Simmons, Aasif Mandvi, Padma Lakshmi, Amanda Peet, Tunde Adebimpe and many, many more.  I’m actually a pre-boomer, and I don’t have the faintest idea who any of these people are.  But I do know the celebs who show up each year at the NRA shindig; guys like Chuck Norris and Ollie North. Wow – talk about young, hip and cool.

Another master-stroke in planning this event was using orange to build identity and awareness for the folks who get involved.  Orange, or blaze orange as it is known, has always been worn by hunters and many states require it for anyone goes out after game. Brady and Shannon’s Moms, among other organizations, have lately moved into the safety space which was owned lock, stock and barrel by the NRA. Guess who now shares and could soon own that space?

Until recently, the playing field where gun violence arguments played out was controlled by the NRA. But right now the field is tilting the other way.  And notice how millennial culture has no problem attaching the word ‘violence’ to the word ‘guns.’  This alone should make the NRA wonder if their message can win or even compete for hearts and minds.  The NRA always assumed that gun owners would defend their guns while everyone else just sat by.  After June 2nd, I wouldn’t want to take that assumption to the bank.

The message is changing. That must happen before the culture and laws change. Our message is strong. We understand that gun violence has become a serious national public health and safety epidemic and we also know that we can do something about this epidemic with the right prescriptions and treatment.

From Dan Gross President of the Brady Campaign and  Nathaniel Pendelton, Hadiya’s father comes this piece about June 2 and wearing orange:

Most of us have been affected by gun violence or know someone who has. This June we are honoring the victims of this epidemic by wearing orange on June 2 and by redoubling our commitment to the solutions that will result in a safer Chicago for everyone. (…)

June 2 would have been Hadiya’s 18th birthday, but because of a shooting on January 29, 2013, her young life ended. She loved this city and she had dreams: dreams of going to college and of becoming a journalist–dreams of traveling the world. Her death was not just our loss–it was Chicago’s loss. It was this world’s loss. Let her legacy be one of inspiring us to make the impact on the world that she dreamed of making when she was alive.

Participate in Gun Violence Awareness Month and remember to wear your orange on June 2. Together, we can end the epidemic of gun deaths in our nation and help to fulfill Hadiya’s Promise.

We owe it to the lives lost to promise to do something to stop others from not being able to reach their human potential. Hadiya”s young life had already shown the promise of success. Her life was taken far too soon in a senseless act of violence. You can see more information on the website named Hadiya’s Promise.

If you want more information about wearing orange, please check out this site for how you can be involved. Also on this site you can see all of the organizations who have endorsed this campaign. There will be other actions coming up for the month of June as were listed in the article by Dan Gross and Nathaniel Pendelton, linked above. Please find out how you can support gun violence awareness month and help us change the message and change the conversation so we can change the gun culture and do something positive to prevent gun violence. We know we can do this. The majority of Americans support reasonable gun laws and also want to stop the violence. No one wants to lose a loved one or a friend to a gunshot injury yet far too many of us have and do.

We are better than this. Let’s get to work. Do this for Hadiya and for the 32,000 Americans who die every year from gunshot injuries. Make your voices heard above the loud and often obnoxious din of the gun lobby’s deceptions and opposition to common sense.

Wear Orange for saving lives and common sense.

Hadiya’s parents wrote this opinion piece about the wear orange day.