My daughter was killed…..welcome to the club

handshakeFill in the blank. My sister was killed in a domestic shooting. But thousands of Americans could say :”My daughter was killed in a shooting.” “My brother was killed in a shooting.” “My son was killed in a shooting.” “My boyfriend was killed in a shooting.” “My mother was killed in a shooing.” “My father was killed in a shooting.” “My girlfriend was killed in a shooting.” “My friend was killed in a shooting.”

My sister was killed 23 years ago. The passage of time doesn’t make it any easier. It just makes it less fresh. But I can still cry at odd moments when something reminds me of her or I think about what she has missed or what her family has missed after her shooting death. And when we learn about and see the media coverage of yet another tragic shooting, we have flashbacks. We are a club. Californian Amanda Wilcox experienced what many of us went through last week. We relive the day we got our own news that someone we loved was shot. From the article:

When she watched the video of Alison Parker gunned down on live TV, the 2001 murder of her own daughter played out in her mind as if it just happened.

“We relive it in our mind all the time about being shot and never thought about whether she screamed or not,” she said.

Her 19-year-old daughter Laura was also shot and killed at work by a man she didn’t even know who had no history of violence.

This is Amanda’s story. We all have stories to tell, as club members. It’s part of the dues. I communicated with many last Wednesday as the tragedy unfolded. We all had the same awful feeling in the pits of our stomachs.

Since my sister’s shooting death I have been working to change gun laws, change the mind of politicians, change the conversation and change hearts and minds. I believe some of this has happened since my sister was shot. Some hasn’t. Hearts and minds are changed for sure. Gun laws in some places are weaker than ever and in others stronger. The gun culture hasn’t changed. And the politicians are largely ignoring the issue of gun safety reform. Shame on them.

Andy Parker just joined the exclusive club of those affected by gun violence in America. The dues to the club is a lost loved one. He is speaking out in the name of his daughter, Alison and Adam Ward, the two journalists who were gunned down last week on live TV. Their friends and family also belong to this club and are mourning their deaths.

Andy Parker, the father of Alison Parker is now entering the fray and joining the club to which no one really wants to belong. Welcome Andy. And good luck. The parents of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims joined the club almost 3 years ago. I can’t list the members. There are far too many. But Andy Parker’s voice is going to be heard. Here is just some of what he said in the linked article:

I plan to devote all of my strength and resources to seeing that some good comes from this evil. I am entering this arena with open eyes. I realize the magnitude of the force that opposes sensible and reasonable safeguards on the purchase of devices that have a single purpose: to kill.

That means we must focus our attention on the legislators who are responsible for America’s criminally weak gun laws; laws that facilitate the access dangerous individuals have to firearms on a daily basis.

(The above photo was included in the Washington Post article I have linked here.)

It’s the legislators at the state and federal level who pass or reject the bills that can lead to safer communities. I like that Parker named them. We don’t want to name the killers- the shooters. But we should be naming those who refuse to stand with the victims who have names and families and unrealized potential.

So what do we want- the members of the club? We want stronger gun laws that will make it harder for those who just can’t be responsible with guns to be able to get them legally. Laws like expanded Brady background checks that would require a background check on all gun sales- whether at a licensed dealer ( where they are now required), a private seller at a gun show, flea market or at on-line sites like Armslist.com. We need to finish the job started in 1993 with the passage of the Brady law. The only way any other laws make sense is for this one to happen. It makes absolutely no common sense that every gun sale does not require a background check.

Just like it makes no common sense that every passenger departing from our airports does not go through the same screening process before boarding a plane. Just like it makes no common sense that all drivers don’t go through driver’s training and pass a behind the wheel test before taking to our streets. Just like it makes no common sense that all physicians and other health care providers don’t get the training necessary to treat patients.

You know what I mean. Our gun laws don’t make sense.

What makes sense are laws similar to the Gun Violence Restraining Order that passed in California recently. 

Also strengthening and fixing our background check so that people slip through the cracks as in the Charleston church shooting and the Lafayette theater shooting.

Also since many crime guns are stolen, mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns and strengthening the gun trafficking and straw purchasing laws.

What about only allowing the purchase of one gun a month? Realistically does anyone NEED that many guns?

Or requiring guns to come with trigger locks and pushing forward with the technology for Smart Guns or other such technology to make sure a gun can only be shot by its’ owner in case of a child getting a gun or a stolen gun.

The Brady Campaign is working to hold “bad apple” gun dealers accountable. Seems like a good idea. If just a few are letting a majority of crime guns get into the hands of people who shouldn’t have guns, they should be held accountable. Makes common sense.

Making sure all gun permit holders get background checks and training before venturing out onto the streets and other public places with their guns. The gun lobby is pushing for the opposite as if it makes sense. Insane.

Child Access Prevention laws? Yes. Good idea.

There are others. It’s the slippery slope to the corporate gun lobby. But they will need to explain how these laws would affect their members and law abiding gun owners. They can’t do that and they don’t and they won’t. Why? Because perhaps gun purchases will decline? Or are they already? Walmart is discontinuing the sale of AR-15s. Hmmm… The largest gun retailer in the world won’t be selling AR-15s.

I could go on and on with other things that could change the way we view guns and gun ownership like the risks to owning a gun. And the ASK campaign and others like it to make sure there are not unlocked guns in the homes where your children play. Those are conversation and culture changes.

Welcome Andy Parker. We are ready for your voice and your resolve and we will support you in your efforts. We hear you. We know your anguish and your grief. We’ve been there. And just maybe your voice will make a difference that others have not. In Alison’s name, we will work with you to do what it takes to get this done.

The club is getting larger. The voices are getting louder. When your daughter is killed in such a public way, the public is paying attention.

Are our leaders paying attention?

Gunned down Americans- Rest in Peace

RIPIn what country are we living again? Historically we have understood that there are countries where awful violence affects the citizens and the rest of the world watches in horror. I would suggest that in the last week in America, the rest of the world has watched in horror as a disgruntled employee gunned down 2 journalists because….? Actually other nation’s citizens have been watching our gun violence in horror for years now but last week was particularly horrific.

We know more about the shooter of the journalists now and understand that he was an angry man and potentially violent. He had to be physically removed from the TV station after throwing things and making threats against other employees. 

As a result of that shooting, there has been a focus on the issue of gun violence prevention because Alison Parker’s father has chosen to use his grief to call attention to our nation’s lax gun laws and has proclaimed that he will work hard to make change happen. I wish him all the luck with that and we are all expecting to work with him. Many other family members of shooting victims have come forward over the years to work on the issue. This beautiful piece, written by the mother of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim, encourages Parker to get involved and offers hope:

Please use your emotions, your love for your daughter and the pain caused by the gaping hole in your life, and focus them into this issue. Once you’ve been touched by violence, saving the lives of others is the only way forward. Whether you choose to fight for policy and political change, or whether you decide to get ahead of the violence and prevent it before it happens (as I chose), always know you are never alone.

We are on a long, difficult road together, but with my son, your daughter and hundreds of thousands of others across the states, we will get there. I promise.

When will our leaders make this promise in the name of the victims and survivors? Unfortunately for them and for the country, not much happens as a result because of our entrenched gun culture and refusal of the corporate gun lobby to actually work to stop the shootings. Our leaders put their fingers to the wind and believe ( erroneously) that if they challenge the gun lobby, they can’t get re-elected.

I would also offer that if we had stronger gun laws and screening of potential gun purchasers and gun carriers more carefully as is done in a lot of other countries, the shooter of the 2 young journalists would likely not have been considered as someone who could legally buy a gun. And in a system where all sales require background checks or personal information as in other countries, there would be few avenues for him to purchase a gun. So angry people do kill people by other means but not anywhere close to the killings by firearms ( in America).

And we thought this shooting of 2 young journalist on live TV and recorded by the shooter was horrific. It was. And then yesterday, another execution occurred. A Texas state trooper was gunned down execution style while he stopped for gas at a convenience store. The details of this are almost too awful to contemplate. From the article:

A man shot a uniformed sheriff’s deputy “execution-style” while he fueled his patrol car in the Houston area, killing him instantly, authorities said.

Deputy Darren H. Goforth, 47, was returning to his car after pumping gas Friday night.

The gunman walked up from behind him and opened fire for no apparent reason, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said.

When Goforth fell to the ground, the gunman stood over him and shot him some more, authorities said. He died at the scene.

“He was literally gunned down in what appears to be an unprovoked, execution-style killing,” Hickman said. “I have been in law enforcement for 45 years, I have never seen anything this cold-blooded.”

Well, dear readers. This is the America we now have in no small part because of our twisted and paranoid gun culture. The corporate gun lobby is promoting guns for everyone everywhere and that is what we have.

(I am editing this post to include details about the shooter of the Texas law enforcement officer. He has been caught.):

Sheriff Ron Hickman released few details about the suspect Saturday in a press conference. Miles has a list of prior convictions including resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct with a fire arm, he said.

He was able to get a gun, of course. And now an innocent law enforcement was gunned down and his family will grieve for him forever. Senseless.

So now what? Is this how it’s going to be? Domestic shootings happen between people who know each other and one ( usually a male) decides to take out his anger by killing a spouse/partner and whoever else happens to be in the way. Suicides happen quietly but sometimes are also the motivation of mass shooters who were likely suicidal in the first place but had to shoot others first for some inexplicable reason. It happens quite often that way. The shooter kills himself after shooting all the others. Too hard to face what he/they did or knowing how awful it was to shoot other human beings, why live with those images in your head? And we do have a problem with young people in our large cities who may or may not be members of local gangs but who shoot each other over slights or arguments about territory or whatever. Easy access to guns adds to this urban violence problem. Also often enough, innocent people get caught in the cross fire and are killed by stray bullets. It happens often enough to alarm us. We are gunning each other down in America.

Are we alarmed? Do we care that we now have execution style shootings going on in our communities? Hyped up fears and mistrust of law enforcement officers  (and government) have caused other attacks in public places, here ,and here. There are others where these come from. And then the opposite happens. Officers themselves shoot and kill ( often) people of color over things that should not result in a shooting death. We have the recent shootings of Michael Brown, Walter Scott and Tamir Rice  to name just a few. We are gunning each other down in America.

Anti government sentiment, whipped up by extremists and the gun lobby, also result in horrific shootings. Take the shooting in Las Vegas in 2014 for just one example but there are many others. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of potentially dangerous extremists groups who represent racist, white supremacist, anti government sentiments. These folks are armed and can do a lot of damage.And shootings also have killed some of our military members serving on US soil, also this summer, in the Chattanooga shooting. Expect to see more of these shootings like the one in the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston this summer. The hate and racism exhibited by the shooter there seems to have been some sort of catalyst for the shooter of the Virginia journalist or so he claimed.

It just may be true that one mass shooting contributes to another, and to another and the cycle continues until we decide we’ve had enough like Australia did after a horrific 1996 mass shooting there. For now, though, we are gunning each other down.

Officers fear for their lives every day because there are so many citizens with guns that they, themselves, get caught in situations where they believe they are defending themselves. When carrying a gun, officer or citizen) it’s there to use and sometimes judgment is impaired or race plays a role or fear. Some citizens apparently fear for their lives every day as well and sometimes kill others over something that shouldn’t result in a death. And with new Stand Your Ground Laws, people like George Zimmerman can do this and not be accountable for the death of an unarmed young black man.

The result is that the violence is increasing. The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track. There have been over 33,569 shooting incidents so far in 2015. It’s only August. So far this year there have been 247 mass shooting (4 or more shot and injured or killed) incidents in America. We have 4 months left in the year. What will happen next? We keep thinking we have seen the worst. When 20 first graders are gunned down by a young man who never should have had access to guns and we do nothing, we can expect to see more. When people are gunned down in movie theaters, churches, malls, schools and everywhere we go for no apparent reason, we are officially a country that has lost it’s moral compass in efforts to appease a group of armed Americans so fearful of losing something they value that they will allow just about any kind of carnage to keep their way of life. But there appears to be disregard for the valuable lives lost because of our love affair with guns.That love affair with guns has resulted in what we are now seeing in our media and on the streets of our communities.

There are ways to change what we are doing to keep guns away from volatile, angry people who don’t necessarily find themselves on the prohibited purchaser list for gun purchases at a licensed dealer. And, of course, we can require that every gun sale go through a Brady background check no matter where a gun is purchased.

But we aren’t doing these things.

A new report/study by Criminologist Adam Lankford points to our American gun culture as exceptional compared to other countries and provides some interesting ideas about why these kinds of shootings happen mostly in America. He was interviewed for this article:

“For decades, people have wondered if the dark side of American exceptionalism is a cultural propensity for violence,” he wrote, “and in recent years, perhaps no form of violence is seen as more uniquely American than public mass shootings.”

Lankford, author of “The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers,” looked at the situation globally, and considered a wide range of relative factors — the state of mental health coverage, the availability of guns, the valorization of fame, and other cultural differences. (…)

What the data clearly show is a strong relationship between firearm ownership rates – what is the percentage of firearms owned by civilians in a country – and the number of public mass shooters. That’s what I found in my study of 171 countries – that relationship was very strong. And it was even strong when you removed the United States from the analysis – it explains the variations in other countries as well. So that seems to be one of the critical factors, and the United States has five times the number of mass shootings than any other country – five times the second-ranked country – from 1966 to 2012 – and we have the world’s leading firearm ownership rate among civilians. (…)

There is nearly one handgun for every person in America – far higher than the ratio in ever other country in the world. How consequential is that?

Very consequential. It effects both who can get a gun to carry out an attack, and how many guns someone who’s decided to carry out an attack can get, which directly, in turn, effects the number of people they kill. One of the findings of my study is that attackers who use multiple guns kill significantly more victims. That was a global finding. (…)

It would be a great day for America if people struggling with mental health problems and had some motive to carry out an attack decided to take a different path because they couldn’t find the firearms they wanted.

That would be a great day, indeed. Let’s get to work to make that happen because we just have to be better than this. We can’t let the world look at us as people who gun down other Americans in public places because they hold a grudge in the workplace, are angry over a separation, are angry in general, or have mental illness that could lead to thoughts of homicide.

Yes. We are gunned down America.

In spite of all of this, gun violence prevention advocates are not going away. We will continue to discuss gun violence and solutions to the problem in the midst of yet another shooting even though the gun lobby doesn’t want us to “dance in the blood of the victims.” If we waited until we had no shooting tragedies, we would wait a very long time and that is exactly what the gun rights advocates want. Mass shootings, execution style shootings, keeping track of shooting incidents, writing about the carnage, witnessing a shooting live on TV, hearing about a neighbor killed by a  souse or partner- they won’t go away no matter what the gun lobby thinks. Ignoring it would be a total abrogation of our responsibilities to make sure our families and children are safe. And it would be a moral lapse of huge proportions.

No, we will not back down in the face of the fierce resistance of an armed minority of Americans. The public is with us. We will continue. Andy Parker’s voice will be heard and added to the many others like him working for reform.  The voices of other high profile shooting victims ‘ families will be heard. Those of us who have lost someone in a domestic shooting will continue to force the conversation to happen. We will be heard. But in the meantime, we are killing each other every day.

Where is common sense?

Rest in Peace America.

This week- with guns

white candles. three candles isolated on a black background

A friend just posted this on Facebook:

“This week (since Monday):
-A 1 year old accidentally shot and killed himself
-A 14 year old held his entire class hostage at gun-point
-An armed man was shot down in a Philadelphia courthouse
-A Kentucky man was shot while selling a firearm
-An 8-year-old accidentally shot another 8-year-old in school
-A toddler and his father were both shot outside their home in Louisiana
-A reporter and her camera-man were both fatally shot while giving a live news report
And besides those wonderful highlights in the last 48-hours in America, there have been 166 separate shootings. Still think the problem is we don’t have enough guns?”

I wrote yesterday about several shootings in my state of Minnesota but today I add one more. 4 people were shot and injured in what appears to be a home invasion in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. That is very scary at the least. More information will likely be coming out about this one.

But what I want to talk about is what happened today. An angry man just gunned down 2 journalists on live TV as they were interviewing/filming someone. Today was a first for the most part. A shooting happened right before the eyes of TV viewers in a town near Roanoke, Virginia. This is the real life horrific effect of our American gun culture where just about anyone can buy a gun and take it anywhere they want. And when someone is angry over a lost job or has a beef against a former or current employee, just bring a gun because we all know that guns will do just what they were designed to do- kill people.

This is disgusting and disturbing. More is coming out about the shooter as the day wears on. We are hearing that he claimed that Charleston shooting did him in so he bought a gun 2 days later. He was inspired by the Virginia Tech shooting, bringing back memories of that horrific day to the victims and survivors. He made some claims about racism against the young reporter Allison Parker. From this article:

ABC News reported that it received a fax containing a 23-page manifesto from someone named Bryce Williams, according to a tweet. The document was handed over to investigators, ABC said.

The network posted a short story reporting some of the manifesto’s contents. They show Flanagan alleging that he had been the victim of bullying and discrimination because he is gay and black.

He also said that he was compelled to respond to Dylann Roof’s massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June and he was inspired by Seung Hui Cho, who orchestrated the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.

“You (deleted)! You want a race war (deleted)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(deleted)!!!” ABC quoted from the manifesto.

Two videos posted on a Twitter account under the name, Bryce Williams, show someone walking up to the WDBJ news crew and pointing a gun at them.

*(names crossed out by me) #nonotoriety

Alison Parker– a 24 year old young aspiring and vibrant reporter- just beginning her professional life and in a new relationship. Now she won’t get married. She won’t get that new job. She won’t have children. Her parents won’t get to know grandchildren who won’t be born. Her siblings will never be able to call her again and hear her voice.

Adam Ward– 27 years old. Graduate of Virginia Tech (coincidence?) Engaged to be married. He won’t get married now. He won’t have children. His family will be burying him soon and never hear his voice or see his face again.

Vicki Gardner, being interviewed by Allison Hunter, was shot in the back and is recovering. She will never forget this day. Her life will never be the same.

The staff at WDBJ who are mourning the loss of their colleagues will never be the same either.

The shooter was allegedly “off kilter”. Why did he have a gun? In America, we would say “why not?” He has rights to own a gun. That’s more important than anything else to the corporate gun lobby and those who use the rights thing as their excuse to stop all reasonable measures to change our gun laws and our gun culture.

He shot himself. Now he, too, is dead.

So much violence. Such a ripple effect. So many people missed. Memories of past shootings called up by survivors every time another one happens. I feel sick today because I remember the day I got the phone call about my own sister’s shooting. I talked to a friend who felt the same way when she heard about her sister’s shooting death- she feels sick. On social media, survivors like myself are sharing the same feelings. Anger. Grief. Sadness. Helplessness. Sympathy. Empathy. When will it end?

Have we had enough yet? What’s enough for the elected leaders who are shirking their duty to at least try to protect us from this daily horror? What’s enough for the gun rights extremists? Is this the one? Or will we wait for another 10,000 victims which will happen before the end of 2015 by the way.

And the politicians? Shocked? Why be shocked? Thoughts and prayers? We’ve had enough of those. We need action. Hillary Clinton is at least saying that she will “take it on” and act. She’s heartbroken. We are all heart broken. Thank you Hillary Clinton. At least one politician has some courage.

Where is common sense?

In memory of 2 young journalists just out doing their jobs this morning. Rest in peace.

The balance between gun rights and responsibilities

scalesShould people who attend church services ( or services at a synagogue or mosque or any place of worship) need guns? I mean, what is the fear about sitting in a church without a gun? Yes, there have been a few shootings at churches (here and here). (More on this later) The most recent being the shooting at the Charleston Mother Emanuel church where 9 innocent people were shot and killed by an unhinged young man who shouldn’t have a gun. Most of the church shootings have been racially or politically motivated or arguments between people.

But then, there have been shootings just about everywhere in the US. 88 American citizens die every day from gun injuries in “everyday” shootings. We tend to pay attention to the high profile mass shootings because they happen often enough to capture our attention.

In fact, the US has had more mass shootings than any other country over the last 5 decades according to this article:

Nearly one-third of the world’s mass shootings have occurred in the United States, a new study finds. Adam Lankford, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, has released the first quantitative analysis of public mass shootings around the world between 1966 through 2012. Unsurprisingly, the United States came out on top—essentially in a league of its own.

Over those five decades, the United States had 90 public mass shootings, defined as shootings that killed four or more victims. Of the 170 other countries examined in the study, only four even made it to double-digits: The Philippines had 18 public mass shootings, followed by Russia with 15, Yemen with 11, and France with 10.t’s no coincidence that the US has the laxest gun laws and the most guns of any other democratized countries not at war. Connect the dots. This article only addresses mass shootings which, in fact, have taken fewer lives than the “everyday” shootings which result in the loss of 88 Americans a day. No other country can “brag” about something like this.

We are out of balance with the rest of the world and with public safety. It’s no coincidence that the US has more guns, laxer gun laws and more gun deaths and injuries than other democratized countries not at war. Our gun laws are not balanced in favor of public health and safety. There is a fear and paranoia factor fostered by an American out of balance gun culture that has moved us in the direction of rights over responsibilities. There are a certain number of people who believe that there are armed “good guys” with guns who will just take care of any situation presented to them. We should all remember Wayne LaPierre’s now infamous speech after the Sandy Hook school shooting.

In fact, Mike the Gun Guy has written this piece about the American heroes without guns who most likely saved a terrible mass shooting on a train headed to Paris last week. Mike looked into whether armed citizens have stopped mass shootings and here is what he found:

Last year the FBI released a detailed analysis of 160 shootings between 2000 and 2013 in which the gunman killed or wounded multiple victims.  The definition of these events, known as ‘active shootings,’ was that the shooter “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.”  The FBI found that exactly one of these active shootings ended when an armed civilian opened fire with a gun.  But 21 of these shootings came to an end because unarmed civilians intervened.

Want to show me any place that is more confined and populated than a high-speed train?  If that gunman had been able to shoot up the train we’d be hearing nothing but endless “I told you so’s” from the NRA.  But not a word out of them when three young Americans, two of them active military, got the job done without using a gun.  Frankly, the silence is refreshing.

Silence when it comes to allowing young kids to use automatic weapons resulting in the death of a gun instructor. Silence when it comes to the heroism of unarmed citizens in stopping potential shootings or shootings in progress such as the armed Arizona permit holder who realized if he used his gun at the site of the Tucson mass shooting it would have had a bad result. An article in The Trace debunks the idea that an armed citizen can change results during a mass shooting or prevent one from happening:

When a “good guy with a gun” does intervene in an active shooting, things can go terribly awry. On June 8, 2014, an armed couple burst into a CiCi’s Pizza in Las Vegas screaming, “This is the start of a revolution!” They quickly gunned down two police officers eating lunch, and then moved to a nearby Wal-Mart. One customer, a concealed-carry license holder, drew his gun rather than flee, but was immediately shot. As it would turn out, all three of the couple’s victims that day were armed.

Another example: On Jan. 8, 2011, a gunman opened fire on an outdoor meeting between Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents in Tucson, Ariz., killing six and wounding 13. When the killer was forced to reload, he was tackled by a bystander. Having heard the gunshots, an armed man ran to the scene. He saw two men wrestling and assumed the wrong man was the shooter. Had it not been for other bystanders quickly correcting him, he could have ended up shooting the wrong person. Afterwards he stated: “I was very lucky.”

Lucky. Yes. There are a lot of unlucky people in America.

People who own and/or carry their guns everywhere have the responsibility to take care with their guns so others don’t get access to them, or they, themselves don’t “accidentally” discharge them or shoot the wrong person in a crisis.

Sadly, a man who was handling his .22 rifle in his home near Duluth, Minnesota dropped his gun and it discharged, killing him. These kinds of gun deaths are avoidable and senseless. It is amazing to me that this happens so often in our country. Where there are guns, there will be gun injuries and deaths. But why is it that so many otherwise safe and responsible gun owners have problems with accidental discharges? Is it a problem with the design of guns or is it a problem of too little training or is it just the cavalier attitude too many gun owners have towards guns, believing that nothing bad will ever happen to them?

More news of irresponsible gun owners brings us this one- On Sunday, a 4 year old found a gun in the bathroom of a church. Why allow guns in the church in the first place? Kids should not be finding loaded guns in bathrooms but this is not the first time guns have been left in bathrooms as I have written about before here and here. In the last linked article, an officer’s gun was stolen from a bathroom and used in a shooting within hours. And this one is classic. One of Speaker Boehner’s security guards left a gun in a bathroom where a small child found it. There are more where these came from. Leaving a gun in a bathroom or anywhere else, for that matter, is just not the same as leaving a purse or keys or a wallet behind.

How about a young Texas man shooting off a gun from the roof top of an elementary school? The gun was stolen. Make any common sense to you? Everyone was lucky that no one got hurt. Only in America.

On this one year anniversary of the shooting death of a Nevada gun range instructor by a 9 year old girl who was allowed to shoot an automatic weapon, the victim’s family is calling for change to the law:

She further told CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday that their father often schooled them on gun safety when they were younger, telling them “how to be safe with guns, but he never let us fire them because we were too young.”

It’s unreasonable, she said, that children smaller than her little brother are able to handle automatic weapons “that military personnel are trained for weeks to handle.”

“It’s time for a change. We have a voice, and so do you,” the children said on the petition’s website.

“The adults haven’t been able to keep people safe, so it’s time for us to speak up,” 15-year-old Tylor said.

On August 25, 2014, Vacca was teaching the 9-year-old girl how to shoot an Uzi at the Bullets and Burgers shooting range in Arizona. The gun range, which caters to Las Vegas tourists about an hour away, has said on its website that children between the ages of 8 and 17 can shoot if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Guns are dangerous, obviously. 9 year old children should not be allowed at gun ranges, period. This is not the first time something like this has happened with a young child shooting a machine gun. A Massachusetts 8 year old shot one and killed himself with his father standing by. This is serious stuff and totally senseless and avoidable. Where is the balance between rights and responsibilities? Why anyone would think it’s perfectly fine for a young child to shoot off a gun meant for the military is so beyond the scope of common sense that there are hardly words for this wrong-headed practice. The gun lobby should heed the advice of the victim of the Nevada shooting range incident when he taught his children about being safe around guns but didn’t let them shoot them. This cynical promotion of pushing children shooting guns that are clearly not meant for them is all about profits over saving lives. If children are exposed early, they are future customers, as are their parents. Kids and guns just don’t mix. How many times do I write about small children “accidentally” shooting someone when they access a gun?

As always, just as soon as I publish a post, another ridiculous incident gets called to my attention. The school year has barely begun and we have a shooting in a Georgia elementary school. A young student with a gun (where did he get the gun?) allegedly was “playing” with a gun in school and it “accidentally” discharged hitting a female student. I suggest that our priorities are out of balance. This is the definition of insanity. In most shootings like this the gun comes from the child’s home. Where are the “responsible” adults? Were they thinking their rights to have a gun trumped their responsibilities to keep the gun away from a young child?

So what’s the take-away? There are over 300 million guns in circulation in our country. Some are owned by responsible citizens who will never do anything wrong with their guns. They may be used one or two times a year for hunting for example. Or maybe they are used at a shooting range for recreation and used responsibly. But because we have this idea that gun rights trump any responsibilities to make sure the public and our families and communities are safe, this is the situation. The corporate gun lobby is unyielding in its’ stance that no stronger gun laws can pass in Congress and in many states. Gun violence prevention groups only want safer communities and gun safety reform. It’s too important for us not to put our heads together to do the right thing in trying to prevent some of the senseless shootings occurring every day.

Responsible gun owners need to come forward and speak up for common sense gun reform. In all polling data taken for decades we know that the majority of them want stronger gun laws. We should err on the side of saving lives as we move forward towards a balance between rights and responsibilities.

UPDATE:

Sadly I am updating this post to include the shooting death of a 21 month old baby in the St. Louis area:

It is unknown how the child came to be shot. No one is in custody at this time.  Police do not yet know if this was an accident or a homicide.

Last week in the same area a 9 year old girl was shot and killed while sitting inside of her home doing her homework. ( you can read about that one in the linked article). Could things be more out of balance? Where do they get the guns? As I said before, our priorities concerning the role of guns and gun violence are very out of whack. Time to get to work and do something about it. We just have to be better than this.

UPDATE #2:

Wow- I didn’t think I would  be adding to this post. But when a 14 year old West Virginia student holds a classroom hostage with a pistol, it must be talked about. Why? Where did he get the gun? Who is responsible for this boy’s behavior? What is it about kids bringing guns to school? What are we doing wrong? Why are we so out of balance with the rest of the world and with public health and safety? What do the gun rights extremists have to say about this? More silence?

The litany of gun incidents grows by the day

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I came across this article written for the Miami Herald that just blew me away. I don’t even know where to begin. You will have to read this yourself because the article’s author just made a list of the shootings- mostly “accidental” in nature just in his state of Florida in the past month or less. It is downright scary. Guns in the home for self defense are leading to more and more stupid and dangerous behavior often leading to serious injuries or deaths. This is just plain insane.

What does the Florida legislature do about this? They want more guns and looser gun laws. One wonders at what point this litany of the shootings will rise to the level of concern or more importantly, urgency.

How can we continue to ignore reality? Why do the stories keep coming of 2 or 3 year olds accessing their parents’ guns and shooting them off “accidentally”? A 31 year old Alabama father is dead at the hands of his 2 year old. There are no words. Kids and guns don’t mix.

In other news of gun incidents and shootings,  an article in the New York Times highlights the many incidents of shootings and near misses in parks and forest lands all over the country. From the article:

Hiking groups and conservationists say policies that broadly allow shooting and a scarcity of enforcement officers have turned many national forests and millions of Western acres run by the Bureau of Land Management into free-fire zones. People complain about finding shot-up couches and cars deep in forests, or of being pinned down by gunfire where a hiking or biking trail crosses a makeshift target range. (…)

Over the Fourth of July weekend in Pike National Forest in Colorado, a 60-year-old camper preparing to make s’mores with his grandchildren was killed when a stray bullet arced into his campsite. The camper, Glenn Martin, said “ow,” his daughter said, and when his family ran to help him, there was a hole in his shirt and blood pouring from his mouth.

“A war zone,” said Paul Magnuson, who owns a cycle shop in Woodland Park, Colo., and rides mountain bikes in the same forest where Mr. Martin died. His customers have complained about bullets whistling overhead, and Mr. Magnuson said he had gotten used to yelling out to alert target shooters that he was coming. (…) The federal agencies that manage national forests and open lands have tallied a growing number of shooting violations in the backcountry in recent years. The Forest Service recorded 1,712 shooting incidents across the country last year, up about 10 percent from a decade ago. More than a thousand of those reports ended with a warning or citation, but in some, Forest Service officers did not find who had fired or evidence of a violation after investigating a complaint.

Always at the ready to protect the rights of gun owners over public safety, the NRA is encouraging more of this kind of thing in spite of reality. More from the article:

When federal agencies have proposed closing areas to shooting, theNational Rifle Association and other shooting groups have objected, urging members to write letters and attend meetings to keep the land open to guns. The N.R.A. has also supported a bill backed by several congressional Republicans that would tell federal land managers to make sure public lands are open to hunters and people who shoot recreationally.

Public safety be damned. Just make sure people can shoot at targets or hunt wherever they please. Aren’t there just some places where people should not have guns?  It’s bad enough that far too many “responsible” gun owners are leaving their loaded guns out for children to find. But target shooting and hunting in areas where people go to hike, camp and enjoy the quiet of nature just doesn’t make common sense. Why are the rights of people to shoot off their guns everywhere more sacrosanct than the rights of the public to be safe in public places?

And, of course, Congress, at the behest of the corporate gun lobby, attached an amendment to a must pass 2009 credit card bill to allow guns in our national parks. It is now the law. How’s it working out so far? This is the insane gun culture that is leading to a long list of shooting incidents that continues daily. Allowing guns everywhere has clearly not made us safer.

And speaking of being unsafe, a group as described as the “Beverly Hillbillies” in this article, is “protecting” an Oklahoma gun shop from Muslims:

The Muskogee County sheriff said he wasn’t surprised someone had been hurt by the volunteer patrol after watching them work, comparing the patrols to the fictional clan from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“I saw several of those gentlemen out there yesterday,” said Sheriff Charles Pearson. “The way they were holding their weapons, with the fingers on the triggers, you can tell a couple of these gentlemen have no idea about weapons safety. It’s like the Clampetts have come to town.”

One of those volunteers, who claimed to be a combat veteran and would identify himself only as “Eagle One,” disputed the sheriff’s characterization of the volunteers.

“Don’t paint us as ignorant hillbillies,” he said. “We just believe in people’s constitutional rights, and we’re here to make sure they get them.”

The man insisted he held no prejudice against Muslims — despite volunteering to carry a gun to stop Muslims from attempting to do business inside the gun shop.

The problem is, one of these guys dropped his gun and shot himself:

The store was closed Tuesday after the accidental shooting, which the store owner blamed on faulty equipment.

“The gentleman was a close and personal friend of ours, not a guard nor a customer,” the store owner said. “He is a very sweet and dear friend who we consider to be like family. He came over today to help fix a door in my office and as he bent over his weapon fell from a malfunctioning chest holster and went off when it hit the floor.”

You can’t make this stuff up. Where are all of those responsible gun owners?
A sweet and dear friend…” The gun guys “guarding” the gun shop with their loaded weapons are extremists standing across the street from a convenience store where children and family shop. Nice.

There’s been another mass shooting in our country. In Rochester, NY, someone shot at a group of people standing on the street from a car and killed 3, injured 4. This appears to be gang related. The young people were playing basketball at a Boys and Girls Club in efforts to get kids into activities other than violence. One of the victims was someone who worked at the club. The main question here is where do these young people get their guns? Why the violence? It’s a serious problem in our country that we are not dealing with effectively. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s more than just gun violence. No matter which way we look at this, it’s a tragic and senseless loss of life.

In more news, a 12 year old Michigan boy described as “mentally impaired” shot and killed a pregnant woman when he got his grandfather’s shotgun out of his safe and shot through a wall, killing the woman. The woman was sleeping. Just another responsible gun owner. Perhaps that grandfather should have considered whether having any loaded guns around this boy was a good idea. Kids do find ways to get at guns because they are curious and guns are fascinating. Certainly guns are fascinating to a good number of Americans.

Mike the Gun Guy has blogged about this incident wondering what the answer to this serious problem is. If 12 year old “mentally impaired” kids can find the key to a gun safe and shoot off a gun that ends up killing someone, are gun safes the answer? Are locking guns the answer? Will CAP ( Child Access Prevention) laws keep adults from leaving guns around where kids can find them? Or is the answer that we need fewer guns in homes, most especially homes with kids? From the linked blog:

The problem with relying on CAP laws and safe storage is that most unintentional shootings occur not because a little kid grabs a gun, but because the owner or one of his friends does something impulsive or dumb while the gun is being used in a lawful and legal way. In 2013, there were 2,590 unintentional gun injury victims ages 15 to 19, but nearly 2,000 of these victims were 18 years old, which meant that they were lawfully able to use a gun.  The gun accident rate for the 18-19 age group was 22.74, drops to 9.38 for ages 20-35, to 7.82 for ages 35-44 and down to 3.16 for ages 45-54.  This decrease in gun accident rates moving up the age scale is exactly what we find in rates by age bracket for accidents involving cars.

Everyone is in favor of using guns safely; the NRA talks about it all the time. What nobody wants to face, however, is the simple fact that when you have 300 million dangerous weapons floating around, a certain number are going to be used every day in stupid and senseless ways.  If CAP laws and safe storage prevented every unintentional gun injury to children, the overall deaths and injuries would drop by 3 percent.  CAP laws and gun locks are necessary, but they don’t really respond to the fact that 300 million extremely lethal weapons are owned by humans, and at some time or another every one of us will be careless or forget.

Guns are dangerous and deadly weapons designed to kill human beings ( or animals) They should be treated as such. There is a cavalier attitude towards guns amongst a certain population of Americans. Exposing young kids and teens to guns is not necessarily a good idea- particularly to hand guns. Gun safety and gun safety reform are not necessarily the same thing. Teaching kids to use a hunting gun while supervised by an adult to enjoy family recreation is one thing. But we have a different culture about guns now than several decades ago when handguns were more rare in homes and hunting guns were the main type of guns owned by private citizens. What happened to change that? From this article:

Vizzard noted that the gun industry has evolved slowly in recent decades from a “stodgy and conservative” business, which sold mostly rifles and sporting arms, to one that now traffics in paramilitary weapons and handguns. The NRA and the gun industry “have grown closer as the business has changed,” he said.

The intertwining interests of the NRA and the gun industry are also underscored by the gun company executives on the NRA board.

Among the gun industry heavyweights on the 76-seat NRA board are Ronnie Barrett, CEO of Tennessee-based Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, which makes a military-style rifle sold with high-capacity magazines. Pete Brownell, who heads Iowa-based Brownells Inc., another maker of high-capacity magazines, also sits on the NRA board.

These companies and other gun industry giants have ponied up big bucks to the NRA since 2005, according to a list of NRA corporate partners posted at its last convention.

So here we are in 2015, left with a gun culture that is out of control and we are doing nothing about it. We could if we put our minds to it. And there are some things we know that could make a difference. For example, we know that older teens and young adults engage in more risky behavior than other age groups. Car accidents among that group are higher than in other age groups. Drug and alcohol use is high among that age group. We have managed to pass stronger laws about driving while drunk, seat belt laws to keep accident victims safer from injury, and other safety improvements to cars. Attempts to deal with alcohol consumption among young people are ever present.

And yet, we don’t do enough to keep these vulnerable young adults from owning guns and using guns. It is significant that gun accidents are more prevalent among those in the 18-35 year old age bracket and most especially 18-19 year olds. And yet, the gun lobby pushes for lowering the age of owning and carrying guns and also for guns on college campuses where they clearly do not belong. ( see my last blog post).

As I have written before, it is inevitable that with so many guns in circulation and more coming, thanks to the push from the corporate gun lobby, there will be more unintentional and intentional gun deaths. Stronger laws may or may not address this situation. But surely a change to our conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in this country along with some serious discussions about the risks of guns in the home is way overdue.

It’s past time for common sense. The situation will require all hands on deck. So let’s get to work.

Why guns on campus?

backpackStudents will be going back to college or starting college in the next few weeks all over America. The gun lobby wants them to carry guns along with their books, computers and notebooks. Why not? I’m sure there is a backpack meant for gun carrying. Sure enough- here is a site where you can order a “tactical back pack”. And, of course, there are the back packs designed to stop bullets. At this particular website you can also purchase body armor- also handy while walking from class to class. These would all come in handy if you think you are going to be experiencing a lot of gun fire where you go to school. Or if you think you are going to fire back at a shooter, which never really works out so well.

Yes, we all know there are shootings and have been very tragic mass shootings on our college campuses. Mass shootings happen everywhere these days and seem to be on the rise. Churches, military bases, movie theaters, shopping malls, and other public places are also scenes of mass shootings. The answer is not to increase the number of guns everywhere but to decrease them and do a much better job of screening the shooters and making sure all gun sales go through background checks. Our background check system has major flaws as I have written about before. So it is our obligation to fix the system and at least try to stop some of the shooters who commit mass murder or just “everyday” shootings.

The gun lobby keeps trying and sometimes succeeding in getting legislators to believe that people with permits to carry should be allowed to carry on college campuses. Now never mind that the campus leaders, administration and security staff are not clamoring to have guns carried around on their campuses. The public is mostly unaware as these bills often fly below the radar. But the average parent just does not want their young adult children to be exposed to people with guns carried where they are learning and studying and partying, etc. College years are stressful at best for most students. The work load is difficult. Expectations are high. Financial stresses enter in. Dating and romantic involvement can cause a lot of stress. The pressure to drink alcohol and get involved in drugs is always present. Students have a lot on their plates.

So why would someone think introducing loaded guns makes any common sense? This, of course, has nothing to do with common sense. This has to do with improving profits for the gun industry for if a new group of people are allowed to carry guns, a certain number will and then they will get themselves to a gun store and buy a weapon of their choice- a small concealable hand gun. Perfect.

In the last legislative year, many of the guns on campus bills were defeated or didn’t get a hearing. In Florida, a bill was defeated. But it’s back again. This editorial from the Orlando Sentinel opposes the bill and for many good reasons:

Allowing guns on campus would inject deadly weapons into an atmosphere already swirling with academic pressure, romantic rivalries, youthful impetuousness, and alcohol and drugs. What could possibly go wrong?

Supporters of the bills claim guns would make campuses safer because concealed permit holders could defend themselves and others from criminals without having to wait for the police. They cite last year’s shooting at Florida State University, in which a lone gunman wounded three people at the library before police arrived and shot him dead.
But when the bills were considered during the last legislative session, every public university president — including FSU’s John Thrasher — and police chief registered his or her opposition. At a summit this past week organized by the League of Women Voters, Valencia College police chief Paul Rooney, a former Orlando police chief, advised legislators to pay special attention to the opposition from campus law enforcement. “Let’s listen to the folks who know best,” Rooney said.

Inadequately trained young people carrying guns is just a bad idea. And, as the editorial says, students are safer on campus than off when it concerns gun violence.

One of the little addressed problems with allowing loaded guns on campus is suicide. According to NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, college aged students are in an age group prone to certain mental illnesses . Not every one with a mental illness commits suicide of course. And mentally ill people are not necessarily more dangerous with guns than others. But why introduce a deadly weapon into the mix of all of the other things going on with young people in their late teens and early twenties?  We know that guns are more deadly in suicide attempts and are the method most used, especially by young men who are the ones most likely to carry their guns.

And we have new evidence about alcohol use, abuse and guns from this article in The Trace:

Several studies have established the relationship between alcohol abuse and firearm-related crimes. Just as an individual is severely handicapped while operating a car under the influence, these studies found that similar failures in judgment and impulse control manifest during the operation of a firearm. Research shows that the risk of homicide, suicide, and violent death by all causes is significantly elevated with chronic alcohol abuse. Another studyfound a causal relationship between alcohol abuse and “impulsive” crimes such as assault and property damage.

Garen Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, has conducted two recent studies on alcohol use among gun owners and how it might impact their behavior. In 2011, using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — an annual survey of risk-related behaviors conducted by the Centers of Disease Control — for eight states and more than 15,000 respondents, he found that gun owners are significantly more likely than non-firearm owners to have five or more drinks on one occasion, to drink and drive, and have 60 or more drinks per month.

Additionally, in 2015, Wintemute discovered that firearm owners who drink excessively had a history of risky behavior, including higher rates of non-traffic offenses, an overall higher risk of arrest, and greater reported “trouble with the police.” Alcohol abuse, the 2011 study found, also leads to risky behavior with guns: For instance, alcohol intoxication is likely to impair a firearm owner’s “decision-to-shoot” judgment. And while Wintemute didn’t seek a direct link between alcohol abuse and gun violence, he did conclude that of the nearly 400,000 firearm-related deaths between 1997 and 2009, “it is probable that more than a third of these deaths involved alcohol.”

Given the risky behavior of college students and alcohol use, what are legislators thinking? We now want to mix loaded guns into the college scene? Apparently legislators are thinking not much except loyalty and obedience to the corporate gun lobby who line some of the political pockets and unduly influence our elected leaders.

There’s something even more insidious going on here. An article written for the on-line source, The Trace, actually researched the silent and underground movement to get guns onto college campuses and into the hands of young adults. Why have guns on college campuses become so important to a minority of conservatives and gun advocates? It seems they will go to any length to convince the public and elected leaders, including using an editorial piece about a student who was stalked to promote the idea of guns on campus for women.

It is unclear to what extent Fox News knew that the op-ed, which concludes with the line, “If schools and society can’t guarantee my safety and the safety of victims like me, it’s time we have the chance to defend ourselves so we can stop living in fear,” was written by a male pro-gun advocate.

Although the piece carries an editor’s note saying only that Lott “contributed to this article,” according to emails viewed by Buzzfeed, Lott admitted to a Fox News editor, “It was actually easier for me to write this in the first person for her than the way I had originally written it.” In a statement to Buzzfeed, Fox News Executive Vice President and Executive Editor John Moody said FoxNews.com “published what was characterized to us as a first person account of Ms. Woolrich’s experiences.”

Lott promoted the op-ed in a post on the website of his Crime Prevention Research Center under the headline, “Taylor Woolrich’s op-ed at Fox News describes what it is like to be stalked, lots of other media coverage.”

Accompanying the post, Lott wrote, “Taylor Woolrich has a very powerful op-ed at Fox News that starts this way,” before offering an excerpt. The post noted that Woolrich’s story was gaining national media coverage, listing dozens of outlets that had covered the story including Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, and BBC.

Woolrich told Buzzfeed that she “wanted to talk to the media, if it could mean something positive. But I wanted to talk to the media about stalking.” Her interaction with Lott, she said, left her feeling like “an NRA puppet”:

This kind of deception is shameful, stupid and potentially dangerous. The gun lobby uses fear, paranoia and false stories to further it’s own agenda.

The facts about the dangers of loaded guns on our college campuses are too important to be using women to promote the agenda of the gun lobby. John Lott, the man whose previous research and ideas that more guns make us safer has been discredited, is the poster boy for all that is wrong with the American gun culture. Check out this article by Mike the Gun Guy on the subject.

Women are not safer when armed. That is a fallacy. There is absolutely no evidence that points in that direction. Selling guns to women for self protection, however, will increase sales. Women are generally less safe in homes with guns. 

So let’s look at some other important facts. Andy Pelosi of Keep Guns Off Campus provided me with these graphs showing that people are actually safer on campus than off, for the most part. The organization has worked for years to stop the gun lobby from getting legislators to allow guns on our college campuses. So below are some new and interesting graphs showing where students are safe and where they are not.

US total crime rate US vs. private college crime

US vs college crime rates

From these graphs provided to me we can see that overall crime rates are significantly lower on college campuses than off campus. The exception is forcible rape which we can see is higher, for some reason, on private campuses. So would women be safer with a gun, assuming they had a place to carry it, during a forcible on campus rape- or off campus for that matter. There is nothing to suggest they would and they could actually be more at risk.

LaPierre’s proclamation bears the hallmarks of a litany of misconceptions. Gun aficionados often frame the debate in terms of protection, but it is vital to realise that the vast majority of rape and murder victims are not harmed by nefarious strangers, but by people they know, and often love – friends, family members, lovers. Far from protecting people and keeping families safe, the sad truth is that firearms are often used in episodes of domestic violence. The John Hopkins centre for gun policy research has some sobering facts on this; women living in a home with one or more guns were three times more likely to be murdered; for women who had been abused by their partner, their risk of being murdered rose fivefold if the partner owned a gun.

Nor did guns make the women safer; women who purchased guns were 50% more likely to be killed by an intimate partner. So LaPierre’s “good woman with a gun” is actually, it seems, putting herself in danger.

Viewed in this light, the NRA’s insistence that rapes can be prevented with firearms or that teachers should be armed appear even more stupid than they already seemed. It is worth remembering that just as America leads the world in gun ownership, so too does it lead the world in gun homicide, with 11,000 to 12,000 murders committed by firearms each year. The tired old rationalisation that guns protect people is frankly contradicted by the evidence. The inescapable conclusion is that gun ownership makes everyone less safe. The logic the NRA espouses is perverse and transparently self-serving – the solution to gun crimes is not more guns, and no amount of rhetorical dexterity can surmount this fact. If the US is to have a truly honest discussion about its gun culture, it needs to be rooted in fact rather than fantasy, and the sound and fury from the NRA should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

That about sums it up. Common sense should prevail.

Good news about gun reform and gun policy

Good news red stamp
Good news red stamp

Since I have been doing the work I do with gun violence prevention over the last 15 years, I have seen support for expanded background checks and other reasonable gun laws remain strong and almost unchanged. The latest Pew Research Center poll shows that the majority of Americans on all sides of the issue and political persuasion continue to support measures they know will reduce shootings and gun violence:

Two years after the failure of Senate legislation to expand background checks on gun purchases, the public continues to overwhelmingly support making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks. Currently, 85% of Americans – including large majorities of Democrats (88%) and Republicans (79%) – favor expanded background checks, little changed from May 2013 (81%). (…)

Nearly eight-in-ten (79%) favor laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns, 70% back the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales, while a smaller majority (57%) supports a ban on assault-style weapons.

Almost identical shares of Republicans (81%) and Democrats (79%) support laws to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns. But other proposals are more divisive: 85% of Democrats favor creation of a database for the federal government to track gun sales, compared with 55% of Republicans. And while 70% of Democrats back an assault-weapons ban, only about half of Republicans (48%) favor this proposal. (…)

While there is broad support for several specific gun policy proposals – and opinion on these measures has not changed significantly since 2013 – the public continues to be more evenly divided in fundamental attitudes about whether it is more important to control gun ownership or to protect the right of Americans to own guns.

Currently, 50% say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 47% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns.

Let’s be clear. Our politicians are not listening to the majority because too many of them are in the deep pockets of the corporate gun lobby. The influence of a minority has a hold on policies that could save lives. The right of Americans to own guns will not be affected by expanded background checks. Only Americans who should not have guns in the first place will be affected by such a law. In states and in countries that have strong gun laws, fewer people are dying from gunshot injuries. There is unmistakable evidence that this is true.

But the gun lobby doesn’t like evidence or research because it mostly does not come down on their side of this hyperbolic and controversial issue. Never mind the gun lobby. Research is happening anyway and there is nothing they can do to stop it when it comes from a place they can’t control or de-fund.

The gun lobby would love the American public to believe that they are having a lot of success and the rest of us aren’t. Some pretty big wins have come on the side of gun safety reform. Laws to keep guns from domestic abusers have now passed in 18 states since 2013. Other gun safety reform bills are highlighted at the link above from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. According to the Law Center, 18 states have passed some form of background checks for private gun sales. Expanded background check laws were recently passed in Oregon and Washington state with others in the works.

Another bit of good news about gun laws and research comes from the city of Seattle where a law was passed to tax ammunition and weapons sales with the proceeds to go to research about gun violence and prevention. This article from The Trace goes into more detail. From the article:

e Seattle City Council voted Monday to tax firearm and ammunition sales to fund research and prevention programs aimed at gun violence reduction. One initiative that local officials say the sales tax could fund is an “intervention” program under development at the city’s Harborview Medical Center, where patients admitted for gunshot wounds are far more likely to be rehospitalized for another gun injury, commit a crime, or end up murdered, according to a 2014 study by the hospital.

While many public health experts have singled out trauma wards as places to intervene in the cycle of urban violence, the proposed Harborview model borrows heavily from methods generally used in areas other than gun violence prevention. For instance, instead of losing contact with patients once they leave the hospital, as is normally the case, trauma center physicians and social workers would stay in communication with victims of gun violence, mimicking treatment services for those dealing with alcohol or substance abuse. The program was developed by University of Washington academics and physicians in 2014, and is expected to launch later this year.

It is worth studying to see if this kind of model could be duplicated in other hospitals in large urban areas where many young people with gunshot injuries are treated. If lives can be saved and we can reduce the financial, emotional and physical costs to gun violence as a result, it is a win-win. More from the article:

Although both alcohol abuse and gun violence are examples of risky, dangerous behaviors, the social workers and physicians at Harborview acknowledge there is no evidence the hospital’s approach will work. There is no research that shows substance-abuse treatment methods can be effective when applied to gun violence victims, and ultimately reduce violent crime. Harborview will produce a study of its work, which will be the first of its kind.

“It’s important to note that we want to test this,” Haggerty says. “We’re not assuming that just because [substance-abuse treatment programs] are strong models that they’ll be effective in this case.”

The 2004 study of Youth ALIVE! and Caught in the Crossfire revealed some limitations to hospital-based counseling as a means of limiting gun violence. While arrests declined dramatically for those young people in the program, researchers found they were no less likely to be reinjured.

How will Harborview know if it works?

Much the same way it judged the success of its alcohol-intervention initiative: If the people receiving the treatment show a decline in frequency of hospitalization, arrest, or death. Caseworkers will also rely on participants to report on their health and mental status along with whether they avoid guns after receiving services.

Research and studies are important tools to be used for the benefit of all. Gun violence is a public health issue and ought to be studied just like other issues related to public health such as smoking, or drunk driving or alcohol abuse. Health care providers are interested in the social determinants that affect the health of patients. Shootings and gun violence interfere with healthy communities and citizens.

California is getting things done with gun safety reform as well. The city of Los Angeles just passed a law banning high capacity magazine sales:

“People who want to defend their families don’t need a 100-round drum magazine and an automatic weapon to do it,” said Krekorian, who championed the ban at a rally Tuesday outside City Hall. But if someone wanted to do harm, Krekorian added, “imagine what a gunman on this sidewalk could do with that kind of firepower with a crowd like this.”

Los Angeles lawmakers first sought to draft such rules more than two years ago. Survivors of gun violence lamented that it had taken so long for the council to press forward with the ban and urged lawmakers to act. Among them were Ruett and Rhonda Foster, whose 7-year-old son, Evan, was killed 18 years ago when a gunman fired scores of bullets at a local park, peppering their car with more than a dozen shots.

If their attacker could not fire so many bullets before reloading, “Evan might still be here today,” Ruett Foster told the council on Tuesday.

Naturally the gun lobby objects and threatened to sue over the law. They don’t like the laws on the books when they are not the laws they didn’t get to write and therefore influence the decisions made by the lawmakers. But in California, the gun lobby doesn’t have the influence it has in other states. More from the article:

The Los Angeles ordinance is modeled on rules adopted in San Francisco and Sunnyvale that have so far survived legal challenges. Leftwich, from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, assured the council it was on “firm legal ground.” But Barvir, whose firm represents gun rights groups, said the legal battles are not over and clients are considering litigation over the L.A. rules.

Another article from The Trace wrote about why California is so successful at getting common sense gun laws passed. From the article:

California has long been proactive — or, perhaps more accurately, swiftly reactive — in its responses to headline-generating acts of gun violence. “Our Sandy Hook event, if you will, was the Stockton School Yard shooting in 1989,” says Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chair for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s California chapters. The shooting, which left five dead at an elementary school, spurred a host of legislative activity, according to Wilcox. Today, the state has universal background checks for all gun purchases (including those at gun shows), a 10-day waiting period for purchases, and an assault weapons ban.

The Golden State has a great deal of leeway to pursue stricter policies, in part because gun-rights organizations like the NRA struggle to project power on the West Coast. Democratic majorities dominate legislatures at the state and local levels, and even California-based gun-rights advocacy groups have difficulty passing legislation. “In California, [gun rights groups] aren’t able to move their own bills,” says Wilcox. Meanwhile, the state is home to a number of large urban centers, which generally favor tighter gun restrictions. “It’s demographics,” says Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California Los Angeles. “There’s political leanings, concerns about crime in urban areas, and issues related to very high support for gun control among minority communities.”

These are issues in other states as well but consider the political atmosphere in California- a blue state where we already see that Democrats in general are more supportive of stronger gun laws than Republicans who dominate the politics in red states. It’s no coincidence that California’s rate of gun deaths is smaller than most other states.

So in the midst of a spike of mass shootings and shootings on the increase, we can look to some of this good news and know that resistance to passing common sense gun laws is misguided. We can look to the models of what some cities and states are doing and use those models for passing laws all over the country that will make a difference in saving lives.

This is not gun rights versus gun safety reform. It’s life versus death. It’s reason versus fear and paranoia. It’s fact based decision making and it’s what the majority wants. So let’s get to work and make it happen all over America.