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.


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.


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?