Snowplows, guns and other gun nonsense

snow_ploughIt’s been another interesting week in the world of guns and gun violence, as always. Several days ago I wrote about a New Jersey woman who asked some friends to shoot a neighbor who temporarily borrowed a shovel to help another neighbor. I wrote about it because you can’t make this stuff up. It’s happening in communities all over our country and soon to come to your own community if it has not already.

Apparently snow and cold are causing some gun owners to leave all common sense behind in their anger or while under the influence of alcohol. Neither of these goes together well with holding a loaded gun.

Take this one for example when a Massachusetts when a man driving while drunk and loaded, fired off shots at a snowplow that annoyed him:

A Massachusetts man apparently got frustrated while driving behind a snow plow and opened fire.

Bruce O’Brien was arrested after firing his gun three times while driving in Plymouth during a snowstorm about 7 p.m. Saturday, reported The Manomet Current.

Police said the 60-year-old O’Brien was driving drunk when he fired the shots.

None of the shots hit any cars or homes, and police aren’t sure whether the Whitman man was shooting at the snow plow.

I get the frustration of driving behind a snowplow since I live in Northern Minnesota. But I also get the “rules of engagement” when following a snowplow on a street or freeway. And one of them is not to get out a gun and start shooting bullets.

I think I posted about the good samaritan in North Carolina who was shot and killed by a drunk and loaded guy in the recent east coast snowstorm:

The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office says a 27-year-old Good Samaritan was shot and killed yesterday by a man he stopped to help.

The victim has been identified as 27-year-old Jefferson Heavner of Newton.

Investigators say the suspect, Marvin Jacob Lee, has been charged with first-degree murder and will appear in a Catawba County court on Monday. The sheriff’s office says Lee was drunk when he ran his vehicle off the side of Mathis Church Road during the snowstorm on Friday afternoon.

A group of people stopped to help Lee, including Heavner.

Investigators say that when Lee became aware that Heavner was going to call police for help, Lee got out of his vehicle and fired his gun, killing Heavner. Lee then got back in his vehicle and a standoff ensued until a SWAT team finally got Lee out of the truck and arrested him.

Making any more comments about these senseless shootings seems senseless. It’s what we’ve come to in America. When more people are armed, more people will be shot and more stupid and dangerous incidents will happen with guns. It’s just the way it is but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Steps are being taken to make us safer from people who shouldn’t have guns. President Obama has changed the conversation with his Executive Orders announced several weeks ago.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Facebook has announced that it will not allow guns to be sold peer to peer on its’ platform. Why? Most, if not all of these guns, go without Brady background checks. That’s simply a bad idea. The President’s new executive orders will beef up monitoring of on-line gun sales. A Kentucky teen purchased a gun through a Facebook gun sale meeting place was someone who could not legally purchase a gun from a licensed dealer. 

In 2014, several gun safety reform groups worked to get Facebook to change its’ policy regarding sales of guns. At that time some changes were made but they did not go far enough because private gun sales were still allowed with no background checks. But as of this past week, that has changed.

But never mind, the gun rights extremists are trying to claim this is against their second amendment rights. These guys are just plain confused and wrong. But the corporate gun lobby has convinced them that anything that makes common sense concerning gun policy and gun laws is violating their “God given” rights.  A simple explanation was offered for why they are wrong in this article written by a lawyer:

Predictably, after the announcement, the “Obummer is coming for my guns”/”Molon Labe”/”Come and Take it” crowd immediately started throwing a hissy fit about their 2nd Amendment rights (if you need proof, head over to any right wing Facebook page and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands of comments regarding Facebook “violating people’s 2nd Amendment rights”). The problem however, is that these statement are entirely incorrect, because the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply in this situation. So clearly, these people either skipped the day in civics class where they were taught about  the state action doctrine and therefore clearly (and laughably) don’t seem to realize the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply, or worse they simply just don’t seem to care that their understanding of the Constitution is flawed at best, and flat out incorrect at worst. Maybe it’s time for a remedial lesson?

Now, we seriously should not have to go over this concept every damn time something along these lines occurs, but unfortunately, here we go again. The reason the 2nd Amendment does not apply in this situation, is because Facebook is a private company; Facebook is not the government. Therefore, if Facebook decides to ban private gun sales on its social media platform, Facebook has every right to do so; and not only is Facebook not violating anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights, the 2nd Amendment isn’t implicated.

Stand down everyone. Obama is not coming for your guns and neither is the government. Facebook has sensibly decided on a policy that they have a right to decide given that they are a private company. I thought these were the guys who love individual liberty, less government and private industry. Go figure.

In other good news, the Brady Campaign has been working to repeal the PLCAA law that has allowed the gun industry protection from law suits that no other industry enjoys. There was a victory this week when repeal legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate and several Brady activists walked into Sen. Bernie Sanders’ office to talk to staff about the repeal bill. Several hours after these folks visited with Sanders’ staff, the Brady Campaign got a call saying that Sen. Sanders would sign on to the legislation to repeal the law he voted in favor of in 2005. From the article:

According to a release from the Brady Campaign, Sanders will co-sponsor the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers in lawsuits involving shootings. Sanders had voted in favor of the protections while in the Senate and has up to this point resisted reversing course on the issue.

The Brady Campaign says that Sanders decided to support the legislation “hours after meeting with Brady activists,” and that his staff also met with victims of gun violence.

For Sanders, it’s all an effort to undo the damage of a 2005 vote for a bill that protected gun manufacturers from lawsuits when their firearms are used in crimes. Then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton opposed that bill, and has repeatedly pointed to Sanders’ vote as evidence he was aligned with the National Rifle Association.

This is what change and activism looks like. This is what happens when the majority of Americans are fed up with being snowed by the corporate gun lobby blizzard of #badideas and leaves us and victims and survivors out in the cold. This time around, the discussion about the causes and effects of gun violence is heating up in the Presidential election.

Change is in the air. We can shed the light of day on the politicians who have bowed down to the corporate gun lobby for fear of their mythical power. Gun rights extremists are a minority of Americans and even gun owners who have held sway for far too long. We have had #Enough. Let’s get to work.

What price guns and gun violence?

Rendered image of Dollar sign crumbling

There is a price ( in dollars) for getting a permit to carry a gun around in public as well there should be. It varies from state to state. The laws passed do require law enforcement and agencies to spend time and do the paperwork to allow people to carry their weapons around on our streets. Thus people pay for their permits. And training classes are offered, at least in Minnesota, by people who are in the business of providing the mandated training. Thus people pay for the training.

In my state of Minnesota, the cost for a permit from local law enforcement is $100. And then the cost of taking a class to get the required training is $99 plus an added cost to go to the gun range which is the business of providing a place for people to practice their shooting skills or just go to enjoy shooting their guns.

Take a look at this “grabagun” online gun site to see the general cost of a handgun. It looks like about $400-$500 for one of these. Assault type rifles are more expensive starting at around $800 and much more for some depending on accessories. And then there is the ammunition which can also be quite expensive. On this site, you can “shoot now and pay later” in order to finance your purchase of a firearm. This site does require the firearms to go to a federally licensed firearms dealer near the buyer where a Brady background check will be conducted for another $10-$30 or so. We all know that private buyers who don’t go through a licensed seller don’t pay that fee.

I found this site which attempts to summarize the cost of buying and owning guns. It is not cheap to get involved with shooting sports. But then, it’s not cheap to get involved in running, hockey, skiing, biking and all of the other things that people do for recreation and sport. It’s not cheap to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol or do drugs. The difference being, of course, that firearms are designed to kill or harm another human being or animal ( if used for hunting).

As an aside I would like to point out that we are at the least attempting to cut the costs and the harm,, injury , health care costs and liability from most of the other things I listed above. Not so much with guns and shootings.

And the cost in dollars to our country for gun violence, according to this Mother Jones article? $299 billion:

And solving a crisis, as any expert will tell you, begins with data. That’s why the US government over the years has assessed the broad economic toll of a variety of major problems. Take motor vehicle crashes: Using statistical models to estimate a range of costs both tangible and more abstract—from property damage and traffic congestion to physical pain and lost quality of life—the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a 300-page studyestimating the “total value of societal harm” from this problem in 2010 at $871 billion. Similar research has been produced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the impact of air pollution, by the Department of Health and Human Services on the costs of domestic violence, and so on. But the government has mostly been mute on the economic toll of gun violence. HHS has assessed firearm-related hospitalizations, but its data is incomplete because some states don’t require hospitals to track gunshot injuries among the larger pool of patients treated for open wounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also periodically made estimates using hospital data, but based on narrow sample sizes and covering only the medical and lost-work costs of gun victims.

Why the lack of solid data? A prime reason is that the National Rifle Association and other influential gun rights advocates have long pressured political leaders to shut down research related to firearms. (…)

In collaboration with Miller, Mother Jones crunched data from 2012 and found that the annual cost of gun violence in America exceeds $229 billion. Direct costs account for $8.6 billion—including long-term prison costs for people who commit assault and homicide using guns, which at $5.2 billion a year is the largest direct expense. Even before accounting for the more intangible costs of the violence, in other words, the average cost to taxpayers for a single gun homicide in America is nearly $400,000. And we pay for 32 of them every single day.

Indirect costs amount to at least $221 billion, about $169 billion of which comes from what researchers consider to be the impact on victims’ quality of life. Victims’ lost wages, which account for $49 billion annually, are the other major factor. Miller’s calculation for indirect costs, based on jury awards, values the average “statistical life” harmed by gun violence at about $6.2 million. That’s toward the lower end of the range for this analytical method, which is used widely by industry and government. (The EPA, for example, currently values a statistical life at $7.9 million, and the DOT uses $9.2 million.)

In Arizona, if one legislator gets his way, those who want a permit to carry will be paid by the state to get one. Yes. You read that right. From the article:

Saying it promotes safety, the No. 2 House Republican wants the state to pay for Arizonans to get licensed to carry concealed weapons.

The proposal by House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, would provide a dollar-for-dollar credit against state income taxes owed for the cost of training to get a CCW permit, up to $80. Put simply, any Arizonan who gets a permit could deduct that much from what he or she owes the state.

And if that person owes less than $80 at tax time, the difference would carry forward, reducing future tax liability.

Arizona law allows any adult to carry a concealed weapon.

I suppose we could also pay for drivers’ licenses and license plates and tabs as well. Why not? Would that promote citizens’ safety? And what, again, would this cost the state of Arizona? But never mind common sense because…….rights. This idea is so ludicrous that one wonders why it has even been floated. But then, the big gun lobby is always floating bills and ideas that will work to make our communities less safe. When profit comes before saving lives, this is what happens.

The cost of owning guns and getting a permit to carry is not cheap. And the cost to citizens in lost lives and the many other costs associated with shootings is also very high. Balancing rights with the rights of all of us to be safer in our communities is rarely part of the conversation we need to be having here. The public health approach and research would do a lot to advance the discussion in a way that would get people more on the same page. I think we can all agree that on one wants to be shot or to shoot someone else or to lose a loved one to bullets. It’s how we get there that leaves us with the gap in our thinking.

We can do better than this. A recent opinion piece in the Star Tribune asks us to do just that and the responses today mostly agree- even a gun permit holder. From the opinion piece:

Apples and oranges — comparing smoking to guns? (One is a choice, and the other is a “right,” protected by the Second Amendment.) No, not really; it’s about mind-sets. Because, taking that page out of the nonsmokers’ guide, even adults with “rights” can no longer smoke on an airplane or at church or in hospitals. Shopping malls have designated areas for smoking. That’s all because of the — wait for it — common good.

A person cannot smoke on school grounds, but in 18 states adults can legally carry guns onto school property — not to mention the likelihood that students illegally bring guns into schools. And there is no smoking in most religious institutions, and many have “no guns” signs posted, yet, let’s all pray that handgun is locked when it hits the floor or falls out of a purse. Or becomes an item to be investigated by a curious child.

We’ve managed to get a lot done when we’ve united for the health of all Americans. We took on the big tobacco companies. Clean indoor air is an example of what we can do when we put the common good ahead of the “wants” of a few. The National Rifle Association (NRA) wants more guns available and accessible; it “wants” less regulation and oversight. Bigger, faster and better weapons, more rounds. I and many people like me just want an end to the violence. I want lockdowns in classrooms to become obsolete.

You want a smoke? There is a time and a place for it, just as there is a time and a place for guns: at shooting ranges, at clay targets or tin cans on fence posts in the middle of nowhere, and during long-held family traditions of hunting.

So what can we all do to take the violence out of the guns? We desperately need to curb the “you can’t make me” attitude.” The “come and get it” grandstanding. (Thank you, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and how much good did that little tantrum do? Another donation from the NRA?) That type of divisive rhetoric is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Gun owners and gun safety advocates should be able to sit down together, to look for reasonable compromises to end gun violence without resorting to name-calling and intimidation. I think we can agree to disagree on some issues; however, children shooting children is unacceptable. This is about the common good.

Where does the common good trump rights? It’s a good question. When 33,000+ Americans die yearly from gunshot injuries, something needs to be done. When children are shooting each other and themselves weekly or more, something needs to be done. When women and children are at risk for domestic shootings daily, we have a problem that needs addressing. What we are doing now is clearly not working. When young men of color are affected daily by gun deaths and injuries and have easy access to guns, something needs to be done. When the majority of gun deaths are because of suicides, something has to be done.

It’s past time to change the way we deal with gun safety and gun violence. We’ve had #enough. Let’s get to work.

 

Guns and shovels

ShovelUnless you have been living under a rock, you know about the snow storm that hit the east coast last week-end. Millions of people were left to clear snow from their sidewalks and hope the plow didn’t come by while they were clearing snow from their cars. As a northern Minnesota person, I know about this. Shoveling is back breaking.

Once, many years ago, we got stuck on the remote Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais, Minnesota. during an unexpected snow storm. We went to cross country ski and enjoy my parents’ small cabin on a remote lake near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It was a great get-away from our (then) small daughter who was left behind with her grandma. But when the time came to go home, we faced some difficult driving conditions and the snow was drifted up on the cabin road where a long lake abutted the road. We got stuck in a snow drift and did not have a shovel. There happened to be a rustic home around the corner and so we walked there and knocked on the door. No one was home and we noticed a shovel outside of the front door.

So we took the shovel to get out of that drift and intended to bring it back to the house. But the driving was so bad that we had to drive a ways down the road and keep going. we hoped the owners would find the shovel standing up on the side of the road where we left it. I have a vivid memory of that trip.

But now, I guess “borrowing” a shovel can be dangerous as it was for this man in New Jersey after the snow storm. From the article:

Newark police say a man told them he found the shovel on the sidewalk on Sunday and was using it to clear an elderly neighbor’s walkway after a major snowstorm when the woman accused him of stealing her shovel.

The man returned the shovel. He was later walking when he said he was approached by the woman and several males and one of the males shot him in the buttocks on orders from the woman.

So why in the world would using a shovel to clear someone’s driveway promote the anger that this woman felt? Without that gun, what would have happened instead? No one would have been shot and injured for sure. Maybe an argument. Guns make arguments dangerous. And where are the “law abiding” gun owners who are responsible with their loaded guns? Is there enough common sense out there for gun owners like this woman to restrain themselves and put the gun away? If you read this blog, you know how often I write about incidents like this one.

Why should we have incidents like this one? We shouldn’t, period. When a gun is available and easily accessible it may be used to harm someone. What is it about the risk of loaded guns that some “law abiding” gun owners don’t understand? Have they been led to believe that a loaded gun will protect them from shadows and terrorists lurking in every corner so their fear causes them to stop thinking about a gun as a deadly weapon designed to kill someone? Or do they think it’s simply OK to shoot someone if they insult you or borrow something or have too much to drink and lose judgement? It’s really hard to wrap one’s head around this lunacy. As long as some people buy the ideas of the corporate gun lobby we will continue to read about these stupid and dangerous incidents in our media.

We have had #enough of this. It’s time to change that conversation about guns and gun violence and get to work to do something sensible about it. There are just plain no excuses for this kind of behavior. Let’s get to work.

 

An inconvenient truth-Minnesotans and the country want background checks

inconvenientThere is an inconvenient truth about guns and elected leaders. The burden of lack of common sense gun laws is borne by the victims and survivors and their families and friends. It is borne by our communities and our children. It is inconvenient to bury a loved one whose life was taken suddenly and violently from senseless gun violence.

Though the Minnesota legislature has turned down many opportunities to pass a law requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales, Minnesotans have said consistently that they want this law. A new poll by the Star Tribune showed 82% support for such a law. And yes, even gun owners want this to happen. The usual is the case in this poll:

That’s according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, which found 82-percent support for criminal background checks on all gun sales including in private transactions and at gun shows. The overwhelming majority support extends across gender, income and political party lines, and to every part of the state, with even 78 percent of residents outside the Twin Cities expressing support.

Whether such laws would actually reduce mass shootings produced far less certainty. Only 15 percent felt it would help “a lot,” while 45 percent expected it to help “not much” or “not at all.” Those results also split much more along gender and party lines, with a majority of both men and Republicans thinking it would make little or no difference. Women and Democrats were more likely to think it would.

Men and Republicans. Hmm. Who is mostly in charge of the Minnesota legislature? Yup.

Whether or not Brady background checks on all gun sales would stop mass shootings seems open to debate. And background checks will not, of course, stop all shootings. But a one woman polled said, “How can it hurt?” Indeed. Why we don’t at least try is the question that needs to be asked. The fact that we don’t tells us who is in control and it’s not the majority of Minnesotans. It is time for our leaders to bear the burden of lack of action and do the right thing.

It’s significant to note that even rural Minnesotans want Brady background checks. The comment from one of the gun owners polled was consistent with those who don’t want background checks for fear that they can’t sell a gun to their brother without doing a background check. One thing to consider is that we have to hope that the person selling is not a domestic abuser who got his/her gun without a background check from another private seller. This is one way that guns get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. How often are relatives involved in providing guns to others? That is a question that should be asked and answered. But further, most background check laws exempt those who buy from and sell to close relatives. But let’s hope that those who do this make darned sure the relative is a responsible gun owner who doesn’t intend harm to others.

So this poll is not a surprise. But it must be a surprise to our legislators that their constituents want them to do the right thing. Or is it? Many of them turn their backs on common sense and vote with the corporate gun lobby instead. I believe they understand that they could do the right thing but they are afraid to stand up to the din of the corporate gun lobbyists who park themselves in their offices. This is not acceptable any more. The gun issue is one of the main issues of the Presidential election and should be one of the main issues for down ballot races as well.

We need to make it an issue. It is up to us to ask our elected officials if they will vote with the majority of their constituents and pass laws that will keep us safer from shootings. There is no reason not to vote in favor of a law that could save lives.

And speaking of polls, Presidential candidate Donald Trump has claimed that his polling shows strong enough support for him that he could step outside on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and no one would care. Really Donald Trump? This kind of rhetoric fans the flames of violent solutions and the gun lobby’s mantra that guns make us all safer and that everyone should carry one. And yes, we would care if you actually shot someone on the streets of New York City even though some of your supporters in the room where you made that statement laughed. Did they laugh because they didn’t dare not? Did they laugh because they were nervous about what you just said? Did they laugh because they actually believed that you could shoot someone and get away with it because you are Donald Trump and they think you should be the leader of the free world? Just imagine this rhetoric coming from the President of the United States.

This kind of offensive rhetoric is an example of how far politicians will go to gain the favor of a small minority of Americans who resist all efforts to keep our communities safe from gun violence. The NRA’s numbers show an increasing drop in their claimed membership according to this article from The Trace:

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) New York state financial disclosure forms for 2014 are now online, and like past years’ tax filings, the documents provide a rare glimpse at the organization’s inner machinery. The group’s total revenues fell from more than $347 million in 2013 to roughly $310 million. Contributing to the decline was a drop in income collected from its members. Revenue from annual dues fell from $175 million to $128 million in 2014, a drop of 27 percent.

The precise size of NRA’s membership — the core of the group’s perceived political muscle — has long been a mystery. In January 2013, Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre boasted before Congress that he served 4.5 million members. Speaking at an NRA convention a few months later, he upped that figure to 5 million. On January 5, in a statement responding to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on guns, the group described itself as “more than 5 million members strong.”

But the truth of those numbers is a matter of debate — the NRA has never allowed an outside party to authenticate its membership, and independent estimates predict a much smaller number. Circulation audits of American Rifleman and other NRA-published magazines that are sent to every member come in at around 3 million. One former board membertold the Washington Post in 1998 that when the NRA counts its size, it includes many deceased lifetime members.

I have written about this before. I know people who have dropped their memberships. I know people who get cards from the NRA enrolling them in their membership. One of my friends is a lifetime member of the NRA because her father bought her a membership when she was a child. She does own a gun but she is working hard alongside gun violence prevention groups in Minnesota to pass reasonable laws. I have a friend who likes to shoot guns at a local gun club. In order to join this club, he has to also join the NRA. He does not believe in what the NRA does and supports my efforts to pass common sense gun laws.

The inconvenient truth is that most Americans want their leaders to pass stronger gun laws and enforce the laws we have. This has been consistently shown in national and state polling for many years now. Even gun owners want reasonable gun laws.

So what are we waiting for? We are waiting for our leaders to get out from under the thumb of what was once a more powerful gun lobby. They are not your father’s or grandfather’s gun safety organizations any more. They are in existence to protect their own perceived power and the profits of the gun industry it represents.

The gun lobby doesn’t want us to know how easy it is for prohibited people to get access to guns. They don’t want us to know how easy it is for kids and teens to access the guns that are used in “accidental” shootings and suicides. 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are due to suicide. In states that have required background checks on all gun sales, suicides have decreased as have domestic shootings. The proof is in the numbers and the inconvenient truth.

They don’t want us to know that American service members are shooting themselves on a regular basis. They don’t want us to talk about how easy it is to get a gun on internet sites. They don’t want us to know about the 89 Americans who die every day from gunshot injuries.

This is an inconvenient truth. But the public is way ahead of their leaders. It’s time for our leaders to catch up to reality and stop being afraid of the bully in the room. It’s time for us all to raise our collective voices and demand that something be done. That time is coming in Minnesota and all over our country where the majority has had #Enough. 

Where do the guns come from?

68-per-cent-slide
From the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence

Every day there are shootings in the homes of Americans all over the country. Some of them make the news, some don’t. Many are suicides which don’t often make the news but sometimes found in an obituary in a local paper not listing a cause of death. Many are domestic shootings that are arguments or disagreements about a separation that end in death. Some are children who find a gun and accidentally shoot someone in the home- a friend, a relative or him or herself. These do make the news.

Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, there are places where we can find out the truth about how often guns are used by children and teens and by lawful gun owners in “accidental” gun discharges. For example, in the AccidentsHappenGunsKill blog, 2 incidents were reported just today. One was a 3 year old New Orleans child who was shot and killed when the gun of his grandmother, a security guard, sleeping with a gun under a pillow, “accidentally” discharged.

Most gun owners are responsible with their guns. Many, but not all, lock their guns in safes away from the ammunition, where they are hopefully safe from small hands, teens, vulnerable adults and thieves. That’s all good. My last post was about gun safety. 

We know that teens cannot legally purchase guns. But sometimes parents give their teens guns for hunting or other purposes. They may think that teaching them about gun safety will make everyone safer. This is not always the case. A story that ran in the Star Tribune today highlighted the release of a Waseca, Minnesota teen from a prison facility for having plotted a school shooting and bombing after first killing his family. From this article:

If La­Due goes home, his par­ents have agreed to re­move any fire­arms from the house and deny him Web ac­cess. La­Due also could not leave the house ex­cept for authorized ap­point­ments.(…)

Police found La­Due in a Waseca stor­age lock­er in April 2014 af­ter a cit­i­zen saw him en­ter it sus­pi­cious­ly. He told auth­ori­ties of his plans to shoot his fam­i­ly, set a fire in the coun­try­side to dis­tract em­er­gen­cy of­fi­cials, and go to school with pres­sure-cook­er bombs and guns to kill as many peo­ple as he could.

Auth­ori­ties who searched the lock­er and the boy’s bed­room had said they con­fis­cated chemi­cals, sev­er­al guns, am­mu­ni­tion and a few com­pleted ex­plo­sives. Officers con­clud­ed that he in­tend­ed to car­ry out the mas­sa­cre with­in a week or two.

The case has raised ques­tions about what to do with the teen, who had plot­ted but nev­er hurt any­one. His par­ents have said they be­lieve he nev­er would have car­ried out the plan.

I have sympathy for this family. It has to be one of the worst things that could have happened short of the actual attack their son was planning. But parents need to realize that these things actually have and do happen in our country. The story does not mention where the teen got his guns nor any charges against anyone for the fact that this boy was in possession of the guns that he was going to use to carry out this attack.

This peaked my interest about how this boy got his guns and I had forgotten that, of course, the guns were given to him by his parents. Except for one, an SKS, that he got by forging his Dad’s signature and apparently bought it from a friend’s father.The majority of guns used by teens in school shootings come from their own homes and their parents. This report from the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence, The Truth About Kids and Guns, reveals what is true but rarely spoken out loud, and most especially by the corporate gun lobby. In fact, 2/3 of the guns used in school shootings come from the homes of the shooters. Even if the teen doesn’t have their own guns stored in their bedroom as did the Waseca teen, teens and children know where the guns are in their homes. My own adult kids have told me that they knew where my husband’s hunting guns were stored even though we had not discussed this nor showed them.

(As an aside, most guns used in mass shootings are legally purchased.)

The big and very serious question here is where is the responsibility of the adults in the room? This story from CNN profiles this teen whose heroes were the Columbine school shooters and the Boston Marathon bombers. From the story:

He purchased a black duster jacket so he could dress like Harris. “Kinda want to pay tribute to him,” he would later tell police. He hoped to time his attack to the Columbine anniversary, in honor of his idol.

He’d studied the Boston Marathon bombers. He thought their attack weak because they killed just three.

He planned to fill two pressure cookers with 6,000 ball bearings, as well as buckshot and screws. Each bomb would have cans of WD-40 strapped to it to magnify the blast. He would use flash powder, instead of black powder, to create a more powerful explosion than the ones in Boston.

John LaDue enjoyed playing the guitar before his arrest.

He believed Adam Lanza was a coward for killing first-graders. “I wanted to target people in my grade who I knew.”

He named five students at his high school who he wanted to kill for specific reasons. Two were classmates who talked too much in German class and “got annoying.” A third called him queer on the school bus in seventh grade. He also would target the school resource officer.

So meticulous was his plan that LaDue told authorities he chose a bolt-action Soviet-style SKS rifle to use in the attack — a weapon without a large magazine like Lanza’s AR-15 or other semi-automatic rifles used in shooting sprees.

That way, he said, people lobbying for gun restrictions after his attack would have a weaker argument. “I kinda wanted to prove that wrong.”

The Columbine mass school shooting continues to cast a long shadow in our country. Other teens admire the shooters of the first mass school shooting in a K-12 school in our country that is still a marker for the others that followed.

And so today we have teens plotting similar attacks. And we have teens with access to guns they should not have. More from the article:

Police found seven guns in John’s bedroom: two near his bed and five in a safe in his closet. All but one of the guns belonged to his father.

David had taught both his children how to hunt and took them to gun safety courses. He trusted his son with guns to protect the family while he worked the overnight shift at a steel plant.

He had no idea that John had purchased a gun; he got it through a friend’s dad by forging his own father’s signature.

John’s sister, Valerie, knew about her brother’s fascination with explosives, but she viewed it like any big sister might: My brother is such an idiot. She says she didn’t know about his plot. He bugged her about getting a storage locker, saying his room was getting crowded and he wanted to move some stuff. She thought it was a weird idea and refused to help him. A friend’s mother did.

What were the adults thinking here? There are no charges against any of the adults because, of course, the gun culture in our country is such that there is a cavalier attitude by some towards the actual risks of guns in the home and safe storage is not considered to be important apparently. Yes, this was a foiled potential school shooting/bombing thanks to a citizen who reported suspicious behavior. And yes, the family of this teen is and was devastated by what happened. There is heartbreak and blame to go around. But until we wrap our heads around the idea that teens should not be keeping guns in their own bedrooms for many obvious reasons, we will run the risk of many more shootings- domestic, suicides, accidental discharges and intentional shootings. It doesn’t have to be like this.
One of my drumbeats in this blog is that guns are dangerous and deadly weapons designed to kill people. There are risks to owning them that must be taken seriously. Common sense tells us that with rights come responsibilities. We can only hope that the adults with guns will think twice about how their teens and children access the guns in their homes.

 

Can we talk about gun safety?

safety hazardsOf course I write often about gun violence in general on this blog. It is why I write and why I do what I do. 89 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. That is indisputable. Never mind. The gun lobby doesn’t want to talk about the “accidental” discharges or the suicides. Accidents with guns are apparently not supposed to happen. But happen they do. And death by gun suicide? It’s happening every day. Guns are the most common method and the most lethal and the most successful. That is not much published since gun suicide deaths don’t often make news and not considered to be crimes.

Can we talk about gun safety like we talk about other safety hazards in our every day lives? There are warning signs all around us about the problems with guns but we are purposely ignoring them at our peril and the for the sake of the lives of innocent Americans.

What we need is more attention paid to the causes and effects of gun violence at the least. But the gun lobby doesn’t want that either. It might blow a hole in their mantra that guns make us all safer. That is why the private research into the causes and effects of gun violence is becoming so important to preventing at least some of our daily victims from becoming a victim. Dr. Garen Wintemute from UC Davis is a hero. He has invested over 1 million dollars of his own money to do important research.

Among the research into gun violence is Dr. Wintemute’s research about the relationship between alcohol use and gun violence. For the evidence, just read local media reports. This one, for example, is proof positive:

“NEVER mix guns & booze,” said the militia member, who calls himself Joe Bleaugh. “Charles got drunk and belligerent and took away his friend’s sidearm and threatened him with it; at which time his friend drew his backup weapon and fired to defend his own life. This is why it is a ‪#‎felony‬ for an intoxicated person to be in possession of a firearm. Guns and booze do not mix. End of story, and unfortunately the end of Charles’ life. What a waste, & by his own hand!”

Texas law prohibits licensed gun owners from carrying firearms while intoxicated, regardless of whether the weapon is holstered or concealed.

Carter and Smith had been organizing the march, which they hoped would remove President Barack Obama and congressional leaders from office ahead of November’s elections.

You can’t make this stuff up. Were these guys both law abiding permit holding citizens? Just asking. How can we stop armed citizens from drinking while carrying? We have laws about this but just as with drinking while driving a vehicle, not everyone follows the law. It does seem as if this one was self defense. But if neither of these guys had been armed, this could have resulted in a fight without a death.

Even the best gun safety trainers cannot stop accidental gun discharges apparently. And that is a real problem in our country. Far too many people walk away from a gun store or after buying a gun from a private seller without the faintest notion of the potential harm that can come from improper training or handling of a gun. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill and injure. What don’t we get about that? Take this incident at the best of the best gun training facilities- Sig Sauer- where a man “accidentally” discharged a gun while training with the best and shot himself in the leg.

I am particularly saddened by an “accidental “discharge that killed the 8 year old grandson of a Kentucky Brady Campaign chapter activist. It sounds like an investigation may reveal more details. These, and all shootings, are in the category of senseless and often avoidable losses of life. And they happen far too often in our gun soaked country.

Just read “Accidents Happen Guns Kill” if you don’t believe me. It’s only January 14th.

But never mind reality. You should really look at this video of Wayne LaPierre letting NRA members know that the end is near. FEAR.

Good grief. In what kind of world does this guy live? Not mine, that’s for sure, thankfully. Our gun culture is out of control as written by Professor Henry Giroux in this great piece:

Gun violence in the United States has produced a culture soaked in blood – a culture that threatens everyone and extends from accidental deaths, suicides and domestic violence to mass shootings. In late December, a woman in St. Cloud, Florida, fatally shot her own daughter after mistaking her for an intruder. Less than a month earlier, on December 2, in San Bernardino, California, was the mass shooting that left 14 people dead and more than 20 wounded. And just two months before that, on October 1, nine people were killed and seven wounded in a mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon.

Mass shootings have become routine in the United States and speak to a society that relies on violence to feed the coffers of the merchants of death. Given the profits made by arms manufacturers, the defense industry, gun dealers and the lobbyists who represent them in Congress, it comes as no surprise that the culture of violence cannot be abstracted from either the culture of business or the corruption of politics. Violence runs through US society like an electric current offering instant pleasure from all cultural sources, whether it be the nightly news or a television series that glorifies serial killers.

There is so much more to the above article that should be read and quoted. But here is a bit more after the author explains the militarization of our society and the overall corporate influences that have changed who we are as a country. From the article:

Warlike values no longer suggest a pathological entanglement with a kind of mad irrationality or danger. On the contrary, they have become a matter of common sense. For instance, the US government is willing to lock down a major city such as Boston in order to catch a terrorist or prevent a terrorist attack, but refuses to pass gun control bills that would significantly lower the number of Americans who die each year as a result of gun violence.As Michael Cohen observes, it is truly a symptom of irrationality when politicians can lose their heads over the threat of terrorism, even sacrificing civil liberties, but ignore the fact that “30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died [in 2012] in terrorist attacks).” It gets worse.

As the threat of terrorism is used by the US government to construct a surveillance state, suspend civil liberties and accelerate the forces of authoritarianism, the fear of personal and collective violence has no rational bearing on addressing the morbid acceleration of gun violence. In fact, the fear of terrorism appears to feed a toxic culture of violence produced, in part, by the wide and unchecked availability of guns. The United States’ fascination with guns and violence functions as a form of sport and entertainment, while gun culture offers a false promise of security. In this logic, one not only kills terrorists with drones, but also makes sure that patriotic Americans are individually armed so they can use force to protect themselves against the apparitions whipped up by right-wing politicians, pundits and the corporate-controlled media.

This lengthy and thoughtful article exposes the reality of our country for those who benefit from exploiting the fear and paranoia of American citizens to profit for themselves. It’s the world in which we live but it doesn’t have to be this way.  We don’t have to accept the world of the corporate gun lobby telling citizens that if only they buy that gun for self defense, all will be well with the world and families will be safer. For the truth does not bear this out.

Here’s reality. A man “accidentally” shot his own 14 year old son and will not be held responsible. He thought his son was an intruder.

Sigh.

It’s time to challenge the status quo in a big way and one way would be to change the conversation about guns and gun violence, to allow research about the causes and effects of gun violence, to make sure that Americans understand the actual risks to them when buying and carrying a gun, to make sure that proper training will actually serve to make people more responsible with their guns, to strengthen rather than weaken gun laws, to stop the practice of allowing armed citizens in all of our public spaces, to make appropriate laws to keep us all safer and to have a society less focused on violence and more focused on how to prevent it in the first place.

We are better than this.

Where is common sense?

Reactions to new gun executive orders

??????As could have been predicted, the reaction to the President’s announced executive orders have been fierce and wrong. The gun lobby and run rights extremists as well as certain politicians believe that these executive orders are meant for them personally apparently. For the reaction just doesn’t fit with what is actually in those orders. The fear in the statements from those who disagree is unfounded but it’s hard to convince them otherwise. This is going to be a tough job.

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post wrote this article about why the executive orders should be embraced by the gun rights enthusiasts.  He lists several, including the issue of mental health and guns, enforcing existing gun laws and supporting the second amendment. All 3 of these are what the corporate gun lobby and their supporters in Congress have been talking about for many years when they oppose any new common sense measures to reduce gun violence. From the article:

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced a set of new gun rules that might amount to a big political statement but, technically, represent a clarification of already-existing laws. The biggest change — a provision that would require more gun sellers to be licensed as firearms dealers — does not qualify as new regulation, and hence is not dependent on either public comment or congressional review. The provisions are so modest that initially even the NRA initially shrugged off the changes by saying “they’re not really doing anything.”

Still, champions of gun rights in Congress and elsewhere wasted no time in lambasting the president and his proposal — even though it appears that many of the provisions are pretty much in line with what gun rights advocates have long demanded.

So what is this about then? Opposition to anything President Obama wants to do. That’s obvious. The fear mongering and paranoia about gun confiscation and government overreach has been screamed at us now by Wayne LaPierre and others as if it is true. And the worst of this is that too many people believe it. Captain Mark Kelly, husband to Gabby Giffords, had a really good question at the town hall meeting:

Mark Kelly, the astronaut and husband of former Arizona congresswoman and shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords, told Obama the two gun control advocates have encountered fears that expanding background checks “will lead to a (gun) registry, which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to a tyrannical government.”

“With 350 million guns in 65 million places, households … if the federal government wanted to confiscate those objects, how would they do that?” Kelly asked.

Cooper jumped in, asking: “Is fair to call it a conspiracy? I mean, a lot of people really believe this, deep down — that they just don’t trust you.”

“I’m sorry, but yes, it is fair to call it a conspiracy,” Obama said. “What are you saying? Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can enforce marshal law is a conspiracy? Yes, that is a conspiracy. I would hope you would agree with that. Is that controversial?”

He said if he truly desired to strip away Second Amendment rights, he’d have started much earlier in his presidency.

“Look, I mean, I’m only going to be here for another year. I don’t know — when would I have started on this enterprise, right?” Obama said.

It turns out that President Obama has made no attempt to confiscate the (about) 350 million guns in circulation in the U.S. And it also turns out that most gun owners agree with President Obama. Apparently they don’t subscribe to the conspiracy theory that any new gun regulation will automatically lead to their guns and rights being unceremoniously stripped from them. Most people already understand that that is going to be an impossible thing to do and just won’t happen.

I was on the Facebook page of a Minneapolis area TV station during the CNN town hall meeting on Thursday night making comments along with many gun rights advocates. The arguments were indicative of the above and based on hyperbole and often not fact based. There was some agreement here and there about the sentencing for gun crimes.

But I want to talk about one item in the Presidential executive orders that Christopher Ingraham did not address in the above linked article- on-line gun sales. For the last several years, I and others have argued that there are opportunities to obtain guns through on line sales with no background checks. The gun lobby argues that this is not possible. Their argument is that all on line sales must go through a federally licensed dealer. This is not true. Internet groups have made it possible for gun sellers to advertise their guns for sale on sites like Armslist.com.

I found something new and interesting on the Armslist site today while looking it up for this post.  It has been changed and one can no longer click on private sellers to see how many there are. Also many of even the private sellers are advertising that the gun needs to go to a licensed dealer or ( in my state of Minnesota) a Minnesota permit to purchase or conceal carry permit is required by the seller. Perhaps all of the attention paid to private on-line sales is already affecting this market place. And if so, this is good news for everyone.

Back to the site, though, buyers can go to this site and find a seller of a gun they want, connect with the seller and make arrangements to exchange money for a gun(s). Some of these sellers advertise that they are private sellers and actually have advertised that no background checks are required. I did not see this while looking this morning. I did notice that in other states with generally looser gun laws, like Florida, there were more “unregistered” or private sellers listed.

Armslist is where the shooter at the Wisconsin spa that killed 3, not including the shooter, got his gun through a private seller with no background check.  He was a prohibited purchaser because of his domestic abuse.

Mike the Gun Guy addressed on-line sales in a recent blog post. From his post:

The reason that I would check the listings in these other states is that if I drive to one of those states and buy a gun from a private seller, I give him the money, he gives me the gun, I drive back home and that’s the end of that. And that’s the end of that because those states do not regulate private gun transfers which, in the case of long guns, happens to be true in more than 40 states. Will the seller of an out-of-state gun ask me to prove that I am also a resident of his state?  He might, but then again he might not.  Remember, if he lives in a state that doesn’t regulate private sales, he’s not breaking any law by selling me that gun.  And since he’s not a licensed dealer, he is under no requirement to ascertain whether I am legally able to own that gun, or even keep a record of the sale.  I’m breaking the law because I can’t bring an unliensed gun back to my home state.  But I didn’t want to submit to a background check anyway, remember?

The situation gets a little trickier with handguns because such transfers tend to be more strictly regulated in many states and folks who sell handguns are generally aware that handguns have a funny way of winding up in the ‘wrong hands.’ So if I want to buy a handgun without submitting to a background check, I probably will stay within my own state, assuming that my state doesn’t regulate private handgun sales.  Which is the real impact of the internet as regards the flow of private guns, because I can drive from one end of my state to the other within 3 hours, but could I know of the desire of some seller in another town within my state to get rid of a gun without going online?  Of course not.

When the internet first started up, you could find gun listings on Craiglist, other online classifieds including eBay, and you could pay for guns if you had a Paypal account. Those sites quickly banned guns because they decided the liability far outweighed the returns.  But I can’t imagine that websites like Armslist or GunsAmerica would voluntarily ban private sales, since that’s their reason for being in business in the first place.  As long as the internet operates as a giant flea market and guns are legal commerce, guns are going to be sold online, it’s as simple as that.

So yes, there is reason to regulate this on-line market place that sells guns to potential prohibited individuals. Does anyone want them to have guns?

Facebook was involved in a bit of a tussle with gun safety reform advocates a few years ago about the site allowing the sales of guns. They made some minor changes to their position but did not outright ban the sale of guns as did Craigslist. ( I am editing this post to include this article that reveals that Craigslist did ban gun sales on its’ site but apparently people are still advertising guns and ammunition for sale. This is an insidious problem.

So here is just one example of an Arizona teen who got a gun through a Facebook group. He brought that gun to a school.

Facebook gun sales largely remain unregulated:

It’s hard to tell if these moves slowed down gun sales on Facebook generally or made a dent in unregulated or illegal deals in particular. The platform still hosts scores of members-only groups that exist solely to facilitate private sales, many with thousands of followers. While some of the groups operate instates with universal background check laws, 32 states don’t mandate such checks for private transfers. So even though members of those groups can’t boast that they won’t conduct checks, they’re under no obligation to actually make sure in-state gun transfers they’ve arranged on Facebook are legal. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Facebook’s approach is similar to those taken by other popular social networking sites, such as Reddit. The self-proclaimed “front page of the internet” bans discussion of baldly illegal activity, but even after outside pressure it remains a pretty easy place to arrange a gun transfer free from background checks. One entire subreddit is dedicated to gun sales. It asks first time visitors if they’re over 18, but there’s no way to verify if a user is answering truthfully. Many sellers on the subreddit offer to meet “FtF,” or face-to-face, where they can make the exchange without running the background check that a licensed dealer would require.

Some newspapers allow sales of guns from private sellers who most likely will not require a background check from a buyer. My own local newspaper changed their policy some years ago with some pressure from our local Brady Campaign chapter as did other media outlets. But then the ownership of the paper changed hands and the sales are again allowed. How does a seller know to whom he/she is selling that gun(s)? There were no firearms for sale in my local newspaper today. Maybe this is a sign that things are changing for the good.

Public opinion is coalescing around President Obama’s executive orders and even further measures to make sure we are safe from people who should not have guns. National columnist and conservative Kathleen Parker wrote this opinion piece today:

This may well be true, but couldn’t we stand to tweak them a bit? Or, perhaps, enforce them? And, isn’t it possible to reduce the number of guns in the wrong hands without surrendering our Second Amendment rights or invoking the slippery slope of government confiscation?

Of course it is — and we can.

Obama made an artful and poignant counterargument to the usual objections Tuesday during a news conference from the White House. He reminded those gathered, including many who have lost family members to gun violence, that other people also have rights — the right to free assembly or the right to practice their religion without being shot.

In fairness to the gun lobby, which may not deserve such charity, one can understand reservations about limiting access to guns. What is less easily understood is the refusal of Republicans to take the reins of any given issue and do something constructive rather than invariably waiting to be forced into the ignoble position of “no.”

It is one thing to be in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. It is another to do nothing and then assume a superior posture of purposeful neglect, as though do-nothingness were a policy and smug intransigence a philosophy. (…) Obama’s actions won’t go unchallenged, needless to say. And much political hay will be threshed, bundled and sold to Republican primary voters in the meantime. But GOP voters should be as skeptical of those ringing the gong of doom as they have been of Obama. In a civilized society, more guns can’t be better than fewer.

Parker does reflect the truth of the matter. There are much in these executive orders to actually strengthen the second amendment and rights of law abiding gun owners as well as the right of the rest of us ( and even reasonable gun owners who agree) to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Reasonable discussions can occur with reasonable people. At this point in time, during a Presidential election, I guess we can’t expect that to happen from the Republican candidates or members of Congress who are beholden to the corporate gun lobby. And more’s the pity. Lives will be lost in the daily carnage that results in 89 dead Americans a day. Children will get their hands on guns and shoot themselves or others. Domestic abusers, some who are prohibited purchasers, others not, will continue to shoot their spouses, girlfriends and/or partners. Gangs will continue to get guns through an illegal market that we can do something about if we put our mind to it. And young (mostly) men, teens and older (mostly) white men will continue to shoot themselves at alarming rates. Serving and ex military members will shoot themselves on almost a daily basis. And “accidental” gun discharges will continue to occur amongst those who are not responsible with their guns.

To say the President’s orders would no nothing to stop any of this is the height of hypocrisy. The gun lobby speaks out of both sides of its’ collective mouth. Which is it? That Obama is coming for your guns or that these measures will do nothing..

We are better than this. Let’s get to work.