Guns vs. lawn mowers

Illustration of lawn mower man smiling standing with arms folded facing front done in cartoon style on isolated white background.

There has been an interesting back and forth on the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota Facebook page about the gun giveaway promotion by a local Ford/Chrysler dealer. I wrote about this in a previous post. The dealer is now responding to the action taken by a group of people who felt the promotion was the wrong message to send to the public and consumers. It was not meant for any other purpose than that. What happened was more than a few phone calls to the dealer and to the Ford Motor company about this particular business policy. The dealer made claims about this being about the second amendment but the last time I checked there was nothing about a right to give guns away in a business deal. He also said callers were mean. I wonder if he means that the callers were insistent and emphatic in their opposition to the business deal. If we want to talk about mean, we can talk about the rude and offensive comments made by those who agreed with this business deal on the Facebook page. Many were deleted and blocked for that reason.

In the business promotion, car buyers had the choice between a lawn mower or one of two types of Ruger pistols. Several news sources have covered this story. This one from the Minneapolis based CBS affiliate WCCO media and also this one from BringMeTheNews.com.

I want to say that I have written several blog posts about guns and lawn mowers on my other blogging site- Here and  here. These were about arguments over lawn mowers. Are lawn mowers dangerous? Apparently fights over them can be. And yes, there are accidents and injuries due to lawn mowers as the owner of the car dealership pointed out as his excuse for why it was OK to give guns away. But as the article above points out:

Accidents are the leading cause of death for kids at just about all ages.

Although the leading causes of these accidental deaths include car accidents,drownings, poisonings, fires, falls and gun accidents, there are many hidden dangers that parents are less aware of that can lead to accidents and tragedies.

Death by lawnmower is rare compared to death by gunshot injuries. 95 deaths in a year compared to 30,000. The gun rights folks often point to other causes of death in their denial that gunshot injuries actually do kill a lot of Americans.

And I would like to include this article about the idea that, as one of the commenters in the story about the car dealer said, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The article, written in 2013 for the Armed With Reason blog debunks this gun lobby myth. It’s a long article but important. But here’s one section I love:

Guns may not kill people, but gun culture does.

6 Academic Responses to “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People”

Lawnmowers don’t mow lawns, people do.  But if you want to mow a lot of grass in a very short period of time with very little effort or coordination, you’re going to need a lawnmower.   And if you want to be brutally efficient about it, why not get a John Deere semi-automatic riding lawnmower? The X758 is a popular model that can literally mow down entire fields at the push of a button, and can be picked up without any hassle at your local Walmart.

I’m belaboring the analogy, but the point should be clear:  Guns may not kill people, but people with guns do, and they do so more often and more efficiently than people without guns.  People do not behave in a vacuum. They are influenced by their environment, and when that environment is occupied by guns, people behave aggressively and impulsively.  Even the NRA is unable to follow its own strict logic behind “guns don’t kill people.” In searching for a scapegoat, Wayne LaPierre often accuses media, video games, Obama’s budget, and anything else he can find that isn’t a gun. The point being these fruitless attempts to shift blame are an implicit acknowledgement that we are influenced by our surrounding environment, an environment that includes guns.

So following this analogy, let’s talk about the clever language that has been used by the corporate gun lobby and their minions for many decades to deflect any talk about common sense gun laws. Lawn mowers don’t mow lawns, people do. Drills don’t screw screws into boards, people do. Saws don’t cut wood, people do. Hammers don’t pound in nails, people do. Vacuum cleaners don’t clean rugs, people do. Mops don’t clean floors, people do. You get the idea. How have these folks gotten away with their nonsense for so long? They make no sense but our leaders have listened to these folks and their myths to the detriment of public health and safety in our county.

If you read further into the article you can see why guns DO ACTUALLY KILL PEOPLE. One example given early on is the accidental gun deaths of and by children. Surely those children did not intend to shoot anyone. The gun was discharged by mistake. Adults make the same mistakes. Take this recent one for example where an Alabama man “accidentally” shot his pregnant girlfriend in the face:

The Gadsden Times reportsthat deputies were called to the couple’s home on Whites Chapel Road around 9 p.m. Thursday after the unidentified man called 911 and said he’d accidentally shot his girlfriend. When deputies arrived, they found the man trying to put pressure on the woman’s wound.

There’s just got to be more to this story. And in most of these incidents the gun owners get away with what they have done. Why? They were reckless and irresponsible with their guns. This is unacceptable. Often law enforcement is afraid to charge someone because…rights. Never mind the rights of the rest of us to be safe from idiots like this guy.

The other gun lobby myth is that more guns will make us safer. That has definitely not been the case. We are far less safe than most other democratized, civilized countries not at war because of our 300 million guns. Just ask the pregnant woman who got shot in the face if she feels safer now.

But I digress. Back to the above story. Did the gun shoot the pregnant woman? Did the man shoot her? Did the man with the gun shoot her? Would this have happened if the man had not had that gun in his hand?

I don’t have enough space here to list the many accidental shootings by children that have come to my attention just over the past few days but I can assure you, guns did not make those children safer. But I’ll post about just this one where a Michigan boy with developmental disabilities got his grandfather’s gun safe key and “accidentally” shot and killed a woman sleeping in the other room.  Why do these keep happening? And they do. More from the article:

According to his grandfather the boy “got up before anybody this morning at 5:30 a.m. He said he was in my pocket trying to get change and he found the gun safe key. It’s always locked up, and I always have the key on me.”

The grandfather said that when the boy tried to unload the shotgun he unintentionally dischargedthe gun.  The pellets went through a nearby closet wall and struck a 28-year-old woman who was sleeping in the living room.

The grandfather said “we turned the light on and we could see all the blood. It was only minutes. She was still breathing, but by the time the police got here, she’d passed away.”

The boy is staying with a family member.  The grandfather said his grandson is an apprentice hunter and has used guns before.  He said the boy “handled guns very safely and wouldn’t touch a gun unless he was told it was okay to pick it up.” He added that the boy “doesn’t realize what he’s done.”

The thing is, kids pick up guns no matter what you tell them. I have written about that many times before on this blog. I’m sorry but this does not sound like a responsible gun owner to me. Twelve year old children without developmental problems are barely old enough to handle the responsibility of guns. This man’s judgement was clearly impaired and now someone is dead. Avoidable and insane but part of our American gun culture and another American tragedy.

I would like to add this one for a particular reason. A 2 year old Virginia boy shot himself with a gun he found in his parents’ top dresser drawer. Now some in the gun lobby will try to deny this could happen and that little kids just won’t find those guns hidden away in dresser drawers. But this ABC 20/20 show proved that this is exactly what can and does happen. These are all avoidable and senseless shootings, not that any make sense.

open carry thugs
From Moms Demand Action Facebook page

Speaking of not making any sense, there’s the open carry folks who are out and about intimidating their neighbors. I do love this photo and article about the Indianapolis folks who think they are making a point by walking around in a residential neighborhood on Memorial Day week-end to show their “patriotism”. A photo of this classy group was posted on the Moms Demand Action Facebook page because, as it happens, the founder of that organization lives nearby to where they carried their assault weapons. Check out it:

“There’s not a thing we can do about it,” ZPD Chief Robert Knox said. “They’re exercising their second amendment right to bear arms and their first amendment right to peaceably get together and walk down the street like anybody else.”

“…like anybody else”? NO. Wrong. These folks are not like everybody else. The second amendment does not give people the right to do whatever the heck they want to do with their guns. This is insane and reflective of the American gun culture. Here’s one more article about this sleazy group of gun extremists. There are not too many words for this kind of tactic. All I know is that we don’t need people openly carrying loaded guns near the home of gun violence prevention advocates as a lark and clearly to intimidate people who work to prevent gun violence. It is not amusing. It is not funny. It has nothing to do with gun rights or the second amendment. It has nothing to do with a civil society. This is simply not OK.

And speaking of the insane gun culture, we should take a look at what else is insane with the stupid and dangerous gun culture pushed by the corporate gun lobby. Can anyone target practice close to homes just because of the second amendment? I say no. In Massachusetts (a reader corrected my posting that this was a California case)  someone thought he could. Let’s take a look:

“It was a piece of paper hanging between two trees with nothing behind it,” he said.

The bullet traveled 1,500 feet from a nearby farm, through a few thinly wooded acres, across a pair of frequently used railroad tracks, through the Costa home’s siding, exterior wall, bathroom wall and closet, before it lodged in the first floor hallway plaster.

Police responded to the scene and Costa’s home was evacuated on Jan. 14. The round pierced the wall about seven feet from his daughter’s head as she sat on a kitchen stool studying World War I.

Here’s the response from the pro gun side:

Gun rights activists have labeled the pending bylaw “anti-freedom” and “anti-Second Amendment” in an online campaign.

“We’re always concerned when we see things like this,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Northborough-based Gun Owners Action League (GOAL).

GOAL has sounded the alarm, urging its local members to attend a May 19 public hearing on the bylaw and reminding them to vote on June 1.

“It seems to be a pattern across the state,” Wallace said. “This has sprung up in a bunch of different towns, and it seems like an organized attempt to make things tougher on gun owners in the state.”

Initially, Berkley police said they could not press charges in the January incident at the Costa home, despite successfully tracking the round to a group of target-shooters on a nearby farm.

There is no pattern. This is all made up anger and total hypocrisy. This kind of intimidation should not be acceptable anywhere. The alarm sounded should come from the side of keeping people safe from stray bullets in neighborhoods. A few inches different and the target shooting gun owner would be singing a different tune and his pals in the pro gun lobby would be taking a seat quietly with the only alarm bells ringing at the funeral of a little girl.

And just one more, I promise. Speaking of the hypocrisy of the gun lobby saying that guns make us safer, check out this particularly stupid and dangerous incident:

Martinez’s older brother, Tom Cline, said Martinez died in the most senseless way.

Around 9:45 p.m. Friday, “Miguel was fooling around with his buddies. They were in possession of a gun and a bulletproof vest,” Cline said Saturday.

Cline said friends encouraged his brother to put on the vest. The three friends with Martinez assured him that he would not be hurt, Cline said.

According to the sheriff’s department, Lambert fired the gun.

“The kid had shot my brother. The bullet penetrated the top of his vest,” said Cline. “My brother was hit. My brother said he couldn’t breathe.”

According to Cline, one person ran for help. Two men carried Martinez up the bike path to meet deputies, but Martinez died.

“My brother did not deserve this death,” Cline said. “I want everybody to know Miguel Henry Martinez was a good boy.”

Cline said he believes his brother might have survived the shooting if someone called for help sooner. He said he doesn’t know where the bulletproof vest or gun came from.

Big OOPS. This is the American gun culture where things like this happen every day. It’s also the American tragedy.

Really, you just can’t make this stuff up. These folks may be “law abiding” because they passed background checks and because open carry and target shooting in neighborhoods is stupidly allowed by our spineless legislatures. These incidents are all examples of the “mad men” culture to which Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign referred in my recent post. Once we thought some dangerous and unsafe behaviors were OK but we found out differently. It’s just a matter of time before so many of these incidents happen that it will be impossible to avoid the obvious solution- changing the conversation about our gun culture and passing stronger gun laws that will lead to improved public health and safety.

It is past time for the insanity to stop. We are better than this. Let’s get to work.

Teens, curiosity and guns- a uniquely American public health problem

curiosity

I’m sure you’ve heard this one: “Curiosity killed the cat.” Curiosity can also kill kids. If something looks interesting, shiny, bright, intriguing or is forbidden, we can count on kids to want to touch it or do it.

That is why no matter what you tell your kids, they are curious about guns and will want to hold them and pretend to shoot them. Of course, in American teens have easy access to guns and we also know that way too often teens bring guns to schools or other places and actually use them to kill others. The fact that this is common is disturbing. It goes against the corporate gun lobby mantra that more guns make us safer. It also is in direct opposition to the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program touted as the way to keep kids safe from loaded guns.

Let’s take a look at why Eddie Eagle is not doing the trick.

In a Minnesota high school, 2 boys brought a gun to school to see what it was like to “hold” it. One of the teens got the gun from his own house. From the article:

The 16-year-old student told Oakdale police he received the gun from another 16-year-old Tartan student. The student took the gun from his parents’ home and brought it to school so he and his friend could hold it.

“Both students said they were curious about the idea of having a gun and were showing it off,” Oakdale police said in a statement.

So much for teaching kids not to touch guns. Kids are curious. They will touch. Luckily this did not end badly but it certainly could have. Hopefully the irresponsible parents who allowed easy access to a gun will think twice about how they store their guns or even if they should have guns in the home considering that a curious teen already said he wanted to see what it was like to hold a gun. Next time he might do more than just hold it.

A teen in Tempe, Arizona brought a gun to school and shot and killed himself in the school. Where did his gun come from? Easy access to guns makes suicide quick and efficient with no time to reconsider or think about anything. And now a family is grieving for an avoidable death of a son who had potential that will not be realized.

Teen suicide is a serious public health problem in our country. From this article:

  • Suicide is one of the 3 leading causes of death for 13- to 19-year-olds in the United States.
  • An average of 4 American teenagers commit suicide every day.

Does a gun in the home increase the chance of suicide? YES!

  • In states where there are more guns, more people commit suicide.
  • Studies have shown that the risk of suicide is 4 to 10 times higher in homes with guns than in those without.
  • If the gun is a handgun or is stored loaded or unlocked, the risk of suicide is even higher.

Does it matter how a person tries to commit suicide? YES!

  • Suicide attempts with a gun are very likely to be deadly.
  • Suicide attempts with drugs or methods other than guns have a greater chance of survival.

Suicide accounts for the majority of gun deaths in America. Shouldn’t we be doing something about that?

A California teen shot and injured herself with her father’s gun. Even officers, apparently don’t get that curious kids and teens will touch guns no matter what you tell them about the dangers. There are risks to having guns around the home. When will “responsible” gun owners get that? How many more of these will we be hearing about and writing about before gun owners understand that if they decide to own a gun they had better decide to own responsibility. With rights come responsibilities. There are no excuses.

Don’t believe the gun lobby rhetoric that guns in the home for self defense will be likely to save you from a home invasion. Those are rare compared to the accidental and intentional shootings with the guns owned for self defense.  Do guns come with warning labels? Shouldn’t anyone who purchases a gun be required to go through training? When profits come before saving lives and a sale is more important than a life, this is what we get.

Let’s take a better look at the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program (from the Violence Policy Center): ostensibly for gun safety for kids:

  • The primary goal of the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program is not to safeguard children, but to protect the interests of the NRA and the firearms industry by making guns more acceptable to children and youth. The Eddie Eagle program employs strategies similar to those utilized by America’s tobacco industry—from youth “educational” programs that are in fact marketing tools to the use of appealing cartoon characters that aim to put a friendly face on a hazardous product. The hoped-for result is new customers for the industry and new members for the NRA.
  • Violence Policy Center research reveals for the first time that manufacturers of firearms, ammunition, and related products directly contribute hundreds of thousands of tax-deductible dollars to the NRA through its “affiliate,” The NRA Foundation. The Foundation in turn then makes “grants” to the NRA to fund the Eddie Eagle program. Financial contributors to The NRA Foundation include Saturday Night Special or “junk gun” manufacturers, rifle and shotgun manufacturers, and manufacturers of ammunition and reloading equipment. Donation of land of unknown value has also been made by industry members to The NRA Foundation for endowment programs. Industry members have also facilitated the donation of more than a million dollars to the NRA through point-of-purchase dealer and catalog sale programs.

There is much more of interest in this article. I hope you will read it. Marketing guns to kids is a really bad idea. Just like driving a car, they can wait until they are deemed to be more ready for the responsibilities that come with a potentially dangerous product.

Remember this ABC 20/20 program which showed how even though kids whose parents explicitly told them not to touch guns, they did it anyway? I do. It was in direct opposition to what the gun lobby deceptively tells people about their kids and guns. Why? Because they don’t want parents to reconsider a gun sale if they understand the truth about kids and guns.

Anyone with common sense should understand that keeping guns safely secured away from curious kids and teens and those who are suicidal is a really good idea and can save lives. And maybe the parent of the Minnesota teen who got a gun from a friend should have asked if there were guns in the home where their son hung out. Asking saves lives. Check out the ASK Campaign if you don’t believe me. I am betting that these parents wished they had asked because now their son is in a lot of trouble and they should be mortified about the whole thing.

Kids and guns don’t go together no matter what the gun lobby tries to tell you. Their push to get kids comfortable around guns is bunk. Hunting is one thing when accompanied by an adult. But holding and playing with handguns or assault rifles is just not OK. There is no need for a teen to get comfortable with those kinds of guns. Teens can’t think through consequences. Of course, neither can many adults.

It’s past time to change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Let’s get to work. We can make our kids and communities safer with some  and responsibility.