Where do crime guns come from?

ПечатьThere is a balancing act between stronger gun laws and gun rights. The two are not mutually exclusive as the corporate gun lobby would love you to believe. The fact is, most gun owners and even NRA members agree that we need stronger gun laws. So why the opposition to laws that make common sense?

The question in the title of this post is the most important question we can ask. We actually know the answer but we’re not doing what we need to do to stop crime guns from getting into the hands of those who should not have them. Why not? The gun lobby opposes measures that would do just that. More on this later. And opposition from the gun lobby to research that could give us more answers has hampered solutions to our country’s national public health and safety epidemic.

Just one example of our weak gun laws is the Georgia woman who bought a gun in a straw purchase for someone else. The gun was used to kill an officer. From the article:

A Jonesboro, Georgia woman who bought the gun used to kill Omaha Police Officer Kerrie Orozco was sentenced on Monday.

Twenty-six-year-old Jalita Johnson was convicted in August after pleading guilty to lying when she bought the gun for her convicted felon boyfriend, Marcus Wheeler, who later used the gun to kill Officer Orozco in May while she was attempting to serve a warrant on Wheeler for his arrest. Wheeler was killed in the shootout with police during which Officer Orozco died from her wounds.

Johnson was given one year of probation, 40 hours of community service and 180 days’ home confinement.

Authorities say Johnson bought the Glock semiautomatic, a 50-round drummagazine and ammunition from a pawnshop in Jonesboro last April. At the time, she was required to fill out a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form that requires the purchaser to disclose the identity of the true buyer or transferee of the gun.

Johnson stated on the form that she was the true buyer when in fact she was buying it for Wheeler, who was a convicted felon and couldn’t buy the weapon himself. Wheeler provided Johnson with the money to buy the gun and magazine. He also directed Johnson on which gun and magazine to buy.

Why did this woman only get probation and community service? She knew exactly what she was doing when she lied on the form to purchase that gun. She knew that her boyfriend was a convicted felon. She may not have known he would kill someone with that gun but felons are not allowed to own guns, period. Unless I missed something, the punishment did not fit the crime in this case.

We need to crack down on straw purchasing and gun dealers who are responsible for crime guns getting into the illegal market place.  There are no excuses for “bad apple” gun dealers and the Brady Center is calling attention to them in order to cut gun deaths caused by guns sold by them. About 5% of gun dealers account for about 90% of crime guns. That is not acceptable.

The Trace has a new article about where the crime guns that make themselves into the Chicago market come from. It’s stunning to see where they come from. Watching the animation of the guns flowing into Chicago is instructive. From the article:

Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) backs up the president’s point. The agency cannot trace every gun taken in by law enforcement. But between 2010 and 2014, it was able to source between 40 and 60 percent of the firearms recovered in Illinois, the vast majority of which were crime guns. Statewide, most of those weapons came from elsewhere in Illinois, a pattern seen in other states. But thousands found their way into Illinois — and often, Chicago — from parts of the country with weaker gun laws. (…)

While the Windy City outlaws gun stores, straw purchasers can pick up firearms in neighboring suburbs that have track records of failing to police the gun sellers within their borders. Across the state line in Indiana, gun laws are loose enough to earn the state 17th place on Guns and Ammo‘s list of the best states for gun owners (Illinois ranks 43rd).

Not coincidentally, as the visualization above shows, in 2010, 2011, and 2014, the annual count of Illinois crime guns originating in Indiana topped 1,o00 guns per year. (In 2012 and 2013, there was a big dip in Illinois crime guns coming from Indiana, though the ATF isn’t sure why.) Mississippi was next in line, trafficking about a third as many guns into the state. At least four others exported more than 500 guns to Illinois during 2010–14. Five more states sent more than 400 each. (…) Across the country, guns make their way across state lines, and into crime scenes, in similar fashion. In Chicago, it’s why police can seize an illegal gunevery 75 minutes but fail to stop the tide. And nationally, it’s why the chief of the ATF’s violent crime and intelligence division has compared trafficked guns to cockroaches in an apartment complex. If you aggressively treat the problem in one place, while leaving it unchecked elsewhere, the infestations will continue.

The gun nuts love to taunt gun violence prevention activists with the Chicago gun problem claiming that Illinois and Chicago laws are strict and yet Chicago still has a high rate of gun violence. So they want us to think that gun laws don’t work. It’s just the opposite actually. Most of the crime guns come from out of state where gun laws are weaker. And that is exactly why we need stronger federal gun laws.

From the linked article above about Chicago’s gun and shooting problem:

According to the Chicago Tribune, the number of people shot in Chicago so far this year is at least 2,300 — or about 84.5 per 100,000 residents. New York City has seen1,041 so far in 2015 — 12.3 per 100,000 people. In Detroit last year, there were 1,054 non-fatal shootings and 300 homicides, though it’s not clear how many of the homicides were gun-related. If all of the murders were involving firearms, that’s 199 incidents for every 100,000 people in 2014. Even excluding the murders, the non-fatal shooting rate was 154.9 incidents for every 100,000 Detroit residents — double Chicago’s rate.

The gun nuts love to hate President Obama and make claims ( unfounded and false) that the President intends to take guns away and create a national gun registry. There is no truth to this but Chicago is the President’s home town and so the claims about gun laws not working in Chicago take on a symbolic meaning. The gun lobby just loves symbolism and deceptions.

I am wondering if those who advocate for weaker laws actually care about crime guns and where felons and others who shouldn’t have guns get them? If they do, as they sometimes claim to do, why aren’t they working for stronger gun laws to require background checks on all gun sales and strengthening straw purchasing and trafficking laws? Instead, the gun lobby opposes potential live saving measures. This 2012 Salon article lays it at the feet of the corporate gun lobby:

No one honestly doubts that the NRA is the reason there is no serious debate about guns in Congress. So today we live under a series of  laws written or advanced by the NRA. Today a state can impose a death sentence or life in prison on someone who commits murder with a firearm. But the “What, me worry?” gun dealer, who supplies multiple murderers with guns he claims were “stolen” from his inventory, guns he never recorded on his books, or guns he sold to straw buyers with a wink and a nod, can operate with virtual impunity, thanks to laws written by the NRA.

One of these, passed in 1986, drastically reduced penalties for dealers who violate record-keeping laws, making violations misdemeanors rather than felonies. Another established an absurdly high standard of proof to convict dealers who sell to criminals. In 2003, Congress, at the NRA’s urging, barred the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the much-maligned agency responsible for enforcing federal gun laws, from forcing dealers to conduct inventory inspections that would detect lost and stolen guns. Car dealers like to know when inventory goes missing. Gun dealers? Not so curious.

Most astonishingly, the same NRA-inspired law forces the FBI to destroy Brady background checks for gun purchases within 24 hours, which makes it harder for law enforcement to identify dealers who falsify their records and makes it impossible to cross-check purchases made by gun traffickers from multiple dealers. Although federal law requires a dealer who sells more than one handgun to a single individual in a five-day period to file a special report with the BATF, the agency is unable to cross-check purchases from multiple dealers, so gun traffickers can simply hop from one gun store to the next, buying a single handgun at each until they accumulate the arsenals they want. Put another way, the NRA and its backers in Congress created a law that forces the FBI to destroy evidence of crimes, evidence of illegal multiple gun purchases.

This is a national tragedy and more than that, it’s disturbing and outrageous.

We can act to change this if we let our elected leaders know that if they listen to the extreme gun lobby,they will be aiding and abetting gun trafficking which leads to crime guns in the hands of people who should not have them. Why is this allowed? Who are we more afraid of- prohibited purchasers with guns or the gun lobby? I know what my answer is.

A gun trafficking law has been lying dormant in Congress for several years now. In September of this year, a 2013 bill that failed to get enough support after the Sandy Hook shooting, was re-introduced by a bi-partisan group of House members.

We can get this done if we have the will and we demand change to public health and safety measures that will save lives. It’s past time for this to happen. 89 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. Gun trafficking bills and expanding Brady background checks are 2 ways to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them. It’s just plain too easy to access guns for young children, teens, felons, those who are adjudicated mentally ill, domestic abusers and others who should not have them. We can prevent some of the daily carnage in our communities. We’ve had #enough.

Let’s get to work.

More “good guys” with guns

gangster carrying gunI have lived long enough to remember The Untouchables, a book, a movie and a TV series watched by millions. The battle of Elliot Ness and the gangsters was an epic but mostly fictional account of  real life. There were many shootings on the streets and in other public places like restaurants and bars by gangsters in the 1930s prohibition days. It was bloody and vicious. Men carrying guns unloaded bullets hitting intended targets and unintended targets. But it was true then that law enforcement was outgunned on the streets of some cities in America according to the above linked article. (“On the other side was law enforcement, which was outgunned (literally) and ill-prepared at this point in history to take on the surging national crime wave.”)

So far, ordinary citizens have to go through strict regulations to obtain machine guns and silencers. That is because of the 1934 National Firearms Act passed by Congress in part in response to the crime wave of the 1930s. No one wanted to see the carnage unleashed by the gangsters on the streets repeated. And make no mistake, the gun lobby is pushing for looser laws to allow people to purchase machine guns and silencers. It is the slippery slope towards more carnage on our streets. Many states, including mine, have now passed laws allowing for citizens to purchase silencers ( deceptively called suppressors by the gun lobby).

But with the changes to our gun laws to allow ordinary citizens to openly carry firearms, we should re-examine what the reality of open carry laws mean for the safety of the public. This incident in Colorado Springs is the prime example of the insanity and dangerousness of people carrying rifles and other guns openly loaded on the streets of our cities. From the article:

A man marching down the street shot and killed three people on Saturday, before being fatally shot in a gunbattle with police, authorities and witnesses said.

Officers were responding to a report of shots being fired when they spotted a suspect matching the description of the person they were trying to find, Colorado Springs police Lt. Catherine Buckley said. The suspect opened fire, and police fired back, she said.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene as the suspect went down the street with a rifle.

Matt Abshire, 21, told the Colorado Springs Gazette (http://tinyurl.com/p5xpaua) he looked outside his apartment window and saw a man shoot someone with a rifle. He said he ran to the street and followed the man and called police.

The man suddenly turned and fired more shots, hitting two women, Abshire said. Their names and conditions were not available.

It was unclear how many people were wounded in the spree.

Alisha Jaynes told KKTV-TV 11 News (http://tinyurl.com/otg2qgo ) she was at an ATM when she saw a man with a gun walking calmly down the street.

“They yelled, ‘Put the gun down,’ and he turned around, and that’s when they shot at him a good 20 times,” she said. “There was a lot of gunfire.”

In this story about the shooting, it is revealed that one of the victims was a 13 year old boy riding his bike along the street. This is insanity. Is this what was anticipated when the gun lobby got our legislators to pass laws allowing more people to carry loaded guns into more public places? America has been duped. Until we decide we have had #enough, the carnage will continue. “Normalizing” loaded openly carried guns on our streets, in our restaurants, shops and other places is the agenda of the corporate gun lobby and the gun extremists. It’s just NOT normal to be carrying a rifle around on our streets.

Most in law enforcement oppose the open carrying of guns on our public streets for obvious reasons. Florida law enforcement are now dealing with the proposed open carrying of loaded guns:

The officials shudder at the thought of guns on hips of alcohol-fueled revelers at St. Petersburg’s First Friday, spring breakers on Pinellas County beaches and partiers on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. They worry that deputies responding to a conflict won’t know criminal from victim. They worry about children getting hold of guns and criminals stealing them.

The Tampa Bay Times contacted 21 law enforcement leaders in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties to ask their stance on a bill allowing open carry proposed for the 2016 state legislative session. Of the dozen who responded, 10 are opposed to the idea. They include the sheriffs in Pinellas and Hillsborough and police chiefs in cities from Brooksville to St. Petersburg.

“Officers have a tough enough job with the way the world is now,” said Clearwater police Chief Dan Slaughter. “This is just one more element of danger I’d prefer my men and women not have to deal with.”

Are you listening legislators?

We have examples of encounters between people carrying loaded rifles and guns on our streets and law enforcement. Here are just a few:

A Michigan man was reported to police to be carrying a rifle on a Kalamazoo, Michigan street apparently stumbling around and appearing intoxicated.

Texas open carriers have had many encounters with law enforcement, often belligerently baiting the officers and provoking them while filming the encounters.

More open carriers in Texas were booted from a Chili’s restaurant when they came in with their assault rifles on, scaring the customers.

Here are just a few images of these folks.

After years of ordinary citizens walking around with loaded guns openly holstered and more recently, assault type rifles hanging around the backs or chests of brazen gun carriers, it was inevitable that a “bad guy” with a gun would open fire on a street, killing innocent people. Where were the “good guys” to stop this shooting? We don’t know who is a “good guy” and who is a “bad guy” any more.  And that, dear readers, is the trick that has been played on America. The gun lobby is going to have to take responsibility for this carnage soon enough.

Meanwhile, Mike the Gun Guy has blogged about a new website that is selling buttons about what should be done to the NRA. It’s brilliant. We are tired of being polite to the people who threaten, demean, name call, are offensive and harass us ( gun violence prevention advocates). And do remember that they are the folks with the guns. Why should we be polite any more considering the number of people killed in our country while our elected leaders turn their heads from the carnage? An armed society is not a polite society.

Get a spine. Stand up and do something. This is just plain ludicrous and insane.

Where is common sense?

We have enough evidence of our national public health and safety problem to stop some of this lunacy. Dr. Daniel Webster, a leading researcher in the area of gun violence, has written this great article based on his research. His research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is invaluable to the discussion: From the opinion piece written by Dr. Webster:

These tragic mass shootings serve as a grim but resounding bell tower chime in the nation’s public square. But when the ringing fades, the clock ticks on, if quietly. The equivalent of several mass shootings happen every day: 30 homicides and 60 suicides by guns in individual incidents that I’ll never be called to discuss and about which you’ll likely never hear.

That’s 2,700 lives every month – nearly the number lost on 9/11.

The conversations we do have about gun violence are often misleading. In the wake of tragedies like the one in Oregon, for instance, readers are given false choices and reminded that gun control is “a divisive issue” (it is not), even as gun owners who support new laws are rarely heard. The misguided debate pits the gun lobby’s hardliners against advocates for stronger gun laws and allows proponents of weak gun laws to portray background-check requirements for all gun sales as equivalent to unconstitutional government disarming of its citizenry.

The NRA and its supporters want Americans to believe that the choice is between gun ownership and, in essence, gun confiscation. This is a far-fetched framing. We require background checks for all gun sales made by licensed gun dealers, and the system has not been used to create a gun registry or to prevent any person from lawful gun ownership. In fact, federal law expressly prohibits such a registry. Baseless claims of gun confiscation inflame culture wars and stymie the discussion of effective solutions. (…)

A more informed and fruitful discussion about what the United States needs to do to substantially reduce gun violence would abandon these tired frames and take into account the fact that we already have answers to these crucial questions:

  • Do our gun laws allow people with histories of violence, substance abuse and criminality to own and carry guns in public?
  • Do important gaps in our laws make it easy for prohibited persons to obtain guns?
  • Do policies exist that would significantly reduce gun deaths while still allowing law-abiding individuals to have guns?

The answer to each of these questions is, of course, yes.

When laws prohibit gun ownership for a wider share of people who are violent and break laws, fewer people are shot. When we close gaps in the background check system and take seriously the obligation to keep guns from dangerous people, fewer people die.

I’m not merely guessing that these things might happen. Such policy recommendations are backed up by extensive research that I and others have conducted.

We know what the problem is. Every day there is evidence and carnage. It’s past time to demand the obvious common sense solutions. We’ve had #enough. Let’s get to work.

As a post script to this post, I need to add an article about yet another shooting on a college campus leaving one dead in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. When will this end? Were these “good guys” with guns or bad guys? Why wasn’t someone with a lawful permit there to stop the shooting because surely there will be someone at the ready wherever something like this occurs, right?  Maybe the shooter was a law abiding permit holder- time will tell as more information is released. This is the 2nd shooting on a North Carolina college campus in a week.  North Carolina just passed a law allowing guns on college campuses and in bars and restaurants. Everyone will surely be safer. 

UPDATE:

I am not the only incensed person about the open carrier who shot 3 innocent people on the streets of Colorado Springs. This writer used much more direct and less polite language than I in expressing his total disdain for the gun nuts who promote open carrying of guns. Don’t believe the gun nuts when they tell you that it’s a good idea for people to be carrying guns on our streets. They are just plain wrong and as these stupid, dangerous and deadly incidents keep happening, they will have to answer for the bloodshed.

In Florida, a man eating at a Cracker Barrel restaurant was shot “accidentally” by a gun carrier. Looks like the investigation is over. When will those who “accidentally” shoot people in public be held accountable for injuries and being a public safety threat?

We are not safer folks.

Good news about gun reform and gun policy

Good news red stamp
Good news red stamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will Harborview know if it works?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reactions and inertia after too many shootings

inertiaOnly in America do we have 24/7 coverage of high profile shootings happening weekly or more often without the accompanying obvious national discussion about solutions. We lurch from one shooting to the other in just a few hours or days. Our Congress is hoping that people will forget about the daily carnage and not push them to do anything about it. It seems to be working if the goal is to ignore a very serious public health and safety epidemic. Inertia sets in. But the shootings continue unabated. It’s hard to even know where to begin.

Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer  Darren White in Ferguson, Missouri. How can we forget that time period after the shooting and the verdict of the grand jury to not charge White for the shooting, when Ferguson erupted and we all watched the damage happening before our very eyes? It was the birth of Black Lives Matter– a movement that continues to occupy space in our political and social networks. The fact that we even have to name a movement with this name says everything about where our country is in regards to racial justice issues.

What has happened since the Ferguson shooting of a black youth by a police officer? Since Ferguson, unfortunately “officer involved shootings” continue.  I am not making any accusations here aside from reporting the incidents.

There’s the Tamir Rice shooting.

There’s the shooting of Walter Scott.

According to this source, there were 100 shootings by officers of unarmed black people in 2014.

So this one just happened. An officer near Dallas shot an unarmed college football player an altercation that will get more investigation.

And officers themselves are being shot at and shot in increasing numbers.

Too many guns mean too many shootings. Officers in other democratized countries don’t carry guns for the most part, but then neither do citizens:

The US, to be sure, is a different country. Some argue that the ubiquity of guns in America is a major reason that many seemingly innocuous incidents escalate into fatal shootings. At the same time, racial tensions in the US are more pronounced than in many other countries. Yet analysts believe that other nations have adopted a number of practices that contribute to less-contentious relations between police and residents – and might make a difference on US streets. These range from more-rigorous police training, to changing the way officers interact with residents, to requiring more education for cops.

The thing is, shootings are happening all over America every day. 88 lives are taken by gunshot injuries daily. For young black males, homicides are taking way too many lives:

For most young adults, aged 20 to 24, the No. 1 cause of death is car accidents, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. For black men in that age group, though, the top cause of death is gun violence; they are four times more likely to be shot and killed than they are to die in a car accident.

A young black man is nearly five times more likely to be killed by a gun than a young white man and 13 times more than an Asian American man. These numbers, dramatic as they are, actually understate the problem. If a black person is killed by a gun, it is judged a homicide 82 percent of the time. For the broad population, most gun deaths are ruled accidental or the result of suicide; only 34 percent of gun deaths are attributed to murder. (…) For all other races, the gun homicide rate went up in the 1990s, though not much, and then it came back down. For young black men, it more than doubled and still hasn’t completely recovered to earlier levels.

This is an American tragedy. Young black males are being killed in great numbers. Way too often we read about the shootings of gang members by other gang members in our large urban areas. Sometimes the bullets kill innocent people in cross fire. And we read about young black men who have accessed guns they may believe they need to protect themselves in their violent neighborhoods. It’s a vicious circle of violence.

Why are we not asking how these young people get their guns? A very sad story in St. Paul, Minnesota about a 16 year old black teen who was shot and killed by a gun permit holder in a robbery attempt highlights the stolen gun problem in our country that contributes to many crime guns. The victim had become a violent teen, involved in gang activity and crime. He and his “friends” had stolen a car earlier the day of the shooting that contained 2 loaded guns. This is a sad story all the way around. The shooter did appear to act in self defense and will apparently not be charged.

But what can we say about the guns stored in a car that ended up in the hands of a 16 year old who shouldn’t have guns? If we are to solve the problem of too many shootings, it is important to understand where the guns used in shootings come from in the first place. In this case, a 16 year old boy obtained a gun from someone else’s car. Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. The permit holder appeared to act in a responsible way though the investigation continues. He made sure a “911” call was made and then he tried to help the teen. The owner of the stolen car? Perhaps he will think twice about storing guns in a car away from himself where he could better keep an eye on them.

Stolen guns, according to this article, account for 10-15% of crime guns. The article then goes on to state that straw purchases actually provide the majority of crime guns. There was a recent case, also in Minnesota, of a woman straw purchasing guns for a Somali gang who used the guns in a crime spree in the Twin Cities area:

For months, authorities say, a young woman calmly walked into a Robbinsdale gun store and legally bought guns big and small, including a Lady Lavender model Charter Arms .38-caliber revolver.

She apparently didn’t keep them long. Investigators say she quickly — sometimes immediately — turned the weapons over to Fausi Mohamed, a member of the well-known Somali Outlaws gang, and some were used in a violent crime spree across the Twin Cities this summer. (…)

The federal search warrant states that there is probable cause to believe that between February and June the woman and Mohamed had unlawfully and knowingly made false oral and written statements intended to deceive the gun dealer about the lawfulness of the sale of firearms.

Charges are fairly uncommon against straw buyers, people who buy guns legally on behalf of people who cannot. But gang-related crimes involving guns bought that way are a recurring theme. In November, U.S. Attorney Andy Luger charged members of two rival Minneapolis gangs for receiving illegal guns used in some 15 killings or shootings.

A mentally unstable man who was shot and killed after firing at officers at New Hope City Hall in January received a gun from a straw buyer.

The Minnesota legislature voted to strengthen the Minnesota straw purchase law in another gun bill that passed and was signed by Governor Dayton.  This is timely given what is happening in real time. Gun laws can make a difference one way or the other. So when the gun lobby and the gun extremists say that stronger laws won’t make a difference, they are not telling the truth.
When there are so many guns in circulation it makes sense that there are more shootings and more gun crimes. Police officers are shooting people. People are shooting police officers. Gangs are shooting at themselves and others. Some officers and citizens are shooting at gang members. Young white males are shooting up movie theaters, schools, shopping malls, schools and churches. Older white males are also doing some of the mass shootings. People with anger issues can get guns and shoot others over things that shouldn’t result in death. People who are dangerously mentally ill can easily access guns and shoot up theaters or public shopping malls during a “Congress on your corner” event.
Men with domestic abuse charges or orders for protections can get guns and shoot their spouses, partners. Teens can access guns to kill themselves or others. Small children can find guns in their homes or the homes of others and shoot themselves, a sibling or a friend. People can discharge guns at a Ronald McDonald house where family can stay while a loved one undergoes cancer treatment. Dads can shoot their daughters while giving them gun safety lessons. And no arrests in either case. Good grief. Where is common sense? And where are responsible gun owners?
If this doesn’t sound like the definition of insanity, I don’t know what does. We have timid reactions to the many shootings in America because we are afraid to offend the corporate gun lobby. When money and votes are given in exchange for not passing common sense gun laws, that is insanity. Inertia sets in. Let’s move on shall we? We would hate to inconvenience our politicians with the raw facts and the names and faces of the victims.
Facts and research into the causes and effects of gun violence would be hugely important to discussing the problems and the solutions. If only the gun lobby hadn’t bottled up funding for the CDC to keep the agency from studying gun violence. 
Sigh.
But others have stepped in. This blog post at Armed With Reason discusses the insistence by the corporate gun lobby that if only we do something about those with mental illness we will solve our nation’s gun violence problem. This is their immediate reaction and if left alone without fact checking, it will be believable. But it’s not true. Let’s take a look from the post:

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

These findings have profound implications for crafting policy to avert future tragedies. In the wake of mass shootings, politicians from both sides of the aisle often call for including better mental health records in background checks. Though a worthwhile sentiment, the evidence suggests that these efforts would be better spent focusing on alcohol abuse instead.

Don’t let a red herring cause inertia in the important discussion about gun violence prevention. We need to be “armed” with research and facts.

We can do a lot more to make a difference in lowering gun deaths and injuries and the number of shootings. Some stronger laws have been passed and some weaker laws have been passed. They are all addressing issues mostly on the fringes of our gun laws but don’t get to the core of our problem with the proliferation of guns and the increased number of shootings. What about the suggestion offered by this writer to allow loaded guns inside of our national Capitol and the offices of our Representatives and Senators? Good idea? From the article:

These issues have not gained traction in Congress and this inertia claims responsibility for deaths. Political obstinacy has brought the issue into funeral homes across the nation. Congressional silence and inaction regarding the epidemic of gun violence have veered our gun control conversation rightward. Now, in too many states, white supremacists, mentally ill ideologues, and other threats to safety may purchase guns at their leisure. Inaction has acted to create a nation where hardly any person, save perhaps a Senator, can claim safety from a rogue gunman’s bullets. Moviegoers. Churchgoers. Malls. Elementary schools. Sikh temples. University students. Spas. This list, already extensive, excludes those people of color targeted every day by law enforcement agents. Most Americans do not have the capitol police, the secret service, and innumerable bodyguards to protect them from insane,predominantly white male mass shooters. Certainly they do not have the protection of a Congress whose tenderheartedness has been purchased by the National Rifle Association.

These Senators, so absolutely committed to extensive gun proliferation, should favor such measures. They have not thought fit to vehemently object to unthinkable access to guns in their constituents’ hometowns. What sets apart the Capitol building? The Congressional offices, for that matter? If NRA-owned senators truly believe in practically uninhibited access to guns and gun-positive spaces, they should extend that freedom to grateful constituents knocking on Congress’ literal doorstep, regardless of any potential security concerns. Proper senatorial self-defense lessons could certainly assuage any fears. Indeed, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) believes that a gun-carrying teacher could have prevented the Sandy Hook elementary school atrocity. Sen. Paul should then support mandatory mass-shooting bystander training for all senators. Perhaps then, when someone inevitably – as inevitably as they have in countless public spaces in this country – pulled a gun on the Senate floor, Sen. Paul could put his advice to use.

Why not? There are few public places where guns are actually not allowed. In general schools remain “gun free zones” but efforts to change that have been successful in some states. Luckily for the country, many of these proposals have been turned down because of the common sense thinking that our children really don’t need to see adults in their schools carrying guns around. There is no proof that this would work and, in fact, in instances of mass shootings, it is very rare that an armed citizen has stopped one.

Other “gun free zones” are allowed under state carry laws, such as some public buildings, private businesses, colleges and universities, hospitals, sports venues, etc. The gun extremists will say that posting a sign won’t stop them from carrying inside. Great. It won’t stop anyone from bringing a gun inside actually. But think about it. I recently attended a Minnesota Twins baseball game. There were metal detectors and paid employees checking bags and purses similar to airport screenings. So the safest places in our country are professional sports venues, airports and the US Capitol and office buildings.

The gun lobby of course, wants guns in all of these places. Why not? Because surely only law abiding citizens will carry their guns inside and if someone who is not law abiding dares to bring a gun in and attempt a shooting, those law abiding citizens will be in the right place at the right time to defend us all from being shot.

Consider this- who will defend children in their homes, not considered to be “gun free zones” since anyone can buy a gun and bring it home with them? Every day in America an average of 8 children die from gunshot injuries due to homicide, suicide or an “accidental “shooting. I write about them often on this blog. Here’s just one recent incident of an “accidental shooting” of a child in the state of Alaska where there are more gun owners than almost any other state and some of the weakest gun laws.

Who will save women from domestic shootings in their homes? For that is most often where they take place. Homes are not “gun free zones”.

Who will save us from ourselves? Police shootings or “officer involved shootings” are the highest in the US of any other high income country. Young black men are losing their lives in great numbers in our large urban cities in alarming numbers. Our streets are not “gun free zones.” Suicide by gun accounts for the majority of gun deaths in America. Many of these, again, occur in homes where guns are available and accessible. Some of these are mass shootings where the shooter shoots himself ( mostly male shooters).

Gun deaths and shootings are on the rise. Obviously the solution is not to allow more guns for more people in more places. We are over saturated with guns, many owned by law abiding citizens and almost all, if not all, originally legal gun purchases. More guns are accessible to more people who shouldn’t have them than in any other high income country not at war.

No solutions are genuinely offered by those in charge of public safety. Instead, many of these folks in charge of our safety are voting in favor of weakening our gun laws in the face of rising numbers of dead Americans. And they don’t seem to care. The solutions will have to come from the public who favor doing something about our national gun violence epidemic. Don’t just sit there chewing on weeds. Get up and do something and demand a vote in Congress for a stronger background check system that could save lives.  That’s a start in the right direction.

Gun odds and ends

odditiesThere are so many articles and incidents every day that I really don’t know where to begin most of the time when deciding on a topic for a post. So today I am going to just write about odds and ends. Because the American gun issue is so complicated and full of controversies and oddities, it seems appropriate to write about the oddities and then also about the ends that can help change the oddities in our gun laws and our unique gun culture.

Let’s start with police shootings in other countries, most especially Norway as written in this article:

Police in Norway fired their guns only twice last year – and no one was hurt – new statistics which reveal the country’s low level of gun use have shown.

Norwegian officers drew their weapons just 42 times in 2014, the lowest number of times in the last 12 years. Only two people were killed in police shootings in the same period.

The majority of Norway’s police, like forces in Britain, Ireland and Iceland, patrol unarmed and carry guns only under special circumstances.

In the US, where officers are armed at all times, 547 people have been killed by police during the first six months of 2015 alone, 503 of them by gunshot.

Why isn’t this proof that more guns have not made us safer? It is, of course but the gun lobby can’t deal with this truth. No other country has the insane culture of that of the U.S., thank goodness. And more, about officers themselves being shot:

US police are faced with greater day-to-day violence than most developed countries. In 2013, 30 officers were fatally shot while on duty.

The last time a British officer was killed by gunshot was in 2012 when two female police constables were shot in Manchester.

Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said in a statement at the time, “Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”

So there’s that oddity. But the post hasn’t ended. Now I want to talk about “good guys” with guns in my neck of the woods. The following article is a caution to anyone who wants to mow their lawn too early in the morning:

A 57-year-old Ely man was charged July 6 in State District Court in Virginia after admitting to police that he pointed a shotgun at another man mowing a lawn.

James Brobin was arrested July 2 in Ely after a victim and another witness said Brobin raised a shotgun at the man mowing grass on the corner of Central Avenue and East Harvey Street in Ely. (…)

Jason Carlson told Ely police that Brobin came within approximately 20 yards of Carlson and raised the gun for approximately 20 seconds. Carlson and his brother began cutting grass at a residence at approximately 7 a.m.

After he lowered the gun, said the complaint, Brobin “made a slashing motion across his neck with his right hand.” He then walked back across the street and into his home at 13 West Harvey St., said the complaint.

Be careful out there and don’t mow your lawn at 7:00 a.m. We can safely say that this was another “good guy” with a gun until suddenly he wasn’t. I have written about other incidents involving lawnmowers. In this one, also in Minnesota, a woman got hurt over a lawn mower incident:

A Minnesota man ambushed his 17-year-old neighbor, shooting her three times, hours after she asked him to not ride his lawn mower through her yard, prosecutors say.

Chad Pickering, 40, told investigators the teen was “a bitch” who “threatened him” Monday afternoon, before he “went over to (her house) and knelt down by a pine tree … and ‘I waited, and I waited and I waited,’” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Apparently lawn mowing can cause enough anger to armed “good guys” with guns that they actually believe they can shoot someone over that anger.

Under the category of “you just can’t make this stuff up” here, now, is a machine gun lawn mower.Let’s take a look:

No words.

It’s hard not to make a comment about this oddity insanity taking place in the state of Texas concerning a military operation. You’ve just got to love the photo of these paranoid armed Texans ready to take on the government. By the way, are these “good guys” with guns? From the article:

Eric Johnston is a retired firefighter and police officer from Arizona currently residing in the Texas Hills region. Johnston decries paranoia, saying “We are not far-wing, ‘Oh God, arm ourselves, get in camouflage, block the streets. We’re doing more of a neighborhood watch kind of thing. We are going to find a central location and set up an area and just cruise the streets, drive up and down the highway through Bastrop…most of us are legal concealed-carry folks, but we’re not going to be running up and down the street with automatic rifles.” This mentality ascends all the way to the governor’s office – as Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15 back in April.

Can we think about the “mentality” of even the Governor of Texas?

And speaking of the odd mentality of some people, can we talk about why some people pack guns in their camping gear? This couple found out what a bad idea that was:

The woman, 38, was camping with her boyfriend in Box Elder Canyon of the Stansbury Mountains west of Grantsville when the boyfriend tried to instruct her in firearms use, said Tooele County sheriff’s Lt. Ron Johnson. The woman first tried shooting a BB gun and then moved to a .22-caliber rifle, Johnson said.

“He handed it to her, and she placed it between her legs,” Johnson said. “When she went to stand, she grabbed it around the trigger guard. It discharged into her chin and exited through the bridge of her nose.”

Oops. Clearly we are not safer when there are more guns around. There are way too many irresponsible people handling guns out there. I would say the other campers are lucky that bullet didn’t end anywhere else. If this man was teaching his girlfriend gun safety one has to wonder how responsible he is himself as a gun owner. And we all know that alcohol and guns just don’t mix. Unfortunately this is not an oddity. It’s a normal, almost every day occurrence in our country.

And can we talk about where some of our crime guns come from? An Arizona gun show provided 26 guns to a group of teens who broke into the show venue during the night and stole the guns:

Investigators said about a dozen teens were able to cut through a chain at the east gate of the Central Florida Fairgrounds and make their way into the Orlando Gun Show expo building, smashing through a window with a brick. They walked out with 26 guns.

Oops. Only in America do we have the odd problem practice of thousands of guns being exhibited at large gun shows. Stolen guns end up as crime guns. Obviously this is another one of those things we need to work on to improve gun safety and improve the overall safety of our communities. To that end, I suggest we put our heads together to figure out how to keep guns from being stolen from gun shows, gun shops, homes, cars,etc. When we are awash with guns, this is a serious problem.

Aside from these inanities about people with guns, “accidental” shootings, lawn mowers, Jade Helm, stolen guns and others, let’s look at a real tragedy that could have possibly been averted if we had stronger gun laws. The Charleston shooter should not have been able to get his gun legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer. But here is how he could have been stopped from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • State Reporting Improvements: Many states fail to report essential information like criminal history, mental health status, domestic violence records, and, especially important in the Charleston case, illicitdrug abuse records to the agencies that perform background checks. Increasing NICS funding and changing federal law to require states to report relevant records to the NICS system will close this dangerous gap in the background checks system.
  • Universal Background Checks: The best way to save lives from gun violence is require background checks on all private sales, including online and at gun shows. South Carolina has abysmal gun laws (we gave them an F on our 2014 Gun Law State Scorecard), and had the Charleston shooter failed his background check at the gun shop (as he should have), he still would have easily been able to purchase a gun through a private sale, where no background check is required. Eighteen states currently have some form of private sale background checks, but until we pass this smart gun law everywhere, we cannot act surprised when dangerous criminals get their hands on deadly weapons so easily.

Dan Gross of the the Brady Campaign has made a similar statement regarding the Charleston shooter’s access to a gun he should not have had in the first place:

“Dylann Roof’s arrest on a drug charge, combined with his admission of prior drug use, should have prevented him from buying a gun, and it’s a tragedy that is not what happened. This news underscores the urgency of the message that Charleston families and the Brady Campaign took to Capitol Hill this week: Congress must vote now on H.R. 1217.

Yes. We can actually do something about the oddities and the insanity of our gun culture.

This editorial in the Washington Post gets right to the point with their title-The argument against common sense gun control crumbles:

Mr. Comey’s revelation should, first, inspire a lot of soul-searching among federal law enforcement. They aren’t responsible for Mr. Roof’s virulent racism, but they failed in the narrow area of responsibility that the nation entrusted to them. Congress has stifled the study of gun violence and theenforcement of gun laws in the past. But this appears to be a the fault of a poorly operating database.

Mr. Comey’s admission should also drive home what should be an obvious point: A tightened, functional background-check system and other simple measures would erect real and practical barriers to people attempting to buy guns for nefarious purposes. If the system had worked correctly in this case, Mr. Roof would have been turned away at the gun store counter. If Congress had tightened up the system’s rules years ago, he would have had a harder time looking elsewhere, such as at gun shows. If federal and state lawmakers weren’t so in thrall to the pro-gun fringe, friends, family members and other potential sources would have faced clear and high penalties for giving Mr. Roof a weapon without taking him to a gun store to get checked out first.

It’s entirely appropriate to talk about imposing basic gun laws in the wake of any mass shooting. All of them underline the fact that guns are shockingly efficient killing machines that no responsible government would ignore. Even if better gun laws wouldn’t prevent every rampage or end street crime, they would certainly cut down on gun deaths from all sorts of causes by making it tougher to obtain and use firearms illegally. (…) But in the case of Mr. Roof, gun activists now can’t easily fall back on the argument that better gun laws couldn’t have helped. Maybe Mr. Roof would have been so determined to start a race war that he would have eventually found a gun. Maybe not. What’s clear is that it didn’t have to be so simple for him. The country should have tried harder to stop him — and should be trying harder to stop the other Dylann Roofs still out there. That means law enforcement can’t be asleep at the switch. And it means that Congress should finally pass more common-sense gun limits that would make it harder to skirt the system.

9 Black men and women are dead. Our background check system has a serious flaw. People who shouldn’t get guns get them anyway. Congress does nothing. People continue to die. And we have a broken system of gun laws fostered by the corporate gun lobby and our own elected leaders. This is not only insane but totally unacceptable and should be at odds with our American values. We just have to be better than this.

UPDATE:

Sadly, I did not think I would have to add one more mass shooting to my list of “odds and ends”. But 5 more Americans are dead, including the shooter, in a shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here is the statement, in its’ entirety, from the Brady Campaign about the shooting:

“We are shocked and saddened by today’s acts of domestic terrorism at a Navy Reserve center and a military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. As information continues to unfold, our thoughts are with the victims who are reportedly members of the military and law enforcement, as well as their families and the Chattanooga community.”

“We do not yet know how the shooter obtained his firearm. As the details continue to unfold in Tennessee, it is already clear that this is another reminder of the work that needs to be done to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We owe it to the men and women at our military installations, in our communities, and to the 89 people killed every day by guns to take action now.”

This has to end.

In remembrance- church shootings and access to guns

In remembranceI was planning to write about something else today. But I can’t. I hardly know where to begin. I spent most of yesterday trying to carry out my life while watching the news, sharing Facebook posts, Tweeting and making phone calls about the heinous shooting at the Charleston AME church. We are all saddened to sickness. We are again, in America, in shock over yet another mass shooting. And we are numb. But we should not stay numb. Lives are lost every day. This time it was 9 innocent black Americans praying in their church. This time it appears to be a hate crime carried out by a young man who, according to some reports and photos on Facebook, has sympathies to the White Supremacist movement.

It’s unimaginable. It’s about race. It’s about guns. It’s about hate. It’s about intolerance. It’s about domestic terrorism. Racial injustice is among us and it’s evil and hateful.

There is so much to say. There is nothing to say.

The conversation about race in America is too important to ignore. The conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America is too important to ignore. One of the commenters on a news show this morning said that if you can’t be black while attending church, where can you be black? Good question.

It is an evil act. It’s the act of a “lone wolf” or is it? It was perpetrated by someone who should not have had a gun. His roommate said he had been planning this for a while. Why didn’t the roommate say or do something in time to stop him? Do we just shrug our shoulders when people talk like this and we know they have guns? What is wrong with us? From the above article:

Meek said Roof recently used his birthday money to buy a Glock pistol. When the two of them were drinking together a few weeks ago, Roof began railing about black people and remarked that he had “a plan,” Meek said. He did not say what the plan was, but Meek said it scared him enough that he took the gun out of Roof’s car and hid it in his house until the next day.

What is wrong with our country when young people express those kind of sentiments?

What is wrong with our leaders? President Obama held a press conference today and commented with resignation. He knows we need to do something but he knows we won’t. He knows our leaders have no spine. He knows our leaders run the other way when the issue of doing something about gun violence comes up. He understands and he doesn’t.

The world thinks we are crazed and a dangerous place to live. We can’t go to church to pray without a gunman shooting innocent people. We can’t go to movie theaters without a gunman shooting innocent movie goers. We can’t send our kids to school in the morning knowing they will come home alive in the afternoon. We can’t send our kids to college without fear of a mentally ill student with a gun shooting up the campus and maybe, just maybe, our child will be one of the victims. We can’t even work on an American military base without fear of a gunman shooting up people who have given their lives to protecting us from harm. We can’t go to a spa without a domestic abuser who gets his gun on line with no background check shooting up his ex wife and many innocent others. We can’t go to a Sikh Temple without a gunman who doesn’t like people who are not like him shooting them in his hatred. We can’t go to shopping malls without a deranged gunman shooting people for no apparent reason. We can’t work in a police station without an anti government nut case shooting up the station hoping to kill those he hates. We can’t sit in a restaurant without fear of someone shooting us up or accidentally dropping his gun ending in the body of a patron just out to eat. We can’t be at home without fear of young children getting their hands on a gun and shooting themselves or a sibling. We can’t walk down the street in some neighborhoods without fear of being shot by a stray bullet. For that matter, we can’t even sleep at home without fear of a stray bullet making a hole in the house walls and shooting a sleeping child. We can’t be in a city hall without a gunman who got a gun through a straw purchase shooting at police officers in the building. We can’t be at gun ranges either or gun shops without fear of people getting shot “accidentally.”

Why? Why? Why did this shooter have a gun? He got it as a gift from his father. Was that a good idea given that he may have had some problems? He had been arrested twice in recent months. Why did he have a gun? He had been expressing white supremacist and racist sentiments.

I say it’s crazy. I say it’s time for our leaders to stop crying and whining and saying they are sorry. If they are so sorry why aren’t they doing something about it? For they can if they want to. Why don’t they want to? Questions have to be asked.

We can do better. For God’s sake- in the name of these latest 9 victims and the many others who have gone before them to their early deaths, stop the violence. We are tired of this. Enough now. Common sense needs to happen in order to save lives. Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign has some heart felt sentiments along with some concrete solutions to at least some of our senseless gun violence:

When we talk about solutions, we don’t spend enough time talking about the real things we can do to keep guns out of the hands of the people who commit these crimes. Solutions that almost everybody supports, like:

  • Expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales, so that felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill can’t walk into gun shows or go online and buy guns with no questions asked.
  • Shutting down the 5 percent of “bad apple” gun dealers that knowingly do business with gun traffickers and straw purchasers and supply almost all crime guns in our nation.
  • Educating parents about the risks of unsafe access to guns in the home, knowing that nine kids are shot unintentionally in America every day and in more than two-thirds of school shootings, the gun comes from the home of the attacker or a relative — including the shooting at Sandy Hook.

We need to educate America that guns are dangerous weapons. Not everyone should have a gun. Indeed, there are plenty in our country who shouldn’t for various reasons. But they have them anyway.

It’s not just about laws. It’s about a culture of guns that is unique to America. It’s about thinking differently about guns.

We need to stop being insensitive to the real problem of gun violence in our country. When the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper ran the story about the shooting in the morning paper, they also included a sticker above the headline advertising a gun sale. Really? Cognitive dissonance. The two worlds of guns and gun violence in America. This is the problem with our gun culture. There’s a world of guns out there that doesn’t include the idea that people can get killed by them apparently. Here’s an image of the newspaper. sticker on newspaper ad

So let’s get this straight. When the corporate gun lobby stops all reasonable measures to stop some of the shootings, we have daily carnage on our streets, in our churches, in our homes and everywhere else. And when our leaders subscribe to the idea that they can’t stand up for the victims, the carnage continues unabated. And when we don’t make it difficult for people to get guns or use those guns once they get them, we see regular mass shootings and shootings every day that take the lives of 80 Americans.

As President Obama said, “it is in our power to do something about it.”

“We do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” Obama said at the White House. “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it.”

Let’s do something.

Enough.

We grieve with the families and the Charleston community.

In memory of the victims. Let us pause to remember the lives lost. Let us remember the people whose families and friends are grieving and will miss them forever:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Susie Jackson

Rev. Daniel Simmons

Cynthia Hurd

Sharon Singelton

Myra Thompson

Tywanza Sanders

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Ethel Lance

UPDATE:

This article just published by the New York Times is showing evidence that, indeed, this was a hate crime and one of racism. It’s time for those who are in denial, like one of my commenters here, to admit what this is really all about. From the article:

“I have no choice,’’ it reads. “I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

In one picture, Mr. Roof is shown posing with wax figures of slaves. In others, he posed with a handgun. He is alone in all the photos, which appear to have been taken at a slave plantation, Sullivan Island, S.C., and at the Museum and Library of Confederate History.

The website links to several pages of long racist rants. Some describe Hispanics as enemies and say that “Negroes” have lower I.Q.s and low-impulse control. The writings are not signed.

Guns and mass shootings- as American as apple pie and country music

apple_pie_american_flagIt’s the land of “milk and honey”. It’s the land of the free. It’s the land of rock and roll and country music. It’s the land of apple pie and barbecue. It’s the land of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It’s the land of wide open spaces and crowded cities. It’s the land of cowboys. It’s the land of slaves. It’s the land of Native American reservations. It’s the land of plenty and the land of slums. It’s the land of oceans, mountains, deserts and lakes. It’s the land of guns. It’s the land of school shootings. It’s the land of child shootings and gun suicides. It’s the land of domestic shootings and officer shootings. It’s the land of the corporate gun lobby.

An article about how America dealt with the Columbine shooting caught my attention this morning.  Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of that heinous shooting that seemed to be a marker for all that followed. It is why so many Americans showed up to march on Mothers’ Day of 2000 in the Million Mom March. Americans were horrified that they could watch a mass school shooting on TV and wanted not to do that again. We were hopeful that common sense would prevail and something would change. What seemed to change was the fervor of the gun rights extremists in the face of possibilities to do something about school shootings and everyday shootings. Instead of working together to stop the violence, the gun lobby dug in its’ heels and ever since has become more and more resistant and militant. Their iconic leader, Wayne LaPierre appears to be more unhinged with every passing NRA convention and every mass shooting.

But I digress. More from the first linked article, above:

After Columbine there was a general sense that something had to be done. That kids getting killed at school was a thing we weren’t going to be okay with. “Never again,” as they say.

It wasn’t some fanciful impossibility. The British did it after Dunblane. And so we did that. Everyone got together and passed sweeping gun control legislation and there was never another mass shooting in America.

Except not really. Because the “never again” response—though shared by many—was not shared by all. (…)

Both responses, “never again” and “don’t bother trying,” offer statements about the USA. The former says “America is the greatest country on Earth. We went to the moon. Surely, we can stop kids from getting shot to death at school! If the Brits can do it, so can we. ” The latter says, “No, we can’t. We’re America. The greatest country on Earth and the cost of the liberty that makes us so is that our kids may get shot to death at school.”

Every time there is another mass shooting and nothing happens it becomes a little easier to believe that the “don’t bother” crowd is right.

Don’t bother.

It’s OK by us if our kids may not come home on a day we put them on the school bus and expect to see them later that day at home. It’s OK by us if 3 year olds shoot one year olds. It’s OK by us if law abiding gun owners shoot themselves when adjusting bra holsters or guns fall out of pockets and shoot private parts. It’s OK by us if a 2 year old shoots his own mother after finding her loaded gun in a special purse for carrying a gun around  in public. It’s OK by us if stray bullets kill kids in their homes while they are sleeping. It’s OK by us if a gun nut father shoots and kills his own 3 year old daughter “accidentally”. It’s OK by us if domestic abusers use guns to kill their intimate partners. It’s OK by us if our young men of color are shooting each other on our city streets. It’s OK by us if police officers shoot to kill unarmed young Black men. It’s OK by us if police officers are shot and killed in ambushes. It’s OK by us if teens shoot themselves over a bad day with a gun found at home. It’s OK by us if innocent people are killed in road rage incidents. It’s OK by us if a grandpa shoots his own granddaughter when he mistakes her for a robber. It’s OK by us for a white guy patrolling a neighborhood to kill an unarmed black teen. It’s OK by us when a volunteer reserve sheriff’s deputy mistakes a taser for a real gun and shoots and kills a black man. It’s OK by us for gun nuts to carry assault rifles around in public places where families gather. It’s OK by us when……

And when someone bothers to do something about our nation’s public health and safety epidemic, it’s not OK with the gun rights extremists. It’s not OK with the gun lobby to suggest that gun safety reform will make us safer without infringing on their “God given” rights to do anything they want with their lethal weapons. Apparently it’s not OK for performers to have the freedom to perform benefit concerts for causes of their choice.

The gun nuts have come unglued over country singer Tim McGraw’s upcoming performance to benefit the Sandy Hook Promise organization. I wrote about this in my previous post but the furor is worse than ever. It’s bothersome that facts don’t matter in this case. Of course the Sandy Hook Promise is not “anti-gun” but that doesn’t bother the gun nuts.

So let’s be bothered by the extremism and myths about gun violence. We should be bothered enough to do something about this national epidemic. Changing the conversation is a first step. Even that would bother the gun extremists. Strengthening our laws to reduce and prevent some of our gun violence would not be bothersome to gun rights no matter what is hyped about it. Let’s make America the land of gun safety reform and the public health of our children and families. That we haven’t bothered to do that so far is a national tragedy.