Guns don’t fall from the sky

I have a friend who is a gun owner working with our local and state gun violence prevention groups who has said many times that guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchases. As proof, this recent arrest shows why this is true. Mind you, this is just one of many many similar stories about how crime guns enter the illegal or maybe even legal market. From the article:

A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection watch commander in Southern California has pleaded guilty to illegal gun-selling and unlawfully possessing more than 40 machine guns.

What the heck? Machine guns are strictly regulated for very good reason. They fall under the 1934 National Firearms Act that requires a lengthy background check process and a fee as well as registration. So how did this guy get machine guns? Good question. But they had to have started out as a legal purchase by someone who went through the process required.

All guns should go through the same process.

Embedded in the above article is another article of a similar vein about a convicted felon in possession of many guns using one in a road rage incident.

Police went on to search two residences associated with Trantham, a convicted felon who is barred from owning guns, and found several firearms, police said. Officers confiscated at least seven seven handguns, two shotguns, two rifles, numerous gun parts and thousands of rounds of ammunition that were seen in a photo posted by police to Facebook on Saturday, July 13.

The thing is, the guns this man had in his possession he could not purchase legally. How did he get them? And a photo on Facebook displaying the guns? I thought Facebook was going to stop this practice. They are not doing what they should be and said they would do.

And speaking of Facebook and guns they will now allow on-line blueprints for how to make 3D guns which, of course, anyone can make if they have the 3D printer. No background checks required and mostly plastic parts that can make it through metal detectors. From the article:

The social network said it would let “legitimate” gun shops and online vendors offer instructions for printing so-called “downloadable guns” in places where it is legal to do so. 

This is insanity itself. What is wrong with Facebook? We should all rise up in opposition to this one. Blueprints for buildings and other things are not dangerous. Blueprints for guns are.

Think of airport security, metal detectors in government buildings, etc. It will take just one bullet from one of these 3D guns at a Congressional hearing before the public understands the danger.

Where is common sense?

Another article in my local paper reveals that a recently released felon, convicted of shooting someone, on the day after his release, stabbed and beat his wife for the crime of not being home when he was released from prison:

Daniel Kriesel, 45, has been incarcerated for much of the past decade after he was convicted of shooting another man in the East Hillside in 2008. He’s now facing the potential of another long prison term after the Monday incident that left the victim with injuries that a prosecutor described as “brutal.”

Why oh why. Let me remind you that in many states felons can purchase guns legally because it is not illegal to buy from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or on-line sites like Armslist.com.

If we are to prevent and reduce gun violence we must use a multi faceted approach. Stronger background check laws, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, Safe Storage laws, gun trafficking laws, allowing more research into gun violence, promoting programs such as ASK and End Family Fire, and making our voices loud and clear ( as the majority have already do) that it is NOT NORMAL for our country to be in the midst of a national public health gun violence epidemic.

Much like cats and dogs, guns don’t fall from the sky. But it is really raining guns in America. We need to drain the ponds formed by the guns flooding our country and stop them from falling into the wrong hands.

Education. Energy. Emphatic support for common sense gun laws. Expedite passage of gun safety reform laws. Expert evidence about the risks of guns in the home. End Family Fire. Explaining the risks to leaders and the public. Explain and expose the truth about how the NRA has become a corrupt organization. Expose “bad apple gun dealers” where some crime guns get into the hands of people who should not have them. Elucidate the public about the danger of straw purchases of guns.

And eager engagement.

More anger in Minnesota

angry_manIn my last post I wrote about a road rage incident that left an innocent woman with gunshot injuries just because she honked her horn at another car. The shooter has still not been apprehended though I suspect that will eventually happen since there is a photo of the car now on the internet.

Since that last post, there was another shooting in Minnesota- a fatal shooting at a St. Paul law office involving an angry man who decided to “settle” his differences with his lawyer by shooting the law clerk sitting in the office. He was apparently so angry that he didn’t realize he allegedly shot the wrong person. But never mind. When people who shouldn’t have guns use them in the heat of an angry moment, nothing matters to them. I know that from personal experience.

The shooter in this case was  prohibited purchaser. From the article linked above:

Petersen has a lengthy and violent criminal past that includes convictions for drive-by shooting, second-degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, first-degree damage to property, aiding and abetting in the sale of narcotics, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, drunken driving and disorderly conduct, court records show.

Where did he get the gun and the ammunition given that he couldn’t buy it from a licensed dealer? There are many ways. From a private seller on-line or at a gun show. From a friend through a straw purchase. He could have stolen it. Or maybe someone who didn’t know his violent and criminal past just gave it to him? Or he bought it on the street from someone else who may have come by it illegally or legally, for that matter.

It is important to know these things if we are to prevent at least some of the daily shootings in America. Anger and guns don’t mix. A violent criminal past and guns don’t mix. Alcohol and guns don’t mix. Dangerous mental illness and guns don’t mix. But too often, this is the mix that ends in death.

A study was done recently about guns and anger. From the article:

Angry people with ready access to guns are typically young or middle-aged men, who at times lose their temper, smash and break things, or get into physical fights, according to the study co-authored by scientists at Duke, Harvard, and Columbia universities.

Study participants who owned six or more firearms were also far more likely than people with only one or two firearms to carry guns outside the home and to have a history of impulsive, angry behavior.

“As we try to balance constitutional rights and public safety regarding people with mental illness, the traditional legal approach has been to prohibit firearms from involuntarily-committed psychiatric patients,” said Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke Medicine and lead author of the study. “But now we have more evidence that current laws don’t necessarily keep firearms out of the hands of a lot of potentially dangerous individuals.” (…)

Kessler, Swanson and co-authors reason that looking at a prospective gun buyer’s history of misdemeanor convictions, including violent offenses and multiple convictions for impaired driving, could be more effective at preventing gun violence in the U.S. than screening based on mental health treatment history.

As for those who already own or have access to firearms, the researchers suggest the data could support “dangerous persons” gun removal laws, like those in Connecticut and Indiana, or a “gun violence restraining order” law like California recently enacted. Such laws give family members and law enforcement a legal tool to immediately seize guns and prevent gun or ammunition purchases by people who show warning signs of impending violence.

We should heed the results. One of the problems with our gun violence epidemic is that we don’t have enough data to show us who has the guns, how they got them, when they use them, if they carry them, why they use them, and who they shoot. Medical groups and some common sense Congress members are trying to fix that but, of course, the gun lobby will have none of it. Even though they claim that criminals should not have guns but will get them anyway, they do nothing to make sure they don’t get them in the first place.

Sigh.

It appears that an awful lot of shootings are done in moments of anger.

When I’m angry, I do feel like I want to do something to the person with whom I am angry or the person who wronged me. But what I want to do is to get them to stop what they are doing or apologize if an apology is due. Or I want them so suffer some consequence. But do I want them dead? No. If I had a gun, could I use it in an angry situation? Possibly.

Angry confrontations should not result in death. But too often they do. Guns happen to be the most effective weapon when it comes to killing or injuring others. When a gun is at the ready, it just may be used in the wrong way. Most gun owners are responsible with their guns and their guns. But since others are not, it’s time for all of us to get together and do something about this uniquely American problem where there is about one gun per person.

One of the things, aside from legislation, that can fix some of our problems with gun violence is education and awareness. Where are friends and family members when they know someone should not have a gun but has one anyway? Where are friends and family members when they see violent tendencies in someone they know and love and also know that person has a gun? Doing whatever is necessary to make sure guns are not in the hands of a person like this can save lives. Gun violence protection orders like the one introduced in the Minnesota legislature and other states as well, can help.

This is all about common sense and public health and safety. Anyone who thinks there are other motives needs to think about what has happened in Minnesota in the past week. It’s not OK and we’ve had #Enough of senseless shootings that devastate our families and our communities.

Je Suis Paris

Paris profileThe past hours have been filled with the news of what has now been determined to be a terrorist attack in Paris. It is estimated that 127 people are now dead, so far anyway. Some of those injured are reported to have very serious injuries so the death toll could rise. There are really no words for this incident. The world is watching yet another attack on innocent people perpetrated by those with hate and anger in their hearts. We are all asking- why?

Predictably there are Americans who actually believe that if only French residents were allowed to carry guns in public, lives could have been saved. These delusional people have an alternate view of the world not shared by most. If someone can explain how a gun could have been used to take out guys wearing suicide vests when there is no expectation that someone will blow themselves up in seconds, then go ahead. Enlighten us. If someone can explain how a pistol in a waistband holster would save innocent citizens from men armed with AK 47s, (maybe automatic type weapons) then go ahead- enlighten us.

Tragedies like the ones that unfold every day in America and international terror attacks will not be stopped by armed citizens. I saw some tweets today from American gun extremists and a few politicians stupidly opining that if only the French had our American conceal carry laws, this attack could have been thwarted. This tweet by a Wisconsin Sheriff suggests that the Paris terror attack could be an opportunity for the Republicans to win the White House. Sheriff Clarke has made other incendiary remarks regarding gun violence. He also has strong conservative views about gun rights and is a Constitutional Sheriff. Other gun nuts are claiming that they would now carry AR 15s in their cars along with the ammunition needed to thwart a terrorist attack.

Lunacy.

Just as the false claim that armed people could have saved themselves in the January Charlie Hebdo attack was debunked by a Texas gun group who set up a mock attack, the same is true in this attack and other terror attacks. From the article:

Killed or not, some of the volunteers still seem to believe arming themselves is the right thing to do.

“Still got killed, but I did better than I thought I would do,” said Parks Matthew, one volunteer who played the role of an armed civilian to KTVT. “If I was in a movie theater and someone were to pull a gun, what am I going to do? And I know now I’m not just going to fall on my kids and protect them. I need to advance on the threat,” Matthew said.

“It’s interesting to see how people react under stress,” said Nick Leghorn, part of the group that staged the reenactment. “It’s not what you’d expect people do.”

Texas.

Sigh.

This bears repeating from the above article: “It’s not what you’d expect people do.” That is the problem with the false logic of the corporate gun lobby and gun rights extremists. They live in a world where they are the “good guys” with guns who can inevitably take down the “bad guys” with guns. They are wrong and they even proved it to themselves in their mock scene of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. But even after that, they can’t admit that they are wrong.

Lax American gun laws, promoted by the corporate gun lobby and their bought and paid for politicians, are not working to keep us safer on our own soil- 89 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries and about 32 of these are homicides.

I found this article which highlights the problem of loose guns left over from wars on the Continent becoming the weapons of choice for terrorists. Weapons of former wars become weapons of current terror attacks. But weapons of war are not available to ordinary citizens in most of Europe. Other countries don’t need our gun culture. We need theirs.

It only takes a few people armed with guns and explosives to terrorize a city or a geographic area. Let’s look at the “DC snipers” and how they held the citizens of several communities in 3 states hostage for several days in 2002 with their military style weapons, readily available in the US to just anyone. And then let’s take a look at the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai and how easy it was for terrorists armed with military style AK 47s to hold a city hostage for days. The 2013 attack at the Westgate shopping Mall in Kenya  is another example of how a group of armed terrorists- domestic or otherwise, can use weapons to terrorize a large shopping mall for days. And we shouldn’t forget the 2011 attacks by an armed extremist in Norway that shocked that country and the world with the inexplicable death toll of 77.

And I’m sure I don’t need to get into our own country’s mass shootings that are carried out by our own armed domestic terrorists.  Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Charleston, Sandy Hook, Naval Yard, Fort Hood, and numerous others have also rocked our own country and the world.

Common sense tells us that ordinary armed citizens cannot defend themselves against attacks like these or the regular mass shootings, domestic shootings and daily homicides taking place in our own country. But gun extremists are suffering under the delusion that guns are the answer. Remember the attack on a French train this past summer? Remember that it was ended by brave unarmed Americans?

We are all sad and feeling helpless this morning in the wake of the “City of Light” suffering the darkness of the worst toll of human life in France since World War ll. But then let us also remember that in 2 days time, more than 127 Americans die from gunshot injuries. Since World War ll, hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their lives to bullets. And we do nothing.

Now we are outraged and fearful. Some of us will, inexplicably, promote more guns. Most of us want fewer guns everywhere and want to find ways to stop the carnage.

There are obvious political and foreign policy debates occurring after this attack which I am not going to get into on this blog. Those need to be discussed by people with a higher pay grade than my own.

But there are other considerations as well for American and world travelers. With terror attacks occurring in tourist destinations all over the world, what will we do about travel plans? That is also on my mind as someone who has done a lot of travel to places like Paris, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Norway, Croatia, etc. where terror attacks have occurred.

Travel writer Rick Steves has made this statement on his Facebook page:

I’m sure that many Americans will cancel their trips to Paris (a city of 2 million people) or the rest of Europe (a continent of 500 million people), because of an event that killed about 150. As a result, ironically, they’ll be staying home in a country of 320 million people that loses over 30,000 people a year (close to 100 people a day) to gun violence.

Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Paris, the victims, and their loved ones. And it remains my firmly held belief that the best way for Americans to fight terrorism is to keep on traveling.

And what will we do about the carnage of mass shootings and terror attacks all over the world? It will take all hands on deck to deal with the modern world’s terrorists no matter where they attack. The world is full of angry men with guns. They are shooting innocent people in movie theaters, churches, schools, military bases, on our streets, in tourist destinations, in cafes and music venues, shopping malls and other public places all over the world. We can’t stop living our lives out of the fear that comes with these attacks. But we can demand that our leaders keep us safe from the carnage.

Vigilance, better and stronger policies, thoughtful and serious discussion, responsible solutions and whatever else it takes is what is needed now. We are outraged by the continued death and destruction caused by armed people all over the world every day. #Enough.