Gun laws in Hawaii

hawaii_2009_01Did I mention that I was going on a family vacation to Maui? I have been there twice before and have written about it on my previous blog site. But it’s worth reviewing the gun laws of Hawaii since they are strong and effective. Let’s take a look from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

 

Among other things, Hawaii:

Yikes. Licensing and registration! Surely there must be confiscation. But no. No mention anywhere of wholesale confiscation of guns.

Hawaii gets a grade of A- from the Law Center. And, well, wouldn’t you know it, the state has the lowest gun death rate in the U.S. And for those people who still believe that President Obama was not born in America, Hawaii is, indeed, one of the 50 states.

And this is NOT fake news by the way. Facts matter when it comes to determining whether strong gun laws work. And they do. States that have strong gun laws generally have lower gun death rates.

It would really be hard to imagine someone carrying a loaded gun around in their swim trunks or bikini, right? And when jumping into the pool, leaving the gun sit around in a purse or a holster ripe for the taking? Or on boogie boards or surf boards or paddle boards- who needs a gun? The sun and the waves call people to the sea and relaxation. Whale watching, fishing, snorkeling, horseback riding, viewing the volcano-no need for a gun.

I suppose there might be some idiot who thinks he/she needs one in their bathing suit. They could always buy this crotch holster for wearing under their suits and shorts. Looks comfortable to me. Or there is the bra holder for a concealed gun. That usually goes well. Also comfortable.

Does anyone remember when this happened?

A Michigan woman accidentally shot herself to death last month while adjusting the .22-caliber revolver in her bra holster, police said Wednesday.

Christina Bond, 55, was struck in an eye in her St. Joseph home on New Year’s Day. She died the next day in a Kalamazoo hospital, where she had been airlifted.

“She was having trouble adjusting her bra holster, couldn’t get it to fit the way she wanted it to,” St. Joseph Public Safety Director Mark Clapp told the Kalamazoo Gazette. “She was looking down at it and accidentally discharged the weapon.”

Sigh.

She had two children.

Guns are not to be carried everywhere by everyone. Hawaii has that right, thank goodness.

Our main danger could be getting too close to a whale while watching from the boat, or drinking too many Pina Coladas or falling from a hotel balcony, a tsunami,  or even getting in a car accident on the curvy and very busy roads.

The risk of a mass shooting while visiting or getting luggage off of the airport carousel seem nil. Hawaii has not had a mass shooting since 1999 after which the state legislature passed a law requiring doctors to reveal mental status of people buying guns.

What a novel idea. It is still in existence today.

I will be happy to be visiting a state that has common sense when it comes to guns and gun policy. If only others would follow suit. But then, others have lapdog politicians doing the bidding of the gun lobby.

 

“Liar liar pants on fire”

pants-on-fireWe’ve been lied to. Congress has been lied to. Our state legislators have been lied to.

Someone’s pants are on fire. But what does it mean? Let’s take a look at the meaning of the phrase we use often and more often now that faux news and people in power are lying to keep their power and control over us:

When the lad heard his father’s footsteps, he snuffed the burning cigar as best he could and stuffed it into his back pants pocket. The father opened the shed door and barked at his son to tell the truth about what he’d done. The youngster feigned innocence, saying he was looking for a hook to go fishing with a friend at a promising fishing spot nearby. The cigar in his pocket suddenly sparked into flame. The father spotted the smoke and yelled, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” Then he swiftly turned the boy over his knee and whacked his behind, extinguishing the danger.

The NRA and the corporate gun lobby are lying to us and have been for decades: 

That is, of course the paradox. We are in thrall to a fib of epic proportions that itself relies on two other lies. And because we are captive to all these lies, we are also captive to the notion that as much as we wish someone would do something about all the innocent dead people, our hands are tied by the freedom-affording gift that is the Second Amendment. It is a sick joke of our democracy that after every mass shooting we must tell our children that the Framers gave us this precious gift of liberty, more valuable than their lives, and that we are stuck with it. This is the opposite of freedom. It is slavery by choice.

Most of us who have any common sense at all have understood the big lie for years now. But we have not been able to get our voices heard over the loud noise of the lies. Exposing the lies is key to saving lives and most especially after the election that brought us the “liar in chief” as our next President. Exposing the faux news sites and stories is also key to our American democracy and freedom of the press.

The lies will continue if we don’t make noise and keep agitating for the truth. An article in The Trace, written by someone who grew up with the NRA lies, alerts us to the dangers of these lies:

Rather than critically evaluating articles for their correspondence to known facts, the NRA has long encouraged its audience to dismiss these reports and the outlets that produce them as irredeemably opposed to a cherished way of life. In the NRA’s view, the mainstream media not only fails to reveal the truth, its editors, reporters, and producers are inherently incapable of being honest about gun issues.

Why bash the press? Because it is a strategy that works. Many of the NRA’s members are primed to trade in “fake news” precisely because of the epistemological groundwork the lobby has laid. The price of admission in this pro-gun bubble is no longer merely firearms ownership or enthusiasm for shooting sports. The NRA is speaking to any real American concerned about the intentions of those cold, timid souls in the media who just don’t get gun people, much less bother to know the difference between full-auto and semi.

It’s bad enough that our next President will be a liar in chief. So when @realDonaldTrump becomes President of the United States he will be informed about policy ( or not since he chooses not to be informed) by other liars.

This just can’t be good for any of us. But for those whose concern is that too many people are being shot to death every day in America, it is very concerning.

The truth matters. Facts matter. If we are to live in a fact free country, our democracy will die a slow death and more people will die sudden violent deaths.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has released it’s annual state score card regarding gun laws and numbers of gun deaths. You can click on your own state to see how they came up with their scores. What the report concludes, as have all other reports before this one and many other such reports by other organizations, is that in states that have stronger gun laws, in general there are fewer gun deaths. This is not rocket science. It is the truth. From the report:

The premise of the Law Center’s annual Gun Law State Scorecard is simple. Our legal experts evaluate every state’s gun laws, assign grades, and compare those grades with the state’s most recent gun death rate. Consistently, we see a powerful correlation: states with stronger laws have fewer gun deaths per capita while states with weaker laws have more gun deaths.

2016 brought increased public outcry over gun violence, as well as real progress at the state level, with a flurry of new gun laws passed, including ballot initiatives in three states. But, with 25 states scoring an F for their gun laws, clearly there is so much more work to be done. Use the map above to see how your state stacks up and learn about the steps your lawmakers can take to save lives in 2017.

Laws matter. Truth matters. Reality matters. The culture of guns and gun violence matters. Changing the conversation about the laws and the culture matters.

As the Law Center states, smart gun laws can save lives. We must be smart, not ignorant.

For example,  there is evidence that an increasing number of Americans choose gun ranges to commit suicide. Guns are available there. Maybe they don’t want to go buy a gun or maybe they would be prohibited purchasers making it more difficult. But don’t we have to deal with this American public health and safety epidemic given the evidence? A recent incident is just one of many. A Wichita man went to a local gun range and shot and killed himself:

“I’m sorry for the people that were there. Sorry for my employees that have to deal with it. Sorry for the person’s family. This time of year is a bad time of year. The last time we had this was the day after Christmas,” Relihan said.

Both times, the person used a rental gun.

Yes there is a ripple effect to gun violence. Many are affected and will never be the same, least of all the family members of the victim.

Gun suicides cause over half of American gun deaths. Easy access to guns is the culprit. Guns account for about half of all suicides in America. Other countries experience high rates of suicide by other means but our rate of suicide is high compared to many democratized countries.

Christmas is not always a happy time for many who are experiencing some mental health problems. Family members and friends should be vigilant and not afraid to mention the unmentionable. Is there a gun available in the home? Can the person access a gun easily?

There are laws that can help. Gun Violence Protection ( or Restraining)  Orders for example, allow family members to report that a family member ( or friend) may be dangerous to him/herself or others so guns can be temporarily removed. The person’s name can be added to the prohibited persons NICS list to prevent the sale of a gun at a federally licensed dealer.

But of course, as we know, in too many states, guns are easily available with no Brady background checks on-line and at gun shows through private sellers.

The thing is, we can prevent gun deaths and injuries. Why would we not want to do that? Good question.

Guns are dangerous and risky. They are the only product on the market actually designed to kill people. Facts matter. We can’t let lies inform our public policy about lethal weapons and where human lives are at stake.

What we need is more than a little common sense combined with a change in laws and a change to the conversation about guns. More guns have not made us safer. Period.

What we also need is elected leaders who hear the truth, see the truth, believe the truth when they hear it, reject the lies and innuendos and fear and paranoia coming from the corporate gun lobby.

In the upcoming administration, the gun lobby will have a seat at the table. The country will be led by corporate business billionaires, deniers of the truth, sycophants, campaign donors, conspiracy theorists, Russian friendly folks, second amendment enthusiasts, and others who don’t seem to care about public health and safety. 

That will not bode well for our children, families and our communities.

Please get involved as a truth teller and stand up to make noise when the lies are spewed. The time is past for demanding that something be done to stop the daily carnage of gun deaths in our country. We can’t let the lies interfere with saving lives.

Demand that @realDonaldTrump and his administration and other elected leaders tell the truth.

Lives depend on it.

Let’s get to work.

 

Background checks work

Map pointer with Check mark.Yes they do. Some of my readers think they don’t. I have yet to hear a reason that is based on facts and common sense. These folks do buy guns from Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers they tell me and are willing to submit themselves to the “terribly inconvenient” process of the 3 minute phone call.

Today is the anniversary of the enactment of the Brady Law. Since that day 23 years ago, according to the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence, 3 million gun buyers have been stopped from buying a gun legally from a licensed dealer. That is no small thing. Stopping a felon, domestic abuser, someone who is or has been adjudicated and/or dangerously mentally ill from getting a gun saves lives. One would think that would be a good thing.

But interestingly and inexplicably, those same folks who have submitted to legal background checks are against the very same checks from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or on-line. They try to tell me there is something different about a private seller asking for a Brady background check from a buyer. There is not. In most states that have passed a law to require background checks on all gun sales the private seller takes a buyer to a licensed dealer for the phone call to the FBI’s instant check system.

Easy peasy.

Also background checks do NOT lead to gun registration or confiscation. In the 23 years of requiring gun purchasers to undergo a simple background check, that has not happened.

Another gun lobby myth.

And speaking of myths, there is new research to dispel the one that shooters look for gun free zones where no guns are allowed to carry out mass shootings. That is not true. It’s interesting that when research is actually done, we get facts that can make a difference to our public health and safety. The Trace wrote about it today:

The Johns Hopkins study warns that introducing more guns on campus could have the unintended consequence of risking the safety of the students and faculty that gun-rights supporters say they are there to protect. Research shows that college students are at an increased risk for suicide and prone to impulsive behavior. One report, cited by the authors, found that firearms were the most common means of suicide among males, accounting for for almost a third of suicides by college students of that demographic. College students are also susceptible to risky behaviors — such as alcohol or drug abuse — which have strong associations with increased levels of violence.

This is common sense.  The corporate gun lobby turns common sense on its’ head and makes fiction out of facts. We are, according to this article, in a “post truth” era in our country. Fact has become fiction. Fiction has become fact. President-elect Trump has lied about most everything during the campaign and then taken some of it back telling us this is what he meant in the first place. Black is white. The sky is under us now and the ground is above us.

From the article:

This effect is known as the “illusion of truth” – when you hear certain information so many times, you believe it, regardless of its accuracy. Political lies stay with us not because of their authenticity, but because manipulative campaign strategists understand psychology.

The majority of the time, this information works against our best interest. (…)

Just this week, The Oxford Dictionary sealed our fate by naming “post-truth” the word of the year, defining it as:

“Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The greatest problem of our future is not political; it is not economic; it is not even rational. It’s the battle of fact versus fiction.

Sadly, a Trump victory illustrates that we are no longer able to distinguish between the two.

The above is an opinion piece by Samuel C. Spitale writing for the Huffington Post. I happen to agree with it.

Brady background checks work. But about 40% of sales don’t require a background check. That is not OK. Every person who adopts a pet must get a background check. Every person who works with children in churches must go through a background check. Physicians and accountants go through background checks. There are no exceptions. Why should there be exceptions for the purchase of a deadly weapon designed to kill another human being?

Background checks provide useful information in order to keep us and our children safe from fraud, sexual predators, those who would do us harm, those who can’t and won’t be responsible. That’s a good thing. It’s all about public health and safety.

Let’s make up up and down down. Believe in the facts which tell us that when we restrict access to guns to only those who can handle them responsibly and safely, we can prevent some of the daily carnage from gunshot injuries. If we push the conversation towards gun safety reform- meaning reforming the practices of law abiding gun owners to make sure all guns are locked and unloaded away from the hands of children and teens and to keep them from being stolen and used in a crime. If we talk about the risks of guns to their owners providing the research and the facts that access to a loaded gun can result in an avoidable suicide or accidental gun discharge we can expect fewer gun deaths and injuries. If we talk the facts about gun free zones, we turn fiction into action and keep guns away from places they are not needed or should be.

The facts support the above. It is not fiction or myth that gun violence can be reduced and prevented if we pass stronger gun laws and stand stronger against the myths and fiction as promoted by the gun lobby.

Let’s get to work and deal with the facts. It’s past time to Finish the Job and require background checks on all gun sales.

 

UPDATE:

As always, one of my readers whose comments are not approved by me for various reasons, made a claim that the Brady Campaign is lying about how many gun purchases have been stopped legally since the Brady Law took effect in 1994. Here is the low down on that based on facts from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ( which employs lawyers who do research into gun violence):

Since the enactment of the Brady law on March 1, 1994, through December 31, 2012, background checks blocked more than 2.4 million prohibited purchasers like domestic abusers, convicted felons, mentally ill persons, and other dangerous individuals from purchasing a firearm or receiving a permit to purchase or carry a firearm.1

In 2012 alone, background checks blocked 192,043 prohibited persons from gaining access to firearms,2 including 82,000 felons or roughly 225 felons every day.3

Statistics reported by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence confirm that background checks work and have had a significant positive impact on national crime rates. Before the Brady law was enacted, America’s gun homicide rate was on a dramatic rise, increasing by 55 percent from 1984 to 1993 even as non-gun homicides were falling over this period.4 After Brady background checks were required, however, gun murders began to steadily decline and ultimately fell by 32 percent from 1993 to 2006.5 The rate of robberies and aggravated assaults committed with firearms also decreased by 42 percent over this period.6

Now one can argue that crime rates were on the decrease already for other reasons but surely a law that has stopped felons, domestic abusers and others who shouldn’t have guns made it harder for these folks to get guns that end up used in crimes. So when we combine efforts to stem the devastation of gun crimes, we can save lives. If the folks who want to argue about this have better ideas, I’m all ears.

There is other research to indicate that fewer denials of gun purchases have occurred in recent years. There may be a good reason for that based on this Everytown article:

However, between 2000 and 2013, the share of total background checks denied fell by more than half, from 1.6% to 0.7%. This is consistent with the hypothesis that criminals are increasingly aware that a background check will block them from buying guns at licensed dealers—and are seeking guns from unlicensed sellers online and at gun

shows, where no background checks are required under current law. In a September 2013 investigation of illegal online gun sales, Felon Seeks Firearm, Everytown found that 1 in 30 people seeking guns from unlicensed sellers on the national website Armslist.com had a criminal record or domestic violence history that prohibited gun ownership. This is nearly four times the share of people seeking firearms at licensed dealers who are prohibited and blocked by the background check system. (…)

Seems like a very good case for requiring background checks on all gun sales. And why not? Who will it hurt? Not law abiding gun owners no matter what they say. It will stop those who shouldn’t have deadly weapons and won’t be responsible but will be potentially dangerous.

Resisting a reasonable provision that will save lives is antithetical to public health and safety. If those who resist give some fact-based reasoning to show otherwise, then maybe we can have a discussion. But as long as their only reason is that more gun sales will profit the gun industry and hysteria about guns being confiscated then we can’t have the discussion. Further what is the gun industry going to do now that they have a gun friendly Congress and President? What will they come up with now to scare people into buying guns and being against common sense?

 

July 4, 2016- Who will protect the children?

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American Banner

On this Independence Day, I will again remind my readers that what goes up must come down. My friend Joe Jaskolka knows this all too well. His story is told here by my friend who writes the New Trajectory blog. Joe survived the bullet that lodged in his brain that New Years’ Eve of 1999 when he was just 11 years old. Someone celebrating their second amendment rights changed Joe’s life forever. I have met Joe and his father. I know how his life is now. Who protected him that night from someone with a gun? No one could have predicted this.

As The Trace wrote last New Years, the odds are low of being hit by a bullet fired into the air:

But if the odds of being hit by celebratory gunfire are indeed low, so too are the odds of ever being caught for engaging in it in the U.S. Cases where authorities can precisely pinpoint the location of the gun — let alone identify the shooter — are incredibly rare. The legal consequences for those who do get caught are mixed, with charges ranging from the misdemeanor to felony level and fines ranging widely.

And why do people do this in the first place? On one level, the answer is the obvious one: It’s recklessness, frequently abetted by drunkenness.

People may actually not realize that the bullets they launch into the air will inevitably land somewhere, with potentially disastrous results. But on another level, there are basic economics at work.

Many municipalities ban outright the sale of another New Year’s staple: fireworks. That means residents have to be able to afford to travel outside city limits or even cross state lines in order to buy them. Meanwhile, ammunition can be plentiful, already at hand, and, in many cases, simply cheaper.

But when guns, celebration and possibly alcohol are mixed together with people whose rights don’t come with responsibilities, these kinds of shootings happen often enough that we should be very concerned that your child or grandchild could be affected next.

Anyone with common sense should understand that bullets shot into the air do come down somewhere. What are they thinking? Not much apparently. Those guns bought for self protection more often than not end up harming or killing some other innocent American citizen. 

So my purpose in writing about this is that, before I met Joe Jaskolka, I never thought about the possibility that someone would be injured or killed by celebratory gunfire. I want others to know that this is possible and to make sure there are not armed people nearby celebrating on our national holidays by shooting bullets into the air.

Fireworks also injure people every year. Interestingly, this article reveals some statistics about fireworks injuries:

As states have relaxed laws related to fireworks sales over the past decade, emergency doctors saw an increase in both the number and severity of fireworks-related injuries among young people, the data show.
They determined that the number of patients under age 21 treated and released by emergency departments between 2006 and 2012 rose modestly: from 4.28 per 100,000 people in 2006 to 5.12 in 2012. Significantly larger increases were seen in injuries requiring inpatient hospital admission, which skyrocketed (if you’ll pardon the pun) from 29% of cases in 2006 to 50% in 2012.

Laws matter as it turns out and are there for good reason- to protect children from avoidable injuries and death.

Rights come with responsibilities. On this day when we celebrate freedom, independence and love of country, we should take our responsibilities very seriously.

A few days ago, a story circulated about a 3 year old Kansas child who was visiting a home in Tennessee with his parents. Unfortunately and tragically for all concerned, the boy found a loaded gun in the home, not stored away from small hands, and he shot himself in the face.

He died.

What caught my attention on the news story video was the sign in front of the house that promoted the owner’s second amendment rights with the saying: “protected by the second amendment”.

Who was there to protect that child from the owner’s second amendment rights?

The second amendment does not, according to the gun lobby, guarantee the right of the rest of us to be safe from those who promote it with no restrictions, regulations or moderation.

This is not acceptable and should not be accepted as fact.

Who will protect our children from those who are not practicing their second amendment rights responsibly? Most gun owners are safe and responsible. But many of them refuse to participate in efforts to make sure all are responsible.

What can we do?

Pass safe storage laws so guns must be stored safely or there will be a penalty.

Pass Child Access Prevention Laws and enforce them to make adults responsible for leaving loaded guns within easy reach of children.

Make sure all gun sales come with a Brady background check.

Pass laws to make sure domestic abusers don’t have guns. Children ( and women) are often shot during domestic shootings.

ASK  if there are unsecured, loaded guns in the homes where your children play.

Require everyone who buys a gun to have training with a firearm before walking out of the gun store or gun show with said gun.

Restrict the number of rounds allowed to be used with firearms.

Restrict the features that can be added to assault type rifles to turn them into weapons of mass destruction.

Charge gun owners whose guns are used by children to kill themselves or others.

Contact your elected leaders and demand that they act to save the children.

Join an organization working to prevent gun violence. It’s about prevention.

Understand that any restrictions on firearms does not lead to confiscation of guns or taking away second amendment rights. Remember that these are myths promoted by the corporate gun lobby.

Report anyone using a gun irresponsibly at a celebratory community or family event.

Don’t assume anything. Take irresponsible gun use seriously. With rights come responsibilities.

Change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America.

On this day of national celebration, please remember that we are better than this and must act to keep our children safe from devastating gun violence.

A new NRA website called sharethesafety.org is promoting the purchase of guns for others who can’t “afford” them. This is the exact opposite of everything we know about gun safety. A brazen attempt to arm people in neighborhoods where supposedly people can’t afford guns is a ludicrous and dangerous promotion of gun sales to make a profit off of death and injury. We already know that our young people of color in these kinds of neighborhoods are already quite heavily armed and causing death and mayhem every day in inner city urban neighborhoods.

Minneapolis has seen an increase in shootings in affected neighborhoods this year. Recently a beloved woman, Birdell Beeks, was shot by a stray bullet in her neighborhood. All we need are more guns legally or illegally owned  killing innocent people.

Please read the Violence Policy Center’s “Blood Money” if you don’t believe me.

It’s not sharing the safety. It’s sharing the death.

This is the American we have. Is this the America we deserve to have or want? I think not.

Remember that more people have died from gunshot injuries in American than all Americans who have died in wars. Is this patriotic and love of country?

Only in American, the nation we are celebrating today, do shootings of and by toddlers take more lives than terrorists do:

In the US in 2015, more people were shot and killed by toddlers than by terrorists. In 2013, the New York Times reported on children shot by other children: “Children shot accidentally – usually by other children – are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.”

Children and innocent Americans should not be collateral damage. If we take this seriously like we do death by any other cause,  we will do something about it. If we love our country and are patriotic, we will do whatever it takes to save our children from a country dripping in guns and bleeding from gun deaths and injuries like no other country not at war.

#Enough.

Be safe out there today and Happy Fourth of July.

 

UPDATE:

Disclaimer- It turns out that the website, sharethesafety.com is a hoax and a parody about the NRA.  Sometimes parodies reflect the truth and in this case, we can all believe that the NRA would promote the buying of guns for people who can’t afford them because they often use that myth as a way to complain about gun restrictions. What I also find interesting is that low-income Americans can barely afford clothing, food and the necessities of life. It’s likely they won’t need a gun to live their daily lives. The other point is that there are young people who don’t have a lot of money to afford guns but can easily get them on the streets cheaply. Easy access to guns for those who shouldn’t be able to get them is a serious public health and safety problem in our country. Guns are weapons designed to kill other people. They should be expensive and more difficult to access.

According to the above article, the NRA has filed an official complaint about the men who launched this hoax website. It hit too close to home apparently.

Violence by bullets

Basic RGBWe live in a violent country.  Unfortunately, violence has always been in human nature. Various ways of committing violence over time have resulted in too many deaths to count. Why are we so violent? The search for answers to that question has been centuries long and will always be with us. But we are living in this time right now and so are dealing with what is front of our faces every day. There is an understanding that purposely killing another human being is violence no matter the method. When people die by bullet(s) their deaths cannot be called anything but violent.

Mike the Gun Guy has written a blog post about suicide by gun and whether or not it should be considered in the category of gun violence. It is important to make this point because most gun deaths in our country are due to suicide. If the gun lobby wants to lower the number of people they believe are killed by bullets, they throw out the numbers of suicides. It doesn’t fit with their idea that a gun for self defense in the home can be used in other ways rather than self defense. I will discuss this later in this post. For now, let’s look at what Mike has to say:

But let’s drop the euphemism and look at reality: “States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups.  It remained true after accounting for poverty, urbanization and unemployment.” The link between gun ownership and suicide is particularly evident among teens, according to researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and the fastest-growing age-group prone to suicides are teens. Since 2007, the overall rate of gun suicide has increased by 12%, the gun suicide rate among teens is up by 42%.

First of all, in a paragraph previous to the one above, Mike writes about the National Shooting Sports Foundation actually offering safety tips to gun owners on its’ website and comes close to saying guns are a risk in homes. That’s good news. In a recent blog post, I argued that if people understood the risks of owning guns they would, at the least, be more aware of their responsibilities to keep guns locked up and away from small kids and teens. One of the age groups with high rates of gun suicides are teens.

But then, Mike talks about the use of the word violence to refer to gun suicides:

Don’t think that suicide isn’t gun violence?  Think again.  Here’s how violence is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Notice it doesn’t say ‘someone else,’ because that’s a crime called aggravated assault.

Violence means damage and there’s nothing out there that can damage someone as effectively or quickly as a gun, particularly when you don’t even have to aim.  As far as I’m concerned, at least when it comes to suicide, maybe the GVP community should just drop the ‘V.’

I say we don’t drop the “V”. Violence happens every day. But most of the violent deaths are committed with firearms. And most of the firearms deaths are suicides. There are solutions to this kind of violence. I write about them in almost every post. Common sense leads us to the conclusion that, since firearms are the cause of so many deaths and injuries, something should be done about the access to them, who should have them, how they are stored, how the firearms are sold, what sex, race and age group die in the highest numbers, etc. We are already doing some of this research but we need a lot more if we are to deal with gun violence as a public health epidemic.

So now I want to talk about the idea of guns for self defense since that is the reason a lot of people buy guns. The Violence Policy Center has released a new report about guns for self defense. From this press release about the study:

The study finds that in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, there were only 211 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the SHR. Twenty states reported zero justifiable homicides in 2013. That year, there were 7,838 criminal firearm homicides.

In 2013, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 37 criminal homicides. This ratio does not even take into account the tens of thousands of lives needlessly lost in gun suicides and unintentional shootings that year.

The study also finds only a tiny fraction of the intended victims of violent crime or property crime employ guns for self-defense. Over a three-year period from 2012 to 2014, less than one percent of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a firearm, and only 0.2 percent of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a firearm.

“Self-defense is the big lie that the firearms industry and gun lobby use to promote gun sales. The fact is that any gun is far more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional killing than in a justifiable homicide,” states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “A gun is far more likely to be stolen than used in self-defense.”

Guns are designed to kill people so if a gun is purchased for self defense isn’t that because the owner intends to use it at some point to kill or injure another human being? If people were warned about the risks like smokers are when they buy a pack of cigarettes, would it make a difference? Maybe. If people had mandatory training before being able to acquire a gun, would it make a difference? Maybe. So why not do these things because they certainly wouldn’t hurt anything and they just might prevent some senseless gun deaths?

When States United to Prevent Gun Violence set up a phony gun shop in New York City and explained to prospective gun buyers that the type of gun they wanted to buy was used in a recent mass shooting, the buyers changed their minds. Reality hit. Take a look:

Guns do have a history. All guns start out as a legal purchase but get into the illegal market in several ways- sold without a background check to someone who shouldn’t have a gun or to someone who intends to sell the gun without a background check to someone the seller does not know; stealing; straw purchase; trafficked on the street. If a gun doesn’t have its’ own personal history, the type of gun sold does and perversely, after a mass shooting, some Americans rush out to buy the very type of gun used in that mass shooting.

Where is common sense?

I watched  the movie American Gun. It is a movie that traces the history of a gun used to kill a man’s daughter. In the end ( spoiler alert) the gun used to kill his daughter was his own gun that had been stolen. Guns have histories.

Back to talking about the word violence. Many gun violence prevention organizations do use that word for a reason. People who die from gunshot injuries die a violent and usually sudden, unexpected death. There is no way around that. Whether the bullets came from a gun used in a suicide, a homicide or an “accidental” shooting, the bullets cause a violent reaction to a person’s body. And so we have:

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The Violence Policy Center

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Protect Minnesota, Minnesotans working together to prevent gun violence

States United to Prevent Gun Violence

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

And many more too numerous to list here.

Violence is pervasive in America. Gun violence accounts for much of violence. Our media is littered with reports about shootings and shootings cause violence to the bodies of the victims. It is a violent death for sure. Bullets are designed to do damage to soft tissue inside of a person’s body.

A new study also suggests that gun violence is worse than we thought it was. Vox.com has reported here:

Beyond the implications for policy research, the findings are simply alarming. It’s hard to imagine that America’s gun violence problem is actually worse than we think, given that the country, even after the big drop in crime over the past few decades, still fares much worse than its developed peers. But this study shows that may be the case. At the very least, we’re not counting a lot of shootings as shootings.

How can we not count shootings as shootings? Sometimes when shootings result in only injuries or minor injuries, they are not counted. A shooting is a shooting because it results in less safe communities and a gun culture where too many people become victims of devastating violence that has a ripple effect.

Unless we have the common sense to talk about the issue for what it is, nothing will change. Perhaps if we showed photos taken by law enforcement at shooting scenes our legislators would change their minds about doing nothing about the violence. Perhaps if one of the gun rights extremists who argued with me at the hearing this week in the Minnesota Senate on the background check bill had seen a photo of my sister lying in a pool of blood at the shooting scene, he would have had just a little empathy for why I am trying to prevent gun deaths.

More on this in my next post.

I just know we can do better than this. Not addressing gun violence as encompassing all kinds of gun deaths is putting our heads in the sand. More guns have not made us safer and to the affected families, no matter what the cause of the gun death, it was a shooting that took the life of a loved one in a dramatic, sudden, unexpected and violent way.

 

 

Minneapolis shootings highlights access to guns

Basic RGBThe Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote an editorial that appeared in today’s version of the paper. The editorial focused on the latest round of shootings in downtown Minneapolis that left 9 people injured and one dead last week-end. I wrote about this in a previous post. From the editorial piece:

That’s a different kind of crime-fighting challenge, city officials said during a City Council Public Safety Committee this week. And, as one pointed out, combating it involves a strong focus on gun access — using current laws to prevent violent criminals from getting guns, prosecuting them to the maximum when they possess and use guns, and expanding efforts to take more firearms out of circulation.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and downtown police Inspector Mike Kjos said they are looking at additional traffic-flow and business-hour changes, understanding that those strategies only go so far. Therefore, doubling down on access to firearms can make a difference. It’s far too easy for those who intend to inflict harm to get guns. And once caught and convicted on gun charges, too many of them are back on the streets too soon. As Freeman noted, his office, the various law enforcement agencies and downtown stakeholders must continue to work together to bring brazen offenders to justice.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is an answer staring us in the face but our leaders are ignoring it. It’s clear that easy access to guns in our communities is causing senseless shootings and deaths and injuries. There really is no argument about it. Preventing easy access to guns has to be a solution. In an interesting article that came to may attention, Chicago criminals serving time were asked where they got their crime guns. From the article:

A survey of inmates in Chicago suggests most criminals don’t steal guns. Instead they get them from family or people they know.

“There are a number of myths about how criminals get their guns, such as most of them are stolen or come from dirty dealers. We didn’t find that to be the case,” says Philip J. Cook, a professor of public policy, economics and sociology at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

What the study found is that at least these criminals got their guns from their friends. (Where did their friends get their guns?) They didn’t try to buy them from a gun dealer. Why? They would likely not pass a background check and would be turned away. They didn’t steal them, though many crime guns do come from thefts of guns of law abiding gun owners. Though some of the guns come from straw purchases, many of the guns in the Chicago area came from out of state from someone who was able to get guns and bring them in to sell on the street. More from this article:

“This research demonstrates that current federal and local regulations are having a big effect on the availability of guns to criminals in Chicago,” he adds. “They can’t buy their guns from stores, the way most people do, and are instead largely constrained to making private deals with acquaintances, who may or may not be willing and able to provide what they want.

“Other studies we have done have found that in many cases criminals go without guns because they don’t know how to get one. We conclude that current enforcement is somewhat effective, and devoting more resources to enforcement would further constrain gun access by dangerous people.”

There’s a theme here. When there is easy access to guns for those who shouldn’t have them, shootings will likely happen. Crime will happen. People will die. Our streets will be less safe.

And laws matter. Just as laws matter for speeding, access to tobacco products, drunk driving and other public health and safety matters, gun laws do matter. But we need to expand the laws we have to include requiring background checks on ALL gun sales. Why wouldn’t we? Speeding laws include everyone. No one is immune. Everyone is required to wear a seatbelt. Access to tobacco products includes everyone. No one is excluded. Safety laws for baby cribs don’t exclude certain companies. Everyone has to go through the TSA screening before boarding a plane. No one is excluded. There is not a separate line for some people. All medicine containers now have safety caps that make it hard for kids to open. Even adults have problems opening these bottles.  Not one is exempt. All are included. If people or companies don’t follow the laws, there are penalties and responsibilities for breaking them.

And sometimes the end result of not following the laws is senseless deaths and injuries. That is why we, as a country, do as much as we can to prevent that from happening. But gun laws are the exception. It’s simply not true that criminals just don’t follow gun laws as a rationale for not bothering to pass any. That is a flawed and false argument.

It’s way past time to address the problem of easy access to guns. It takes the shooting of 10 people in one night in downtown Minneapolis for the public’s and law enforcement’s attention to focus on the problem of guns. There are other things that contribute to the problem. But the guns must be addressed. It’s the only common sense argument.

We can do much better than this if we focus on the real problem and not let the gun lobby distract us or scare us into thinking that guns are not the problem. They certainly are. At the national level we can Finish the Job started when the Brady law was passed and expand background checks to all sales. We can, if we have the will, require reporting of lost and stolen guns. We can strengthen straw purchasing and gun trafficking laws. We can make sure people who are a danger to themselves or others don’t have guns. Some states have passed laws to do just that. (California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order) We can remove guns from domestic abusers. Some states, including Minnesota, have done just that. We can hold bad apple gun dealers accountable. (The Brady Campaign is working on that) Revoking state pre-emption laws that keep cities from passing strong gun laws would help with easy access to guns in, especially, large urban cities. From the linked article from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

At the urging of the gun lobby, however, most states have explicitly removed authority from local governments to regulate guns and ammunition, thereby creating a dangerous exception to the traditional rule of local authority.

State preemption statutes threaten public safety because they prevent local governments from implementing customized solutions to gun violence in their communities and impede their ability to fill regulatory gaps created by inaction at the state and federal level.  Moreover, by mandating a one-size-fits-all approach to firearms regulation, preemption statutes deprive the public of a critical problem-solving resource:  local innovation.

The gun lobby has managed to stop local communities from exercising local control- something they like for anything else ( as mostly conservatives). But when it comes to guns, not so much.

We can, as the article about where criminals get their guns, make sure young people in affected communities of color have more to do than wander our streets with guns.

In other words, we can do this. It is beyond unreasonable and ludicrous that we haven’t already tried to stop at least some of the 33,000 gun deaths a year in America.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made a statement after one of his staffers died from gunshot injuries sustained in a random shooting on the streets of New York:

“This is not any Second Amendment fight, it’s not for the soul of the country,” Cuomo said. “That’s a lot of baloney. Nobody’s trying to take anybody’s gun. I am a gun owner. I have been a gun owner. I’m not anti-gun. I’m anti-gun for mentally ill people. I’m anti-gun for criminals.” (…)

Cuomo called on federal elected officials to summon the “guts and courage” to pass strict laws on the national level because of the guns that have flooded into New York from other states.

“The federal officials in my opinion are afraid of the political downside,” he said.

And he acknowledged he took a hit in popularity for the SAFE Act, passed in the wake of an elementary school shooting in Connecticut. The measure has angered gun-rights supporters and Republicans, especially upstate, and Cuomo’s popularity there has struggled to rebound.

“I paid the price. When I passed the law in New York, the people who were against any gun control got very, very angry at me and the don’t like me and they don’t vote for me,” Cuomo said. “I understand that. But, I was elected to do the right thing. The right thing is this nation needs a federal gun control policy.”

Thank you to Governor Cuomo for doing and saying the right thing. He does have the political courage to do the right thing in the face of strong resistance. That is what it will take in order to save lives. He gets it. Too many of our elected leaders don’t or won’t.

Shame on them all.

Strong laws, community responses to this concerning epidemic, public education and awareness about the risks of guns, enforcing the laws already on the books( which doesn’t preclude passing new ones), holding gun owners responsible for their own behavior, and many other measures, can make a difference. They have already made a difference in the states that have taken action and passes strong gun laws. The evidence is already in front of us.

Do we want to make a difference and make change happen? Or do we want to just have the status quo and let the corporate gun lobby be the deciding group in these important decisions? Do we want our elected leaders to listen to the majority of us who are concerned about our national public health and safety epidemic or will we let them get away with publicly announcing their adherence to the gun lobby’s view of the second amendment?

It’s time to do something and stand with the families of the 33,ooo victims of gunshot injuries. Who are we as a country if we fail our children and our communities in such a tragic way? We need to do #WhatEverItTakes.

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.