Gun laws in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia

I will be on a river cruise on the Danube river for the next few weeks. I wrote before about a previous Danube river cruise and the gun laws in the countries along the way. Three of those countries (Austria, Hungary and Croatia) we will visit again on this trip. But now I want to write about the other countries that I have not visited before- Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.

Let’s start with Serbia which has experienced a lot of violence in various wars over the decades and centuries. It turns out that there are a lot of legal and illegal guns in Serbia according to this article:

No one knows just how many illegal weapons Serbians are hiding in their homes. Even authorities give vague estimates, ranging anywhere from 200,000 to 900,000. Experts suggest that those numbers are conservative. The weapons concerned are handguns, assault rifles, bombs – even anti-tank grenades. Add to that another 1 million legally registered sport and hunting firearms, as well as yet another 1 million weapons in the hands of the army, police and private security companies. The internet portal gunpolicy.org estimates that the United States is the only country in the world that has more guns per capita than Serbia.

Most of the weapons are leftovers from the bloody wars that raged in the 1990s after the fall of Yugoslavia – in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Not even the regular armies bothered to bureaucratically administer the inventories of their arsenals back then. When violence erupted, mercenaries and those with a desire to fight arrived on the scene, and no questions were asked. After the wars, some 4 million illegal guns were said to have remained in circulation in the seven republics of the former Yugoslavia – most of them in Serbia.

And more about the culture of guns in Serbia:

A poll conducted by another Belgrade NGO, the Public Policy Research Center, found that 70 percent of Serbs in fact felt safe in their homeland. Not because they believed the country’s institutions or security apparatus would protect them, but because they felt that they themselves, neighbors or friends could. “Of course people should be able to have guns, too bad we can’t have more of them. Do you want an unarmed and defenseless citizenry, so you can do whatever you want with them?” read a recent comment from a reader at DW’s Serbian Facebook page. Hundreds more comments were of a similar opinion.

Yet the news tells a different story: One searches in vain to find examples of people successfully fending off attackers or stopping crimes with handguns. Rather, one sees daily tabloid headlines and lots of stories about murders and occasional shooting sprees. In July, an incident in the northern Serbian village of Zitiste shocked the nation: A jealous husband killed his ex-wife and four others in a bar, injuring another 22 people in the process. Had he not had an illegal firearm at home, the night certainly would not have been so gruesome. But he did – and that firearm was an AK-47 assault rifle.

Sounds familiar.

The annual rate of gun deaths in Serbia according to gunpolicy.org is 3.23 per 100,000 ( 2015) The total number of gun deaths in 2015 was 232- 154 of which were suicides. Regulations are strict, including registration and restrictions on private ownership of automatic and semi-automatic guns. But according to the article above, there are many illegally owned and unregistered guns in Serbia.

Now let’s move to Romania. The laws are very restrictive not allowing private ownership of handguns. Only long guns for hunting are legal in Romania. There were 27 gun deaths in 2016 which is a rate of .13 per 100,000. So two countries as close as Serbia and Romania have very different laws and very different outcomes. Of he 27 deaths, 12 were suicides.

And now, Bulgaria. From the same source as the above link, in 2014 there were 108 gun deaths, with a rate of 1.51 per 100,000. 53 of the total number of gun deaths in Bulgaria in 2014 were suicides. Licensing is required for all guns owned, including automatic, semi-automatic and handguns. In order to get a license to buy and own a gun, the purchaser must provide a reason for needing a gun.

In the U.S. the rate of gun deaths per 100,000 is 12.21. We know that compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war, our gun death rate is right at the top. Our laws are right at the bottom.

When I compare the gun laws in other countries as I travel, what I find is that inevitably where there are more guns and looser laws, there are more gun deaths. This should come as no surprise to anyone. More guns do not make people safer. The opposite happens to be true. The corporate gun lobby loves to tell us that we all need guns to keep us safer. Why would they not? We know that the gun industry benefits when people are paranoid and filled with fear. If people are led to believe that guns will make them safer, they may just go and buy one, or two or many. Unfortunately, too many people suffer death and injury as a result and we end up being one of the deadliest countries in the world.

Who else has the rate of mass shootings that we have experienced in America? The link here points to the deadly phenomenon of American mass shootings since 1966 noting that the rate has increased in the past decade. The age of the shooters has become younger. From the article:

Although the data goes back to 1966, nearly a third of the 1,196 total victims have died since Charleston, and the two deadliest shootings in U.S. history fall into that time frame.

In October 2017, a 64-year-old gambler with a cache of high-powered rifles fired from his Las Vegas hotel room window and shot 480 people in a country music festival below. Fifty-eight of them died.

Less than 15 months earlier, a security company employee killed 49 and wounded 53 in a gay nightclub in Orlando, the second-highest toll.

The 169 shooters ranged in age from 11 to 73, but they were mostly young to middle-aged men, and they have trended still younger recently. Shooters before Charleston averaged just under 34 years old; from Charleston to the present, they have averaged 32 years old. (…)

While there may be trends in the types of places targeted, the geography remains unpredictable. Mass shootings have occurred all over the country, in red and blue and purple states, in huge metropolises, medium-sized cities and tiny rural towns.

I just know we will be safer in the countries we will be visiting- at least from bullets. Travel is always risky. But I know that since we are doing little or nothing to keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them another 1000 plus Americans will die from gunshot injuries while I am gone.

It’s hard to ignore what is going on back home while traveling and a lot is going on right now. But hopefully we can enjoy this area of southeast Europe and the history of the countries we will visit. Many of the countries along the Danube have experienced mass deaths and violence in the wars that have ravaged their countries over the decades. It’s hard to forget the early 1990s when the area in what was Yugoslavia left millions dead. And certainly the 2 world wars affected Romania and Bulgaria in ways it is hard for us to understand here.

It is a complicated area with a lot of interesting and controversial history.

We have a lot of work to do in the U.S. regarding gun safety reform and keeping our democracy safe from an authoritarian leaning President in the midst of an impeachment investigation. We should all be alarmed that our own President is threatening armed insurrection when he tweeted that there will be a Civil War if he is impeached. We all know what that means. And we get a view into his twisted mind when he suggested that immigrants should be shot in the legs to slow them down.

We have our own complicated problems and our history books will in the decades to come have chapters about our mass shootings and a President who used violent rhetoric to foment his base.

We are better than this.

July 4th violence

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American BannerWell, I didn’t think I would be posting so soon after my last one. We shouldn’t be surprised that #45 is not taking a July 4th vacation from tweeting. He should.  Our President decided to tweet out yet another invective against the press, including a violent  doctored video.:

The video appears to be a repurposed clip of Trump, then a reality TV star, beating up WWE owner Vince McMahon in 2007 ― with the logo for CNN, which Trump has continually labeled a “fake news” media outlet, replacing McMahon’s head.

Trump’s official White House account subsequently retweeted the video, which appeared on a Reddit thread on Wednesday, entitled “Trump takes down fake news.”

The fake news is the video and tweeting by our own President.

Let’s hope no one acts on the violence encouraged in the tweeted video, above.

And we do have to wonder now if the President was right when he said he could step out onto Fifth Avenue in NYC and shoot someone and he wouldn’t lose any voters.  Something to think about,

This is America on the Fourth of July, 2017.

You just can’t make this stuff up and it portends of a whole new world and a total disregard for the office of the Presidency and the country as a whole. As Rachel Maddow explained on her Friday show, this President really doesn’t care about that. He only seems to care about his ratings, his base, and his self esteem. People with low self esteem are often bullies.

What does this have to do with gun violence you ask? Many of our nation’s domestic and mass shootings are committed by people with  anger problems , problems with women, actual low self esteem and self image problems or prior violence in their own lives. They are often angry and some with mental illness, diagnosed or under diagnosed. Gun suicides are often the result of these personality traits as well. And to make matters worse, many mass and domestic shootings are committed by suicidal people who seem to want to take others with them. My ex ( now deceased) brother-in-law did not kill himself at the moment of the shooting of my sister and one other person. He did that later but clearly mentioned being suicidal after the shooting and actually succeeded 3 months later when he put a plastic bag over his head and suffocated himself.

Back to my original thought about the President of our country instilling violence…..

We are about to celebrate our nation’s Independence from England. It was a brutal and violent war (what war isn’t?) and left many dead and injured behind. (4435 battle deaths.)

At about 90 gun deaths per day, it would take about 3 months to reach the number killed in the Revolutionary War. Since 1968 more Americans have been killed by guns than in all American wars combined.

Astounding.

The American gun culture is killing people en masse and we look the other way.

Who are we as a country any more?

What we gained was an independent country that has become a model for democracy all over the world. If that model becomes tainted by our own leader, what kind of model will we become? Confidence and trust in our country has already eroded after the election of a man who seems to be increasingly angry and unhinged- seeking vengeance against anyone who dares to criticize him for his own words and behavior that is out there for all to see or anyone who slights him in any way.

Words matter. Behavior matters. Tweets matter. This should not be tolerated by any of us. I would hasten to bet that if Hillary Clinton had been elected, the attacks would have been vicious but she would not have been the attacker. If Barack Obama had said or done any of the things #45 has done and said, he would have been run out of office in short order.

This is not the America we deserve or should want. The fact that our President’s base is willing to tolerate this because of ideology, fear, anger, and whatever else was in the background of our last election,  is alarming. Violence from the top can only beget violence below.

And speaking of violence ( having nothing to do with the President but everything to do with angry people and guns) the recent rampage at a Bronx hospital was just another reason why more guns do not make us safer. Why a man who had the problems this physician had was not charged with a felony for previous behavior is beyond me. But had he been, getting a gun would have been more difficult. Not impossible mind you because private sellers at gun shows and on-line can sell to anyone with no Brady background checks. He bought the gun within weeks of the shooting.

Waiting periods anyone? Some states have them.  Not enough. They could save lives.

Brady background checks can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding purchaser and gun owner?

This physician had an AM-15- an assault gun that he shouldn’t have had. But he brought it with him to the hospital and killed one, wounded 5 more and then killed himself. As these shootings always are- it was a shocking and violent surprise with no time to react. Don’t anyone write a comment to me about how if only someone had had a gun, this would not have happened. That would be a lie. We don’t need any more lies in our country.

And then there is the continued ripple effect of gun violence that also is felt by the families of the shooters. This story is about the reflections of the wife of the man who shot and injured Congressman Steve Scalise:

He flung dishes at his wife, roared at the television, erupted during an outing at a local brewery. Suzanne Hodgkinson became so concerned with her husband’s growing anger that she wrote to his doctor asking for help.

Now, the wife of the man who opened fire on a congressional baseball team in June wonders what more she could have done.

A case for Gun Violence Protection Orders. Some states have them. They can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding gun purchaser and owner?

Guns and anger don’t go together. Guns and domestic strife or domestic abuse don’t go together. Guns and issues with women don’t go together. Guns and financial troubles don’t go together. Guns and mental illness don’t go together. Guns and vengeance don’t go together.

Guns and stupidity and irresponsibility also do not go together. If this were not so serious, one could cry. A Florida man sat on his gun and shot himself in the penis. Really? Yes, really. #notanaccident

She said the man told her he sat on the gun, which accidentally went off.

Police were called to the hospital just before 3 a.m. because of the gunshot wound.

Investigators found that the man was convicted of cocaine possession in 2004.

It’s possible he will be facing charges for possessing a firearm, because he is a convicted felon.

Not a law abiding gun owner. How did he get his gun?

And since I will be busy doing things with my family, I want to write once again about the totally stupid and dangerous celebratory gunfire that occurs every year on July 4th:

Looking into the science of it, can it actually kill someone? According to Forensic Outreach it not only can, but has.

“Celebratory gunfire has wounded hundreds and killed dozens in recent years in the US alone,” according to the research website.

As the site explains, the impact a bullet falling back to the ground can have has several different factors rooted in physics — everything from gravity, terminal velocity and wind resistance. The speed of the bullet leaving a gun or rifle also changes based on size or caliber but is estimated at anywhere from 1,500 feet per second to 2,900 feet per second.

A bullet shot straight up in the air, which is almost impossible by a human according to Forensic Outreach, will lose all of its speed at the top and then start to fall back to the ground.

With the help of gravity, it will pick up speed and impact at somewhere between 200 to 330 feet per second, which is said to be enough to penetrate the skin.

Most bullets won’t be shot straight up. Most will be shot at an angle so it will never loose all of the speed coming out of a gun barrel. A bullet on that type of an angle will impact at a speed between 300 to 700 feet per second which is enough to penetrate a skull.

The moral of the story is don’t shoot your gun in the air because it’s illegal and can kill someone.

Pare injured or worse by this avoidable and nonsensical practice by irresponsible gun owners- most law abiding- who should know better. What goes up must come down by the laws of nature. I also refer to my friend Joe Jaskolka on the fourth of July because his life changed forever on New Year’s Eve of 1999 when a celebratory bullet ended its’ trajectory in his brain. He was 11 then and almost 30 now still suffering from the permanent effect of one celebratory bullet.

#Enough

Be safe out there everyone. More guns do NOT make us all safer so don’t listen to that lie. And use common sense if you do happen to own a gun. There’s too much carnage going around and way too much violent rhetoric going around. As a country we owe it our children and grandchildren to stop this from becoming normal. It is not normal in any way.

We do have a serious problem but for the next few days, we can hope that common sense will prevail and the President and others will refrain from violent rhetoric and actual violence. We all need a vacation from the tweeting and the chaos surrounding the President.

On that note, Happy July 4th everyone.