Lock them up

familyjewelsLock up those guns. It turns out that stolen guns account for a lot of crime guns. Here is a new report from The Trace about that very thing. This is a long and comprehensive article but just a few highlights about something we already know:

American gun owners, preoccupied with self-defense, are inadvertently arming the very criminals they fear.

Hundreds of thousands of firearms stolen from the homes and vehicles of legal owners are flowing each year into underground markets, and the numbers are rising. Those weapons often end up in the hands of people prohibited from possessing guns. Many are later used to injure and kill. (…)

Thefts from gun stores have commanded much of the media and legislative attention in recent years, spurred by stories about burglars ramming cars through storefronts and carting away duffel bags full of rifles and handguns. But the great majority of guns stolen each year in the United States are taken from everyday owners.

So for those legal gun owners who love to blame those guns on the streets for gun crimes and murders, check out your own homes and cars first. It’s also a reminder that when we allowed the gun lobby to loosen gun laws in many of our states, we made this happen. In many states, where shall issue concealed/carry laws are in place, guns can be kept in cars- locked up of course. But, duh, don’t you suppose those intent on stealing guns know this? Many stolen guns come from car break-ins.

In the image in this post, the homeowner has his own handgun out ready to shoot someone who may be breaking into his home. As it turns out, most home invasions happen when the homeowners are not at home making the idea that a gun is needed to protect from home invasions. It is rare that a gun is used in that way. Too often those guns end up shooting a loved one.

My state of Minnesota is one where gun carry permit holders can keep their guns in their cars.

Where is common sense?

But back to stolen guns.

I understand that hundreds of millions of Americans own guns and a small majority of Americans own a large majority of the guns. But for God’s sake- lock them up.

More guns+more mass shootings+more shootings in general= about 100 dead Americans a day.

In my hometown of Duluth, a robbery of a home not too far from where I live ended with 3 arrested and one person who escaped. A friend who lives close to the home where the robbery occurred told me that a shotgun was found lying in the back yard at the scene. She has 2 small children and guessed that there about 20 kids who live within blocks of the crime scene. The thought that a shotgun was found where, had police not found the stolen items, could have been found by a young child was concerning to her.

In addition to the stolen shotgun,  a handgun and a rifle were found in the yard the next day. They appear to have been stolen from the home. The one who got away left his jeans behind in a neighbor’s garage. There have no further articles about the robbery to confirm this information so this is hearsay but most likely true.

The moral of the story is that there are more guns on the streets being traced to crimes and shootings. A lot of them are coming from “law abiding” gun owners are not responsible enough to lock up their guns securely where they can’t be stolen.

Passing laws to require the reporting of lost and stolen guns could prevent some of the many stolen guns used in crimes and help law enforcement trace crime guns to their sources for the sake of accountability. This is not rocket science. It’s a no brainer and common sense. 

From the above-linked article:

Nine states and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws to partially fill this gap and require gun dealers to implement some specific security measures, but such steps fall short of a comprehensive solution to the rising rate of firearm theft from gun stores.33 Congress should enact legislation that mandates certain security requirements for licensed gun dealers and gives ATF the authority to ensure compliance with these requirements. In July 2017, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced legislation that would require licensed gun dealers to store guns in a secure manner when their stores are closed and also would direct the U.S. attorney general to promulgate regulations requiring additional security measures.34 In addition to passing this legislation, Congress should remove the rider on ATF’s budget that prevents the agency from requiring gun dealers to conduct an annual inventory reconciliation, a commonsense business practice that would help ensure that dealers are keeping track of their dangerous inventory.35 Finally, Congress should provide ATF with the resources required to conduct regular compliance inspections of gun dealers to ensure that all dealers are complying with applicable laws and regulations and to help dealers identify potential security weaknesses before thefts occur.36   

And further, from the article:

The lack of mandatory reporting of stolen guns also enables gun trafficking and straw purchasing by eliminating accountability and allowing individuals whose guns end up used in connection with crime to simply say that the guns were stolen. To help ensure a more accurate assessment of the prevalence of gun theft in the United States, Congress and state legislatures should enact laws requiring all gun owners to promptly report stolen or lost guns to law enforcement. This provision was included in a number of bills introduced in the last Congress, including the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2016, which was introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).49 A June 2016 poll commissioned by The New York Times found that 88 percent of voters support this policy.50

If you have seen the 2002 film, “American Gun” you understand the path a stolen gun can take to become the weapon of a murder from being a legally owned gun. Too often, the consequences of guns stolen from gun dealers and individual gun owners are tragic.

One way to prevent this is for everyone to think about what they are doing with their guns. Until we all get that there is a risk to gun ownership as well as a right and a responsibility, we will continue to see people die due to gunshot injuries. There are suggestions in the article above about taking care that guns are not stolen.

We can a lot better to prevent guns from entering the black market and being trafficked on our streets. The fact that we aren’t is leading to senseless and avoidable gun deaths and injuries. It doesn’t have to be this way.

“Celebrating” our unique American gun culture

Today we celebrate Independence Day. And since I write about guns and gun violence, I am suggesting that we could also celebrate saving lives through common sense gun measures that won’t take away the freedom to lawfully own a gun. This freedom should be extended to those who are responsible and can prove they can be safe with their guns. And we can do this, much like other advanced countries have done. The fact that we haven’t is unique to America- and not in a good way. Reasonable people can put their heads together to reduce the daily carnage due to reckless and irresponsible gun use and ownership. So on this national holiday, consider common sense and common ground.

I have included a meme in this post with some “language” but it gets to a point that needs to be made.

The image at the end of this post been posted on social media sites. The language is not mine. It is a quote from gun owner and author Stephen King who supports common sense gun measures and is not afraid to say so. His quotes get to the inanity of our gun culture:

“How paranoid do you want to be? How many guns does it take to make you feel safe? And how do you simultaneously keep them loaded and close at hand, but still out of reach of your inquisitive children or grandchildren? Are you sure you wouldn’t do better with a really good burglar alarm? It’s true you have to remember to set the darn thing before you go to bed, but think of this — if you happened to mistake your wife or live-in partner for a crazed drug addict, you couldn’t shoot her with a burglar alarm.”

Inanity with guns kills people. Some days you could almost laugh if you didn’t cry about the stupidity of some people with their guns. For example, in what possible way could a loaded gun be in any way similar to a cup of coffee? Check out what this Florida man said when arrested for carrying his loaded gun around at Daytona Beach:

Ray was charged with misdemeanor open carrying of weapons, the arrest affidavit said.

Ray also did not have a concealed weapons permit, police said. The weapon had a 30-round magazine with a round in the chamber, police said.

Police said Ray was trying to “push the envelope as to what is lawful under Florida law, and to gain a reaction from the public and law enforcement.”

Ray said he was not trying to hurt anyone and is a big proponent of Second Amendment rights.

He said if guns were everywhere, people would be more comfortable being around them.
“It’s like a cup of coffee,” he said. “People are not afraid of a cup of coffee. They know what it is. It’s everywhere. If guns were everywhere criminals will think twice about taking people’s lives.”

When a patron at the Burger King on North Atlantic Avenue asked Ray why he was carrying the gun, he replied that it was “to guard against all the crazies out there,” records show.

Just when you thought you’d heard everything. I guess the gun lobby has succeeded in so dumbing down the arguments about gun owning and carrying that even this seems to make sense to some. I don’t have to get into why a loaded gun with a 30 round magazine carried on one’s person is different from carrying a cup of coffee around do I? But this craziness is what gives some of the gun extremists their excuse for what they are doing. There is no excuse. Anyone with common sense understands that the average American is just not going to get used to people carrying assault rifles around where they live, play, work, learn, shop and worship. Why? Because in the real world, there are people carrying these things into the places where we are with our families who have shot and killed people. I don’t know about you but if I see someone carrying a cup of coffee around, I know for sure I won’t be killed by that person with the coffee in his/her hands. It is simply not normal for people to be carrying loaded assault rifles around in public.

This July 4th holiday there are warnings out about possible ISIS attacks in America. Why wouldn’t a member of a terrorist or hate group also walk around on our streets with a loaded assault rifle in public places with evil intent? How will we know the difference?  We also have our own “home grown” terrorists ready to commit heinous acts and hate crimes. Our country just experienced one of the most awful hate crimes in recent history in Charleston, South Carolina. It was one young man, loaded with hate, intolerance, racism and anger and also a loaded gun.

For more American gun inanity check out the comments made by House Speaker John Boehner after the House voted to block any funding for the CDC to do research into the causes and effects of gun violence:

Listen, the CDC is there to look at diseases that need to be dealt with to protect the public health. I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease. And guns don’t kill people; people do. And when people use weapons in a horrible way, we should condemn the actions of the individual, not blame the action on some weapon. Listen, there are hundreds of millions of weapons in America. They’re there. And they’re going to be there. They’re protected under the Second Amendment. But people who use weapons in an inappropriate or illegal way ought to be dealt with severely.

“I’m sorry but a gun is not a disease….” Really? Can we dumb down the conversation any more than this? You can almost see the strings attached to Boehner’s arms with the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre behind the curtain moving Boehner’s mouth. This is so ridiculous as to be unbelievable. But this is the unique American gun culture that we celebrate along with other American “freedoms” and ways of like.

A gun is not a disease. It’s also not a cup of coffee. Or a spoon.

But the mayhem and tragedy caused by people with guns is surely a disease in America. It is a public health epidemic that we are ignoring at our peril. What we can’t do is let elected officials get away with their nonsensical statements about guns and gun violence that belie the facts. And we can’t let people who are carrying loaded assault rifles around in public get away with their swaggering attempts to “normalize” what they are doing. They are a distinct minority who have been led to believe that they have a right to do this because… second amendment. This nonsensical reasoning is an insane interpretation of the amendment and does a disservice to the founding fathers who wrote our Constitution.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, whose confirmation to become our Surgeon General was held up by the gun lobby because he dared to state the obvious- that gun violence is a public health issue, said it again at a recent conference:

“I said that gun violence is a public health issue, and I’ll say it again today.”

Dr. Murthy is right. He is about changing the conversation in American. Gun violence and the toll it takes on our communities is very real. It’s not going away but we can at the least try to reduce and prevent some of it. Not to do so is unpatriotic.

The thing is,we can have a gun culture and we can have guns. We have more of them than any other advanced country not at war. But we can also have common sense when it comes to regulating guns and their owners. Most gun owners are safe and use their guns for recreation and sport. But enough of them are not that we owe it to our American values to prevent them from shooting their own family members, or black people in a church, or movie goers, or young school children, or people who practice a different religion, or college students or people shopping in malls, or themselves….. And that would also be an American thing to do.

This week-end we will be celebrating our country’s independence. It’s obvious that freedom and liberty mean different things to different people. I think we can all agree though that none of us want to be shot. Passing sensible legislation to keep guns away from people who should’t have them does nothing to take away the freedoms of those who do not have bad intent. But when the conversation is dumbed down and the research is blocked so that we can’t, as a country, deal with our public health epidemic of shootings, that takes away the ability to be free from devastating gun violence.

Let’s get this straight. The NRA/corporate gun lobby has foisted a huge deception on Americans and most especially on our elected leaders. Please read this Washington Post article about the difference between what they say and what is actually happening in the real world of gun violence.It was written by a woman who took an NRA self defense class:

The NRA’s approach to personal safety assumes crime can be prevented by ever-present fear. The instruction suggests that threats are everywhere beyond our front door, making the advice impractical for anyone interested in leaving her home. Rather than refusing to be a victim, the seminar can make one feel as though they’re always a victim.

An entire section of the course manual is devoted to telling people never to open their home’s doors to strangers, even a UPS driver who needs a signature. And yet, a subsequent chapter advises people who are being followed to “go to the nearest lighted building or home for help.” What if the nearest home is occupied by a person who follows NRA advice and doesn’t open the door for strangers? We were advised to have a hotel employee accompany us to our rooms, yet beware of someone who may be posing as a hotel employee as a ploy to gain access to our rooms. (…)

The impracticality of the NRA’s advice aside, its rules aren’t an effective way of preventing most interpersonal crime. The course suggests that, to avoid becoming a victim, you should fear strangers. But most violent crimes are committed by a relative, friend or acquaintance of the victim. Every piece of safety advice the NRA gave would be relevant only if the assailant was a stranger, and yet nearly two out of three violent crimes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows.

Further, what epidemic of violence in public restrooms and hotel rooms justifies always employing a buddy system? Certainly, you can find news stories about crimes committed in these places, but generally, crime statistics show that public areas are safe. Just 12 percent of violent crimes are committed in commercial areas – including bars, gas stations and banks – and just 0.1 percent occur in hotel or motel rooms, according to federal data. Meanwhile, 43 percent of violent crime occurs in or near a familiar private residence, whether your own, a friend’s or a relative’s.

The gun lobby is purposely hiding the facts or blocking ways to find them. I know for a fact that the gun violence that affected my family was committed in a home and committed by someone who knew and once loved my sister who was also a “law abiding” gun owner until suddenly he wasn’t. Should my sister have been more afraid of all of those monsters, zombies, felons or whoever is lurking in public bathrooms and hotel corridors than she was of her estranged husband?

Mike the Gun Guy also takes issue with the NRA’s notion of gun safety. He wonders about the ASK campaign and the BeSmart program, both programs encouraging safe storage of guns. The reason? The NRA’s safety program wants people to have their loaded guns at the ready at all times. This just does not work when locking guns securely away from kids and teens. It’s a unique American conundrum but one that does not have to totally befuddle us and stop us from acting in the interest of public health and safety like virtually all other countries have done.

What is the answer here? More guns are not making us safer. The gun lobby promotes more guns and in many cases, more loaded guns around wherever gun owners determine there is fear for their personal safety (everywhere).

Where is the common ground? Clearly the conversation has to change in order to change our unique gun culture. On this July 4th holiday, let’s think about how that can happen.

The incidents below are incidents involving “law abiding” gun owners. In no other country would these incidents be allowed or the people involved in them to have guns in the first place.

A 90 year old Florida man was arrested for threatening someone with his gun. He was a “legal” gun permit holder who did not have his right to carry taken from him 5 years ago when he threatened someone else. He shouldn’t have had a permit or a gun. Was he in any kind of state to handle his responsibility with that gun and that permit? Luckily no one got hurt but is that the point? In America …rights trump public safety.

A Vermont firearms instructor was seriously injured when one of his students shot him. The article does not mention if he was armed at the time. The woman was adjudicated mentally ill so couldn’t legally own firearms. But she could use a gun at a gun range because no background checks are required to shoot guns at a range in Vermont. This article is the “poster child ” for all that can go wrong in our unique American culture of guns.

Or this Iowa gun owner- Didn’t we determine just recently ( and for decades before that)that the display of Confederate flags can be incendiary and racist? And when guys with guns worship that flag, it could mean all sorts of bad things. Come on. We all understand why he was doing this. The fact that our laws allow for this kind of offensive behavior should be a wake-up call to us all. But here is his excuse:

He tells Siouxland News he’s is doing this to show support for the first and second amendment.

He says he’s been walking at least once a week since 2011, mainly in Le Mars, but he has walked in Sioux City and Iowa City.

Cornish adds that all he sees in the media is negative stories and not much support for the first and second amendment, so this is a way for him to show support for the open carry law.

America is better than this. Our founding fathers did not anticipate their words being twisted to support the kind of behavior exhibited by stupid people with guns and the corporate gun lobby whose main mission has little to do with keeping America safe from senseless violence and everything to do with protecting the gun industry. From the linked article:

It is time for opponents of gun control to stop mindlessly shouting “The Second Amendment!!” as if that ends the discussion. It does not. Just as there is no First Amendment right to falsely yell fire in a crowded theatre, there is no Second Amendment right to carry an AK-47 there.

And that is only the beginning of what the Second Amendment does not guarantee.

Extreme behavior like the one in the article above, using the excuse that the second amendment gives him the right, should not be tolerated by an America dealing with the epidemic of gun violence and racism that should be of great concern to us all.

So on this Fourth of July, I urge you to think about how the world has changed since our Constitution was written and why we need to look at the enduring words written by the authors in the context of current reality.

Stay safe out there. Beware of people carrying spoons and cups of coffee. You never know what might happen. And don’t catch the gun disease.

Stephen King quote

As if by providence, I just came across this article about the “social gun culture” in America showing who the average gun owner is in America and where the guns are found for the most part. This researcher is thinking as I am:

Kalesan’s study defined “social gun culture” as a phenomenon in which friends or family would think less of you if you didn’t own a gun, and if your social life with friends and family involved guns. Any survey participant who answered “yes” to any of these statements was categorized as being part of social gun culture.

Figuring out the dynamics at play in social gun culture, according to Kalesan, will be key to sparking social change about the attitudes and practices that inform gun ownership in the first place. She said educating Americans about the health dangers of having a firearm in their homes will change the way people feel about gun ownership, which in turn could drive laws that make guns more difficult to obtain.

“A public health approach, much like the anti-tobacco effort, is necessary, first to facilitate a social change and then political will to form effective policies,” Kalesan told HuffPost. “We also need research to understand the public health consequences in different communities and to identify effective social interventions in different populations.”

And the bottom line for the writer of the article is this:

“In 2013 alone, 33,636 persons were killed using a gun, while 84,258 were shot non-fatally,” said Kalesan. “Those who are injured have a difficult journey during recovery, some remaining paraplegic and injured often with PTSD for the rest of their lives.”

Nothing more needs to be said.