Tag Archives: gun control

Falsehood: “People, not guns, kill people”

Yes, of course, you need a person (usually) to pull the trigger. But it is abundance of and ease of access to guns that causes the United States to be off the charts in woundings and killings from firearms. This is what the research has shown for a very long time and continues to show. Here, I’ll give you yet another example. All of the following text, and the tables, are exerted directly from the paper. Continue reading Falsehood: “People, not guns, kill people”

More Guns Equals More Gun Deaths

And lax legislation and elected representatives who run their elections using money from the gun industry make sure there are PLENTY of guns to go around. People who are running for office who have pro NRA positions and/or take gun money should be drummed out of politics.

The rate of gun ownership in a state predicts the rate of gun deaths in that state.


This works across countries as well.

Once again. Politicians who have voted in favor of NRA policies need to go.

Photo above from TIME

Vote Down The Guns

First a word about our lovely press. If I hear one more reporter grovel and squirm about how we don’t really want to hurt the NRA or take away any gun rights or do anything unreasonable, no, no, we just want to assume there is a solution to the carnage that does not inconvenience any of the gun loving yahoos that watch our networks …. then I’m going to I just don’t know what. Reporters: Please leave open the possibility that a double digit percentage of Americans don’t care one whit how much restrictions there ends up being on guns. We just want the insanity to end, and if that means taking away all the guns, then, whatever. It was not our decision to make guns so available that they can be amassed in sufficient quantities to shoot over five hundred people in one sitting. We want results, we do not care, not one bit, who’s feelings are hurt.

But I digress.

You need to do this before any upcoming elections. Find out who is Continue reading Vote Down The Guns

A Response to the Las Vegas Shooting

From Americans for Responsible Solutions. I’m personally not sure about responsible solutions … I tend to read “responsible” as “watered down” when it comes to the gun debate. But, for what it is worth (and it is interesting) here it is:


Framework for Addressing the Loopholes that Led to the Las Vegas Shooting

October 5, 2017

We would support a proposal that would comprehensively address the loopholes that led to the Las Vegas shooting. More specifically, this proposal would include the following components:

1. Register existing bump stocks and other trigger activators under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and prohibit the manufacture, sale and transfer of such devices. Bump-fire devices are just one type of a variety of attachments sold in the United States to increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic firearms to mimic the firepower of a fully automatic machine gun. Such devices do not belong in civilian hands, and the future manufacture, sale and transfer of such devices should be prohibited. However, an unknown number of such weapons have already been manufactured and sold to civilians. In order to address these existing devices, we suggest requiring them to be registered to the current owners under the NFA. The NFA, enacted in 1934, prohibits possession of an NFA weapon — which currently include machine guns, silencers, destructive devices, and certain other highly dangerous firearms– unless it is registered in the person’s name with ATF. As a result, millions of NFA weapons currently exist in civilian hands, yet are rarely used in crime. The Las Vegas shooting is evidence of this fact: no registered machine guns were used in the attack. Yet, the shooter was able to fire very rapidly to kill or injure hundreds in just minutes, due to his use of bump stocks.
Continue reading A Response to the Las Vegas Shooting

Who shot first?

No, this is not about that.

I believe it is true that for decades, shooters and politically violent people (two overlapping categories) in the US were right wingers, almost always. Case in point: the white supremacists who have now all been handed (a little bit of) jail time for emptying a pistol into a crowd of protesters at a #BLM rally outside a police station in Minneapolis (and yes, they were white supremacists).

I’ve also always believed that one of the reasons the right wing has the privileged luxury of hating any kind of sensible gun law and regulation reform is because they know this. They know that they are the ones with the guns, and the libtards are unarmed.

I have no opinion on what happened today in Alexandria, Virginia, where someone opened fire on a group of Republican members of Congress playing softball. I don’t know if this was personal, political, or just “well, he was mentally ill” (I’ll leave it to the anti-ableist language mavens to rewrite that sentence and take it out of quotation marks).

But, now, suddenly, things are a little different, no matter what happened in Alexandria.

Killers with guns intent on mass slaughter are no longer just killing elementary school children. They are also killing Republicans in Congress! Yay! Maybe now Republicans in Congress will realize how the rest of us are feeling, and do something about it!

Sorry the guy got shot, though. At least he will make a rapid recovery, according to a Tweet by Fearfull Leader. The ideal scenario would have been if the shooter was a really bad shot and only hit inanimate objects.

A letter from the organization “States United To Prevent Gun Violence“:

States United to Prevent Gun Violence and our 32 state affiliates are deeply saddened that our elected officials, their staff and Capitol Police detail experienced the horrific mass shooting this morning – joining the unfortunate class of 33,000 Americans who die and 81,000 Americans injured by gun violence every year. This shooting targeting our respected elected officials is a resounding reminder that even a setting filled with the most highly trained and alert “good guys with guns” is no match the lethal and overwhelming firepower of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the hands of a mass shooter – the same weapons of war used in 28 mass shootings since the massacre of 26 children and school teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School 4 years ago.

It is unacceptable that law enforcement are forced to confront weapons of war in the hand of civilians in their line of duty. It is worrisome that Congress is, today, considering passing a bill that will deregulate silencers – the very instruments that hinder police from identifying locations of shooters – a federal regulation that was designed to prevent ambushing of police. Our Congress needs to stand up to the gun lobby once and for all and ban sales of weapons of war to civilians and say no to deregulating silencers.

Sincerely,

Julia Wyman

Knife Attack in Saint Cloud: Terrorism, Racism, Guns

Update:

From WCCO:

An Islamic State-run news agency claims the man who stabbed and wounded eight people at a mall in Minnesota before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer was a “soldier of the Islamic State.”

Original Post:
We know nearly nothing about the Saint Cloud attack, but I’m going to offer some preliminary context-related thoughts anyway. Not conclusions or guesses, just context. (See below for some basic info on the attack.)

One thing you need to know is that Minnesota is a state with the least racist and most socially and culturally enlightened people in it. And, some of the most racist and anti-civilization people in it. Saint Cloud is, essentially, the capital of the latter subculture, a very racist place. This is Michele Bachmann territory.

This is one reason to be really careful about drawing conclusions about what happened there. When I hear “Saint Cloud,” “Stabbing Attack,” “Asked if Muslim,” and “Said Allah” all in the same report, my best guess is that a local Islamophobe tried to kill or injure recently immigrated Somalis (of which there are some) in Saint Cloud.

Gun nuts will point out that this is a case of a “good guy with a gun” doing some good. It is. But, the “good guy with a gun” was a cop. So, really, this is a cop stopping an attack. Meanwhile, apparently, the attacker did not do a lot of damage to others, because, it seems, he wasn’t using a gun. He was using a knife. So, no, “you could do the same thing (as some guy with a gun) with a knife or a piece of string therefore GUN FREEDOM!!!1!!” is not an argument.

If this does turn out to be an attack BY a Muslim on others in Saint Cloud, I suspect there will be white rage turned into violence soon in that community and nearby places such as Little Falls and Big Lake.

Report from the New York Times:

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Eight people were injured during a stabbing attack at a Minnesota shopping mall that ended with the suspected attacker — who was dressed in a private security uniform and made references to Allah — shot dead by an off-duty police officer, authorities said.

…eight people were taken to St. Cloud Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries following the attack first reported about 8:15 p.m. Saturday at the Crossroads Center. One person was admitted. …

… an off-duty police officer… shot and killed the unidentified suspect, who was armed with a knife and wearing a private security firm uniform …

Local police had three previous encounters with the suspect, most for minor traffic violations…

Today is Lock Up Your Gun Day

Not really. But it is World Suicide Prevention Day. And, one way YOU can help prevent suicides is by keeping your gun locked up, separate from the ammo, and keeping the ammo locked up as well.

Why?

Here’s why:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among teens and young adults and the 10th leading cause of death among all Americans.

  • On average, 4 teenagers and 118 total Americans complete suicide every day.

  • 90% people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide.

  • Many suicide attempts occur with little planning during a short-term crisis.

  • 50% of suicide deaths in the United States are by firearm.

  • Access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide.

  • Firearms used in youth suicide usually belong to a parent.

  • Reducing access to lethal means, like firearms, saves lives.

  • A gun in the home is 22x more likely to be used in a suicide, homicide, or unintentional shooting than for self defense.

  • If there is a gun in your home, keep it unloaded and locked up or with a trigger lock. Store the bullets in a different place that is also locked.

  • If there is a gun in your home, do not let children and teens have a key to the places where guns and bullets are stored.

  • If a household member becomes depressed or has severe mood swings, store the gun outside the home for the time being while you seek help!

Adapted from this source.

Which US Senators Voted Against Expanded Background Checks For Gun Purchase? UPDATED

UPDATE! This post was written months ago when, yet again, the Senate tried to do something about guns. You are probably looking for information on the more recent chance for the Senate to show that the are not up to the task of protecting American Citizens. For information on who voted for what in this round, CLICK HERE.

We’ve had a spate of spree killings lately, most recently and famously the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino by two people who should not have owned firearms but were apparently able to legally purchase assault rifles, pistols, and thousands of rounds of ammo.

So, Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, a Democrat and a Republican, introduced an amendment that would expand background checks for commercial gun sales. This would be a helpful provision, but really wasn’t much of a restriction. No one in the Senate should have voted against it. But several did. By definition, those who voted against the proposal are gun nuts, and they should not be in the Senate or any other elected office. Here are their names:

Democrats Who Voted Against the Proposal

  • Max Baucus (D-Mont.)    
  • Mark Begich (D-Alaska)    
  • Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)    
  • Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)    
  • Harry Reid (D-Nev.)  (Voted "no" as a procedural move to preserve option to reintroduce the bill.)

Republicans Who Voted Against the Proposal

  • Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
  • Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
  • John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
  • Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
  • John Boozman (R-Ark.)
  • Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
  • Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
  • Dan Coats (R-Ind.)
  • Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
  • Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
  • Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
  • John Cornyn (R-Texas)
  • Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
  • Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
  • Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.)
  • Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)
  • Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
  • Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
  • Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
  • Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
  • Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
  • John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
  • Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
  • Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
  • Mike Johanns (R-Neb.)
  • Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)
  • Mike Lee (R-Utah)
  • Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
  • Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
  • Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
  • James Risch (R-Idaho)
  • Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
  • Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
  • Timothy Scott (R-S.C.)
  • Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
  • Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
  • John Thune (R-S.D.)
  • David Vitter (R-La.)
  • Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

What YOU can do about gun violence

Why you have to do something about guns

This message is primarily for those living in the United States. In the US, we have an outdated Constitutional amendment that has been interpreted by many, including the courts, in a way that hampers effective legislation to address what is clearly a major problem with the proliferation and use of firearms in inappropriate ways. We are frequently reminded of this by the regular occurrence of mass killings such as the recent event in Oregon. But really, that is a small part of the problem, numerically. I lay out some of the numbers below, and address some of the arguments that regulation of guns should be absent or minimal. We have another problem as well, one that is paralleled in many other areas of policy. Special interest groups such as the National Rifle Association, through pressure and campaign financing, control much of the Congress.

Other countries have addressed their gun violence problem effectively. We can too. But in order for that to happen, this has to happen:

1) The specious arguments against gun regulation have to be called out for what they are, and ultimately, ignored.

2) Citizen pressure on our elected representatives has to be increased significantly.

3) Organized efforts against the gun industry and the gun lobby have to be supported.

Your role as a citizen is critical. There are three steps you can take. Here, I’m asking you to take one of them, the one that requires the least effort and would likely have the largest impact. First, the other two. You can learn more about the gun problem, by reading this post to the end, and reading other material. After that, don’t let the gun supporters off easy when they pull out their arguments. Tell them they are wrong, and why. I understand and respect the fact that most of you are not going to do this, but some of you may be inclined to do so, and I thank you for that. Another idea is to check your investments (like your 401k) to see if you are supporting the gun industry. If so, see if you can fix that. You can find information about that here.

The easy step you can take, and likely the most effective, is to send a note right now to your representative in Congress. I’m told (see this) that a written letter delivered by the US Post Office has a significantly larger impact when it arrives on the desk of your Congressperson than an email (or tweet or a signature on a petition), so do please spend the stamp and do that if you can. But an email is good too, and if that is all you have time for, please do it.

Write your own note, but here are a few suggestions.

Write your Senators.

You have two US Senators. Find out who they are and get their contact details here. Usually there is a form to fill out. I suggest you say something like this:

Dear Senator,

I am a voter living in your state, and you represent me in the US Senate.

Firearms have become one of the most significant sources of injury and death in the United States. Yet Congress has done little to address this problem. We have made cars and toasters safer with sensible regulation, but have not done so with firearms.

I am writing you to urge you to take action to address this problem. Also, please tell me what you have done so far and what you plan to do in the immediate future.

Sincerely,

your name here

Write your representative in Congress

You have one representative in the US House. Find out who that is here. Send that person a note as well. An example:

Dear Congressperson,

I am a voter living in your district, and you represent me in the House of Representatives.

I am writing to ask what actions you have taken to reduce gun violence and deploy sensible regulations of firearms. Also, what actions do you plan to take in the near future?

Gun violence has become one of the most serious problems we face in this country, including massive numbers of youth suicide. Yet, Congress has failed to act effectively to address this problem. I urge you to to do so.

Sincerely,

your name here

Read the rest of my post if you want more background before writing the notes. Or, just do it if you don’t feel the need to do so. Ask your friends and relatives to write their reps. Ask your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and your buddies on Instagram and Pinterest to help out.

Gun morbidity and mortality rivals other sources

When people talk, especially in social media, about this or that alleged dangerous thing (pesticides, nuclear radiation wafting from Fukushima to California, failure to purge, vaccination) it is very rare that Godwin’s Law comes into play (the mention of the Nazis or Holocaust to eventually come up). But quite often someone will make the comparison between the deadly issue of concern and car deaths. “More people die in their cars than by eating GMO corn,” someone will say.

Indeed, we see reference to automobile deaths as a misleading rhetorical device to diminish the importance of firearm fatalities. I’ll quote from Briebart: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) final report on death statistics for 2013 shows there were 35,369 deaths from motor vehicle accidents versus 505 deaths from the accidental discharge of firearms. That is not a typo—35,369 versus 505. Americans are 70 times more likely to die in a vehicle accident than by the accidental discharge of a firearm.”

The truth is that the average annual rate of death by firearms is currently about 32,529. About 67,000 people are injured annually by firearms in the US. So, while you were not looking, cars got safer. The annual rate of death by car has declined steadily in recent decades owing to increases safety standards, even as the rate of cars per person on the road has increased. It is about half as dangerous to ride around in a car these days than it was before aggressive implementation of safety laws, and for some groups this number has declined even more (i.e., children).

It is also true that gun related deaths and injuries have declined over time, but not by much (in recent decades) and the rates are now going back up. The reasons for the decline about 20 years ago are not entirely clear, but probably have to do with changes in crime related violent deaths. In the late 1980s and 1990s, there were major changes in the nature and character of the illegal drug trade, and major efforts to clamp down on drug production and distribution caused a significant increase in violence followed by a decrease in many communities. Murder cities (often with special names like Murderapolis for Minneapolis) emerged temporarily around that time as organized gangs changed territories and tactics. From one study:

Previous research points to several potential contributing factors including the cycling up and down of youth firearm homicides (more so than adult homicides), changes in markets for illegal drugs (particularly the crack cocaine market which swept across urban cities in the 1980s and crested about 1990), changes in juvenile arrest policies and penalties for drug-related crime in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, improved economic conditions, and an increase in community-based policing strategies and primary prevention strategies for youth, families, schools and communities

So the current situation, 67,000 injuries and over 32,000 deaths annually, being one of the major non-disease causes of morbidity and mortality in the US, especially for youth, is a mild improvement from a period of chaos a few decades ago, and the rate of injury and death is staring to climb again.

Most gun deaths are suicide (20,000 a year), followed by homicide (11,000 a year) and accident (under 600 a year). Despite the obvious importance of rampage killings such those over the last few years in Roseburg (10 dead), Charlestown (9 dead), Ila Vista (7 dead), Fort Hood II (3 dead), Washington DC (13 dead), Santa Monica (5 dead), Newtown (27 dead), Brookfield (3 dead), Minneapolis (6 dead), Oak Creek (6 dead), Aurora (12 dead), Oakalnd (7 dead), Seal Beach (8 dead), Tucson (6 dead), Manchester (8 dead), Huntsville (3 dead), Fort Hood I (13 dead), Binghamton (13 dead), most of the homicides are not random mass killings. But, since the victims of rampage killings are entirely innocent, and the killings are sudden, unexpected, shocking, and often target children, they constitute a significant part of the problem.

Anatomy of a suicide

Let’s talk about the single most important gun related problem for a moment: suicide.

Sensible gun laws can prevent thousands of gun related deaths a year. When people talk about suicide, gun owners often bring up the idea that suicide is a mental health issue, not a gun issue. Well, yes, suicide is a mental health issue, but it is abysmally incorrect to say that it is not a gun issue. Here is why.

The majority of firearms related deaths in the US are due to suicide. A recent study showed that about 20,000 people in the US die of suicide using a firearm. This is the largest single cause of firearms related death.

If a person attempts suicide by poison, their success rate is about 2.5%. Cutting and stabbing has a success rate of less than 1%. Jumping has a success rate of just under 20%.

The total amount of time from choosing to commit suicide and carrying out an attempt at doing so, on average, is incredibly short, measured in minutes. (There is obviously a large spread for this number.)

When a person attempts suicide and lives, the chances that they will attempt suicide again is very low. The rate of trying an additional attempt is about 10%. A large proportion of those who do attempt suicide change their minds and seek medical attention, or others find out what is going on and intervene, saving the person’s life.

The rate of success of suicide by firearm is about 85%. When a firearm is used there is little chance to reconsider. A large percentage of those who attempt suicide and do so with a gun probably would have gotten past this period in their lives had they used a different method. I don’t have data on this, but I suspect this is more true for younger people. Also, one could argue that people should be allowed to kill themselves. I’ve seen gun owners make this argument. However, while that may be true for some individuals, especially older ones, it is a rather cynical answer to the suicide problem and certainly does not apply to adolescence or young people.

It is probably the case that a large number of people who kill themselves with guns obtain the guns simply because they are easy to obtain. Given the short span of time between choosing to take one’s own life and carrying out such an act, it is likely that most of these guns were already in the household. It is likely that many young people who kill themselves with guns obtain a gun owned by the adults in the household, a gun that is kept unlocked with ammunition readily available, perhaps the gun already loaded.

Among those who make the strongest statements against any kind of gun regulation, based on numerous conversations I’ve had, seem to be many who prefer to keep a firearm loaded and at the ready, in a nightstand drawer or some other convenient location. In a household with younger kids, this is extraordinarily irresponsible. While it might be difficult to imagine how laws or regulations could change this extremely dangerous and selfish behavior, having such laws would allow for vigorous prosecution after the fact, and may lead to more thoughtful and safe behavior by such individuals in the long run.

But what about guns as self protection?

The most vehement and vitriolic verbiage spewed to support unfettered ownership of guns seems to come from those who live in fear of home invasions or other attacks, and feel that they require a readily available firearm to protect themselves. It is quite possible that this honestly does apply to a very small number of individuals, but that is a special case that we should find a way to handle as a society. Most people who have this view are not such special cases. Also, when one has the view that enemies can enter the home at any moment and kill you, and thus you must be protected, then one must also believe that one’s personal gun must be loaded and ready, not locked up or secured, at all times. And that is unconscionable behavior, and should not be legal.

A gun kept in your home is more likely to be used to kill or injure an innocent person in an unintentional shooting, a suicide, or by a criminal who has taken it, then to be used in effective self defense (see this. A gun can be used to intimidate an attacker, but it is not clear that this is a strategy that is more effective than other non-gun related strategies (see study below). Many call for more widespread gun ownership in order to “take down” criminals involved in random violent acts out in public spaces. But there is about one gun in the US per person, a lot of people claim to carry them around, yet these self-defense guns are almost never actually used. This is probably because criminals are non-random in their behavior, and individuals armed with legal (or illegal) firearms are rarely in just the right place at the right time. Also, when people do pull out guns and start firing them, it is not uncommon for the outcome to be something other than the bad guy being “neutralized” with no one else injured.

Claims that guns are used defensively millions times every year have been widely discredited. Using a gun in self-defense is no more likely to reduce the chance of being injured during a crime than various other forms of protective action. At least one study has found that carrying a firearm significantly increases a person’s risk of being shot in an assault; research published in the American Journal of Public Health reported that, even after adjusting for confounding factors, individuals who were in possession of a gun were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession. (source)

A recent study looked at the use of firearms for self protection.

The data for the study come from information on personal contact crimes from the National Crime Victimization Survey for 2007 through 2011. They looked at cases where an offender intended to steal property.

Among 14,000+ cases just under 1% involved the use of a gun in self defense. When the incident was over, on average, 4.2% of the victims were injured regardless of how it went down, 4.1% were injured when a gun was used in self defense. In the case of an attempt to steal property, 55.9 percent of the time the property was taken overall, with a slight reduction to 38.5% when the victim used a gun, and if the victim used a self defense weapon other than a gun, 34.9% of the time the property was lost.

So, you can stop a robbery with a gun, a little. But any weapon at all has a similar success rate. And you have a good chance of being injured.

An interesting result of that study is from the literature review. The researchers found almost no good studies that would inform of the basic question that many assume the answer to: Can you really protect yourself with a gun? The assumption that we should have lax gun laws so one can defend oneself, with the cost of tens of thousands dead each year, is a rather bold and unfounded one. The study is a bit nuanced and complex, and the researchers admit that the data are insufficient to examine many important questions. From the conclusion:

…the data provide little evidence that using a gun in self-defense reduces injury. Slightly more than 4% of victims were injured during or after a self-defense gun use—the same percentage as were injured during or after taking all other protective actions. Some self-protective actions were associated with higher probabilities of subsequent injury. The reader must be warned, however, that the sample of those injured after using a gun (5/127) is really too small to warrant strong conclusions. The large majority of crime victims who are injured are injured before they take any action.

The evidence suggests that using a weapon in self-defense may reduce the likelihood of losing property during the commission of crime. However, it is not clear that using a gun is better or worse than using other weapons…

Gun culture

Having such lax laws, and a loud minority in favor of keeping those laws lax, and of course other factors, probably contribute to a sort of gun fetish among those sometimes referred to as “gun nuts.” How do you know if you are a gun nut? If you keep a loaded gun in your house, if you keep guns and ammo unlocked, if you are just a regular person with no special security requirements but have a concealed carry permit, or if you think 20,000 suicides by gun per year is not a problem related to gun regulation, then you are probably a gun nut. On occasion a gun owner sets up a trap in their home, luring burglars or home invaders known to be working in the neighborhood so they can be shot “legally.” That is of course, very rare. But if you think that is OK you are probably a gun nut. For that matter, if you think it is OK when a teenage boy, on a dare, enters a home thought to be vacant and is shot dead for it, you might be a gun nut. These are all self-justifying excuses to argue against sensible regulation of guns.

Our society as a whole pays a huge cost, greater than the costs of international or domestic terrorism, so that individuals who have this gun fetish can do more or less what they want. The benefit for this lackadaisical and protectionist view of firearms is virtually non-existent. Those who suffer from the nearly unregulated presence of so many guns are accommodating the desires of individuals who want unfettered access to toys they happen to find enjoyable, at best. At worse, our society is accommodating monsters, people who believe that carnage counted in the tens of thousands is necessary so they can be wrong about safety and wrong about security.

With our current gun laws, we are paying a very high price to support unjustified ignorance and madness.


Arthur L. Kellerman et al., Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home, 45 J. Trauma 263, 263, 266 (1998).

Branas, Charles et al. 2009. Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault, 99 Am. J. Pub. Health 2034.

Fowler, Katherine ,Linda L. Dahlberg, Tadesse Haileyesus, Joseph L. Annest. 2015. Firearm injuries in the United States. Special Issue on the Epidemiology and Prevention of Gun Violence. Volume 79.

Hemenway, David, Sara Solnick. 2014. The epidemiology of self-defense gun use: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Surveys 2007–2011. Special Issue on the Epidemiology and Prevention of Gun Violence. Volume 79.

Hemenway, David. 2004. Private Guns. Public Health 78

ADDED because it is relevant to some of the discussion below:

wholechart (1)

Hat tip

Added because it is interesting with respect to specific policies that might be implemented:

How much like Byron Smith is the average gun owner?

I refuse to live in fear. I am not a bleeding heart liberal. I have a civic duty. I have to do it. Burglars are not human, they are vermin. I try to be a good person, to do what I should, be a good citizen.

Those are among the words uttered by Byron Smith shortly after he murdered two teenagers in his home last Thanksgiving. There had been numerous break-ins in Smith’s neighborhood near Little Falls, Minnesota. Byron set a trap, making his home look vulnerable and unoccupied. If the burglars were to break into his home, they would come in a certain way, and end up descending the stairs into his basement. There, he set up a sniper’s nest of sorts, with food and beverages and ammo, and waited. Eventually the trap was sprung. One of the two teenagers that had been carrying out these break-ins descended the stairs, Smith shot him dead, and dragged the body out of sight. Then the second teenager came down the stairs, and he shot her. She did not die easily, so he shot her a few times. Then he said a few words into the recording machine that had been running the whole time. Eventually, but not right away, he reported the incident. There are more details, but that is the gist of what happened.

Byron Smith was convicted of homicide. It turns out that setting a trap for possible home invaders and then killing them is not considered one’s right. Or, as Smith might put it, one’s duty.

There are two things about this incident I’d like to point out, one pretty straight forward, the other likely to be controversial. Let’s start with the straight forward one.

The chances of this working are slim. If there are burglaries happening in your neighborhood, and you set up a trap like Smith did, the chances that the trap will work are not high. But the trap did work for Smith. I know this is only a single incident, but think about this for a second. It is safe, though not statistically provable by any means, to assume (or at least, guess) that for every trap-setting Byron Smith there is a large number of others doing the same thing but not getting results. In fact, there are probably a few people who have actually managed to trap people this way, but did it differently than Byron, less overtly, and that we don’t know about. My point is simply this: Among the gun owners in this country who feel it is OK to arm themselves with the expectation of killing one or more intruders, it is likely that a non-zero percentage of them are just like Byron but maybe a tad smarter, or a tad less interested in falling on the proverbial sword once the deed is done.

The second point is that anyone who decides that it is OK to arm themselves with the expectation of killing an intruder is at least a little like Byron Smith. Oh, no, you may say, a person arming themselves is simply trying to protect themselves and their families from danger, they are not attempting to kill someone. But that does not really make a person that different from Smith. There are multiple alternatives to killing intruders. One set of alternatives has to do with keeping intruders out to begin with. Smith made it easy for the intruders to enter his home. What about a person who has $350 to spend on protecting their home, and has the choice between reinforcing the possible entrance ways vs. purchasing a firearm? If one purchases the firearm and keeps it loaded and handy, but has easily broken doors or locks, that is a little like setting a trap, because it is relatively easy for someone to break into your home and, once they’ve broken in, relatively easy to shoot them. That is a passive setting of a trap.

Think about all the different aspects involved here, most of which can be ascertained from looking at the Smith case. Do you feel that taking a life is equivalent to protecting your home? Are you prepared to own a dangerous weapon? Are you prepared to keep the weapon ready and loaded? Did you spend money and effort on arming yourself instead of securing your home better, under the false assumption that you can’t really stop a determined burglar? Did you avoid making it clear someone was home? Do you find yourself checking on your firearm and making sure it is extra handy, instead of taking other action, when you hear about break-ins in your neighborhood? Just how much like Byron Smith are you?

I suspect that the majority of people who arm themselves are not a lot like Byron Smith. But is it OK to be half like him? 10% like him? 1% like him?

If you want to contemplate these questions, I ask you do do one thing as part of that process. Listen to the tape Smith made. Listen to the whole thing, and do so along with reading about descriptions of what happened, what he confessed to, what he was convicted of.

Here is one of the many available descriptions of the event.

Here is the tape. Listen to all of it and imagine yourself being a little like Byron Smith. Or, perhaps, ask yourself how much like Byron Smith is your neighbor, friend, relative, or enemy?

Mark Kessler has been suspended.

As I suggested might happen, the town of Gilberton, Pennsylvania suddenly realized that having an over the top crazy gun nut as chief of police use town weapons to make his own YouTube video threatening a large percentage of the citizens of the United States was not a good idea. When Kessler finally goes over the top and opens fire on a bunch of people he disagrees with, the town probably does not want to be involved as his employer or as the entity that owns the weapons (though as I understand it, Kessler bought the weapons with his own money and gave them to the police force, probably as a way of getting around the fact that his favorite toys are banned except for official use).

Unfortunately, the suspension is temporary

In a closed meeting, the council voted 5-1 to suspended Kessler for 30 days, “for use of borough property for non-borough purposes without prior borough permission.” In one of the videos, the tiny town’s sole police officer used automatic weapons, which he was only legally authorized to do in his official capacity.

After the vote, there was what PennLive’s John Luciew described as an “impromptu gun rights rally,” with supporters with “all manner of firearms strapped to their belts and hanging from their shoulders.”

… but I’m guessing this is only a first step.

The image above, from here, shows some of the other gun nuts from Gilberton who formed a heavily armed mob to protest the town’s decision.

What Does The George Zimmerman Not Guilty Verdict Mean?

First, I want to say this to George Zimmerman and his lawyer. Stop whining. You are the one who chose to kill someone, and did so, then got away with it. It is not you who lost or who has had your life torn apart or taken away or anything like that. So stop being the damn victim. No one is going to hunt you down and kill you. That’s you, George. That’s you who hunts down and kills people. Other people, generally, don’t do that. No one is going to hunt you down and kill you or in any other way bother you. Having said that, it is true that much of the part of humanity that is aware of your existence will view you as a dangerous monster for the rest of your life, but I’m thinking that you view this as a good thing because you are the guy who hunts down and kills people. I think that is all I want to say to whiny George Zimmerman and hid Whiny Lawyer.

The big concern now is this: Black will riot in cities across the land and/or mainly whitish vigilantes will flood the streets and shoot anything with a hoodie.

For the most part neither of these things will happen. If there is one thing we’ve learned from the last few decades of changes in gun laws, sudden and dramatic events related to firearm use and abuse, etc. is that a) the brownish people never really go to the streets to kill all the whitish people and b) the gun nuts never really change what they do or the rate at which they do it. And, I’ll add c) criminals and miscreants don’t pay much attention to any of this stuff. Nothing is going to happen.

I’m not saying that there isn’t going to be change. The Zimmerman trial outcome has actually helped to galvanize the anti-gun lobby a little bit, and that lobby was already in action. If anything, this event may bring into the fold a few groups that were not already as engaged. It turns out that the youth are at constant risk of being killed or maimed in this country by older males with firearms, and that this risk applies across levels of privilege, variations in skin tone, regions of the country, urban vs. rural, and all of that.

For young people in the United States, your chance of being killed by a firearm-wielding adult male, in a fire arms accident, or by a self inflicted gunshot, is much higher than the chance of dying of any disease. Guns are the new polio. Guns are the new small pox. Guns are the new plague.

Two things are starting to dawn on the American population. First, we are realizing that the possession of handguns as a constitutionally protected right to stave off an oppressive government is a failed fantasy. Imagine having the right to free speech but everyone’s larynx is removed routinely at birth. Imagine having the right to free assembly and due process but we are locked in separate cages at the age of ten forever. Absurd ideas, aren’t they? We are guaranteed the right to stave off an oppressive government by having a right to own firearms. That worked great with the Patriot Act. The NSA … they never considered spying on American citizens because HANDGUNS. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies will never use Drones on US soil because …. hey, wait a minute …

The second thing we’ve come to realize is that guns are actually very very dangerous. For a couple of generations we’ve grown up with “bang bang you’re dead” style entertainment on TV and in movies, and I think a lot of people don’t realize what really happens when someone pulls the trigger. People don’t experience the temporary (or not) loss of hearing from the sound (especially in a closed space), the smell of the explosion that happens inside the gun, the smell of the blood that spills of the floor. When you ears start to hear again after the shots, there is the sound of the screaming or moaning or incredulous ranting (“You shot me, you shot me, I can’t believe you shot me”) followed by some sort of silence, the silence of a severely wounded person, the silence of a brooding son or daughter with a minor injury to the flesh but a permanent injury to their psyche having just been shot at by daddy, or the silence a person makes when they lie unconscious and bleeding out, or the silence of a corpse.

But now we have soldiers, many more soldiers, among us who know that guns are real and “bang band you’re dead” is not. We have an increasing awareness of an increasing number of incidents in which all the people in a school or all the people who went to see a movie or all the people who visited their candidate for Congress or some other thing suddenly experience the terror of the blasting, the smells, the screaming, the different kinds of deathly silence, and in many cases, personally experience the tearing and exploding flesh, with the lucky ones perhaps being those who are killed quickly by some guy who has expressed his constitutional right to bear arms by firing as many bullets as possible into a crowd.

The Zimmerman verdict moves us measurably closer to effective gun control. This is not the way we should be moving away from the Middle Ages and towards a Civilized World, but it is in fact the only way we seem to be moving. There will be more stand-your-ground shootings, more archaic laws, more unjust verdicts, more mass shootings, all against the background of something close to 3,000 firearm assisted youth suicides and a somewhat larger number of deadly gunshot wounds during crime and street fighting, and no effect on what the government or big corporations do to repress or exploit the average person and no invasions from Canada or Mexico that could only be stopped by a “well regulated militia.” And every now and then some truly good guy will shoot a truly bad guy, stopping the bad guy from doing something truly bad, and people will notice that a handful of such cases against thousands and thousands of gun related deaths a year is not worth it.

Above all, and please never lose sight of this, guns are toys. We are talking about the preservation of the right to play with specific toys, and the right to extend that play into the street and to involve people who did not want to play with these toys to begin with. Stand your ground is a game, it is boys with their toys playing cops and robbers. Boys with their toys build forts in their homes and protect them from invasion. Boys with their toys get together in groups and go out on the street to play army. Boys with their toys collect toys and take them apart and put them together and clean them until they are shiny. Boys with their toys go to big meetings with other boys and trade and sell and exchange and show off. Boys with their toys go to galleries where they can practice and raise their scores.

George Zimmerman was a boy with his toy, and he played cops and robbers, and Treyvon Martin died because he did not follow Zimmerman’s instructions to stand down. Half this country thinks it is OK for a boy like George to take his toy into the street and make other people play and kill them when they do not. The other half is appalled. That second half, it’s growing.

An Armed Guard, or a Big Mac, in Every School….

… would not have helped at Sandy Hook … the armed guards would have been the fist to be killed … or at any of the other places where there have been mass shootings with armed guards present or very near by. Also, many, many schools already have a “school resource officer” on duty. In Minnesota there seems to be one at every school, and that may be good, but we’ve had our share of school gun play. The call by the NRA to put an armed guard in every school is little more than a marketing scheme to sell a few hundred thousand guns. MacDonalds would also like to put a Big Mac in every school.

But do look at this video and in particular NRA dupe Asa Hutchinson’s response to Judy Woodruff’s questions, starting at 4:00. At 7:30 he admits that he and/or the NRA feel that there are no viable restrictions or other legislative remedies that can address gun violence. But here is my favorite part: At just after 7:50 he is asked a very simple question about background checks, and then disagrees with 90% of all Americans with the most mealy mouthed answer ever given.

Watch NRA Group Offers Proposal for Armed Security at U.S. School on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.