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.”
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.
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…
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.)
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:
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.
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:
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.
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…
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:
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?
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).
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.
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.
… 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.
For starters, I’ve put a bunch of videos including a must see by Jon Steward and another must see by Melissa Harris-Perry HERE. Following is a veritable carnival of topical and timely posts, stories, and sites:
Widespread gun ownership and lax firearms controls were deemed major reasons for the US topping a list of violent deaths in wealthy nations. The study comes amid a fiery gun control debate, triggered by the fatal school shooting at Sandy Elementary.
The 378-page survey by a panel of experts from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, listed unintentional injuries, quite often caused by guns, among reasons why people in America die young more often than in other countries.
This week, people were shocked when the Drudge Report posted a giant picture of Hitler over a headline speculating that the White House will proceed with executive orders to limit access to firearms. The proposed orders are exceedingly tame, but Drudge’s reaction is actually a common conservative response to any invocation of gun control.
The NRA, Fox News, Fox News (again), Alex Jones, email chains, Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, Gun Owners of America, etc., all agree that gun control was critical to Hitler’s rise to power. Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (“America’s most aggressive defender of firearms ownership”) is built almost exclusively around this notion, popularizing posters of Hitler giving the Nazi salute next to the text: “All in favor of ‘gun control’ raise your right hand.”
In his 1994 book, NRA head Wayne LaPierre dwelled on the Hitler meme at length, writing: “In Germany, Jewish extermination began with the Nazi Weapon Law of 1938, signed by Adolf Hitler.”
The resurgent debate over gun control has put a spotlight on the hardline leaders of the National Rifle Association. In the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, executive vice president Wayne LaPierre delivered a full-throated rejection of gun control and called for more firearms in schools, while David Keene, the group’s president, predicted the failure of any new assault weapons ban introduced in Congress. The two NRA figureheads purported to speak for more than 4 million American gun owners, though the group’s membership may in fact be smaller.
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The National Rifle Association and Wal-Mart, the largest gun retailer in the country, are set to meet with Vice President Biden today at the White House; all part of his gun violence task force. This comes a day after the Vice President met with gun control advocates.
Shira Goodman, Executive Director of CeasefirePA, along with the others from around the country brought some common ideas and hopes at the White House.
“There was a focus not just on the general idea of background checks on all guns, but making sure all states share their mental health records with the federal database.”
In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, President Obama on Wednesday announced new national gun control measures. He has already urged members of Congress to do the same. Here is our comprehensive look at where lawmakers stand on guns, as well as political spending and voting history. Explore and share what you think Congress should do about guns in this country.
The message to Republicans and some Democrats who are still walking the walk and talking the talk of the gun rights extremists came from an unlikely source today. Frank Luntz, Republican pollster, wrote in the Washington Post today about how wrong the Republicans have been about their messaging and their extreme language. Here is what Luntz had to say about the language regarding guns and gun policy:
“Beyond fiscal policy, Republicans need to revamp their messaging on other issues. For example, the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., offered Republicans a chance to discuss public safety — a more personal issue than “crime” — on a human level. That hasn’t happened, but it still can. Most people agree that there is a middle ground between gun-control hard-liners, who see every crime as an excuse to enact new laws, and the National Rifle Association, which sees every crime as an excuse to sell more guns. The Second Amendment deserves defending, but do Republicans truly believe that anyone should be able to buy any gun, anywhere, at any time? If yes, they’re on the side of less than 10 percent of America. If not, they need to say so.”
Luntz’s question is an important one and one raised on my blog often….
I direct this correspondence to you due to your leadership position in the House, your record on ‘gun rights’ legislation that has earned you an A rating by the National Rifle Association (NRA), and because your party this past election cycle received 89% of the political contributions issued by the NRA – this nation’s leading ‘gun rights’ lobbying organization. You are listed as the 4th leading recipient of such contributions in the House.
I write you not only as a concerned citizen and parent regarding the issue of gun violence in America, but as an individual whose career involved responsibility for assessing and reporting product safety in a federally regulated industry (pharmaceuticals). I have held senior executive positions, consulted for corporations, and have been before government regulators on numerous occasions. Unlike most (if not all) consumer products, guns remain unregulated for health and safety. In the industry where I worked, federal law required us to not only assure the safety of our products, but that we take steps to reduce risk, finding an optimal balance between benefit and risk….
While America continues to grieve over the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School and begins looking for answers, for Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun industry’s multi-million dollar trade association, it’s back to business as usual.
Faced, in its own hometown, with the real-world horror that can be inflicted with the military-style weapons it helps market and has tried to euphemistically “rebrand” as “modern sporting rifles,” NSSF took a page out of the National Rifle Association’s post-tragedy playbook. It issued a short notice of sympathy and then refused to talk to the press, hoping, as has happened all too many times before, that public anguish and anger would fade as time passed.
This week, America has been taken aback by the National Rifle Association’s ad politicizing President Obama’s daughters. With this latest episode, it’s become patently obvious that unhinged attacks are the NRA leadership’s calling card. As pundits cover the obstructionism and handwringing of high-profile NRA executives like David Keene, it’s important to take a look at lesser-known NRA leaders and understand just how far to the fringe the organization has moved in recent decades.
New investigative reporting by Frank Smyth in Mother Jones — that complements my organization’s Meet the NRA website — reveals the NRA’s eerie connection to the Newtown tragedy. Smyth discovered that the NRA nominating committee that plays a key role in deciding who is on the NRA’s board is run by Newtown resident Patricia Clark, and also includes George K. Kollitides II, the chief executive of the company that made the AR-15 used in the shooting.
Sunday, our President, Barack Obama, gave the oath of office of President of the United States in the Oval Office, officially beginning his second term in that role, by the will of the American people.
Today, Monday the 21st of January, he gives his inaugural speech, on the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
But back on Saturday, when the rest of America was gearing up for this momentous occasion, the gun lobbies had a different agenda. They, instead, chose to make up a new day, which they called “Gun Appreciation Day.” A day made up by a White Supremacist Group. From the article:
As you know, I often mention reports from the Ohh Shoot blog, which chronicles the virtually daily instances of someone doing something accidental with a gun and the associated serious wounding or killing of one or more other individuals. These events are not part of the large number of suicides using guns that happen every year, and they are not part of the large number of shootings related to felonies carried out with the aid of a gun and they are not part of the number of times a person shoots a truly armed and dangerous intruder truly intruding the home (as opposed to a grandchild hanging out on the porch mistaken for an intruder by a trigger happy grandpa). In other words, the steady drumbeat of accidental serious wounding and killing that counts as pure gun-related accident is a small component of the overall problem of gun violence.
Nonetheless it is important.
If a plane crashed and 365 people died in the crash and it turned out that the plane crashed because there were two commercial airline pilots playing chicken, people would notice, people would get mad, people would go to prison, new laws would be passed and new rules would be made, and no one would be saying it isn’t important. No one.
Well, those ca 365 deaths that happen every year in the US because two idiots are playing chicken or because some cop left his private handgun loaded and unlocked on the night stand or because some buzzed dudes decided to practice shooting in the living room of their apartment are the same thing.
So it is important, which is a point I wanted to make here, but not the main focus of this post. Instead, I want to try something a bit fast and loose and dangerous but that might be interesting.
You know that on National Gun Appreciation Day a gazillion responsible gun owners got together to fork over their hard earned money to gun dealers and otherwise play around with their hardware. During this process, a certain number of people have taken bullets or fragments of bullets as various firearms were accidentally discharged. As of this writing, 8 people have been shot. John McKay is documenting this here.
But they all lived, and in fact, I think none of the incidents were serious enough to have made it into Ohh Shoot blog were it not for the connection to the Gun Appreciation Day events. (Even then, I’m not sure if they’ll be covered there or not).
What does this mean? Well, there may be a number, a factor, that we can multiply by the number of near deadly or deadly incidents of the type that seem to happen at a rate of about one per day, to estimate the total number of dumb-ass accidental woundings that happen every day above and beyond the more spectacular ones, when people merely get nicked and don’t bother getting medical attention, or the incident is otherwise not reported.
So far, that number could be around 8, based on John’s data. But really, are we sure that every single event happening at the Gun Appreciation Day is being reported? Maybe we should round up to 10. In any event, we should wait a few days for the dust and smoke to settle, and see what John’s final count is, and consider which cases were serious enough to have been widely reported and to make it into a blog like Ohh Shoot.
At present, it would not be entirely absurd to suggest that between 3,000 and 4,000 events occur in the US each year in which someone does something dumb with a gun, the gun goes off, and someone gets nicked. How many times does something like this happen, the gun goes off, but no one is nicked? I’ll guess ten times that. About 35,000 times a year, somebody does something dumb with a gun and it fires unexpectedly. About 3500 times someone is nicked with the bullet or shrapnel but not seriously injured. About 350 times there is a serious wounding or death. Mostly, we hear about that last category.
Don’t like my numbers, assumptions, or calculations? Fine! Provide your own in the comments.
Let’s spend a little time to appreciate guns. Because this is the very first Gun Appreciation Day! I’m not sure why we’ve never had a Gun Appreciation Day before, but now that we have one let’s celebrate with a review of the last month’s interesting stories about guns! Yay!
For completeness, because I’m sure Gun Appreciation Day was generated in response to the massacre of 20 six year olds and their teachers and other school personnel in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, we’ll go back to the day before that event, to something sort of local to me, and review events over the last month or so.
An old man in Rochester, Minnesota heard someone on his patio, so he grabbed his 9 mm and pumped a couple of rounds through the door. It was his granddaughter sneaking around outside. She was shot in the throat, lived, but was in serious condition for a while. Yesterday, the local officials charged him.
On December 14th, as you know, 26 people at an elementary school, mostly six or seven year olds, were executed by a guy who borrowed his mom’s guns. He killed himself.
Three days later, in Columbia, South Carolina, 62-year-old Jerry Marsh killed himself while dismantling his Glock. This was done at the Shooter’s Choice gun store and range. In Guthrie Oklahoma, the very next day, Ryder Rozier, three years old, got a hold of his uncle’s handgun, loaded and unlocked in a bedroom nightstand. The little boy shot himself in the head and died. That is legal in Oklahoma, apparently. You can leave the gun around loaded and unlocked, it’s OK, so nobody did anything wrong.
On the 19th, two 20-something year olds went to a gun show in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. One of them bought a 9mm handgun, loaded it, and the gun went off. He shot himself through the hand, and shot his friend in the ass, all with one bullet! Apparently, that’s OK, no charges were filed. You can do that in Kentucky.
A few days after Christmas, Robert Furey, of North Carolina, told the cops that he shot his teenage neighbor with a high powered rifle. He had heard someone coming in the house so he started shooting. 15 year old Nick Exley was killed on the spot. Furey later changed his story to “it went off by accident when I was showing him the gun.” But don’t get the wrong impression. It isn’t necessarily the case that everyone who is a killer is also a liar! Maybe just this one guy.
Guy R. Dotson Jr. and M. Andy Brunelle have more than two decades of combined experience with a broad range of gun charge cases. From arrest to outcome, you can count on them for thorough research and investigation, and preparation of your case as if it is going to trial. We skillfully negotiate with prosecutors and persuasively present your story to a judge and jury if necessary.
I have not heard if he survived. Anybody know?
Happy New Year! On January 2, two people were killed in Vermont while appreciating guns. Louis Miller was holding his handgun when it went off. He wasn’t drunk, but may have been buzzed. Buzzed gunplay is drunk gunplay, people! Anyway, he’s dead. Also, Jacob Lehouillier of Vermont was killed by his brother while he was cleaning a shotgun. The very next day, in neighboring Massachusetts, two guys were playing “quick draw” to see which was quicker, a knife and a gun. One of them (the one with the gun) proceeded to shoot the other, who was hospitalized in serious condition. That apparently is not legal in Massachusetts, so charges were filed. The very next day, on January 4th, 8 year old Easton Brueger was killed by his daddy who was cleaning his gun when it went off. Easton did not die quickly.
On January 7th, 10 year old Aaliyah Boyer, of Pennsylvania, died. The was struck in the head by a bullet discharged for celebratory reasons. No one knows who shot the gun randomly into the air. The very next day, Al Dastmalchi, of North Carolina blasted his brother, George, thinking him to be an intruder. In an unrelated event, police had been called to the home earlier that night to deal with a domestic disturbance, at which time George was taken to the hospital to sober up, and later released. This shooting was totally legal in North Carolina so no charges will be filed. Stand your ground! Kill your drunk brother! The very next day, a four year old boy was shot by Brian Bruno, of Kansas, while playing around with a handgun. The boy was not killed. Bruno had pulled the trigger thinking the handgun to be unloaded. He is being charged. The very next day one 12 year old in Alabama killed another 12 year old boy with a 20 gauge he had gotten for Christmas.
On January 14th, Alex Shaw, of St. Petersburg, Florida, thought it would be a good idea to give his friends a gun safety lesson. He had bought the gun to protect himself after his father was shot dead by armed intruders last June, the same month Alex’s mother died of cancer. Anyway, Alex was telling his friends about how to keep the active chamber empty for safety. In demonstrating this, he put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger. The chamber was not empty, Alex killed himself.
On the 15th, Antonion Brown of Illinois killed his girlfriend, Sydni Blackwell while messing around with a gun. She did not die quickly. Brown was a convicted felon and thus should not have had a gun. The very next day, in Virginia, Casper Jones, 58 was shot in the head by his 4 year old nephew, one of the many children he apparently cared for many days. He died. So much for that day care option!
On January 17th, an FBI agent was accidentally shot on the range during a training session. He’ll live. The next day, Mark Bornino and Daniel Volpone, of Ohio, were target practicing in their back yard without a backstop. Mary Kuruc, who lives about a third of a mile away, got her microwave shot. They were using an AK-47 with high capacity magazines, some other guns, had hundreds of rounds of ammo, and they were drunk.
So, I hope you enjoy the rest of Gun Appreciation Day!
All of the stories above came from a blog that you should put in your RSS reader in order to appreciate guns every day: OHH SHOOT].
UPDATE: Gun Appreciation Day itself is not just a day to appreciate guns, but also, to play with guns, and when we play with guns what do we do? We shoot each other and ourselves by accident! John McKay has a post on the current situation with Gun Appreciation Day Caused Gunshot Wounds, which he says he’ll keep updated over the next few days if more information comes in. Check it out: Happy Gun Appreciation Day!
Sometimes, a person shows up at a gun range, checks out a gun ostensibly to use in target practice on the range, but instead uses the gun to commit suicide. In one case not long ago, a woman brought her teenage son to the range, and checked out two pistols. They took turn shooting for a while, then, while he was aiming his firearm at the target, she shot him in the back of the head and then shot herself. So that was murder-suicide. Now and then a person goes to the shooting range, and while shooting end up shooting themselves dead but it is not clear if it was an accident or suicide.
CASSELBERRY, Fla. — A central Florida woman who fatally shot her son then killed herself at a shooting range wrote in suicide notes to her boyfriend that she was trying to save her son.
“I’m so sorry,” Marie Moore wrote several times. “I had to send my son to heaven and myself to Hell.” … She signed two of the notes “Failed Queen.”
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A photocopy of a magazine cover about the Columbine school shooting was found among the belongings of Australian twin sisters who shot themselves in a suicide pact at a Colorado shooting range, authorities said Friday.
However, it remained unclear why Kristin and Candice Hermeler, both 29, had the cover of Time headlined “The Monsters Next Door/What Made Them Do It?” and why the sisters made the plan to kill themselves, authorities said. One of the women survived.
A 52-year-old Tamarac man killed himself Saturday morning at a Broward shooting range, according to a Broward’s Sheriff’s Office release. When police went to notify his wife at home, they found her dead in a possible murder-suicide.
Police report that the man rented a gun at the Arizona Shooting Range & Emporium in Lauderdale Lakes at 10:18 a.m. He then went into the target-shooting area and shot himself in the head at 10:33 a.m., according to the release.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WTVR)–The owner of The Smoking Gun pistol range didn’t want to appear on TV, but he did want to set the record straight about the suicide inside his business five days ago.
It began with the sound of gunshots inside a shooting range. It’s safe to say it’s common to hear that sound there, but a shot last week still haunts the range owner. “I yelled, ‘Lieutenant!” he said. “’You have five minutes,’ but he didn’t acknowledge me.”… Second Lieutenant James Cho, an Army Reserve officer was dead. The gunshot wound to the head was later determined to be a suicide. The Smoking Gun’s owner says Cho was in a position that he’ll never forget
KENT COUNTY, MI – As family of Mark Sobie grieve his death after a self-inflicted gunshot wound last week at a Wyoming shooting range, they question why no laws prevented him from renting a firearm.
A background check, they say, would have shown the 43-year-old’s felony bank robbery conviction, an offense that led him to serve 30 months in federal prison. The criminal record prevents him from purchasing or possessing a gun.
President Barack Obama has signed 23 Executive Orders intended to reduce gun violence in the United States. This alone will not be sufficient–Congress must pass new laws to address this problem as well, and the citizens of the united states have to make some cultural adjustments–but it is a start.
Republican Tea Party Congressman Steve Stockman of, where else, Texas, plans to file articles of impeachment against the president in an effort to maintain our current level of gun violence because, I suppose, he likes it when six year old children are gunned down in cold blood. The people of Stockman’s Congressional District should hang their collective heads in shame for what they have done.
The Executive Orders are summarized in the following list:
Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant
data available to the federal background check system.
Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making
information available to the background check system.
Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check
Direct the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from
having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background
check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on
how to run background checks for private sellers.
Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety
Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns
recovered in criminal investigations.
Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it
widely available to law enforcement.
Nominate an ATF director.
Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper
training for active shooter situations.
Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to
research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
Direct the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective
use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop
Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients
about guns in their homes.
Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits
them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and
institutions of higher education.
Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health
services that Medicaid plans must cover.
Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements
within ACA exchanges.
Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental