Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer On Gun Violence

Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer responded to the Umpqua Community College with a floor speech at the nation's capitol, shaming his fellow lawmakers for accepting the status quo on our nation's gun violence record and making a call to action for us to institute changes like other, comparable nations have done.

I would quote some of his speech, but every sentence was significant and equal to such a point that I couldn't choose.  Please listen to the whole speech, which isn't long.

Video of his speech, via C-SPAN:

Thank you, Representative Blumenauer, for your wise words.  Let us hope that your colleagues listen to your advice and we create a new trajectory for our society away from gun violence.

ADDENDUM: Rep. Blumenauer has a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence, which you can find on his homepage, here:

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Umpqua Community College Shooting Exposes Two Pro-Gun Myths

The last four days have been sickening.  Once again, a young loner with a history of deviant behavior came, heavily armed with handguns and an assault rifle, to a public place, and committed yet another heinous mass murder.

This time, as most of our nation knows by now, it was only an hour's drive south of where I live, at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.  It feels like it was next door.

The shooter entered a classroom and opened fire.  When the smoke cleared, nine people were dead and nine were injured.  The shooter, too, was dead, after having a shootout with sheriff's deputies and then killed himself.

Here is an article with a short biography and photo of each of the victims who died in the shooting:

What followed was a flurry of activity, repeated every time we have a mass shooting (which is more than once a day in America now -- yes, you read that correctly!).  There was initial shock, followed by varying news reports and chaotic flood of information -- some incorrect. Then there was outrage from the community and those of us who fight gun violence.  Next came the slow release of factual information, and statements from politicians.  This time some called for change, like President Obama.  Each mass shooting brings more public voices like his.  This was the 15th time he has had to come on to national TV and address another mass shooting.

And then came the usual parade of pro-gun comments about how the faculty and students should have armed themselves, and fluttering about "gun free zones."
The armed student at UCC, John Parker Jr.,
who didn't change the outcome (source)

Well, it turns out that there was at least one student who had a concealed handgun and permit, a vet named John Parker, Jr.  After considering whether to engage the shooter with others who may have been armed as well, he decided it would be wisest not to, for fear the deputies would mistake him for the shooter.  See a news interview with him, HERE.  I don't approve of having guns on campus other than in the hands of well-trained law enforcement or security, but he was in his state rights to do so.  I'm glad he chose not to play a vigilante hero and get himself killed.

And, surprise, Umpqua Community College wasn't a "gun free zone," either!  Umpqua Community College has a policy that firearms and ammo are forbidden unless expressly authorized by law, which would allow conceal carry with a valid permit since state law allows conceal carry on state campuses unless the institution disallows that, too (such as the University of Oregon, which can prohibit them in buildings or possessed by students, staff, faculty, or game ticket purchasers).

It should also be pointed out that the pro-gun myth that gunmen target places specifically because they are "gun free zones" has been debunked many times.  From a Mother Jones article:
Among the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns. To the contrary, in many of the cases there was clearly another motive for the choice of location. ... 
No less a fantasy is the idea that gun-free zones prevent armed civilians from saving the day. Not one of the 62 mass shootings we documented was stopped this way.
A number of things kept the massacre from being worse: deputies arrived within just six minutes of the first 911 calls to shoot out with the shooter; the school had practiced active-shooter emergency response just a week before; faculty followed the rules and locked doors and took shelter; and a real hero stepped in to confront the shooter.  Chris Mintz was shot multiple times, but he will survive, and he bought a lot of time for others to escape and for law enforcement to arrive.

But having a student with a gun didn't solve any problems in this shooting.  Having a conceal carry vigilante shoot it out with the assailant very well might have led to bystanders getting killed or confusion by law enforcement.  Remember, in Oregon there's no requirement to even fire or own a gun in order to get a conceal carry permit, much less get training in how to remain calm in a shootout, negotiation skills, or a thorough understanding of the law -- unlike police. 

But the gun lobby, gun sellers, and their minions are happy to keep feeding us the myths of the conceal carry hero and "gun free zones" to stoke the fears of those who care more about emotional responses than the facts.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Op-Ed From The Guardian: Guns kill people in the US because we pervert the Second Amendment

Below is an op-ed article published in The Guardian, contributed by the Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon, Penny Okamoto. 

I urge everyone to read it.  In this moment of crisis for our state, in the wake of yet another massacre at the hands of another lunatic who was easily able to get his hands on high-powered weaponry, we need to re-focus on the real issues facing us.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

America’s gun violence, like our grief in Oregon, seems to know no bounds, no limits, no end. The reason is deadly simple: our very lives are chained to a constitutional amendment that is willfully misinterpreted by many and perverted by gun rights advocates for political ends.

That sullied amendment is the United States constitution’s Second Amendment which states, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The gun industry and its supporters have turned that simple statement into a clever marketing tool, and Americans are paying the price in blood.

On Thursday, Roseburg, Oregon – a three-hour drive south of the Oregon’s largest city, Portland – was rocked by a deadly mass shooting that wounded seven people and took the lives of 10 others, including the gunman. Students were in classes at Umpqua Community College when a 26-year-old gunman shattered their world when he opened fire on them. They are, sadly, not unique: hardly a week has passed in the last three years without a mass shooting.
She goes on by pointing out that opponents, like the extremist pro-gun sheriff in Douglas county, attempt to scapegoat the mentally ill and push guns on the public as a solution.  Nonetheless, a concerted effort by Ceasefire Oregon and other organizations succeeded in passing universal background checks.

Okamoto then makes suggestions on how we can institute change:

But gun violence is a cancer in our nation and, just as no single drug will cure all cancers, no single gun law will cure all gun violence. Rather, we need comprehensive, effective legislation and caring, courageous leadership to change both America’s laws and Americans’ views on guns and gun violence. Too often, gun control advocates hear that nothing can be done to change things in this country, but that’s just not true.

Gun violence prevention researchers and advocates know that we can reduce gun violence by passing effective, common-sense laws, like background checks for all gun sales to stop criminals and those with demonstrated mental health issues and histories of violence from buying guns. Waiting periods between the time of gun purchase and possession can provide purchasers with a cooling-off period to help deter homicide and suicide. Instituting gun violence restraining orders can reduce violence by allowing family members and law enforcement to remove a gun from a loved one who is exhibiting warning signs of violence.

We can require – or at least heavily incentivize through liability statutes – that firearms be kept secured at all times with trigger locks or in a safe. We can reduce gun trafficking by allowing people to purchase only one gun per month. We can reinstate the federal assault weapons ban to ban the purchase and possession of high-capacity magazines and assault rifles, which are not necessary for the most dedicated home-defender or hunter.

And Americans can refuse to support lawmakers of any party who do not support “gun-sense” laws – like background checks, higher standards for gun ownership and funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – at the ballot box. We can challenge all 2016 presidential candidates to issue a plan to cut gun violence by 50% before 2020 (the final year of the next president’s first term in office), and Ceasefire has done so.
Then she summarizes with a message of hope:
We are citizens of a great nation, but our children, our mothers, our fathers and our friends are being mowed down, fed to the gun industry’s insatiable appetite for profit. Our founding fathers wrote the Second Amendment to protect our country. Now we must protect our country from those who pervert the Second Amendment.
We know this can be done. We know this must be done. Our national nightmare of paying into the gun lobby’s profit machine must be brought to an end.

[Full article here:]


Thursday, October 1, 2015

An Initial Statement On The Umpqua Community College Shooting From Ceasefire Oregon

A statement released by Ceasefire Oregon:

Gun violence has ripped through our community, state and country once again. At this time, we understand from news reports that a lone gunman, a 20-year old male, has killed at least thirteen people and injured at least twenty more at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

No family should ever have to go through what the Umpqua Community College families are experiencing right now. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families and the entire Roseburg community. 

You can follow @CeasefireOregon and #UCCShooting for the latest information and responses to this horrifying shooting.

Our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the victims. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Statistics And Charts: Shootings By Type

A Washington Post article recently summarized, in one graphic, the type of shootings relative to each other in number.

As you'll see, defensive (or "justified") shootings outside of law enforcement are only a tiny fraction.  It is this tiny fraction of shootings, only 1 out of every 115, that the NRA uses to try to justify their "guns everywhere" arguments.

For every fatal justified, defensive shooting, there are 34 homicide deaths using guns, 78 suicides with a gun, and 2 accidental deaths.

But the NRA and other pro-gun supporters don't care about all those other deaths.

From the article:

Also from the article:

There are, of course, plenty of solid arguments for robust 2nd Amendment protections. Millions of people use guns for sport and recreation every day. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens, not criminals. 
But, though some people certainly use guns for self-defense, the data suggest that overall, guns are used far more often for killing then self-defense. As a result, it's may be thinking twice about arguments for more guns in schools, churches and other public places.
HERE is a related post, with a different chart showing similar information.

Friday, September 25, 2015

How Well Do You Know Oregon Gun Laws?

With the passage of Oregon's new universal background check law, requiring background checks for nearly all gun sales and transfers, the pro-gun forces have disseminated a lot of misinformation to confuse and deceive people (even encouraging illegal behavior by gun owners and politicians).

Take the quiz, below, to test your knowledge and get the truth about Oregon's gun laws:

(or click HERE for a direct link)


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis On Gun Violence

Today, Pope Francis, as part of his visit to the United States, addressed the U.S. Congress.

As part of his address, he decried the "shameful and culpable silence" on arms sales "drenched in innocent blood."

America leads the world in arms sales.  From the full transcript of his address:

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.
Though he was addressing primarily international gun sales, I believe his statement could just as easily be applied to domestic gun sales by U.S. gun manufacturers.

It is incredibly clear, from statements made by the NRA and other gun lobbies, and the way the gun manufacturers manipulate our government and gun owners, that money is the bottom line, with no regard at all to the safety of the common people in the wake of continued gun violence and deaths in the U.S.  Gun sales, and the profits and lobbyist money they bring in, reign supreme.

From another article, which also addressed the military-industrial weapons sector:
Those were fighting words, especially given where he spoke them. The U.S. is by far the largest arms supplier in the world, with domestic manufacturers selling more than $23.7 billion in weapons in 2014 to nearly 100 different countries. During the Obama administration, weapons sales have surged to record levels, in large part due to huge shipments to Gulf States, particularly Saudi Arabia. 
The weapons sales to Saudi Arabia include cluster bombs and other munitions being used to hit densely populated areas, schools, and even a camp for displaced people in Yemen. 
And a healthy chunk of those arms sales — especially to Israel and Egypt — are heavily subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer.
Our leaders should take the words of Pope Francis to heart.  The welfare of our people MUST be more important than the profits of gun manufacturers!