Thursday, January 15, 2015

If Only They'd had a gun. Oh, wait... (Charlie Hebdo re-enactment)

Anytime there's a high-profile shooting in the news, the pro-gun crowd are quick to regurgitate the old myth that if only there were armed civilians carrying concealed handguns, the shooter would have been killed and the tragedy would never have happened.  Valiant vigilante heroes would save the day!

Sadly, this simply isn't the case, as I've blogged on several cases now.  And now a pro-gun group in Texas unintentionally proved my point.

On January 7, radical Islamic terrorists attacked the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which is known in part for publishing images of Mohammed.  The shooting in the office and in the streets outside killed 12 people and wounded 11 more.  A branch of Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility.  A manhunt ensued after the initial shooting, culminating in a further shooting at a Jewish Kosher market, bringing the number of dead and injured up to 17 dead and 22 injured.  Click HERE for a timeline and relevant article on the incidents.

The world reacted with shock.  There were rallies to condemn the attack, with world leaders marching arm-in-arm with 3.7 million people in Paris and elsewhere in France.  And a "#JeSuisCharlie" movement began, starting on social media.

But what did the pro-gun pundits do?  Naturally, they dragged out the old argument that, in the words of NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," arguing that if only some of those French people had been armed with concealed guns, those heavily armed terrorists with full-auto AK-47s would have been stopped and the whole sordid affair never would have happened!

Naturally, FOX News and their talk shows led the way, setting a tone for the pro-gun folks to parrot, including an appearance by Wayne LaPierre who bizarrely thinks that "we don't have this problem [of mass shootings] in the United States" simply because we have the Second Amendment.  Never mind that mass shootings happen in the U.S. every single week (in fact, I saw another one as I was writing this post -- a murder/suicide at a restaurant in Florida -- and a plot to attack the U.S. Capitol with guns and bombs was stopped today) and are practically unheard of France (or nearly any other industrialized country) and that the rate of mass shootings in America has tripled since 2011!

From a Media Matters article:
On the January 7 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland said that one thing that stood out to her about the attack is "that in France they have a very strict gun control policy." Later on Fox's The Five, host Greg Gutfeld said the victims of the attack were "sitting ducks" because the country "has the most powerful gun control in the world, and nobody's armed." On Fox Business Network, Fox's senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said, "One of the reasons these people are dead is because they were sitting ducks. One of the reasons they're sitting ducks is you can't carry a gun in Paris. This would not happen in New York City." On Twitter, frequent Fox guest Donald Trump wrote that the attack occurred "in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world."
And another FOX reporter, Emily Miller, repeated the same refrain:
Miller, the chief investigative reporter for Washington, D.C.'s Fox affiliate WTTG, also pushed false information about gun violence, including the claim that "gun-free zones" attract mass killers and that civilians with concealed weapons have stopped mass shootings.
During the January 11 edition of Fox & Friends Sunday, Miller (the former senior opinion editor of the conservative Washington Times who also contributes columns to FoxNews.com) claimed the reason "terrorists don't come here is because of civilian's ownership" of firearms. Miller continued with the confounding argument that terrorists use bombs but not guns in the United States because of civilian gun ownership.
During a January 12 appearance on Fox & Friends, Miller added, "The Second Amendment is what keeps us safer from terrorist attacks because foreigners know we have guns." (Al Qaeda has actually encouraged its followers to exploit loose gun laws in the United States to get weapons without a background check.)
The Media Matters article also exposes a number of false and misleading claims that Miller makes.  (See more, HERE).

Well, a pro-gun group called "The Truth About Guns" decided to test this scenario.  They recreated a
From the re-enactment (source)
mock-up of the Charlie Hebdo offices and took turns playing the two shooters and the office staff, armed with paintball gun versions of the firearms, except that they armed members of the office staff with concealed handguns.  Apparently, they wanted to demonstrate what all those FOX pundits were claiming.

But, try as they might, over and over (12 times, in fact), the result was always the same:  NO lives were saved.

From an article:
No matter how the situation played out, though, one thing remained consistent — if the “armed civilian” confronted the attackers, he or she died. The only time the “armed civilian” survived was when the volunteer playing him ran away at the first sound of gunfire. 
“He started shooting,” volunteer Linda Cruz said, “and I started shooting, and I died” — that is, she was shot by a paintball in a area that the group designated was a “critical hit.”
Another volunteer, Parks Matthew, said he “still got killed, but did better than I thought I would.”
Hmmm.   Funny, that.  That might explain why no mass shooting in America has ever been stopped by an armed citizen who wasn't law enforcement or security.

In fact, in every study that has come out on the topic, the presence of a gun makes a person less safe.  For instance, these studies have found that a gun in the home is at least 22 times more likely to be used to harm someone in the home than to save them, that carrying a concealed gun in public makes the carrier 4.5 times more likely to be killed, that having a gun in the home increased the risk of suicide by five fold, and that people living with a gun in the home were nearly three times more likely to be murdered than those with no gun in a home.

But the pro-gun guys wouldn't let a little thing like statistics or failed mass shooting recreations stop them from trying to play the action-movie hero.  From the article about the Charlie Hebdo recreation:
Another volunteer, Parks Matthew, said he “still got killed, but did better than I thought I would.”
His “death” would not, however, deter him from acting in a situation with an actual hostile shooter. “If I’m in a movie theater and someone pulls a gun, what am I going to do?” he asked.
“I know now I’m not gonna just fall on my kids and protect them, I need to advance on the threat.”
I hope he never finds out.  Chances are, he would die in real life, too.

Hey, here's an idea to keep us safe...  Keep the terrorists from getting guns in the first place!  Oh, um, I guess the conservatives stopped that effort despite Al Qaeda calling for their followers to purchase guns without background checks at gun shows and private sales.  We wouldn't want to squash those vigilante pro-gun daydreams, would we?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Newtown Shooting: Two Years Later

A message from Ceasefire Oregon:



Two years ago today, twenty first-graders were shot to death at their school in Newtown, Connecticut. Six extraordinarily brave women put their bodies in front of bullets and died attempting to save those little children. Ceasefire Oregon honors those 26 souls and our thoughts and hearts are with their families and the Newtown community.

The Newtown massacre galvanized the nation and changed hearts and minds about the need for responsible gun laws. Make no mistake: that movement is alive and very active today. 

People like you are speaking up and taking a stand. Some of you are calling your legislators, some of you are becoming activists, and some of you are talking to your neighbors about the common sense steps we can take to reduce gun violence. Simple steps like:
  • requiring background checks for all guns sales,
  • banning gun magazines that hold enough bullets to kill an entire classroom of children, and
  • holding gun owners responsible if they carelessly allow others to access their weapons.
The massacre at Newtown is permanently seared into our national psyche but we aren't sitting still. We are speaking up and helping the Newtown families fight for legislative changes so other people won't have to suffer what they have suffered.

It's a tough fight. The opposition might try to harass and intimidate us but we are Newtown Tough and we will fight for our children, our streets, and a responsible way of life. Personally, I can't think of a better way to honor the heroic women who died at Newtown.

Speak up. Take a stand. Join us.

Newtown, you are always in our hearts.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gun Violence Prevention Wins Big In Oregon And Washington

A message from Ceasefire Oregon:


Oregon voters delivered a loud and clear message to our legislators last night: Oregonians want to end gun violence! There are simply too many gun crimes here in Oregon. We demand common sense gun laws and we will vote out legislators who refuse to take simple steps to keep guns away from criminals.

You helped create a huge victory for gun violence prevention last night! Thank you! Thousands of you stood up to the gun lobby and paved the way for a strong background checks bill in 2015 in Oregon.

Here are last night's great wins from Oregon and Washington:
  • Sara Gelser in Senate District 8, a supporter of background checks, was voted into office. Ceasefire Oregon supporters made phone calls and canvassed to help elect Sara Gelser. Her opponent, incumbent Betsy Close, was swept out. Close not only voted against background checks but she also took $10,000 from the Oregon Firearms Federation PAC, a gun lobby group.
  • Washington passed I-594 which will expand background checks in Washington State on nearly all gun sales. Washington voters overwhelmingly voted for Initiative 594. At the same time, voters resoundingly rejected I-591, an NRA driven measure designed to weaken Washington state laws.
  • Chuck Riley's race in Washington County's Senate District 15 against incumbent Bruce Starr has not yet been called. Ceasefire Oregon volunteers took part in canvasses and phone banks organized by Everytown for Gun Sense and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Our special thanks to Everytown and Moms Demand Action. 
  • Four amazing gun violence survivors canvassed with Everytown. Colin Goddard who survived 4 bullet wounds at the Virginia Tech massacre, Mary Reed who suffered 3 bullets wounds in Tucson while using her own body to shield her daugher, Neil Heslin whose son was killed at Sandy Hook, and Ashley Cech whose mother heroically saved students and staff at Sandy Hook.
  • Other great wins for gun violence prevention are:
  • Governor John Kitzhaber
  • U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley
  • State Senator Alan Bates
  • Representative Joe Gallegos
  • Representative Shemia Fagan
The gun lobby has long thought their endorsements can change an election but they were proven wrong yet again last night.  From an article from International Business Times:

Though it spent nearly $11 million on the 2012 election, the National Rifle Association saw less than 1 percent of its money go toward its desired result, according to the Sunlight Foundation—a nonpartisan group that uses data to promote government transparency.

Here are some of the candidates who were backed by gun lobbies or who opposed background checks and lost:
  • Dennis Richardson, candidate for Governor, lost
  • Monica Wehby, candidate for Senator, lost
  • Casey Runyan, candidate for Oregon House District 9, lost
  • Betsy Close, candidate for Oregon Senate District 8, lost
The 2014 election has been a great victory for gun violence prevention and would not have happened with you. 

Ceasefire Oregon would like to thank all of you who called, canvassed, talked to your friends and voted for legislators who will support common sense gun laws. The road has been paved and now we can move forward to reduce gun violence. Oregonians will be safer now because of your work. Thank you!

ADDENDUM: A related post from the Common Gunsense blog about wins across the country.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Poem: Let Us Explain How This Happened In Your School

(The poem and collage, below, and preamble, are by Cynthia Jacobi, a volunteer for Ceasefire Oregon)


Preamble: 
After Newtown, people asked what could you say to those parents who lost children?  
I ask what could we say to the children who we failed to 
Protect?  What could we possibly give as explanation?  

(Collage by Cynthia Jacobi)


Let Us Explain How This Happened In Your School    
by Cynthia Jacobi 


It happened because the mother was odd
     and the boy was weird   
because neighbors did not bake cookies to greet them
     blank curtains were drawn and lawns were wide

Because the mother could no longer sing the boy to sleep
because the mother didn’t lock the safe or hide the key
because the other kids pushed him aside

It happened because the mother took the boy to practice
because the mother took the boy Christmas shopping
because America sells mega-magazines everywhere
     and Hollywood sells violence

It happened because of Gun Luv
because we are the land of the brave and the free
     and cowboys and Bonnie and Clyde
because bullets open doors to entry

Because the boy didn’t need to reload much
It happened because the NRA
     loudspeakers spread dollars and fear
because there was no good guy with a gun
    to shoot the bad guy with a gun

It happened because we fail to be horrified for long
because hunters of quail and rabbit are silent

Because reasonable people find no reason to be so

It happened because we have forgotten the poems
     we once knew by heart


.

Monday, August 4, 2014

James Brady, the Man Behind the Brady Bill, Passes Away at Age 73


(UPDATED -- See below)

A statement from Ceasefire Oregon:


Ceasefire Oregon, the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Gun Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, along with millions of other gun violence prevention advocates mourn the passing of former White House press secretary James Brady. Mr. Brady was a true American hero and an inspiration for all of us who are fighting to make our communities safe from gun violence.

Wounded during an assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan, Jim Brady and his wife turned personal tragedy into a 30-year crusade to pass stronger gun laws and save lives. For those maimed by gun violence, he became a symbol of the purposeful life, made meaningful by the struggle to make all Americans safer.

As the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence pointed out, "Because of Jim's hard work and the policy that bears his name--the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act--an estimated 2 million gun sales to criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous people have been blocked. As a result, countless lives have been saved. In fact, there are few Americans in history who are as directly responsible for saving as many lives as Jim."


ADDENDA:  
An online condolence card can be signed HERE.

Articles from national news sites can be found HERE and HERE.

Other statements regarding Jim Brady's passing can be found HERE, and HERE.  


UPDATE (8/10/14):  A coroner has ruled Brady's death a homicide, since he died from ongoing complications caused by the bullet wound from Hinckly 33 years ago.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Unpatriotic Gun Nuts Rush To Buy AK-47's Due To Sanctions Against Russia


Russia hasn't been behaving itself lately, what with annexing Crimea, building up troops on the eastern border with Ukraine, arming and aiding Ukrainian rebels, playing a role in the downing of Malaysian Flight M17, and, today, is even firing artillary into the Ukraine from inside the Russian border to help the rebellion.  Putin is returning to the glory days of headlong Communist expansionism.  As the most recent release of Time Magazine put it in their article "In Russia, Crime Without Punishment:" 


Can the West stop a figure who is determined to uphold the dreary habits of czars and Soviet leaders while projecting Russian exceptionalism and power?



So far, the U.S. and other Western powers have responded only with condemnation and economic sanctions. 



I feel that any thinking individual with a shred of love of democracy would approve of at least that much of a response.  At this very moment, Russia is invading a sovereign, democratic nation in an act of unprovoked warfare.  If we are lovers of democracy and patriotic to the needs of our country and our allies, wouldn't it make sense to support the U.S. sanctions?



What are those sanctions from the U.S., exactly?  From an article:



The Obama administration last week announced a new round of sanctions against Russia that it says are intended to discourage Russia from continuing to support rebel groups in eastern Ukraine. Companies blacklisted by the U.S. include Russian banks, energy firms and eight weapons manufacturers -- including Kalashnikov Concern, a maker of what is arguably the most popular weapon in the world, the AK-47.



It makes sense, doesn't it?  If Russia wishes to act against our allies and our democratic ideals, we as a nation shouldn't support Russia economically, and we should do what we can to stop them from arming rebels, including small arms like AK rifles.



So what does the supposedly "patriotic" gun crowd do -- the same men who quote (selected) portions of the Constitution and (selectively) pore over the history of the Revolution and Founding Fathers?  They whole-heartedly support sanctions against Russia and Russian gun companies, right?  Right???



Wrong.



Their love of guns supersedes any actual patriotic feelings.  Take, for instance, when the inventor of the AK-47, Mikhail Kalashnikov, died.  Kalashnikov confessed that he felt "spiritual pain" for having invented the AK-47 -- the gun that has killed untold millions of people, including Americans in every war and conflict we have fought since Korea, and ushered in with a rain of bullets every Communist, jihadist, and anti-American insurgency since.  The AK-47 symbolizes everything that is the antithesis of American democracy.  Did the pro-gun crowd cheer that this villain had died?  No, they mourned instead.  A sampling of their responses:



"Damn that sucks. Father of the most famous assault rifle. RIP Mikhail!" (source)



"I just told my AK about it. We had a good cry together. RIP to one of the greatest weapons designers of the 20th century." (source)



"The world has lost a true genius and a hero today." (source)



"Guess I'll fire a 21 gun salute from my own AK-47 variant." (source)



"Rest in Peace. The master tinkerer's invention has probably done more to shape world events than any ideology." (source)



"It was an honor to live in the same century with him." (source)



This, despite the fact that it isn't uncommon for the AK-47 and other AK variants to be used in crimes here in America.  At the Kid Shootings blog, for instance, you can find 15 examples where an AK-47 was used in a crime involving children, including their deaths, and those are by no means inclusive.



So, flash forward to today.  Despite the sanctions levied against Russia for their warlike and anti-democratic behavior, and despite the wicked history of the AK-47 on the battlefield as well as American streets, the gun is now selling out on American gun store shelves.  And it's not just AK-47s, but other Russian guns as well.  From a Huffington Post article:



While there’s no hard data showing an uptick in Russian gun sales, gun sellers around the country say they’re seeing big business in AK-47s and other Russian firearms.



Blaine Bunting, president of Maryland gun distributor Atlantic Firearms, said Tuesday that orders for their AK-47-style rifles and shotguns have "tripled, if not quadrupled" since Obama announced the sanctions.



"We have 15 employees here, and yesterday we started at 7:30 in the morning and didn't leave until eight at night," he said. After selling more than 400 Russian guns in just a couple days, Bunting said, Atlantic Firearms is sold out.   ....



Last week in Nampa, Idaho, the gun store Armageddon Armory bought 60 Saiga semi-automatic shotguns, which are made by Kalashnikov. They were gone in just a few days, according to the shop’s manager, David, who refused to give his last name, citing store policy.



"We sold out of them instantly," he said.



Right now, Saiga shotguns cost $800 to $900, David said, estimating they would double in price within six weeks because of Obama’s executive action.



Wow.  So why are they selling so many?  As one gun dealer put it after a surge in AK-47 sales in his store, "The simple thing is, people want what they can't have."



And there you have it.  It's not about having a gun for home defense, and it's not about hunting (assault rifles are a poor choice for either home defense or hunting, compared to other options).  It's about panic-buying an item that the gub'ment has told them not to buy.  It's the result of a deeply anti-authoritarian view, fostered in large part by the perpetuation of the false refrain that the government is going to take away everyone's guns.  And it's about the very-male fascination by low-brows of making things go "boom" for "fun."  You've got to have the highest-quality gun for that, right?  Again, from the Huffington Post article, quoting a gun seller:



"The Russian AK-47 is one of the highest quality AKs out there," said Ben, from North Raleigh Guns. "It's been around forever. The ammo is affordable. Plus, it's really fun to shoot."



Patriotism goes out the window when you have a need to fuel a gun fetish for "fun."  Panic buying doesn't bring in new gun owners, generally, but merely appeals to those who are already amassing arsenals of these deadly weapons.  These aren't the run-of-the-mill gun owners who have one or two guns for home defense or hunting.  These are the extremist, insurrectionist types, and we should all be fearful.  Remember, too, that modern guns are made with high enough quality that they will likely outlive those who buy them.  Where, then, will they wind up?



Mikhail Kalashnikov said on his deathbed, "My spiritual pain is unbearable" because of the gun he invented to "protect the Motherland."  I wonder if any of the gun nuts who are buying up Mikhail's weapons will one day feel the same guilt for bringing such dangerous weapons into their homes and for betraying the needs of our country, just so they can feel part of some anti-government "fun" trend?