Thursday, September 3, 2015

Homicides Are Up Across The Board. "More Guns" Isn't Working

According to all measures, homicides are increasing in America, and easy access to firearms is the common factor.

This week, the BBC reported that the "U.S. murder rate sees sharp increase in 2015."  From the article:

The latest figures obtained by the New York Times show Milwaukee has seen the biggest rise, with a 76% increase.
It is followed by St Louis, Missouri, which has seen a 60% increase, and Baltimore, Maryland, with a 56% rise. ....
The latest figures show the number of murders in Milwaukee increased from 59 last year to 104 so far in 2015.
In St Louis, it rose from 85 last year to 136 so far this year, and in Baltimore shot up from 138 last year to 215 by the summer of 2015.
In Washington, there have been 105 murders - a 44% increase from last year.
The numbers have also jumped in other cities, including New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, New York and Philadelphia, though to a lesser extent.
The article only speculated on the cause, wondering about increases in gun ownership, gang warfare, youth violence, or race relations.

Here in Oregon, too, shootings are on the rise, as chronicled daily on the Oregon Shootings Facebook and Twitter pages.  Portland, in particular, has seen an increase, especially for gang shootings, breaking all previous records.  From an article:
On Wednesday, Sgt. Pete Simpson announced the Gang Enforcement Team responded to 121 incidents of gang violence so far this year.
“It’s the highest that we’ve had since we’ve been keeping records,” Gang Enforcement Team Lt. Mike Krantz said.
The overwhelming majority of these incidents involved gunfire, police said. ....
The Tactical Operations Division – which houses the gang unit, Gun Task Force and Metro Gang Task Force – has seized 137 firearms as evidence in criminal cases from 2015.
But it's not just the large cities.  Here in my home town of Eugene, and the neighboring city of Springfield, homicides, most involving shootings, has drastically increased this summer, with 12 dead in just three months.  From an article:
By whatever name, it’s been a season of violent crime in the Eugene-Springfield area — murders, suicides and shootings that have resulted in the deaths of 12 people, including three since Friday.
Eugene averages about three murders in an entire year; Springfield averages about two.

Nine of the deaths to occur this summer season have involved firearms; two involved a knife; Jeremy Ringquist hanged himself.
Five of the homicide victims have been women; four have been males. Three of the 12 dead are killers — all men — who then committed suicide, police said.
The homicide victims range in age from Gardner, the only juvenile victim at age 17, to 59-year-old Kathy Kay Braun, who was stabbed at her home on Berntzen Road in west Eugene in late July. Two accused killers — one who committed suicide and one who didn’t — are in their 70s.
And while the details on the latest killing are not yet known, most of the crimes are related to domestic violence involving either family members, roommates or partners.
The above figures don’t include other serious crimes, including shootings and stabbings, that have occurred over the summer but in which the victim survived.
As with the BBC article, this article can only speculate on the trends that have led to this.

It's enough to lead nine different health organizations to declare that gun injuries are a public health crisis in America.

But I'm not surprised at all.  

One overwhelming commonality to most of these is the weapon used.  According to FBI data from 2011, around 68% of all homicides involve firearms, with around 75% of those using handguns -- far and away exceeding any other weapons in lethality.

It's not a coincidence that shootings are increasing while gun sales are increasing. 

The NRA narrative is that more guns make us safer.  The NRA's Wayne LaPierre is infamous for stating that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," and they have been working overtime to remove any and all gun restrictions that keep guns out of the wrong hands, trying to increase concealed and open carry of guns, and trying to get guns into more places and more hands, including in bars, churches, schools, and government buildings -- all the places where sane people know they shouldn't be.  And the NRA is succeeding in many places.  And the gun manufacturers who bankroll the organization couldn't be happier.

And yet, despite more guns in more places, the criminals aren't running scared.  Instead, shootings are increasing.  Could it be, possibly, that having more guns around is making it easier for unstable people to access them??  Shocking, I know. 

Last year, I showed comparative graphs illustrating the trends.  As gun sales and gun production increase, along with conceal carry permits granted, so, too, do the number of mass shootings and the number of victims of mass shootings.  

We can now add homicides to that list, too.

We've tried things the "NRA way," and it isn't working.  It's time to form a new trajectory for our nation away from gun violence. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Statistics and Charts: Intentional Shootings

Below is a pie chart showing the intention of intentional shooting deaths in the United States, taken from FBI data, for 2011-2013.

HERE is the source of this graph, along with some details of the data.

See that tiny black sliver?  That is what the NRA and the gun guys say is worth defending their definition of "gun rights" and why we should allow guns everywhere, virtually unregulated.  That constitutes less than 1% of shooting deaths.  Even accidental deaths (not shown on this chart) outnumber them 2-to-1.

I say all those other colors are what makes it important to restrict guns further.  Wouldn't you agree?

I'm pretty sure the 33,000 shooting death victims a year would agree.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Witness Shootout)

A Vancouver, Washington man, John Kendall, was on the run after having shot a neighbor.

A man witnessed the fugitive and called 911 to report it.  When police showed up, however, they thought the caller was the fugitive, since he fit the fugitive's description, including his vehicle.

When the man exited his car and went to his trunk, police thought he was arming himself and opened fire, hitting the man in the leg.  The man then took up a position behind a gravel pile and returned fire, firing one shot.

Luckily, another call to 911 cleared it up and the shootout stopped.

The fugitive's car, however, had been around the corner.  He had shot himself to death.

From an article:

In a statement released by the Vancouver Police Department, a spokesperson said when police arrived on scene near the 700 block of NE Blandford Dr., they encountered a white man in his 50s, with an appearance matching Kendall’s, who exited his car and reached for his trunk.
“Fearing that he armed himself, law enforcement fired multiple shots at the individual in order to stop the perceived threat before the citizen could enter the woods,” the Vancouver Police Department said in a statement.
The man was struck in the leg, fired one shot from behind a rock, then called police again to report he had been shot. Once officers confirmed he was not Kendall, the man — who does not wish to be identified — was given medical treatment and transported to a nearby hospital.
At the time, police believed Kendall was armed with a rifle.
“Unbeknownst to responding law enforcement personnel, the reporting citizen parked his vehicle in the gravel turn-out nearby Kendall’s vehicle and remained on scene after hanging up,” the VPD said in a statement.
Police said responding officers did not see Kendall’s vehicle, because it was obscured by wooded and rocky terrain.

Did police see that the witness had been armed, and did that contribute to them opening fire?  Why did he return fire, knowing that these were police?  And why did he stick around when he knew a dangerous fugitive was in the area.  Was he trying to be a vigilante?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Walmart halts sale of assault rifles and sniper rifles!

Below is what was posted at the Walmart Shootings blog:

After years of pressure by gun violence prevention groups and victims, not to mention increases in at least the last three years, Walmart has announced that it is discontinuing sales of assault rifles and sniper rifles in its stores.  This is a tremendous success for common sense!
gun crimes and shootings at its stores for

Up until this, Walmart had sold five different models of assault rifles.  Some of these have been used in shootings on Walmart property or have been stolen from the store counters.

Walmart continues to sell shotguns, hunting rifles, and ammunition, as well as realistic-looking airguns, and they still allow people to carry concealed handguns in their stores.

From an article:

The world’s largest retailer will stop stocking AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles (MSRs) as it resets its stores with fall merchandise, a Walmart spokesman confirmed to Quartz on Wednesday. The company will replace the rifles (carried in less than a third of its stores) with shotguns and other hunting weapons.
The move comes in the midst of a national gun debate fueled by high-profile shootings involving the weapon, including Adam Lanza in the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, James Holmes in the Colorado theater shooting, and the Los Angeles Airport shooting where a Transportation Security Administration officer was shot and killed.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation says modern sporting rifles are among the most popular firearms being sold in America.

Walmart claims the move was a "business decision" and not due to pressure, but assault rifles continue to be a hot commodity with the gun guys, so I think we all know what the truth is here.  There has been a lot of outcry, including petitions like HERE and HERE.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Seattle Has Enacted A Tax On Firearms and Ammo Sales

Below is a guest blog post from Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon:

On August 10, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved to tax the sale of firearms and ammunition. From the article:

The council adopted the tax - patterned after a similar measure in Cook County, Illinois - on an 8-0 vote. The tax amounts to $25 for each firearm sold in the city, plus 5 cents per round for nearly every type of ammunition. The revenue would be used for gun safety research and gun violence prevention programs. 
The council also unanimously passed a companion measure to require mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms. Mayor Ed Murray said he supports both efforts.

The move came as the city is struggling to reduce gun violence as well as the enormous financial burden of gunshot-related trauma treated at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. 

The direct medical costs of treating 253 gunshot victims at Harborview Medical Center in 2014 totaled more than $17 million. Taxpayers paid more than $12 million of that. City officials estimate that the new tax would bring in $300,000 to $500,000 a year, but gun shop owners told council members those numbers are inflated and that the law would cost them customers and sales. 

The gun shop owners did not comment on the cost of lives lost due to gunshot death.

The direct cost of gun violence in America is $8.6 billion (such as emergency responder costs, court costs, and victim treatment).  87% of the direct costs is paid by taxpayers, mostly for imprisonment of convicted shooters

Add to that $221 billion in indirect costs (such as victims' lost wages and quality of life).

How much does the gun lobby pay to cover that cost? $0.00.

Americans pay, directly and indirectly, an exorbitant cost for gun violence while the gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, acquit themselves of any responsibility. The American tax payer foots the bill  for medical care, extra police, long-term care of the seriously injured and care for those who are shot but not insured.

We pay when we give up the freedom to go to the movies or a shopping mall because we worry about yet another person who easily got a gun he never should have had.

We pay when our sisters, daughters, aunts and mothers are intimidated into silence and into staying in abusive relationships at the point of a gun. 

We pay for gun violence in America every time we are afraid to go into public, every time we don't go to a movie, every time we decide to not go to a shopping mall, every time we worry about sending our kids to school, every time we worry that a loved one might commit suicide.

Any responsible gun owner would gladly pay a tax to help reduce gun violence. 

Frankly, I don't care if gun owners are losing a few gun sales. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

FAQs for Oregon's new background check law, the Oregon Firearms Safety Act

The Oregon Firearms Safety Act, which was signed into law back in May, and which requires background checks for ALL gun sales, including private and online sales, went into effect last Sunday.

But, thanks to the pro-gun forces and their dis-information attempts to obfuscate the law (and criminal-minded open rebellion against it), there has been some confusion about the law -- enough that some gun sellers are refusing to perform the background checks and some insurrectionistic sheriffs are refusing to uphold their oath of office to enforce the law.

Let's try to clear up some of this dis-information with some facts.

See the following link for frequently asked questions, or click on the specific questions, below:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How To Talk About Guns And Suicide

An ER doctor, Emmy Betz, talks plainly about suicide and gun availability in this TED talk ...

In other words, means matter, and guns are the most lethal means available for suicides.

Some good quotes:

"But I also ask [the patient] a question - an important question - that I think we all need to be asking anyone at risk of suicide.  Do you have access to a gun?"

"But the thing is, this is not political.  This is about helping protect the people we love, the people we care about, when they are in times of crisis."