Friday, September 30, 2011

Concealed Guns Now Allowed at Oregon Universities

If you are a college student, how safe would you feel knowing that the people around you on campus may be armed with loaded handguns?  In class?  At football games?  At on-campus parties?  In university judicial hearings?  Even in campus daycare?

You should be concerned.  Among college-aged people (ages 18-30, to include most grad students), 81.5% of homicides and 46.5% of suicides are by firearms.  Homicide and suicide are the number 2 and number 3 causes of death in that age range (behind unintentional deaths, where firearms are about 1%) (based on CDC WISQARS data for 2008).  Percentages increase if you drop the age to undergrad ages (18-22), and the difference in ranking between accidental and homicide drop dramatically.

Prior to this week, the Oregon university system had a policy against possession of firearms on campus, with the exception of law enforcement.  Not anymore. 

NRA-sponsored legislative challenges to get guns on campus were rampant across the nation in 2011.

In the words of Paul Helmke, who had directed the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence until recently, “There’s a reason why this kind of wrongheaded legislation has now failed 56 times in 30 states. Parents, faculty, university leaders, and students understand that forcing more guns into more places is dangerous and unnecessary.” 

Quoting John Woods, founder of Students for Gun-Free Schools, whose girlfriend was murdered at Virginia Tech:  “Guns on campus is an ideological agenda that has been pushed by people who spend little or no time on college campuses, while it is opposed by students, faculty, staff, law enforcement, parents, university administrators, mental health professionals, and the survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting.”

College students, administrators, and faculty overwhelmingly oppose guns on campus.  As of June 16, 2011, over 275 colleges, universities and associations in 36 states have signed a resolution to keep campuses gun-free and have turned out in large numbers to oppose such laws at legislative hearings.

But the gun lobby’s failed attempts to force institutes of higher learning to accept weapons on their grounds hasn’t stopped them.  Instead, they are now searching for judicial avenues around the country.

In 2009, a student at Western Oregon University with a valid concealed weapons permit was caught carrying a concealed handgun on campus against school policy.  He was arrested, but the charges were eventually dropped.  Nonetheless, the extremist pro-gun lobby group, Oregon Firearms Federation, filed a lawsuit.  To illustrate their extremism, they advertise that they are “Oregon’s only no compromise lobbying group” who are “fighting the freedom  haters in court.”  The case went to Appeals court.  Now, sadly, the 3-judge panel on the Oregon Appeals Court has made a ruling, overturning the prohibition of guns on university property

The Oregon State Board of Higher Education hasn’t yet decided if they’ll appeal further.

Here is Ceasefire Oregon’s official statement on the ruling:

September 29, 2011 
Ceasefire Oregon Statement on Oregon Firearms Ed. Foundation v. Bd. of Higher Ed.  
An Oregon Court of Appeals decision announced on September 28 holds that the Oregon State Board of Higher Education lacks the necessary legal authority to regulate firearms on Oregon college campuses. The court invalidated a longstanding ban on guns on campus but also noted that the Second Amendment had nothing to do with its decision. 
Ceasefire Oregon urgently calls on Governor Kitzhaber to seek, and the Oregon Legislature to enact, a legislative ban on guns in Oregon schools. Ceasefire Oregon concurs in the judgment of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators that guns on campuses pose an elevated and unacceptable risk to students and staff. 

The pro-gun extremists think you’ll feel more comfortable and safer knowing there are armed people around you to play Wyatt Earp on your behalf.  They are also trying to remove or weaken any and all restrictions, including further background checks and training requirements for concealed weapons permits, nationwide.  But accidents happen every day, and there are plenty of violent and reactive people out there.  Where there are guns, there are gun crimes and accidents.

So the next time you’re at an Oregon football game, on-campus party, or just sitting in class, and someone gets belligerent, drunk, or appears suspicious in some manner, take a moment and wonder if he’s packing a loaded handgun.  It’s legal now.

UPDATE (10/4/11):  A related article, written by Elise Gautier (Board President of Ceasefire Oregon) and Penny Okamoto (Executive Director):

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oregon Legislators Refuse to be Intimidated by the Gun Lobby

Unlike many legislative bodies elsewhere, the Oregon Senate and a substantial portion of the Oregon House have refused to be intimidated by the gun lobby.  Ceasefire Oregon applauds the many legislators who stood up to the gun lobby this year and refused to succumb to its strong-arm tactics.  We thank, in particular, Senators Ginny Burdick, Suzanne Bonamici, Jackie Dingfelder, and Floyd Prozanski and Representatives Mary Nolan, Carolyn Tomei, and Tina Kotek.  We sincerely thank all the legislators who refused to make it easier to obtain guns or to carry loaded, hidden handguns in our state.

At the behest of various elements of the gun lobby, other legislators introduced 25 bills that would have weakened Oregon’s gun laws, many substantially.

Ceasefire Oregon volunteers carefully tracked these bills throughout the session, conducted extensive research, submitted detailed written testimony against several bills, and attended hearings to testify in person against those bills.  We sent email alerts to our supporters urging them to contact legislators about specific bills, and many did.  We worked with other community groups on mutual concerns, and we were in regular contact with key legislators.

We are pleased to report great success this session.  Once again, the time and energy needed to defeat the dangerous bills meant that we could not advance bills we wanted to enact.  But all the time spent working to defeat those dangerous bills paid off.

Among the bills the gun lobby worked hardest to enact were bills that would have (1) permitted anyone with a concealed handgun license (CHL) from any state to carry loaded, concealed handguns in our state even if the person did not meet Oregon’s CHL requirements; (2) removed the Oregon State Police from conducting background checks for gun dealers, sending them directly to the FBI instead, and thus enabling Oregonians with serious mental health problems to nonetheless purchase guns (because their records aren’t in the FBI’s databases); and (3) required sheriffs to keep the names of CHL holders secret, thus ensuring that sheriffs could not be held accountable for their decisions regarding the granting of CHLs, precluding people with legitimate concerns about specific individuals from learning whether those people had CHLs, and preventing the media and other researchers from ascertaining exactly how many CHL holders commit crimes.

All those bills were defeated.  The gun lobby, in fact, saw only one of its proposals enacted, provisions regarding the carrying of firearms on ATVs, motorcycles, and snowmobiles.  Ceasefire Oregon opposed the original bill in principle, but decided early on that due to its limited impact, we would not spend our limited resources working against it.  After the language was combined with provisions curtailing the ability of felons to lawfully possess guns under state law, even parts of the gun lobby opposed the bill, which was enacted.  All of the gun lobby’s other bills were defeated.

In May the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on whether Oregon should prohibit handguns carried by CHL holders in public schools.  A group of Ceasefire Oregon members attended the hearing to demonstrate that sensible gun restrictions have broad public support.

We at Ceasefire Oregon are all volunteers.  With your help and support, we will continue to stand up to the gun lobby and work to defeat its many attempts to make guns easily accessible and pervasive.

With additional volunteer help, we could also work to enact positive, common-sense gun laws, such as laws requiring that all gun purchasers first pass a background check, that all guns include chamber load indicators, and that no guns be allowed in certain public places, including schools.  Please let us know if you can help.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bullet Trajectory is The Shortest Path Between Tucson and Norway

(Today we have a guest blogger:  Penny Okamoto.  Penny is a longtime volunteer and, until recently, Executive Director, for Ceasefire Oregon and the Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation.)

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords courageously returned to Washington D.C. on August 1 to vote to avoid government loan default. The Congresswoman is making a remarkable recovery from an assassination attempt that left six dead and 12 others injured by Jared Loughner, a maniac wielding a Glock with high capacity magazine clips.

In Norway, just ten days before Ms. Gifford’s return to Congress, another maniac wielding a Glock with high-capacity magazine clips, Anders Breivik, sadistically gunned down 68 people.

Seventy-four people dead on two continents, killed with high capacity magazine clips bought legally from one country:  the United States.

It’s difficult to determine how many others worldwide have lost their lives to guns outfitted with high-capacity ammo clips between January and July, but seventy-four is an embarrassment to America.

If Congresswoman Gifford’s colleagues sincerely wish to help her and the victims of the Norway massacre then they should pass laws banning all sales of high-capacity guns and magazine clips.

Let’s put lives ahead of politics and pocket change.

Ceasefire Oregon and the Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation send our deepest condolences to the victims of all gun violence.

[A related article:]

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Putting 9/11 And Gun-Related Deaths In Perspective

On September 11, 2001, I had gone through my morning routine and driven to work as usual.   Oddly, I didn't listen to the radio on my way to work.  It was when I got to my office and checked in with my coworkers  that I learned about the planes hitting the World Trade Center towers.  Because I'm on the west coast, I didn't find out about what had happened until after the second plane hit.  We watched in horror, along with the rest of the country, as the event unfolded, the fires grew, the jumpers jumped, and the emergency personnel scrambled to save the people in the towers.  And then the towers fell, first one, then the other, pancaking in a plume of fire and dust, a windstorm of debris and dust rushing along Wall Street like a sandstorm, and loose paper fluttering through the wind like wayward ghosts. 

No work could be done that day, and we went home early.  I sat glued to my TV all evening, flag flying outside at half mast, learning all the details and seeing the towers fall, again and again, from a hundred different camera angles across New York.  It was the biggest declaration of war ever made, and a blow to those like me who wished for peace in the world.  I knew what would be coming next, from G.W. Bush, the self-proclaimed "war president", but it surpassed even my jaded worries.

Nearly 3000 people died that day in the event.  As a direct result of the tragedy, planes ceased to fly for two days across the nation, a war was launched in Afghanistan which persists to today, another war was launched in Iraq (on false accusations of ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and the supposed presence of weapons of mass destruction) which also hasn't yet fully ended, the Department of Homeland Security was created (the biggest bureaucracy ever created in the U.S.), the Patriot Act was enacted, curtailing some of America's freedoms, the TSA was created to presume every air traveler is guilty until proven innocent (with mixed results), and we still live in fear of extremists from beyond our borders (as the precautions in New York today can attest).  With all of this in mind, it is an easy argument to make that 9/11 is the one largest, single-day event ever to shape American policy, which cost the most American lives, freedoms, and gross domestic product as a result.

But while we are today mourning the loss of the 3000 who died in 9/11, I ask that you please keep another thought in mind.  The United States loses the same number of people to gun violence every 35 days or so.  That's around 31,224 people a year -- ten times the number who died in 9/11.  Another 66,768 a year are wounded but survive.  In the 10 years since 9/11, that equates to around 300,000 killed and 670,000 injured to gunfire on our streets and in our homes (compare that to the 5800 American soldiers who have died in that time in Iraq and Afghanistan wars).  Imagine, a million people shot in ten years!  But unlike the dramatic results that came after 9/11 -- the wars, the Patriot Act and other legislation, the trillions of dollars spent -- practically nothing has changed to slow the rate of civilian shootings in the U.S.  In fact, with cuts to the ATF, the lapse of the assault weapons ban, and numerous state-level legislative changes around the nation to relax gun laws, our nation has only become more dangerous.  To the NRA, these alarming numbers are collateral, insignificant compared to a warped sense of Second Amendment freedom.

For instance, those who are listed on the Terrorist Watch List are still permitted to purchase firearms.  From a press release by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

An earlier department report indicated that some on the Terrorist Watch List appeared to be making multiple attempts to purchase guns.  Some 1,228 purchase attempts through February 2010 were by just 650 individuals.  Nearly 70 percent of the individuals (450 of 650) were involved in multiple transactions and six were involved in 10 or more transactions.

In June, a month after the House Judiciary Committee rejected closing the terror gap in federal gun laws, one of al Qaeda’s terrorist recruiters – American-born Adam Gadahn  –  explained  how easy it is to acquire assault weapons in the United States:

"America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?" [see video in this post]

America has become numb to the daily deluge of shootings on the news.  It's a slow drip-drip of American blood which, though far more deadly, hardly garners the attention of a terrorist attack.  Make no doubt about it:  America is at war, but it is fighting an enemy within:  the ease with which criminals are able to get guns.  In Oregon, for instance, and most of America, private gun sales require no background check, no ID, and no paperwork.  It's just cash and carry.  A seller has no way of knowing if the buyer is a felon, an abuser, mentally ill, has a warrant for his arrest, or is even of appropriate age.  And since the seller isn't required to check, he isn't held accountable for the sale.

Every life is precious.  Is the death of three thousand people by gun any less horrifying and terrible than by plane? 

We rightly mark the passing of those in the 9/11 tragedy today with somber remembrance and caution.  But tomorrow the flags will be folded, people will go back to work, and the evening news will return to daily reports of death by bullet.  After the passage of another 35 days, when we once again match the number dead on 9/11, what will you have done to help prevent  gun violence?

(See HERE for a good, related blog post by Dennis Henigan for the need to close the "Terror Gap").

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm A Great Uncle -- for the Fifth Time!

I’m happy to report that one of my nieces has just given birth to a healthy 8 ½ pound baby girl, named Addison.  Both are doing well after a C-section.

This makes me a great uncle for the fifth time!  This is my niece’s third child, and her brother fathered his second back in February.   I’m currently at her home in Washington state watching her other kids, and my own, while she’s recovering.  Her mom, my sister, will be relieving me in a couple days.  It’ll be great to see my sister again.

Makes me feel a bit old.  By the time I was born, all my great uncles and great aunts were in their 60’s to 70’s.  But then my niece and nephew wasted no time in starting families.

With all the sadness that marks the topic of this blog, I’m always happy to celebrate the wonderful news of new life joining us.  Happy birthday, Addison!  Let’s hope for a more peaceful future for you, free from gun violence.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ride the Peace Train

As I’ve said previously, I greatly enjoy getting out in public and promoting our message of reducing gun violence.  It’s a chance to connect with others, the vast majority of the public, who share my concerns and wish to do something about the violence.  As I pointed out in my last post, shootings in my area are increasing, year by year, and we have already met the number for last year’s record.  All the more reason to engage others.

Last Saturday (August 27) was the parade for the Eugene Celebration, an annual festival held here in Eugene, Oregon, to celebrate the diversity and people of our town.  Over the course of three days (Aug 25-28) they close off several blocks of downtown Eugene to motor traffic and set up all sorts of tents and music stages.  The parade is one of the highlights of the event.

This year I wasn’t able to get around to setting up a table for Ceasefire Oregon, but I did at least have a car for Ceasefire Oregon in the Peace Train, in the parade.  The “Peace Train” is a mock train engine, colorfully decorated, behind which trail a number of wooden train cars, each decorated with the name of a local peace and non-violence organization or chapter.  I painted and pushed the car for Ceasefire Oregon.  Other cars and marchers represented Million Mom March (which is part of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence), Veterans for Peace, Beyond War, Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC),  the Democratic Party of Lane County Peace Caucus, Women in Black, Commissioner Rob Handy, Eugene Mennonite Church, WAND, and others.

I am happy to say that there were also a couple additional volunteers there to march alongside and help with things (thank you!).  My two young children rode the entire way inside the engine.

All along the parade route we got constant shouts of encouragement, thumbs up, and peace signs from the crowds.   It’s incredibly encouraging.  (It was good exercise, too).

HERE is a link to a video of the Peace Train that was made by one of our volunteers (thank you, Neil).

HERE is a link to the official parade video.  Go to time 13:41 to see the start of the Peace Train.  I didn’t attach a sign well, and it fell off just before that video was taken.  Luckily, a volunteer (Neil) carried it alongside at that point.

I’m the guy in white in those videos, pushing the green Ceasefire Oregon car.  I look forward to doing this again next year.

I’ll leave you with the song that is the namesake of the Peace Train:  “Peace Train” by Yusuf Islam (previously named Cat Stevens):  LINK