Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The "Too Many Victims" Candlelight Vigils - Eugene

Last Sunday, January 8, 2012, on the first anniversary of the Tucson shooting, there was an event held across the nation:  69 candlelight vigils in 22 states plus Washington, D.C. to memorialize those who have been killed and injured by gunfire. 

One year ago, 6 people were killed, including a 9-year old girl and a federal judge, and 13 injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, when a mentally-ill shooter, who had legally purchased his guns, opened fire during an informal "meet your congressman" meeting at a shopping center.  And yet, since then, nothing has been done to keep it from happening again.  If anything, restrictions on guns have decreased, particularly in Arizona, where the shooting took place.  A vigil was held there, too, led by Congresswoman Giffords.

Mayor Kitty Piercy, at left, holds a candle before speaking.
By the latest estimate, over 110,000 people in America are shot each year in homicides, suicides, and accidents.  Around 30,000 of them are killedAs I blogged about recently, there have been 14 shootings in 2011 that I know of here in the Eugene/Springfield area of Oregon, not counting suicides, with 9 dead and 6 injured.  There are TOO MANY VICTIMS.  This isn't just a question of gun rights.  It's an urgent public health crisis.

Visiting the homepage for the event, at www.toomanyvictims.org, you can read dozens of touching tributes to those who have been lost, and read the accounts of many of the vigils that were held.  Each vigil was different.  Some had marches.  Others rang bells.  Some were outdoors.  Some were in churches.  Different organizations took part in coordinating the events.  But they all had one goal in common:  advertising the fact that too many people die in American from gunfire and that attention needs to be given to commonsense solutions.  It is not a coincidence that America leads the world in non-military civilian shooting deaths among industrialized nations, and that America also has the highest gun ownership per capita in the world (with 90 guns per 100 people, we far surpass the next highest, Yemen, which had 61 per 100).

Baldr Odinson describing the need for better background checks.
Even though temperatures were in the mid-30's, here in Eugene, Oregon, around 50 people attended our vigil on the steps of the old Federal Building.  Betsy Steffenson, representing Million Mom March and the Peace Caucus of the Democratic Party of Lane County, spoke of the slaying of Officer Chris Kilcullin at the hands of a dangerously mentally ill shooter who bought her gun legally (just as the shooter in Tucson had) and the recent shooting of the Ranier ranger, Margaret Anderson.  Darlene Baker spoke next, representing Lane County Suicide Prevention Program.  She described the suicide of her teenage daughter, Jennifer, who had been trained from a young age to respect and shoot guns, and about the need for safe storage of firearms in homes with children.  I spoke next, representing Ceasefire Oregon, talking about the number of victims in Lane County and the nation and the need for better background checks, including for all private sales and for mental health reporting.  Finally, Eugene mayor Kitty Piercy, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (along with about 600 other mayors), spoke of the need for civility in our public discourse and the disturbing availability of guns to those who would abuse them.

A moment of silence and candlelight in Eugene.
After the speeches, there was a moment of silence.  This was followed by a somber reading of names of those who have been killed an injured in the Eugene area.  Members of the audience were invited to add names of others who had not been included on the list.  One came up and dedicated her candle to those who, though not shot, had been threatened by guns and raped or assaulted.  Another name was for Stephen Ogg, a 20-year old who, just the week before, was killed in an accidental shooting by his juvenile brother, even though they had grown up with guns, lived on the grounds of the Emerald Empire Gun Club, and were custodians of the gun club.  Family and friends of Stephen were in attendance at the ceremony, and had passed out orange ribbons with his name on them, which everyone wore.  It was a very emotional moment when his name was read.

Finally, a bagpiper played Amazing Grace to close the ceremony.  It is a poignant moment which will stay with me forever.

HERE is a link to a local news article and video, from KVAL news, which aired just after the ceremony concluded.

And what did the pro-gun extremists do to commemorate the Tucson shooting and shooting victims?  Nothing at all.  Instead, they made juvenile and insulting videos, like THIS one, and had a gun show, in Tucson, on the same day as the anniversary.  Pitiful.

There are too many victims of gun violence every year in America.  It's time to take steps to reduce these numbers.  Together, we can make a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

Images are courtesy of Jasmine Rose Penter, photographer and volunteer for Ceasefire Oregon.


  1. Why would you expect gun owners to commemorate a shooting, or this shooting in particular?

    True story: my friend's toddler drowned in their swimming pool. And what do swimming pool owners do to commemorate the day this child died? Nothing at all. What heartless bastards.

    However, I in no way support a gun show being held in the same town, on the anniversary of such a high-profile shooting. I can't imagine how someone would think that was a fine idea.

    P.S. For what it's worth, Giffords is a supporter of 2nd Amendment and a gun owner (and actually owns the same model gun that Jared Loughtner used).

    1. If your friend organized a group dedicated to reducing the number of toddler drownings, brought attention to this tragic problem, and either helped keep toddlers from drowning or supported policies that would, then others would commemorate the victims and her efforts to assist.

      Your problem is that you characterize this as part of the cost of liberty -- of doing business, so to speak. Reducing the number of victims through regulation simply costs too much in limitations on your ability to arm yourself. To be sure, you'll claim that regulations don't work, or the ones we have would if enforced, but at the end of the day it's about you wanting to wander down to the Wal-Mart to buy another gun any time you damn well feel like it.

      Fair enough, and perhaps you're right. But a bit of remorse that it has to be this way, in the form of a silent moment for gun violence victims and the people who try to help them, would soften the gun nut image a bit.

  2. "Pitiful."

    Think about it though - while you stand around holding a candle we are buying, selling, trading, giving and receiving, manufacturing, loading, shooting, reloading, designing, et cetera. It seems fair to guess that on Sunday there were at least a thousand times more participants in guns than in candlelight vigils against guns.

    "It's time to take steps to reduce these numbers."

    Is that a statement of support for HR 822?

  3. @ Guav: If you wish to fight deaths due to pool drownings, and spread the word via a candlelight vigil, you are welcome to do so. There are probably some good solutions, just as there are for reducing shootings. Heck, I'd even join you, but I'll focus on reducing the primary cause of murders and suicides in America, thank you. (Yes, I know you were sarcastic, but I'm not.)

  4. @ Hank: Revel in your gun fetish as much as you wish, but you do nothing to reduce shootings, or even violence in general. Belittling a sincere effort to draw attention to a serious problem in America and reduce the bloodshed isn't going to do a thing to help the issue. Instead, you choose to occupy your mind with preparations to kill others, self-defense included, and enable others to do so as well. HR822 isn't a solution, its just another "more guns in more places" scheme.

  5. What's up with the all white outfit?

  6. @ Guav: Sorry, I didn't answer your other question about why gun owners should commemorate a shooting...

    Because it's the humane thing to do. I know that shootings are inconvenient to pro-gun arguments for "more guns in more places", but we are talking about human lives. Showing sympathy and understanding isn't an "anti-gun" thing, nor is a desire to reduce the number of shootings.

    Remember the mention in my post about the family and friends of Stephen Ogg showing up at the vigil. Ogg's family is as pro-gun as you get. They LIVE on the property of a gun club here and take care of it. Guns are an integral part of their life. And yet they were there, lighting a candle and taking part in the ceremony. They might have even been carrying. They weren't there to protest, or to argue about gun control, or to deride our ceremony. They were there to take part and shed tears with the rest of us.

    Mocking our vigil, as some have done, is really a disservice to the pro-gun movement, in my view, as it shows a serious lack of compassion and understanding toward those who have lost loved ones or been in shootings, and emphasizes killing (albeit for self defense).

  7. I don't think it's the vigil itself that some pro-gun people have a problem with, Baldr. I'm sure those who attended the vigil did so because of deep personal convictions and because of terrible tragedies closely affecting them. Anything which aids in the grieving process should be respected, and I would be disappointed with those on the pro-gun side who would be selfish enough to marginalize it.

    I guess it's the political motivation behind it which I find 'pitiful.' If this were simply a vigil to honor those loved ones lost to violence of any kind, good for you. But the Brady Campaign is just as much a lobbying group as the NRA, and certainly aren't doing this without ulterior motive; to parrot the same tired and worn out 'wishlist' of regulations instead of really taking a stand and dealing with the root causes of violent crime, and our ineffective judicial system which keeps regurgitating career criminals out on the streets.

    You forget, Baldr, that this is the same organization which implemented a "click here to donate now" campaign asking for $32 the day after the V-Tech tragedy. It doesn't get any more pitiful than that. Excuse us if we have some reservations about finding the genuineness in your event.

  8. Baldr,

    No one is mocking your vigil. Please stop trying to act like the victim here.

    I find it interesting that you object to our way of exercising our rights -- we agree about one thing -- there are too many victims.

    Unlike you, we are basing our actions in reality and practicality.

    Self Defense protects lives, armed self defense is even more effective. I doubt you'll believe me so I encourage you to study the issue yourself.

    Unlike you, we base our actions in expanding rights not restricting them. You want to keep more and more people from owning guns.

    Joan Peterson said she would continue to push for ever more restrictive laws until there were Zero firearm related homicides.

    We ask that people be allowed to decide for themselves how they want to protect themselves. You push for laws that make it illegal for people to protect themselves.

    We mourn the death of the victims but we also recognize that people are alive today because they were armed.

    1. I've studied the issue, Bob, and no good evidence exists -- other than that fabricated by John Lott -- to support your claim that you base your actions on "reality."

      Your anecdotes show your general paranoia and fear of your fellow human beings, but they don't amount to support for an argument that widespread firearm ownership will prevent gun violence and other crime.

      But you sure know how to use the ad hominem. Too bad you can't at least offer a substantive argument to go along with it.

  9. @ Bob: I have yet to see anything from the pro-gun side indicating that any of you "mourn the death of victims."

    And if you doubt the mocking of the vigils, you haven't checked the links I had at the end of my post, nor read the pro-gun blogs. Given that you are a blogger yourself, if I remember correctly, it seems you have grown too comfortable with the mocking to recognize it.

  10. Baldr,

    Bob is right. You're playing the victim here. Unless you're willing to show us that anti-gun people NEVER mock pro-gun people simply because of their stance, then your argument is hypocritical. I think we can agree that there are crass, uncompassionate individuals on BOTH sides of the debate. But it seems more and more commonplace for anti-gunners to use the minority few to stereotype the majority. As much as you try, you can't pidgenhole 80-90 million gun owners.

  11. Baldr,

    If you haven't seen anything from the pro-gun side indicating we mourn the death of victims, you've kept your eyes closed.

    You should know I am a blogger, you've commented on my site before.

    What I see is your side has grown intolerant of anything other then slavish devotion and acceptance of your methods.

    Disagree with your positions, well we must be extremists.

    Disagree with your way of protesting and we are heartless.

    I find it amazing that you claim pro-rights advocates did nothing to mark the occasion. Have you seen Weer'd Beard's blog?

    Just on that one post over a hundred comments and pingbacks showing our candles and our vigils.

    Call it mocking -- that is your choice - not ours. WE know, you have to guess or try mind reading -- that we honor the victims.

    Just as I said, we choose to act differently. We choose to empower people to resist evil, not disarm them.
    We choose to exercise our freedom, not restrict others.
    We choose to look at the ideals of liberty and see how we can make a difference while respecting that liberty.

    You choose otherwise.

  12. @ molon: I don't "pidgenhole" the average gun owner. It's the extremists who concern me.

  13. @ Bob: Okay, go ahead, give me one link where you "mourn" the death of victims on your blog.

    And as for the candle/gun images you refer to, they do nothing to memorialize victims. They are more like shrines to the use of deadly force with guns. The fact that there are over a hundred comments only shows how many extremists visit that blog.

  14. "@ Hank: Revel in your gun fetish as much as you wish, but you do nothing to reduce shootings, or even violence in general."

    I don't engage in violent behavior. I do my part by not doing so. Leading by example is far more powerful than leading by brute force.

    "Belittling a sincere effort to draw attention to a serious problem in America and reduce the bloodshed isn't going to do a thing to help the issue."

    I disagree. Belittling the advocates of an insane, failed, stupid policy of tyranny is going to help the issue. What you advocate has been tried and IT'S NEVER WORKED.

    "Instead, you choose to occupy your mind with preparations to kill others, self-defense included, and enable others to do so as well."

    Exactly right on that one.

    "HR822 isn't a solution, its just another "more guns in more places" scheme."

    It is a solution. I can't travel to most of the country without jumping through hoops. 822 solves almost all of that problem for me. I'd like to see all of this huge nation. Traveling in unfamiliar areas makes one prone to being the victim of a violent attack, 822 helps resolve such incidents in a more favorable way.

    The alternative that you would prefer is for tourists to get shot, killed, raped, tortured, etc, and then out of the generosity of your huge heart you would light a candle in their memory. Don't suppose you spend much time wondering why I think you are a sick individual, do you? That's why - I think of the anguished faces and screams of the hurt and dying and you using their suffering as an excuse to promote totalitarianism disguised as a policy of security. You aren't well. You should seek counseling.

  15. @ "Patrick Henry": Gun regulation has worked, you just shut your eyes to the results.

    The idea of a uniform conceal carry law isn't necessarily a bad one. The problem with HR822 is that it sets the standards to the lowest denominator, to whatever state has the least restrictions. If the bill called for commonsense restrictions as to who could have a conceal carry license, then maybe I'd support it.

    As to your "what if scenarios" comment that I didn't publish, I'm not humoring your sick fantasies.

  16. "The problem with HR822 is that it sets the standards to the lowest denominator, to whatever state has the least restrictions."

    Um, not exactly. HR822 would still mandate that while carrying concealed in any state, the person carrying must still abide by the laws in that state. If A FL CCW holder is carrying in PA, the "where's and when's" of carrying in PA still have to be honored.

    What it does is bring states like NJ back within the confines of the United States and prevents situations like those we've seen recently in NY where otherwise law-abiding citizens face potential felony convictions simply because they are in possession of their otherwise legally-owned firearm. Or preventing a law-abiding citizen being turned into an instant felon simply for driving over the Ben Franklin from Philly into NJ.

    That whole "Packing Heat on Your Street" nonsense being perpetuated by groups like the Brady Campaign claiming that felons are going to be able to carry concealed in "your" state is utter nonsense.

  17. "Gun regulation has worked, you just shut your eyes to the results."

    Where? The UK? Where they now have to regulate knives out of existence because criminals have turned to another implement, and have a per capita violent crime rate larger than the US? You're not of the belief that increases in rape and violent assaults are an acceptable compromise for fewer homicides are you?

    Mexico? South Africa? Brazil? Jamaica?

  18. "For the first time in 45 years, homicide has fallen off the list of the nation's top 15 causes of death, government health officials said Wednesday.


    How can this be? Don't more guns = more crime?

  19. That's good news, Molon. I'm glad homicides have declined. However, numbers of shootings have increased slightly over the years, not gone down. Obviously, not all homicides use a gun, though most do.

    I should also point out that the rate of shootings has slightly increased, but been greatly outpaced by other causes of death, namely health-related causes, which would also help knock homicides off the list.

  20. I'd like to see your stats, Baldr. I'm not getting the same conclusion from mine:


  21. @ Weer'd: I deleted the link, as a courtesy to a fellow blogger.

  22. @ Weer'd: I see now that you couldn't hold back and posted information about me on another pro-gun site, as "anonymous". You're a jerk and a cyber bully, and you wish harm on me and my family. That makes you an A+ ass, and I won't forget it.

  23. What really gets me is that you knew about the threats against me and my family

    So I can only assume that you wish physical harm against me and my family. I have tried to be reasonable with you, but you are too much of an ass to see it. Now it's personal, and if any harm comes to me or my family, I will hold you personally responsible.