Monday, May 28, 2012

Shocking: How Do War Deaths Compare To U.S. Shooting Deaths?


Today is Memorial day.  Today we remember our fallen soldiers -- those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to further our nation's interests.  According to an article at CNN, around 600,000 soldiers have died in service to our country since Memorial Day (and its predecessor, Decoration Day) was first observed back in 1868. 

I've had quite a few relatives, living and deceased, who have served, or are serving, in the military. Today is also a time to think about the sacrifices made by those who did not die in battle.  My maternal grandfather was a sailor in WWII, in the Pacific, and returned home safely, passing away as an old man.  The giant flag presented at his memorial service is, today, covering my bay window.  My niece's husband is an Army MP serving abroad.  He's barely spent any time with his new daughter, born in September.  So many first moments missed!  Today I honor him, too.  His wife, my niece, was in Iraq with him as an MP, and is now home with their three young daughters.  My father, stepfather, and numerous great uncles all served in conflict, too, and have passed away.  Luckily, none of my relatives died in battle.

But let us remember, that although we rightly show concern for those who are dying (or surviving) in distant wars, we should also note that far, far more people are dying from gunfire here on our own soil.  People don't like to think about it that way.  They don't want to believe that our nation is warring against gun violence here.  But at 100,000 shootings a year in the U.S., we can't afford to cover our eyes and pretend that all is right.

This weekend I read a post over at the Common Gunsense blog.  There the author, Japete, quoted a disturbing statistic, which was reposted from a page from Legal Community Against Violence

Because I write a blog about gun violence prevention, I want to talk about America gun deaths as they compare to deaths of Americans because of war. More people have lost their lives to bullets on the streets and in the homes of American communities than American military members serving since the Viet Nam war:
Between 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers – less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the U.S. in an average two-year period.4
In the first seven years of the U.S.-Iraq War, over 4,400 American soldiers were killed. Almost as many civilians are killed with guns in the U.S., however, every seven weeks.5

Those alarming statistics got me to thinking.  How do our yearly fatal shooting numbers compare to other wars?  So I took a closer look at the numbers. 

I list my sources for these statistics at the end of this post.  I compared fatal and non-fatal shootings in the U.S. to battle-caused fatalities and injury statistics of American military from each war (only battle-caused, since those do not count deaths due to non-combat accidents or sicknesses, for instance).

According to CDC statistics of the most recent yearly statistics available, 31,593 people died from lethal shootings in America in 2008 (2,633 per month).  66,769 were injured (5,564 per month).

Then I calculated:  How long would it take for annual shootings in the U.S. to match the total number of deaths or injuries from our modern wars?  Here's the result (click to enlarge):



Yes,  it only takes 15 days for lethal shootings in America to match the total number of servicemen killed in the Afghanistan war.  Only 2 months to match the number killed in Iraq.  A miniscule 2 days to match the Persian Gulf War.  And as for Viet Nam, our most controversial and bloody post-WWII war, it only takes 18 months.

You have to go all the way back to WWII to see numbers that seem somehow more reasonable, and that was a world-wide war requiring the majority of our able-bodied young men to serve, many dying.

But let me point out that this is an unfair test.  Those numbers represent yearly shootings in the U.S. against all combat deaths across ALL years for each war.

It is more fair to compare average yearly U.S. shootings against the average yearly shootings for each war.

Here is what I found (click to enlarge):



Compare the first and second blue columns.  Even if you lump together ALL post-WWII wars, the number killed in battle per year in all those wars combined is only HALF the number shot and killed in America each year.  Half!! 

I've used an "average number of battle deaths per year" value to compare against.  For you gun guys who would argue that I should instead compare against each year of each battle, consider this:  even in the most bloody year of the Vietnam war, 1968, we saw 16,592 soldiers killed.  That's only about half the number of people fatally shot in the U.S. each year.

Japete at Common Gunsense pointed out a meaningful Doonesbury cartoon strip, which pretty much says it all:
I found this interesting article from PolitiFact checking the accuracy of a Doonesbury cartoon strip which noted that in the nine years since the 9-11 attacks 270,000 Americans have died from bullets not having to do with war. From the article:
"What are we like as a people?" Slackmeyer muses to himself in his studio. "Nine years, ago we were attacked -- 3,000 people died. In response, we started two long, bloody wars and built a vast homeland-security apparatus -- all at a cost of trillions! Now consider this. During those same nine years, 270,000 Americans were killed by gunfire at home. Our response? We weakened our gun laws."

Make no bones about it:  The number and rate of shootings here in America shows that we are at war, a war more deadly than any other war we've fought since WWII.  But the enemy isn't across a trench or hiding in a cave.  The enemy is our lax gun laws, allowing with surprising ease the ability of guns to get into the hands of those who shouldn't have them.  The battlefield is anywhere guns are present:  our towns, our streets, our homes.  It's time to make a new trajectory for our nation away from gun violence.

ADDENDUM (2/15/13):  More American citizens have died since 1968 (1,384,171) than U.S. soldiers killed in ALL wars combined (1,171,177).  See the breakdown statistics HERE.


Statistics Sources:

United States shooting deaths and injuries:

War casualties prior to present wars:

Iraq War Casualties:

Afghanistan War Casualties: 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Timeline of Militia Murders, Plots, and Assorted Other Violent Crimes




(this is a living post, which will be updated regularly)


As I write this, I am preparing my family to observe Memorial Day, which is only two days away.  We are hanging our American flags and getting ready to enjoy an extra day off of work and school.  It is a long weekend to reflect on the values of America and the lives lost by our soldiers in defending America's interests.  I've had a number of family members, living and deceased, who have served in various wars and, in two cases, continue to serve.  Luckily, none have died in combat.

But as we consider our patriotism, think for a moment about those who espouse a more violent interpretation of what it means to be patriotic.  In particular, so-called "citizen militias."  They like to pass themselves off as average citizens who are concerned with helping to protect their communities.  In reality they are gun nuts who, if you visit their websites, are insurrectionist anti-government types who stockpile weapons, play soldier in the woods, and often have racist views, hiding their extremist views behind a radical interpretation of the Second Amendment and glorification of a slanted interpretation of Revolutionary War history.  It is an insurrectionist philosophy which the NRA actively supports.  Sadly, these philosophies attract people who are violent and sometimes terroristic, often with tragic consequences. 

As example: unhappy at being labeled a "fanatic," one militia member recently commented on a blog post about the threat of militias:
"The vast majority are hard-working family folks who live quietly and make the country work and who view their weapons as the last defense line against predatory criminals -- petty freelancers who steal your property and life or the real experts in the theft of property and liberty, the Leviathan federal government. The strategic fact is that we practitioners of the "insurrectionist" theory of the Founders are well-armed beyond any ability of the federal government to disarm, even if they were stupid enough to try. Since the numbers of firearms in private hands continues to skyrocket, even in the middle of a semi-depression, you would do well to remember such inconvenient truths when discussing what should be done with "militia fanatics" like me and my friends."

Sounds like an insurrectionist threat to me!  He made the point of the author quite nicely.

And there has been a recent surge in the number of militias and similar groups in the United States.  From an MSNBC report:

The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 triggered an explosion in the number of militias and so-called patriot groups in the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in its annual tally of such anti-government organizations.
There were 149 militias and patriot groups when Obama took office, compared to more than 1,200 today — an increase of 755 percent, the nonprofit civil rights organization reported.
"The increase has just been astounding," said Mark Potok, editor-in-chief of the SPLC report. "The reality is that many of these groups are becoming more and more fearful that Barack Obama will win the re-election. You can see the anger rising along with that fear."

The SPLC defines the "patriot" movement as made up of conspiracy-minded individuals who see the federal government as their primary enemy. The movement includes paramilitary militias as well as groups of "sovereign citizens," who believe they are not subject to federal or state laws, nor obligated to pay federal taxes, according to SPLC.

In many countries, such paramilitary groups are rightly outlawed as potential insurgent groups.  There is no good reason for allowing them to exist. 
Below I present a timeline, in reverse chronological order, of murders, anti-government plots, and other violent crimes committed by militia members and, sometimes, entire militia units. 

Similar timelines of militia activities and insurrectionism can be found HERE and HERE.

This timeline will be a "living" report, updated as much as possible.

8/27/12  Ludowici, Georgia:  Four army soldiers based at Fort Stewart, associated with a small militia group they called F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready, were arrested.  They "plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said. In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state's apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia's goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president."  They funded the purchase of $87K-worth of semi-auto assault rifles and explosive materials with the insurance money from the suspicious death of the pregnant  wife of one of the accused.  The group is also accused of murdering former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year old girlfriend out of fear of having their plot exposed.

8/16/12  LaPlace, Louisiana:  A group of four white supremacists, associated with the racist Posse Comitatus militia group which doesn't recognize federal authority, were involved in a shooting that killed two sheriff's deputies and wounded two others.  They had initially shot at an off-duty deputy, then shot and killed the other two who were looking for them, ambushing them with multiple weapons, including an assault rifle.  The group had already been under investigation for making terrorist threats and selling marijuana.


5/8/12  Orlando, Florida:  Ten white supremecists in a "militia-style" paramilitary group, including the leader, Marcus Faella and his wife Patti Faella, were arrested for plotting to start a race war, including creating a disturbance at Orlando city hall, illegally concealing weapons in protest signs, and making the toxin ricin.  If they created a "race war", they wanted to "kill jews, immigrants, and other minorities."  They trained on a 10-acre property of the Faellas' with assault weapons and ghillie suits until an informant was endangered, at which point the FBI moved in and arrested them.


5/2/12  Gilbert, Arizona:  J.T. Ready, a popular Arizona militia leader who led "border patrols" with fellow militia in a group called the Ready Rangers, shot and killed four people, including a toddler, before committing suicide.  The motive is unclear, but he was armed with a shotgun and multiple handguns, as well as a bulletproof vest.  J.T. Ready was popular for his border patrols, and was an ardent neo-Nazi, as a member of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group.  Ready also had previous domestic assault arrests.  Despite all of his previous racist and violent behavior, he nonetheless was running for sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, and had ties to local politics as a Republican precinct committee person and as a speaker at Tea Party rallies.  His militia pals vowed to continue Ready's "border patrol" activities


1/27/12    Reno, Nevada:  Edwin Green was turned in by a 14-year old relative for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  Turns out he had an underground bunker containing sixteen firearms.  Green is believed to be a hitman for an Arizona militia, and has a prior arrest for domestic violence.


11/2/11   Toccoa, Georgia:  Four senior men, Frederick Thomas, Emory Dan Roberts, Ray H. Adams, and Samuel J. Crump, who were members of a Georgia militia group, plotted to destroy government buildings, assassinate government officials, produce and disperse ricin (a deadly toxin), and acquire illegal firearms and silencers.  The group was infiltrated by the FBI and arrested.  The accused had ties to militia groups called the Oathkeepers and the Three Percenters.


7/4/11  Wagener, South Carolina:  Kenneth Lee Myers claimed to have trained with a militia in Michigan.  He had a small armory of weapons, including military-style assault rifles and handguns, as well as night-vision goggles and a Kevlar vest.  He had a history of violent behavior.  Over the July 4 weekend, he used a shotgun to murder four people, including his wife, her twin sister, their mother, and his ex-girlfriend.  When police responded, he fired at them and a chase ensued, eventually ending in his suicide with the same gun.


6/12/11  Lolo, Montana:  David Burgert, leader member of a previous militia called Project 7, who had been imprisoned due to plotting attacks on local government and then having a standoff with arresting officers, got out of prison and once again stockpiled weapons and survivalist goods in the woods.  He then fired at law enforcement who had tried to pull him over for a driving infraction.  A chase ensued, but he escaped into the woods.  A manhunt took place, but he is still at large.


3/11/11  Fairbanks, Alaska:   Schaeffer Cox, and four other militia members, were arrested for conspiracy to murder law enforcement officers and for weapons charges.  Cox is founder of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, member of the Second Amendment Task Force militia, and a champion of the so-called Sovereign Citizen Movement.  In March, 2010, he was arrested for failing to reveal he had a concealed weapon.  One month later he was arrested for assaulting his wife.  In March, 2011, Cox was charged with conspiracy to possess unregistered silencers and destructive devices, possession of an unregistered destructive device, possession of an unregistered silencer, possession of an unregistered machine gun, and other related charges.  Later that year, the FBI recorded conversations and revealed a plot by Cox and his fellow militia members to commit police murders in retaliation for the weapons charges, but the FBI recordings were determined to be unconstitutional and charges for the alleged plot were dropped.  He is currently still facing the weapons charges.  Despite his "sovereign citizen" and militia ties, and history of breaking the law, Cox is also tied to local Alaskan politics, having run for state representative in 2008, being a friend of Alaskan politician Joe Miller, and acquiring the signature of U.S. Representative Don Young on a declaration to abolish the U.S. government if they disagreed with government gun regulations.  HERE is an article on the recent court case, trying Cox and two others associated with the plot.  In June of 2012, Cox and fellow militia member Lonnie Vernon were found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and various weapons offenses.  Another militia member, Coleman Barney, was found guilty of weapons charges.  Vernon and his wife later also plead guilty, in August of 2012, for conspiring to kill U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline and IRS officer Janice Stowell in 2011 in retaliation for ruling the couple owed more than $165,000 in back taxes.
The Vernons admitted to buying a gun, silencer and hand grenades, and having a map to the federal judge’s home.


9/13/10  Ingham County, Michigan:  Police stop Richard Scott McLeod, 48, for a traffic violation in Webberville, Michigan, and upon searching his vehicle, discover bumper stickers quoting Adolf Hitler, a picture of President Barack Obama, a loaded handgun, a bullet-proof vest, and bomb-making materials. McLeod is arrested and charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon and unlawful possession of body armor. McLeod tells officers that he is a member of the Michigan Militia. The group denies any relationship with McLeod.  Also found in his possession was black powder and bomb-making literature.


 
3/28/10  Michigan, Ohio, Indiana:  Nine members of the Michigan-based South Michigan Milita, also known as the Hutaree, an extremist Christian paramilitary sect who think that law enforcement are the "antichrist," were arrested for plotting to murder police, then follow up by murdering more who attended the expected funerals with explosives.  On March 28, 2012, a judge found the government's conspiracy case against the members based on their protected free speech to be baseless. Only a few weapons charges remain.  Three of the Hutaree members had their 60-plus guns returned to them after being acquitted, including shotguns, rifles, assault rifles, bulletproof vests, helmets, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.


1/12/10  Duncan, Oklahoma:  Charles Allan Dyer, a member of the American Patriot militia, and also known by the pseudonym "July4Patriot," was arrested and sentenced for raping a 6-year old girl.  During the investigation, detectives found a stolen military grenade launcher in Dyer's home.  He went on the run before being captured, and had made threats against law enforcement.


5/30/09  Arivaca, Arizona:  Shawna Forde, leader of the Minuteman American Defense "border patrol" militia, and accomplices, Jason Eugene "Gunny" Bush and Albert Robert Gaxiola, raid the home of a Latino family and opened fire, killing Raul "Junior" Flores, wounding his wife, Gina Maria Gonzales, and killing their 9-year old daughter, Brisenia Flores.  Forde had previously been a leader in another militia, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, until being expelled.  Prior to the shooting, Forde had a long history of violent and illegal behavior.


5/31/09  Wichita, Kansas:  Scott P. Roeder, member of the Freemen militia, shoots and kills Dr. George Tiller because of the doctor's late-term abortion surgeries.  He had previously tried to vandalize abortion clinics and protested at clinics.  In April 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka after Shawnee County sheriff's deputies stopped him for not having a proper license plate and found bomb-making materials in his car.  In his car, officers said they found ammunition, a blasting cap, a fuse cord, a one-pound can of gunpowder and two 9-volt batteries, with one connected to a switch that could have been used to trigger a bomb.


7/22/04  Douglas, AZ:  The FBI raided a compound of the Ranch Rescue "border patrol" militia as part of an effort to arrest its leader, Casey James Nethercott, for refusing to pull over for federal agents looking for illegal weapons.  Nethercott's militia bodyguard, Kalen Robert Riddle, was shot and wounded during the standoff.


7/09/03  Fremont, Michigan:  Scott Allen Woodring, member of the Michigan Militia, killed a Michigan State Police officer, Kevin Marshall, during a standoff which started when they tried to arrest him for criminal sexual misconduct.  One week later, Woodring was shot dead by other Michigan State Police officers.  They had located him during the manhunt, and shot him after he turned on them with an assault rifle.


2002  Flathead County, Montana:  A militia group called Project 7, led by David Bugert, stockpiled huge amounts of ammunition, weapons, and homemade bombs and plotted to kidnap and assassinate local officials, go to war with the National Guard and somehow overthrow the government.  Local law enforcement found out and had a standoff with the militia group, eventually arresting them.  Bugert was found manning a mounted machine gun.  After Bugert got out of prison in 2011, he once again shot at law enforcement then fled into the woods and is still at large.


7/10/97  Killeen, Texas:  Bradley Glover and members of the Southern Kansas Regional Militia were arrested for planning and almost carrying out an attack on Fort Hood Army Base, possessing illegal firearms, and conducted reconnaissance missions on other military bases, including Holloman Air Force Base at Alamagordo, New Mexico.


11/9/96  Wheeling, West Virginia:  Seven men of the Mountaineer Militia were indicted for a conspiracy to bomb the FBI center in Clarksburg and two other federal targets.  Floyd ''Ray'' Looker, commander of the Mountaineer Militia, and six others were charged with conspiracy to manufacture explosives, transport explosives across state lines and place them near the FBI center. 


7/2/96  Phoenix, Arizona:  12 members of an Arizona paramilitary militia unit, the Viper Militia, were arrested, accused of plotting to destroy federal offices and the Phoenix police station.  The group plotted for two years to destroy several federal buildings there, including one that houses the office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI. The group also planned to destroy buildings that contained offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Internal Revenue Service and the Arizona National Guard, along with the police headquarters.  Besides being charged with conspiracy, members of the group were charged with illegally possessing four automatic rifles and chemicals that can be used to make bombs, including ammonium nitrate.


4/19/95  Oklahoma City, Oklahoma:  Timothy McVeigh bombs the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, with assistance by Terry Nichols and Michael and Lori Fortier.  Motivated by his hatred of the federal government and angered by what he perceived as its mishandling of the Waco Siege (1993) and the Ruby Ridge incident (1992), McVeigh timed his attack to coincide with the second anniversary of the deadly fire that ended the siege at Waco.  Both McVeigh and Nichols were strong adherents of the modern militia movement, survivalists, and ardently anti-gun control.  The Murrah building had been previously targeted in October 1983 by white supremacist group The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord, including founder James Ellison and Richard Snell. The group had plotted to park "a van or trailer in front of the Federal Building and blow it up with rockets detonated by a timer."[29] After Snell's appeal for murdering two people in unrelated cases was denied, he was executed the same day as the Murrah bombing.[30]


10/7/94  Hillsdale County, Michigan:  Paul Darland, member of the Michigan Militia, kills a bodyguard and fellow militia member William Gleason for militia leader Mark Koernke.  After a long manhunt, he was arrested at a strip club on June 15, 2000.  He was convicted of the murder on February 13, 2001.


1984  The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord member Richard Wayne Snell, was arrested for killing an African-American police officer. Snell was later tied to the killing of a Jewish gun store owner in 1981, obtaining and using the very same gun, the serial number of which had been removed by the CSA armorer, Kent Yates, who himself was arrested on Friday, July 13, 1984, on an outstanding warrant out of New Mexico for firearms violations in Farmington. He was later also charged and convicted of weapons manufacture and modification for the CSA.

 
1983 The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord member William Thomas accompanying members Richard Wayne Snell and Steven Scott attempted to dynamite a natural gas pipeline, without success.



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Death By Gun Now Higher In 10 States Than Death By Car


There are a great many alarming statistics about shootings in America which illustrate the dangers that guns and their lax regulation pose to our safety.  These statistics come from scholarly, peer-reviewed articles in distinguished science and crime journals, or from careful governmental studies at the state or federal levels.  The pro-gun side practically never has statistics to counter these.

And yet, when I and other advocates of sensible gun regulation have rolled out these statistics, and the gun guys have nowhere to turn in their attempt to discredit them, they inevitably turn to a red herring argument which basically boils down to this:  "Yes, those gun death stats are awful, but vehicular deaths are worse, so we should ignore the gun stats unless you want to ban all cars," or some such false argument meant to derail the debate. 

Consider the following, from a February 2011 Oregon Public Broadcasting radio show, with a debate between Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon, and Kevin Starrett, executive director of the extremist organization, Oregon Firearms Federation, which I blogged on previously:

[host] Emily Harris then goes on to mention one comment on their blog comparing gun deaths to deaths by cars, suggesting "car" and "gun" could be used interchangeably in conversation.

Starrett once again sees little difference:  "I think there is an important parallel here.  Cars kill far more people than guns do, and yet if on the many occasions, daily occasions, when we hear of people being killed in car accidents, many of which were caused by gross negligence by people or teenagers drinking or that kind of thing -- in the wake of a story like that, you would never invite a representative from AAA to come on and defend car ownership."  Later adding, "You wouldn't see me coming and demanding that Penny give up her driver's license."

Okamoto responded, "It's a parallel that is pulled out only when it's useful.  Guns are made to kill people.  Cars are not.  Cars are basically for transportation.  Sometimes people do die in car accidents.  One of the reasons that the number of people dying in car accidents has decreased is because so many people have worked on making cars safer and making people safer drivers.  The gun lobby doesn't work on making guns safer. ... There's no license, no registration, no requirement for training [for guns].  Anyone can buy a gun from anyone in Oregon.  You don't have to be a licensed firearms dealer."  Then, as a further analogy, she adds, "And there's an interesting parallel that wishes to be made.  If we put children in car seats when they're in cars, then why can't we have some type of law that prevents children from gaining access to weapons, or more preferably, makes gun owners more responsible.  If you have a gun, you own it, and some child accesses it, you're responsible.  You have to be a responsible gun owner."

I would also add that the overwhelming majority of deaths in cars is due to accidents, not homicides or suicides, whereas the reverse is true for guns.

On my long list of topics to pursue, I have long wanted to do a deep dive into the statistics.  What little I've done haven't looked good for the gun lobby.  Add to this that the number of fatal shootings are rising, ever so slightly, despite reducing numbers of gun owners, while fatal driving accidents are decreasing, despite increases in the number of drivers.

Today the ViolencePolicy Center announced a new report, which illustrates my point quite nicelyGun-related deaths now outpace car-related deaths in 10 states.  From a press release:

A new Violence Policy Center (VPC) state-by-state analysis of government data comparing firearm deaths and motor vehicle deaths shows that gun deaths outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 10 states in 2009, the most recent year for which state level data is available.  The 10 states which experienced more firearm deaths than motor vehicle deaths in 2009 are: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington (see alphabetical listing of states with mortality figures below).  Nationally, there were 31,236 firearm deaths in 2009 and 36,361 motor vehicle deaths according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Here is a link to that report:  http://www.vpc.org/studies/gunsvscars.pdf

Here is a breakdown of the numbers, from that report:

Here is an informative graph which shows nationwide numbers of car-related deaths is falling in recent years, almost down to the number of gun-related deaths, which is rising slightly:

Excerpts from the report:

In 2010, the number of fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes continued their steady decline for a total of 35,080.b This drop took place despite a significant increase in the number of miles Americans drove.c

More than 90 percent of American households own a cari while fewer than a third of American households contain a gun.j And yet, if charted out year-by-year as seen in the graph on the prior page, deaths nationwide from these two consumer products are on a trajectory to intersect.

The report goes on to comment on the large number of safety improvements and regulations of cars (such as seat belts and seat belt laws, shatter-resistant windshields, speed restrictions, child seats, etc.) which have greatly reduced deaths by car, yet there has been no such safety regulation of guns and ammo, and regulation of guns remains very lax.

I urge you to visit the link and read the report for yourself, but here I will post, verbatim, the conclusion from the report:

Ten states already experience gun death rates that exceed their motor vehicle-related death rates. If current trends continue, the number of states where gun deaths outpace motor vehicles deaths will only increase.
The historic drop in motor vehicle deaths illustrates how health and safety regulation can reduce deaths and injuries that were at one time thought to be unavoidable.
Such an approach to injury prevention has been applied to every product Americans come into contact with every day—except for guns. And as is the case with motor vehicles, health and safety regulation could reduce deaths and injuries associated with firearms.
Comprehensive regulation of the firearms industry and its products could include: minimum safety standards (i.e., specific design standards and the requirement of safety devices); bans on certain types of firearms such as “junk guns” and military-style assault weapons; limits on firepower; restrictions on gun possession by those convicted of a violent misdemeanor; heightened restrictions on the carrying of loaded guns in public; improved enforcement of current laws restricting gun possession by persons with histories of domestic violence; more detailed and timely data collection on gun production, sales, use in crime, involvement in injury and death; and, public education about the extreme risks associated with exposure to firearms.
America is reaping the benefits of decades of successful injury prevention strategies on its highways, but continues to pay an unacceptable, yet equally preventable, price in lives lost every year to gun violence.

Here is a related article on this study, published by the Tucson Sentinal.  VPC executive director, Kristen Rand, is quoted in the article:
"Americans are reaping the benefits of smart safety regulation of motor vehicles. The idea that gun deaths exceed motor vehicle deaths in 10 states is stunning when one considers that 90 percent of American households own a car while fewer than a third own firearms," said the group's legislative director, Kristen Rand.
"It is also important to consider that motor vehicles—unlike guns—are essential to the functioning of the entire U.S. economy. It is time to end firearms’ status as the last unregulated consumer product," she said.

UPDATE (6/12/12):  A good related article, with excellent statistics, by "Art on Issues": http://www.artonissues.com/2012/06/guns-vs-cars-would-you-send-your-child-there/.

UPDATE (10/10/12):  Gun Deaths have now surpassed death by automobile in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (= "DMV"):  http://www.vpc.org/press/1210dmv.htm .  From that link:


The analysis, which uses the most recent complete data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, reveals that in 2010--
  • Gun deaths in the DMV totaled 1,512 while motor vehicles deaths totaled 1,280. 
  • In the District of Columbia there were 99 firearm deaths reported in 2010, 84 of which were identified as homicides and 13 of which were identified as suicides. That same year, there were 38 motor vehicle deaths in the District. 
  • In Maryland, there were 538 firearm deaths reported in 2010, 306 of which were identified as homicides and 222 of which were identified as suicides. That same year, there were 514 motor vehicle deaths in the state. 
  • In Virginia, there were 875 firearm deaths reported in 2010, 271 of which were identified as homicides, 576 of which were identified as suicides, and 13 of which were identified as unintentional deaths. That same year, there were 728 motor vehicle deaths in the state.
Nationally, there were 31,672 firearm deaths reported in 2010. That same year there were 35,498 motor vehicle deaths nationwide.

UPDATE (5/13/13):  A related article about Washington State's gun death statistics topping those from cars.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

March Against Gun Violence 2012


At the head of the march along the river. (photo by Jasmine Rose Penter)

Mayor Piercy speaks.
(photo by Jasmine Rose Penter)
For the 13th year in a row, ever since the first march, Million Mom March sponsored an annual Mother's Day march and rally against gun violence in Eugene, Oregon, on May 13.  Ceasefire Oregon was once again a sponsor, along with various peace groups, including WAND, CALC, and Veterans for Peace.

We couldn't have asked for a nicer day.  It was sunny and warm.  Perfect for meeting in an outdoor rally and marching in solidarity for a nonviolent community.

This year, as with all other years, we were once again graced by the presence of Eugene's mayor, Kitty Piercy, who just yesterday won another term as mayor.  She is also a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.  Mayor Piercy gave a great speech to the 80 or so participants in the event, speaking about how the values of Mother's Day -- security and nurturing -- are represented in the values of peace and non-violence.  Having a gun in the home is contrary to the safety of your family, despite the false sense of power a gun gives you.  A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to harm you than to protect you.*

Participating in the rally, next to the Willamette River
(photo by Jasmine Rose Penter)
I spoke next, mentioning how all gun sales should have mandatory background checks (private sales in Oregon require no background check, ID, or paperwork, so anyone can buy a gun regardless of their violent past, no questions asked), the importance of having a Child Access Protection law (which decrease deaths of children by 23% in states that have such a law**), and how guns should be kept out of schools.

The main organizer, Betsy Steffensen, is an incredible lady who is involved with every peace group in the area and has been an organizer with MMM since the beginning.

Wiley, from Veterans for Peace, plays bagpipes at
the head of the march (photo by Russell Elsevier)
All three local news stations were there and featured the event in the night's newscasts.  Here are links to two of them, with videos:



Once the speeches were over, we marched along the Willamette River trail to the Owen Rose Garden, a couple miles away, passing crowds of families enjoying the parks and bike trail along the way.

We'll do it again next year.  Please join us.



(photo by Russell Elsevier)
* Kellermann, Arthur L.MD, MPH, et al. “Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home.” Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care 45 (1998): 263-67

** Cummings, Peter, David C. Grossman, Frederick P. Rivara, Thomas D. Koepsell (1997). "State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms". Journal of the American Medical Association 278 (13): 1084–1086.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Not A Happy Mother's Day for 30K Mothers Each Year

Today is Mother's Day in America.  But while most Mother's will be getting cards, gifts, and phone calls from their loving children, 30,000 every year will instead have only memories, thanks to the violence wrought by guns in this country, not counting adult children, through murders, suicides, and accidents.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Please watch this appeal from one mother who lost her child this year to a senseless shooter:  Sybrina Fulton, mother to Trayvon Martin, gunned down by a vigilante in Florida:




A quote from the video, by Mrs. Fulton: 
Just like me, this year 30,000 mothers lost their children this year to senseless gun violence.  Nobody can bring our children back, but it would bring us comfort if we can help spare other mothers the pain that we would feel on Mother's Day, and every day of our lives.

We may not be able to bring their children back, but we can support them. That’s why I’m helping gather signatures for a special Mothers’ Day card for Trayvon’s mom, and every mother mourning a child killed by gun violence this year."

Please sign a special Mothers’ Day card for Trayvon Martin’s mom -- and we’ll deliver it to her on Sunday with your name.

Help reduce the numbers of grieving mothers by supporting mandatory safe gun storage (Child Access Protection laws), gun safety education, supporting the ASK campaign, and mandatory background checks for ALL gun sales, to name just a few ways.

As for me, I'm spending part of today leading an annual march and rally against gun violence, in Eugene, Oregon, sponsored by Million Mom March and Ceasefire Oregon.

And what are the gun guys doing instead?  Making shooting targets resembling Trayvon Martin. Sick.


It's time to make a new trajectory for this nation to follow.

Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Op Ed in the Register-Guard Newspaper: Hard to believe, but guns are legal in schools

As I've reported before, the extremist pro-gun lobby here in Oregon is pushing to allow hidden, loaded handguns to be carried into grade schools and college campuses.  They have already bullied the Newberg school system into reversing their no-gun policy.  Guns and schools don't mix.  There is no good reason why any non-law enforcement person needs to carry there.

To that point, yesterday I had an op-ed published in the local newspaper, the Register-Guard.  Here is a link:
http://www.registerguard.com/web/opinion/28034798-47/gun-guns-schools-oregon-concealed.html.csp

Here is the text of the essay, in full:

People I’ve talked to are shocked to find out there’s no law against people bringing concealed, loaded handguns onto school campuses if they have a concealed handgun license in Oregon. 
Most schools have policies prohibiting guns on school property, but a recent Oregon Court of Appeals ruling has raised questions about their enforceability — and because most laws relating to guns must be approved by the Oregon Legislature and not by municipalities or other units of local government, those school policies prohibiting guns might not be binding. It is time for the state Legislature to address the issue. 
Incidents have happened. This March, in Walsenburg, Colo., a volunteer track coach with a concealed handgun license was on school grounds when he accidentally shot himself with his recently purchased handgun, nearly dying. Last September, a security guard here in Oregon lost his gun while patrolling schools in the Salem-Keizer School District. As far as I know, the gun was never recovered. In both cases, the gun was legal on school grounds. 
Thankfully, most concealed handgun license holders are trustworthy, law-abiding citizens, and will honor existing school policies. Perhaps that is the reason we have few incidents involving guns in Oregon schools. 
But if the gun lobby has its way, this will probably change. The gun lobby is pushing for schools to change their no-gun policies and is actively encouraging people to ignore school policies. It argues that having guns in schools will allow better protection against armed madmen. 
According to an April 27 Register-Guard article, roughly one in 25 Lane County residents now choose to arm themselves in public with a concealed handgun license, believing that having a gun hidden under their jacket or in their purse makes them safer. Never mind that research published in a November 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health found that carrying a gun actually increases your chance of getting shot by four and a half times. 
As a contributor to a blog called Kid Shootings, I’ve documented 580 shootings in the media from around the nation since the beginning of 2012 that involved around 800 children. Among those have been at least 22 different shootings at schools so far this year. Nearly all of those occurred because students had access to guns and brought them to school. Hundreds more reports are published each year of guns brought to school by children without having shots fired. These incidents are rarely the act of a madman, and the chance that a gun owner will be present at just the right time and place to stop the shooting is minuscule. 
The solution that I and other advocates suggest is to mandate safe storage of guns at home to keep kids from getting unsupervised access to them. 
The gun lobby, however, has a different solution. Last year Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Salem, bullied the Newberg school system into reversing its no-gun policy by threatening endless lawsuits, which the school district could not afford. 
Don’t think the extremists will stop with Newberg. An attempt to pass a bill in this year’s Oregon legislative session, which would have given schools the authority to ban guns on school property, failed by a narrow margin. 
If a teacher sees someone at school with a gun under his jacket, she has no way to know if the person has a permit, what his intentions are, if he has any training in crisis situations, or if he has even fired a bullet (though many gun training classes offer live fire, it isn’t a requirement for a permit in Oregon). Compare this to police, who have mandated training with their weapons and crisis training, and whose duty it is to protect us. 
While most concealed handgun permit holders are law-abiding, every week I see articles of gun owners accidentally shooting children, allowing their guns to get into children’s hands, carelessly leaving their weapons unsecured, or acting out violently and killing people in cold blood. 
Having a concealed handgun license and walking on school grounds doesn’t magically change human nature and make a person more responsible. If that Salem security guard, trained in gun safety and carrying a gun for a living, isn’t able to keep his gun safe from students, how likely is it that every other concealed handgun license holder will be able to? 
If you wish to head off further attempts to allow guns in our schools, there are things you can do. Go to booksnotbullets.com and sign petitions for our local school superintendents, join the Million Mom March and Ceasefire Oregon in a rally against gun violence at the Eugene Water & Electric Board Plaza at 2 p.m. on May 13, call your state legislators, contact your school board, and help spread the word. 
Tell them our children deserve to study and play in an environment free of firearms.

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