Friday, October 19, 2012

Wherever There Are Guns, There Can Be Gun Accidents

As the gun guys like to chide, in their oversimplified way, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."  I agree.  People with guns kill people.  And sometimes they unintentionally kill themselves and others.

It is a simpla truth that the pro-gun guys live in denial about.  When faced with reports of gun owners who unintentionally shoot themselves and others, pro-gun folks simply write it off, suggesting that those are rare examples and that those gun owners just didn’t understand the 4 Rules of Gun Safety and had not been trained properly.  (Personally, I prefer the 11 Rules of Gun Safety, but for some reason the gun guys never cite those). 

Certainly, these rules should be followed, and I highly advocate it.  But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.  We all make mistakes.  And when you combine this with a weapon made to kill with a finger twitch, the consequences can be deadly.

Consider gun yahoos like the ones in this YouTube video, who act stupidly or don’t know their guns well.  Some simply underestimate the recoil of their weapon.  These people are lucky they aren’t dead.  It’s no laughing matter.

But even if you follow the rules of gun safety, it’s no guarantee against injury.  Here’s a video of a guy shooting a .50-caliber sniper rifle.  He fired a shot, but aimed straight at the target.  The round ricocheted directly back at him and smashed his ear protection.  By some luck, he was uninjured.  (of course, I would argue that there is absolutely no good reason for any citizen to own a .50-caliber rifle, but that’s beside the point).  When you fire such a powerful weapon against a flat metallic target at a direct angle, you’d think you’d have more distance between you and the target.

There are plenty of examples of shooting accidents at shooting ranges, too, where safety rules are supposed to be well-taught and strictly enforced.

But even very highly trained gun owners, who clearly know all about gun safety rules and have been in combat situations, still aren’t guaranteed to survive their gun fetish.

For instance, a 53-year old man who is described as a gun enthusiast, military veteran, and a master weapons instructor, had a number of pistols on his kitchen table and wash showing off his guns to friends, possibly intending to sell them.  He failed to realize that one of his guns was loaded, and fatally shot himself in the head.  You’d think a master weapons instructor might know better.

Here’s another recent case:  A soldier stationed at Fort Carson was cleaning his gun when it discharged unintentionally.  It hit him in the knee.  Sadly, it also hit an important artery there and he bled to death.  This soldier was a sergeant 1st Class with the 10th Special Forces Group.  You’d think one of our military’s most highly-trained soldiers would be more careful with his personal firearm.

These are just two examples I happened upon this week without even trying.  It's easy to find examples of well-trained gun owners who unintentionally kill or maim themselves with their guns.

To be semantic, these are unintentional injuries, not “accidents.”   The term “accident” suggests that it can’t be helped, like an act of nature.  But most of these accidental shootings are actually the result of stupid behavior, poor judgment, alcohol, or simply not being careful enough to follow those gun safety rules.  They are 100% preventable.

And I’m not even talking here about unintentional shootings by children who get their hands on their family’s gun.  We’ve chronicled hundreds of those so far this year over at the Kid Shootings blog, of children who get guns and harm themselves or others, or take them to school.  There is no shortage of irresponsible gun owners who leave their loaded an unlocked guns where children can access them, or who act irresponsibly with their guns around children.  That goes for children who have been trained in gun safety, too, such as this incident where a boy who lived at a gun range that his family tended, who had guns as an integral part of his family life, nonetheless unintentionally shot to death his older brother.  Every single one of these gun owners should know better, should accept responsibility for their bad choices, and should have their guns removed after an accident using their guns.  As my friends over at the MikeB302000 blog say, it should be a one-strike-and-your-out policy for guns.  

Wherever there are guns, there can be gun accidents.  Even the smartest people sometimes do dumb things or have accidents, even if they try to follow safety rules.  No amount of self-delusion will change this fact.  If you have a gun in the home, you have to accept the danger and hope you or your loved ones don't suffer a tragedy because of it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Presidential Candidates Finally Debate On Gun Control

I've been annoyed by the fact that not one single question about gun violence came up in the first presidential debate or in the vice-presidential debate.  You would think that 100,000 shootings a year, 33,000 of which are lethal, would be enough for at least one question, right?  It's a very serious national health issue that even eclipses death by car accident in 11 states and Washington D.C.  You'd think something like that might warrant a plan, right?

But Tuesday's presidential debate, at least, had one question on the issue:

"President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?"

HERE is a complete transcript of the candidates' responses.

Below is a video clip of their answers:

In short, the President came out in support of reinstating some version of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was allowed to expire in 2004.  He also voiced support for enforcing existing laws, while also strengthening background checks and mental health reporting to the background check system.
So my belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we’ve
already got, make sure that we’re keeping guns out of the hands of
criminals, those who are mentally ill. We’ve done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we’ve got more to do when it comes
to enforcement. 
But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for
soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m
trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce
the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault
weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other
sources of the violence. Because frankly, in my home town of Chicago,
there’s an awful lot of violence and they’re not using AK-47s.
They’re using cheap hand guns.

He then also backed that up by suggesting better childhood education to create more opportunity for youth, as well as working more with community faith groups and law enforcement.

Fair enough, and I'm happy to hear it.  This is a reasonable response.  Back in July he had made a similar statement, including support for reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban and strengthening background checks, during a speech to the Urban League in New Orleans.  Good news for the President, laws are already being introduced on Capitol Hill to do exactly that, including the "Fix Gun Checks Act" (S436).

Romney, on the other hand, stated that he wanted to see no further changes in gun regulation or bans on any guns whatsoever, except for adding that he wants to enforce existing gun laws:

Yeah, I’m not in favor of new pieces of legislation on
– on guns and taking guns away or making certain guns illegal. We,
of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already
illegal in this country to have automatic weapons. What I believe is
we have to do, as the president mentioned towards the end of his
remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun
laws that we have, and to change the culture of violence that we have.

In other words, Romney is just fine with 100,000 shootings a year and 33,000 deaths by gunfire

And as the remark about wanting to "enforce the gun laws that we have," I should point out that law enforcement is already doing this to the fullest extent they can, and that neither he, nor any other pro-gun legislator or leader who utters those words, can seem to think of any instances where gun laws aren't being enforced (in fact, Romney's benefactor, the NRA, and other organizations are constantly tearing down those laws instead of advocating for them).  This is a position that Romney has recently stated, despite the fact that, as governor, Romney was very much for stronger gun control legislation, including putting in place a permanent ban on assault rifles in his state, something which Obama was quick to point out as an example of Romney's many flip-flops on issues.

Romney then went a bit off the deep end by strangely blaming gun violence on single mothers and then throwing a red herring by bringing up the Fast and Furious debacle (which had nothing to do with the Assault Weapons Ban and was responsible for killing exactly one American).

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the talk from both candidates "gibberish":

"Polls show that more than 80 percent of Americans and more than 80 percent of gun owners support some common sense reforms that are bipartisan." 
"And then they had all this gibberish talking about education. That education is the solution to stop the killing. My recollection is that the Aurora theater shooter? He was a PhD candidate. Ok? The Virgina Tech massacre was committed by a student at a first class university! Gun are a plague and I don't think education is going to keep guns out of the hands of gang members. The solution is to prevent all people who shouldn't have guns from getting them." 
"Let's get serious," he went on later in his lengthy answer, "these are people who have guns, and the only reason to carry a gun is to use it. To kill people. People who buy assault weapons... Governor Romney signed an assault weapon ban, today he has changed his mind. The President campaigned four years ago that he was going introduce a bill to ban assault weapons, the bill never saw the light of day. Romney said 'oh, well, automatic weapons are already banned.' And yes it is true, machine guns are banned. But a semi-automatic weapon, which is what an AK-47 is, that is not banned. And you can pull a trigger awful fast." 
"One candidate has had four years to do something and hasn't. And the other candidate says he won't even do what he once did!"

In the end, I'm encouraged by President Obama's words.  But I'm not holding my breath.  Actions speak louder than words, and so far that's all the President has done to strengthen gun regulation.  We need to do more to demand a plan from our presidential candidates.

ADDENDUMA related article by Andy Pelosi, director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence and The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, from

ADDENDUMA related blog post over at Common Gunsense.

ADDENDUM: Another article focusing on Romney's bogus accusation that gun violence is caused in large part by single parenting.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Threats Against Obama? Words Matter.

Yesterday afternoon, someone fired a shot at the Obama campaign field office in Denver, Colorado.  The shot smashed a window, but luckily none of the campaign workers inside were injured.  A suspect has not yet been caught.  What could have motivated the shooter?

Last month, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic man with a criminal history was nonetheless able to obtain three guns and at least 500 rounds of ammunition and ran a police roadblock where President Obama's motorcade was about to pass through.  He had previously made threats against others, including President George W. Bush.  What could have motivated him to run the roadblock while armed to the teeth?

During the Democratic National Convention, a gun owner who had previously been charged for drug offenses made threats on Twitter to kill the President, threatening to "aim the Assault Rifle at Barack's Forehead" and, in his words, "plotting president Obama's murder."  The Secret Service interviewed him.  What could have led this man to make threats?

In August, a man in Washington state sent emails to the FBI threatening to kill the President, saying, "I will kill the president. I don't give a f*** but you know that."  When U.S. Secret Service agents arrived at the man's door, the guy charged at them with a shotgun, ammo, and pistol.  He had an arsenal of assault rifles at the ready.  Luckily they subdued him without gunfire.  What could have spurred this man to make threats and act violently?

Could it be that these paranoid and violent gun owners could have been motivated by calls for insurrection and conspiratorial thinking from conservative leaders and the NRA?

About a year ago, NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre declared that the President's inaction on gun control was a "big fat stinking lie!" and "part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment."  Since then, a number of completely unfounded pro-gun conspiracy theories have been rolled out, accusing the President, specifically, of plotting to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the United Nations, declare martial law and take away our guns, purposely letting guns go to Mexican drug lords in order to justify taking away guns from Americans, and even staging the mass shooting in Aurora.  The NRA even started a website,, wherein they expound on LaPierre's conspiracy theory (and make numerous appeals for donations).

And various conservative pro-gun leaders have taken the NRA's call and spread it.  This month, a Republican congressional candidate in Tennessee "welcomed" President Obama to Tennessee by posting a picture of a handgun on his campaign Facebook page

This summer, the chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party  responded to the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act by calling for armed insurrection, calling our government a "gang of criminals" and writing, " To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion. May all of us fall on our faces before the Heavenly Judge, repent of our sins, and humbly cry out to Him for mercy on our country. And, may godly courageous leaders rise up in His wisdom and power to lead us in displacing the criminal invaders from their seats and restore our constitutional republic."

Only the day before that, a former Michigan Republican Party spokesman declared, "There are times government has to do things to get what it wants and holds a gun to your head. I’m saying at some point, we have to ask the question when do we turn that gun around and say no and resist.”

And let's not forget the king of all pro-gun extremist haters, NRA board member Ted Nugent, who earlier this year publicly and loudly announced a threat against the President which warranted a visit from the Secret Service:

Speaking at the NRA's annual meeting Nugent accused President Obama of having a "vile, evil America-hating administration" that is "wiping its ass with the Constitution." He went on to tell a crowd that "We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November" and said that "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."

It's not the first time he's done this.  Nugent has said Obama was "a piece of shit" who should "suck on my machine gun." Nugent has a long, long history of illegal, racist, hate-filled behavior.  But he's famous, and a certain fringe of extremists love to pay attention to his hatred and gun-worship.  So much so that Nugent now has a cable TV show on Discovery Channel, wherein he shoots stuff up (and markets his line of ammunition, of course -- follow the money).

Should we hold public figures accountable for calling for violence?  The gun guys, who often echo this hateful rhetoric on their own blogs, argue that these people are only exercising their right of free speech.  Even if the guy who shot the window of the Obama campaign, yesterday, were caught and told police that he did it because of something Ted Nugent said, for instance, Nugent still wouldn't be held accountable.  It's just words, right?  They didn't make the shooter pull the trigger.

Public figures such as these should understand that words matter.  Their followers listen to them for cues on how to act and what to think.  Their words form a cloud of thinking in the minds of the impressionable.  Mix that with a violent or mentally unstable mind and an arsenal of guns, and you have a recipe for murder or insurrection. 

When a mentally-unstable and potentially violent pro-gun extremist hears LaPierre say, "The guys with the guns make the rules," and buys into the false assumption that the Second Amendment allows for armed insurrection against our elected leaders, it's a small step toward that extremist arming himself and shooting up a window of a campaign office or running a presidential roadblock with guns at the ready.

Hate-speech, whether toward an individual, our President, or our government, should never be tolerated or spread.  It should be condemned, and those who speak it should be held accountable, in order to make a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Problem Of Guns And Suicide

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week.  What better time than now to focus on the problem of suicide, which is usually the result of depression or PTSD. 

In my last post, guest blogger Erin Neathery described the effect that suicide had on her, after her husband ended his own life.  In mid-September, during National Suicide Prevention Week, I also posted about the suicide of a friend of mine, Guy Parsons, in my teen years.  In both cases, a firearm was used.

Some important statistics to keep in mind: 

The "why" of suicide is very important, but we also cannot ignore the "how" of suicide.  The availability of guns to suicidal people is a deadly combination.  Means matter.

For more statistics on guns and suicide, see the Brady Campaign web page on the topic.

Despite the fact that there are more suicide shootings than homicidal shootings or accidental shootings, you nonetheless almost never hear about them in the media.  As one medical professional I know recently told me, "The only time a suicide is reported is when it's a famous person or really young person who has been bullied before they committed suicide."  I would add that it is also reported if the suicide was in a very public manner or was a murder/suicide.  An acquaintance of mine who makes her living as a crime scene cleanup service, commented on the matter, saying, "Since suicides are rarely reported in the media, only those of us working in law enforcement, as first responders, or in crime scene cleanup see the full scope of the problem."  Here in Eugene, according to her, there is at least one suicide a week that she hears about.  So far this year, I only know of one that was reported in the media here, at it was a murder/suicide.

I know from the death of my friend that the suicide of a friend or loved one is intensely personal and wounding.  For this reason, most are not reported in the media, and usually those who were affected don't wish to talk about it.  This is understandable.

But the silence is also deadly.

Because of the silence, people vastly underestimate the scope of the problem.  This lulls them into a false sense of security.  They may realize that a loved one is depressed or acting irrationally, and may even hear them talk about suicide, but they don't think it could happen to them.  You hardly ever hear about it, after all, right?

If you know someone who is suicidal, there are some commonsense steps you can take to prevent tragedy.  Take every suicidal statement from someone seriously, no matter how insincere they seem.  Stay with them.  If possible, remove lethal weapons and non-critical medicines from the home, or urge them to do so voluntarily.  Get them mental counseling.  Tell other family and friends to watch them for danger signs.  These steps may seem imposing to some people, but imposing on someone is far better than losing them forever.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is an excellent source to learn about suicide prevention and warning signs.  Go here to find out about the risk factors and warning signs.  Click here to find out what you can do to help prevent suicide.  The C.A.R.E.S. suicide prevention organization is also a great resource.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Erin Neathery: When Is Enough, Enough?

Today we have a guest blogger, Erin Neathery.  Erin is a creative director from Arizona who lost her husband, Wayne Henschke, to suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1991.  Since then, she has become active in gun violence prevention as a member of Arizonans For Gun Safety, has advocated to keep guns off campus, and has coordinated events with the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence.  Here are Erin's observations on how gun violence has affected her....

I always knew a gun would alter my life. I have no idea how I knew, but I did. One of the most vivid dreams I ever had was when I was just 18 or 19 years old. I saw myself, clearly older, sitting in a chair, rocking a child, and I was staring into the barrel of a gun. Who was holding it? I had no clue. But the dream disturbed me enough that I wrote it down.  And I remembered it years later, when a single gunshot shattered my life. In an instant, my husband was gone.

While I never had a burning desire to have children, I liked knowing I could do so one day. But my ovaries became diseased while I was still very young; and so my fertility and eventually the ovaries themselves, were gone. The child in my dream did not exist, and never would.

When the subject of children comes up, I exclaim, “Oh, my gosh! I forgot to have them!” Over the past 19 years, I’ve gotten pretty good at the acceptable responses. I know most people don’t mean to hurt by their words. I shrug it off most days, and I consider all children my own. I don’t have to be a parent to know they are precious.

IT, the bullet, the suicide, the aftermath, is something I rarely speak about anymore, and the few people who do know tend to forget it is part of my fabric. I try to never let it show. Some days it’s hard, like when people say things in passing like “I’m going to shoot myself.” Or do that awful pantomime where they make the gun with one hand, and mimic the bloodshed with the other. I just pretend to not really hear the words, or worse, visibly wince at the gesture. But each time I turn on the news, IT is all brought back fresh. Another life wasted. More lives shattered. More dreams destroyed.

And the pain is always there. It’s not all internal. It shows on my outside, through extra weight I carry, and in health issues stemming from prolonged periods of intense, unimaginable stress. On certain days, the pain is just lurking beneath the surface. And I’m never sure when those days will be.

When I am under stress, I dream of being chased; fleeing for my life. I am being hunted methodically and then I am shot point blank, or I am trying to protect loved ones (usually my nieces and nephews) from some unknown assailant’s bullets, shielding them with my own body as best as I can, trying to save them. Those dreams stick with me for a while before I can shake it off again, and go back to “normal”. I never talk about those.

Today, I understand that I suffer from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), although I would be considered as very high functioning. It’s something I only recently recognized. I saw aspects of myself in the story of friend, who was brave enough to write a book in hopes of helping others. (She did. And is.) My self-diagnosis was confirmed by a doctor, years after the onset. What I do with that, I don’t know. But at least I can stop silently berating myself for not being over something that it may not be possible to “get over” because it has literally become part of my biological chemistry.

Yep, this girl has baggage that was thrust upon her by someone else’s actions, someone else’s undiagnosed, untended mental illness; one that ended for him that cold night in September, 1992 when he put a single bullet through his head at our home, leaving behind a huge pool of blood, bone and brain matter spattered everywhere, and an indelible stain on my life. I could have just as easily been a casualty that night. Actually, I was. I just wasn’t part of the body count. Nor were all the others who were affected by his death. The ripple, the aftershock, spreads further than you might imagine.

In more recent years, the sudden descent into the depths of mental illness happened twice within my own family, and I learned firsthand about the perils of the human mind unhinged, our health care system, and of just how far you have to push to get help for those who need it the most. Their right to be crazy trumps your right to try to get them proper treatment, to save them.

And so I’m still waiting for my pain to stop. I’ve had enough. I don’t mean that in the sense that I would put my family and friends through the type of suffering I have gone through. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, as the saying goes.

What I do I mean is that I am sick and tired of people going around shooting themselves and shooting one another, simply because they can access a gun. Even worse, they can get hold of big, juicy ammo clips that hold an awful lot of death and destruction, and then go forth and wreak as much death and destruction as they possibly can before they “punch their own ticket”, as my father says, or someone else puts a bullet into them.

That’s a tremendous amount of power and responsibility to hand out to whomever decides they want it and shouts that they have a right to wield it. No matter which side they’re on. Our forefathers would shudder at what we’ve become in their name.

I long to put my baggage down, but I’ve finally realized that the only way I can possibly do so is by picking up the proverbial pen and speaking out. I’ve made my living, and continue to do so, by writing for an ad agency. Over the 25+ years of my career, I’ve learned that every sales problem can be boiled down to a single point. “What’s the pain?” we ask. In this case, the pain is literal, the pain is widespread, and it’s time we talked about it. It’s time we stopped letting a relatively small group of powerful lobbyists for the NRA tell us we don’t matter, they will not negotiate EVER on gun control so don’t even TRY to take away our precious assault rifles or big juicy ammo clips again. I say BULLSHIT. The time for us to be heard and FIGHT is NOW.

So here I sit. Deciding to stop pretending it’s all OK, and asking myself what is the point of me, of anyone, having to suffer like this if we don’t learn from it; grow from it; effect CHANGE so that others don’t have to go through it. Indeed. And what about our collective pain? The things we’ve been touched by and grieved as a nation in my lifetime alone?

Dallas. The McDonald’s Massacre. Columbine. Memphis. Luby’s Cafeteria. Omaha. Virginia Tech. The Amish School. These sit at the top of my consciousness, but sadly, no, horrifically, there is no end to the daily madness and death toll by gun. Especially not for those directly involved. The people left behind after the news cycle. The ones left behind as the door closes quietly as the police take their leave. The ones who slump to the floor, trying to figure out whom to call first to break the terrible, awful, blood soaked news even as their hands shake uncontrollably, too unsteady to dial the phone. The ones trying desperately to learn how to simply keep going in the aftermath.

It’s so easy and so simple for people to push away the reality when it’s someone else’s child. Someone else’s father. Brother. Sister. Wife. Husband. Mother. Daughter. Son. Friend. It’s time to stop pushing things away, and start pushing for change.

And so I ask you, when is enough, enough?

And then there was Tucson. In the aftermath, our President challenged us all to be better people. To make this country a place that lives up to the expectations of a nine-year-old child who was born on the day this nation was stricken by an incomprehensible tragedy. A child who died on the day this nation was stricken by an incomprehensible tragedy. A child who we CANNOT allow to have died in vain.

Many died that day; others lived, and their stories were heart wrenching; they were valiant and most of all, they hit home. The young intern, who cradled Gabby Giffords to his chest and tried to staunch the flow of blood from her head.

The elderly man who shielded his wife’s body with his own. He gave his life so that she might live.

The mother who threw herself in front of her teen daughter, and was shot three times. My nightmare, playing out in full, bloody Technicolor. In real life, they both lived.

The kindly family friend who brought a bright, inquisitive nine-year-old girl to see their Congresswoman. Whose anguish at not being able to save this beautiful child entrusted to her care haunts her, even as she struggles to recover from three bullet wounds.

The two men who pinned the gunman to the ground, even as he struggled to reload.

The middle-aged mom who wrested a big fat, juicy clip full of death from the hands of the gunman as he struggled to reload.

The gunman, who was once a nine-year-old boy, the embodiment of the hopes and dreams of his parents. Now he’s forever the child who slipped away into madness, and took others with him.

These people are not someone else. They’re our family. Our neighbors. Our friends. THEY ARE US.

So when will enough be enough?

I’m sick and tired of hearing hateful words pouring out of people, and in turn, feeling hateful by being exposed to it. I’m sick and tired of ignorance and fear. I’m sick and tired of seeing homeless people who are clearly mentally ill, and who are homeless primarily because there is no health care available for them.

I’m sick and tired of the NRA shouting about the constitution and their Second Amendment rights and of zealots touting Second Amendment remedies. I’m sick and tired of politics and divisiveness and “us and them” mentality. We are ALL human. WE. ARE. ALL. HUMAN.

Since I was nine, more than one million sons, daughters, moms, dads, wives and husbands, neighbors and friends have been killed though gun violence and suicide by gun. ONE MILLION. And I look at my soon to be nine-year-old nephew, and I pray that he doesn't have to live in a world where this is acceptable, where this is the norm. I pray the same for the child down the block. And down the next one, and the next, to Tucson, and beyond. I don’t have to be a parent to know they are precious.

We don't have to live in a world where this is the norm. Why, I ask, is this acceptable? It’s NOT. We have to make a choice. Can we please have a civil discussion about what we want our society, and our lives and our children’s world to be like going forward?

We are Columbine. We are Virginia Tech. We are Tucson. We are human.

Don’t push away the reality because it’s someone else’s child. Someone else’s father. Brother. Sister. Wife. Husband. Mother. Daughter. Son. Friend.

It could just as easily be you, or someone you love. And if it were, would it be enough then?

When is enough, enough?

Please, please, let it be NOW.

Since the Tucson shooting on January 9, 2011, there have been more than 61 mass shootings.

ADDENDUM (From Baldr):  If you know someone who is suicidal, there are some commonsense steps you can take to prevent tragedy.  The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is an excellent source to learn about suicide prevention and warning signs.  Go here to find out about the risk factors and warning signs.  Click here to find out what you can do to help prevent suicide.  The C.A.R.E.S. suicide prevention organization is also a great resource.

Friday, October 5, 2012

What Wasn't Asked In The First Presidential Debate of 2012?

I'm disappointed in Jim Lehrer.  Not because of Lehrer's poor performance in moderating the debate, nor because of the questions he asked the candidates, but because of the questions he didn't ask.  Held in Denver, Colorado, Wednesday's first presidential debate was a golden opportunity to ask the candidates their opinion on what they would do to reduce gun violence in America.  After all, the debate was held only a few miles away from the sites of both the Aurora theater massacre and the Columbine High School massacre.

It's not as if it's easy to forget the issue.  There were plenty of calls for such a question:

--> One of the Aurora shooting victims, 22-year old Stephen Barton, even spoke in a TV ad directed at Lehrer and the candidates (see the ad HERE).  Shot with 25 shotgun pellets, including serious wounds in the face and neck, Barton reminds the candidates that 48,000 people will be murdered with guns in the next presidential term.  Lehrer ignored him.  He expressed frustration that the issue of gun violence was not addressed.
 Barton, who was riddled with 25 shotgun pellets, is still recovering from some nerve damage. 
He said the lack of discussion suggests both candidates have put the Aurora shooting behind them. 
"They've moved on from what happened this summer and I really don't think the American people have moved on," Barton said. 
He says both Obama and Romney have "mixed records" on gun control and neither has fully explained his position on the subject. He doesn't plan to let up until they do.

--> Thirteen family members of slain Aurora shooting victims wrote an open letter to Lehrer, asking for questions to be asked.  Lehrer ignored them.  From that letter:
It’s time that next U.S. President discuss and provide possible solutions to the growing problem of gun violence in America; one that has affected so many communities already this year, including Oak Creek, WI, Minneapolis, MN, Old Bridge, NJ, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to name but a few. 
Mass shootings will happen again. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Thirty-two Americans will be murdered today. We just don’t yet know their names or the families or communities they come from. Their lives matter. We, as a nation, are better than this.
How can we continue to ignore the issue of gun violence when so many precious lives have been taken from us? 

-->  There was a concerted campaign on Twitter by various gun violence prevention organizations, activists, and survivors to send tweets to Jim Lehrer, asking him to ask relevant questions. I sent some tweets, too.  Lehrer ignored us.

--> The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence even spelled out some specific questions to ask.  Lehrer ignored them.

-->  State and national gun violence prevention organizations openly called for Lehrer to ask a question about gun violence.  The Brady Campaign even sponsored a petition at the website.  Lehrer ignored them.

But the real problem here is that the candidates have been silent about their plan to reduce gun violence.  While Lehrer should have asked, it is really up to the candidates to address this pressing national health crisis, without waiting until a debate moderator asks them to do so.

Daniel Gross, President of the Brady Campaign, sums it up best in a recent post by him:
Working with the Aurora families and every concerned American, we will continue taking every opportunity to show our officials and candidates that this is an issue of vital importance to the American people until -- that as a nation we know we are better than this -- until our elected leaders and candidates show us that they know it too.We represent the 87 percent of Americans who want better and stronger policies to prevent gun violence by their support for background checks on all gun sales. (Greenberg, Appendix A). 
We represent the 74 percent of NRA members who want a criminal background check on anyone purchasing a gun. (Luntz Global, Gun Owners Poll, July 2012). 
We represent the 96 percent of Americans who want background checks on all gun sales to screen out felons (CNN/2012). 
We represent the 76 percent of Americans who support registration of guns with local government (CNN/2012). 
The overwhelming majority of Americans believe we are better than a nation where mass shooting tragedies like the one in Aurora happen with such alarming frequency. We are better than a nation with 32 more gun murders every day. The American people know we are better than this.

Barack Obama has been silent on the issue of gun regulation while serving as president, with one, mild exception regarding assault rifles. 

Romney once supported strict gun regulation.  Now he's flip-flopped so much on the issue that, today, he received NRA backing.  The NRA has now started a campaign to rewrite Romney's history on the issue.  They wouldn't want their supporters to doubt their new, unlikely ally (until he flip flops back, of course).

The statistics quoted by Daniel Gross, above, remind us that the vast majority of Americans support stronger gun regulation, on a very wide range of regulative measures.  Pro-gun extremists often poo-poo such statistics, claiming that they are skewed somehow by the polling organization or sponsors of the polls.  Never mind that every credible poll that has been taken, by every major polling organization or news outlet, has supported stricter gun regulation.  HERE IS A LINK to the results from at least 66 different polls, dating from the present back to 1999, showing strong (70-90%) support for stricter regulation.  Those who want no regulation, or less regulation, typically represent 10% or less.

So who are our leaders representing, then?

It's time for our candidates to take a stand and answer the tough questions.  Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, what do YOU intend to do in the next four years to reduce gun-related homicides, suicides, and accidents?  How do you intend to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, dangerously mentally ill people, and children?

UPDATE (10/13/12):  Mitt Romney today released a statement regarding his views on a number of topics, including gun regulation.  From an article:

He said he does not believe that the United States needs additional laws that restrict the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and believes in the safe and responsible ownership and use of firearms and the right to lawfully manufacture and sell firearms and ammunition. 
"[Mitt] recognizes the extraordinary number of jobs and other economic benefits that are produced by hunting, recreational shooting, and the firearms and ammunition industry, not the least of which is to fundwildlife and habitat conservation," his campaign said. "Mitt will enforce the laws already on the books and punish, to the fullest extent of the law, criminals who misuse firearms to commit crimes. But he does not support adding more laws and regulations that do nothing more than burden law-abiding citizens while being ignored by criminals. Mitt will also provide law enforcement with the proper and effective resources they need to deter, apprehend, and punish criminals."

Clearly, reducing gun violence by improving laws is not a priority for Romney.