Saturday, November 30, 2013

20th Anniversary of the Brady Bill -- Finish The Job!

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Brady Bill, or the "Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act."  

Named after Jim Brady, Ronald Reagan's press secretary who was shot during Reagan's assassination attempt, the bill created rules that prohibited the sale of guns to felons, the mentally ill, illegal aliens, drug addicts, fugitives, and people convicted of domestic violence.  It was perhaps the single most effective, commonsense measure ever passed in the United States to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.

Naturally, the NRA vehemently opposed the system, removing the five-day waiting period it imposed, and then challenging the whole measure right up to the Supreme Court (Printz v. United States).  They lost, and America won.

In the 20 years since the measure was enacted, the Brady Bill has prevented the sale of around 2 million (!) guns to prohibited people.  But there are still significant loopholes.  See this video:


The average background check takes only 5 minutes and can be performed by phone or web in most places, so there is no real inconvenience to law-abiding gun owners.  

The vast majority of private gun sales, including at most gun shows, require no background check or questions asked -- it's just cash and carry.  And if a private seller knowingly sells their gun to a prohibited person, they need only feign ignorance and they are off the hook.  It's disgraceful.

See the image at right to see a breakdown of those who were prohibited from sale.  Most are convicted felons.  Imagine how many of these people turned around and bought guns from a private sale.

It's long overdue for us to finish the job. 

91% of Americans support universal background checks for guns, including at least 85% of gun owners.  And yet, the NRA still pledges to fight it as much as possible.  So who, exactly, are they fighting for?  When prohibited people are able to buy guns, the gun manufacturers profit, and more money funnels to the NRA.

Contact your elected officials today, and demand that they finish the job.  We need universal background checks for ALL gun sales.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Have A Safe Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, when we give thanks for all the people in our lives, reflect on our relationships, and feel thankful for the resources we have.  It is a holiday that is particularly relevant to me, as part of my family dates back to the period and region of the original Thanksgiving, and may even have had a family member present at the actual event at Plymouth.

One hallmark of Thanksgiving is visiting with friends and relatives at their homes.  But as you eat lots of great food, joke with your relatives, and watch games, please be aware of any guns in the home.  If there are children around, I urge you to ASK about guns in the home before you visit, and make sure that, if any guns are there, that they are locked up, separated from ammo, or removed from the home.

For more on the ASK campaign and tips on how to get the conversation started, see here:

HERE is also a good link with a flier to help.

HERE is a previous blog post with some relevant statistics about children and guns.

HERE is a previous blog post that compares parents' perceptions about guns in the home compared the reality shown by statistics.  It's shocking how underestimated the danger is.

The public health departments of Seattle and King County, Washington, have taken a proactive step in protecting their youth.  Via their "Safe Storage Saves Lives" campaign, they are working with area firearms retailers to offer 10-15% off discounts for gun locks and safe boxes.  From an article:
The “Safe Storage Saves Lives” campaign developed by Public Health – Seattle and King County is an inspired effort to promote the use of safety devices on weapons kept in thousands of homes. Congratulations to public health director  Dr. David Fleming, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Sheriff John Urquhart, participating gun dealers, and 20 participating law enforcement agencies for stepping forward Monday to promote the ideal holiday shopping event. Thank you. 
As explained at this King County site, starting November 25, 2013 through December of 2014, mention Public Health or LOK-IT_UP and receive 10-15 percent off select storage devices or lock boxes at participating retailers. The initial list of 15 shops and their locations is at the site. 
Proximity to firearms is reflected in tragic statistics available for review via this county link. Homicides, accidents and suicides aided and abetted by easy access to weapons.  The risks and hazards are compounded students who show up on school grounds with guns from home.  
This is not about Second Amendment prerogatives, but the responsibilities that go with rights that can have lethal consequences for others.

And with all the shootings across America, every day, and the profound increase in mass shootings in the last year, doubtless the issue of gun violence will come up at home.  To help with that conversation, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has made this place-mat (see below), with an informative quiz, to help with the discussion.  I urge you to download it and put it somewhere prominent where you and your relatives can discuss.

Please be safe this Thanksgiving, eat lots of turkey, and cherish your relatives.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pro-Gun Activists Call For Assassination Of Our President, Even On The 50th Anniversary Of JFK's Death

This Friday was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.

There are many remembrance ceremonies, including in Washington D.C.’s Arlington Cemetery and at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.  From an article:
A half-century later, the assassination still stirs quiet sadness in the baby boom generation that remembers it as the beginning of a darker, more cynical time. The anniversary ceremonies reflected that solemnity, with moments of silence, speeches by historians and, above all, simple reverence for a time and a leader long gone. 
“A new era dawned and another waned a half-century ago, when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said at the largest memorial service, in Dealey Plaza, the scene of the Nov. 22, 1963, shooting.
These ceremonies for JFK are solemn reminders of the man who did so much for our nation to help its citizens be kinder to each other and less discriminatory, and to uplift our nation. 

But JFK’s death also serves to remind us how armed extremists with a bone to pick can too easily resort to violence to achieve their fevered goals.

When it comes to making our nation safer from gun violence, sadly not much has changed in the last 50 years.  Lee Harvey Oswald mail-ordered the rifle he used, which is now no longer legal to do thanks to the Gun Control Act of 1968, and we now have the Brady Bill to require a background check with every gun purchase from a gun shop (a law that has now stopped two million gun sales to prohibited persons since it was enacted), but you can still arrange for the purchase of a gun online in your state with no background check, and you can still meet a private seller on the street and pay cash for an assault rifle, with no background check.  As my blogger friend at Common Gunsense says, “Where is the common sense?” (see her latest post, also about JFK, HERE).

These days, extremist conservative forces try to hijack the legacy of JFK.  The NRA (whose publication, American Rifleman, helped Oswald purchase his gun) is even profiting off of JFK by selling a commemorative coin in American Rifleman magazine!  But we can’t forget how, at the time, these forces vilified every attempt by him to change our society for the better.  Consider the “Wanted for Treason” poster they made of him (to the right).  In that poster, they accuse him of “betraying the Constitution” by "turning the sovereignty of the U.S. over to the communist controlled United Nations."

Sound familiar?  That’s because those same forces now say the same things about our current president, another young, liberal, president who is making good with his ideals.  They stop at nothing to vilify him, including making up wacko conspiracy theories about him, particularly regarding gun rights. 

Compare the JFK "treason" poster from the 60's to this one made recently of Obama.

Once again, hope and hatred are colliding, as Mayor Rawlings put it, but now on a national scale.

Now, pro-gun activists openly state their desire for President Obama to be assassinated in Dallas.  That’s right:  these extremists, who consider themselves to be “patriotic” and “law-abiding,” are committing a felony by threatening to kill our president and treasonously calling for armed insurrection.  The pro-gunners dream about him being assassinated just like JFK, in the same plaza where, in October, they rallied with their assault rifles, in yet another public display meant to intimidate the public, or, as they put it, “exercise their rights” (just like others have).

Comments have been left to this effect at a couple of pro-gun Facebook pages.  The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence exposed them in a recent post.  Comments include:
“Drive him past the old book depository.” 
 “Take him via Dealey Plaza.” 
 “I wonder if he will get the same Texas welcome as JFK.” 
 “Maybe another president will be sworn in on Air Force One as in the past.  Everyone say’s that history will repeat it’s self [sic].”
The Second Amendment doesn’t give them the right to do many of the things they think it can, and certainly not to threaten the life of our President or dream about his assassination. 

But if they can’t assassinate him in Dallas, there’s always armed revolt.  In the extremist vision that they daydream about, a million gun owners will rally to the White House and call for Obama to come out and surrender himself to them in a “citizen’s grand jury.”  They even set a date:  November 19.  Of course, the date came and went and nothing happened.  Fringe groups like these are fringe precisely because they don’t have a following, but that doesn’t keep them from being dangerous.  In most countries, it would be illegal to make such threats of treason.  From the article:
On Monday, the same un-American, Larry Klayman, released a new declaration of independence and announced that on November 19th he and fellow Islamophobes, extremist Christian leaders, and right-wing gun fanatics will converge on the White House and depose the Obama Administration, members of Congress, and the Supreme Court. According to Klayman, President Obama is a “despot, socialist, ultra-leftist “Muslim” who, with his Democratic minions, passed a destructive piece of legislation”(Affordable Care Act) that Klayman claims is unconstitutional. Within the new declaration of independence is a laundry list of imagined slights that claims after “warning him and his administration of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us, we must acquiesce in the necessity, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.” Klayman’s group clearly holds the United States government and Barack Obama as “Enemies in War.”
It goes on with their rants, accusing Obama of all the usual ridiculous accusations (he’s Islamic, anti-Christian, tyrannical, etc.) and names some other fringe groups that associate with him, such as Gun Owners of America (they, and their founder, Larry Pratt, are certainly no strangers to wacko pro-gun conspiracies).  The article continues:
Klayman’s threat of a violent revolution if the President, congressional leaders, and the Supreme Court do not meet their list of demands and be “abolished from all allegiance to the current government’s regime, including political connection between them and the current government, is to be totally dissolved” is treason. Calling on, and inciting, millions of other Americans to join in the overthrow of the United States government is sedition, particularly under the threat of violent force, but it is glaringly obvious Klayman’s group eschews U.S. law and the U.S. Constitution.

Reading through the list of grievances against the President and the government exposes Klayman and company’s motivation is rank Islamophobia, hatred of minorities, and a desire to dissolve the Union into a collection of independent nation states. 

I wish someone could claim that this is just a one-time rant.  Unfortunately, talk like this is rampant among the pro-gun blogs and at their rallies.  You just can't get past their lunatic belief that Obama's coming for their guns, a belief reinforced by the pro-gun lobby until it is a fevered call for insurrection.  Consider, for instance, open calls for war at the recent pro-gun rally held at the Alamo, by conspiracy theorist and pro-gun voice Alex Jones.  From an article:
“If the people who died here can see us, and I believe they can, I promise you they’d be proud of each and every one of you,” he continued. “We’re not going to lay down if you offensively attack us. If it’s a war they want, it’s a war they’ll get.” 
These pro-gun activists aren’t, by any means, representative of the rank-and-file gun owners of America, who are actually quite moderate and agree with gun violence prevention activists, like myself, in a number of regards (such as the 80-90% agreement on requiring background checks for all gun sales, including private sales).  Like all extremists, though, these activists think they represent everyone who possesses a firearm.  Moderate gun owners need to speak up and demand an end to these extremist calls which make them all look bad in the eyes of the rest of Americans.

I think a fellow blogger over at a blog called Gunsense says it best, when he indicates that this isn’t just a problem with the activists, but with the militarization of our entire culture.  Referring to the recent case of pro-gun extremists ambushing a group of four Moms Demand Action women as they ate their lunch at a Mexican restaurant:
The Open Carry Texas group that converged outside of the restaurant broke no laws.  No one was shot.  No one was injured.  A group photograph was taken, of course, with the American flag and children and guns.  This particular optics—guns, men, women, children, flag, public place—has become a meme now for the open-carry enthusiasts, and an image of great hilarity for the gun-control folks.  I suspect Open Carry Texas will reconsider future actions of this sort—they are still being ridiculed across the country, even as I write this. 
But these images, and the actions that give rise to them, are part of the gradual militarization of our culture, and when you militarize a culture, you must expect military solutions to civil disagreements.  That in a nutshell is the problem.  
He quotes a celebrate French Writer, Albert Camus:  “Bloodthirsty laws make bloodthirsty customs."

Sadly, one of those social customs is to turn against the very government that has allowed, or even encouraged, carrying of guns in public, “standing your ground” against any perceived threat, and allowing treasonous talk without consequence.

It’s time for everyone to call out the extremists for what they are – people who are purposely calling for violence -- and then turn our attention back to the goals that JFK tried to instill in America – calls for unity and understanding.  As President Kennedy once said at a White House speech, 

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. 

Violent revolution is the goal of these extremists.  When you live your life for your guns, there can seem only one means by which to solve your problems. 

Let's make a pledge for a peaceful revolution, and make a new trajectory for our community away from gun violence.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Killer George Zimmerman Acts Out Again

(UPDATED -- see below)

Killer George Zimmerman just can’t keep from getting into trouble.  He’s volatile and dangerous.  The same aggressive and confrontational behavior that led him to stalk and kill unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin has, in the past, and led him to domestic violence. Now he's in trouble with his guns again.  Thankfully, no one is shot... this time.

The last time was back in September, when he was accused by his ex-wife of threatening her and her father with a gun and physically attacking her, as I posted about.  She had called 911 at the time, and Zimmerman was taken into custody, but like so many other abused domestic partners, she abruptly changed her story and dropped the charges.

In that last post, I also listed all Zimmerman’s screw ups since the trial (during which he had lied about his funds and conspired to hide them using his wife), including a faked “rescue” of a family in a car crash, being pulled over one time and then another time for speeding.  At the end of October, he apparently also posted a bullet-riddled target on the home of his ex-wife's parents.

Zimmerman's police chief described him as a “ticking time bomb.” 

At the end of my last post on him, I stated “I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last of Zimmerman’s screw ups.  Eventually, he and his guns will be involved in yet another scandal.”

Well, now Killer George has gone and done it again, and it’s a doozy. 

Apparently, a lady named Samantha Scheibe wasn’t significantly creeped out by Zimmerman’s violent and murderous past, and actually became his girlfriend. 

But then, this Monday, the two of them got into an argument.  According to Scheibe, in a call to 911, Zimmerman began smashing her furniture, then threatened her with a long-barreled shotgun, pushing her out the door.  He then barricaded himself in the home until police arrived and pushed their way in.  He then surrendered peacefully.

He countered by saying that he wasn’t armed, and that it was Scheibe who smashed the furniture.  Interestingly, he also said that she was pregnant with his child (which she disputes, apparently)!  In his words, she was “going crazy.”  He also said that Scheibe also owns a .9mm handgun.  He said she started the fight because she didn’t want him to leave her, and that his gun was “locked in a bag” (he didn’t explain how one can lock a bag, but I digress).

According to a CNN article, regarding the reason for the fight:
"Though Zimmerman says the argument erupted after he tried to leave because Scheibe was pregnant and wanted to raise their child by herself, police say that Scheibe disputed the account. 
"She told me it was better if we co-parented and she raised the child on her own," Zimmerman said to a 911 dispatcher in a separate call. "I said, 'Are you sure this is what you want to do?' She said, 'Yes.'"
You can hear both his and her 911 calls at THIS LINK.

From an article:
The victim, identified as Samantha Scheibe, indicated she and Zimmerman were having a verbal dispute where she alleged he broke a table before pointing a shotgun at her. Zimmerman was unarmed when police arrived. However, he had barricaded the door and the police had to move furniture out of the way to get to Zimmerman. Ms. Scheibe told police that she was “in fear of her life.” The investigators are still meeting with her to get more information about the incident, while they obtain a search warrant to locate the shotgun.  There might be another gun in the house, according to the police.

Zimmerman was arrested and booked at 1pm EST, charged with aggravated assault, battery domestic violence, and criminal mischief. There is no bond set until he sees the judge tomorrow morning. The aggravated assault charge with a firearm is a felony punishable up to 5 years in prison. If a gun is used, there is a 3 years minimum mandatory.

According to Scheibe, Zimmerman had in his possession an AF-15 rifle (no pro-gun extremist would be without one!), two handguns, and the KelTec shotgun that he threatened her with.  He also has a conceal carry permit.

Zimmerman has also been accused of choking his girlfriend a week before, though it wasn’t reported at the time by his girlfriend.  From an article:

"The victim had indicated that there was a prior domestic violence incident that had occurred approximately a week and half ago that involved a choking that she did not report to the police," the prosecutor said. "He has also has mentioned suicide in the recent past." 
He is now free on bail, but has to wear a GPS tracker.  At least his weapons have been confiscated, but as far as I know he still retains his conceal carry permit.  He is not allowed to have contact with Scheibe or leave the state of Florida.

Then, just to add a whole new level of weird, and another potential crime, there’s even an accusation that Zimmerman sent a sexually explicit photo of himself to Scheibe’s young daughter!  Ew!  But then, we shouldn’t be surprised at this, since Zimmerman has already been accused by a cousin of having molested her in her youth – for a decade!

Naturally, the same pro-gun extremists who rushed to protect, and even fund, Zimmerman during the Trayvon Martin trial are coming again to his defense and push Zimmerman's side of things, like this blogger, for instance.  Zimmerman is their poster boy, after all.  But I believe a significant number are ducking down this time, more than a little embarrassed that he just keeps on screwing up.  This political cartoon says it all.

I'd hate to be one of the jurors who acquitted this loser, or any of the pundits and pro-gun extremists who supported Zimmerman.  I'm sure they're banging their heads against a wall right now, wondering how they could justify yet another incident.

This guy is a serious creep with a violent and murderous streak.  It’s time to lock him up for good before he kills again!

UPDATE (11/25/13):  A search warrant revealed the weapons and ammo that were recovered from Zimmerman's home.  From a CNN article:

A search of the home turned up three handguns, a 12-gauge shotgun, a rifle and 106 rounds of ammunition, including two AR-15 magazines, according to a search warrant.

UPDATE (11/25/13):  Zimmerman, despite being broke and heavily in debt, is nontheless being represented by TWO lawyers, including one that is highly-experienced, due to some rather interesting peculiarities.  It's sickening that such a thug could be given such exceptional representation.  See HERE for an interested expose from  From the article:
For George Zimmerman, landing an experienced attorney like Dowdy was a big break. According to an affidavit filed with the court, Zimmerman said he had total assets of $149 in cash, no bank account and $2.5 million in debt. His previous attorney, Mark O’Mara, will no longer represent him in any matters. (On Armed American Radio, Dowdy describes O’Mara as “an old friend.”) 
Still, George Zimmerman is armed with the services of two attorneys, including one with more than 20 years of criminal defense experience. For an indigent defendant in Florida, that is hardly typical.
UPDATE (12/10/13):  Zimmerman's girlfriend, Samantha Sheibe, who had made the accusation of being threatened by Zimmerman at gunpoint, is now recanting the accusation and wants to be with him again.  It's a pattern which is all-too-common for victims of domestic violence, and has an eerie similarity to the last time Zimmerman was accused, by his last girlfriend.

UPDATE (12/12/13):  Well, Zimmerman's off the hook again. After his girlfriend, Samantha Sheibe, inexplicably changed her story and recanted how she had been threatened at gunpoint by Zimmerman, prosecutors are now dropping the case against him.  All I can say is "good luck" to Sheibe, or any other girlfriends Zimmerman may have in the future.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Open Carry" Intimidation

(UPDATED -- see below)

When we see pictures on the news, of third world countries, of men toting around assault rifles in public and brandishing them at peace activists and government officials, we automatically think terms like "intimidation," "extremist," "rebel," and "terrorist."  Yet, for some reason, when we see nearly the exact same thing in America, somehow a certain subset of people think "freedom" instead.   See HERE of a telling comparison I've made.

A couple days ago, four members of the Arlington, Texas, chapter of Moms Demand Action privately met at a restaurant over lunch to talk about their program.  Some pro-gun extremists found out, so they decided to intimidate the ladies by showing up with their fellow gun lovers.  But they didn't just show up -- they came armed to the hilt with hunting rifles and assault rifles.  Look at that image and tell me that isn't intimidation.  The picture to the right which was taken by one of the Moms Demand Action members.  There were forty pro-gun extremists, and some of them even brought along some small children, I guess to give the impression of a "family event" for their armed ambush. 

See below for another image that was posted on the Facebook page of those extremists.  As stated on the "Moms Demand Action - TX" Facebook page:
Moms, restaurant employees and patrons were all shocked. One patron commented to one of our organizers," I grew up with guns, but no one would ever do this. This is like Deliverance." 
Brandishing loaded assault rifles and threatening four older ladies is the epitome of extreme, in my mind.  Is this really what our country has come to?  Texas is one of the most gun-friendly states in the nation?  What are these people so afraid of that they feel threatened by four older women?

I think these extremists have their priorities wrong.  They should be fearing the same thing that the older ladies feared:  guns falling into the wrong hands.  Every gun crime makes law-abiding gun owners look that much worse.

This same weekend, in Texas, a house party in Houston turned bloody as a mass shooting unfolded.  In all, 22 people were injured, and two teens were killed, ages 16 and 17.  But the gun guys aren't interested in actually DOING anything to stop such shootings.  They would rather intimidate old women.

Sadly, wanton shows of force by the pro-gun guys is becoming all-too-common.  

At the end of October, also in Texas, a couple "Open Carry" activists illegally carried loaded antique handguns in public.  See the video below.  When Texas Rangers confronted the men and arrested them, the men's pro-gun buddies showed up in force, verbally abusing the officers and waving their Gadsden "don't tread on me" flags.  What did these men hope to achieve by displaying their guns and resisting arrest?  What did their buddies think they were achieving by abusing the officers?  Did any of this circus actually serve to help their "open carry" cause?  I don't think so.  The video made the rounds on the pro-gun sites, with statements suggesting in the usual vitrolic anti-government language that this was an over-stepping of law enforcement.  I think the opposite.  These men wanted only one thing: intimidation of society with their guns, and I'm glad law enforcement was there to put a stop to it.

Earlier in October, an "Open Carry" rally was held at the historic Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. Billed as "Come and Take It San Antonio!" it was a statement all about anti-government sentiment and fearmongering about the government coming to confiscate all guns -- the most enduring pro-gun myth promulgated by the gun lobby.  Hundreds of pro-gun extremists showed up, weapons held high.  Some brought small children with them.  Said one of the pro-gun demonstrators:
“A rifle on our back is part of our everyday life, just like a cell phone is part of our everyday life.”

Really? They feel so afraid of their fellow citizens that they think carrying a rifle around is as normal as carrying a cell phone?  It's horrifying to me that anyone could be so blinded by gun-worship that they would see it this way.

Naturally, tourists to the Alamo that day were also shocked.  According to another article:
For the tourists who just happened upon the rally — 2.5 million visit the Alamo annually — there was initial trepidation among some. 
Mark Roberts, 63, of London, Ontario, was among a group of Canadian tourists caught off guard."We're not used to seeing guns carried openly in Canada, so that was almost like a culture shock," Roberts said, noting that it appeared well organized. It was more unnerving for his wife. 
"I didn't like it at all because you don't know who you're dealing with," Julie Roberts said. "You don't know who these people are."
Again, what, exactly, are these extremists trying to achieve?  No one is trying to take away their guns, especially in Texas!  But paranoia runs deep in these people.

But intimidation by the "open carry" crowd isn't only in Texas.   Increasingly it is across America.  

Consider the following cases:

November 5, Phoenix, Arizona:  A man brought his 12-year old son to the international airport in Phoenix.  Only two days after the shooting at LAX, he thought it would be a fine idea to show up with his assault rifle openly strapped to his back.  His son, too, was packing, with a handgun on his hip.  He clearly knew the shocking effect it would have on the people around him, and police showed up to surround him and escort him, but he knew his bounds.  Sadly, it was completely legal to do so there.  From an article:
“I was outraged by it and others around me were outraged," one woman told KNXV.  .... 
“The vibe that I received from them was that they were rather smug about what they were doing that they knew the law. They knew what they could and could not do,” the woman who witnessed the incident explained. “I think there are circumstances where people should be able to carry guns and have guns, but I don’t think this is one of the good ones.”

October 2013, Portland, Oregon:  A man with an assault rifle, body armor, and ammunition walks around on the streets.  Claims he is training for a "military training mission" and openly welcomes confrontations with police.  Has had multiple run-ins with police.

September 2013, Nebraska: A man "expressing his Second Amendment rights" enters a convenience store, armed with an automatic shotguns, ammo belt, and trenchcoat, leading to police response and the lockdown of a neighboring school.

August, 2013, Nashville, Tennessee:  A man walks downtown with a bulletproof vest and an assault rifle with silencer in a case, leading to public fears and police response.  He had been detained five other times for carrying weapons in public.

August, 2013, Wisconsin: Two men with assault rifles openly carry them to a farmer's market "to make a point."

July, 2013, Vancouver, Washington: A man carries assault rifle near family fun center, restaurant, and fireworks stand to "educate the public," prompting calls to 911 and police response. 

July, 2013, Beaverton, Oregon:  A man, dressed in camo and armed with a pump-action shotgun, carries his gun in a "low ready position" on the street to "practice his Second Amendment rights."  When police arrives, he puts a round in the chamber.

January, 2013, Charlottesville, Virginia:  A man "expressing his Second Amendment rights" carries an assault rifle into grocery, causing a panic and leading to police to arrive and draw their guns on him.

January, 2013, Utah:  A man openly carries an assault rifle and handgun into a JC Penney store "to make a statement."

January, 2013, Springfield, Oregon: A man with an assault rifle openly carries it on streets.  People become upset, and police have to respond.

January, 2013, Portland, Oregon:  Two men with assault rifles walk through neighborhoods.  People flee and businesses lock up.  Police have to respond.

And these are just a few of the cases I've noted.  I haven't even done some sort of search for them.

Over and over again in these cases we see how these pro-gun "open carry" activists alarm the public, requiring police response, and smugly confront police, sometimes seeming to purposely bait them, and then justifying it away as some sort of public education attempt or an attempt to "normalize" the open carrying of guns in public.

But their real purpose isn't any of that.  The political cartoon to the right says it all.  Their real purpose is to intimidate normal citizens and, most especially, anyone who is working to reduce gun violence, like those four moms in Arlington, Texas.  It's also a sad and public display of the paranoid fear they feel toward their fellow Americans.

As you can see by these cases, the number of "open carry" demonstrations has vastly increased this year, ever since the Sandy Hook shootings.  The pro-gun crowd is afraid.  All the mass shootings, which are increasing at an alarming rate, are turning the tide in the gun argument.  The gun guys are outnumbered by people who are fed up with the daily carnage in America, and it's got them scared.  The days of unfettered access to guns is coming to an end.  Our culture simply can't handle 100,000 shootings a year, including 32,000 deaths, at the end of bullets.  Reasonable legislation is on the way to require background checks for ALL gun sales, and other limits.  The people who parade around with their guns in public are the same ones who would rather trump their interpretation of "rights" over the right of the people to live without fear.

Honestly, the "open carry" crowd are doing me and other gun violence prevention advocates a great favor.  They are their own worst enemy.  Every gun they wave, every Gadsden flag they fly, every shout they utter at the police, is another example of their motivations.  Every time they act this way, they put on display their extremism for the rest of us to see and use against them, yet they are too blind to see it.  They are the face of a gun culture that has run amok.  It's time to change.

ADDENDUM (11/11/13):  A related post, from Common Gunsense blog.

UPDATE (11/11/13):  A Forbes online article points out that the "open carry" protesters may actually have been breaking the law by their show of force.  From the article:
While the group is certainly entitled to protest (although there are questions raised about them doing so on private property without invitation as was the case here), they are not, according to Texas law, entitled to do so by openly showing their weapons
While Texas permits licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons, Texas does not permit the open carry of guns
, except for long guns that are not being used in a menacing way (added). Indeed, it is the desire to change this law that the Open Carry Texas group is all about.
The updates at the end of that article are very interesting.

UPDATE (11/11/13):  Hear about the intimidation of the Moms Demand Action moms from founder Shannon Watts.

UPDATE (11/12/13):  "Open Carry Texas", the organization that intimidated the women at the restaurant, continues its high-jinks by protesting for open carry of handguns on the state capitol during a Veteran's Day memorial.  Two people were arrested for trespassing, including the president of that organization.

UPDATE (11/12/13):  Apparently the leader of "Open Carry Texas," Kory Watkins, has been dabbling in politics when he isn't carrying assault rifles everywhere he goes in public. According to an article:
At age 30, Watkins has been working his way up the political apparatus. According to his campaign site: he was ”secretary on the Volunteer Committee of the Tarrant County Republican Party, and was also a delegate to the Republican State Convention in 2012.” He is popular with the Ron Paul crowd saying, “I will work to abolish the Federal Reserve and the central banking system” – and receiving a listing as a ‘Liberty Candidate‘ on
And he has made insurrectionist, anti-government statements, taking (of course) a hard-line Libertarian, Tea Party stance, particularly regarding the Second Amendment and his interpretation of "rights." 

UPDATE (11/17/13):  More incidents of "exercising rights" to the horror of locals.  In particular is this case from Leith, North Dakota, where white supremacists have been trying, literally, to take over the tiny town and form an all-white community of it.  From an article:
Leith City Councilman Lee Cook said he was outside his home Saturday with Gregory Bruce, the city’s website administrator, looking for a location to install surveillance cameras due to concerns for his family’s safety since Cobb moved to town. 
Within about 10 minutes, Cobb and Dutton approached them carrying a rifle and a shotgun, staying on the street but coming right up to Cook’s property line, Cook said.
“We weren’t more than 10 feet away,” Bruce said. 
Cobb, 62, and Dutton, 29, held the guns high and then lowered them, but didn’t speak and did not point the guns directly at the men, Bruce said. 
“Dutton, he had the gun in a position where he was ready to shoot,” Cook said. “I just looked right at him and didn’t say a thing and picked up the phone and dialed 911.” 
Cobb and Dutton then continued walking through the streets of Leith carrying their firearms with a woman believed to be Dutton’s wife, Deborah Dutton, following with a cellphone camera, Bruce said. 
It took at least an hour before the Grant County Sheriff’s Office arrived, Cook said. 
“They just walked around like they owned the town,” Cook said. “The whole point was, they’re trying to drive people out by terrorizing to them.” 
Bruce said Cobb and Dutton followed a local woman around town with their guns and yelled obscenities at her. 
“It’s all intimidation,” Bruce said.
The men were arrested for terrorizing, but "open carry" is allowed in North Dakota, so this sort of blatant intimidation is the natural outcome.

And then there is this case, from another tiny town:  New Castle, Virginia, where extremists convinced the tourism board to have an "exercising rights" day to parade around with their guns.  Good luck getting tourists there now!

ADDENDUM (11/26/13):  HERE is a good article about how the open carry movement is a scare campaign designed to incite confrontation. From the article:
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "In a post Aurora-Newtown environment, it's a reckless and irresponsible stunt to strut around in public with an assault-style weapon and think police should assume you're well-intentioned.”
At another stop this fall, also taped and posted to YouTube, an exasperated responding officer pleads with Branstrom, again carrying his rifle, this time in a school zone. “Do you realize what you’re doing could cost us, me, my second amendment rights? Because this is so egregious to the general public that it’s going to cause them to make decisions legally that are going to restrain us.” ..
And so, the logic of open carry goes, regular exposure to armed “good guys”—on the street, at the farmers’ market, at Starbucks—will act as immersion therapy for the needlessly frightened. And if it doesn’t work? If people are still alarmed by the sight of the armed?
“Grow the hell up,” Idehen suggests in one of his many online videos hosted on the NRA’s website. “You don’t have a right to feel safe by taking away or severely limiting people’s means to protect themselves. We aren’t in kindergarten anymore where you’re allowed to wallow in your false sense of importance by limiting other people because of how you think it makes you feel.”
ADDENDUM (12/4/13):  See HERE for a sickening video, wherein a pro-gun advocate urges "open carry" citizens to resist police, openly calls for insurrection, and even advocates attacking police if they feel that their interpretation of the law doesn't match the police's.  "Do you have enough of a spine to draw that line?" she asks.  She even attempts to compare such gun carriers / police-attackers to Revolutionary War patriots.

UPDATE (4/29/14):  White supremacist, Craig Cobb, who attempted to take over the small town of Leith, North Dakota, with his hate-fueled buddies and openly intimidated residents with guns, has now been convicted of felony terrorizing, but was given only four months probation.  Residents are scared.  From an article:
Leith Mayor Ryan Schock, who had wanted a 4-year prison term for Cobb, said outside the court that it would take a long time for the town to recover. 
"When are we going to be safe from him? He has made his mark on our lives," Schock said. .... 
The terms of Cobb's probation bar him from having contact with victims, but Cook, one of the victims in the case, said he had been given no information on where Cobb will be going. He and mayor Schock said they worry whether the town will be safe — especially since Cobb gave three of his Leith lots to white separatist Tom Metzger, National Socialist Movement Commander Jeff Schoep and white supremacist Alex Linder. 
"It's a failure of justice," Cook said. "This guy gets off. He made our lives a living hell and now he's walking the streets again."  .... 
"They were out looking for a reason to shoot us," Cook said. "Just like the guy in Kansas City who gunned down a 14-year-old boy — they're buddies." 
Cobb has acknowledged a friendship with Frazier Glenn Cross, who is accused of killing three people at Jewish sites in Kansas earlier this month. Cobb told The Associated Press earlier that he spoke with Cross just three days before the killings but that the allegations against Cross have nothing to do with him.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Yet Another Tragic Example Of A Failure In Gun Regulation

Reserve officer Robert Libke (image source)
Last Sunday, firefighters and police responded to a house fire in the town of Oregon City, Oregon, a suburb of Portland.  The neighbors called it in, saying that a house was ablaze and that the man who lived there was "running around on the property with a gun."  That man was 88-year-old Lawrence Cambra, armed with a rifle and a handgun.  According to an article:

Josh Wenzel, 25, saw flames and rushed to help. Cambra came out of his garage with his hair singed and covered in soot. "I did this," Wenzel heard him say. "I started the fire." 
"He didn't seem to be in his right mind," Wenzel said. "He wasn't frantic or worried."

One of the first to arrive was a reserve officer, 41-year old Robert Libke.  Libke confronted Cambra, yelling twice for Cambra to drop his weapon.  Cambra responded by shooting Libka in the face (see HERE for details on the shooting and response).

SWAT responded and traded fire with Cambra and hitting him.  Cambra died at the scene, but the fatal wound turned out to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The house fire, which was almost certainly arson, was eventually extinguished by the fire department after several hours. 

Sadly, officer Libke died from his wound.  He was the first Oregon City officer to be killed in the line of duty since 1906.  Reserve officers like Libke are volunteers, meaning he was protecting his community without even getting paid to do so.  Our men and women in blue are heroes every day, but Libke was especially so, since he purposely put himself in harm's way for the good of the community without even getting compensated for it.  According to an article:
Outside of being a volunteer Oregon City cop, Libke worked at the steel mill where Demus works. Libke held a full-time job as supervisor at the EVRAZ Oregon steel mill. EVRAZ has a structural and rolling mill in Portland, Ore.

He also leaves behind a wife who is pregnant with their first child, making this horror story all the more tragic.

In recognition of Libke's ultimate sacrifice, a procession of police cars escorted his body to the funearl home, a candlelight vigil was held by members of his community, and, according to an article, the Governor’s Commission for the Medal of Honor voted unanimously to present reserve officer Libke’s family with the Medal of Ultimate Sacrifice.
Although Libke volunteered his services, his family is eligible to be considered for Oregon Public Safety Memorial Fund benefits, including a $25,000 lump sum payment. A board may approve discretionary benefits including health and dental reimbursement for Libke’s family, mortgage payments for up to a year and scholarship considerations for his unborn child, according to the State Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. 
As for his life when not volunteering to protect his community,Libke had also worked at Evraz, a North Portland steel company, where he was a general supervisor in charge of 60 people. His coworkers were shocked by Libke's death.

"I think he thought he was there to calm a guy down whose house was on fire," said Bruce Iredale, Vice President of Evraz. "He wanted to help people and he was good at it." 

A fund has been set up in Libke's name, and a memorial is being planned.

But what about the monster who committed this heinous act?  Well, it turns out that Cambra wasn't
Shooter Lawrence Cambra (source)
a nice man.  Police had responded to his home dozens of times.  He had a history of violence which included pulling a gun on some painters who had wanted him to move his car out of the way of potentially being splashed with paint.  When someone complained about him keeping homing pigeons in his back yard, Cambra responded by shooting all the pigeons to death instead of moving them.  Said one ex-neighbor of Cambra's,
“I avoided him,” Cook said. “I knew what he was capable of. So - he wouldn't say a thing to you, he'd just go get a gun and shoot you.” 

His most recent neighbors were also in fear of the man, saying he was unfriendly, untrustworthy, and angry.  One of those neighbors reported that Cambra had been in a fight with his longtime domestic partner, who left in a huff just before the fire and craziness began.  It turns out that Cambra had once had a restraining order against him, filed by that partner, which was eventually dropped.  From an article:
"His girlfriend or wife left maybe 30 minutes before fire started at house," said neighbor Pam Laird. "She was nervous, trying to call somebody." 
Court records show the girlfriend filed a restraining order against Cambra in 2012, and that officers have been called to the home nearly a dozen times. 
In her own handwriting his girlfriend says "Cambra said he was going to get a gun and get rid of a few people and himself -- and that I 'should watch my back.'" 
Court documents indicate the restraining order was later withdrawn. But neighbors recall a mean streak with the 88-year-old man. 
"He caused a lot of enemies in the neighborhood," said one. 
The last time Laird saw Cambra alive, he was pounding on her back door and trying to get in. She refused.
"I've never let him in my house," Laird said. "He wasn't a nice man, ever."

Wow.  And yet, despite the history of drawing a gun on people, shooting to death his own pets, anger issues, and even having had a restraining order against him, it was perfectly legal for this man to own as many guns as he wished.

This is the sad result. 

But stories like this happen all the time in America, so much so that it hardly rises above regional news headlines.  It's not even the first time that people have fired on emergency personnel responding to a fire.  Consider this case from New York, this case from Nevada, this one from Iowa, or this one from Alabama.

It's a dilemma that I've personally heard from officers, deputies, and even my police chief.  They are always bumping up against the current definition of gun rights and the Fourth Amendment.  It doesn't matter how violent and crazy a person is or how much he is feared by the community, friends, and family -- if he hasn't been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, doesn't have a warrant for his arrest, and hasn't yet committed a felony, there isn't anything they can do.  That lunatic is free to amass as large of an arsenal as he wishes and there's nothing anyone can do about it....

... until he pulls the trigger.

The Oregon City shooting is a prime example of how we need to change the law.  We need to stop putting "gun rights" over the welfare of the people and their right to live without fear.  We need to have the law take into account the opinion of relatives and neighbors on the gun owner's level of sanity and self control (as Japan and Canada do).  And we need to have a mental health system that more clearly defines when a person can be referred by police to psychiatric evaluation and when an individual is determined to be a threat to themselves and others, to have them held and to have their gun rights revoked until they are determined to no longer be a threat.

The best way to honor the memory of Officer Libke is by working to keep guns out of the hands of lunatics like Cambra.