Thursday, January 30, 2014

Three Polls Confirm That Oregonians Want Universal Gun Background Checks

At this moment, Oregon senators are considering a very important bill in the state of Oregon:  Senate Bill 1551.    Read the language of the draft bill HERE.  This bill, if passed, would extend background checks to every gun sale and transfer in the state of Oregon, except to immediate family.  

The bill is desperately needed.  Despite the lies of opponents, it does not create a gun registry or permanent record of gun purchases, and with an average of only 5 minutes for each background check, and four times the number of gun dealers in our state who can run the check than there are post offices, it is hardly a hardship for a law-abiding citizen to make a purchase.

As U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall pointed out in her guest post here at New Trajectory this week, "In Oregon, 2,378 gun sales were stopped in 2012 after buyers failed a background check" when purchasing from licensed dealers and at Oregon gun shows.  The vast majority, 80%, of those were denied to convicted felons.  But every one of those rejected gun buyers could very easily turn around and answer a private ad, go online, or meet someone in a parking lot, and buy a gun in a private sale with no background check at all.  As Ms. Marshall continued, "Nationwide, about 40 percent of guns are bought from private parties without a background check. Those seeking to avoid scrutiny can easily do so."

With the failure of our federal legislators to pass a universal background check requirement, despite the support of an astonishing 90% of Americans, including 75% of NRA members, we must instead act here, in Oregon, to pass a commonsense bill to protect our communities.

But don't just take my word for it.  Take the word of Oregonians.  In three separate polls, they showed support for such a bill in overwhelming numbers, mirroring national polls.

POLL #1:  The most recent poll came out this week, by Public Policy Polling.  As reported in the Statesman Journal:

The poll asked 710 voters in the Beaver State whether they supported or opposed requiring a criminal background check before a person could buy a firearm – 78 percent were in favor, 17 percent opposed and 4 percent of respondents weren’t sure.
Pollsters also asked whether respondents would be more or less likely to support a candidate who opposed expanding background checks for gun sales. They found that 50 percent of people said they would be less likely to support the candidate while 29 percent said more likely.
That's 78% for and 17% against.  A HUGE margin.  And if you don't vote for it, the constituents would be less likely to vote for you.

You can see the full language of the questions and all the answers HERE.  There were approximately equal percentages of gun owners and non-gun owners, Republicans, Democrats, and independents, and both genders.  

Pro-gun hardliners tried to dismiss the poll, saying it was worded in some leading manner (which they couldn't name), or that it was run by a liberal firm and therefore to be dismissed.  Or snidely dismissed polls altogether.  One pro-gun senator stated, "I can get poll results to say anything I want."  I urge him to try.  Not one single poll, anywhere in the country, has cast doubt on the widespread support for universal background checks for gun sales.  And they know it.  Pro-gun hardliners will do anything they can to keep it from reaching a vote, or even discussing the issue.

POLL #2:  In February of 2013, the Oregonian sponsored a statewide survey of gun issues.  As stated in their article on the poll:

The Jan. 29-31 survey of 504 Oregon adults was conducted by Elway Research Inc., of Seattle, an independent pollster. It carries a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points, plus or minus. ....
The poll found that 81 percent of Oregonians supported the more expansive background checks while only 16 percent were opposed.

That's 81% for and 16% against.  Another HUGE margin.

The full results and language of the questions can be found HERE.  Once again, the poll was fairly evenly divided between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, gun owners and non-gun owners, and both genders.

POLL #3:  One month earlier, in January of 2013, KATU News of Portland sponsored another independent survey by SurveyUSA, of 500 adult Oregonians.  From an article by them:

When asked whether criminal background checks should be required for every person who wants to buy a new gun, 90 percent of people polled said they should be required. Seven percent said “no” and four percent were not sure.
That poll’s margin of error was +/- 2.7 percent.

That's 90% for and 7% against.  Yet another HUGE margin -- the biggest of all three polls. 

Full results and the language of the questions can be found HERE.  There were actually more gun owners (51%) than non-gun owners (41%).  Once again, the respondents were fairly evenly split between Republicans, Democrats, and independents, and both genders. 

With all three polls showing VAST support for universal gun background checks for all gun sales, one has to wonder who, exactly, the opponents are representing.  If a legislator votes against SB 1551, they would not be representing Oregon.

Statistics show states requiring a background check have lower rates of gun violence, including a 38 percent lower rate of domestic violence homicide with a firearm (2010 data from the FBI and the State of Florida), and a 49 percent lower rate of suicide with a firearm (2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control). In addition, after Missouri repealed universal background checks in 2007, the gun murder rate in the state rose 25 percent (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives).  With statistics like this, the course is clear.

With gun crimes rampant in Oregon in the hands of criminals, it's time to do the right thing for the safety of our communities.  It's time to represent the people of Oregon and not just a small number of vocal hardliners.  We call on Oregon legislators to support SB 1551 and create a new trajectory for our state away from gun violence.

ADDENDUM (2/2/14):  An op-ed on the need for background checks in Oregon, written by Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon. in the Statesman Journal.  From the article:
Data from numerous states attest that conducting a background check for every gun sale is an effective way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous individuals and to reduce gun violence. Closing the background check loophole will not eliminate gun violence in Oregon, but no one has claimed it would. It is a proposal that is overwhelmingly supported by people, including gun owners, and it is time for the Legislature to adopt it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Remarks On Gun Violence From U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall

U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall
On January 28 in Portland, the Oregon Alliance to Prevent Gun Violence, of which Ceasefire Oregon is a member, met for a strategy summit.  We were proud to have, as the opening speaker, S. Amanda Marshall, the United States Attorney for the District of Oregon.  

Nominated by President Barack Obama in November of 2010, Ms. Marshall was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in September of 2011.  As the chief federal law enforcement officer in Oregon, she oversees prosecution of all federal crimes and civil matters on behalf of the United States.  She manages a staff of more than 100 people in three offices in Portland, Eugene and Medford.

Thank you, Ms. Marshall, for your continued work to make our communities safer!

Below is the text of her remarks from the Summit around the issues of gun violence and the need for universal background checks for gun purchases, published with her approval as a guest blogger:

Thank you Oregon Alliance to Prevent Gun Violence for inviting me today and for the work you do to enhance the safety of all Oregonians. It’s a privilege to stand with so many dedicated community leaders as we continue our discussion about how we can – and why we must – take action to prevent the gun violence that devastates too many lives and communities every day.

Horrific events of the recent past in Aurora, Colorado; in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Newtown, Connecticut; and here in Clackamas - were shocking reminders of how gun violence devastates communities.  On a daily basis, these unspeakable tragedies are compounded by countless individual tragedies that take place on our streets, often unnoticed; and that too frequently take the lives of our children.

 For me – and for my colleagues across the Justice Department – responding to this senseless violence, and preventing future tragedies, constitutes a top priority.   That’s why, last year, Attorney General Eric Holder, along with Vice President Biden and a number of Cabinet members created a comprehensive plan for reducing gun violence and making our neighborhoods and schools more secure.   The plan included a range of legislative proposals – along with a series of 23 executive actions, most of which the Justice Department has made significant progress in implementing. 

 For instance, the Department is investing more than $20 million this fiscal year to strengthen the firearm background check system – by improving states’ abilities to share information with the NICS.   This grant funding is intended to enhance reporting of prohibiting mental health information, convictions, and active warrants.   In addition, last September, the Attorney General issued guidance to all federal agencies that will require federal law enforcement to trace all guns recovered in investigations.   Justice Department is also continuing to review gun safety technology innovations – and taking a look at all prohibitors.

My office aggressively prosecutes crimes involving the unlawful use and possession of firearms. In fact, the District of Oregon ranks third in the Ninth Circuit, ahead of much larger offices.

One in every five cases prosecuted federally in Oregon last year involved illegal use or possession of a firearm. Most of Oregon homicides and suicides involve a firearm.

We prosecute offenders through our project safe neighborhood initiative that woks with state, federal, tribal, and local law enforcement partners to put armed career criminals behind bars. We also work with the ATF, and other law enforcement agencies, in more targeted and proactive investigations to get guns out of the hands of criminals on our streets. 

One of those investigations has gotten some press recently.  What the coverage fails to point out is that Operation Kraken, an undercover, storefront investigation in 2010, led to the seizure of 80 guns from drug dealers and drug users, convicted felons, undocumented foreign nationals and gang members or combinations thereof.   

This investigation was designed to remove a large number of gun-toting criminals from the community and to seize the firearms they had access to, and that is exactly what happened. The 48 people prosecuted in this case had a combined total of 340 arrests and 125 felony convictions for things like assault, rape, robbery, burglary, and drug dealing.  Not people we want walking around with guns. Unfortunately these successful public safety outcomes have been lost, or simply not relevant to the narrative the reporter was trying to spin.

In addition to enforcement, we need better laws to give us tools to keep guns it of the hands of criminals.

Requiring all gun purchasers to undergo a criminal background check is a rational way to fill the gaping hole in our current system that allows crooks to bypass the process most gun owners willingly go through. The procedure takes about five minutes and every year prevents about 80,000 prohibited people nationwide from getting a gun.  In Oregon, 2,378 gun sales were stopped in 2012 after buyers failed a background check.

Nationwide, about 40 percent of guns are bought from private parties without a background check. Those seeking to avoid scrutiny can easily do so. Recent polls show that 94 percent of police chiefs, 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of all Americans support universal background checks. Still, lawmakers, both State and Federal, failed to pass legislation that would have fixed the loophole.

Would expanding background checks end gun violence? Certainly not. We need proactive, multidisciplinary strategies that address youth and gang violence, an overhaul of our mental health system, and a cultural shift toward compassion and community and away from cynicism and isolation.

But while we are working on that, we should note that states requiring background checks for all gun sales have seen gun trafficking reduced by half and a significant decrease in domestic violence homicides where guns were used.

Lawbreakers will continue to commit crimes. But as crime fighters, we need tools that make it harder for criminals to obtain guns and hold those who help them accountable. Don't we owe it to our children and families to do whatever we can?

I know that, with the support of countless ordinary citizens – and the expertise and assistance of the leaders in this room – we can take the common-sense steps we need to stop gun violence and keep deadly weapons from falling into the wrong hands.   I recognize, as you do, that there’s no easy fix for addressing these challenges and confronting their underlying causes.   But I also know that those whose lives have been impacted by gun violence – the victims and the survivors – are depending on us.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It Turns Out That Raffling Off An Assault Rifle Is A Great Way To Demonstrate How Out Of Touch You Are

(UPDATED -- see below)

If you wish to appeal to the most hardline conservative gun lovers, one surefire way is to use assault rifles.  Nothing gets their blood boiling more than remembering the Federal Assault Weapons Ban which banned sale of new assault weapons in the 90's, and it continues to be a goal of gun violence prevention advocates, such as myself, to reinstate the ban.  To these gun lovers, nothing says "freedom" more than firing up to 600 rounds per minute with an AR-15 (yes, that's with a semi-auto form with only minor modification, or simply by using "bump fire" shooting).  Owning one of these babies isn't about hunting or defense, it's about the tactical coolness factor of owning one, and as a political statement ... or committing mass shootings (over half of all mass shootings used semi-auto assault rifles or high-capacity ammo magazines, in fact, which would have been banned by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban).

Last week, the GOP party of Multnomah County, Oregon, took full advantage of this and announced a special fundraiser.  At $10 a ticket, they offered a chance to win your very own AR-15.  This is the third time they've done this in less than a year!  This one is to have the winner announced on February 15 at a Lincoln Day dinner, with the guest speaker being the father of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (another ultra-conservative GOP hardliner).

Multnomah County GOP Chairman Jeff Reynolds said, “We are here to reaffirm our strong defense of the Second Amendment and the right to personal protection. The Bill of Rights is inviolable, despite what the gun-grabbers in Salem might try.”

Reynolds went on to say, “We’ve recently caught wind that the Democrats in Salem, led once again by Ginny Burdick, will attempt to take away our personal right to bear arms. The Multnomah County Republican Party remains steadfast in its dedication to defeating such efforts.”  ....

"... One right you just don't try to take away is the right of an Oregonian to own guns."

And how are "the Democrats in Salem" trying to "take away our personal right to bear arms" exactly?  By submitting a bill for background checks for all gun sales and transfers.  To these gun hardliners, requiring a buyer to take a 5-minute background check to make sure the gun isn't being sold to a felon is simply too much to ask, and in their minds equates to taking away all of their guns entirely!  Paranoia like that isn't going to do their party any good, I'm afraid. 

After all, according to a poll conducted for the Oregonian newspaper of Portland last year, 81% of Oregonians supported universal background checks, while only 16% opposed it.  Another poll, conducted for KATU news of Portland around the same time, found an even larger divide, with 90% support for universal background checks, and only 7% opposing.  Wow!  With results like that, one has to wonder who the Multnomah GOP is representing.  Is it really only 7-16% of Oregonians?

Around 2000 prohibited people, mostly felons, each year try to buy guns from gun dealers in Oregon and fail a background check.  Currently they can turn around and buy one in a private sale, no background check needed.  The Multnomah County GOP is just fine with that.

But, hey, why stop there?  Why not kick it up a notch with their raffle announcement ...

Here's the real kicker.  The GOP announcement says  that they are holding the rally to "celebrate the legacy of two great Republicans," Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln!

When I read that, I literally burst out laughing.  I simply couldn't control myself.  Not only was King NOT a Republican, but he was a man who literally gave his life for peace and non-violence.  And, as with Lincoln, he was shot to death!  I can't imagine someone who is LESS a poster boy for gun-loving Republican ultra-conservatives!  Who will they pick for their next honoree?  Ghandi?  And as for Lincoln, a noted Lincoln historian says that the President wouldn't even recognize his party today.

[The odd note here is that King did apply for a conceal carry permit (and was turned down because he was black), and he did briefly own a gun in his home, for protection.  But he realized fairly quickly that not only was having a gun in the home a danger for his children, but it went against his principles of peace and non-violence.  He then discarded his gun and forbid his bodyguards from carrying them too.  Read the truth about this in this article by Salon.]

This obscene assertion by the Multnomah County GOP immediately drew calls of dishonor from the nation.  Reverend Chuck Currie stated it best, in his article at Huffington Post:

Multnomah County includes the city of Portland. Republicans don't win in the City of Roses. Democrats control every statewide elected office, including the two U.S. Senate seats, in Oregon. Gut wrenching stunts like this might be part of the reason. ....
You do not honor men killed by gun violence by putting more guns on the street. Instead you work to reduce gun violence and work to bring reconciliation to a fractured nation.
Reconciliation of the American community was a foundational goal sought by both Lincoln and King.
Nor do you lie about who they were or what they stood for. ...

Well, this lie, and the outrage it created, backfired on the GOP.  Not only are they now a laughing stock, but they have been denied the venue they had booked for the raffle dinner, where the winner was to be announced.  The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in northeast Portland withdrew its support and said it would no longer host the GOP for the event.  

From an article that also quoted Reverend Currie:

Chuck Currie, a United Church of Christ minister and longtime political activist, said he was among those urging Holy Trinity not to allow its facilities to be used for the Republican event.
"You don't honor a minister who preached non-violence by auctioning off the same kind of weapon used in the mass killings of children" at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., said Currie, who wrote a column on the subject for the Huffington Post.

In the wake of all this negative publicity, Multnomah Republican Chairman Jeff Reynolds backtracked and issued an "apology."  Okay, it wasn't really an apology.  In fact, even though it used the words "we apologize," it was anything but.  The only thing they apologized for was that "those who disagree with us politically" were "hurt by the message being marred by insufficient wording and/or cynical misinterpretations."  It went on to give some token acknowledgements to the legacy of Dr. King, then launched into a diatribe about how the "freedom to defend our lives under the Second Amendment" (among other perceived injustices) are "under attack."

Then, just as bad and their initial blunder, they then stated, "The great political issue today is whether or not the American people of all creeds and races will live free or live as slaves - slaves to their own overreaching government."  As if the "slavery" of any of today's political issues were in any way comparable to hundreds of years of real slavery and oppression that King and Lincoln fought to end!

It's just another example of how the GOP has failed to change.  Sticking to the same old hard-line agenda, and shifting even more to the right, no less, only illustrates how tone-deaf the Multnomah GOP has become, particularly on the issue of gun rights.

Last year, in their attempts to derail the conversation on the gun issue and intimidate those who they view as opponents, some pro-gun absolutists stalked a state legislator, Ginny Burdick, and even videotaped her as she worked around her house, posting it on the web.  Lo and behold, it was the same GOP party chairman, Jeff Reynolds, who openly defended the stalkers, saying that the person who took the video was "a friend" of his.

Starting to see a trend?  Is this really the sort of leadership that Oregon Republicans want? 

It's time Oregonians turn their back on pro-gun absolutists like the Mulnomah County GOP and back common sense legislation, such as universal background checks, and put our communities on a new trajectory away from gun violence.

UPDATE (1/26/14):  By the way, raffling off AR-15 assault rifles is becoming a trend by hardline GOP conservatives.  Consider, for instance, this announcement by an extreme pro-gun South Carolina GOP candidate:
Bright, who is competing along with three other Republicans to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham in the primary, announced the raffle in an email on Thursday, touting it as a show of his support for the Second Amendment.
“I know the anti-gun media may hate it,” Bright says in the email. “I know the political talking heads may sneer as they continue blaming guns and law-abiding gun owners for the acts of thugs and madmen. But I am THE pro-gun, pro-Constitution candidate in this race for the U.S. Senate — and I can’t think of a better way to get that word out than by giving away a brand new AR-15.”
Here's one GOP candidate from Georgia who is doing the same:
Broun, perhaps seeking to distinguish himself in a crowded Republican primary field, sent an email to supporters Friday offering up a free gun to push back against "the Democrats and liberal media" who "would love to take away our guns and mandate every aspect of our lives," according to the paper.
"As one of the most conservative members of Congress, and a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I am constantly under attack for my values and beliefs," the email read. "Today I'm fighting back. How would you like to start off 2014 with a brand new AR-15 for free?"
Here's one from December, by the Republican Party of Arizona:
Raymond Jones, chairman of the Legislative District 26 Republicans, told Phoenix television station KTVK he was unaware the first anniversary of the shooting is Saturday and said he "might have considered another weapon" if he had known.
Sure he was...  They even joked about the poor timing of it, but others weren't amused. Another sign of the tone-deaf nature of these gun hardliners.  From another article:

"We don't do raffles hardly at all,  mainly for Christmas and for shock value," joked Craig Ray. ....
But the timing of the raffle has some scratching their heads, because it was held days before the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre.

"To raffle off an AR15, a military-style assault rifle, the same rifle used to murder those children almost a year ago, is completely inappropriate," said District 26 Democratic committee chairman Randy Keating in response. His group is collecting money for a group called Arizonans for gun safety.

"No one's denying it's their right to do this," said Keating. "We all have rights to do things that are incredibly poor taste."
And here's a raffle from last October, by the Republican Party of Rhode Island:
The state party is in lock step with the National Rifle Association, which will run its own online “banned guns” raffle later this month, offering a dozen assault rifles that the association triumphantly notes Congress failed to ban after the Newtown schoolhouse massacre. 
Here's one by a Texas Republican congressman from last May:
The debate in Congress over gun laws continues to wage, but Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Tex., isn't letting it hinder his pro-gun advocacy: Wednesday night he announced he's raffling off an assault rifle on his campaign website.

"Want to win a FREE AR-15? Congressman Steve Stockman is giving one away!" reads a message on his campaign's Twitter feed. "Grab this gun before Obama does!"
The list goes on.  A quick Google search shows others.  Sad that they would consider raffling off a highly-lethal weapon as a means of getting quick money.  Says a lot about their priorities, doesn't it?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Securing Our Schools

Below is an interesting graphic which the administrators at Security Degree Hub asked us to share.  There are some good facts and references here, and they are an organization which is neutral on the issue of gun rights.

See additional text and source links at their site, HERE.

Securing Schools
Security Degree Hub

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mikhail Kalashnikov, Inventor Of The AK-47 Assault Rifle, Regretted It On His Deathbed

Mikhail Kalashnikov with an AK-47 assault rifle (source)
Mikhail Kalashnikov was an inventor.  He started inventing things soon after he joined the Red Army tank brigade, after his family was sent to Siberia during the Soviet purges.  He invented a tank shot counter, a time meter, and even an electric lawnmower.  But the invention that made him famous was an assault rifle -- the AK-47. 

Designed over the course of 6 years, what he ended with in 1947 was a very rugged and reasonably reliable, fully-automatic killing machine which was quickly adopted by the Red Army, anywhere in the world that they fought.  It is cheap to make, easy to maintain, and has a reputation of being very dependable even in the worst environments.

"I made it to protect the motherland," he is quoted as saying.

But the weapon wasn't just in Soviet army hands.  It wasn't long before the gun, and its variants, were in the hands of terrorists, jihadis, and Soviet-armed allies all over the world.  It is still one of the most preferred weapons.  It is arguably the most fired gun in the world, and has been used to kill millions of people and launch revolutions, including in the hands of child soldiers.  It's estimated that there are at least 100 million of the guns currently in use around the world.

The AK-47 also has become popular with gun nuts in the United States.  Even the little pawn and gun store down the street from me sells a semi-auto version of the AK-47.  "We sell AK-47s!" a sign reads out front.

Last December, Mikhail Kalashnikov died of natural causes at the age of 97:

The flag of Hezbollah, featuring an AK-47 (source)
As his rifles became synonymous with terrorists and rebel armies he was asked if he regretted engineering the weapon that probably killed more than any other.
“I invented it for the protection of the Motherland. I have no regrets and bear no responsibility for how politicians have used it,” he told them.
In fact, he earned many awards and was regarded as a hero of his nation.  He never profited from his deadly invention.

But as the years went by, he began to regret his invention, slowly at first.  Also from that article:

“I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists,” he said once.
“I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower.”

And in the last few days, news broke about statements that Kalashnikov had made on his deathbed.  This inventor, who had made a weapon to protect his nation's interest, watched over the decades as that weapon was turned against Russian soldiers, against other nations, against citizens by militant extremists, and even against innocent citizens in far away American streets.

Said Mr. Kalashnikov in his deathbed confession to his priest that he felt "spiritual pain" for his lethal invention:

But he wrote to the Patriarch of the Russian church  said the designer felt a degree of guilt  and “ spiritual pain” towards the end of his life for inventing the killing machine.
The letter published by Russian newspaper Izvestia quotes his daughter, Elena, saying she believes a priest helped her father compose the letter, which said:” My spiritual pain is unbearable.”
He asks: “I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I... a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?
“The longer I live “the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man to have the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression”.
The letter is typed on Kalashnikov’s own personal notepaper and with the wavering signature  describing himself as “a slave of God, the designer Mikhail Kalashnikov”.

And since pro-gun extremists love all things that go "boom," particularly assault rifles, they naturally praise the weapon and its designer, even though he was part of the big, bad evil communist Russia and his invention was used to mow down Americans in every war we've fought since Korea.

Just read what the gun guys have to say about Kalashnikov, his death, and his lethal weapon, on the pro-gun forums and web comments section:

"Damn that sucks. Father of the most famous assault rifle. RIP Mikhail!" (source)

"I just told my AK about it. We had a good cry together. RIP to one of the greatest weapons designers of the 20th century." (source)

"The world has lost a true genius and a hero today." (source)

"Guess I'll fire a 21 gun salute from my own AK-47 variant." (source)

"Rest in Peace. The master tinkerer's invention has probably done more to shape world events than any ideology." (source)

"It was an honor to live in the same century with him." (source)

Here's one gun nut firing through 700 rounds of ammo with his AK-47 in honor of Kalashnikov's passing.  The heat from firing the gun actually causes the wood on the barrel to start smoking.  Say's the shooter, "What can you say? The guns just don't stop runnin'."  See below:

Some people would say that having such a fascination with lethal weapons and their inventors is a sign of mental illness.

Nevermind that the semi-auto version of the AK-47 has been used over and over again to threaten, rob, maim, and kill untold numbers of Americans in our homes and streets.  HERE are some examples, just involving children, that have been posted at the Kid Shootings blog, over the last year or so, including the death of a baby, a 13-year old girl shot by her 19-year old brother with his personal AK-47, two teens killed while riding on ATVs, two boys ages 11 and 14 injured in Miami, and a 5-year old girl here in Oregon shot by a man in the apartment below when he stupidly used his AK-47 as a "crutch."  Cases aren't so hard to find.

So was Kalashnikov a hero or a villian? 
9-month old Delric Miller, killed by an AK-47 in Detroit.

You can't blame a man for designing a weapon meant to be used to defend his nation.  Someone has to do it.  And can you really blame him for mis-use of that weapon?  Probably not.  Though I can say that I don't think I would be able to design a lethal weapon, knowing full well that people would be killed and maimed by my handiwork, and that, like every weapon, it would in some manner wind up in the wrong hands.  Plenty of Russians, jihadists, and revolutionaries would consider him a hero.  Just don't say that to anyone who has lost a loved one or been maimed by an AK-47.

No, the real problem, for us in the United States, is that weapons like the AK-47 have wound up in on our streets, freely available to be bought by anyone -- not just with a background check in a store, but without a background check in a private sale just about anywhere in the U.S.  And, all too often, that gun will wind up in the hands of those who would use them for evil, intentionally or not.  They are designed, by Mr. Kalashnikov, to kill large numbers of people quickly and efficiently.  And, sadly, the AK-47 is being held up as some sort of symbol here in America by the pro-gun crowd who are buying them in record numbers.  Those guns will likely outlive those who purchase them.

Good-bye, Mikhail, but please pardon me if I have no sympathy for your end-of-life regrets.  Your weapons work remarkably well, and homes in the U.S. are still being bloodied for it.

ADDENDUM: From a satirical piece on Kalashnikov's death:
“Comrade Kalashnikov will be buried in a pit of mud with full military honors,” said General-Major Saiga Molot, a spokesman for the Russian army. “After a week, we will exhume his body, clean it off, and put him back to work. We expect that there shall be no issue with his functions.” ....

While praised for his simple operation and ruggedness, Kalashnikov is also being remembered for his contributions to over 300 insurgencies, 524 known terrorist groups and at least 18 hostile regime changes.
“We will always be grateful to General Kalashnikov for giving us the inspiration for Kevlar,” said DuPont President and CEO Ellen Kullman. 
ADDENDUM:  No sooner had I posted this, when there was another shooting in the media involving an AK-47, this time by a 19-year old man firing the weapon in the streets of Vancouver, Washington.

ADDENDUM (1/29/14):  From a related article by the LA Times:
And at times, Kalashnikov himself seemed to sense this: 
“I am proud of my weapon but I am sad that terrorists use it,” he told the Russian online publication in 2009. “I wish I had invented a machine which people could use, which could do good for farmers — for example, a sowing machine.” 
A man does what a man does. Kalashnikov designed his weapon to defend his country. He’s not responsible for what happened to it later, to the deadly purposes for which it’s been used. 
But you can’t help thinking how much better off the world would be if he had invented the AK-47 sowing machine.