Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"The Interrupters"

With the recent passing of Rob Ingram, now is a good time to mention a recent independent documentary that is showing at theaters around the country right now.

A couple weeks ago, the Bijou Arts Theaters here in Eugene, Oregon showed "The Interrupters."  This is a documentary which focuses on the work of a non-profit group, Ceasefire Chicago (which isn't affiliated with Ceasefire Oregon, despite the name). 

The goal of Ceasefire Chicago is to treat gang violence like a public health disease.  Ex-gang members, who have done time and seen the errors of their ways, go out on the streets and find out where there are flare-ups in gang violence.  They then insert themselves, acting to mediate the violence and bring understanding between the two sides, preventing further violence and saving lives.  They don't ally themselves with one side or the other, and they don't work for the police.  In this way they are trusted by the gang members they are trying to save.  Further, they stay with the people they mediate, long-term, working to reduce the behaviors that led to the initial confrontation.  These ex-gang members are called "Violence Interrupters." 

The film follows a number of these Violence Interrupters as they go about their mediations, peering into their lives and what led them to this heroic work, and the way it is working.  Rob Ingram, having been a gang member in his youth, and having turned around and then led Portland's Office of Youth Violence Prevention, was very much like one of these Violence Interrupters.  It's a hard business, and success is never guaranteed.

I am very thankful to the Bijou Theater for showing "The Interrupters", for allowing me to briefly address one of the audiences, and allowing Ceasefire Oregon to have an information table in their lobby during the showings.  I had some good conversations with viewers of the film, afterward, and we got at least one new volunteer.  With the rise of gang activity and shootings in Eugene, gang violence is increasing a factor here as well.  Members of Ceasefire Oregon are actively involved in the Portland Gang Taskforce meetings; we may well need to have a presence on such a team in Eugene.

The pro-gun side likes to blame America's distressing gun crime statistics on gangs and drug dealers, so maybe this program is something that they can see as a solution to the problem, particularly since it isn't a program that emphasizes disarming the gang members.

Of course, interrupting the violence is only one part of an overall package of things that need done to reduce gang shootings.  We must also do what we can to limit the availability of guns to gangs and criminals in the first place (such as by requiring background checks for private sales and doing more to stop gun trafficking), more support for organizations that work to reduce urban poverty, unemployment, and under-education (such as the United Way), better funding of police forces, and perhaps stricter sentencing for violent criminals.

I urge you to see "The Interrupters" if you get a chance.  More cities need to have such an organization.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Portland Loses A True Leader

An important message from Ceasefire Oregon....

Dear Friends,

We are shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Rob Ingram, director of Portland's Office of Youth Violence Prevention. Rob was a friend to Ceasefire Oregon and the Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation, as well as a personal friend to many of our supporters and board members.

Rob Ingram was a gift to Portland. He reached out to young people to help them follow a path that would improve their lives. He listened to our youth. He listened to all of us. He was always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needed it.

I saw Rob every other Friday at the Gang Violence Task Force meeting. He always brought with him his indomitable energy, his endless patience, and his deepest compassion for all people in all walks of life.

His bright and ready smile will be missed forever.

He ended our meetings by saying, "Let's get to work!" I have a feeling that his true task has now just begun, so in his absence, let us now look to each other to lend a shoulder to our work and a hand to those in need.

We send our deepest sympathies to Rob's wife and five children. He spoke of them all with happiness and pride and a deep, unending love that made his eyes sparkle.

All of our lives are better now because of Rob Ingram.

Thank you, Rob. We all miss you.

Penny Okamoto
Executive Director
Ceasefire Oregon

A related article, from Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ceasefire Oregon strongly opposes the National Right-to-Carry-Act of 2011, H.R. 822.

We've just learned that the vote in the U.S. House of Representatives for the "Packing Heat on Your Street" bill (H.R. 822) is happening today.

H.R. 822 is so extreme it would allow dangerous, violent people from outside your state to carry loaded guns in your state, and your state would be powerless to stop them.

This drastic proposed law, called the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011” (H.R.822), would override state laws and put our communities and police officers at unnecessary risk.

States should have the right to determine who is eligible to carry firearms inside their borders. State, local, and tribal governments must maintain the ability to legislate concealed carry laws that best fit the needs of their communities.


State legislatures have decided their own standards for who can carry a loaded, concealed gun in their communities. For example:
  • 38 states do not issue permits to people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors, like assault or sex crimes.
  • 36 states do not issue permits to people under the age of 21.
  • 35 states require gun safety training to prove competency with a firearm.

Today, each state has the right to make its own decision about whether to accept other states’ concealed weapon permits. Some states have decided to not allow concealed weapon permits from other states whose laws were deemed too lax to protect public safety.
  • Nevada does not recognize concealed carry permits issued by Utah and Florida.
  • New Mexico does not recognize carry permits issued by Utah.
This legislation would eliminate all of these standards, reducing concealed carry permitting to the weakest state law imposed by Congress as a federal mandate.


Every sheriff and police officer in the country would have to honor concealed carry permits from all 50 states – if they could verify the validity of each state’s different type of permit.

More than 600 mayors, major national and local police organizations, and domestic violence prevention organizations oppose national concealed carry reciprocity. Congress rejected similar legislation in 2009.


-- Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
If H.R. 822 were to become law, our state would no longer be able to make its own decisions about who can carry a hidden, loaded gun in public. Domestic abusers, drug addicts, stalkers, criminals with violent arrest records, and people with absolutely no training could be granted a concealed gun permit in another state, and our state would have to honor it.

The American Bar Association opposes federal legislation that would force states to recognize permits or licenses to carry concealed weapons issued in other states.

-- International Association of Chiefs of Police
“H.R. 822 would severely undermine state concealed carry licensing systems by allowing out of state visitors to carry concealed firearms even if those visitors have not met the standards for carrying a concealed weapon in the state they are visiting. For example, some states require a person to show that they know how to use a firearm or meet minimum training standards before obtaining a concealed carry license. These states would be forced to allow out of state visitors to carry concealed weapons even if they do not meet that state’s concealed licensing standards.”

-- Mayors Against Illegal Guns 
This bill would override the laws of almost every state by forcing states to accept concealed handgun carry permits from every other state, even if the permit holder would not be allowed to carry or even possess a handgun in the state where he or she is traveling. That policy would undercut states’ rights and create serious problems for law enforcement.

-- National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)

-- National Latino Peace Officers Association

-- Police Foundation 

A RELATED ARTICLE from today's Register-Guard Newspaper:  "Stearns’ bill would significantly increase the number of people carrying weapons, increasing the risk to ordinary citizens and police officers."


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oppose the the “National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011” (HR 822)

In an effort to push their "more guns in more places for more people" agenda, the pro-gun lobby is working hard to dangerously reduce restrictions on concealed gun permitting, nationwide.  It's been a long-time scheme of theirs, and now is the moment when we need to act to prevent it.

Here is the official statement from Ceasefire Oregon on this dangerous bill:

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to pass the “National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011” (HR 822). This bill would override the laws of Oregon by requiring us to accept concealed handgun permits from other states even if that out-of-state permit does not require the same safety standards that Oregon requires.

This bill would undercut Oregon's state rights, create serious problems for law enforcement, and weaken Oregon's standards for granting people a license to carry a concealed handgun legally on our streets.

Currently, Oregon's law holds concealed handgun license (CHL) holders to higher standards than many other states. Oregon's requirements include handgun competence, character references, and that the applicant be at least 21 years of age. Oregon prohibits concealed carrying by dangerous criminals, including those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor, such as assault, harassment or driving while intoxicated, in the four years prior to applying for a CHL. Oregon also prohibits people who have an outstanding warrant or are required to register as a sex offender from obtaining a CHL. Many other states do not have these requirements or prohibitions. If HR 822 passes, these dangerous people could legally carry a concealed handgun in Oregon.

HR 822 would create serious problems for law enforcement. It will be very difficult to determine the validity of permits from all states because no national database exists to quickly identify those who legitimately hold a concealed carry permit. Permits can be easily forged. In addition, this bill would enable criminal traffickers who have concealed carry permits from other states to cars full of loaded guns into states with higher standards, like Oregon.

Some argue that a national concealed carry permit would be just like a driver's license, but that is not true. To obtain a driver’s license, people have to pass a test, prove their competency behind the wheel, and get a photo ID card. They must also register and insure their car. H.R. 822 would impose no comparable safeguards. 

Finally, there is no Second Amendment right to carry a concealed weapon outside the home. In Heller and McDonald, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to defend themselves with a handgun in their own home. The Supreme Court specifically said that reasonable regulations to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people are constitutional. Since Heller and McDonald, no federal court that has considered this issue has found a constitutional right to carry a concealed gun in public. 

During the 2011 Oregon legislative session, Ceasefire Oregon worked to stop a similar concealed carry reciprocity bill. The Oregon legislature recognized the danger of the bill and did not enact it. Now the NRA is trying to force reciprocity on all the states regardless of what each state has decided is best for its citizens.

You can find additional information about the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 at these websites:

New poll shows Americans want stronger gun laws. A new poll, taken Jan. 11–13, 2011, shows overwhelming support for several proposed laws to keep guns away from people who cannot lawfully own them. The poll shows that 86% of Americans, including 81% of gun owners, support requiring background checks for all gun sales. 94% of Americans favor requiring the reporting of lost and stolen weapons, a requirement that took effect in Portland this year. 58 percent of Americans support the banning of high-capacity ammunition magazines, while only 36% oppose such a ban. For more information, see the Mayors Against Illegal Guns website or this article by one of the pollsters.

Ceasefire Oregon works to reduce gun violence by advocating reasonable, effective gun laws. We educate the public and legislators about gun violence, lobby on behalf of bills that will help make our communities safer, and work to prevent the passage of bills that would make it easier for dangerous people to obtain and carry firearms.

We abhor the violence. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by all the shootings in Oregon and throughout the world.

About 30,000 people are killed by firearms in this country every year. More than twice as many are injured. This is a public health crisis of staggering proportions. Guns are too easily available to felons, fugitives, kids, and people with serious mental heath problems. To reduce gun violence, we must make it more difficult for people who cannot lawfully own guns to obtain them.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Preventable Hunting Accidents In Oregon

Here in western Oregon we are more than halfway through the hunting season, and the inevitable list of shooting accidents keep rolling in.

Now, I don't have a big beef with hunting.  My dad was a hunter.  A young friend of mine has shot two deer this year.  If someone wants to go out in the woods and get their macho on from shooting animals to death for food, more power to them.  It's a good survival skill, albeit one that isn't needed anymore in America.  I'll get my food from the store, thank you.  Year after year, more and more people agree with me, as hunting is on the decline in America.

One hopes that hunters are safe, obey the four rules, and identify their prey before shooting.  Sadly, wherever there are guns there are gun deaths.  Throw in testosterone-filled, trigger-happy men in an environment where ID of prey is more difficult, and you've got a recipe for tragedy.

Sadly, some hunters don't pay enough attention before they shoot.  Recently, an active Marine was shot dead while hiking.  The shooter mistook him for a bear.  The hunter bears 100% of the responsibility for pulling the trigger, and since the hiker wasn't lumbering on all fours, it's pretty hard to mistake a man for a bear.  Yet here we are.  This doesn't stop pro-gun extremists from blaming the hiker, though (see comments on THIS article) because of his dark clothing.  Interestingly, the shooter isn't facing charges.  Shucks, just another senseless accident, apparently.

Tragedy can be mediated with commonsense regulation.  Requirements for training in order to get a hunting license, for instance.  Or the requirement for hunters to wear an orange vest.

Last year the Oregon legislature considered mandating the wearing of orange vests by hunters, as many states do, to reduce the chances of accidental shootings.  Sadly, Oregon hunting organizations and pro-gun extremist groups fought the change.  Never mind obvious safety concerns; their problem was with government telling them what to do.  For example:

While the president of the Clatsop County chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association refuses to wear hunter orange, he is recommending that young hunters do.

"I wear blue," said Wendell Locke. "But I do recommend that the kids wear hunter orange so as they grow up they will be accustomed to it and will wear it the rest of their lives."

Locke, also the vice president of the Oregon Hunters Association, agrees that the bright orange colors are a good step in reducing shooting accidents among hunters, but he opposes the government regulating safety of the activity.

"You can't do anything anymore without the government telling you to do something," Locke said. "I just don't want to get involved with the government."

So, basically, even though he knows wearing orange makes sense to save his life and the lives of children, he's not going to wear it because "I just don't want to get involved with the government."  Not much of an example to the youngsters, is he?  Well, intelligence isn't a requirement for hunting, I guess.

The bill was passed, but the compromise was that only minors, aged 17 or younger, had to wear orange vests or hats.  Free orange hats were even being passed out to them.  Adults are free to get themselves killed.

Too bad adults weren't mandated.  It might have kept one tragedy from happening.  A father was trying to scare deer toward his son while they were hunting.  The son, mistaking the father as a deer, shot his father through the chest, injuring him.  Luckily he didn't die.  The father wasn't wearing orange.  His vest was brown.

This year, the Oregon legislature made it legal for hunters on ATVs and motorcycles to ride with a loaded, unlocked firearm while driving -- the only pro-gun measure to be passed this year in Oregon.  Never mind the obvious danger of accidental discharge.  The pro-gun extremists who pushed the bill scoffed at the idea that hunters could have accidents this way.  Yet, today, just such an accident was reported.  A son and father were elk hunting and had gotten their ATV stuck on a service road.  As he got off his vehicle, the son's rifle discharged, shooting his father in the leg.  Luckily no one was killed -- this time.  How many more accidents are needed to reverse this dangerous legislation?  How many need to die?  It's not an issue with Second Amendment freedoms, it's about common sense and safety.

But common sense isn't needed for hunting.  Consider the following case from Merlin, Oregon:  A man sees a deer in his yard, so he gets his rifle and shoots at it.  That's about as redneck as it gets, in my book.  Never mind that he's in a residential area.  He shot four times and killed the deer.  Unfortunately, only 100 yards away, an 11 year-old was shot in the leg by one of the bullets while waiting for his school bus.  Oops.  Shucks, just another accident.  Oh well.  What can you do?  Right?  At least the boy wasn't critically injured.  So far the shooter hasn't been charged. 

From 1990 - 2009, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife received reports of 170 hunting related firearms incidents of which 32 resulted in fatalities. Over the past 20 years, Oregon has averaged 8.5 incidents per year and 1.6 fatalities per year. From 1990-1994 there were an average of 13.4 incidents and three fatalities per year. From 2005-2009 there was an average of 4 incidents and 0.4 fatalities per year.  Looks like we'll be around the same percentages this year.

While you can't make hunters have common sense, you can at least reduce the chances of a mistake with mandated safety rules.  It's in the hunters' best interest to support these rules, to improve their image and protect their lives and the lives of those around them.

I'm an outdoorsman, but I'm not going hiking anytime soon.  Deer season ends November 30, and bear season ends December 31.  I'll wait until the bullets stop flying.

UPDATE (11/14/11):  Yet another accidental hunting shooting in Oregon reported today.  Elk hunter shoots his friend, thinking him an elk.  Of course, the friend wasn't wearing orange, and wasn't required to do so:

UPDATE (11/17/11):  The bear hunter is found guilty and charged with criminally negligent homicide for shooting the hiker:

ADDENDUM (12/7/11):  A pro-gun group tries to convince people that hunting is really, really, really safe, safer than bowling, golf, or cheerleading -- but laughably ignores information about hunting-related deaths, basically counting a hunting death and a sprained ankle in a sport as comparable "injuries":