Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review - Part I (gun-related crimes)

2011 is out, and 2012 is in.  Happy New Year's to you all.  I hope it has been a safe one for everyone reading this.

2011 was pretty deadly here in the Eugene / Springfield area of Oregon.  There have been 14 shootings reported in the media (though most suicides and accidents go unreported) in this small-town area.  This is the highest number of shootings for at least the last four years in my area (since I've been keeping track), and probably much longer.  9 dead, 6 injured.  That is only for my area, not for the rest of Oregon.  It has been a particularly deadly year in southern Oregon and over in the Coos Bay area, as well as Portland, but I'm not going into those here.

There were 2 murder/suicides in that number (here and here) in the Eugene area.  Questions still surround these, as there is no known motive for either of them, and no note.

For those of you convinced that drug dealers and gangs are responsible for most shootings, here in my area only 2 of the shootings are linked to them. Neither was fatal.  These don't count the accidental shooting (of a friend mistaken as a robber) at a medical marijuana grower in Springfield, or a shooting at another medical marijuana grower in Eugene.

There were also a record number of armed robberies.  A handful, 4 or 5, involved threats with knives.  About that many had only a note and no weapon.  But 27 armed robberies in my area had robbers who used guns.  Nearly all were of businesses or banks.  Luckily, none of them resulted in any injures.  And in none of them did anyone try to resist by drawing their own concealed weapon.  The bit of money the robbers were after is hardly worth a life-and-death shootout. 

There were two shootings at homes that were ruled as defensive, "justified" shootings.  One was a domestic dispute involving a property dispute between a man and his sister's partner, with questionable circumstances that led to the death of the brother (the shooter claimed he was attacked with a tire iron, but friends of the deceased claim the sister and her partner wanted the brother's land, and why did the partner walk out of the house to confront the deceased instead of calling the sheriff?).  The other was where two suspects invaded a legal marijuana grower's property to steal marijuana.  The homeowners pulled out a shotgun.  Can you guess who got injured?  Not the robbers. 

The shooting that made the most headlines was the death of a traffic cop, Officer Chris Kilcullen, at the hands of a dangerously mentally ill woman, Cheryl Kidd, during a traffic stop in April.  The shooter had been mentally ill for a long time, schizophrenic, and convinced that the police were out to shoot her.  She was so dangerously ill that her doctor had sent her to the hospital a couple months before to be evaluated.  Nonetheless, she had been able to legally purchase her gun at a local sporting goods store, clearing a background check.  (Oregon only sent two records of mentally ill persons to the NICS background check system in all of 2011, despite a legal mandate).  There is now a stretch of highway dedicated to Officer Kilcullen, but the best tribute would be to pass legislation to strengthen the background check system to prevent this from happening.  So far, that hasn't been done.

There were also a very few suicides reported (they only get reported if they are very public in some manner), a couple accidental shootings (one was of an off-duty police officer who, while at a shooting range, shot himself while trying to remove his loaded rifle from his car), and an assortment of non-fatal and general gun crimes of all types.  In all, there were at least 55 gun-related crimes that were reported in the media for my area, that I am aware of.  Who knows how many weren't reported in the media.  I occasionally hear of one or two, and gun crimes are so commonplace that most are not reported in all media outlets, just one or two, so unless I read them all every day (which rarely happens), then sometimes they get past me.

In my next post I will focus on our efforts to reduce gun crimes in my area in 2011, and our successes and obstacles.

Have a safe and happy New Year.  Together, we can work to create a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

In Part II of this 2-part posting, I talk about our accomplishments and challenges from 2011, and how Ceasefire Oregon has worked to reduce gun violence in that year.

Image taken from here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Holidays Are About Peace And Goodwill, Not Guns

I want to wish all of my readers a very peaceful and joy-filled Christmas and holiday season.

I celebrate Christmas.  But regardless of which holiday you celebrate, the holiday season is about peace and goodwill toward our fellow citizens.  It's about family values.  It's about putting the worst of us behind us and going into the new year with a renewed sense of bettering ourselves and our communities.  To that end we celebrate by enjoying a little light in the darkest time of year -- namely the light of our faith and our fellowship.

Do guns fit into that philosophy?  Are lethal weapons part of the "goodwill toward Man?"

Earlier this month, the gun guys in Scottsdale reveled in their gun fetish as part of their season of joy by posing with their children and Santa ... and machine guns.  See the picture, above.  Said the owner:

"It's designed to be a holiday-themed event where people can express their passion for firearms and the holiday spirit."

Really?  The "holiday spirit" involves deadly weapons to these people?  Do they really celebrate the same holiday I do?  It doesn't seem to resemble mine.  And if you think violent movies and video games glorify guns and violence to our young children, just wait until they see Santa wielding his AR-15!

Listen to how Fox commentators try to justify it, saying it's a "reminder to visiting Europeans" not to invade us, and a threat to Occupy protesters that "the other side is better armed."  Wow.   And when one of the panel questions the involvement of children in this nonsense, watch how the gun apologists jump on him.  Is this how we want our nation to see Christmas?

And gun sales are apparently up this Christmas season in Springfield, Missouri.  From the article:

Firearms sales are always brisk this time of year at Gunsmoke Gun & Pawn.
"A lot of guys are buying themselves guns for Christmas," says manager Brandon Reynolds. "It's Christmas bonus season and people have a little extra disposable cash."
And giving firearms as gifts is becoming as popular as any flat screen TV or bicycle. 
"We sell a lot of concealed carry weapons," adds Reynolds. "We do the classes here and they're full just about every Saturday."
Sales for concealed carry weapons -- or CCWs -- are on the rise, especially since August when the minimum age for a permit dropped from 23 to 21.

Nothing expresses your joy and love for your loved ones like lethal weapons, apparently.  And how very relieving to know that people just out of their teens are now arming themselves on the streets of Missouri.  They'll have great judgment for life-and-death situations, I'm sure.

We need to fight this deadly nonsense.  Christmas is about understanding and peace, not about arming ourselves and our paranoia.

Here's one thing I'm grateful for today.  Here in the Eugene/Springfield area of Oregon, there hasn't been anyone killed or injured by firearms since early November, as far as has been reported in the media.  It must be some kind of a record.  There's been at least ten armed robberies with guns since then (bringing the yearly total to something like 30 now), but at least no one was harmed.  Let's hope the relative peace holds for a while longer.  Other areas of Oregon haven't been so lucky.

From myself and Ceasefire Oregon, I wish all of you a peaceful and joyous holiday season.  Put away your guns, eat some fruitcake, spend just a little bit of your time helping someone less fortunate, and try to recognize that even the worst people out there have at least a shred of decency worth appealing to.  Merry Christmas, and may peace be with you.

ADDENDUM (12/30/11):  Man who killed his entire family and himself after unwrapping presents, and dressed as Santa, was pre-meditated; distraught over financial issues: 

RELATED ARTICLE (12/31/11):  "No Season of Peace from Gun Violence" by Dennis Henigan:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Playing "Wyatt Earp" With Their Guns

Time and again I see statements by pro-gun extremists and the NRA suggesting that, if there were just more guns on the streets, criminals would be too afraid to commit crimes for fear of being shot.  But they don't just couch these statements in the language of self-defense.  They talk about vigilantism.  They talk about "helping" the police in times of crisis.  Even though most gun carriers lack conflict mediation training, have no requirements for proficiency with firearms, and are accountable to no one beyond the law, they still propose that they play "Wyatt Earp." 

I've been in a shooting.  I know that the mind doesn't work the same way it does when you can focus at a shooting range or sit and imagine what you'd do in a conflict.  Even highly-trained police only hit their target about 15% of the time in a firefight.  Do you think the typical citizen with a gun can be even that accurate?  Or make snap judgments about who's the guilty one and who isn't?  Or decide when someone should live or die?  I don't want to be anywhere near one of these yahoos when they decide to take the law into their own hands.

Here's one recent example where a man witnessed a purse robber, then took matters into his own hands to chase the guy down and then shoot him dead.  Is the robbery of a purse from an old woman worth killing someone over?  Is this sort of vigilante justice what we want in America?

Oh, sure, the gun guys deny wanting to play "Wyatt Earp."  For instance, when I've brought this up before, one Anonymous commenter suggested:

[T]hose of us with CCPs do not want to be Wyatt Earp. If we did we go into Law Enforcement. My wife and I carry so as to protect ourselves. Period. My first thought if someone is shooting is to protect my family first and foremost. If we can leave and escape safely we will do so without drawing or shooting our weapons. However, if the threat is immediate and life threatening to my family or I than I will remove the threat.

Another, "18Echo", commented:

No one that is carrying openly or otherwise is "playing" at anything. Your statement is insulting. We all understand the potentially lethal ramifications of carrying a firearm. None of us are looking for a gunfight, as your Wyatt Earp comment implies nor are we looking to do the job of the police. In fact, all we want is to go about our lives in peace.

I hope they were telling the truth.  Probably most who carry don't have the desire to "play police."  But enough do that it worries me. Sorry, 18Echo, but you'll see how wrong you are when you read below.

This all came up again when the California Brady Campaign released an email alert about the Open Carry protesters there.  As you'll see, these gun extremists have no problem picking a fight with otherwise peaceful people, in the hope of causing a riot and getting an excuse to "play Wyatt Earp":

Open Carriers to Bring Long Guns to Occupy Protest After Being Asked to Leave
--CA Brady Campaign Urges Families to Stay Away from Todos Santos Park in Concord on Saturday, December 17th

CONCORD--According to their website, Open Carriers plan to bring long guns to an Occupy Protest (where they had previously been asked to leave) scheduled at Concord’s Todos Santos Park on Saturday, December 17, from 12 – 1 pm. From the following statement on their website it appears they are attempting to police the protesters’ behavior. The California Brady Campaign is concerned that what was previously billed as a gathering of gun owners to make a political statement about their gun rights, is now becoming a vigilante activity of attending other groups’ events. This dangerous provocation could lead to clashes resulting in accidental or intentional shootings.

(From website): “Apparently the last time we showed up to the occupy movement for a moment "took away" from the message of the occupy movement and the leaders of occupy asked Concord PD to ask us to leave. Well officers said sorry that is also free speech. Maybe Open Carry can show that we have the ability to protect ourselves and our community in case of riots. We do not need civil unrest conducted in our communities which hurts small business even though we encourage free speech.”

After the State Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a bill to ban the open carry of unloaded handguns in California, groups of Open Carriers have staged gatherings around the state displaying unloaded long guns and ammunition. Long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, are designed to be fired braced against the shoulder, in contrast to a handgun. The protests are directed at the signing of AB 144 (Portantino), which refers only to handguns.

Said Dr. Dallas Stout, President of the CA Brady Campaign: “This vigilante behavior is irresponsible and dangerous because they are putting the community at risk in protest of a law that was sponsored and championed by law enforcement. Especially after the recent massacres in Cupertino and Seal Beach, to have Open Carriers walking around with lethal long guns and live ammunition intimidates and scares people.”

The CA Brady Campaign is urging people for their own safety to stay away from any location where the Open Carry meet-ups are taking place; and urging business and restaurant owners to enact their private property rights and forbid any guns on their premises for the safety of their employees and customers. Upon learning of any Long Gun Open Carry meet-ups the CA Brady Campaign will send out a news release to warn the community in advance.

These pro-gun extremists call their group "Responsible Citizens of California," but picking a fight so they can shoot peaceful protesters hardly seems "responsible" to me.  There is no doubt about it: these are armed bullies who wish to threaten and harm peaceful people, and they need to be called out on it.  If they think they're helping their "cause", they are sorely wrong.  It's easy for the rest of us to see their radical extremism on display.

And for the rest of the pro-gun crowd who has the daydream of playing "Wyatt Earp," think again.  Keep your daydreams in your head.  Leave your gun at home.  Don't endanger the rest of us.  America doesn't want vigilante justice.

UPDATE (12/16/11 ):  These same Open Carry protesters showed up at a mall today and ate as a group at a BJ's restaurant which had already announced that they weren't welcomed (but didn't turn them away). Open Carry of handguns (but not long rifles) becomes illegal in California on Jan. 1:

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Virginia Tech Shooter -- The Sort Of Student The Extremists Want To Arm

Last week was horrifying for the small town of Blacksburg, Virginia, and Virginia Tech University.  Summoning visions of the massacre that took place there in 2007, initial reports described how  a lone gunman shot a police officer on the grounds of the VT campus, and how another person had been shot and killed as well.  It was thought the shooter was still at large.  The campus locked down immediately.  Given that I have a dear friend who works as staff there at VT, I paid close attention to the reports.  Naturally I had fears of another mass shooting.

That was several days ago.  Since then, the story has become clear.  Ross Truet Ashley, age 22, apparently snapped.  For reasons that are still unclear from media reports, last Wednesday he robbed the office of his landlord at gunpoint, demanded the keys of the landlord's Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle,  then drove off in it.  Almost 24 hours later, officer Deriek W. Crouse had pulled over a motorist on the grounds of Virginia Tech University.  From out of nowhere, and for reasons unknown, Ashley abandoned his stolen vehicle, walked up and shot the officer, killing him.  Ironically, the shooting happened across from the dormitory where the first shootings began in 2007.  Ashley  then ran off to the university greenhouses  and made a quick change of clothes.  Meanwhile, notices were already being sent to students, and the campus was locking down.  Officers spotted Ashley in a parking complex, but by the time they caught up to him, he had shot and killed himself.  They didn't initially identify him due to the change in clothing.

Obviously, the community was traumatized -- not just due to the horror of the event itself, but because this conjured memories of the 2007 shooting, where another mentally ill lone gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, shot and killed 32 students and faculty before taking his own life on the VT campus. 

This case is particularly ironic, given that pro-gun groups have been holding rallies at area universities, trying to goad the universities into allowing concealed carry by their students, which the universities have a policy against.  It's interesting to note, though, that the general public, outside of students, can carry there.  These groups, particularly the radical Virginia Citizen's Defense League, held such a protest at VT on December 1.  On Wednesday, Dec. 7, they held a rally at Radford University.  The rally was going on when, almost within sight of the protest, Ashley robbed his landlord's office.  Had Ashley known about the protest?  Did he attend?  It's unknown.  The next day, as the shooting was taking place 2 hours away, the pro-gun extremists were holding another protest at James Madison University in Harrisonburg. 

Even before the shooter had been identified or many facts were known, pro-gun extremists were commenting that this case proved that students should be allowed to carry guns on school grounds.  Just like the protestors, they claimed on the comments sections of online news flashes that students should be allowed to protect themselves, that if they had a gun the shooter would be dead, that the universities were trampling the Second Amendment.  All arguments about the dangers of guns or availability of guns to criminals were snidely brushed aside with language about patriotism and rights. 

But let's take another look at what they claim.  The pro-gun crowd likes to suggest that the sort of people who go on shooting sprees are criminals with previous records, obviously mentally ill, drug dealers, or gang members.  Their vision of students who should be armed are students who have a clean record, who are well-adjusted, academically achieved, and well-liked -- law-abiding citizens who just want to feel secure.

Students just like Ross Truet Ashley.

You see, Ashley had no previous criminal record.  He had shaved his head and was known to run rather than walk, but otherwise showed no clear signs of mental illness.  He was a student, attending part-time at the business school at Radford University, 16 minutes away from VT.  He was of legal age to purchase a firearm and have a concealed carry license.  He is described as being friendly, nice, and quiet.  He never talked about guns, drank, or used drugs (although he owned a gun and had visited a shooting range), wasn't a loner, and had been a star football player in high school.  And he was academically achieved, having served on Student Government committees and been on the dean's list at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in southwest Virginia in recent years.  This is a young man who seemed to have everything going for him.  It's unclear if he had a concealed carry license, but there was nothing stopping him from getting one. 

Said his roommate from his years at U.Va-Wise:

"I was like, 'Oh, my God,'" he said. "This was my freshman roommate. This was the first person I met in college. This dude wore my clothes. This is freaking me out for real -- this is so crazy."

Vaughan said he was shocked by Ashley’s alleged actions.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “He doesn’t seem like the type who would do something like that. He was always eager to help and pretty much always in attendance [at SGA meetings]. He always had a smile on his face. I would never have imagined him doing anything like this.

Ashley was the model student for the campus conceal carry movement -- until he went on his murderous crime spree. 

In the emotionally- and academically-charged and sometimes irresponsible environment that defines university life for young people, how then are we to trust that the average student carrying a gun is to be trusted?  Does it make students safer somehow?  The pro-gun extremists think it does.  The vast majority of students and faculty at VT don't, and neither do any of the survivors of the 2007 shooting or their families.

The day after last week's shooting, Lori Haas, the mother of one of the first 2007 shooting survivors, Emily, had this to say:

Meanwhile, on the same day that we lost Officer Rouse [sic], a radical pro-gun group, the Virginian Citizens Defense League, or VCDL, was rallying on the James Madison University campus to force the school to allow guns in its classrooms and dormitories. When they’re not busy trying to arm our campuses, VCDL advocates for the eradication of Virginia’s state background check system.

Keep in mind that neither the Virginia Tech administration—nor a single victim or surviving family member of the 2007 massacre—supports these attacks on our gun laws. To the contrary, many of us are calling for tougher, universal background checks on all gun sales to halt the carnage before it ever begins.

Recently, my friend Colin Goddard—who like my daughter was shot on April 16, 2007, but survived—said something that stuck with me. Responding to those whose only solution to violence on campus is to arm themselves with concealed handguns, he said, “Shame on those unwilling to be their brothers’ keeper, but being all too eager to be his executioners."

Similar sentiments were shared by Omar Samaha, whose sister, Reema, was shot at VT in 2007.  Samaha works hard to help prevent concealed carry on campuses.

And for those pro-gun folks who are still arguing that being armed on campus is going to save the lives of students, let me point out the following.  Ashley's victim, Officer Crouse, was a Virginia Tech Police Emergency Response Team member, an Army veteran, was trained as a Crisis Intervention Officer, General Instructor, Firearms Instructor, Defensive Tactics instructor and most recently completed training for Advance Law Enforcement Rapid Response and Mechanical and Ballistic Instructor (source).  And yet, despite all of Crouse's training and experience, the shooter still got the jump on him and murdered him.  What are the chances, then, that the average student, barely trained in firearms or conflict engagement, could have any better luck?  Is that chance worth all of the potential non-defensive shootings?

Universities are no place for guns.  Keep 'em gun-free.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What If Gun Control Debates Were Applied To A 5th Grade Classroom Situation?

And now, a script.  I'm certain it will win a Tony Award.  I present to you:  
"Gum Control in Mrs. Cali's 5th Grade Class"

Mrs. Cali:  Class, for some time it has been school policy to allow students to chew gum in classrooms.  However, due to a number of recent incidents here, I have decided to forbid gum chewing in my classroom from this day forward.

Wayne:  But, Mrs. Cali, that's unfair! 

Mrs. Cali:  Wayne, yesterday Tommy threw his gum into Bradi's hair, and I had to explain to her angry parents why it had happened.  The day before that, I stepped in gum that a student had dropped to the floor.  Also, a quick look last week turned up at least a couple dozen wads of gum that had been left stuck underneath your desks.  This has gone too far, and I refuse to allow it further.

Rick (smacking on chewing gum):  But, Mrs. Cali, I haven't been irresponsible with my gum.  Why should I have to pay the consequences for other people's bad behavior?  It's not fair!

Mrs. Cali:  I'm sorry, Rick, but don't blame me.  Blame those who abused their right to chew gum. 

Wayne:  I agree with Rick.  You're treating us all like bad guys!  When Tommy threw the gum, you sent him to the Principal's office.  He got the punishment he deserved.  But now you would have us all pay for his mistake!  You should only punish the bad guys.  Besides, the bad guys will still bring in gum and chew it when you aren't looking.  When gum is outlawed only outlaws will chew gum.

Bradi:  I'm glad for the decision, Mrs. Cali!  Speaking as a victim of gum violence, I feel very uncomfortable allowing people to chew while I'm trying to learn.  Every day in this school there are at least 32 incidents of gum violence.  Kids like Tommy and Rick only care about themselves and don't think about others who could be victimized.

Rick:  Bradi, don't you dare lump me in with bad kids like Tommy, just because I chew gum!  I'm sorry you were a victim, but it shouldn't cause me to have to pay, too!

Wayne:  Besides, Mrs. Cali, it's our right to have gum in school.  Part Two of the Student Code of Conduct says so!  Ever since the founding of this school.

Mrs. Cali:  The Code says, "Students have the right to keep and bear snacks and candy."  It didn't specify gum, in particular, and students didn't have today's modern, super-sticky gum back in those days or abuse their right to chew it nearly as often.

Wayne:  Yes, but the Student Council recently ruled that Part Two applies to modern gum, and that every student has the right to have it.

Mrs. Cali:   Sure, but they also said that individual classrooms could still determine how to regulate it.  You are allowed to have gum in your personal locker and to chew it there, but when you step into my classroom, you're not allowed to chew it.

Rick:  Well, Mr. Arizo allows it in his classroom, and students can chew it openly there without him saying anything.  He's a big supporter of gum chewing.  (Rick blows a bubble and pops it, loudly).

Bradi:  Sure, but just last week, that crazy boy, Jared, threw gum in the hair of several students in Mr. Arizo's class!  His class is one of the worst for gum throwing!

Mrs. Cali:  Mr. Arizo is just going to have to clean up the mess himself.  Here, I'm not going to tolerate it.  As for the Student Council's recent ruling, let's note who else benefits:  the concession stand.  They get to sell more gum this way.  It's not really about the students and their rights.

Rick:  That's not what they said.  They said it's about Part Two of the Code.

Mrs. Cali:  What they say is different from what they think.  Just follow the money.

Rick:  You're blaming an inanimate object for the bad actions of people.  You're just a chiclephobe!  Gums don't mess people, people mess people!

Bradi:  "Chiclephobe?"  Why do you think she's afraid of gum?

Wayne:  I and the other students who love gum know full well how anti-gum you guys are.  You want to ban gum altogether and take it away from us! 

Mrs. Cali:  Don't be ridiculous.  I never said anything about gum banning, and I'm not afraid of gum!  I just want to control it and keep it from being abused.

Wayne:  You just want to keep us from exercising our rights!  It's discrimination against gum chewers, just like racism!

Rick (pointing at Mrs. Cali):  Yeah!  Gum-grabber! 

Bradi:  Stop making wild accusations and name-calling!  You're just trying to hijack the debate!  How many kids have to have gum in their hair before you admit controlling gum is necessary?  You'd think different if you were the one hit by gum violence!

Rick:  I wouldn't be the victim, cuz I'd hit them with my own gum first!  If everyone chewed gum, the gum-throwers would be too afraid to start a fight.

Bradi:  No, don't you see?  With more gum chewing there would be more gum-throwing, too, just like in Mr. Arizo's class!

Mrs. Cali:  Okay, class, settle down!  Now, I'm prepared to compromise.  If you want to chew gum, I'll give you a permission slip to do so in my room if I think you aren't the sort to abuse it.  If you mis-behave, then I'll take away your permission slip.  This is something that several other classrooms do.

Wayne:  We shouldn't have to get a piece of paper to exercise our right!  Besides, the bad guys won't bother with it and will still chew.

Rick:  And who says you're the right person to judge us?  It's too subjective!

Mrs. Cali:  Rick, no one is a better judge of your behavior than me, in my classroom.  And Wayne, this way I can keep track of who is exercising their right appropriately.

Rick:  I'd feel very uncomfortable having the faculty keep track of me this way.  They'd put me on some secret list and when they decide to ban gum they'll know to track me down, bust down the door of my locker and take all my gum away from me!  They'll have to pry my gum from my cold, dead hands!

Mrs. Cali:  Don't be so melodramatic and paranoid, Rick!

Wayne:  If you issue a permission slip, that's one more I'll have to have, and I have to keep track of them all when I go from class to class.  Plus their requirements differ widely.  How many permission slips am I going to have to deal with?  There should be only one permission slip required, and it should be as permissive as possible, like from Mr. Arizo.

Bradi:  No way!  A student like Tommy could get a slip from Mr. Arizo very easily, even though he's shown a tendency toward gum violence here in Mrs. Cali's class!

Wayne:  I'm going to go to the Student Council and appeal your decision, Mrs. Cali!  Gum chewing is a right and therefore shouldn't be regulated at all.

Bradi:  They'd be insane to listen to you!  Our school is far too lax about controlling gum.  Other schools have almost no incidents of gum violence compared to us!  Whether it's a right or not, it needs common sense regulation to reduce the rate of gum-throwing!

Mrs. Cali:  Enough!  For now my rule stands and ....

[Suddenly there is an argument outside the classroom door, then screaming as a boy throws gum into the hair of a girl.  Students rush to the door to watch.]

Bradi:  Oh!  Will the madness never end?  We have to do something!

Rick:  If only the girl had had gum of her own to protect herself!

Wayne:  It's her right to do so, you know!

Mrs. Cali:  Okay, class, go back to your desks....  And Rick, spit out your gum!

Rick: (spits gum into the trash, then mutters) Gum-grabber!

[The End]

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Responses To My Question About Pro-Gun Feelings About Background Checks For Private Sales

A couple days ago, I asked those of you who are pro-gun and have sold guns privately how, without a background check, you made sure you weren't selling to someone who would fail a background check, and would it bother you to know that you might be an unknowing accessory to a shooting crime.

Thank you, to those who answered.  I'm disappointed that only a few of you did so.  A couple hundred of you chose not to answer.  So I went to some of the pro-gun blogs to look at repostings of my question and the comments people left there, as well.  Here are some links to those:

So, here is what you had to say:

The most common response was that you only sell to those you know or that carry a concealed carry license.  Selling only to someone you know personally and who won't abuse their right is a responsible thing to do, and I approve.   Using a concealed carry permit is a good second choice.  You assume that, since they passed a background check to get the permit and haven't had it revoked that they are safe.  Generally you're probably correct.  The problem is that not all violent crimes result in the withdrawal of conceal carry permits, and those crimes vary widely from state to state, and I wonder about the comparative speed of reporting to the NICS background system compared to the speed of removal of the certificates from the offenders.  Of course, you are also discounting the majority of gun owners, who don't have a CCL.  Running a background check takes only 5 minutes in Oregon.

Another choice that a couple of you mentioned is that you would approve of a firearms owner identification card as a stand-in for background checks, like Illinois' FOID card.  This is updated quicker than most CCLs and is controlled by law enforcement.  I could go for this.  This is something which I feel is very promising and is a fine compromise.  Personally, the 5 minute background check is probably more reliable in my mind, but at least you wouldn't have to go to a FFL to be reasonably sure the person you are selling to is safe.  Also, almost no states have such a card and would need to spend quite a bit of money to implement it.  Now, the usual paranoia applied to some who felt unhappy with having government oversight at all, but this is true for CCL too.  (to you guys, I think you need to get over your "tyranny paranoia", fellas.)

A couple of you suggested using other, publicly-available internet background check programs, of which there are several out there.  Just be aware that they may have very different databases they pull from and might not  include all of those reported to the federal background check system or be updated frequently.  Fees will vary, too.  But, it's better than nothing, right?  I didn't get the feeling that anyone actually does this, including the couple who suggested it.

There's also the suggestion that the federal NICS background check system be available to anyone, online.  I think there are some serious privacy issues there.  I think many people would feel uncomfortable having their private background information available to just anyone.  For now, I'd say let law enforcement have exclusive access.

A handful of you simply expressed scorn at having a background check at all (one wrote "Who fucking cares?", one suggested repealing as many rules as possible, and another said flatly "I assume all I sell to are honest.").  To those few I say that you are playing a dangerous game with people's lives, for your own benefit.

Several of you who said you would only sell to those who show you a CCL card also suggested this is common practice.  I hope so, but I know for a fact that many times (if not most times), private sales take place without one.  Consider, for instance, online sites where private sellers offer their weapons online, for my city and region, for everything from hunting rifles to pistols to semi-auto assault rifles.  Here's a sampling:

Almost all of the listings for sales in those links are from private sellers, and not a single one I could find said in their add that they were screening the buyer in any way whatsoever. 

My personal preference would be that the buyer and seller go through an FFL for the sale.  In Oregon, this would require the filling out of a form, a small fee (I've heard a cost between $14-$20), and a 5-minute (literally, in nearly all cases) phone background check.  It's a system that is already in place, unlike a FOID-like card, is updated much quicker, and is relatively speedy.  If someone is already shelling out $200-$1000 for a firearm, I doubt that small fee would prevent the sale, nor a quick jaunt over to the nearest FFL.

So that's the legal issues, but many of you followed up your reply with a comment basically saying (and I'm paraphrasing), "I'm not legally bound to be concerned about how the buyer is going to use his weapon, and I don't have a moral obligation to be concerned, either."  Some of you went on to compare the unknowing sale of a gun to a potential killer as being of no more concern than unknowingly selling a car to a drunk driver or gasoline to someone who would burn up victims tied to a mobile home or something.  In other words, once the gun sale is done, you wash your hands of it and sleep with a good conscience, just as you would selling any other item.

Sorry, I'm not letting off the moral hook that easy.  It's true you have no legal obligation.  But when you sell a lethal weapon, don't you feel you should do all you can to prevent it from falling into criminal hands?  When I sell a car, I get the buyer's license information.  If they don't have a driver's license, I wouldn't sell.  It's that simple (comparable to the CCL or FOID card check for guns).  Of course, if someone has a driver's license it doesn't mean they're safe drivers, but at least I've done that small part.  If I didn't do at least that amount of checking, I don't think I'd be able to sleep afterward.  How could you?  If there were a 5-minute background check system that would exclude sales to those who have a history of dangerous or impaired driving, you bet I'd be a supporter of it.  Wouldn't you?

There is currently a bill in the U.S. Senate to tighten background checks, improve reporting to the NICS system, and to require a check for all private sales.  I'm a supporter of this.  Here's a good recent article on this:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Question for Pro-Gun Folks: Background Checks for Private Sales

Here's a question for you pro-gun folks....

You know I'm a strong advocate for requiring an instant background check for all sales, including private sales.  Currently, in most states (including Oregon, where I am), for a gun owner to sell a used gun, the sale can proceed without any oversight at all, unlike sales from licensed firearms dealers.  There's no requirement for a background check, ID, paperwork, or any questions at all.  It's just cash-and-carry.  That means that anyone can buy the gun, including felons, dangerously mentally ill, domestic abusers, sexual predators, people with warrants out for their arrest, people convicted of a major assault, or any other class of people who would be excluded for a sale from a licensed firearms dealer, and they won't be caught, and the seller would probably never know the difference.

So here's my question to you pro-gun folks:  When you sell a gun to a private buyer you don't know, how do you know the buyer doesn't fall into one of those categories?  Do you care at all if you may be unknowingly abetting a shooting crime?