Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Message from Ceasefire Oregon Regarding CHL Privacy

A Message from Ceasefire Oregon regarding HB 4045B
Halt Concealed Handgun License Privacy Invasions

To: Oregon Senate Republicans and the Oregon Gun Lobby
Copy to: Oregon Senate Democrats

We don’t usually see eye-to-eye with you on issues related to firearms. But when it comes to extending reasonable privacy to Oregon holders of concealed handgun licenses (CHLs), we’re willing to meet you halfway. We’ll show you how to reduce the requests for CHL data by over 50%.

Just Do Nothing.

Why? Because over 50% of the requests for CHL data received by Oregon sheriffs in the last five years came from the Oregon Republican Party, the Oregon Senate Republicans, and gun advocacy organizations, including Oregon Gun Owners, the Oregon Firearms Federation, and the Oregon State Rifle Association. If you don’t think those records should be made available under the Oregon Public Records Law, just stop requesting them.
. . . . .
Last year, Ceasefire Oregon asked the sheriffs in all 36 counties to tell us what requests they had received for concealed handgun license records in the last five years. We wanted to know whether those records were being accessed for criminal, harassment, or other improper purposes. The result? There was no evidence of any request for CHL records for malicious purposes.

  •  41% (18 requests) came from gun advocacy organizations
  •  36% (16 requests) came from newspapers
  •  11% (5 requests) came from Republican politicians (the Oregon Republican Party and the Oregon Senate Republican Office) 

The few individuals requesting information included a stalking victim, a family member, an ex-spouse, and an employer. Ceasefire Oregon believes that CHL records should remain available to these people.

Ceasefire Oregon also strongly believes that CHL records should remain open to the press, so they can ask the hard questions about government, guns, personal freedom, and public safety. At its heart, HB 4045B is little more than an effort to reign in a free press.

So let’s compromise. You let the press continue to do its job, and we’ll let you stop asking for the CHL records you say should be private.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oregon Medical Marijuana and Gun Crimes -- Part I

In May of Last year, as I posted about previously, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that Oregonians who have a medical marijuana permit may be issued a conceal carry license (CCL) as well.  Then, in January of this year, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, allowing that ruling to stand (but also allowing a gray area to remain, since both medical marijuana and gun possession by addicts is still illegal at a federal level; A provision of the 1968 Gun Control Act prohibits drug addicts from possessing or receiving a firearm (18 U.S.C. 922 (g)(3))). 

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruling stands against common sense, given the altered state of mind that marijuana leads to, the danger of a gun in that state, and the fact that there isn't a law (as far as I've been able to ascertain) against being high and carrying a loaded weapon at home or in public (with a CCL).

As stated in one article:

"Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether or not his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or is addicted to a controlled substance and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition," Herbert wrote.

While medical marijuana supporters have expressed outrage, groups that can usually be counted on to stand up for Second Amendment rights have been largely silent. Although the National Shooting Sports Foundation was the first place outside ATF to post the open letter, it has not responded to repeated Chronicle requests to comment on the Second Amendment rights of medical marijuana users. Neither has the National Rifle Association.

Advocates of medical marijuana insist that they are law-abiding citizens just interested in easing their pain.  I don't doubt it.  Most likely the majority of Oregon's 40,000 medical marijuana permit holders fit that description.  Oregon Sheriffs don't agree.  

"This whole medical marijuana thing is a farce, and you can quote me on that," said Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin, president of the Oregon State Sheriff's Assn., who believes only a fraction of the state's nearly 40,000 registered medical marijuana users have a legitimate need for the drug.

"I always ask them, 'How many times a day do you medicate?' They say it's like four or five times a day," Bergin said. "Well, that's 16 hours a day you're running around stoned. Do we even want them behind vehicles? No. Do we want them carrying around a gun? Absolutely no."

Police forces across Oregon are highly critical of Oregon's medical marijuana law:

[The law is] a system that allows designated growers to legally cultivate hundreds of pounds of marijuana, and it gives so-called "caretakers" cover to move marijuana through the state, critics said. Defenders of the existing law say their legitimate medication is under attack, and the proposed changes would go too far.

The law is so useful to drug traffickers that they'd be "foolish" not to use it, said Detective H. Ray Myers, a Grants Pass police officer who works on the Rogue Area Drug Enforcement Team. Myers said the vast majority of his cases involve medical marijuana cardholders.

"It is easy for them to hide behind it," Myers said. "It makes it difficult for us to investigate."
Critics say the professional growers can cultivate massive marijuana plants that are each capable of producing dozens of pounds of pot. That creates a significant excess beyond the 1½ pounds a patient is eligible to possess, and some growers sell their surplus on the black market. Designated "caregivers" are allowed to possess the marijuana designated for patients in their care, so becoming a caregiver for 10 patients would give someone cover to transport 15 pounds of marijuana.

HERE is one such example of a medical marijuana permit holder who abused the system (and, of course, had a loaded gun in his possession).  HERE is a recent case, an Oregon man illegally transporting three pounds of pot through Idaho, and ANOTHER recent case like that one, but with five pounds.

HERE is another case of one of those "caregivers" abusing the system.  They had 100 plants and nearly four pounds of processed pot.  Of course, they were also armed, with a 12-guage shotgun and 9mm semi-auto pistol.

So if there are so many cases of abuse, and our law enforcement has concerns, shouldn't we trust the opinion of those who are in charge of protecting public safety?  Shouldn't their concern about the need for stricter regulation and the prevention of arming these people be listened to?

Don't get me wrong; I support medical marijuana.  I voted to allow medical marijuana here, and truly believe it eases suffering.  I wish my grandmother could try it.  People are moving to Oregon just for the medical marijuana, and are seeking Oregon medical marijuana permits even when living out of state.  But while there are benefits of marijuana for patients, it comes with risks. 

One of those risks is that, when mixed with guns, the altered state of mind while high makes choices with guns a potentially deadly combination, just as with alcohol, some legal drugs, or many illegal drugs.  Reasonable restrictions need to be put in place to reduce cases of abuse of the law and dangerous activities.

"Just because we're patients doesn't mean we don't have real lifestyles and rights like everyone else," said the medical marijuana user who successfully sued to have her conceal carry permit.  True, but it also means that there's no guarantee you won't shoot an innocent person while high.  All rights have restrictions, since the welfare of the people is of highest importance.  This is no different.

Pro-gun advocates would like you to think that drug-related shootings are only back-alley deals gone wrong, by gang bangers and illegal dealers.  Most are, around the nation, like THIS one or THIS one.  HERE is a recent local case if ID thieves who were armed with a stolen gun and had illegal marijuana and other drugs. HERE is a local case from last year where five men who had a clandestine illegal marijuana crop kidnapped an innocent man at gunpoint and planned to kill him because they thought he had harvested their crop (turns out one of the five kidnappers had secretly done it).  But a large number of cases around here don't fit the gun advocates' model. 

Here's a case from just a couple days ago which doesn't fit that "shady drug deal" model, in Springfield.  A 26-year old man was high on marijuana and decided to twirl his .357 revolver.  The gun went off, tearing through his left thigh and lodging the bullet in the floor.  He had a 3 year old and 5 year old in the apartment with him.  Luckily, neither child was harmed, nor the three people in the apartment below.  Prior to that point, I'm sure this previously law-abiding man would have argued that there was no problem with having a gun while high, or having a gun around children.

And HERE is a case where a medical marijuana user was shot in the leg when someone broke into his apartment, trying to steal his pot.  He was a target because of his prescription.

Being a medical marijuana card holder doesn't keep you out of trouble.  It doesn't give you more common sense.  And for some, it increases the chance of abuse.  Smoking weed impairs your judgment, and when you have a medical marijuana card, it can also make you a target for addicts. Mix guns in with this, and you have a recipe for tragedy.

But what about legal growers?  For card holders, shouldn't they be the most law-abiding and safe of all card holders?  According to one article, 24,000 of Oregon's 38,000 medical marijuana card holders are growers of marijuana.  Are the growers any less likely to commit gun crimes or be attacked by shooters? 

As you'll see in Part II of this posting, this isn't the case...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guns and Schools Don’t Mix

In 2007, about 3,000 children and teens died as a result of gun violence in the United States. That’s eight children a day. In fact, during the five years ending in 2009 (the last year for which data are available), over 15,000 children and teens in the U.S. died as a result of gun violence. These are children like the many you might see getting into school buses at the freezing hours of the morning.

Some gun lobbyists say that the answer to these deaths is more guns. They assert that bringing concealed weapons into an area will increase the safety of that area. They couldn’t be more wrong. In 2005, a study in North Carolina determined that workplaces where guns were permitted were about five times as likely to experience a homicide as workplaces where all weapons were prohibited. This suggests that rather than making a place more safe, allowing guns can make a place more dangerous.

That’s why it’s vital to prohibit guns in schools in order to keep our children safe. We currently have laws prohibiting people from bringing guns onto most federal properties, a reasonable prohibition meant to keep those areas safer from gun violence. It makes sense to extend that ban onto public school campuses.

For many years, Oregon’s public colleges have prohibited guns on campus, including guns carried by concealed handgun license (CHL) holders. A gun organization sued, however, and last September the Oregon Court of Appeals invalidated the longstanding administrative rule, finding that it was preempted by a state statute. As a result, people with CHLs can now carry loaded, hidden handguns on Oregon's public college campuses.

Some people are insisting that they are also entitled to bring their loaded, hidden handguns into high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools throughout Oregon. They have, for example, already strong-armed the Newberg School District into dropping its ban on guns in schools.

In response, the Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation, an organization dedicated to reducing gun violence through education and providing opportunities to dispose of unwanted firearms, has created a petition asking for signatures from those who believe that concealed guns should not be allowed on school campuses. This petition is important in helping to show that people in Oregon believe that schools are no place for guns. The more people who sign petitions like this one, the louder the voices standing against gun violence can be heard.

Please also join the movement at our Books Not Bullets website and add your name to the pledge.

(updated with minor changes 3/7/12)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

One Month of Kid Shootings: January 2012 Statistics


In the first month of Kid Shootings, we have reported on 169 separate shootings and reports of gun crimes which involve children age 17 or under, from 37 states and D.C.  The reports span the full range of types of shootings:  homicides, attempted homicides, accidents, kidnappings, stray bullets, defensive shootings, law enforcement shootings, and one suicide.  Most kids were victims.  Some were shooters.  Some just found the family gun and handled it without supervision.  But there was one thing that nearly all of them had in common:  children were in possession of or in the proximity of firearms, with tragic consequences.  So many shootings could have been prevented if only the adults owners had unloaded and locked their firearms, or simply removed them from the home.

Caveat:  The articles of gun crimes and shootings that we post mostly come from Google Alerts and keyword searches for very recent online news articles, and we have posted every single one that we could find, whatever the circumstances of it.  But they don't represent every shooting out there.  Some child-involved shootings and gun crimes simply don't get reported in the media, particularly suicides (which are, of course, very personal), accidental discharges which don't actually injure anyone, or incidents in small, rural areas.  And not all that are reported online are filtered to us in a Google Alert.  Every time we do a "deep dive" and investigate more thoroughly, other stories pop up, and we hear stories from local law enforcement officers, crime scene cleanup professionals, and school officials which never make it to the news. 

Everyone can see the statistics, but the huge numbers fail to register in our minds.  Just over 3,000 kids are killed by gunfire, according to one estimate, and 17,500 are injured.  That's almost as many kids killed in just one year as the total number of American soldiers killed in combat in the entire Iraq war, and more than all allied forces (U.S. and allies) casualties in the entire war in Afghanistan.  This is the real cost of our "freedom" to own guns and the lax gun regulation in America.  But the huge numbers fail to register in our minds.  We've grown numb to them, as a nation.  This blog looks beyond the numbers to the individual cases.

When you read the individual stories, see the pictures of the kids, understand the circumstances, the problem of guns in our society becomes more clear.  The rhetoric of the pro-gun lobby takes on a hollow sound.  More concealed guns on the streets wouldn't have stopped most of these, if any.  Opposing Child Access Prevention laws seems barbaric.  And the idea of having more guns in more hands is a glaringly deadly proposal.

So what percentage of all shootings are reported by Kid Shootings?  Let's look at one statistic: deaths by gunfire.  One estimate is that just over 3000 kids are shot dead each year.  That's 267 a month.  Around 60 of those are suicides (based on the CDC report for 2006-2007), which aren't typically reported in the media.  Here at Kid Shootings, we reported on 51 deaths of children by firearms.  That's about 19% of all fatal shootings of kids (or about 25% of non-suicide shootings).  So one assumption is that we are finding and publishing reports on around 19% of cases out there.  I'm already shocked by the number we publish, but the full scale of the problem hits home when you realize that we are just scraping the surface.

Here are the statistics for our posts for January, 2012

Total number of gun crimes and shootings posted on:  169 
Total number of children who were victims:  175 (see below; doesn't count intentional shooters)

Total children killed:  51
Total children injured:  100
Total non-injured (shot at but missed, kidnapped at gunpoint, etc):  24

17:  36
16:  44
15:  26
14:  21
13:  11
12:  7
11:  5
10:  7
9:  4
8:  4
7:  4
6:  3
5:  4
4:  4
3:  7
2:  6
1:  2
0-1:  3 
"teen":  17
"child":  15

Boys:  164
Girls:  46
Unknown:  16

Victims:  146
Shooters:  40  (20 of which seemed intentional)

Types of shootings:
Homicide:  39
Attempted Homicide:  50
Accidental:  41
                23 involved children "playing with" or handling unsecured guns
                3 were from gun owners "cleaning a gun" when the gun discharged
                2 were hunting accidents
Stray Bullets:  21  (5 were apparently from New Year's celebratory gunfire)
On School Grounds:  8
Clearly Gang-Related:  8
Drug-Related:  5
Defensive:  7
Law Enforcement:  3
Kidnapping:  2
Murder/Suicide:  1
Hostage:  2
Pellet / BB Gun-Related:  4  (3 of which on school grounds, 2 were fatal)
Toy Gun-Related:  1

These numbers, as troubling as they are, are the real cost of our lax gun regulations, and children pay the price for it.

What are YOU going to do to reduce kid shootings?