Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recommendations From Over 20 Of The World's Leading Experts On Gun Violence

Recently there was a summit of over 20 of the world's most widely-published researchers and experts on the issue of gun violence.

Held at the Johns Hopkins University, they analyzed the topic for two days and come up with a list of recommendations for changes to gun regulation, based on data collected over the past two decades and on their professional opinions as researchers.

The list of recommendations included suggestions for:

  • Improving background checks
  • Prohibiting high-risk individuals from purchasing guns
  • Improving mental health reporting and screening of individuals who are too dangerous to possess firearms
  • Combating illegal gun trafficking
  • Personalizing guns to the gun owner and improving gun manufacture safety
  • Banning assault weapons
  • Banning high-capacity ammo magazines greater than 10 rounds
  • and Improving government research in the area of gun violence

Together, these professionals have a combined experience in the field of many hundreds of years of study, looking at the data scientifically and publishing that data in peer-reviewed, respected medical journals.  We should take their recommendations to heart.

See HERE for more details on their recommendations.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

(This is a cross-post from the Kid Shootings blog)...

As we chronicle over at the Kid Shootings blog, violence against children, by other children, is all too common. It is incredibly easy for teens and young children to get their hands on guns and other weapons due to their widespread ownership and lack of safe storage.  And minors typically have not learned enough life lessons or developed significant self control to keep from acting out violently when things do not go their way.  These two characteristics, when combined, can lead to tragic results.

Recently, the legal guardian of one young shooting victim, Tiana Montgomery (whose passing was posted on the Kid Shootings site), started an important website, called Words Not Weapons, which is dedicated to Tiana's memory.  Instead of only lamenting Tiana's passing and pulling away from society, which is all-too-easy to do when you suffer the pain of a lost loved one, she instead focused her family's grief on making a positive change to help keep it from happening to others.

From the mission statement of the site:

We are a non-profit organization dedicated to giving teens words,a substitute for weapons, when dealing with confrontal situations.

We will be holding "Words Not Weapons" workshops in middle and high schools throughout the year.  Educating our youth of the consequences and the effects felt by their communities when guns are used to resolve conflict.  We will address the life decisions and factors that contribute to violent events and introduce alternative behaviors and redirect thinking toward a more positive path.  We want to prepare our children now and of the next generation, the use-less-ness of weapons as communication.

The site also lists help lines for those in crisis.

I urge you to visit the site and find ways to help.

Violence is never a good option.  Peace and nonviolence start with ourselves, then must first extend to our own families, then to our community.  Together we can find ways toward a peaceful solution, and teach this to our children.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wayne LaPierre Supports Assault Rifles For Insurrection Against The Government

Remember when Wayne LaPierre, in his pro-gun arrogance, pronounced to the world, "The guys with the guns make the rules!"

He went a step further last week when he testified to Congress about gun regulation.  He said, in effect, that he supports assault rifles for the sake of trying to even the odds in an insurrectionist uprising against our government, a la the Revolutionary War.

Josh Horowitz, Executive Director of the Coalition To Stop Gun Violence, recently blogged on this:

Following last week's high-profile Senate Judiciary hearing in response to the tragedy at Newtown, the media paid extensive attention to National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre's flip-flop on the issue of closing the Gun Show Loophole and witness Gayle Trotter's ridiculous assertion that "guns make women safer." 
What went largely unnoticed was perhaps the most telling moment of the hearing, which involved this exchange between LaPierre and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin:
DURBIN: Mr. LaPierre, I run into some of your members in Illinois and here's what they tell me, "Senator, you don't get the Second Amendment." Your NRA members say, "You just don't get it. It's not just about hunting. It's not just about sports. It's not just about shooting targets. It's not just about defending ourselves from criminals," as Ms. Trotter testified. "We need the firepower and the ability to protect ourselves from our government--from our government, from the police--if they knock on our doors and we need to fight back." Do you agree with that point of view? 

LAPIERRE: Senator, I think without any doubt, if you look at why our founding fathers put it there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure that these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny.
During a hearing in which Republican Senators actively tried to portray assault weapons as merely "scary-looking" pieces of plastic with no real functional purpose, LaPierre's statement revealed that they are in fact weapons of choice for individuals ready to wage war on our government. This was certainly not the first time LaPierre had made such a declaration -- remember, this is the guy who told us "the guys with the guns make the rules" at a CPAC conference -- but his statement on Wednesday was nonetheless remarkable because it so clearly articulated the insurrectionist ideaon a national stage, linking it directly to the need for unfettered access to assault weapons. Now, no doubt remains about the type of "firepower" citizens would need in order to fight LaPierre's "tyranny" ... The same type of firepower that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary.

The Second Amendment was written to allow states to organize their own armed militias as an alternative to a standing army, for the purpose of securing their borders against invasion by foreign armies or insurrections within their borders, NOT so common citizens can arm themselves and stage insurrections if they don't like their government.  In fact, Article III section iii of the Constitution specifically spells out that insurrections are not to be tolerated, and that it was in part the duty of the state militias to put insurrections down.  And they did so.  Shay's Rebellion is an example.  

But the insurrectionists among the pro-gun extremists, including Wayne, have a revisionist interpretation that fits their own paranoia about being governed.  I've written on this before.  In their fevered, gun-fetish mind, they conveniently omit the first part of the Second Amendment, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State" and just quote the second half, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" as if the two parts weren't related.

They also love to quote from the Federalist Papers, which have a goodly amount of talk by the founding fathers about insurrection against tyranny.  Of course, those documents were aimed at sparking the citizenry into rising up against King George.  Those same founding fathers changed their tune when the war was over.  But it doesn't really matter.  The law of our land isn't the Federalist Papers.  It's the Constitution.

The NRA has a long history of stoking paranoia and insurrectionist talk.  Just look to a recent statement by board member Ted Nugent, for instance, where he shamelessly said (with a healthy dose of anti-Obama-isms),

I'm part of a very great experiment in self-government where we the people determine our own pursuit of happiness and our own individual freedom and liberty not to be confused with the Barack Obama gang who believes in we the sheeple and actually is attempting to re-implement the tyranny of King George that we escaped from in 1776. And if you want another Concord Bridge, I got some buddies.
And, sadly, the extremist guys out there eat it up, consuming this paranoia by the pint and spitting it back out as if it were fact.  See here for some examples.  

There's a better name for this type of insurrectionist talk:  TREASON.

And they dare to call themselves "patriotic."  Why is it the treasonous types always drape themselves in the flag?

Hey, here's a thought for you gun guys:  No tyrannical government has been overthrown by armed citizenry, including the Revolutionary War.  Without interference from allies of the revolutionaries, such as France, Washington's army would have fallen.  Hunting rifles weren't enough.  And in modern times, every nation that has overthrown a despot has done so either through peaceful protest and democratic reforms (i.e. India, Estonia, USSR, East Germany, Tunisia) or involvement and arms from other nations, like us (i.e. Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan).  All those little assault weapons and handguns in the hands of American citizens aren't likely to amount to much against the might of the military.

Of course, there's no sign at all (to sane people) that our government is going to be tyrannical   And we have this other means of removing governments, too... every four years.

It's time for NRA members and the public to recognize how extreme the NRA has grown.  If any insurrection is needed, it's an insurrection by NRA members against their own leadership.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lyrics: God We Have Heard It

This was sung at the opening of a panel discussion that I participated in today at First United Methodist Church in Eugene, in memory of the Sandy Hook victims, sung to the tune of "Ah Holy Jesus".

"God We Have Heard It"
by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette (copywrite 1999)

God, we have heard it, sounding in the silence:
News of the children, lost to this world's violence.
Children of promise!  Then without a warning,
Loved ones are mourning.

Jesus, you came to bear our human sorrow;
You came to give us hope for each tomorrow.
You are our life, Lord, God's own love revealing.
We need your healing!

Heal us from giving weapons any glory;
Help us, O Prince of Peace, to hear your story;
Help us resist the evil all around here;
May love abound here!

By your own Spirit, give your church a clear voice;
In this world's violence, help us make a new choice.
Help us to witness to the joy your peace brings,
Until your world sings!

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait…. (famed sniper at gun range)

Chief Chris Kyle, decorated sniper and SEAL veteran,
killed with guns in reach at shooting range
(UPDATED -- See below)

The gun crowd is always saying, “If only the victim had had a gun, they could have defended themselves.”  After all, according to the NRA's Wayne LaPierre in his unhinged call to arm all schools, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

But here we are again (just as with the recent case of firearms customizer and famed YouTube video star, Keith Ratliff) with yet another famed gun guy getting shot in cold blood while armed and ready.

Saturday, the U.S. military's most deadly sniper, Chief Chris Kyle, was fatally shot, along with another man, by another veteran who was suffering from PTSD, at a gun range in Texas (wait, aren't gun ranges supposed to be havens of safe and responsible gun handling?).

From an article:
Chris Kyle, a retired Navy SEAL and the U.S. military's most lethal sniper, was fatally shot Saturday along with another man on the gun range of Rough Creek Lodge, a posh resort just west of Glen Rose, Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said. 
A suspect was arrested about five hours later in Lancaster, southeast of Dallas, more than 70 miles from the scene, Bryant said. 
The suspect, identified as Eddie Ray Routh, 25, was pursued to a house in Lancaster by officers, including a local SWAT team. Routh tried to flee in a vehicle but was stopped about 9 p.m. after spikes were laid across a road, Bryant said. 
"The suspect has been caught and is in custody in Lancaster," he said. Erath County sheriff's investigators and Texas Rangers were securing a capital murder warrant, he said. 
Witnesses told sheriff's investigators that the gunman opened fire on the two men around 3:30 p.m., then fled in a pickup belonging to one of the victims. The Sheriff's Department didn't get a call until around 6 p.m.
Rough Creek Lodge is 77 miles southwest of Fort Worth between Glen Rose and Hico. 
The motive for the shootings remains unclear, Bryant said. "Not a clue, absolutely no idea." 
WFAA/Channel 8 quoted unnamed sources as saying that Kyle, who lived in Midlothian, and a neighbor had taken Routh on an outing to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. Routh turned on the men and shot them in the back, the report said.

Here is an interview with Chris Kyle.  

Here is another interview about his days as a sniper.  At timepoint 5:19 he is asked by the interviewer, "If you never got to kill another person again, would you be okay with it?" There is sad irony when Kyle answers, "I'm fine.  I don't have to kill to live."

The real irony here is that Chris Kyle was also very outspoken against any possible form of gun regulation.  See here as he recites the NRA propaganda that any regulation is a prelude to an all-out gun ban and confiscation, then goes on to give falsehoods about other nations which don't match statistics.  Oh, and for good measure, throws in support for arming school teachers (trained by his security company, of course).  I wonder how he felt about reporting dangerously mentally ill people to the background check system (which his shooter clearly wasn't reported, despite being committed to a mental hospital, twice, in the past six months and threatening to shoot his father to death).

Though I am a pacifist and feel the Iraq war was unjustified, I have great respect for Kyle as a decorated war hero and veteran, and for most other veterans.  He did his duty, and did it well.  Sadly, he leaves behind a wife and two kids.  

But let's not kid ourselves here.  There are some important lessons to be learned from this incident.  And unlike most veterans, particularly snipers, Kyle reveled in the fact that he was a killer, advertising it widely, including in his book, and sharing how much he loved his job killing Iraqis.  The old man who taught me gun safety at Boy Scout camp had been a sniper in WWII in the Pacific.  He was very humble, and it was only with great reluctance that he shared just a few bits of info about his experience.  Nothing at all like Kyle and his narcissism. 

Kyle is a gun nut's dream example of someone who can defend himself, and he had guns within reach.  Let's look at his qualifications, shall we?
  • He was the military's most deadly sniper, with a record 150 confirmed kills, and perhaps as many as 255 including unconfirmed kills. 
  • He was an ex-Navy SEAL, with  two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.
  • He was a firearms trainer for military, law enforcement, and civilians.
  • He grew up with guns and hunting, riding rodeo and living the life of a cowboy.
  • He literally wrote the book on a sniper's life, called American Sniper, an autobiography released last year.
  • He was  president of Craft International, a Dallas firm that provided military and law enforcement sniper training as well as private security.

Lessons to learn:

If this "good guy with a gun", with his firearms within reach, and all of that experience killing "bad guys with guns" can't protect himself against a shooter right next to him, then how can the gun nuts claim they would be any better?

[this post is part of an ongoing series of people being shot to death or attacked despite being armed (and sometimes because they are armed)]
UPDATE (2/3/13): Some additional detail in another article:

Bryant said Kyle, Littlefield and Routh went to the shooting range around 3:15 p.m. Saturday. A hunting guide at Rough Creek Lodge came across the bodies of Kyle and Littlefield around 5 p.m. and called 911. .... 
Travis Cox, the director of a nonprofit Kyle helped found, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Kyle and Littlefield had taken Routh to the range. Littlefield was Kyle’s neighbor and “workout buddy,” Cox said. 
“What I know is Chris and a gentleman — great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield — took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them,” Cox said. ... 
Cox described Littlefield as a gentle, kind-hearted man who often called or emailed him with ideas for events or fundraisers to help veterans. He said he was married and had children. 
“It was just two great guys with Chad and Chris trying to help out a veteran in need and making time out of their day to help him. And to give him a hand. And unfortunately this thing happened,” Cox said.
UPDATE (2/4/13):  The shooter, had been to a mental hospital twice in the past half year and suffered from PTSD.  Just the sort you should arm and take to the shooting range with you.  From an article:
Routh, a member of the Marines Corps Reserve, was first taken to a mental hospital on Sept. 2 after he threatened to kill his family and himself, according to police records in Lancaster, where Routh lives. Authorities found Routh walking nearby with no shirt and no shoes, and smelling of alcohol. Routh told authorities he was a Marine veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. 
"Eddie stated he was hurting and that his family does not understand what he has been through," the report said. 
Routh's mother told police that her son had been drinking and became upset when his father said he was going to sell his gun. She said Routh began arguing with them and said he was going to "blow his brains out." 
Police took Routh to Green Oaks Hospital for psychiatric care. 
Dallas police records show Routh was taken back to the same mental hospital in mid-January after a woman called police and said she feared for Routh's safety. 
In May, Routh's mother reported a burglary that included nine pill bottles and her son was involved, according to a Lancaster police report. No other details were available.
UPDATE (2/5/13):  A article with additional details on the killer (Routh, that is).

UPDATE (1/8/15):  A new movie is being released about Kyle, named after Kyle's book, American Sniper.  I haven't yet seen the movie, but the trailer looks to be a spin on the man's story glorifying him as a reluctant hero.  I wonder how it will handle his ironic death, or if it will display his glee at killing.  HERE is a good write-up on this.  From the article:
Chris Kyle, a US navy Seal from Texas, was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and claimed to have killed more than 255 people during his six-year military career. In his memoir , Kyle reportedly described killing as “fun”, something he “loved”; he was unwavering in his belief that everyone he shot was a “bad guy”. “I hate the damn savages,” he wrote. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.” He bragged about murdering looters during Hurricane Katrina, though that was never substantiated.
UPDATE (1/20/15):  The movie, "American Sniper," is clearly fictionalized, with added arch-nemesis bits, over-simplified demonization of Iraqis, and glorification of Kyle to paint him as a victim instead of a killer.  From a good review of the movie:
One investigating journalist wrote in the New Yorker that these tales “portray Kyle as if he really were the Punisher, dispensing justice by his own rules. It was possible to see these stories as evidence of vainglory; it was also possible to see them as attempts by a struggling man to maintain an invincible persona.” Maybe some of these brags were true, and maybe they weren’t. A lot of this film certainly isn’t – and all the complicated questions it leaves out would have made it a much more interesting story than the Bush-era propaganda it shovels in.
UPDATES (2/24/15):
-- Kyle's shooter, Eddie Ray Routh, has been found guilty.
-- Another sniper from the Iraq war questions Kyle's depiction of Iraqis as "savages" and the way they are portrayed in the movie. 

UPDATE (5/25/16):  One example of where Kyle has lied about his credentials has been in his exaggeration of the number of medals he has won.

UPDATE (7/9/16):  Exemplifying Kyle's overestimation of himself, he overstated his medal count on an official Navy form, stating that he had an extra silver star and an extra two bronze stars.  Recognizing the mistake, the Navy corrected the form.  From an article:

The Navy personnel form that Kyle signed and initialed when he left the Navy in 2009 credited him with two Silver Star and six Bronze Star medals with “V” device for valor, according to the document. Kyle, whose best-selling book American Sniper was later made into a Hollywood blockbuster, wrote that he had been awarded two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars.  ... 
However, the Navy’s investigation of Kyle’s record, which began in 2012, determined that Kyle had commendations for one Silver Star and four Bronze Star medals with “V” devices. .... 
“After thoroughly reviewing all available records, the Navy determined an error was made in the issuance of Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle’s form DD214,” Ensign Marc Rockwellpate, a Navy spokesman, said in a statement. “Specifically, the DD 214 did not accurately reflect the decorations and awards to which Kyle was officially entitled. After notifying his family of the error, the Navy issued a corrected copy of the DD 214, which accurately reflects Kyle’s years of honorable and extraordinary Navy service.”