Friday, March 22, 2013

Griffin Dix: Gun Lobby Whistleblower Warned Against Dancing with the Devil

Today we have a guest blogger: Griffin Dix, Ph. D.  Griffin taught Cultural Anthropology at Santa Clara University, was Research Director at MacWEEK and founded a computer industry research and consulting business. After his son was shot and killed in 1994, he represented the national Million Mom March chapters on the Brady Campaign Board. He lives in Kensington, California. The opinions expressed here are his own.

The most important of the current gun violence prevention proposals is to require background checks whenever guns are sold, including by private sellers. In order to investigate gun crimes, law enforcement needs to be able to access the records which will be kept by gun dealers who will carry out the checks. There is overwhelming public support for universal background checks. But recently some in Congress, such as Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, have opposed them.

The gun lobby claims that keeping records of gun purchases could lead to confiscation of firearms. This is the absurd old gun lobby smokescreen to hide the gun lobby's primary goal, which is to sell as many guns as possible to anyone-including criminals.

Don't take my word for it. Just listen to former top gun industry lobbyist, Robert Ricker, who was Executive Director of the American Shooting Sports Council when it was the nation's most influential gun industry trade association. Previously, he was the National Rifle Association's Assistant General Counsel, where he handled all the political matters for its political action committee.

But by 2003 Ricker was publicly admitting things many in the gun industry were adamantly denying. In a declaration in support of plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the gun industry, he said that the industry knew perfectly well that many firearms "pass quickly from licensed dealers to juveniles and criminals through such avenues as straw sales, large-volume sales to gun traffickers and various other channels by corrupt dealers or distributors who go to great lengths to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities." [Download the Brady Campaign report, "Smoking Guns: Exposing the Gun Industry's Complicity in the Illegal Gun Market" See pp.14-22 Insiders Expose Gun Industry Misconduct. ]

He pulled no punches, saying, "Leaders in the industry have long known that greater industry action to prevent illegal transactions is possible and would curb the supply of firearms to the illegal market."

Ricker explained that instead of requiring dealers to be proactive and properly trained to stop questionable sales, it had been a common practice of gun manufacturers and distributors "to adopt a 'see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil' approach. This type of policy encourages a culture of evasion of firearms laws and regulations."

He also said the industry "has long known that ATF is hampered in its enforcement efforts by inadequate resources and constraints in federal law on its ability to crack down on corrupt dealers." Nonetheless, Ricker said, every year the NRA comes before the appropriations committees on Capitol Hill advocating that ATF's budget be cut.

And why did he see the light? For the same reason that most of us want to make it hard for criminals to buy guns: "I don't want to have to come home some night from the office and have my wife tell me that, 'Your son was shot in a drive-by shooting' or, 'The neighbors' kids were killed.' That's what gets me," he said.

Well, it's still true. The gun industry wants to sell as many guns as possible- including to criminals who are its repeat customers. Don't be misled by the gun lobby's fear mongering. The industry is against universal background checks because they would cut into gun sales-including sales made to criminals by private sellers.

Ricker's advice to powerful politicians was "Stop dancing with the devil."

In his 1973 movie Sleeper, Woody Allen wakes up from routine peptic ulcer surgery 200 years later and quips about the NRA, "They were an organization that helped criminals get guns ."

That could still be true in two hundred years unless we end it right now. "Stop dancing with the devil" is good advice for legislators in 2013.

Tell them loud and clear.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Gun Sales Boom, But Who's Buying?

We've seen the headlines about booming gun sales: 

With headlines like that, it makes it sound like everyone and their brother are running out to be first-time gun buyers.  Why, the percent of the population who own guns must be skyrocketing!

Particularly, sales are souring for assault weapons, which face a potential ban.  From one article:
“If I had 1,000 AR-15s I could sell them in a week,” said Jack Smith, an independent gun dealer in Des Moines, referring to the popular style of semiautomatic rifle that drew national attention after Adam Lanza used one to kill 20 children and 6 adults at a Newtown school. “When I close, they beat on the glass to be let in,” Mr. Smith said of his customers. “They’ll wave money at me.”

From another article
"The firearms industry is certainly seeing explosive sales growth in the last several months," Wedbush Securities analyst Rommel Dionisio told Reuters. 
Background checks for firearm sales, mandatory for all purchases made at U.S. gun stores, rose nearly 50 percent year-on-year in December, data from the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System showed. 
This was the highest monthly percentage rise ever reported for a measurement commonly used to gauge the firearm industry's performance. It eclipsed the 30.8 percent rise of November 2012.

These reports of surging gun sales are based only on the FBI reports of background check numbers.  Everyone who buys a gun from a licensed dealer (not a private seller, mind you!) has to have a background check with every sale.  So, yes, sales have soared, but they can't discriminate between first-time buyers and gun nuts with 100 weapons stockpiled in their basement.

Those of us who keep track know better.  These aren't first-time buyers.  These are primarily people who already own guns who are buying into the NRA propaganda that Obama's comin' for your gunzzz.

The truth is almost certainly that the sales are predominantly to prior owners.

Evidence:  Sales of guns have been steadily declining for decades, across a wide swath of different demographics.  As reported in the New York Times (also see graph, at right):

The gun ownership rate has fallen across a broad cross section of households since the early 1970s, according to data from the General Social Survey, a public opinion survey conducted every two years that asks a sample of American adults if they have guns at home, among other questions. 
The rate has dropped in cities large and small, in suburbs and rural areas and in all regions of the country. It has fallen among households with children, and among those without. It has declined for households that say they are very happy, and for those that say they are not. It is down among churchgoers and those who never sit in pews. 
The household gun ownership rate has fallen from an average of 50 percent in the 1970s to 49 percent in the 1980s, 43 percent in the 1990s and 35 percent in the 2000s, according to the survey data, analyzed by The New York Times.
I'm not alone in my feeling about who is buying these guns, by any means.  One who agrees is Daniel Webster, who has studied and published studies on the issue of gun violence for a very long time.  From that same NYT article:
“There are all these claims that gun ownership is going through the roof,” said Daniel Webster, the director of theJohns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “But I suspect the increase in gun sales has been limited mostly to current gun owners. The most reputable surveys show a decline over time in the share of households with guns.”
Of course, the NRA refutes this theory.  It doesn't help sell guns to point out that their popularity is declining.  But every other entity who has polled the public on the issue or studied it in any way has found a comparable trend.

Suggested reasons for the decline?  A steady decline in hunting, more urbanization of the population, changing demographics, and generally lower rate of violent crimes in most areas.  The decline is also age-related, with younger people declining in ownership faster.

So to all you gun nuts out there who buy into the NRA propaganda and are stocking up your arsenal:  you are increasingly fringe in your fetish.  Buying up all the guns you can handle succeeds in only one thing: emptying your pocketbooks and proving that you are paranoid.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guns In School Make Our Kids LESS Safe

(UPDATED -- see below)

A little less than a week ago, the little town of Harrisburg, Oregon, just north of where I live in Eugene, held a meeting to discuss the idea of arming some of its school staff, following the lunatic advice of the NRA

From an article:

At the meeting, [state representative Dennis] Richardson said that upgrading fences and locking doors make schools feel like prisons, and that building prison-like schools are an ineffective deterrent to school shootings, as determined shooters will find access to a campus. 
Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller agreed and added that Sandy Hook Elementary was locked down and secured when the attack happened and that no matter what schools do, a shooter will gain access if desired. 
Richardson suggested that Oregon schools should consider allowing several staff members to act as campus responders by bearing a concealed weapons permit, with permit bearers partaking in frequent training and practice.

(Maybe you remember Sheriff Tim Mueller?   He's one of the insurrectionist Sheriffs who, before President Obama had even unveiled his proposals to reduce gun violence, declared that he would rebel against his sworn duty to uphold and enforce the laws of our nations by refusing to enforce any gun legislation that was passed.  But I digress...)

We wouldn't want to add sensible security features like fences and locking doors.  Let's instead arm our teachers!  We don't pay them enough to actually teach our kids, with 30+ students per class, and expect them to sometimes parent our kids, too, and serve other roles, like street-crossing guards, coaches, or even bus drivers, for little-to-no additional pay, but now they are expected to be the school armed security, too?

What representative Richardson failed to acknowledge is that there isn't a single instance -- ever -- of an armed school security guard actually stopping a shooting by pulling out their weapon.  In fact, they have tried and failed.

Perhaps this is why teacher and parent organizations have roundly come out against the idea of guns in schools.  From one article:
The American Federation of Teachers called the suggestion "irresponsible and dangerous," while the National Education Association described it as shocking and based on the "delusional assumption that everything other than guns contributes to these tragedies."

The National Parent Teachers Organization said today it was pleased with many of President Obama’s new proposals to improve school security but that his call for more armed guards at schools “comes as a disappointment.”

But there HAVE been instances where conceal carry permit holders, including armed security guards, have had accidents at schools.  Consider the following SEVENTEEN examples in recent years:

  • February 28, 2018: A high school social studies teacher in Dalton, Georgia, barricaded himself in a classroom and fired a shot from a handgun. Luckily, no one was injured, and he was taken into custody.
  • February 5, 2018: A police officer was at an elementary school in Maplewood, MN, "building relationships" with 3rd and 4th graders when one little boy reached over and pulled the trigger on the officer's holstered handgun. The gun fired into the floor. Luckily, no one was injured.
  • September 13, 2016:  A school teacher at Cumberland Christian School, in Chambersburg, PA, left a loaded, unsecured handgun on a toilet in a bathroom. Four children, ages 6 to 8, went in the bathroom before one of the children reported the gun. Luckily, none of them fired the gun.
  • February 19, 2015:  A school resource officer at Western Wayne School District in Pennsylvania unintentionally fired his handgun in the school.  Luckily, no one was injured.
  • September 11, 2014:  A teacher was in the bathroom of a school in Taylorsville, Utah, when she unintentionally shot herself in the leg with her own handgun.
  • January 18, 2014:  An armed security guard left his weapon unattended in the bathroom, fully accessible to K-8 students, despite being a retired police weapons instructor.
  • October 24, 2013:  A police officer left his loaded assault rifle strapped to his motorcycle while visiting an elementary school.  A boy pulled the trigger, firing the weapon and leading to a shrapnel injury of three kids.
  • August 24, 2013:  A SWAT police officer was giving a presentation at an elementary school in Lodi, California, when a 6-8 year old boy fired the officer's holstered gun, hitting the officer in the leg.
  • May 14, 2013:  A school staffer with a conceal carry permit was offering a ride to a student, in the parking lot, when he unintentionally fired his legally concealed handgun, hitting the student in the leg.
  • March 6, 2013:  A recently-started armed resource officer program at schools in Highland, New York, was suspended after one of the security guards unintentionally fired his weapon in school Children were present, but luckily no one was injured.
  • March 1, 2013:  During a conceal carry training class, on school grounds, which was part of a new program to arm school staff, a school maintenance worker who was a student in the class unintentionally fired his weapon, wounding himself in the leg.
  • January 17, 2013:  A charter school in Lapeer, Michigan, decided to start having an armed guard on campus.  Three days after hiring a guard, the man left his weapon in a school bathroom where kids could have found it.
  • October 8, 2012:  A man with a concealed handgun visited an elementary school classroom in Moore, Oklahoma, to help the teacher with her computer.  His gun fell out and he left without it, only realizing it was missing after the media reported it.  Small children were present in the room at the time.
  • March 22, 2012:  A volunteer track coach at John Mall High School in Walsenburg, Colorado, unintentionally shot himself in the leg with his new .40 caliber Glock handgun, nearly bleeding to death.  He was in his vehicle in the parking lot of the school sports complex.
  • December 8, 2011:  A janitor with a conceal carry permit was working on ceiling tiles in a preschool classroom in Waterbury, Connecticut, when he took off his gun belt.  He then left the loaded gun in the classroom and forgot about it. Monday morning, teachers came in the room and found the gun, only moments before 3- and 4-year olds entered the room.
  • September 12, 2011:  An armed security guard, patrolling schools at night in Salem, Oregon, unintentionally lost his loaded firearm somewhere during his rounds The gun was never found.
  • May 12, 2011:  A school resource officer was cleaning his gun, while in the school building, and unintentionally fired the gun. The round went through the wall and into the nurse's room where there were two student, the nurse, and another adult. Luckily, no one was injured.

There’s no clear evidence that having armed guards has reduced the violence rate.  The vast majority of schools have never demonstrated a need, nor likely ever will demonstrate a need, for armed interference.  One report for armed schools in Mississippi reported that the guards engaged in “overly harsh school disciplinary policies,” unnecessary arrests, and racial prejudice.  Further, two different studies (HERE and HERE) have shown that armed guards in schools make students feel less secure, possibly affecting their performance.

Conceal carry gun owners are all-too-often responsible for leaving loaded guns where children find them, sometimes resulting in injuries or death, unintentionally discharge their gun in public or leave it behind in public, or, yes, purposely use their guns to murder people

And God forbid if a troubled child were able to get the gun off of the concealed carry permit holder to arm themselves.

Walking onto the grounds of a school won't magically change human nature, including for conceal carry permit holders.  It is an unacceptable risk to our children.

ADDENDUM (4/3/13):  A related and more updated posting at the Common Gunsense blog.

UPDATE (5/14/13):  Another shooting by a "law abiding" gun owner on a school campus, in Aurora, Colorado, unintentionally shooting a student in the leg.  From an article:
Police spokesman Ofc. Frank Fania says a staff worker at the school accidentally shot the student in the leg in the staff worker’s car. The student was getting a ride home. 
The gun accidentally fired while the shooter was putting it away in the glove box of his vehicle.
Fania says the staff worker has a second job as an armed security officer, so it’s legal for him to have the gun. He is not a teacher at the school and his job as a security guard is not associated with Aurora Public Schools. 
The worker drove the victim to Aurora Medical Center South for treatment. The victim is expected to recover.
UPDATE (8/12/13):  A reader alerted me to an update on Harrisburg, Oregon, school district. They are still considering arming staff, but naturally are facing big problems with insurance (as have other school districts who have attempted this).  When the local paper contacted the school board president for a statement on the issue, he told them, "Go to Hell."  Nice.

UPDATE (8/24/13):  A SWAT police officer was giving a presentation at an elementary school in Lodi, California, displaying "tactical equipment," when a 6-8 year old boy fired the officer's holstered gun, hitting the officer in the leg.  The boy was not identified.  The officer will recover.

UPDATE (10/24/13):  A police officer was visiting a Chino, California elementary school to take part in a school assembly. He left his loaded AR-15 assault rifle on his motorcycle. An elementary school child then pulled the trigger.  The bullet hit a metal plate, creating shrapnel that injured three children.

UPDATE (11/11/13): The shooting at a high school in Walsenburg, Colorado, was added to the list above.

UPDATE (9/11/14):  The unintentional self-shooting of a teacher in a school in Utah was added to the list above.  From another article on the incident:
"State law allows it, and the district has no authority to prevent concealed weapons permit holders access to our campuses," Horsley said. "Additionally, permit holders are not required to disclose their status as a permit holder, and/or whether they are carrying a weapon or not, to their employer, or in this case, the principal or school district." 
UPDATED (5/14/15): Added the May 13, 2015 incident where a child got hold of school guard's loaded gun.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

More Pro-Gun Threats And Insults


A certain population of pro-gun activists seem to think it's okay to threaten and insult those of us who are working to limit the availability of guns to criminals. 

I get such threats all too commonly.  I've posted some examples before, back when I stopped allowing anonymous comments to this blog, showing how they threatened to do me harm, come to my home, and even insinuated raping my 5-year old (at the time) daughter.  Not too long ago, one calling himself "Takedown" left a comment reply on a news site to me, saying "stay the hell away from central Oregon we might shoot your ass."

Another, calling himself "PleaseBeSmart" left a comment on a news article about the recent Rally to Prevent Gun Violence, saying "I'm really glad you see an armed threat though, because that's exactly what it will be if push comes to shove."

Here's an insulting email, full of profanity, left recently at the Ceasefire Oregon email in-box, from an Oregon resident, Mike Springer, which he sent from his work email at Benchmark Land Surveying, unhappy with the recently-proposed Oregon Assault Weapons Ban, HB3200:

As if pillows, knives, cars, or baseball bats have ever been used in a mass murder!

The really interesting part with Mr. Springer is that he was an elected official.  He was the Grant County Surveyor from 2008-2012 (I don't know if he was re-elected, but he at least tried to be).

His personal profile at his company site states that "He enjoys traditional archery, hunting, Tae Kwon Do and biking."  Apparently he enjoys spewing profanity and insults, too.  I question whether someone with his aggressive and unstable behavior should be allowed to possess guns.

Is this how we expect our elected officials to act?  Is this the sort of insulting language we expect of them?  I think the people of Grant County, Oregon, need to re-think who they elect to lead them. 

One Oregon legislator, Ginny Burdick, has introduced a number of public safety bills, including some that limit guns.  She is a cosponsor of HB3200, in fact.  Because of this, she gets huge numbers of robo-emails from the gun lobby here and its supporters.  Many of those, unfortunately, are profane and threatening.

She has gotten so many, in fact, that she recently postponed a town hall meeting about gun rights at a college campus.  According to Burdick:

"I've had town halls crashed by the extremist gun lobbyists before," she said. "They do not make life pleasant when they do that. They're disruptive and rude, and I didn't want to subject the students at Portland State to that kind of behavior."

But here's the kicker:  as if threatening and rude emails weren't enough, the gun extremists stalked the Senator and filmed her at her home!  They then showed footage of her at home on public websites, accusing her of lying about why she postponed her town hall.  Talk about creepy!  But that's the pro-gun extremists for you!  They have no shame. 

But threats aren't limited to local extremists.  They come even from the NRA, and not just from NRA board member and extreme insurrectionist nutcase, Ted Nuget (who even threatened President Obama). 

Recently, NRA President David Keene, who's own son shot at someone in a road rage incident, said in an interview:

"Around the country, the tide is turning on these questions," Keene told influential conservatives at the New York Meeting. "It's going to be a very rough and very ugly battle, as many of you have already seen.""Fortunately, our enemy doesn't have any guns and they don't know how to use them," he added. 

Of course not.  You don't hear threats of violence from gun violence prevention advocates, so why would he bother to say so?  Clearly this is a veiled threat of violence, planting a seed in the heads of NRA followers (the ones who have guns and know how to use them) for this "very rough and very ugly battle."  After all, as Wayne LaPierre infamously said, "The guys with the guns make the rules!"

Want to see more threats and insults?  They're easy to find.  Here's plenty more at the "Things Pro-Gun Activists Say" blog.

Will the gun guys do something stupid or violent at upcoming rallies?  Surely not!  Not according to the extremist group here in Oregon, the Oregon Firearms Federation.  Anything violent or threatening done by a guy with a gun at one of their rallies must be (get this!) the fault of an "anti-gunner!"  From their most recent "OFF Alert":

[T]here is every reason to believe the anti-gunners may attempt to seed the crowd with someone who will do something to embarrass gun owners and create opportunities for the gun grabbers.If you see someone doing something stupid, don’t assume he is one us. Step in and take action. The politicians and the media want an incident and there is no reason to believe one won’t be fabricated.
Talk about paranoia and psychological displacement!

The gun guys only do themselves a disfavor by making threats and insults.  They harm their own cause.  I guess I should be glad, since they expose their true feelings this way, to help me in MY cause.

UPDATE (3/13/13):  According to a New York Times article on intimidation of Oregon lawmakers by pro-gun advocates, particularly of Burdick, another shameful political link was revealed.  The slimy pro-gunners who stalked Burdick at her home were "friends" of Jeff Reynolds, the chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party.  From the article ("Politics by Intimidation"):

On the evening of March 4, two men sat in a car across from her home and videotaped her. They showed her driving into her garage and taking out her garbage. Having “proved” that Burdick did not have a scheduling conflict, they then put together a short video of Burdick at home. Jeff Reynolds, the chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party, who also claims to be a citizen journalist, posted the video on a Web sitehe runs. 
When I spoke to Reynolds, he conceded that the videographer was a friend but refused to divulge his name. He said the video had nothing to do with the gun issue. ....
The extremist tactics of people like Jeff Reynolds and his videographer friend are clearly part of the reason why — they’ve helped delegitimize the Oregon Republican Party.  


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rally for Gun Violence Prevention

Last weekend I was proud to take part in a Rally for Gun Violence Prevention, in Eugene, Oregon.  It was sponsored by Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation and Million Mom March, and endorsed by the Democratic Party of Lane County Peace Caucus.

The program began with instrumental music by Eugene’s Stewart Aubel, then two speakers: Betsy Steffensen, from Million Mom March, and David Hazen, from Eugene City of Peace.  Betsy spoke about the need for reasonable reforms to keep guns out of the hands of those who would abuse them, and David spoke about the need to foster a culture of peace in ourselves and our culture, including a proposal to require conflict resolution training for school students, prisoners, and gun owners.

In the middle of the program we had three songs by Eugene singer/songwriter Peter Almeida, who coordinated the musical portions of the event, including a sing-along with John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Then we had two more speakers:  Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, and then myself for Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation.  Mayor Piercy spoke about an organization she belongs to, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and what they stand for, spoke in favor of an ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, and then made an appeal for both sides to enter the gun debate with respect for the other side’s views.  I spoke about the ways that gun violence has affected my life, and called for legislative reforms, including universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammo magazines, and keeping guns out of schools.

The program ended with another song by Peter Almeida, and then more instrumental music from Stewart Aubel.

We would like to thank the City of Eugene and the Eugene Saturday Market for allowing use of their space, and the Bijou Art Cinemas for advertising.

Here is video of nearly the entire event, taken by local independent videographer Lance Jacobs:

Ceasefire Oregon Rally in Eugene, OR to support new Gun Legislation March 2, 2013 from Lance Jacobs on Vimeo.

Media attended the event.  Here is some news coverage for the event:

An example quote from each of the speakers (with timestamp from the Lance Jacobs video linked above):

Betsy Steffensen, Million Mom March:

(0:51):  [I'm] for responsible gun ownership, not "control."  Everybody likes to use the word "control."  I don't want your guns.  You may keep it and put it in your safe and unload it and lock it up, that's what I want to happen.  People who go hunting, that's great, this is a great state for hunting -- go! -- but when you come home, unload your gun and lock it up.  If you have children who go play with the neighbors, I think it's a really good question to ask the family, "Oh, do you have weapons? Do you have guns in the house? And are they secured?"

David Hazen, Eugene City of Peace:

(9:30):  I propose that students at all levels, people incarcerated, applicants for purchase of a gun, as well as every public employee and candidate for office be required to demonstrate their competency in conflict resolution. The educational resources for that skill could be offered in partnerships with non-profits, churches, and neighborhood associations. TV stations could be enlisted to air PSA’s and programming that supported conflict resolution skill-building. The funding for such a program would probably be a small fraction of all the violence-containment measures now being proposed. 
Can you imagine how such a program would reduce the use of any weapon — including verbal abuse — to resolve conflict? The ratio of benefit-to-cost would be huge, and the NRA just might support it.

Kitty Piercy, Mayor of Eugene, Oregon:

(24:15):  Whether you are a person who owns a gun or not, there are points of agreement we should all be able to have.  I truly believe that none of us wants to see another child die.  I truly believe that we all care about safe homes and a safe future for everyone, and so I think we share those values, and we need to do a better job of how we get there.

Baldr Odinson, Ceasefire Oregon:

(33:25):  We've had speakers talking about personal responsibility.  We're all positive people, right?  We're in Eugene.  Eugene is a beautiful town and we have beautiful, positive people.  We don't want to think we live in violence, but we do.  The other night, there were gunshots near my home.  Why?  Why does anyone need to fire a gun?  There wasn't a report to the police.  What happened?

When we hear the stories on the news, every week there seems there's some shooting in our area, or some gun crime, or some felon [in possession], we shake our heads, and we say, "Ohh.  Not again."  Then we turn off the TV, go to sleep, wake up, and do life as usual.  We all have to be involved.  We all have to talk about it.  We all have to talk to our legislators and say, "We want something done, right now!"  Right?  Right.  Right now!  Not a year from now.  Not ten years from now -- as people continue to die.  It's not just a question of freedom.

The pro-gun folks talk about their rights -- and they do have rights.  To them, a gun represents a symbol of justice and freedom and the American way.  A "stand against tyranny."  But when you're looking down the wrong end of that gun, when you're holding a dead teen in your arms, as I have, when you're attending the funeral of a friend who's killed himself, that gun is no longer a symbol of freedom to you, it is exactly what it was designed to be:  a deadly weapon.

Rally participants (from top to bottom, moving left to right):  Betsy Steffensen, David Hazen,
Mayor Kitty Piercy, Baldr Odinson, Peter Almeida, and Stewart Aubel  (all images except bottom right
taken from screenshots of video by Lance Jacobs. Bottom right taken from KMTR video screenshot)

Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the ELaw Conference was scheduled for the same day and time (oops), so many of the potential audience, "progressives" in Eugene, were there instead, so turnout at the rally was low.

Also, 5 or 6 pro-gun demonstrators showed up, waving signs that opposed the proposed Oregon assault weapons ban.  They were mostly respectful, though confrontational enough to hold video cameras in our faces and trying to ask personal questions.  Same ol', same ol'.  

I'm looking forward to the next rally we can hold.