Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Be Safe This Halloween

In Oregon, as in most states, a private gun sale requires no background check, paperwork, or questions asked at all (except at gun shows in Oregon).  That means ANYONE can purchase a gun:  it's just cash-and-carry, no "underground black market" needed.  And too many of those sales are to unstable individuals or criminals.

Be safe this Halloween, and demand background checks and other sensible gun regulation to make a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

More Pro-Gun Arming Of Schools Despite Objections From Teachers

Even in the hands of police, accidents happen at schools
(This post is UPDATED with additional instances since first posting -- see below)

Well, it's happened again.  Another school board with some pro-gun extremists sitting on it has declared that concealed handguns are allowed in its classrooms, including in the hands of its teachers.  This time in St. Helens, Oregon.  As usual, though, they have done so against the wishes of the very teachers they want to arm.

Back in March, 2013, a ban against guns was put in place in that school district after teachers and parents were polled.  The vast majority were against guns.  Wisely, the school board put the ban in place out of respect to the wishes of those they served.

Unfortunately, school boards are not necessarily made up of people who have children in their district or have any teaching experience at all. 

From an article and news video which quotes one of the teachers in that school district:
A teacher at St. Helens High School says the school board ignored teachers’ opinions when they repealed a ban on teachers and staff members carrying concealed weapons on campus. 
Amber Horn said the board knew how the teachers felt about the issue, but didn’t care. 
“Totally unvalued. Our opinion doesn’t matter,” she said. “A teacher’s worst nightmare is a gun in school. I have a toddler there. That’s the worst nightmare there is.”

Since the ban was put in effect, some new, more conservative school board members have come on the board and decided, on their own, that guns around kids in their school would be a great thing.

Board member Ray Biggs and chairman Marshall Porter, in particular, think teachers should be able to have guns in the event of a school shooting. 
“I would say that the risk is more likely that somebody who isn’t following the law is a higher risk to your child coming on to school property than the one that is going to do it legally,” Porter said.
Really?  It would seem that Mr. Porter doesn't have his facts straight.  If he had bothered to look, he would have found that there has never been a school shooting stopped by an armed teacher or a citizen conceal-carry owner.  The closest case I ever found was of a school staff member (and Army reservist commander) who went out to their car and got a gun, but the shooting was over by that point, the shooter was out of ammo and was driving out of the parking lot (the only reason he was stopped was that the shooter crashed his car, allowing the staff member to get to him and hold him under arrest).

On the other hand, I know of at least SEVENTEEN instances where they have CAUSED incidents, including injuring themselves or children, just in the last couple years, including one by a police officer just the other day.  Here they are:
  • 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, 2014A 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.
Totaled up, that's four children and four adults who have been wounded out of sixteen cases.

What's more, these extremist school districts are discovering that, upon making their ruling allowing guns on campus, their insurance companies are pulling their coverage or drastically increasing premiums.  You see, insurance companies actually pay attention to the facts and statistics.  They understand that guns and kids are a deadly mix.

Arming schools is an idea that is very unpopular with nearly every national organization representing parents, teachers, and law enforcement, as well as the citizens of Newtown, and has no merit with any historical context.  It’s time to listen to them and put this whole, dangerous nonsensical suggestion by the NRA to rest.  Support commonsense gun regulation to keep guns out of the hands of children and bad guys to begin with.

(10/29/13: corrected to read St. Helens, Oregon [not Washington])

UPDATE (11/5/13):  A group of teachers, parents, and concerned citizens of St. Helens, Oregon, got together to hold a public protest of the school board decision.

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

UPDATE (1/14/14):  Incident in Michigan added to above list.

UPDATE (9/11/14):  The unintentional self-shooting of a teacher in a school in Utah was added to the list above. 

UPDATE (1/13/16):  Added the incidents from February 2015 and May 2011.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

No Vacation For Shootings

Also one of the safest, and a gun-free zone
(Updated -- see below)

I took a little vacation from volunteering, including from gun violence prevention activities like this blog (though I did continue to read and share on social media) as well as any other sort of community work I do.

Facing down the specter of gun violence, reading so many articles about shootings, learning about victims, and meeting survivors all takes a toll on a person.  Instead, for a month, I focused almost completely on my family.

A week of that time was spent in southern California, taking the kids to Disneyland and Legoland and visiting with family down there.  I was thankful for Disneyland's policy against concealed handguns by visitors.  Despite the fact that over 40,000 people (sometimes up to twice that number) visit the park each and every day I was there, there were (gasp!) no incidents where someone had to defend themselves with a firearm in this gun-free zone.  No gangs jumped out at me from behind the yeti on the Matterhorn roller coaster; no drug fiends tried to rape us on the Tea Cup ride; no mass shooters went on a spree as we sailed through It's A Small World.  The worst I saw were some stressed parents with over-stimulated, tantruming kids.  Safety in the "Happiest Place On Earth" doesn't need gun-toting people afraid of their fellow man.  Of course, some gun guys purposely disobey.  They just can't keep their paranoia at home.  If they would stupidly take them into airport security (as over 1500 did last year, with a disturbing rise so far this year), they would take them anywhere.  Legoland, too, doesn't allow firearms.  Nope, didn't see anyone needing one there, either.

I was also thankful that California has such strong gun laws.  As has been shown many times, there is a strong inverse correlation between the strictness of gun laws and the number of shootings.  California is one of the states with the tightest gun regulations, and not coincidentally, is among the top ten safest states for number of per capita shootings.  Gun laws matter!  And California has now passed additional laws requiring long-gun buyers to earn safety certificates, banned conversion kits that can turn regular magazines into high-capacity magazines, locked storage of guns in homes where felons and other prohibited people live, extension of prohibition for gun purchase from six months to five years by people deemed to be violent, and a ban on lead-containing ammunition.

Sadly, the rate of gun deaths in the United States never takes a vacation.  During my stay in California, a mentally ill man, Aaron Alexis, who had a history of problems and had recently been reported as hearing voices and thinking people were microwaving his brain, was nonetheless legally able to purchase a firearm and go on a shooting spree in the Washington Navy Yard, killing 12 and injuring 4 before he was killed by law enforcement.  Sane voices understood that this was yet another example of how guns get into the wrong hands, and that action needs to be taken to keep it from happening yet again and again and again.  The NRA's response, predictably, is that there should have been more people with more guns.  No surprise there.  Ignorant and dangerous, it ignores the fact that America, despite having the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, also has the highest rate of shootings of any nation not at war (see a graph HERE).  If the NRA's self-serving line were true, we would be the safest country, not the worst.  The facts and the deaths of innocents are inconvenient to the NRA line that more guns make us safer.

And as I tried to vacation and keep my thoughts positive, the shootings just kept coming and coming, of children and co-workers and family members.  Some were mass shootings of four or more people.  One of those was at a pick-up basketball game in Chicago, where 13 people were shot and injured, including a 3-year old and two teens.  But most shootings were single-victim shootings, of all ages, in small towns and large cities.  A great many of these shootings would be national headlines in other countries.  Here, in blood-drenched America, they were lucky to make the front page of their local paper, and most people have already forgotten the name of the Navy Yard shooter, and likely haven't even heard about that Chicago shooting.  The Joe Nocera Gun Report continued to report on many of these shootings as they happen, cramming them together as best they can, too many to go into depth on any of them.

And so, it's time to get back to the cause of protecting our communities in my own small way.  This month, in addition to returning to blogging, I am serving on a county firearms safety committee, organizing an annual United Way donation drive, and taking part in other activities to help my town be a safer and more caring place to live.  We all have to work together to create a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

UPDATE (10/11/13):  Updated, in text, regarding newly-passed laws in California.