Saturday, August 29, 2015

Statistics and Charts: Intentional Shootings

Below is a pie chart showing the intention of intentional shooting deaths in the United States, taken from FBI data, for 2011-2013.

HERE is the source of this graph, along with some details of the data.

See that tiny black sliver?  That is what the NRA and the gun guys say is worth defending their definition of "gun rights" and why we should allow guns everywhere, virtually unregulated.  That constitutes less than 1% of shooting deaths.  Even accidental deaths (not shown on this chart) outnumber them 2-to-1.

I say all those other colors are what makes it important to restrict guns further.  Wouldn't you agree?

I'm pretty sure the 33,000 shooting death victims a year would agree.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Witness Shootout)

A Vancouver, Washington man, John Kendall, was on the run after having shot a neighbor.

A man witnessed the fugitive and called 911 to report it.  When police showed up, however, they thought the caller was the fugitive, since he fit the fugitive's description, including his vehicle.

When the man exited his car and went to his trunk, police thought he was arming himself and opened fire, hitting the man in the leg.  The man then took up a position behind a gravel pile and returned fire, firing one shot.

Luckily, another call to 911 cleared it up and the shootout stopped.

The fugitive's car, however, had been around the corner.  He had shot himself to death.

From an article:

In a statement released by the Vancouver Police Department, a spokesperson said when police arrived on scene near the 700 block of NE Blandford Dr., they encountered a white man in his 50s, with an appearance matching Kendall’s, who exited his car and reached for his trunk.
“Fearing that he armed himself, law enforcement fired multiple shots at the individual in order to stop the perceived threat before the citizen could enter the woods,” the Vancouver Police Department said in a statement.
The man was struck in the leg, fired one shot from behind a rock, then called police again to report he had been shot. Once officers confirmed he was not Kendall, the man — who does not wish to be identified — was given medical treatment and transported to a nearby hospital.
At the time, police believed Kendall was armed with a rifle.
“Unbeknownst to responding law enforcement personnel, the reporting citizen parked his vehicle in the gravel turn-out nearby Kendall’s vehicle and remained on scene after hanging up,” the VPD said in a statement.
Police said responding officers did not see Kendall’s vehicle, because it was obscured by wooded and rocky terrain.

Did police see that the witness had been armed, and did that contribute to them opening fire?  Why did he return fire, knowing that these were police?  And why did he stick around when he knew a dangerous fugitive was in the area.  Was he trying to be a vigilante?

[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)]

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Walmart halts sale of assault rifles and sniper rifles!

Below is what was posted at the Walmart Shootings blog:

After years of pressure by gun violence prevention groups and victims, not to mention increases in at least the last three years, Walmart has announced that it is discontinuing sales of assault rifles and sniper rifles in its stores.  This is a tremendous success for common sense!
gun crimes and shootings at its stores for

Up until this, Walmart had sold five different models of assault rifles.  Some of these have been used in shootings on Walmart property or have been stolen from the store counters.

Walmart continues to sell shotguns, hunting rifles, and ammunition, as well as realistic-looking airguns, and they still allow people to carry concealed handguns in their stores.

From an article:

The world’s largest retailer will stop stocking AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles (MSRs) as it resets its stores with fall merchandise, a Walmart spokesman confirmed to Quartz on Wednesday. The company will replace the rifles (carried in less than a third of its stores) with shotguns and other hunting weapons.
The move comes in the midst of a national gun debate fueled by high-profile shootings involving the weapon, including Adam Lanza in the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, James Holmes in the Colorado theater shooting, and the Los Angeles Airport shooting where a Transportation Security Administration officer was shot and killed.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation says modern sporting rifles are among the most popular firearms being sold in America.

Walmart claims the move was a "business decision" and not due to pressure, but assault rifles continue to be a hot commodity with the gun guys, so I think we all know what the truth is here.  There has been a lot of outcry, including petitions like HERE and HERE.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Seattle Has Enacted A Tax On Firearms and Ammo Sales

Below is a guest blog post from Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon:

On August 10, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved to tax the sale of firearms and ammunition. From the article:

The council adopted the tax - patterned after a similar measure in Cook County, Illinois - on an 8-0 vote. The tax amounts to $25 for each firearm sold in the city, plus 5 cents per round for nearly every type of ammunition. The revenue would be used for gun safety research and gun violence prevention programs. 
The council also unanimously passed a companion measure to require mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms. Mayor Ed Murray said he supports both efforts.

The move came as the city is struggling to reduce gun violence as well as the enormous financial burden of gunshot-related trauma treated at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. 

The direct medical costs of treating 253 gunshot victims at Harborview Medical Center in 2014 totaled more than $17 million. Taxpayers paid more than $12 million of that. City officials estimate that the new tax would bring in $300,000 to $500,000 a year, but gun shop owners told council members those numbers are inflated and that the law would cost them customers and sales. 

The gun shop owners did not comment on the cost of lives lost due to gunshot death.

The direct cost of gun violence in America is $8.6 billion (such as emergency responder costs, court costs, and victim treatment).  87% of the direct costs is paid by taxpayers, mostly for imprisonment of convicted shooters

Add to that $221 billion in indirect costs (such as victims' lost wages and quality of life).

How much does the gun lobby pay to cover that cost? $0.00.

Americans pay, directly and indirectly, an exorbitant cost for gun violence while the gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, acquit themselves of any responsibility. The American tax payer foots the bill  for medical care, extra police, long-term care of the seriously injured and care for those who are shot but not insured.

We pay when we give up the freedom to go to the movies or a shopping mall because we worry about yet another person who easily got a gun he never should have had.

We pay when our sisters, daughters, aunts and mothers are intimidated into silence and into staying in abusive relationships at the point of a gun. 

We pay for gun violence in America every time we are afraid to go into public, every time we don't go to a movie, every time we decide to not go to a shopping mall, every time we worry about sending our kids to school, every time we worry that a loved one might commit suicide.

Any responsible gun owner would gladly pay a tax to help reduce gun violence. 

Frankly, I don't care if gun owners are losing a few gun sales. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

FAQs for Oregon's new background check law, the Oregon Firearms Safety Act

The Oregon Firearms Safety Act, which was signed into law back in May, and which requires background checks for ALL gun sales, including private and online sales, went into effect last Sunday.

But, thanks to the pro-gun forces and their dis-information attempts to obfuscate the law (and criminal-minded open rebellion against it), there has been some confusion about the law -- enough that some gun sellers are refusing to perform the background checks and some insurrectionistic sheriffs are refusing to uphold their oath of office to enforce the law.

Let's try to clear up some of this dis-information with some facts.

See the following link for frequently asked questions, or click on the specific questions, below:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How To Talk About Guns And Suicide

An ER doctor, Emmy Betz, talks plainly about suicide and gun availability in this TED talk ...

In other words, means matter, and guns are the most lethal means available for suicides.

Some good quotes:

"But I also ask [the patient] a question - an important question - that I think we all need to be asking anyone at risk of suicide.  Do you have access to a gun?"

"But the thing is, this is not political.  This is about helping protect the people we love, the people we care about, when they are in times of crisis."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Survivor Story: Khary Penebaker

Today we have a guest post by Khary Penebaker, whose mother, while Khary was still an infant, committed suicide with a gun that had been given to her as a gift despite battling depression.  As Khary mentions, he now works to try to prevent similar tragedies as the Survivor Outreach Leader for Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety in Wisconsin, where he has a family with three children.

Khary's story illustrates the heart-wrenching effects that gun violence and suicide can have on a family.  If you know anyone who shows signs of suicidal thoughts or severe depression, please remove any guns or other lethal means.  See the addendum, at the bottom of this post, for a link to warning signs, suicide phone hotline, and other information.

Here is Khary's story, which is cross-posted from the Moms Demand Action Faces of Courage site, here:

Khary Penebaker as an infant, with his mother and father
I am a 37-year-old man and I don’t remember my mom. I don’t know her birthday. I don’t know her voice, her touch, her smell. I don’t know much about her. On September 8, 1978, she committed suicide with a gun that my grandfather had given her. She died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, alone in her car. She left behind an infant who would never get to grow up with his mom.

For most of my life, I have struggled with two questions: how much could I be worth if my mom wasn’t willing to push through her depression, and why she did this to me? Neither question really has an answer—or at least an answer that would be worthwhile, given the fact that it wouldn’t bring her back or make this never-ending pain go away.
I have only had two real conversations about my mom and what happened to her. The first occurred in January of 1996 when I was a senior in high school. I had been snooping around my father’s things and stumbled upon her death certificate. I knew my mother committed suicide with a gun, but reading the death certificate meant learning for the first time what exactly had happened without any sugar-coating. After reading it, I felt like my already shaky existence was thrown into a whirlwind of more self-doubt and even greater grief. I told my father what I had found and that sparked the first and the last conversation we had about her. I could tell it was hard for him to talk about, just as it was hard for me to hear. I didn’t want to press him on it because I felt maybe it was easier on both of us if we just avoided the talk so we could pretend the pain wasn’t there.
The second conversation was in 2000 with my grandmother—the first time I had asked her about my mom. She told me some fun stories and tried to fill in some blanks, but she knew that a few hours of a conversation wouldn’t erase the two decades of time I had lost with my mother.
I have never blamed my mother’s death on the gun itself. However, I do wonder if things would have been different had she not had access to it since she had a long history of depression. Suicide is often an act of impulse; if that gun hadn’t been there maybe she would have pushed through that low point and been alive today. Suicide attempts committed with a firearm are twenty-one times more likely to result in a fatality than several other methods, including suffocation (69%), falls (31%), and poisoning/overdose (2%). When parents store their guns safely, they dramatically lower the chance of accidental shootings and suicides in their homes. But more than two million American children live in homes with unsecured guns, and for them and their families, preventable deaths are a real threat.
I wish I could go back in time and tell my grandparents to secure that gun so my mom couldn’t get to it. I wish I could have told my mom everything was going to be okay and that I was worth living for… but I can’t. I have to live every day with lingering, unanswerable questions.
I don’t wish this pain or the emptiness I often feel on my worst enemy. My father eventually remarried and, while my new mom has been a godsend, I will always long for the opportunity to hug my mom, to kiss her, to take in her smell and the way she feels, to know her, to see myself in her, to have her meet her grandkids. I want something to remember her by other than old pictures, which usually just trigger a wave of nearly unbearable emotion. Her suicide robbed me of part of myself.
Despite a difficult start to my life, I have been very fortunate. I am married with three awesome kids. My wife loves me, even with this burden I have to bear. There is an immense amount of security and reassurance in that alone.
Beyond my wife and kids, I also find comfort in helping others who have been personally affected by gun violence. Recently, I became a volunteer Survivor Outreach Leader for Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety in Wisconsin. In this role, I am connecting with family members of victims and survivors of gun violence to give them support and help them, if they choose, to become advocates for gun safety.
Before my involvement with Everytown, I practically never spoke about or even let myself think of my mother. But, during the training for the position, I had the opportunity to meet others who had been through similar tragedies, and I shared my story with them, confronting it head on. The support I received—and continue to receive—from them has empowered me in ways I never could have imagined. I didn’t know that my experience was something I could open up to anyone about, and learning that I’m not alone in this journey has made all the difference to me. I am looking forward to providing this same support to others.
Addendum (added by Baldr): 

Call 911 if you are in imminent danger to yourself or others, or
Call 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-8255

I, too, have lost a friend to a suicidal shooting.  Please see HERE for a list of suicide warning signs. See HERE for statistics around suicide and guns.  For more information, see also the Ceasefire Oregon Education Foundation WEBPAGE for suicide prevention.  

Every life is precious, including yours.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Oregon Law Requiring Background Checks for Private Firearm Sales In Force Starting Sunday

The following is a statement released by Ceasefire Oregon:

On Sunday, August 9, the new law from the Oregon Firearms Safety Act (OFSA)  requiring background checks for almost all private firearm sales will take effect. Ceasefire Oregon welcomes the new law and looks forward to a reduction in firearms-related crime.

The OFSA will help to reduce gun violence by requiring background checks for all gun sales with the exceptions of certain family members and during temporary transfers. Background checks will prevent people who are legally prohibited from purchasing firearms from buying guns.

“Over the last 25 years, background checks in Oregon have prevented thousands of prohibited people from buying guns,” said Monica Kirk, a board member of Ceasefire Oregon and the Central Coast Chapter of Ceasefire Oregon. “OFSA won’t interfere with anyone lending a rifle to a friend during a hunting trip or permanently giving a gun to a family member. The purpose of this law is to stop felons and domestic abusers from getting guns and killing people. It’s that simple.”

Two sections of OFSA not related to background checks will also reduce gun violence:

  • Oregon judges are now allowed to  prohibit the purchase or possession of guns by people during outpatient treatment for mental health illnesses if the judge decides there is a reasonable likelihood the person would constitute a danger to self or others.
  • Oregon State Police are now authorized to notify local law enforcement when a person prohibited from buying a gun attempts to do so and fails the background check.

Michael DeLong, who leads Ceasefire Oregon’s Workgroup on Suicide Prevention added, “We are very happy that Section 11 was included in the bill. Judges and mental health professionals now have another way to reduce suicide by gun in Oregon.” DeLong added, “About 75 to 85% of all gunshot death in Oregon are suicides. We expect this law will save lives.”

When asked if people will comply with the law, Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon, noted that, according to a poll by Americans for Responsible Solutions, 83% of Oregon gun owners supported expanded background checks. “The vast majority of Oregonian gun sellers are responsible people who don’t want to arm criminals. Americans have seen far too many reports of domestic abusers who kill their families and stories about felons who commit crimes with guns. Now, if people willingly sell a gun to a criminal, the seller will be held accountable.”

With OFSA taking effect on Sunday, felons, domestic abusers and people who have been adjudicated mentally ill will not be able to purchase firearms on the West Coast of the United States from Washington State through California.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Survivor Story: Liz Hjelmseth

Today we have a guest post from Liz Hjelmseth, who, as a child, survived being shot by her brother.  Below is her survivor story and how the event has changed her life.  She now works to help prevent other such shootings as an organizer for her local Moms Demand Action chapter.

Liz Hjelmseth as a child
I was 8 years old the Halloween my brother shot me in a fight over my cat. As I hopped off to the bathroom to die in the bathtub, thinking it would be easier for my Mom to clean up, he followed behind me apologizing and telling me he didn’t mean to do it. That was the very last time words were ever passed between us about the shooting. 

We went into shock together but luckily my sister was home and she knew what to do. Miracles happened that day, living through it was the one I cherish the most. Me living through it, my brother living through it and my family living through it. All of those miracles were not a given the moment my teenaged brother, who was not thinking straight because of a flash of anger, went to another room got a gun that was improperly stored, lifted it in anger, pointed it hastily and pulled the trigger.

Extraordinary measures were taken to keep me alive. I slept through most of that. I woke days later to hear the story of my shooting, the story that would be repeated over and over, the one my brother and I knew was not true. The story was my brother was playing with a gun he didn’t know was loaded, it accidentally went off, striking me. So to the world it was playing and accidental, something we can all have a good laugh about and a shrug of the shoulder and go on. Playing is fun right? Accidents are not worthy of our scrutiny because they are no one’s fault they are unpreventable. No one ever asked me what my version of the story was and I didn’t offer it.

That story most likely held us together as a family and for that I will be forever thankful. The story did have consequences though. I think about the little me going off to bed every night, never able to sleep very well, always afraid someone was going to kill me. My parents would repeat over and over, “No one is going to kill you Lizzy. Why would you think that?” Maybe because every night I had to go to bed knowing the person sleeping in the room next to mine did try to kill me, but we never spoke those words. During the day I could live the story but at night, when your brain leaves you open to truths, I could not keep faithful to the story and so I stayed awake, holding vigil. I held vigil for 22 years until I couldn’t do it any longer. I gave my version of the shooting at age 30 to my family. The healing started and it continues today. The shooting has been re-categorized as a terrible thing that happened, still with very little fault.

What I have come to realize is accidents don’t happen with guns. Guns have one purpose, to kill, and so if you pick one up and handle it carelessly and it does exactly what it is designed to do there is no accident. If you are an adult that leaves guns lying around and a child gets one and shoots themselves or someone else that is no accident, you are at fault.

Next time you hear the news anchor say these words, “A child was accidentally shot today…” know there are no accidents. There is a story that child and family will live but that story is no accident.

Monday, August 3, 2015

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Yet Another Gun Shop Owner)

The NRA says that carrying guns makes us safer and scares away the "bad guys with guns."  With that philosophy, shouldn't gun stores be the safest places in the U.S.?

And yet, here is yet another case (like THIS ONE and THIS ONE) where that simply wasn't true.

Jon Bieker and his wife Becky were in the gun store that they own, called the cutesy name "She's A Pistol" (which targets women as customers) in Shawnee, Kansas, both of them were armed with loaded handguns, when a "customer," came up to the counter to talk to Becky about a handgun.  Then three more people came in, armed. According to one of the suspects, the plan was for them to grab a handgun and then make a run for it, stealing it.  But that's now how things went down.

One of the four robbers leaped over the counter and punched Becky in the face, but then Jon, hearing the commotion, came out of a back room and opened fire.

What followed was a massive shootout which left two of the robbers injured and Jon Bieker injured and dying, surrounded by hundreds of his guns.  

Bieker later died in the hospital.  The suspects were captured after they tried to knock on the back door of a woman's home and the woman called 911 (instead of trying to shoot them, I'll add).

From an article:

Jon Bieker was killed and the man who allegedly shot him was placed in a medically induced coma following the Jan. 9 shootout. Three other suspects are in jail on first-degree murder charges while Becky Bieker is preparing to reopen her business, which specializes in offering personal protection options to females.
Yet the irony is that they can't protect themselves!

The irony is increased considering Becky's comments a few years ago:
In 2013, Becky Bieker explained why she is in business during an interview with KCTV. 
"People understand now that they can't rely on someone else or something else to protect them. They have to do it themselves," she said.

If Bieker hadn't opened fire, there's a good chance that no one would have died and the only problems would have been a stolen gun and Becky's bruised face.  Instead there was a shootout.  Jon's guns and all of his training didn't save him.

[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)]

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Open Carry Idiot)

William Coleman III had just purchased his brand new Walder P22 handgun and was walking down the street in Gresham, Oregon, proudly exercising his "Second Amendment right" to openly-carry the gun on his hip.

That's when he was approached by a man who said he wanted a cigarette, but when he saw Coleman's gun, he said, "I like your gun. Give it to me," and flashed a concealed handgun of his own.

Coleman then meekly handed over the gun, and the man fled.  

It's just that easy.

From an article:

Coleman, 21, was talking to his cousin in the 17200 block of NE Glisan St., after purchasing the handgun earlier that day, when a young man asked him for a cigarette, police said. 
The man then asked about the gun, pulled a gun from his own waistband and said “”I like your gun. Give it to me.” 
Coleman handed over the gun and the man fled on foot.
But, but...  the NRA says this shouldn't happen.  That simply seeing the gun openly-carried should scare away the bad guys, right??  Instead, it was merely an invitation for a free gun.  

Thankfully, Coleman handed it over instead of getting into a shootout, and no one had to die.  But that's not the fantasy ending that the gun guys dream about, is it?  Remember when Charlton Heston held up a rifle and shouted "from my cold dead hands"??

But there's nothing to keep Coleman from trying this stupidity again, is there?  And now there's one more illegal gun on the market.

[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)]

If Only He'd Had A Gun To Defend Himself. Oh, Wait.... (Another Gun Shop Owner)

61-year-old Scott Maxie was in the gun shop that he owned in Indianapolis, Indiana, called Muscatatuck Outdoors, when three men entered.  

Despite being surrounded by his lethal weapons, Mr. Maxie was shot to death by the men:

Monday night, Dejaun Worthen, 23; Darion Harris, 20; and Darryl Worthen, 24, were taken into custody at an Indianapolis home. Maj. Jerry Shepherd of the Jennings County Sheriff's Office said all three men are being held without bond in the Jennings County Jail on charges of murder and robbery.
The suspects were arrested in connection to the slaying of 61-year-old Scott Maxie, Shepherd said. Maxie was found shot in the head Sunday night at his gun shop near the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge.
The men then stole 47 guns from the store.  Only four of those guns were recovered.  One of the suspects, Worthen, was a FedEx driver who stopped by the store on his route.

How is this possible?  The NRA has suggested many times that having a loaded gun will protect you from the "bad guys with guns," (remember the ridiculous post-Sandy Hook statement by Wayne LaPierre?).  And yet, time after time (as I have chronicled), this has failed to protect people -- including highly-trained gun owners with guns at the ready.

This isn't the first time a gun shop owner, surrounded by his lethal weapons, was killed by shooters.  HERE is another example.

Just goes to show you that, despite the NRA rhetoric, guns don't make you safer.

[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)]