Nel's New Day

September 19, 2013

Gun Culture Leads to Murder, Suicide

Ho-hum. There was another mass shooting a few days ago, this one killing 13 people. It’s business as usual in the gun culture of the United States. This time, a veteran and defense-industry employee got into the Washington Navy Yard in the nation’s capital by using his pass. No particular outrage—just the customary stupid responses from the right.

Alex Jones said it’s all a fake, the same thing he said about earlier mass shootings and the Boston bombing. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who has moved from The View to Fox network, thinks that a solution is to ban video games. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said, “Blaming this on guns is like saying the big problem with obesity is we’ve got too many spoons.” CNN was back to doing its dance around the facts although this time, they would say that they might be getting in the information wrong after every report.

The conservative Reds are screaming that the carnage happened because the Navy Yard is a “gun free zone.” As usual, they got it wrong: only civilians there were not permitted to carry guns. They also skipped the fact that the first person killed was an armed security guard, that “internal security” immediately began firing at the gunman, and that local police officers arrived within two or three minutes.

Not one mass shooting in the past 30 years has been stopped by an armed civilian. Fewer than one-fourth of the mass shootings in the past four years occurred in “gun free zones.” And there is not one shred of evidence that shooters targeted places where guns were prohibited. Then conservatives decided to blame President Clinton for a policy approved during the that George H.W. Bush administration.

So many people carry guns that the police have started firing at anything that indicates the slightest bit of danger. After 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, former Florida A&M football player, was in a car crash, he dragged himself to the nearest house to find help. The owner called 911, and three officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina came to the scene. Police accused Ferrell of charging them, and Officer Randall Kerrick, 27, fired at Ferrell 12 times, eventually killing him. The charge against Kerrick involves killing without malice, using “excessive force” in “imperfect self-defense.”

A study by the New York Times shows that highly trained New York City police officers who discharged their guns in public hit their intended targets only 34 percent of the time. That means that these police officers miss their targets two-thirds of the time.  Last Saturday evening, police were aiming at a mentally disturbed man walking in and out of traffic but shot two innocent bystanders. One of the women, using a walker, was shot in her knee.

Today, a man in Michigan suffering from road rage fired at another car. The second man shot back. The result is two more funerals.

The Navy Yard killings happened nine months and two days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown (CT) killed 26 people. On the same day, a crazed man in China attacked children in an elementary school. During that massacre, 22 children were seriously injured, but none was killed. The man had a machete, not a gun. The U.S. shooter had a military-grade weapon capable of firing a bullet every two seconds.

Details about Aaron Alexis, the 34-year-old shooter, show that he had been suffering from “a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder” and reported hearing “voices in his head.” He was involved in at least two incidents involving a gun while in the Navy and was discharged in January 2011. His “pattern of misconduct” ended his military career but didn’t stop him from legally carrying guns. He got a concealed carry permit from Texas and bought a shotgun in Virginia because the two states honor each other’s gun licenses. Washington, D.C. has tough gun laws, which means that 98.2 percent of all guns used for crime in the District come from states with weaker gun laws, including Virginia just across the Potomac River.

At least 17 mass murders, defined by the FBI as the slaying of four or more people, have occurred thus far this year. Shootings related to drug or gang violence don’t get the publicity as one gunman. HuffPost prepared the following graphic from news sources, including Reddit’s community-generated database of mass shootings. There may be more, but NRA pressure keeps the government from compiling statistics. It includes killing sprees that occurred in more than one location, but the ones that happen on more than one day, such as the string of homicides committed by ex-cop Christopher Dorner in Los Angeles, aren’t listed.

2013_09_MassShootingsALT_4

Guns have killed about 24,580 Americans since Newtown, according to Slate’s estimate based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; we’re pretty much on target for the annual 30,000+ deaths. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google, the fifth most frequent cause of death in the United States is “unintentional injuries”–including those inflicted by guns. The tenth most frequent cause of death in the country is suicide, including those involving guns. And the 16th most frequent cause of death in the country is homicide, including many murders-by-gun. Those figures are on a par with people in the nation who die from cancer and heart disease.

People in the U.S. have far greater odds of getting killed by other people in the country than by terrorists—about one in 20 million. The number is greater in areas that have more gun ownership. Boston University’s School of Public Health has released the results of a new study showing a connection between gun ownership and gun violence. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study found a direct correlation between gun ownership rates and homicides in the U.S.

Conservatives and the NRA have attempted to show that stricter gun laws did not lead to fewer “intentional deaths.” Breitbart.com columnist AWR Hawkins cited a Harvard University study from Europe. It listed Eastern Europe and Scandinavia but skipped countries such as the UK, Italy, Portugal, and Spain; much of it concentrates on homicide rates in the U.S. and Russia. Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser, authors of the study, have a history of bias in their connections to organizations and their opposition to gun control legislation.

Dr. Michael Siegel, the principal author of the Boston University study, looked at data from all 50 states going back over 30 years. According to AFP.com, the study “determined for every one percentage point in the prevalence of gun ownership in a given state, the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9 percent.” Siegel commented on the findings:

“This research is the strongest to date to document that states with higher levels of gun ownership have disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides. It suggests that measures which succeed in decreasing the overall prevalence of guns will lower firearm homicide rates.”

A summary of the main findings:

  • Over the three decades, the mean estimated percentage of gun ownership ranged from a low of 25.8 percent in Hawaii to a high of 76.8 percent in Mississippi, with an average over all states of 57.7 percent.
  • The mean age-adjusted firearm homicide rate ranged from a low of 0.9 per 100,000 population in New Hampshire to a high of 10.8 per 100,000 in Louisiana over the three decades, with an average for all states of 4 per 100,000.
  • For all states, the average firearm homicide rate decreased from 5.2 per 100,000 in 1981 to 3.5 per 100,000 in 2010.

Other studies show that a gun in the home increases the incidence of suicide, particularly for young people. According to another new study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the strongest predictor of how likely a person is to die from suicide within a given state is whether they have a gun in the home.

Guns don’t increase the number of attempts; they just increase the risk of succeeding. Victims who attempt suicide using pills or cutting are 100 times more likely to survive, said Dr. Matthew Miller, the study’s author, whereas “you don’t get a second chance when you use a gun.” Less than 10 of suicide survivors make another attempt. Nearly one in five people under 21 who are at risk for suicide have guns in their homes.

The irony of Monday’s shooting is that a Senate hearing on gun laws had to be postponed. The mothers of two Florida teenage boys slain by gunfire were slated to testify about their opposition to their state’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” law. The hearing has yet to be rescheduled. One woman is the mother of Trayvon Martin, killed by George Zimmerman; the other woman’s child is 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who died after an intoxicated man fired into the back of a SUV because he didn’t like the music. The killer said he didn’t know anyone had died until the next morning.

One CEO has decided to buck the gun culture. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has asked customers to stop bringing guns into his 11,000 coffee shops after the increasing number of “Starbucks Appreciation Days” when extremists wander around the coffee places displaying their guns. Their actions led to gun safety advocates’ promoting “Skip Starbucks Saturdays” urging “the public to get their caffeine fix somewhere other than Starbucks” and “post a photo of themselves enjoying a non-Starbucks coffee.”

Schultz is one of the good guys. He supports marriage equality, suggesting that opponents can just sell their Starbucks stock. He also openly supports raising the minimum wage and has stated that Starbucks has no intention of cutting workers’ hours or employee benefits in response to Obamacare. As some gun owners pointed out, extremists are ruining gun ownership for everyone else.

December 14, 2012

Today Is the Day to Begin Gun Control

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:05 PM
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A few months ago, 12 people died when one man took several weapons, including an AR-15 assault rifle, into a movie theater and fired off 50 shots a minute. The AR-15 is Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) favorite gun “because you can be so accurate with it.” A few days ago, three people died in a popular Portland (OR) shopping mall when a man shot into the crowd with an AR-15.

Earlier this week, a federal appeals court struck down Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed firearms in public. Illinois is 43rd out of 50 states in the number of gun deaths per capita, fewer than half the rate as in Mississippi. Yesterday the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature passed a bill that would allow people to bring guns into schools.

Today, at least 28 people, most of them children in an elementary school, died in Newton (CT), just 60 miles northeast of New York City, when a man opened fire on them.

Politicians join the rest of the country in mourning these disasters. Flags are  lowered. There is an outcry for a few days. Soon, however, conservatives in Congress and state legislatures will go back to business as usual, working to move money to the wealthiest and make the United States less safe for people while most of the Democrats trying to prevent his. Stalemate.

I have questions. And spare me the mantra that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Once again, I say, “People who don’t have guns can’t shoot people.”

Why do we allow such websites as KSL.com, owned and operated by the Mormons, to sell firearms, no questions asked?

Why do we think that the Founding Fathers meant people to have arsenals of assault weapons in the 21st century? The Second Amendment cites “a well-regulated militia.” We’re not fighting the British any more, yet people can own an unlimited number of weapons only because of a grammatical misunderstanding.

Why isn’t there a hue and cry to support Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in her work on legislation to ban assault weapons?

Why doesn’t the public hold responsible the Congressional elected officials who are beholden to assault weapons manufacturers and the NRA from their donations?

When will the media concentrate on how these killings can be stopped instead of analyzing what kinds of people commit these crimes?

Why do people always fight any gun control with the excuse that they need their guns to hunt for food? Do they use automatic assault weapons for hunting? (That’s a rhetorical question. Of course, they don’t.)

Why aren’t there more class-action lawsuits against the people responsible for the proliferation of high-powered weaponry in our society? Lax gun laws and inadequate security checks in Mississippi, West Virginia and Kentucky and 7 other states mean that they supplied nearly half the 43,000 guns traced to crime scenes in other states in just one year.

Why do we glorify gun ownership? Firearms are used in 300,000 crimes a year in the United States.

Why do people keep saying stupid things?

After Aurora, Mike Huckabee said, “We don’t have a crime problem or a gun problem – or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem.” Today, his script read the same, that there is violence in schools because “we have systematically removed God from our schools.”

Bryan Fischer said that God could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn’t because “God is not going to go where he is not wanted.”

People in the United States have a love for killing. In 2010, 31,513 people died in the United States from guns; another 200,000 were injured. The United States is responsible for over 80 percent of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. The movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours, yet fewer than an average of 20 people a year are killed there with guns. In 2006 the number was two. Great Britain has fewer than an average of 40 gun murders a year.

Canada’s culture is similar to ours, but that country averages fewer than 200 deaths. Switzerland has the third-highest number of guns per capita on earth but a low murder rate. Three-quarters of the states execute criminals, but the states with no death penalty have lower murder rates.

On the morning of 9/11/01, 2,996 people died. Every year, ten times that number of people die of gun-related deaths. Although the death of 2,996 people caused the United States to declare preemptive war on two countries, wars that resulted in additional hundreds of thousands of people dying, nothing has been done about the 300,000+ people who died from guns during the past decade.

Gun-related deaths are more likely in states with a high percentage of working class jobs, rates of high school students carrying weapons on school property, and a majority vote for John McCain.

Gun-related deaths are less likely in states with higher levels of college graduates and creative class jobs, higher levels of economic development, higher levels of happiness and well-being, and more immigrants.

Gun-related deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation such as banning assault weapons, requiring trigger locks, and mandating safe storage for guns.

When I think about all the people who fight a federal registration list of gun owners, I think about the same people who bitterly fight to mandate a government-issued photo ID before people can vote. I also think about the mandatory registration for both driving and owning cars. No one has said that these registrations are a “slippery slope” toward the seizure of all private vehicles by a totalitarian government.

The NRA incessantly lobbies for looser and looser gun laws, but their members don’t agree with its leadership. In over 30 states anyone can purchase a firearm from a “private seller” without any background check, including a .50 caliber sniper rifle that can take down a helicopter. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

People on the U.S. terror watch list cannot fly commercially, but they can buy guns and explosives. Eighty-two percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Laws limit the ability of law enforcement to access, use, and share data so that they can enforce federal, state, and local gun laws. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Some cities and townships have passed laws that lost and stolen guns must be reported, but the NRA threatens to overturn these laws. Seventy-eight percent of NRA members approve of laws that mandate the reporting of lost and stolen guns.

Last August, six Sikhs were killed in their temple. A month later, a man killed five people at his former workplace after he was laid off. Politicians paid little attention to these events. The image of 20 dead children under ten years old would hopefully shock them into thinking that there is no marker identifying a mass murderer, that the deaths are caused because of easy access to firearms.

Today is the time that the people in this country should rise up and demand accountability. It might save their own lives.

October 25, 2012

A Literal War on Women

Recently a friend was telling me about his participation in a protest at The Oregonian, Oregon’s largest newspaper, because they were not reporting on any of the protests at the time. The spokesperson told them that there were so many protests that these were no longer news. Now the same response is probably being applied to the mass killings across the United States.

Last Sunday Zina Haughton’s husband, Radcliffe, went to her workplace, Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield (WI). He killed her and two other women who worked there, Maelyn Lind and Cary L. Robuck, as well as wounding four other women. He then killed himself. Lind died when she shielded Zina Haughton’s 20-year-old daughter. There was barely a mention of this horrific event in the mainstream media.

It was the second mass shooting in Wisconsin this year. Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran and white supremacist, killed six people and injured three others before fatally shooting himself Aug. 5 at a Sikh temple south of Milwaukee.

The police knew that Radcliffe Haughton was a threat to his wife. They had been called to their home 20 times during the past decade but never made any arrests. During a January 2011 visit to the couple’s home in Brown Deer, officers thought they saw him with a rifle, and they set up a perimeter around the house. They told Haughton he was under arrest and ordered him to surrender, but he refused. The police left after 90 minutes without arresting him. A misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed because Zina Haughton and the officer who could identify Radcliffe did not attend the court proceeding.

Village President Carl Krueger said, “Obviously, in retrospect we regret the lady didn’t pursue the complaint against him and we regret the ultimate result and we feel bad for the victims, but I don’t think it was something that we could have prevented unless we take up a policy of tear-gassing every house where a guy says he will not come out.” Brown Deer Police Chief Steven Rinzel said officers left the scene without making an arrest because they weren’t sure Haughton had a gun, thought he was alone in the house, and didn’t think he posed a danger. In other words, not their fault.

Three days before her killing, Zina Haughton had secured a restraining order against her husband shooting and talked in court about how she feared for her life.

Even with his extensive history of domestic abuse, Radcliffe Haughton managed to get a legal firearm in Wisconsin. NRA lobbying caused Republicans to pass a loophole for firearms purchases that allows individuals to purchase guns from a private seller without submitting to a background check. In 2010, the NRA successfully lobbied against Wisconsin legislation that would have required individuals subject to a restraining order to turn in their weapons within 48 hours or face arrest.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen opposes changing the law because it would be too hard to enforce. “Who is to draw the line between, ‘I sold you a firearm, I loaned you a firearm, I’ve given you a firearm, you’ve taken the firearm from me?’ ” asked Van Hollen. “Not to mention, you could try to close every presumed loophole you can, and people who want to do these things are going to find a way to do it.” He apparently thinks that the solution is to do nothing.

The loophole gave Haughton the opportunity to legally and lawfully purchase a gun without anyone’s knowledge after the court’s restraining order that required him to turn in all his firearms to the police. At the time Haughton purchased his gun, he was prohibited under federal law from purchasing one. A private seller sold him one anyway. Federal law requires that individuals “engaged in the business of selling firearms” obtain a license and conduct background checks on their customers. But the definition of what it means to be “engaged in the business” is vague and allows the private sales market.  An estimated 40 percent of gun sales are conducted by private sellers without a background check.

The NRA is on record as opposing mandatory background checks on gun purchases and has repeatedly denied that allowing private sales without a background check poses a danger to the public. At the same time Republicans are dragging their knuckles in passing a continuation of the Violence against Women Act because it supports lesbians and Native American women. In a survey of 733 domestic violence shelters across the country, nearly 80 percent have experienced an increase in requests for help this year; almost 60 percent said the abuse has become more violent than before the recession. Yet 80 percent of the shelters surveyed reported decreased government assistance which required them to end or scale back programs and services.

Half of all women murdered in this country are killed by a partner or an ex-partner while ammunition for firearms is easier to purchase than birth control pills.

And spare me the the indignant responses when I suggest that there should be restrictions to keep all people from purchasing an unlimited number of guns—ostensibly for “protection” or “hunting” or just plain “freedom.” People can’t kill without guns, the Constitution never intended that individuals should be able to possess huge arsenals, and laws cannot be enacted without knowledge of people owning guns.

Even NRA members show some sanity about gun control although the leadership out of control.

Gun Show Loophole: In over 30 states anyone can purchase a firearm from a “private seller” without any kind of background check, including a .50 caliber sniper rifle that can take down a helicopter. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Terror Gap: People on the U.S. terror watch list cannot fly commercially but they can buy guns and explosives. Eighty-two percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Tiahrt Amendments: These laws limit law enforcement’s ability to access, use, and share data to enforce federal, state, and local gun laws. Sixty-nine percent of NRA members want this loophole closed.

Reporting Lost and Stolen Guns: Some cities and townships have passed laws that lost and stolen guns must be reported, but the NRA threatens to overturn these laws. Seventy-eight percent of NRA members approve of laws that mandate the reporting of lost and stolen guns.

Sharing Records With National Instant Background Check System (NICS): After Rep. Gabby Giffords (AZ) was severely wounded with others and six people were killed, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Fix Fun Checks Act to close the gun-show loophole and require states and federal institutions to share records of people who cannot purchase firearms because of criminal record or mental health defects. In Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Arizona and Colorado, more than 82% of gun owners support fully funding states to share these records while 91% supported requiring federal agencies to share information on potentially dangerous persons such as the shooter in the Giffords case. NRA opposes all these methods of closing these loopholes.

The GOP won’t listen to the NRA members because it can no longer present any semblance of rationality. While they want absolutely no control over violence from guns, going so far as to allow anyone to claim self-protection after killing another person, they are equally determined to control women. The following Republican Rape Chart shows how far over the edge the GOP has gone.

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