Nel's New Day

April 10, 2014

A Few Steps Forward in Protection from Guns

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:50 PM
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Twenty-four people were wounded yesterday in horrific stabbings at a Pennsylvania school. Those who oppose any gun control say, “See! It’s not guns that are the problem.” They point out that a student was stabbed to death in school last September. Yet that’s only one person, compared to the thousands of people who die every year because of guns.

Guns kill far more people in the United States than knives: guns cause two-thirds of the homicides whereas only 13.4% of murders result from knives or other cutting instruments.  Of 37 public mass killings since 2006, 33 involved firearms, the other four being the Boston Marathon bombings, an incident involving a car, and two cases of arson. Far more suicides come from guns than sharp objects.

Even worse may be the “accidental” deaths because of people’s carelessness. In Arizona, a man’s Glock pistol falls from his waistband, and his three-year-old son picks it up, shooting himself in the head and killing himself. That happened five days before Christmas last year. State Rep. Victoria Steele introduced a bill, similar to laws in 28 states, that would make it a crime to store an unsecured loaded gun where children might be. There was never a hearing.

What got hearings in the Arizona legislature were speeded-up permits for specialized high-caliber weapons such as machine guns and fines for city council members who try to pass stricter gun laws than from the state. At least 32 Arizona children were killed in 2012. Fifty percent of these were by a gun that belonged to the child’s biological parent. Nationwide, at least 134 children accidentally died from gunshots in 2010, a number most likely undercounted by half because of misleading reporting and not counting seriously injured children. Like the three-year-old Arizona child who shot himself in the “lower torso” by one of the many unsecured guns in the home.

Todd Rathner, a member of the NRA’s board of directors, thinks that people with guns should have the entire family trained for safety, but he doesn’t see a requirement as “the responsibility of the government.” His cop-out is that parents let their children be hurt or killed and that gun deaths shouldn’t be singled out. Actually, many laws do protect children from irresponsible parents.

Fortunately, some progress—or at least a bit of holding ground—has been made in protecting people from shootings, such as a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

A federal law prevents people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns. Several courts, including the supposedly-liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that this ban only refers to convictions that involved a “violent use of force.” In a surprising unanimous ruling, SCOTUS overturned these rulings by determining that the ban applied to everyone who pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of DV without proof of violent acts of physical injury.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said:

“Domestic violence is not merely a type of ‘violence.’ It is a term of art encompassing acts that one might not characterize as ‘violent’ in a non-domestic context [and includes acts such as] pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping and hitting.”

The ruling in U.S. vs. Castleman brings back the illegal gun possession charges against the Tennessee man who pled guilty to causing “bodily injury” to his child’s mother and was later charged with violating the law by possessing firearms. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court dismissed charges because of no proof that he had “violent contact with the victim.”

Washington state now requires people with histories of domestic violence to give up their weapons if they are under no-contact or permanent restraining orders. Gun owners are allowed to participate in a hearing to contest the order. The impetus for the law, unanimously passed in both houses, came from Stephanie Holton’s telling about her husband threatening to blow off her head as he pointed a gun at her in her living room.

The couple divorced after 12 years of marriage and two children with Stephanie having primary custody. When her ex-husband’s behavior because increasingly erratic, she told a friend, a police officer, who suggested that she file a police report. After her ex-husband came to her house when she wasn’t there, she asked for a protective order and told the judge that she was frightened because he had guns.

Corey Holton came to the house the same day the order was served, ordered her into the house, and forced her to kneel in the living room. Fortunately, the police took him into custody with no more violence, and he has been sentenced to 75 months in prison with a lifetime no-contact order involving Stephanie.

The 9th Circuit Court upheld a San Francisco ordinance requiring that people must either lock up guns or keep them on their person while at home as well as the city code that prohibits the sale of hollow-point bullets which expand inside a target. Gun owners and the NRA tried to maintain that the Second Amendment allows hollow-point bullets and unlimited gun storage. The ordinance allows people to buy hollow-point bullets outside the city and bring them back to their homes. The losers have promised to appeal. Earlier this year, the court ruled that people can carry guns outside their homes.

Last month, Milwaukee (WI) County Circuit Judge Michael Guolee ruled in favor of two police officers in a lawsuit against former gun dealers and their owners who had moved for summary judgment. The case, filed by two officers injured by weapons bought from Badger Guns, is now headed for a trial. Two other officers also received a ruling to go to trial in a similar case. Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors have been top sellers of guns used in crimes recovered by Milwaukee police for more than a decade.

In 2005, Badger Outdoors was the top U.S. seller of guns used in crimes with 537 weapons traced back to the company. ATF investigators recommended that the company’s license be revoked in 2006, but the store simply changed to Badger Guns because the son of Badger Outdoors’ owner obtained a new license. When ATF revoked his license for Badger Guns in 2011, his brother opened Brew City Shooters Supply in 2012.

In at least 50 cases across the country, people with revoked licenses maintain a close relationship to the gun-selling operation. Congress has limited ATF’s authority to gather evidence in finding these places and closing them down.

The killing of four men at Fort Hood last week brought out an uncharacteristic statement from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): “There’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons or being able to purchase weapons.” He thought the bill to prevent a Medicare reimbursement cut to doctors also contained funding for pilot programs studying the link between gun violence and mental illness, but it didn’t. His speech also blamed the VA for the shooting because the House wants to make it easier for the department’s secretary to fire senior officials.

Fox’s American News HQ wanted a guest to call for arming all the military on posts. Instead retired four-star general Jack Keane said:

“I don’t believe our soldiers should be armed on the base. […] Can you imagine the first responders coming on a scene, and there’s people shooting all over the place, and they have to determine who is friend and who is foe? I think the potential for leading to more violence by arming everybody is rather significant.”

Fox made the same claim about Navy Yard shooting, not knowing that some of the victims were armed personnel. Keane continued to point out that soldiers aren’t trained to control and de-escalate a situation as police are. The woman who stopped the Fort Hood shooter was a trained MP.

People who equate more guns with less violence are operating in an extremely simplistic fashion, assuming that every person with a gun carefully evaluates the situation and respond in a calm and appropriate manner. It’s the reverse: more guns = more violence.


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