Despair Over Gun Deaths Is Not an Option

DEC. 12, 2015 New York Times

gun cartoon

After months of grief and depression, parents who lost children in the 2012 schoolhouse gun slaughter in Newtown, Conn., turned to the courts last year for a modicum of justice and only then discovered the full power of gun manufacturers: The industry marketing the weapons that killed 20 children and six adults at the school enjoys an extraordinary immunity from civil damage suits — a customized shield from Congress that the makers of autos, drugs and other American industries are not given.

The law, enacted in 2005, has been notoriously successful at protecting gun makers and dealers and keeping victimized families from being heard in court on wrongful-death and damages claims. If there are ever to be effective answers to the gun deaths now plaguing the nation, repeal of this egregious law — a denial of basic American fairness — should be near the top of the agenda if only to force the gun industry to worry about billions in damages for its abuse of public safety.

Whether that happens, of course, depends on whether Congress is ever going to break from the gun lobby. Could there be anything less controversial than denying gun purchases to people on the terrorist watch list? Yet Republicans prefer to express concern about “due process” for gun purchasers even as they propose blanket bans on Islamic refugees.

There is a raft of needed measures that could and should be enacted as national shock flows then ebbs with each new headline about a massacre. Some of the most common sense protections involve less-noticed gun deaths in the home and illegal gun dealers arming the underworld, but all deserve the attention of voters, who have the power to throw out lawmakers hiding in the pocket of the gun lobby.

The Brady Law Most needed is an expansion of this law so that dealers and others now buying firearms on the Internet and at gun shows are subjected to background checks. The law has barred 2.5 million risky applicants in the last 20 years from buying guns, but it does not apply to 40 percent of total gun sales. Despite the national anguish over the Newtown shooting, Congress failed to close this huge loophole. Lawmakers, particularly wavering Democrats, must be relentless in pushing for universal background checks, which are favored by 85 percent of the public, including 79 percent of Republicans.

Battlefield Guns and Ammunition A responsible Congress would restore the assault weapons ban and enact limits on gross ammunition clips that let shooters spray crowds of victims with up to 100-round bursts. High capacity magazines developed for warfare have been used in at least 45 mass shootings since 1984, killing 403 people and wounding 406, according to the Violence Policy Center, a public safety research group. There are periodic proposals to control or tax ammunition. But the gun lobby showed its clout this year when federal officials backed down from a plan to block the sale of an armor-piercing handgun bullet rated a clear danger to the police. “You spoke, we listened,” officials tweeted after gun zealots complained that their rights were abridged.

 

Mental Illness Services undoubtedly need to be improved for Americans with mental illnesses as a public health issue, but recalcitrant Republicans are invoking this to duck gun safety measures. They should be the first to embrace a practical law pioneered last year in California that allows concerned family members to alert a judge to issue a gun restraining order on a potentially violent individual.

Insurance and Smart Guns Anyone who opposes limits on gun ownership is obliged to come up with practical steps to keep the public safe. Why not require a gun owner to have liability insurance, as is required for owning a car? Where is the industry, so clever in marketing war weapons, when it comes to advancing safer “smart gun” technology?

Home Safety The home is an even riskier place than the venues attacked by mass shooters. Gun safety studies have found that a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a family homicide, suicide or accident than to be used in self-defense. More than 1.5 million children under the age of 18 live in homes with loaded, unsecured guns, leaving them 16 times more likely to be killed than in safer homes, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a research group. It is hard to imagine how any politician who kisses babies on the campaign trail can fail to demand mandates and penalties to keep guns unloaded and locked up at home.

State Laws Gun safety laws work in states where they are applied, even if other states are lax. Those with weak gun laws and high rates of gun ownership suffer the highest gun death rates, according to research. Alaska, where 60 percent of households have guns, had 19.5 gun deaths per 100,000 in 2013. The rate was 2.7 in Hawaii where 9.7 percent of households have arms.

The lethal “iron pipeline” of traffic in guns from states with weak laws to those with stronger laws should be stopped by federal law. Researchers found that 90 percent of guns used in crimes were supplied by just 5 percent of gun shops specializing in such underworld traffic — a lethal flaw crying out for not just government but industry controls. Appallingly, statehouses have been advancing the concealed carrying of pistols as the industry’s latest craze — selling citizens on the fantasy of self-defense in public places. Research shows these licensed shooters have been killing themselves or others rather than taking down perpetrators, with at least 29 mass shootings since 2007 found to involve concealed-carry licensees.

Basic Research This is crucial for fathoming the 33,000-plus annual gun deaths (and more than twice that number wounded), far greater than in any other major nation. But Congress has caved in to the gun lobby and hobbled federal research on this major public health challenge. Gun deaths have already overtaken car crashes for mortalities in more than a dozen states. Yet it wasn’t until last year that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, prompted by the White House, issued the first clear evidence of what the public already sensed — gun sprees by shooters with military-style assault weapons were on the rise. Far more research is needed. Congress’s budget hawks should be delving into the causes of gun violence, which exacts an estimated economic cost of more than $225 billion year.

These proposals are some of the steps citizens should be discussing to reduce the intolerable bloodshed from guns. Public despair that nothing can be done is not an option. The parents of Newtown are providing a model of determination — attempting a difficult lawsuit that is barely underway in state court because Congress shielded the gun industry. Its success is far from certain, but the parents are persisting.

A version of this editorial appears in print on December 13, 2015, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: Despair About Guns Is Not an Option.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/opinion/sunday/despair-over-gun-deaths-is-not-an-option.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

 

No More Names

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After Congress did nothing after the Newtown, CT Sandy Hook school shooting massacre, more than 950 mayors and 1.5 million grassroots supporters of Mayors Against Illegal Guns launched No More Names: The Drive to Reduce Gun Violence. The No More Names bus tour is travelling to 25 states in 100 days to make sure Congress can’t ignore the overwhelming majority of Americans calling for common-sense gun laws. One of the stops was Helena, MT where Montana NOW State President Marian Pesta Bradley spoke:

Hello, I am Marian Bradley, Montana State President of the National Organization for Women. Aurora CO was home to my family for years. Our son graduated high school with the shooter in the Chuck E Cheese shooting, friends and coworkers had children at Columbine and my children went to local theaters in Aurora regularly. I never want to have the horror of a mass shooting happen here in Montana. It changes the complexion of communities so dramatically. That is why I am so privileged to be here speaking on behalf of the women and families who are so affected by gun violence both here in Montana and throughout this country.

When Newtown happened a nation woke up saying there should be No More Names and that is so true.

However, we need to remember that gun violence deaths don’t only occur in the mass shootings that have awakened our nations conscience. What about the names of the women living in the house next door to you, or down the street, or in your church and communities who are victims of an intimate partner shooting. What about the children who witness these shootings or are in some cases casualties of the shooting themselves. They need to be remembered and protected.

The cross between firearms violence and sexual and domestic violence cannot be overstated. More than half of the women murdered with guns in the US are killed by intimate partners and more than half of mass shootings in the US are acts of family or domestic violence. Women in the U.S. Are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than in any other high income country.

When a gun is used in a domestic violence situation, the risk of homicide for a women increases by 500%. Think about that number!

The argument from Senator Baucus and others is that MT has less homicides than other states and legislation should focus on other states with more gun related homicides. How much higher does our rate of gun violence have to be Senator Baucus? Montana is already the 3rd deadliest state based on per 100,000 population.

In 2011 firearm deaths in MT were 16.58 as compared with 10.26 in the US. Domestic violence gun murders are almost 150% higher in MT than in other states, 10.15 in MT, 4.11 nationally.

Of the 112 recent homicide deaths in MT, 65% or 73 deaths were intimate partner homicides and of those 73, 57 were killed by guns.

In states that require background checks for all handgun sales, there are 38% fewer women shot to death by intimate partners. Here in MT that would have saved the lives of 22 women. Those 22 women would be here to provide love and support to their family, their children and their communities.

Further, federal firearms law prohibits persons subject to qualifying protection orders from possessing, transferring or purchasing a firearm for the duration of the order. The individuals named in the protection order can avoid a background check by purchasing guns from unlicensed private sellers at gun shows or through anonymous online transactions. The legislation for background checks recently proposed in the Senate would have closed this loophole and protected Montanan women and families. Background checks have already prevented more than 250,000 gun sales to domestic abusers, but in 2012 alone 6.6 million guns were exchanged in private transfers without a criminal background check. Senator Baucus voted against legislation that would allow for background checks. However, Senator Baucus has said he and others want to be able to sell a gun to their neighbor. We want to know how the Senator knows his neighbor does not have a history of domestic violence or a protection order against them. Does Senator Baucus run his own background check? I sincerely doubt it!

Just the other day I was contacted by a woman who had a good friend killed in the Aurora Theatre shooting. She is a gun owner, an NRA member and a 2nd Amendment supporter. Here is what she said in part:

I believe in a mandatory training prior to being able to buy any firearm. Once bought I believe they should have a yearly refresher course/ I believe there should be a registry of all people arrested for domestic violence, child abuse or animal abuse and that they be permanently banned from ever owning a firearm. I believe that there should be a serious look at the influx of guns coming across the border tied to the drug trades. I believe in background checks and mandatory waiting periods.

Our families MUST be protected and it is our responsibility to insist on that protection.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Senator Jon Tester for his continued support of women and families in Montana and for his vote for common sense gun safety and I ask Senator Max Baucus to follow the lead of Senator Tester and do what is right for Montana women and families and vote for common sense gun safety.

In closing, We as a country and as a state cannot afford to lose so many women and children to intimate partner deaths. There can be no more names added to the list of deaths in these situations. Therefore, we stand with the women and children who are victims of intimate partner shootings in increasing numbers and with the families, victims and survivors of all these senseless mass shootings AND we are not going away!! These murders have to stop NOW.

Multnomah County GOP will raffle second assault rifle after tickets for first one sell out | OregonLive.com

Multnomah County GOP will raffle second assault rifle after tickets for first one sell out | OregonLive.com.

tickets for first one sell out
Print By Jeff Mapes, The Oregonian
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on June 20, 2013 at 3:37 PM

The Multnomah County Republican Party’s gun-themed drawing has been so successful that the group announced Thursday that it will raffle off a second firearm — either an AR-15 valued at $1,199 or, if the winner wants, a sidearm of equal or lesser value.

12932273-largeHere’s a depiction of the raffle ticket being sold by the Multnomah County Republican Party.

The raffle had attracted criticism from some gun-control advocates who argued that it was tasteless, particularly coming on the six-month anniversary of the Newtown and Clackamas mall shootings involving the same kind of firearm.
County GOP chairman Jeff Reynolds has noted that the raffle involved a legal product and in a Facebook post Thursday, he exulted about the drawing’s popularity:

“We have been blown away by the response throughout Portland and the entire state that our first fundraiser generated. We sold the maximum number of tickets available – all 500 – in less than two weeks. We went from being wondering if we’d be in the black to being able to generate a significant source of revenue to fund our party operations.”