Monday, December 14, 2009

NRA's Push to Weaken Gun Laws

A recent Associated Press story highlighted the push by the NRA to loosen gun laws across the country.

Kowtowing to the pressure of the NRA, legislators in a number of states have passed laws that work against the interests of public safety and well-being.

For example:

Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and Utah have made it illegal for businesses to bar their employees from storing guns in cars parked on company lots.

Perhaps if these legislators had read a study published in the American Journal of Public Health they would have voted differently. The article, “Employer Policies Toward Guns and the Risk of Homicide in the Workplace”(2005) concludes:

In this study, the risk of a worker being killed at work was substantially higher in workplaces where employer policy allowed workers to keep guns: workplaces where guns were specifically permitted were 5 to 7 times more likely to be the site of a worker homicide relative to those where all weapons were prohibited.

And more guns in cars will mean more guns stolen from cars. A murder trail is currently underway in Florida where the defendant is accused of stealing a .25-caliber handgun from a car at his workplace and using it to kill a 23-year-old acquaintance.

The article goes on to report that
Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Virginia have made some or all handgun permit information confidential.

Maybe legislators did this because they are embarrassed by whom they are giving concealed weapons permits to and want to hide this information. Consider some of the crimes concealed weapons permit holders have committed in these states in just the past few months:

The article further reports that Tennessee and Montana have passed laws that exempt weapons made and owned in-state from federal restrictions.

These laws say that guns manufactured in-state and sold to people who intend to keep them in-state are exempt from federal gun laws and regulations. Both Tennessee and Montana only have state laws prohibiting felons from possessing guns. This means, under this new law, the other federal categories of persons prohibited from owning guns would not apply. This includes those who have been committed to a mental institution, dishonorably discharged from the military, are a fugitive from justice, an illegal alien, have been convicted of a domestic violence offense, or are currently subject to a restraining order.

In addition to opening up firearm possession to people who should clearly not have a gun, it should be noted that Tennessee is home to Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, the maker of the .50-caliber sniper rifle. .50-caliber guns are designed for battlefield use to attack armored vehicles and are used to destroy targets from long distances. California considers these guns so dangerous they have banned them. Yet Tennessee has just made a move to make these weapons easier to obtain.

Gun violence has real world results that, sadly, are measured in injury and death. Shame on these legislators who have moved to put more guns into our communities and onto our streets. The results will predictably be more gun injuries and more gun deaths.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Say what? How many defensive gun uses?

This month’s cover of the National Rifle Association’s magazine America’s 1st Freedom shows a young, petite, blue-eyed, blond woman staring coldly ahead, a handgun held tightly in her outstretched arms. The cover story asks “Who is the Armed Citizen?” A side bar in this story is titled “Defensive Gun Uses Per Year”. Here the reader is fed, once again, the lies and distortions of the gun lobby.

The sidebar highlights one of the gun lobby’s favorite pieces of research – a 1995 study by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz that reported an astounding 2.5 million defense gun uses each year in the United States. But for some curious reason the author neglected to mention the numerous, peer reviewed, refereed, academic articles that have been published over the last decade that clearly refute Kleck’s astronomical claim.

Read some of them for yourself:

But perhaps the most egregious part of this article is the reference to the work of researchers Phillip Cook and Jens Judwig. In a 1997 article in the National Institute of Justice Research in Brief titled “Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms”, Cook and Ludwig conclude “The NSPOF-based estimate of millions of defensive gun uses each year greatly exaggerates the true number, as do other estimates based on similar surveys. Evidence suggests that this survey and others like it overestimate the frequency with which firearms were used by private citizens to defend against criminal attack.” Yet in the sidebar article the NRA inexplicitly claims “researchers Cook and Ludwig confirmed the results of the Kleck/Gertz study.”

It’s bad enough that the gun lobby continues to put forth this dubious and inflated number on defensive gun use, but to totally misconstrue and pervert the research of distinguished academics is disgraceful. Just how low will the gun lobby go?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Guns Equals More Gun Accidents

The gun lobby is in the middle of an intense campaign to push guns into every corner of our society. Protestors are showing up at Obama rallies with handguns in side holsters and assault rifles slung on their backs. The Senate just passed an amendment to the transportation bill forcing Amtrak to allow guns in checked luggage or face the loss of funding. Tennessee just passed a law allowing concealed weapons in bars. Montana passed a law allowing the open carry of firearms without a permit and barring hotels from prohibiting firearms on their premises. A recent failed effort in the U.S. Senate sought to relax concealed weapon carry requirements across the country. Kansas passed a law allowing guns or ammunition in vehicles in correctional institution parking lots. Utah passed a law that prevents any private institution from prohibiting firearms in cars in their parking lots. Congress approved legislation that will force guns into the safest and most tranquil parts of our country - our National Parks. This is all part of the number one priority of the National Rifle Association - sell more guns.

Hidden amid all the bravado about the 2nd Amendment and the scare tactics about President Obama wanting to take everyone's guns away are news stories the gun lobby hopes you will ignore. Stories that point to the fact that more guns equals more gun accidents.

A recent gathering of gun extremists at a Michigan beach, organized by Michigan Open Carry, ended when a man accidentally fired his semiautomatic handgun while attempting to unload the gun.

This past weekend a woman was shot at a gun show in Mesa, Arizona when a gun vendor unintentionally fired one of his guns. In Utah, a woman returning from target shooting with friends tragically died when a gun fell out of her car and discharged, hitting her in the stomach.

These three unintentional shootings are just the most recent examples of stories from across the country. Consider this sampling of stories from just the past six months:

Remember these stories the next time you hear someone talking about why we need to push guns into every corner of our country. Think about them the next time your legislator is asked to vote on a bill that will make it easier for more people to carry more guns into more parts of our society. Is this really the world we want to live in?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do we really want open carry of firearms?

President Obama came to Portsmouth, NH on Tuesday to talk about his health care plan and how best to care for the well-being of our nation’s citizens. Hundreds of people lined the road leading to the high school where Obama spoke. Some came to catch a glimpse of our 44th President. Some to show their support for Obama’s efforts to reform our health care system. And some came to protest Obama’s policies.

One protester, William Kostric of Mancester, New Hampshire, held a sign that read “It is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty.” This line was in reference to a quote by Thomas Jefferson, “And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

Kostric also carried a loaded 9mm handgun in a holster strapped to the outside of his pant leg.

According to news reports Kostric had left Arizona because it was “becoming too restrictive with gun laws” and moved to New Hampshire, “a ‘live free or die’ state.” A proponent of openly carrying firearms, Kostric chose to wear a gun to where the President was speaking in order to make a political statement.

The unbelievable thing is that what Kostric was doing was not against the law. That's's perfectly legal in New Hampshire to openly carry a firearm. Unbeknownst to most Americans, some form of open carry is legal in approximately 43 states and gun extremists want you to know it. According to the Portsmouth police, because Kostric was protesting with permission on private property belonging to a local church they could do nothing to stop him.

This action was just the latest in a push by gun extremists across the county to ramp up their efforts to normalize abnormal behavior by encouraging citizens to openly carry firearms. There have been a growing number of public events designed to get the gun crowd to come out of the closet so to speak in the hopes of intimidating the public into accepting their dangerous worldview.

Is this the world we want? Would you be willing to sit with your kids at a local fast food restaurant while a fellow patron openly displays a gun at the table next to you? Would you want to stand in line at a bank to make a deposit as two men enter wearing guns on their hips? Would you want to board a crowded bus with upwards of 5 other passengers openly carrying guns?

If we allow a man to carry a loaded gun outside of the venue where the President of the United States is speaking won’t we also permit all those other displays of firearms? What else will we consent to? At President Obama’s next speech will we let someone stand outside with an assault weapon strapped to their back? How about ten protesters with handguns?

In one media interview, Kostric cited research done by John Lott over a decade ago that erroneously pointed to a link between an increase in guns and a decrease in crime. But he failed to mention the numerous studies that have followed debunking Lott’s study and, if anything, suggesting just the opposite, that more guns equals more crime.

Every year in this country guns kill over 30,000 people. 70,000 people are shot and injured, leaving physical and emotional scars that last for years. More than 375,000 people are victims of armed robbery or aggravated assault with a firearm and countless others are threatened and intimidated with guns, sometimes by so-called loved ones. In contrast to gun lobby rhetoric, guns provide a false sense of security and cause much more crime and injury than they prevent. Flooding our communities with guns and arming ourselves at all times only adds to the problem, it is not the solution.

Unless we wake up to the growing threat of any gun, anywhere, anytime and demand that guns laws effectively address the inherent dangers associated with carrying guns in public places, the seemingly far-fetched examples of every day outings turned into repeated encounters with armed people will become all too real. After all, leaving decision-making about where and when to use a gun to folks packing heat in churches, restaurants and parks is a frightening prospect.

Sally Slovenski, Director, Freedom States Alliance

Cathie Whittenburg, Director, New England Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Victory! Senate Rejects National Hidden Handgun Amendment!

In a great victory for gun violence prevention advocates, the U.S. Senate rejected dangerous legislation that would have forced states to accept concealed weapons permits issued by other states, even if those other states have far weaker laws. NECPGV applauds the thirty-nine Senators who stood up for public safety and voted to successfully defeat the Thune Amendment.

The Senate voted to defeat the Thune Amendment (No. 1618) to the Defense Authorization bill (S. 1390) co-sponsored by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and David Vitter (R-LA). The amendment would have reduced concealed carry permit regulations to the lowest common denominator and would have had an extreme impact on the three New England states that do not have reciprocity agreements with any other state.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have very strict requirements for issuing concealed weapons permits and do not recognize permits from any other state. Individuals wishing to carry concealed weapons must apply directly to these states for a permit. The Thune Amendment would have gutted these safety laws. It should be noted that Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have some of the lowest firearm death rates in the nation.

It was extremely frustrating to listen to the debate in the Senate as Senators Thune, Vitter, and others kept referring to ten and twenty-year-old research in an effort to validate their erroneous claims. They were quick to cite these old studies but neglected to reference the numerous studies that followed and drew into question the original claims. Gary Kleck’s claim of 2.5 million defensive gun uses a year has been totally and thoroughly discredited (for one example see Survey Research and Self-Defense Gun Use: An Explanation of Extreme Overestimates, David Hemenway, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 1997) but that didn’t stop the Senators from repeatedly throwing out this bogus number. Ten years later research papers are still be written debunking John Lott’s writings on concealed carry laws (January, 2009, Journal of the American Institute for Economic Research, Yet Another Refutation of the More Guns, Less Crime Hypothesis, Ian Ayres and John Donohue). But a decade of research on why Lott’s numbers don’t work was meaningless to Senators Thune and Vitter who continued to cling to the old, dusty, disproved material.

Jeers to the three New England Senators who, once again, continued to tow the line for the gun lobby. Senators Snowe and Collins from Maine and Senator Gregg from New Hampshire all voted to gut and trample states’ rights and force communities to accept hidden, loaded guns in family-friendly places, putting our law enforcement officials and our communities at greater risk of violence.

Three cheers for the rest of the Senators from New England who had the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and voted for our public safety. Many, many thanks go to Vermont Senators Leahy and Sanders, New Hampshire Senator Shaheen, Rhode Island Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Massachusetts Senator Kerry, and Connecticut Senators Lieberman and Dodd.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stop the National Hidden Handgun Bill

States currently have the authority to determine their own carry concealed weapons (CCW) policies. Most New England states show great care and caution when issuing concealed weapons permits. They also limit which out-of-state visitors can carry concealed handguns. But the gun lobby is trying to change this.

Legislation now pending in the U.S. Senate would force our communities to permit untrained individuals from other states to carry loaded, hidden handguns in public. It would allow out-of-state visitors to carry concealed firearms even if those visitors have not met the standards for carrying concealed weapons in the state they are visiting.

It would also permit residents who don't meet the ccw requirements in their own states to obtain a permit from a state with lower standards, thus circumventing and undermining their local requirements.

S. 845, the "Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2009," could dramatically increase the number of individuals carrying concealed loaded handguns in public in your state.

The practical effect of this legislation would be reduce concealed carry permit regulations to the lowest common denominator. This is particularly dangerous as many states have weak laws and issue individuals permits after only a simple computerized background check-through a database that is missing millions of disqualifying criminal and mental health records.

Just how dangerous is this proposal? In 2009, there have already been three MASS shootings by concealed carry permit holders - including the murder of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The gun lobby is still gloating over their success with pushing concealed weapons into our National Parks. This legislation goes even further, undermines state authority and would allow armed individuals from virtually any other state to cross state lines with their deadly weapons and carry loaded guns in public.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on S. 845 as early as Monday, July 13. We need your help NOW to tell the Senate to stand up and say "NO" to the gun lobby and "NO" to more concealed handguns in our communities.

Please, call your U.S. Senators today and tell them to vote NO on S. 845 in any form, whether it is offered as a stand alone bill or an amendment to another bill.

To find your Senators visit:

or call


and ask to be connected to your Senators' offices.

THANK YOU for caring and for your time and energy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Recap of the First Session in Augusta

As the Legislative session draws to a close in Augusta, let’s take moment to look back at some of the actions our legislators took to protect the public health and safety of the people of Maine.

Legislators voted to keep the ban on the sale of fireworks. Concerns were raised about the dangers of fireworks and the lack of oversight in the proposed legislation.

Because of concern of house fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, legislators passed a law requiring all homes sold in Maine have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Legislators tightened up regulations dealing with retail tobacco and liquor licensing laws. It should be noted that during debate on this bill, no objections were raised over the requirement that anyone who sells tobacco and liquor must obtain a license to do so.

Because of ongoing concerns about the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke, legislators passed a law that prohibits smoking on state beaches. These are all laudable measures and will, no doubt, save lives.

Given all the concern shown for Maine’s public health and safety, one has to wonder what happened when legislators were given a chance to legislate gun sales in Maine.

Two bills were considered this session in Augusta that would require all gun sales, including private gun sales at guns shows and through publications such as Uncle Henry’s, be subject to an FBI instant criminal background check. Because a private individual cannot access the FBI background check system, sales would be processed by a licensed gun dealer who would run the check. Other states have processed private gun sales this exact way for years. Both of these bills failed to even make it out of committee.

Why is it that legislators who show such concern in general for our public health and safety routinely turn a blind eye when it comes to easy, unquestioned access to firearms?

Maine allows for the private sale of guns where there will be no criminal background check run, no records kept, no questions asked. There is no doubt that convicted felons and others who should not possess guns have taken advantage of Maine’s weak laws and obtained guns. Yet despite this evidence, legislators continue to kowtow to the gun lobby.

But look at what the gun lobby is telling their members. The National Rifle Association sent out an alert that stated, “These bills would effectively dismantle gun shows as well as ban the private sale of firearms in Maine.” The reality is these bills would do neither and for proof one need look no further than California which has had similar laws in place for twenty years. You will still find gun shows and private gun sales in California, sales that are facilitated by licensed dealers who run a criminal background check.

Yet person after person who spoke in opposition to these bills talked about how this was just a trick to ban guns, to close down gun shows, to prevent people from selling their guns, and would lead to the government at their door looking to confiscate their firearms.

And they talked about the Second Amendment. Without, it seems, having taken the time to fully read last year’s Supreme Court decision. In the Heller decision the Supreme Court ruled that while there is an individual right to own a gun “like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The court make it absolutely clear that the right to own a gun exists side by side with the right to regulate the purchase, possession and carrying of guns.

It is the job of our legislators to look past the rhetoric, the misinterpretations, and even the lies of those who try to influence their opinions. It is their job to look at the facts, to read the full Heller decision, to examine the court documentation of private gun sales that lead to gun crimes, and to look beyond the line of people who are simply parroting back the lies that have been feed to them.

No one said the job of a legislator was an easy one, but the public health and safety of the people of Maine are depending on them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Congress Caves to the NRA

Our national parks are our national treasures.  Our system of national parks was the first of its kind in the world and was set up to preserve, protect, and share our natural wonders and cultural heritage.  Every year millions of people seek out the tranquility and beauty of national parks to retreat from the bustle of the world.   There they find places of spectacular scenery and abundant recreational opportunities.  They also find safe places with few serious crimes.  Given the safety and tranquility of our national park system one has to ask why Congress would vote to allow deadly loaded hidden guns into our national parks.  

In a chest thumbing, “gotcha amendment” pushed by the National Rifle Association to prove their power, Senator Coburn of Oklahoma took advantage of the credit card reform bill that was designed to protect Americans from spurious credit card fees and cynically attached an amendment that allows for loaded guns in national parks.  It overturns a policy put in place under President Regan that banned concealed weapons in the parks in order to “ensure public safety and maximum protection of natural resources.”   Current regulation allows park visitors to have guns as long as they are unloaded and stowed away.  

The amendment that Congress blessed will allow loaded guns to be carried both concealed and openly.  This means it will be perfectly legal for visitors to Acadia to ride the park buses, attend ranger-led hikes and sit around campfires with a semi-automatic AK-47 strapped to their backs.  And because Maine law does not require a concealed weapons permit for guns carried openly, it also means that anyone can pick up an Uncle Henry’s, pick out the handgun or assault rifle of their choosing, buy the gun through a private sale where there will be no background check run and no questions asked, strap the gun on and head for a stroll up Cadillac mountain.  

Allowing loaded guns in our parks will raise the risk of opportunistic poaching and expose park visitors to the risk of accidental, negligent and illegal firearm discharges.  A concealed weapons permit does not guarantee safety.  Consider these two incidents in just the past two weeks.  In Michigan, a concealed weapons teacher accidentally shot a student in the face during a demonstration.   And in Texas, a concealed handgun instructor shot and killed his wife and then exchanged gunfire with police during a two hour standoff.  

The gun lobby claimed that the prohibition on concealed weapons in national parks violated their rights.  But last year’s Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment made it absolutely clear that the right to own a gun exists side by side with the right to regulate the purchase, possession, and carrying of guns.  

Senator Coburn stated that “Visitors to national parks should have the right to defend themselves.” But our national parks are some of the safest places in the country. In 2007, over 270 million people visited our national parks and there were only nine criminal deaths across the park system.  Compare this to what happens outside of our parks.   In 2007, in our country of 300 million people there were over 18,000 homicides, of which almost 13,000 were committed with guns.  

The NRA is in the business of selling guns and one of their best marketing tools is fear.  They tell their members to be afraid of the government coming to take their guns, they tell them to be afraid of everything and to arm themselves against this fear, and they tell legislators to be afraid of being targeted if they don’t vote the right way. 

Is Congress afraid to say no to the NRA?   Do they believe that their reelection depends on continuing to kowtow to their extreme agenda?    

The Association of National Park Rangers, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, the Humane Society, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge are just some of the organizations opposing this change in regulations.  Voters, especially those heading off to a national park this summer with their families, should be outraged that Congress didn’t listen to them instead.  


See how your representative voted.  A "yea" vote is a vote to appease the NRA and allow hidden, loaded guns in our national parks.

Senate vote:

House vote:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

State Legislators Are Playing With Fire

            There’s a new and extremely dangerous crop of gun bill springing up around the country.  This bill is specifically designed to go after the federal authority to regulate guns.  The goal is to get the new law into the courts, and ultimately before the Supreme Court, to challenge the federal authority to regulate guns through interstate commerce laws. These legislators, egged on by gun extremists and anti-federal government devotees, are playing with fire. 

            Here’s how it works:  Montana has just passed legislation that says guns manufactured in Montana, and sold to people who intend to keep these guns in Montana, are exempt from federal gun laws and regulations.  This means licensed gun dealers do not need to run background checks on people buying these specially stamped “Made in Montana” guns.  And because Montana has very few state laws pertaining to gun possession, many of those exempt from owning a gun under federal law will be free and clear to own guns under this new state law.  This includes people who have been convicted of domestic violence offenses, those currently subject to a restraining order, and children as young as the age of 14.  And of course, because state borders are open and unguarded there is little to stop people from taking these “Made in Montana” guns to other states.  Wow, talk about creating a system ripe for abuse. 

            But Montana is not the only state looking to make it legal for dangerous people and children to buy guns.  Similar legislation has been introduced in Alaska, Texas, Colorado, and Tennessee.  This week, a Texas House committee held hearings on a bill that would not only exempt Texas-made firearms, gun accessories and ammunition sold within the state from federal gun regulations but would also add the provision that the Texas Attorney General’s office defend any Texans who are prosecuted by the federal government because of this law. 

            Putting aside the fact that exempting guns from federal regulations is an incredibly bad and recklessly dangerous idea, these bills fly in the face of everything this country stands for.   They are meant to undermine our federal system of government.  If states can exempt themselves from federal gun laws what else can they opt out of?  

          Let's hope the courts act quickly and decisively to shut down this clearly unconstitutional law.  Shame on legislators for supporting these bills that are not only dangerous, but blatantly anti-American. 


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Laws and regulations designed to protect the public health and safety work

Laws and regulations designed to protect the public health and safety work.   

A driver’s license teaches road safety, vehicle inspections keep dangerous cars off the roads, speed limits safely control the movement of cars.  Consumer product safety standards work to ensure that our food is free from poisons, cribs are safe for babies, radiation doesn’t leak from our microwave ovens.  Building codes protect the integrity of the homes we live in, the roads we drive on, the elevators we ride in.  

Every day, in ways too numerous to mention, policy makers have worked to protect the safety of our communities through laws and regulations.  But there is one area where the public is left vulnerable, one industry that our legislators fail to regulate:  firearms. 

Holes in our gun laws allow for the private sale of guns with no background checks run and no records kept.  Weaknesses in our regulations allow anyone to obtain military-style assault rifles, guns designed specifically to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time.  Lack of oversight allows for these guns to be equipped with high capacity magazines that hold 20, 30, 50 rounds and more.  Amendments slipped in yearly to appropriations bills keep the ATF under funded, hide crime gun trace information from our police officers, and prohibit the Center for Disease Control from talking about gun control.  

Legislators at both the federal and the state level have been bullied and beaten into submission by a powerful special interest lobby.  It is understandable why the gun lobby acts the way they do.  Their goal, after all, is to sell guns.  What is not understandable is why our policy makers are content to sit back in silence while every year in the United States 30,000 people die from firearms; 70,000 people are shot and injured, leaving physical and emotional scars that last for years; over 300,000 people are victims of armed robbery or aggravated assault with a firearm; and countless others are threatened and intimidated with guns, sometimes by so-called loved ones.  

Our legislators need to be held accountable for their failure to protect the public health and safety.  They have abdicated their responsibility and have helped create a system that allows for easy, unquestioned access to firearms by felons, domestic abusers and others prohibited from owning guns.  

Every time a Dylan Klebold or a Seung-Hui Cho walks into a classroom and kills our innocent children we must hold our legislators to blame for their failure to pass the laws and regulations that would prevent these dangerous individuals from getting guns.  

On this, the tenth anniversary of the killings at Columbine High School and the second anniversary of the massacre at Virginia Tech, let us honor these, and all victims of gun violence by working to enact laws that will prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands and prevent future tragedies.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

After North Carolina Nursing Home Massacre That Killed 8, Arming Nurses Is NOT the Answer

When Robert Stewart barged into a North Carolina nursing home and started shooting elderly Alzheimer patients, local police officer Justin Garner went to work.  Garner confronted the well-armed intruder and told him to put his weapons down.  Stewart responded by shooting at Garner, hitting him with buckshot pellets in the leg and foot.  Despite his injury, Officer Garner managed to fire one round, hitting Stewart in the chest and ending the shooting spree that left eight people dead. 

Now that’s police work and we should all be grateful for the long hours Officer Garner put in training to do his job.  

But good police work is apparently not good enough for Grass Roots North Carolina (GRNC), a local gun extremist group.  GRNC wants to arm nurses.

Armed nurses in an Alzheimer unit?  Really?

GRNC, and gun fanatics across the country, are seriously out of touch with reality.  The reality is shootings happen quickly.  They can start and end before anyone even realizes what is going on.  

The reality is that even highly trained police officers hit their intended targets less than 20% of the time.

The reality is that these highly stressful situations set off an array of involuntary physiological responses, including trembling hands, tunnel vision, loss of hearing and even loss of bowel control.  

The reality is that adding more guns to a shooting incident will lead to more chaos, more chance for innocent people to be hit and greater confusion for law enforcement in sorting out who the criminal is.

But GRNC doesn’t just want to arm nurses, they want to override the ability of private companies in North Carolina to regulate firearms as they see fit on their private property.  GRNC is currently supporting legislation that would force privately owned bars and restaurants to allow hidden, loaded guns.  

All across the country gun extremists are pushing this extreme agenda.  The goal of the gun lobby is to eliminate any restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons.  Current legislation includes: 

  •          a Montana bill to do away with the need to obtain a concealed weapons permit
  •      a New Mexico bill to allow concealed weapons in bars;
  •      an Arizona bill to force privately owned business to let workers keep guns in their cars; 
  •      a Texas bill that would give permission for college students to keep guns in their dorm and carry guns into the classroom. 

This is just a partial listing of bills being considered in state legislatures.  Unfortunately, there is no lack of legislators willing to sponsor and vote for these dangerous bills, despite the fact that the majority of Americans want tougher, not weaker, gun laws.  But as long as legislators continue to be bullied by gun extremists while the majority of Americans remain quiet, these laws will continue to be introduced and even passed. 

Do we really want to be so dependent upon the judgment of ordinary citizens as to when and where is the right time to use a concealed gun?


Monday, March 9, 2009

For His 18th Birthday He Bought Himself Two Assault Rifles, Several High Capacity Ammunition Clips, and More

Last week, in the middle of the night, Massachusetts police pulled over a driver on 495.   The truck was allegedly swerving in and out of lanes.  Luke Huizinga, the 18-year-old behind the wheel,  said he was headed from his home in DanburyConnecticut to a wedding in Maine.  After spotting a gun case the police searched the vehicle.  They found:

-         a 16-inch Bushmaster assault rifle with a night scope

-         a 12-guage shotgun with a pistol grip

-         7 30-round high capacity ammunition clips

-         several boxes of additional ammunition

-         six knives

-         brass knuckles

-         a bullet-proof vest with an armor plate

According to police, both guns had been modified.  

Huizinga told police he bought the guns to celebrate his 18th birthday.  His mother describes him as a “sportsman and gun enthusiast” and said that he just wanted to show off his new guns to his friends in Maine. 

She told the Danbury News-Times that Luke “did something stupid.  I hope he does not get two years in jail.  I’m sure it will be all right, because I’m not in control, God is in control.”

God help a mother who gives her blessing for her son to buy himself a mini-arsenal, complete with bullet-proof vest, for his 18th birthday.  He may never “have been in trouble of any kind before” but he’s certainly heading down a dangerous road.  And the sad part is, he purchased all these guns legally.   

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two Killed, Seven Others Injured in Weekend Shooting

“Two killed, seven others injured in weekend shooting,” read the headline in papers across the country. 

But the articles were not about the same incident.  “Two killed, seven others injured,” is a story that took place in three separate cities last weekend. 

            Two killed, seven others injured in a shooting outside a neighborhood store in northwest Miami, Florida.  A gunman, using an assault rifle, opened fire on a group of teenagers playing dice.  Two killed, ages 16 and 18, seven others injured.  Police have no suspects in custody.

            Two killed, seven others injured in a shooting during a wake at a home in southeast Wichita, Kansas.   Two killed, ages 22 and 66, seven others injured as someone fired shots from outside the house.  Police have no suspects in custody.

            Two killed, seven others injured in a shooting outside a nightclub in Portland, Oregon.  Two killed, ages 16 and 17, seven others injured.  The 24-year-old gunman took his own life.  According to news accounts the gunman had displayed troublesome behavior in high school and had been hospitalized for depression and attempted suicide.  In a note to his roommate, the gunman gave information about his special PS3 gaming system, describing possible ways to sell it, but gave no motive for the shooting. 

Six of the victims in the Portland shooting were foreign exchange students.  According to Portland Police Chief the incident “echoes most Europeans’ fear about gun violence” in America.  Six people killed and twenty-one others injured in three separate shootings would have sparked national debates in most other countries but here in the United States the stories barely made out of the local papers.

Why do we passively accept such levels of gun violence?  Why do we sit back and watch quietly as gun violence prevention measures are struck down in state houses across the country?  The National Rifle Association is a big part of the answer.

The NRA is a reactionary, fringe organization.  It just ran an unsuccessful campaign against President Obama that, a nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, called "one of the worst examples of lying" that "distorted Obama's position on gun control beyond recognition."  

Former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman has called the NRA a "cynical, mercenary political cult" and admits that the organization "isn't interested in actually solving problems, only in fueling perpetual crisis and controversy." 

The NRA survives by selling fear.  It profits from polarizing.  Legislators that seek and accept the endorsement of the NRA are, in effect, condoning an organization that is fueled by stoking fear in its membership and bullying and threatening legislators who dare to go against it.   

We need a new kind of politics.  In this new “era of responsibility” we need legislators who want to be cooperative, not those who embrace organizations that incite battle and combat.   We need to work together to find ways to end the needless cycle of gun violence in our country.

We should never have to pick up our local paper and read the headline “two killed, seven others injured in weekend shooting.” 


Monday, January 12, 2009

Gun Dealers Target of Thieves

Twice in the last four months gun dealers have been robbed on their way home from gun shows at the Valley Forge Convention Center in Pennsylvania.  Thieves have made off with more than 70 high-powered weapons and handguns.  Both robberies occurred when the gun dealers stopped for a meal on the way home and left their trucks unattended.  

In September, a New York gun dealer had 45 handguns stolen from his truck.  In December, aPittsburgh gun dealer had 26 guns stolen from his truck.  14 of these guns were fully automatic machine guns like the ones pictured below. 

Last week a gun dealer in New Hampshire returned home to find his entire inventory of 73 handguns, rifles, and shotguns stolen.  Fortunately, the guns were recovered a few days later at the home of an ex-employee.  

Stolen guns are a major source of firearms used by criminals and the cause of untold gun violence in our country, yet only nine states require gun dealers to use security measures to reduce the risk of firearm theft.  

Gun dealers are a tempting target for thieves and should be held to a strict security standard.  There is no excuse for the theft of 14 machine guns from a pickup truck left unattended outside a restaurant.  

Friday, January 9, 2009

Great Britain vs. United States in Gun Deaths

Last year there were 42 gun-related deaths in Great Britain.  This number includes homicides, suicides and accidental deaths.  

In 2005 (the latest year for which numbers are available) there were 30,364 gun-related deaths in the United States.  This number includes homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths. 

True, the United States has more people than Great Britain so you can’t really compare these two numbers.  Britain has about 61 million, while the United States has about 296 million, which gives the U.S. about five times the population of Great Britain. So, a better comparison of the numbers would be to multiple the British gun deaths by five.   

42 x 5 = 210

Now we can compare the numbers. 

Gun-related deaths for Great Britain (if given a population equal to the United States) = 210

Gun-related deaths in the United States = 30,364. 

210 vs. 30,364