Writing for Peace

writing_for_peaceI have proudly accepted the role and honor as a member of the advisory panel for Writing for Peace.  If you are not aware of this fine organization, run by Carmel Mawle, here is their mission statement:

Through education and creative writing, Writing for Peace seeks to cultivate the empathy that allows minds to open to new cultural views, to value the differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity, to develop a spirit of leadership and peaceful activism.

Writing for Peace is currently accepting submissions for the 2015 anthology Dove Tales, An International Journal of the Arts.  The theme this year is Nature.  Learn more about the submission process and the type of work that will be included here.

I am very proud to be involved with this fine organization, and want to express my deep gratitude to Carmel Mawle for the invitation.

Dear Mandy, Thank you for your comments. | An Open Letter to an NRA Defender

Dear Mandy,

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my essay exit wound and leave your comments.  It looks like you put a lot of time and effort into it and I’m very glad to respond but there is quite a bit to unpack.  I’ll do my best.  Here’s what you said:

Hi Melissa, I appreciate well thought opinions and liked this post very much. And though I’m not a ‘gun-nut’ it seems that ‘gun-control nuts’ are setting up many straw men to take down.

For example, the NRA and conservatives have been for background checks for a long time… legislation that NRA has recommended making mental health issues available for instant background checks, but the ACLU said violated people’s rights to privacy. Also, the background check laws that are already in place are not being carried through because they are not being funded and because anything done federally, is simply not managed well. Michigan has a ‘universal background check’ like that is being proposed federally and it is “largely ignored” because it is very hard to enforce. So it simply creates imposition for the law abiding citizens… that’s what he means in the quote you used above… those that are trying to get around the laws already in place… will get around the new ones too. In all the legislation being proposed, there are no enforcement ideas or long term funding options offered.

And the other solutions, we’ve tried! The Brady Bill did nothing to affect gun violence and most violent gun deaths happen by people who obtain guns illegally anyway.

Believe me, I find it very very frustrating to hear time after time about gun violence but I’m not someone who will be placated by a democrat pushing a bill through that doesn’t do anything anyway.

I do believe that smaller clips are a compromising point, leaving provisions for ‘well organized militia’ like those doing border patrol in Texas, etc. And I would like for background checks (the laws already in place) to actually be enforced, including access to psychiatric red flag records… certainly we don’t need to know everyone’s full record, but if they have threatened to or admitted to daydreaming about taking out tons of people to school counselors or doctors, there should be a way to get a red flag out there.

It seems as though people who are, rightly so, passionate about gun control like to create an “us v them” atmosphere automatically making gun owners the villains.

Let’s enforce the laws we do have. Let’s make criminals do hard time instead of getting slaps on the wrist and let’s try to figure out ways to make our kids and law abiding citizens safe… LaPierre tried to suggest one… instead of demonizing him because we don’t think its the right solution… let’s find another.

anyway, I’ll check around as it seems you put a lot of thought into your blogs, which I appreciate!

-m

Again, thank you for your comments.  Your assertion that the NRA and Republican Party have worked to support background checks and mental health issues a factor in purchasing weapons is not fact.  I thought I would share some facts with you — facts that I don’t mind citing.

The NRA and Conservatives have long been doing and continue to do everything they can to undermine the gun laws that are currently in place, instead of trying to enforce or improve or even stand aside for the current laws.  Follows are specific examples, but first a bit of history from before the 2012 election:

The convention, in its “celebration of American values,” has drawn tens of thousands of members to see genuflecting Republicans and to browse a seven-acre commercial mart of guns and shooting paraphernalia, much of it designed for the battlefields of war, not the home front. [ … ]

Polls show Republicans enjoy heavy support and donations from gun owners. In return, the gun lobby has had steady success in weakening gun laws — especially in the two dozen statehouses that followed Florida in enacting new self-defense laws to allow the instant use of deadly force in a confrontation rather than retreat from danger. These laws are fostered by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, with heavyweight business supporters like Walmart, a major gun retailer.

The families of the victims killed and wounded in the Virginia Tech massacre do not come close to having such clout. For the tragedy’s fifth anniversary next week, they are having a hard time securing meetings with Washington politicians to fix the law that promised a more complete and up-to-date federal list of the mentally ill, who should be barred from buying guns. But two dozen states have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records each when tens of thousands should be entered, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national gun reform group. Financing to help state reporting efforts was supposed to be $1.1 billion over the last four years, yet Congress appropriated only $51 million. So goes the nation’s utter failure to deal with the gun menace.  Source.  April 13, 2012

Bringing us to more current times.  Hold on to your hat, dear Mandy:

The consensus among most analysts is that the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, are unlikely to change current gun laws—that, despite the bloodshed and the outrage, our statues aren’t up for radical reconsideration.

But that’s not necessarily accurate—in fact, our existing gun laws are poised to get much weaker. In the current Congress and the one before it, pro-gun legislators have proposed and passed a variety of truly shocking measures that would weaken what laws are currently on the books—and remember, President Obama is only willing to enforce “existing law,” whatever that might be.

Here are five of the most craven gun bills in the 111th and 112th Congresses:

More guns for veterans with mental issues. In October 2012, Congress passed HR 2349, the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2011. The bill contains a provision introduced by Representative Danny Rehberg of Montana that would forbid the Department of Veterans’ Affairs “from determining a beneficiary to be mentally incompetent for the purposes of gun control, unless such a determination were made by a judge, magistrate, or other judicial authority based upon a finding that the beneficiary posed a danger to himself or others.” In other words, the VA would no longer be able to alert federal authorities that a veteran is mentally unfit to own guns, unless they are able to get a judge to certify it. Currently, professionals at the VA simply make the determination and pass it on to the FBI.  This bill is currently stalled in the Senate, having been read twice and referred to the Committee on Veteran’s Affairs.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as of May 1, 2011, there were 130,886 files in the national gun-check database’s mental-defective file, referred to the FBI by the VA. This means that if/when Rehberg’s provision passes, tens of thousands of veterans whom the VA considers unsuitable to have weapons would be able to buy them.

More guns for suspected terrorists. There are many things that will disqualify you from buying a gun — if you’re a convicted felon, you won’t pass a background check. But if you happen to be on the federal government’s watch list of terror suspects, you will pass the background check just fine. In 2010, 247 people suspected of ties to terrorism passed background checks and purchased weapons.

Senator Frank Lautenberg has repeatedly tried to pass legislation that would make one’s presence on a terror list a disqualifier for buying guns.  Should be a no-brainer, right?  He has received support from the Bush and Obama Justice Departments. But pro-gun legislators have buried the bill every time.

While there are legitimate concerns with the arbitrary system by which the federal government creates the terror watch list, generally the Republicans take it very seriously—and so their opposition to Lautenberg’s bills truly speaks to the depth of pro-gun sentiments in Congress.

Stepping on states with tougher laws. The House also passed a bill last fall that would essentially establish a lowest-common-denominator for concealed-carry permits. (It awaits action in the Senate, where in the last Congress, a similar measure sponsored by Senator John Thune was narrowly defeated).

HR 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, basically says that states with tough laws on concealed-carry can’t enforce them on people who come there from other states with weak laws.

Thirty-eight states have “shall issue” laws, which means that a concealed-carry permit must be issued to anyone who applies and meets the criteria—which varies from state to state. (Some require mental health checks, for example, while others don’t). Other states have “may issue” laws, where state and local authorities have much more discretion.

Many states with tough gun laws don’t honor concealed carry permits from states that basically rubber-stamp permits—but HR 822 would require they do.

Notably, when the House Committee on the Judiciary considered this bill, Democrats tried to attach a number of amendments that would at least deny concealed-carry permits to certain groups: persons on terrorist watch lists, sex offenders, stalkers, drug traffickers to minors, and assailants of police officers. Republicans defeated each amendment.

More guns in public housing. Gun violence is tightly concentrated in poor, urban areas, which makes a bill passed by the House Financial Services Committee in 2009 particularly heinous—a successful amendment to the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act would forbid federal authorities from prohibiting firearm possession in public housing complexes.

Hamstringing the ATF.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been prevented from having a director since 2004, and it is widely known that pro-gun legislators has been behind that.  But in the past two Congresses, legislators have further tied the hands of the ATF in all sorts of ways. (And if you think the furor over the bureau’s Fast & Furious operation isn’t part of that effort, you aren’t paying attention.)

In its budget requests, Obama has proposed the removal of several restrictions placed on ATF funding in 2004. But not even the Democratic-controlled Senate would oblige, and the restrictions remain in place. The funding restrictions:

    • prohibit the use of any funding appropriated for ATF to disclose firearms trace or multiple handgun sales report data for any purpose other than supporting “bona fide” criminal investigation or agency licensing proceedings,
    • prohibit the use of any funding appropriated for ATF to issue new regulations that would require licensed dealers to conduct physical inventories of their businesses, and
    • require the next-day destruction of approved Brady background check records.

In addition to preserving these riders, in April the House passed a FY2013 appropriations bill that would also forbid the ATF from:

    • Altering the regulatory definition of “curios and relics,”
    • requiring federally licensed gun dealers to conduct physical inventories, or
    • revoking a federal firearms license for lack of business activity

These rules mainly help protect large gun dealers, allowing them to distribute firearms under decreased regulation if they are labeled an antique, and protecting them from examination of their business records.

(Here’s the source on this complilation, which is in turn, cites within its pages and links.)

Now, more information on the weakening of the ATF, as there is certainly no love lost between the NRA and ATF:

A review of congressional legislative records, federal lobbying disclosure forms, as well as interviews with former ATF agents, shows how the NRA has repeatedly supported legislation to weaken several of the nation’s gun laws and opposed any attempt to boost the ability of the Bureau of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to enforce current laws, including:

  • The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986. This law mandated that the ATF could only inspect firearms dealers once a year. It reduced record-keeping penalties from felonies to misdemeanors, prohibited the ATF from computerizing purchase records for firearms and required the government to prove that a gun dealer was “willful” if they sold a firearm to a prohibited person.
  • The Tiahrt amendments. Beginning in 2003, the amendments by then-representative Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., to the Justice Department’s appropriation bill included requirements such as the same-day destruction of FBI background check documents and limits on the sharing of data from traces.
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Reform and Firearms Modernization Act. Most recently introduced in 2011, the bill proposed changing several regulations, including redefining the burden of proof for agents investigating firearms dealers accused of selling to prohibited individuals and capping fines for other violations.
    Source.

And it is more than disheartening to work and lobby at the national level only to find that surreptitiously gun laws are being controlled by the NRA, the GOP, and the gun lobby.  But that is what is happening.

A Tearing Down of State Gun Laws by the NRA

In Ohio:

Ohio’s Republican Governor Johns Kasich on Thursday signed into law a measure that would slightly weaken the state’s law on carrying concealed weapons, less than a week after a Connecticut school massacre focused national attention on gun control.

The bill would require Ohio residents demonstrate competency with the weapon only once rather than each time the concealed carry permit expires. It also would allow carrying concealed weapons in the parking garage of the State Capitol.

Kasich signed the bill along with 41 others and did not hold a signing ceremony. A press release summarizing his actions put the gun law near the bottom of list of those signed.

Source:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/20/us-usa-guns-ohio-idUSBRE8BJ1EY20121220

In Lousianna:

A New Orleans judge ruled Thursday, March 14, that a law forbidding felons from owning firearms infringes their rights to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the state’s newly amended constitution.

Although Louisiana already had extremely permissive gun laws (and the second highest gun-murder rate in the country), last November voters overwhelmingly passed an initiative backed by the National Rifle Association that made gun ownership a fundamental right with the same levels of protection as the freedoms of religion and speech.

In Washington State:

… under Washington’s Hard Times for Armed Crimes Act, judges have no discretion to deny felons their gun rights based on mental health, character, and other factors. Analyzing data from Washington, the Times found that since 1995, more than 3,300 felons and people convicted of domestic violence have regained their gun rights in the state: “Of that number, more than 400—about 13 percent—have subsequently committed new crimes, the analysis found. More than 200 committed felonies, including murder, assault in the first and second degree, child rape and drive-by shooting.”

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers across the country are pushing felons’ gun rights (while others are denying them voting rights). In January, a state representative from Colorado introduced a bill that would allow people convicted of nonviolent crimes or felonies to possess guns after release. A similar Republican-backed bill was introduced in Oklahoma a month later, but that plan was derailed when party members learned “nonviolent” offenses also include drug trafficking, child prostitution, and child pornography.

Source and attendant links.

Oh!  And you mentioned Michigan.  Did you know legislation that likely would pit Michigan against the federal government in a legal battle over firearms regulations was introduced approximately one month after the Newtown massacre?  Can you guess who introduced it by now?  That’s right.  The GOP.

Senate Bill 63 would exempt firearms and firearms accessories made and sold exclusively in Michigan from federal gun restrictions, including those proposed by President Barack Obama in response to last month’s slaying of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school. Obama’s proposals include universal background checks for firearms purchases and a ban on assault weapons.

A full Senate vote has yet to be scheduled as of this article. (January 24, 2013)

GOP lawmakers have touted the legislation as a way to lure gun manufacturers to Michigan. Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, and Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, issued a letter inviting Remington Arms Co. to relocate here from New York, which just passed stringent new gun regulations.  Source:  The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130124/POLITICS02/301240369#ixzz2OnITUhVw

These are just a few examples.

The language from the leaders of the NRA, Mandy, has become rhetoric:  Fight.  War.  Uprising.  Is this the culture you would promote?   This language incites, preaches fear, and hopes to turn responsible owners like you, Mandy, full of fear of a make-believe tyranny and mythical “gun grabbers.”

But that simply isn’t happening.

I absolutely do not and will not make gun owners the villains.  Most gun owners WANT tighter restrictions and regulations in place.  Owning a gun is serious business and a serious responsibility, and most treat it as such.  I absolutely believe that the NRA has become a political arm of gun manufacturers, and earns their keep (and lots of it) by encouraging and increasing gun sales.  Do not be fooled into thinking they have your best interests at heart.

This is a lot of information to take in, Mandy, and if you’ll indulge me, hang in there because there is a bit more.  We can’t talk about gun violence without talking about all kinds of gun violence, and that includes gun suicides.  A study from Duke University found the following with regard to the Brady Bill:

Another way to measure the effects of the Brady Act is to focus on suicides, an important public health concern since more people die each year by gun suicides than gun homicides in the United States. We do find that the Brady states experienced a greater reduction than the non-Brady states in gun suicides to older people, who have the highest rates. While this drop was partially offset by an increase in non-gun suicides, our evidence suggests that the Brady Act has saved lives by reducing the overall suicide rate among older Americans. Interestingly, the effects of the Brady Act on suicide seem to be caused in large part by the act’s original waiting period requirements, which were phased out in late 1998 as states moved to an “instant check” system.  Source.

We have a problem in our society, our culture, with a society that seems to shoot first and ask questions later.

This, from the The Tea Party Facebook page last night:

39,719 people like this.
10,709 shares
10,706 comments

And I need to point out who is now funding the NRA, despite the fact that they state they are independent of gun manufacturers.  This has been proven to be a false statement.

The report, Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA, reveals that since 2005 contributions from gun industry “corporate partners” to the NRA total between $14.7 million and $38.9 million. Total donations to the NRA from all “corporate partners”–both gun industry and non-gun industry–for the same time period total between $19.8 million and $52.6 million. The vast majority of funds–74 percent–contributed to the NRA from “corporate partners” come from members of the firearms industry: companies involved in the manufacture or sale of firearms or shooting-related products.

Despite the NRA’s historical claims that it is not financially allied with the gun industry, including the current disclaimer on its website that it “is not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers or with any businesses that deal in guns and ammunition,” NRA “corporate partners” include many of the world’s best known gunmakers as well as such companies as Xe, the new name of the now infamous Blackwater Worldwide–known for its abuses in the Iraq war–which alone contributed between $500,000 and $999,999 to the NRA since 2005.

This is Mr. LaPierre at CPAC, March 15, 2013.  He spends a good portion of the first eight minutes referring over and over again to the “political elites”  and how they call him crazy.  He starts dissing universal background checks at 8:29.  But that was way back on March 15.

This is now (March 23, 2013):

Sen. Joe Manchin and the National Rifle Association are quietly engaged in private talks on a proposal to broaden background checks on purchasers of firearms.

That the NRA is even talking with Manchin suggests there’s at least some room for negotiation for the group — despite its public posture against tougher gun laws, several sources say.

But to the point of background checks, Mandy —  in case you’re wondering, here’s how most illegal guns are obtained.  And under whose jurisdiction would this fall?  Did you read it, Mandy?  The ATF.  Which brings us full circle.

I am absolutely pro-gun owner, Mandy.  And Canada has 7 million guns within its borders and very little gun violence.  Very little.  Like, 173 in 2009.   I have amassed a LOT of information on worldwide gun violence statistics and posted them here, Mandy, so that you can read them at your leisure.

I wonder if the NRA has chapters at the local level.  Can you answer that for me, Mandy?  What is the dialogue there?

A majority of Americans — including gun-owning Americans and National Rifle Association (NRA) members — back sensible gun regulation. In fact, new research released in July by Republican pollster Frank Luntz for Mayors against Illegal Guns, finds that gun advocates overwhelmingly support common-sense measures typically described as “gun control.” These include:

1. Requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees. 82 percent of all gun owners and 74 percent of NRA gun owners support the former, and 80 percent and 79 percent, respectively, endorse the latter.

2. Prohibiting terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns. Support ranges from 80 percent among non-NRA gun-owners to 71 percent among NRA members.

3. Mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their gun is stolen. 71 percent non-NRA gun-owners support this measure, as do 64 percent of NRA members.

4. Concealed carry permits should only be restricted to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are 21 and older. 84 percent of non-NRA and 74 percent of NRA member gun-owners support the safety training restriction, and the numbers are 74 percent and 63 percent for the age restriction.

5.Concealed carry permits shouldn’t be given to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence. The NRA/non-NRA gun-owner split on these issues is 81 percent and 75 percent in favor of the violent misdemeanors provision and 78 percent/68 percent in favor of the domestic violence restriction.

The poll, which sampled 945 gun owners around the country and had a margin of error of +/- 3, also found broad support gun-owners for the principle that “support for 2nd Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.” In fact, more NRA members (87 percent) supported the statement than non-NRA members (83 percent).

In the aftermath of the tragedy, gun safety advocates have called for Congress to vote on banning assault weapons and high capacity clips, closing terrorism loopholes, and requiring background checks for all gun sales. Yet the NRA has yet to issue a public statement about the elementary school shooting. One wonders if will listen to the views of its supporters, or continue to represent the business interests of gun manufacturers, once it does.  Source.

In observing all of the rhetoric and fear-mongering, I have become decidedly anti-NRA, at least at the national level and where their leadership is concerned.  I’ve been given no reason not to be, frankly.

Until their leadership can step forward not with swagger and hubris but with a real compassion for the tens of thousands of real lives lost each year, not to mention those 20 sweet children in Newtown taken from this life far too early, well, I will not listen to them or anyone that defends them.  What if they were your children, Mandy?

For I had asked [David Keene] whether he or the NRA regretted its first responses to the mass murder of children by a killer with an assault weapon at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The answer was “no.” — Howard Fineman

And today,  we learn that the NRA has outright lied to us about Nancy and Adam Lanza’s membership in their organization.

What the NRA doesn’t seem to understand is that the Newtown children were our children.  As was Adam Lanza.  And all the kids at Columbine.  And everyone in that theater in Aurora.  It takes a village — and the village failed them.

So leaving things as they are, and letting the NRA conduct business as usual is no longer acceptable.

Walk in peace, Mandy.

Melissa

Their Names

Do not forget where we started, or why — It is important that you remember, and check your stamina.  It’s a long fight ahead.

And their names are important for us to remember.

Children (8 boys and 12 girls)

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeline Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Adults
Rachel D’Avino, 29
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Dawn Hocksprung, 47

Nancy Lanza, mother of the gunman

Adam Lanza
(Source)

There are many, many more names.  For more names, Slate and @GunDeaths have made available  the current list of victims of gun violence.

 

We Are Better Than This

(A mother of a rant)

At some point in the early mornings, A. usually crawls into my bed in the still-dark-out, wanting to snuggle.  This morning is no exception, and he cuddles up next to me.  We drift for a while like this, on a quiet raft of early morning.

I am lying there with my eyes closed but my mind is awake, running through the conversations I have had lately with my pro-gun friends.  What I have come to realize is that some of them are not arguing for the right to keep their guns.  We (I) have stated over and over that we are (I am) not interested in taking that right away from them.  What I have come to understand is that they are arguing their right to not be inconvenienced.  Gun ownership should be as convenient as, say, eggs at Wal-mart.  And this stuns me.

The Second Amendment (Source: Wikipedia)

There are several versions of the text of the Second Amendment, each with slight capitalization and punctuation differences, found in the official documents surrounding the adoption of the Bill of Rights.[5] One version was passed by the Congress,[6] while another is found in the copies distributed to the States[7] and then ratified by them.

As passed by the Congress:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.[8]

The original hand-written copy of the Bill of Rights, approved by the House and Senate, was prepared by scribe William Lambert and resides in the National Archives.

I must be missing something and I am no constitutional law expert, but the very first words of the Second Amendment, “A well regulated militia” says to me that our founding fathers had enough foresight to realize that handing out guns with few restrictions was going to be bad policy.

I had to do some research on this piece, and sure enough, that phrase has basically been swept under the rug in the latest interpretations of law because it is inconvenient.

Advocates of open gun policy seem to be arguing that they do not want to suffer even a moment’s pause, can’t be asked to take proficiency or mental competency tests or even willing to close the gun show loophole, and it says to me that their right to convenient gun ownership is more important that the consequences of having such lax attitudes toward our most lethal of scenarios.  “I tend to err on the side of Freedom.” said one.

And in that very moment, as all of this is running through my head, of why his freedom to convenient gun ownership takes precedence over any common sense or responsible legislation,  who I can write, who to reach out to and how to be most effective in helping change the laws and hold up a mirror to these attitudes, my youngest, still drowsing next to me, turns his little face toward me in the dark, and presses a tiny kiss to the tip of my nose.  A tiny kiss in the dark, before he turns away again to return to deeper sleep.

And I lose it, right there.  I start to cry.  Quietly.  A week’s wait, a little inconvenience, is somehow more important than keeping guns away from our children and our mentally ill.  Precious, sweet child who I would protect with the very blood in my veins.  I can hack a copperhead to pieces with a shovel in the backyard on a summer’s morning, but I cannot protect you from the self-serving attitudes of a few men.  I accidentally let out a sniffle.  He turns and whispers “What?” almost instinctively, still half-asleep.

I cannot fathom how we have come to such a place in our culture.

In my life, I have known and loved hunters and gun enthusiasts who were all, without exception, responsible gun owners.

The furor to which the gun debate is heating up and it seems to me that a collective deep breath should be drawn, the guns put away, and we come to the table to have a conversation.

We cannot allow ANY access to firearms by children, or the mentally ill.  There have been 130 school shootings since Columbine. To those of you unwilling to relax your grip on your semi-automatic, I ask how many school shootings will it take? How many children will be lost until you come to terms with the fact that America has a gun problem.

We regulate cars, alcohol, marijuana, tobacco – anything at all that might hurt us, except for weaponry, shockingly.

The following articles and statistics have been shared with me from various sources, and I freely share them with you, in hopes that if you are a responsible gun owner and sense that something needs to be done, that you wish to appeal to other gun owners, that other countries must be doing something correctly because they do not have the gun violence and school shootings and mass murders that we do.

We should NOT have to worry about our children’s safety because of someone else’s firearms, how they are stored, and who might have access.  Period.

Japan’s gun laws are of course truly amazing.
“The contrast between the United States and Japan could not be starker. If the United States has the loosest gun laws in the developed world, then Japan has the strictest. Most guns are illegal, with onerous restrictions on the few that are legal. Police also have far broader search-and-seizure powers. But the country also has a remarkably low rate of firearm deaths. In 2008, when the United States experienced over 12,000 gun-related homicides, Japan had only 11, or fewer than half as many killed Friday in Newtown, Conn. That same year in the United States, 587 were killed just by accidental gun discharges. In 2006 in Japan, a nation of 128 million people, only two were killed by guns.” — Max Fisher

Australian program to buy guns back to get them out of circulation led to 60% drop in homicide by gun.

Marion Wright Edelman after the shootings at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Would this have happened without a semi-automatic gun and high-capacity clips of bullets?

World murder rates

“How did we get to the point where 85% of the children in the world that are killed with guns are killed in the United States?”  ~ Captain Mark Kelly

States with Strong Gun Laws and Low Rates of Gun Ownership Have Lowest Firearm Death Rates

Here’s the ranking.

Causes of death in the United States 2009
Motor vehicles 34,485;  poisoning 41,592 (!!), guns 31,347.  In 2009 suicide (59.85% of all gun deaths) is about double the murder rate (36.7%), and accidents are actually only 1.8% of the total.)

Death by murder or suicide when there is a gun in the home versus when there is no gun in the home (publication 2004, data older).  No data on the likelihood of suicide is for people who do not have a firearm in the home. Links to tables in the article:

http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.full

http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929/T2.expansion.html

The figures given are odds ratio, which doesn’t just mean multiples of increased likelihood.

Twelve Facts about guns and mass shootings in the U.S.
“Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii,” they found. And in most cases, the killers had obtained their weapons legally.

The Geography of Gun Deaths

“What about politics? It’s hard to quantify political rhetoric, but we can distinguish blue from red states. Taking the voting patterns from the 2008 presidential election, we found a striking pattern: Firearm-related deaths were positively associated with states that voted for McCain (.66) and negatively associated with states that voted for Obama (-.66). Though this association is likely to infuriate many people, the statistics are unmistakable. Partisan affiliations alone cannot explain them; most likely they stem from two broader, underlying factors – the economic and employment makeup of the states and their policies toward guns and gun ownership.”

States with Toughest Gun Laws (from the Brady Campaign)

Gun enthusiasts like to claim that keeping a gun handy protects them and their family from violent intruders.  The study by Wiebe shows that having a gun at home is associated with an increased risk of dying by gunfire, so gun ownership does not appear to be protective of violent firearms-related killings.  But the Wiebe study was also able to compute the likelihood of dying by violence other than gunfire.  They found there was no relationship between owning a gun and homicide by means other than a gun.  In other words, having a gun around is not associated with a decreased risk of homicide of any sort.  The study could find no empiric evidence that owning a gun confers some protection on a household from homicide.  To my knowledge, there is no peer-reviewed study published anywhere that provides evidence that guns or gun ownership protects individuals from death or injury.  If anyone reading this knows of such a study, I hope they will tell me so I can go read that study. […] It is estimated that 40-45% of American households own a firearm, and that 30-35% of American adults own a firearm (http://www.justfacts.com/…).  According to the Small Arms Survey in 2007 (http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/…), the US leads the world in firearms ownership with 88 firearms per 100 persons.  Our closest competitors were the countries of Yemen (54.8 firearms per 100 persons), Switzerland (45.7 firearms per 100 persons), and Finland (45.3 firearms per 100 persons).” — Hugh Jim Bissell

Causes (circumstances) of death by murder
In 2009, 2101 murders were a result of felony crimes (e.g., done in the context of both professional and amateur felonies like rape, narcotics, gambling, burglary), but 6975 were crimes of passion (arguments, brawls), and 5000 produced bodies dead of bullet wounds with cause unknown.

We are better than this.