Friday, April 16, 2010

Patriot or Paranoid?

Patriot – A person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interest.

Paranoid - Exhibiting or characterized by baseless and extreme fear or distrust of others.

On Monday, April 19th, the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, two rallies will take place in and around Washington, D.C. Those attending the Second Amendment March will gather on the grounds of the Washington Monument. While those going to the Restore the Constitution rally will meet first at Ft. Hunt National Park in Virginia and then travel to the banks of the Potomac River, about a mile from the National Mall, so they can “step up to the edge” of D.C. with their openly carried handguns and military-grade rifles.

While these two events are being organized by different groups, they share a common viewpoint of the role of guns in our society. Both see themselves as part of a people’s militia, one that is arming itself to, if necessary, “rise up and overthrow an oppressive, totalitarian government.” They see themselves as protectors against tyranny in government. They believe that filling their homes with Glock handguns and AK-47s is necessary for the security of a free state. They are gathering in our nation’s capitol to “rattle their sabers”, to tell the government that they are out there, prepared to “overthrow them under certain conditions.” And to underscore the notion that this uprising will come not through the peaceful means of the ballot box but from the barrel of a gun.

Are these self-appointed militia members patriots or paranoid?

These groups claim that their “God-given Constitutional right to keep and bear arms” is under attack. They see the Second Amendment as an absolute right, one that cannot in any way be questioned. They are outraged that a heavily armed protest across the street from The White House is prohibited and view this as “the local and federal governments complete trample of the Second Amendment rights of her citizens.” They see any effort to pass laws intended to keep guns out of the hands of criminals as a movement to ultimately take away all guns. Patriots or paranoid?

In 2008, the Supreme Court, for the first time in sixty years, ruled on the Second Amendment. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court ruled that “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 ruling made it absolutely clear that the right to have a gun in your home for protection exists side by side with the right to regulate the purchase, possession and carrying of guns.

But this ruling is not good enough for the organizers of the Second Amendment March and the Restore the Constitution rally. These self-appointed militia members have decided that they should be the ones to determine when and where it is appropriate to use a weapon when they are out in public. They have determined that they have the judiciousness and prudence to be able to establish when they may fire a gun and end another person’s life. They have decided that they have the right to say when the government is a tyranny simply because they lost to the majority. And they are gathering in D.C. to tell elected officials that they need to be accountable to them and that “their jobs and their very lives depend on it.”

We have laws regulating the sale, possession and carrying of guns for a reason. Every year in this country guns kill more than 30,000 people. An additional 70,000 people are shot and injured, leaving physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime. More than 350,000 people are victims of armed robbery or aggravated assault with a firearm annually and countless others are threatened and intimidated with guns—all too frequently by so-called loved ones. There are endless examples of crimes, even murders, committed by people with concealed weapons permits. Every day people do stupid, reckless things with guns and innocent people end up being shot. We have gun laws for a reason. We don’t want any gun, anywhere, anytime, for whatever purpose.

April 19th is the anniversary of the start of the American Revolutionary War at the battles of Lexington and Concord. But it is also the anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. It is the day chosen by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to carry out the most destructive act of domestic terrorism on American soil. McVeigh and Nichols killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6, and wounded more than 680 in order to drive home their anti-government message. It is not a coincident that this is also the date chosen by the Second Amendment March and the Restore the Constitution Rally. These demonstrations fan the flames of violence, intimidate state and federal government, and send the message that armed Americans should challenge and defy our sense of public order and the rule of law. Therefore, we must ask, are these groups patriots or just paranoid?

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.