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