Gun Law Forum

Icon

News, discussion and analysis on US gun laws

The Face of Gun Homicide

By Junling Hu

Among all the homicide committed with guns, how many are calculated murder? How many are emotionally driven and happen in the heat of argument? Gun Homicide BreakdownSurprisingly, about 60% gun homicide happen during an argument. This includes argument at home, in a car, or at nightclubs.

In the heat of the moment, someone pulls out a gun and just shoot. The result is a dead person and a felony-to-be who will spend the rest of his life in prison. Not to mention shattered lives of their families.

Based on information from the website DeadlyGun.com, which collects gun deaths in US from news media, I put together a chart (see above). In this chart, different types of gun homicide are shown as a percentage of total. This chart excludes suicide, but includes accidental gun death.

Dispute-driven shooting actually accounts for more than 60% of the total gun deaths because we have not accounted for mass shootings driven by domestic disputes. In Georgia, a professor shot his ex-wife and her colleagues; in California, the gunman opened fire at a retreat center, targeting his wife and others. If we add these instances, the actual death from dispute is about 64%.

Another tragic fact is shoot death by police. About 7% of shooting deaths happen when police are confronted with guns. Some police react justly, and some may have reacted hastily. But the main factor is the presence of gun. Such tragedy can be easily avoided if gun is not so widespread.

Cold-hearted murder accounts for 12% of gun death, some are driven by robbery, and some are driven by drug deals. Self-defense gun dealth accounts of a tiny 2%, and some of which are dubious claim with suspicious circumstances.

In the end, 86% of gun deaths are preventable and can be reduced through more sensible gun laws.

Our nation is bleeding every day, with gun shooting happens at every corner, from Maine to Texas, from Florida to Alaska. It is time to call for strong gun laws. Such laws save lives, for gun owners, for their families, and for the community.

Filed under: Statistics, , ,

Why do we need regulation on guns?

Gun is a consumer product, sold for money and purchased by individuals. While all consumer products includinggun11 teddy bears are subject to strict federal laws, guns are given a free pass. There is no safety regulation on guns thanks to NRA’s lobbying effort. Unsafe guns lead to accidents and death of adults and children at home. The real suffers are gun owners.

Gun is also a lethal weapon. Falling into the wrong hand, it enables a criminal to kill, a gang member to fight, and a teenage to get revenge. Guns are more deadly than tobacco, alcohol or gambling combined. While all of these are off limit to youngsters, and a 20-year-old can be arrested for drinking beer, he can walk free for buying a gun.

The debate of gun laws was muffled by the slogan, “We need less government regulation”. It is as if government regulation is always a bad thing. These people ignore the fact that government regulates every aspect of our life today. From water to air, to drugs and toys, everything touching us is regulated by law. Without clean air act, we will be breathing dirty air ejected by power plants, we will be drinking unsafe water. Without government regulation, medicine with fatal side effects will not be pulled off shelves and toys with lead poison can stay on the market. Government regulation ensures our housing safety, our food quality, our driving safety (through speed limit and safety belt law). As we live in a society, government acts as the mediator and enforcer that no individual can do.

The freedom of owning a gun has little to do with abiding gun laws. Everyone can own a automobile, but they still need to register and get license for their cars. Everyone have the freedom of owning a house, but they still to watch for zoning regulation and fire safety requirement.

Sensible gun laws governs manufacturing standard, product safety, and accessible by minors and criminals. Sensible gun laws ensure the safety of our street, our school, and most importantly the safety of our home.

Commons sense gun laws such as closing gun show loophole, assault weapon ban, and child-lock are fundamentally needed to ensure guns not fall into wrong hands. Yet, all these basic laws are fought against by NRA lobby. How far can we go in this extremist view of so-called “individual freedom”? The consequence of suffering is demonstrated by deadly shooting every day, in every corner of America. Each day, more than 80 people die from gun shooting, from accidents at home, to dispute with neighbor, to random shooting on the street. The deadly consequence of “gun freedom” is the death of our young, 4-year-old shot while playing with guns, 15-year-old while in heat of argument, 19-year-old walking out of a nightclub.

American does not have to be a society soaked in blood, because the bloody consequence was caused by powerful gun lobby that stripped away our basic protection from law. Let’s work to enact sensible gun laws. We ask for sensible regulation on guns, as we ask for regulation on food and drugs. Gun issue is no longer a private matter but a public safety issue. It affects all of us. Let’s pass sensible gun laws now.

(Blog by Junling Hu)

Filed under: Gun and liberty, , , ,

Massacres triggering gun legislation

Gun legislation was supposed to go on the back burner this year, with the economy on life support, the health-care system overloaded, and most folks more worried about swine flu than assault weapons.

But who could ignore the series of mass shootings that killed police in Oakland and Pittsburgh, nursing-home residents in North Carolina, and immigrants in Binghamton? Especially since the victims were buried around the 10-year anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School, two years after the tearful tragedy at Virginia Tech.

Suddenly, Gov. Rendell is back on TV, begging fellow politicians to get serious about commonsense gun laws or stop attending funerals for cops shot in the line of duty – because that’s “hypocritical.”

On his trip south of the border, President Obama acknowledged the uncomfortable fact that the vicious Mexican drug war is being fought with killing machines too easily obtained on U.S. soil.

Fed-up leaders of tiny towns are flocking to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, disproving the notion that the violence and lawlessness is just a big-city problem.

And while state legislators sleep, communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are boldly passing their own gun laws, refusing to be intimidated by the National Rifle Association’s legal threats.

Just last week, the Harrisburg City Council approved a proposal requiring the owner to alert police if a gun is lost or stolen.

The symbolic 7-0 vote took place two blocks from the statehouse. So much for changing the subject.

Closing in on the capital

Linda Thompson was done waiting. The Harrisburg Council president said she could “no longer sit by idly and hope and pray state officials stop playing it safe.”

“They’re not on the front lines,” she told me, where “gun pimps come into neighborhoods, pop the trunk, and negotiate deals in exchange for drugs or money.”

Thompson doesn’t believe a lost-and-stolen law will halt gun trafficking, but it’s a worthy first step.

Convincing colleagues wasn’t easy, she said, since they knew they’d be attacked for trying to protect their city.

“We’ve been sued by better,” Thompson said.

Harrisburg joins Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, Pottsville, Allentown, and Jersey City in passing municipal gun laws.

“It’s their way of fighting back against the legislature and Congress, folks either refusing to act or telling them they can’t act,” said Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Strength in numbers

A dozen Pennsylvania law enforcement officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty since 2005 – half of them in 2008 – prompting Reading Mayor Tom McMahon to ask Pennsylvania colleagues to join him in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition.

Thirty-one mayors across the commonwealth signed on in the last month alone, many from hamlets like Oxford and Marietta.

“We haven’t had a big problem yet, but where there are drugs there are guns – and we have had issues with drugs,” Marietta’s longtime mayor, Oliver Overlander, said of his “bedroom community” of 2,300 on the Susquehanna River.

The city-by-city, mayor-by-mayor movement has the potential to encircle the state capital, forcing legislators’ hands.

Think I’m reaching? Helmke likened the effort to “the nonviolent protests of the ’60s.”

The other side, long accustomed to controlling the gun debate in this state, has clearly taken notice.

Last month, 1,000 gun owners rallied in Harrisburg against politicians calling for gun control after the Pittsburgh police slayings.

A few days later, the NRA sued to overturn Pittsburgh’s lost-and-stolen gun law.

The suit was filed as residents mourned officers murdered by a man wielding an AK-47.

Talk about poor taste and worse timing.

Filed under: News report, ,

Sharp shooter: Brooklyn teen gives NRA a smart lesson in gun control

(Editorial on NY Daily News)

Of the many arguments that can and should be made for toughening New York‘s gun control laws, few match the simple power of what 17-year-old Kristine Arroyo of Brooklyn said and did yesterday in Albany.

Kristine was behind the microphone at a rally of 250 fellow high school students organized by New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. She was speaking from the heart about people she knew who had been shot to death, including a 17-year-old boy from Boerum Hill last weekend.

Then she noticed that a dozen or so National Rifle Association members – also in Albany to lobby – had stopped by to listen. Earlier, she had overheard one of their number saying that people like her need an “education” on the meaning of the Second Amendment.

So Kristine asked the mostly black and Latino kids in her audience to stand up if they knew someone who had been shot to death. About 200 rose to their feet, probably three-quarters of the crowd.

Row upon row of young people stood in somber testimony to the deadly havoc guns wreak on the streets of New York and other cities.

“I want everybody here to look,” Kristine said to the NRA supporters. “We don’t need to be educated.”

She’s right. The ones who need education are those who oppose common-sense gun controls.

Such as using microstamping technology so shell casings can be easily traced to the gun that fired them.

Such as putting an expiration date on gun permits so they are not good ad infinitum, as is the case across most of New York State.

Such as cracking down on the minority of gun dealers who flout laws and requiring background checks on their employees.

Well done, Kristine. New York could use more leaders like you.

Filed under: Editorial, , ,

Gun violence is more serious plague than swine flu scare

By Cynthia Tucker, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The deadly contagion is spreading, striking down young and old, well-heeled and downtrodden, sophisticates and illiterates. Last year alone, the affliction killed thousands in Mexico and even more in the United States.

Not swine flu. Gun violence. While federal and state authorities are preoccupied with preventing a swine flu pandemic from overwhelming the United States, the epidemic of gun violence rages on, unabated and little noted.

Last Saturday, George Zinkhan III, a well-respected University of Georgia professor, took two handguns to a community theater and killed his wife, Marie Bruce, and two of her theater colleagues while wounding two others, police said. Zinkhan left his 10-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son in his car while he went on his bloody rampage, according to authorities. Then, he dropped the children off at a neighbor’s house —- he explained he had an emergency —- and fled, police said.

Don’t expect that this latest mass killing will arouse any more outrage or prod any more public action than those that preceded it. In March and April, gunmen of curious motive and deranged sentiment opened fire in a nursing home, a community center, their own homes and public spaces, killing family, friends and strangers.

Among the lowlights of this savage spring were the murders of two children of Devan Kalathat, who shot them and three other relatives before he killed himself; the murders of five children of James Harrison, who killed them before committing suicide; and the murders of the daughter and nephew of Kevin Garner, who, similarly, killed his estranged wife, his sister and the children before turning his gun on himself, law enforcement officials said. The shootings produced outpourings of grief and outbursts of anger but few calls for tighter gun laws.

In fact, state legislatures in the South, including the Georgia General Assemly, have recently loosened laws that deal with weapons in public places. In Georgia, gun owners with concealed-carry permits may now take their firearms into state parks, onto public transit and into many bars and restaurants.

Moreover, the sales of firearms and ammunition have soared over the last several months, sparked by the election of President Barack Obama and the belief that Democratic control of the White House and Congress will lead to restrictions on gun ownership. It’s a strange notion with absolutely no basis in fact.

Witness Obama’s tepid response to Mexican authorities who pleaded for help in stopping the flow of deadly firearms from the United States into the hands of drug thugs.

After Attorney General Eric Holder suggested the Obama administration might push to reinstate the ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004, the White House received a letter signed by 65 craven Democrats insisting that the president leave assault weapons alone. Obama agreed to do nothing.

We have an odd way of assessing risks. While swine flu may yet emerge as a full-scale pandemic, it hasn’t proved especially lethal so far. Even in Mexico, where public health facilities are not as well developed as in the United States, the death toll has crept past 150 but hasn’t claimed lives on the scale of drug-related gun violence.

Yet, swine flu has prompted the travel industry to brace for a panic; pharmacies report a run on supples of antivirals such as Tamiflu; and the news media have hurriedly produced new catchphrases for their round-the-clock swine flu reportage. President Obama has dispatched Cabinet-level advisers to assure Americans that his administration is doing everything necessary to prevent the spread of the disease.

If only we could muster half that hysteria over gun deaths.

Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor. She can be reached at cynthia@ajc.com. See original editorial at ajc.com

Filed under: Comment on Gun Violence, Editorial

Threat of gunfire limits our liberty

by Mike Fox,  Letter to The Editor, Baltimore Sun

In response to Dan Rodricks’ column “On guns, we lost an opportunity” (April 21), I would say that as a nation and a people, we cannot be too vain or too fearful to address gun violence and find new ways prevent it.

The National Rifle Association and its allies would have everyone believe that any form of gun control is a slippery slope to banning guns entirely.

But are seat-belt laws and speed limits a slippery slope to banning cars?

The truth is that the NRA represents a small minority of American gun owners and that although most Americans support the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, most also support tougher gun laws.

For all the banter about Second Amendment freedoms and gun rights, we are not truly free if we are not free from fear and free from violence in our communities and homes.Mike Fox

Filed under: Gun and liberty

NRA sues Pittsburgh mayor, council over gun law

PITTSBURGH, PA – The National Rifle Association has sued Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the City Council over the legality of a city law requiring gun owners to report their lost or stolen guns.

The NRA says the law “severely restricts and/or infringes” on the constitutional right to keep firearms in homes. The NRA and four individuals also argue in the suit that the city does not have the authority to regulate the ownership of firearms.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Allegheny County Court. The council approved the legislation in December, and it became law 10 days later without Ravenstahl’s signature.

The NRA also has challenged a series of gun-control measures passed by Philadelphia’s City Council.
Report from Philly.com

Filed under: News report, NRA, Pennsylvania

A Culture Soaked in Blood

By BOB HERBERT, NY Times Op-Ed —

Philip Markoff, a medical student, supposedly carried his semiautomatic in a hollowed-out volume of “Gray’s Anatomy.” Police believe he used it in a hotel room in Boston last week to murder Julissa Brisman, a 26-year-old woman who had advertised her services as a masseuse on Craigslist.

In Palm Harbor, Fla., a 12-year-old boy named Jacob Larson came across a gun in the family home that, according to police, his parents had forgotten they had. Jacob shot himself in the head and is in a coma, police said. Authorities believe the shooting was accidental.

There is no way to overstate the horror of gun violence in America. Roughly 16,000 to 17,000 Americans are murdered every year, and more than 12,000 of them, on average, are shot to death. This is an insanely violent society, and the worst of that violence is made insanely easy by the widespread availability of guns.

When the music producer Phil Spector decided, for whatever reason, to kill the actress, Lana Clarkson, all he had to do was reach for his gun — one of the 283 million privately owned firearms that are out there. When John Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Malvo, went on a killing spree that took 10 lives in the Washington area, the absolute least of their worries was how to get a semiautomatic rifle that fit their deadly mission.

We’re confiscating shampoo from carry-on luggage at airports while at the same time handing out high-powered weaponry to criminals and psychotics at gun shows.

There were ceremonies marking the recent 10th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School, but very few people remember a mass murder just five months after Columbine, when a man with a semiautomatic handgun opened fire on congregants praying in a Baptist church in Fort Worth. Eight people died, including the gunman, who shot himself. More on NY Times

Filed under: Comment on Gun Violence, Editorial

Who Will Face Down the Gun Lobby?

By E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed of Washington Post

Try to imagine that hundreds or thousands of guns, including assault weapons, were pouring across the Mexican border into Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, arming criminal gangs who were killing American law enforcement officials and other U.S. citizens.

Then imagine the Mexican president saying, “Well, we would really like to do something about this, but our political system makes helping you very difficult.” Wouldn’t Mexico’s usual critics attack that country’s political system for corruption and ineptitude and ask: “Why can’t they stop this lawlessness?”

That, in reverse, is the position President Obama was in last week when he visited Mexico. The Mexican gangs are able to use guns purchased in the United States because of our insanely permissive gun regulations, and Obama had to make this unbelievably clotted, apologetic statement at a news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderón:

“I continue to believe that we can respect and honor the Second Amendment rights in our Constitution, the rights of sportsmen and hunters and homeowners who want to keep their families safe, to lawfully bear arms, while dealing with assault weapons that, as we know, here in Mexico, are helping to fuel extraordinary violence. Violence in our own country as well. Now, having said that, I think none of us are under the illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy.”

In other words: Our president can deal with all manner of big problems, but the American gun lobby is just too strong to let him push a rational and limited gun regulation through Congress.

It’s particularly infuriating that Obama offered this statement of powerlessness just a few days before today’s 10th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado — and just after a spree of mass homicides across the United States took the lives of least 57 people.

No other democratic country in the world has the foolish, ineffectual gun regulations that we do. And, unfortunately, what Obama said is probably true.

Earlier this year, when Attorney General Eric Holder called for a renewal of the ban on assault weapons — he was only repeating a commitment Obama made during the presidential campaign — the response from a group of 65 pro-gun House Democrats was: No way.

Their letter to Holder was absurd. “The gun-control community has intentionally misled many Americans into believing that these weapons are fully automatic machine guns. They are not. These firearms fire one shot for every pull of the trigger.” Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Those Democrats should sit down with Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. “Time and time again, our police are finding themselves outgunned,” Rendell said in Harrisburg last week. “They are finding themselves with less firepower than the criminals they are trying to bring to justice.”

The Democratic governor told his own state’s legislators that if they didn’t support such a ban, “then don’t come to those memorial services” for the victims of gun violence. “It’s wrong,” he said. “It’s hypocritical.”

And why can’t we at least close the gun show loophole? Licensed dealers have to do background checks on people who buy guns. The rules don’t apply at gun shows, which, as the Violence Policy Center put it, have become “Tupperware Parties for Criminals.”

But too many members of Congress are “petrified” of the gun lobby, says Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), a crusader for sane gun legislation ever since her husband was killed and her son paralyzed by a gunman on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993.

Family members of the victims of gun violence, she says, are mystified by Congress’s inability to pass even the most limited regulations. “Why can’t you just get this done?” she is asked. “What is it you don’t understand?”

Obama, at least, should understand this: He was not elected by the gun lobby. It worked hard to rally gun owners against him — and failed to stop him.

According to a 2008 exit poll, Obama received support from just 37 percent among voters in households where guns are present — barely more than John Kerry’s 36 percent in 2004. But among the substantial majority of households that don’t have guns, Obama got 65 percent, up eight points from Kerry. Will Obama stand up for the people who actually voted for him?

Yes, I understand about swing voters, swing states, the priority of the economy and all that. But given Congress’s default to the apologists for loose gun laws, it will take a president to make something happen.

Filed under: Editorial, Gun politics

Have We Reached the Tipping Point on Guns?

By Cenk Uygur, Host of The Young Turks

How many shootings do there have to be in the news before we wonder about the wisdom of allowing just about anyone to get a gun in America? Our gun culture is completely out of control.

In just the last two days we have had 13 people killed in Binghamton, NY with a 9 mm and a .45-caliber, three police officers shot and killed in Pittsburgh with an assault rifle and two other guns, and a five children killed with a shotgun in Washington at the hands of their own father. How many will it take before we say enough is enough?

How about the eight people killed in a nursing home in North Carolina a couple of days before these shootings? How about the ten killed in Alabama a couple of weeks earlier? Is there any point when gun rights advocates would admit that we have too much gun violence in America? What will it take for them to acknowledge the most obvious thing in the world?

Of course, their answer is that we don’t have enough guns in the country. If we just allowed concealed weapons at schools, nursing homes, work, bars, airports and just about anywhere else you can imagine, then we would have less gun violence. Yes, maybe in bizzaro world, but in this world the more guns we have had in this country the more people have been shot … with guns.

The Washington case is a good example. Would that father really have been able to kill his four young daughters and his young son without a shotgun? Maybe, it’s happened before. But it would have been a hell of a lot harder and hell of a lot less likely. And what would have been the NRA alternative fix here – arm the kids?

I know it’s a political impossibility, but we need to reign in the permissive gun culture in America. I’ve gone to a shooting range several times. I get the allure of it. It’s fun and empowering. Until someone gets their head blown off. It’s madness that almost anyone can stroll into a Wal-Mart and walk out with a deadly weapon. Guns should be the hardest things to get in America, not the easiest.

So, will a sizeable group of politicians have the courage to step up and demand tighter regulations of firearms in this country after all of these shootings? Have we reached the tipping point? And if not, what will it take? How many more mass murders do we have to go through before we realize how crazy this is?

Filed under: Comment on Gun Violence