Saturday, June 25, 2016

America's Second Amendment to the Constitution - Part VI

As an American, I was raised to believe in, and still do believe that as an American, I have "the right to bear arms."  I have fired a pistol, and I've fired a rifle, and I've fired a shotgun.  I've killed eight large rattlesnakes on farm property in Florida, using all three types of weapons.  I am definitely not against the Second Amendment - but looking at facts and statistics make me wonder if all Americans, other than felons, should be able to purchase a gun.

   Here are 15 incontrovertible gun facts that were first published on 23 December 2015.
"There were the six children, their mother and her boyfriend in Houston, Texas.  The nine worshippers in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. the 53-year-old father who tried to stop three men from ransacking a metalworker's minivan in Brooklyn.  The 28-year-old mother of two in Indianapolis whose new husband shot her in the face 13 times.  The two young reporters shot to death during a live news broadcast in Moneta, Virginia. And the thousands just like them whose deaths did not make the front page.
  While many victims' names may quickly disappear from the public eye, their stories live on in the statistics that help us to understand the scale of gun violence in the United States. Below is a compilation of numbers that added up to a significant year in gun debate in 2015.
1.  As of December 23, a total of 12,942 people had been killed in the United States in 2015 in a gun homicide, unintentional shooting or murder/suicide.    On an average day in 2015, 36 Americans were killed by guns, a number that excludes most suicides.  According to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), a nonprofit website that scours more than 1,500 sources to track gun deaths and injuries in the US, there have been more than 50,000 incidents of gun violence in 2015.  The numbers include everything from homicides and multiple-victim gang assaults to incidents of self-defense and accidental shootings.  The organization's records show that more than 12,000 people have been killed with guns this year, but what the numbers do not record - due to government reporting practices - is a massive hole in the data: the nearly 20,000 Americans who end their lives with a gun each year.  Nor does its already high injury tally capture the full extent of the victims who continue life with debilitating wounds and crushing medical bills.  When the federal statistics for 2015 are released two years from now, the government's models will show tens of thousands more gun-related  injuries.
2.   Terrorism dominates headlines and budget lines while a more lethal scourge persists at home.  From 2005 to 2015, 71 Americans were killed on US soil in terrorist attacks.  301,797 people were killed via gun violence in the same period.  In his remarks following the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College on October 1, President Obama said he knew his outrage over the country's unrelenting gun violence would be interpreted by critics as "politicizing" the issue.  Fine, he said, and asked news organizations to check the facts: "Tally up the number of Americans who've been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who've been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side."  Several did, and Obama's point was made: Amid the government's massive, justifiable effort to squelch terror threats, comparatively little has been done to address a problem that has claimed exponentially more US lives.  According to an October poll, 40 percent of Americans say they know someone who was fatally shot, or committed suicide, with a gun.
3.   Mass shootings - as measured by four or more people shot, regardless of total fatalities - have taken place in nearly 100 metropolitan areas over the last 12 months.  Austin, Texas is the only city with a population of 400,000 or more that has not experienced a mass shooting since 2013.  The Mass Shooting Tracker counts domestic homicides in its tally, as well as sprays of gunfire that wound several people at once - but often are not counted among the San Bernardinos or Umpquas because the victims survived.  Two such incidents occurred on Father's Day this year, when 10 people were shot at a block party in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and 12 people were shot at a child's birthday party in Detroit, Michigan.
4.   The vast majority of the nation's gun violence does not look like Umpqua or Charleston or San Bernardino.  Mass shootings account for less than 2 % of annual gun deaths.  Though mass shootings demand nonstop coverage, it's the shootings taking place in parking lots, bars, schools, bedrooms, and street corners across America that are responsible for most gun injuries and deaths.
5.   Black men are disproportionately affected by gun violence.  Of the 30 Americans murdered with guns on the average day in America, roughly 50 % of the victims are black men, who make up only 6 % of the population.  A November ProPublica article noted that half of American gun death victims are men of color in "poor, segregated neighborhoods that have little political clout."  Timothy Heaphy, a former US attorney in Virginia, says this is precisely why they don't capture the public's attention.  "I don't think we care about African-American lives as much as we care about white lives," he said.
6.   At a rate of more than twice a day, someone under 18 has been shot and killed.  At least 756 American children have been killed by gunfire this year.  A remarkable 75 % of children killed with guns this year have been under the age of 12.  Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, three years ago, an American child under 12 has died by intentional and accidental gunfire every other day.  And these children are far more likely to die from guns held by family members and acquaintances than by strangers, according to FBI data.  -  On August 18, 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden was killed by a bullet fired into her Ferguson, Missouri home as she did her homework on her bed.  "Usually when we hear gunshots, she's the first one who yells, 'Mom, they're shooting!'" her mother told KMOV, a local news station.  "I noticed Jamyla wasn't saying anything.  That's the main thing I remember; her not moving."
7.   Unsecured guns have turned dozens of toddlers into killers - and many more into victims.  In 2015, on average, a toddler in America shoots someone about once a week.  19 toddlers have killed themselves, while 25 more injured themselves.  13 toddlers injured other people and 2 toddlers killed other people.  Children younger than 3 have gotten hold of guns and shot someone at least 59 times in 2015, which is a disturbing trend. Gun violence prevention advocates say that gun storage requirements and the adoption of smart guns that only fire for their owners could reduce these deaths, but the gun lobby vehemently opposes such mandates.  In November, 20 Democrats in the US Senate asked the Government Accountability Office to issue a report on the safe storage of guns in American homes.
8.   Guns are now ending as many American lives as cars.  Americans die in car accidents at a rate of 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people.  The key reason for the numerical convergence is the climb in gun suicide rates.  The comparative mortality rates come from CDC figures released in December.  They reflect a larger story:  While motor vehicles have been getting progressively safer, guns have killed people at a consistent clip over the past 15 years.  Unpacking the numbers further reveals that firearm fatalities are holding steady, while suicides by firearm have climbed along with the number of guns in circulation.  Some people theorize that medical advances are saving shooting victims who formerly would have died of their injuries.
9.   A gun in a troubled home continues to raise the risk of death.  Domestic violence assaults with firearms are 12 times more likely to result in death than those without them.  This enduring statistic from a decade-old California Attorney General report emphasizes just how dangerous it is to introduce firearms into a turbulent relationship.  In no state is that more pronounced than in South Carolina, which ranks first in the rate of women killed by men - a rate that is more than twice the national average.  After several frustrated starts, South Carolina finally passed legislation this year limiting firearms access for domestic abusers - along with Alabama, Delaware, Maine, Oregon and Vermont. But 17 states still do not have their own equivalent of a federal law banning criminal domestic misdemeanants from possessing guns, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.    -   In one of those states, Georgia, Vanessa Soyer was gunned down in front of her 13-year-old son in their Lawrenceville apartment on November 16.  A mother of four, the Harlem-bred Soyer, 47, was the author of a book about domestic violence.  Her husband of 15 years, from whom she was in the process of separating, was arrested for her murder.  "Nobody would've ever thought that the words from the pages of her book would become her reality," her GoFundMe page reads.
10.    Gun sales continued at a blistering pace in 2015.  The FBI processed a record-setting 185,345 background checks on Black Friday.  The same day that Robert Lewis Dear opened fire at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing three people and wounding nine, the FBI reported 5 % more NICS checks than Black Friday the previous year, setting an all-time single-day record.  If each of those checks resulted in a gun sale, it would mean that Americans bought enough new firearms on that day to arm every active duty US Marine.
11.   Eight percent of gun owners own a stockpile of 10 or more weapons.  In the United States, there are more people who own 10 or more guns than the entire population of Denmark.  In an online survey of 3,000 people, Harvard's Injury Control Research Center found that 22 percent of Americans professed to own guns - and that 25 % of those gun owners have five or more guns.  The Center's director, Dr David Hemenway, said that guns in fewer hands might actually lower rates of gun suicide and accidental shootings.  But the fact that these gun owners feel they must compile an arsenal raises another set of questions.  "Who are these people and why do they have so, so many guns?"  Hemenway asked.  "And are they really responsible?"
12.   Tens of thousands more stolen guns entered the illegal market - many a result of theft.  Less than 10 % of stolen firearms are recovered, as measured by their retail value.  -   The advisories echoed from sheriffs in Jacksonville, Florida; St Louis, Missouri; and Lafayette, Louisiana:  Lock up your guns.  More than 400 firearms were stolen from cars in Duval County, Florida this year - and 60 % of them were from unlocked cars.  In St Louis, reports of gun theft were up 70 % in August, and cars and trucks were targeted far more than homes.  A gun stolen out of a car in Lafayette was used to wound a police officer last year, and in Pinellas County, Florida, a gun stolen from an unlocked car was used to kill another officer.  Stolen guns, which are increasingly showing up at crime scenes were called "the engine of violence in Chicago" by police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi in August.  The increase in such thefts has sparked a debate about personal responsibility and gun ownership.  The town of Orange, Connecticut went so far as to charge a resident with misdemeanor reckless endangerment after her reported his loaded .38-caliber revolver stolen from his admittedly unlocked truck.  Pro-gun advocates argue that stadiums and schools should be removed from gun-free zone designations, so people can carry their guns with them, instead of leaving them in  their cars.  The bottom line, says Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, is "be a responsible gun owner, take care of your weapon, lock it up."
13.   American cities continue to seize illegal guns at an astounding rate.  Chicago police have been taking one illegal gun off the street every 74 minutes this year.  Officers in Little Rock, Arkansas took 118 guns of their streets as of November.  And in Baltimore, Maryland, police estimate they've seized nearly 3,500 illegal guns in the last 12 months.
14.   Tyshawn Lee was the second 9-year-old boy murdered in Chicago in the last 15 months.  The gunshot wounds to his temples had to be sealed with wax.  He wore a white tuxedo, red bow tie, white gloves, and red size 5 gator-skin shoes; his 25-year-old mother wore a white dress and a red hat to match.  Tyshawn Lee was the second 9-year-old boy to be targeted and killed by gangs in the last 15 months in Chicago.  He was lured from a swing set in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood and murdered in an alley because his father allegedly belonged to a gang that may have been involved in the murder of the brother of one of the suspects.
15.   The 114th Congress is still hesitant to engage with the gun issue.  On 16 December 2015, Congress held its 25th moment of silence honoring gun violence victims since the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.  At a hearing on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, California Representative Mike Thompson, chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, noted that Congress has held more than two dozen moments of silence since the massacre - but has not approved any gun safety bills.  In March of 2015, Thompson, a Democrat, and Representative Peter King of New York, a Republican, introduced a bipartisan bill that would implement background checks on private gun sales.  Since then, it's been bouncing from one House subcommittee to another.   -   This was also the year that saw a backlash against politicians who offer "thoughts and prayers" after mass shootings, but no legislative action.  Left-leaning reporters noticed that the same lawmakers who only offered empty platitudes were highly rated by the NRA.  On the evening of the San Bernardino shooting, Igor Volsky, a contributing editor at ThinkProgress, began Twitter-shaming them.  One by one, he replied to three dozen Republican legislators' "thoughts and prayers" tweets with the amount of funds that were given them by the NRA - a total of $12.5 million. "

   On Wednesday, 22 June 2016, Representative John Lewis launched a peaceful sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives that eventually drew 170 lawmakers.  The sit-in lit up social media and infuriated House republicans, who claimed that the Democrats had launched "chaos."   Unfortunately, after more than 26 hours, no legislative action was taken; other than the Republicans closing down the House for the Fourth of July week.  House Democrats were looking for votes to expand background checks and to ban gun sales to those people on the no-fly watch list.

   - Please, just think about the numbers and the people mentioned above...  -

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