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Posts Tagged ‘Gun Control’

Talking tomorrow on “BBC World Have Your Say” About Newtown

In behavior, blogging, books, cities, Crime, culture, journalism, Media, news, politics, television, US on December 20, 2012 at 8:36 pm
Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut

Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have any interest in this subject, I’m speaking at 15:00 GMT (10:00 a.m. ET) on BBC television tomorrow, Friday Dec. 21, about the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and the reaction to them.

The call-in show is an hour, and will have five guests, three of them from the U.S., me and two men, one a colleague who has lived in Newtown for 19 years and a gun-owner from Arkansas.

In the past few days, I’ve done a BBC interview, written an op-ed for a Canadian newspaper and given an interview that ran in two German newspapers, Berliner Zeitung and Frankfurter Rundschau; here is the brief interview that ran in Frankfurter Rundschau.

The world is horrified by the massacre and many people — like many Americans — simply cannot understand why so many Americans insist on owning a gun.

As many of you know by now, the President has tasked Vice President Joe Biden with a committee who must come up with policy suggestions within one month — the same idea I floated in my New York Times op-ed two days earlier.

My book “Blown Away: American Women and Guns” discusses this issue; here’s a link to it.

Here’s the link to the show’s information.

A few thoughts on Newtown

In behavior, blogging, books, Crime, culture, journalism, Media, news, politics, women on December 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm
English: Photo of Harvard University professor...

English: Photo of Harvard University professor David Hemenway, PhD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been a busy few days!

I did an interview with BBC’s Newsday, one with a German freelancer, and wrote two op-eds on this story, both requested.

For anyone who wonders how I get to speak out publicly like this, it’s a matter of relationships. All four opportunities came to me through long-held relationships with editors or these institutions.

I also, which I really value, am essentially asked to explain this specific example of American exceptionalism to other nations who find Americans’ attachment to gun ownership truly bizarre. If you have never visited the National Rifle Association’s website, you must do so, no matter how repugnant you may find their views. Their appeal is emotional and clearly, to its members, very powerful.

If you have no idea what they are saying to their members — and do not understand how organized and well-funded they are —  it’s more difficult to fashion any useful counter-arguments or marshal useful and effective opposition.

This section of it, the ILA, is well worth following, as it is their legislative action component.

It was challenging indeed to produce two op-eds within hours, knowing the subject is wildly inflammatory.

I want to read and hear more women’s voices on this issue!

While Rep. Dianne Feinstein plans to re-introduce the ban on assault rifles -- that expired eight years ago — I see very few women speaking out right now.

Not just grieving — but arguing loudly and publicly in every possible venue for change, offering their own ideas as well.

Here are my two op-eds, one written for a Canadian audience, one for Americans.

This ran in the Ottawa, (Ontario) Citizen:

The guns used in this attack belonged to a woman, 52-year-old Nancy Lanza, a middle-aged small-town divorcee, probably the last person many would expect to own five guns, including a Sig Sauer 9-millimetre pistol, a Glock 10-millimetre pistol and a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Why, asked one of my Facebook friends, an artist in California, did she even choose to collect guns? “Why not bicycles or butterflies?”

Because, for millions of American gun owners, owning a gun is as key to their identity and core beliefs as their support for, or opposition to, abortion. For some women, knowing how to shoot accurately and having a firearm in their home and/or vehicle, maybe even in their purse, also reflects the American ethos of individual rights and self-reliance.

And I added my voice to those of The New York Times’ on-line Room for Debate:

President Obama has vowed to take action, but to do so he needs to involve women. He should create, this week, a multidisciplinary committee — composed not of politicians whose alliances and funding have impeded federal gun legislation for decades — but of those most directly involved in gun use and violence.

Perhaps most important, the committee should include its fair share of women — both those who have been affected by gun violence and those who own firearms. Many women with useful insights into this issue are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of being vilified and shunned in ways that male gun-owners are not.

It might include: emergency room doctors and nurses; hospital administrators bearing the significant costs of treating gun shot wounds; law enforcement and criminologists; public health advocates like Harvard’s David Hemenway; moderate, concerned individual gun-owners; experts in diagnosing and treating mental illness; domestic violence experts; and primary care physicians and pediatricians wary of — even legally forbidden from — discussing how their patients may store their guns and ammunition.

Until all sides are negotiating at the table together — gun owners and victims of gun crimes, public health workers and private gun shop owners, men and women — a viable solution will continue to evade this society.

What do you think of this idea of a Presidential committee?

I think we desperately need new and fresh ideas, no matter how odd or challenging they appear to put into action.

Why the next shooting massacre is (sadly) inevitable

In behavior, children, cities, Crime, culture, journalism, Media, news, parenting, politics, urban life, US on December 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm
Cover of "Blown Away: American Women and ...

Cover of Blown Away: American Women and Guns

Here are some facts about gun use in the United States.

I hope they are helpful as you try to make sense of the latest massacre, in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman yesterday killed 2o children and eight adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I spent two years — 2002 to 2004 — studying how Americans think and feel and behave, how they lobby and legislate — about gun use in this country.

The result is my 2004  book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns” (Pocket Books). I’m now considered an expert on the subject.

The book was acquired by every Ivy League school and their law schools, by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and I was invited to address senior Canadian government officials in Ottawa. It includes women who enjoy gun use and those whose lives have been traumatized by it, whether they were shot, or lost loved ones to suicide and homicide.

Fifty percent of American gun deaths are suicide.

Neither an academic nor gun-owner, I took a three-day course in handgun use and shot a wide variety of guns, from a .22 rifle to a .357 magnum, in the course of my research. I spoke to 104 men, women and teens about their use of — and hatred of — guns. I interviewed politicians and lobbyists and hunters and Olympic shooters and cops.

Here are some of the reasons that “gun control” is an issue that often seems unmanageable:

– The health care system in the United States, which unlike many other nations, has no single-payer structure, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to spot, track and dis-arm someone who is mentally ill and/or sociopathic with access to a firearm before they commit mass murder. Unlike STDs, for example, there is no requirement to publicly report their existence as a matter of public health.

– Americans believe, more than anything, in their individual rights and their right to privacy. Asking a patient about their ownership or use of firearms can be seen as deeply invasive.

– Americans’ dominant ethos is self-reliance and freedom from government restriction. Any effort to limit access to guns and ammunition runs counter to this deeply held belief.

– American physicians and health-care professionals have no way to report their fears, (should they even be aware of such a threat, which is highly unlikely), to law enforcement. They fear being sued. They are reluctant to ask their patients if there is a firearm in the home and, if so, where and how it is stored and and if it (they) is kept loaded.

– It has been said that 25 percent of Americans will suffer from mental illness during their lifetime. On any given day, then, there is a percentage of the population for whom ready access to a weapon and ammunition is deeply unwise. Co-relate this statistic with the number of Americans whose home contains a gun.

Forty-seven percent of Americans own a gun. This is the highest rate of gun ownership since 1993. (source: Gallup poll.) There is no way to know when or how these two factors intersect.

– Politicians who call for, let alone fight hard for, “gun control” may well risk their re-election. Not so for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose term soon expires, and who is leading this charge. But New York City has had the nation’s toughest gun laws for more than a century, since the enactment of the Sullivan Law and popular sentiment here is behind him.

The same cannot be said for many other regions, such as those that allow concealed carry — like Missouri, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Utah. (CC, for those outside the U.S., means the legal right to carry a loaded gun on your person or in your vehicle.)

– Legislators must work “across the aisle”, with men and women of opposing political views who represent areas with widely divergent views on gun ownership. These views can vary widely even within a state; downstate New York is much less sympathetic to the issue than upstate, where hunting is popular.

– Opposition to the powerful and well-funded National Rifle Association remains weak and splintered. In 2003, the NRA had a budget of $20 million — 10 times larger than that of the Brady Campaign.

– Law-abiding gun-owners feel beleaguered by cries for “gun control.” They have chosen to own and use firearms responsibly and feel that any restriction on their legitimate, legal use of them is unfair. Politicians are very aware of this.

– In many areas of the United States, hunting is a lucrative and popular sport.

– The federal government profits from gun sales, by collecting an excise tax. In 1998, that came to $126,620,000 from long guns and ammunition and an additional $35,528,000 from the sale of handguns.

– Even those politicians deeply and personally sympathetic to the terrible violence inflicted by killers such as these face their own limitations when enacting legislation. Carolyn McCarthy, a former ER nurse whose husband was shot and killed and whose son was shot on a Long Island, NY commuter train, is now a Congresswoman, in office 14 years. When I spoke to her for my book, she told me that her challenge is working effectively with other legislators, whose own constituents may have views diametrically opposed to those of her own.

The challenge of regulating gun use in the United States is daunting.

Guns + Mental Illness + Public Apathy = Violence

In behavior, cities, Crime, culture, Health, news, politics, US on April 4, 2012 at 12:17 am
Venn diagram ABC RGB

Venn diagram ABC RGB (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another day in the U.S. — another mass shooting on a college campus, this time (you can’t make it up) at a Oikos, a Christian university in Oakland, California. It happened Monday in Oakland, a city right next to San Francisco, whose airport I flew back to New York from this morning.

This time, seven were killed and three injured when a former student, One Goh, opened fire.

As usual, the cliches spill forth: “senseless tragedy”, “just like a movie”, “I thought I was going to die.”

etc.

I don’t write this so cynically out of any disrespect for the dead, injured or their families.

But it’s going to happen again, and again and again and again.

It’s never if, but when.

It’s estimated that 30 percent of American homes contain at least one firearm, some with a virtual arsenal. It’s also estimated that 25 percent of the population, during their lifetime, will suffer a mental illness.

If you know Venn diagrams, you quickly realize this is a lethal combination, one I described in my first book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns”. In it, I include the stories of women whose sons and husbands and fathers committed suicide or homicide using a firearm.

There are many reasons that such mass murders simply never budge the needle in American public policy, from an economy still in tatters for millions — placing gun control at the bottom of a very long to-do list — to a nation deeply divided, sometimes even within the same state, on the need for an armed populace with the right to carry or to shoot to kill, even if someone is trying to steal your vehicle.

The case of Trayvon Martin is currently testing the limits of the public appetite for private self-defense — a young man shot dead while walking through a gated Florida community. His shooter was Hispanic, the victim — unarmed — black.

I’ve lived in the U.S. since 1988. I understand why gun violence is so much a part of this society.

I don’t understand, viscerally, why it’s still considered acceptable.

Wendy's Employee Forgets The Mayo — And Customer Pulls Out Her Taser

In behavior, business, Crime on May 20, 2010 at 1:15 pm
Taser International unveils the new Taser MPH ...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Hold the mayo — and you’ll get Tasered.

No kidding.

Here’s a true story from Florida of a woman — and her pink stun gun — who threatened a Wendy’s employee after they left out the mayo and mustard from her order.

Pink, that’s important.

A Venti Skim Latte — And Don't Hold The Glock: Starbucks Caught In Gun-Rights Activism

In business on March 3, 2010 at 6:35 pm
Starbucks logo

Image via Wikipedia

Not quite what Starbucks had in mind — gun owners exercising their right to openly carry their firearms into coffee shops.

From the AP:

The company’s statement, issued Wednesday, stems from recent campaign by some gun owners, who have walked into Starbucks and other businesses to test state laws that allow gun owners to carry weapons openly in public places. Gun control advocates have protested.

The fight began heating up in January in Northern California and has since spread to other states and other companies, bolstered by the pro-gun group OpenCarry.org.

Some of the events were spontaneous, with just one or two gun owners walking into a store. Others were organized parades of dozens of gun owners walking into restaurants with their firearms proudly at their sides.

Now, gun control advocates are protesting the policy. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, launched a petition drive demanding that the company “offer espresso shots, not gunshots” and declare its coffeehouses “gun-free zones.” And Wednesday, that group planned to deliver 28,000 signatures to the coffee giant’s headquarters in Seattle….

Businesses can choose to ban guns from their premises. And Starbucks said Wednesday that it complies with local laws in the 43 states that have open-carry weapon laws.

“Were we to adopt a policy different from local laws allowing open carry, we would be forced to require our partners to ask law abiding customers to leave our stores, putting our partners in an unfair and potentially unsafe position,” the company said in its statement.

It said security measures are in place for any “threatening situation” that might occur in stores.

Starbucks asked both gun enthusiasts and gun-control advocates “to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners into the middle of this divisive issue.”

From the Seattle PI site:

Few even cared about Starbucks’ gun policy — or anyone other company’s, for matter — until January, when word spread that gun-toting advocates of open-carry laws were meeting in coffeehouses and restaurants in California’s Bay Area. Seeing an opportunity to further their cause, the Brady Campaign asked two of the businesses — California Pizza Kitchen and Peet’s Coffee and Tea — to exercise their legal right to ban guns in their stores.

When they complied, the group aimed higher, asking the same of the most powerful name in coffee. Starbucks refused, citing existing safety procedures, but the Brady Campaign persisted.

This is why many people think gun-owners are nuts.

No one needs to be this provocative. No company wants to deal with a bunch of people carrying guns into a public space shared with others, some of whom loathe and fear guns and some of whom may have had terrifying, life-changing experiences of emotional or physical violence relating to the use of a firearm.

Selfish, stupid, frightening behavior.

Yeah, that’s persuasive argument.

Gun Owners Include Moderates — This Is News?

In politics on December 21, 2009 at 9:59 am
Heston at a rally for the National Rifle Assoc...

No, they're not all like this Image via Wikipedia

Today’s New York Times, which consistently maintains an embattled institutional posture on private gun ownership, today includes a highly unusual editorial astonished at the fact — well-known to anyone who knows the gun world — that people who own firearms aren’t all mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers.

People who own guns are as heterogenous as people who own cars or frying pans or hair dryers. Some are deeply passionate about the Second Amendment and its putative sanctity, the sort, like ex-NRA president Charlton Heston once famously said, would only see their firearms pried from their cold, dead hands.

Others, many others, are as deeply horrified by gun violence, even while they own firearms, as anyone who’s never even touched a Glock. I learned this firsthand after spending a few years focused on Americans and their guns, for my book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns” (Pocket Books, 2004). I spoke to 104 men, women and teens from 29 states, ages 13 to 70.

I’ve never owned a gun nor felt the desire to do so, but, after those many long thoughtful conversations — with everyone from legislators like Carolyn McCarthy to Olympic shooters to victims of gun violence — I understand why it’s appealing to the many Americans who feel that way — 30 percent of American homes contain a gun.

Writes the Times:

Now along comes Frank Luntz, a conservative Republican pollster who, Toto-like, has snatched back Oz’s curtain to reveal that gun owners favor much more reasonable gun controls than the gun lobby would ever allow the public to imagine.

Mr. Luntz queried 832 gun owners, including 401 card-carrying N.R.A. members, in a survey commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the alliance of hundreds of executives seeking stronger gun laws. In flat rebuttal of N.R.A. propaganda, the findings showed that 69 percent of N.R.A. members supported closing the notorious gun-show loophole that invites laissez-faire arms dealing outside registration requirements.

Even more members, 82 percent, favored banning gun purchases to suspects on terrorist watch lists who are now free to arm. And 69 percent disagreed with Congressionally imposed rules against sharing federal gun-trace information with state and local police agencies.

These findings strike at some of the N.R.A.’s most sacred shibboleths. The survey questionnaire, devoid of boilerplate alarums about threatened gun rights, found some plain reason at work. It is clear that most members still oppose policies like a national gun registry. But 86 percent of gun owners also agreed that more could be done to “stop criminals from getting guns while also protecting the rights of citizens to freely own them.” And 78 percent of N.R.A. members said they should be required to report stolen guns to the police — to combat another source of underground arms dealing.

Not everyone who owns a firearm, contrary to the Times’ position, is a “gun nut.” But moderates remain, sadly and problematically, invisible, which is why the editorial is worth doing and reading. There are few issues more politically divisive. But both sides’ leaders told me privately — off the record — they feel there’s much to discuss and many concerns they share. Budging from their stances publicly, though, would alienate their constituencies. Many gun-owners feel passionately they are losing their rights and fear future legislation, while those who represent the concerns of those affected by gun violence, whether survivors of a loved one’s suicide or death in a crime, know their membership looks to them with equal fervor to do the right thing.

Legislators are caught in the middle. One of the challenges of anyone opposing the NRA is the complexity of nuance. There are many anti-violence groups, each of which have slightly different views and stances. As a result, their voices are often lost in the shouting match whenever legislators try to enact new, powerful laws.

Moderation wins no votes, doesn’t make for tidy bumper stickers, rarely prompts people to whip out their checkbooks and write four or five-figure donations to the organization of their choice — whether the National Rifle Association or the Brady Campaign.

Subtlety doesn’t sell.

Gun Safety Gala Tonight in New York City

In Crime, politics on October 6, 2009 at 1:22 pm
Adams revolver

Image via Wikipedia

It’s a fund-raiser held three times every year, in Manhattan tonight at the New York Historical Society at 6pm; for a last-minute ticket, try calling the Brady Center. Newark mayor Cory Booker will be there as an honored guest, as will Carole Stiller, president of the New Jersey Million Mom March chapters. Tickets ranged from $250 for an individual to $25,000 for a table of 10.

I spoke briefly today to Paul Helmke, the Brady Center’s president for the past three years, as he rode the train from D.C. to New York:

“Things are down a little from last year, but we still have a good strong, turnout, about 140 people. New people are coming and this shows us that people still care about gun violence in this country. People are sensing that the other side is pushing further and further all the time. Now they want guns on trains, in public parks, at presidential events, in bars.”

Speaking to me from an Amtrak car, what does he think of guns on trains?

“We’re very skeptical of the wisdom on this. The rules were initially put into place after 9/11 when there was a lot of fear about potential terrorist attacks on trains, and then there were the attacks on trains in Madrid. But if they’re going to change the rules, they need to go through some hearings and decide how to do it. The difference between carrying a gun on airplane and on a train is that the luggage on a train is not kept as separately as on a plane. At this stage, we think the best approach to that decision is — don’t change it.”

I met Paul at a Brady Center event in July and admire his ideas, his energy and his candor. Fighting gun violence remains complex, difficult and essential.

A Vending Machine Filled With Fake Guns Freaks Out London

In culture, politics on September 7, 2009 at 2:06 pm
A Taurus PT145 that has been field stripped in...

Image via Wikipedia

An art installation that would have placed a fake gun-vending machine near children’s schools has London up in arms. Artist Ben Turnbull, 35, defended his project on BBC World News today as “edgy. It’s alerting people to the dangers,” he said. The BBC interviewer, (they’re typically rarely shy to interject their own opinions), asked if it was not irresponsible. Turnbull defended his work, entitled “Kids Have Everything These Days” as “theatrical” and “artistic.”

Police threatened to arrest him if he went ahead as planned, placing three of the machines near newsagents’ stalls and close to schools. He wanted to register children’s reactions to the idea of formally ready access to handguns, but a public outcry stopped him. Turnbull now plans to show his “bubble-gun machine” outside a London art gallery instead.

Turnbull says he’s horrified by gun crime and wanted to focus attention on how fascinated kids are by guns; his project filled a case with fake plastic Berettas he bought elsewhere in the city for about $50 and would have photographed the kids’ reactions to it.

Gun crime is a touchy and timely topic in the city, in a nation where gun laws are much stricter than those in the U.S. South London has seen three shootings in the past three months; on June 1, a 15-year-old girl was shot and injured and 17 arrests were made. On August 3, a 24-year-old driving his car down a quiet street was shot and killed and that same week a 19-year-old man was also killed.

Turnbull told the BBC people need to confront this new reality. “A guy was shot at the end of my road,” he said. What do you think of his idea? Nuts? Worth trying, if only to provoke dialogue on gun violence?

A Loaded Subject: Guns, and What to Do About Them

In culture, politics on July 29, 2009 at 9:25 am
Smith & Wession M&P Victory model revolver.

Image via Wikipedia

There are few subjects more divisive in the U.S. than the millions of guns owned privately — they’re found in about 30 percent of American homes — and how to quell or reduce the annual toll this exacts, about 30,000 deaths a year, 55 percent of those suicide.

There are millions of people whose firearms will never injure or kill anyone, and others whose gun or guns, sometimes without their knowledge or permission, will cause mayhem and havoc, whether stolen, re-sold to a criminal, used in the commission of another crime. Given the incredibly wide range of experiences Americans have of guns — your child is shot in a drive-by, your husband commits suicide, your daughter thrives in her 4H shooting program, your son attends college on an NCAA riflery scholarship, your family relies for meat on the deer or game you shoot, you’ve only seen one on a cop’s hip or in a movie — it can feel as though any sort of productive dialogue on reducing suicide and homicide is futile. Some hunters wonder why this is their problem. Traumatized victims of urban gun violence wonder why it’s not.

On Monday, I visited a Manhattan apartment where I met about 20 men and women who support the work of the president and CEO of the Brady Campaign, Paul Helmke, who spoke to them about what he’s doing, the challenges he faces and the progress he feels the group has made. Read the rest of this entry »

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