Safer in your home with a firearm, or in your vehicle with seat belts and airbags?

The Violence Policy Center’s (VPC) annual report states that gun deaths outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 14 states and the District of Columbia in 2011, the most recent year for which comprehensive nationwide data is available. In 2011, there were more gun deaths than motor vehicle deaths in the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington State, as well as the District of Columbia. Data is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and is the most recent available to compare death rates from both products.

In his New York Times article (7-31-14), regarding vehicle deaths, Nicholas Kristof said, “We’ve reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent — not by confiscating cars, but by regulating them and their drivers sensibly.” In this fascinating parallel, Kristof informs us that early efforts to require driver’s licenses, set speed limits or register vehicles were met with resistance. It wasn’t until the 1920s that courts routinely accepted driver’s license requirements, car registration and other safety measures. In today’s world regulations on auto designs and safety measures ranging from drunk drivers to restrictions for teenagers have proved to be effective and essential.

This is the third year the VPC has issued its annual report comparing gun deaths to motor vehicle deaths by state. Gun deaths include gun suicides, homicides, and fatal unintentional shootings; motor vehicle deaths include both occupants and pedestrians.

More than 90 percent of American households own a car while little more than a third of American households have a gun. In 2011, there were 32,351 gun deaths and 35,543 motor vehicle deaths nationwide. As a comparison, in 1999, there were 28,874 gun deaths and 42,624 motor vehicle deaths nationwide.

“Firearms are the only consumer product in America not regulated by the federal government for health and safety. Meanwhile, motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline, thanks to decades of public health-based injury prevention strategies and proven consumer product safety regulation standards designed to reduce death and injury. Gun violence is a public health crisis with an unacceptable toll on human life. … To reduce gun death and injury, firearms must be regulated for health and safety just as we regulate motor vehicles and all other consumer products.” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand.

In 1965 Ralph Nader shocked America with his book, “Unsafe at Any Speed.” This exposé of the American automobile industry’s disregard for consumer safety became a best seller that electrified the consumer advocacy movement. “Unsafe at Any Speed” showed how the automobile industry consistently ignored and even covered up the dangers their products posed for the public. The public outrage encouraged the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966, which created a regulatory agency empowered to set design standards for automobiles.

Kristof points out that, “The NRA supported reasonable gun control for most of its history and didn’t even oppose the landmark Gun Control Act of 1968. But, since then, most attempts at safety regulation have stalled or gone backward, and that makes the example of cars instructive.”

With gun deaths outpacing vehicle deaths in 14 states, approximately two-thirds of the non-gun owning public is hoping and waiting for someone like Ralph Nader to take on the gun industry.

Ed. Note: The full report can be read here: http://www.vpc.org/studies/gunsvcars14.pdf 

UC Santa Barbara: DIVEST FROM GUN MAKERS!

The organization Campaign to Unload has started a PETITION to the University of California Board of Regents and President of the University of California Janet Napolitano, which says:

“Students and faculty at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) are understandably shocked by the hate-filled rampage of a UCSB student Friday night, in which six UCSB students were killed and 13 wounded just off campus. America mourns with the families and we embrace the responsibility to work together to stop this madness. “Not one more,” as Richard Martinez, father of 20-year-old Christopher, one of the students who was killed, heartbreakingly challenged us. We are up to the challenge. 

“To that end, we call on the University of California Board of Regents to examine whether the system’s $88 billion endowment is contributing to more senseless destruction by being invested in companies that profit from gun violence, obstruct commonsense gun legislation, and fund the NRA. University endowments led the way in divesting from apartheid South Africa and should do so again in divesting from the gun industry. 

“There have been 72 shootings on school campuses since the Sandy Hook massacre. We cannot afford to invest in gun companies. We are paying too high a cultural price to financially benefit from stock prices that climb even as our young people fall. The University of California, where this latest horror occurred, should stand with its community and ensure that it is not funded with the blood money from these killings. The UCSB community is grieving, but there is a way to stop the madness: divest.”

SIGN PETITION!

Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG)

Mayor Helene Schneider, a member of MAIG, forwarded this announcement, parts of which have been excerpted below. 

When we started Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) in 2006, we knew that building a movement of like-minded mayors and citizens wouldn’t happen overnight. The gun lobby had a multi-decade head start, and we understood that creating a strong coalition that could compete with their resources would require time, money, and grassroots engagement.

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America’s Gun Violence Culture: The New Normal?

Americans cannot allow gun violence to continue to happen in towns across the country at the frequency it is occurring, and to the degree in which it’s now being considered the “new normal.” Instead use the empathy and compassion expressed by many as inspiration in the continuing growth of our community. We must understand that killing our fellow human beings is not an acceptable response to anger or resentment.

At the UCSB vigil May 24, 2014, we lit candles in solidarity for the pain and suffering felt by families and friends who lost loved ones the day before, giving strength in response to senseless violence with compassion. We are grateful for the millions who choose to respond to the vicissitudes of life not with hate and confrontation but with knowledge and understanding.

Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence responded to the Isla Vista tragedy:

“Neither current federal nor state policies adequately reduce access to firearms by individuals who are at an elevated risk of violence, whether due to mental illness, a history of violent crime, perpetration of domestic violence, or alcohol or drug abuse. Individuals at high risk of committing gun violence should be disqualified from purchasing and possessing firearms. Families in crisis need tools. A gun violence restraining order could help. Such a practice would allow people to petition the court to request that guns be temporarily removed from a family member or intimate partner who poses a credible risk of harm to self or others. Respondents to an order issued through such a process would be prohibited from buying guns and required to relinquish all firearms in their possession for the duration of the order.”

Most counties in California use a mental health treatment standard based on a person’s likelihood of being dangerous instead of using a more progressive ‘need for treatment’ standard. California has a law regarding highly symptomatic individuals with severe mental illness that counties may choose to implement. Laura’s Law, operant in Nevada County, allows courts to compel individuals, with a past history of arrest, hospitalizations, threats or attempts of serious violent behavior towards self or others, to get mental health treatment provided by the county as a condition for living in the community.

Across the nation doctors are speaking out against gun violence. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine indicates that gun ownership does not make a country safer. The report also found another factor in the level of gun violence: “Mentally ill people who are not in treatment, are more violent than the rest of the population.”

Mass shootings shock the nation into awareness, and yet another horrific slaughter of innocents by gun violence keeps occurring. The American people must take action to prevent these tragedies from happening. And happen they do every day.

We can agree: There are too many gun deaths in America – averaging 87 per day = over 30,000 yearly – making gun violence a public health menace.

We can also agree: guns are here to stay. No one’s going to take your gun away. That’s a gun lobby fear tactic. Gun violence prevention organizations don’t talk about banning all guns. They talk about reasonable gun policies and work closely with law enforcement and elected officials.

We must take action. If you have a gun in your home, perhaps it’s time to consider it not as a means for safety but a dangerous killing instrument – unwanted in your home. CAGV, in collaboration with the Santa Barbara City Police Department is holding the first-ever Gun Buyback on the Central Coast • Sat., June 14th 8 a.m. – Noon • Earl Warren Showgrounds. More info: (805) 564-6803.

I HAVE A DREAM

by Anastasia Fenkner

I have a dream that one day all people in this nation will enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I have a dream that one day in the woods of Connecticut the victims of gun violence and the supporters of gun rights can walk arm and arm.

I have a dream that one day even in the NRA’s head office, the rights of gun victims will be defended with the same intensity now reserved for gun owners.

I have a dream that my two sisters and I will one day live in a nation where safety and security does not come from the barrel of a gun but in the love for one another.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of our reality, where violence is glorified and might makes right, will be transformed into a place where arms are used for hugging, not hurting.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the 30 thousand Americans who die of gun violence each year will not die in vain. I have a dream that one day they do not die at all. They study, they work, they giggle, they laugh, and they live.

I have a dream today.

There will be a day when children go to school without fear. When walking down the street, visiting a shopping mall, or going to the post office does not end in a random, senseless, mind-numbing tragedy. I have a dream that one day we will wake up and the nightmare of gun violence will be over.

 

This will be the day when all Americans will stand up and pledge allegiance to a non-violent country. “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America…One Nation, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

“I wrote this essay as a school assignment. We had to write about something we think is unfair in the world, using Martin Luther King’s style. I am soon to be 12 years old. I go to 6th grade at Washington Elementary School. I have 2 sisters, Natalie and Sophia. I like to bake, read and sculpt.” 

 

Anastasia Fenkner, daughter of Tatiana Fenker, CAGV Steering Committee member. 

DOES A GUN IN THE HOME MAKE A WOMAN SAFER?

Statistics and studies suggest owning a firearm could make a household more vulnerable NOT safer. 

The fact is, not a single study to date has shown that the risk of any crime including burglary, robbery, home invasion, or spousal abuse against a female is decreased through gun ownership. Though there are examples of women using a gun to defend themselves, they are few and far between, and not statistically significant.

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“CIVIL IMMUNITY”

GUN MANUFACTURERS ARE NEVER LIABLE

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act bans lawsuits against gun dealers and manufacturers “for the harm caused by those who criminally or unlawfully misuse firearm products.” The law was passed under intense pressure from the National Rifle Association (NRA) amid a number of lawsuits by city governments that accused the gun industry of creating a “public nuisance” by encouraging the proliferation of weapons. The NRA thanked President Bush for signing the Act, for which it had lobbied, describing it as, “the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years into law.” In the years before passage of the act, victims of firearms violence in the United States had successfully sued manufacturers and dealers for negligence on the grounds that they should have foreseen that their products would be diverted to criminal use. The purpose of the act is to prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products. Passage of the act curtailed lawsuits pending from dozens of individuals, 30 cities and the state of New York.

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Stand Your Ground Laws + Guns = Deadly Mix … or “GO AHEAD MAKE MY DAY”

Are‘Stand Your Ground Laws’ and guns too deadly a mixture, questions Scott Martelle’s Op-Ed, 2/19/2014 L.A. Times, excerpted in part below.

“These are not abstract issues, particularly with the current legal and legislative debates over regulating concealed weapons. Is an armed America a more aggressive America? And does the existence of stand-your-ground laws make confrontations more likely to turn violent?” Continue reading “Stand Your Ground Laws + Guns = Deadly Mix … or “GO AHEAD MAKE MY DAY””

Remember and Recommit

When you look at the faces of the 20 children and 6 educators of Sandy Hook Elementary School whose lives were so violently taken December 14, 2012, your heart stops, your heart breaks. Sadly each day in America 8 children’s lives are violently ended with a firearm, equivalent to a Sandy Hook every three days. Saturday, December 14th it will mark one year since the families of these young souls were gunned down, their lives lost forever. That is how long a parent and loved ones grieve over the loss of a child—forever.

Think then of the 6 Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers who instantly knew what they and their children were facing—they had to protect, to give their lives without a doubt. As a teacher you always look at your class as ‘your children’ because they are.

About 275 people are shot every day – about 85 die and about 195 survive. 30,000 Americans have died since the slaughter of these 20 innocent children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut. Why do we minimize the carnage with our messaging? The physical, emotional, and economic toll to those who survive a gunshot is staggering.  In the US, a person is hit with a bullet every 5 minutes!!

Josh Stepakoff was six when he was shot twice in the leg in 1999 at the North Valley Community Center in Los Angeles by Buford Furrow five people were wounded including three children. He is among many people who have witnessed the horrific sights and sounds of a mass shooting as a very young child. Like the children of Newtown, Connecticut, he saw blood, he heard screams and he was scared for his life. Afterwards he said he couldn’t be a normal child. As a teenager, Stepakoff decided to do work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and found solace in talking to other victims. Many survivors and family members become involved in gun violence prevention groups to hopefully prevent others from going through what they experience daily.

There will be more talk about the “troubled” shooter now that the Connecticut police report has been released. There are millions of troubled children and adults. Certainly America needs to allocate more money for mental health and take actual concrete steps in communities to help people suffering with emotional problems. Every time there is shooting, we read that the killer was disturbed, mentally ill or had a troubled childhood. However, only 5% of the mentally ill are considered dangerous. We all suffer emotional responses to the crises in our lives. But when a gun is handy, then the anger, the depression takes an ugly violent turn. And what we know is that there are too many guns and more guns mean more murders and more gun suicides. Realize that many of these mass shooters were angry depressed males who wanted to commit mayhem and then suicide.

 Why?  There are too many whys.  The country was and continues to be shocked and yet the carnage goes on day after day.  The battles against gun violence prevention laws go on in Congress and state legislatures have gotten as virulent as the battles on the streets and in the homes of this nation as Americans continue to die needlessly from gun violence.
 
Put your concerns into action because the shooting war goes on in our nation daily.  What motivates those of us who work avidly for gun violence prevention? 
 
An interfaith Memoriam will be held at the Trinity Episcopal Church at 1500 State Street on Saturday, December 14 from 12:00 to 1:00.  Remember and recommit.  Join us.

Toni Wellen
Chair, Coalition Against Gun Violence
(805) 684-8434

Why So Many Tragic Shootings?

In a recent article, Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria suggested that we must not focus on one tragic shooting event but try to understand why America has so many. We tend to look at three causes after a shooting: the psychology of the killer, America’s culture of violence and easy access to guns. If psychology is the main cause, we should have 12 times as many psychologically disturbed people. But we don’t. However, we certainly need to improve access to mental health treatment.

Continue reading “Why So Many Tragic Shootings?”