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SecularMotion's Journal
SecularMotion's Journal
August 16, 2015

Dangerous or sane, owners of seized guns get day in court

Occasionally over the course of the past year or so, odd hearings pop up on the Allen County Superior Court docket.

Identified sometimes with a person’s name and always with a miscellaneous case number, the cases put a citizen and a prosecutor before a judge, usually Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull, to discuss one thing: a firearm.

To keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals, Fort Wayne police have been taking advantage of a little-used state law that allows for the seizure of guns, without a warrant, from people who are perceived to be a danger to themselves or to others.

The law, adopted in 2009 and tweaked in 2014, provides a court hearing for those who have lost their firearms in this way to make a pitch to get their guns back.

August 14, 2015

States With High Gun Ownership See More Officers Killed

The higher the rate of gun ownership in a state, the higher the likelihood of a law enforcement officer being killed, a new study has found.

Researchers, writing online in the American Journal of Public Health, used F.B.I. data on the rate of police officer deaths in each state, along with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on gun ownership rates. From 1996 to 2010, there were 782 homicides of law enforcement personnel, 92 percent of them by gunfire. Responses to domestic disturbance calls resulted in 116 police deaths, 15 percent of the total.

Among the 180,000 officers in the eight states with the lowest rates of gun ownership, the homicide rate was 0.31 per 100,000. Among the 183,000 in the 23 states with the highest gun ownership rates, the rate was 0.95 per 100,000. The researchers controlled for race and ethnicity, poverty rates, educational level and other factors.

August 14, 2015

NRA: 200+ Hate Crimes Committed With Guns "Not Freaking Happening Often Enough To Merit Mention"

The National Rifle Association's online magazine attacked an analysis of federal data that found that more than 200 hate crimes were committed with firearms between 2011 and 2013, writing that the number is not "enough to merit mention." The gun group also falsely claimed that the data in question "shows firearms are not being used in hate crimes." The NRA's stunning statements come less than two months after a white man shot to death nine African-American parishioners at a historically black church in South Carolina, in what authorities have classified as a racially-motivated attack.

An Aug. 12 article in the NRA's online magazine, America's 1st Freedom, headlined, "Gun Hating Justifies Race-Baiting," accuses The Trace of "twisting federal data to taint guns with the most radioactive subject in American politics: race" because it published an article that analyzed federal hate crime data to determine how many incidents involved guns.

Although only recently launched, The Trace -- an online venture that describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit media organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States" -- has quickly become a target for criticism by NRA-run media, which span online, print, and radio. (Though editorially independent, The Trace received part of its seed funding from Everytown for Gun Safety, whose founder, Michael Bloomberg, is perhaps the NRA's top adversary in the gun debate.)

In an Aug. 10 article, The Trace analyzed data from the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and found that between 2011 and 2013, 207 hate crimes involving firearms were reported. As The Trace notes -- and even the NRA acknowledges -- only around one-third of police departments in the country report this type of data to the FBI. In addition to hate crimes that go unreported, this means that the total number of hate crimes committed with guns is very likely greater than the number of incidents in the NIBRS.

August 12, 2015

Do More Guns Really Mean More Safety?

Another month, another set of American gun massacres. This time it was the killing of three people at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, where a right-wing gunman took it upon himself to open fire on theatergoers watching an Amy Schumer movie on July 23. Just a few days prior, a troubled young Muslim man opened fire on a military recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing four people.

Of course, a month prior the country experienced another such travesty at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, where, again, a right-wing gunman killed nine people.

Such incidents are so common in America that they barely register or provoke outrage anymore. Since 1982, there have been 71 such mass murders, defined as an incident where a gunman kills at least four people. We average just over two such incidents a year in this country, or one about every five months. Of course, this discounts the much larger set of incidents in which gunmen killed fewer than four people, or the staggering number of crimes committed with firearms every year. Whatever way you look at it, guns are a major source of American insecurity and crime — no matter which disgraced scholar the NRA types drag out to make hoary, long-debunked arguments about how more guns equals less crime.

Those arguments, quite simply, are not true, and the best available evidence points to the opposite conclusion — that the more guns there are in a society, the more violence, crime and deaths attributable to guns there happens to be. As one sophisticated 2012 paper concludes, “the most consistent, albeit not uniform, finding to emerge … is that aggravated assault rises when RTC [right-to-carry] laws are adopted.” Unfortunately, more empirical work demonstrating this isn’t likely to be very forthcoming, as the gun lobby has used its influence in Congress to block future federally-funded research into gun violence. However, suffice it to say that if you are angry enough at what science has to say about something to ban research, the evidence must not be going in your direction.

August 11, 2015

State firearm legislation and non-fatal injuries: Whatís the relationship?

More than 30,000 people a year in the United States die from gunshot wounds, whether intentional or accidental. What we don’t hear as much about are the tens of thousands more who are hurt by bullets but survive. In 2013, five people suffered non-fatal firearm injuries for every two who died, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From 2003 to 2013, 799,760 people sustained non-fatal injuries — nearly 23 percent of which were accidental. This 10-year total includes 82,325 children age 17 and younger.

A number of state and federal laws have been enacted to curb such gun-related violence and accidental death and injury. But it is not clear how effective they have been. A 2005 study by a taskforce appointed by the CDC did not find enough evidence to determine whether federal and state gun laws reduced gun-related violence and injuries. A 2013 study from Harvard did find lower rates of gun-related deaths in states with more restrictive gun policies. The Harvard scholars who completed a 2006 study looking specifically at Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws, which aim to keep guns out of the hands of unsupervised children and teens, did note a larger reduction in accidental, gun-related child deaths in states that have such laws.

A team of researchers from Seattle have looked at the issue from another angle. Their August 2015 report published in the American Journal of Public Health, “State Firearm Legislation and Nonfatal Firearm Injuries,” examines whether stricter state laws are associated with fewer non-fatal gun injuries. The authors — Joseph A. Simonetti, Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, Brianna Mills and Frederick P. Rivara of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington and Bessie Young of the Seattle–Denver Center of Innovation at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System — studied 18 states. They analyzed patient data that had been reported in 2010 to the State Emergency Department Databases and to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s State Inpatient Databases. The researchers focused on individuals who had been treated for a firearm injury in 2010 and were discharged alive from a medical facility. As part of its analysis, the team also assessed the strictness of gun legislation in those 18 states by using state scorecards created by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Potential scores for each state ranged from 0 to 28, with higher scores indicating stricter laws.

August 11, 2015

13 U.S. senators sent a letter about gun sales to Bass Pro. The company hasnít responded.

Thirteen U.S. senators, all of them Democrats, sent a letter to Bass Pro Shops and two other companies in late July, asking the retailers to change one aspect of their gun sales policy.

Citing the June shooting deaths of nine members of a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, the senators told Springfield-based Bass Pro Shops, Nebraska-based Cabela’s and Texas-based EZPawn the change is needed out of the “duty to ensure that your products do not get into the hands of dangerous individuals.”

Then, last week, two of those senators, both from Connecticut, held a news conference and encouraged a boycott of the companies until the change is made.

“Listen, I don’t think people should be shopping in these stores unless they make a commitment to require background checks before they sell guns,” Sen. Chris Murphy said on Aug. 3.

August 11, 2015

Guns bought at Dallas area gun shows end up bound for Africa

Handguns purchased at North Texas gun shows ended up in West Africa, and now four local men are in federal custody charged in connection with a firearms smuggling plot, federal court records show.

Nii Armah Obeney, Dambayi Edmund Awufiba and Henry Kofi Plange are facing federal firearms charges. Obeney and Jerry Gomina, 37, are charged with helping to ship a firearm overseas.

Obeney and Awufiba, 42, are natives of Ghana who are in the U.S. legally, authorities say. Plange and Gomina have U.S. passports. The men were arrested in Dallas and Arlington in May. A trial is scheduled for September, but prosecutors said in court papers that they will be offering plea deals.

The suspects are accused of smuggling guns and ammunition to Ghana after buying the handguns over three years from various firearms dealers from Mesquite to East Texas. They hid the guns in household goods placed inside vehicles and other items that ended up on shipping containers headed for Africa.

August 8, 2015

Oregon's new background check gun law begins Sunday

SALEM, Ore. -- A change to Oregon's gun laws goes into effect Sunday, which will require universal background checks for all gun sales - even private ones.

While there are questions about how the law will be enforced, supporters think raising awareness will help make it successful.

Private gun sales are especially hard to track. But proponents told KGW they believe the new law will especially make a difference in targeting private Internet sales.

Supporters of the new law also cited research which found states that require background checks on all handgun sales saw 48% fewer gun suicides, 48% fewer law enforcement officers killed with handguns and 46% fewer women killed by their domestic partners.

August 5, 2015

Idaho woman sentenced for mailing loaded .357 Magnum

Gun accidentally fires at Springfield mail processing center

A 47-year-old Idaho woman was given a year of probation in federal court Wednesday after admitting to mailing the loaded .357 magnum handgun that accidentally fired last December at the Springfield mail processing center, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

No one was injured at the Springfield facility when the gun went off on Dec. 4, but one worker who was holding the package when the gun fired had to be treated at a hospital for ringing in the ears and stinging hands, said the office of Wendy J. Olson, U.S. Attorney for the state of Idaho.

Tami Dee Bachart of McCall, Idaho, pleaded guilty in May to charges of mailing injurious articles, and causing a firearm to be present in a federal facility.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ordered Bachart to a year of probation, to perform 200 hours of community service and pay $4397.28 in restitution and fines. During sentencing, Winmill noted that Bachart made a mistake and did not intend to hurt anyone. However, he cautioned her that her mistake could very well have resulted in the loss of life.

August 5, 2015

G.O.P. Candidates and Mass Shootings

Despite the repeated horror of mass shootings in churches, movie theaters and schoolrooms, the Republican candidates running for president are remarkably quiet about how they would deal with this most pressing public health challenge.

“We define gun control real simple — that’s hitting what you aim at,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told a political gathering in New Hampshire earlier this year, typifying the level of pandering by the Republican field to the gun lobby.

In contrast, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, is taking up the gun control issue once more, 15 years after the defeat of Al Gore left her party leaders swearing off the subject as a losing cause. “We have to take on the gun lobby,” Mrs. Clinton told a New Hampshire crowd last month. “This is a controversial issue. I am well aware of that. But I think it is the height of irresponsibility not to talk about it.”

Tell that to the Republican candidates staunchly opposed to gun safety laws, like limits on ammunition used in the rapid-fire, battlefield-type weapons favored by mass shooters and a ban on unregistered weapon sales by dealers at gun shows. Mass shootings involving three or more murder victims have been on the rise in recent years, according to federal data, while gun production has more than doubled since 2008.


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