Shortly after adjourning a meeting in a committee room at the Denver Capitol Building, Democratic Rep. Jonathan Singer found a black canvas bag under the table where the lawmakers had been sitting. When he opened it to look inside he found a loaded revolver. The gun, it turned out, belonged to Republican Rep. Jared Wright from Fruita, Colo.
“I just immediately notified the Sergeant at Arms and soon we realized it was Jared’s bag,” Singer told the Denver Post.
Wright, in his first term, told the Post he often carries the gun at the Capitol. State law prohibits carrying a gun in the building “without legal authority.” Wright maintains he has a right to do so as a peace officer. He served in the Fruita Police Department from 2007 to 2011.
“I feel it’s my duty to be a first responder wherever I am at,” said Wright. “That’s why I carry it.”
The bag was returned, with the gun, to Wright’s office where he got it back.
Gun control has been a contentious topic in Colorado in recent years. The state has experienced some of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history, including the 2012 incident in which a lone shooter opened fire in a crowded movie theater, killing 12 people. In response, the state has passed a number of controversial gun laws. One law requires background checks to be performed prior to any private gun sale. Another law limits gun magazine capacity to 15 rounds.
Nevertheless, the meeting the two lawmakers had just left, prior to the gun being found, was to discuss a bill that would ease restrictions on carrying concealed weapons. That bill is largely a bipartisan effort.
"It's unfortunate that this turned into a distraction, but it's a real lesson on the responsibility a person takes on when they own a firearm," Singer told Reuters in a phone interview.
Lawmakers carrying guns at the Capitol in Denver is not unusual. It seems to be a bit of an open secret, according to a story by the Durango Herald last year.
“Since I started here, I think I’ve always known that members had guns on the floor,” Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) said in that story.
The days of being one of those gun-toting lawmakers are over for Wright. After being contacted by Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office and speaking with Colorado State Patrol, he has agreed to stop carrying his gun in the building.
An attempt to make handguns safer and handgun owners more accountable has backfired, and has instead driven two top-selling companies, Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger, to stop selling their products in California.
California’s microstamping law requires that some handguns be equipped with technology that imprints a tiny stamp, often a serial number, on the bullet’s casing. Thus, each bullet the gun fires is marked, and can be traced back to the gun. No two guns create the same exact mark.
Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger, however, have argued against use of this new technology. Both companies are based on the east coast – Smith & Wesson in Massachusetts, Sturm Ruger in Connecticut.
As the manufacturer of Smith & Wesson said, “A number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive, and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes.”
In addition to significantly heightening manufacturing costs, every gun sold under microstamping requirements would have to be registered.
So, instead of complying with this new law, Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger will be selling a significantly lower number of semi-automatic pistols in California.
Critics have argued that the law will not be effective in fighting crime because it does nothing to address the issue of stolen handguns; while a bullet fired from a gun can be traced back to the gun and the gun owner, it offers no further help if a criminal fires a stolen gun.
In fact, the National Rifle Association (NRA) views the new law as “the latest attempt to undermine the Second Amendment in California by politicians with little to no knowledge of firearms.”
“This is an indirect way to ban new handguns from being sold,” said David Kopel, a professor at the Denver University Sturm College of Law.
Critics have widely argued that as the microstamping technology has not yet been perfected, it should not yet be put into effect.
California is the first state to implement the new law. Interestingly, amongst the several other states considering similar measures are Connecticut and Massachusetts, where each gun manufacturer is headquartered.
As is too often the case, the law itself is exempt from the law: microstamping requirements will not apply to law-enforcement officials.
Sources: Fox News, www.breitbart.com
Photo Source: imfdb.org
A Mississippi legislator is pushing for more transparent recordkeeping for buyers and sellers of ammunition. House Bill 231, proposed by Rep. Omeria Scott (D-District 80) calls for purchasers of ammunition to fill out personal details including their name and social security number.
“Every merchant, dealer or pawnbroker that sells pistol or rifle cartridges, shall keep a record of all sales of such cartridges sold, showing the description of the kind and caliber of cartridges so sold, the name, address and driver’s license or social security number of the purchaser, and the description of and the quantity of cartridges and date of sale,” the bill reads.
This portion of the bill seems like a logical effort to keep track of ammunition sales in case that ammunition is used unlawfully, similar to the states requiring personal info for the purchase of drugs such as Sudafed, which can be used for the production of methamphetamine.
While this could be viewed as an honest attempt to curb unlawful gun violence by allowing police to revisit the records should a crime occur, the bill also states that “this record shall be open to public inspection at any time to persons desiring to see it.” This sentence represents the severe infringement on individual rights that the bill would allow, as it means that the personal identification information of gun owners would be accessible to the public at any time.
The bill is also largely viewed by critics as a form of de facto gun registration for firearm owners throughout the state. According to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, “no state permit is required for the purchase of any rife, shotgun or handgun,” and “no state permit is required to possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun.” Lawmakers like Scott likely view ammunition registration as a work-around of the state’s liberal gun laws. If a gunowner buys a certain type of ammunition, it’s relatively easy to ascertain what type of firearm that individual possesses.
While the bill has several additional provisions that could potentially have beneficial outcomes, such as the prohibition of ammunition sales to minors and intoxicated individuals, overall it would lead to an unnecessary invasion of personal privacy. Mississippi’s gun laws are worthy of consideration for reform, but Scott’s bill is unlikely to be the answer.
In the state of California, people with a history of mental illness are supposed to have a very hard time buying guns. But with poor enforcement of gun regulations, many can still stroll into a firearms shop and purchase a weapon. As seen in the Navy Yard tragedy and other recent mass shootings, guns in the hands of the mentally disturbed can cause serious problems.
According to CBS San Francisco Bay, tens of thousands of mentally ill people have guns. CBS interviewed Barbara Alexander, the mother of one man with deep psychological issues who got a gun and wound up in a standoff with police officers. At the age of 40, her son had been hospitalized multiple times for mental problems.
“He was in a parking lot, in a public place,” she said. “They sent the swat team, helicopters came up, it was quite horrifying.”
Despite his record, Barbara’s son was able to buy a semi-automatic rifle, among other firearms.
According to state law, courts and mental health facilities are supposed to report the names of mentally unstable people so that they are placed on a “no gun” list. But according to an audit, at least 34 courts in California did not make needed notifications, resulting in at least 2,300 unreported incidents. Some courts have not reported any cases at all.
“The Santa Clara Superior Court did not notify Justice about any of its determinations that an individual was to be committed to a mental health facility for an extended period or that an individual's conservatorship was to be terminated early," said the report.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, more than 20,800 people in California who are banned from owning guns had firearms as of July 2013. This includes felons as well as the mentally ill.
According to CBS, the Department of Justice is scheduled to have the Armed Prohibited Persons database up to date by the year 2016. However, the state auditor reports that given the current backlog and slow progress, the list will probably not be complete until 2019.
A man from Ocala, Florida accidentally shot his elderly mother in the stomach region while retrieving his gun from its storage place late Wednesday afternoon.
Fifty-five-year-old Attila Frank “Sonny” Kerekes told police officers that his mother, 82-year-old Edith Kerekes, had asked him to show her his gun. He went to get the weapon, and accidentally fired it while removing it from the bag that housed it.
Although Edith was in the kitchen and Sonny was a different room, Sonny said that the bullet hit her in the abdomen after blasting through a wall.
According to police reports, the gun once belonged to Sonny’s father, who died in the early ‘80s. He used the weapon, a .38 revolver, to shoot sharks in Miami, where he worked in the fishing industry.
Sonny claimed that he did not realize that the bullet had hurt his mother until she began complaining about pain in the stomach region. He said that he called 911 as soon as he realized what had happened.
Edith was admitted to the hospital for surgery, and the Ocala Star Banner reports that her condition is stable.
Sonny moved in with his mother several months before the incident.
Although many people purchase guns to help ensure their own safety, firearms are 22 times more likely to be used in accidental shootings than in self-defense, according to Scientific American.
About 31,672 people were killed by guns in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available. Roughly 61 percent of those deaths were suicides, and most of the rest were homicides.
Beyond deaths, 72,505 people went to the emergency room for non-lethal shootings in 2010.
While accidental shootings are often caused by children who find their parent’s weapons, even trained adults may accidentally discharge guns.
A 9-year-old boy in Michigan has been suspended indefinitely for bringing a toy that looks like a gun to school.
Gage, a student at the Creative Montessori Academy in Southgate, reportedly brought the toy to school, showed it to his friends before class, and pointed it at a friend while saying “bang, bang.”
Gage’s parents allege that the toy didn’t even resemble a firearm, but it was merely a spinning top that he brought to school to show his friends. Also, the other students involved say that Gage never actually said “bang, bang,” and that the teacher who reported the incident was wrong.
The parents say that their son suffers from epilepsy, and that he needs to be in school in order fully comprehend reading and writing. They say the indefinite suspension is not conducive to Gage’s education and continued progression.
“They’re kids, they have imaginations,” said Gage’s father Jonathan Duff. “It doesn’t look like a gun.”
Officials at the Creative Montessori Academy, however, are claiming that the parents’ story is not entirely true. They say that the toy did in fact resemble a gun, and they have the pictures to prove it. They say the toy shown in the Fox 2 news report video is not the toy that was used on the day of the incident, adding that their zero tolerance policy for this sort of thing is upheld.
“The actual toy did actually resemble a gun,” said Tonya Holcomb, chief communications director for Choice Schools Associate. “This is a case of a look-alike weapon reported to be used as a toy gun.”
The school also claims that the boy was only suspended for one day, so the parents’ claim that he is suspended indefinitely is also false.
You can see the original Fox 2 news report below.
The “10-20-Life” law in Florida, a creation of former Governor Jeb Bush, dictates mandatory sentences for shooting a firearm while committing a felony. It isn’t working to deter gun violence; but rather than get rid of the harsh-yet-ineffective law, local Republicans simply want to make an exception for people who wield a weapon in supposed self-defense.
The new allowances, supported by the NRA, would mimic the Stand Your Ground law made famous in the Trayvon Martin case.
The new proposal is in response to the case of Jacksonville woman Marissa Alexander, who was given a 20-year prison sentence for shooting a gun during a domestic quarrel.
Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, filed the new measure, dubbed the "Defense of Life, Home and Property Act." This is the second time he has proposed the bill, which earlier failed to pass committee.
Said Combee of the Alexander case, "Nobody was hurt, yet she’s facing 20 years behind bars. There’s other people that do all kinds of damage to others and don’t get sentences like that."
House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala said, "I’m very hesitant to change anything in 10-20-Life, except that I’ve run into this more than once, where constituents have gotten into this narrow space where they were trying truly to avoid a conflict by a warning shot, and instead wound up charged and having to plead to a felony of lesser degree to avoid a prison sentence because they just were afraid to face a jury."
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer noted that under current law, Alexander probably would have walked free if she had shot her husband during the dispute rather than firing a warning.
Said Hammer, "In firing a warning shot — that didn’t harm anyone — you should not end up in jail for 20 years. That is not what self-defense is all about, and that is not what our criminal justice system should be about. That’s not justice."
Perhaps not, but is the solution then to condone shooting a gun when faced with the smallest threat?
Maryland school officials declined a request to clear the record of a sixth-grader who allegedly made a gun gesture at a fellow student while they were riding the bus.
The 11-year-old is a student at Mill Creek Middle School in Calvert County. His mother, Carin Read, received a letter on Monday relaying the decision. In the letter, officials wrote that Read’s son made “a deliberate inappropriate gesture toward another student on the bus.”
Molly Gearhart, supervisor of student services, signed the letter. Read said that her main concern about the incident was that school administrators had gone “way overboard” in their handling of the situation. Read’s son was suspended and the incident is now a permanent part of his school records.
Read has some support.
“It seems illogical on its face,” said Kim Anderson, the director of the center for advocacy at the National Education Association. “It seems like something is wrong when students make hand gestures and get punished this severely. The point of discipline should be to protect the safety of students and staff and makes sure that the educational climate is nurturing and allows students second chances.”
School security expert Ken Trump makes the point that the policies themselves are not the problem.
“The vast majority of school administrators strive for firm, fair, and consistent discipline policies that adhere to common sense,” she said. “It’s about how you administer the policies that you have; unfortunately you have some administrators who don’t use common sense. The majority of administrators air on the side of giving kids a break versus being overly harsh. For every incident that you point to of a principal being overly hard, I can point to several where an administrator has failed to report serious crimes.”
Read plans on appealing again, this time to Kim Roof, Calvert’s director of student services, The Washington Post reported. “I will go as far as it takes,” Read said.
While mass murders are the most likely shootings to make headlines, accidents also account for some of the gun-related death toll, a fact that Michael Babinski found out the hard way.
Babinski died on Tuesday after an incident at a Lyons, Illinois Gun Range, where he is thought to have accidentally shot himself, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
At about 1:55 pm., Babinski was at the gun range at the Midwest Guns shop in the 8500 block of Plainfield Road in Lyons, Ill. when he was shot multiple times in the head and neck.
He was in critical condition when he was admitted to the Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, and was announced as deceased fewer than four hours later.
The police report read, "Upon officer's arrival, a subject was located on the first floor of the gun range with what appeared to be a serious head wound. That subject was transported to Loyola Hospital in critical condition."
Law-enforcement officials are now investigating the case, and reportedly looking over footage from the surveillance camera at the range. As of this time, however, the death is assumed to be an accident.
According to a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm accidents kill about 851 people each year. Although that makes up for just a fraction of the tens of thousands of gun deaths each year, people are more likely to die by their own gun, via suicide or accident, than they are to stop an intruder or otherwise protect themselves with their weapon.
Guns are used in 70 percent of homicides and 52 percent of suicides, according to the CDC report, and are generally the weapons of choice for mass killings, as with the recent Navy Yard shooting.
A small town in Ohio is planning to change an ordinance so that its citizens will be able to carry weapons in local parks. The town of Oberlin is preparing to make the change so it will be in compliance with a state statute that was passed in 2006.
Many people in town, including some lawmakers, are not in favor of the change.
“I’m not in favor of any of this,” said City Council President Ron Rimbert. “No one on Council is. But we need to get this passed. We have a responsibility to our citizens that we don’t get caught up in any litigation. In Oberlin, we’re protective of our family and friends. But this is a state law.”
Oberlin’s ordinance prohibiting the carrying of guns in parks was passed in 1998.
Gun-rights advocates are the driving force behind the potential law change. David Noice emailed Oberlin Police Chief Tom Miller about the law. “Your city ordinance restricts the possession of firearms in city parks. This is no longer permitted by state law,” he wrote.
According to Noice, other Ohio towns also have laws which violate the state statute, Fox News reported.
“There are numerous public entities that aren’t compliant with state law,” Noice said. “A lot of them simply don’t realize it and are happy when we point it out to them. They move immediately to correct it. Oberlin looks like it will resolve this. But it is complaining every step of the way. It’s fine that it has dissenting views, as long as it fixes the problem.”
Oberlin City Council is expected to decide on Sept. 16 if the law will be rescinded or if the town will attempt to challenge the law in court. Either way, town lawmakers are making known their opposition to the statute.
“Oberlin does not want people bringing guns into its parks,” said Councilmember Shannon Fairchild-Soucy.