Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) wants to remove the federal ban on guns in post offices.
According to The Washington Post, Sen. Paul proposed an amendment to a postal reform bill to allow firearms in post offices.
The Washington Examiner says Sen. Paul's amendment would save gun owners the unbearable hassle of having to unholster their weapons and keep them in their cars while mailing a letter or package.
A pro-gun group, National Association for Gun Rights, is calling for people to “stand with Senator Paul by taking action right away.”
The National Association for Gun Rights also claimed, "'Gun-free zones’ are really ‘criminal safezones’ that only serve to provide would-be criminals with a place to find unarmed victims” and that “no law-abiding citizen should be disarmed and placed at the mercy of would be criminals.”
Before a federal law made the post office a "gun-free zone," there were numerous shootings, including a 1986 shooting in Edmond, Okla. by "disgruntled" postal worker Patrick Sherrill, notes the Oklahoma Historical Society.
When Sherrill shot and killed 14 people when there was no law banning guns in post offices. However, neither Sen. Paul or the National Association for Gun Rights mentioned this or any shootings that occurred in post offices before the federal law went into effect.
The battle for gun control is fraught with misconceptions, false extremes, and emotional statements (mostly based in fear). On one side, you have law-abiding gun owners who are afraid that the government is going to ban/take their guns, leaving them without their preferred method of home- and self-defense. On the other side, you have (arguably well-intentioned) advocates who believe that the best way to save lives is to reduce the amount of guns in the country and who might have access to them.
This puts elected officials in a bit of a tricky situation. They receive calls to action from the constituents to “do something” about gun violence while simultaneously fielding pleas to protect constituents’ Second Amendment rights. Thus, they dream up legislation that sounds good but is unclear if it actually works, such as “the Assault Weapons” ban, which while it sounds good does very little to stop the larger problem of gun violence.
Technically, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon,” but the misnomer has become synonymous with semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 (M-16/M-4 in military parlance) or the Kalishnakov rifles.
According to a press release, a new study has discovered that “assault weapons” are used in just under a quarter of mass-shootings in the country, with handguns being used most often (nearly 50 percent).
The study comes as a result of recent media campaigns that have insisted mass-shootings, perpetrated by a lone individual that selects a target at random, are on the rise. The study found that the national annual average of mass shootings has remained at about 20 per year. Also, it discovered that mass shootings that dominate news coverage are not random, but often have very clear motives like revenge or terrorism. Although, a study cited by NPR said that mass shootings have been on the rise since 2008, this study's authors suggest the data set used was too narrow.
What may lead to the impression that these mass shootings are on the rise has been the way in which the media chooses to cover these events. They have extended live coverage, with news reporters often speculating wildly about events on the ground. Afterwards follows extremely detailed reports about the shooter’s motivations and his life, something that experts agree can inspire more shooters.
Recently Rolling Stone caught some flak for a photo of the surviving Boston bomber on their cover, accompanying an in-depth, well-reported piece about him. Despite the fact that the same photo was on the cover of The New York Times months earlier, critics jumped on the magazine suggesting they were glamorizing the young terrorist. Yet never is the media taken to task for capitalizing on these events or the role that may play in inspiring further violence.
The study makes a number of claims debunking current gun control ideas, such as the idea of expanded background checks or the idea of armed security in schools. The purpose of the study is not so that pro-gun people can point and laugh at anti-gun people, but instead tries to wrest the discourse away from false arguments and faulty solutions. Although if the hope is to start a reasonable discourse about gun control, one wonders if the study’s authors haven’t engaged in a little wishful thinking of their own.
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.
Thomas Bean had served as a police officer in Newtown, Conn., for 12 years before the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year. Devastated by the tragic event, Bean has been unable to perform his duties since then, and now faces losing his job.
Bean was not on duty when the shooting occurred, but rushed to the scene as soon as he learned what was going on. He was horrified by what he saw at the school, which was filled with bodies of dead children, and has been traumatized ever since.
Although the shooting occurred nearly a year ago, Bean is still so affected by what he saw that he has been unable to perform his duties as a police officer. If he does not recover, he could soon be fired.
“I think the town is hesitant about actually terminating him, but at the same token they’re not taking any steps to make sure that he’s financially secure,” police union attorney Brown told WCBS 880′s Fran Schneidau. “He’s legitimately worried about financial devastation.”
Bean was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and is eligible to receive disability payments for two years. After that time, it is unclear how he will support himself if the department fires him.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, when gunman Adam Lanza entered the campus and killed 20 children and six adults.
Investigations into the shooting are still underway as authorities attempt to piece together exactly what happened, and why.
The FBI is using the latest sound technology to attempt to track the events of the tragic day, according to The Courant. The paper reports that “the secretary in the main office did not hang up the phone after calling 911 and that federal authorities were trying to use the sounds recorded through that open landline to help chart Lanza's movements in hopes of better understanding his actions.”
According to David Waldman of The Daily Kos, there were ten instances last week of guns being brought to schools. As part of his “GunFAIL” series, in which Waldman documents news reports of accidents involving guns, shootings, and other such incidents. Most of the ten stories listed on the site involving guns being brought to schools involved children of varied ages bringing their guns to school, but not threatening anyone.
The most controversial of these stories happened in Kansas City, Mo. involving a man identified only as a Park Hills school district employee who brought his gun on campus in his vehicle. While the employee does have a concealed carry permit, the district has made their campuses gun-free zones since the Newtown school shooting last December. The man resigned.
In Providence, R.I. a 15 year-old boy is accused of trying to sell both a .22 caliber pistol and marijuana to his classmates. Later, the boy brandished the loaded pistol in front of other students when a fight broke out nearby. The boy, whose name is not being released, was referred to family court, facing both drug and firearms charges.
Incidents in Chattanooga, Tenn. Clarksburg W.V., and Nashville, N.C. involved elementary schoolchildren bringing unloaded weapons to school with them. The students involved have been suspended and could face expulsion, with no reasons given for why the students had the firearms. Although in Clarksburg, Mountaineer Middle School says up to four students could face punishment.
The incidents in Mobile, Ala., Gainesville, Fla., Paramus N.J., Knoxville, Tenn., and Shreveport, La. all involved teenage students, although none seemingly had any inclination or motivation to use the weapons, but that is mere speculation. There is also no word on whether or not any charges will be brought against the parents or guardians of these children.
A new Gallup poll released today shows that more Americans blame the country’s mental health system for mass shootings more than any other factor – including ease of access to guns.
The poll was released today in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting. Gallup compared the poll’s results to those of a similar poll taken in 2011 after the Tucson, Arizona shooting which left six people dead and twelve more injured – including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Gilfords.
In the poll, 48% of respondents placed a “great deal of blame” on the mental health system for failing to identify individuals that pose a risk to others. Only 40% placed a great deal of blame for shootings on easy access to guns – down 6% from the 2011 poll. 37% of Americans said drug use should be blamed for the shootings.
20% of respondents said that easy access to guns was not to blame at all for the shootings. In fact, 13% of respondents—the highest percentage in over a decade -- said laws regulating access to guns should be made even less strict. 49% of respondents said gun purchasing laws should be made more strict – down from 58% earlier this year.
Gallup also analyzed the political identities of respondents in relation to their answers. For Republicans, the greatest factor to blame for the shootings was the failure of the mental health system. 49% of Republicans placed a “great deal of blame” on the mental health system, while 50% of democrats did the same.
Meanwhile, 57% of democrats placed a great deal of blame for the shootings on easy access to guns, while only 20% of Republicans did the same. Republican respondents were more likely than Democrats to blame violent movies and video games for the shootings.
Since the Newtown shooting, many GOP politicians have been quick to fault mental health over gun access as the primary cause for the shootings. But as Think Progress writer Tara Culp-Ressler notes, lawmakers faulting mental health issues for gun violence are often the same ones blocking measures that would strengthen the mental health care system. In addition to blocking new measures, GOP legislators have slashed billions of dollars in funding to mental health care services in recent years.
Although random mass shootings have been the subject of media attention and the cause of political controversy throughout the past few years, they actually comprise a small fraction of the murders committed in the United States, a study from the Congressional Research Service claims.
The Congressional Research Service’s report found that 78 public mass shootings have occurred in the United States throughout the past 30 years. According to Bloomberg, the organization defines a mass shooting as an incident “in which four or more people were killed at random by a gunman killing indiscriminately.” It excludes crimes in which a clear motive is determined, such as gang-related or domestic shootings. According to those guidelines, mass shootings account for less than one tenth of one percent of the 559,347 people murdered in the United States over the past thirty years.
Public shootings may only account for a small percentage of murders committed in the United States, but they still have a significant impact on society. Media coverage of such shootings tends to be extensive, as was the case with the country’s most recent tragedies: the Newtown, CT elementary school shooting, the Aurora, CO movie theater shooting, and the recent mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. These high-profile mass killings tend to have a larger effect on societal debate and push for action.
After last year’s shooting in Newton, for instance, President Obama vocalized his support for stricter gun-control laws. Connecticut, New York and Maryland all passed laws limiting access to assault weapons, and similar legislative action began in at least seventeen other states. Many states, on the other hand, have loosened gun-control restrictions since the recent shootings have sparked debate on the issue of 2nd amendment rights.
Mass shootings have also had an effect at the local level. According to Peter Blair, the director of research at the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Program at Texas State University in San Marcos, police departments are increasingly trained how to respond to a mass shooting. Officers used to be required to establish a perimeter around areas such as schools and wait for backup when a gunman was inside. That approach has changed. “Police policies around the country now authorize officers to go in solo,” Blair said.
Yesterday’s shooting in the Washington Naval Yard, which resulted in the death of at least 12 people, received similar media attention to previous mass shootings. As details of the incident unfold, so will societal and political debate on the issue of gun-control.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum and frequent contributor Dr. Keith Ablow say that video games, not guns, are to blame for the mass shootings in America.
During today's interview, MacCallum called for confiscating non-lethal, non-weapon video games, while Dr. Ablow said "guns are irrelevant" to mass shootings, noted MediaMatters.org (video below).
The conversation got started about the recent release of the video game "Grand Theft Auto 5."
"Many health professionals believe that these games inspired several of our nations mass killers," said MacCallum, who did not name the "health professionals."
MacCallum claimed that video games were the common thread in three mass murderers: James Holmes, Jared Lochner and Adam Lanza.
Dr. Keith Ablow joined her and compared video games to "drugs" such as "cocaine."
"This drug has no warning from the Surgeon General on it and it should. It's legal when most drugs are not, but it's just as toxic," Dr. Ablow said of video games, which are not classified as drugs in any country.
Later, Dr. Ablow compared video games to having "an open bar in the house or lots of drugs."
Dr. Ablow made the same claims recently on "Fox & Friends" (video below).
Both times Dr. Ablow cited a "recent" study that found "watching violent video games increases aggression and decreases empathy."
The author of the study that Dr. Ablow referred to, Ohio State University professor Brad Bushman. does claim that video games may be a "contributing factor" to gun violence, but wrote in the New York Post:
We haven’t “proven” video games directly cause violence because it can’t be proven. There is no way to ethically run experiments that see if some threshold of playing a violent game like Call of Duty may push a person into violence.
Both Dr. Ablow and MacCallum lamented the lack of mental health services for disturbed people, but neither mentioned how Fox News has always opposed Obamacare, which will provide more access to mental health services for Americans.
No one on Fox News mentioned that mass murder has existed for centuries, long before video games and that other counties have the same video games as America, but do not have the same high number of gun-related deaths as the U.S.
In light of so many recent tragic shooting incidents, police departments are now encouraging civilians to take a more active role in trying to protect themselves and others from dangerous gunmen.
Before Virginia Tech, Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn., police departments usually instructed bystanders to remain passive during attacks. More recently, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) said during a meeting in Washington, D.C. that police departments have shifted their advice and are now encouraging civilians threatened by a shooter to attempt to flee, hide, or fight in order to survive.
Though police departments usually respond within 3 minutes of a 911 call, the death toll that can occur within the first few minutes can be catastrophic, as recent events have illustrated.
“There’s a recognition in these ‘active shooter’ situations that there may be a need for citizens to act in a way that perhaps they haven’t been trained for or equipped to deal with,” PERF executive director Chuck Wexler said.
“These incidents are becoming a fact of life,” University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Chief Susan Riseling told PERF. “If there is no other option, take the shooter out.”
The suggested change comes from recent studies that show more people survive a shooting when victims take an active role in protecting themselves and others, as well as helping to take the shooter out as soon as possible.
Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center conducted a study that looked at 84 different shootings and the outcomes by comparing active or passive roles the victims took during the attacks.
According to Professor Pete Blair, the director of the training center, half of the attacks are over before the police have a chance to arrive. Also, a closer look at the Virginia Tech shooting showed that the victims who passively attempted to hide or play dead were shot and killed, whereas others who actively attempted to block the door were more likely to survive.
Riesling told PERF that she started to vocalize the importance of taking an active role after the Virginia Tech shooting.
“If you’re face to face and you know that this person is all about death, you’ve got to take some action to fight,” Riseling said.