Archive for the ‘Gun control’ Category

The Myth That the US Leads the World in Mass Shootings   Leave a comment

It’s a slam dunk case except for one thing: it’s not true.
To understand the misleading narrative, we must look to the era of narrative-driven journalism and the politicization of society, both of which subjugate truth to ideology and politics.

 

If you asked me this morning which nation has the most mass shootings in the world, I would have said, with perhaps a flicker of hesitation, the United States.

This is a tad embarrassing to admit because I’m pretty familiar with shooting statistics, having written several articles on gun violence and the Second Amendment. Below is a basic overview of gun violence in America. While gun homicides have been steadily declining for decades in the US, mass shootings have indeed been trending upward.

This fact alone probably would not have led me to believe that the US leads the world in mass shootings, however. An assist goes to the US media and politicians.

“Let’s be clear,” President Obama said in 2015 after a shooting in North Carolina. “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

Sen. Harry Reid echoed this sentiment. “The United States is the only advanced country where this kind of mass violence occurs.”

Media headlines have left little doubt that the US leads the world in mass shootings. In fact, according to CNN, it isn’t even close.

The comments and data seem to conclusively say that the US leads the world in mass shootings and the violence is unique, a product of “America’s gun culture.”

It’s a slam dunk case except for one thing: it’s not true.

Statistics on global mass shooting incidents from 2009 to 2015 compiled by economist John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center show that the US trails many other advanced nations in mass shooting frequency and death rate.

As Investor’s Business Daily noted on these findings, “Yes, the U.S. rate is still high, and nothing to be proud of. But it’s not the highest in the developed world. Not by a long shot.”

If this is true, how did the narrative that the US leads the world in mass shootings become the conventional wisdom? The myth, it turns out, stems from University of Alabama associate professor Adam Lankford.

Lankford’s name pops up in a montage of media reports which cite his research as evidence that America leads the world in mass shootings. The violence, Lankford said, stems from the high rate of gun ownership in America.

“The difference between us and other countries, [which] explains why we have more of these attackers, was the firearm ownership rate,” Lankford said. “In other words: firearms per capita. We have almost double the firearm ownership rate of any other country.”

Lankford’s findings show that there were 90 mass public shooters in America since 1966, the most in the world, which had a total of 202. But Lott, using Lankford’s definition of a mass shooting—“four or more people killed”—found more than 3,000 such shootings, John Stossel recently reported.

Who is to say Lankford doesn’t have it right and Lott is wrong? There’s just one problem: Lankford isn’t talking.

When findings do not mesh, scholars, in pursuit of truth, generally compare notes, data, and methodology to find out how they reached their conclusions. After all, who is to say Lankford doesn’t have it right and Lott is wrong? There’s just one problem: Lankford isn’t talking.

Lankford refuses to explain his data to anyone—to Stossel, to Lott, to the Washington Post, and apparently anyone else who comes asking, including this writer. (I emailed Lankford inquiring about his research. He declined to discuss his methodology, but said he would be publishing more information about mass shooting data in the future.)

“That’s academic malpractice,” Lott tells Stossel.

Indeed it is. Yet, it doesn’t explain how one professor’s research was so rapidly disseminated that its erroneous claim quickly became the conventional wisdom in a country with 330 million people.

For that, we must look to the era of narrative-driven journalism and the politicization of society, both of which subjugate truth to ideology and politics. Media and politicians latched onto Lankford’s findings in droves because his findings were convenient, not because they were true.

This is an unsettling and ill omen for liberty. As Lawrence Reed has observed, the road to authoritarianism is paved with a “careless, cavalier, and subjective attitude toward truth.” Yet that is precisely what we see with increasing frequency in mass media. (Need I reference the Covington debacle and the Smollet hoax?)

More than a hundred years ago Mark Twain noted, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

Lankford’s erroneous research had free rein for two years and was disseminated to tens of millions of viewers and readers before the truth finally got its shoes on.

Twain’s quote remains true even in the age of the internet. Lankford’s erroneous research had free rein for two years and was disseminated to tens of millions of viewers and readers before the truth finally got its shoes on.

If you ask most Americans today which country leads the world in mass shootings, I suspect a vast majority would say the US. And there’s always a price for the erosion of truth.

Source: The Myth That the US Leads the World in Mass Shootings | Jon Miltimore

Posted December 27, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control

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Are AR-15 Rifles a Public Safety Threat? Here’s What the Data Say   Leave a comment

From Parkland, Florida, to San Bernardino, California, the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle and its variants have seemingly become the weapons of choice for mass shooters in the United States.

Many people simply cannot believe that regular civilians should be able to legally own so-called “weapons of war,” which they believe should only be in the hands of the military.

According to Pew Research, for example, 81 percent of Democrats and even 50 percent of Republicans believe the federal government should ban “assault-style rifles” like the AR-15. Given the massive amount of carnage AR-15s and similar rifles have caused, it makes sense that the civilian population simply cannot be trusted to own such weapons, right?

Perhaps, but is it really true that the AR-15, a popular firearm owned by millions of Americans, is a unique threat to public safety, so dangerous that it deserves to be banned or even confiscated by the federal government?

It cannot be emphasized enough that any homicide is a tragedy, but in order to get a sense of how dangerous to public safety “assault-style” rifles are, it’s useful to compare their usage in homicide to other methods.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are the two authoritative sources for homicide statistics in the United States.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the CDC reports “produce more accurate homicide trends at the national level” because they capture less under-reporting than the FBI statistics.

However, the homicide data recorded by the CDC includes all homicides committed by civilians regardless of criminal intent. The FBI data instead focuses on intentional homicides (i.e murder) known to law enforcement and excludes non-negligent homicide (i.e manslaughter.)

According to the BJS, the FBI data is “better suited for understanding the circumstances surrounding homicide incidents.” This is especially true given that the FBI, but not the CDC, records the type of firearm used in a given homicide. For the purposes of this analysis, the data from the FBI will be used.

There are two further limitations of FBI data worth noting.

Firstly, the FBI reports do not look at “assault-style” rifles specifically, but rather, murders involving all types of rifles, whether they are committed with an AR-15 or a hunting rifle.

Between 2007 and 2017, nearly 1,700 people were murdered with a knife or sharp object per year. That’s almost four times the number of people murdered by an assailant with any sort of rifle.

Secondly, each year there are a few thousand homicide cases where the type of firearm used goes unreported to the FBI. This means that some murders listed under “unknown firearm” may, in fact, be rifle murders.

To account for this under-reporting, we will extrapolate from rifles’ share of firearm murders where the type of weapon is known in order to estimate the number of “unknown” firearms that were in actuality rifle homicides.

If we take the time to look at the raw data provided by the FBI, we find that all rifles, not just “assault-style rifles,” constitute on average 340 homicides per year from 2007 through 2017 (see Figure 1.). When we adjust these numbers to take under-reporting into account, that number rises to an average of 439 per year.

Figure 2 compares rifle homicides to homicides with other non-firearm weapons. Believe it or not, between 2007 and 2017, nearly 1,700 people were murdered with a knife or sharp object per year. That’s almost four times the number of people murdered by an assailant with any sort of rifle.

Figure 1. The Relative and Absolute Frequency of Rifle Homicides 2007-2017

 

Figure 2. Homicides per year by weapon 2007 – 2017

In any given year, for every person murdered with a rifle, there are 15 murdered with handguns, 1.7 with hands or fists, and 1.2 with blunt instruments. In fact, homicides with any sort of rifle represent a mere 3.2 percent of all homicides on average over the past decade.

Given that the FBI statistics pertain to all rifles, the homicide frequency of “assault-style” rifles like the AR-15 is necessarily lesser still, as such firearms compose a fraction of all the rifles used in crime.

With an average of 13,657 homicides per year during the 2007-2017 timeframe, about one-tenth of one percent of homicides were produced by mass shootings involving AR-15s.

According to a New York Times analysis, since 2007, at least “173 people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States involving AR-15s.”

That’s 173 over a span of a decade, with an average of 17 homicides per year. To put this in perspective, consider that at this rate it would take almost one-hundred years of mass shootings with AR-15s to produce the same number of homicide victims that knives and sharp objects produce in one year.

With an average of 13,657 homicides per year during the 2007-2017 timeframe, about one-tenth of one percent of homicides were produced by mass shootings involving AR-15s.

Mass shootings involving rifles like the AR-15 can produce dozens of victims at one time, and combined with extensive media coverage of these events, many people have been led to believe that such rifles pose a significant threat to public safety.

However, such shootings are extremely rare, and a look at the FBI data informs us that homicide with these types of rifles represents an extremely small fraction of overall homicide violence. Banning or confiscating such firearms from the civilian population would likely produce little to no reduction in violent crime rates in America.

Image courtesy of Gun Holsters and Gear.

Source: Are AR-15 Rifles a Public Safety Threat? Here’s What the Data Say | Being Classically Liberal

Posted December 27, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control

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Why Might I Wish to be Armed?   Leave a comment

There are Sundays when some of us at my church choose to conceal carry. It started after the Texas church was shot up and there’s a rotation, kind of like the nursery duty. We can’t afford security guards – who would be the first to die anyway – so some of us carry concealed. We have a large military presence in our church (retired and active-duty) so many folks were already carrying concealed. I had never carried in church before and the guys were surprised when three women who were not former soldiers showed up for the meeting ready to do our duty. And, so, now we do. Whether we’ll ever need it is unknown, but at least we’re prepared.

So a couple of Sundays ago, I was still concealed when I left the church to go to the gas station to get diesel for our day tank. It was a busy Sunday and I positioned my car such that I could be the next one at the pump. While I was waiting, these three big trucks pulled up, clearly with the desire to be together and worked to position themselves so that they could take all the pumps. Only I was in a good position, so I pulled up to one of the pumps first. I waited my turn, but I wasn’t intimidated by the attitude of those who got there after I did.

Until I got out of my car and got my ears laid back by the driver of the truck that was trying to get in there ahead of me. How dare I, this passenger car, cut in front of him, a big truck with a huge tank. Didn’t I know he had somewhere to be?

I tend not to be intimidated by men even when I’m not armed. I chose to ignore his tirade and doing what I needed to do. And he just kept getting angrier, and close enough I could smell the beer on his breath.

But I wasn’t afraid because my 45 was comfortably cozied into the small of my back under my winter coat, which I unzipped in case I needed to access my firearm on short notice. He never knew I was armed. Concealed means nobody can tell. And, I just pretended I was deaf as I filled my cans. One of the things I share with 90% of the concealed-carry people I know is a desire to never have to draw my gun, so I felt no need to escalate the matter. Eventually, the angry man stomped off to his truck and I did get a little nervous at that point. I made sure my car was between him and me, and I slipped my free hand back to my holster because, well, people are stupid when they drink beer and someone pisses them off. But he finally pulled up to the pump his friend vacated and the friend got out and came over to me, apologized for his friend, said I was brave.

Of course, I wasn’t really brave. I just wasn’t scared because I was prepared, and I wanted the guy to know what what he did was not only wrong and rude, but also dangerous, so I told his friend.

“He new up here?”

“About a year.”

“Well, he should know by now that Alaskans women are often armed and he might not like the outcome of his next scream fest. Might run into a less reasonable woman than me.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought you might say,” he said, laughing, because the idea of going to the filling station armed is not a weird concept in Alaska.

Why might I wish to be armed?

  • Because someone someday might want to shoot up my church and I’d prefer to be able to end their life rather than hope I escape notice.
  • Because sometimes people get stupid at the gas station and think they can intimidate and/or hurt a small woman because they’re bigger and stronger.
  • Because sometimes bad people break into houses with bad intentions and I might want to live through the encounter.

Posted March 6, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control

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Recognizing Cognitive Dissonance   Leave a comment

Recognizing cognitive dissonance is the key to real problem-solving.

Far too often, we leap to conclusions that are not supported by reasoning.

One such conclusion is that gun control is the answer to mass shootings, murders, etc. But the logic defies that mind set. We already have background checks to purchase new guns and several studies have shown that mass shooters rarely get their weapons from private sales. And yet, the Democrats are already planning a bill that will attempt to outlaw all private sales. So, if I want to give my guns to my son, I will have to actually sell them to a federal firearms dealer and then my son will have to purchase them for whatever price the FFL feels is acceptable and, in the meantime, my collectible firearms will become subject to confiscation if the FFL decides he can get a better price on the open market.

And, yet, we know that gunmen get their guns legally, using the background check system while other gunmen get their guns illegally, avoiding the background check, and in all cases, gun control FAILED to keep the gunman from getting the guns.

Meanwhile, Office of Government Accountability created a study to try and catch illegal private sales on the Internet and dark web. Pretending to be felons and other disallowed individuals, government agents tried to buy guns privately, but gun forums and those running classified ads were unwilling to sell to agents who self-identified as being prohibited from possessing a firearm. Out of 72 attempts, 56 sellers refused to complete the transactions, 26 sellers stated they would not ship a firearm and 27 refused after the disclosure of prohibited status. Five websites froze the accounts the undercover agents had set up, preventing further use of the forums and attempts at purchase.

In other words, self-monitoring appears to be much more effective than gun control.

Posted December 28, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control

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What If “Experts” are Wrong?   Leave a comment

https://fee.org/articles/california-s-background-check-law-had-no-impact-on-gun-deaths-johns-hopkins-study-finds/

A new academic study has found that, once again, gun laws are not having their desired effect.

A joint study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of California at Davis Violence Prevention Research Program found that California’s much-touted mandated background checks had no impact on gun deaths, and researchers are puzzled as to why.

In 1991, California simultaneously imposed comprehensive background checks for firearm sales and prohibited gun sales (and gun possession) to people convicted of misdemeanor violent crimes. The legislation mandated that all gun sales, including private transactions, would have to go through a California-licensed Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealer. Shotguns and rifles, like handguns, became subject to a 15-day waiting period to make certain all gun purchasers had undergone a thorough background check.

More than a quarter of a century later, researchers at Johns Hopkins and UC Davis dug into the results of the sweeping legislation.

It was the most expansive state gun control legislation in America, affecting an estimated one million gun buyers in the first year alone. Though costly and cumbersome, politicians and law enforcement agreed the law was worth it.

The legislation would “keep more guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn’t have them,” saidthen-Republican Gov. George Deukmejian.

“I think the new laws are going to help counter the violence,” said LAPD spokesman William D. Booth.

More than a quarter of a century later, researchers at Johns Hopkins and UC Davis dug into the results of the sweeping legislation. Researchers compared yearly gun suicide and homicide rates over the 10 years following implementation of California’s law with 32 control states that did not have such laws.

They found “no change in the rates of either cause of death from firearms through 2000.”

The findings, which run counter to experiences in Missouri and Connecticut that did show a link between background checks and gun deaths, appear to have startled the researchers.

Garen Wintemute, a UC Davis professor of emergency medicine and senior author of the study, said incomplete data and flawed criminal record reporting might explain the results.

Wintemute noted:

In 1990, only 25 percent of criminal records were accessible in the primary federal database used for background checks, and centralized records of mental health prohibitions were almost nonexistent.

As a result, researchers said as many as one in four gun buyers may have purchased a firearm without undergoing a background check.

“We know at the individual level that comprehensive background check policies work, that they prevent future firearm violence at this level,” saidNicole Kravitz-Wirtz, a researcher who led the survey.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the findings—which run counter to the conventional wisdom that gun control saves lives—have received almost no media attention.

An exception was the Washington Post, which cited the study (buried 20 paragraphs down) in an article in which the American Medical Association calls for stronger gun control laws at the state level.

AMA President Barbara McAneny told the Post in an interview:

We see this as an epidemic and public health crisis and we think intervening as early as possible is smarter than just building more intensive care units for people who are either killed or damaged and badly hurt by the violence.

Bizarrely, the Post cited the Johns Hopkins-UC Davis study as evidence that what “the AMA is calling for may be needed.”

Apparently, to the Washington Post, California’s failure to effectively enforce background checks that had no discernible impact on gun deaths is evidence that more gun control laws are needed.

Essentially, the study’s authors, the AMA, and the Post appear incapable of seriously entertaining the possibility that sweeping gun control legislation might not have produced the results desired and expected: fewer deaths.

Alas, the experts are behaving exactly as expected.

More than a decade ago, the writer Louis Menand, in a New Yorker article, explained the rationalizations experts make when their theories fail to hold up in our real-world laboratory:

When they’re wrong, [experts are] rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. They insist that they were just off on timing, or blindsided by an improbable event, or almost right, or wrong for the right reasons. They have the same repertoire of self-justifications that everyone has, and are no more inclined than anyone else to revise their beliefs about the way the world works, or ought to work, just because they made a mistake.

California’s failed gun control law appears to be yet another example of experts, to paraphrase the great Milton Friedman, judging “policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

Despite the dismal record of gun control, expect the media and “experts” to use a repertoire of self-justifications rather than modify their beliefs—regardless of what the evidence shows.

Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. Serving previously as Director of Digital Media at Intellectual Takeout, Jon was responsible for daily editorial content, web strategy, and social media operations. Before that, he was the Senior Editor of The History Channel Magazine, Managing Editor at Scout.com, and general assignment reporter for the Panama City News Herald. Jon also served as an intern in the speechwriting department under George W. Bush.

Why Does Anyone Need A Gun?   Leave a comment

Pierre Lemieux

Found on FEE

Concealed CarryThe shooting that took place in Toronto (Canada) on Sunday was, in one way, similar to the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Paris on January 7, 2015. In the latter case, people took smartphone videos of fleeing terrorists shooting at policemen and killing an unarmed one. In Toronto, there were several powerless witnesses, and at least one person, apparently from an apartment overlooking the scene, videoed the killer as he was firing from the sidewalk below. In both cases, if a video taker had had a pistol instead of a smartphone, he could have engaged the killer, at least slowing him down, and saved lives or prevented serious bodily injuries.

The fact that the Toronto killer was apparently just a madman and a loser, as I called his kind in a previous post (“Mass Killings and the Economic Approach to Human Behavior”), is tragic but does not change the situation as far as saving lives is concerned.

An Armed Citizenry Can Stop Crime

In places like Toronto or Paris, carrying guns is a crime for ordinary citizens.

Many people believe it is impossible that armed citizens could end or mitigate a mass shooting. In places like Toronto or Paris, they are right in the sense that carrying guns is a crime for ordinary citizens, so it is unlikely that one could legally and seriously challenge a killer in action. In Canada, if you have been permitted to own a handgun, it can only be carried in a locked case to an approved shooting club; it must otherwise be kept in your home, where it must be locked separate from ammunition, to make sure you don’t use it in self-defense—which would be a crime anyway. It’s even worse in the United Kingdom.

Some states in America are the only places in the civilized world where ordinary individuals are allowed to own convenient handguns, carry them, and use them in self-defense. But here is the question: Does it ever happen that they use them to stop mass killings?

The answer is yes, and is documented in an FBI report, Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2016 and 2017 (April 2018). The report documents 50 active shooter incidents over these two years. Shooter incidents are defined as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” The FBI concludes its analysis by noting:

Armed and unarmed citizens engaged the shooter in 10 incidents. They safely and successfully ended the shootings in eight of those incidents. Their selfless actions likely saved many lives.

Not surprisingly, in 6 of these 10 cases, the intervening citizen was legally armed. Only exceptional circumstances or exceptional courage lead an unarmed individual to successfully confront an armed killer in action. Perhaps one has to be familiar with guns to attempt this. The FBI writes:

In four incidents, citizens possessing valid firearms permits successfully stopped the shooter. In two [of those] incidents, citizens exchanged fire with the shooter. In two incidents, the citizens held the shooter at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived.

In another incident, “a citizen possessing a valid firearms permit was wounded before he could fire at the shooter.” In the last of the six incidents, the shooter was met with gunfire but fled to continue his rampage at another location.

Thus, an armed citizen put an end to a mass shooting in four cases or 8 percent of the shootings. Economist John Lott argues that the FBI missed some of the shootings and that the real percentage over the past few years is around 15 percent. In any event, a significant percentage of mass shootings were stopped by armed citizens and many lives were presumably saved.

Toronto Already Has Very Tough Gun Laws. They Didn’t Work.

In many states, individuals without a felony record can now lawfully carry concealed pistols without a license—so-called “constitutional carry.” This certainly adds to the disincentive effect that concealed carry has on mass murders.

The Sunday shooting and the other recent ones in Toronto occurred after three decades of increasingly severe gun controls in Canada, as you can check in my article “Disarming Canadians,” a review of a recent book by Canadian historian R. Blake Brown. It is farcical to hear Toronto’s mayor John Tory, a conservative politician, suggesting “tougher gun laws” in the wake of the tragic Sunday events, and pontificating:

There are far too many people carrying around guns in our city and our region who should not have them.

He asked:

Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?

He did not mean that cops should not be armed. They have been more and more heavily armed as ordinary citizens were gradually disarmed. He did not mean that the cops who protect him do not need guns. He meant that ordinary citizens should be totally disarmed, hoping that thugs will also disarm, which would (inexplicably?) leave only the cops armed.

It is true that the freedom to have guns means that more guns will be available, including for criminals, if only because of lower black market prices. Even if one assumes that the result will be a higher net murder count (which does not appear to be true), it is a strange ethics that forbids to individuals the means to defend themselves in order to wishfully prevent criminals from harming them.

In the 20th and 21st century, the right of ordinary individuals to own efficient guns is very much part of American exceptionalism. When you think about it, it is as banal as it is incomprehensible to the rest of the world that ordinary individuals have the right to own, and in most states to carry, guns nearly as efficient as those carried by their public servants.

Two Men Save Many Lives   Leave a comment

Two men dining at a restaurant in Oklahoma City shot and killed an armed attacker last week, ending what police called “a very tragic situation.”

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bo Matthews said Juan Carlos Nazario, 35, and Bryan Whittle, 39, shot and killed 28-year-old Alexander C. Tilghman soon after he opened fire from the parking lot of Louie’s restaurant, striking a woman and two young girls eating dinner inside Thursday evening.

“You can say they’re heroes, which is a good thing to say … but I think they stopped a very tragic situation from going any further,” Matthews told reporters during a Friday news conference.

The two men retrieved their handguns from their cars during the attack, Matthews said. It’s unclear if either man had a license to carry, though Matthews said it doesn’t matter. He doubts either man will face charges as a result of the shooting.

“They were protecting somebody else’s life,” he said. “I can tell you historically … these guys were protecting somebody else’s life, I would think more than likely they would not be filed on.”

Gerald Konkler of the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training told NBC News both Nazario and Tilghman had armed security guard licenses.

“I was just there enjoying the lake scenery and heard shots,” Nazario told NBC News. “At that point I zoned out and had to take action. Just glad no innocent bystanders’ lives were taken, and unfortunately a life was lost, but he had a choice to drop the weapon and chose otherwise.”

Whittle, during an interview with USA Today, said he “just did what needed to be done to stop the threat. Nothing special.”

A motive remains unclear, investigators said, noting Tilghman lacked any connection to the restaurant prior to Thursday’s shooting. Police last made contact with him 15 years ago while responding to a domestic assault and battery call.

“It looks to me like a random event,” Matthews said. “I mean, in an act like this, you would have to assume that he probably had a little bit of a mental illness.”

Three shooting victims, as well as a man who broke his arm fleeing the scene, were in good condition as of Friday, police said.

The incident comes two weeks after Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a permitless carry bill, describing the state’s existing gun  laws as “effective, appropriate and minimal.”

“I am thankful that under the concealed-carry and open-carry laws that I have signed as governor, two armed citizens had the ability to protect and save the lives of our fellow Oklahomans,”  she said Friday. “This is not the time to debate the NRA’s efforts to repeal Oklahoma’s regulations assuring safety and training for those who carry guns. This is a time to offer up prayers to the victims of this tragedy.”

#crime #defensivegunuse #gunlaws #selfdefense #neveragain

 

When Juries Take a Stand   1 comment

This is Brad. Lela is headed home today, so this may be my last post for a while. Or not. I sort am enjoying this.

 

About 25 years ago, I served on a Murder One trial here in Fairbanks.

WG was a miner in the Central area, northeast of town along the Steese Highway. He had a wife and a neighbor who was disgruntled with him. This is a typical story of miners in the smaller towns. They always suspect one another of stealing from each other. This neighbor had accused WG of mining on his land and had recently vandalized some of WG’s equipment. Some of these miners use chemicals to extract the gold from the rock and mercury poisoning can make you paranoid. I’m not sure that was the case in this situation. It’s just an explanation for what happened that I feel comfortable with.

One morning, WG and his wife decided to go to breakfast at the Central Roadhouse in the tiny town of Central. I’m not sure why they didn’t take a truck. It might have been farther because they would have needed to stay on the roads. Anyway, they took a four-wheeler. When traveling through Alaska’s bear-infested wilderness on a four-wheeler, it is smart to be armed, so both were carrying sidearms and since they were on a four-wheeler, they couldn’t just leave them in the vehicle. Alaska at the time allowed (still does) open-carry and they probably weren’t going to be the only ones in the breakfast crowd wearing guns. When I first got here 10 years before, it shocked me how comfortable people here are with guns.

WG had no way of knowing that his neighbor (whose name I’ve long ago forgotten, so we’re just going to call him JD for Joe Doe) was also having breakfast at the roadhouse. As WG and his wife (MWG) were getting off their four-wheeler in the parking lot, JD was smoking a cigarette on the porch. For whatever reason, he drew his own weapon and began shooting at them, hitting MWG critically and clipping WB. JD’s wife/girlfriend (MJD) was in the roadhouse. When everyone heard the gunshots, she ran out a back entrance and grabbed a semi-auto 22 from their truck. First, she sprayed the front wall of the roadhouse with bullets (remember, there are people gathered at those windows) and then she started shooting at WG.

He’d been shot. He was bleeding. His wife was dying. He knew where the initial shots came from, but he later testified that he didn’t know where this new threat was coming from. He just knew it needed to stop. So he drew his 44, walked up onto the porch and fired all six shots into JD. Five hit home. Patrons and roadhouse staff subdued MJD and the State Troopers (140 miles away in Fairbanks) were called.

At the time (Fall 1992), Alaska had a castle doctrine that stated you had a right to defend yourself in your home or business, but you also had to take opportunity to withdraw if you could. And of course, self-defense in a public setting was illegal because there are all sorts of venues for running away. The new assistant DA in Fairbanks was brand-new up from California, where this sort of behavior was illegal. She wanted a win, to make herself look good to her bosses and to show Alaskans what “civilization” looked like. All throughout the trial, she would say “this is not how civilized people settle disagreements.” There was no need to be armed in that situation, she said. He had the whole world to retreat to. He’d advanced on JD, not the other way around. JD hadn’t been able to retreat and he thought himself in danger, so he had the higher “right” to self-defense. The DA depicted WG as the aggressor in the whole situation. I know that’s the job of a DA.

Her haughty attitude toward the “uncivilized” of Alaska reminded me of my own attitude a decade before and I shared it with Lela, who simply said “That’s why we’re a federation, so people like her can live in California and the sensible people can live somewhere else.” I stopped into work on my way to jury duty the next morning and the husband of one of my coworkers offered me a pamphlet from the Fully Informed Jury Association, the central tenet of which is that juries have a right and an obligation to rule not just on the facts of the case, but on the law itself.

The defense did a good job of bringing out that WG hadn’t initiated the attack and that carrying a gun in bear country is standard practice. He asked witness after witness if they were armed that day and several of them were because they’d just come from bear country. The attorney pointed out that the police were 140 miles away. When WG testified, he said his concern at the time was his wife, down on the ground, bleeding out.

That night, Lela went to the library and researched the references in the pamphlet and then the next day we heard closing arguments, which just solidified for me that this DA was asking us to go against common sense and follow the law exactly, even if it was wrong.

We walked into the jury room and one of the men asked “If that had been your wife, would you have retreated, leaving her in a free fire zone, and waited for an hour and a half for the cops to arrive?” Every man in the jury said “hell, no.” Half the jury voted to acquit and half the jury voted to convict. We broke between those who applied common sense – the so-called reasonable man principle — and those who said “the law is that you have to retreat.” I announced that I was never voting to convict WG of murder. One of the other men joined me. Pretty soon there were four of us who were never going home until we got an acquittal … arrayed against a single military wife who kept saying “but the law says”. I threw down the pamphlet and invited everyone to consider what it said.

Jury deliberations stretched into a second day as slowly the vote swung toward acquittal. But that military wife was not going to budge. “We can’t just ignore the law. Nobody else in the country does that. You Alaskans need to get with the rest of the world.” Our answer was “no, no, we don’t. If the law is wrong, then we shouldn’t agree with it.”

With the vote hanging at 9-3 to acquitt, the jury foreman was asked by the judge why it was taking so long and the foreman almost said “We’re hung”, but he held off. The vote was really one woman with two other women lockstepping with her against all the rest of us. Now the other women who were voting to acquitted started on these three. They wanted to go home and they knew that wasn’t happening until we reached a verdict. Someone pointed out that if we hung this jury, there’d be a second trial which even the hold-outs thought would be unfair. The two less-entrenched women voted for acquittal. And then we all said — “We are never leaving unless you vote for acquittal.” And, she did, mainly because her husband insisted, she said.

“He’s going to go out and kill more people.”

WG wept when they read the verdict. His wife had died and he was alone and, I later learned, completely broke, but he was free. We worked together several years later at a job and he was a nice guy, quietly involved in local events and raising a family with his second wife.

We did good, but that’s how easily a reasonable man could have been doing 99 years in prison for exercising the right to self-defense.

Father Gave the Guns Back   Leave a comment

I’m Brad, still filling in for Lela who is in training for her job.

 

A few days ago, a mentally disturbed man killed several people in a waffle restaurant in Tennessee. The cops had taken his weapons away from him previously because he was deemed to be dangerous. That law is already on the books … that if you’ve been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and have done something that makes a judge, through a due process system, consider you to be a danger to others, that you aren’t allowed to own or possess a gun.

That’s actually a law that the NRA fought for and that most Republicans agree with. If you’re likely to become homicidal at a greater rate than sane people, you shouldn’t be allowed a gun.

And the system worked. The guns were taken away from the dangerous individual. But the guns were the private property of the owner. They didn’t belong to the cops and keeping them would be theft. So, they were turned over to the ill man’s father who was told that his son was not allowed to possess guns.

So what happened? Jeffrey Reinking took possession of the guns and, even knowing his son was sick and might be dangerous, he returned them to him.

Why? I don’t know. That was a stupid and illegal thing to do. But President Trump didn’t do it. The NRA didn’t do it. The millions of American’s who make up the “gun culture” of the country didn’t do it. The Republicans didn’t do it. Our Founding Fathers who acknowledged and protected our pre-existing right to self-defense didn’t do it.

But you wouldn’t know that from the news media accounts and pundit jabber.

About 20-odd years ago, a mentally-ill man here in Fairbanks took a hammer and killed three of his roommates while they slept.

The other day, a distraught person rented a Ryder van and ran down a few dozen pedestrians in Toronto.

Do we want to ban hammers? They’re a really useful tool if you need to drive a nail into a board. My job would be a lot more difficult without them. Maybe we should just keep the hammers away from the schizophrenics.

Do we want to ban vans? Moving households would become a lot more complicated. Maybe the rental agent could have paused and asked the patron if he really ought to be driving while distraught.

But, the leftists now scream we need to ban guns, ignoring the facts.

 

The Founders acknowledged a pre-existing right to self-protection against government tyranny and they embodied that recognition in the Second Amendment. Our government is much more tyrannical than it was in 1789, so the reasons for the Second Amendment have not changed.

The cops are always minutes away when seconds count … or hours away, sometimes. The world isn’t a safe place and the statistics show Americans use guns for self-defense pretty often. Should we just let all those people be victimized, including being killed. Should being a law-abiding citizen carry the death penalty?

Some of us are hunters and, believe it or not, the AR-15 is a pretty decent hunting rifle for deer. We don’t have deer in Interior Alaska, so I don’t own one, but I know lots of people who do and they use them regularly for caribou and other game smaller than a moose.

Some of us are hikers and hikers in Alaska encounter bears fairly regularly. I was charged by one a few years ago. It was my first and only up-close-and-personal encounter with a bear. I had to hold it off with a chainsaw. As of that afternoon, I thought carry a gun in the woods was an excellent idea. I know dozens of people with similar encounters – I know three men who have been mauled by bears. Susan Butcher the legendary musher once had to shoot a moose during the Iditarod because it was killing her team. There’s all kind of things in the woods that want to eat people and a gun helps to even the odds of survival.

It’s already against the law to kill people, no matter what the means. Mentally-ill people don’t care and they’ll figure out other ways to do it, but there is a system in place to remove guns from dangerous individuals. It worked … right up until Jeffrey Reinking decided to break the law.

No one is responsible for the killings at the Waffle House except the shooter. He shouldn’t have been given the means to do that. But who gave him the means? His father.
So, when will the father be charged as an accessory in four counts of murder?
Provide a strong statement that there are consequences for giving guns to dangerous individuals who have had them removed through a due process system and people like Mr. Reinking will not give guns back to their dangerous offspring.
There’s a whole lot more going on in this country that is driving these mass shootings. They won’t be fixed by violating the natural rights of people to defend themselves because the problem is being caused a lot deeper issues than the availability of a tool. Maybe when we can stop screaming about that, we can have a real conversations about some of those issues.

Posted April 26, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control

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What Might Have Happened 2?   Leave a comment

Apparently this burglar was unarmed – or got rid of his weapon before reaching the police – but he just as easily could have been armed with a gun, a knife or a club. Being a guy, he’s probably bigger and stronger than Ms. Reeves, so whether he was armed is actually immaterial. He had the means to hurt or kill her with his bare hands. So what would have happened had she not been armed? Nobody died, but I imagine someone might have if the perpetrator had been afraid enough of not seeing his grandmother for several years.

http://www.foxcarolina.com/story/37881137/woman-with-gun-who-chased-burglary-suspect-from-home-confronts-him-in-court

 

WALHALLA, SC (FOX Carolina) –

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is investigating after a suspect entered a woman’s home on Wednesday.

Deputies said they received a 911 call around 1:45 p.m. about an intruder at a home on North Laurel Street.

According to investigators, a woman at the home was armed and pulled her gun on the suspect, who fled the scene.

That woman’s name is Keri Reeves and she spoke with FOX Carolina following the incident.

“I immediately thought, he going to get a gun he’s about to shoot, me I’m not about to die in my own house,” said Reeves. “This could’ve been a very different situation had I not been properly armed.”

She says after she phoned the Sheriff and realized the seriousness of the situation, she was shaken up.

“I’m one of those people that can go from zero to a hundred in 2.5 seconds and I’m not a nice person normally, but as soon as I got on the phone with the sheriff’s department he was out of sight. The severity of it hit me, and I was in hysterics. I was crying, I was scared, I was very shaken.”

Deputies confirmed Thursday that the suspect, Ralph Jake Goss Jr., 33, was arrested and charged with burglary second degree, petit larceny, and possession of burglary tools.

Deputies said they found Goss walking out of the woods along Matthew Drive Wednesday. Items belonging to the victim were found in Goss’ possession, deputies said.

Goss appeared in bond court on Thursday where he was confronted by the victim.

“You came within 2.5 seconds of having a full clip unloaded into your skull,” she said. “Next time you will have the full clip unloaded.”

Goss addressed the victim in court and said the he was sorry and needed help. He also said he missed his children and his grandmother.

His bond was set at $65,000.

Posted April 13, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Gun control, Uncategorized

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