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ICHH celebrates #MHBlogDay

May 20, 2015 is #MHBlogDay. Though people have been sharing positive and important stories and information on Twitter all day, mental health is a topic that deserves this kind of attention everyday. Mental health is a part of everything that we do in our daily lives, and how we engage with the world is a function of how we are feeling on the inside.

When it comes to violence prevention, leaving mental health out of the discussion would be missing the mark. This is why mental health is one of the cornerstones of our organization. We at It Can Happen Here recognize that all solutions to reducing violence must consider mental health as a piece of the puzzle. Efforts that promote mental health creates a ripple effect that then affect how people act, on a general level.

Part of mental health promotion and awareness is recognizing that mental health is not synonymous with mental illness though it is by no means distinct from it; they are related. In the public dialogue about violence, mental illness often enters into the discussion. What we need to realize is that blaming violence on mental illness is misinformed, plain and simple. On the contrary, some aspects of poor mental health (e.g. negative emotions mixed with maladaptive coping behaviors) have been found again and again to be highly associated with multiple types of violence. Thus, mental health professionals strongly recommend strengthening mental health resources and call for more support and availability of relevant programming. It is only by recognizing and addressing the multiple factors that contribute to violence that the likelihood of violence can truly be reduced.

For more on the focus on mental illness as it relates to gun violence, read this article.

Marni Amsellem, Ph.D.
Board Member, It Can Happen Here

ICHH Stands with Marysville-Pilchuck High School

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Marysville-Pilchuck High School Shooting, IMAGE

Image Source

On Friday, children, teachers and administrators arrived to school at Marysville-Pilchuck High School like it was any other day. Now they are forever changed. One victim is dead, three are in very critical condition and another is in serious condition. The shooter is also dead. Our hearts go out to Marysville-Pilchuck community. They have faced something unthinkable. They are forever changed.

These children did not enter a war zone. They do not live in a third world country. They simply went to school that day, like millions of other children, in America, which is supposed to be a civilized nation.

Gun violence is out of control in this country. According to the CDC, we now lose approximately 92 Americans to gun violence every day, the highest number in ten years. There have been 87 incidences involving a gun on school properties in America since the Newtown tragedy in 2012. Does a country where we average more than one shooting on school grounds a week and 92 people die a day at the end of a gun sound civilized to you?

If 92 people a day were dying because of an E coli outbreak, or a faulty product on the market, there would be tremendous public outrage and a call for action. Already, with one American dead from Ebola, vaccines are in the works and steps are being taken to reduce risk and limit casualties. However, in the movement toward a safer nation, we face an uphill battle.

Not only are they devastated, but the victims’ families will soon face taunting and harassment by extremists and conspiracy theorists. Perhaps they already have. Insurrectionists wrap themselves in the flag and threaten violence to anyone who dare put the lives of our nation’s children (including their own) over their right to an arsenal. Concerned citizens who dare voice their support of universal background checks receive death threats. What should be a conversation of common sense is anything but.

Can you imagine what it would be like if a shooting happened at your child’s school? Perhaps you haven’t considered this before. Your school may have avoided a tragedy until now, but what about tomorrow? At what point will you say enough is enough? For some, Columbine was that breaking point. For others, it was Aurora or Tucson. For some, it was a personal experience with gun violence. Newtown was the breaking point for many. What will be your breaking point? What will it take for you to say “Enough?”

A recent article on CNN.com entitled “Gun Violence Isn’t Somebody Else’s Problem” makes the point that we must not wait for others to act: “Somebody’s child was killed Friday because that child went to school. Somebody has to do something about it. In ways full of both risk and responsibility, you are that somebody.”

There are many ways to get involved in the movement toward a safer nation:

While respecting the 2nd Amendment, we can implement common sense laws that will make a big difference. Universal background checks; safe storage requirements; laws that make it more difficult for domestic and child abusers to obtain a weapon, nationwide gun permits and expanded requirements including more stringent testing, like mental health testing and more challenging training and testing for concealed and open carry permits. We should consider magazine limits and assault weapon bans. These ideas will save some lives, maybe even someone you know and love.

But, that’s not all. We need to address other areas as well. In addition to gun safety, we need to take action to prevent bullying, improve our education and mental healthcare systems, provide better support to parents, and reduce poverty. These are all areas we need to address to help reduce violence in our country.

What can you do? Contact your state and federal legislators. Tell them you care about making our country safer. On voting day, support legislators who are making your family’s safety a priority. Vote for those who are passionate about education and improving mental health services. Write a letter to the Editor of your local paper.  Attend rallies. Get involved in your community. Stand up to bullies. Report suspected abuse to the proper authorities. Reach out when you know someone is struggling. If you are considering harming yourself and others, reach out to someone who cares and ask for help.

Don’t wait for somebody to take a stand against violence. You are that somebody. It’s time to take a stand.

Stand with us against violence.

ICHH Recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month: Understanding Mental Health

For anyone troubled when they hear news about senseless violence, the question often asked is “Why? What would make someone commit such an act?” Whether a mass shootings in a public or private place, domestic violence, gang-related violence, or any act injuring or killing innocent people, there is always the desire to know how it could have happened, as well as how it could have been prevented.

Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School (and certainly earlier as well), the role of “mental health” in such discussions about the cause of violence is thrown out regularly. The rationale often is that if the mental healthcare system is fixed, and if everyone who needs mental healthcare receives it, violence will decrease. In the real world, however, the relationship between mental health, access to care, and tendency to commit acts of violence is a lot more complex. Mental healthcare, mental health, and mental illness are large concepts that encompass a lot, and oftentimes they are thrown out without a fundamental understanding of what those words really encompass.

So at ICHH, we have taken a step back to investigate some fundamental concepts related to mental health, mental illness, and violence. Please take a look at this brief overview that we have created to help inform the public about some relevant ideas to this discussion. We hope you will read and reflect upon this, and please share this as you’d like.

–Marni Amsellem, Ph.D

 

ICHHMentalHealthMonthFlyerFINAL

 

“I Will Never Forget” by Melissa Antal, Founder and Executive Director of It Can Happen Here

"Forget-Me-Not" by Annastasia

“Forget-Me-Not” by Annastasia

 

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news? Twenty children and their educators slain in their school. I will never forget. I was in the car line to pick up my Kindergartener. It was all I could do not to leave the car where it idled and run into the school to find him. I just wanted to hold him and know he was OK.

I will never forget.

Looking back over this past year, I realize how much I was changed in that instant. Each day, I make sure I do something that will help reduce violence in our country. Now, when my son leaves for school each day, I slow down and hug him extra tight, and I tell him how much I love him. Just in case. I teach him what to do if he sees a “bad guy” with a weapon. We talk it through, like we talk about what to do in case of a fire. He is 7 years old. Some people will say I am paranoid. But, with 2 school shootings a month since the Newtown tragedy, I must do my job as a mother: prepare my child for life in America.

I will never forget.

Before December 14, 2012, I did not know anyone in Newtown (or Connecticut for that matter.) I did not personally know one person that was so senselessly killed that day, nor do I know any of the 30,000+ killed each year from gun violence. I am lucky. Today, 1 in 4 Americans knows someone who was injured or killed at the end of a gun. One in four.

I will never forget.

I have met many amazing people over the past year; brave warriors who are working tirelessly to prevent violence. Some of these warriors know first-hand the heartbreak of losing a loved one; how hard it is to lose a child, a wife, a brother to unspeakable violence. Despite their grief, or because of it, they get up each day and do whatever it takes to ensure that you do not have to endure the same unbearable pain that comes from such a tragedy.

We will never forget.

This year we have heard a lot about the “Connecticut effect.” Well, I live thousands of miles away from Newtown, and I am just as committed to preventing gun violence as I was on 12/14/12. I will not rest until our country is safer for all. And I am not alone. People from across the United States were spurred into action that fateful day. We are no longer sitting by and waiting for someone else to do something. We will.

Today, we remember. We mourn. Tomorrow, we march onward…for as long as it takes.

We will never forget.

 
 

Please join us as we perform Acts of Kindness for Newtown this weekend. 
Sandy Hook Anniversary, 1year, OPTION 3

Acts of Kindness for Newtown: Be Kind. Love all.

Sandy Hook Anniversary, 1year, OPTION 3

At ICHH, we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a kinder, safer world. In remembrance of those lost on December 14, 2012, we plan to accomplish as many acts of kindness we can fit into a week, and we encourage you to join us. From Sunday, December 8 – Saturday, December 14, perform acts of kindness every chance you get. Your act could be small and meaningful or grand and inspiring: giving a kind note, holding someone’s door open for them, buying someone’s coffee or lunch, volunteering in your community, helping a friend move, organizing a flash mob, providing warm clothing to homeless shelters, rearranging your schedule to accommodate someone else’s needs, babysitting for a friend who needs a night out, baking cookies for your neighbor, smiling at a stranger, giving gifts to children in need, or just listening if someone you know is really struggling.

Inspire others to get involved by sharing your acts here on our Event page, or on our Facebook and Twitter pages. If you would like your act to be anonymous, email it to canhappenhere@gmail.com and we will share it without your name. Join us as we remember, and help us spread a little kindness and make the world a better place. Be kind. Love all.

 

http://www.itcanhappenhere.org

GUEST POST: “My 12 Days of Christmas” by Jessica McCormack

“We need to fight the fight until it’s done.  It’s easy for many of us to go on
with our everyday lives because it was not our child, our friend, our loved one –
until one day, maybe it will be.”
Newtown Image

AP photo/Newton Bee, Shannon Hicks

Over the last 11 months, I have had so many thoughts going through my head about what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  I’ve thought about putting those thoughts on paper but they never ended up making it there, until now.

As the 1st year anniversary is approaching, followed by Christmas, I am reminded of one of the most horrific tragedies in U.S. history that occurred right smack in the middle of what is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”  I realized that there are 12 days beginning December 14th and ending on Christmas Day.  I decided that these 12 days of Christmas will be my 12 days of reflection – a reflection of how my views of the world have changed since December 14th, the changes that I have made in my own life since that day and the things that I’m  doing to prevent anything like this from happening again.

     

  1. My post-12/14 experience at my children’s elementary school is forever changed.  At one time, the first thing I would look at in my child’s classroom was the artwork on the walls, the job chart and the daily class schedule.  Now, the first thing I look for are hiding spaces and the nearest exits. While chaperoning a Kindergarten field trip last year, I was taken aback for a moment. I was looking at all the kids and wondering what it would be like if within minutes 20 of them, almost half, were suddenly gone forever.  As I sat in my son’s first grade open house in September, my thoughts wandered away to the parents of the first graders who were murdered.  They probably were doing the same thing at this time last year, not having any idea that they would be tied to each other forever by what happened on that horrible day.
  2.  

  3. I have written and called my own legislators and other legislators throughout the country asking them to support gun reform, most importantly and at the very least, background checks.
     

  4. I attended the “March for Change” rally at the State Capitol in Hartford, CT to support stricter guns laws.  In April, Connecticut passed the strongest and most comprehensive gun legislation in the nation.
     

  5. In my almost 40 years of life, I never realized that my heart had the capacity to hurt so much for other human beings, especially ones whom I’ve never even met.
    Cloe Poisson, Hartford Courant

    Cloe Poisson, Hartford Courant

     

  6. I’ve had open conversations with people with opposing views about this country’s gun culture.  Some were productive and gave me hope in finding a middle ground.  Some were not, but that will not stop me from continuing to have the conversations.
     

  7. I make more of an effort of telling my kid’s teachers what a great job they are doing. I realize teachers are the real “good guys,” the true American heroes.  Especially recently, it seems that they have taken on aspects of a job that they didn’t sign on for.
  8.  

  9. I put my money where my mouth is by making monthly donations to several organizations that support common sense gun reform.  Those donations are recurring and will continue to recur until the job is done.  I’m not a wealthy person, but I know that every bit helps.
  10.  

  11. Not being a political person, I received the harsh reality that many politicians aren’t driven by what is right for their constituents, but rather who is going to line their pockets.
  12.  

  13. I make more of an effort to give back and volunteer in my school and community.
  14.  

  15. I have started to relate more to people who are not like me.  Newtown hit me hard as it happened in the state that I live, in a sleepy mid-size New England town like mine, less than an hour away.  Most of the people affected were of my race and socio-economic class and their children were the same age as mine.  In hearing other victims’ stories, I realized that gun violence is equally as devastating through all races and classes, cities or towns, young or old.
    Mark Mirko, Hartford Courant

    Mark Mirko, Hartford Courant

  16.  

  17. I pay closer attention to politicians who may be running for office in the next several years and what their stance is on gun reform.  I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never voted.  I honestly thought my vote didn’t matter.  I no longer feel that way.
  18.  

  19. Finally, during this time, every year, I will think about the 26 souls lost on December 14th.  I will think about how old they would have been.  That not just a child or loved one was lost – that so many people were robbed of future grandchildren, aunts or uncles to their own children, Best Men and Maids of Honor.  I will think about how the holidays for all these families are forever changed.  And then I will get mad.  Because that anger, the fact that it was so easy for this to have happened and knowing that it can and probably will happen again if we don’t do something, is going to give me the drive to do my part in that next year.

 
We need to fight the fight until it’s done.  It’s easy for many of us to go on with our everyday lives because it was not our child, our friend, our loved one – until one day, maybe it will be.  Come up with and reflect on your own 12 days of Christmas.  How has your life changed after 12/14?  More importantly, what are you going to do about it?

How one teacher stopped a student gunman

CNN Newsroom

Linda Robb faced an armed and angry student and lived to tell about it. Hear her tell her story to Brooke Baldwin.

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“Why Responsible Gun Owners Support Magazine Capacity Limits” by Gary Denton

“The number of fatalities in a single shooting could rise dramatically over the next few
years. It is difficult to imagine a shooting worse than Newtown, but it is possible
if we continue to improve the effectiveness of weapons without restriction.”

By: Adam ZyglisBy: Adam Zyglis

A magazine is the device that feeds cartridges into a firearm. In modern firearms it is usually a detachable box. Capacity is the number of cartridges in the magazine. Capacity of a magazine ranges from a few to 100 or more rounds (each cartridge is called a round). Modern firearms are designed to use removable magazines, so when one is emptied another can be inserted with relative ease. Magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds are often referred to as high-capacity magazines.

In recent mass shootings, high-capacity magazines have been used. Examples include Newtown (28 killed – multiple 30 round magazines), Aurora (12 killed – multiple 15 to 100 round magazines), Ft. Hood (13 killed – multiple 20 and 30 round magazines), Virginia Tech (32 killed – multiple 15 round magazines). This has led many to call for the banning of high-capacity magazines.

Arguments against banning high-capacity magazines are varied. One argument is that high-capacity magazines are not a factor in most firearms deaths. This is true. Although exact numbers are not available, most agree that the vast majority of shooting episodes involve a single victim and only a few rounds fired. However, high-capacity magazines are common in mass shootings like the ones mentioned above. Banning high-capacity magazines would not likely result in a significant reduction in firearms mortality overall, but could play a role in reducing the number of victims in mass shootings.

Another argument involves the claim that “three 10 round magazines are as deadly as one 30 round magazine”. It is true that box magazines are designed to be changed quickly. However, combat and law enforcement instructors know that the shooters most vulnerable period is when he is changing magazines. That brief moment where he is forced to stop shooting to remove one magazine and insert another often provides the opportunity to stop him. One example of this is the Tucson shooting where Gabby Giffords was among 20 people shot. When the shooter stopped to change magazines, Patricia Maisch, an unarmed 61-year-old woman, was able to grab the fresh magazine while others held the shooter down. This ended the shooting and saved lives. Simply stated: The more magazine changes required the better chance of stopping the shooter.

The 100 round magazine in the Aurora shooting reportedly failed at less than 30 rounds. But since that time improvements have been made in magazine construction technology and design. Reliable 100 round magazines are available for the AR15 (The type weapon used at Newtown and Aurora). In most jurisdictions these 100 round magazines are available without a license, permit, or background check. They are not expensive. It is reasonable to expect these magazines will show up in future mass shootings. The number of fatalities in a single shooting could rise dramatically over the next few years. It is difficult to imagine a shooting worse than Newtown, but it is possible if we continue to improve the effectiveness of weapons without restriction.

The fact is, thousands of high-capacity magazines are already in circulation and not likely to be confiscated. Many view this as a reasonM1-M14-M16-magazines to argue the ban on manufacturing high-capacity magazines will have little effect. To some extent this is true. What we do know, is that if we don’t implement a high-capacity magazine ban, availability will increase, as will the capacity. We now have a proliferation of 15 and 30 round magazines, in 10 years we will have a proliferation of 60 and 100 round magazines. Quality legislation would require firearms manufactured after the high-capacity magazine ban be constructed so they will be unable to accept the high-capacity magazines already in circulation. This would prevent someone from purchasing a new firearm with a 10 round magazine and simply inserting an older style high-capacity magazine in its place. Magazines wear out and can suffer damage and corrosion. Over time, high-capacity magazines would become less common. Banning the manufacture and sale of high-capacity magazines should help reduce the mortality in mass shootings over time.

What do gun owners lose if we support a ban on high-capacity magazines? Some argue that high-capacity magazines are ideal for home and self-defense. Yet little evidence exists that more than a few rounds are ever used in self-defense shootings, and we can’t seem to locate even a few cases where 10 or more rounds were required to protect ourselves. Others claim they are needed to overthrow our government if it becomes “tyrannical”. That seems an antiquated concept given the armament held by modern military. Would a 30 round magazine be that much better than a 10 round magazine against a tank or fighter aircraft? Besides, most recent revolutions had more to do with social media than civilian firearms. Having to change magazines more often on the range is inconvenient, but probably worth the effort if the ban even offers the slightest chance to save a child’s life. It is unreasonable for gun owners to demand access to high-capacity magazines when they serve no legitimate sporting or defense purpose.

We are asking everyone else to help end firearms violence. We call for improvements in mental health, school security, and law enforcement. We demand changes in video games and movie violence, we call on spiritual leaders to show the way. All of these things may help. But what are gun owners willing to contribute? Let’s show some personal responsibility and support Magazine Capacity Limits.

Gary Denton
Responsible Gun Owner


Gun owners, join us at Gun Owners For Gun Reform.


Disclaimer: We welcome Guest Posts in order to expand the conversation on how we can prevent tragedies like Newtown by addressing the following areas: bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting and poverty. The opinions and views expressed in Guest Posts are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of It Can Happen Here, our Board of Directors, or our volunteers.

GUEST POST: “Adopting Insurance for Shooting Victims” by Tom Harvey

“Ordinary liability insurance, which is designed to protect the gun
owner, would have little effect.  Insurance designed to protect
victims and encourage safe practices would make a big difference.”

Victim

The deaths and injuries from the hundreds of millions of guns are unbearable, but whatever you think about having so many guns in our society, we are not likely to get rid of the bulk of them in the coming decades.  Therefore, we must find a way to be much safer in having them.  The traditional tool, one of very few, for allowing a dangerous activity with protection for the public, is the use of insurance.  Insurers not only pay victims, they work to reduce the hazards with great success, especially in our most dangerous activities—driving and working.  These activities have become much safer over a period of decades and I believe insurance and insurance industry loss prevention has had a lot to do with this improvement.  The insurance is mandated by law in almost every situation.

The political barriers to compulsory gun insurance are as large as in anything around guns, but the nature of any change is to seem impossible until it happens.  The details of how this insurance is structured are very important.  Ordinary liability insurance, which is designed to protect the gun owner, would have little effect.  Insurance designed to protect victims and encourage safe practices would make a big difference.  Two characteristics need to be addressed—making sure at all the guns are covered even the ones that get into bad hands and covering intentional and even criminal acts by the gun owners and others.  In spite of what the insurance industry says, such insurance is possible and is in use for many activities.

Publication1

We’re at the beginning of a long process. My specific area of interest and effort is about getting good gun insurance in place.  My own writings at Gun Insurance Blog consist of analysis of the possibilities and issues.  It’s designed to get as much information as possible on the record and to be available to people who can influence this process.  Wide readership is welcome, but isn’t the point.
In 2012, there were bills proposed and introduced in 10 states plus the District of Columbia. Four of these bills never got far enough to propose specific language. The others all set high limits of $250,000 to one million dollars per incident. At least 5 bills required insurance that covered willful acts. So far none of these bills has progressed very far in the respective legislatures but there was a hearing in Connecticut with a large turn out of pro-gun, anti-gun-insurance persons and organizations. There was also a hearing described below in the District of Columbia.

There is also a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)  (HR-1369).  The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations where there has been no action so far.  Ms. Maloney’s staff stated that the bill, which had only the most bare bones language requiring insurance, was intended to open a dialog on what kind of insurance would be appropriate.  This bill is important because federal legislation could avoid both the problem of certain states being very reluctant to adopt gun legislation and the tendency for guns purchased or owned in states without regulation turning up to cause casualties in other more careful states.

The most interesting bill is perhaps the one in Oregon (SB-758), sponsored by Senator Dingfelder. It works by imposing strict liability on a gun owner for injuries associated with a gun even for one year after the gun is lost or stolen. There is no limitation to economic damages as is typical of no-fault motor vehicle insurance. The limits are set quite high at $250,000 for physical injury or death. This bill is very different from all of the bills so far introduced in other states (except Massachusetts below), in being effective in covering injuries without the necessity of proving fault or negligence on the part of the gun owner. It is designed to protect the injured person rather than the purchaser of the insurance. The liability of the gun owner is limited to the amount of the insurance but there are no restrictions in the bill as to the types of damages for injuries that are covered. Physical injuries and injuries to property are limited to $250,000 and other (non-physical) injuries to persons up to $100,000. This insurance is designed to eliminate litigation as to negligence but leaves litigation in place as the way to determine the amount of damages. It is not likely to reduce the number of lawsuits. Several of the bills retain owner responsibility for stolen guns until they are reported to police but this is the only one so far that goes beyond that.

The bill in Massachusetts (HB 3250), sponsored by Russell E. Holmes and John Hart, Jr., has its insurance requirement in a bill with a variety of gun provisions. It is stated in ordinary, rather than insurance, language. It requires an “insurance policy or liability bond” which pays broad economic damages “as a result of bodily injury, sickness or disease, including death at any time resulting therefrom, caused by a weapon owned, possessed, or used by the insured, without regard to negligence or gross negligence or fault of any kind, to the amount or limit of at least $250,000 on account of injury to or death of any one person.”

There is a form of absolute or strict liability in that bill, but it leaves the determination of damages up to a court. Because the bill has damages for loss of income and has special provisions to cover the cost of hiring replacements for loss of the services on a person who is not employed but provides personal services to others or family members it is likely to lead to some interesting court cases, if adopted.

The bill in the District of Columbia provided for mandatory liability insurance for persons registering guns under it’s already strict system in the amount of $250,000. The language included “(b) The insurance policy required under subsection (a) of this section shall specifically cover any damages resulting from negligent acts, or willful acts that are not undertaken in self-defense, involving the use of the insured firearm while it is owned by the policy holder.”

The DC Council Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs held a hearing on its bill (B20-170) sponsored by Councilmember Mary Cheh) on May 16th. The first panel consisted of Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign; Erin Collins from NAMIC; myself representing the Gun Insurance Blog and Kris Hammond, a resident of D.C.

After preliminary remarks by Committee Chair Vincent Orange and Councilmember Mary M.Cheh (the bill sponsor) the first to present was Dan Gross who gave a good presentation in support of the bill outlining the seriousness of gun violence in the US. He gave an example illustrating that current insurance does not apply even to many accidents, if it is available at all. He stated that “it is absolutely unfair to saddle innocent victims with all the costs. Erin Collins gave a presentation of the industry’s opposition to mandating insurance for guns. It stated that this insurance was unnecessary and impractical and repeated that it couldn’t cover intentional acts. I added examples to counter the statement by Ms. Collins that insurance couldn’t cover intentional acts.

The panel was extensively questioned by Council members Orange and Cheh, primarily about issues of cost and effect of covering willful acts. Chairman Orange had serious doubts about the willful act issue and in light of the opposition to the bill from the Mayor, it is likely that willful act coverage will be dropped. The second panel consisted of Eric Goldberg, VP of the American Insurance Association and three residents. All were opposed to the bill. Mr. Goldberg began by questioning my contributions, because of not having experience as an insurance professional. He stated his opinion that this situation would not meet any of the 3 classic conditions of insurability, measurable risk, sharable risk, and risk not subject to adverse selection.

The first panel took about an hour and the second panel about half of that time. There was a third panel of officials of the Administration which summarized the bill and their role in administering it. Chester A. McPherson, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking gave the Administration opinion that the bill was not needed.

Most state legislatures only meet and hold hearings during the first part of the year; that time has mostly passed for 2013.  My goal for the next six months is to get legislators in as many states as possible aware of the possibilities for gun insurance.  Only a couple of states held hearings this year, but it is possible to get several to do so in 2014 and would be a significant step in the right direction.

 

Follow Tom at his Gun Insurance Blog.

Disclaimer: We welcome Guest Posts in order to expand the conversation on how we can prevent tragedies like Newtown by addressing the following areas: bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting and poverty. The opinions and views expressed in Guest Posts are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of  It Can Happen Here, our Board of Directors, or our volunteers.

“Safely Securing Your Home Defense Handgun – An Inexpensive Solution” by Gary Denton

“Safely Securing Your Home Defense Handgun – An Inexpensive Solution”
by Gary Denton, Gun Owner
Gun Safe
“All gun owners, and persons considering becoming gun owners,
should be aware of the risks and benefits of gun ownership.”

Whatever your position on the gun debate, two things seem to be unavoidable facts.  1.  U.S. civilians use firearms to successfully defend themselves with some frequency.  2.  Unsecured firearms lead to many deaths from accident, homicide and suicide.   One of the greatest challenges facing gun owners is finding a way to keep our home defense gun secure from unauthorized users and at the same time keep it ready for defensive use.

All gun owners, and persons considering becoming gun owners, should be aware of the risks and benefits of gun ownership.  Some Public Health studies show that bringing a gun into your home may actually increase the risk of death or injury from firearms via accidents, homicide and suicide. (1) (2) The FBI homicide data for 2010 showed that less than 2% of homicides were justifiable homicides (self-defense shootings).  This type of data implies that the benefits of self- defense does not outweigh the risks of bringing a gun into the home.  Many argue that the data is incomplete, as it fails to count the times civilians use firearms without firing them (brandishing a weapon to scare off an intruder) and does not include the deterrent effect (prevents crime by creating a risk to criminals).  Brandishing and deterrence are difficult, if not impossible, to measure accurately so a definitive risk/benefit ratio of gun ownership is probably not likely to be agreed upon anytime soon.  More research is clearly needed.  In the mean-time, those of us who chose to have a gun can make smart choices to reduce our risks.  One of the smartest choices we can make is to properly secure our guns.

Trigger Locks

Guns in the home fall into 2 basic categories for storage purposes.   The easiest category are guns that are not in active use.  Hunting guns, curios and relics, target guns, collectibles, and other guns should not be kept ready for immediate use.  They should be stored unloaded in a securely locked closet or gun safe.  Trigger locks are useful for stored guns.  Ammo should be stored separate from the guns and also locked up.  Keys and/or combinations should be available only to authorized adult users.  This will help prevent theft and keep curious children and others away from the dangers of unauthorized use.  Persons with a history of and/or signs of depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, uncontrolled rage, criminal activity or other problems should not have access to your guns or ammo.

The more difficult challenge is securing your home defense gun.  For a gun to be useful as a home defense tool, most agree it must beGun Safe Key available and be ready to fire quickly.   Many gun owners simply keep a loaded gun in a desk drawer or on the bedside table.  This is a dangerous practice for obvious reasons.  Trigger locks do good job securing the gun but are too cumbersome for self-defense use. I recently set out to find an inexpensive and reliable solution that would provide quick access to a ready gun AND prevent unauthorized users from accessing the gun.

My search criteria had the following basic components:  The solution had to be cheap (less than $200), allow for quick reliable access to my ready handgun, be secure enough to keep out unauthorized users, and provide a reasonable level of theft deterrence.

What I found was the “MiniVault Standard” by GunVault (www.gunvault.com). It sold for $119.00 plus tax at the local sporting goods store near my home.  This is a strong steel safe big enough for my handgun and a couple of magazines. It opens with a touch operated keypad.  It comes with instructions, a template and screws for mounting to a solid surface, and 2 keys for the backup override.  It does not include the 9v battery required for operation.  There are other brands of similar devices at about the same price.

I unpacked the unit and looked over the instructions.  My first fear was the battery.  It requires a 9v battery for operation of the touch- Text Box 1operated keypad.  The only way to know if the battery is low is a special signal that sounds when you use the keypad, or the keypad won’t work at all if the battery is dead.  That caused me some concern.  A dead battery standing between me and my handgun when I need it is an unpleasant thought.  I installed the recommended 9v battery and programmed the lock as instructed.  I practiced with my access code several times and became comfortable with the operation.  You can choose a variety of options for your access code.  You should come up with a code that you can easily remember, can do under pressure, and is not going to be “guessed” by someone else. As you enter the access code a small green light blinks and a faint beep occurs with each touch, the beep can be shut off, but I kept it.   When you have entered the correct code, the door opens with a solid thump and your gun is exposed for access.  After working the unit several times my concern about the battery diminished.  I will change the battery every 6 months instead of the 1 year interval recommended by the manufacturer. 

Now for installation. After reviewing my options and reading the instructions for mounting, I chose to mount my MiniVault on a small wood table at my bedside.  I used the template to place the screws, it attached securely to the table with little difficulty.  The only tools needed were a screwdriver, a cordless drill, and a 1/8 inch drill bit.   I also used a hole saw attachment to drill an additional hole in the table for storing a flashlight. My phone and charger are on the same table. I then secured the table to my bed frame with a small chain.  If someone wanted to steal the entire unit it would be possible, but would require a lot of effort and noise. I considered mounting it on the floor, but figured it could be pried from the floor without too much more effort than busting up the wooden table.  My floors are the original wood floors and I did not want to scar them.  The installation took less than 45 minutes and was easy.  I have only minimal home improvement skills.

Text Box 2

After installing the MiniVault, I practiced my access code several more times under the conditions I would most likely be using it.  It worked fine in the dark, the keypad is easy to feel and use.  Next I checked and cleared my gun, a .45 caliber model 1911 pistol.  I practiced removing and replacing the unloaded gun several times, using the keypad under various conditions.  Light, dark, standing, kneeling, lying on the bed, etc.  The interior of the safe is padded and unlit.  It comfortably fit my full size .45 and 2 extra magazines.  

After becoming comfortable with the operation and features of the MiniVault, I loaded my gun and magazines.  I then placed them inside the MiniVault and closed the door.  I feel confident my gun is securely stored and available to me for use in an emergency.

The unit comes with 2 keys for the “backup override”, which is a tubular key lock.  I resisted the temptation to keep a key near the MiniVault “just in case I need it”.  If the key is found it defeats the purpose of the device.  I put one in my safe deposit box at the bank and hid the other in my home far away from the MiniVault.

The instructions showed some features of more expensive models that included lit interiors, AC power units, and even a fingerprint recognition lock on the BIO model.  All of these seem like good features, but make the unit more expensive.  Pricing is important, because people with less financial resources are often living in areas of high crime and have children in the home.   

Overall, I think small gun safes are excellent tools that could save lives if used properly.  They are affordable and perform an important task.   This is something we can all do to reduce needless firearms deaths.  Thank you for being a safe and responsible gun owner. 

  

Join us at Gun Owners for Gun Reform.

Author’s Disclaimer: The author received no direct or indirect compensation from GunVault or any of its affiliated companies.  This article endorses safe gun storage and is not recommending a specific product or service.

(1)    J Trauma 1998 Aug;45(2):263-7. Injuries and deaths due to firearms in the home. Kellermann AL, Somes G, Rivara FP, Lee RK, Banton JG. Source Center for Injury Control, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.

(2)    Miller, Matthew; Azrael, Deborah; Hemenway, David; Vriniotis, Mary. Firearm storage practices and rates of unintentional firearm deaths in the United States. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 2005; 37:661-67.

ICHH Disclaimer: We welcome Guest Posts in order to expand the conversation on how we can prevent tragedies like Newtown by addressing the following areas: bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting and poverty. The opinions and views expressed in Guest Posts are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of It Can Happen Here, our Board of Directors, or our volunteers.

 

Honor and Act: ICHH remembers Newtown

Newtown, CT

Six months ago our nation and countless lives were shattered by the horrible tragedy and horrific massacre in Newtown, CT. Twenty-eight people lost their lives that day in senseless violence. The headlines of that day and the piercing pain of so many innocent children killed in a place that was supposed to safe, supposed to be full of hope and promise for the future touched many of us in profound ways.

For many of us, who had previously been on the sidelines of political advocacy or social justice work, it was a wake up call that we need to be a part of a solution – part of ensuring that tragedies like that do not happen again. The terrible realities of December 14, 2013 made us realize that there is an epidemic of violence in our nation. The reality of gun violence, the pain of losing a loved one to gun violence is something thousands in America, particularly in our cities, know all too well. And despite that wake up call, despite many efforts, not much has changed in six months. In fact in the six months since December 14, nearly 5,000 people have died as a result of gun violence in America. That is far too many.

And gun violence is only one form of violence. We – concerned citizens – have an obligation to transform the culture of violence. That is the work that It Could Happen Here, our ICHH Faith Coalition, and our other volunteers seeks to do:

“It Can Happen Here is a volunteer-based movement committed to reducing violence in our country by inspiring others to take action in their own hometowns and on the national level in the areas of bullying, education, gun safety, mental health care, parenting and poverty.”

The issue of violence is much larger than any single event or single individual. The only way we can transform the future is by working together. We hope you will join us!

For more information on how you can be a part of change, visit our website.

 

GUEST POST: Sandy Hook Plus Six Months by McAllister Bryant

“We as a society are better than this. We are better than the callous folks
who just blow off unnecessary deaths because of their inconvenience
and in reality an endless propaganda machine that is the NRA.”

Shot Glass 7

There have been 182 days since America woke up to the mind-numbing violence that erupted on Newtown, Connecticut. Six months have passed since politicians fell all over themselves trying to find the nearest camera, the nearest microphone to extend their deepest, heartfelt sympathies to the families of the 26 victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School and to promise that they would do whatever possible to make sure that the senseless tragedy never occurred again. In that six months many things have happened, most showing the worst side of Americans, our unwillingness to work together to actually do something to reduce the senseless deaths, our willingness to write-off the lives of 10,000 Americans each and every year.
In that six months – just 182 days – we have over 5,000 more dead to add to the Butcher’s Bill, over 5,000 people whose future stopped cold because of gun violence. And this past six months were not exceptionally violent, not a spike in the “normal” course of murder, manslaughter, accidents and suicides. And it is that “normal” that is so appalling. We have, as a society allowed, each year over 10,000 people to die from gun violence and another 20,000 suicides with firearms to become an acceptable reality. And more important, it is the WHY we have allowed it that is so reprehensible.

When any discussion of deaths, and ways to slow it down bubble to the top of the national zeitgeist Americans tend to step up with great support to do everything in our power to stop, or at least slow down the number of deaths. You cannot begin to count the number of organizations and grassroots groups who fight cancer, to stop its relentless killing. When a disease like Muscular Dystrophy cuts down children, society does everything it can to just make it stop. Since 1952 Jerry Lewis helped raise over $2,000,000,000 [that’s TWO BILLION] for research in MD cures.

When deaths from automobile accidents exceeded 50,000 per year in 1966, the public, government, and industry began to work on solving that deadly problem. They enacted legislation to require seat belts, to install collapsible steering columns, remove steel dashboards, make interiors of cars safer, redesign frames and bodies of cars to burn off the energy from a crash, rather than push all that energy to the occupants. As a result, with a population that has added 120 million, we have reduced deaths to under 33,000 per year and dropping. That success occurs as Americans now drive over 3,000,000,000,000 [THREE TRILLION] miles per year…three times what was driven in 1966. Further, because of the actions of MADD, deaths from drunk driving have fallen from over 60% to just over 35% in a 30 year period, due to a determined legislative and public perception campaign to stop drunks from killing on the highways.

MADD Drunk Driving Deaths crop

But the attitude about deaths from gun violence is strikingly different. Many Americans don’t react the same way to these thousands of deaths per year. They quickly respond “it happens” or “it is the price for freedom” or “guns don’t kill people, people do” or “gun owners are responsible”…all an attempt to rationalize that they care more about their hobby than they do about 30,000 lives a year being lost to gun violence. Now, they will scream Second Amendment to the top of their lungs but it boils down, by the end of each debate that they just don’t want changes to the status quo, don’t want to be inconvenienced by that additional 10 minutes required to do a background check on ALL weapon sales. They argue that gun owners are responsible, never mind that responsible gun owners have over 240,000 guns stolen from their homes and cars each year which end up in the black market; that hundreds of children a year are killed or wounded by guns that they fail to properly stow. And more irrationally they argue that their guns are to defend against a tyrannical government, and that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, though they would be really happy if you would kindly ignore that whole “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” part of the Second because it really, REALLY throws a curve ball into their argument.

Slate 5000

It has been a hard six month as we look at gun violence. Included in the over 5,000 killed by gun violence are attacks at 10 schools including Lone Star State and the University of Central Florida, and we have had spree killings throughout the country including Orange County, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Nevada.

Besides the two headline grabbing types of gun violence, 2013 has seen multiple deaths from multiple instances of domestic violence and family shootings. But the ones that seemed to hit the public hardest, those that were easily the most preventable involved kids picking up guns that their parents failed to stow. In April a six year old was shot and killed by a four year old in New Jersey – just two days after a four year old in Tennessee finds a deputy sheriff’s “unloaded” gun and kills the deputy’s wife. On May first, in Kentucky a two year old died from his brother’s “first gun”. One month later, tragedy was in Rusk, Texas. And in between a 15 year old is killed in Oklahoma when her little sister dropped her mother’s pistol on the kitchen counter top.

Those are seven instances of children dying from gun violence in the past six months. If I wanted to be thorough I would provide links to the 268 teens who have been killed or the 94 children under 12 who have died since Sandy Hook.

The response from those who support the intractable National Rifle Association’s position on guns are always the same…”It happens”, “Guns don’t kill people…” and the most appalling…”It is the price of freedom”. It is embarrassing that, in a 21st Century society we still have people who have such a disregard for life, that prefer a selfish, narcissistic approach that THEIR hobby is more important than the lives of 10,000 cut down by gun violence each year.

We as a society are better than this. We are better than the callous folks who just blow off unnecessary deaths because of their inconvenience and in reality an endless propaganda machine that is the NRA. The NRA has so brainwashed many of these folks with their constant “they are coming to get our guns” that the supporters simply kneejerk and parrot their responses rather than realize that the NRA is winding them up to get more and more money from them, to support their lobbying efforts for the gun industry.

In six months, Congress has done nothing. That’s not exactly true. Congresspersons have taken in millions of dollars from the NRA and its PAC the NRA/ILA for their re-election campaigns, monies supplied by the gun industry and members.

What they have not done, however is provide comprehensive, bipartisan solutions to begin to reduce the number of deaths from gun violence. As supporters of the NRA will tell you, gun deaths are down, and they are. What they won’t tell you is the drop began as the Brady Bill and later NICS were implemented. But, much like that annoying “well regulated Militia…” clause in the Second Amendment, facts get in the way of a good dose of fear and paranoia.

The Rise of Grassroots Action

And one last thing that seems to be very important in this past six months. While our Congresspersons have failed America, failed to build consensus solutions to save lives from gun violence, the public has shown that they have had enough. Grassroots campaigns and social media groups have banded together to push for solutions. When folks who support sensible gun laws lost one battle in April, where Congress could not even pass a simple bill to strengthen background checks so felons and the mentally ill can’t buy guns a funny thing happened. They didn’t fold…in fact they strengthened and grew. From groups like Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns to Jim Brady’s Brady Campaign to Gabby Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions to the very grassroots Occupy the NRA and It Can Happen Here and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the voices are getting louder, more organized, more united.

The voice is clear…We as a society are better than this. We will not stop until solutions are in place.

 
 
This post originally appeared on McAllister’s blog, Shoot From the Left Hip.

 
 McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

PRESS RELEASE: “It Can Happen Here” launches new national photo campaign

For Immediate Release
Contact: Melissa Antal,
Founder, Executive Director
It Can Happen Here
canhappenhere@gmail.com
407-451-8617
 
 
June 13, 2013
 
 
“It Can Happen Here” launches new national photo campaign

The violence prevention group, It Can Happen Here (ICHH; formerly “Preventing Newtown”), launched a new national photo campaign on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 via their Facebook and Twitter pages. The campaign encourages others to snap photographs of themselves holding a printed or hand-written sign that reads “It Can Happen Here – Stand Against Violence.” The photographs can then be uploaded to It Can Happen Here’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and sent to legislators.

Campaign participants can pose anywhere, signifying that violence can happen anywhere: their home, their children’s school, a workplace, the local mall, a place of worship, a college or university, the movie theater, in front of their town sign – anywhere. Melissa Antal, the Founder and Executive Director of It Can Happen Here, kicked off the campaign, as well as Board Members, including Gun Owners for Gun Laws Founder and ICHH Board Member, Gary Denton; and Mary Kay Mace, who lost her daughter, Ryanne, to gun violence in 2008. Volunteers of the organization and the leader of the It Can Happen Here Faith Coalition, Molly James, also participated in the campaign launch.

Once participants share their photographs on the It Can Happen Here social media site, they are encouraged to email their photographs to their legislators, encouraging them to take action to prevent violence by standing up for smart gun laws, anti-bullying initiatives, improvements to our education system, increased funding for mental healthcare, parenting support and poverty programs.

It Can Happen Here describes itself as a volunteer-based movement committed to reducing violence in our country by inspiring others to take action, in their own hometowns and on the national level, in the areas of bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting, and poverty.

Melissa Antal, ICHH founder, created the group after the December 14, 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. The goal of ICHH is to encourage as many people as possible to join the national dialogue on violence prevention, and motivate them to stand against violence in their own communities. The group realizes that gun laws, while necessary, will not solve the issue of gun violence on their own; hence, the additional focus areas of bullying, education, mental health, parenting, and poverty.

To participate in the ICHH Photo Campaign, visit: http://itcanhappenhere.org/2013/06/11/new-photo-campaign-it-can-happen-here/.

To learn more about It Can Happen Here, visit http://www.itcanhappenhere.org.

# # #

 

NEW PHOTO CAMPAIGN: It CAN Happen Here!

Tell the world it is time to stand against violence,
because it can happen here!

ICHH Board Members and Volunteers Stand Against Violence

ICHH Board Members and Volunteers Stand Against Violence

Our board members are often asked the meaning of “It Can Happen Here,” so we decided to start a photo campaign to answer that question. And we’re asking for your help!

Snap a picture of yourself holding a sign that says “It Can Happen Here – Stand Against Violence” and post it on our Facebook or Twitter page. Then, using our convenient contact tools, send it to your local legislators demanding action to prevent gun violence.

It’s easy!

1) Print out this image, or make one yourself that reads “It Can Happen Here – Stand Against Violence.” You could make your own poster, use a chalkboard, draw on the sidewalk with chalk, or on a window with wipe board markers! We can’t wait to see what you come up with! (IMPORTANT: On your print menu, set the Print Layout to Landscape and  set it to print in color before printing.)

2) Snap a photo of yourself with your sign: in your home, in front of your school, at your university, at your place of work, in front of your town sign, or in any public place in your community.

3) Post your photo to our Facebook page or tweet it to us @CanHappenHere.

4) Tell your legislator you are taking a stand against violence! Send them your picture with a note that says:

Stand with me against violence! Please support violence prevention by standing up for smart gun laws, anti-bullying initiatives, improvements to our education system, increased funding for mental healthcare, parenting support and poverty programs.

 

Find your legislator’s contact info on our Act page or by visiting our Contact Senators or our Contact House pages. Just search for your state in each list. Feel free to email us with questions at canhappenhere@gmail.com!

Most of all—have fun and show us your creativity! Now get to it. We can’t wait to see your photos!

Thank you for standing with us!

GUEST POST “The Dangers of Compromise” by Father and Gun Owner, Josh Harris

“You see, we CANNOT go halfway on this. It IS all or nothing.  Either we make laws
that actually prevent criminals from getting guns or we “feel good” for a while then
wake up to the reality that we were duped and we have made our own cause inept.”

 
 

After hearing the results of the background check bill I, like many others, were disappointed and disgusted that so many of our reps would side with the gun lobby.  I felt that (that) bill was our last chance at making a meaningful difference in reducing gun violence, and I was encouraged that both sides came together to form a compromise.  All the while, I must confess, I never bothered to read the proposal.  I simply assumed that any proposal that included the words “Background Checks” must be a good choice. It was not until after the vote that I bothered to actually look into the what the bill included for the “Other Side.” 

 

What I found out made me question my anger at the few Dems who stepped out of line to vote against the bill.  Specifically, I wondered if all those zealots screaming that we just wanted to pass “feel good” laws were right.  Sure, we would have had a law that required background checks on internet sales and gun show sales.  But, It seems to me that the proposal could have (Would Have?) given more leniency on gun sales than it would have prevented.

 

The provisions that allowed for the legal transfer of firearms from state to state (regardless of state law) in combination with the provision that dealers could sell outside of their home state would allow even easier access to illegal firearms for those that could not pass a background check anyway.  You see, with this law as written then  places such as New York and Chicago where many illegal guns are brought in by third-party gun runners from southern states, with  “Legal” firearms dealers could simply cut out the middle men and set up camp a few times a year right outside of the “gun-free” zones and make even larger profits.  Also, the law would have allowed for the legal transfer of guns between “friends” and family.  The problem with this is that there is no criteria to determine the nature of friendship between two people.  Is someone who responds to personal on Craigslist for like-minded gun lovers immediate “friends?”  Another huge issue with the proposed law is that it made specific rules where licensed dealers could NOT be held accountable if the firearms they sold were used in a crime (Even Mass Murder), and (likely) even if they sold the guns illegally. This is because the law did nothing to undo the laws that state that gun trace information can not be shared among different law enforcement agencies.    

 

So let’s just imagine that this law passed and we’re two years down the road.  Gun violence is still a huge problem and the numbers have continued to climb in line with the previous ten years.  Several more horrific public shootings have taken place.  The gun manufacturers, dealers, and NRA lackeys continue to line their pockets and garner support as the new background checks law does nothing to prevent crime.  We are ever closer to destroying even the meager legal efforts made to lower gun violence.  So would you feel good about this “compromise” then?  I, for one, would not! 

 

You see, I am NOT a gun lover, nor an anarchist masquerading as a patriot.  I am a gun owner, a hunter, a husband, a son, and most importantly a father.  I continue to support the efforts to reduce gun violence and I always will.  BUT, I will not support any proposed laws that make a mockery out of our efforts.  These kind of “compromises” will do nothing to impact the proliferation of firearms in this country and worse will make it harder to make any real headway against the problems in the future.  You see, we CANNOT go halfway on this. It IS all or nothing.  Either we make laws that actually prevent criminals from getting guns or we “feel good” for a while then wake up to the reality that we were duped and we have made our own cause inept.  So, Stay INFORMED, keep fighting, be reasonable, show compassion, and respect one another.  Take care of yourselves and each other.
 
 

Read more Guest Posts by Josh Harris here.

 
 

Disclaimer: We welcome Guest Posts in order to expand the conversation on how we can prevent tragedies like Newtown by addressing the following areas: bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting and poverty. The opinions and views expressed in Guest Posts are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of It Can Happen Here or our volunteers.

GUEST POST: “News Flash: Gun Control Laws Work and We’ve Known it for 70 Years” by Gunsense’s Sidney Burris

“I am not suggesting that every pellet rifle be subjected to the kinds of restrictions set in motion by the NFA. But I am suggesting that dangerous weapons and their dangerous accessories can be effectively controlled and that precious lives can be spared by the judicious implementation of such laws.”

UZI machine gun, close up side view

 

In 1934, President Roosevelt signed into law the National Firearms Act (NFA). His administration, and the entire country, for that matter, were worried about the mob violence that was a very real part of the Roaring Twenties and Thirties. The law was directed primarily at controlling machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, silencers, and items of that nature. The kind of guns you saw in the first Godfather. And the NFA, interestingly, got through Congress as an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code because it imposed a tax on the manufacture and sale of these weapons and accessories. (In 1986, by the way, Congress prohibited the manufacture of these weapons for civilian purchase.)

The law included other controls as well: all machine guns were required to be registered with ATF; all buyers were to be fingerprinted and submitted to an extensive and time-consuming—this was long before the Internet— background check; and the local police department was also required to give permission for ownership.

A fairly rigorous set of gun-control regulations.

It is perfectly legal, then, in America to own a machine gun, provided you submit yourself to these comprehensive checks.

The NFA is relevant to the current debate because it is a strong and comprehensive gun-control law. But the NRA continually argues that gun-control laws are ineffective. This loudly declared claim has also given rise to their widely proclaimed slogan: WHEN GUNS ARE OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE GUNS.

Now we can check that. Machine guns should be an outlaw’s dream machine. They were popular during Al Capone’s time because of the killing power they brought to a fight: as long as the trigger is depressed, they fired continuously, releasing approximately thirty rounds in over two seconds.

No serious outlaw or mass killer would want to be without one.

And no gun-control law, according to the NRA, could stop a criminal from getting this weapon. Right? That’s what the NRA would have us think.

But here are the numbers. Machine gun use in crimes now is negligible. ATF data from 1994 reveals that machine guns accounted for less than 0.1 percent of all guns traced to crime in that year. In 2000, forty-six cities conducted a comprehensive tracing of their crime guns, and they found in only twelve cities that machine guns constituted 0.1 percent of their crime guns. In Las Vegas alone the number was higher; there, machine guns made up 0.5 percent of all crime guns.

A statistical range, then, from one-tenth of a percent to one-half of a percent. As I said, statistically negligible.
Machine guns are difficult to carry unnoticed, of course, and this would account for part of this extremely low percentage. But they can be disguised, they were hidden, and their power alone would certainly encourage criminals to use them if utter destruction was their goal.

The inescapable conclusion here is that stringent gun controls work. We can argue their constitutionality or we can evoke the slippery slope, but machine guns are more difficult to obtain than an assault weapon. That’s a fact.

But gun-control laws riddled with restrictions and loopholes that escape the public’s notice will never serve their intended purpose, and the NRA will continue to use these weak laws as evidence for their sloganeering.

But when certain sorts of guns and their accessories are rigorously controlled, outlaws do not get them. That, at least, seems a reasonable conclusion to draw from the NFA’s law.

I am not suggesting that every pellet rifle be subjected to the kinds of restrictions set in motion by the NFA. But I am suggesting that dangerous weapons and their dangerous accessories can be effectively controlled and that precious lives can be spared by the judicious implementation of such laws.

Judicious? How do we determine what is judicious?

We do something that our Congress cannot do: we talk reasonably from our distant positions on this subject, and we try, before we reach any conclusions about legislation, to clear a space, to build a table, where such a conversation can occur, where we can gather together and, for once, avoid the polarizing language, the hostile perspectives, the rigid ideologies, and hysterical accusations that have brought us to this destructive juncture in our national discourse.

That should be our first order of business, and I want to hear ideas from all perspectives on how we might accomplish this important task.

Note: Many of the facts in this book were taken from Lethal Logic, by Dennis A. Henigan.

 

Read more great posts from Gunsense here

Disclaimer: We welcome Guest Posts in order to expand the conversation on how we can prevent tragedies like Newtown by addressing the following areas: bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting and poverty. The opinions and views expressed in Guest Posts are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of It Can Happen Here or our volunteers.

GUEST POST: “The Accidental Activist” by Beth Eltinge

“I am not an activist. I am a mother who shares the overwhelming grief of
parents who have lost a child to senseless gun violence. At times there is
such a burden of grief weighing me down I feel I will never rise up.
I weep. I pray. I try to understand.”

Shadow Holding Hands, FRAMED

I am not an activist. I am a mother. I am a mother with two children I love so much I literally ache at times. I am a single mother with four children who has had enough and dares to stand up. I am a mother whose knees buckle when she gets a terrible, unthinkable phone call. I am a mother who watches her lovely baby become more and more withdrawn and troubled, but knows not what to do.

 

I am not an activist. I am a mother whose hands shake when she makes the first phone call to her state senator. I am a mother who is so nervous her voice catches and she mispronounces words. I am a mother who hangs up and breathes out, that wasn’t so hard, now on to the next phone call. I am a mother who marches, placard in hand. I am a mother who reads and rereads the message before she sends it on its electronic way. I am a mother knocking on doors. I am a mother, who with shaking hands, attaches postage to the carefully written letter signed by her four year old.

 

I am not an activist. I am a mother whose jaw drops in disbelieve when she sees those big rifles (what exactly are they called anyway?) being carried by big men behind women and children demonstrating for sensible gun laws. I am a mother who does not want to drink coffee seated next to a loaded weapon. I am a mother who fears the powerful lobby machine of the NRA. I am a mother who flinches at the angry shouts of an enraged, self-centered man demanding his rights to carry killing machines. I am a mother who has had enough.

 

I am not an activist. I am a mother with a theoretical understanding of the second amendment who knows people who own guns, but does not want one in her house. I am a mother who grew up in a family of hunters and has seen and used guns her entire life. I am a mother who, unknown to her, sleeps next to her husband’s loaded pistol in the bedside table.

 

I am not an activist. I am a mother who shares the overwhelming grief of parents who have lost a child to senseless gun violence. At times there is such a burden of grief weighing me down I feel I will never rise up. I weep. I pray. I try to understand. I am discouraged by news of yet one more shooting and one more description of the difficult road of change. But I find great comfort that I am not alone. All around, coming from all walks of life, are people seeking change in gun laws and gun attitudes and gun use. Buoyed by the solidarity of like-minded souls, I move forward again to continue the effort, the phone calls, the emails, the letters, to try to be one voice calling for, nay demanding, a change for sanity. I am a mother.
 
 

Disclaimer: We welcome Guest Posts in order to expand the conversation on how we can prevent tragedies like Newtown by addressing the following areas: bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting and poverty. The opinions and views expressed in Guest Posts are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of It Can Happen Here or our volunteers.

GUEST POETRY: “We Can No Longer” by Jonathan Romans

 

“We Can No Longer”
Jonathan Romans

 

We can no longer turn away
We can no longer hide
We can no longer swallow down
The pain we feel inside
 
Our children will not be targets
Of death, violence and greed
They will no longer live in fear
A better future is what they need
 
Tears and blood flow through our streets
Flooding where we stand
We can no longer cling to the past
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: “It Can Happen Here” takes a stand against violence (Press Release)

PN to ICHH v2

For Immediate Release
May 17, 2013
Contact: Melissa Antal
canhappenhere@gmail.com

“It Can Happen Here” takes a stand against violence

The violence prevention group, “It Can Happen Here” (formerly “Preventing Newtown”) held a launch event on Friday, May 17, 2013 to unveil its new logo, website, Board of Directors, and social media sites. ICHH describes itself as a volunteer-based movement committed to reducing violence in our country by inspiring others to take action, in their own hometowns and on the national level, in the areas of bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting, and poverty.

Melissa Antal, ICHH founder, created the group after the December 14, 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Antal, a mother of two young children, explains what motivated her to take action: “The day I learned about what happened in Newtown, I sat in the car line at my son’s Elementary School and sobbed. I spoke to the principal and teacher, but still felt tremendous fear and dread when I had to drop him back at school the following Monday. I was not dropping him off on the front lines in Iraq. I was dropping him off at his Elementary School, a place that should be a safe haven for him and his fellow students. I knew then I had to do something.” Over the next few days, after researching existing organizations, Antal says she noticed what was missing: “one place where people who want to take action on the many components of violence, not just legislation, can view up-to-date calls to action; a place where we could honor those lost, give to those who can help prevent another tragedy, educate ourselves about relevant issues and find resources committed to reducing violence in our country. So, Preventing Newtown was born.” The group’s name was changed as it grew, and to honor requests from Newtown parents, who support the group’s mission.

The goal of ICHH is to encourage as many people as possible to join the national dialogue on gun violence prevention, and motivate them to stand against violence in their own communities. The group realizes that gun laws, while necessary, will not solve the issue of gun violence on their own; hence, the additional focus areas of bullying, education, mental health, parenting, and poverty. Antal explains that this is why she decided to form a Board of Directors, to include expertise and perspectives from each of these focus areas in the group’s mission. Parents whose lives have been directly affected by gun violence have also taken an active role in the group, either as board members or advisors to the board: a mother who lost her daughter in the Northern Illinois University shooting in 2008, and a father whose daughter was shot and paralyzed in the Columbine massacre. The ICHH Board has also created a Teen Coalition and Faith Coalition, and has an ever-growing team of volunteers who stand ready to provide additional research support on existing legislation related to any of the group’s focus areas. ICHH has also partnered with “Gun Owners for Gun Laws,” a group on Facebook whose name says it all. Antal looks forward to working with other violence prevention groups “committed to creating a safer nation, so that we may present a unified front and make an even bigger impact on the rate of violence in our country.”

“This is a new journey for most of us, and honestly, we are figuring it out as we go along,” Antal says. “But, we have a passionate group of volunteers ready to make a difference in this country and we are in it for the long haul.”

To find out how you can get involved, visit http://www.itcanhappenhere.org.

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GUEST POST: “After Manchin-Toomey: A Gandhian Moment in America” by Sidney Burris

“He formulated larger plans all the while, of course, but he always saw the greater struggle in terms
of the lesser contest. And he never let failure in the one arena deter him from working in the other.”

Mohandas-Gandhi

With Manchin-Toomey in the rearview mirror, many of us who are working for reasonable gun legislation in our home states and at the federal level have wondered what the road ahead holds. Can we sustain the long-term energy and devotion the job requires? Do we have, as a group, the strength needed to engage a legislative struggle with unwilling legislators tied to well-funded gun lobbies? Can we shape a long-term vision that will resist the NRA’s advertising campaign, one of the most effective in the history of American advertising?

Can we push this rock up that mountain?

Maybe those are the wrong questions. Here’s why.

For reasons that escape me, I have always looked up to people who practiced nonviolence on the international stage. I was only ten when Thich Quang thich-quang-ducDuc set himself on fire in Saigon in 1963, but when I finally saw Malcolm Browne’s AP award-winning photograph several years later, I was mesmerized. Then I went to college, and that photograph, clipped and pasted on a piece of cardboard from one of my father’s laundered shirts, went along with me. I propped it on my desk, and I carried it with me, room to room, for four years.

Where it is now, I don’t know. But I gradually added other images to the collection: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., a nameless yogi from National Geographic, and an elderly man in battered tweeds kneeling on a hard-wood floor in a church somewhere in Scotland—another photograph from National Geographic. I never gave this odd gallery much thought, but I knew I wanted these folks around me.

As I got older, I looked more deeply into the lives of these people——or at least into those I could track down. I wanted to know primarily how they’d become so useful to so many. I discovered things. I learned that none of them set out to become the figures they ultimately became, and in several cases, I found that they actively discouraged the kind of adoration that inevitably grew up around them.

Because Gandhi, King, and others like them had such a profound effect on their communities, their biographers naturally look for the equally profound events in their lives that determined their lives—the one or two seismic experiences that gave them their characteristic resolve and insight. The kind of resolve and insight we could all use as we marshal our own energies to work for common-sense gun legislation.

But this is a potentially unproductive way of reading these lives. If we’re not careful, we start doubting our own abilities; we might say to ourselves, “I’m certainly no Gandhi; what in the world can I do?”

In fact, Gandhi’s life is instructive. Most people, of course, associate his career with India, and it was in India that he made his greatest contribution to nonviolence as a form of political protest. But Gandhi spent over two decades in South Africa before he began his Indian campaign, and it was there, on a train one cold night on the way to Pretoria, that many biographers locate the birth of Gandhi the activist and reformer, the one that would ultimately drive the British Empire from India.

The story is legendary, and Gandhi himself recounts it in his Autobiography (Part II, Chapter 8.) At 9:00 pm on May 31, 1893, the train had stopped at Pietermaritzburg (called Maritzburg in Gandhi’s day) to pick up bedding for the night. Gandhi had a first-class ticket. Another passenger entered his compartment, looked him “up and down,” and returned with two railway officials. They demanded that Gandhi move to a “van” compartment—where brown-skinned passengers traveled—but Gandhi refused. He had an English law degree, and he had a first-class ticket. A police constable finally arrived, and Gandhi and his luggage, along with his dignity, were thrown unceremoniously onto the loading platform.

Today at Pietermaritzburg, there is a statue of Gandhi.

Gandhi StatueIt was at Pietermaritzburg, then, that Gandhi famously passed his dark night of the soul—literally too: it was freezing, dark, and there was no one at the station to help him—and it was at Pietermaritzburg that Gandhi’s biographers claim he dedicated his life to fighting the discrimination and racism that had landed him there.

Or so the story goes. Gandhi tells us that he felt he “should try, if possible, to root out the disease [of racism] and suffer hardships in the process.” But Gandhi wrote those words over three decades after his cold night in South Africa when, back in India, he was well on his way to becoming the Gandhi we all know—the Salt March occurred in 1930, a couple of years after the Autobiography appeared.

What Gandhi did the next morning is more useful to us than what Gandhi said about it thirty years later. Humiliated by his defeat, on the verge of giving up, and having nothing to do but to wait for the sun to rise and the station to re-open, Gandhi sat alone and afraid. When the offices opened that morning, he complained to the clerk. And then he sent a telegram to one of his friends who was well-connected, and then another one to the General Manager of the railway company. He complained to him as well. Then he waited.

When the next train arrived, Gandhi boarded and completed his railway journey in first class, where he rightly belonged. He got lucky in this case—Gandhi would not always be so lucky—but he got lucky because he persevered and undertook the small task first.

He didn’t plan a massive civil resistance. He issued no grand statements about the injustice of the British railway system in South Africa. He made no declarations about the efficacy of non-violent non-cooperation against an outpost of the British Empire.

He did what lay close to hand.

He formulated larger plans all the while, of course, but he always saw the greater struggle in terms of the lesser contest. And he never let failure in the one arena deter him from working in the other.

Gandhi was eminently practical. He knew, as we do, that the larger legislation would fall into place if he harnessed the momentum of local elections and grass-roots movements. He knew, as we do, that the national agenda would ultimately rise from the local will.

And he knew, as we know about universal background checks, that he had the support of the people. He had to find a way to grow that support and to cultivate it, but as we know now, Gandhi was a master at this task.

New to this struggle, I learn every day from those who have been working for decades to make America safe from gun violence, and I hear much the same message from all of them now: that Newtown was a turning point; that Sandy Hook, and our Senate’s reaction to it, was a game-changer; and of the many things that we might learn from this terrible event, one of the most important of them is surely that the momentum is ours now.

And so the popular hashtag: #NowIsTheTime.

We are seeing now, across the country, Americans from every walk of life, ensconced in their own Pietermaritzburgs, doing the things that lie to hand: healing, helping to heal, addressing their elected officials, starting discussion groups, emailing their friends, signing petitions, starting blogs and reading groups, connecting, refusing to be silenced.

Refusing to co-operate, as Gandhi said of authentic nonviolent practice, “with everything humiliating.” Which gun violence in America surely is.

There is a lot of work to be done, of course, but it seems that for the moment, there are a lot of people willing to do it. And they are willing to do it, email by email, petition by petition, flyer by flyer, phone-call by phone-call.

This a Gandhian moment in America, and one I’m proud to share with the great majority of this country.

Read more great posts from Gunsense here

Disclaimer: We welcome Guest Posts in order to expand the conversation on how we can prevent tragedies like Newtown by addressing the following areas: bullying, education, gun safety, mental healthcare, parenting and poverty. The opinions and views expressed in Guest Posts are those of the writer and may not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of  It Can Happen Here, our Board of Directors, or our volunteers.

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