Gun Control: What the Science actually says


My heart goes out to the family and friends of the kids who were murdered or injured at the latest school shooting.

 

I think that the time has come to admit that we are more violent people than citizens of other countries.  We need gun control.  We need everyone to have to have a background check before they purchase a gun from any source, and these background checks should be much more comprehensive and stringent.

 

I think if someone has ever been in a psychiatric hospital, or in rehab for any addiction, they should not be allowed to have a gun.

 

I believe that guns make it easy to commit murder, because they are less personal and the shooter feels more removed from his victim(s).    The FBI has said that many fewer people die from stabbings, as an example, than from shootings, in part because stabbing is a deeply immediate and personal act which requires touching the victim.  It is not an act that can be done easily, divorcing oneself from ones action, as one can when shooting a gun.

 

 

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Here’s What Actually Reduces Gun Violence

Guns aren’t going away in America. But studies have found several ways to reduce the current annual toll of 30,000 gun deaths — from universal background checks to smart policing.

posted on Oct. 2, 2015, at 11:35 a.m. at Buzzfeed.com

Peter Aldhous

BuzzFeed News Reporter

 

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Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Roseburg, Oregon, has become the latest community to have its heart torn out by a mass shooting. And in its wake everyone is asking, once again: What can be done to reduce the toll of gun violence?

BuzzFeed News asked researchers who have devoted their careers to studying gun violence. Their answers were encouraging: Saving thousands of lives every year is an achievable goal. But meeting that challenge will require both conservatives and liberals to look beyond their usual knee-jerk reactions. It’s not a simple question of gun rights versus gun control.

Here’s what the experts had to say.

America’s problem with gun violence is bigger than most people realize.

Here is a sobering fact: The number of Americans who died from gunshot wounds in the last decade — more than 300,000 — exceeds the nation’s total combat fatalitiesin World War II.

Gun deaths in the U.S. today are almost as frequent as deaths from traffic accidents, as this graph shows. Yet the United States isn’t an especially violent country, judged by statistics on general assaults. It’s the rate of gun deaths, specifically, that outstrips that of any other developed nation.

 

But let’s be realistic about what gun control could achieve.

When you look across rich countries, those with higher rates of gun ownership tend to have higher gun homicide rates. Put simply, people with guns seem to kill people at higher rates than people armed with less efficient killing machines.

The big problem is that no policy that stands any chance of being implemented in the United States is likely to make a big dent in the huge numbers of guns that are already in circulation — as many as 310 million, or nearly one for every U.S. resident. The Second Amendment is a reality, and the Supreme Court has ruled that the right to bear arms operates at the level of the individual, not just the “well regulated militia.”

So whatever gun control advocates would like to do, the government is not going to come and take away people’s guns en masse.

What’s more, some of the gun controls that are often proposed probably wouldn’t achieve very much. After the Newtown School shooting in December 2012, President Barack Obama called for a reinstatement of a federal ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons that lasted for a decade, ending in 2004.

Congress did not oblige. And while that decision had more to do with the influence of the gun lobby than the scientific evidence, studies of the earlier ban’s effects by Christopher Koper of the University of Pennsylvania found no strong indication that it reduced gun deaths. If anything, he concluded in a report to the Department of Justice, “gun attacks appear to have been more lethal and injurious since the ban.”

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A family reunites after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Ryan Kang / AP / Via apimages.com

Mass shootings can’t tell us much about how to reduce the overall death toll.

Enthusiasm for bans on the sale of especially lethal weapons stems from the context in which the debate over gun violence comes to the fore — in the wake of mass shootings like Roseburg, where shooters arm themselves to inflict maximum casualties.

Even though mass shootings come around with distressing regularity — and seem to be getting more frequent — they barely register in the overall statistics on gun deaths in America.

In 2012, the deadliest year for mass shootings in three decades, according to data compiled by Mother Jones, 72 people died in incidents including the Newtown massacre and the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Every one of those deaths was a personal tragedy, but in the context of some 30,000 annual fatalities from gunshots across the nation, they are just drops in a vast ocean of suffering.

The best evidence on how to prevent mass shootings comes from Australia. In 1996, after 35 people were killed in a massacre in Tasmania, Australia banned a range of weapons including semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns. Income tax was hiked so the government would have the money to buy back the now-illegal weapons, and the results were striking: There had been 13 mass shootings in 18 years before the new controls, but no similar incident in the decade that followed.

The Second Amendment makes it unlikely that the Australian experiment could ever be repeated in the United States. “It is so far beyond anything that is going to happen,” Philip Cook, a gun violence researcher at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, told BuzzFeed News.

But background checks can work.

Among the gun violence experts consulted by BuzzFeed News, the most popular policy was the introduction of universal background checks, intended to keep guns out of the hands of people disqualified through their criminal records or mental health issues.

Under federal law, these checks are required each time a registered dealer sells a gun. But they’re not required for private sales, which may account for 40% of the trade. It’s a loophole that you can drive busloads of firearms through.

Eight states, including California and New York, have implemented universal background checks, including for private sales. But it’s been hard to judge the success of these moves, because changes to gun laws tend to be introduced in packages, making it difficult to know which policy, if any, was responsible for any subsequent changes in gun violence.

However, legislative changes in Connecticut and Missouri, which went in opposite directions, have provided a clearer picture. Until 2007, Missouri required people buying a gun to have a permit issued by law enforcement, which was contingent on passing background checks. Over the five years that followed without this requirement, the state’s annual gun murder rate rose by 16%, according to a study from a team led by Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Neighboring states saw no similar spike.

Connecticut introduced a similar permit-to-purchase law, again with background checks, in 1995. In this case, Webster’s team estimated that the law reduced gun homicides by 40%.

 

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Andrew Parker / Getty Images

Smart policing reduces urban gun violence.

Some of the strongest evidence on reducing gun violence comes not from controls on gun purchases, but from an approach to policing called “focused deterrence.”

Pioneered in the 1990s in Boston, where it was called “Operation Ceasefire,” this involves police and community leaders meeting with members of criminal groups and delivering the message that their identities are known and that gun crime won’t be tolerated. Then come efforts to help people out of criminal activity, with the clear understanding that law enforcement will crack down hard on the targeted individuals if they use their guns.

Since rolled out in dozens of other cities, repeated studies have shown that the approach can reduce urban gun violence — typically by between 20 and 40%.

More good guys with guns aren’t the answer.

In the wake of almost every mass shooting — especially if it occurs in a location where people aren’t supposed to carry guns — gun lobbyists tell us that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. And over the years, the main reason given for gun ownership in surveys of the U.S. public has shifted from hunting to personal protection.

But the evidence suggests that gun ownership actually does little to make people safer. Analyzing 14,000 incidents involving personal contact between perpetrator and victim from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health and economist Sara Solnick of the University of Vermont found that a gun was brandished in self-defense on only 127 occasions. And doing so didn’t reduce the likelihood that the victim would be injured — although it did lessen the chance of property loss.

The idea that gun ownership deters crime also looks shaky when subjected to close scrutiny. Again using data from the NCVS, Cook found in an earlier study that burglary rates tend to be higher in counties with higher rates of gun ownership. The reason for the relationship wasn’t clear, but one possibility is that guns themselves are valuable commodities, motivating criminals to steal them.

People with guns are more likely to kill themselves than to kill others.

The conversation about how to reduce gun deaths tends to focus on homicides. But for every gun murder, there are almost two gun suicides. And while gun homicides have been in decline since the early 1990s, firearm suicides are on the rise.

The demographics of these two categories of gun deaths are very different. Young black men are disproportionately likely to be both victims and perpetrators of gun murder. Those who turn firearms on themselves are again mostly male, but are typically older and white.

“Firearm violence is increasingly becoming an old white guy problem,” Garen Wintemute, an emergency room doctor at the University of California, Davis, told BuzzFeed News.

So any attempt to seriously reduce gun deaths needs to keep firearms out of the hands of people who are most vulnerable to self-harm. If they can’t get their hands on a gun, chances are that someone desperate enough to consider killing themselves will survive: The fatality rate for suicide attempts overall is around 9%; but where a firearm is used, that rises to 85%.

Encouragingly, background checks seem to help prevent gun suicides, as well as reducing gun murders. Webster and his colleagues have calculated that Connecticut’s permit-to-purchase law reduced firearm suicides by 15.4%, while Missouri’s repeal of its law increased its gun suicide rate by 16.1%.

Forget mental illness; think risky behavior.

It’s easy to blame gun violence on mental illness, especially in the wake of a mass shooting by a highly disturbed individual. But this is based on a misunderstanding of the wider problem.

Epidemiological studies have found that people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are somewhat more likely to be violent than healthy people. But the vast majority of mentally ill people are never violent to others — and even if the risk posed by mentally disturbed people could be reduced to the average level for the general population, about 96% of the violent crime in America would still occur.

Far more powerful is the link between mental illness and gun suicide. “If we were to cure mental illness, the suicide rate would go down by 50 to 75%,” Jeffrey Swanson, a gun violence researcher at Duke University, told BuzzFeed News.

The federal Gun Control Act, passed in 1968, prohibits gun ownership by people who have been involuntarily committed for treatment for psychiatric illness, and those judged to be “mentally defective.” The problem is that these restrictions are both too broad and too narrow. In particular, many people at high risk of harming themselves have never been committed involuntarily for treatment.

Another problem is that the federal mental health restrictions on gun ownership are lifelong. This fails to recognize that suicidality comes in episodes — which usually pass, if the urge is not acted on.

What we should do, according to Swanson, is to recognize when people’s behaviour indicates that they are at immediate risk of harming themselves or others, and temporarily restrict their access to guns until they have recovered.

Some states have introduced laws that try to do this. In California, people who are deemed to pose a risk to themselves or others can be held in a mental health facility for 72 hours, and since 1990 this has triggered a five-year ban on possessing guns — which can be curtailed earlier though a court petition.

We’re still waiting for conclusive studies on the effectiveness of such restrictions, Swanson said. “It will be a while before there’s enough experience with these laws to say whether they’ve worked.”

 

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It’s Time to Work for Legal Equality for Women


Women have another chance to be legally equal.  The Equal Rights Amendment will be before Congress once again. Frankly, I realize that men and many women don’t understand why this is an important piece of legislation. Congress, a majority of rich, white males will decide whether women and girls will receive equal treatment under the US Constitution. They will also decide  whether to ban sexual discrimination.  Next year is huge for the female gender.

This is not a new proposal. We worked very hard to obtain ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, We lobbied, marched and picketed in state capitals and Washington DC. We talked and explained and worked and yet the predominately male white Congress would not ratify this amendment.  We are now 12 years into the twenty-first century and we, women and girls, are not legally equal in the United States of America. This is an outrage and can’t be justified although many have tried.

Fifteen states refused to ratify this amendment in 1972. They resist efforts to change this unfair discrimination. Most of the states that did not vote to ratify the ERA, equal rights amendment, are Southern states. The female gender makes up 51% of the population of America. We are the country which is at the forefront of human rights and the majority of our citizens are not legally equal.

Our media reports about how women and girls suffer in other countries and we tell countries that they must not discriminate due to gender. We send money and officials to educate other countries and to better the status and lives of the country’s women and girls. Yet, here at home in the United States of America, women and girls continue to be discriminated against due to their sex and they continue to be the only citizens of the USA that are not legally equal under the Constitution. We are coming up to another opportunity to rectify this for the women and girls in our own country. The twenty-first century, and specifically 2013 is the year to right this wrong. Get involved. Write or email your congress people and tell them this is important to you. Find out what is happening with the ERA movement in your state.

Give us equality for all people in this world. Give us equality for women and girls in America!

What can women and feminist men do? Email or call your state representatives and Senators. Make sure your state has ratified this amendment. If it hasn’t then tell them you want them to ratify the amendment. We will continue to talk about this.

Family Values


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This photograph, taken by Margaret Bourke-White, in 1937,
clearly illustrates the contrast between people on the breadline and the “World’s Highest Standard of Living”
This photograph could just as easily be the line at the Unemployment Office in 2014 as it was the soup kitchen lines in 1937

Today, in the Senate of the United States of America, they have failed to pass an extension to Unemployment Benefits.

I am going to discuss this rationally, and simply, because I feel that this is the height of hypocrisy and it is shameful.  (Not that this Congress hasn’t acted shamefully before.)

The Republican party touts itself as the party of Family Values.  Families are generally made up of one or more adults and one or more children.  Many politicians have gone on record as stating that children are our future and are of primary importance.

Last week we heard a congressman say that we are doing unemployed workers a favor by not extending their Unemployment Benefits.  I am sure that the millions of people, citizens of the United States, who are out of work are really thrilled and thank Congress immensely for giving them the opportunity to have their houses foreclosed on, their cars repossessed, and to look their children in the eye and say: “I’m sorry, I don’t have a job because the economy collapsed, there are no jobs available near us, and my unemployment benefits have been cut.  You are going to be hungry when you go to bed at night and when you go to school in the morning. But don’t worry, Congress says this makes us better human beings.”

Let’s discuss children in America.  We have more children living in poverty than any other First World country.  We have children who are going to school and who are functionally illiterate.

Every year at Christmas time, this “Christian” nation has organizations and churches which do fundraising and drives for food, toys and coats and mittens and hats for the millions of children living in poverty.  The people who are unemployed are not undeserving of a helping hand to get their lives back in order.  Since the economic crash in 2008, many people have spent some time unemployed.  We have historically gone through the worst financial crisis to hit our country since the Great Depression.  Yet Republicans in Congress insist that extending Unemployment Benefits will prevent Americans from getting new jobs, because they don’t have the incentive to work.

Get a new job?  From where? It isn’t as if there are millions of open jobs and Help Wanted signs in every window.  Few companies are hiring and fewer still will hire someone who is untrained and largely uneducated.

You want to help, Congress?  How about providing money for schools and training programs where adults can learn new skills and create new careers for themselves and feel hopeful once again about the future for themselves and their children, so they are actually more qualified for one of the rare available jobs.

It appears to me that the Republicans are speaking out of both sides of their mouths.  They say that Family and Family Values are important  to them as a politician and a member of the United States Congress, but they won’t provide these families with the support they need.  If you don’t walk your talk, it means nothing.

Members of Congress are not going home to crying, hungry children.  I think it would be a good experience for them  to spend a month of their recess visiting America’s poorest families, rather than campaigning with their rich friends and supporters.  Congressmen and women should have to talk face to face with these unemployed Americans, and explain to the parents and the children why leaving them without income and without jobs is “doing them a favor”.

I think they should see children inadequately dressed for the weather, walking to school because their school district has cut bussing.  They should have to watch these children walk out of the house, wearing  a thin, worn sweater on and no coat, because they have none, and sneakers but no boots because they don’t own a pair.  Send these children off through the snow and the wind with the sure knowledge that they are important to the 2014 Congress.  I’m sure the knowledge of how important Family is to Congress will be enough to keep them warm, and the certainty that Congress is preventing their ‘lazy’ parents from taking advantage of the system will help them to learn if they can hear the teacher over the rumblings of their stomachs.

Unemployment benefits do not allow a family to live high on the hog.  Unemployment benefits do not allow the unemployed to live as our elected officials do, and the benefits barely keep the roof over a family’s head and food on the table.

It’s not the Unemployed that is lazy and unwilling, it’s Congress, and I say to Congress now:

Get the Unemployment Benefits Extension passed in a clean bill, without having to be bribed with pork for your vote.

In closing, I don’t want to hear a single congressperson talk about Family Values in America; I want you to stop talking and get into action.  Make American Families a priority in their own country.

The Affordable Health Act is Law, Supported by Supreme Court


Ok, this is not the first shutdown I have lived through. It is the most aggravating one I have lived through. There are so many aspects of this shutdown that the House of Representatives aren’t thinking through.

The Affordable Health Act is a law. The Supreme Court upheld it. People are signing up for their health insurance today and will for the next six months.  Some are getting their health insurance for the first time. Despite some technical glitches, which are to be expected.  It is a done deal. Let the government of the people, by the people and for the people function.. Yesterday, About 50% of Americans had no health insurance. This is going to mean better lives for them.

The House of Representatives and the Senate still get paid and they receive their benefits. One Republican from Florida is refusing his pay. Their benefits include cars and drivers. It includes plane rides home.  And they enjoy the best health care in America. Why do you think they live so long?

The Republicans are blaming the Senate and Vice Versa. Our President is being held as a hostage. Holding a gun to his head is not negotiations. I don’t care which party is doing this. I don’t care if it is the Tea Partiers. Hear me, Congress; we the people are sick of your illogical and childish behavior. I will remember every one of you when it is time for elections. I will care about what happens to you as much as you care about what happens to me and my very extended family.

The Founding Fathers would be so ashamed of what you are doing to our country. They did not create this democracy for you to crush it with your selfish manipulations. George Washington would not let you hold him for ransom. He and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin risked their lives for our great country. Not for you to destroy it. Our sons and daughters are fighting in Afghanistan and risking our lives while you bicker like whiny children.

Around the world, countries don’t understand how we could be working so hard to destroy our government. It is the American people who suffer, are beginning to suffer and will suffer until you put us before yourselves.

Congress should be working hard to fix this and they are irresponsible to put America in this danger. Terrorists could use this as an opportunity to attack us again. 72 % of Americans want to have our government open and functioning. You are way too old to take your toys and go home. I am ashamed of what you are doing to us on the world stage.

Congress, go back to work and make this work. Otherwise, give up your pay and benefits like you have made it necessary for other Americans to do. They are also your constituents and you are destroying their dreams of college for their children and retirement after a lifetime of hard work. Why don’t you pay for your own children’s tuition instead of it coming out of our tax money. You are being hypocrites. The worst of human beings. How many people will die, go hungry, lose their homes because you choose to close the government? America, realize that Congress had a choice and they chose to close our government. If you are working now, they chose it. If your benefits are stopped,, they chose it. Now we, the American people can choose to fight back.

A group of WWll veterans arrived in Washington DC today to visit the World War ll war memorial. This means a lot to these men.  It was closed because all National Parks and Memorials are closed due to Congress. These men stormed the memorial and the barracades were taken down. They don’t have time to play games. I am so proud of them.

The Republicans are holding the American people and our President hostage.  Stop the hypocricy.

The Republicans are holding the American people and our President hostage.
Stop the hypocrisy.

Please voice your opinions and let us raise hell and make Congress hear us.

The United States Government is closed.

The United States Government is closed.

You’re Fired!


Introducing our Congress

Introducing our Congress

Well, right here in the United States of America, land of the people, for the people, and by the people, we have experienced a slap across our collective faces. Our Congress is made up of men and women who have been duly elected to the House and Senate to protect and ensure our best interests as we see them.

The elected officials we put into office have walked out. They just got up and all went back to their homes. Congress is now closed. “Gone Fishing”.I don’t know about any of you but I am highly annoyed.

Our Founding Fathers did not make a Congress that would run away when things got tough.

Our Founding Fathers did not make a Congress that would run away when things got tough.

When was the last time you have ever heard of anyone just walking away from their jobs and not performing their job descriptions? Have you ever done that and kept your job? Well this is what the man and women we elected to the House and Senate have done.

Someone in the press corps asked President Obama why he didn’t stop them and he said.  he is not a distator, but a President. He couldn’t have the Secret Service block the doors.

Our Congress has hit a new low. They are speaking with their actions, which is stronger and truer than any words that might fall out of their selfish mouths.

I am disgusted with them and I feel we need to all speak up and let Congress know and each state has their House Representatives and Senators. Tell them to get off their bottoms and to get back to work. We pay their salaries and we are not happy. This may not be a major election year, but some Congressmen and Senators will be up for re-election in 2114.  2116 is coming and if they can not handle performing their job descriptions, they we will find true patriots and selfless Americans who will.

Grow up Congress. You are being paid big salaries, have the best health care in the country and your children go to school on our dime, while we have to struggle to put our children and grandchildren through college. You disgust me and should be ashamed of yourselves.

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A Garden of Her Own


Photography by Barbara Mattio

I confess the title is a twist on Virginia Woolf’s A Room of Her Own. However, times have changed a lot since the days when Woolf was writing. In Woolf’s time, there was still the concept of a woman having a room where she took care of no one else and could peruse the few things in life considered appropriate for young ladies and women.  It as also a world where we were wearing corsets and breathing was a skill and swooning was the inability of the lungs to acquire the proper amount of oxygen. This also made physical exercise beyond a sedate walk quite an impossibility. So times have changed and we have changed.

The media has, of course, changed much of what happened in the 1970’s. A time came when we, who were feminists were called FemiNazis because we were expected to line up and get in our places. Being a feminist became something that some no longer wanted to admit. We had made a difference, so it was no big deal. Many people spoke up that we can accomplish everything we needed as women.

It is now the twenty-first century.  With the signing of President Obama’s equal pay law, women now will make $0.77 for every dollar a man makes for equal work. In the 1970”’s, we made $0.67 for every dollar a man made.

We worked to give women choices in the 1970’s. Many women stayed home with the children then. Many thought they were slowly losing their minds. A book called The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan came out and changed the prospects of American women. It was, for me an” aha! ” moment. Women were capable and many wanted choices. To stay home with your children, to go into the workplace, or to do both. Over the years, big business has made it almost an impossibility not to have two family incomes. So we don’t really now have the choices we worked for.

The grassroots movement against Domestic Violence began in the 1970’s and many women were able to seek legal recourse, to receive counseling, have a support system that let her start again where she and her children would be safe. We used educational programs and training for educating local police departments on how to safely answer a Domestic Violence call. Historically, more officers are injured answering a Domestic call that any other type of call.
In the twenty-first century, Domestic Violence is on the rise. FBI stats document this fact. Young women don’t understand Domestic Violence and don’t realize that when they are pushed, shoved, kicked, slapped, humiliated or even called demeaning names they are victims of Domestic Violence.

We are once again fighting for the ability to control our own bodies. They are after all, ours. We and our bodies have become a pawn in national politics and this fact is so distressing. Congress wants to be able to tell us when we can go to a doctor and when we can have procedures. They even want to be able to tell us when to have procedures.

So, we all need a room or a garden of our own. I think of my daughters and I know that they are not wearing corsets but between the demands of running a home, having a career (for those who have chosen this path), and children and husbands, they need some space for themselves. I believe that we all need the room and a garden of one’s own can be a fragrant, colorful, non-political place to breathe, be true to yourself, make decisions, and give hurried, pressured lives a time of rest and relaxation. I encourage you to try it. It also is a soothing balm for the soul.

Photography by Barbara MattioPhotography by Barbara Mattio