Jessica Davis’s oldest son spent ten years in jail for shooting another man. She herself was questioned by police over a gun that, to this day, she believes her daughter bought and hid for a boyfriend.* So for Davis, joining Boston’s “Operation LIPSTICK,” which launched in April 2012, was personal.
Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killings is the product of a partnership between Boston’s Citizens for Safety and the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, with grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice. Leaders of the organization say they aim to educate women about the dangers of “buying, concealing, storing, and holding” guns on behalf of men in their lives who, because of felony records, are prohibited from purchasing firearms themselves. Buying a gun for such an individual is called “straw purchasing,” and it’s illegal.
Read more. [Image: Andrew Kelly/Reuters]
How was he allowed to buy a gun?
It’s the question people are asking after learning that Aaron Alexis, the shooter in the Washington Navy Yard massacre Monday, had been involved in at least two prior shooting incidents and as recently as August sought the assistance of police in Rhode Island because he was hearing voices.
The answer is simple: He walked into the Sharpshooters gun range and store in Newington, Virginia, submitted his name to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, on which 174,623,643 background checks have been run since 1998, and came up clean. His gun incidents never led to criminal convictions. He was not a resident of Virginia and did not show up in any state databases. Whatever mental issues he had, they did not rise to the level of an involuntary commitment or a legal judgment that he was “mentally defective.” When he sought medical care for insomnia in recent weeks, he denied being depressed or thinking of hurting himself or others.
As gun rights advocates have been quick to point out, nothing in Congress’s failed spring effort to extend background checks would have stopped Alexis’s ability to purchase the weapon he used to launch the slaughter of 12 innocent people starting their workday at a military installation.
This is the great problem at the heart of efforts to turn improved mental health reporting into our primary form of gun control.
Read more. [Image: Mike Theiler/Reuters]
Even peaceful Switzerland is reeling from mass murders, and voters are demanding change. Public-health research on firearm deaths is notoriously inconclusive, but it’s safe to say that more guns make for more bodies: High firearm-death rates (totaling suicides, homicides, and accidental deaths) correlate with high levels of gun ownership, at least among countries belonging to the European Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The link between gun ownership and gun murderis fuzzier: Gun-loving Finland has more than twice as many firearms as Portugal, but the Finns have only half as many gun murders per capita. Income, development, and culture appear to drive gun-crime rates more than simple gun availability.
Explore the data at Bloomberg Businessweek
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate an ATF director.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health."
People argue that we obviously need better gun control. It’s hard to reasonably counter a statement like, “If fewer people had guns, there would be fewer people shooting them.” What if there were no guns? We’d find other ways to kill each other, sure, but the scope and scale would be different. But this is not a post about gun control, it’s about the hopelessness and powerlessness we feel in the wake of these instances. Guns are a means by which we make it easier to hurt each other. We should make it harder to hurt each other; we should also figure out why we do that stuff in the first place. That’s really difficult though, maybe impossible, so instead we rage about idiot legislation or lack thereof; we rage about the “politicizing” of issues that, of course, are political issues to start with. Pro-gun people become even more firmly entrenched and defensive and sure of “rights”; anti-gun people can’t understand why they don’t see what appears pure fact. Could we all just please stop shooting each other?
Read more. [Image: AP]
Why do we spend at least 1,000 times more money protecting ourselves from terrorism than we do protecting ourselves from gun violence? I’m not necessarily suggesting that we spend less on anti-terrorism programs. Like everyone else, I am grateful there have been no mass casualty terror events since 9/11. I’m just wondering, instead, what possible justification there could be for spending so relatively little to try to reduce the casualties of gun violence. […]
Our government has asked us consistently since 9/11 to sacrifice individual liberties and freedom, constitutional rights to privacy for example, in the name of national security. And we have ceded these liberties. Yet that same government in that same time hasn’t asked anyone to sacrifice some Second Amendment rights to help protect innocent victims from gun violence.