Issues

CDC Releases Sobering Report on Gun Suicide
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The Centers for Disease Control released what is called their Morbidity and Mortality report on Firearm Homicides and Suicides in Major Metropolitan Areas, comparing data from 2012-13 with data from 2015-16. The overall summary shows that - especially when it comes to gun suicide, things are moving in the wrong direction:

During [2015-16], suicide was the 10th leading cause of death nationally among all persons aged ≥10 years and the second leading cause among youths; a firearm injury was the underlying cause of death in 50% of all suicides and in 42% of youth suicides. Previously observed increases in firearm suicide rates among persons of all ages continued in recent years, both nationally and in large MSAs [Metropolitan Statistical Areas] collectively; youth firearm suicide rates also increased both nationally and in large MSAs overall. In contrast to firearm homicide rates, firearm suicide rates among persons of all ages and among youths in the large MSAs overall have both remained lower than corresponding national rates. This is consistent with previous research showing that rates of suicide, considering all causes, have been persistently lower in more urban areas than in less urban areas.

The study specifically identifies “access to firearms by persons at risk for harming themselves and others” as a likely cause of these numbers, and an entire paragraph of the report reads like a plea for gun regulation:

Reducing access to lethal means during an acute suicidal crisis by safely storing firearms or temporarily removing them from the home can help reduce suicide risk, particularly among youths. Preventing persons convicted of or under a restraining order for domestic violence from possessing a firearm has been associated with reductions in intimate partner-related homicide, including firearm homicide. Efforts to strengthen the background check system to better identify persons convicted of violent crimes or at risk for harming themselves or others might also prevent lethal firearm violence, although these policies need further study.

Pennsylvania's Casey Reaffirms Commitment to Tougher Gun Laws

From Natasha Brown, CBS3 Philly:

[Sen. Bob] Casey’s agenda includes fighting for tougher gun laws while respecting the Second Amendment rights.

“We have got to have a universal background check bill that should be in place, a limitation on the magazine so you don’t have one person able to shoot hundreds of bullets in a public place,” explained Casey.

Pittsburgh Weighs Going It Alone on Gun Regulation

After the Tree of Life Synagogue murders, elected officials in Pittsburgh are considering how to avoid state-level preemption laws in order to strengthen gun regulation in the city. From Jon Delano, KDKA:

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Mayor Peduto alluded to stronger gun control measures at the Rally for Peace last Friday.

“Strength is not about how many guns you have,” the mayor said. “Strength is made by the compassion of your heart. And let us gather today to make sure as we move forward, we move forward as one America, working on common sense reform that will end this type of violence.”

It’s still unclear what city officials are planning, says Councilman Corey O’Connor, who’s working with the mayor.

Shira Goodman, who is the executive director of CeaseFire PA, pointed to specific weak points in current state law, including license and permitting, waiting periods, training requirements, and background check loopholes. The barrier to Pittsburgh taking action on its own is that state law prevents cities from passing stronger gun regulations than the state. Combined with national legislation like Concealed Carry Reciprocity, preemption laws are another mechanism to subvert local control when it comes to gun regulation and force a one-size-fits-all approach to firearm laws in areas of states with dramatically different priorities when it comes to the issue.

If and how the city can get around these restrictions remains to be seen, and will set a precedent for other cities who are tired of having their rights to protect their people restricted.

Jemel Roberson was a Good Guy With a Gun. Now He's Dead.

By now, you’ve probably seen or heard about the tragic death of Jemel Roberson in Illinois. Jemel was, by all accounts, the quintessential example of “a good guy with a gun.” A security guard with designs on becoming a police officer, he was doing his job over the weekend - protecting the patrons of Manny’s Blue Bar - when he was shot and killed by police officers who mistook him for a criminal.

 Photo by Avontea Boose

Photo by Avontea Boose

Jemel was 26 years old, a new dad, in uniform, licensed to carry his firearm. Now, he’s another gun violence statistic, and it is impossible to ignore the role that race may have played in the shooting.

Witnesses say Roberson was wearing his uniform, including a hat emblazoned with the word "security," and was holding a firearm he was licensed to carry.

Midlothian police confirmed that two officers responded to the scene at the bar on Sunday and that one of them opened fire.

"Everybody was screaming out 'Security!' " Harris told WGN. "And they still did their job, and saw a black man with a gun, and basically killed him."

Jemel’s death also brings up the broader issue of “good guys with guns.” It’s not difficult to envision this exact scenario playing out with an armed teacher, in the chaos of the aftermath of another school shooting. Or a concealed carry holder doing what the NRA has told us time and again is the rationale for being armed in public - defending himself - when police arrive. Combine the fact that law enforcement use their weapons in this country with greater frequency than elsewhere in the world with the continued issue of shooting first and asking questions later, and the conclusion is inescapable - it’s just as dangerous to be a good guy with a gun as a bad guy with a gun. Statistically, this danger is far greater if you’re African American.

Jemel’s family has sued the officer who killed him, as well as the department:

The Cook County Sheriff's Office is handling the criminal investigation of the original shooting, while the State Police Public Integrity Task Force is investigating the police-involved shooting.

Roberson's family said in addition to the holding the officer who shot him responsible, his family wants Roberson to be remembered as a hero.

His family and friends believe there was a racial element to the situation because the cop who shot him was white. Law enforcement has not confirmed the race of the officer.

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $1 million.

Dems Look to Move Quickly on Background Checks

“The nation's latest mass shooting has rekindled the fire under Democrats to use their newly won majority to strengthen federal gun laws in the next Congress,” The Hill reports.

[Rep. Mike] Quigley is all for pushing bold reforms, including a ban on assault weapons, but is promoting the idea of securing early victories on more popular measures.

“Let’s start where we have some commonality,” he said. “The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners, the majority of NRA [National Rifle Association] members support universal background checks.

“That’s a good place to start.”

Last month, 86% of the country said that they would be more inclined to vote for a candidate who wants to require universal background checks on gun purchases. Last Tuesday, they did exactly that. The mandate on this issue (and many others related to gun regulation) is pretty clear. Everyone knows the politics of the Senate make any legislation that would restrict firearms a tough lift, but there’s no reason a Democratic-controlled House can’t move this type of bill.

Washington Voters Passed a Raft of Stricter Gun Regulations

Obviously, the biggest story of last Tuesday played out in hundreds of individual races between candidates that decided the legislative future of individual states and the nation as a whole. But one of the must under-reported stories when it comes to attempts to regulate firearms has been some creative ways activists and municipalities have taken the issue directly to voters.

  Photo by David Ryder for Crosscut

Photo by David Ryder for Crosscut

The best example of this was in Washington, where the passage of Initiative 1639 could usher in a number of new laws , including raising the minimum age for purchase, toughening background checks, mandate a waiting period, and generally speaking vault Washington to among the nation’s foremost gun regulating states. The fight, however, is not over:

Though the initiative passed, its final outcome is likely to drag beyond November. Opponents have already been mulling lawsuits, mostly on the accusation that raising the purchasing age of firearms is a constitutional violation.

It would not be the first legal battle faced by the initiative. Opponents challenged the measure to try and block it from the ballot. A Thurston County judge sided with them in August, tossing out the measure. But the state Supreme Court overturned that ruling.

“There’s likely going to be additional work to get it implemented,” said Paul Kramer, the initiative’s citizen sponsor, whose son was injured in the 2016 Mukilteo shooting. “It’s not necessarily a slam dunk. But I have every intention to see it through to the end.”

Broad Coalition Favors New Gun Regulation

From NBC News:

Most voters in today's midterm election — 60 percent — support stricter gun control policies, according to early results from the the NBC News Exit Poll. This includes 42 percent of gun owners in addition to 76 percent of those who do not own a gun. 

Gun policy trails other issues as the top concern for midterm voters, the poll found. Just one in 10 voters named it as the most important issue facing the country, according to early results. These voters, though, are proving to be a key voting bloc for Democrats in this year’s House contests. More than seven in 10 voters who put gun policy at the top of their issue list voted for the Democrat today in the House race in their district. Just 28 percent voted for the Republican.

Study: Guns Send 8,300 Children To Hospitals Annually

Maggie Fox, NBC News:

Gunshot wounds put an average of 8,300 U.S. kids into the hospital every year, according to a new analysis released Monday.

Close to half of them were shot on purpose and another 40 percent were shot accidentally, the researchers reported. Six percent of those who made it to the hospital died, the team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported.

“While mass shootings garner significant media and social attention, unfortunately they’re not a good reflection of the actual burden of firearm-related injuries. In our study, we found that for every 100,000 teenagers and children arriving to the emergency department, 11 come for a gun-related injury,” said Dr. Faiz Gani, who worked on the study.

"Bullying that Escalated Out of Control"

WCNC (Charlotte, NC):

The superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said the deadly shooting at Butler High School Monday morning was a bullying incident gone "out of control".

Matthews Police identified the suspect as 16-year-old Jatwan Cuffie and the victim as 16-year-old Bobby McKeithen. Police said Cuffie shot McKeithen during a fight; McKeithen later died. Cuffie was charged with first-degree murder.

The school was placed on lockdown around 8 a.m. That lockdown was lifted a little before 9:30 a.m. as hundreds of frustrated parents stormed the front doors of Butler High. A group of students said they were able to get out of the building as parents began to make their way inside to pick them up. One large crowd of parents marched onto Butler's campus from nearby Elevation Church after being asked to stay at the church by police and school administrators.

North Carolina has suffered 9,492 shooting incidents so far in 2018, and 390 teens have been killed or injured by firearms in a state that receives a D- from the Giffords Law Center for the strength of its gun laws.

Missoula (MT) Bans Firearms in Public Places, at Electoral Events

From Cheryl Hinneburg, American Military News:

On Monday, Montana’s Missoula City Council banned all firearms in public places when they approved two new laws.

The two laws will ban anyone from possessing a firearm in public assemblies or anywhere that the City Council may gather. This will include places like museums, public parks, libraries, and during any events that are related to elections.

The laws supersede previous laws that only banned weapons in City Hall and private school buildings. The final vote was 8-3.

From Eve Byron, The Missoulian:

Council member Julie Merritt proposed the changes in September as both an emergency amendment and an update to an existing city ordinance after concerns were raised about open and concealed carrying of weapons in polling places. Weapons aren’t allowed in schools, where many polling places are. But there are also voting sites that are not school based.

"It was brought to our attention that the county attorneys office fields quite a few questions from the public about concealed carry in certain places, including polling places," Merritt said.

She wanted to clarify and expand the ordinance to include polling places as well as other public places. The emergency amendment route was needed in order to have the ordinance in place by the Nov. 6 election.

Backflipping Substitute Teacher Drops Gun on Florida Playground

From Josh Rojas, Bay News 9:

The mother of an Anona Elementary School student in Largo said her daughter was just a few feet away from a substitute teacher when a loaded gun fell out of his waistband onto the playground on Tuesday. 

“He was teaching us how to do a flip and when he demonstrated it all you see is a gun pop out of his pocket,” Imogen [Ference, 8] said. “He said, ‘shhh, don’t tell anyone’ and then he dropped down on the ground and picked it back up and put it back in his pants.”

This isn’t even the first time someone doing a backflip has lost a gun this year, but unlike that occasion, fortunately nobody was hurt this time. This news comes on the same day the city of Pittsburgh bucked a recent trend by voting not to allow armed officers in schools.

Board Overwhelmingly Decides Pittsburgh School Officers Won't Be Armed

From Natasha Lindstrom at Trib Live:

Pittsburgh Public Schools will not be arming its school police officers with guns.

On a 1-8 vote Wednesday night, the board that oversees the district of about 24,000 students nixed a proposal to provide guns to school officers stationed at high school campuses as well as in mobile units that respond to incidents across the district’s 54 schools.

Board member Moira Kaleida suggested that arming police with guns in schools could be detrimental to some students, particularly those who have experienced trauma. She also had concerns that the move could negatively impact students of color and children with disabilities.

The vote was the result of a request from the district police chief earlier this month, but board members expressed concern about the change armed officers in schools would have on the student’s well-being. A federal study showed that armed officers were present at least once a week in 43% of public schools in 2015-16, up from just 31% ten years prior.

Catholic Bishops Endorse I-1639

From the Catholic News Service:

The Catholic bishops of Washington state endorsed a ballot initiative that would boost gun safety measures and restrict the purchase and ownership of firearms.

Citing numerous incidents of mass shootings in recent years nationwide and in Washington, the bishops said their stance is rooted in Catholic social teaching on the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death, which “demands that the Catholic Church engage in solutions to help prevent these horrific occurrences.”

Initiative 1639 (technically the Changes to Gun Ownership and Purchase Requirements Measure) calls for expanding background checks, mandates safety training for gun ownership, promotes safe storage rules, and raises the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic assault rifle to 21 years old. It will be voted on November 6 by all residents of Washington state.

Utah Killing at Nexus of Domestic Violence and Guns

From the Associated Press:

A University of Utah student who was shot and killed on campus by a former boyfriend had filed a police complaint against him after she learned he was a sex offender and broke off the relationship, authorities said Tuesday.

Lauren McCluskey, 21, was found shot in a car Monday night near on-campus student housing. Her attacker, 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, killed himself overnight at a church when police tracked him down after linking him to the killing through a description, clothing and evidence at the scene, authorities said.

The killer was on parole and legally prohibited from owning a gun, and it’s unclear how and where he got one. The murder comes just a month after another ex-convict pleaded guilty to killing a different University of Utah student with a stolen gun.

On average, 50 women in the US are shot and killed by a current or former partner. While Utah prohibits convicted felons from possessing weapons, it lacks an extreme risk protection order law, and weapons prohibitions related to domestic violence do not extend to crimes committed against boyfriends or girlfriends.

Maryland's ERPO Invoked in Case of Teen Who Threatened School Shooting

From Bethesda Magazine:

A Montgomery County judge on Monday ordered a Rockville teen to remain in custody and deemed him a danger to the community following a series of social media threats he allegedly made against students at Bethesda’s Walter Johnson High School, including posting a photo of himself carrying an AR-15 rifle with loaded magazines and the words, “school shooter.”

This case was an early test for Maryland’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law that went into effect on October 1. The law allows a judge to require a person to surrender firearms and ammunition they possess and prevents them from purchasing more while under a civil order.

Gun laws work.

(h/t March for Our Lives: Annapolis MD)

Young Americans Driving Gun Safety as an Electoral Issue

PR Newswire:

A new national poll of young Americans (14- to 29- years-old) finds that school shootings are the most concerning issue when they think about the future of America and that voting age respondents are likely to carry these concerns into voting booths in the midterm elections.  The survey also found broad support for stricter gun laws, even among gun owners.

The comprehensive study, directed by John Della Volpe, CEO of SocialSphere and Director of Polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, began in June 2018 with six focus groups and town meetings with young Americans in Atlanta, Columbus and Los Angeles.

More from the study:

  • 70% of young Americans believe gun laws should be more strict, including 71% that are of voting age.

  • 67% of 18-to-29 year olds say school shootings are “one of America’s most pressing issues”

  • 46% have participated in a school shooting drill, but only 16% say it made them feel safer.

Court Deals Big Loss to the NRA
  Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Last July, Seattle passed a law saying that responsible gun owners had to be responsible with the guns they owned, keeping them locked up or facing a $500 fine. The fine jumped to $1,000 if a minor was allowed access to the weapon, and $10,000 if their weapon was used during the course of a crime. It was, in the words of Seattle Attorney Pete Holmes “eminently reasonable legislation meant to protect the children and the vulnerable.”

Naturally, the NRA sued. And last week, King County Superior Court Judge Barbara Linde threw the lawsuit out.

“As we take urgent action to save lives, our courts have sided with Seattle over the NRA,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan in response to the dismissal. “We will continue to work with our partners to stop irresponsible legal challenges to this commonsense, life-saving measure.”

An appeal is likely, but for now courts have yet to officially weigh in on the legality of the Seattle law.

Pew: Gun Regulations are Broadly Popular

Gun regulation is almost always painted as a “divisive issue.” It’s part of the reason why campaigns and candidates have been hesitant to give it weight on par with jobs, or the economy, or healthcare. But a recent poll from Pew Research found that not only do more Americans hold controlling gun ownership as more important than gun rights, but that there is broad, bipartisan support for badly needed reforms,

Among Republicans:

  • 89% agree the mentally ill should be prevented from owning guns (89% among Democrats)

  • 83% favor banning individuals on the no fly list from purchasing guns (86%)

  • 79% support background checks for private sales and at gun shows (91%)

  • 58% favor the creation of a federal database to track gun sales (88%)

  • 51% support banning high capacity magazines (81%)

  • 50% favor a ban on assault weapons (81%)