Tag Archives: Common Sense Gun Laws

Gutless on Guns

Published / by Stephen

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What are the Senators and Representatives thinking? 300 mass shootings in 3 years. Forget “thoughts and prayers.” There is a solution — Recognize that children have a right to education and to feel safe. Regulate gun ownership and insure that it is an earned privilege not a right. The second amendment does not prohibit gun regulation.

How about no assault rifles; no automatic or semi-automatic weapons; serious background checks (minimum age, mental health, criminal record, etc.; require non-perpetual licensing and training;  no political donations from gun manufactures and from the NRA.

I have lost total respect for both congressional parties. It is time to listen to kids, teachers and the police. They are afraid and rightfully so. Republican politicians only fear loosing NRA money and the votes of gun nuts!

It is way past time to standup to the gun lobby, congress and the gun nuts. We have to do something meaningful, something to protect our children — Enough is enough!

Also see Guns, Mental Illness & Public Policy and NYT Opinion Today Feb. 15, 2018

Guns, Mental Illness & Public Policy

Published / by Stephen

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“It is not a gun problem. it is a Muslim problem, a mental health problem, another kind of problem.” Wrong! It is a gun problem. People are being increasingly massacred by people using guns especially rapid fire guns.

Identifying specific individuals who are a  gun violence risk is a fools task. Three items below address why.

1. SF Chronicle Nov. 6, 2017 -Trump wrong to blame mass killings on mental illness rather than guns,

Exerts follow:

President Trump on Monday attributed the slaughter of 26 people in a Texas church — the nation’s third mass killing in five weeks — to “a mental health problem,” saying it wasn’t a “guns situation.”

“He’s wrong on two counts,” said Michael Stone, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and author of “The Anatomy of Evil,” who has studied 360 of the most notorious mass murders of the past century. “It is a gun issue. And there are very few mass murderers who are certifiably crazy.”

…Trump “is not the only person who jumps to that conclusion. It is a popular misconception that people who commit mass shootings must be crazy,” said Liza Gold, a forensic psychiatrist who teaches at Georgetown University and edited “Gun Violence and Mental Illness.”

“Most gun violence — 98 percent — is not attributable to people with mental illness,” Gold said Monday.

2. SF Chronicle Nov 6, 2017 – As the killing continues, time to say ‘Enough!

This editorial helps to put the problem & policy issue in perspective. Exerts follow:

Shootings, both the headline-grabbing and the sadly routine kind, happen for infinite reasons — and no reason. In a small town outside San Antonio, the mass murderer appears to have been motivated by a grudge. In Orlando, Fla., last year, another claimed allegiance to the Islamic State. In Blacksburg, Va., a decade ago, still another showed symptoms of severe mental illness. And in Las Vegas a month ago, the shooter left such a paucity of clues as to his motive that authorities are puzzling over it to this day.

The multitude of potential reasons speaks to the futility of the question from a policy standpoint. Targeting the mentally ill at best affects a tiny fraction of crimes and an incalculable number of people who have never contemplated such a thing.

Gun deaths can be made far rarer by rationally restricting access to weapons. According to U.N. data, an American is about six times more likely than a Canadian to die in a gun homicide, 18 times more likely than an Australian, and 35 times more likely than an Englishman.

{After the Sutherland Springs Shooting] Trump weakly offered that the killing “would have been much worse” if an armed bystander hadn’t intervened, as if we should take comfort that this shooting didn’t break the top four. He asserted that it was “too soon to get into” questions of gun policy.

We’ve heard that refrain after Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Aurora and too many other massacres. We’ve heard enough thoughts and prayers. The 1994 assault weapon ban expired after a decade, with Congress too timid to act, because it’s never “the right time.”

If not now, when? We’ve seen enough horror inflicted on everyone from schoolchildren to worshipers in a small-town church.

We know what these weapons can do, how ubiquitous they have become, and how easily they can end up in the wrong hands.

3. The Likelihood of Identifying High Risk Individuals — Consider The Following

Trump and the Congress keep offering non-action and non-solutions such as “Extreme Vetting” and of all things Prayers. The absurdity of a “prayers policy” is obvious. Screening groups to identify high risk individuals is less obvious but also absurd. To see this it takes a bit of math — I know Trump and Republicans are not into into science stuff but consider the following:

Suppose you have some method that allows you to identify individuals as potential gun violence threats and the method is 99% accurate.

Also suppose that for a target population (e.g., criminals, people with mental health issues, Muslims, the general population) your pre-screening assessment is that about 10 in 1,000,000 individuals are a threat for gun violence and should be dealt with in some fashion – a policy.

After applying “the assessment method” the questions are: (1) what is the chance that serious threats are identified and (2) what is the chance that non-treats are mistaken to be threats. Bayes’ Theorem provides a rigorous method for computing these likelihoods.

Specifically given my hypothetical assumption that 10 in 1,000,000 are a threat. In a group of one million there is actually only 10 persons who are are a serious threat. Of these 10 people, assuming that the “assessment method” is 99% accurate, 9.9 will on average be identified as threats. For the remaining population (non-threats) 9,999.9 will also be identified as threats. Thus the method will identify 10,010 individuals as threats but the chance of actually being a treat given that the method identified you as a threat is 10/10,010 or 0.0001 or .01 percent.

This example demonstrates that for a group of people where individuals with a proclivity to commit gun violence are rare, a policy to identify the high risk individuals even if the vetting is 99% accurate, is problematical — in my example only 1 in 1,000 of the individuals  identified as high risk are actually high risk.

Maybe gun control makes sense. Identifying the specific individuals who are threats is a fools task. Limiting access to certain kinds of weapons is not.

Gun Rights & The 2nd Amendment

Published / by Stephen

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David Ropeik read and published his observations about the Supreme Court ruling: District of Columbia v. Heller. In the interest of more rational gun laws and regulations Ropeik suggests that everyone read his article as well as the court ruling.

Ropeik introduces the subject by stating that:

There is no question that District of Columbia v. Heller was precisely the sort of judicial activism the conservative justices of the Supreme Court promised not to do. In a 5 to 4 decision those justices ruled that the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to own guns for personal self-defense, despite the amendment’s opening language – “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, ” –  which pretty clearly says that gun ownership was specifically preserved by the founding fathers in the interest of the common defense against a tyrannical government (remember, this was the issue on their minds back then). Gun rights advocates cheered. Gun control advocates cried foul.

However he points out that the ruling does not grant unlimited rights to own guns. Specifically, Ropeik quotes parts of  pp. 54 and 55 of the ruling:

…  the majority opinion, written by conservative bastion Justice Antonin Scalia, states:  “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…”. It is “…not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

 “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller (an earlier case) said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time”. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’ ” 

The court even recognizes a long-standing judicial precedent “…to consider… prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons.”

I recommend reading Ropeik’s article as well as the court ruling. It seems that Congress and NRA are way out of line with what the courts intended.



A Call For Common-Sense Gun Laws

Published / by Stephen

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I just sent the following letter to President Trump, Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan:

Dear President Trump, Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell

It a time that you broke your blood oath with the NRA. For once do something meaningful for the country. Fix the gun problem. The second amendment allows for states to form militias (we have National Guards) it does not say anything about individuals being a militia unto themselves (in spite of the convoluted District of Columbia V. Heller ruling).

I grew up in Wyoming and have owned a gun and hunted extensively when I was younger. I have always been in favor of common senses rules with regard to guns. These include:

1. A ban on all assault weapons – weapons designed specifically for the sole purpose of killing people.
2. Require that the ATF track all gun purchases by individuals
3. A ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons
4. A requirment that individuals have a license to own and use a gun and only for sporting purposes
5. No guns for the mentally ill.

Australia fixed their gun problem. Let’s fix ours!