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I don’t own a gun. I never want to own a gun. I don’t want to live in a household with a gun. I’ve talked to too many grieving mothers and fathers to ever want anything to do with guns.

Yes, bad people kill. But we all bear responsibility for gun violence. The majority of guns used in local crimes were legally purchased in the Rochester region. They ended up on the streets through things like burglaries, car break-ins and thefts by family members who sell them on the streets for drugs. If the Livingston County Sheriff can get his guns stolen out of his car at Marketplace Mall, it can happen to anyone. The gun used to shoot Officer Anthony DiPonzio was stolen from a legal owner’s house on Avenue D.

Legal guns end up being illegal all the time – with deadly consequences. This year alone in Rochester, a couple dozen people have been shot and killed. A couple hundred more have survived shootings. The toll of gun violence on our city is devastating.

GunAmericans do have the right to own guns and a debate over that right won’t be productive. But in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, I don’t understand why anyone has a right to own weapons capable of mowing down classrooms and theaters full of people. The guns used in the Sandy Hook shooting belonged to his mother. The New York Daily News reports:

“The damage these weapons can do is just horrific,” firearms expert Ronald Scott said.

All three are highly lethal weapons manufactured for combat and to stop criminals. The semi-automatic Glock and SIG Sauer are the two most popular firearms used by law enforcement officers around the country and by private gun owners, said Scott.

The Glock, made in Austria, and the American-made SIG Sauer can fire up to five bullets a second at a velocity of 1,200 feet a second.

(Assault weapons are banned in the City of Rochester.)

We must – we have to – talk about guns. Our society is obsessed with safety and minimizing risk, but not when it comes to guns. Why not make sure no one can kill dozens of people in the blink of an eye?

Those who want to talk about gun violence are not insensitive or politicizing a tragedy. We all cried today, didn’t we? I just don’t know how we talk about this incident without talking about guns. I don’t think the discussion should be limited to stemming mass shootings, but it’s a start.

Links about the Newtown Tragedy and gun violence:

It’s important to remember schools are very safe.

– “I came to realize that, in essence, this is the way we in America want things to be.” – Father of a student killed in a mass shooting in 1992.

An Onion piece captures the way many felt today. (Warning: Strong language.)

– The United States spends 1,000 times more on fighting terrorism than it does on gun violence, even though the latter’s toll is far higher.

57 Responses to Talk About Guns

  1. Wow-I feel the same way! When I met my husband the one issue above all others was his opinion on guns. I felt this one issue was more important than religion, kids, finances. My opinions stemmed from a traumatic experience that I never wanted to relive.

  2. December 14, 2012 at 10:04 pm Robert Rice responds:

    The problem I have with that statement, is the fact that any one person can kill anyone, with anything. Walk into Walmart with $50 and buy enough material to make a small IED.

    Do we ban shopping at Walmart?

    We have heard all the arguments on both sides. It has to come down to compromise. Unless you outright ban all public use of firearms, there’s not much we can do.

  3. Both the Glock and SIG Sauer are pistols, not assault weapons. They fire once each time the trigger is pulled. The actual events and how the weapons were used have not been revealed by the police as yet.

    The .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle was found in a car and appears to have had no role in the shooting. While it may be termed an “assault weapon”, it, too, only fires one round each time the trigger is pulled.

    Now is not the time to discuss gun control while so many families are grieving the loss of their loved ones. If we must discuss the issue, we should also consider banning knives since that was the weapon used in a similar killing spree in China today.

    • So when is the right time to talk about guns? When will it ever be appropriate? Do we need to wait until the next school shooting or will that not be the right time either?

      Isn’t it appropriate to talk about this now so that we can at least try to work together to prevent something like this from repeating itself?

      I think it would be inappropriate to NOT talk about this because these children and other victims were killed by gun(s). Yes there was a person shooting them, but obviously there is a weak link somewhere because people continually get ahold of guns and do things like this. I’m not suggesting an “all-out total ban on guns” at all. The vast majority of legal gun holders act appropriately and responsibly. It’s just the few that don’t (I’m not suggesting the shooter’s mother was not acting responsibly or anything, just speaking as a general statement).

      What I’m saying is we need to, as a country, come together to figure out some options to improve this because what we have now is obviously not working.

      If speaking about guns is not the right answer, what is the solution?

  4. December 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm M Underwood responds:

    The pistols used in this are not assault weapons and are not banned in Rochester. These weapons are carried by many Citizens everydayfor their own protection. Weapons are not the problem, evil people are the problem.

  5. December 14, 2012 at 10:35 pm M Underwood responds:

    The citu code you linked to only applies to rifles and shotguns. The guns that were mentioned (Sig Sauer and Glock) are handguns and not covered. In fact The City of Rochester bans handgun nagazines over 17 rounds, this number came from the fact that the Glock 17 had a 17 round magazine and the Council dud not want to outlaw it.

  6. December 14, 2012 at 10:38 pm RaChaCha responds:

    My grandfather, a Republican (and who ran for governor of PA) HATED guns — never wanted his children or grandchildren to have anything to do with them. Now, loving guns is almost expected of Republicans. Perhaps this incident will finally begin to pry Republicans from the NRA’s cold dead hands — as the 2012 election & “fiscal cliff” have begun to pry them from the clutches of Grover Norquist on taxes.

    Several years ago, I was instrumental in blocking an unstable individual from getting a pistol permit. I took a lot of heat for my involvement in that, but don’t regret it for a moment. We’re fortunate in New York to have relatively tough laws on who can legally purchase & keep firearms — including strong background check requirements — having similar laws nationwide wouldn’t be a bad thing.

  7. Banning firearms would only prevent law abiding citizens from protecting themselves; criminals will get guns no matter what. And even if guns did not exist, those intent on murder and mayhem would simply find another way. (Just look at the Islamic jihadist suicide bomb model.)

    No, it’s not guns, it’s our nihilistic culture. There is no easy fix.

    • The death rate from guns in the USA is 9 / 100,000. In England it is 0.22 / 100,000. England has, perhaps the bloddiest background of any nation on earth, so the culture argument doesn’t really fly.

      I could show you 20 more nations that are similar (including Canada).

      It’s the gun laws. The numbers are very clear.

  8. “But we all bear responsibility for gun violence.”

    How so? Sorry. This is nonsensical. Too broad of a stroke.

    • December 15, 2012 at 2:19 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      I think I explained it by saying legal guns end up in the hands of criminals. Gun owners bear fault for his.

    • Easy…

      Since this is a democracy, and we know how criminals get guns, and we don’t vote in any politician who will address this (it’s the new 3rd rail, even worse than SS reform now), we are all responsible.

      Rachel is right.

  9. December 15, 2012 at 7:15 am Joel McLellan responds:

    Not all gun owners can be blamed for guns ending up n the hands of criminals. Irresponsible ones who make no effort to secure their weapons can and should be. Many keep their guns properly secured, stored unloaded with their ammo also secured.

  10. Rachel, do car owners bear the responsibility for auto theft? Or women for for rape? Banks for robbery?

  11. I have been listening to both sides of this argument for 20 years, and nothing changes. The fact is the the USA death rate from gun violence is 9 / 100,000 – which puts us similar to South Africa (9.41). I thought we are the greatest nation on earth?

    So I read many reasons why gun laws similar to nations with much lower death rates won’t work in the United States… Okay, WHAT then WILL work? These mass murders are simply unacceptable in this great nation of ours. I’m open to ideas – but they have to be actionable.

  12. The 2nd amendment is about forming militias not the right for every day people to own guns. And there is no reason that the technology of guns not be taken into account. This man, who seems to have been disabled mentally by Asbergers Syndrome was able to his mother’s guns and shoot down kids in a classroom where she used to work and kill her is intolerable. She probably used the protection excuse too.

    • Actually, if you read the Federalist Papers, you realize the second amendment is to make the cost of the state (or state like power if you take modern corporations into account)turning its guns on the people to enforce its will so onerous that it does not do so.
      Everyone’s (well almost everyone) heart is in the right place here, but I think the best solution is to have better, longer waiting periods (that are actually enforced) and background checks to make sure that the mentally ill do not have access to firearms (and yes, that means you do not get to own them if you live with someone with a serious mental health issue.)

  13. Rachel –

    It looks like about 13,000 people (so far) agree that today IS the day to start this important conversation. See the petition on the White House website:

    Today IS the day to start talking about Gun Policy</a.

  14. December 15, 2012 at 9:58 am RaChaCha responds:

    Without the guns, how would the CT killer have gotten all those bullets into his victims? Put them in candy bars? Just sayin’.

  15. December 15, 2012 at 10:05 am Bob Miller responds:

    I really think that the desire to own an assault weapon of this type should be sufficient to disqualify a person to own one.

  16. It is not that simple. How many times have you read, “He was the last person I ever would have expected to do such a thing!”? Mental illness isn’t always visible; nor are all mentally ill prone to commit unspeakable horrors.

    It is absurd to think that designating an area as “gun-free” guarantees safety. It’s an open invitation to a monster: Come here, we’re all defenseless.

    And again, if not guns, it will just be something else. I don’t like thinking about the endless possibilities. (Remember Tim McVeigh?)

  17. Pingback: Talk About Mental Illness » The Rochesterian

  18. Tough Canadian gun laws have not stopped mass shootings in Canada.

  19. I am frustrated by the suggested knee-jerk reactions to the Newtown shooting as well as the inevitable gun debate that has sparked from this tragedy. Historically, suicidal killers have been successful. In my opinion, the gun debate will always follow any firearm related crime, but the reality (not to mention historic pattern) is that the assailants are planners. If high-capacity firearms were not readily available, I would venture to guess that the assailant would turn to the internet and the thousands of “recipies” available for IED’s that can be made from household items.

    I am especially disturbed by the criticism of school’s security procedures and the “what more could have been done?” type questions. The administration of the school is no more to blame than the manager of a movie theater, McDonald’s, shopping mall or any other “soft” target. The inflammatory one-liners that are being thrown around will not solve anything. The security procedures that most public schools have in place are good and when executed properly will minimize, but not eliminate, casualties. Turning a “soft” target into a “hard” one is not realistic given the budgetary and operational constraints that this would create.

  20. If your 20 yrs old and you want to kill 20 1st graders in a school, you don’t need a gun to do it, you don’t need an assault rifle. You could do it with box cutters or a knife.

    The anti gun / liberal crowd is jumping on a band wagon here and using this incident as a way to take away gun owners rights.

    Again, these were small kids. You don’t need an assault rife, if you set on killing a lot of them.

  21. More laws won’t do anything but make the sheeple feel safe and tale away rights from law abiding citizens. The shooter broke so many laws when he did this, I don’t think a few more would matter. He wasn’t supposed to have the gun on school property, didn’t stop him, murder is illegal didn’t stop him. There are millions of legal gun owners in this country that do the right thing, don’t punish them for a few crazies. Let’s round up the mentally ill just so one of them can’t snap and hurt us. It’s all for safety, who cares if the vast majority of mentally ill are nonviolent, 1 could be.

  22. Have you guys researched this? More laws do work.

    Australia implemented stricter gun standards after a 1996 mass shooting rocked their culture. Gun deaths are down 59% since that time and not a single mass killing since.

    This implies that it can be changed… How else do you explain this?

  23. It can be explained by the fact that mass murders are actually somewhat rare. In any population, a certain number will become mentally unhinged. Some of those will tend toward violence, and they will kill. Again, if not with guns, it will be by other means. Australia is a case in point:
    * Whiskey Au Go Go fire – Fire lit in club killed 15
    * Douglas Crabbe – Truck driver deliberately crashed his truck into a hotel, killing five and badly wounding 16.
    * Russell Street Bombing – 23 wounded when a car bomb ignites outside a Police Building. One of the wounded, a female police officer, died later of injuries from the explosion.
    * Sydney Hilton bombing – Two garbage men were killed and 12 passers-by were injured by a bomb planted in a garbage bin outside the Sydney Hilton Hotel in the 1978. A police officer who was wounded died later.

  24. Right. Thanks for diving into that… But you’re missing the point… ALL of those mass-shooting events from Australia were from BEFORE they tightened their Gun Control laws in 1996… Notice that since 1996, not one mass shooting. And gun deaths overall are down 59% over that 16 year period….

    If this was NOT the result of tighter laws and controls, then please explain.

    • The point is that NONE of the above were shootings – but they WERE mass murders. If someone is deranged and wants to kill, he’ll find a way. Beyond that, I was pointing out that it’s a random and somewhat rare event. Very few mentally ill people will ever do something like this.

  25. Okay.. Got it.. I follow your logic, and it makes sense.

    What about the 59% reduction in gun deaths in Australia since the 1996 legislation then? I agree that this has nothing to do with mass shootings, but it has tons to do with shooting deaths… How do you explain that?

  26. The Australian gun laws are way way to restrictive. I wouldn’t want them and I wouldn’t stand for having to give the government a “legitimate need” for why I want a gun to shoot with. When you need a license for painball guns that’s too restrictive. Sorry, work on better handling the mentally ill and criminals before you want me to give up my rights.

  27. All of these gun violence rate comparisons are meaningless without context. If the US has double the gun-related murder rate compared to Canada, but a 10X higher overall murder rate; that would indicate we actually do better at stopping murder by firearms than Canada (on a per-murder basis)

  28. Cool Bill… That’s the kind of straight talk we need to have on this issue. I like that you are being blunt.

    It’s not that Bill think’s the Australian laws won’t work, it’s that he doesn’t feel giving up the freedom he currently has with guns is worth the 59% decline in deaths they have achieved…

    Hey – That’s the discussion. I appreciate that he’s being honest about it.

  29. Everything is a balancing act. The only people in favor of super restrictive gun laws are those that don’t want to own them. It’s easy to make other people give up things you don’t care about. But since you brought up effectiveness I don’t think it will be. There are other countries with high personal gun ownership that don’t have high death rates like us. We just cant look at other countries and go “gee we should do that and everything will be ok.”

    If we want to lower gun death rates overnight we could just ban African-American gun ownership and possesion. That’d cut rates by 40ish%, but that won’t be popular. We could just ban the poor from owning firearms, they’re statistically more likely to use firearms to kill. But I have a feeling that won’t be popular or effective, they’ll just find another way to kill. Not because they are intrinsically killers, but we aren’t fixing the complex issues that drive the poor and minority Americans to violence. Same with these other gun laws you want, they won’t do much to stop violence. The source of violence in the U.S isn’t guns, its people and the situations they find themselves in. Until we start to recognize this we’ll never stop or limit violence.

    Don’t believe me? Look at the comments on any news article when a burglar is shot by a homeowner or a murder is sentenced. People feel pity for the criminal. Only then will they admit the person wasn’t driven to this by an object, but by other factors.

  30. Now you have me interested.

    “There are other countries with high personal gun ownership that don’t have high death rates like us”

    Who?

  31. Switzerland is the most interesting, in that without a standing army able-bodied men of fighting age are sent home with their military issued full automatic “assault weapon”. Up until 2007 the Swiss government even issued ammunition so that in the event of invasion the militiaman would have ammo to get him from home to the armory to rally up. Now while the means of ownership are different than in the U.S., you can’t get around the fact that swiss citizens have military firearms (not just regular rifles that cosmetically look like military firearms) and ammunition (although in a shrink wrapped “sealed” case to prevent unauthorized use) and they have like 40 some gun related homicides a year. All someone would have to do is break the seal on their ammo and go hog wild shooting up the place, but they don’t. After they are done with service, citizens get the option to keep the firearm, but it is modified to only fire semi-auto (but in wouldn’t be too hard for someone with the know how to modify it back to full auto).

    Now I’m not saying that would fly in the U.S., but I think it goes to show it isn’t the firearm that makes the killer, its the person and until we start looking at people and not the objects we’re only going to deny law abiding citizens while doing little or nothing to stop violence.

    Also this entire debate has neglected the many lawful defensive uses of firearms, with the mall shooting in Oregon coming out as a possible example.

  32. Interesting stuff Bill. Indeed, Switzerland’s death rate from guns is 3.5 / 100,000 citizens. Our is 9 / 100,000. So they are indeed about 3 times safer than here.

    But I think you might have glossed over a few VERY important points:

    “ammunition (although in a shrink wrapped “sealed” case to prevent unauthorized use)”

    Also, isn’t there significant training required?

    Finally, I know it makes people “feel” safer when they are arms, but the statistics don’t support that proposition. That’s not how it usually goes.

  33. The ammunition isn’t a glossed over point. A pocket knife will get through shrink wrap. The point is they have firearms more lethal than in the US and they don’t feel compelled to shoot up public places. Maybe Americans are just messed up.

    Second the training issue isn’t that major. The majority of gun owners are responsible and responsible gun owners stress safety. Every range stresses safety, the civilian marksmanship program stresses safety. It’s people that don’t own guns that seem to think gun owners just hang out playing with guns as toys.

    Id like to see the self defense stats. It seems the anti gun crowd comes up with negative stats and the pro gun positive. No one seems to be able to have an objective view.

    • I’d like to see the self defense stats too. The reason we don’t see them is because, sadly, they are a myth…

      What are the compelling self-defense stats. Given the the death stats are so strong on the gun control side of the issue, don’t you think it would be fair to ask that the self defense stats be readily available? I do.

      To me, this is no different from putting speed limits on people on highways. Yes, it is a limit on personal freedom. But we have decided, as a society, that it’s worth it to save many many lives. Same exact argument. And yes, it means you can’t drive away from a tornado as fast LOL…

      So seriously, show me the self defense stats. Where are they?

  34. You brought stats into this discussion with ” Finally, I know it makes people “feel” safer when they are arms, but the statistics don’t support that proposition. That’s not how it usually goes.” So please back up your claim.

    Defensive firearms use will be hard to quantify. Does it count if the mere discovery of an armed victim causes the aggressor to disengage? How do you reliably count those incidents? We can already see where incidents take place a preference for the unarmed.

    • Listen, if there is a real argument to made for the self-defense angle to counter-act the clearly negative deaths-per-year, we need stats. I’m open to your idea that there IS a case, but I have not seen it supported by any data…

      Until you can show the clear positive self-defense benefit, each tragic event like this will move public opinion more in-line with the data showing the clear negatives…

      Again – It’s just like speed limits…

  35. Adam, you are neglecting the fact that murders are committed by many means, not only by firearms. We will never eradicate murder (Samuel Johnson:
    “How small, of all that human hearts endure
    That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!”),
    but enabling rational people the means of effective defense will saves lives that might otherwise be lost.

    See http://www.pulpless.com/gunclock/kleck1.html for more information on defensive gun statistics.

    • I hear you, and agree. While I wish we could eliminate it, I know that’s not reasonable.

      I’m just looking for the 59% decrease in gun deaths that Australia achieved between 1996 and 2012 through practical gun policy – that’s all.

  36. The idea that you are safer with a gun in your house needs to be seriously examined.

    Public Health from JAMA

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  38. It seems the paid NRA public relations people are highly active on this thread, as they are on most media comment sites.

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