In January, President Obama issued an executive order instructing the Department of Justice to analyze data on lost and stolen guns, and to publish a report on their findings. On Monday, the Justice Department released their report for 2012. It indicates that 190,342 guns were lost or stolen nationwide, with Texas leading the states with 18,874 lost or stolen guns. Nationwide, licensed firearms dealers reported 10,915 as “lost,” meaning those guns were in their inventory, and have just vanished.
The policy proposals that President Obama announced on Wednesday (organized by category here) outlined a wide-ranging agenda, including twenty-three items that could be implemented through executive action and twelve recommendations for action from Congress.* The items are a mixed bag, ranging from immediately actionable ideas to proposals that may never make it through Congress. Some are vague (launching a national dialogue about mental illness) while others are very specific (confirming a director for the ATF). In the coming weeks, PAGV will explore, seek input on, and respond in detail to the specific items. Here we outline a few of our immediate reactions as parents and concerned citizens.
- This is an important first step. It is gratifying to see the President both take direct action on a number of important gun-related matters, and publicly initiate the conversation about what needs to change to address the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
- We strongly agree with the need for a comprehensive legislative and executive agenda, one that attempts to solve gun violence by addressing gun access, gun safety, school safety, societal factors, and mental illness. Reducing the threat of violence to our children will clearly require such a broad-based, comprehensive effort. Any flaws in individual proposals do not invalidate the entire effort.
- There will be something for everyone to like, and for everyone to hate, in the proposals. Given the current political climate, this may be inevitable. Due to the absence of thorough research into the causes and effects of gun violence, there is little agreement about its remedies, beyond a desire to see it end. To some, allocating $10,000,000 to research the connection between video games and violence seems like the worst kind of pandering to the NRA’s “it’s-everything-but-the-guns” narrative. To others, requiring background checks on all gun sales seems like the first step in a government takeover.
- Some of the proposals concur in fundamental ways with recent policy proposals from Parents Against Gun Violence. One of the executive orders, for example, directed the Centers for Disease Control to initiate research into the health effects of gun access (PAGV Policy Plank #2, Empower Researchers), while a proposal to Congress urges legislators to allocate $30,000,000 for schools to develop emergency-response plans (Policy Plank #5, Protect Schools).
- While President Obama implemented a number of executive actions, the biggest proposed changes will all require legislative action. All of the major funding allocations (with the exception of $20 million to encourage states to share background data) also have to go through Congress. In the coming weeks, concerned parents and citizens need to make sure that our voices and perspectives are heard in the legislative debates.
* Note that Obama actually signed only three executive orders (technically “presidential memorandums“) on Wednesday. The 23 “executive actions” named in the Obama proposal describe general policy priorities that would not require Congressional approval for implementation. However, many of the proposed “executive actions” come far from implemented (or implementable) public policy at this point.
contributed by Jennifer in California
On New Year’s Eve, I took my four young children and parents and sister to Old Sacramento to watch the family fireworks show at 9pm. The show was awesome, even though it was really cold!
We headed back to our friends’ house to celebrate the New Year in a warmer place. When we turned on the television to watch the ball drop, we were shocked to see that there had been a shooting at the place we had just left! A fight had broken out in a bar near where we had been watching the fireworks. It escalated, and someone pulled out a gun. One of the bar employees was shot and killed when he tried to intervene. The other man in the fight was also shot and killed. The gunman, a security guard, and a woman standing near the fight were also shot but not fatally.
This was all within 10 minutes of the time that we’d left that spot. If we had stayed 8 minutes longer, my children would have heard the whole thing. They might have seen it. They could have been hit by a stray bullet.
The gunman was caught and arrested by the police. The New Year’s celebration and fireworks show that was planned for Old Sacramento was cancelled. And I was angry.
Angry again. Just a few months ago, we moved into a new home because our family has grown. We chose the area because it was so quiet and there were a lot of families with children. Then a young man moved in three houses down the street and things changed. He threw a party one night that got out of control at about 2am. My three oldest kids were asleep and I was up feeding my infant son. My husband was at work. Suddenly, I hear seven gun shots next door. I was startled and grabbed my phone. I dialed 911 and ran into my daughters’ room. It’s in the front of the house, and I was afraid they might get hit by a stray bullet. As I was talking to the 911 operator, I grabbed one of my daughters and moved her to my room in the back of the house. I set my son down with her and grabbed my other two daughters and moved them too.
As I was talking to the operator, I looked out the window and saw a ton of people running down the street away from the party. I ran back into my room to calm down my kids. They were scared and crying. Then we heard more gun shots. My children screamed in fear. I was terrified, but needed to be calm. I did my best to soothe them and reassure them that police were on their way.
After a few minutes, the police knocked on my door. I let them in and they told me that they had cleared the area. They told me that nobody was shot, but the gunmen were gone by the time they got there. They checked my backyard to make sure it was clear and gave my children stickers. They told me that everything was okay now, but to call back if anything happened again. My children slept in our bed that night… and the next night… and the next night. It took a full week before they felt comfortable sleeping in their own rooms again. They still get scared sometimes.
A few days later, the shooter was arrested. I thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. Two weeks later, it happened again. Same house, same situation. I called the police again. This time, someone had been hit. And a bullet had hit the wall of the house across the street. My friends live there, and the wall that was hit belonged to a child’s bedroom. She was okay, but her parents were furious. I would have been, too.
Since then there have been no more parties, and no more shootings. My children are still struggling with it though. They still talk about the shootings. They still express fear at bedtime and want to sleep next to me.
My reaction to these incidents has been anger. Safe neighborhoods aren’t safe after all. Safe family events are pretty dangerous, as it turns out. I’m so tired of all of this gun violence. I shouldn’t be scared to send my children to school, take them to a movie, the mall, to church or a holiday celebration. They should feel safe in their own home, but they don’t. I should be able to take my kids to public places or tuck them into bed at night and feel safe, but I don’t. I feel paranoid. I feel like I have to keep my children close and be on the lookout for a madman with a gun. I have to be ready to duck and cover at any moment just in case there’s a shooting. Even in my own home, I have to be ready to jump into action to protect my kids.
Every child has at some point been afraid of the boogeyman. A parent should be able to look under the bed or in the closet to reassure their child that there’s no boogeyman, that they are safe. I can’t do that. My children are scared of madmen with guns. And that is very real.
And I am angry that people are so willing to protect the rights of those who want to own a gun, but too scared to stand up and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. Our children deserve that we speak up for them. I am not willing to just sit back and wait for people to realize that the situation in our country is out of control and needs to be changed. I want to be part of making that change so I can look my children in the eye and say without hesitation, “There’s no more boogeyman.”
On Friday, December 21st (just after a a Pennsylvania man shot and killed three individuals, wounded three State Troopers, and then killed himself) Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, delivered a prepared statement regarding the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. A complete transcript of the statement is available here, but the video of LaPierre’s remarks better reflects his disposition, and the mood in the room.
Parents Against Gun Violence have issued our this response to the NRA statement:
“NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre identifies violent video games and inadequate mental healthcare as contributing factors to school shootings, and concludes with a call on Congress to place armed guards in every school in the country. He says ‘The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.’ Unfortunately, the armed campus police force at Virginia Tech were unable to stop Seung-Hui Cho from shooting 59 people there; the armed school police officer Neil Gardner was unable to stop Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold from killing 13 at Columbine. And at Fort Hood, 40,000 American soldiers were unable to stop one man with a handgun before he had shot 42 people. The idea of armed guards protecting schools is not a new one; it has been tried and it has proven ineffective against well armed murderers. We are not opposed to guards in schools, but we believe a more comprehensive solution is necessary.”
Below is the video of the NRA statement:
The full-length video of President Obama’s Memorial Address to the Newtown shooting is below.
The transcript of the speech can be read here.
The Newtown, CT, killings of Friday, December 14, 2012, constitute the second worst mass shooting in US history, and have the dubious distinction of doubling the death toll from the Columbine High massacre. At the same time, they form part of a pattern: mass killings are on the rise in the US; five of the 11 deadliest killings in the US have happened since 2007. And children in the US are threatened not only by high-profile, headline-grabbing incidents of mass violence. Over 31,000 people in the US died from firearms-related incidents in 2009, 1,337 of them children. A 1997 study by the Centers for Disease Control found that “the homicide rate for children in the United States was five times higher” than that for children in 25 other high-income countries combined.
This is unacceptable. As parents, as a coalition of adults who care for children in one of the richest, most developed countries in the world, we have to stand up and say that we can do better as a society. Every one of our children deserves the right to graduate from high school, to choose a career, to have their own children, to grow old.
We are conservatives, liberals and moderates, gun owners and non-gun owners. What unites us is a conviction that there are many common-sense policies that can reduce gun violence, and especially the risk of harm to children. For too long, the debate has been captured by a polarized, all-or-nothing struggle. It is time for the debate to change.
Hours after the Newtown, CT, killings, a coalition of parents and concerned adults across the US started informal discussions on Facebook. The outcome is this group. We are committed to:
- Advocating a re-centered debate, focused on policies that scientific evidence and reasoned dialogue show have the greatest potential to reduce firearm-related deaths among children.
- Finding and disseminating scientific, peer-reviewed research on the causes of gun violence and gun accidents, and on how to reduce both.
- Advocating for policy change. We will focus on the kinds of policies that we believe can build support across the political spectrum, policies supported by evidence and debate.
If you share our goals, we invite you to join us. We are hopeful that there are tens of millions of American parents and other concerned adults who can find common ground for dialogue, and practicable policies that can make our country safer. Let’s talk about what policies have the greatest chances of reducing the likelihood of a tragedy like the Newtown, CT, shooting from ever happening again. And then let’s demand that our elected representatives make these changes.
If you are interested in this group, please find us on Facebook, or email admin [at] parentsagainstgunviolence [dot] com.