Nearly 90,000 Comment on Proposed Bump Stock Ban

Opinion is divided as more than 89,000 people weigh in on a proposed nationwide ban on bump stocks, the device used in a Las Vegas concert massacre that left 58 people dead last October. The 90-day comment period ended at midnight Wednesday,

More than 89,000 people have weighed in on a proposed nationwide ban on bump stocks, the device used in a Las Vegas concert massacre that left 58 people dead last October. The 90-day comment period ended at midnight Wednesday, and gun control advocates and Second Amendment fans from Texas and across the U.S. were eager to share their fears — of violence, or of losing their gun rights, reports the Dallas Morning News. Southlake Carroll, Tx., Senior High School junior Alanna Miller commented that she was at a concert on the night of the Las Vegas shooting, and that her experience led her to support the ban. “The access and availability to [sic] bump stocks enabled the shooter in Las Vegas to make his attack as deadly as it was,” Miller wrote. “I couldn’t help but think that it could’ve been MY own concert that turned deadly.”

State House candidate Republican Matt Savino opposed the ban on legal grounds, noting that the trigger still functions separately each time a semi-automatic weapon is fired, even with the assistance of a bump stock. “While bump stock devices will now be treated as machine guns under these regulations, they also raise serious questions in regard to AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles — as they are now on the brink of being designated as machine guns by the next anti-gun administration,” Savino wrote. Bump stocks modify rifles to mimic the rapid fire of automatic machine guns, which are illegal. Even if the regulation is approved, bump stock prohibitions can be hard to enforce. At least seven states enacted bans after Las Vegas, as have some cities.


Many With Dementia Use Guns to Kill Family Members

No one tracks firearms killings by the large number of elderly people suffering from dementia. Kaiser Health News found dozens of cases in which people with dementia killed or injured themselves or others.

Three years ago, Darrell Hill, 76, a former Oregon police chief and county sheriff, nearly killed his wife of almost 57 years by shooting her accidentally. The lawman had been diagnosed with a form of rapidly progressive dementia, which quickly stripped him of reasoning and memory. As the U.S. copes with an epidemic of gun violence that kills 96 people daily, there has been vigorous debate about how to prevent people with mental illness from acquiring weapons. A little-known problem is what to do about the vast cache of firearms in the homes of aging Americans with impaired or declining mental faculties, reports Kaiser Health News.

Hill, who died in 2016, was among the 9 percent of Americans 65 and older diagnosed with dementia. Many are gun owners and supporters of Second Amendment rights. Forty-five percent of people 65 and older have guns in their household, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. No one tracks the potentially deadly intersection of those groups. Kaiser Health News uncovered dozens of cases across the U.S. in which people with dementia used guns to kill or injure themselves or others. From news reports, court records, hospital data and public death records, Kaiser found 15 homicides and more than 60 suicides since 2012, although there are likely many more. The shooters often acted during bouts of confusion, paranoia, delusion or aggression — common symptoms of dementia. They killed people closest to them, such as their caretaker, wife, son or daughter. They shot at people they happened to encounter — a mailman, a police officer, a train conductor. At least four men with dementia who brandished guns were fatally shot by police. In cases where charges were brought, many assailants were deemed incompetent to stand trial.


Corporate Anti-Gun Moves Threaten Gun Sellers

After high-profile mass shootings, corporate America took a stand against the firearms industry, which sees the backlash as a real threat and is seeking protections in Congress.

After high-profile mass shootings, corporate America has taken a stand against the firearms industry, the Associated Press reports. Payment processing firms are limiting transactions, Bank of America stopped providing financing to companies that make AR-style guns, and retailers like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods imposed age restrictions on gun purchases. The moves are lauded by gun-safety advocates but criticized by the gun industry that views them as a backhanded way of undermining the Second Amendment. Gun industry leaders see the backlash as a real threat to their industry and are coming to the conclusion that they need additional protections in Congress to prevent financial retaliation from banks.

“If a few banks say ‘No, we’re not going to give loans to gun dealers or gun manufacturers,’ all of a sudden the industry is threatened and the Second Amendment doesn’t mean much if there are no guns around,” said Michael Hammond of Gun Owners of America. “If you can’t make guns, if you can’t sell guns, the Second Amendment doesn’t mean much.” The issue has the attention of the Republican who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho sent letters criticizing Bank of America and Citigroup, which decided to restrict sales of firearms by its business customers, over their new gun rules after the Florida high school shooting in February. Honor Defense is a small operation near Atlanta. In 2016, its first year, it sold 7,500 firearms. When owner Gary Ramey noticed that neither Stripe nor Intuit would process payments through his site, he complained to the Georgia attorney general, counting on a state law that prohibits discrimination by financial service firms against the gun industry. The state aid credit-card processing is not considered a financial service under state law. Ramey views the credit card issue as companies “infusing politics into business.”


4.6 Million Children Live in Homes Where Guns Are Unsafely Stored: Survey

The figure, based on the most recent gun ownership survey taken in 2015, represents a doubling of the estimated number of households with children where guns are left loaded and unlocked since 2002, say the authors of a study published in the Journal of Urban Health.

An estimated 4.6 million children live in a home where they are exposed to unsafely stored guns, according to study published in the June issue of the Journal of Urban Health.

The figure, based on a 2015 survey, represents an estimated seven percent of children living in a home where at least one individual owned a firearm.

“Among gun-owning households with children, approximately two in ten gun owners store at least one gun in the least safe manner, i.e., loaded and unlocked,” the study found. “Three in ten store all guns in the safest manner, i.e., unloaded and locked; and the remaining half store firearms in some other way.”

The figure represents more than double the estimates from the last nationally representative survey conducted in 2002, which showed 1.6 million children lived in homes where firearms were unsafely stored.

The study is one of nine open-access articles in the June issue that focus on different aspects of gun violence, in an effort to compensate for what issue editor David Vlahov says is the “sparse” data available on firearm violence and intervention strategies since 1996, when the Congress prohibited funding on research studies that “advocate or promote gun control.”

Several of the studies deal with issues that have been connected to recent mass shootings in the US.

The firearms storage study, titled Firearm Storage in Gun-Owning Households with Children, was a collaborative effort by Deborah Azrael, Associate Director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center; Joanna Cohen, Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health; Carmel Salhi, Program Evaluation Assistant at Harvard University; and Matthew Miller, Co-Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

The study, described by the authors as “the first contemporary estimate in over 15 years of the number of US children who live in households with guns and, within these households, how firearms are stored,” focused on gun storage practices among gun owners with children under the age of 18. It relied on data obtained through from a Web-based survey taken in 2015.

Survey respondents varied across demographics including gender, race, age, political ideology and location.

The authors estimate that out of the total 13 million homes including children under the age of 18 that contained at least one gun, 2.7 million homes possessed a firearm that was stored, loaded and unlocked.

The study comes on the heels of one of the mass school shooting in Santa Fe, Tx., in which 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis used a gun registered under his father’s name to kill 10 people and wound 13 others.

The authors restate the well documented risks of having a gun in a household with children, and cite a bevy of studies that show having a gun in the home “substantially increases the risk of suicide and unintentional firearm death” among children.

Observing that while household gun ownership rates in the US have remained relatively stable over the past two decades, the study authors suggest that firearm storage practices may have shifted as a result of changing attitudes towards gun ownership.

“According to polling conducted by Gallup, the percentage of US adults who “believed that a gun in the home makes it a safer place to be,” rose from 35 percent in 2000 to 63 percent in 2014.

The study found that one in three households in the US contains at least one gun, whether there’s a child under 18 in the household or not. Half of households with children have either one gun loaded and locked, or unloaded and unlocked.

The authors found “21 percent of homes with children and guns store at least one gun loaded and unlocked,” compared to just 8 percent from the 2002 survey.

The authors say interventions that address this misconception could slow this trend.

One finding that the authors say hasn’t been reported before, to their knowledge, is that the only demographic in which gun storage practices differ was gender. The data indicate female gun owners in homes with children were slightly more likely to leave them loaded and unlocked than males.

Many children under the age of 18 are killed or wounded from firearms in the U.S. each year, with nearly 1,500 deaths recorded in 2015, with an additional 7,000 non-fatal injuries. Some 40 percent of those who died were from suicide or an unintentional firearm injury.

The authors say that attempts by organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics to curb unsafe gun storage in households with children through guidance have fallen short, and that their findings “underscore the need for more active and creative efforts to reduce children’s exposure to unsafely stored firearms.”

The other studies in the journal dealt with a number of issues that are symptomatic of a lack of gun regulation and knowledge:

Suicide and Additional Homicides Associated with Intimate Partner Homicide: North Carolina 2004-2013, dealt with the issue of intimate partner homicide.  It suggests that restricting access to firearms in households where evidence of domestic violence is present can help prevent these types of crimes.

Gun Theft and Crime studied the prevalence of stolen guns used in crime, and found stolen guns to only play a minor role in assaults and robberies.

Criminal Use of Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Semiautomatic Firearms: an Updated Examination of Local and National Sources notes a recent change that assault rifles now account for the majority of assault weapons used in crime as opposed to assault pistols, differing from past estimates. The findings suggest an increase in lethality over time of assault weapons used in violence since the expiration of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004.

State Firearm Laws and Interstate Transfer of Guns in the USA, 2006–2016 looked at the flow of crime guns between states and found a pattern of guns flowing out of states with weak gun laws and into states with stronger gun laws. In other words, the findings suggest states with stronger gun laws are subverted by nearby states with weaker gun laws.

Adult Connection in Assault Injury Prevention among Male Youth in Low-Resource Urban Environments examined connections between supportive adult connection and severe assault injury among youths in under-resourced areas. The authors were unable to demonstrate positive adult relationships protecting youths from severe assault injury in low-resource environments.

A Secondary Spatial Analysis of Gun Violence near Boston Schools: a Public Health Approach looked at the number of shootings near schools in Boston, Ma.,to try to find places that may be focal points for violence, which can then be targeted for violence prevention programs. One of its findings was that gun violence is concentrated near schools in low-income, racially homogenous areas, or “hot spots.”

Association between Firearm Laws and Homicide in Urban Counties studied the effect of certain gun laws on homicide rates in large, urban counties.  It found an increased risk of homicide in areas with right-to-carry laws compared to other states with tighter restrictions on giving concealed-carry permits. It also found permit-to-purchase laws can be an effective tool states can implement to decrease firearm homicide.

Closer to Guns: the Role of Street Gangs in Facilitating Access to Illegal Firearms examined whether or not gangs facilitate access to firearms by shortening “network distance,” and the relationship between access and gunshot injuries among gang members. They found that gang membership can substantially make access to firearms easier, and that the closer gang members are to guns, the greater their risk of gunshot victimization.

Dane Stallone is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.


NJ Town Bans Gun Stores, Joining a Few Other Cities

Piscataway, a suburb of New Brunswick, enacts the first late in the state barring gun stores near schools, parks, health care facilities and other sensitive locations. California has 24 localities with similar restrictions.

Officials in New Jersey fed up with federal inaction on gun control are flexing policy muscles rarely used to regulate gun dealers, passing local zoning codes that effectively ban firearm stores, reports The Trace. Piscataway, a suburb of New Brunswick, does not have a single licensed gun dealer. A Town Council resolution on June 14 is intended to keep it that way. It bans gun stores from opening within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, health care facilities, and other sensitive locations. While the new zoning law does not explicitly forbid gun stores from opening in the suburb, it makes dealers subject to conditions that almost no location meets.

It’s the first such law in the state, and one of a scattering across the U.S. There are 24 localities in California with these location restrictions, and another two in New York, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “There’s a growing concern about gun violence and the federal government’s inability to do anything comprehensive,” said Steven Cahn, the council member who drafted the ordinance. “The point is to demonstrate that as local officials, we’re not helpless. We can use our authority. Hopefully, other communities will do something similar.” One legal expert suggested the Piscataway ordinance is a progressive version of targeted regulations on abortion providers common in deeply conservative states. Those laws don’t ban abortion, per se, but they do place burdensome conditions on facilities that perform the procedure, making it impossible for many clinics to remain in operation. The Piscataway council was inspired by a law in Alameda County, Ca., outside San Francisco, that survived a federal court challenge last fall.


Federal Gun Prosecutions Double in St. Louis

The feds handle cases that could have been filed in state court. U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen says, “We have better resources for people on probation or supervised release.” Or, more simply, “Jobs stop bullets.” He cites the low re-arrest rate — 7.5 percent — five years after someone leaves federal supervision.

Federal prosecutors in St. Louis have filed twice as many gun cases so far this year as part of an effort to target murders and other gun violence, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen said 357 gun cases had been charged as of the end of May, compared with 156 during the same time last year. Jensen’s office estimates it will file 618 gun cases against 696 defendants in the 2018 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The 2018 figure, if reached, would be the highest since at least 2005. “It’s unprecedented,” said Mark Reichert, chief U.S. Pretrial Services officer. Reichert and other federal court officials have been straining to keep up. The cases, which include carjackings and armed robberies but mainly consist of felons charged with being in possession of guns, also could have been charged in state court. The federal conviction rate was high and that those convicted do 85 percent of their sentence behind bars.

The first reason Jensen gives for handling gun cases in the federal system is an unusual one for a prosecutor: “We have better resources for people on probation or supervised release.” Or, more simply, “Jobs stop bullets.” Jensen cites the low re-arrest rate — 7.5 percent — five years after someone leaves federal supervision. Prosecutors are focusing on so-called active shooters and a “distressed area” sometimes known as “Hayden’s rectangle” for St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden. “I don’t know if we’re able to keep it up,” said Lee Lawless, head federal public defender in St. Louis. His staff handles most of the hearings the first time a defendant appears in court and more than half of the total criminal docket. Local jails are filling, forcing the U.S. Marshals Service, which houses federal inmates, to use jails in central and Southern Illinois.


Americans Own World’s Largest Arsenal of Firearms: Survey

There are more than one billion firearms in the world, according to the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based research group. US civilians own 120.5 firearms per 100 residents—the highest global ratio—a figure the survey attributes to both the national ‘gun culture’ and the expiration of a federal assault weapons ban in 2004.

The largest number of firearms in the world are in the hands of civilians located in the US, according to a report by the Small Arms Survey (SAS).

The Survey, an independent research project within the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, estimates the rate of civilian firearm holdings to be 120.5 firearms per 100 residents, compared to less than one firearm for every 100 residents in countries like Indonesia and Japan.

According to the Survey findings, contained in three briefing papers—on firearms held by civilians, by military forces, and by law enforcement agencies—at the end of 2017, there were approximately 1.013 billion firearms throughout 230 countries and autonomous territories in the world.

Of the global total, 84.6 percent were held by civilians, 13.1 percent by military forces, and 2.2 percent by law enforcement agencies.

The one billion figure represents a 15.7 percent global increase in number of firearms worldwide over the past decade.

While this growth is impacted by the steady increase in the global population and the availability of more data sources, contributing factors also include a change in the attitude of firearm production, increased public demand, a decrease in destruction of firearms, and diverse “gun culture,” SAS said.

Global Civilian-Held Firearms

The bulk of the global increase is due to an estimated 32 percent rise (over 200 million more weapons) in civilian-held firearms, when compared to the SAS 2006 survey. At the end of 2017, SAS estimates that there were 857 million firearms in the possession of civilians, over 80 percent of the global total.

This may be attributed to differences in national “gun culture,” defined by SAS as “each country’s distinctive combination of historic and current sources of supply, laws, and attitudes towards firearms ownership and use.”

For example, detailed data shows that in the US there was a dramatic shift in public purchasing patterns after the expiration in 2004 of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (informally known as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban) towards pistols and semi-automatic rifles.

While public attitude towards firearms is a big factor in changing trends, commercial firearm production is also a driver of the increase, the survey said.

The world’s arms factories are churning out newly manufactured firearms at an increasing pace with less weapons being destroyed, according to SAS. Fueling the increase in public demand, the surplus of production is allowing greater numbers of firearms to be available to civilians, who may or may not be properly trained, adding to concerns about safety.

And these figures may still represent only a portion of the total, the survey said, noting that in much of the world, poor record-keeping and limited reporting requirements complicate estimates of global stockpiles.

However, “the greater willingness and capability of governments to share details about civilian gun ownership in their respective territories is a vital force in this rising tide of knowledge,” said SAS.

Global Military-Owned Firearms

Military-owned firearms are even more difficult to assess, due to chronic secrecy of governments and national security concerns, said the survey.

Nevertheless, SAS estimated that the total number of firearms possessed by military forces is 133 million, representing 13 percent of the global total, although many more are believed to exist.

This number is actually indicative of a downward trend, with the previous SAS global estimate for military firearms as 200 million.

SAS presents three factors contributing to this change: the use of more conservative estimating methods for reserve forces, the use of more recent military personnel data, and the inclusion of some paramilitary force holdings.

Military-owned firearms are also a leading factor in conflict and violence and a crucial point of discussion in diplomacy. The survey shows that military firearms are highly concentrated, with 43 percent of the global total belonging to just two countries (Russian Federation and China).

Such a large stockpile can be rapidly transferred or lost, resulting in serious control and security concerns.

With such different categorizations of military across the world, SAS broke down armed forces into four groups to estimate the ratio of firearms per personnel.

In order of greatest ratio, these include: people’s war militaries which have mass forces and large reserves for politically reliable personnel (4.8 per soldier); military forces that emphasize heavily armed active-duty forces (2.6 per soldier), constabulary militia forces whose goal is only to maintain civil order (1.9 per officer), and reserve militaries which need rapid mobilization of forces for defense (1.8 per solider).

Global Law Enforcement Firearms

As of 2017, SAS estimates the global total of law enforcement firearms to be at least 22.7 million. This represents about 2.2 percent of all firearms identified by the Small Arms Survey.

Similarly to military-owned firearms, law enforcement total firearms have decreased from 25 million according to the 2006 SAS survey.

However, official reports account for only 4.8 million law enforcement firearms, or 21 percent of the estimated total according to SAS.

Law enforcement firearms vary enormously from country to country, with ratios of firearms/officer being 5.1 in Estonia to 0.4 in Tuvalu. The average ratio for the 28 countries reporting official data is 1.7 firearms per sworn law enforcement officer, according to SAS.

Again, due to national security issues, some countries do not report their total firearms for the public. However, progress has been made in the willingness of governments to report totals, allowing for greater research to be conducted.

Although the number of weapons in possession of law enforcement and military agencies decreases, the total number of firearms in global possession continues to rise. Due to a shift towards civilian-ownership, this accumulation calls for attention to global policies, attitudes, and safety.

The study was conducted by Aaron Karp, a senior consultant at the Small Arms Survey.

The complete study on civilian firearms can be downloaded here.

The complete study on military firearms can be downloaded here.

The complete study on law enforcement firearms can be downloaded here.

Laura Binczewski is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.


L.A. Sheriff Seizes 500 Guns in Felon’s Home

Deputies acted on a tip. Sheriff Jim McDonnell cited the case as a positive example of the department’s “see something, say something” campaign. 

A search of a felon’s home led Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators to a stash of more than 500 firearms, marking one of the largest seizures from a person forbidden by law from possessing guns, the Los Angeles Times reports. Investigators raided the home of Manuel Fernandez after getting a tip that he had an arsenal of firearms. After entering the property, they found a staggering number of weapons, including rifles, shotguns and handguns, some decades old. Fernandez, 60, was arrested after the raid last Thursday, during which investigators found 432 guns. A search the next day uncovered 91 firearms concealed in the house. Investigators also seized electronics used to purchase the weapons.

The investigation led detectives to a woman linked to the firearms purchases. While she was not home, detectives recovered 30 guns from her home. “The case is a testament to the community’s involvement in reducing crime and taking guns out of the hands of criminals,” said Sheriff Jim McDonnell, citing it as a positive example of the department’s “see something, say something” campaign. The Sheriff’s Department and the California Department of Justice found so many guns that they asked the Bureau Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives for assistance. Investigators spent days checking the weapons to try to determine their history.


11 Killed in IL Over Four Years in Concealed Carry Cases

The Illinois state police agency knows nothing about the nearly 40 shootings by people with concealed carry licenses since Illinois became the last state to allow them four years ago. A Chicago Tribune review found that most of the shootings have happened in public places in the Chicago area, and half the cases involved concealed carry holders firing to defend themselves or someone else from robbers.

The Illinois state police agency knows nothing about the nearly 40 shootings by people with concealed carry licenses since Illinois became the last state to allow them four years ago, the Chicago Tribune reports. A Tribune review found that most of the shootings have happened in public places in the Chicago area, and half the cases involved concealed carry holders firing to defend themselves or someone else from robbers. At least 11 people have been killed, including a man with a license who tried to fend off carjackers.  The state police have not collected any information that might improve the training of license holders and possibly better protect them and the public, a reform suggested by police and gun instructors.

The state police do not keep a list of shootings by concealed carry holders. The Tribune combed through police files, court records and news reports to compile its own list. The analysis shows that most of those shot by CCL holders have been armed robbers. Others include carjackers, a burglar with a crowbar, a robber with a gun to a clerk’s head, neighbors, an ex-girlfriend, a father-in-law, an unarmed teen stealing a Jeep, a passenger in a car during a road rage attack and a naked man acting “aggressively.” They were shot by homeowners, customers, security guards, store clerks, a Chicago police dispatcher, a Chicago fire lieutenant, a Chicago Park District worker, a tow-truck driver and the owner of a cellphone store. Lt. Matthew Boerwinkle, a state police spokesman for the state police, believes problems with concealed carry holders are few and there is no need for more oversight or transparency.


AMA Joins Calls for Tougher Gun Background Checks, Restraining Orders

At its annual meeting this week, the American Medical Association House of Delegates backed a sweeping set of actions aimed at reducing the nation’s toll from gun violence, and calling on policymakers to seek “common ground.” It was the second major group, following the nation’s top think tank on policing, to weigh in on the issue.

The American Medical Association House of Delegates this week backed a sweeping set of actions aimed at reducing the toll of U.S. firearm deaths, including gun-violence restraining orders, tougher background checks and better data collection, among other measures, reports the AMA Wire.

“People are dying of gun violence in our homes, churches, schools, on street corners and at public gatherings, and it’s important that lawmakers, policy leaders and advocates on all sides seek common ground to address this public health crisis,” said Dr. David O. Barbe, an AMA officer.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, and we urge lawmakers to act.”

The AMA is the second major national group to weigh in this week on gun violence.

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) released its own “action plan” on gun violence  earlier this week, calling for a gun ban for individuals “legally prohibited from owning them.”

PERF, the nation’s top think tank on policing, also called for strengthening the federal Background Check system and the establishment of a robust system of licensing.

The plan, “Key Findings and an Action Plan to Reduce Gun Violence,” was released following a gathering of the nation’s big city police chiefs in Washington, D.C., and outlined a combination of legislative, law enforcement, and individual solutions to the continuing issue of gun violence.

AMA Wants Gun-Free School Zones

AMA delegates adopted the policy recommendations at the organization’s annual meeting in Chicago. The AMA says it will advocate for schools to remain gun-free zones except for school-sanctioned activities and professional law enforcement officials, and it will oppose requirements or incentives of teachers to carry weapons.

The group also called for higher-profile recognition of the role of firearms in suicides. It said it will advocate for laws that allow family members and others to petition a court for the removal of a firearm when there is a high risk for violence; prohibit gun possession for those formally accused or convicted of domestic violence; and require states to establish protocols for removal of firearms from prohibited persons.