Two Mass Shootings Too Many

This week, our nation suffered yet again as news of two more mass shootings made headlines. On Saturday night, an Uber driver in Kalamazoo, MI, shot eight people, killing six, in a five-hour spree with victims in three locations. Chillingly, the shooter picked up fares between killings, and no connection to the victims has been found—a truly senseless tragedy that sent shockwaves through a community.

And just yesterday, a gunman in Hesston, KS, shot an assault rifle out of his car while driving and then opened fire at the manufacturing plant where he worked. Earlier in the afternoon, he’d been served with a protective order filed by his ex-girlfriend, alleging physical abuse and noting, “He is an alcoholic, violent, depressed, and it’s my belief that he is in need of medical and psychological help!”

Less than two hours after the order was served, the gunman had already killed three and injured 14 others before dying in a shootout with police.

Kansas

Kansas has yet to enact even the most basic common-sense gun laws—the state ranked last in our 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard. In fact, last year it went so far as to repeal a lifesaving permit-to-purchase requirement. We know the shooter was a convicted felon and prohibited from legally possessing a firearm, but this didn’t prevent him from having easy access to deadly weapons.

States like California and Massachusetts, with the help of the Law Center, have stepped up to protect their citizens with laws such as universal background checks, firearms relinquishment procedures, and gun violence restraining orders. And they’ve seen drops in their gun death rates as a result.

Lawmakers in Kansas can do more to stand up to the to the gun lobby’s deadly agenda and enact laws that protect their citizens—laws, such universal background checks, that enjoy wide public support. In light of yesterday’s shooting in Hesston, domestic violence protections would be a natural place to start. Laws to keep victims safe from armed abusers have failed to pass in Kansas in the past, but have recently been enacted by other conservative states such as Louisiana and South Carolina and are often passed by bipartisan coalitions.

We’re proud of the historic progress we’ve seen in states across the country, especially since the tragedy at Sandy Hook–but we know there’s still more work that must be done to keep Americans safe from gun violence. We won’t stop fighting for the smart gun laws that help keep deadly weapons away from dangerous people.

Learn more about gun laws in Michigan. 

Learn more about gun laws in Kansas.

See how your state stacks up when it comes to smart gun laws, visit the 2015 Gun Law State Scorecard.

Extremism Leaves a Nation on Edge


Yesterday, the United States suffered yet another mass shooting—our 355th of the year. Fourteen were killed and 21 injured after two shooters rampaged through the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California. Reports are emerging that the suspects were radicalized and have links to known terrorists.

Just days before, a Colorado Springs shopping center and Planned Parenthood fell under siege as a man radically opposed to abortion engaged in an hours-long standoff with law enforcement, killing three and injuring nine others with a semiautomatic rifle.

Four men have been charged in the November 23 shooting at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Minneapolis, wounding five—an incident which authorities believe was racially motivated.

We need reform at the state and federal levels. We’re tired of our lawmakers offering their thoughts and prayers—those won’t stop the next mass shooter, or any of the 88 gun deaths we average per day. We’re ready for swift and decisive action to stop the 117,000 shootings the United States sees each year. And we know you are too. Our executive director, Robyn Thomas, wrote this op-ed for the Daily Dot on just how ready the American public is for the smart gun laws that will save lives.

…Action is needed. We are collectively answerable to the victims of gun violence and to an ever-growing community of grieving family members for the policies our leaders enact, or fail to enact, to protect our communities. We need to do more than just tweet sympathy—we need to force our leaders to pass the smart gun laws that the research has proven again and again save lives.

Polls have repeatedly shown that the American public is in broad agreement about what must be done to prevent gun violence. Over 90 percent of Americans support closing the loophole that allows felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill to buy guns without a background check. Yet, thanks to pressure from the gun lobby, Congress has failed to act…

Read more…

While these shooters were all motivated by different factors and separated by hundreds of miles, a common thread ties the incidents together: it’s all too easy for extremists, zealots, and bigots to get their hands on deadly weapons when the impulse to inflict harm became too powerful to resist.

Read the full text of Robyn’s op-ed

For more information on California’s gun laws, see our policy page.

For more information on how your state stacks up when it comes to smart gun laws, see our annual Gun Law State Scorecard.

 

 

The President is Right: Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough

 

We find ourselves, yet again, in the aftermath of another tragic school shooting–this time at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. A gunman opened fire on campus last Thursday, killing nine students and injuring seven others. The incident was the 142nd school shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, and the 294th mass shooting in the United States this year–which means we’ve averaged more than one mass shooting per day.

And again we’re left wondering when the political agenda set by our lawmakers will follow the will of the people. We know the vast majority of Americans support commonsense solutions that save lives from gunfire. 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks—and 92 percent of gun owners do too. It’s time our laws and leadership reflected that support, a sentiment our executive director, Robyn Thomas, expressed in a recent New York Times op-ed.

Hours after last week’s tragedy, President Barack Obama spoke of the urgent need for smart gun laws like universal background checks and gun violence protective orders—we applaud his leadership, and the Law Center is proud to stand with President Obama in the fight to bring some sanity to our gun laws.

“And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision,” the president said on Thursday. “If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.”

We agree—Americans must start holding their lawmakers accountable when it comes to passing the kind of legislation that could help prevent another Roseburg—or Charleston, or Lafayette, or Chattanooga, or any of the other 294 mass shootings this year—from happening.

  • Gun Violence Protective Orders: Also known as gun violence restraining orders, these laws empower families and law enforcement to petition a judge to remove guns from individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others. Shooters often exhibit dangerous warning signs and GVPO laws help keep guns away from people with the intent to harm. California passed a landmark GVPO law last year in response to the shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • Limiting bulk purchase of guns and regulating ammunition sales: Firearms purchased in “multiple sales” are more frequently used in crimes, and mass shooters often stockpile ammunition, as seen in the 2012 mass shooting in an Aurora, CO cinema that left 12 dead and 28 injured.

The Law Center has made preventing mass shootings a top priority for over two decades—our organization was founded in the wake of a 1993 assault weapon rampage that killed eight and left six wounded. Our lawyers track gun laws in all 50 states, which we compile into our annual Gun Law State ScorecardIn 2014, we gave Oregon a D+ for their gun laws.

We already know what steps need to be taken to prevent the senseless killings that occur in communities across the United States. And while 117 new smart gun laws have been enacted in 39 states since Newtown, many lawmakers at the state and federal level continue to bow to the gun lobby’s deadly agenda. The Law Center is on the front lines of the battle against gun violence, and we need you to raise your voice in support of smart gun laws. Become a member today and join us in demanding more from the leaders that we elect to represent us—help us save lives. 

For more information about gun laws in Oregon, visit our policy page.

For a comprehensive analysis and state by state ranking of gun laws across the United States, visit our Gun Law State Scorecard.

The Policies that Could Have Prevented the Charleston Shooting

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 2.55.47 PMIn the aftermath of the horrific, racially motivated mass shooting in Charleston that left nine people at Emanuel AME Church dead, the FBI revealed that the shooter should have failed his background check when he purchased the murder weapon in April. This tragic error draws attention to dangerous flaws in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that we at the Law Center have been critical of since the system’s inception.

To be clear, NICS has prevented over two million dangerous, prohibited purchasers like felons, domestic abusers, drug addicts, and the dangerously mentally ill from buying guns since its inception, saving countless lives. But there is, clearly, much room for improvement to ensure that the failure that enabled the Charleston shooting doesn’t happen again:

  • State Reporting Improvements: Many states fail to report essential information like criminal history, mental health status, domestic violence records, and, especially important in the Charleston case, illicit drug abuse records to the agencies that perform background checks. Increasing NICS funding and changing federal law to require states to report relevant records to the NICS system will close this dangerous gap in the background checks system.
  • Universal Background Checks: The best way to save lives from gun violence is require background checks on all private sales, including online and at gun shows. South Carolina has abysmal gun laws (we gave them an F on our 2014 Gun Law State Scorecard), and had the Charleston shooter failed his background check at the gun shop (as he should have), he still would have easily been able to purchase a gun through a private sale, where no background check is required. Eighteen states currently have some form of private sale background checks, but until we pass this smart gun law everywhere, we cannot act surprised when dangerous criminals get their hands on deadly weapons so easily.

NICS is great starting place for protecting our citizens from gun violence, but the system must continue to be improved and we must demand that our lawmakers stand up to the gun lobby and adopt lifesaving policies like universal background checks. Momentum is on our side, with 99 new smart gun laws passed in 37 states since Newtown, and we at the Law Center will continue to fight to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.

For more information on the importance of universal background checks, visit our policy page.

Choose Common Sense over Campus Carry

 

The debate over allowing guns on campus is raging across America. So far in 2015, 16 states have introduced dangerous bills that would allow hidden, loaded guns on public and private college campuses. But, enacting legislation allowing more guns to be carried on and around schools only increases the opportunity for gun violence.Trendwatch-Map-Schools-4.10

We already know that permissive concealed carry laws are linked to an increase in violent crime, and workplaces that allow guns are significantly more dangerous to workers—more guns on campus place a burden and pose a risk for people who work at schools too. Additionally, the university experience introduces new stressors and social pressures to students, factors contributing to an increase in risky behaviorlike drinking and drug use—that make college campuses a hazardous climate for relaxed access to firearms.

The gun lobby is also pushing an agenda that labels campus carry as a safety measure that would protect women from sexual assault. In theory, victims could use a gun to defend against a sexual predator, but the reality is darker—assailants would be allowed to carry concealed weapons, too. Sexual violence on campuses is also often committed by a person the victim knows, and often linked to situations where people are drinking—a potentially deadly scenario if concealed weapons are present.

 

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Isla Vista Mass Shooting: Preventing Gun Access During a Mental Health Crisis

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Once again, our hearts are broken after hearing of the shooting rampage Friday night in the college town of Isla Vista. A 22-year-old college student drove around town, shooting from his car, unloading 10-round magazines, and killing three people before shooting himself.  Ultimately, the attack left seven dead and 13 wounded.

The story is one that the nation has seen before — a young man in the midst of a mental health crisis and few legal mechanisms to keep him from accessing dangerous and deadly weapons. The shooter was receiving psychiatric treatment in the months prior to the shooting, and his family had reportedly informed local officials of their concerns about his mental state weeks before the shooting. Rather than focus on his access to guns, however, police officers interviewed him in his home for an evaluation of his mental state.  The officers found him to be “polite and kind” and did not perform a search for weapons.

People who witness another person’s suicidal or violent threats sometimes contact law enforcement, but these warnings rarely result in a gun restrictions under current law.  Even in California, which has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, there is still no legal mechanism for these warnings from family members or other community members to limit the person’s access to guns.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A basic framework already exists for screening gun purchasers:  federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks on purchasers. The background check system is currently in the process of transforming from a system that categorically excludes certain people to a system that can be used to impose “temporary holds” on potentially dangerous individuals pending proper evaluation.

We can enact laws that allow for additional evaluation before a potentially dangerous or suicidal person has access to a gun. Some of these proposals involve empowering community members – teachers, school administrators, family members, and law enforcement officers – to speak out about dangerous people so that the person cannot access guns until law enforcement and mental health professionals have completed a thorough assessment.  Other versions of this proposal – called a gun violence restraining order – would allow family members to seek a court order that temporarily restricts a person’s access to guns.  These proposals enjoy broad support from the mental health community and have great potential to reduce both gun homicides and gun suicides as well.  Suicides account for about 60% of gun deaths nationwide.

We at the Law Center are exploring policy options to enable these temporary holds.  They will provide an avenue for family and other community members to bring the issue of guns in the hands of dangerous people to the attention of the authorities, so that temporary gun restrictions can be imposed pending further evaluation of the person’s intent.

For more, visit our analysis of mental health and our nation’s gun laws or read about the latest in gun legislation moving through the California legislature.

Letter to President Obama in the Wake of Newtown Massacre

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence applauds President Obama’s strong words in yesterday morning’s press conference announcing that a gun violence task force headed by Vice President Biden will lead to “concrete proposals no later than January.”

On Tuesday, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and 25 other state and national gun violence prevention organizations wrote to President Obama to thank him for speaking out in the wake of last week’s devastating shooting in Newtown, and to urge him to provide the leadership needed for the passage of sensible laws to prevent future tragedies.

Appointing a task force is a critical first step to curbing the flow of guns in to the hands of dangerous people. There are many steps the President can take today – including supporting many bills that are being introduced. Our coalition of gun violence prevention organizations offers support to the administration and Congress.

“We have been greatly encouraged by President Obama’s words since the horrific tragedy in Newtown,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center, which was formed in the wake of an assault weapon massacre at a law firm in San Francisco in 1993. “We appreciate the President’s past expression of support for laws banning assault weapons and requiring background checks on all gun buyers, and are hopeful that his commitment to use the power of this office to reduce gun violence will provide the catalyst needed for the adoption of those laws.”

Read and share our letter to President Obama below.

Email President Obama right now and thank him for his action: http://1.usa.gov/12AjM5o

He needs to know that we support him today.

Vigils for the Massacre in Newtown Erupt Across the Country


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Following the killing of 26 innocent children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, vigils for the fallen erupted across the country. Over 200 victims of gun violence and activists from the Law Center and other organizations across the country gathered at the White House on Friday to call on President Obama to take action to curb the epidemic of gun violence in our country.

Here is some coverage of the events:

More Determined Than Ever

Today in Washington D.C., we joined survivors of gun violence at a vigil at the White House. Together with our colleagues and many concerned citizens from across the country, we insisted that today IS the day that we as Americans stand up and say we’ve had enough.

Earlier today we asked you to stand with us by calling the White House to demand action from President Obama and our elected leaders. As the phone lines close for the weekend, please also express your outrage by signing this petition.

Sign it now and then pass it on. We need to show that the Americans are united in demanding a plan to end the bloodshed – now.

As we all wrestle with our feelings after this horrific event, we think Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have said it best, so we wanted to share this with you:

With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five year-olds.

President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.

Our determination is also stronger than ever. We will continue to tirelessly promote laws that would prevent these kinds of tragedies. We need you, your family members, your friends, and neighbors to all join with us so we CAN enact smart gun laws that save lives.

Sign the petition. Pass it around. Join us in demanding that our leaders defend our safety.

Today Is the Day to Demand Change

We are devastated by news of the shooting today in Newtown, Connecticut and the unspeakable suffering that is occurring there. We cannot imagine what the families are going through now. We should all be appalled by this and should demand swift action.

The most fundamental duty of our government is to protect our communities, especially our innocent children. Despite mass shootings that have shattered families across the country this year, our leaders have repeatedly failed to do anything to prevent future bloodshed.

We cannot stand for this failure any longer. Our children’s lives depend on it.

Our leaders will keep ducking this issue until they hear from all of us. Call the White House now and demand that President Obama tell us what he plans to do about this epidemic.

Call now! 202-456-1414

President Obama needs to show leadership on this issue. While he spoke today about the need for meaningful action, he has yet to take any real steps toward making us safer. Given the 34 murders with guns that happen every day, the president’s failure to lead is unacceptable.

Call the White House now and demand a plan: 202-456-1414