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    Gun Ownership Denial For Misdemeanors Will Stop Mass Shootings, Says Advocate
    By News Staff | December 28th 2012 12:11 AM | 15 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Garen Wintemute, an emergency medicine physician at U.C. Davis, says more restricting of gun purchases will prevent mentally ill people from engaging in future firearm violence, including mass shooting catastrophes such as those that occurred at Newtown, Connecticut, Virginia Tech in Virginia and Aurora and Columbine in Colorado - though those incidents had little in common except mental illness by the murderers.

    In a time when American culture is criticized for having too many people in jail for misdemeanors, Wintemute wants to put anyone with a misdemeanor in jail if they own a gun.

    He claims the US has 5 percent of the world’s population but 40 percent of all firearms that are in civilian hands. In addition, he believes that the US Constitution's Second Amendment has allowed too many firearms to be available for too many people. Wintemute says things like the “Stand Your Ground” laws, created to protect victims of domestic abuse and enacted at the state level to affirm that a person may justifiably use force in self- defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, are instead dangerous experiments that have been used to legitimize shootings that he considers murder. Colorado, Connecticut and Virginia do not have a Stand Your Ground law.

    "To reduce the number of deaths and injuries from firearms in the United States, we need to develop policies that require background checks for all firearm purchases, including private-party sales — the most important source of firearms for criminal buyers and others who are prohibited from purchasing guns," said Wintemute, also director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and inaugural Susan P. Baker-Stephen P. Teret Chair in Violence Prevention at UC Davis. "We need to prevent individuals with a previous conviction for a misdemeanor violent crime, such as assault and battery, from purchasing or possessing a firearm. We also need to develop better data and criteria that allow us to distinguish between those with a treatable mental disorder who do not have a history of violence from those with a history of violence or substance abuse." 

    Wintemute emphasizes more bans as a solution.  He claims that among persons who purchase firearms legally, those with a previous conviction for a misdemeanor violent crime are roughly nine times as likely as those with no criminal history to be arrested for a violent crime later. For those with two or more such prior convictions, he found the risk increases by a factor of 10 to 15. In addition, studies have shown that firearm owners who abuse alcohol are more likely than other owners to engage in violence-related firearm behavior.  

    "It may be impossible to predict the next mass shooting incident, and we cannot expect interventions designed for specific circumstances to eliminate the risk of firearm violence. But we can change our firearms laws, based on existing evidence, to reduce harm and better ensure public safety,” he said. “Some 40 percent of all firearm transactions, for example, involve private-party sellers, who are not required to keep records and cannot obtain a background check. We need policies that prevent these quick, anonymous and undocumented sales. We also need policies that deny gun purchases to those who we know are at high risk for violence.

    “We know that comprehensive background checks and expanded denial criteria are feasible and effective, because they are in place in many states and have been evaluated. In California, the denial policy reduced the risk of violence and firearm-related crime by 23 percent among those whose purchases were denied. But we need to broaden these and other effective state-level regulations to eliminate the flow of firearms from states where laws are lax to states where laws are stricter.” 

    Wintemute says proposals for comprehensive background checks and denials for misdemeanor violence and for alcohol abuse enjoy broad public support, including among firearm owners. Survey data was gathered by Wintemute and he says he also looked at a series of public polls conducted for the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. 

    “While the individual circumstances of the mass shooting massacres in the U.S. are different, we can only change the outcome if we confront the challenge of unchecked and easy access to firearms,” Wintemute said. “Strengthening our background check and denial policies for firearm purchases will not eliminate firearm violence, but they can reduce it.”

     Published in the New England Journal of Medicine.




    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    Clearly the issue is dealing with mental-illness.  No matter how many controls one places on guns, it will do nothing if legitimate owners can still have their weapons stolen or compromised by those with mental problems or illegal intent.

    Criminals clearly represent one distinct category which can only be dealt with [long-term] by law enforcement.  The greatest risk of being killed will occur in an attack by a relative or acquaintance, so the notion of hordes of anonymous criminals descending on someone's home is simply an NRA fantasy.

    While the latest spate of bravado in those teachers that wish to bring guns into the classroom, I wonder if they'll be so eager to assume liability if that gun goes missing or falls into the hands of a student.  Moreover, it is completely wrong to create a default situation of where people that may not even feel comfortable with guns feel compelled to have them because of pressure to be "protectors".

    Again, that's just amateurish nonsense and Hollywood fantasy.

    As awful as the events of Newtown were, a realistic assessment would likely conclude that none of the teachers, or the principal would have been armed, or likely to have done anything if they had been.  Columbine had an armed police officer and it didn't make a bit of difference.

    The notion that "bad guys with guns are only stopped by good guys with guns" is simply idiotic.  Everything ranging from police officer's being killed to soldiers in combat recognizes the foolishness of presuming that one is safe, simply because they have a gun.  Factor in the problems of inexperience, confusion, and fear and one has a recipe for a disaster.

    Can anyone imagine the consequences of police arriving on a scene where there is a firefight occurring?  How does one distinguish the "good guys" from the "bad"?  At this stage the NRA has simply demonstrated that they are incapable of engaging in a real dialogue.  They are so fearful and obsessive in protecting their 2nd amendment rights, despite having no problem in trampling over people's 1st amendment rights.

    Finally, mass shootings are always the exception, and despite the horrific nature of these acts, they are fundamentally uncontrollable, except insofar as we can try and do more to help unstable people and prevent them from having easy access to weapons.

    The notion of concealed carry only works, because the default view is that the average citizen is unarmed.  If that situation changes, then it won't matter how many guns you're carrying, there will no longer be an advantage.  Those carrying will simply be the targets taken out first, before they're even aware that they are under attack.  Again, for those that insist that something like that can't happen, it is worth considering the number of armed police officers killed every year to see the truth of that statement.

    In short, this problem won't be solved until the public begins to take guns seriously and recognizes that they have a responsibility to ensure that weapons are secured and not idly placed in the hands of unstable people.  While there are many responsible gun owners that do take it seriously, there are equally large numbers of gun owners that are simply idiots, that think nothing of shooting up the woods after drinking all afternoon.  There are plenty that don't bother to visually verify their target before opening fire. 

    In fact, one often hears about how parents talk about how responsible their kids are with guns and how they've been taught safety.  Well, in all these shootings, I don't recall that gun competence was the problem.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    The notion that "bad guys with guns are only stopped by good guys with guns" is simply idiotic.
    Wellllll, I don't know why so many people, including our President and the NBC host most critical of the NRA, send their kids to a school with 11 armed good guys then.

    The moment they met any armed resistance, the sociopaths killed themselves. So it stands to reason if they had met resistance they would have killed a lot fewer people.  I suspect that is why David Gregory and other elites insist armed guards do no good...yet send their kids to a school full of them just the same.
    Gerhard Adam
    I don't know why so many people, including our President and the NBC host most critical of the NRA, send their kids to a school with 11 armed good guys then.
    What is that supposed to mean?  Do you really expect that the secret service would engage in a fire-fight?  Do you think that's what the job of a bodyguard is; to shoot back?  Moreover, are you really suggesting that armed citizens are on par with the secret service? 

    However, if you really want to submit that comment as a response to gun violence, then let's consider how effective such armed solutions are in the light of Kennedy, Reagan, and the attempt on Ford. 
    The moment they met any armed resistance, the sociopaths killed themselves.
    That's simply not true.  These individuals have already resolved to kill themselves, and they simply run until capture appears inevitable.  At Columbine the police officer did exchange gun fire, which did absolutely nothing to change the outcome.  In other instances, the armed citizen respondent was also killed and equally achieved little in the outcomes.

    This isn't about banning weapons, but equally there is no solution in increasing the number of weapons and then using Hollywood images to suggest that private, untrained citizens will make a material difference in the outcome.  As bad as a psychopath with a weapon is, it is almost as bad having a frightened citizen with a gun creating cross-fire. 
    So it stands to reason if they had met resistance they would have killed a lot fewer people.
    Why is that assumed?  The shooter in the theater wore a bullet-proof vest.  That assumption is based on an armed civilized being successful, rather than simply being a victim themselves. 

    Again, this isn't to argue that people shouldn't defend themselves, nor that they don't have a right to defend themselves.  Clearly they do, and there is also no doubt that in some circumstances, armed resistance can make a difference.  However, my objection derives from the generalized notion that being armed is sufficient, especially when one considers that we have a long history of armed individuals [police/military] being unable to stop such assaults.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    What is that supposed to mean? Do you really expect that the secret service would engage in a fire-fight? Do you think that's what the job of a bodyguard is; to shoot back? Moreover, are you really suggesting that armed citizens are on par with the secret service? 
    The Secret Service is separate. If you know that the armed police officers at Sidwell Friends are not going to shoot bad guys, I hope you do not tell all those parents who are paying to have them there precisely so they can shoot bad guys. So what exactly will these armed cops do, if someone pulls out a gun? Call more police while kids die?  I get the feeling you are arguing just to argue or you would not make the silly claim that the cops hired by the school are instead secret service bodyguards only for the president's kids. Regardless, there is a 100% chance a secret service agent is engaging in a firefight if a gun comes out.

    The rest of your comment is speculation - so the Aurura shooter had a vest. Big deal. He was not a trained military operative jacked up on PCP and getting hit by a bullet, vest or not, is sending that spindly psychologist to the ground.  The Newtown shooter had a school full of potential hostages so capture was not 'imminent'.
    √I am a legal gun owner who submitted to background checks, completed the appropriate training, and take gun ownership seriously. As law-abiding citizens we are expected to navigate the labyrinth of conflicting state laws regarding firearms and we do successfully everyday. Although many of these laws are conflicting between neighboring states, we still respect them and abide by them everyday. Let's make it easy for everyone (including David Gregory) and develop a basic framework across the United States.

    With 300 million firearms in private hands (one-third of them pistols), the overwhelming majority of gun owners ARE responsible, law-abiding citizens, which is why these horrific massacres are not commonplace, but rather horrific outliers that can never be legislated away (e.g. DC, Chicago, and "Gun Free Zones"). We need teach personal responsibility to our children, family, friends, neighbors and politicians and hold them accountable for their actions.

    For several examples for the recent use of firearms for defensive purposes not typically reported by the national media please visit: http://www.equalforce.net and forward this address to others to whom this information may be useful. @forceequalizer

    rholley
    horrific outliers
    The murder of two firefighters in Webster, NY reminds me of an incident in September this year where a man lured two female police officers in Manchester (England) to a house by pretending there was a burglary, and killed them.

    Turning the US into the UK is not the answer.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hank
    Right, it would be terrific if we could simply legislate away evil but it isn't likely to happen. Advocates are often the worst people to involve in a policy discussion - an academic in California against guns is not a neutral cultural arbiter any more than a director at a gun lobbying group is.

    In Connecticut, under these recommendations, a single mother worried about home defense would have been denied the right to buy a gun if a bureaucrat determined her son was weird - there is no metric to determine if an anti-social kid is dangerous.  And the Stand Your Ground law Wintemute doesn't like was created to protect people - specifically, abused women - in their homes from being charged for defending themselves under a silly 'you should have run' charge. Basically, all of his suggestions want to eliminate one weapon of sociopath outliers by penalizing a whole lot of women.  It just gives sociopaths a new defenseless target, along with movie theaters, temples and schools.

    Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is leading this charge now in the US but when she felt threated in the 1970s, she got the only civilian concealed weapon permit in San Francisco. Today she does not need one because Senators can carry a gun with no paperwork. Creating a culture where only criminals and elites can defend themselves does not feel like an improvement.

    If we devoted all of the money we are about to waste on lobbying and lawsuits to (a) mental health care and (b) figuring out why these weirdos are always men, we'd be better off.
    UvaE
    While the latest spate of bravado in those teachers that wish to bring guns into the classroom, I wonder if they'll be so eager to assume liability if that gun goes missing or falls into the hands of a student.  Moreover, it is completely wrong to create a default situation of where people that may not even feel comfortable with guns feel compelled to have them because of pressure to be "protectors".
    Again, that's just amateurish nonsense and Hollywood fantasy.

    In addition to the liability issues, many teachers would be useless with a gun. And I can see the nightmare unfolding now: the typical half-day pseudo-workshop to presumably train teachers how to shoot straight.

    There are other alternatives to guns: locked steel classroom doors* or an emergency ladder to be hung from the window (though I realize some high school classrooms have no windows---how bizarre!) 

    *I've been keeping my classroom door locked since the University of Montreal shootings . My students laugh, but at times I ask for a password.
    Hank
    Right, this solution came up after 9/11 also - arming pilots. What we did not do is have kooky politicians outlawing airplanes.

    But arming people en masse is not a solution or Somalia would clearly be the safest place in the world.  However, schools in Connecticut prevent anyone from being armed, which is no solution either - the UK has the highest crime in the developed world because of its anti-gun laws. As I mentioned above, the minute the lunatics met any armed resistance, they killed themselves, so a teacher who has passed the qualifications and clearly wants to be armed might have done some good.
    "the UK has the highest crime in the developed world because of its anti-gun laws."

    As this site is dedicated to science, I really would like to see some scientific evidence for this statement. Not only for the "because" part, but also for the "highest crime" part. Perhaps the definition of (recorded) "crime" is different in the UK, compared with the US or other countries.

    Gerhard Adam
    Right, this solution came up after 9/11 also - arming pilots. What we did not do is have kooky politicians outlawing airplanes.
    ????  Security increased dramatically preventing all manner of weapons from being taken on planes.  In other words, the solution was banning weapons.  I expect that neither you nor I has any actual information regarding if or how many pilots are actually armed, so since the cockpit door is locked during flight, the pilot's armament is all but irrelevant in any situation beyond an actual breach of the flight deck.

    Since politicians are not trying to outlaw schools, I'm not sure what your comment relates to.

    Obviously the banning of weapons isn't a practical solution as an overall societal approach, even beyond the constitutional issue, it simply isn't feasible.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I am a legal gun owner who submitted to background checks, completed the appropriate training, and take gun ownership seriously. As law-abiding citizens we are expected to navigate the labyrinth of conflicting state laws regarding firearms and we do successfully everyday. Although many of these laws are conflicting between neighboring states, we still respect them and abide by them everyday. Let’s make it easy for everyone (including David Gregory) and develop a basic framework across the United States.

    With 300 million firearms in private hands (one-third of them pistols), the overwhelming majority of gun owners ARE responsible, law-abiding citizens, which is why these horrific massacres are not commonplace, but rather horrific outliers that can never be legislated away (e.g. DC, Chicago, and “Gun Free Zones”).

    For several examples for the recent use of firearms for defensive purposes not typically reported by the national media please visit: http://www.equalforce.net please forward this address to others to whom this information may be useful. @forceequalizer

    Gerhard Adam
    ...the overwhelming majority of gun owners ARE responsible, law-abiding citizens, which is why these horrific massacres are not commonplace...
    Such an assertion simply can't be substantiated, however, I want to be clear that I am not an advocate of banning guns.  The majority of instances on your link are homeowners, for which there is absolutely no doubt that having a means of defense can be quite successful [even against the occasional mishaps].  However, home defense isn't the same thing as a fire-fight in a public area. 

    However, let's also consider that many people simply "don't get it" when it comes to responsible behaviors.  How else does one explain how 1500 weapons were confiscated by TSA in U.S. airports? 
    How thick is someone to think there's nothing wrong with bringing a firearm onto an airplane?

    Similarly, one of my main criticisms is due to the casualness with which firearms are often treated.  Consider the woman recently arrested in connection to the two fire-fighters shot in Rochester, NY.  What is even more disturbing is that this woman legally purchased an AR-15 and a shotgun and yet when these weapons were supposedly "stolen", she didn't think enough of it to report it.  I wonder if she would be so casual if it were her iphone?

    It would be wrong to paint every gun owner as some wide-eyed lunatic with Rambo fantasies, however let's remember that everyone is "responsible" until that moment where they aren't.  Cherry picking data to support any particular side doesn't do us any good in attempting to address the obvious problem we have in this country. 

    These shooters have discovered a way in which they can deliver a devastating and notable "suicide note" by their actions. 

    In my view, one of the most important steps we can take wouldn't require any legislation or cost anything.  It would simply be to deny the shooter that which he craves the most; notoriety.  Their names should never be mentioned, and they should never be recognized.  Deny them their 15 minutes of fame, and I expect that would do more to discourage others, than the current approach.

    Of course, that's simply my opinion and certainly isn't based on any scientific evidence.

    NOTE:  Things can actually get goofier than this though. 
    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/28/16221808-rocket-launchers-surface-during-los-angeles-guns-buyback?lite
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    This is why claims of "responsibility" ring hollow.

    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/01/16286049-gunfire-rings-in-a-deadly-new-year-across-us?lite
    Mundus vult decipi
    Yeah...SURE they will. No way for these people...who are willing to murder many people, to break the gun ownership laws!
    Sadly, this site has the word "science" in its name. What an insult to scientists everywhere.

    Want to decrease gun crimes? (you can't eliminate it...then get rid of the ultra liberal judges that sentence people who commit gun crimes to hugs and unicorns. If you commit a crime with a gun, your sentence should be tripled. Period. Minimum 10 years BEFORE you can be paroled. If you commit ANY crime and have an illegal gun on you, then the minimum sentence should be 5 years. IF you are found with an illegal weapon even with no crime? 3 year minimum.

    Telling criminals that they can't have gun according to the law are not going to stop them. The word criminal seems to suggest that they don't care about the law. Making it more risky for them to carry that gun? That WILL stop them. Will still following the CONSTITUTION of the United States.