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When 23-year-old law clerk Chase Passauer was killed in April of 2016 in the St. Paul law office of North Star Criminal Defense, someone finally kept track of how much his death cost. The eight bullets fired into his body cost about $3.00, but the crime committed by an ex-felon who should not have had a firearm in the first place ended up costing society about $7 million. That sum included the costs of the investigation, incarceration, worker’s comp payments, and burial expenses. Lately Minnesota has averaged 922 shootings a year. Nationally we average 33,000 killed and over 100,000 wounded from firearms. Using that ratio, it means Minnesotans average about one killed and two wounded a day. The bipartisan Minnesota Coalition for Common Sense estimates that the 922 shootings cost all of us $764 million—with taxpayers paying most of it.
The shooter of Passauer was Ryan Peterson, a 37-year-old felon, who admitted he shot him in a fit of rage. Peterson was actually going to shoot Dan Adkins at the law office, a lawyer he had hired to defend him in a drunken driving charge and for assaulting a police officer. He was upset that Adkins didn’t seem to be working very hard to get him off the two charges, so he wanted some of his $7,000 back he had paid Adkins to take his case. Adkins was not in the office at the time so he shot and killed Passauer, the only person in the office. Passauer was working as a law clerk for the firm because his ambition in life was to become a criminal defense attorney. He had graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in philosophy and political science at the age of 21. He had worked his way through the university by umpiring college and high school baseball games, installing flooring, and law clerking. He was planning to enter law school. Peterson was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in October.
Levi’s CEO: “You Don’t Need a Gun To Try On Jeans”
Now that the Republicans in Minnesota control both the House and the Senate, they have already hinted there would be no gun control bills passed by the Legislature. The National Rifle Association, with the victory of the “celebrity Republican” Donald Trump and the re-election of Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, has already stated its major goal in the first year of the Trump administration would be to nationalize its open-carry and concealed-carry campaigns, now legal in 45 states with 14.5 million people with carry permits. The NRA and the gun manufacturers, salivating over the possibility of additional firearm sales, want to make it possible for every citizen to stand up to bad gunmen by shooting it out on the streets or in malls. Solid research continues to show it is far more likely that guns are used to harm the owners or other innocent people than to stop a crime. The NRA would love to pass a law requiring all states to recognize concealed-carry permits issued by other states. This would mean that conceal-carry Texans would be allowed to enter Madison Square Garden for a basketball game between the San Antonio Spurs and the New York Knicks.
The gun market is really booming after the election, with a record 185,713 gun sales processed by the federal background check agency on Black Friday alone. According to the FBI there have been 22,206,233 background checks in the first ten months of 2016. Guns seem to be becoming a fashion accessory with manufacturers touting small customized pistols in every color of the rainbow. Perhaps a small green automatic to go with a green purse? CEO Chip Bergh of Levi Strauss & Co. has posted an open letter requesting that jean shoppers not carry guns into any Levi’s stores, citing that “providing a safe environment in which to work and shop is a top priority for us. That priority is quickly challenged, however, when a weapon is carried into one of our stores.” Bergh noted that Levi’s has stores in Paris, Nice, Orlando, and Brussels, cities that have already been hit by mass gun violence and terrorism. Bergh has received communications questioning his masculinity and many anti-Semitic messages stating Levi’s should be boycotted: “Avoid those Jew jeans.”
There seems to be a Tombstone open-carry attitude infecting many states. It’s now legal to open-carry in all public buildings in Kentucky. When the Republican Convention was held in Cleveland open-carry advocates carried military-style rifles throughout downtown streets. You don’t even need a permit to open-carry anywhere in Mississippi. Georgia recently passed a “guns everywhere” bill and has already issued over a million carry permits.
The Violence Policy Center reports that since 2007 concealed-carry permit holders have killed 898 people not involving self-defense, including killing 139 people in 29 mass shootings. Research indicates guns are rarely used in self-defense or to stop crimes. It’s a myth created by the gun lobby at the tragic expense of public safety.
Shopping At WalMart Can Require an AR-15
This is the true story of Jim Cooley in the “Stand Your Ground” state of Georgia who takes an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle with a 100-round drum with him when he and wife go to WalMart to shop for groceries—just in case. When he goes for a quick lunch to his favorite fast-food restaurant he carries a 9mm pistol with a full clip and one in the chamber—just in case. He grew up without a gun, didn’t hunt, never feared for his safety, got married and had two children without a gun. For one reason or another he now has filed for bankruptcy three times, the last one brought about by a $41,052.51 hospital bill when he had no health insurance. His heart attack and the addition of six stents caused such circulation problems in his legs he can only walk a short distance. He is disabled and is not trained for any kind of non-physical work. He uses an electric scooter constantly.
Jim was arrested for the first time years ago when he carried a .380 pistol outside of a school board meeting. After that arrest he bought an AR-15 and fired it at a close firing range. Suddenly he had a profound sense of control over his shattered life. He has an obsession about keeping his family safe. He keeps two four-inch knives in his car doors and has installed four security cameras inside the car that begin to film as soon as he turns the ignition key. He has also placed seven cameras around the perimeter of his small house. Even with his physical disabilities he joined a Georgia militia in 2014 and spends a lot of time watching fringe and extreme right websites on a laptop. He particularly likes “Police State 101.” On his Facebook page he has pictures of himself carrying rifles and videos showing people stopping intruders with guns, people killing burglars with guns, and people shooting guns. Jim has all the necessary Georgia permits. The question is, would you want him to live next door? Be behind you at a long line at the liquor store with an AR-15 on his shoulder? Have a 9mm Glock at his waist at a student-teacher conference?
Just How Many Guns Do We Have In This Country?
We know that there are 260 million vehicles on the roads of the United States. They are all registered with motor vehicle departments and insurance companies. On the other hand we have no idea how many firearms are owned by private citizens. I have been writing about the NRA and gun control issues for over 20 years and have seen estimates range from 200 million to over 400 million. Gun manufacturing statistics and import records between 1899 and 2013 indicate over 360 million were on the market during that time in the U.S. Experts seem to think that a country with 320 million people now has about 400 million guns available. We are close to having two firearms for every adult. A Harvard/Northeastern study estimates that 70 million firearms have been added to the supply in the last 22 years. Gun owners tend to be white, male, conservative, and live in rural areas. Thirty percent of conservatives say they are gun owners, compared with 19% of moderates and 14% of liberals. Almost 45% of military veterans own firearms, generally because they are very familiar with weapons and know what they can do.
For the first time in over 60 years we kill as many people with guns as we kill in vehicle accidents. The ratio is 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people. We kill about 38,000 with vehicles and 33,000 with guns. We had a much higher ratio in the 1960’s for vehicle accidents than we had for firearm deaths. We used to have a ratio of 25 vehicle deaths for 100,000 people. In 2005 only two states, Alaska and Maryland, had more gun deaths than vehicle deaths. Technology and increased regulations have steadily reduced vehicle deaths to the same ratio as firearm deaths. By 2015 gun deaths were greater than vehicle deaths in 21 states. We are much safer in vehicles because of seatbelts, anti-lock brakes, airbags, an increased focus on drunk driving, rules on distracted driving such as texting, and rear-view cameras. What have gun manufacturers done to improve the safe handling of firearms? Virtually nothing. Drop your pistol on a hard floor and see what happens. How about control of ammo purchases? When Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 and wounded 22 in San Bernardino the pair had assault rifles, handguns, military clothing, and 7,600 rounds of ammunition. The amount of ammo purchased could raise questions.
How Many Children Will We Kill With Firearms This Year?
A research group called the Gun Violence Archive has spent six months studying the death and injury from shootings for children 17 years old and younger. From January 1, 2014 to June 30 of 2016 over a 1,000 children were killed or injured by firearms. In that period of time almost 90 three-year-olds were killed or injured by firearms, mostly self-inflicted. Over 350 children 17 years and younger were killed. The age range of 15 to18 is very dangerous because that’s when children shoot each other with handguns owned by their parents. Most kills are around weekends and holidays. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia have the highest rates of accidental shootings involving minors.
Typical of this type of death was the case of four-year-old Bryson Mees- Hernandez of Houston, Texas who died of a self-inflicted bullet to his brain from a .22-caliber Derringer he found under his grandmother’s bed. Many toddlers die because they find unsecured loaded firearms in homes and vehicles and shoot themselves or other children. Teenagers shoot their friends because they love to show off guns. Gun safety groups estimate that up to 70% of accidental shootings by children would be prevented if parents kept their guns locked up—and separated from the ammunition. Even some adults think a gun is unloaded if you remove the clip. Surprise! One cynic has expressed a solution for all of the deaths of children caused by firearms. He said we should deport all of our children ages 2 to 17 to foreign countries so they can be raised in safe homes.