High profile shootings in the USA……
Elkmont, Alabama, September 2, 2019: Father, step-mother, 6 year-old step-brother, 5 year old step-sister, and 6 month old step-brother shot and killed by 14 year-old boy…
Midland and Odessa Texas, August 31, 2019: 7 people killed, 24 wounded…
Dayton, Ohio, August 4, 2019: 9 people killed, 27 injured…
El Paso Texas, August 3, 2019: 22 people killed, at least 24 other injured…
Gilroy, California, July 28, 2019: 3 people killed, 13 injured…
Municipal Center, Virginia Beach, Virginia, May 31, 2019: 12 people killed, 4 wounded…
STEM Charter School, Highlands Ranch, Colorado, May 7, 2019: 1 student killed, 8 students wounded…
University of North Carolina, Charlotte, April 30, 2019: 2 students killed, 4 students wounded…
Baltimore, Maryland neighborhood cookout, April 29, 2019: 1 person killed, at least 7 people wounded…
April 27, 2019, Chabad Synagogue, Poway, California: 1 woman killed, 3 people, including 8 year old girl, wounded…
February 15, 2019, Henry Pratt Manufacturing Plant, Aurora, Illinois: 5 employees killed, 5 police officers wounded…
January 26, 2019, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana: 5 people killed, including gunman’s girlfriend, girlfriend’s father and brother, and gunman’s parents…
January 23, 2019, SunTrust Bank, Sebring, Florida: 5 women killed…
January 10, 2019, Davis, California: 22 year old female police officer ambushed and killed during her first month on the job while investigating minor traffic accident…
Chicago Mercy Hospital, November 20, 2018: Emergency physician, pharmacy resident, and police officer killed by physician’s ex-boyfriend…
Thousand Oaks, California, November 7, 2018: 12 people killed, 22 injured…
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 27, 2018: 11 people killed, 6 wounded at Jewish synagogue by anti-Semitic gunman…
Bakersfield, California, September 13, 2018: 5 people killed, including shooter’s ex-wife…
Cincinnati, Ohio, Fountain Square Office Building, September 6, 2018: 3 people killed, 2 wounded…
Jacksonville, Florida Video Football Gaming Tournament, August 26, 2018: 2 people killed, 9 wounded…
Capital Gazette newspaper, Annapolis, Maryland, June 28, 2018: 5 people killed, including editor, 3 journalists, and another staff member…
Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe, Texas, May 18, 2018: 8 students and 2 teachers killed, 13 wounded…
Nashville, Tennessee, April 22, 2018: 4 people killed, 2 wounded…
Pathway Home for Veterans with PTSD, Yountville, California, March 9, 2018: 3 female staff killed by former client…
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, February 14, 2018: 14 students and 3 staff killed, 17 wounded by former student…
Marshall County High School, Benton, Kentucky, January 23, 2018: 2 students killed, 12 wounded…
Since 1968, more U.S. civilians have been killed by guns than all the U.S. soldiers killed by any means in all the wars in which the United States has ever been involved…
On an average day in 2017, 109 people were killed by guns in the United States, and at least 2-3 times this many people suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds…
In 2017, a total of 39,773 people were killed by guns in the United States, and at least 2-3 times this many people suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds…
Highlands Ranch, Colorado, December 31, 2017: 1 police officer killed, 4 other officers and 2 civilians wounded…
Tehama County, California, November 14, 2017: 5 people killed, 12 wounded, including 6 children…
Sutherland Springs, Texas, November 5, 2017: 26 people killed, 20 wounded…
Las Vegas, Nevada, October 1, 2017: 58 people killed, 422 wounded…
Freeman High School, Rockford, Washington, September 13, 2017: 1 student killed, 3 students wounded…
New York City Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, June 30, 2017: 1 person killed, 5 wounded…
Little Rock, Arkansas, June 30, 2017: 25 people wounded…
Alexandria, Virginia baseball field, June 14, 2017: 4 people wounded…
San Francisco UPS warehouse, June 14, 2017: 3 people killed, 2 wounded…
Hollywood/Fort Lauderdale Airport, Florida, January 6, 2017: 5 people killed, 6 wounded…
Since 1968, more U.S. civilians have been killed by guns than all the U.S. soldiers killed by any means in all the wars in which the United States has ever been involved….
On an average day in 2016, 106 people were killed by guns in the United States of America, and approximately, 232 suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds….
In 2016, a total of 38, 658 people were killed by guns in the United States of America….
Since 1968, more U.S. civilians have been killed by guns than all the U.S. soldiers killed in all the wars in which the United States has ever been involved…
Townville, South Carolina, September 28, 2016: 2 people killed, including shooter’s father and 6 year boy, 2 others wounded by 14 year old boy…
Burlington, Washington, September 28, 2016: 5 people killed at department store makeup counter…
Fort Myers, Florida, July 25, 2016, 2 people killed: 17 wounded…
Sniper Attacks, Dallas, Texas, July 7, 2016: 5 people killed, 7 wounded…
Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016: 49 people killed, 58 wounded…
Excel Industries, Hesston, Kansas, February 25, 2016, 3 people killed, 14 wounded…
Kalamazoo, Michigan, February 20, 2016, 6 killed, 2 people wounded…
On an average day in the United States in 2015, 99 people killed by guns, 232 wounded….
Since 1968, more U.S. civilians have been killed by guns than all the U.S. soldiers killed in all the wars in which the United States has ever been involved…
Inland Regional Center, San Bernardino, California, December 2, 2015, 14 people killed, 21 wounded…
Planned Parenthood, Colorado Springs, November 27, 2015, 3 people killed, 9 wounded…
Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon, October 1, 2015, 9 people killed, 9 wounded…
Marine Corps Recruitment Center, Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 16, 2015, 5 people killed, 2 wounded…
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, June 17, 2015, 9 people killed, 1 wounded…
On an average day in the United States in 2014, 92 people killed by guns, 222 wounded…
Since 1968, more U.S. civilians have been killed by guns than all the U.S. soldiers killed in all the wars in which the United States has ever been involved…
Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Marysville, Washington, October 24, 2014, 5 people killed, 1 wounded…
University of California, Santa Barbara student mass murder, Isla Vista, California, May 23, 2014, 6 people killed, 13 wounded…
Fort Hood, Texas, April 3, 2014, 3 people killed, 12 wounded…
Rancheria Tribal Office and Community Center, Alturas, California, February 20, 2014, 4 people killed, 2 wounded…
On an average day in the United States in 2013, 92 people killed by guns, 231 wounded…
Since 1968, more U.S. civilians have been killed by guns than all the U.S. soldiers killed in all the wars in which the United States has ever been involved…
Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C., September 16, 2013, 12 killed, 8 wounded…
Hialeah Apartment Building, Hialea, Florida, July 26, 2013, 7 killed…
Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, California, June 7, 2013, 6 killed, 3 wounded…
Pinewood Village Apartment, Federal Way, Washington, April 21, 2013, 5 killed…
On an average day in the United States, 92 killed, over 180 wounded…
In an average year in the United States, over 30,000 killed, over 60,000 wounded…
Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012, 20 children and 7 adults killed, 2 wounded…
Accent Signage Systems, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 27, 2012, 7 killed, 1 wounded…
Sikh Temple, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, August 5, 2012, 7 killed, 3 wounded…
Century Movie Theater, Aurora, Colorado, July 20, 2012, 12 killed, 58 wounded…
Café Racer, Seattle, Washington, May 20, 2012, 6 killed, 1 wounded…
Oikos University, Oakland, California, April 2, 2012, 7 killed, 3 wounded…
"Pious condolences will no longer suffice…"
"Quarter measures and half measures will no longer suffice…"
"The time has now come that we must enact stringent gun control legislation…"
"…gun control legislation comparable to the legislation in force in virtually every civilized country in the world."

Senator Thomas Dodd, June 11, 1968

"Pious condolences will no longer suffice…"
"Quarter measures and half measures will no longer suffice…"
"The time has now come that we must enact stringent gun control legislation…"
"…gun control legislation comparable to the legislation in force in virtually every civilized country in the world."

Senator Thomas Dodd, June 11, 1968

Who's To Blame when a 14 Year-old Boy Shoots and Kills His Entire Family?

A Message from the President of Americans Against Gun Violence

September 12, 2019

 

Late on the night of Monday, September 2, a 14 year old boy in the small town of Elkmont, Alabama, called 911 to report that he heard gunshots in his home. When police arrived, they found one adult and two children dead in the home, apparently as a result of gunshot wounds. Another adult and child lay critically wounded and subsequently died in area hospitals. The 14 year old boy initially told police that he had run outside the house when he heard the gunshots, but when police noted inconsistencies in his account, they questioned him further, and the teen admitted that he had committed the murders. He subsequently led police to the 9mm handgun that he had used to kill his 38 year old father, John Wayne Sisk; his 35 year old stepmother, Mary Sisk; his five year old step sister; and his two step-brothers, one six years old, and the other six months old.

The teen’s name was not released by police, but an adult cousin told reporters that he had been well behaved until about a year earlier when he began engaging in vandalism and cruelty to animals. He had just recently learned that Mary Sisk was not his biological mother.[1] Ms. Sisk worked as a special education teacher and had posted the statement on her school website staff profile, “I am happily married with a great husband and four beautiful children.”[2]

It’s not clear from the reports I read who owned the gun used by the teen to commit the murders. A police spokesman told reporters that the handgun used in the killings was in the home “illegally,” but he did not elaborate further.[3] A local news station reported that that the teen’s father, John Sisk, had pleaded guilty to a felony charge of sexual misconduct with a minor in Indiana in 1999, when Sisk was 18 years old.[4] As a convicted felon, John Sisk would have been prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm under federal law, but he still could have easily acquired the handgun without a background check from a source other than a federally licensed firearm dealer.

Most people who keep a handgun in their home are men, and most cite “protection” as the reason for having the gun.[5] Most guns in homes in which children live are stored loaded and/or unlocked.[6] Adult gun owners consistently under-estimate the ease with which children can gain access to guns in the home,[7] and female domestic partners are often unaware that there even is a gun in the home.[8] By the time the average American boy reaches the age of 18, he’s been exposed to at least 200,000 acts of violence through one form of entertainment media or another.[9]

A police spokesman in the Elkmont shooting reported that the 14 year-old boy who committed the mass shooting had been charged with five “juvenile counts of murder,” and "pending the adjudication process, could face adult charges of multiple counts of murder and/or capital murder."[10] Even if the teen’s parents had not been killed in the attack, they probably would not have been charged with a crime for the teen gaining access to the gun and killing their other three other children. Alabama has no child firearm access prevention laws, and there are no such federal laws. On the contrary, in the rogue 2008 Heller decision, a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court not only overturned Washington DC’s partial ban on keeping handguns in the home, it also overturned the District of Columbia’s safe storage laws on the basis that they violated the Second Amendment.[11] The same 5-4 majority ruled in the 2010 McDonald decision that Heller applied to the states as well as to the District of Columbia.[12]

I first learned of the Elkmont mass shooting while listening to the BBC News. The shooting didn’t make the print edition of our local Sacramento newspaper, nor did it make the PBS News Hour, although the September 3rd edition of the News Hour did devote a segment to a prayer vigil for the victims of the mass shooting in Midland and Odessa, Texas, on August 31, in which 7 people were killed and 25 were injured.

One of the online news sources that covered the Elkmont shooting quoted the mayor of Elkmont, Mr. Tracy Compton, as stating, "We pray as a community for healing in this unprecedented situation and know that together we will persevere and eventually overcome." To his credit, Mayor Compton also encouraged residents of Elkmont to pray “for the accused,”[13] adding, “We can’t begin to understand the ‘Why?’ or ‘How?’”[14] I couldn’t find any news report that cited the easy availability of handguns as a contributory factor in the mass shooting or that quoted anyone as calling for restrictions on civilian handgun ownership to prevent such shootings from recurring in the future.

We will probably never know the answer to the question, “Why?” in the case of the Elmont shooting. The 14 year-old boy who committed the shooting probably doesn’t fully know the answer himself. As the American Academy of Pediatrics noted in its position paper on Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population in April of 2000:

Adolescence is marked by a search for identity, independence, and autonomy. Accompanying characteristics may be curiosity, the strong influence of the peer group, rites of passage, belief in invincibility, impulsiveness, immaturity, mood swings, and substance abuse. The perception of danger by adolescents may be influenced by many factors, including the media, as well as the reality of their own lives. The world seen as a dangerous place during this particularly vulnerable developmental period may lead to conflict, injury, and death, especially when access to guns is easy.[15]

I don’t interpret this statement to mean that the teen who committed the mass shooting is not responsible for his own actions, or that he didn’t know that killing his entire family with a handgun was terribly wrong. But I do believe that the authors of this statement would agree that the 14 year-old boy doesn’t deserve the full blame for the killings, and that, as Mayor Compton implied, “the accused” is, in a sense, a victim himself.

Within a couple of days of the Elkmont mass shooting, coverage of the event and its aftermath had already completely disappeared from media attention, and I can’t find any more information about the source of the gun. Assuming, though, that it was the deceased father who brought the handgun into the home and who failed to store it safely, he certainly bears some of the blame for the mass murder.

If it was the father, John Sisk, who brought the gun into the home, and if it’s true that he did have a past felony conviction that made it illegal for him to own a firearm, it’s hard to have much sympathy for him, even though he was one of the victims. On the other hand, despite the fact that there is extensive evidence that a gun in the home is much more likely to be used to kill, injure, or intimidate a household member than to protect against a home invader;[16] and that a gun in the home is an independent risk factor for a homicide or suicide in the home,[17] particularly when there is an adolescent in the household,[18] John Sisk, like most other handgun owners in the United States, probably believed that having a handgun in the home made his family safer.[19] But Americans have not always held this misconception.

A Gallup poll conducted in 1993 showed that the majority of Americans correctly believed that having a gun in the home made the home a more dangerous place for household members. By 2014, though, almost two thirds of Americans mistakenly believed that having a gun in the home made the home safer.[20] Another Gallup poll in 1959 showed that 60% of Americans supported banning civilian ownership of handguns. By 2016, the percentage of Americans who supported banning handguns had dropped to 23%.[21]  What accounts for these shifts in public opinion?

The counterfactual shifts in public opinion in recent decades are a tribute in large part to the effectiveness of the misinformation campaign waged by the gun industry and its associated lobby. The entertainment industry, to the extent that profits from glorifying and romanticizing the use of firearms, also deserves some of the blame for promoting the myth of guns for protection. But there are also less obvious, and in some ways, more pernicious sources of misinformation, such as the five members of the Supreme Court who, in the rogue 2008 Heller decision, not only endorsed an interpretation of the Second Amendment that the late Supreme Court Chief Justice had called “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public by special interest groups” that he had ever seen in his lifetime,”[22] but who also endorsed the myth that a handgun is “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one's home and family.”[23]

Many politicians  – and not just those who take big donations from the gun lobby - also promote the myth of “guns for protection.” While running for president in June of 2008, Senator Barack Obama lauded the Heller decision when it was first announced.[24] And during a press conference in 2011, President Obama said:

So I believe in the Second Amendment. It does provide for Americans the right to bear arms for their protection, for their safety, for hunting, for a wide range of uses.[25]

Obama had taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. He knew, or should have known, that the Founders who wrote, debated, and voted for the Second Amendment never intended for it to confer an individual right to own a gun unrelated to service in a “well regulated militia.”[26] And Obama should have also known that the Supreme Court had rejected the “individual right” interpretation of the Second Amendment in four other cases prior to the Heller decision.[27]

Presidential hopefuls continue to promote the myth of guns for protection in the run-up to the 2020 election. The Democratic candidate, California Senator Kamala Harris, stated while campaigning in Iowa in April of this year:

I am a gun owner and I own a gun for probably the reason that a lot of people do, for personal safety.[28]

During a social media town hall hosted by Parents magazine in 2013, former Vice President Joe Biden, who is another contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, was asked how citizens could protect themselves in their homes if assault weapons were banned. Rather than pointing out that having a gun in the home results in far greater risk than protection, Biden replied, “If you want to protect yourself, get a double barreled shotgun.”[29]

There is no presidential candidate who panders more to the gun lobby than the current occupant of the White House, Donald J. Trump. Trump told NRA members at their annual convention on his  99th day in office, “I can proudly say I will never, ever let you down,”[30] At the same time, though, I don’t know of any current presidential candidate – or, for that matter, any congressional candidate or current member of Congress -  who openly challenges the myth that honest, law abiding people should own or carry guns for “protection;” or who openly advocates overturning the Heller decision and adopting stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws that have long been in effect in the other high income democratic countries of the world – countries in which mass shootings are rare or non-existent,[31] in which the average rate of gun deaths is one tenth the rate in the United States,[32] and in which “self defense” is not considered to be a legitimate reason for owning a gun.[33]

Politicians typically tell people what they think their constituents want to hear and what they think will win them votes. Given that almost two thirds of Americans currently believe that having a gun in the home makes the household safer; and given that about three quarters of Americans currently oppose banning handguns; it’s not that surprising that politicians don’t challenge the myth of guns for protection or advocate adopting stringent gun control laws like those in Australia and Great Britain. What’s more surprising – and disappointing - is the fact that the other major gun violence prevention organizations in the United States don’t challenge the myth of guns for protection or advocate stringent gun control laws either. Many of them recommend that guns in the home be stored safely, but none that I’m aware of currently emphasize the facts that a gun in the home is far more likely to harm household members than to protect them and that about 80% of all gun deaths are committed with handguns.[34]

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence previously publicized the fact that “the choice to keep a gun in the home creates far more risk than it prevents,”[35] but the Law Center has changed its messaging since partnering with the Giffords organization and changing its name to the “Giffords Law Center.” Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was herself critically wounded in a mass shooting in 2011 in which 6 other people, including a 9 year old girl, were killed, and 12 other people wounded.[36] Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in December of 2012, Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, which was subsequently renamed, “Giffords.” The 2014 book, Enough,[37]which heralded the founding of Americans for Responsible Solutions, lists both Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly as authors, although it is written in the first person in Kelly’s voice. In the book, Kelly not only fails to challenge the myth of “guns for protection,” he endorses it. Kelly writes that shortly after he married Gabrielle Giffords in 2007, he bought her mother “a .357 Smith and Wesson revolver for her protection.”[38] In the final chapter of the the book, Kelly writes that he and his wife “wholeheartedly agree with the NRA’s belief that ‘guns don’t kill people – people kill people,’”[39] and he states on the final page:

Gabby and I are proud gun owners and protectors of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. We can own guns for self-protection, to hunt, as a hobby, as a cherished memento from a family member.[40]

Kelly doesn’t specify to which version of the Second Amendment he’s referring – the original version, which begins with the phrase, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of the free state,” or the NRA rewrite, which deletes this phrase, and which, sadly, a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court endorsed in the 2008 Heller decision.

Getting back to the “How?” and “Why?” of the mass shooting in Elkmont and the question of who’s to blame for murders, although we’ll probably never fully understand the “Why?” of this and other mass shootings - or of the more than 100 gun related deaths that occur on an average day in our country[41] – the answer to the question, “How?” is obvious. It’s with a gun. And in about 80% of firearm related deaths, it’s with a handgun.[42]

And as far as the issue of blame goes, I believe that when a 14 year-old boy shoots and kills his entire family; when the shooting barely makes the news; when hardly anyone even mentions the fact that easy access to guns was a contributing factor to the shooting or that in order to prevent future mass shootings, as well as the more than 100 gun deaths that occur on an average day in our country, we need to adopt stringent gun control laws like the ones that have long been in place in every other high income country of the world; and when this theme in variations is replayed over and over again in the United States of America; then our entire country bears a significant share of the blame.

In his 2001 book, Every Handgun Is Aimed At You, the executive director of the Violence Policy Center, Joshua Sugarmann, wrote:

America's gun lobby would be on the run, if only the gun control advocates would bother to chase them. Instead, trapped by their perception of the politically achievable, gun control advocates are always on the defensive[43]....They nibble around the edges of half-solutions and good intentions dramatically out of sync with the reality of gun violence in America.[44]

After trying to work with other gun violence prevention organizations for most of the past two decades, I helped found Americans Against Gun Violence in 2016 in part because I believed that Mr. Sugarmann's statement was still true at that time and that our country needed a new organization that would put the gun lobby on the run; that would change the perception of what kind of gun control legislation is politically achievable in the United States; and that would advocate definitive measures - not “nibble around the edges of half-solutions and good intentions” – in order to stop the shameful epidemic of gun violence that afflicts our country.

The definitive measures that Americans Against Gun Violence advocates include completely banning civilian ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles, as Australia did following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre,[45] and completely banning civilian ownership of all handguns, as Great Britain did following the 1996 Dunblane Elementary School massacre.[46] There have been no further mass shootings with the types of weapons that were banned in either of these countries since the bans went into effect,[47] and in the last year for which data are available, the rate of gun deaths in the United States was 12 times higher than in Australia and 61 times higher than in Great Britain.[48]

We also advocate following the example of every other high income democratic country in requiring registration of all firearms and licensing of all firearm owners; and in placing the burden of proof on anyone seeking to acquire a gun to show convincing evidence that he or she needs one and can handle one safely, instead of placing the burden on the government to prove that he or she meets certain narrow criteria for being prohibited from owning a gun.[49] And given the large body of evidence showing that there is no net protective value from owning or carrying a gun, “self defense” should not be automatically accepted as a reason for owning a gun in the United States, just as it is not accepted in most other high income democratic countries.

Finally, in order to adopt the measures we advocate, we must first overturn the 2008 Heller decision, which is worse than a rogue decision, and worse than a “fraud on the American public.” By creating a constitutional obstacle, where none previously existed, to the adoption of stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws in other high income democratic countries, Heller is a death sentence for tens of thousands of Americans annually.

We’ve made steady progress in terms of our infrastructure and outreach since we founded Americans Against Gun Violence in 2016. As I noted in my previous president’s message, just last month, we filed an amicus brief in the upcoming Supreme Court case of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. New York City, in which the Supreme Court will be reviewing a case involving the Second Amendment for the first time since the 2008 Heller decision and the related 2010 McDonald decision. Americans Against Gun Violence was one of just three gun violence prevention organizations to file an amicus brief in support of New York’s stringent handgun laws in this case (the other two being Everytown and March for Our Lives); and we were the only organization in the entire country to make the case that Heller was wrongly decided, and that the Court should take the opportunity of this case to overturn the Heller decision.

Earlier this year, we hosted our second annual National High School Essay Contest, with the prompt being the following statement by the late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackum in the majority opinion in the 1980 case of Lewis v. United States:

The Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.”[50]

We awarded $16,000 to 20 winning students this year, bringing the total awards in our essay contest to $31,000 over the past two years. The winning essays are posted on the High School Essay Contest page of our Americans Against Gun Violence website. I suggest that you read them to get an idea of the physical and mental toll that gun violence is taking on our nation’s youth. As one student wrote, “Only in the United States of America do students fear for their lives every day because of senseless, preventable gun violence.”

I’ve also been meeting and talking with the leaders of other gun violence prevention organizations throughout the year. So far, they don’t seem to be listening much to what I’m saying, but then again, our teenage son never seemed to listen to my wife and me when we gave him advice during his last couple of years in high school, before he went off to college. But now and then, my wife and I would overhear him paraphrasing advice that we’d given him as he gave his own advice to his friends. I’m beginning to observe a similar phenomenon in the gun violence arena. At a meeting with about 25 representatives of other gun violence prevention organizations earlier this year, the legislative director of one of California’s largest and best known gun violence prevention organizations made a statement and then caught herself, seemingly shocked, and said, “I’m beginning to sound like Bill.” Up to now, though, none of these other organizations has accepted our invitation to break up the monopoly that Americans Against Gun Violence has in being the only national gun violence prevention organization that openly advocates overturning the Heller decision and adopting stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws in other high income democratic countries.

Although we’ve made considerable progress since founding Americans Against Gun Violence in 2016, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we need to vastly expand our capacity and effectiveness in order to accomplish our ultimate goal of reducing rates of firearm related deaths and injuries in the United States to levels that are at or below the rates in the other high income democratic countries of the world. In order to accomplish this goal, we need your help, and the help of many more supporters like you.

Please become an official, paid member of Americans Against Gun Violence, if you haven’t already done so. The annual membership rate is just $25 ($10 for students). And please make an additional donation, if you’re able. Over the past couple of months, we gave out $16,000 in essay contest awards and spent about $14,000 in filing our amicus brief, so we need to raise at least $30,000 to get back to the point that we can offer the essay contest again next year and be prepared to file another amicus brief when an important case comes up.

Please encourage friends, family members, and colleagues to join Americans Against Gun Violence with you. If everyone on our email list became a member and recruited just two more new members, and if each one of those new member recruited two more new members, and so on, our membership – and our clout – would grow exponentially.

Finally, please contact your elected officials – and candidates for elected office – and let them know that you expect them to openly advocate and do everything within their power to accomplish the enactment of stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws in other high income democratic countries like Australia and Great Britain. And when you contact them, let them know that you’re a member of Americans Against Gun Violence. We know from talking with elected officials and their staff that hearing from their constituents in their own words (unlike mass online petitions and form letters) makes a difference in what positions elected officials take on issues and in how they vote. The gun lobby knows this too. That’s why NRA members attend legislative committee meetings wearing T-shirts that say, “I’m an NRA member, and I vote.” That’s also why gun owners who oppose gun control contact their elected officials about twice as often as those who believe firearm regulations should be more strict.[51]

 

In Conclusion

In June of 2013, when it became clear that the United States wasn’t going to adopt any new gun control laws following the December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in which 20 kindergarten and first grade children and six teachers were killed, a British political commentator, Dan Hodges, famously “tweeted:”

In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.[52]

The implied corollary to this statement is that the United States of America is a country that loves its guns more than its children.

In some respects, Hodges was right. Many gun violence prevention organizations no longer even use the term, “gun control.” Instead, they use terms like “sensible gun laws” to describe the measures that they advocate – measures that fall into category of “nibbling around the edges of half-solutions and good intentions.”

At Americans Against Gun Violence, we believe that it is not sensible to be satisfied with anything less than the adoption of stringent gun control laws like the ones that Australia and Great Britain adopted after mass shootings in their countries in 1996 – laws that have effectively prevented any further mass shootings and that have helped reduce rates of gun deaths in those countries to a tiny fraction of the rate in the United States.

For us, the gun control debate is not over. Our work is ongoing, and we will persevere until we achieve our goal. Thanks for joining us in demonstrating through actions, and not just words, that we love our children more than our guns.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Mass Shooting Victim Emilie Parker, age 6

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Bill Durston, MD

President, Americans Against Gun Violence

Note: Dr. Durston is a board certified emergency physician and a former expert marksman in the U.S. Marine Corps, decorated for courage under fire during the Vietnam War.

Click on this link for a PDF version of this president's message.

 

References

[1] Elisha Fieldstadt, “6-Month-Old Is Youngest of Five Killed by Teen Who Confessed to Shooting Entire Family,” NBC News, September 4, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/6-month-old-youngest-five-killed-teen-who-confessed-shooting-n1049496.

[2] Jessica McBride, “John & Mary Sisk Family: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy.com, September 4, 2019, https://heavy.com/news/2019/09/john-mary-sisk-family/.

[3] Elliott McLaughlin, Deanna Hackney, and Justin Gamble, “14-Year-Old Facing Five Murder Charges after Confessing to Killing His Family in Their Alabama Home, Police Say,” CNN, September 3, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/03/us/alabama-residence-shooting/index.html.

[4] “14-Year-Old Charged with Killing 5 Members of His Family in Elkmont,” WHNT News 19, September 3, 2019, https://whnt.com/2019/09/03/multiple-people-dead-in-shooting-in-limestone-county/.

[5] Robert J. Blendon, John T. Young, and David Hemenway, “The American Public and the Gun Control Debate,” Journal of the American Medical Association 275, no. 22 (June 12, 1996): 1719–22.

[6] Mirna M. Farah, Harold K. Simon, and Arthur L. Kellermann, “Firearms in the Home: Parental Perceptions,” Pediatrics 104, no. 5 (November 1999): 1059–63.

[7] Farah, Simon, and Kellermann.

[8] Tamera Coyne-Beasley et al., “Do Partners With Children Know About Firearms in Their Home? Evidence of a Gender Gap and Implications for Practitioners,” Pediatrics 115, no. 6 (June 2005): e662-667.

[9] Council on Communications and Media, “Policy Statement: Media Violence,” Pediatrics 124, no. 5 (November 2009): 1495–1503.

[10] McLaughlin, Hackney, and Gamble, “14-Year-Old Facing Five Murder Charges after Confessing to Killing His Family in Their Alabama Home, Police Say.”

[11] District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US (Supreme Court 2008).

[12] McDonald v. City of Chicago, No. 3020 (SCt 2010).

[13] Fieldstadt, “6-Month-Old Is Youngest of Five Killed by Teen Who Confessed to Shooting Entire Family.”

[14] Laura Scripps, “Elkmont Mayor Responds to Community Tragedy,” The Champion, September 3, 2019, https://www.enewscourier.com/news/local_news/elkmont-mayor-responds-to-community-tragedy/article_a4d70936-ce53-11e9-9c67-27fba3a4cd37.html.

[15] Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention, “Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population,” Pediatrics 105, no. 4 (2000): 892.

[16] See, for example, Arthur L. Kellermann and Donald T. Reay, “Protection or Peril?,” New England Journal of Medicine 314, no. 24 (June 12, 1986): 1557–60, https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM198606123142406; Arthur L. Kellermann et al., “Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home,” Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery 45, no. 2 (1998): 263–67; Deborah Azrael and David Hemenway, “‘In the Safety of Your Own Home’: Results from a National Survey on Gun Use at Home,” Social Science & Medicine 50, no. 2 (January 2000): 285–91.

[17] See, for example, Andrew Anglemyer, Tara Horvath, and George Rutherford, “The Accessibility of Firearms and Risk for Suicide and Homicide Victimization Among Household Members: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Annals of Internal Medicine 160, no. 2 (January 21, 2014): 101–10, https://doi.org/10.7326/M13-1301; Douglas J. Wiebe, “Homicide and Suicide Risks Associated with Firearms in the Home: A National Case-Control Study,” Annals of Emergency Medicine 41, no. 6 (2003): 771–782.

[18] Seema Shah et al., “Adolescent Suicide and Household Access to Firearms in Colorado: Results of a Case-Control Study,” Journal of Adolescent Health 26, no. 3 (2000): 157–163.

[19] Anonymous, “Guns: Gallup Historical Trends,” Guns: Gallup historical trends, accessed August 14, 2016, http://www.gallup.com/poll/1645/Guns.aspx.

[20] Anonymous.

[21] Anonymous.

[22] Warren Burger, PBS News Hour, December 16, 1991, https://vimeo.com/157433062.

[23] Heller, 554 US at 2817–18.

[24] Marc Ambinder, “Obama Likes Heller - The Atlantic,” The Atlantic, June 26, 2008, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2008/06/obama-likes-heller/53633/.

[25] Brian Montopoli, “Obama: I Believe in the Second Amendment,” CBS News, March 3, 2011, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/obama-i-believe-in-the-second-amendment/.

[26] Saul Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America (Oxford University Press, 2008), 499.

[27] United States v. Cruikshank, 92 US 542 (Supreme Court 1876); Presser v. Illinois, 116 US (Supreme Court 1886); U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) (n.d.); Lewis v. United States, No. 55 (U.S. 1980).

[28] Rachel Frazin, “Kamala Harris: ‘I Am a Gun Owner’ for Personal Protection,” Text, TheHill, April 11, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/438514-kamala-harris-i-am-a-gun-owner-for-personal-protection.

[29] Jennifer Bendery, “Joe Biden Says No Need To Own Assault Weapons: ‘Buy A Shotgun!,’” HuffPost, February 19, 2013, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/joe-biden-guns_n_2719330.

[30] Michele Gorman, “Full Transcript: President Trump’s Speech Fires up the NRA,” Newsweek, April 28, 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-full-transcript-atlanta-592039.

[31] Max Fisher and Josh Keller, “What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer,” The New York Times, November 7, 2017, sec. Americas, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/americas/mass-shootings-us-international.html.

[32] “Guns in the United States — Firearms, Gun Law and Gun Control,” GunPolicy.org, accessed June 12, 2017, http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states.

[33] “Guns in the United States — Firearms, Gun Law and Gun Control.”

[34] Josh Sugarmann, Every Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns (New Press, 2001).

[35] “The Truth About Guns,” Brochure (Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Americans for Responsible Solutions, June 2017), https://lawcenter.giffords.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/TruthAboutGunViolence-Digital.pdf.

[36] Marc Lacey and David M. Herszenhorn, “Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 Shot Near Tucson,” The New York Times, January 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/us/politics/09giffords.html.

[37] Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly, Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe from Gun Violence (New York: Scribner, 2014).

[38] Giffords and Kelly, 44.

[39] Giffords and Kelly, 237.

[40] Giffords and Kelly, 238.

[41] “Fatal Injury Data | WISQARS | Injury Center | CDC,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed September 11, 2016, http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html.

[42] Sugarmann, Every Handgun Is Aimed at You.

[43] Sugarmann, XV.

[44] Sugarmann, 181.

[45] Rebecca Peters, “Rational Firearm Regulation: Evidence-Based Gun Laws in Australia,” in Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 195–204; Philip Alpers, “The Big Melt: How One Democracy Changed after Scrapping a Third of Its Firearms,” in Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 205–11.

[46] Michael J. North, “Gun Control in Great Britain after the Dunblane Shootings,” in Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), 185–93.

[47] Peters, “Rational Firearm Regulation: Evidence-Based Gun Laws in Australia”; Alpers, “The Big Melt: How One Democracy Changed after Scrapping a Third of Its Firearms”; North, “Gun Control in Great Britain after the Dunblane Shootings.”

[48] “Guns in the United States — Firearms, Gun Law and Gun Control.”

[49] “Guns in the United States — Firearms, Gun Law and Gun Control.”

[50] Lewis, 445.

[51] J.Baxter Oliphant and John Gramlich, “Gun Owners Contact Officials about Gun Laws More than Non-Owners Do,” Pew Research Center (blog), October 12, 2017, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/10/12/supporters-of-stricter-gun-laws-are-less-likely-to-contact-elected-officials/.

[52] Leonard Pitts Jr., “Leonard Pitts Jr.: Even the Murder of Children Is ‘Bearable’ | Miami Herald,” Miami Herald, accessed September 4, 2019, https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article33250299.html.