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Speaking Freely of Guns

  |   October 4, 2015   11:19 AM ET

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Hello... Moderate Gun Owners. Where ARE You?

Karl Gude   |   October 2, 2015    6:35 PM ET

2015-10-02-1443817289-9886581-guns.jpg I used to own two guns like these when I was younger. I know how gun owners feel about their guns because I've known a lot of them, and most have been rational, educated and caring people, many with school-aged kids. So, why haven't these gun owners been moved enough by the killings of school children to join efforts to stop the carnage?

Ultra right-wing gun owners who toe the NRA party line will take no action to stop the shootings, yet we keep expecting they'll eventually come around and become sensible. Each time there is a school shooting, the NRA circles their wagons and prepares their routine second amendment press materials to respond to the outrage. What they're saying, and not so indirectly, is that these deaths are the unfortunate cost of doing business for an America that must defend itself, that their guns have an important role in keeping citizens safe.

The reality is that gun lovers just love playing with their guns and see the killings as something that doesn't involve them. Guns are their recreation, their hobby, and they're not killing anyone. The NRA is simply the defender of the toys, not the nation.

Some of what hardliners say is true. Guns in and of themselves don't kill and the majority of gun owners would never kill anyone, just as cars don't kill people, drunks do. But guns are involved in these school shootings just as automobiles are when a drunk driver mows down a sidewalk full of people. The difference is that there are rules about drunks driving cars to keep Americans safer, but there are few rules regulating guns thanks to the NRA's hard-line policy of "give em an inch and they'll take a mile." Tough luck about those kids...

But what about moderate gun owners, those reasonable people who are horrified that these kids are being killed and would be willing to come to the table to curb the deaths? If gun ownership mirrors political parties, then hardline extremists are not at all the majority; they're on the fringes. So, where are these multitudes of middle-of-the-road gun owners?

I believe the reason we haven't heard from them is because gun ownership is a one-party system; owners have no one to turn to except the powerful NRA. There needs to exist a politically moderate gun association to sweep the NRA out of the way and organize the scattered millions of levelheaded gun owners, sensible individuals who enjoy owning a gun but loathe that they're used to shoot up schools, people of conscience who believe that kids dying every year is just not a price they're willing to pay.

A Dad's Reply to the "Guns Don't Kill People" Lie

David Valdes Greenwood   |   October 2, 2015    5:26 PM ET

When you look at your children, are you okay with the knowledge that they are growing up in an American with more than daily mass shootings?

Or that they are now more likely to die from gun violence than in a car crash -- and far more likely to die by gunfire than their peers in any other developed nation?

If that seems fine by you, you don't need to keep reading. (You might, however, want to do some self-evaluation.) It's not ok with me.

This is not a partisan issue and the subject is not guns alone. But I truly believe you contribute to the senseless slaughter and nationwide passivity every time you validate inaction by citing the old dodge: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." For while I agree that this it is unquestionably true that no gun fires itself, that's a half-truth. If you possess a modicum of intellectual honesty and any scrap of moral fiber, you must finish the thought: What do we DO about all these people who are killing with guns?

It's even worse to claim that since terrible things happen everywhere and people die of lots of other causes that nothing can be done here about this problem. That's like saying that since a tsunami can't be stopped by sandbags designed for a flood, we might as well not bother with sandbags at all, and just let the floods consume us. It's a hollow argument that shoots beyond lazy to misanthropic.

No matter your political affiliation or gun-ownership status, if your belief system values human lives, you can have an active role in helping turn the tide. This morning, after I packed my daughter's school lunch, I wrote letters to congressional representatives about universalizing and enforcing background checks for gun ownership, as well as for increasing funding for mental health treatment; I added my name to the volunteer list for a nonpartisan violence prevention group; and I donated to organizations that use a public health model to combat gun violence. Before I even ate breakfast, I was able to take actions that reflected my values.

What can YOU do to respond to this situation in a way that reflects YOUR beliefs? :

Whatever you believe, act now, because gun violence already lives where you do. Looking away won't protect you from its reach.

A few years ago, I was witness to a shooting. (As horrifying as it was, it was third in a series of killings, so it fell short of the "mass" shooting definition. What a bar our culture has set!) When I came home that night, I had to shower away the blood before I could hold my baby. Every day since, I've lived with a clear awareness of how easy it is for an individual to use gun violence as an outlet. It doesn't have to be easy; we can make it harder.

If you've been entrusted with raising children in a society that is measurably not as safe as it should be, why wouldn't you want to seek ways to make it a better place? I'm not telling my child, the most precious gem of my universe, that there is nothing to be done and that I won't even try.

You shouldn't either.

20 Questions About the Gun Control Debate

Keisha Sutton-James   |   October 2, 2015    4:53 PM ET

As I read and watch the coverage of yet another school shooting, another mass murder of innocent Americans, another loss of human life, I am struggling with so many questions.

‪‎Vice President Joe Biden‬‬‬, in his statement said that the United States "is the only civilized country in the world with so many mass shootings." My question was, "you call this civilized?" When do we decide that our civility is defined by our ability to actually behave in humane manner and protect humanity?

When do we take stock and determine that our nation's tolerating this sort of self-destruction is in fact insane, not just that these individual shooters are insane? President Obama said that the shooter was "sick." Many of the conservative pundits refer to these criminals "deranged" and "suffering from mental illness." I don't disagree. But aren't we deranged for allowing this sort of cancer to spread throughout our land rather doing everything we can to arrest it's advance? Why do we accept this sort of terrorism?

What will it take for us to realize that we are being terrorized? This shooter and others have targeted Christians before shooting them. Does it need to go a step further? Will it take a jihadist explicitly killing Christians in the name of Allah on American soil for us to understand that we need to restrict access to firearms? Will it be the perception that the threat is external that will prompt us to react? Why can't we see that a domestic threat is still a threat? Why can't we react based simply on the loss of human life?

And ultimately, when will the God -- Allah, Jehovah, or whatever -- given lives of these victims trump the profits of gun producers? Those who are pro-gun fiercely claim their right to bear arms. Well, what about the victims' "inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," as determined by our Declaration of Independence? Do we just skip over the first one, Life, without which you can't even have liberty or happiness?

How do these very same people protect so fiercely the lives of an embryo while sacrificing the lives of kindergarten children, college students, teachers, those working at the Washington Naval Yard and those enjoying a movie? Or that of a United States Member of Congress? How don't they see the hypocrisy? And why don't they see that the proliferation of firearms (and gun manufacturers' profits) is directly linked and correlated with the incidence of mass shootings? Why don't they see that NRA has engineered and amplified their belief that the Second Amendment needs evangelical defending, and that it has done so for it's own financial benefit?

This debate over policy is a game with life or death consequences -- in fact, not a game at all. The winners win money and political points. The losers -- victims, survivors, witnesses and those of us who have become numb to it all -- lose lives, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and ultimately, human decency.

So here's my last question: Why is this even a question?

Happiness Is A Gone Gun

Roz Warren   |   October 2, 2015   12:54 PM ET

Buying a handgun in Maine is as easy as buying a cheeseburger. Years ago when I was living in Bangor, I was swimming laps at the YMCA and I took a break to chat with a cute life guard. The conversation turned to firearms. "I've always wanted to own a gun," I told him.

"I can sell you one!" he said.

Turns out that he, like many Mainers, was a gun dealer on the side.

A week later, I was the proud owner of a snub-nosed revolver and four boxes of ammo.

I'd wanted a gun ever since I learned to shoot a rifle at summer camp when I was ten. I adored shooting - the solid feel of the gun in my hands, the precise motions of opening the chamber, pushing in the ammo, then clicking it shut. I enjoyed sighting down the barrel, then carefully squeezing the trigger, bracing against the inevitable kick. Most of all, I loved how good I was at it. Every shot landed on or near the bulls eye. At summer's end, I won the prize for the best shot in my age group. I'd always been a near-sighted, uncompetetive klutz, the last kid chosen for any team.

Finally, a sport I was good at!

When I got back from camp, I clamored for a gun. My parents were horrified. They were raising a nice Jewish girl, not Annie Oakley. No way was their daughter going to be the only kid at synagogue packing heat.

I didn't get to shoot again until I moved to Bangor to practice law, decades later. Violent crime wasn't a problem. The scariest thing in Bangor was my neighbor, Stephen King. I just wanted to reclaim the joy I'd felt shooting that rifle as a kid.

Happily, I was still a great shot. My boyfriend and I would drive to a pal's dairy farm, put up a target on a hay bale in the middle of an empty field and take turns decimating that sucker. Sometimes we'd use magazine photos of celebrities and politicians we disliked as targets. "Take that, Anita Bryant!" we'd call, as we blasted her to smithereens. "Die, Jesse Helms!" "Eat lead, Abba!" We'd have a few beers, go through a box of ammo and call it a day. It wasn't about hurting anyone. It was just a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Then we got married, I got pregnant and we moved to Philadelphia. I stashed my snubby in a closet and never gave it another thought until ten years later when my marriage went south. When you're going through an acrimonious divorce, having a gun in the house doesn't seem like such a great idea. . Also, my son was heading towards adolescence. Our kid wasn't an impulsive, irresponsible hothead. But his friends? Who knew?

I phoned the cops. "I'd like to get rid of my gun," I said. Minutes later an officer was at my door. Disposing of a handgun in the Philadelphia suburbs is as easy as buying one in Bangor. When you tell the authorities you want to turn your gun in, a law kicks in that covers how soon they have to come get it (immediately) and what they have to do with it (destroy it).

When I handed him the gun, the cop said, almost reproachfully, "This is a great piece."

"It's yours!" I said. "You can have it."

He shook his head. He was obligated by law to destroy it. But he clearly hated to destroy such a good firearm. The last thing he was supposed to do was guilt-trip me. But he couldn't help it.

"Why didn't you just sell it?" he asked.

"Because I didn't want it to end up in the hands of a person who might use it to hurt someone?" I suggested.

He didn't exactly roll his eyes. But I suddenly felt like somebody handing a perfectly good puppy over to a shelter to be put down. He didn't say another word. He just gave me a form to sign and left.

Now, years later, I'm happily divorced and my son is all grown up. Time to get another gun? I don't think so. I get enough enjoyment from my other activities. Reading. Swimming. Walking the dog. I don't need a gun. In fact, I'd be perfectly happy if getting one was completely out of the question, even for a harmless librarian like me. I support strict gun control laws, given how many innocent people are killed by the millions of guns in this country.

But those folks who love their guns, who enjoy owning them and shooting them and bonding over them, proclaiming that you'll only take their weapons away when you pry them from their cold, dead hands?

I hate to say this, but I totally get it.

(Roz Warren is a writing coach and the author of OUR BODIES, OUR SHELVES: LIBRARY HUMOR.)

The Routine-ness Of The Gun Law Fight

Eric Schmeltzer   |   October 2, 2015   11:09 AM ET

After the 294th mass shooting of 2015 in America, President Obama pointed out the obvious yesterday.

"What's become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation. Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out. 'We need more guns,' they'll argue. 'Fewer gun-safety laws,'" he said.

While that is true, it is time for those in favor of gun safety laws to recognize that, while heartfelt, their responses have become predictable, too -- press releases that express dismay and astonishment that nothing is being done, maps being distributed that show how many shootings have happened since Sandy Hook, and, of course, pointing out that this whole thing just seems to repeat itself again and again.

People have "become numb" to massacres, President Obama rightly said. But sadly, America has unfortunately become numb to the response, as well. Remorse, outrage and frustration from gun safety law advocates is as norm as the mass shootings themselves and the response from gun-rights groups. I'm as guilty as anyone. I barely batted an eyelash at the stream of links and charts about gun violence on my Facebook feed this morning.

There is a lot of truth in what those in favor of stricter gun laws point out -- they're facing a very well-funded adversary in the NRA. It's a group that can unleash hell on politicians, in terms of ads, direct mail and phone calls. To no small degree, that flood of money -- and electoral threat -- is what has kept politicians from passing any semi-meaningful gun laws since the '90s.

But, that is only part of the story. When Americans largely don't blink at the 944th mass shooting in three years, they're not very likely to be moved by the 944th statement from gun control advocates expressing dismay and a call to action.

So what can be done?

Those in favor of common-sense gun laws should consider flipping the script. Maybe it's time to give a completely unpredictable response, that breaks through the numbness. Most of all, it definitely is time for them to take a page from the Tea Party, to shake politicians on the center-left out of their own doldrums.

What if, instead of the standard press release, the Brady Campaign put out a press release that read, "Brady Campaign On Latest School Shooting: 'Whatever.'" Go on to say that though we feel horrible for those who lost kids, this is just the reality now -- government has made the decision that we all have to live in fear of being shot, no matter what we want. So, you know, whatever. Oh and by the way, condolences, in advance, to the next parents to have their kid shot but, well, whatever.

People will stop twice to read that again. Oddly, many people will be more shocked and disgusted at that press release, than they are by the latest mass shooting. That's the point. It forces us to confront the ugly truth about what our "numbness" really looks like.

Follow it up by the "Do Nothing" campaign -- a tongue-in-cheek effort to convince politicians and government to "Do nothing and stay out of the issue of gun violence."

Run ads with people rolling their eyes, when presented with intercut clips of news and pictures of massacres Close it by targeting Democrats in the Senate and House, telling them to just butt out and do nothing. Offensive? Maybe, but it is intentional. Make people and politicians face the ugly reality of who they are now -- numb to violence and largely unmotivated on the issue anymore.

Have mock award ceremonies, thanking specific Democrats for doing nothing to combat school shootings. A big party with balloons and cake, disgustingly highlighting the dichotomy of people being mowed down in bloodbaths, while business as usual goes on in the halls of power.

Why such harsh tactics aimed at Democrats? Because they can do more and they're not. They, just like everyone else, are now just going through the motions following shootings. It is routine.

It is as routine as, say, it used to be for Republicans to raise the debt ceiling. But the Tea Party went hard after Republicans on that issue, and now we're facing a shutdown every time that's up for a vote.

Why hasn't there been a shutdown over doing something sensible on guns?

Because massacres, and the response from all sides and all parties, has become routine. The sense of urgency is gone. Time to get it back.

It's very easy to blame the other side for corrupt politics that stymie change. But after thousands of mass shootings in the last 15 years with no action, now is as good a time as any for those of us in favor of sensible gun laws to reconsider our place in this situation, too.

Proposals for Common Sense Gun Control

Warren J. Blumenfeld   |   October 2, 2015   10:35 AM ET

Each time I hear of yet another incident of gun violence, I think back to the very first thing that caught my eye as I entered the grounds of the Ames, Iowa Republican Party Presidential Straw Poll in the summer of 2011. Three young children, I would guess between the ages of 4-7, sporting day-glow orange baseball caps with "NRA" imprinted atop and round stickers on their small T-shirts announcing "GUNS SAVE LIVES."

But, really, do these "guns save lives"? Do laws expanding gun possession, concealed or not, actually "save lives"? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun-related violence has reached epidemic proportions in our country by snuffing out the lives of upwards of 30,000+ people and wounding many more annually. On average, guns end the lives of more than 80 people in the United States every day. Each year, gun violence affects over 100,000 people in some way. Many of the guns used in these killings reach military level weapons power, guns which currently remain legal. Today in the United States, there are 88.8 firearms per 100 people.

Of the estimated 70+ mass murders in the United States since 1982, most of the shooters obtained their weapons legally. Demographically, the shooters in all but one case involved males, usually white, with an average age of 35 years.

Should any limits be placed on the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, which reads: "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed"?

We seem somehow only to spout the second clause in that sentence while forgetting the first, especially the term "well-regulated"!

I propose that we reevaluate the political Right's obsession with the so-called "freedom" to bear arms because it is not only "criminals who kill people" as Second Amendment advocates claim. Therefore,

• We must ban and criminalize the possession of automatic and semi-automatic weapons!
• We must close loopholes such as buying a weapon at a gun show!
• We must ban the purchase of firearms and ammunition on the internet!
• We must increase the waiting period and make background checks more rigorous and effective!
• We must limit the number of firearms any individual can own!
• We must limit the number of bullets any firearm clip can hold!
• We must ban and criminalize the purchase and possession of armor piercing bullets, and also hollow-tip bullets!
• We must rethink the "logic" of permitting concealed weapons, especially in places like houses of worship, colleges, bars, restaurants, and political rallies!
• We must interface all data bases monitoring firearm ownership to assess the firearm-owning population more accurately and effectively!

I also believe that even our flawed "founding fathers" did not want unlimited and unrestricted rights to bear arms. Even if they did advocate for unrestricted gun ownership, these are the same men who owned slaves, committed genocide against and expelled native peoples, withheld enfranchisement from women, engaged in and killed one another in duels, and so on. Actually, I'm really surprised the National Rifle Association hasn't advocated for the return of lethal dueling matches. Maybe that's next on their agenda.

As we all know, in the current political climate, the chances for comprehensive common sense gun control in the United States is only a pipe dream as long as the National Rifle Association controls Congress and state legislatures, for if they did not, we would have seen effective laws passed years ago resulting in countless lives saved.

Nevertheless, this insanity in our system of gun laws must end. Enough is enough is enough is enough already! Actually, it is far past that time.

Profile of Oregon Shooter Offers Breakthrough In Useless Mass Shooter Profiles

Spencer Green   |   October 2, 2015   10:34 AM ET

A profile is rapidly developing of the gunman who opened fire at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, which reveals pretty much the same information as every other useless mass shooter profile of the past ten years. "So far, it appears--I repeat, appears--that the shooter may have been mentally unbalanced," said Dr. Jerrald Van Leakoff of the Institute for Obvious Criminalistic Hindsight. "And what's more, some people who knew him are surprised at his actions, while others are not. Of course, as experts, we don't want to speculate too much and sully the shooter's name."

Some think this gunman's profile could provide the key to identifying future violent behavior in others. Van Leakoff explains:

This could be the breakthrough we've been waiting for and it won't just go into the collection of other mass shooter profiles currently stored in a facility which resembles the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And until we know for sure, we're not going to stop mentioning the shooter's name every half hour on the hour and reporting on anything he may have ever said, written, eaten, Tweeted, or posted. I mean, it's not like some unbalanced individual out there waiting to explode is going to feel a connection to the shooter and be inspired to act in a similar way, huh? Remember, I know what I'm talking about. I'm an expert.

Van Leakoff added, "By the way, did I mention the shooter was probaby unbalanced? Because I'm pretty sure he was."

If This Is Political, We As a Nation Are Doomed

K.C. Wilder   |   October 2, 2015   10:31 AM ET

Noah Pozner was barely six years old, the youngest victim of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed 27 heartbreakingly young lives. In the wake of that unthinkable tragedy, Noah's mother chose to do one of the most strikingly brave things I can imagine: she insisted that his coffin be open, though his jaw and the lower part of his face were missing. She insisted that people see what gun violence really looks like.

As a mother myself, that brought me to my knees.

Do you know what a six year old child is like? They are open and loving. Relentlessly inquisitive. Fearless with their questions and statements. Full of boundless energy and joy. Infinitely hopeful and forgiving.

And thank God they are that way, because apparently we will not protect them from horrors their precious souls will have to forgive.

I was naive enough to believe that Sandy Hook would be the end of it, this gun violence that is a plague on our great nation. Surely we would not step over the bodies of Noah Pozner and his classmates and do nothing.

Yet October 2015 opened on a sobering note: on a college campus in Oregon, at least 10 people died and 7 or more were injured when a gunman opened fire. Details are slow to emerge, and I am usually one to wait for all the facts. I am also usually one to bite my tongue and avoid political and polarizing topics. But my tolerance has been exceeded here.

To be clear: I have no problem with American citizens owning guns. I have owned and handled them myself at various times. I enjoy shooting at gun ranges, as do many of my family and friends.

And yes, I understand the aversion to government regulation of anything. Really, I'm with you there. Government institutions are notoriously clunky. I weep every time I have to go to the DMV. Yet we rely on our government when we truly perceive a crisis. Think about it: three cases of Ebola turned us all into Chicken Little, visiting the CDC web site more than Facebook. But when it comes to gun violence, the sky really is falling, and still none of us seems inclined to do a damn thing.

The question that confounds me is WHY? We accept government imposition on so many fronts, presumably because we understand that we all benefit from certain rules and regulations. Why are we so averse to taking steps that will make all of us safer?

When I was growing up, my family made many trips from our home in Florida to visit relatives in New England. My brother was a baby on a few of these trips, and he made the journey in what my mother called a "car bed." It looked like this, and was wedged into the footwell behind one of the front seats of the car:


Now, when my little nieces and nephews travel, it's in a contraption that looks more like this:


And amen to that, because they are so tiny and fragile, they need all the protection they can get. Staggering numbers of child deaths in cars made us reconsider our laws, and amend them for the greater good.

Why wouldn't we afford our children the same protection in other areas of life? And why, when we've grown and reinterpreted the Constitution in so many ways beneficial to our advancement as a society, would we not reevaluate the Second Amendment?

This is what a gun looked like when our Constitution was framed:


And this is what guns - in this case, the same brand and model as the one the killer at Sandy Hook used to destroy small children - look like now:


There is no reloading. No opportunity for defense. They are called 'assault rifles' for a reason. And there is absolutely no defensible reason for a private citizen to own one.

You want to shoot one? Cool. Let's have laws in place that make it possible for you to go and shoot at a non-human target at a gun range.

You think that's treading upon your Constitutional freedom? That some liberal, anti-gun government is going to come and enslave or eliminate you? Please. Think of what our government is already doing in warfare with drones. If they deem you important enough to enslave or eliminate, you're already done. That assault rifle won't help you. Those are only for the crazies with brutal intent.

And the truth is, we all know that.

As a mother, I cherish the memory of cuddling my child when he was small. I know what it felt like to tickle his fat little toddler toes, to kiss his soft cheeks. The idea of any part of that precious, trusting little body being blown away is unfathomable.

Yet we all must imagine that now. Think of anyone you love: your children, spouse, parents, friends. Picture the things you love about them - their smile, their embrace - then picture them obliterated in a brutal split second. Because that is what we are agreeing to when we refuse to address our national epidemic of gun violence.

And that is what it is. An epidemic.

Yes, I try to steer clear of political posts, but if this is political, then we as a nation are really doomed.

Fellow blogger Eva Glettner quoted Noah Pozner's mother in one of her posts about the Sandy Hook nightmare that never should have been:

"Twenty mangled little bodies are the price we paid on that day for the freedom to own high-power weapons that can be used in rampage killings. These six- and seven-year olds never had the opportunity to make a decision on gun control, they never got to elect the person who could best represent them in Congress on that issue, they had no say at all. They were born to a culture where violence is omnipresent and revered."

God save us all if we continue to take our culture down that path.

Judah Robinson   |   October 2, 2015    6:09 AM ET

Fox News host Geraldo Rivera went off over Thursday's horrific shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, that has left 10 dead and nine others injured.

"The mass murder at Umpqua again reveals we are a gun sick nation," Rivera said in a Facebook post. "All the 2nd Amendment bullshit aside, the gun lobby controls the country, and allows armed maniacal lunatics to roam free and kill."

The host advocated for armed guards to be stationed on campuses across the nation. 

The mass murder at Umpqua again reveals we are a gun sick nation. All the 2d Amendment bullshit aside, the gun lobby...

Posted by Geraldo Rivera on Thursday, October 1, 2015

In a follow-up post, hours later, Rivera called on President Barack Obama to offer up legislation and take on the National Rifle Association. "You blame the gun lobby? Why not take them on? Confront the NRA and call out every hack who ever took money from them," he said. 

The president's anguish over this latest campus massacre is no doubt genuine. We share his grief. He says grief is not...

Posted by Geraldo Rivera on Thursday, October 1, 2015

​This article has been updated with revised casualty figures for Thursday's shooting. 

Also on HuffPost:

The U.S. Isn't Australia: Gun Control Won't Happen Here

  |   October 1, 2015    4:33 PM ET

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Nick Wing   |   October 1, 2015    4:23 PM ET

Read More: guns, gun violence

The nation was once again confronted with the horror of a deadly school shooting on Thursday, this time a massacre at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. A gunman killed at least 10 people and wounded nine before police fatally shot him. It marked the 45th shooting on a school campus this year, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a group pushing for legislative reforms to reduce gun violence. It was the 142nd shooting at a school since the December 2012 rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Those numbers alone may come as a surprise, because we typically don't talk about school shootings unless they inflict a level of devastation that makes them impossible to ignore. Most people are familiar with Columbine and Sandy Hook. When we look at the bigger picture, however, those mass shootings are revealed as tragic outliers in the overall trend of gun violence that has infiltrated American schools.

On-campus shootings are themselves just a small part of U.S. gun violence. School shootings and even mass shootings -- of which there have already been hundreds in 2015, according to some counts -- are overshadowed, at least statistically, by the hail of bullets that rip through the nation each day, claiming an average of 36 lives.

These victims, more often than not, die without much public attention outside their communities. They are men and women like Annoqunette Starr, who was killed on Wednesday. People who knew her called her Ann. They say the 41-year-old was endlessly compassionate, and that her community in Louisville, Kentucky, adored her.

“We've known her for years, grew up together," one of Starr's friends told WHAS on Thursday. "She was a sweet person. She'd give you the shirt off her back if she had it.  Food, if you need it, she was there. Ann was just Ann.”

Starr's 10-year-old niece was in an apartment on Wednesday morning when her aunt's boyfriend allegedly pulled a gun and started shooting. Police arrived a short time later to find Starr dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Starr's niece was uninjured, and her boyfriend later surrendered. Starr would end up being one of at least 13 people killed by gunfire on Wednesday, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit corporation that tracks U.S. shootings.

That toll makes Wednesday a relatively peaceful day in the U.S. An average of nearly three times that many people have been killed by guns each day this year, which has seen more than 9,900 gun deaths so far. More than 20,000 people have also been injured by guns in 2015.

Attention seems to gravitate toward high-profile instances of gun violence, whether they take place at a church, a political campaign event or a community college. And it's not hard to see why.

School shootings serve as a flashpoint for otherwise uncomfortable conversations about gun violence. These episodes terrorize students everywhere, because they can happen anywhere. They terrify the parents and families, who entrust the safety of their children and loved ones to schools every day. They disgust anyone who believes that people should be able to obtain an education without fear of being gunned down in the process.

But when, or perhaps if, we decide to discuss how to address gun violence, we should keep people like Annoqunette Starr in mind, along with the victims at Umpqua Community College.

​This article has been updated with revised casualty figures for Thursday's shooting.

Also on HuffPost:

Justin Block   |   September 29, 2015    8:33 AM ET

A soccer referee in Brazil is facing serious disciplinary action after pulling out a gun on the field during the middle of an amateur regional league match. 

The shocking incident occurred over the weekend in the city of Brumadinho, according to The Telegraph. The referee, Gabriel Murta, was allegedly assaulted by members of visiting team Amantes de Bola before he went and got his gun. 

Murta, who reportedly works as a police officer during the day, claims to have been kicked and slapped by the Amantes manager and his substitutes after they demanded a red card for a player on Brumadinho. Murta reacted to the attack by going to the locker rooms and returning with a gun, according to The Mirror. 

When confronted, Murta wasted no time in pulling out the gun, keeping it down and to his side, but visible for all involved to see. 

A fellow official restrained Murta, who eventually returned to the locker room and put away his gun.  

Brazilian referees' association commissioner Giuliano Bozzano told The Mirror in an article published on Tuesday that Murta will undergo a psychological assessment before facing a potential suspension or lifetime ban. 

"What’s happened is obviously not a common occurrence and I don’t want to rush into anything," Bozzano said.

Soccer referees have many means of maintaining control over a match, but going for a gun instead of a red card is definitely not one of them. 

UPDATE: (Thursday, 12:37 p.m.) Murta will not be punished for the incident. According to Globo Esporte, Murta, who's a member of the military police, has received support from the Brazilian referees' association.

Citing previous instances of referees being harmed and even shot during amateur soccer matches, they believe Murta's self-defense claim. Given that he's a trained officer who carries a weapon as part of his duties, the association is content to only require psychological counseling for Murta as a consequence. 


Also on HuffPost: 

The Gun Lobby's Own Publications Expose the Fantasy of the 'Good Guy With a Gun'

Mike Weisser   |   September 28, 2015    1:28 PM ET

Last week the pro-gun gang received a shot in the arm from a story out of Detroit where a legally-armed private citizen yanked out a gun and shot a man who was running away from a bank with a pile of cash. Actually, the armed citizen shot the bank robber in both arms, as well as the leg, shooter and robber doing just fine; the latter in the hospital under arrest, the former no doubt on his way to Fairfax, VA to be congratulated by Wayne-o for reminding us all about the true value of our 2nd Amendment rights.

Granted I'm indulging in a bit of hyperbole, but you would think that since groups like Everytown and Brady post interviews with victims of gun violence on their websites, the NRA would want to run stories about citizen-defenders to promote their point of view. In fact, the NRA has been running such stories since 1978. It's something called the Armed Citizen, which is a monthly collection of press reports about good guys stopping the bad guys; for the current month there are four reports, including the incident in Detroit, which is slightly less than the average 6-7 reports published each month.

Wait a minute! Hold the presses! In a country of 319 million people, in a country where civilians own more than 300 million guns, in a country in which at least 12 million good guys have concealed weapons permits, how in God's name is it possible that only six or seven people use a gun each month to defend themselves or others from a crime?

To try to answer this vexing question, the first thing I did was turn to the Armed Citizen website, which bills itself as the place that "provides you with the news and resources you need to remain informed and active." One of their latest examples of the work of an armed citizen has the following headline: "Car fleeing from police goes through park, nearly hits children." So I guess this website collects stories about citizens armed with cars.

Then there's another outfit called GunPitt - Guns Saves Lives, which advertises itself as the "secure way to trade guns online" although the link is broken, also produces a series of gun podcasts, including a series called God and Guns, The Responsible Christian Gun Owners Interests (they must have been pretty busy this week given what Pope Francis told the Congress), and also collects stories about defensive gun uses which now totals 1,360 anecdotes about the work of armed citizens, although it's not clear how many years are covered by this report. In any case, I took a look at the latest DGU story out of my neighboring state of Connecticut, and here's what the website says: "A woman in Waterbury, Connecticut had to grab a gun in order to capture a naked man who was allegedly raping the woman's dog in her backyard."

Here's the bottom line: If the same bunch which assures us that guns are used to stop crimes "millions" of times each year tries to prove it by publishing stories about cars driving through playgrounds or man rapes dog, then the argument about good guys stopping bad guys bears no relationship to the truth. And maybe it's time to stop advancing cogent, reasoned and researched arguments against gun fantasists like Gary Kleck and John Lott, and step back to take another look.

Take a look, for example, at the marketing message of a company like Glock. Under personal defense products, the website shows a tough, executive-type strapping on his gun: "Defense is personal, and it should be, it's about invading your space." Then off he runs to catch the 7:15, armed with his G42 pistol and the Wall Street Journal to confront another harrowing day. Marketing isn't reality; it's about merging a product with a fantasy, in this case a lethal weapon which makes you feel that you'll come out ahead. Sells guns, doesn't it?