iOS app Android app More

Mike Weisser   |   February 22, 2017    9:01 AM ET

Six years ago the state of Florida decided that doctors could not talk to their patients about guns. The state of Florida has become the legislative sandbox for every attempt by Gun-nut Nation to rid the country of any and all protections against the violence caused by guns. Stand Your Ground, Concealed Carry – both of these harebrained schemes came out of the Gunshine State. But the law known as FOPA (Firearm Owners Protection Act) was the craziest of them all.

What made the law so crazy wasn’t the fact that it criminalized doctors who talked to their patients about guns; it was that in a state of 18 million people, the law was based on six unsubstantiated anecdotes which, as the 11th Circuit Court noted, didn’t even address the same concerns. Which was one, but not the only reason why that Court just ruled 10 – 1 that the law was unconstitutional and couldn’t stand.

Throwing doctors out of the discussion about gun violence has been a major and ongoing NRA project since the medical profession first started warning about the risks of guns. Which is exactly how the Hippocratic Oath defines the role of physicians, namely, to reduce risk.  But I can’t blame the gun industry and its noisemakers like the NRA from taking an anti-doctor stand; after all, if you manufactured a consumer product which was considered by physicians to be too risky to own, you’d be up in arms (no pun intended) against those physicians too.

But what the Court said in this regard effectively stood the NRA’s argument on its head, because 10 out of 11 justices found that “there was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights.” And this is what the argument is all about, namely, whether any attempt to regulate gun violence or even talk about gun violence is somehow always construed as an ‘attack’ on 2nd Amendment ‘rights.’

Right now a bill is being debated in the State of Washington Legislature which would make a failure to secure guns in the home a reckless endangerment felony if an individual who, under law, cannot have possession of a firearm gets his hands on the gun and discharges it or uses it in a criminal or threatening way.  The NRA is opposed to this bill, calling it “an intrusive government legislation [which] invades people’s homes and forces them to render their firearms useless in a self-defense situation by locking them up.” 

The bill does no such thing. Nor does a doctor talking to a patient about guns threaten the patient’s ownership of that gun. But if we now have a president who stands up in front of the entire nation and after he’s corrected about the size of his electoral victory repeats the same falsehood again, should we be surprised when the representatives of Gun-nut Nation continue to promote their own false claims again and again?

No doubt that when the dust settles and the smoke clears, Gun-nut Nation will come up with their own, self-fulfilling narrative about the ‘Docs versus Glocks’ case. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the first thing they say is that the 11th Circuit is tainted because 9 of the 10 judges who supported the majority decision were appointed by gun-grabber numero uno, Barack Hussein.  But that’s nothing more than another riff on Trump-o’s attack on the ‘politicized’ judiciary, which seems to be the latest in a dwindling list of options available to the Chief Executive before he’s forced to resign.

The decision by the 11th Circuit not only puts an end to a six-year battle that erupted when the FOPA law was first announced.  It also puts a big dent in the 30-year campaign waged by the NRA and others to keep evidence-based information about gun risk and gun violence on the margins of the public domain. This just isn’t a victory for the medical community, it’s a victory for the value of reasoned, public debate.

Mike Weisser   |   February 14, 2017   11:38 AM ET

Caroline Light’s provocative and original book, Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair With Lethal Self Defense, is making its official debut next week and you can pick up a copy at (where else?) Amazon but I’m sure it will be at your independent bookseller as well.  Its appearance, incidentally, will no doubt coincide with the beginning of another attempt by Gun-nut Nation to push a bill through Congress that will let anyone with a concealed-carry license carry his gun through all 50 states.

The idea that a gun license should be no different than a driver’s license has been a cherished gun-nut dream since then-Senator Larry Craig came out of his bathroom stall to speak in favor of a national, concealed-carry bill on the Senate floor. The bill is routinely filed every two years, it has always been just as routinely ignored, but guess who’s sitting in his office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue just waiting to sign such a bill into law? And what better way to rev up his sturm und drang base and take their minds off the fact that he can’t really get anything done than to announce that they can now run around anywhere in the United States carrying their guns?

And this is what concealed-carry is really all about, namely, playing out a fantasy that I can protect myself from all those street thugs and bad hombres because I’m carrying a gun. The fact that most of the folks who have concealed-carry licenses happen to live in places with little or no violent crime is entirely beside the point. I really loved it when Trump-o said he could stand on the 5th Avenue sidewalk, shoot someone down and his supporters would still give him their votes. If he did, it would be the first time that a violent crime was committed on 5th Avenue since I don’t know when. But that didn’t stop Trump from bragging about how he allegedly walks around carrying a gun.

Caroline Light’s book isn’t about concealed-carry per se, it’s really a study of a peculiarly American legal phenomenon known as Stand Your Ground (SYG.) Because other Western countries may make it more difficult to get a concealed-carry license, but they are issued if you can show cause.  On the other hand, SYG laws are a peculiarly American phenomenon, and Professor Light does a first-rate job of explaining how and why our ‘love affair’ with lethal, self-defense departs so dramatically from Common Law traditions which, in England and other British colonial zones, don’t support the SYG legal position at all.

When the Supreme Court gave Americans a Constitutional protection in 2008 to keep handguns in the home for self-defense, the majority based its reasoning on a rather arbitrary analysis of the phrase ‘keep and bear arms.’ But according to Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, it also reflected an American ‘tradition’ of using guns, particularly handguns, for personal defense. What Light shows is that from the very beginnings of the country, the earliest legal cases which codified SYG involved physical disputes that were settled with a gun. I’m not sure that we yet fully understand exactly how and why guns proliferated in the United States, but the connection between gun ownership and the legal sanction of SYG is made very clear in this work.

The problem we have today, however, is that with so many guns floating around, what to the shooter may be a defensive act could be an offensive act to the person who gets shot. Recently a 60-year-old St. Louis man was found not guilty of assault after he shot and killed a 13-year-old kid at a distance of 70 feet. The teenager was running away after breaking into the man’s car, but under Missouri law, since the man felt ‘threatened,’ he had the right to yank out his gun. What kind of country do we live in where something like this can occur? Some answers to that question are provided in Caroline Light’s new and important book.

Mike Weisser   |   February 8, 2017   12:52 PM ET

If there’s one strategy to reduce gun violence on which just about everyone agrees, it’s expanding FBI-NICS background checks beyond the initial sale to make it more difficult for guns to wind up in the “wrong hands.” The assumption behind this strategy is the idea that if every time a gun moves from one person to another, a background check would identify people whose behavior put them in one of the prohibited categories (e.g., felon, habitual drug user, etc.) that have always been an indication for criminal use of a gun.  

Behind this assumption lies another assumption, the idea that most of the guns that eventually end up in the hands of the bad guys get there because someone with a clean record buys the gun, knowing that he or she is planning to give or sell the gun to someone who can’t pass a background check and, hence, can’t be the initial purchaser of the gun.  When such a purchase occurs, it is referred to as a “straw” sale, and if the buyer or the person to whom the buyer gives the gun then sells it to someone else, it is referred to as gun “trafficking”; these two behaviors – straw sales and gun trafficking – are usually considered to be the way that most guns get into the “wrong” hands.

There have been many studies, too numerous to mention here, which show that a majority of guns picked up at crime scenes come from some location other than the actual scene of the crime, often not just another city but from another state. New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, issued a report which showed that, of nearly 46,000 crime guns recovered in the state between 2010 and 2015, nearly three-quarters came from other states, the bulk from states located on Interstate 95, which happens to be the most direct route from gun-rich states like Georgia and Florida up to New York.

The problem with data which shows the origin of crime guns, both in New York and elsewhere, is that since only the first gun transaction can be traced in most states (although 18 states have extended NICS checks to handgun sales, or all gun show sales or all sales), the fact that a gun first sold in South Carolina ended up being used to kill someone in Long Island doesn’t really say anything about how that particular gun got from there to here. And this is because, in most states, the original owner of the gun doesn’t have to report when or why he no longer owns a particular gun. Most states don’t require mandatory reporting of gun thefts, and few states require that police report stolen guns to the feds. The only gun owners who must report missing or stolen guns to the ATF are federally-licensed gun dealers, and most dealers protect their inventory because replacing a stolen gun ain’t cheap.

Now for the first time a group of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have published data on how guns that were picked up by the Pittsburgh PD actually went from the counter-top to the street. Based on an analysis of 762 gun traces conducted by the Firearms Tracing Unit in 2008, the researchers established that while 80 percent of the guns were recovered from persons other than the legal owner, at least one-third were stolen (the actual number was probably substantially higher) but less than half of those thefts were reported to the police. If this data is at all representative of the national scene, this means that upwards of 200,000 unreported guns get into “wrong hands” each year without a single straw sale.

Neither expanded background checks nor more diligence about straw sales has anything to do with stolen guns. And if gun owners were penalized for not reporting gun thefts, I guarantee you they would be more careful about securing their guns. And by the way, reporting a missing gun doesn’t violate any of those so-called 2nd Amendment “rights” at all.

Bruh! Let's Talk About Chicago!

  |   February 3, 2017    7:59 PM ET

Read More:

Jason Cherkis   |   February 3, 2017    2:09 PM ET

WASHINGTON ― During the Obama presidency, conservative politicians came up with a standard response to any mass shooting. Within hours of a tragedy, whether in a school at Newtown or a church in South Carolina, Republicans would issue statements saying they were praying for victims. It became so commonplace that last year, Slate published “Thoughts & Prayers: The Game that allowed readers to offer up thoughts and prayers ― and fake empathy ― after a mass shooting.

To talk about gun-control measures that may prevent mass shootings is to risk angering the National Rifle Association. To address the complex role that a mental health crisis plays in many mass shootings would require a meaningful examination of our underfunded and poorly resourced mental health system. To send thoughts and prayers is an easy way to express sympathy for victims and their families without actually having to do anything. By the end of President Barack Obama’s term, thoughts and prayers felt like a cop-out that fooled no one.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), soon to be confirmed as President Donald Trump’s attorney general, may have helped invent this grief response to mass shootings. Eight days after 12 students and one teacher were killed at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999, Sessions joined a chorus of conservative cultural warriors who argued that the horrifying shooting didn’t require new gun laws, but a deeper examination of Hollywood. The senator didn’t stop there.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Sessions suggested that the real cause of the massacre was the faith ― or lack of faith ― of the teenage perpetrators. In a remarkable turn, he suggested maybe it was their parents’ fault, too:

“As chairman the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Youth Violence, I have given an awful lot of thought to it. But I am perplexed. A few things occur to me. There is what appears to me a pattern here that would suggest how we have gotten to this point. It strikes me that an extremely small number of young people today have gotten on a very destructive path. They have headed down the road of anger and violence. They have not been acculturated with the kind of gentlemanliness and gentlewomanliness, not inculcated with religious faith and discipline, maybe a lack of values or whatever ― somehow it did not take. Maybe their parents tried. Maybe they did not.” 

Maybe. Maybe not. What drove Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to commit such violence would consume law enforcement and mental health experts for years. Both Harris and Klebold were deeply troubled, and the setting of their high school for the shooting was most likely incidental. Harris was the mastermind, and was no “wayward boy who could have been rescued,” experts came to believe. 

Last year, Sue Klebold published a much-admired memoir about her son. She recalled that Dylan was outgoing and smart. He’d attended prom with his fellow students three days before massacring them. It was only after the shooting that Sue Klebold began to realize that her son had been severely depressed and expert in concealing it.

“This wasn’t a kid we worried and prayed over, hoping he would eventually find his way and lead a productive life,” Klebold wrote. “We called him ‘The Sunshine Boy’—not just because of his halo of blond hair, but because everything seemed to come easily to him.”

Klebold has become a suicide-prevention advocate. Sessions is about to become the nation’s top lawman. Most likely, he will face a mass shooting early in his tenure. If his response to Columbine is any indication, he will offer a pious remedy and launch a salvo from his side of the never-ending culture war.

Sessions, unable to wait until law enforcement authorities had completed their investigation into Columbine, found his culprits: the Internet, violent video games and movies, an androgynous singer. That day on the Senate floor, he offered that the two teen killers “are alienated and angry,” then turned to his bigger, easier targets:

“They are able to hook into the Internet and play video games that are extraordinarily violent, that cause the blood pressure to rise and the adrenaline level to go up, games that cause people to be killed and the players to die themselves. It is a very intense experience. They are able to get into Internet chat rooms and, if there are no nuts or people of the same mentality in their hometown, hook up with people around the country. They are able to rent from the video store ― not just go down and see “Natural Born Killers” or “The Basketball Diaries” ― but they are able to bring it home and watch it repeatedly. In this case, even maybe make their own violent film. Many have said this murder was very much akin to “The Basketball Diaries,” in which a student goes in and shoots others in the classroom. I have seen a video of that, and many others may have.

In music, there is Marilyn Manson, an individual who chooses the name of a mass murderer as part of his name. The lyrics of his music are consistent with his choice of name. They are violent and nihilistic, and there are groups all over the world who do this, some German groups and others. I guess what I am saying is, a person already troubled in this modern high-tech world can be in their car and hear the music, they can be in their room and see the video, they can go into the chat rooms and act out these video games and even take it to real life. Something there is very much of a problem.”

You can read Sessions’ full floor speech here.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics Gun Safety Recommendation

Quora   |   February 1, 2017    1:38 PM ET

How should parents address issues like gun violence and safety with young children? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Michelle Sandberg, Pediatrician, on Quora:

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that the safest home for children and teens is one without guns. A gun in the home increases the risk of homicide, suicide, and accidental death. Evidence shows that a gun in the home is twenty-two times more likely to be used in domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense [1]. A gun in the home is far more likely to kill a family member or someone known to the family than to be used successfully against an intruder [2]. For young children, the risk of unintentional injury or death is significantly higher with a gun in the home. Children are naturally curious about guns, and telling them to stay away and not touch the gun does not always work. For teenagers there is a three to five times higher risk of suicide with a gun in the home.

If there are guns in the home, scientific evidence shows the risk of injury or death is greatly decreased with safe storage. Guns should be stored unloaded and locked, and the ammunition should be locked in a separate place. Hiding a gun is not sufficient-- guns must be unloaded and locked safely.

Pediatricians are advised to discuss injury-prevention counseling with families as part of their well child care visits. Parents are also encouraged to ask other parents if there is a gun in the home where their child is going to play. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence partnered to make June 21st National ASK Day (Asking Saves Kids): "Is there an unlocked gun where my child plays?"

The ASK campaign is part of a larger effort to educate parents and children about guns and gun safety. The first step is counseling parents to remove guns from the home given the high risk associated with gun ownership. If parents do not want to remove guns from their home, safe storage is essential to keeping kids safe. Parents are also encouraged to ask other parents if there is a gun in the home where their child is going to play.

Guns are estimated to be in about one third of all U.S. households, so children should be educated about gun safety whether they live in a household with a gun or not. Just as parents teach their children to not get in a car or go off with a stranger, they should also teach their children to walk away if they come across a gun. This means explaining to children that:

  • Real guns (unlike guns in movies, TV and video games) can injure or kill.
  • If they come across a gun, they should take the following steps (outlined in the Web's most visited site about children's health):
    • stop what they're doing
    • do not touch the gun
    • leave the area where the gun is
    • tell an adult right away
  • If they are in an area that includes a gun, they should leave to avoid being harmed by someone who doesn't know how to operate a gun (including toddlers and young children).
    • Unfortunately injuries and deaths occur around the U.S. from children as young as three years old pulling a trigger of a gun that wasn't safely stored. More preschoolers are killed with guns each year than officers in the line of duty. [3]

With gun deaths the second leading cause of death in Americans ages one to forty-five, educating children about guns is critically important for public health and safety.


[1] Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home -- NEJM

[2] Gun Safety: Keeping Children Safe


This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Mike Weisser   |   January 31, 2017   12:34 PM ET

In a surprising event, the NRA actually lost a major legal argument in a federal court, and America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ predictably responded by calling the decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (U.S. v. Robinson) “the most anti-gun ruling from any court of the modern era.” Which only goes to show how rarely the NRA loses a big one in court. But forgetting for a moment the NRA’s attempt to engage in a bit of Trump-like hyperbole about this new threat to all law-abiding gun owners, the decision does put something of a crimp in gun-nut nation’s plan to realize their most cherished ambition, namely, the extension of unquestioned concealed-carry to all 50 states.

The NRA has been pushing the idea of letting everyone wander around the entire country with a gun in their pockets ever since then-Senator Larry Craig took some time away from his public toilet stall and sponsored a national, reciprocal concealed-carry law back in the Clinton years. Since then, gun-nut nation has built up a small but solid phalanx of academics and commercial hucksters who will tell you that walking around with a gun in your pocket is a good thing.

Here’s how it works today and here’s how gun-nut nation wants it to work. Licensing for gun ownership is and has always been a state-by-state affair. Ditto carrying a gun. Some states make it easier, some make it a little more difficult, but the bottom line is that a gun license isn’t like a driver’s license because no matter where you drive, basically the rules of the road are the same.  In the case of guns, however, the rules covering concealed-carry (CCW) are different in every state. Which means that if you want to cross a state line with a concealed weapon, you have to make sure that you are meeting the different CCW laws for each state through which you travel, which means you might as well leave the gun home.

Every time a new Congress gets to work, one of the Congressional toadies for gun-nut nation introduces a bill to establish national CCW, and every time such a bill is introduced it gets ignored. But this time may be different because now we have a champion of CCW in the White House and he owes the NRA big-time. So gun-nut nation thought that maybe this time their ship was finally coming home.

The case began when a resident of West Virginia was frisked and an illegal gun was discovered on his person after the cops got a tip that the individual in question (Robinson) was armed.  In this instance the cops were operating under long-established rules which allow for a limited search if the officers believe that the suspect might be ‘armed and dangerous’ even if an arrest has not yet occurred. Robinson challenged the search, claiming that West Virginia law allowed him to carry a gun. Possessing a gun may have made him ‘armed,’ but it didn’t necessarily make him ‘dangerous.’ A local judge agreed, but the 4th Circuit tossed Robinson’s argument out.

What the 4th Circuit basically said was that it was reasonable for the cops to assume that someone walking around with a gun, even someone walking around with a legal gun on his person should not only be considered armed, but might be dangerous as well. And he would be dangerous, as far as the cops would be concerned, simply because he was carrying a gun.

Do you realize what this argument does to gun-nut nation’s most cherished dream? It stands that dream on its head. Because what the NRA and all their sycophantic CCW-advocates have been saying is that walking around with a gun makes everyone safe and constitutes no threat or danger to law-abiding citizens at all. But the 4th Circuit came down on the side of cops who need to be protected against ‘unnecessary risk.’  And believe it or not, walking around with a gun increases risk.

Mike Weisser   |   January 19, 2017    8:51 PM ET

You knew it was going to happen. Sooner or later one of Trump’s cabinet nominees was going to say something so crazy and stupid during a confirmation hearing that the comment would end up becoming the most-used line by every comic and satire show on TV.  And right now that honor belongs to Betsy DeVos, whose loony, right-wing views on just about everything no doubt qualify her to advise the 45th president on the educational needs of America’s 50 million school-age kids.

But what I didn’t know about Betsy is that her expertise also evidently extends to wildlife and guns. Because at some point during her confirmation hearing, she told the Senate committee that using guns to protect teachers and kids in schools should be a local decision, and to prove why this was necessary she mentioned a Wyoming elementary school that had been menaced by a grizzly bear so they probably had a gun. In fact, there is no gun in that school, nor are guns allowed in any Wyoming public schools.

Turns out that the particular grammar school in question is circled with a big fence because it happens to be located on the edge of Yellowstone National Park, home to more than 700 brown bears. So I’ll give Betsy the benefit of the doubt and simply put her answer down to the possibility that, like the guy who nominated her for a cabinet position, she probably doesn’t know the difference between what’s true and what’s false.  

But as soon as she shot her mouth off, the liberal watchdogs in the media took issue with the idea that an effective response to a threatened grizzly attack would be to use a gun. The Washington Post trotted out a wildlife expert, Tom Smith, who said using a bear spray was preferable to using a gun; he told PolitiFact that good bear sprays were available on Amazon for $40 or less.

Since I’m a gun guy, I always find it interesting when someone says there’s a better way to protect yourself against anything and everything than using a gun. So I went to Amazon and checked out one of their bear sprays called Counter Assault, which claims on its website that its products have been tested by an outfit called the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) at its Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center located right outside Yellowstone National Park.

There’s only one little problem. The test involves seeing if a real bear can get into a storage barrel or other device used to protect out-of-door food, garbage or some other item that might attract bears. They aren’t testing sprays. And if you have to figure out what would happen if you test-sprayed a bear and the test failed, that’s all the proof you need to be considered dumb enough to serve in the Cabinet of the President-elect.

Couple of years ago a guy came into my gun shop, told me he was going to hike in the Rockies, and wanted to buy a small, high-powered handgun to carry in case he was attacked by a bear. Just at that moment a car drove past the shop, I pointed at it and asked the guy if he could hit that car with a gun.  

“Are you crazy?” he said, “I wouldn’t even come close.”

“The speed limit in town is 35 mph,” I answered, “which is about a grizzly’s top speed.”

He didn’t buy the gun and neither should any school system that thinks the kids need to be protected against animal or human threats. I don’t have any grizzlies where I live but we do have some pretty big black bears. And the last time one of them came on my property he had a good time gobbling up the half pizza that we had dumped in the trash. Then Smokey went across the road and had another good time eating the bird seed that my neighbor had set out in his yard.  We had a much better time watching that bear than we will have watching Trump take the oath.

A New NRA Program

Ted McCagg   |   January 18, 2017   12:00 AM ET


Dave Jamieson   |   January 17, 2017    8:09 PM ET

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to head the Education Department refused to say during her confirmation hearing Tuesday that guns don’t belong in schools.

The question came from Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut. Murphy’s state was home to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, where a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown in 2012. Murphy asked Trump’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, if guns “have any place in or around schools.”

DeVos said such questions should be left to states and localities.

“You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?” Murphy pressed.

DeVos, referring to earlier comments from Sen. Mike Enzi (R) of Wyoming, said that some schools out West might need protection from bears. “I would imagine there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” she said.

Murphy also asked DeVos if she would support Trump if he moved to eliminate gun-free school zones.

“I will support what the president-elect does,” she responded.

“If the question is around gun violence,” she went on, “please know that my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence.”

Murphy appeared upset by the responses, saying he looked forward to working with DeVos, and to her “coming to Connecticut to talk about the role of guns in schools,” an obvious allusion to Sandy Hook. Murphy gave up his microphone.

Democrats immediately pointed to the exchange to argue that DeVos should not be confirmed.

DeVos is a controversial pick for education secretary. A billionaire from one of Michigan’s most powerful Republican families, she has spent years funding “school choice” efforts that steer public money toward charter schools and private schools. Public education advocates and teacher unions have described her as a radical choice to be the face of federal education policy.

Mary S Papenfuss   |   January 14, 2017    1:00 AM ET

A year-old boy was accidentally killed by his young sister, who found his mother’s loaded gun in their northern California home, officials say.

Paramedics responding to a frantic call for help on Wednesday found the baby on the floor of a bedroom in his Chowchilla home with a bullet wound to the head. He didn’t survive the ambulance trip to the hospital, police said in a statement. Police did not provide the names of the children. Local media said the girl was under the age of 6.

The mother, Erica Bautista, a corrections officer, was home at the time of the accident, according to officials. The gun was registered to her but was not a duty weapon, reported ABC30-TV. Authorities were investigating whether the gun was stored improperly. If that is the case, they may file criminal charges against the mother, who has worked as a corrections officer for 16 years.

Investigators said they couldn’t remember another similar case in at least 20 years in the town of 20,000, which is home to two state prisons.

“Anytime a child gets hold of firearm, and there’s some sort of a negligent discharge it’s a criminal matter,” said Lt. Jeff Palmer of the Chowchilla Police Department. Firearms are not something to be taken for granted, he warned. “Don’t leave them loaded, and absolutely don’t leave them in an area where a child can get its hands on it,” Palmer added.

Town police provide free gun locks.

Officials still are investigating the tragedy. Results of the probe will be turned over to the Madera County District Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether or not to file charges, according to the Merced Sun-Star.

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related Coverage + articlesList=580bc34ae4b0a03911ed4a01,584866a1e4b064104145596f

Mike Weisser   |   January 10, 2017    9:05 AM ET

Read More: gun violence, guns, chicago

It’s a little too early for final figures to be published, but when it comes to how many Americans are killed or injured by other Americans using guns, 2016 will have been a banner year.  Mid-year gun violence reports from Chicago, Memphis, Philadelphia and San Antonio show sharp increases there and elsewhere, experts predict that these trends may continue going up over the next couple of years.

Most of the research on the how and why of gun violence is based on identifying the demographic and geographic characteristics of the victim populations: age, race, location and so forth, which produces a basic profile about intentional gun injury as being overwhelmingly associated with young Black men who live in disadvantaged, inner-city neighborhoods where all sorts of social dislocation occurs. But, as Andrew Papachristos and his research associates point out in new research, the demographic-spatial method for understanding gun violence paints with such a broad brush that it offers little guidance for predicting exactly who might become subjects of gun violence, particularly since most individuals living in such neighborhoods do not engage in this type of violent behavior.

The predictive model created by Papachristos combines demographic data with what is called a ‘social contagion’ model in which it is assumed that individuals who are socially connected a victim of gun violence will themselves run a higher risk of becoming victims of gun violence. Identifying these social connections or networks was done by looking at all 16,399 gunshot injuries in Chicago from 2006 to 2014 within the 1,189,225 arrests made during the same period, then looking at the identity of individuals who were arrested at the same time for the same offense and then connecting this data to everyone who was shot.

Incidentally, for all the hullabaloo about the lack of government funding for gun research, I note that part of the funding for this substantial project came from the National Science Foundation, which also happens to be a government agency.  Obviously, the lack of CDC support for gun research has created real gaps in the evidence about gun violence; perhaps there are other ways to skin the proverbial research cat.

When Papachristos combines this social contagion model with the traditional demographic approach, the predictive strength of this method rises above 70 percent; in other words, seven out of ten of the individuals who were later subjects of gun violence could be identified before the actual gun violence event took place.  If this model can be replicated in other locations, what we might have here is the emergence of a new way to target gun violence interventions at a more specified population than just young, minority men in a particular location – a profile that fits many more individuals than the ones who are at highest risk for getting shot.

Which brings us to the unanswered problem which the authors of this important study admit, namely, that they were unable ”to assess why some individuals in the social network (indeed, the vast majority) never became gunshot subjects.”  In fact, we could widen this lack of understanding to the whole question of violence itself.  Because while intentional gun injuries, according to the CDC, annually amount to somewhere around 75,000, the number of intentional assaults that require medical attention each year is twenty times that number, while aggravated assault arrests run 750,000 each year.  

The authors of this study choose to use a medical analogy – epidemic – to frame their approach to understanding gun violence.  But the networks they have uncovered that spread gun violence are linked to an initial shooting, which means that someone is already dead or injured before any ‘social contagion’ connections can be made.  To quote the brilliant Lester Adelson, “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.” How do we identify the individual who, unlike most of us, can’t engage in a disagreement or dispute without pulling out a gun?  The question remains unanswered.

Melissa Jeltsen   |   January 4, 2017    1:06 PM ET

During the last week of her life, Cynthia Villegas spoke up.

She told a relative that she was afraid of her husband, and that if anything ever happened to her, he would be to blame. She told her brother that she had recently asked for a divorce “because of the abuse” (a conversation her brother later recalled to police).

That was Thursday, June 9, 2016. By Saturday, she was dead, another victim of a mass shooting in America. According to police, her husband Juan Villegas-Hernandez shot and killed her inside their home in Roswell, New Mexico, along with their four young daughters ― Yamilen, 14; Cynthia Janeth, 11; Abby, 7; and Ida, 3.

Mere hours later, their tragic story would be eclipsed by an even more extreme outburst of violence, when Omar Mateen opened fire inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, inconceivable in its scope. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the public struck up heated conversations about homophobia, Islamist terrorism and gun control, scrambling to answer the most baffling question of all: Why?

Yet, most of the mass shootings of 2016 ― defined as shootings in which at least four people were fatally shot, not including the perpetrator ― did not resemble the Pulse massacre. Instead, many of them shared striking similarities to the events that unfolded inside that New Mexico home, an angry man picking off his family members one by one.

According to data collected by Everytown for Gun Safety, of the 16 mass shooting incidents last year, seven ― 43 percent ― involved a male shooter targeting a family member or intimate partner. In those shootings, women and children made up 81 percent of the victims.

Sarah Tofte, research director for Everytown for Gun Safety, said those findings align with previous research on the connection between mass shootings and domestic violence.

“When people think about mass shootings, they typically think about a shooting that takes place in public, a stranger shooting at innocent bystanders,” Tofte said. “But we know that in the majority of these cases, they occur within the context of a relationship or family dynamic plagued by domestic violence.”

An earlier Everytown report examining five years of mass shooting data found an even higher percentage of incidents ― 57 percent ― in which the shooter targeted either a family member or an intimate partner. 

“The number is relatively small year to year, and that’s why we need to look at at least a 5-year period to get an average,” Tofte said. “It’s clear that domestic violence continues to be a driver when it comes to mass shootings.” 

In four of the seven cases in 2016 in which shooters targeted family members or intimate partners, a woman was attempting to leave the relationship at the time of the massacre.

While the public may wonder why women don’t simply leave their abusers, Ruth Glenn, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, cautioned that victims are at the highest risk of danger when exiting a violent relationship, and should seek assistance from a local domestic violence organization before attempting to do so. 

“It may take days, weeks, or months of planning, so that when you do go, you are as safe as possible,” she said, noting that the situation is especially dangerous if the abuser has access to a gun. 

“If someone uses a gun to kill their partner, they have used that gun before to control their partner,” she said. 

Phoukeo Dej-Oudom, 35, knew her husband had a gun. 

A licensed cosmetologist living in Las Vegas, she filed for divorce last spring from her husband Jason Dej-Oudom, and for full custody of their children. 

In an application for a temporary protection order, which was denied because it did not meet statutory requirements, she detailed the alleged abuse that she and her children were experiencing.

“Throughout the marriage, the children’s lives as well as mine have been threatened,” she wrote. “Guns have been pulled out and pointed to our heads multiple times.”

She quit her job at a hair salon in June, fearing that her husband would stalk her there.

“I cannot work,” she texted her manager. “He’ll know I am where I am.”

A few weeks later, police say, her husband chased and gunned her down outside a Walgreens, then fatally shot their three children ― Anhurak Jason, 9; Xonajuk J.J., 14; and Dalavanh Ariel, 15 ― inside their apartment. He killed himself afterward, authorities said.

In a quarter of last year’s mass shootings, a male perpetrator killed his children along with his estranged wife. 

That was true in the case of Megan Short.

Aug. 6, 2016, was supposed to be the beginning of her new life. It was the day she planned to move out of the house she shared with her husband in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania.

Her husband, she told her Facebook friends a few weeks before her death, was emotionally abusive. 

“It really does a number on your mental health for sure,” she wrote in a comment on an article on emotional abuse, posted on her friend’s Facebook wall. Later, she added: “This is why I am leaving my marriage ... 16 years.” 

But on the day she was due to move out, police say, her husband fatally shot her and her three young children ― Liana, 8; Mark Jr., 5; and Willow, 2. The kids were in their pajamas. 

Killing family members, especially children, is the ultimate form of power and control exerted by abusers, explained Maureen Curtis, vice president for Safe Horizon’s criminal justice and court programs.  

“Domestic violence is about coercive control ... controlling that person in every way,” she said. “What could be more controlling than killing the people they love as well as them.”

She noted that other people in the community also become victims of domestic violence mass shootings, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Neighbors, family friends and grandparents numbered among the dead in 2016. 

In Appling, Georgia, officials said Wayne Hawes went on a shooting spree after his wife left him. He killed her 85-year-old mother, her 75-year-old uncle, her 31-year-old niece, Kelia Clark, and two family friends. 

In Shelton, Washington, authorities said David Campbell murdered his wife, two children and a neighbor before turning the gun on himself.

The best way to prevent mass shootings by abusers is to hold them accountable for their actions long before they strike out with fatal violence, Curtis said. That accountability can come through the criminal justice system, or by other family members and friends communicating to the abuser that what he is doing is not OK.

“If that’s not happening and this person is let off the hook ― sometimes a lot and sometimes a little ― it can escalate to violence that in some cases can become lethal,” she said. “People aren’t invested in intimate partner violence or family violence but if they see the connections to how it affects the community, maybe we will have more people paying attention to it.”


Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and other issues related to women’s health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.


Related stories:

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline .

SAM and BOZZY | Australian Gangster Movie | New Action Film 2017

Vincenzo Prosperi   |   December 28, 2016    8:29 PM ET


On the run after a failed mob hit, a grizzled hitman and an incompetent rookie must work together to escape the the clutches of their ruthless former employer.

In this short film, Bozzy (played by Corey Neville) has been captured by mob boss Saretti (Vincenzo Prosperi) and Sam (Ernie Crowther) raids the mansion to save his friend.

Director: Nathan Bender from 6 Brothers Pictures
Bozzy (Corey Neville )
Sam (Ernie Crowther)
and Mob Boss Saretti (Vincenzo Prosperi)

Subscribe to 6 Brothers Pictures for more movies: