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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

Read More:

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?

Marina Fang   |   September 27, 2015    4:08 PM ET

Sept 27 (Reuters) - U.S. airport security agents discovered a record 67 firearms in luggage passengers intended to carry on to airplanes during one week in September, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Of the 67 firearms found during the week ended Sept. 17, 56 were loaded and 26 had a round in the chamber, the TSA reported. The tally set a new weekly record. The prior record was 65 firearms found during a week in May 2013, TSA said.

For the most recent week, ending Sept. 24, TSA said it found 64 firearms in carry-on bags at airports. Of those, 55 were loaded and 22 had a round chambered, TSA said.

In July, new TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger told a congressional panel that his top priority would be to close security gaps at airport checkpoints.

Lawmakers opened a U.S. House of Representatives hearing after a Department of Homeland Security report that found TSA airport screeners did not detect banned weapons in 67 of 70 tests at dozens of airport checkpoints.

Guns in airplane luggage have been found all around the country. TSA said its agents stopped a man Thursday at a Greater Rochester International Airport checkpoint in New York when they detected a gun in his carry-on bag. A day prior, on Sept. 23, TSA found a loaded firearm in a passenger's carry-on bag at the Des Moines International Airport in Iowa.

Nationwide, TSA officers have found more than 2,000 firearms at airport security checkpoints so far this year.

Weapons, including firearms, firearm parts and ammunition, are banned from carry-on bags, but can be transported in checked bags if they are unloaded, and declared to the airline. Passengers who bring firearms to the checkpoint face possible criminal charges and civil penalties up to $11,000.

(Reporting By Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Mo.; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Why Our Approach to Suicide Prevention Needs to Change Now

Leah Harris   |   September 24, 2015    5:54 PM ET

I write about suicide prevention as an advocate, but also as a suicide attempt survivor myself. I first entered the mental health system after an attempt in adolescence, the first of several efforts to end my life. My hospitalizations felt more like punishment than care. I frequently witnessed distressed children being restrained by adults for "acting out," which terrified and traumatized me. (I later learned that teens have died during such "take-downs" in psychiatric hospitals.) Upon intake and discharge, professionals dutifully made me sign "no-harm contracts," but there was little to no follow-up, and I was never supported in the community to find reasons to live.

This is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and the suicide prevention world should be very uncomfortable. The latest available data show that 2013 marked the tenth year in a row of increasing suicide rates in America. Despite all the hearts, minds, and good intentions being poured into suicide prevention, the prevailing strategies don't seem to be working.

In 2014, I attended a research progress meeting at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), where former NIMH director Dr. Thomas Insel shared what he called an "inconvenient truth." He showed a graph comparing mortality from stroke, heart disease, AIDS, and leukemia from 1990 to 2010. In every single case, there have been impressive decreases in mortality over this time period. The steady decrease in mortality stops when we come to rates of suicide.

Is this "inconvenient truth" simply explained by a lack of investment in suicide prevention, as many in the field might argue? Certainly, this is part of the problem. Compared to other leading causes of death, suicide receives a relative dearth of funding. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, and the third leading cause of death in youth, yet we withhold precious resources that could be devoted to reducing mortality.

But the problem is much deeper than that. The primary goals of most suicide prevention efforts are to teach the public to "recognize the signs" of suicide and refer the person to get appropriate help. But what will this help actually look like, if or when it arrives? All too often, the kind of help people receive, if they can access help at all, can hurt more than it helps. A recent expose in the New York Times explained how one battalion, fed up with the lack of quality care and support from the Veterans Administration (VA), has created their own social network to support one another to stay alive another day.

These veterans may be on the right track. Research indicates that access to "help" may actually contribute to increased suicide risk. A recent study published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology found that the more intensive contacts that people had with mental health treatment, including inpatient hospitalization and contact with emergency rooms, the more likely they were to attempt or to die by suicide. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) also published an in-depth document examining this phenomenon of increased risk of suicide after discharge from inpatient services.

The implications of these findings are astounding, yet the general public is largely unaware: the treatment we have on offer may be making things worse. When you couple this sobering reality with the fact that the training most mental health professionals receive in suicide prevention is "woefully inadequate," then you have a recipe for the disaster we currently face.

On top of poor treatment in the mental health system, we have criminalized suicidal behavior by designating law enforcement as first responders. Friends, family, and even suicide hotline workers often feel they have no choice but to call 911 on people who are actively suicidal. I can attest from personal experience that being carted away in handcuffs and put in the back of a police car after a suicide attempt was anything but therapeutic. And on far too many tragic occasions, when loved ones call 911 for help for their suicidal family members, the police show up and "finish the job" if the person resists being taken away. We then call it "suicide by cop," essentially blaming the victims for their own deaths. Clearly, our collective responses to suicidal behavior, which are largely based on fear and ignorance, have the effect of re-traumatizing already traumatized people.

One thing we know about suicide, but which is rarely reflected in research or practice in the suicide prevention world, is the high prevalence of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among suicidal people. Researchers found that ACEs were a factor in nearly two-thirds (64%) of suicide attempts among adults and 80% of suicide attempts during childhood/adolescence. The more ACEs one has, the more likely they are to attempt suicide. It makes sense then, if we'd like to reduce the prevalence of suicide, that we focus on preventing childhood and adult trauma, and ensuring that people receive care and support that does not create further trauma and pain.

There is some reason to hope that trauma will begin to be taken more seriously by health care providers serving suicidal people. Zero Suicide, a national training and technical assistance initiative, is encouraging health care systems to practice trauma-informed approaches as part of their overall efforts to reduce deaths by suicide.

We also could do much to prevent suicide by enacting sensible gun reform. In this country, significantly more people die from suicide by firearm than they do by homicide. Suicide is often an impulsive act, borne of moments of extreme despair. But few people will survive a bullet if they have easy access to a gun. There is a clear relationship between gun ownership rates and suicide rates: more guns equals more suicides.

While "means reduction" is a hot topic in suicide prevention, most mental health professionals are not trained sufficiently to ask their clients about guns. And according to a 2013 publication by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, "people contemplating gun suicide are not always in treatment and often don't display clues in advance--not even to themselves." While it may be politically unpopular, we need policy-related advocacy from suicide prevention advocates towards changing the obscenely lax gun laws in this country.

The suicide prevention field should also be addressing the shocking lack of community support for suicidal people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cite community connectedness as a central protective factor against both suicide and interpersonal violence. If you have lost a loved one to suicide, there is generally a support group near you where you can connect with others and begin to heal. But if you have survived a suicide attempt, and have just been discharged from the hospital, there is likely no peer-to-peer support group for you in the community. Grappling with suicidal feelings, or surviving an attempt, are immensely confusing and difficult experiences to discuss, even with well-meaning family and friends. Having the opportunity to share these experiences with others who truly "get it" can make all the difference.

There are some positive changes on this front, as well. The Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community has successfully run peer-to-peer Alternatives to Suicide groups for years, and they offer training and consultation to other communities wishing to start such groups in their area. Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services has also created a manual for a similar purpose. These efforts give me hope that we can anticipate more community support to help people who are suicidal to discover a life worth living.

We must shift the paradigm on how we understand and respond to suicide. Now is the time to think further out of the box than we ever have before. We must stop doing the same thing, year after year, and expecting different results. This is the very definition of insanity. If we do not drastically change course on our suicide prevention strategies, we will keep having these National Suicide Prevention Weeks and National Suicide Prevention Awareness Months and fundraising walks into the darkness year after year, as the suicide rates continue to climb.


If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Forgiving the 'Unforgivable'

Scott Stabile   |   September 16, 2015   10:51 AM ET

September 16th marks 31 years since my parents were murdered. The following essay on forgiving their killer appears in my new book, Just Love. Here's wishing us all the desire to forgive, no matter what. We are born with the ability.

* * * * *

Thirty-one years ago, my parents -- Jimmy and Camille Stabile -- were shot to death in their produce market in Detroit. It was a Monday morning and was going to be my mom's last week of work at the market. She had promised me that. The neighborhood around the market had a lot of crime, and I'd been begging her for months to quit going there. For years after their murder, I would regret not begging her harder. I was 14 years old when they died, the youngest of their seven children.

The man who killed my parents, and also killed one of their employees that day, was caught and sent to prison for life. I have a vague memory of being at his sentencing with my siblings, all of us present to hear his fate. I don't know why we were there, really. I'm not sure what difference it made to anyone. I remember his name, of course, and his face, sometimes even more clearly than I remember my parents' faces. Perhaps because his actions, even more than my parents' to that point, would impact most profoundly the person I would become. He had changed my life more than anyone.

The months after their death are a total blur to me still, but two moments stand out in my memory. First, was the moment I found out, in my brother-in-law's deli. I was walking out of the bathroom as my brother walked in the front door to confirm to my sisters what we had feared, that our parents were dead. He had just returned from identifying their bodies. My sisters screamed and held one another as I retreated back into the bathroom and collapsed beside the urinal and sobbed. The second moment was at their funeral, when I overheard one of my sisters tell another that she didn't know how I -- as the baby of the family and a devoted mama's boy -- would be able to survive without our mom. I can still feel her tears, and her fear.

When I started writing this, I thought I would write about enduring grief, the pain of loss, and the remarkable ability we all have to survive horrific things and somehow continue on in our lives. I thought maybe I would tell a couple stories about my parents, as there are so many good ones. Or perhaps relate what it was like being an orphan at such a young age, and how I still sometimes feel like an outsider because of it. But all I really want to write about is forgiveness.

I forgive the man who killed my parents. Completely and without reservation. I forgave him a long time ago, but not until years after he did what he did. Not until I learned that forgiveness of others is the only choice that lives in love, and that love is the only choice I want to live by.

I hear justifications all the time for why some actions are unforgivable, and I just don't agree. I can barely stomach what we human beings do to each other, the amount of physical and emotional pain we can cause one another. But I intend to forgive everything. I won't stop until I find a way. We are all human beings, we were all born innocent and loving, we all know darkness and pain, and we are all worthy of compassion and forgiveness. No matter what. The man who killed my parents is every bit as worthy as any one of us.

Much has been written that states how forgiveness is not about the other person but about yourself, how we should forgive others for our own peace of mind and body. I agree with this. I know what it's like to hold onto hatred and blame. We all know. It's the worst kind of poison, it clouds everything. When we forgive others, though, we free ourselves from this toxic reality. Forgiveness gives us a chance to become clean and healed. The motivation may be selfish, but that's okay. Forgiveness is forgiveness.

But what about forgiving others as a gift to them and not just ourselves? What about recognizing their pain and their struggles and the degree to which that pain plays into their choices -- and knowing that the act of our forgiveness might help them become clean and healed, too? No one who is operating from any place of self-love or self-respect could walk into a market, pull out a gun and shoot innocent people. So I forgave the man who killed my parents -- not just for myself, but for him. Surely he needs forgiveness as much as I need to forgive, whether he's aware of it or not. Surely he needs compassion and love as much as we all do. Probably more than most.

It's been three decades, and some days I still can't believe my parents are dead, and that they died the way they did. In darker moments, I can't help but imagine their final minutes, play out all the possible scenarios, hear the gunshots and screams. I see them on the ground, blood pooling out from their bodies, their killer standing over them. It's like I was there.

I know I am who I am today because of everything that's happened in my life, my parents' death being the most profound and painful of it all. I know that a good degree of my independence and strength comes from surviving such a tragedy. Pain brings with it many gifts, when we are ready and willing to see them. Perhaps one of the biggest gifts my parents' death brought me was the opportunity to be faced with a circumstance that many would deem unforgivable, and with a deep commitment to love, see that I could ultimately make the choice to forgive. That choice gave me my freedom.

Imagine carrying such a depth of love and compassion for humanity that no matter what someone does to you or anyone else -- no matter how horrible or hurtful, you could look them in the eyes and with sincerity declare: "I love you, and I forgive you. I feel your pain as I feel mine, and I recognize your need to heal as much as I recognize my own." I'm not there quite yet, but that's what I want for myself. That's what I want for all of us. That's what I feel is the potential within each of us, and within that potential miracles are created, and humanity is changed.

There were hundreds of cars at my parents' funeral. The procession stretched for blocks. My mom and dad touched many people, from all walks of life. I don't think I fully understood that until I saw the number of people who showed up to mourn them. I don't think I realized just how generous they were with their support and their love. I'm sure I didn't realize, for many years, that perhaps the greatest lesson they taught me -- by example -- was to accept and respect whomever crosses your path, and to be a friend to those in need.

Aren't we all in need, every single one of us? In need of love, and compassion, and kindness, and friendship? We're in need and worthy of all these things. Forgiveness, too. You and I and everyone else in this entire world is in need and worthy of forgiveness. Lucky for us all, we also happen to be innately capable of offering it. We all have it in us to say and mean the words "I forgive you" in whatever circumstance.

Forgiveness is one of the great gifts we can give ourselves, and also each other. It is one of the mandates of love, and one of the cornerstones of freedom. Mine and yours.

A Hard Look at Guns in America (VIDEO)

GVH Live   |   September 15, 2015    2:00 AM ET

By, Siraj Hashmi

The United States leads the world in private gun ownership and the rate of firearm deaths per year with 29.7 per one million Americans this year.

Since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, there have been over 31 notable mass shootings that left multiple people dead, including the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, Fort Hood in 2009, Sandy Hook in 2012 and the Mother Emanuel Church in 2015.

Time and again, when these shootings happen, lawmakers in Washington look to pass "common sense gun legislation" with the hopes of reducing gun violence.

Is it time to seriously consider passing "common sense gun legislation" or should we spend more time on addressing mental health or ending the drug war?

For more visit here.