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In America in 2015, This Is the Problem That We All Live With

Katie Mgongolwa   |   October 6, 2015   12:31 PM ET

Today at school, we had a lockdown drill. As the alarm sounded, and the ominous voice robotically warned, "This is a lockdown. This is a lockdown," students and teachers locked their classroom doors and found the least deadly place to hide in classrooms. Administrators roamed the halls, testing all the locked doors, and I found myself shivering when our doorknob rattled as we cowered in the dark room. Finally, the all-clear was announced, and classes resumed.

Although they never quite resume the same, do they? My high school kids made nervous, idle chitchat about the safest places to hide; they talked about bullets and blood and death. As a teacher, I felt my own mind wander. What would I do if the worst happened? Would I keep my students safe? Would I sacrifice myself if that's what it took? As the memory of the doorknob rattling lingered in my mind, I thought of my daughter and knew I didn't want to have to face that choice.

My daughter is beautiful and smart and imaginative and strong. She is also biracial, which means that as a white parent I have had to quickly learn how to navigate the world for my brown daughter. Two months after she was born, Trayvon Martin was murdered. This was my awakening, that the world might not love and protect my daughter as much as I do. Then, on my daughter's first birthday, a young man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and massacred children. At that point I remembered the absurdity I felt during student teaching in 2008, when the high school I was working at did their annual lockdown drill. I'd graduated high school in 2003 and had never experienced a lockdown drill before. As kids shuffled outside, I wondered, This is what we do? We practice staying alive? That lockdown drill back in 2008 was my first realization that becoming a teacher was signing on to protect students, even if it meant sacrificing my own life. Parents send their most precious assets to us. But I never signed up to be a soldier.

This is what I think about now, during lockdown drills. I think about how kindergarten is just around the corner for my three year old and I wonder at the lunacy of her future self, participating in lockdown drills, practicing on learning how to stay alive. I've had to worry about that to some degree since she was born and I began to understand how the world treats brown children differently. But I don't want my kid to grow up learning how to avoid being murdered at school or the movie theater or church. I want politicians who proactively try to shift the paradigm. I want to vote everyone who accepts NRA money out of power (the NRA gave $27 million to politicians last year, proving once again how money buys power). If only.

If only ammunition was as regulated as Sudafed, which requires you show an ID at the pharmacy.

If only the NRA and gun lobbyists were treated like Cecile Richards, placed in a Congressional hearing, disparaged.

If only we could have an honest conversation about the prevalence of white supremacy in our country that may lead to less mass killings by young white males, instead of re-segregating schools and making police officers omnipotent.

If only we could put preventative efforts on gun safety like we currently try towards voter fraud, which incidentally has been proven to be a non-issue.

If only pro-life arguments extended to victims of guns, where more toddlers (82) than police officers (27) were killed by guns in 2013, according to the FBI and Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

If only guns were regulated as well as cars, as Nicholas Kristoff recently pointed out in a New York Times article, reminding us that since cars have required a driver's licenses, seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, safety glass and collapsible steering columns, we've reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent.

If only we took gun deaths as seriously as a shoe bomber at an airport, a single event which completely transformed airport security.

If only we went to war against gun deaths like we go to war against terrorism; gun deaths have caused over 313,000 deaths in the last decade, compared to 313 deaths by terrorism, according to CNN.

If only we treated guns as seriously as books and allergies; we ban books and make peanut-free schools, while our kids learn how to not die from a gunman.

I was in eighth grade when the Columbine massacre occurred. Why wasn't that single, horrific event enough to change a nation? How is it possible that 15 years later it has only gotten worse? That we have not only tolerated mass violence in our schools and public arenas, but promote it? Politicians- the people we elect- are enabling this. It is infamous now how Sheriff John Hanlin, the sheriff (yes, an elected position) serving Umpqua Community College, wrote a letter after Newtown calling gun control "an indisputable insult to American people". I personally feel worried that so many people, after learning about the massacre of children, are concerned about their guns above all. I think about this, each time I watch students cower in dark corners while doorknobs rattle ominously. Look at what your love of guns has done to our children, America. You have bought and paid for your guns on the back of our children. And when the time comes to join the rest of the developed world in valuing children's lives over virtually unregulated gun ownership, I hope there are still children left undamaged and whole.

Going to Class Should Not Be an Act of Bravery

Tamar Abrams   |   October 5, 2015    5:49 PM ET

Throughout the lives of our children, we have to caution them against real threats -- strangers, crossing streets, drugs and alcohol -- in the hope that we can keep them safe. As my daughter nears her 23rd birthday and graduation from college, I had begun to cut back on the warnings. But now the warnings are coming in fast and loud, and not from me.

What must she and her friends think when they see nine innocent college students mowed down in Oregon? How do they feel when it starts to appear that Americans value their firearms more than students? What is their anxiety level as terrorism, home-grown and global, seems to surround them?

This all became too close when I saw that the FBI and ATF had issued a "non-specific threat of violence against a university near Philadelphia" to take place today. My daughter has three classes at Drexel University today. Amid the buzz she was hearing, she sent me an email asking what she should do. It was a good question: How to tell her that there is danger everywhere, all around us, and there is so little we can do to protect ourselves? How to explain a nation obsessed with the Second Amendment even in the face of growing evidence that it is long past its expiration date? How to tell her that sometimes going to class is an act of incredible bravery? And how to ignore the voice in my head urging her to get on the next train back to Virginia?

In the end, I texted, If it were really credible, Drexel would cancel classes. Go.

She is in class as I write this. Only four other students and the professor showed up. Her education is not currently being interrupted by bullies, or madmen, or pranksters. But the fear that she and her classmates are surely facing is real and will color their lives as they become the leaders of the next generation. And the question that will linger for all of them haunts me: Why didn't we do more to protect them when they were young?

The Chief Culprits of Gun Violence Are Never Named

Mike Weisser   |   October 5, 2015    3:43 PM ET

Ever notice how the chief culprits are never identified or even mentioned in the great blame game that breaks out after every horrendous shooting? Now don't me wrong. The unintended injury or death of any human being is horrendous, but we don't register the daily, humdrum gun violence affairs; we wait until a really bestial, mass murder takes place to which we then assign terms like' horrible,' 'unthinkable,' 'tragic' and the like. Then we play the great blame game.

To the Reds, as I like to call them, the blame is now squarely fixed on something called "very very sick people." Or at least this is how Donald Trump began his contribution to the blame game after the Oregon massacre last week. It was basically what he and other presidential wannabes said after the August 26 gunning down of two television journalists in Virginia; funny how these guys (and a gal) all agree that we should do a better job of collecting information about the crazies among us but, at the same time, we don't need to extend background checks. So what should we do with all this new information that we'll get when we 'fix' the mental health system?

Everybody's getting down on Jeb Bush for his cogent "stuff happens" response to the blame game, but maybe he's decided that, given his standing in the polls, he'd be better off not blaming anyone or anything at all. And when all is said and done, I give Baby Brother a high-five for at least having the honesty to come right out and say what the words of the other red-meat candidates really mean; namely that, when it comes to gun violence, they don't want to do anything at all.

But I'm not so sure that the blame game is generating anything more credible from the other side. What was Hilary's line? "Sensible gun control measures," whatever that means. And from the woods of Vermont, Bernie Sanders issued a statement which began, "We need sensible gun-control legislation." Wait a minute. I thought that Hilary owns "sensible." Joe, who hasn't decided yet whether he can afford to be unemployed after January 20, 2016, pushed back on the "sensible" argument to remind us that the 2nd Amendment didn't protect the rights of someone who wanted to own a "bazooka or an F-15." I like Joe and I'd vote for him if I had the chance. But what the hell was he thinking?

If you want the official blame-game entry you have to turn to Nick Kristof's op-ed in the New York Times. And what we get here is a remarkable and novel approach to gun violence, namely, that guns aren't safe. He comes right out and says it! After all, the British cut suicide rates by switching from coal to gas, the latter much less lethal, hence ovens in England are safer. "We need to do the same with guns." Want to make guns safer Nickie-boy? Design them so that when you pull the trigger, out comes a squirt of H2O.

So that's where things stand in today's great blame game. Everybody's got a way to fix the problem but nobody's saying anything reality-based at all. But recall I said in the very first sentence that the real culprits of gun violence are never named. So I'm going to name them now and it goes like this: Beretta, Charter, Colt, Glock, H&K, Kahr, Sig, Smith&Wesson, Springfield, Walther -- I'm probably missing one or two more. These crummy little companies make the products that kill and injure 100,000 Americans every year. Want to tell me that guns don't kill people, that people kill people, go lay brick.

It's not about background checks, it's not about mental health, it's not even about "stuff." It's about a lethal consumer product being cynically and dishonestly promoted as the most effective protection from violence and crime. It's not true, the gun makers know it's not true, and it's time we stopped looking around for something else to blame.

We Cannot Arm Our Way to a Safer America

David M. Perry   |   October 5, 2015   11:22 AM ET

Image Description: Me on CNN. Michigan Ave/Chicago River behind me.
David Perry: Associate Professor, Dominican University
Headline: Oregon Massacre, Campus Shooter Kills 9, Wounds 9
I went on CNN on Friday, 10/1, to discuss the terrible shooting on a community college campus in Oregon. CNN hasn't released a clip so I can't show it to you.

I'm glad to have had the chance to go on the air and say some of the things I believe. I was originally supposed to be paired with John Lott, a man who believes that more guns equals less crime (they don't). The show decided instead to separate us, as is their right, and so by the time I came on, the host wanted to talk about other things. I had about 90 seconds and said three sentences. I described our upcoming active-shooter drill at Dominican, about which I will write next week. I said that I do not want guns on campus.  I said that I do not believe adding more guns in the form of armed civilians will make us safer. Then my segment ended fairly abruptly as it was near the end of the hour.

At any rate, 90 seconds is a difficult time to make one's stance perfectly clear. Here are four things I wish I could have said more clearly on CNN.

1. I have no problem with highly-trained law enforcement positioned appropriately near campuses. Some universities are basically cities unto themselves, so they likely need their own armed police. My small suburban campus needs to coordinate its security with our small suburban police, the tactical units assigned to our area, and other highly-trained law enforcement officers.

2. I do not believe that allowing civilians, whether teachers, staff, faculty, or just random visitors, to carry arms on our campus is the right response. First, college campuses are sacred spaces to me, and I do not want to see them further profaned by these weapons of murder. More importantly, though, we cannot arm our way out of this crisis. If we turn every school into a fortress, mass shootings will move to the malls. Arm the malls, killers will go the churches. Arm the churches, then it will be little league games. We must take appropriate measures to defend against copycat killers, but cannot stop gun violence by reacting to the specifics of the last attack.

3. Around the world, there are people who are angry and potentially violent. People hate other people. People get personally slighted. People have mental health breakdowns (though people with mental illness are vastly more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence). It's only in America that these individuals are likely to react to their anger by using a firearm to commit an act of mass murder.

4. The only solution is to find ways to make access to firearms more difficult for people in those moments. There are simple steps - ban assault weapons, close gun show loopholes, expand background checks and waiting periods, share information across state lines, slow down the ability to purchase lots of handguns at once (used to buy from suburban gun shops and bring to illegal urban markets), and remove the Congressional ban on government-sponsored research on gun violence. None of these steps will restrict the ability of Americans to acquire firearms to hunt, for home defense, or even for conceal-carry purposes. But it will slow the flow, and that's what we need right now.

We cannot arm our way out of this crisis.

Some resources on gun violence. on gun violence.

Responding to Internet Comments: "If Not Gun Control How About This?"

Stacy Bare   |   October 5, 2015   10:14 AM ET

Read More: gun control, guns

Thursday night, October 1st, I got home from a long day at work to the horrifying news that there was another mass shooting in Oregon. I wanted to personally dig deeper into what I thought some of the potential solutions for what could minimize future violence in this country without increasing gun control and came up with ten ideas, which to me, sounded at the time, and still do, like things which, if we were able to achieve or come closer to achieving, would ultimately reduce violence in our society through creating more opportunities for empathy, overall health, and giving people all the skills they need to chase down life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without running one another over. You can read the full blog, and the comments section, here.

When I last took a look at the comments, there were more than 800, and I didn't read them all, but they came in a variety of categories and careful internet nuance falling rather generally into four large buckets: (1) support of the overall premise; (2) telling me I'm an idiot; (3) telling me I shouldn't hope for a better world, or (4) calling me some form of socialist / Marxist / Stalinist / totalitarian /liberal/progressive/phrases that would cause my mother to blush, etc.

Rather than try and respond to each of the carefully crafted comments I figured another blog could be fun for those following along. How could this strategy go wrong?

While I was not surprised at the number of people, who if they disagreed with me, immediately thought I was a horrible person, I was surprised at a few generalizations it seemed were being made about what I wrote.

First, I'm startled at the number of people who refuse to believe that a better world or a better way is possible. Though we as a nation may differ as to how we should create a better world for all of our citizens and residents, I always assumed everyone at least wanted a better world and this was the underlying value in our system of government. Despite knowing people all across the political and belief spectrum who are working towards a better world, given the commentary on the blog my assumption is clearly not true.

Guess we need to work harder at creating a better world team! I'll perhaps chose naiveté then and continue to willfully give people the benefit of the doubt that they do indeed want to create a better world for all people until they prove otherwise. What's the point in giving in to fear or the status quo?

Second, I was surprised at the number of people who immediately assumed I was seeking government intervention or legislation as the primary means of creating change in every instance. Yes, some of the points would require some government legislation; many though would not, or at least would not necessarily. A summary is below for those of you questioning my logic. I also tried to work in a request or a question for all the folks who are hoping I could get a clue. Here's your chance to give me one.

  1. Giving everybody an outstanding education. First off, who disagrees that people should get a great education? Maybe it would take some more government funding to make teaching a more attractive profession, but maybe lowering spending on the DoD, TSA, etc. could offset increased educational funding without increasing spending at all.
  2. Mandatory service. Yes, this would require government spending or a significant philanthropic investment and I recognize it would be problematic to implement, but does anyone deny the benefit of service to creating better citizens? How else can we build universal empathy and help everyone realize there actions impact their community?
  3. Accessible post-secondary education that doesn't leave people crippled in debt. Certainly the banks and schools could figure this out on their own. Whether or not they want to is another question. Let me know if you'd like to be in a lot of debt for the next 20 years.
  4. Livable wages for jobs. I get it, mowing your neighbor's lawn may not be your career, but why couldn't working full time in lawn service be a pathway to a life with dignity? This doesn't require the mandating of a minimum wage either. Some companies believe in paying and treating employees well. Take a look at COSTCO or Starbucks, or remember Ford who believed it was a requirement that his workers could afford to buy the product they made. Companies can chose to pay better and still be highly profitable even if it meant lower stock returns for investors. Please raise your hand if you don't want this. There is a lot more we could go into here around income disparity, the rise of CEO salaries and the stagnation of workers' salaries, but none of that is a requirement of the free market or would require government intervention to change. We have the resources necessary for this; we just chose not to use them in most cases.
  5. Universal access to health care. Again, I'm quite certain the insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceuticals, as well as employers, could make this happen. Government intervention could make this worse just like private companies could make it better. Who doesn't want to be able to access health care?
  6. Clean air, clean water, and healthy food. Again, companies could choose to respect and support these things but many do not so the government intervenes. Please let me know if you don't want any of these things and what level of polluted air, dirty water, and unhealthy food you'd like to consume. As far as access to public lands, yes that requires government intervention and I'm ok with that. While we're at it, we need to refund the Land, Water, & Conservation Fund.
  7. Supporting people on the journey in life as they grow and need for the government here, just don't be a jerk to people.
  8. Humanize police work; remove the private market from the business of incarceration, and lower punishments for non-violent, low level offenders. I'm literally asking for less government on this one.
  9. De-militarization and decreasing private sector influence on the military industrial complex. The government pays for all of this either to a private firm or a public agency, so again, I'm asking for less government spending.
  10. Equal rights--as long as you let others have them, there's no need for government intervention. Anyone have a certain set of rights they'd like to give up so they can exclude someone else's same set of rights?

Maybe seeking understanding through interacting with internet commenters is a fool's errand, but I believe in the inherent good of people, why else try this thing called America?

I promise my next blog though will be just about my cat.

Gun Lovers Love Good Guys With Guns -- Until They Realize Good Guys With Guns Can't Stop Gun Violence

Brian Joyce   |   October 5, 2015   12:07 AM ET

Well, it's happened again. There's been another mass shooting in America.

On Thursday, 26 year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer walked onto the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon and shot 18 people, killing 9 of them. He then killed himself in an apparent suicide, after a brief shootout with police.

In any other country on Earth, this would be major news. In the United States, we've learned to live with it. So far in 2015, there have been 45 school shootings in America. In just 274 days, there have been 294 mass shootings - in schools, bars, churches, restaurants, movie theaters, and almost any other public place where Americans gather.

How common are mass shootings in the United States? So common that presidential candidate Jeb Bush, when asked what he would do to stop the violence, shrugged his shoulders and responded, "Look, stuff happens."

Gun lovers, meanwhile, were quick to point out that the Umpqua shootings took place in a so-called "gun-free zone," even though they didn't. On UCC's website, its rules regarding firearms are clear: "Possession, use, or threatened use of firearms... except as expressly authorized by law or college regulations, is prohibited."

The key words on the UCC website are "expressly authorized by law." UCC is not a gun-free zone. What does Oregon state law say about firearms on college campuses? In short, it says they're legal. Therefore, Umpqua Community College, like other colleges in Oregon, is not a gun-free zone.

If you're still not convinced, we also know there was at least one man on the UCC campus who was carrying a gun when the shootings began, and he was doing so legally! A "good guy with a gun," as the NRA would call him.

John Parker, an Air Force vet and student at UCC, told MSNBC he was in a building on campus with a concealed handgun when the shooting started.

"And just for the record," Parker was asked, "Oregon is one of the states that does allow post-secondary concealed carry, so what you were doing was legal here at the university?"

"Well it's not just legal here," Parker responded. "Of course our U.S. Constitution 2nd Amendment protects it, but Oregon Article 1, section 27 goes even further."

Parker, however, said he, his classmates, and his instructors decided not to get involved - even though he was carrying a firearm that, conceivably, could have stopped the violence.

"Luckily we made the choice not to get involved," Parker said. "We were quite a distance away from the actual building where it was happening, which could have opened us up to being potential targets ourselves. Not knowing where SWAT was on their response time, if we had our guns ready to shoot, they could think we were bad guys."

And therein lies the problem for gun lovers. For years, they've been telling us "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." For years, they've been telling us that gun-free zones are the problem, because they invite more gun violence. For years, they've been telling us that if more gun owners were allowed to carry in more places, less gun violence would occur.

But Air Force veteran John Parker proved, in one simple sentence, that "good guys with guns" can't always stop the violence. What happens if the good guy with a gun is in a building across campus when the shooting starts? What happens if the good guy with a gun is in the bathroom? What happens if the good guy with a gun has his earbuds in, and doesn't even hear the violence? Or, in John Parker's case, what happens if the good guy with a gun, his classmates, and his instructors decide it's not a good idea to get involved, even though he's carrying a weapon himself?

We all know the answer. In each of these scenarios, a good guy with a gun won't make a difference.

And we've seen this before. We've seen numerous examples where good guys with guns couldn't stop the violence. We've seen numerous examples where gun violence has erupted in non-gun free zones. We saw it in Shawnee, Kansas, where a gun owner was shot and killed at his own gun store. We saw it at a gun range in Florida, where a woman killed her son, then herself, before any of the "good guys with guns" could get a shot off. We saw it in Waco, Texas, where twelve armed police officers couldn't prevent a mass shooting from taking place at a bar and restaurant earlier this year. And of course, we saw it in 2013, when Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were shot and killed - while armed - at a gun range in central Texas.

In each of these cases - and many, many more just like them - multiple people were shot, and some even killed, even though the shootings took place in non-gun free zones where good guys with guns could have stopped the violence.

Now don't get me wrong; I've always believed that if a shooting occurred at my school or place of work, I'd prefer to have a gun on my person to protect myself. But I'm not delusional about it, and I do realize that carrying a gun does not necessarily make me immune to the violence. It would be nice if more gun lovers would admit this themselves. It would be nice to hear them acknowledge, once and for all, that more guns aren't necessarily the answer to gun violence. It would be nice to hear them admit that guns couldn't even protect the greatest military sniper in American history from being shot and killed himself.

When bad guys get their hands on guns, good guys can't always stop them. We know this. Our latest mass shooting in Oregon - which again, did NOT occur in a gun-free zone - is just the latest reminder that good guys with guns, as good as their intentions might be, are oftentimes no match for bad guys with guns.

Daniel Marans   |   October 4, 2015   12:01 PM ET

Donald Trump said Sunday that lives would have been saved if more people had guns at the Oregon community college where a mass shooting took place this past week.

"I can make the case that if there were guns in that room other than [the shooter's], fewer people would have died. Fewer people would have been so horribly injured," Trump said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate rejected the argument that lax gun laws are to blame for the abundance of mass shootings in the United States, noting that cities with strict gun laws, like Chicago and Baltimore, still have high rates of gun violence.

"The strongest, the most stringent laws are in almost every case the worse places," Trump claimed. "It doesn't seem to work."

He acknowledged that the U.S. has a higher rate of school shootings than other countries. But he faulted mental illness and "copycat" behavior that leads troubled individuals to imitate mass shooters, not the availability of guns.

"Guns, no guns, it doesn't matter," he said. "You have people that are mentally ill. And they're gonna come through the cracks."

In fact, people with mental illnesses are no more likely to commit acts of violence than anybody else. They commit just 3 to 5 percent of all violent incidents, according to the Department of Health and Human Services

Trump's comments echo those of conservatives who have claimed that Umpqua Community College was a gun-free zone. In fact, the college's ban on firearms and other weapons has a significant exception: In accordance with Oregon state law, students with licenses to carry a concealed gun may do so on campus.

Also on HuffPost:

Igor Bobic   |   October 4, 2015   11:27 AM ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The only gun store in San Francisco is shuttering for good, saying it can no longer operate in the city's political climate of increased gun control regulations and vocal opposition to its business.

"It's with tremendous sadness and regret that I have to announce we are closing our shop," High Bridge Arms manager Steve Alcairo announced in a Facebook post on Sept. 11. "It has been a long and difficult ride, but a great pleasure to be your last San Francisco gun shop."

Alcairo said the breaking point came this summer when a local politician proposed a law that would require High Bridge Arms to video record every gun sale and submit a weekly report of ammunition sales to the police. If passed, the law would join several local gun control ordinances on the books in a city still scarred by the 1993 murder of eight in a downtown high-rise and the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone and gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

"I'm not doing that to our customers. Enough is enough," Alcairo said. "Buying a gun is a constitutionally protected right. Our customers shouldn't be treated like they're doing something wrong."

The announcement prompted an outpouring of sympathy and anger online from gun enthusiasts — and a steady stream of customers eager to take advantage of going-out-of-business prices.

The new rifles lining the store's walls are quickly dwindling, and the handguns in the glass cases are going fast. So are T-shirts that boast in English and Chinese that High Bridge is "The Last San Francisco Gun Store."

For years, the High Bridge Arms weathered mounting restrictions imposed by local lawmakers and voters, who passed a handgun ban in 2005 that a judge later struck down. The gun store increasingly stood out in the gentrifying Bernal Heights neighborhood of hot restaurants, trendy bars and a chic marijuana dispensary, while weathering organized campaigns calling for its closure.



High Bridge will close Oct. 31, Alcairo said.

Supervisor Mark Farrell said he introduced the latest bill to help police combat violent crime in the city. "Anything that makes San Francisco safer, I support," he said.

Farrell said the bill hasn't been voted on, and he doesn't understand why the store is closing now. He said it was "comical" that the High Bridge is blaming its closure on a proposed law still months away from taking effect.

Alcairo said news coverage of the bill's introduction in July slowed sales considerably because customers wrongly believed their purchases would be recorded and turned over to police. He said he had to lay off three clerks and that sales slumped throughout the summer. The store's summer slump comes amid an overall gun sales surge in the state, according to California Department of Justice statistics.

The California DOJ reported 931,000 guns sold last year— three times the number sold in 2004 and the second highest annual number since the department began keeping sales records in 1991.

In the end, Alcairo said, he and the High Bridge Arms owner tired of the continued opposition and mountains of paperwork required by the San Francisco Police Department, state Department of Justice and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Alcairo grew up near the store and says he is angry and disappointed with San Francisco.

"This is the city that defended gay marriage and fights for unpopular causes like medical marijuana," he said. "Where's my support?"

Champion pistol shooter Bob Chow opened the store in 1952, four years after competing for the United States in the summer Olympics in London. Chow sold the store to Andy Takahashi in 1988. Chow died in 2003. Takahashi, who also owns the building that houses the store, declined to comment.

Alcairo said the owner shouldn't have a problem attracting another type of business in economically booming San Francisco.

The quirky city fixture attracted gun enthusiasts from around the world, many posing in photos with Alcairo and his pistol-packing clerks. Alcairo said professional athletes would visit the store when playing in San Francisco for the novelty of buying a weapon — and a T-shirt — from the city's last gun store.

"High Bridge has always taken care of me," said Chris Cheng, a San Francisco resident who calls it "my home store." Cheng won a $100,000 cash prize and a professional marksman contract after winning the History Channel's "Top Shot" competition.

"It's always been a challenge for the store to do business in San Francisco," Cheng said.

Speaking Freely of Guns

David Katz, M.D.   |   October 4, 2015   11:19 AM ET

I am about to speak freely of guns, because I can. When I do, many of you will no doubt be inclined to mutter "amen," quietly to yourselves. Others of you will no doubt feel compelled to throw up all over me, as you have done under similar circumstances before. I expect to hear preferentially from the latter group, because they seem perennially inclined to shout; but frankly, Scarlet, I don't give a damn. Whatever their current predilection for projectile vomiting, I was there first. I am sickened and disgusted by us. But first things first.

Before speaking freely of guns, I am inclined to speak freely of speaking freely, again because I can. I can, because of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I think we should spend a little time there, before wading into weeds for the sake of the Second.

The First Amendment is...first. It comes before the Second. It is primary, numero uno. If the Second Amendment is sacred, the First is, if anything, more so. It is, if anything, more American, more patriotic, more... constitutional. Those inclined to go beyond the reverence we all feel for the Founding Fathers and impart to them attributes they do not warrant -- omniscience, infallibility, immunity to the law of unintended consequences -- must be in for a pound if in for a penny. Those inclined to defend the utmost literalism in every utterance from 1789 as if immutable in ever-changing context are thus obligated to defend comparably the choice to make the First Amendment first, and the Second Amendment second.

The First Amendment is a complicated and multifactorial bit of rhetoric, as are the other entries in the Bill of Rights. It is the one that encompasses freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and the freedom to petition the Government. Of note, that capital "G" is the work of the founders, not me. I invite the literalists to ponder the implications for the respect of government they may have felt, relative to what seemingly prevails today.

In any event, the First Amendment does go off in several directions, but I only want to speak about speech. It stipulates that Congress shall make no law "abridging the freedom of speech." For a moment, let's treat that with the same literalism applied by a particular faction to the Second.

When the founders talked, and wrote, of speech in 1789, there were only two ways to do it: talking, and writing. Our species invented its approach to talking before the advent of any technology. The specific origins of the printing press are now somewhat subject to the revisionism that bedevils all of history, but reliably date back to long before 1789 -- to the mid fifteenth century at the latest. Everything else came after.

We didn't have Morse code or the telegraph until Samuel Morse and others invented these in the 1840s. We didn't have telephones until 1876, give or take. We didn't have radio until 1895.

And, of course, we didn't have the Internet until Al Gore invented it rather recently, and we didn't have the iPhone 7 until some time tomorrow.

Yet, all of these technologies are now clearly subsumed within the category of "speech." Right now, for instance, you and I are engaged in speech. This is clearly protected under the Constitution of the United States. But what, exactly, is "this"? It involves my computer, and yours; my word-processing software, and yours; my Internet service, and yours; and so on. It may even involve orbiting satellites. And since it is "speech," any law "abridging" any part of it is unconstitutional.

Houston, we have a problem. Not everyone has a computer, or cell phone, or Internet access. Freedom of speech is thereby abridged.

There is a defense, I suppose: the costs of phones, computers, software and Internet access may be permissible under the laws of the land, but are not themselves established by the laws of the land. Congress has not made a law stipulating what Apple or Microsoft can charge us.

But, on the other hand, if the Constitution guarantees us freedom of speech in just the same way it guarantees us the right to "keep and bear Arms," perhaps Congress is obligated to remove barriers to access. Note that the Second Amendment only refers to a right to the thing, whereas the First Amendment refers directly to the thing itself. In other words, if the Second Amendment universally protects the right to bear arms, the First commensurately protects not the right to freedom of speech -- but freedom of speech itself. Read the text here, and see the difference for yourself.

Whether or not Congress is obligated under the Constitution to remove all barriers to everyone for every new technology ever invented that serves as a medium for speech, it is expressly precluded from abridging such access itself. The case could be made that if financial barriers preclude some of the people from freedom of speech by New Age, technological means, and if sales taxes figure in that prohibitive cost -- then Congress, and the laws of the land, are implicated in... abridging. The view from that bridge is of a Constitutional crisis.

Or not. In the area of speech, for whatever reason, we don't seem to have an analogue to the NRA. We don't have a radical group with blatant ulterior motives imposing on the majority a torqued interpretation of the Founder's words, and requiring their application to things uninvented in even the wildest imaginations of their time. Were such a group to exist, we would have far more reason for turmoil about the tyrannical abridgment of freedom of "speech" in all of its modern incarnations than anything to do with guns.

Which brings us back to guns, about which I am Constitutionally at liberty to speak freely. But of course, there isn't much to say that hasn't already been said.

If the opposition of the NRA and its cronies to gun control derives truly from concerns about tyranny, then they are hypocrites -- for the imposition of minority will on the majority is tyranny. The majority does not want to interfere with the Second Amendment; we just want it interpreted sanely. The argument that it requires no interpretation is a non-starter. Clearly, convicted felons in prisons aren't covered; that's an interpretation. Clearly, the amendment doesn't cover nuclear arms, chemical arms or biological arms; that's an interpretation. To my knowledge, not even the NRA wants everyone stockpiling smallpox and anthrax. Interpretation is unavoidable, and some of us think it ought to be... sane.

As for the NRA and its allies, most of us know the motivations are all about liking guns, and/or liking the money that comes from selling them. We also know of many places around the world where guns are seemingly ubiquitous, and tyranny prevails just the same. We know of places with far stricter gun controls than we would ever consider in the U.S. with stable and fully accountable democracies. We even know what ensues when a country with loose gun control tightens it; a dramatic decline in gun-related deaths, not the advent of tyranny.

But for today, though my speech here is of course motivated by the latest calamity of our gun-related insanity in this country, I am inclined to focus it on speech itself. Guns are given their Constitutional sanctuary only in the Second amendment; speech is ensconced within the First. First things first, or so it should be. Minimally, what's good for the goose should be good for the gander. If the Second Amendment is obligated to cover "arms" uninvented and unimagined in the days of the Founders, why is the First not subject to just such terms for "speech"?

More reasonably, if the First Amendment is not interpreted to cover every technological means of "speech" unimagined by the Founders, that logic applied to the First should surely extend to the Second. We have, therein, a basis for societal opposition to high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons flowing freely, with no peril to Constitutional toes.

For now, we have an endless litany of tragedies to which we react with collective pathos and impotence, knowing for certain that we await the next. We have a bizarre double-standard, in which the First Amendment is spared the tortured literalism imposed upon the Second by those with ulterior motives.

And we have achieved a lamentable milestone in the annals of hypocrisy that would surely have the Founders more inclined to throw up than any of us. Under the guise of defending against tyranny, a well organized minority denies the majority the expression of its will. That is, in a word, tyranny.


David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP would rather visit Melbourne than Mogadishu.

Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center; Griffin Hospital
President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine

Founder, The True Health Coalition

Follow at: LinkedIN; Twitter; Facebook
Read at: INfluencer Blog; Huffington Post; US News & World Report;
Author: Disease Proof

Are We Talking to the Wrong People About Gun Control?

Liesel Reinhart   |   October 3, 2015    9:45 PM ET

Regardless of what the constitution may or may not allow, I can live a perfectly happy and safe life without owning a gun. I had that thought today, and it led to another:

Maybe it's time to stop talking about rights and start talking about personal rationale.

Here's the thinking: People can legally own an ugly, old, gross, stained sofa... yet we still feel we can engage them in a dialogue about that choice. Tease them, even. It's what friends do.

Can't we have the same kind of conversations about the choice to own guns?

Not the right, the choice.

I had such a conversation recently with my father who owns 37 guns. Honestly I don't think anyone has ever taken the time before to walk with him through his reasoning, to thoughtfully present him with the risks, to delve into the part of his psyche that wants to carry a deadly weapon. To ask him, "why?"

He told me -among other things- that he carries a handgun stuffed into the back of his jeans when he takes exercise walks around his small town neighborhood in lovely, idyllic western Wisconsin. He thinks he could be "jumped."

It was sad to hear. His fear is not just contributing to gun culture, it's also impacting his overall well being and connection with his community. I went online and got actual crime statistics for his area. I talked with him about how media representations of violence can make us feel the world is more unsafe than it is - that violent crime is drastically down from the 1970s. I engaged him about the probability that he is the one making his street much more dangerous for others - for kids to play.

And then I dug deep for courage and reminded him that he has a history of depression and that it runs in our family. That I worry. That the guns are a big part of that.

My dad is 71. He has been sleeping with a gun next to his bed for as long as I can remember. His custom license plate is the name of his favorite gun.

He said he would think about it.

I know we will continue to have many important public discussions that push elected leaders to consider changes to gun laws and policies. That is inevitable. It's also not working.

Maybe it's time for honest talks with friends and family members about all these ugly couches. The government alone can't solve this one. We should each do our part, too.

Shame On Us: Another Week, Another School Shooting

Jim Moret   |   October 3, 2015    5:36 PM ET

I have never lost a loved one to gun violence. I neither presume nor pretend to know first hand the pain and grief caused by such a sudden, senseless taking of a life. But for the last 30 years I have spoken to many people who have. I've held hands with a mom weeping over the random shooting death of her only son. I've been invited into the home of a dad, still stunned that his 9 year old daughter was shot to death when a lone gunman opened fire at a shopping center in Phoenix targeting congresswoman Gabreille Giffords. His wife was so grief stricken she was going from room to room dusting furniture, as if in a trance. I have visited with a survivor of the Columbine school shooting. He was a promising young man whose home was converted to accommodate the wheelchair he will likely spend the rest of his life needing after a bullet irreparably severed his spine. I saw the anger still in his eyes over what was robbed from him in an instant. Isla Vista, California; Aurora, Colorado; Newton Connecticutt; Phoenix, Arizona; and now Rosebug, Oregon. As reporter, I have learned to compartmentalize, to inure myself to the raw pain and emotion of events around me, so I can tell a story without breaking down myself. It's a necessary defense mechanism. Still, it's impossible not to sympathize or even empathize with the victims and their families. No emotional barrier can completely shield you from the suffering. Nor should it.

We have become far too complacent as a nation to this epidemic of gun violence. It reminds me of our collective nonchalance toward the space shuttle missions prior to the Challenger disaster. Successful launches and landings had seemingly become so commonplace that we half expected to find stories of the missions in the Travel section. The explosion put the risk back on the front page and reminded us not to take such wonders for granted. Likewise, mass shootings, specifically school shootings, have become so common that we are just as likely to ask, "Where this time?" as we are to be stunned by the unthinkable act of violence. That needs to stop.

This is not a rant against gun ownership. I recently purchased my first gun. It's a .22 caliber target rifle (the smallest caliber available) resembling a military firearm. It was a present for our son's 18th birthday. We have gone shooting several times and he and I have gained a respect for the power and danger of using a gun and the responsibility attached to owning a weapon. The gun is stored, locked, in a locked case. The magazines and ammunition are kept safely in another part of the house, also locked. I am not seeking an abridgment of anyone's Second Amendment rights. But clearly, something is wrong with us as a nation to observe and endure an increasingly routine series of tragedies without any meaningful change in our attitudes or legislation.

I lamented traveling to Roseburg, Oregon, wondering how many more shootings I would cover. How many more would we see and read about in the days to come? 45 school shootings have been reported this year alone in the United States. Think about that. It's an average of one a week, differing in number of causalities and location but little else.

I decided after the Denver theater shootings to refrain, whenever possible, from mentioning the shooter by name. I choose to deny him or anyone like him the notoriety they clearly crave either in life or posthumously. It doesn't change what they did but it removes the sick celebrity aspect which appears to be linked to the mad plans often associated with the so called manifestos they often leave behind or their ominous posts on social media. They don't deserve to be remembered by name. Their actions are heinous enough to never forget. Let's honor those lost or injured instead. The victims and heroes and their families should be mentioned and remembered and should serve as a reminder of the very real, lasting human cost of these shootings. I have never lost a loved one to gun violence but perhaps it's time all of us start acting as if we had. Maybe then we'd do something about it.

The University of Texas Faculty Are Watching Oregon Uneasily

The Conversation US   |   October 3, 2015    2:34 PM ET

Javier Auyero, University of Texas at Austin

I fear our senses will become dulled to horrific news like Thursday's, when a gunman opened fire on an Oregon community college, killing nine and wounding 10. I fear we will forget, again and again.

Oregon is one of the seven states that now have provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public post-secondary campuses.

Although this latest shooting took place halfway across the country, it hit close to home here in Austin, Texas.

New 'campus carry' law

Earlier this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed SB 11, also known as the "campus carry" law. The law provides that license holders may carry concealed handguns in university buildings and classrooms, extending the reach of a previous law that allowed concealed handguns on university grounds. The law goes into effect August 1 2016 for public colleges and universities and a year later for community colleges.

As a member of the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, I wonder if we are just supposed to forget and carry on, pretending this is not an issue, writing it off as another instance of "how things are here in Texas"?

I fear that, given the letter of the law and the limited exceptions that it allows, we will have to get used to guns inside our classrooms.

I fear that the fact of sharing a classroom with students "packing heat" will stop shocking us as it now does.

I fear I should not even be writing this, as many gun rights activists take reactions to the extreme when an opposing view is offered.

A problem for recruitment

Signs like this may soon be illegal on UT campus. Lars Plougmann/flickr, CC BY

This state of affairs also saddens me because I believe it will irrevocably hurt a university that for the last two decades has worked hard to become a top institution of higher education.

Even as UT President Greg Fenves works with us to develop a policy for implementation of campus carry, the new law presents an ethical puzzle. Could I now, in good conscience, attempt to persuade a prospective graduate student or faculty - the "top talent" the university seeks to attract - to join us? I don't think I can.

Another law passed by the Legislature this year, SB 273, might prevent me and 170 other faculty members who have signed a petition stating they don't want guns in their classroom from hanging a sign saying "no guns allowed." The law might even forbid me from stating in my syllabus that I won't allow guns. To what extent that conflicts with "free speech" is another - but, at least for me, less important - legal matter.

Shouldn't I tell prospective students and faculty that I am, in fact, profoundly afraid and that they should think twice about coming to the University of Texas? If we are honest, the law will effectively prevent us from recruiting highly sought-after faculty and students.

Refuse to forget

Here's another idea: We could agree to refuse to forget about SB 11.

We could manifest our opposition and, if necessary, refuse to teach in classrooms where guns are allowed. We could hang signs stating that we don't allow guns - at the risk, as many a lawyer already warned us, of being fined.

Parents of UT students could write letters to university administrators and legislators expressing their worries about the one (heavily) documented effect this bill will have - ie, making campuses less safe spaces.

My students could get over their hesitancy to tell their parents about this new development. "If I tell my mother, she will transfer me," is the sentiment they express now. I think parents are right to be concerned. I wouldn't want my own sons to attend this university.

I've been around guns (big and small). I've been a soldier and I do research on interpersonal violence.

With campus carry, social, political or academic interactions will have the potential to explode in lethal violence. We knew that before the campus-carry law passed, and we know it now.

I can dwell on the arguments, I can show numbers, piles of evidence and case studies all confirming these facts.

But the campus-carry debate in the Legislature was not about logical, evidence-based, argumentation.

Had it been about logics and evidence, the reasons persuasively put forward by UT Chancellor William H McRaven, a former Navy SEAL, and Art Acevedo, chief of the Austin Police Department - both of whom know a thing or two about the subject - would have been heeded. They both opposed the new legislation with a similar argument: Allowing concealed weapons to be carried on campuses would create "less-safe" environments.

Lawmakers did not examine their arguments or anyone else's because the "debate" was not about reason but about interests - the legislators' interests and those of the organizations that support them. They, folks who neither teach nor do research, enacted a law that makes no sense for any the parties affected, and now we have to deal with the consequences.

In the same spirit of defending personal and organizational interests, let me express my hope that the university will make provisions to protect the interests of the students, staff and faculty who want to work, teach and learn in gun-free environments where everybody can freely express his or her ideas without fear.

The Conversation

Javier Auyero, Professor of Latin American Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You shouldn't either.