17-year-old: “I can buy a ghost gun kit!” Gun rights groups: “So why the drama?”

17-year-old: “I can buy a ghost gun kit!” Gun rights groups: “So why the drama?”

He’s not old enough to vote, but he can buy a ghost gun kit.

He’s not old enough to buy tobacco, but he can buy a ghost gun kit.

He’s not old enough to buy liquor, but he can buy a ghost gun kit.

Do you see any potential problems with that?

“How easy it really is”

“I’ve heard it’s really easy to buy ghost gun kits online,” says a 17-year-old senior in high school, “and today I’m going to find out how easy it really is.”

He decides to buy the kit over the internet. Click the image to see the video he created about it:

17-year-old buys a ghost gun kit

No background check is necessary. Background checks are for traditional guns, and for completed parts of traditional guns. Ghost guns fall through a legal crack that gets around background checks for gun parts that require additional handiwork.

Once the parts have arrived, the 17-year-old can use common tools to modify and assemble the parts into a handgun. The handgun will fire 9mm rounds capable of inflicting serious bodily injury. Or death, depending on how the gun is aimed.

When complete, the handgun will not have a serial number. The 17-year-old can fire it a few times and give it to a friend to use, and there will be no way to trace it back to its original owner or seller.

Team ENOUGH and ghost guns

We’re lucky. The 17-year-old is a member of the San Diego chapter of Team ENOUGH, a youth-led organization representing students who are dedicated to gun violence prevention.

He is not buying a ghost gun kit so that he can commit suicide or a crime. He is buying it to demonstrate how perversely easy it is for just about anybody to get dangerously close to possessing a lethal weapon without a background check or a serial number.

Ghost guns are at the center of a “flourishing and unregulated online market” now. They are showing up in increasing numbers of crimes committed in places like Los Angeles; Chicago; Syracuse, New York; Columbia, South Carolina; and San Jose, California.

Mayors are troubled by them. Legislators are sponsoring bills about them. The President has taken initial actions to help stop their proliferation.

In other words, a number of people are trying, based on evidence like body counts and firearms recovered from crime scenes, to rein in the spread of ghost guns.

“So why the drama?”

Not everyone is concerned about easy access to ghost guns or thinks it is a problem. “Why the drama?” they ask.

Sometimes they are more concerned about the rights of law-abiding citizens, given that ghost gun kits are not against the law. “Go after the criminals a little harder,” they say.

But not all purchasers of ghost gun kits will use them in law-abiding ways. And not all 17-year-olds will think clearly about abiding by the law once they have assembled a ghost gun.

That’s why the drama.

John White is a volunteer with SD4GVP.

Safe Storage of Firearms at Home – How Schools Can Play a Role

Safe Storage of Firearms at Home – How Schools Can Play a Role

The school districts have gotten the message about safe storage.”

I wrote that in my post a few months ago, describing the letter that California’s Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond sent to all district superintendents in the state. He asked them to inform families in their districts about parents’ responsibility to keep guns locked and ammunition stored separately.

That was a good first step.

However, we’ve just received bad news about what we hoped would be the next step: AB 452, a bill to require parental notification of California’s firearm safety laws through the schools, will NOT be set for hearing before the Education Committee this year.

Nevertheless, we’ll try again next year. It’s too important an opportunity to pass up.

Meanwhile, there’s Schools for Safe Storage

Ira Sharp of Never Again is a steadfast and determined advocate for safety. He has put together Schools for Safe Storage, a web resource for sending out information on the safe storage of firearms.

Suppose you have school-aged children in California, or maybe you simply believe, as we do, that school districts have a central role to play in gun violence prevention (GVP). You can go to Schools for Safe Storage, enter your county, enter your school district, select a template, then select a method (email, postal, phone).

The site makes it easy for you to tell your superintendent that you want schools in your district to inform parents that they are responsible for gun safety at home.

While we continue to work for the passage of AB452 and similar bills, Schools for Safe Storage is a strong, grass-roots way to deliver your message.

The shortest path to safe storage is through the schools

Why is this important? Why now?

The recent uptick in headline-grabbing shootings has many American shaking their heads, yet again. But those events disappear quickly from your news feed and from the front page.

What never goes away, though, is the epidemic of daily gun violence, mostly affecting communities, families and homes you don’t see on the news.

With a few simple actions, you can tell your local school district it’s important to send out information to families about their responsibility to safely store firearms.

Here in Southern California, several school districts have already taken this action or have committed to doing so in the future, including San Diego Unified School District, Poway Unified, Solana Beach and La Mesa-Spring Valley. We thank the volunteers who have made this happen!

Contact your school district superintendent. Now!

Are you ready to start a campaign like this in your school district? Visit Schools for Safe Storage for tools you can use to get started in any district in California. Let us know if you contact your school district or if you have any questions about mounting a campaign like this. You can reach us at safestorageca@gmail.com.

This keeps guns safely stored at home, out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and out of the schools.

What’s not to like about that?

Lori Van Orden is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

photo credit: unmatched value

Gun Violence Prevention Measures — From the White House, Yet!

Gun Violence Prevention Measures — From the White House, Yet!

Like tens of millions of Americans, we at San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP) are heartened by the six federal-level actions that the Biden-Harris Administration has announced. Too much time has gone by since our cause had a champion in the White House, and we welcome the announcement.

6 initial actions

We summarize the administration’s six initial actions, “fully within the Administration’s authority and the Second Amendment,” as follows (we’ve added the links):

  1. a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of ghost guns;
  2. a proposed rule to make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle;
  3. investments in evidence-based community violence interventions;
  4. a directive to the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” legislation for states;
  5. a directive to the Justice Department to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking; and
  6. the nomination of David Chipman to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).

It’s a big-enough deal to see a presidential administration go to bat for any one of these issues. Seeing an administration tackle six of them feels like a once-in-a-lifetime milestone.

In fact, a lot of us have gone a lifetime without seeing action on them. That’s why this is such good news.

Going in several of SD4GVP’s new directions

For us at SD4GVP, the most important thing about these six actions is that several of them reflect the same initiatives we’ve been working on in recent months.

1. Ghost guns

We’ve blogged about ghost guns recently. They bear no serial number and they do not require a background check. That’s why our colleague Steve Lindley observes, “Everything we’ve been working on in California for the last 30 years in gun violence prevention is being undermined by ghost guns.”

We’ve also been supporting and promoting AB 311, introduced by Assembly Member Chris Ward, to ban the sales of ghost gun kits and parts at gun shows in California. And we’ve promoted Team ENOUGH, including in its efforts to raise awareness about how easy it is for a 17-year-old high-school senior to buy a ghost gun.

Ghost guns give us nightmares. We’re displeased that they’ve gained so much momentum so quickly, but we’re on it.

3. Evidence-based community violence interventions

Our coalition includes groups like Shaphat Outreach, Community Wraparound and Tariq Khamisa Foundation. These groups work in the communities most affected by the daily gun violence that engulfs people and families.

Over the last couple of years, we in SD4GVP have connected with the leaders in those communities. They have a ground-up perspective on where gun violence comes from and how to address it. They know that a lot of it starts with economic injustice, and they also know that not very much of it stops with incarceration.

The good news is that the Biden-Harris Administration has similarly connected with leaders at the community level. As part of this initial action, it issued an additional fact sheet outlining planned investments in community violence intervention to combat the gun violence epidemic. The list is long and it touches the American Jobs Plan, Medicaid funding and more than two dozen existing grant programs across five government agencies.

We tried jailing our way out of gun violence. How’d that work out for us? There is much more promise in this approach.

4. Red-flag laws

SD4GVP has supported the San Diego City Attorney’s office on gun violence restraining orders (GVRO), the California equivalent of red-flag laws. City Attorney Mara Elliott reports that, to date, her office has used GVROs to intervene in more than 500 crisis situations when individuals posed a threat of harm to themselves or others. That means a lot of people got a lot of extra time to sort problems out before they used a firearm to solve them.

As of April 2020, 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of red-flag law. The specifics of the laws, and the degree to which they are utilized, vary from state to state, which is understandable. The Biden-Harris Administration is calling for the Justice Department to publish red-flag legislation that states can refer to or use as a model.

The goal is to make it easier for states that want to adopt red flag laws to do so. The hope is that someday Congress will pass a federal red-flag law, and that, until then, they’ll pass legislation that gives states an incentive to pass their own red-flag laws.

At SD4GVP, we’ve long put our support and effort behind California’s laws on GVROs because we believe that it makes common sense to apply them locally. We’re relieved that the White House believes that too.

Onward

We anticipate that these six initial actions from the executive branch will encounter headwinds from the judiciary, the gun lobby and its stewards in the legislative branch. Still, they are the first signs of progress in a long time and we’re encouraged.

We look forward to fighting for them with you.

John White is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

Prevent Gun Violence in the Home by Getting the Word Out Through the Schools

Prevent Gun Violence in the Home by Getting the Word Out Through the Schools

For the last year, we have been focused on keeping our children and families safe from the coronavirus. What about the other epidemic that has been with us far longer and continues to harm those we love? The epidemic of gun violence.

This February marks the third anniversary of the massacre in Parkland, Florida, that ended the lives of 17 students and staff members. Since then, mass shootings and urban gun violence continue to take a deadly toll on victims young and old. In addition, suicide by gun, unintentional shootings and domestic violence are rising.

About seven percent of American children (4.6 million) live in households with at least one loaded, unlocked gun. Watch the video “Best Unbox Ever With Cayden” to see just how close disaster can be when guns and children are in the same building.

Responsible gun owners who keep their firearms locked and unloaded, with ammunition stored separately, can prevent access to guns and save lives.

The school districts have gotten the message

In November 2019, California’s State Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond sent a letter to all California district superintendents. He asked them to inform families in their districts about parents’ responsibility to keep guns locked and ammunition stored separately. Superintendent Thurmond emphasized that “it is a crime for a person to negligently store or leave a loaded firearm in a place where a child is likely to access it.”

We expect Superintendent Thurmond to renew this urgent request soon, especially with the explosion of gun sales in the months of the COVID crisis. As measured by background checks, firearm sales in states like California doubled in 2020. Forty percent of purchases are by first-time owners who may not have the experience and training to store their guns safely.

Every day in the U.S., one child dies from unintentional shootings and two die by suicide. Research also shows that in the case of shootings on school grounds, almost 80 percent of the shooters easily obtained their weapons because guns were unsecured in the homes of their families or friends.

What can you do? Plenty! You’re the PTA.

All parents of students can reach out to their district superintendents and school board members asking that families be notified yearly about the responsibility of safe storage. California state law requires that you safely store all firearms in your home, preferably unloaded and in a locked container, separate from ammunition.  In San Diego County, the leaders in this initiative have been San Diego Unified and Poway Unified School Districts. Our goal is to get all districts in our county and state to share this vital safety information every year.

As a PTA leader or member, you have an important voice. That’s why we urge you and your organization to use this power by asking your district leaders to notify families about keeping our children safe by storing firearms securely.

Find out more about the National PTA recommendations for ending gun violence, including the importance of safe storage of firearms. And read Everytown’s guide, “Unload, Lock, and Separate: Secure Storage Practices to Reduce Gun Violence.”

Lori VanOrden is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

Eight Years On — Remembering Sandy Hook

Eight Years On — Remembering Sandy Hook

It has been eight years of ongoing gun violence since the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers like you who have worked to prevent gun violence, the intervening years have brought small changes in gun laws here and there around the nation.

But not enough changes to avert the loss of about a quarter-million more victims since December 2012.

Our 2020 vigil

The best thing you can say about the coronavirus pandemic is that, with in-person learning suspended almost everywhere since mid-March, the number of school shootings in America has fallen sharply.

Undeterred by the pandemic, we at SD4GVP conducted our annual vigil for the 26 victims — 20 children and 6 adults — of Sandy Hook. In a vigil that was virtual this year, each of us lit a candle of remembrance and took a photo that our own Carol and Ron compiled into this video:

Grieving gun violence – A prayer

We rang a bell for the victims of Sandy Hook, and for the names of our own friends and family members affected by gun violence. Vicki read “Grieving Gun Violence,” a prayer written by Reverend Keith Kron of the national Unitarian Universalist organization:

Then, as we do every December, we’re getting back out and will continue working for laws that keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them.

We invite you to join us.

John White is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.