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History > 2008 > USA > Gun violence (III)




After Killings,

Escorts for Chicago Students


April 27, 2008
The New York Times


CHICAGO — Ever since one of their classmates was shot down just a block from school last month, a group of sleepy-eyed teenagers here has been meeting in the early morning at a community center southwest of downtown to walk to class together, hoping there is safety in numbers.

Parent volunteers, part of a program call Operation Safe Passage, guide the trip to Richard T. Crane Tech Prep high school in brightly colored vests and ponchos, shepherding the students onto a city bus, through a transfer, then to the school gates. But that is not all — the police come, too, trailing the walking procession and the buses in a squad car.

It is a joyless parade and the most comprehensive effort to date in Chicago and perhaps the country intended to secure a safe passage to school. Every morning, the same routine, repeated in reverse after the dismissal bell. And yet there is still fear.

“We could be standing here talking and somebody over there could start shooting right now,” said Anthony Robinson, 16, waiting with the escorts at a bus stop. “You just don’t know.”

Since the beginning of the school year, 24 public school students here have been murdered, most by gunfire. None was killed on school grounds but most lost their lives in their neighborhoods, sometimes on the way to class or the trip home. The youngest victim was a 7-year-old girl, waiting for an afternoon snack at a fast food drive-through with her father.

A reinvigorated gang war over territory south and west of downtown is at least partly to blame for the rising mayhem that is ensnarling ever-younger schoolchildren on neighborhood battlefields. An overwhelming majority of Chicago’s public school students — some 85 percent, according to federal statistics — live in poverty. Some find respite only at school.

“I’m tired of walking into classrooms where there’s an empty desk and trying to talk to children and comfort them and make them feel better,” Arne Duncan, the chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools said in an interview last week. “It’s brutal, absolutely horrible, and tremendously tough to see the devastating impact not only on the families but on entire schools and the broader communities.”

Last year, 32 school-age children were killed, a record, compared with half that number or fewer in the preceding years. This year’s toll could surpass that if the pace continues.

Police officials said most of the shooters and the victims were troubled youngsters with criminal histories and access to illegal guns. But some of those killed were simply bystanders.

“Some of the victims are not the intended targets,” said Monique Bond, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department. “And some are just affiliated with the intended target by way of friendship or family associations.”

Since the number of violent student deaths spiked last year, the city has strengthened its curfew for minors, installed more security cameras in schools, added after-school programs and increased police patrols around campuses. This week, the police began dispatching specialized units to saturate violent zones on the weekends.

Chicago spends about $55 million a year on security for its 435,000 students in 600 schools, and inside the buildings, the effort has shown results. A recent survey by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago found that a majority of elementary and high school students felt safer in their classrooms than outside of them.

And as a whole, crime is down in Chicago.

“At the very time that we’ve reached historic lows in homicides and violent crime, this needless violence against our children goes on,” said Mayor Richard M. Daley in one of his fierier appearances lately, at a news conference at the University of Chicago last week. He was there to announce a new partnership between the city and the university to develop more intervention policies intended to keep children safe outside of school hours. But before the rather routine announcement, he railed against the gun industry, lawmakers and lax parents.

“It isn’t the fault of our children,” Mr. Daley said. “It’s the fault of adults.”

While the police and the city try to figure out what to do about the murders, one bright spot in the otherwise bleak picture is that the schools themselves have become safer and academically stronger than they have been in a generation.

Inside the buildings, violent incidents are down, and college admissions are up. Years of aggressive financial, operational and instructional overhauls are proving their worth, academic experts outside the system say. The unfortunate paradox is vexing for city leaders, parents and students alike.

“People forget how much long, sustained focus and effort it takes to move a ship like this,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition based in Washington that studies the nation’s largest urban school systems. “In Chicago, the ship has moved. The violence that the city is experiencing right now is an issue that the larger community really needs to address along with the schools, which have made a lot of progress in the last 10 or 12 years.”

But with entrenched poverty and gang lines firmly drawn, the students themselves wonder how much the adults around them can accomplish.

“They’re trying,” said Larrener Council, a high school junior who was part of the protected caravan headed to class last week. “But they can only do so much. Some of us get on different buses at different times and they’re not there.”

Other neighborhoods are experimenting with versions of the escort system, and the schools are collaborating with the police in new partnerships. But there is not enough money or power to ensure every student’s safe passage.

In Larrener’s neighborhood, some parents kept their children home after the early March shooting a block from Richard T. Crane Tech Prep High School that left 18-year-old Ruben Ivy dead. The fear was that there would be some sort of retaliation. The suspect in the shooting is a 15-year-old boy from the same neighborhood — a modest, orderly collection of small-scale subsidized housing units.

Nothing about the area looks particularly fearsome, but just below the surface territorial tensions are bubbling, and children are willing to fight to the death defending what they believe is their own turf.

Seeing how many students were missing class, Deverra Beverly, an activist at the Abla Homes complex, started making calls to her alderman and neighborhood precinct captain. She persuaded parents to volunteer, and Operation Safe Passage was born.

“We got together and asked, ‘What can we do?’ ” Ms. Beverly said. “Whatever we do, if it works in this vicinity, it should work everywhere.”

But there is a tremendous amount of ground to cover. Ms. Beverly’s escort program serves only a few dozen students.

As the body count continues to rise around them, some students cope by not dwelling on the details. “I’m just living my life,” Anthony Robinson, the Crane student, said. Anthony also said he thought the escort to school was futile, given how widespread and haphazard the killings could be.

Meanwhile, over the last few days, a new rash of shootings left seven juveniles with nonfatal injuries. There is no tally of how many school-age children, like them, have survived with their wounds.

“We talk about those that are killed,” Mr. Daley said at the news conference last week. “We never ever talk about those who are injured. That’s the silent area.”

When asked what a toll of seriously injured students might look like, Mr. Duncan said, “It would be staggering.”

    After Killings, Escorts for Chicago Students, NYT, 27.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/us/27chicago.html?hp






Newark’s Relative Calm Ends in Hail of Gunfire; 2 Dead and 5 Wounded


April 23, 2008
The New York Times


NEWARK — Two young men killed each other and five other people were wounded here, the police said, in a spate of shootings that the authorities called the most violent 24-hour period of what has generally been a relatively calm year in New Jersey’s largest city.

There have been 16 homicides in Newark so far this year, down from 26 by this time in 2007, a year that saw a total of 99 killings.

“We have more violent crime in the summer than we do in the winter,” the Newark police chief, Garry McCarthy, noted at a late-afternoon news conference outside Trinity Church in the city’s Ironbound section.

The police also questioned Anthony Criss, known as Treach from the rap group Naughty by Nature, after a report of gunshots on West Runyon Street Tuesday afternoon. Officers pulled over a dark Hummer being driven erratically and found Mr. Criss inside wearing a bulletproof vest. Mr. Criss told the officers that he was not being shot at, Chief McCarthy said. The chief added that there was no weapon found in the car, although a pistol was recovered nearby on the street.

The mayhem in Newark began with a shootout in the town’s Vailsburg section at 11 p.m. Monday. The police said that Markquez Brown, 18, was sitting on his front steps on Smith Street when Sharif Daniels, 18, shot him in the leg. Mr. Brown returned fire, the police said, and killed Mr. Daniels with a shot to the head. Mr. Brown ran a block away to Salem Street, where he bled to death from a severed femoral artery, officials said.

“It was a very unlucky circumstance,” Chief McCarthy said, adding that the police are not looking for any suspects because both men involved in the shooting are dead.

Twelve hours later, a middle-aged man and a woman were shot in the face and a third man was shot in the leg in broad daylight on a busy stretch of Bloomfield Avenue. Witnesses at a nearby Laundromat said they heard multiple shots and ducked. The police are searching for a dark Honda Accord in which suspects or possible witnesses fled the scene, officials said.

All three victims, whose names were not available, are in stable condition, the police said.

Hours later, a man was shot in the hand when bullets came through his front door on 181 Shepherd Street, and another man was shot in the foot on Irvine Turner Boulevard, said Todd McClendon, a Newark police detective. Both men have been released from the hospital, he said.

As detectives here tried to determine if the shootings were motivated by gangs, violence or retaliation, Essex County prosecutors announced additional charges stemming from a shooting spree in neighboring Irvington early Sunday.

Shaquan Johnson, who was arrested Sunday and charged with shooting a police sergeant, now faces charges for two other shootings that day, all of them within a five-minute span.

Mr. Johnson, 27, of Newark, was charged on Tuesday with the murder of 22-year-old Gary Farrar Jr.; the attempted murder of Mr. Farrar’s friend Bashir Pearson, 22; and the attempted kidnapping and aggravated assault of a 14-year-old boy.

He is being held in $1.5 million bail.

Investigators said that prior to the shootings, Mr. Johnson approached a woman and her 14-year-old son on the street and ordered the teenager to his car at gunpoint. When the boy refused, Mr. Johnson attempted to fire his weapon, but it did not go off, officials said.

    Newark’s Relative Calm Ends in Hail of Gunfire; 2 Dead and 5 Wounded, NYT, 23.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/nyregion/23newark.html






Op-Ed Contributor

Topics in University Security:

Lockdown 101


April 16, 2008
The New York Times



IN February, a man carrying a fake assault weapon burst into an American foreign policy class at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. The seven unsuspecting students, along with a stunned professor who later remarked that he was “prepared to die at that moment,” were held hostage for 10 minutes. During that time, the gunman said he would kill at least one of them.

The class survived because the gunman was a volunteer, part of an exercise intended to test the university’s system for responding to a possible campus attack. The university had alerted its students and faculty with e-mail and text messages, but not everyone read them. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the simulation — at least physically.

In the year since the shooting at Virginia Tech last April 16, American colleges have been under pressure, from worried parents as well as from the news media, to beef up campus security. Like Elizabeth City State, many schools have overreacted by instituting safety measures of questionable effectiveness. Safety officials are quick to shut down classes, as happened recently at California State University, Dominguez Hills, when an R.O.T.C. student with a drill rifle was mistaken for an assailant toting an automatic weapon. Instead of making campuses safer, we are fostering an unwarranted and unhealthy level of fear.

An article in Newsweek’s “College Guide” last fall advised families on how to tell whether a university is safe, and earlier this year Readers’ Digest graded 135 colleges nationwide on their safety precautions — notification systems, campus lockdown plans, armed security and the like. A bill in Congress, too, pushes the security agenda by proposing that universities be required to issue campus alerts within 30 minutes of a reported emergency.

The vast majority of institutions in the Readers’ Digest survey have in place security measures that not long ago would have been considered unnecessary, if not absurd. All but six of the schools surveyed have installed mass notification systems; more than half have lockdown plans; and more than 40 percent have authorized their campus police officers to carry firearms.

Although a popular response, campus-wide notification systems, ranging from low-tech sirens to text-message alerts on cellphones, are not necessarily a reliable way to protect students. An emergency siren could signal anything from a fire to gunfire. Text alerts would fail to reach a packed lecture hall if the instructor requires students to turn off their cellphones.

Anxious parents have been particularly keen on lockdowns, plans to seal off buildings manually or electronically to prevent a gunman from moving from place to place. The lockdown may do little to prevent casualties, however: Almost all college shootings have taken place in one location — in just one building, if not just one classroom. And a lockdown introduces dangers of its own. The same locks that bar a gunman from entering classrooms and dorms can also prevent potential victims from escaping into a locked building if they are being chased by a gunman.

Perhaps the most important change inspired by Virginia Tech is a renewed emphasis on mental health services. And given that there are many times more suicides on campus than homicides, this could benefit countless students, the vast majority of whom pose no danger to others. Over the past year, one-third of campus counseling centers have added staff members, including psychiatrists, and 15 percent of campus counseling centers have received larger budgets.

But this approach, too, may fail to identify and stop a violent student. Thousands of college students are depressed or even suicidal, but there is no consistent profile of a person who turns from disappointment and frustration to violent rage.

Colleges are not helpless in preventing and responding to campus shootings. Certain measures clearly make sense. Every university should have a well-trained and sufficiently large security force. Faculty and staff members should be trained to handle volatile students and situations. And it pays to conduct emergency preparedness drills, but not ones that involve students nor ones that are staged when classes are in session.

By overreacting to Virginia Tech, not only are college administrators instituting security measures that may well prove ineffective, but they are also undermining the carefree atmosphere of campus life. They chance making students feel like walking targets.

I especially worry that the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings will mean endless replaying of video images of that campus under siege. With last year’s shooting there, and the Valentine’s Day massacre at Northern Illinois University, the violence on campuses feels like a conflagration. There is no need to stoke the flames.

James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice and law, policy and society at Northeastern University, is a co-author of “The Will to Kill” and “Extreme Killing.”

    Topics in University Security: Lockdown 101, NYT, 16.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/16/opinion/16fox.html






In Fatal Robbery, Police See Contract Killing


April 16, 2008
The New York Times


Chelsea M. Frazier lay bleeding in her new Toyota, fatally shot after turning down a quiet street near the Bronx waterfront. Her 14-month-old son, Alijah, who had made the trip from Massachusetts with his parents on Sunday afternoon, was still strapped in the back seat, unhurt.

The child’s father, Carlos Cruz, leapt out of the passenger seat and ran after the gunman. But he was not trying to catch him.

“Wait,” Mr. Cruz called out, according to law enforcement officials. “You forgot to shoot me.” So the gunman did, putting a bullet in Mr. Cruz’s right leg.

Mr. Cruz told the police and his relatives that he and Ms. Frazier, his former companion, might have been the targets of a robbery. On Tuesday, however, after some intense detective work, officials said that the attack had been staged and that Mr. Cruz had hired the gunman, his cousin, a former convict out on parole, for $1,000 to kill Ms. Frazier and wound him.

Mr. Cruz and the cousin, Devon Miller, 25, were charged with first- and second-degree murder, officials said. At an arraignment in the Bronx early on Wednesday morning, a prosecutor, Douglas S. Meisel, told Judge Judith Leib that Mr. Miller had confessed to the shootings.

“On Saturday, my cousin called,” Mr. Miller was quoted as telling the police. “He asked me to bang his wife. He told me he would give me $1,000,” and would also provide the gun.

Mr. Meisel said that Mr. Cruz had apologized to the investigators and that he claimed he felt “betrayed.” He also said that Mr. Cruz told investigators that he wanted to see his son but did not want to pay child support.

Both men were kept in custody in lieu of bail.

Officials said they believed that Mr. Cruz, 36, was angry because Ms. Frazier, 18, was breaking off their relationship and was worried that she would cut him off from their child.

He arranged a family trip on a sunny Sunday afternoon from Southbridge, Mass., to the borough where his relatives live, including Mr. Miller, officials said. The plan was to shop for marked-down clothes for their son, visit his relatives and talk about reconciling.

“She was seeing other people, other men, and wanted to break up with this guy and take the child,” said a law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

They did go shopping — to an Old Navy store on White Plains Road for baby clothes — and then bought ice cream at a truck outside the store.

Then, around 4 p.m., they turned down a street near a park in the Castle Hill neighborhood, where a man came up to the car, stuck a gun in the window, and started shooting. Ms. Frazier was hit at least twice and died on the way to the hospital.

According to plan, the police said, the money was left on the dashboard in Mr. Cruz’s wallet, which the gunman took.

A witness who heard the shots told police she saw Mr. Cruz running after the gunman. She heard shouting — but could not make out the words — and saw Mr. Cruz shot. The gunman, who had dreadlocks or braids, jumped into a green sport utility vehicle and drove off.

Relatives of Mr. Cruz said he had told them that the gunman wanted to rob them, that they were probably followed out of the Old Navy by someone who had been staring at his gold chain, and that they got lost while driving.

While he was in the hospital, however, he told detectives a slightly different account, saying that when they parked, the gunman’s green S.U.V. was already there. When Mr. Miller visited Mr. Cruz at the hospital, the detectives noticed his dreadlocks.

“The detectives kept an open mind,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. “They were attuned to every nuance, to the slightest inconsistencies.”

When Mr. Cruz was released from Jacobi Medical Center on Monday afternoon, the police asked him to come to the 43rd Precinct station house in the Bronx to look at photographs and help them work up a sketch of the gunman.

Mr. Miller followed Mr. Cruz to the station house, pulling up in a green 1995 Chevy Tahoe S.U.V. His father, Harry Miller, 51, also arrived.

“We’re not going to tell you nothing,” Devon Miller told reporters then.

Harry Miller came out at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday in a somber and reflective mood. His son did not come out until 2:13 p.m. with his hands handcuffed behind his back and a detective on either side of him, gripping his arms. He wore a shirt with a sketch of a bandit with a bandanna clutching a bag with a money sign on it.

The police said he admitted being the gunman. Using that, the police persuaded Mr. Cruz to admit his role as well, officials said.

On Tuesday, the murder and arrests left members of two families grieving. Mr. Cruz’s relatives spent much of the day outside the 43rd Precinct station house.

“The whole family is in disbelief,” said Harry Miller, who sat near the entrance smoking a cigarette. People were calling, he said — from New Jersey to South Carolina. “The whole family is in an uproar,” he said. “I don’t even want to talk to a lot of my family because I don’t know what to say.”

A brother of Mr. Cruz in Southbridge, who declined to give his name, said he was scrambling to get a lawyer.

“He’s just a good guy, and that is it,” he said.

Ms. Frazier’s family took Alijah back to Southbridge, about 60 miles southwest of Boston, after the shooting. On Tuesday, the boy romped around his grandmother’s home in white Nike sneakers, football pajamas and a hooded sweatshirt.

The family said Ms. Frazier, a waitress working to become a licensed massage therapist, met Mr. Cruz, a long-haul trucker, in the spring of 2006. Their relationship led to an engagement, but it turned so tempestuous, the family said, that Ms. Frazier called it off about three weeks ago and returned his ring. Her family said Mr. Cruz did not take the breakup well and grew increasingly threatening.

“I had bad vibes about him,” said Robert Manthorne, 67, Ms. Frazier’s grandfather. “He said if he couldn’t have Chelsea, no one else could, and he would do what he had to do take the baby because he knew it would hurt her.”

Investigators were suspicious of Mr. Cruz’s early account, as were Ms. Frazier’s relatives, who said they wondered how he could get lost in the neighborhood where his family lived.

Devon Miller, who lives on Beach Avenue, near the shooting scene, has been arrested six times since 1999, the authorities said. He served two years in state prison for criminal possession of a weapon for his part in a Brooklyn killing, and 21 months for crack cocaine possession. He was paroled last July and got a job at American Apparel, said Carole Weaver, a spokeswoman for the State Division of Parole.

She said that Mr. Miller was arrested for trespass, a misdemeanor, in the Bronx in January, but that officials were waiting for a court ruling before deciding whether to send him back to prison.

The police said that Mr. Cruz had been arrested once in 2003 in Massachusetts, but that the details of that case were not immediately available.

Officials said the plot to kill Ms. Frazier was apparently planned about two weeks ago.

Ms. Frazier’s mother, Robin Snow, 45, said she asked her daughter on Sunday if she was comfortable about driving to the Bronx, and told her “something’s not right.” But the couple had been shopping in the Bronx before, and Ms. Frazier assured her mother about the trip.

“She said, ‘Oh, Mom, it’s all right, we’re buying spring and summer clothes for the baby.’ ”

Reporting was contributed by Daryl Khan, Colin Moynihan, Mathew R. Warren, Carolyn Wilder and Katie Zezima.

    In Fatal Robbery, Police See Contract Killing, NYT, 16.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/16/nyregion/16shoot.html?hp








Guns and Bitter


April 16, 2008
The New York Times

We thought the Republican presidential primaries were over. So we are at a loss to explain why Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been wandering around Pennsylvania and Indiana and anywhere else they might find a vote or a dollar arguing about which one cares more about guns and religion.

Whose brilliant idea was it to leave six weeks open before the Pennsylvania primary?

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton do raise important issues in their speeches. But the campaign, as seen on TV — the one that counts — has been consumed with the senators trading insults over Mr. Obama’s boneheaded remarks about working-class voters. They are not doing themselves or the country any good. A few more days of these Punch and Judy shows and even we will be tempted to tune out.

As has usually been the case in these spats, Mrs. Clinton is more the aggressor. After days of digging at Mr. Obama for saying that working-class voters turn xenophobic or “cling to guns and religion” because they’re bitter over lost jobs, Mrs. Clinton couldn’t resist a new nasty attack ad. What she has yet to figure out is that she ends up hurting herself — feeding her negative image — by attacking too long and with too much relish.

Mr. Obama is not a hapless victim. His comments made for just the sort of rookie error that the Illinois senator is prone to make, and they have reinforced a feeling that he can be too aloof, or, yes, elitist. His attempts to explain himself have fallen flat, as have his insulting Annie Oakley jokes and demands to see pictures of Mrs. Clinton in a duck blind. Sexist jabs are as offensive as racist jabs.

The fact is, on guns and religion, as on many other issues, there is no distance between the Democratic contenders. They each have their own religious faith, and they’re both, sensibly, in favor of registering guns and controlling weapons designed purely to kill people.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have been hard at it pandering to voters’ antitrade sentiments in rust-belt states like Pennsylvania, but it’s not clear why they’d want to spar over guns and religion — not big issues for Democratic primary voters. For Mr. Obama, talk of religion is particularly perilous, reminding voters of the racist oratory of his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. If the candidates want to debate these issues, they should do so on the substance.

Indeed, there are many big problems to discuss and not enough discussion of them. Both candidates, for example, were too passive during last week’s Senate testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, the military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador in Baghdad.

It was shockingly clear that President Bush has no plan to end his disastrous war in Iraq except to hand the problem on to his successor. But neither senator made a mark questioning the general or the ambassador at the hearings. And they were silent afterward, while Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, talked of victory. The Democrats should have been explaining how they plan to bring American troops safely home and contain Iraq’s chaos. That will be the job on Day One for whoever wins in November.

The reason this campaign started out as the Democrats’ big chance to take back Washington is that Americans face huge challenges on which the Republicans have an abysmal record: Iraq and Afghanistan, the trashing of America’s global image, inequitable taxes, a flagging economy, epidemic home foreclosures, lost jobs, soaring health care costs and struggling schools.

These are the issues Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton should be addressing. We hope they get back to them, starting tonight at their debate in Pennsylvania.

    Guns and Bitter, NYT, 16.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/16/opinion/16wed1.html






At State Level, More Attempts to Limit Guns


April 15, 2008
The New York Times


State lawmakers across the country are ramping up efforts to pass new restrictions on guns, following nearly a decade in which state legislative efforts have been dominated by gun advocates.

Much of the proposed legislation — some 38 states are considering gun-related bills — focuses on cutting off gun access to convicted criminals and the mentally ill and on improving methods to trace guns used in crimes.

Underlying many of the proposals is an effort to redefine the gun debate as a law enforcement issue, rather than one that focuses on broad-based gun ownership, to sidestep prickly Second Amendment concerns.

“The key thing is that we want to protect Second Amendment rights,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican who has supported several bills that focus on guns used in crimes but not bills that would curtail ownership rights. “Democrats and Republicans can work together on this.”

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a prominent antigun group, has identified 52 bills it considers a priority for passage in 22 states, compared with 30 such bills two years ago.

“For years we were chasing the N.R.A.’s tail,” Brian Malte, the group’s state legislation and politics director, said of the National Rifle Association. “But now we feel they are chasing our priorities.”

Still, the new efforts come as organizations like the N.R.A., the country’s biggest gun advocacy group, continue to wield tremendous influence in state capitals and are pushing strongly for laws of their own.

Several legislatures are contemplating that would increase access to guns, including proposals to allow guns on college campuses or in the parking lots of workplaces.

The N.R.A. is tracking 208 pieces of gun-related legislation in 38 states, both proposed restrictions it opposes and other bills it supports, the highest number since the gun group began monitoring state laws in 2001.

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the N.R.A., said, “There has been a brick-by-brick restoration of the Second Amendment” over the past 10 years or so at the state level, and he added that his organization continued to build upon it. “It is one of the most uncovered, fundamental sea changes in American politics,” Mr. LaPierre said.

The catalysts for the latest round of legislation include a spate of high-profile gun crimes — at shopping malls, schools and universities and the streets of several large cities — and a new federal law that gives financial rewards to states that better share information about mentally ill gun buyers.

The spike in lawmaking activity also comes against the background of a case before the Supreme Court that challenges the constitutionality of a ban on the private possession of handguns in the District of Columbia. Legal and gun experts said a ruling against the ban was likely to stymie additional efforts to limit rights on gun ownership — and could even embolden advocates of fewer restrictions — but might leave undeterred the pursuit of laws focused on illegal guns.

Lawmakers also credit the relatively new Mayors Against Illegal Guns, championed by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, which has over 300 members across party lines, and its counterpart among state legislators, which has worked assertively to remove guns from the hands of criminals.

Seven states are considering bills that would require microscopic imprints on ammunition — following a pioneering bill that became law in California last year — that would help forensic experts identify the provenance of guns used in crimes.

Nearly a dozen states are considering forcing gun owners to report their weapons stolen or lost. New Jersey has already enacted such a law, and others are mulling criminal background checks on ammunition buyers, and efforts to keep people with a criminal record getting others to do their gun buying for them.

Earlier this year, President Bush signed into law a measure that authorized the distribution of federal money to states to maintain and update the criminal history and mental health records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. As such, many legislatures are trying to close loopholes that have allowed those with a history of mental illness to obtain guns.

More than a dozen states have signed or are debating bills that would compel states to upload mental health records to the National Instant Check System. West Virginia’s governor recently signed into a law a measure requiring his state to upload disqualifying records to the system.

Bills that focus on keeping guns out of the hands of those found mentally impaired or criminals “have more of a bipartisan support,” said Dan Brady, a Republican state lawmaker in Illinois, where nearly a dozen gun bills have hit the Statehouse this year. Mr. Brady said he had voted for such a bill.

“When you have pieces of legislation that start to erode the law-abiding citizens’ right to own firearms, you begin to have the debate about bounds,” Mr. Brady said.

Debates about the proposed gun laws are taking place in many states not between party members, but rather between residents in rural areas and those in crime-ridden cities. For some states, momentum on any bill that regulates guns is considered unusual.

For instance, last week in Pennsylvania lawmakers debated a bill that would have compelled gun owners to immediately report a lost or stolen gun to law enforcement officials. The bill was defeated, but it was the first time that the state, whose constitution articulates support for individual gun ownership well beyond the federal doctrine, had taken up a significant gun regulation bill in roughly 15 years.

“There are many people who believed that we would never discuss hand gun legislation in this building, let alone have a vote,” said Johnna A. Pro, the spokeswoman for Dwight Evans, a Democrat in the Pennsylvania Statehouse, who was behind the bill. The bill came to the floor only after the state’s legislative black caucus pulled a parliamentary measure impeding budget votes, and became one of the outgrowths of a resulting special session on crime.

“This bill was a defining moment,” said Kate Harper, a Republican lawmaker from the suburbs of Philadelphia who voted for the bill even though many of her colleagues were unhappy with her, she said.

“These are difficult votes for me because it hurts me with my caucus, and it also hurts with really strong Republican voters who don’t want government interference,” Ms. Harper said. “On the other hand, I’ve got soccer moms and people who have never fired a gun and are afraid of them.”

Many states are also contemplating legislation that would increase gun ownership rights. There are roughly three dozens states that have considered over the last two sessions bills that would allow employees to bring guns to the workplace, leaving them in the cars.

The Florida Legislature recently passed a measure preventing businesses from prohibiting customers or employees who hold concealed-weapons permits to keep their guns in their cars on their property. The state’s governor has indicated, in the face of enormous pressure on both sides, that he intends to sign it.

The violence on college campuses also prompted a host of legislative proposals for allowing students or faculty to carry weapons, while such legislation was almost unheard of two sessions ago. The N.R.A. is also focused on bills protecting the use of deadly force as a first resort when threatened.

“On the state level there is a lot of action,” said Andrew Arulanandam, an N.R.A. spokesman. “Things tend to move faster at the state and local level.”

    At State Level, More Attempts to Limit Guns, NYT, 15.4.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/15/us/15guns.html?hp






New York City settles with another five gun dealers


Fri Apr 11, 2008
6:15pm EDT


NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City has struck a deal with a further five gun dealers among 27 targeted in its bid to thwart the flow of illegal weapons into the city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday.

Bloomberg said that 20 gun dealers named in lawsuits by the city had now reached out-of-court agreements that will allow outside monitoring of sales.

In two separate lawsuits, New York sued 27 gun dealers in five states -- Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia -- on the grounds their sales practices allowed criminals to buy guns and then bring them into the city.

One dealer from Pennsylvania, one from South Carolina, one from Ohio and two from Georgia are the latest to reach settlements.

Bloomberg's fight against illegal guns has made him into something of a pariah among influential gun-rights groups in the United States. In April, he was portrayed as an octopus on the cover of the National Rifle Association's newsletter.

In August, a federal court judge in Brooklyn ruled New York's courts had jurisdiction to hear the city's lawsuits, because the city had shown the gun dealers were responsible for funneling "large quantities of handguns used by local criminals to terrorize significant portions of the city's population."

Trials are due to begin on May 27 and September 2.

The city has accused dealers of allowing "straw purchases" in which one person shops for a gun and then has someone else fill out the required forms to pass a background check.

New York caught some dealers by hiring undercover private detectives with hidden cameras to carry out straw purchases.

As part of the settlement, the dealers agree to submit to a court-appointed monitor of their sales activities known as a special master.

The special master has broad discretion to review firearms-related records and conduct unrestricted inspections of all inventories. Employees also will receive enhanced training, according to the terms of the settlement.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Sandra Maler)

    New York City settles with another five gun dealers, R, 11.4.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN1132908720080411






2 Freeway Shootings, 1 Fatal, Extend a String in California


March 31, 2008
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES (AP) — A driver on a Los Angeles freeway was fatally shot in the head early Sunday, hours after another driver was shot in an attack about 30 miles away, the authorities said.

The shootings were the latest in a string of attacks on Southern California freeways that have alarmed motorists and the authorities.

Investigators said they did not know what led to the fatal shooting Sunday, on Highway 101 in the San Fernando Valley. The car crashed near a freeway ramp, so the victim may have been shot before entering the highway, said Officer Norma Eisenman of the Los Angeles Police Department. The wreck snarled traffic for hours near the Van Nuys district.

“There’s absolutely no witnesses at this time, no information,” Officer Eisenman said.

The second shooting, on Saturday night, was in Long Beach, where the victim was able to drive himself off the freeway and phone for help, said Officer Jackie Bezart of the Long Beach Police Department.

The man told officers another motorist shot at him as the result of road rage along Highway 710, Officer Bezart said. The man was hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Investigators do not think the cases were related to three other shootings, two fatal, in recent weeks on Southern California freeways.

In Virginia, the authorities on Friday arrested two teenagers in connection with random shootings along Interstate 64 and potshots taken at a credit union and a residence a day before. Two people were slightly injured, prompting investigators to briefly shut down a 20-mile stretch of the highway.

Those shootings stirred memories of the Washington-area sniper shootings six years ago that killed 10 people.

    2 Freeway Shootings, 1 Fatal, Extend a String in California, NYT, 31.3.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/31/us/31california.html






Va. highway shooting suspect arrested


28 March 2008
USA Today


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Authorities arrested a suspect early Friday in a series of highway shootings after storming a farm and firing at a man who met them with a handgun, police said.

Slade Allen Woodson, 19, was charged in separate shootings at a home and a credit union early Thursday morning, police said. He was not charged with the shootings along a rural stretch of Interstate 64, but authorities said more charges were possible.

"We've taken some mighty big steps toward resolution of this case," State Police Superintendent Steven Flaherty said at a news conference Friday. "Everyone can rest compared to the state we were in last night."

State and county police searched a farm in Albemarle County just before 5 a.m. Friday. Another man confronted them with a handgun, and was shot by a county law enforcement officer, police said. Woodson was taken into custody, and the man was taken to a hospital.

Authorities were still investigating whether a second person was involved in the highway shootings, but had not yet identified anyone, they said.

The gunfire began early Thursday on Interstate 64 on a 20-mile stretch between Charlottesville and Waynesboro. Gunshots hit two cars, a van, a tractor-trailer, another vehicle and an unoccupied dump truck. Two people were injured, but not seriously.

Sometime between midnight and 2 a.m., shots also were fired at a bank and a residence in Waynesboro. Police Sgt. Kelly Walker said four bullets struck the building, a sign and an unoccupied van in the parking lot.

Police found a light-colored AMC Gremlin seen on surveillance video around the time shots were fired. The car had been abandoned along a road in Albemarle County. Woodson owns a vehicle that appears similar to the car in the video, police said.

The shootings put motorists and police on edge in a region where memories of the deadly Beltway snipers still haven't faded. Ten people were killed and three wounded in the 2002 attacks in Maryland, the District of Columbia and northern Virginia.

    Va. highway shooting suspect arrested, UT, 28.3.2008, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-28-va-police_N.htm






Police: Georgia Dad Killed Self, 3 Kids


March 22, 2008
Filed at 10:57 a.m. ET
the New York Times


COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) -- Police in western Georgia have determined that a father whose body was found in a wooded field next to those of his three children shot them and himself.

The body of 28-year-old Eddie Harrington was found Wednesday near the family's home in Columbus. Nearby were the remains of his 3-year-old son Cedric Harrington and twins Aliyah and Agana Battle. The girls were nearly 2.

The children's mother told authorities Harrington withdrew $200 from the couple's bank account March 4 to buy a handgun and left with the children that night.

    Police: Georgia Dad Killed Self, 3 Kids, NYT, 22.3.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-BRF-Fugitive-Father.html






Cops: 3 Dead, 3 Hurt in Va. Shootings


March 20, 2008
Filed at 1:00 p.m. ET
The New York Times


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) -- A man who was about to be evicted from his apartment opened fire, killing two people and wounding three others before killing himself, police said Thursday.

Police identified the gunman as William T. Smith, 52. It was not clear why he was being evicted.

Employees at the apartment complex went to Smith's apartment Wednesday afternoon to inspect it prior to his eviction, police spokeswoman Margie Long said.

''At that point, the suspect started to shoot at the employees,'' Long said.

SWAT team members zeroed in on a two-story brick apartment building and began issuing orders by loudspeaker to the gunman to come out around 7 p.m.

Matthew Jette, an area resident, told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper of Norfolk that he and others heard between 10 to 15 shots, starting out slowly then getting faster.

Several streets were closed off and residents were told to stay indoors. A high school was locked down, with participants in after school activities being kept indoors, schools spokeswoman Kathleen O'Hara told the newspaper.

    Cops: 3 Dead, 3 Hurt in Va. Shootings, NYT, 20.3.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Virginia-Shootings.html






Mayors band together against guns


Fri Mar 14, 2008
12:14pm EDT
By Daniel Trotta


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Interstate 95, which runs up the U.S. East Coast, is known to cops as the "Iron Pipeline" -- the conduit of choice for gun smugglers to move their hardware from the southern United States to New York city.

With formidable opponents in the gun manufacturers and gun owners, national politicians do little to stop this traffic, leaving gun control largely in the hands of local leaders.

"Where is the outrage in this country? Well, mayors see it," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "We're the ones who have to go to the funerals. We're the ones that have to look somebody in the eye and say your spouse or your parent or your child is not going to come home."

Since Bloomberg became mayor in 2002, every gun homicide in the city -- including the killing of eight police officers -- has been committed with an illegal gun, police say.

Nationally, the black market is the source for guns used in more than 90 percent of gun crimes.

Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns two years ago, a group that has grown to some 250 mayors representing cities with a population of 50 million in 40 states.

Their goal is to help police stop the flow of illegal guns used in crimes, and they want data on guns used in crimes to be made available to the public.

In the process, they clash with the National Rifle Association, which vigorously defends Americans' constitutional right to bear arms. The NRA wants gun trace data available only to the police.

The Supreme Court hears arguments on the meaning of that constitutional right on March 18.

Meanwhile the issue of gun control has been muted in the campaign for presidential elections in November. The mayors are attempting to force it onto the political agenda.

"I don't know what they are campaigning on. But if you kill 34 people a day in America, it's kind of hard to find an issue that's more important," Bloomberg said. "I think it would be a vote getter rather than a vote loser if they would stand up and tell the public what they would do if they were elected.

There were 12,682 gun homicides in the United States in 2005, the last year data are available from the Centers for Disease Control. All gun deaths totaled 30,694, including categories such as accidents and suicides, an average of 84 per day.

The numbers may astonish foreigners who cannot understand the U.S. passion for defending gun ownership rights. In the month of February alone, there were four episodes of gunmen killing people in public places: a shopping center, a town hall meeting, a pair of college campuses.

"I don't think that the Founding Fathers envisioned people carrying automatic weapons under their coats in a central city," Bloomberg said. "I have no objections to the Second Amendment or to hunters or anything else. I just think common sense says there's certain kinds of behavior that you can't permit because they would endanger society."

The NRA depicted Bloomberg as gun-grabbing octopus on the cover of its April 2007 magazine with the headline "Tentacles!" Bloomberg, 66, who has not fired a gun since he was Boy Scout, laughed at the cover, and he likes to brag about the NRA membership he was given as an anonymous and ironic gift.

"America has this freedom and it's very difficult for non-Americans to understand why we feel so passionately about it. It is the most unique freedom ever given to a people," said Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the NRA.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Eddie Evans)

    Mayors band together against guns, R, 14.3.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN0723397920080314






U.S. passion for guns has roots in hunting


Thu Mar 13, 2008
8:18am EDT
By Ed Stoddard


FORT WORTH (Reuters) - The life-sized stuffed animals at the massive Cabela's store in Fort Worth can give the impression of being in a natural history museum.

But the elephant, bear, mule deer and other creatures on display are all trophies that were shot in the wild by the hunters who come to America's largest outdoor retailer to buy their guns.

"I already have a rifle but I'm thinking of getting a .308," said Darry Ayers, a strapping 19-year-old business student and deer hunter, as he peered at the long rows of rifles and shotguns on display.

The percentage of Americans who hunt is slowly declining but it remains popular and helps explain a national love affair with guns -- an affair that many foreigners find puzzling and critics have linked to high rates of violent crime and shooting sprees.

To hunters and gun owners, the right to bear arms is a cherished freedom tied to the American identity and is one reason the candidates in the U.S. presidential election are not talking about gun control.

"Guns and hunting are deeply associated historically in America," said William Vizzard, an expert on gun control and related issues who chairs the criminal justice department at the University of California Sacramento.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2007 there were about 14.5 million paid licensed hunters in America or about five percent of the population. They bought over 35 million tags, permits and licenses, spending more than $723 million.

There are no exact figures but the industry is a multibillion-dollar one. Cabela's Inc, a listed company that focuses on hunting, fishing and related activities, saw its 2007 revenue grow 13.9 percent over 2006 to a record $2.35 billion.



The hunting culture is most firmly rooted in rural areas, the U.S. heartland and evangelical Christian circles, where some see it as a bonding experience for fathers and sons that helps keep families together.

"When I was growing up Dad-and-son time was often expressed in hunting. It also has a lot to do with the culture of evangelicalism, which is strong in the heartland and rural areas," said Gary Ledbetter, the spokesman for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Prominent religious conservatives who avidly hunt include President George W. Bush and James Dobson, founder of the conservative advocacy group Focus on the Family.

A U.S. survey of licensed hunters and anglers in 2006, commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation, found half of those polled identified themselves as evangelical Christians.

Until the 1960s, the majority of U.S. gun sales were for the rifles and shotguns typically used during the hunt, underscoring the historic link between guns and hunting. That has reversed in the intervening years.

"Today gun stores have a huge inventory of hand guns. The market now is about two-thirds for handguns and assault rifles and one-third for sporting purposes," Vizzard said. There was some overlap between the two but the trend was clear, he said.

In Cabela's, which has a large assortment of handguns in display cases, the emphasis is still on hunting, said sales clerk Tom Walker, standing beneath a long row of stuffed dear heads.

"My general observation would be that about 60 percent of the clients are interested in hunting," he said.

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Eddie Evans)

    U.S. passion for guns has roots in hunting, NYT, 13.3.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN0725100420080313






For some in U.S., guns are a hobby like any other


Wed Mar 12, 2008
8:51am EDT
By Tim Gaynor


DOUGLAS, Arizona (Reuters) - An odd contraption in retired firefighter Alex Black's cluttered garage looks a bit like the hand winch at the top of a well. In fact, it is a machinegun.

Turning the shiny brass handle spat out a withering hail of bullets that transformed modern warfare.

"You march in to battle in straight lines against this, and nobody comes back," said Black, standing beside the hefty, carriage-mounted Colt Gatling Gun, which he restored over the course of a decade.

Black, who lives in this sleepy ranching town on the Arizona-Mexico border, is one of millions of gun collectors in the United States, where authorities estimate that there are more than 200 million firearms held in private hands in a country of 300 million people.

The American affinity for guns may puzzle foreigners who link high ownership rates and liberal gun ownership laws to the 84 gun deaths and 34 gun homicides that occur in the United States each day and wonder why gun control is not an issue in the U.S. presidential election.

The owners are not just urban criminals and drug dealers. There are hunters and home security advocates, and then there are the gun collectors.

"People are 'Oh, you collect guns, you must be bad.' That's nonsense. Gun collectors aren't criminals, they are nobody to be frightened of," says Black, one of several hobby collectors in this small Arizona town.

"I love machinery, and I love history, and history was written with firearms," he said. "They were probably the most spectacular things ever built."

Aside from the rare 1895 machinegun, similar to ones used by Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War in Cuba, the soft-spoken retiree has a large selection of antique military weapons from the 19th and 20th centuries at his home.

The arsenal of revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, rifles and carbines spans conflicts from the American Civil War right up to World War Two, and all the guns are legally held.


Black's friend Lynn Kartchner is another self-described "gun nut" who lives in Douglas. He has a private arsenal of around 100 handguns, shotguns and rifles of all sorts which he uses for everything from hunting prairie dogs and rabbits to target shooting.

"The richer the golfer, the more clubs he owns," he told Reuters at a Sunday morning pistol shoot at the Douglas Rifle & Pistol Club, where he can usually count on meeting up with a number of like-minded enthusiasts.

"You have a golf club for every angle and range, whether you're lying in the grass or lying in the sand trap. It's the same with gun nuts," he said.

When he is out hunting, he carries a small .22 caliber pistol in his pocket in case he stumbles upon a coyote or a jack rabbit. He has shotguns of various gauges to shoot springing quail or wild duck, and rifles to pop off prairie dogs over an afternoon in the countryside with a case of beer.

For target shooting he has everything from small bore target pistols to powerful .45 caliber revolvers for quick-draw cowboy shoots, to semi-automatic assault rifles and heavy caliber sniper rifles for precision tournaments.

"It's a humongous gun," he says of one of one of his favorites, an antique Winchester rifle. "It's been putting bullets one on top of the other since 1935. At 100 meters you can hit a golf ball with every shot."


Kartchner and Black say they take care to keep their weapons secure in locked gun safes and secure rooms to prevent accidents and thefts.

Both are firm believers in the individual right to bear arms to protect themselves and their families, and have a wide variety of firearms which they say are for self defense. The U.S. Supreme Court begins examining that right on March 18. (For a story on the Supreme Court case click on)

Black, in his late sixties, has handguns including a historic Colt 1911 model semiautomatic pistol to protect his home, and says that, while he hopes he never has to shoot anyone, would not hesitate to do so if threatened.

"I like to be self sufficient, I don't want to be a slave to anybody, it's not going to happen," he says.

Kartchner has meticulously prepared the defense of his home.

He keeps a semi-automatic shotgun loaded with buck shot and heavy lead slugs behind the bedroom door, and a high-powered AR-15 assault rifle loaded in the next room.

"Guns are for projecting force," he says matter of factly, distinguishing firearms from other collectibles.

"Mao Zedong said 'power grows from the barrel of a gun,' and indeed it does."

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Eddie Evans)

    For some in U.S., guns are a hobby like any other, R, 12.1.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN0733461220080312






Right to bear arms at heart of high court case


Tue Mar 11, 2008
8:42am EDT
By James Vicini - Analysis


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For the first time in 70 years, the U.S. Supreme Court will take on the question of whether individual Americans have the right to keep and bear arms or whether it a collective right of the people for service in a state militia.

That question is at the heart of a long, impassioned debate about how much power the government has to keep people from owning guns and it could soon be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case about one of the nation's strictest gun control laws.

Set for arguments on March 18 and with a decision expected by late June, the nation's highest court could resolve once and for all the much-disputed meaning of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Written 219 years ago, the amendment says, "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."

Few constitutional law issues have triggered more scholarly debate and historical research on whether the Constitution's authors intended to guarantee an individual right or a collective right tied to service in a state-regulated militia, like today's National Guard.

The arguments follow a series of mass shootings in the past year -- multiple killings on at least three college campuses, two shopping centers and one Missouri town meeting. Gun deaths average 80 a day in the United States, 34 of them homicides, according to Centers for Disease Control data, and yet the gun issue has barely registered in the U.S. presidential campaign.

If the court finds it is an individual right, gun control advocates fear it could place in jeopardy not only the ban on private handgun ownership in the U.S. capital at issue in the case, but also other laws around the country regulating and restricting private possession of firearms.

The Supreme Court's last review of the Second Amendment came in a five-page discussion in an opinion issued nearly 70 years ago that failed to definitively resolve the constitutional issue.

That could change when the justices consider whether a 32-year-old Washington, D.C., law banning private possession of handguns violates the Second Amendment rights of individuals unaffiliated with any state-regulated militia.



Former top U.S. Justice Department officials including former Attorney General Janet Reno, law professors, linguistic experts and historians all argued the Second Amendment protects the right of people only to keep arms for militia service.

On the other side, the Bush administration, the powerful National Rifle Association, a majority of the U.S. Senate and a majority of the House of Representatives argued an individual has the right to possess arms.

The administration, under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, reversed the position the federal government had taken for decades and said in 2001 the Second Amendment protected an individual right to possess firearms for a lawful private purpose.

Solicitor General Paul Clement, the administration's chief advocate before the Supreme Court, filed a brief with the justices that adopted many arguments made previously by legal scholars for an individual right to keep arms.

He said placement of the Second Amendment within the Bill of Rights reinforced the view that it was intended to put certain individual private activities beyond the reach of the national government.

Others disagreed, including 15 historians.

"As histories of the Revolutionary era, we are confident ... that the authors of the Second Amendment would be flabbergasted to learn that in endorsing the republican principle of a well-regulated militia, they were also precluding restrictions on such potentially dangerous property as firearms," they said.

Three professors of linguistics and English said the amendment's purpose was to preserve or perpetuate a well-regulated militia and that it used unmistakably military language.

"The term 'bear arms' is an idiom that means to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight," they said in citing the Oxford English Dictionary.

Former high-ranking U.S. military officers filed a brief that argued another interpretation -- that the amendment guarantees a blend of individual and community rights.

"The Second Amendment ensures both the individual's right to posses firearms, subject to reasonable regulation, and the constitutional goal of collective defense readiness," they said.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

    Right to bear arms at heart of high court case, R, 11.3.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN0722998120080311






TIMELINE: Deadly mass shootings in United States


Tue Mar 11, 2008
8:42am EDT


(Reuters) - Following is a chronology of some of the deadly mass shootings in the United States in the past year, a period in which candidates have been actively campaigning for the November 2008 presidential election:

April 16, 2007 - Virginia Tech, a university in Blacksburg, Virginia, became the site of the deadliest rampage in U.S. history when a gunman killed 32 people and himself.

December 5, 2007 - A gunman opened fire from a balcony in a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska, killing eight people and wounding five, before fatally shooting himself, police said.

February 2, 2008 - Five women were shot dead in a clothing store at a suburban Chicago shopping center in what police said appeared to be a botched robbery. Police were searching for a gunman spotted outside the store by a witness.

Feb 7, 2008 - A gunman killed two police officers and three city officials when he stormed a city council meeting in a St. Louis suburb. The gunman was later shot dead by police.

February 8, 2008 - A nursing student fatally shot two women and killed herself in front of classmates at Louisiana Technical College in the state capital, Baton Rouge.

February 14, 2008 - A man fired into a lecture hall packed with students at North Illinois University, killing five people and wounding 18 before shooting himself dead.

(Writing by Paul Grant, Washington Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Bill Trott)

    TIMELINE: Deadly mass shootings in United States, R, 11.3.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN2312966220080311?virtualBrandChannel=10155






Police: Pa. Stylist Shoots Angry Client


March 7, 2008
Filed at 1:09 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) -- A hairstylist shot an unhappy client after she complained about her haircut, police said.

Lauren Newton, 28, was getting her hair cut Thursday at the home of Monique Reed when the two began to argue about the style, police said.

''She (Reed) went to the bedroom, got a gun, fired a shot in the ceiling,'' Police Chief James Blyth said. Newton, who was trying to flee with her sister, was then shot in the lower back, he said.

Reed, 38, was charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. She remained in jail in this southwestern Pennsylvania town in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Newton's injuries were not considered life threatening. She was taken to a hospital in nearby Pittsburgh for treatment.

The district magistrate's office said Reed had not listed an attorney as of late Thursday.

    Police: Pa. Stylist Shoots Angry Client, NYT, 7.3.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-BRF-Haircut-Shooting.html






Tenn. Children Under Police Protection


March 6, 2008
Filed at 11:49 a.m. ET
The New York Times


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Three youngsters found wounded but alive in a house where six other people were slain are under police protection, and not even their relatives can visit them in the hospital.

Authorities said the children are considered witnesses.

''Nobody will see those children,'' said homicide detective Joe Scott. ''This is a sensitive investigation. We're keeping everything under the wraps right now.''

Police have offered no motive for the killings, which apparently occurred over the weekend at a small brick house in a neighborhood where low-income homes sit near cheap motels and junkyards.

Authorities identified the adult victims Wednesday as Cecil Dotson, 30, who was renting the house; Hollis Seals, 33; Shindri Roberson, 20, and Marissa Rene Williams, 26. They declined to identify the children.

Police put the time of the killings somewhere between Saturday night and Monday evening. Five of those killed were shot and at least one, a child, was stabbed, authorities said. Investigators have ruled out a murder-suicide.

Dotson's sister, Nicole Dotson, said her brother lived in the rental house with Williams, his girlfriend, their four children and a child of his from a previous relationship. The children were ages 9, 5, 4, 2 and 2 months, she said.

Police refused to disclose any information about the surviving children, even to their relatives.

''We don't know who's in the hospital. We don't know who's alive. It's depressing,'' Dotson said.

Residents near the murder scene said gunfire is not unusual in their neighborhood, and no one called police when shots were heard over the weekend.

''I did hear shooting, but I didn't know where it was. Sometimes guys get crazy and just shoot up in the air,'' said Marie Mackey, 33, who was visiting her mother's house a couple of blocks away Saturday night. ''If I had known, I would have called.''

Billy E. Gunn, whose house is behind the home where the bodies were found, said he heard five rapid gunshots and then three slow ones around 9 p.m. Sunday. He said he didn't call police because it's such a common sound.

''It wouldn't have mattered; it takes the police so long to get out here,'' he said.

Ricky Hall, 52, who lives near the home where the bodies were found, says the neighborhood has grown more unkempt and dangerous in the past few years, with many rental homes sitting empty.

Investigators say they have few leads to work with. The Memphis City Council announced a $30,000 reward Wednesday for anyone who can help solve the case.

Police refuse to say if the slayings could be connected to Dotson's violent past.

Court and criminal records reviewed by The Associated Press showed Dotson was ''known to have gang affiliations'' when he joined in an attack on a prison farm inmate in 1995 while serving a four-year sentence for aggravated assault.

At the time Dotson died, a charge of aggravated robbery was pending against him. An affidavit filed by police accused him of driving a van that nearly struck a pedestrian on Jan. 9. When the pedestrian approached the van and yelled, Dotson pulled out a handgun and demanded the man's wallet. Dotson was arrested shortly afterward and identified by the victim.

The other dead adults also have arrest records. Seals was booked into the Shelby County Jail at least a dozen times since 1992. His last arrest was last month, on charges that included unlawful possession of a weapon and cocaine possession, the sheriff's department said.

Roberson had an arrest record on prostitution and drug charges, while Williams had an arrest record for traffic violations, said sheriff's spokesman Steve Shular.


Associated Press writers Woody Baird in Memphis and Rose French in Nashville contributed to this report.

    Tenn. Children Under Police Protection, NYT, 6.3.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Memphis-Shooting.html






Panel advises against gun markings database


Wed Mar 5, 2008
1:43pm EST
By Will Dunham


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An expert panel rejected the idea of a database of ballistic markings from new and imported guns sold in the United States, saying on Wednesday it may not yield practical leads to solve crimes.

Maryland and New York have such databases for guns sold or made in those states, and the U.S. Justice Department asked the National Research Council to assess the wisdom of creating one nationally.

The council's panel of experts said the basic assumption behind forensic firearms identification -- that a gun leaves marks on bullets and cartridge cases unique to that weapon that remain unchanged after repeated firings -- has not been proven.

So-called toolmarks are created on cartridge cases and bullets when a gun is fired. These microscopic marks can be formed when a bullet scrapes against grooves on the inside of the gun barrel or when high gas pressure forces the walls of a cartridge case against a gun's firing chamber.

Images from more than a million guns would be entered into such a database every year and many of these would have similar toolmarks, according to John Rolph, a statistics professor at the University of Southern California who headed the panel.

"Because current technology for collecting and comparing toolmarks is not sufficiently precise in distinguishing extremely fine marks among some of the images, searches would return too many possible matches to be practically useful," Rolph told reporters.

"In addition, the type and brand of ammunition used in the initial firing of a gun would not necessarily be the same as the ammunition used later in a crime," meaning this could be a source of error in generating possible matches, Rolph added.

With such a national system, once a gun is sold, images of cartridge cases from a test firing of that gun would go into a database. Investigators who collect ballistic evidence at crime scenes could search the database for possible matches.

The report did not weigh the admissibility of gun toolmark evidence in court. But the panel advised firearms examiners against stating that "matches" of ballistic evidence identify a particular gun to the exclusion of all others.

The panel appointed by the council, which advises U.S. policymakers on science, engineering, technology and health issues, did find that current ballistic imaging technology can produce important leads to investigate crimes.

While opposing a national database for images of ballistic markings from new and imported guns, the panel urged further research on a technique called "microstamping" in which unique marks are imprinted on guns or ammunition that later may be useful in tracking weapons used in crimes.

Computerized imaging has enabled law enforcement authorities to place toolmark images in databases of crime-related ballistic evidence and search for images of bullets or cases with similar marks since the 1980s.

The committee urged improvements for an existing ballistic image database administered by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that contains images from crime scenes and criminal suspects' weapons.

(Editing by Maggie Fox and Vicki Allen)

    Panel advises against gun markings database, R, 5.3.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN0560943120080305







Arizona Weighs Bill to Allow Guns on Campuses


March 5, 2008
The New York Times


PHOENIX — Horrified by recent campus shootings, a state lawmaker here has come up with a proposal in keeping with the Taurus .22-caliber pistol tucked in her purse: Get more guns on campus.

The lawmaker, State Senator Karen S. Johnson, has sponsored a bill, which the Senate Judiciary Committee approved last week, that would allow people with a concealed weapons permit — limited to those 21 and older here — to carry their firearms at public colleges and universities. Concealed weapons are generally not permitted at most public establishments, including colleges.

Ms. Johnson, a Republican from Mesa, said she believed that the recent carnage at Northern Illinois University could have been prevented or limited if an armed student or professor had intercepted the gunman. The police, she said, respond too slowly to such incidents and, besides, who better than the people staring down the barrel to take action?

She initially wanted her bill to cover all public schools, kindergarten and up, but other lawmakers convinced her it stood a better chance of passing if it were limited to higher education.

“I feel like our kindergartners are sitting there like sitting ducks,” Ms. Johnson said last week when the bill passed the committee by a 4-to-3 vote.

This is a generally gun-friendly state, where people are allowed to carry a weapon on their hip without a permit as long as people can see it. Even so, Ms. Johnson acknowledges that her views come from the far right — she recently described herself, half-jokingly, she says, as a “right-wing wacko.”

Still, the proposal has troubled advocates of gun control here and elsewhere because it appears to be gaining popularity and has fed long-smoldering debates over restrictions on carrying firearms.

Since the Virginia Tech killings last April, other states have weighed similar legislation, to the disbelief of opponents, who note that the odds of lethal attacks are small, despite the publicity they attract.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a Washington nonprofit organization, said 15 states were considering legislation that would authorize or make it easier for people to carry guns on school or college campuses under certain conditions. Those states include Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Virginia, according to the center, but it considers the Arizona proposal particularly egregious because it would not only allow students and faculty to carry such weapons, but staff members as well.

Utah, the organization said, is the only state with a law that expressly allows people with a concealed-weapon permit to carry guns on college campuses. That law, adopted in 2004 and upheld by Utah’s Supreme Court in 2006, arose out of concern that a state law allowing concealed weapons was not being enforced on college campuses.

The critics of such laws predict that they would cause more problems, including making it hard for the police to sort a dangerous gunman from a crowd of others with guns. They also argue that the guns would make it easier for people barely out of adolescence, or perhaps emotionally troubled, to respond lethally to typical campus frustrations like poor grades or failed romances.

Fred Boice, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s three public universities, said he sympathized with people concerned about campus safety. In October 2002, a nursing student at the University of Arizona in Tucson who was failing his classes shot and killed three professors before killing himself.

But Mr. Boice said he believed security and a system of alerting people about crises had been improved since then, and he worried that disputes best handled by campus security could quickly turn deadly with more guns on campus.

“I grew up in the country and a lot of people had guns,” Mr. Boice said. “But my father said never carry a gun unless you are prepared to kill somebody, and I believe that.”

Proponents concede the proposal could face a fight, even in this state’s Republican-controlled Legislature. The police chiefs at Arizona’s universities and several law enforcement groups have condemned the bill.

“This is a very polarizing issue,” said John Wentling, vice president of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights group that has pushed for the bill.

Even if Ms. Johnson’s bill eventually passes both chambers, it will probably take some convincing for Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, to sign it. Ms. Napolitano rejected a bill a few years ago that would have lifted a prohibition on carrying loaded firearms into bars, restaurants and other places that serve alcohol.

Ms. Johnson’s proposal has gotten a mixed reception on the campuses.

Jason Lewis, 23, an aerospace engineering major at the University of Arizona, said he was mugged twice on campus last year, at knife point and at gunpoint. He now has a concealed-weapons permit and carries his gun everywhere he can.

“It would at least let me protect myself,” said Mr. Lewis, one of a few students to testify in support of the bill at a recent hearing. “If word gets out students are arming themselves, criminals will be, like, ‘Maybe we should back off.’ It will be a deterrent.”

But Cole Hickman, a student at Arizona State University in Tempe, said he had sought to rally opposition to the bill, concerned that, among other things, it would further jeopardize people during a mass shooting. Proponents of the bill, Mr. Hickman said, underestimate the difficulty in shooting a live target in a chaotic episode.

“If another student in the room or a teacher had a gun and opened fire they may hurt other students,” he said, “because unlike police officers, concealed-weapon permit holders are not necessarily well-trained in shooting in crowds and reacting to those kinds of situations.”

Ms. Johnson is not fazed by the skeptics.

“We are not the wild, wild West like people think we are,” she said. “But people are more independent thinkers here when it comes to security.”

    Arizona Weighs Bill to Allow Guns on Campuses, NYT, 5.3.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/us/05guns.html







Our view on gun restrictions:

Keep parks free of firearms


3 March 2008
USA Today


Effort to change long-standing rules would ‘solve’ non-existent problems.

Suppose you bring the kids to Grand Teton National Park for a vacation and set out on a hike around Jenny Lake. Halfway around, you encounter an unfriendly hiker carrying a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol.

Still feeling like you're in an oasis of tranquility? Welcome to the national parks as envisioned by the National Rifle Association and its friends in Washington.

From its inception, the National Park Service has required that guns be unloaded and kept out of sight. This helps park rangers control poaching and makes parks a place of refuge for both people and animals.

But the NRA has other ideas. It helped persuade half the U.S. Senate to sign a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne asking for a review of the ban on loaded weapons. The NRA and the senators want national park rules to match the rules in each state. So loaded guns could be carried openly at Grand Teton because that is Wyoming's rule for its state parks.

This, the NRA argues, would help visitors protect themselves from dangerous people and animals. Kempthorne, who appears to be taking the election-year gambit seriously, is to announce revisions by April 30.

Instead of listening to the gun lobby, which is also trying to weaken gun restrictions on college campuses and other off-limit domains, Kempthorne should listen to park rangers. Allowing gun-toting visitors into the parks, says the rangers' association, would cause more problems than it would cure.

Crime is a minor problem in national parks. In 2006, when the national parks drew 273 million visitors, there were 11 homicides. By contrast, Washington, D.C., with a population of about 600,000, had 181 homicides in 2007.

As for animal attacks, those are very rare, say the rangers, and in fact mace and bear spray are more effective against bears. Of more concern are poachers who raid the parks, particularly because bear parts are valuable on international markets. Looser gun rules would make them harder to catch.

Additionally, visitors unaccustomed to wildlife can misread an animal's intentions. An elk that snorts and paws isn't necessarily getting ready to charge, and a bear that rises on its hind legs is more likely to be improving its view than preparing to attack. But some armed visitors may not take a chance, endangering both animals and other visitors.

That very scenario played out at the Lodgepole Campground in California's Sequoia National Park when Doug Morris was chief ranger. A camper needlessly shot a bear, which then charged dangerously around the campground before settling down to die in front of a horrified family. The camper was cited for both having a loaded gun and killing wildlife, Morris said.

Contrary to what the NRA claims, changes are unlikely to make rules less confusing. How many Georgians know Montana's rules on allowing weapons in state parks? And what about parks that straddle state lines?

The National Rifle Association has every right to promote its vision of a society where practically everyone can carry guns anywhere. That doesn't mean the government has to listen.

Posted at 12:21 AM/ET, March 03, 2008 in Environment - Editorial, Gun Control - Editorial, Politics, Government - Editorial, USA TODAY editorial | Permalink

    Our view on gun restrictions: Keep parks free of firearms, UT, copié 3.3.2008,  http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2008/03/our-view-on-gun.html#more






Give gun owners uniformity

Park visitors need protection from human, animal threats.


3 March 2008
USA Today
By Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre is executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

Why does USA TODAY object to uniform laws?

The rules of safe driving don't change when you travel from a state highway onto a federal one. Why should rules for gun owners change when they travel from a state park to a federal park or wildlife refuge?

As it is, gun owners who enjoy going afield in our parks face a confusing nationwide patchwork of rules and regulations, governed by different agencies and bureaucracies. It's inconsistent, burdensome and unnecessary. More than half the Senate agrees.

So the administration's new proposal would simply provide uniformity. Federal parks and wildlife refuges would mirror state firearm laws for state parks. Besides, there's plenty of wild in the wilderness — both animal and human — that can endanger law-abiding hikers, anglers, campers and birdwatchers.

The National Park Service has no legal obligation to protect you. Why should it have legal authority to prevent you from protecting yourself?

Federal park firearm regulations are outdated. They don't reflect changes in state laws over the past 25 years with respect to carrying firearms.

Today, 48 states have systems to issue permits to law-abiding citizens to carry firearms for protection. Most states allow citizens to carry firearms in state parks. Federal parks should follow suit.

Why should you forfeit your rights when you step from a state park into a national park? You shouldn't. That's why this simple modernization is so urgently needed.

Under this proposal, if a state allowed visitors to carry firearms at its state parks, visitors to federal parks within that state would enjoy the same freedom. If a state didn't allow visitors to carry firearms at state parks, the same would apply on federal parks within that state.

It's far past time to overhaul the jumble of firearm regulations on federal lands, and to restore the rights of law-abiding gun owners who wish to carry firearms for lawful purposes. Better yet, this proposal follows the lead of state law, proving its goal is to reflect the will of the people — not editorial boards.

Wayne LaPierre is executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

Posted at 12:20 AM/ET, March 03, 2008 in Environment - Editorial, Gun Control - Editorial, Politics, Government - Editorial, USA TODAY editorial | Permalink

    Give gun owners uniformity, UT, 3.3.2008, http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2008/03/give-gun-owners.html




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