It was an exciting exchange of ideas as we came together for a visioning session on Nov. 27. There was a robust exchange of perspectives about what “success” will look like and how we might get there. Thanks to everyone who joined in! Thanks to the Daily Local News for covering the event. Click on the link below to see what they reported.
Gun Violence and Mental Illness
We had great coverage of our Mental Illness & Gun Violence meeting on Sept. 25
Andrea Morganstein a licensed counselor, was one of three speakers who spoke about mental illness and gun violence. She pointed out that people with diagnosed mental illness are more likely to shoot and kill themselves than others. Photo by Randy Lyons.
DLN Coverage, The Cost of Gun Violence (Please note there was one mis-representation inadvertently made in the DLN article… the presenter said the cost of school security for the WCASD was about $1.5 million over several years. This was noted as an annual cost in the DLN article. )
We also got a nice write up covering a presentation we made at West Grove Friends Meeting.
The Chester County Press also wrote a nice editorial on the issue of gun violence:
Gun Sense Chester County July Meeting: Considering the Cost of Gun Violence
Thanks to all who joined us for our July 25 meeting on the Costs of Gun Violence.
Main speaker Lee Dastur (pictured below) gave a great overview of the different types of financial costs, including items such as:
- Medical costs of care for injured
- Court costs to try gun violence related cases
- Prison costs for those convicted of gun violence
- Security costs for schools, court houses, state houses, arenas, and more
- Administrative costs to run databases such as background check systems and issuing licenses/permits for items such as concealed carry permits
- Economic costs where injured individuals are not able to pursue the career for which they trained, or perhaps work at all
- Psychological counseling costs to deal with post traumatic stress following gun violence events
Lee’s commentary was followed by moving narratives shared by retired Emergency Department nurse Dianne Lanham, who spoke of the emotional toll seeing gun injuries and death can take on first responders and medical staff. She spoke of nurses joining together to cry after seeing a young child die following being accidentally shot.
She urged all those who are gun owners or know gun owners to be sure guns are securely stored away from children and teens — noting that gun suicide is a substantial problem.
Finally, Liz and Joe Loeper, parents of gun shot victim Jamie Loeper, shared the experience of getting a call saying Jamie had been injured and then learning he had died. While his shooting was an accident, it occurred because a co-worker felt he needed to carry a gun for self-protection and then the gun went off accidentally. Like every other gun death, a tragedy for each of those involved.
How is gun violence costing you? In tax dollars? In changes to the way you behave within our culture? In mourning the death or injury of someone you cared about?
Speaker Lee Dastur
Finally, signing letters to our legislators and dropping them off in the elected officials’ offices.
A productive day!
We have heard through the grapevine that House Judiciary Chairman Marsico, which is where most gun related bills are first considered, is inclined to release some bills from committee onto the House floor. We hope that is true!
Thanks Shannon Mannon (and her husband Mike who also assisted) and Peter Alois! Check out the video! 3 Minute Storyteller on Common Ground
The view from the northern boundary of the Old Courthouse property,looking across High Street toward Market Street.
Mike “The Gun Guy” Weisser, PhD, told the audience that residents of Parkland, Florida would never be the same, with everyone scared, after a Feb. 14 school shooting that took 17 lives.
Gun Sense regularly lobbies elected officials and runs educational programs.
“To advocate for anything you have to know what you’re talking about and what the other side is talking about,” Weisser said. “The real challenge to you is to learn just not what you think you should say, but to learn the real facts.
“Focus on the half-truths and know what is behind them.”
Gun Sense Chester County is a non-partisan, all-volunteer organization that welcomes both gun owners and non-gun owners who share a common ground and support an end to gun violence.
A member the audience asked what an “assault rifle” was used for and Weisser replied simply that it was designed to assault.
Weisser noted that “modern sporting rifles,” with Olympic-level accuracy, allowing a shooter to reload without losing sight of a target, contain large magazines and fire rapidly, should be banned.
In 1960, a Gallup poll asked Americans whether hand guns should be banned like they now are in “every other advanced country,” he said.
Sixty percent were then in favor of such a ban.
That time has passed. A recent poll showed that only 22 percent of Americans now support such a ban.
As part of the Gun Control Act of 1968, legislators decided to not regulate the lethality of guns but to regulate people.
Felons are not allowed to own guns.
“Nobody wants to be told how to behave,” Weisser said. “We don’t trust you, and whether the person you gave or sold the gun to is as responsible as you.
“An assault rifle creates an environment where the issue of gun lethality needs to be discussed.”
Weiser talked about his 30-year career selling firearms.
“Virtually every one of those sales was impulsive – on a moment,” he said. “It’s impulse.
“People buy guns because they like them.”
The average gun buyer spends as much time deciding what gun to buy as he does when buying a lottery ticket at a convenience store, according to Weisser.
The Gun Guy said he bought his first “real” gun at age 12 at a Florida flea market. He first owned a Red Rider BB gun.
“You know how many times I shot Geronimo in my backyard?” he said.
The Gun Guy suggested that everyone owning a gun, a product that does not wear out, should go through safety training.
Most gun dealers and a majority of the gun industry are opposed to training and universal background checks because gun sales would decrease, he said.
Weisser was asked why he stays a member, and continues to financially support, the NRA.
“If I need to have any influence at all, I need to be inside the tent,” he said.
Boyd Myers of West Chester attended the event and said that education for both sides is essential. He also said it was an honor to sit in a room with NRA members and non-gun owners who are in favor of stopping gun violence.
Mike “The Gun Guy” Delivers Thought-Provoking Remarks at Two Area Events
Photo by Randy Lyons
Michael Weisser, PhD, also known as “Mike the Gun Guy” delivered two thought-provoking speeches on Saturday, March 3 in Devon and West Chester. Mike covered a diverse array of topics including the concept of “virtuous violence,” the nature of guns as a regulated consumer product, the evolution of firearms marketing, and changes in public opinion regarding handgun ownership in the U.S.
One interesting concept Mike broached was the possibility of regulating firearms according to the degree of lethality… guns that are less likely to cause significant injury or death would be more lightly regulated, guns that are rapid fire capability and have high-capacity might be more heavily regulated.
Mike’s opinions were his own, but he left everyone in the audience with plenty to consider. We appreciate his time and thank everyone who joined the program!
Rep. Tim Hennessey Signs on to HB 1400
Gun Sense Chester County volunteers recently met with PA Rep. Tim Hennessey (PA District 26) to discuss HB 1400, which would close the existing gun purchase “background check loophole.” This loophole allows “long guns” (including AR-15s) to be sold without a pre-purchase background check through private sales. We appreciate Rep. Hennessey’s support on this bill. Thank you to (l to r) Kristine Gordon-Watson, Martha Edwards, Lana Pellegrino, Rep. Tim Hennessey, and George Edwards for spending time on this important issue.
Members & Guests Meeting: 1/29/18
Gun Sense Chester County gets lowdown on state legislative process
Our Photos and Comments
We had a nice turnout for a very informative presentation on how the Pennsylvania legislative process works. The program was presented by Rep. Carolyn Comitta’s Chief of Staff, Christina Sappey (pictured middle, in black jacket, above) who gave an excellent presentation and answered many questions.
A general overview of the PA Legislative process is available here: Making Law in PA
WEST CHESTER >> Three dozen marchers don’t want to forget the collective pain and suffering experienced with the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six lives were snuffed out in seven minutes.
The march marked the five-year anniversary of the mass killing. Twenty of the victims were children.
“The 5th Anniversary Remembrance” started out at The Charles A. Melton Arts and Education Center. Marchers held high T-Shirts with the names and ages of each shooting victim.
The procession of about three dozen members of the organizations Gun Sense Chester County, Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence and Delaware County United to Prevent Gun Violence, proceeded to march up Market Street and hold a second brief ceremony at the steps of the Historic Chester County Courthouse.
Each victim’s name and age was mouthed and a hand bell was rung to mark their passing.
Twenty-six years ago, Starr Cummin Bright was randomly shot in a church. She detailed her long and difficult recovery efforts.
“This can’t go on,” she said, “We can’t continue to lose children like this.
“This doesn’t make any sense. What happened to me can happen to anybody. I am a gunshot survivor.”
Coatesville’s Mike Young carried a shirt with the name, Josephine Gay, a 7-year-old Sandy Hook victim.
Young said the experience was emotional.
“Overall, it is sad that this young life was taken away,” Young said.
Ann Colby-Cummings, chair of the board of directors of the 400-member Gun Sense Chester County, said that people should remember.
Colby-Cummings supports universal background checks for all gun purchases.
“Is not every life lost unnecessarily to a gunshot a tragedy?” she asked, “One worthy of reflection and the question, ‘How might we have avoided this?’”
Colby-Cummings answered the question.
“We can set a sorely needed example in our divided nation by coming together to listen to diverse viewpoints and to identify common ground and work to implement change in areas there is already agreement.”
Gun Sense Chester County is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that welcomes both gun owners and non-gun owners to the group.
Members believe that establishing common ground is the solution. The group focuses on discussion of both gun and non-gun owners, educating residents, and working with elected officials to advocate change.
“In the five years since Sandy Hook Elementary, Congress has not passed any major legislation on gun regulation,” Colby-Cummins said. “As we sit here today, polls show that a majority of gun owners and those who don’t own guns want background checks before every purchase.
“Despite the fact that both groups want background checks for every gun purchase, we still don’t have that in Pennsylvania or the nation.”
Pew Research Center polls show that about 77 percent of voting gun owners and about 87 percent of those who don’t own guns believe that background checks should be in place.
A Quinnipiac University poll showed that about 91 percent of voters support a ban on sale of guns to people convicted of a major crime, about 62 percent favor stricter regulations on ammunition sales and about 74 percent support a ban on gun modifications that can make a gun work like a fully automatic weapon.
“This is why we are working hard to educate people about gun violence and gun regulations to engage in finding a common ground and to advocate with elected officials,” Colby-Cummings said.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed HR 38. The bill would mandate concealed carry reciprocity and could take away Pennsylvania’s right to control who can carry concealed guns.
If the bill gains final passage, it would make it easier for gun owners to carry hidden guns across state lines, with all states forced to recognize state laws enforcing few or no concealed carry restrictions.
Speaker Bryan Miller, of Heeding God’s Call, was pleased to report that congressional Republicans from the Philadelphia area, U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello, R-6, Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8, and Pat Meehan, R-7, voted against the legislation. He said those votes occurred due to advocacy.
“That wouldn’t have happened two years ago or five years ago,” Miller said. “We were paying attention to it and let them know that there are consequences to their vote.”
The group Harmonium, featuring Judy Perri and Craig Talbot, lovingly sang several songs, including “Imagine,” by John Lennon, a gun violence victim.