Tag Archives: aurora

Illinois’ 2nd largest city to compile list of ‘habitual drunkards’

The police department in Illinois’ second largest city is going to compile a “habitual drunkard” list to help fight public intoxication.

Authorities say they got the idea from Madison, Wisconsin, which has a similar policy.

Aurora Police Department Sgt. Tom McNamara says the list will have “certain clientele” whom police and fire departments see regularly. The Beacon-News reported that includes people whom police and fire personnel transport six times or more in a 120-day period.

The City Council approved keeping the list this week as part of an overhaul to city liquor laws. Aurora is roughly 40 miles west of Chicago.

Police say the goal is public safety. Those on the list won’t be able to purchase liquor in Aurora and local businesses are expected to comply.

FBI studies dramatic increase in mass shootings

The number of shootings in which a gunman wounds or kills multiple people has increased dramatically in recent years, with the majority of attacks in the last decade occurring at a business or a school, according to an FBI report released Sept. 25.

The study focused on 160 “active shooter incidents” between 2000 and 2013. Those are typically defined as cases in which a gunman in an attack shoots or attempts to shoot people in a populated area.

The goal of the report, which excluded shootings that are gang and drug related, was to compile accurate data about the attacks and to help local police prepare for or respond to similar killings in the future, federal law enforcement officials said.

“These incidents, the large majority of them, are over in minutes. So it’s going to have to be a teaching and training of the best tactics, techniques and procedures to our state and local partners,” said James F. Yacone, an FBI assistant director who oversees crisis response and was involved in the report.

According to the report, an average of six shooting incidents occurred in the first seven years that were studied. That average rose to more than 16 per year in the last seven years of the study. That period included the 2012 shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as last year’s massacre at the Washington Navy Yard in which a gunman killed 12 people before dying in a police shootout.

The majority of the shootings occurred either at a business or a school, university or other education facility, according to the study, conducted in conjunction with Texas State University. Other shootings have occurred in open spaces, on military properties, and in houses of worship and health care facilities.

A total of more than 1,000 people were either killed or wounded in the shootings. In about one-quarter of the cases, the shooter committed suicide before the police arrived. The gunman acted alone in all but two of the cases. The shooters were female in at least six of the incidents.

Not all of the cases studied involved deaths or even injuries. In one 2006 case in Joplin, Missouri, a 13-year-old boy brought a rifle and handgun into a middle school, but his rifle jammed after he fired one shot. The principal then escorted the boy out of school and turned him over to the police.

Law enforcement officials who specialize in behavioral analysis say the motives of gunmen vary but many have a real, or perceived, personally held grievance that they feel mandates an act of violence. Though it’s hard to say why the number of shootings has increased, officials say they believe many shooters are inspired by past killings and the resulting notoriety.

“The copycat phenomenon is real,” said Andre Simons of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. “As more and more notable and tragic events occur, we think we’re seeing more compromised, marginalized individuals who are seeking inspiration from those past attacks.”

Beyond studying the shootings, the FBI has promoted better training for local law enforcement, invariably the first responders.

Time is ripe for tackling gun control

The people of Aurora, Colo., had just begun returning to normalcy after the July 20 massacre at a cinema there when Milwaukeeans were hit with the news that a hate attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek had left six worshippers near the Texas A&M University campus, killing two and wounding four before he was gunned down by police.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the Texas case was the 12th mass shooting in the nation since the beginning of June. FBI statistics show guns are used in 67 percent of all homicides.

The National Rifle Association, which promotes the ownership and use of guns, is possibly the strongest and most effective lobbying group in the nation. Few elected officials will stand up to the all-powerful NRA. Even President Barack Obama has caved in to the group on such important policies as regulating the international small arms trade.

The NRA contends that guns don’t kill – people do. But according to the circular reasoning behind this bumper-sticker philosophy, everybody should be entitled to a stockpile of H-bombs and chemical war agents.

Americans owned about 70 million firearms in 1999m and the number has been steadily climbing. Since the Tea Party began liberalizing access to guns, the number in circulation has grown to an estimated 260 million to 300 million.

Tea Party officials also have eliminated most restrictions on where and how firearms can be carried and used. At a time when there’s widespread economic hardship and unprecedented polarization in the United States, it would be miraculous if this set of conditions did not have catastrophic results.

Not all deaths by firearms are the result of crimes. In 2010, for example, 11,015 homicides were committed using guns, but firearms were used in 19,308 suicides and caused 600 accidental deaths. In addition, there were about 200,000 non-fatal injuries involving firearms.

The World Health Organization studied and compared firearm deaths in 23 countries in 2003. The total U.S. population that year was 290.8 million, while the combined population of the other 22 countries was 563.5 million.

Yet 80 percent of all firearm deaths in the 23 high-income countries in 2003 occurred in the U.S, where guns rank among the top ten causes of death.

Recent events have created an opportunity for progressives to counter the NRA’s propaganda and make a case for gun-control policies.

Democratic leaders in three big states have used the recent shootings to push bills to crack down on assault weapons and ammunition sales. But these scattered efforts have not gained traction in Congress or the presidential campaign, and we have yet to see an orchestrated gun-control effort emerge.

It’s disappointing that progressive leaders are not pushing harder and louder to address this critical health issue. Not only disappointing, but cowardly and shameful.

Doctors target gun violence as social disease

Public health experts, in the wake of recent mass shootings in the U.S., are calling for a fresh look at gun violence as a social disease.

What is needed, they say, is a public health approach to the problem, like the highway safety measures, product changes and driving laws that slashed deaths from car crashes decades ago, even as the number of vehicles on the road rose.

One example: Guardrails are now curved to the ground instead of having sharp metal ends that stick out and pose a hazard in a crash.

“People used to spear themselves and we blamed the drivers for that,” said Dr. Garen Wintemute, an emergency medicine professor who directs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis.

It wasn’t enough back then to curb deaths just by trying to make people better drivers, and it isn’t enough now to tackle gun violence by focusing solely on the people doing the shooting, he and other doctors say.

They want a science-based, pragmatic approach based on the reality that we live in a society saturated with guns and need better ways of preventing harm from them.

The need for a new approach crystallized earlier this month for one of the nation’s leading gun violence experts, Dr. Stephen Hargarten. He found himself treating victims of the Sikh temple shootings at the emergency department he heads in Milwaukee. Seven people were killed, including the gunman, and three were seriously injured.

It happened two weeks after the shooting that killed 12 people and injured 58 at a movie theater in Colorado, and two days before a man pleaded guilty to killing six people and wounding 13, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson, Ariz., last year.

“What I’m struggling with is, is this the new social norm? This is what we’re going to have to live with if we have more personal access to firearms,” said Hargarten, emergency medicine chief at Froedtert Hospital and director of the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “We have a public health issue to discuss. Do we wait for the next outbreak or is there something we can do to prevent it?”

About 260 million to 300 million firearms are owned by civilians in the United States; about one-third of American homes have one. Guns are used in two-thirds of homicides, according to the FBI. About 9 percent of all violent crimes involve a gun — roughly 338,000 cases each year.

Mass shootings don’t seem to be on the rise, but not all police agencies report details like the number of victims per shooting and reporting lags by more than a year, so recent trends are not known.

“The greater toll is not from these clusters but from endemic violence, the stuff that occurs every day and doesn’t make the headlines,” said Wintemute, the California researcher.

More than 73,000 emergency room visits in 2010 were for firearm-related injuries, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

At the same time, violent crime has been falling and the murder rate is less than half what it was two decades ago. And Gallup polls have shown support for stricter gun laws has been falling since 1990. Last year 55 percent of Americans said gun laws should remain the same or become more lenient.

Dr. David Satcher tried to make gun violence a public health issue when he became CDC director in 1993. Four years later, laws that allow the carrying of concealed weapons drew attention when two women were shot at an Indianapolis restaurant after a patron’s gun fell out of his pocket and accidentally fired. Ironically, the victims were health educators in town for an American Public Health Association convention.

That same year, Hargarten won a federal grant to establish the nation’s first Firearm Injury Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“Unlike almost all other consumer products, there is no national product safety oversight of firearms,” he wrote in the Wisconsin Medical Journal.

That’s just one aspect of a public health approach. Other elements:

• “Host” factors: What makes someone more likely to shoot, or someone more likely to be a victim. One recent study found firearm owners were more likely than those with no firearms at home to binge drink or to drink and drive, and other research has tied alcohol and gun violence. That suggests that people with driving under the influence convictions should be barred from buying a gun, Wintemute said.

• Product features: Which firearms are most dangerous and why. Manufacturers could be pressured to fix design defects that let guns go off accidentally, and to add technology that allows only the owner of the gun to fire it (many police officers and others are shot with their own weapons). Bans on assault weapons and multiple magazines that allow rapid and repeat firing are other possible steps.

• “Environmental” risk factors: What conditions allow or contribute to shootings. Gun shops must do background checks and refuse to sell firearms to people convicted of felonies or domestic violence misdemeanors, but those convicted of other violent misdemeanors can buy whatever they want. The rules also don’t apply to private sales, which one study estimates as 40 percent of the market.

• Disease patterns, observing how a problem spreads. Gun ownership — a precursor to gun violence — can spread “much like an infectious disease circulates,” said Daniel Webster, a health policy expert and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore.

“There’s sort of a contagion phenomenon” after a shooting, where people feel they need to have a gun for protection or retaliation, he said.

That’s already evident in the wake of the Colorado movie-theater shootings during a screening of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Last week, reports popped up around the nation of people bringing guns to the “Batman” movie. Some of them said they did so for protection.