TIME Crime

See Pictures of the Weekend of Protests Around St. Louis

More acts of civil disobedience are planned beginning on Monday

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in and around St. Louis over the weekend, calling for justice after two racially charged police shootings since August.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that several days of demonstrations called “Ferguson October,” which marked just over two months since unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer, gave way to a sit-in at St. Louis University during a rally for Vonderrit Myers Jr., another black teenager who was fatally shot on Oct. 8. Police say Myers fired at them first, but his family insists he was unarmed. Additional acts of civil disobedience are planned beginning on Monday.

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

TIME Guns

California Law Allows Family Members to Remove Relative’s Guns for Safety

California Legalizes Bitcoin
California Gov. Jerry Brown looks on during a news conference at Google headquarters on September 25, 2012. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

First law of its kind in the U.S.

California residents can now petition a judge to temporarily remove a close relative’s firearms if they fear their family member will commit gun violence, thanks to a new safety measure signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Under the “Gun Violence Restraining Order” law, a successful petition would allow a judge to remove the close relative’s guns for at least 21 days, with the option to extend that period to a year, pending an additional hearing, according to Reuters. The law is the first of its kind in the U.S., and will be an extension of existing legislation that temporarily prohibits people with domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms.

“If it can save one life, one family from that agony, it will be worth it,” said Democratic California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, during the bill’s debate. Many Republic state senators argued that the law would infringe upon the Second Amendment, and that there were already sufficient regulations in place.

The new law was introduced after Santa Barbara police in May were legally unable to confiscate the weapons of a man who later went on a shooting spree that killed six people, despite his family’s having expressed concerns to authorities that he would become violent.

TIME Guns

Louisiana Restaurant Owner Gives a Discount to Gun Owners

"I just need to see a weapon"

A local restaurant owner in Louisiana will give a 10 percent discount to any customers that show him their guns—and not the arm muscle kind.

Kevin Cox, owner of Bergeron’s Restaurant in Port Allen, is bucking a corporate trend by encouraging, rather than banning, firearms in his Cajun food establishment. Cox said he’s frustrated with chains like Target, which requested in July that customers not bring their weapons into stores, NBC33 reports.

“I keep hearing so much about people banning guns,” Cox told NBC33. “Target’s banning guns and these people are banning guns. Don’t they realize that that’s where people with guns are going to go? I want to take the opposite approach. How can I make my place safer?”

Cox said some 15 to 20 people take him up on the discount offer every day.

“I just need to see a weapon. I need you to be carrying a gun,” he told NBC33.

[NBC33]

TIME Guns

Texas’ Plan to Allow Alcohol Sales at Gun Shows Gets Shot Down

US-POLITICS-GUNS-NRA
Convention goers check out handguns equipped with Crimson Trace laser sights at the143rd NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 25, 2014. Karen Bleier —AFP/Getty Images

Gun show operators felt the combination of booze and bullets was unsafe

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) withdrew Tuesday a proposal to allow sales of alcohol at some gun shows after receiving a barrage of public comments against the plan.

The plan would have enforced strict conditions, including a ban on live ammunition and requiring the show’s venue to have a liquor license, the Associated Press reports. Still, many critics, including gun show operators, felt that mixing guns and alcohol was dangerous.

“I am a licensed gun dealer. I think the sale of alcohol at gun shows is unwise,” wrote one person commenting on the plan. “As an industry, we are already under a microscope. From a safety view point, the sale of alcohol at gun shows is pure folly. I am against this.”

Under current laws, a liquor-licensed venue hosting a gun show is forbidden to sell alcohol during the show as well as during the set up and take down processes, according to the TABC website.

[AP]

 

TIME Research

Gun Fatality Rates Vary Wildly By State, Study Finds

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg with Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y. at a photo op in the Cannon House Office Building with mayors from around the country participating in the 2007 National Summit of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg with Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y. at a photo op in the Cannon House Office Building with mayors from around the country participating in the 2007 National Summit of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Scott J. Ferrell—CQ-Roll Call,Inc./Getty Images

While the national mortality rate stayed level between 2000 and 2010, death rates rose in Massachusetts and Florida and declined in states like California

The rate of death by firearm remained constant in the United States over the 2000s, according to a new study in health journal BMJ — but the situation varied dramatically between states.

Research found that the rates of gun fatalities rose in Massachusetts and Florida between 2000 and 2010 and declined in states like California, North Carolina and Arizona.

“We showed no change in national firearm mortality rates during 2000–2010, but showed distinct state-specific patterns with racial and ethnic variation and by intent,” the study reads.

State gun restrictions appeared to have a varying effect on gun fatality rates, according to the study. California, for instance, has some of the most stringent laws regarding gun ownership and saw a decline in violence. But Massachusetts enacted tough gun laws in 1998, just before the beginning of the study, and still saw an increase in the rate of gun deaths. The study suggests that the increase can be attributed to an influx in firearms from surrounding states.

Looking at the overall numbers over the 11-year period, the chance of dying from a firearm varied dramatically between states, from a death rate of 3 per 100,000 in Hawaii to more than 18 per 100,000 in Louisiana.

The study also found that racial disparities persist across the country. African Americans are twice as likely to die of a gun death than their white counterparts.

TIME Viewpoint

Lessons from the Pistorius Trial on Race, Guns and Class

South African Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria on Sept. 12, 2014 after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide.
South African Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide in Pretoria, South Africa on Sept. 12, 2014. Gianluigi Guercia—AFP/Getty Images

The South African athlete escaped the worst possible outcome at his murder trial. But we're only beginning to grapple with the ramifications

Audiences have been gripped by the story of the South African sporting champion Oscar Pistorius, who was accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. In March, South Africa devoted a TV channel that allows 24-hour viewing of the trial, which dominated global headlines and Twitter feeds again this week as the verdict was announced. Pistorius was found not guilty of premeditated murder, the more serious charge, but was found guilty of culpable homicide—the equivalent of manslaughter. His sentence remains to be decided.

But what should we take away from the Pistorius case?

It’s clear that the media attention given to the trial is largely due to Pistorius’s iconic status as an international athlete. A double-amputee who went on to compete in the Paralympics and Olympics using prosthetic legs, Pistorius brought glory to South Africa in the 2012 London Games and inspired many with his motto: “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”

But coverage of the trial has also been so extensive because the case has required us to probe deeper in order to understand the environment in which the crime took place. Pistorius’s defense was predicated on the argument that his response—shooting four times through a locked door at someone he believed to be an intruder—was a reasonable one. If Pistorius didn’t live in a nation with extraordinary high rates of violent crime, under a government tarred by corruption, his defense that he believed himself to be in danger would have been easier to dismiss. But in her verdict the South African Judge Thokozile Masipa reminded the world that her country’s endemic problems with violence does not excuse Pistorius. “Many people in this country have been victims of violent crime,” she said, “but they haven’t resorted to sleeping with guns under pillows.”

It’s no surprise that a great deal of the commentary has focused on what the trial can tell us about contemporary race relations and violent crime in a nation that abolished apartheid just 20 years ago. Despite the fact that whites make up only 8% of South Africa’s population, the majority of witnesses in the trial belonged to the same white, wealthy Afrikaner circle as Pistorius and Steenkamp, many of whom also lived in the couple’s elite high-security complex. The racial composition of the 37 witnesses shed lights on the kind of unofficial segregation and social inequality that still persists in South Africa today, where the average income of a white household is still six times higher than that of a black one.
It appears that the post-apartheid “rainbow nation” spoken of with such hope by Archbishop Desmond Tutu is still a ways off. Indeed, some commentators think the only reason the case has caught the world’s attention is because it is about a wealthy, successful white man and a beautiful, glamorous white woman. Yet others have seen the trial as an indication of the progress made in South African society—progress that has enabled Judge Masipa, a black woman who grew up poor in the Soweto township, to now determine the fate of a white man. And some have said the more pressing question is the problem of violence against women, an issue that cuts across national, racial and social borders.

However, there is a danger in taking what may be a deeply individual tragedy and viewing it as a reflection of an entire society. The fact that Pistorius is wealthy does not mean all white Afrikaners are, nor does the fact that Judge Masipa is black indicate that the legal profession in South Africa has achieved racial parity. We should try not to think of the trial as a mirror on South African society but rather as a window into a certain section of it, a window that has encouraged many of us to learn more about the country’s unique judicial system and broader social structure.

We all want to believe that the steps taken towards equality have led to unequivocal success. While great strides have been made, we must remember that a country can have black presidents and black judges and still struggle with lingering racism and segregation. We must ensure that as the trial draws to an end, we won’t be closing the door on the difficult conversations that need to be had about the way in which race, gender, wealth and power intersect—in South Africa, and far beyond.

TIME Guns

Teacher Injured By Exploding Toilet Following Concealed Weapon Misfire

toilet horror
Roberto A Sanchez—Vetta/Getty Images

A crappy injury, to say the least

A Utah teacher was injured after her concealed weapon accidentally fired in the bathroom and caused a toilet to explode.

Michelle Ferguson-Montgomery, who teaches sixth grade at Westbrook Elementary School in Taylorsville, Utah, was in good condition on Thursday after she was hit by stray bullet and toilet fragments during the incident, according to a spokesperson for the Granite School District, the Associated Press reports.

Officials initially thought Ferguson-Montgomery, who carried the gun legally under a concealed-weapon permit, shot herself, but now it is believed to have been an accident. The state of Utah allows gun owners with concealed-weapon permits to have their gun on public school grounds, and the Granite School District requires the permitted weapons to always be on the permit-holder’s body, though teachers do not have to disclose that they are packing heat.

The AP was unable to reach Ferguson-Montgomery for comment.

[AP]

TIME Laws

Why It’s Legal for a 9-Year-Old to Fire an Uzi

Gun Show Held At Pima County Fairgrounds
People shoot their guns at the Southwest Regional Park shooting range near the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Ariz. Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images

Questions after the death of a shooting instructor

The deadly shooting in which a nine-year-old girl accidentally killed her firing range instructor with an Uzi on Monday is the kind of incident that seems almost inconceivable. How can someone so young be allowed to fire such a high-powered weapon? The answer: Because she was accompanied by an adult.

“I think you’ll find that state laws provide for those under a certain age, usually 18, to shoot when under adult supervision or instruction,” says Michael Bazinet, a spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “Youth shooting sports are generally extremely safe activities, enjoyed by millions of Americans.”

Bazinet says he knows of no federal legislation that restricts minors from shooting range activities, leaving it up to the states and the ranges themselves to determine who’s too young to shoot.

Bullets and Burgers, a shooting range in the Arizona’s Mojave Desert where the incident took place Monday morning, allows children as young as eight to shoot as long as they’re accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Under Arizona law, minors as young as 14 can shoot at a range without adult supervision.

The fatal shooting occurred about 10 a.m. Monday morning when Charles Vacca, a 39-year-old firearms instructor, was demonstrating how to fire the gun. The nine-year-old, whose name hasn’t been released but was accompanied by her parents, can be seen taking an initial shot in a video released by authorities. Vacca then appears to switch the gun to automatic. The video shows the gun recoiling as it points toward Vacca, who was shot in the head according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office. (That portion is not seen in the video.)

Vacca was pronounced dead Monday evening.

Below is the video released by police, and while it does not depict the moment of the shooting, it may still be disturbing to some viewers; caution is advised.

TIME Guns

9-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Shoots, Kills Instructor at Gun Range

The operator says it allows supervised children age eight and up to handle weapons

A nine-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed a shooting range instructor in Arizona, police say.

Charles Vacca, 39, was instructing the girl on how to use an automatic Uzi on Monday when the girl, who was accompanied by her parents, pulled the trigger and then lost control of the weapon, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Tuesday. Vacca was shot in the head and died of his injuries.

Sam Scarmardo, the operator of the shooting range Last Stop where the accident occurred, said the range allows accompanied children age eight and older to handle weapons.

He said Vacca, a longtime military veteran, had been working at the range for roughly two years. Scarmardo also said the range had not had an accident since it was opened more than a decade ago.

The girl’s parents were recording the tutorial on their cell phones when the incident occurred and handed the footage over to authorities, according to Scarmardo.

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