TIME Guns

Houston Man Killed While Taking Selfies With Gun, Police Say

Investigators said the fatal shooting appeared to be accidental

A Houston man was shot and killed on Tuesday while taking selfies with a gun, authorities said.

The Houston Police Department said the victim and his cousin were playing with the gun when it fired and fatally struck the man, whom investigators did not identify immediately, but said was between ages 18 and 19, reports KPRC 2 News.

Investigators said the incident appeared to be accidental.

The incident is not the first time a selfie with a firearm turned tragic. In May, CNET reported on a recent spate of accidental selfie shootings. The site also referenced a Singaporean tourist who fell off a cliff while taking a selfie.

[KPRC 2 News]

TIME Crime

What Walmart’s Decision on Semi-Automatic Rifles Means for the Gun Control Debate

The retailer has strict regulations on the sale of guns

Walmart announced this week that it would stop selling so-called modern sporting rifles at its stores, including the AR-15, a semi-automatic firearm akin to those used in some of the country’s worst mass shootings in the last few years.

The nation’s largest retailer says it’s essentially replacing rifles like the AR-15 with hunting rifles and sportsman shotguns, giving customers roughly the same number of firearm choices as before. But some gun experts see Walmart’s move as a harbinger that the retailer could eventually decide to get out of the gun business altogether—which could have unexpected implications for the gun control movement, since Walmart has stricter policies on gun sales than most firearm retailers in the country.

“I think the day is coming when it’s going to difficult to buy a firearm from Walmart,” said John Roman, senior fellow at the Urban Institute.

While Walmart doesn’t release gun sales figures, it’s likely one of the country’s biggest gun sellers, if not the biggest. Roman said that without Walmart and its restrictions on gun sales, more buyers could be forced to the secondary market, where private sellers often don’t require background checks and don’t have gun sales policies that go beyond what is required by law.

“It’s an interesting conundrum for people who worry about the number of guns,” Roman said. “In the final analysis, Walmart’s decision [to stop selling modern sporting rifles] is good for society, but it’s not as simple as it looks, because if somebody buys these guns at Walmart and goes through a formal background check, it’s really unlikely that they’ll use them in a crime.”

In 2008, Walmart put in place stringent requirements on all gun transactions, including detailed recording of firearm sales, alerts when a gun bought from the retailer is used in a crime and expanded background checks for employees handling guns. The retailer also requires full approval from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which goes beyond the federally mandated minimum waiting requirement of three days to approve a sale. Many other retailers sell firearms after the waiting period is up even if there’s been no determination from NICS on the buyer’s criminal background.

The reason Walmart decided to stop carrying modern sporting rifles, including the AR-15, is because demand for those guns has been waning, a spokesperson said.

“This was something our customers weren’t really buying,” Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg said.

It’s unclear if demand for firearms like the AR-15, which was used in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., is declining nationally. One of the few estimates on how many guns might be in the U.S. comes from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which found that from 2011 to 2013, the total number of firearms produced and available spiked. The number of rifles and shotguns produced in the U.S. jumped from about 3.2 million in 2011 to 5.2 million in 2013.

Michael Bazinet, a spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, says that Supreme Court cases upholding gun rights, as well as an expansion of concealed carry laws and more women taking up target shooting, have actually led to increased demand for guns across the board.

However, Roman believes Walmart is correct that interest in rifles and semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 may be decreasing, so the company has recognized that it’s not in its economic interest to continue selling them.

“The business case is the trade-off between people who don’t want to shop at Walmart because they’re available and those who buy these guns every two or three years,” Roman said. “For Walmart, that makes this an easy case.”

While Walmart wouldn’t provide gun sales figures, sales of semi-automatic rifles, which are only available at less than a third of Walmart’s stores, are likely a tiny percentage of the retailer’s bottom line, and more than half of all Walmarts sell no firearms at all.

Lundberg, Walmart’s spokesperson, says that the retailer will remove the rifles from its shelves within the next couple weeks. The ones that remain unsold will be returned to the suppliers.

TIME Television

Mr. Robot Finale Delayed for a Week Due to TV Shooting Similarities

Mr. Robot Episode 104 --fsociety
Peter Kramer—USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images Mr. Robot Episode 104 --fsociety

The show that was supposed to air Wednesday contains a "graphic scene similar in nature to today's tragic events in Virginia"

Mr. Robot, a drama about a vigilante hacker that airs on the USA Network, will delay Wednesday’s season finale to September 2 due to a “graphic scene similar in nature to today’s tragic events in Virginia.”

“Out of respect to the victims, their families and colleagues, and our viewers, we are postponing tonight’s episode,” the network said in a statement, referring to the live television shooting of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward early Wednesday. “Our thoughts go out to all those affected during this difficult time.”

Parker and Ward were shot on air by Vester Lee Flanagan II, known on air at WDBJ as Bryce Williams, who used to work at the station. Flanagan later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

 

TIME West Virginia

Armed Teen Holds Classroom Hostage at West Virginia High School

High School Gun Evacuation
Ben Queen—AP Parents of children from Philip Barbour High School in Philippi, W.Va., walk to the school to meet up with their children that were evacuated after a "hostage-like" situation occurred in the school on Aug. 25, 2015.

No injuries were reported, police said

A 14-year-old boy armed with a pistol held a classroom hostage on Tuesday at a West Virginia high school, authorities said, before releasing his captives and surrendering to police without incident.

Police said the boy, who was not named, took 27 students and a teacher hostage around 1:30 p.m. at Philip Barbour High School in the town of Philippi, reports ABC-affiliate WCHS-TV. The school was placed on lockdown while teachers and administrators evacuated, counted and sent home all other students.

The suspect agreed to release all hostages following initial negotiations with police, authorities said. After further negotiations, the suspect surrendered to police at 3:30 p.m. and was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

No one was hurt in the incident, police said. Authorities are continuing to investigate the suspect’s motive.

[WCHS]

TIME Research

Why the U.S. Has 31% of the World’s Mass Shootings

gun
Getty Images

Part of it has to do with gun laws, but maybe it's because we're American

The U.S. is home to 5% of the world’s population, but has had 31% of the public mass shootings worldwide between 1966 and 2012, according to a new study presented at the American Sociological Association meeting. “That is not a coincidence,” says study author Adam Lankford, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, who believes his new study on the topic is the first to confirm that there’s something strongly American about public mass shootings. A lot of that, he’s found, has to do with gun ownership.

Lankford quantitatively analyzed various reports, from the New York Police Department’s 2012 active shooter report, the FBI’s 2014 active shooter report, and international sources including the United Nations and the World Health Organization. He focused on public mass shootings, defined as those that took place in a confined, populated space and resulted in the deaths of at least four people.

MORE: Homicides Are Spiking This Year After Falling For Decades

Lankford found a strong correlation between gun ownership in America and violence. The U.S. ranks first in gun ownership in the world, with surveys suggesting the rate to be 88.8 firearms for every 100 people in America, or 270 million total firearms within borders. (At a distant second is Yemen, with 54.8 firearms per 100 people; the numbers tumble after that.) There have been 292 public mass shooters who have killed a minimum of four people between 1966 and 2012. And when you narrow shootings down to just those that occur at school and work, American incidences account for 62% of global cases.

Lankford wanted to understand why Americans were so much more likely to be public mass shooters. His findings suggest a theory that points to two quintessentially American factors: gun culture and exceptionalism.

Being American, for a large swath of people, can be traced to the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a right to bear arms; 65% of Americans believe it is their right to own firearms.

But an even more significant contributor may be the very reason some experts think the U.S. has been so successful: its strong sense of exceptionalism and individualistic culture, something that American kids are taught from an early age.

MORE: Read The Transcript of Amy Schumer’s Emotional Speech On Gun Control

“There is this notion that in general, America is exceptional in a variety of ways in terms of our history: the degree to which we fought for independence, being the first and most successful country of our kind,” Lankford says. “If you teach your kids, ‘You can accomplish anything you want if you put your mind to it,’ it might be setting them up to fail.”

Achieving a sense of fame and success isn’t always a good thing. The idea of fame is a repeating motif in public shooters’ confessions and manifestos, Lankford says. “The media gives these attackers what they want, and they want fame.”

Globalization, too, has a role to play. Consider the dominance of Hollywood and entertainment in the lives of young people worldwide, which is largely American and often violent. “We’re exporting mass shootings as well, and attackers around the world are copying what’s happening here,” he says.

Lankford acknowledges there’s still a lot we don’t know about gun violence. The analysis he ran excluded other gun crimes, like homicides involving three or fewer people, and suicides. Domestic violence and gang violence often fuel these shootings and they remain largely misunderstood, though most experts agree firearm ownership is a big contributor to these crimes.

There’s a silver lining, however. Because the U.S. has a preponderance of public mass shootings, the country is more prepared than any other to deal with them, Lankford says. He points to Columbine and Sandy Hook as events that shaped enforcement procedure. “When Columbine happened, it took three hours to respond, in part because we didn’t know how to respond,” he says. “Do you prioritize helping people flee? Do you secure the perimeter? Do you go in and disable the active shooter? We now know you have to make sure the active shooter no longer is active,” he says. “At least we know how to deal with this.”

TIME Crime

Police Stop Gunmen at Pokemon World Championship

Boston Police Department This photo, provided by the Boston Police Department, shows a 12-gauge Remington shotgun, a DPM5 Model AR-15 rifle, several hundred rounds of ammunition, and a hunting knife, confiscated by the police in Boston on Aug. 21, 2015.

They had made threats on social media

The Boston Police Department arrested two gunmen who threatened “violence” at the city’s Pokemon World Championship, the BPD announced Sunday.

Kevin Norton, 18, and James Stumbo, 27, were both arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm on Friday.

The incident began developing on Thursday, when security officers at the Hynes Convention Center—host of the Pokemon World Championships—contacted the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) about threats made on social media against attendees.

Norton and Stumbo, who had driven in from Iowa, were stopped from entering the event when officers found several firearms in their car. The pair was unable to provide a license to carry; after being held, they were released.

A search of the vehicle on Friday turned up some disturbing arsenal, including shotgun, a rifle, several hundred rounds of ammunition, and a hunting knife. Norton and Stumbo were arrested Friday night in what city officials hailed as a “great job in the stop and prevention of a potential tragedy.”

TIME movies

Martin Scorsese’s New Movie Will Help Destroy Guns

Martin Scorsese
Jordan Strauss—Invision/AP Martin Scorsese arrives at the Oscars on March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Scorsese-produced film will be the first participant in artist Carl McCrow's 'Gun Neutral' campaign

LONDON — British artist Carl McCrow is asking the world’s most successful filmmakers to make an unambiguous pledge: For every gun that appears in their movies, he wants to them to destroy a real one.

His first taker? “Tomorrow,” a film executive produced by Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese that will be released later this year and follows soldiers trying to reintegrate into society after returning from combat.

This call-to-disarm is part of McCrow’s “Gun Neutral” campaign, which launched Thursday night at his new exhibition in London’s Oxo Tower.

The concept is simple. McCrow is asking movie producers to donate money to his…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Television

This Slow Motion Video of a Pistol Shooting Bullets Might Blow Your Mind

'Mythbusters' captured the moment in never-before-seen slow-mo

If you’ve ever wondered what a bullet looks like when it’s shot, wonder no more: Mythbusters has captured slow motion footage of a pistol firing a round, and it’s a testament to physics and technical capability.

Using a camera that took 73,000 frames a second, the video shows the expulsion of a bullet traveling at 1,200 feet per second. The result? One of the most detailed films ever taken of a gunshot, complete with a mushroom cloud-like poof and mini flame spurts.

As host Adam Savage says, “It’s just really cool.”

TIME Guns

The ‘Muslim-Free’ Gun Store is Selling George Zimmerman’s Painting of a Confederate Flag

George Zimmerman Arrested in Florida
Getty Images George Zimmerman poses for a mug shot photo after being arrested and booked into jail at the John Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford, Fla. on January 9, 2015.

The painting was originally an American flag

The Florida gun store that declared itself a “Muslim-free zone” is now selling prints of the Confederate battle flag—painted by none other than George Zimmerman.

Florida Gun Supply came under fire in July after owner Andy Hallinan declared his Inverness store a “Muslim-free zone” on YouTube. “I will not arm and train those who wish to do harm to my fellow patriots,” Hallinan said in the video. In response, the Council on American-Islamic Relations sued.

“George started painting an American Flag on this canvas, but heard about Andy getting sued by CAIR (the Counsel for American/Islamic Relations) while he was working on the painting,” the gun supply store’s site said. “George decided to scrap the original American Flag painting and repaint it with a Confederate (Battle) Flag.”

The site also posted a 10-minute “mini-documentary” of Zimmerman, who was acquitted of the controversial shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, and Hallinan discussing “media bias” against their political positions.

The print is going for $50 on the site, with the two splitting proceeds to “support their legal funds, living expenses, and advancing their mission to change the country. A percentage of proceeds will also go directly to the Boys and Girls Club to help the support the next generation.”

TIME Crime

Cops More Likely to Be Killed on the Job in States With Higher Gun Ownership

gun
Getty Images

92% of police killings are carried out with guns

Cops are more likely to be murdered on the job in states with higher rates of gun ownership, according to a new study.

Research published in the American Journal of Public Health analyzed the 782 police killings in America between 1996 and 2010, 92% of which involved firearms. Even after correcting for socioeconomic differences involving race, income and education, the homicides were much more likely to occur in the states with the most gun owners (0.95 police killings per 100,000 officers) than those with the least (0.31 police killings per 100,000 officers).

A policeman was most recently shot to death in Shreveport, La., on Aug. 5. Officer Thomas LaValley was responding to a domestic violence call, which accounts for 15% of police killings. Louisiana has a higher-than-average rate of gun ownership.

[New York Times]

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