Archive for the ‘Guns’ Category

Texas lawmakers on Friday approved carrying handguns openly on the streets of the nation’s second most-populous state, sending the bill to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who immediately promised to sign it and reverse a ban dating to the post-Civil War era.

Gun owners would still have to get a license to carry a handgun in a visible holster.

The state, known for its Wild West cowboy history and some the nation’s most relaxed gun laws, has allowed concealed handguns for 20 years. Concealed handgun license holders are even allowed to skip the metal detectors at the state Capitol, as state troopers providing security assume they’re armed.

But Texas was one of only six states with an outright ban on so-called open-carry, and advocates have fought to be allowed to keep their guns in plain sight. Cast as an important expansion of the Second Amendment right to bear arms in the U.S. Constitution, it became a major issue for the state’s strong Republican majority.

“We think of Texas being gun-happy, but we didn’t afford our citizens the same rights most other states do,” said Rep. Larry Phillips, a Republican from Sherman, one of the bill’s authors.

The House gave final approval on a mostly party-line 102-43 vote, drawing gleeful whistles from some lawmakers. A short time later, the Senate passed it 20-11, also along party lines, with all Republicans supporting it and all Democrats opposing.

Within minutes of the bill passing, Abbott sent a Twitter message that he’ll sign it.

The bill passed after lawmakers made concessions to law enforcement groups, who had been upset by an original provision that barred police from questioning people carrying guns if they have no other reason to stop them.

The final bill scrapped that language, meaning police will be able to ask Texans with handguns in plain sight if they have proper licenses.

Before Friday’s vote, police groups had demanded that Abbott veto the bill if it wasn’t taken out.

Gun control advocates have argued that open-carry is less about personal protection than intimidation. Gun rights groups have staged several large public rallies in recent years, sometimes at notable historical landmarks such as the Alamo, where members carried rifles in plain sight, which is legal.

The open-carry debate also stirred drama at the Capitol early in the legislative session, when gun rights advocates confronted one state lawmaker in his office. The lawmaker, Democrat Poncho Nevarez, was assigned a state security detail and House members voted to make it easier to install panic buttons in their offices.

“This session has been an alarming show of politicking that caters to a gun lobby agenda,” Sandy Chasse with the Texas Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “As a gun-owning Texas mom, this is not the Texas I want for my family or community.”

Just like the current concealed handgun law, the bill requires anyone wanting to openly carry a handgun to get a license. Applicants must be 21, pass a background check and receive classroom and shooting range instruction — although lawmakers have weakened those requirements since 2011.

Texas has about 850,000 concealed handgun license holders, a number that has increased sharply in recent years.

It also recognizes the concealed handgun licenses issued in more than 40 states, and license holders from those states will be allowed to openly carry their weapons in Texas once it becomes law.

“I have great faith in our concealed license holders that they will do the right thing and carry their gun appropriately,” said Sen. Craig Estes, the Wichita Falls Republican who sponsored the measure in that chamber.

Democrats such as Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston said they fear violence on the streets.

“I hope we don’t have a host of Texans running around with a Rambo mentality,” Ellis said.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-poised-to-allow-open-carry-of-handguns/

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community..

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It was one of the most brutal video games imaginable—players used cars to murder people in broad daylight. Parents were outraged, and behavioral experts warned of real-world carnage. “In this game a player takes the first step to creating violence,” a psychologist from the National Safety Council told the New York Times. “And I shudder to think what will come next if this is encouraged. It’ll be pretty gory.”

To earn points, Death Race encouraged players to mow down pedestrians. Given that it was 1976, those pedestrians were little pixel-gremlins in a 2-D black-and-white universe that bore almost no recognizable likeness to real people.

Indeed, the debate about whether violent video games lead to violent acts by those who play them goes way back. The public reaction to Death Race can be seen as an early predecessor to the controversial Grand Theft Auto three decades later and the many other graphically violent and hyper-real games of today, including the slew of new titles debuting at the E3 gaming summit this week in Los Angeles.

In the wake of the Newtown massacre and numerous other recent mass shootings, familiar condemnations of and questions about these games have reemerged. Here are some answers.

Who’s claiming video games cause violence in the real world?
Though conservatives tend to raise it more frequently, this bogeyman plays across the political spectrum, with regular calls for more research, more regulations, and more censorship. The tragedy in Newtown set off a fresh wave:

Donald Trump tweeted: “Video game violence & glorification must be stopped—it’s creating monsters!” Ralph Nader likened violent video games to “electronic child molesters.” (His outlandish rhetoric was meant to suggest that parents need to be involved in the media their kids consume.) MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asserted that the government has a right to regulate video games, despite a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary.

Unsurprisingly, the most over-the-top talk came from the National Rifle Association:

“Guns don’t kill people. Video games, the media, and Obama’s budget kill people,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a press conference one week after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. He continued without irony: “There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, and Splatterhouse.”

Has the rhetoric led to any government action?
Yes. Amid a flurry of broader legislative activity on gun violence since Newtown there have been proposals specifically focused on video games. Among them:

State Rep. Diane Franklin, a Republican in Missouri, sponsored a state bill that would impose a 1 percent tax on violent games, the revenues of which would go toward “the treatment of mental-health conditions associated with exposure to violent video games.” (The bill has since been withdrawn.) Vice President Joe Biden has also promoted this idea.

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) proposed a federal bill that would give the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s ratings system the weight of the law, making it illegal to sell Mature-rated games to minors, something Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) has also proposed for his home state.

A bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) proposed studying the impact of violent video games on children.

So who actually plays these games and how popular are they?
While many of the top selling games in history have been various Mario and Pokemon titles, games from the the first-person-shooter genre, which appeal in particular to teen boys and young men, are also huge sellers.

The new king of the hill is Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which surpassed Wii Play as the No. 1 grossing game in 2012. Call of Duty is now one of the most successful franchises in video game history, topping charts year over year and boasting around 40 million active monthly users playing one of the franchise’s games over the internet. (Which doesn’t even include people playing the game offline.) There is already much anticipation for the release later this year of Call of Duty: Ghosts.

The Battlefield games from Electronic Arts also sell millions of units with each release. Irrational Games’ BioShock Infinite, released in March, has sold nearly 4 million units and is one of the most violent games to date.

What research has been done on the link between video games and violence, and what does it really tell us?
Studies on how violent video games affect behavior date to the mid 1980s, with conflicting results. Since then there have been at least two dozen studies conducted on the subject.

“Video Games, Television, and Aggression in Teenagers,” published by the University of Georgia in 1984, found that playing arcade games was linked to increases in physical aggression. But a study published a year later by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “Personality, Psychopathology, and Developmental Issues in Male Adolescent Video Game Use,” found that arcade games have a “calming effect” and that boys use them to blow off steam. Both studies relied on surveys and interviews asking boys and young men about their media consumption.

Studies grew more sophisticated over the years, but their findings continued to point in different directions. A 2011 study found that people who had played competitive games, regardless of whether they were violent or not, exhibited increased aggression. In 2012, a different study found that cooperative playing in the graphically violent Halo II made the test subjects more cooperative even outside of video game playing.

Metastudies—comparing the results and the methodologies of prior research on the subject—have also been problematic. One published in 2010 by the American Psychological Association, analyzing data from multiple studies and more than 130,000 subjects, concluded that “violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, and aggressive behaviors and decrease empathic feelings and pro-social behaviors.” But results from another metastudy showed that most studies of violent video games over the years suffered from publication biases that tilted the results toward foregone correlative conclusions.

Why is it so hard to get good research on this subject?
“I think that the discussion of media forms—particularly games—as some kind of serious social problem is often an attempt to kind of corral and solve what is a much broader social issue,” says Carly Kocurek, a professor of Digital Humanities at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “Games aren’t developed in a vacuum, and they reflect the cultural milieu that produces them. So of course we have violent games.”

There is also the fundamental problem of measuring violent outcomes ethically and effectively.

“I think anybody who tells you that there’s any kind of consistency to the aggression research is lying to you,” Christopher J. Ferguson, associate professor of psychology and criminal justice at Texas A&M International University, told Kotaku. “There’s no consistency in the aggression literature, and my impression is that at this point it is not strong enough to draw any kind of causal, or even really correlational links between video game violence and aggression, no matter how weakly we may define aggression.”

Moreover, determining why somebody carries out a violent act like a school shooting can be very complex; underlying mental-health issues are almost always present. More than half of mass shooters over the last 30 years had mental-health problems.

But America’s consumption of violent video games must help explain our inordinate rate of gun violence, right?
Actually, no. A look at global video game spending per capita in relation to gun death statistics reveals that gun deaths in the United States far outpace those in other countries—including countries with higher per capita video game spending.

A 10-country comparison from the Washington Post shows the United States as the clear outlier in this regard. Countries with the highest per capita spending on video games, such as the Netherlands and South Korea, are among the safest countries in the world when it comes to guns. In other words, America plays about the same number of violent video games per capita as the rest of the industrialized world, despite that we far outpace every other nation in terms of gun deaths.

Or, consider it this way: With violent video game sales almost always at the top of the charts, why do so few gamers turn into homicidal shooters? In fact, the number of violent youth offenders in the United States fell by more than half between 1994 and 2010—while video game sales more than doubled since 1996. A working paper from economists on violence and video game sales published in 2011 found that higher rates of violent video game sales in fact correlated with a decrease in crimes, especially violent crimes.

I’m still not convinced. A bunch of mass shooters were gamers, right?
Some mass shooters over the last couple of decades have had a history with violent video games. The Newtown shooter, Adam Lanza, was reportedly “obsessed” with video games. Norway shooter Anders Behring Breivik was said to have played World of Warcraft for 16 hours a day until he gave up the game in favor of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which he claimed he used to train with a rifle. Aurora theater shooter James Holmes was reportedly a fan of violent video games and movies such as The Dark Knight. (Holmes reportedly went so far as to mimic the Joker by dying his hair prior to carrying out his attack.)

Jerald Block, a researcher and psychiatrist in Portland, Oregon, stirred controversy when he concluded that Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out their rampage after their parents took away their video games. According to the Denver Post, Block said that the two had relied on the virtual world of computer games to express their rage, and that cutting them off in 1998 had sent them into crisis.

But that’s clearly an oversimplification. The age and gender of many mass shooters, including Columbine’s, places them right in the target demographic for first-person-shooter (and most other) video games. And people between ages 18 and 25 also tend to report the highest rates of mental-health issues. Harris and Klebold’s complex mental-health problems have been well documented.

To hold up a few sensational examples as causal evidence between violent games and violent acts ignores the millions of other young men and women who play violent video games and never go on a shooting spree in real life. Furthermore, it’s very difficult to determine empirically whether violent kids are simply drawn to violent forms of entertainment, or if the entertainment somehow makes them violent. Without solid scientific data to go on, it’s easier to draw conclusions that confirm our own biases.
How is the industry reacting to the latest outcry over violent games?
Moral panic over the effects of violent video games on young people has had an impact on the industry over the years, says Kocurek, noting that “public and government pressure has driven the industry’s efforts to self regulate.”

In fact, it is among the best when it comes to abiding by its own voluntary ratings system, with self-regulated retail sales of Mature-rated games to minors lower than in any other entertainment field.

But is that enough? Even conservative judges think there should be stronger laws regulating these games, right?
There have been two major Supreme Court cases involving video games and attempts by the state to regulate access to video games. Aladdin’s Castle, Inc. v. City of Mesquite in 1983 and Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association in 2011.

“Both cases addressed attempts to regulate youth access to games, and in both cases, the court held that youth access can’t be curtailed,” Kocurek says.

In Brown v. EMA, the Supreme Court found that the research simply wasn’t compelling enough to spark government action, and that video games, like books and film, were protected by the First Amendment.

“Parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote when the Supreme Court deemed California’s video game censorship bill unconstitutional in Brown v. EMA. “Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents’ control can hardly be a compelling state interest.”

So how can we explain the violent acts of some kids who play these games?
For her part, Kocurek wonders if the focus on video games is mostly a distraction from more important issues. “When we talk about violent games,” she says, “we are too often talking about something else and looking for a scapegoat.”

In other words, violent video games are an easy thing to blame for a more complex problem. Public policy debates, she says, need to focus on serious research into the myriad factors that may contribute to gun violence. This may include video games—but a serious debate needs to look at the dearth of mental-health care in America, our abundance of easily accessible weapons, our highly flawed background-check system, and other factors.

There is at least one practical approach to violent video games, however, that most people would agree on: Parents should think deliberately about purchasing these games for their kids. Better still, they should be involved in the games their kids play as much as possible so that they can know firsthand whether the actions and images they’re allowing their children to consume are appropriate or not.

Thanks to SRW for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/06/video-games-violence-guns-explainer

A Kingsport man who teaches at a vocational school in Abingdon, Va., has been arrested after allegedly pulling a blank firing gun on his students, pointing it their direction and firing multiple times.

The incident occurred April 4 at William H. Neff Center. Manuael Ernest Dillow, 60, of 840 Liberty Drive, Kingsport, was arrested Wednesday for the alleged incident and charged with 12 felony counts of brandishing a firearm on school property.

The Washington County Sheriffs Office reports the charges are class 6 felonies, with each count punishable up to five years incarceration and a $2,500 fine.

Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman reports School Superintendent Jim Sullivan notified the Sheriff’s Office of the incident. An investigation reportedly discovered Dillow “gathered” the attention of the 12 students in his welding class and lined them up near a garage door in the shop.

“He then pulled a ‘blank firing handgun,’ black in color, from the back waistband of his pants and discharged the weapon between four and ten shots in the direction of the line of the students,” states a Wednesday afternoon press release. “The ‘report’ of the firearm was similar to that of a firearm that fires a projectile, thus placing the students in fear, according to statements. No students were physically injured as a result of the incident.”

Dillow was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond with a hearing date scheduled for May 7.

http://www.timesnews.net/article/9045481#.T5AkBV2xufw.twitter

Derrill Rockwell told police he grabbed his rifle, the .22-caliber he kept handy to kill rodents around the house, about 5 a.m. Oct. 5 and walked outside to confront it.

The bird.

Possibly, he told police, the same fowl he suspected of harassing his cats recently around his home near Orchard Mesa Cemetery.

It was red, sitting at the top of a hill about 90 feet away from Rockwell.

“His intent was to spook it away,” Deputy District Attorney Jason Conley told District Judge Richard Gurley on Friday.

Rockwell shot once but said he didn’t see the bird fly away. Soon after, he heard a woman’s voice, moaning in pain. Rockwell discovered a 23-year-old woman, with a large red mohawk, with a gunshot wound to the head.

“In 15 years in law enforcement, this was one of the more interesting cases I’ve worked,” Grand Junction Police Department detective Sean Crocker told the judge Friday.

Rockwell, 49, was sentenced to serve five years probation after pleading guilty to felony possession of a weapon by a prior offender.

The District Attorney’s Office dismissed remaining charges, including tampering with evidence, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and false reporting. He was ordered to pay more than $10,000 in restitution.

Rockwell initially misled the investigation, authorities said. Conley told the judge that Rockwell offered a wet towel for the woman’s head injury and drove her to the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital after the shooting, leaving his name and phone number with doctors.

“She got out of the truck on her own accord,” Conley told the judge.

Rockwell told a nurse he heard noises outside his home, went outside and found a woman bleeding from the head. Conley said Rockwell later explained he went home, gathered the rifle and drove to the Redlands Roller Dam, where he tossed the weapon into the Colorado River.

Six days after the shooting, Rockwell told another story to police detectives, acknowledging he fired the weapon after confusing the woman’s red mohawk hairstyle for a distant bird.

Stephan Schweissing, Rockwell’s attorney, said Rockwell’s interview with police Oct. 11 went against his advice to his client. Had Rockwell not voluntarily spoken with detectives, he likely wouldn’t have been charged by the District Attorney’s Office in the matter, Schweissing said.

“He just couldn’t live with himself, knowing what he knew,” the attorney said.

Police detectives had few clues in the investigation, which early on had centered around the victim’s possible transient lifestyle at the time and her associates, Crocker told the judge.

“(Rockwell) gave a full, detailed confession,” the detective told the judge.

Crocker said police conducted a comprehensive investigation into Rockwell’s account, searching his property while returning there to re-enact the shooting scenario Rockwell had described. The woman was believed to be in a crouched position at the top of the hill — with her red mohawk exposed roughly 90 feet away — when she was shot, according to testimony Friday.

Conley told the judge the woman may have been passed out from intoxication prior to being shot, and officers found a small bag of suspected methamphetamine in the area where she was found.

The District Attorney’s Office ultimately found nothing to dispute Rockwell’s account, Conley told the judge.

Rockwell had been prohibited from owning a firearm after a 1995 conviction for attempted burglary.

“This was a tragic accident, and I’m truly sorry,” he told the judge.

http://www.gjsentinel.com/news/articles/shooter-mistakes-mohawk-for-fowl-runs-afoul-of-the