Bill Durston shares ideas on guns in America

Dr. Bill Durston speaks at the American River Democrats meeting.

Dr. Bill Durston spoke at the January meeting of the American River Democrats, and of everything he spoke of, one statistic hit the hardest. Many Americans have the belief that being a responsible gun owner will give them protection from the bad people out there that may do their family harm. But the New England Journal of Medicine reported that a gun in the house is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder. That’s right. For every one bad guy who invades a home and is killed by the armed homeowner, 43 other people – children, wives, husbands, neighbors, bystanders, and always the most shocking of all, a kid visiting a friend – are killed by a gun in the home.

And yet, despite that shocking number, 63% of Americans polled believe a gun in the home makes them safer.

durston 2

Dr. Bill Durston is well known to East Sacramento Democrats. He ran twice against Dan Lungren for Congress, paving the way for Dr. Ami Bera’s successful election in 2012. But he is also an Emergency Room physician, a Vietnam war veteran, and the current President of the Sacramento chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He pointed out that more Americans are killed by guns here at home every year than died in battle in the whole of the Vietnam war. And the number of Americans killed by foreign terrorists is tiny compared the the people who die in gun violence.

While we spent thousands of lives and billions of dollars invading Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction, we are in fact sitting on a huge stockpile of WMD’s right here in America. Our small arms do more damage than anything Saddam Hussein ever threatened us with. California alone has the equivalent of 9/11 attack every year, with about 3,000 deaths from guns. Gun violence is the fourth leading cause of premature death in the US.

I came of age in the 1970’s, and I remember discussions of gun control actually revolved around handguns, especially those cheap and easy Saturday Night Specials that criminals often used. Efforts were underway to restrict or eliminate manufacturing and sales of handguns, advocates pointing out that legitimate sportsmen and “home defenders” were well supplied with rifles and shotguns, and that handguns were designed to just kill people, and were easily concealed.

And yet, despite the fact that handguns are the overwhelmingly most common type of weapon in the death of Americans (U.S. Dept. of Justice) restricting handguns is not even part of the discussion anymore. The efforts have shifted to automatic and semi-automatic weapons, both handgun and rifle style. And thanks to the efforts of the NRA, even that’s going nowhere.

How did we get to this point? The NRA started as a hunter’s organization, that actually supported sensible gun control. But they have been co-opted by the gun manufacturers who are in the business of supplying the weapons that most of the country is in favor of restricting. Dr. Durston pointed out that this is like the “nicotine effect”. Guns are very well made instruments, and when cared for, a good hunting rifle, shotgun, or revolver can last a lifetime. When used on an annual hunting trip, occasional target practice, or in those rare emergency situations, the owner uses very little ammo, and passes their guns down through generations.

Well that is a big problem for gun makers, because it is a limited market. So they get people hooked on newer, more powerful guns (like cigarette makers get smokers hooked on nicotine). Like many consumer goods, once you get one, you’re looking at the next bigger and better version. And if those guns can shoot a thousand rounds in a few seconds, all the better for supplying ammunition! So despite their lofty talk of defending our liberties, protecting our families, and honoring the second amendment, it’s really about money. So any effort to reign in the power of assault style weapons is met with a huge push by the NRA on lawmakers. And when laws do pass, the gun makers’ efforts go to finding technical loopholes in making powerful guns that find their way around the rules.

But some people still insist that they feel safer in their home with a gun. Durston pointed out that our best trained professional gun users – our law enforcement officers – when killed in the line of duty, are shot 20% of the time with their own weapons. (In a conflict, the suspect may gain control of the officer’s gun.) And 85% of peace officers never fire their weapons on duty at all. Can the average citizen do better than the well trained cops? And as guns become more and more powerful, we put the general public in an arms race with law enforcement, and the end result may be even more lethal force used, as officers protect themselves against a more well armed public.

Wayne LaPierre makes a point ( - Alex Brandon AP)

Wayne LaPierre makes a point ( – Alex Brandon AP)

The NRA, and Wayne LaPierre, like to say that the only defense against an armed bad guy is an armed good guy. That may make some sense when the good guy is a trained, uniformed officer, but they mean you and me – we’re the good guys who should shoot back. But consider the scenarios of some of our famous mass shootings. If the response to a shooting at a school, theater, or other public place is all of our well armed heroes pulling out their weapons, we now have several armed people aiming their guns and looking for their targets. While the bad guys are roaming, or even dead, good guys are seeing other armed strangers with guns, and may begin shooting each other, thinking they’ve found the bad guys. And then police arrive, and have to determine who the bad guys are. If they startle an armed person into waving their gun towards the officer, they will likely shoot. And the real bad guy can just blend in and pretend to be one of the heroes…

How about suggesting that the only defense against an armed bad guy is to – one, do everything we can to make sure he isn’t armed. Two, if he is armed, make sure his weapon isn’t rapid-fire military grade. Three, if he is armed, make sure the cops know he’s the bad guy, and if he’s not arrested for actually shooting someone, arrest him for just having the gun. (Can you imagine if we protected our schools by arming teachers? How many inquisitive kids would find those “well secured guns” and start shooting at school?)

But what about when the bad guys are not around? People with guns are far more likely to get killed or injured by their own guns, either accidentally or through suicide. How many stories do we hear each year about a kid finding a parent’s gun and using it, or an angry or despondent person killing a family or co-workers before turning the gun on himself? No, gun control would not prevent many of these incidents, especially since handguns are not even a target for control these days. (Waiting periods and mental illness restrictions on gun purchases may help, but not if the gun is already present.) Perhaps the only answer to some of these tragedies is changing the culture of guns.

A tragic illustration of the dangerous culture of gun ownership happened right here in Sacramento on New Years morning. A young man and young woman, parents of a little girl, stepped out of their home to celebrate the new year. He had his gun with him, likely to shoot in the air as they welcomed in 2015. By 12:06, the young woman was dead of accidental gunfire from her boyfriend. Steven Lucas was arrested for homicide, but his true punishment is knowing for the rest of his life that he killed the woman he loved and his daughter’s mother.

kaykey leavitt steven lucas

In the media, her family expressed their forgiveness, knowing that he did not intend to kill her. But the real culprit is the attitude we Americans have to guns. Pictures posted on his Facebook page showed him and Kayley holding and shooting the handgun that killed her. She’d be alive today if there was no gun in their home, and if a gun wasn’t treated as something fun to have, and even celebrate with. America’s love affair with guns results in too many tragedies like this.

Dr. Durston said that a common view of America from the rest of the world is that we love our guns more than our children. This in the face of 250 school shootings (not just Sandy Hook) in the past five years, with virtually nothing done in response.  Most of the guns from those shootings came from the shooter’s home.

So what can be done when virtually all Republicans, and a fair number of rural-state Democrats, refuse to consider even the most “mild” efforts to restrict at least the most dangerous assault weapons? Nationally we can encourage the new Surgeon General of the U.S., Dr. Vivek Murthy, to issue warnings of the lethal danger of keeping guns in the home. That approach did do some good with cigarettes, and led to further awareness and eventual action taken.

We can also encourage our school officials and board members to communicate the warnings about guns in the home, safe storage laws, and the liabilities that gun owners face when their guns are used, accidentally or intentionally by others, to harm people. Hopefully more education and sharing information can dispel the dangerous myth that guns are effective in protecting your family, when they are in fact the most dangerous single item you can have in your home (other than perhaps a honey oil or meth lab – but those people usually keep a gun as well.)

In 2008, when Justices Alito and Roberts were added to the Supreme Court, they ruled for the first time that the second amendment actually applied to an individual right to weapons. Prior to that, the language was judged to be what it actually said – for an organized militia. While rescinding the second amendment may be a lofty goal, electing Democratic Presidents, so future appointed justices may be more reasonable, is something we can all work towards.

Ken Kiunke, Communications Secretary. 2/08/2015

Learn more:

Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence – the 10 Stupidest Lines from Wayne LaPierre

Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility

Visit to enter Sacramento area High School seniors in an essay contest for scholarship awards based on the quote “The world is over-armed, and peace is under-funded.” by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Enter by March 11 2015.

Bill Durston is the Special Guest at the January meeting

Dr Bill Durston during his congressional campaign.

When Dr. Ami Bera won the 2012 election to represent the 7th District in the US House of Representatives, it was after he had lost once to incumbent Dan Lundgren. But that defeat set in motion the tools, momentum, and organization needed to win the next election. But you could say the process had already begun in 2006 and 2008, when another medical doctor, Bill Durston, challenged Lundgren for the seat. Dr. Durston energized the Democratic base in the 7th District, and gave people someone to root for, and a feeling of hope that our voices might be heard, a hope that was finally answered, and then narrowly held onto in the last two elections.

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But of course, those who know Bill, know that he is so much more than a politician. You might never guess it from talking to him, but he is a Vietnam war veteran and emergency room doctor. (I think of him more as the kindly pediatrician type…)

He is also the President of the Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization concerned with reducing violence – both on a world-wide and person-to-person level, protecting the environment, and insuring good affordable healthcare for all. (Natural goals for professional healers, and worthy aspirations for anyone!)

Bill also authored a hard hitting essay on the country’s response to the Sandy Hook tragedy – or actually our political system’s total LACK of a response. Bill will be bringing that conversation to the American River Democrats’ monthly meeting for January. Everyone is encouraged to come, and bring friends!

Join the American River Democrats us as we welcome Dr. Durston to the January meeting.


The America River Democrats January Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, January 21, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova.

We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!

Common Core straightened out

Kelly Hillesland and Carole Vargas address the American River Democrats

The American River Democrats welcomed two guests to our November meeting who spoke to us about the Common Core and what it means for our kids and teachers. They also cleared up some misconceptions and answered a lot of questions. Kelly Hillesland is a Teacher, and Carole Vargas is a Principal, both of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. They spoke on the history and background of Common Core, and cleared up some misconceptions about the program.

For example: Isn’t Common Core a liberal program shoved down our throats by the Obama administration? No – It grew out of a response to No Child Left Behind (Bush admin.) when it became clear that making each state meet their own standards meant some states had it much easier than others if their educational standards were already lower. A group of education leaders and business interests came up with a plan to even the playing field and study the best education systems and theories around the country and the world. It is totally voluntary for each state, but Race to the Top tied in with Common Core, and is supported by Obama and Education Secretary Duncan.

common core logo

Why does Common Core cover only English and Math? Aren’t the other subjects important? It may look like it only covers those two, but in reality the English standards cover most other subjects, like history, science, and specialized subjects, since reading and interpreting text is the key to learning. In social studies, students are encouraged to think like historians – to focus more on discovery and critical thinking than on lectures. In science the students should learn to think like a scientist and problem-solve rather than memorize a textbook.

Why is the English standard so focused on non-fiction now instead of learning great literature? That relates to the previous issue – it covers expositional and technical writing to help with courses outside of English. But literature is still of primary importance in English, and of course literature courses.

Carole Vargas is a Principal in the Folsom Cordova School District

Carole Vargas is a Principal in the Folsom Cordova School District

Why do so many teachers and students hate Common Core? Many love it, but it is a shift in teaching and learning, and if you are already familiar with the old way, change can be a challenge, and uncomfortable. But the hope is that everyone will come around, and just like any change, become part of the process and make it better! When they discover that math can be creative, and that being good at math can mean you are a thinker, not a calculator, it may make sense. Parents who learned the traditional way, and have trouble helping with homework may see their kids are leaping past them in understanding mathematics, and all their subjects.

How can I learn more about this?

The Common Core Website

Myths vs. facts

What is Common Core and why are people upset about it?


The American River Democrats will be focusing on Common Core at the November Meeting, to be held Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 7 pm. Club members, guests, and anyone who wants to learn more about it and the objections that have been raised is encouraged to attend.

The idea behind Common Core, which is supported by President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan, is to establish a set of goals or benchmarks in math and English that students at each grade level should achieve. By having a common set of standards, students from different states, and even school districts, will be more likely to be equally prepared to score in college entrance exams and enter higher education with similar skills. American youth would also be encouraged to perform up to the higher levels most other developed nations already achieve.

But some of the concepts introduced with the common core are confusing, especially to kids already schooled in math, and parents trying to help them, who look at some of the methods as if they were written in ancient Greek.

Our guest speaker is a Folsom teacher who is very knowedgable about these issues and has a lot to share with us. Parents and concerned citizens can get a better idea of what is going on, and how they should encourage their school boards and elected officials on how to approach Common Core.

Join the American River Democrats Wednesday, November 19 to learn about these issues and ask questions of our guest speaker.


The America River Democrats November Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, November 19, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova. We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks. The official meeting will begin at 7:00 pm.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!

October Meeting will be in Support of Ami Bera

Congressman Ami Bera

It has been said that Republicans win elections because wealthy people spend lots of money convincing poor people to vote for them, and Democrats win elections because passionate people work hard educating people about leaders who will work for them.

That of course is wildly oversimplified, but the truth is Barack Obama and other Democrats largely succeed when grass roots efforts are made to support them. We’ll just never be able to outspend the likes of the Koch brothers.

As a Democratic club, we are committed to working hard to do what it takes to spread the word and support our candidates. Sometimes that means knocking on doors, registering voters, and reaching out at events. But one of the easiest and most effective tools if making calls to voters.

Many are uncomfortable at the idea of calling strangers and talking them into something, but there are all kinds of calls to make, and we have agreed to devote this month’s meeting to calling Democrats in the area just to remind them of how important it will be to vote in this election. Calling someone who is already very likely on your side is a piece of cake compared to calling a Sean Hannity fan and telling them the affordable care act is a good thing that can only get better…

Even in a district like ours where Democrats are slightly ahead of Republicans in registration, and where Bera won the seat two years ago, a mid-term election can be lost when people don’t bother to vote.

So we are asking club members to show up to the October meeting, bring a charged phone, and go down a list of local Democrats and ask for support. Remind them how important it will be to show up on election day, or mail their ballot in, and support Ami Bera and other Democrats.

This is Congressman Bera’s seat to lose – and he will lose it without hard work and dedicated support. Just listen to the nonsense in the next Doug Ose ad to see how important your efforts will be.

Join the American River Democrats to pitch in and do your part to re-elect Dr. Ami Bera to Congress. Food will be provided to help make it a fun and productive event!


The America River Democrats October Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, October 15, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova.

We begin our gathering at 6:30 for introduction and food.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!

Endorsements and recommendations

Kerri Howell, Jennifer Lane and Sandra Lunceford were endorsed by the ARDems.

For the September Meeting of the American River Democrats, we were honored to have present three candidates for Folsom City Council, as well as guest speaker Rick Bettis from the League of Women Voters.

Folsom Mayor Kerri Howell, and new candidates for council Jennifer Lane and Sandra Lunceford each introduced themselves and spoke for two minutes at the meeting. Each had previously filled out candidate questionnaires for endorsement consideration. After they spoke the club voted by secret ballot, and endorsed all three. There are three spots open on the council this year, and three incumbents, including Howell are running for re-election.

Howell spoke of all the accomplishments the city has made since she has been on the council, including the only bridges over the American River built since then, and the upcoming opening of the Johnny Cash trail. Lane stressed her opposition to new development without more planning and water considerations. Lunceford spoke of the historical value of Folsom, and hopes it can become more of a destination for travelers.

Rick Bettis speaking to the club

Rick Bettis speaking to the club

Rick Bettis helped us to understand two of the initiatives on November’s ballot, and provided some more info on all of them as supplied by the League of Women Voters. Proposition 1, the water bond, may seem like an obvious choice, since California is suffering a major crisis and drought. However, there is a lot of opposistion along with support from various entities. Opponents say to much is spent on dams, which do little to increase supply, and endanger pristine wilderness areas. They say action is needed, but this bond is not the answer. Though “tunnel neutral”, it does pave the way for future delta tunnels, and is a giveaway to Southern California from the north. Supporters say that is is a needed solution to many of our agricultural and drought problems, building more storage capacity. There is also funds to protect wetlands and improve water quality and flood protection. The League of Women Voters has not taken a position on this proposition. The California Democrat Party has endorsed it.

The other initiative Bettis spoke about was Proposition 47, which reduces criminal sentences, and changes some non-violent and non-serious felonies to misdemeanors. The goal here is to reduce prison and jail populations, and provide more opportunities for offenders to get better educational and employment opportunities. Despite some concern that released offenders will have more opportunities to go back to victimizing law abiding citizens, both the League and the California Democratic party support the proposition. The thought is money now spend incarcerating low level drug and other offenders is better spent getting them back to being productive members of society.

The League of Women Voters also supports Proposition 2, the rainy day fund. They have taken no stand on props 45, 46, and 48.

The California Democratic Party also endorses Propositions 1 and 2. They also support proposition 48, approving Indian Gaming compacts. They recommend and No vote, however, on Proposition 46, which requires random drug testing for doctors, and raises the cap on malpractice lawsuits.

Melanie Ramil

Melanie Ramil

Proposition 45, which gives the State insurance commissioner approval power on health insurance rate increases, is also supported by the CalDems. Melanie Ramil was a guest at the August meeting of the club, and she gave us more detail about the initiative, which she and Insurance commissioner Dave Jones strongly supports. It would give the commissioner the same power he or she has over home and car insurance, and may help control increasing costs of health care.

The American River Democrats have made no official endorsements of these initiatives, but are glad our members have had a chance to learn about them. Documents attached here from may also provide further details about each one:

Prop 1 Prop 2 Prop 45 Prop 46 Prop 47 Prop 48


September Meeting focus on ballot initiatives


It has been reported lately that most Californians who are considered likely to vote this Fall still know very little about the propositions, even the very significant Water Bond.

The American River Democrats will be focused on the upcoming fall election again this month, with a focus on certain ballot initiatives.

Rick Bettis, from the League of Women Voters, will be on hand to share some information on Proposition 1, the Water Bond. We all know that California is in a historic drought, but is the water bond before us the right answer for farmers, the environment, smart growth, and people in our region? Get educated and make a smart vote in November.

We will also discuss the measure, Proposition 47, that intends to reduce sentencing for non-violent crimes, and make many of them misdemeanors. Will this increase crimes, such as burglary, vandalism, auto theft, etc., in order to save money in prison and jail maintenance? Or is it a good idea to stop locking up people whose crimes might be considered minor?

If we have time, we will also discuss Proposition 46, which affect the medical profession in malpractice judgments, and many other ways.

Join the American River Democrats Wednesday, September 17 to learn about these issues, and consider some candidate endorsements as well.


The America River Democrats August Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, September 17, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova. We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks. The official meeting will begin at 7:00 pm.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!

August meeting focused on 2014 election

The American River Democrats will be focused on the upcoming fall election this month with 2 guest speakers.

Melanie Ramil, the campaign manager for Dave Jones For Insurance Commissioner and Proposition 45 – Health Insurance Rate Control will update us on Jones’ campaign for re-election, and the impacts of the proposition on health insurance for the state.

Brent Perumel will also be on hand, from the California Democratic Party and Ami Bera’s re-election campaign. He will be discussing strategies for the fall election to insure Dr. Bera the best chance for re-election.

We will also be voting on an endorsement for SMUD Ward 3 candidate, Mario Guerrero.

Join the American River Democrats Wednesday, August 20 to hear from


The America River Democrats August Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, August 20, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova. We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks. The official meeting will begin at 7:00 pm.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!


Highways, byways, and politics


As you drive your car around for a while, you will no doubt become aware that it is due for an oil change. Perhaps the tires have worn down beyond safe status, and then you notice it stalls occasionally. After a while the air conditioning isn’t working very well, and the temperature gauge keeps rising to the red. What do you do? Perhaps you just keep driving the car until something happens. Perhaps you are on the freeway and you get a flat tire while billows of black smoke suddenly pour from the engine. The tow truck driver shakes his head, tows it in and they say it is beyond repair. So you write a check from your emergency fund and get a brand new car….

If the above scenario happened to you, everyone around would think you were a moron for not taking care of your car, and then spending vastly more money to replace it. But that is what we as a state, and even a nation are doing as we continue to neglect vital infrastructure repair and maintenance until a catastrophic failure forces a quick fix, like a bridge or road replacement, and at great cost.

Will Kempton of Transportation California visited the American River Democrats meeting in July, and gave us a rundown of California’s transportation system woes.

trans cal logo

Transportation California is a diversified, non-partisan, non-profit coalition representing a broad spectrum of business, labor, and planning agencies which have united to create the state’s leading transportation advocacy and public education group. Their stated mission is to develop adequate, dedicated and sustainable funding to properly maintain California’s transportation infrastructure and build the transportation system of the future.

The present status is alarming. California ranks 48th out of 50 states in terms of pavement condition. Our population and economy have grown faster than the pace of investment in maintenance of our roads and highways. And this lack of maintenance accelerates the deterioration, and increases the cost of future repair and replacement.

Funding from past bonds, such as Propositition 1B have expired, and gasoline taxes have failed to keep pace with inflation, and the existing revenues have been diverted to the state general fund to make up for budget shortfalls. And, ironically enough, our huge progress in saving gas, through high mileage cars and trucks has meant that lower per capita fuel consumption has also lowered revenues. Your Prius is great for the environment and reducing reliance on foreign oil, but it hasn’t helped highway funding…

So what can be done? First off, keep driving that Prius or other high mileage cars. They don’t impact the roads that much anyway. But the California legislature must take action to re-direct funds from truck weight fees back to the transportation program. This $1 billion annual revenue was intended to offset the damage heavy and high usage trucks impart on the roads and freeways. But it is now just part of the general state fund. Since a lot of progress has been made to fix the state’s revenue stream, the time is right to reset the priorities.

See the Transportation California website for more information, and to get help identifying your representatives to let them know how important safe roads, highways and bridges are to you.

July meeting focused on California’s Transportation issues

trans cal logo

What is the future of transportation in California? A lot has been made of the high speed rail project, which is moving forward through lawsuits and objections, and important funding issues. But there is obviously more than rail to be concerned about.

Our roads, highways and bridges are in constant need of maintenance and upgrades, and even when they happen, we see issues of safety and oversight, as in the Bay Bridge issues.

Our July meeting, on Wednesday July 16, will focus on the wide ranging issues of transportation and infrastructure, and feature guest speaker Will Kempton.

Folsom residents may remember Kempton as the Assistant City Manager from 2002 to 2004, after which he became Director of Caltrans until 2009. He has held numerous positions related to transportation and infrastructure, and currently is Executive Director of Transportation California.

Transportation California is a diversified, non-partisan, non-profit coalition representing a broad spectrum of business, labor, and planning agencies which have united to create the state’s leading transportation advocacy and public education group. Their stated mission is to develop adequate, dedicated and sustainable funding to properly maintain California’s transportation infrastructure and build the transportation system of the future.

Join the American River Democrats Wednesday, July 16 to learn more about the future impact of transportation issues, especially as they relate to budgets, the environment, and quality of life in our state.


The America River Democrats July Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, June 18, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova. We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks. The official meeting will begin at 7:00 pm.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!