America’s On-going Unnatural Disaster.

It has been nearly a year since a former student walked into the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, pulled out a military-style weapon and shot 34 students. 17 of those students died. 17 more were seriously wounded. And many of those who escaped will likely suffer from PTSD for the rest of their lives.

Let that sink in for a moment.

High school students who were merely sitting in a classroom now share a disability with many of our military personnel returning from war zones! Even worse, Parkland was only one of 340 mass shootings that took place in the United States in 2018. Including Parkland, those shootings claimed 354 lives and wounded or injured 1,341.

Still worse, according to GunViolenceArchive.org, in 2018, there were 56,768 incidents in which an American pointed a gun at another and pulled the trigger. That’s an average of roughly 155 shootings per day, or about 6.4 shootings an hour!

In total, an astounding 14,600 people were killed by guns in the US last year. And that doesn’t even include gun suicides, which amount to almost twice the number of people shot by others. We see reports of these shootings in the news every day. We learn of the domestic violence killings; of the murder-suicides; of the road rage killings; of those being killed by stray bullets; of the children who discover a gun and unintentionally kill themselves or a playmate.

And what do we do about all of this?

We simply move on to the next news story or turn the page because we’ve come to accept this slaughter as normal. Or we accept it as the penalty our society must suffer in order to protect the 2nd Amendment.

But let me remind you. This is far from normal in the civilized world. No other advanced nation experiences such slaughter. Indeed, there are more casualties in the US from guns than there are in some nations that are considered war zones!

Let me also remind you that the Founding Fathers never intended the 2nd Amendment to allow US citizens gun down each other. It was only included in the Constitution to provide a mechanism for the defense of our nation. We did not yet have a standing army – indeed, the Founders were exceedingly wary of authorizing one – so they included the right to bear arms as part of a “well-regulated” state militia.

Further, as interpreted by the courts, the 2nd Amendment was not without limitations. The courts have consistently ruled that various jurisdictions can ban certain types of guns and ammunition. They have also ruled that certain people can be legally prevented from purchasing or owning firearms.

If our nation experienced even a small percentage of these deaths and injuries from other causes, there would be a loud uproar. People would be calling for the heads of the executives or politicians responsible. For example, in 2014, much of our population was panic-stricken over two deaths from Ebola in the US. Two! Allow me to do the math for you: That’s 14,598 fewer people who died from Ebola in the history of the US than died as the result of shootings last year alone.

And many of our citizens are willing to spend tens of billions of dollars and compromise the very fabric of our nation to prevent refugees from crossing our borders for fear a tiny percentage of them might commit a crime. But gun violence? Many of those same people won’t lift a finger or spend a dime of taxpayer money to reduce it.

Seriously, does that make any freaking sense?

You Don’t Need To Pull The Trigger To Be A Mass Murderer.

There are many examples of such people – the friends and family of mass shooters who ignore warning signs of impending violence, the people on social media who encourage potential shooters, the National Rifle Association for pushing laws that benefit gun manufacturers at the expense of shooting victims, courts that have twisted the Second Amendment (which was intended to provide for a well-regulated militia in the absence of a standing army) to mean that anyone can own and carry guns, gun dealers who fail to perform background checks and sell guns to felons and the mentally ill, politicians who bow to the wishes of the NRA instead of their constituents, and citizens who prefer to bury their heads in the sand rather than call for action after another mass shooting.

These people are all responsible. They all deserve to be known as mass murderers.

How else would you describe people who enable more than 3,000 shooting deaths each year, including the deaths of more than 500 children? How else would you describe people who stand idly by while more than 7,500 children are wounded by guns each year? How else would you describe people who ignore hundreds of mass shootings each year, including the 42 that have taken place on school campuses already this year?

How else would you describe politicians who refuse to permit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to track gun violence along with the other major causes of deaths? How else would you describe politicians who make laws that prevent pediatricians from discussing gun safety with parents; who have made it easy for anyone to own the weapons of war – assault rifles, 50-caliber sniper rifles, semi-automatic handguns, armor-piercing bullets…even silencers; who have refused to pass even the most benign gun safety laws?

How else would you describe politicians and manufacturers who have made our nation the world’s largest weapons dealer – weapons that are often turned on our own soldiers?

It doesn’t have to be this way. Not that many years ago, Australia’s conservative government reacted to a mass shooting by passing laws that banned most gun ownership and bought back guns from its once heavily-armed populace. Indeed, most other advanced nations restrict gun ownership. Even places like Dodge City and Tombstone in the Old West once had restrictive gun carry laws – that’s why historic events like the gunfight at the OK Corral still stand out. They once were far from commonplace.

But, now that nearly everyone is allowed to own and carry guns, gunfights are an everyday occurrence. Though the percentage of gun owners is declining, those who do own them own more guns than ever. These people have an irrational obsession with guns. They justify that obsession by claiming their guns are needed for self-protection from criminals, the government and “those people.” They carry them everywhere. In fact, many are so paranoid, they will not enter an establishment that prevents the carry of guns. But the reality is that guns are seldom successfully used for self-protection. More often, such guns are stolen or used for suicides. They are used in road rage incidents, in domestic disputes, in neighborhood disputes, in drive-by shootings, in theaters, in workplaces and in schools. They are used by the mentally ill, by frustrated loners, by jilted lovers, by angry husbands, by racists, and by rogue cops. They are used to threaten and intimidate. They are even used to threaten government officials who are carrying out their lawful duties.

What can be done to prevent more shootings?

We can start by improving mental health care to help the nearly one in four Americans who suffer from mental illness. We can improve our database of the criminally-ill and potentially criminally-ill. We can pass a law requiring universal background checks. We can require a 30-day waiting period for gun sales. We can make it illegal to open carry in public places. We can roll back our conceal-and-carry laws by requiring gun owners to show a need for a carry permit. We can ban large caliber weapons, such as .50 caliber sniper rifles and all other weapons of war. We can, once again, make the sale of silencers illegal. We can ban armor-piercing ammunition. We can ban large capacity magazines. And we can pass gun laws that are uniform nationwide so that rogue gun dealers in one state can no longer sell guns to residents from other states and other countries.

Finally…and this will be the most controversial suggestion…we can ban the sale and ownership of all semi-automatic guns. After all, these are not needed for hunting or even for self-defense. They are designed to make it easier to kill people. Period.

Some Context On The Terrorism In France.

For the last few days, US media have been fixated on the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. Without question, murdering satirists and innocents over ideology is a horrible, despicable act. But would the story have so dominated the news media if the terrorists were not Muslim? The treatment of similar stories by news media suggests otherwise.

For example, 12 people were killed in the initial attack on Charlie Hebdo. That is only marginally more than the average number of innocent children in the United States killed by guns every day. Where are the sensational stories about that? Since 9/11, there have been at least 8 attacks in the US by right wing terrorists. Most of these garnered no media attention. And what about news of the terrorist bombing attempt of the NAACP office in Colorado Springs? Where are the stories about that? Have you seen any news stories about the FBI manhunt for the individual responsible?

Moreover, right wing media pundits continue to call for Muslim leaders to denounce Islamic terrorism and Muslim extremists. Did you know that leading Muslim organizations in the US and Europe immediately made statements publically condemning the Paris attacks? They did. But have you seen any headlines to that effect? Have you heard any broadcast news anchors read the statements? Have you seen any interviews with those Muslim leaders?

No, such stories do not further the conservative narrative of our corporate-owned media. They do not instill fear in our public. They do not pander to our still mostly white Christian population. They do not serve to help divide us by religion and race. They do not make it easier to dehumanize those who are different. They do not serve the agenda of those in Washington (I’m thinking of you, Lindsay Graham and John McCain) who want to send more of our troops into battle in Iraq, Syria and, ultimately, Iran.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo wasn’t merely the outgrowth of religious differences. It was the outgrowth of an extreme ideology created, in part, by extremist textbooks given to Pakistani schools with the intent of rallying young Muslims to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It was the outgrowth of extremist teachings and the funding for terrorist organizations from Saudi Arabia, our supposed ally. It was the outgrowth of the Bush administration’s unwarranted invasion of Iraq. It was the outgrowth of the Bush administration’s torture program.

All of this is not to excuse the Parisian terrorist attacks. But if we’re ever going to be successful in preventing such attacks, we must understand the events and attitudes that lead to them. We must understand that the devout followers of any ideology can commit terrorist acts. Peace begins with understanding. That is why the context is necessary. It’s long past time for our media to provide that context to their sensational news; to tell the whole story; to give us the truth…not just the facts.

The Only Thing We Really Need To Know About School Shooters.

After the most recent school shooting, the media and law enforcement are, once again, attempting to find out what motivated the shooting. They’ve analyzed his social media posts. They’ve interviewed his friends, family members and teachers. They’ve speculated that he was suffering from mental illness. They’ve explored his relationships. Everyone wants to know why he brought a gun to school and opened fire. Such analysis may be helpful in preventing future killers. But it overlooks the only thing we really need to know.

Like all of the other school shooters, he had easy access to a gun.

This was not a hunting rifle or a shotgun. That would be bad enough in the hands of an unsupervised 14-year-old, but at least hunting firearms are difficult to hide. This was an easily-concealed 40-caliber semi-automatic handgun – a weapon that does not belong on our streets, in our schools, or in the hands of a troubled 14-year-old boy. His access to such a weapon begs many questions: What kind of parents allow a 14-year-old access to a semi-automatic handgun? Why would he need one? Did they think he needed it to defend himself in school; after football practice; at a school dance, on the mean streets of Tulalip? Did they think he was going to defend us from Ebola-infected ISIS terrorists who might be crossing our border with Canada? Did they not know? Did they not care?

Had the shooter not had such easy access to a concealable weapon, he might still be alive today along with the girl he murdered. And other children would not be in the hospital fighting for their lives.

His ready access to weapons is most certainly not unique. In most states, children of any age can legally purchase guns from gun shows and individuals even as they are prohibited from buying tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets and most other items intended for adults. Want to buy a gun? No problem. The only questions are handgun or long gun? What caliber? How much ammunition? Would you like some extra clips with that? Greedy gun manufacturers represented and encouraged by the National Rifle Association are even marketing child-sized, but no less lethal, guns to kids. To make them more attractive to kids, they even offer such weapons in candy colors.

What normal human being thinks this is a good idea? For what social benefit? We’ve already seen what can happen when an Uzi is placed in the hands of a supervised child on a firing range. Have gun manufacturers ever considered the consequences of their actions? Of course, they have. But their judgment is blinded by visions of increased profits and higher share prices. Unfortunately, the more guns they sell, the more dangerous our streets and schools become. That generates more paranoia. And that, in turn, generates more sales.

In reality, the only way to stop school shootings and other mass shootings is to limit the sales of guns to keep them out of the hands of the mentally unstable; to keep them out of the hands of criminals; and to keep them out of the hands of children. And the only sensible way to do that is to follow Australia’s lead. Like Australia, we should immediately pass legislation calling for a nationwide buy-back of the most lethal types of guns, such as rapid-fire semi-automatic handguns and semi-automatic assault rifles. We should immediately institute mandatory background checks on all transactions involving guns and ammo. We should ban guns in cities and other public places as was the custom in the Old West. We should limit the sale of the most lethal types of ammunition, especially so-called “cop killer” bullets. And we should ban the sale of guns to anyone under the age of eighteen.

In 2010, more than 30,000 Americans died from gunfire…nearly 3,000 of them children. That year, another 73,505 Americans recovered from gunshot wounds… more than 7,000 of them children. Yet Americans seem willing to accept those statistics. Indeed, the only response to our endless murder and mayhem has been for even more Americans to arm themselves. By contrast, our nation seems paralyzed by the fact that a single person in the US has died from Ebola…ONE! Yet our media and politicians are disproportionately reacting to the threats. While they ignore more than 100,000 shootings in a single year, they are demanding immediate action for…wait for it…Ebola.

Fear-mongering conservatives have raised alarms that we could all die if we don’t react to Ebola fast. Yet the very same people are unconcerned about mass shootings. They cower from the NRA. Instead of limiting access to guns, they pass laws making it easier to buy and carry firearms. They tell us that the Second Amendment is more important than the lives of thousands. They tell us that the number of gun victims doesn’t matter. They talk about freedom and call anyone who disagrees with them unpatriotic.

Keep that in mind as you go to the polls on November 4th.

A Memorial To Gun Victims?

A new study by Dr. John Leventhal, professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, found that firearms kill more than 3,000 children each year in the US.  Another 7,000 are wounded badly enough to be hospitalized, most from assaults. And those are just the statistics for children! Overall, there are more than 11,000 homicides per year in the US involving a firearm and more than 19,000 suicides involving a gun according to statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

No other advanced nation comes close.

To put these statistics into perspective, the number of children killed by guns in the US in a single year exceeds the 2,977 people who died in the attacks on 9/11. The 4,486 US soldiers killed during the 6 years of the Iraq War is less than half the number of gun homicides that occur in the US in a single year. And the 2,287 US soldiers who have been killed during the 10 years we have been engaged in the Afghan War is roughly equivalent to two and a half months of gun homicides in the US!

Put another way, as of May 2011, there were 58,272 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, representing the number of US soldiers killed during our 14 years of military involvement in Vietnam. The number of gun homocides in the US would exceed that number in approximately 5 years. And, if you included gun suicides, the number would be exceeded in just 3 years!

Do you still think we don’t have a gun problem in this country?

Yet despite the overwhelming reality of these statistics, American politicians refuse to act. The shooting of a US Congresswoman and the mass murder in Tucson, Arizona wasn’t enough to force common sense gun control. The mass murder in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater wasn’t enough. Even the slaughter of 26 children in Newtown, Connecticut wasn’t enough to prompt Congress to act. They couldn’t even pass a measure calling for universal background checks of gun purchasers when polls showed that a vast majority of Americans supported it.

It makes one wonder what it will take to bring Americans to our senses.

I would suggest that we create a memorial to gun victims listing all of their names. Make the memorial as visible and as powerful as possible, something similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Add the names of gun victims week by week; month by month; year by year. It may take a while, but eventually most sane people will realize exactly what our lax gun laws are costing us.

At least I would certainly hope so.

What The Most Recent Shootings Tell Us About Access To Guns.

The shooting in the Florida movie theater that left the father of two dead was not carried out by a reclusive young male who was mentally ill and felt spurned by society. It was carried out by what most people consider a highly qualified gun owner…a retired police officer who was merely upset by a young man texting his 3-year-old daughter. The shooting at the school in New Mexico was carried out by a 12-year-old boy who had access to a sawed-off shotgun.

Moreover, neither of these shooters was stopped by armed vigilantes. They were stopped by unarmed witnesses who had the courage to act.

These facts stand in stark contrast to the recommendations of the National Rifle Association (NRA) that reacted to the mass killing of 6-year-olds at Newtown by saying that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

The fact is that those who carry guns are tempted to use them. What might have turned into a fist fight in the movie theater instead turned into a murder because of the presence of a gun. What might have become a school yard fight between middle school students left one student critically injured and another in serious condition because of access to a gun.

There are only a few conditions that warrant the carrying of guns – when you are carrying large sums of money, when you have been threatened with violence, when you are working alone in a store overnight, when you must travel in a remote area known for violence, or when you are a paid security guard or on-duty police officer.

And there are no circumstances in which a minor should have access to guns without the presence of a parent.

However, the NRA would have you believe that you are always at risk unless you’re packing heat…ready to fire, round in the chamber, semi-automatic heat. And, unfortunately, too many Americans (especially right wing American politicians) have accepted the NRA paranoia. It’s the reason our gun laws have been changed to allow virtually anyone to own and carry a gun. And it’s the reason at least 10,000 fellow citizens lost their lives to gun violence in 2013.

When will it end?

Hallelujah! Pass The Hate And Ammunition!

While perusing my local newspaper, I ran across a curious item. There was an ad for a gun show at a local community church. That’s right, a gun show in a church! Doesn’t everyone know that Jesus Christ and AR-15s go together like wine and crackers; blood and flesh? After all, guns and ammo will help tens of thousands of Americans meet their maker sooner than later.

More seriously, this represents a disturbing trend. More and more religions have aligned themselves with the military. Churches praise those who died in battle. One church I visited even placed a monument to fallen soldiers in the courtyard leading to the sanctuary so the congregation would be reminded of the glory of war every time they go to church.

I long ago rejected organized religion, but I still remember my childhood church praying for peace. The congregation would never have considered allowing its facilities to be used to sell weapons. There were no monuments to violence. My, how things have changed!

Even more disturbing is the tie between some religions and racism, and the tie between racism and guns. The Ku Klux Klan was born out of white “Christian” churches. Today, many Aryan supremacy groups still use the Bible to justify their hatred for others. Further, a new study published in the science journal Plos One has linked racism to gun ownership. A research team led by Dr. Kerry O’Brien measured levels of symbolic racism in relationship to gun ownership. The team reported, “For each 1 point increase in symbolic racism, there was a 50% greater odds of having a gun in the home, and there was a 28% increase in the odds of supporting permits to carry concealed handguns.”

According to the team, the results were “consistent with other US data showing that white males display the most opposition to gun control, and greater support for liberalisation of gun laws.” The team also found that “higher education levels were associated with lower odds of having a gun in the home.”

Maybe someone will conduct a similar study exploring the links between guns and religion, or hatred and religion. I suspect the findings would be both depressing and frightening.