Nel's New Day

January 31, 2013

Gun Deaths – The Culture of Violence, Part 1

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The NRA would deprive you of the first and third, by redefining the second.”—Douglas Anthony Cooper

Nine days after she led her classmates in the King College Prep School Marching Band for the inauguration parade, Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down a few blocks from her school. Last year, gun-related murders in Chicago were 58 percent higher than the number of U.S. soldiers shot and killed in Afghanistan.

Three days earlier, seven people were killed and six wounded because of gun violence in Chicago. One of them was 34-year-old Ronnie Chambers whose mother had already lost her other three children to shootings.

Two days ago in Midland City (AL) Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65, killed a school bus driver, and kidnapped a six-year-old boy.  Witnesses reported that Dykes boarded the school bus filled with grade school children when it stopped at one of its regular drop-off points and brandished a gun, telling the bus driver, “I need two kids between the ages of 6 and 8.” The bus driver replied, “I can’t do that” and attempted to get away. That’s when Dykes shot and killed him.  The shooter then holed up in a bunker keeping law officers at bay. Three days later, he is still holding the boy in the bunker. Negotiators are trying to communicate with Dykes through a 4-inch-wide ventilation pipe. 

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), strong supporter of budget cuts to decrease funds for more police officers on the streets, said he wants high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic weapons because budget cuts mean inadequate police forces.  This is the same senator who told Fox News that “Hillary Clinton got away with murder” when he talked about the four deaths in Benghazi.

The Missouri state senate is considering a law requiring all first-graders to take a gun safety training course. This is in a state that has no sexual education requirement to help students protect themselves from STIs or unintended pregnancies.

Fontana Unified School District superintendent authorized the purchase of 14 high-caliber rifles at $1,000 each to be stored on campuses around the district for use in attacks like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary. Two years ago the district closed its counseling program; the purchase of guns does not address students’ mental issues.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police collaborated with New Hampshire gun makers Sig Sauer and Sturm, Ruger & Company in a fundraising program. They will auction off a Ruger SR-556C assault rifle and 30 other guns, one each day of the month, to the highest bidder.

In St. Paul, Kirill Bartashevitch, 51, pointed his recently-purchased assault rifle at his teenage daughter and wife because his daughter got two B’s in school instead of straight A’s. He also threw his wife to the floor. He told the police that it wasn’t a problem because the gun wasn’t loaded and he had checked the chamber earlier.

These tragedies are only a few of the daily occurrences in the United States. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate held a hearing in an introduction to legislating gun laws. At the same time as the hearing, a man shot three people in a north-central Phoenix (AZ) office complex after the shooter did not do well in a civil mediation meeting. One of them has died, another is expected to die, and the man who did the shooting was found dead of a self-inflicted gun shot.

The Senate hearing got off to a violent start when NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and his bodyguards walked off the elevator in the Dirksen Senate Office Building yesterday. Finding TV cameras waiting for them, one of the men “bumped and body-checked journalists out of the way so they couldn’t film LaPierre or question him as he walked,” according to columnist Dana Milbank. After a journalist was pushed against a wall, congressional officials told the NRA officials that congressional procedures prevented manhandling.

Two years ago, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head while addressing her constituents in a Tucson Safeway parking lot. Six other people were killed by the shooter who had a semi-automatic weapon with a high-capacity magazine. Yesterday she read the following statement at a Senate hearing on gun violence. Everyone should hear her statement.

“Thank for inviting me here today. This an important conversation for our children, for our community, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

At the hearing, James Johnson, Baltimore County chief of police and chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, said “the best way to stop a bad guy from getting a gun in the first place is a good background check.” But LaPierre said the NRA opposes closing the gun show loophole, claiming that background checks are pointless, as are other gun laws, because criminals and the mentally ill don’t abide by them. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) responded, “Mr. LaPierre, that’s the point. The criminals won’t go to purchase the guns because there will be a background check.”

Although–thanks to Congress–there is no formal process for tabulating the number of gun deaths in the U.S., an informal count shows that at least 1478 people have died because of guns in the United States since the tragic event at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown (CT).

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