Nel's New Day

August 16, 2013

Stop the Gun Paranoia

At the height of the argument about gun control following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, an op-ed in my local newspaper talked about how laws were not necessary because all legal gun owners were responsible. It is only the criminals who shoot people. I remember this statement every time that I see articles like this one:

This week, 56-year-old Gary Wingate of Prescott (AZ) insisted that his wife hand him his 12-gauge shotgun despite her being uncomfortable with handling guns. She did what she was told and accidentally shot him in the torso, killing him.

Near there, two months earlier, a four-year-old killed his father in what was called an accidental shooting. A Tucson-area man was luckier: his three-year-old son left him alive after accidentally shooting him in the butt with a .22 caliber rifle. The man was target shooting in the desert.

In another act of carelessness this week near Lancaster (OH), 73-year-old Terry J. Dunlap, instructor in a gun safety class, shot one of his students, 26-year-old Michael Piemonte, in the right arm. The gun safety instructor didn’t know that the gun was loaded.

The above events—and thousands of others—have been classified as “accidental.” But a policeman in Danville (VA) refuses to believe that these shootings are accidental. When a six-year-old found a gun in his Danville (VA) home and shot a one-year-old in the back, Cpl. T.B. Scearce of the Danville Police Department said there is no such thing as an accidental discharge:  it is a negligent discharge. In order for a gun to fire, Scearce said, three things have to occur: It has to be functional, it has to be loaded and the trigger has to be pulled. Somebody has to be responsible, and most likely it’s the person who left a working, loaded gun where a child can find it and pull the trigger.

Between 2006 and 2010, 561 children age 12 and under were killed by firearms, according to the FBI’s most recent Uniform Crime Reports: 120 in 2006; 115 in 2007; 116 in 2008, 114 in 2009 and 96 in 2010. The FBI’s count does not include gun-related child deaths that authorities have ruled accidental. Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said children are more likely to die by gunfire at home or in the street, in answer to the NRA argument that teachers need to be armed.

  • Alyssa Celaya, 8, was shot and killed by her father with a .38-caliber gun at the Tule River Indian Reservation in California.
  • Delric Miller died at 9 months when gunfire from an AK-47 sprayed his home on Detroit’s west side.
  • Angel Mauro Cortez Nava, 14-months-old, was in his father’s arms on a sidewalk near their Los Angeles home was shot and killed by a bicyclist.
  • Faith Ehlen, 22 months, Autumn Cochran, 10, and Alyssa Cochran, 11, were all killed in their DeSoto (MO) home when their mother shot them.
  • Jackson Engels, 11, and his older sister Bailey, 13, were killed by their father in Dundee (OR).
  • Lincoln Leatham, 2, picked up a non-service gun left in the Springville (UT) home by his father, a police officer, and died after shooting himself.
  • Amari Markel-Purrel Perkins, 6, accidentally shot and killed himself with a gun found in his Clinton (MD) home after an adult hid the weapon inside a Spiderman backpack.

A man was shot in the head and killed after a relative on a kayaking trip urinated on a gravel bar along the Meramec River near Steelville, Missouri. James Robert Crocker, 59, thought he owned the land and picked a fight. The dead Army veteran wasn’t the one who picked up rocks, but Crocker said that he “just shot the one closest to me.”

Another “responsible” gun owner didn’t kill anyone, but she tried. When a woman saw a SUV in her driveway turning around, she opened fire on the couple and their five children, ages four to twelve. The kids’ mother yelled that they were turning around, but the woman fired again.

In Missouri the Ku Klux Klan, noted for perpetrating violence on minorities, is volunteering to be in the Neighborhood Watch. So far, they are targeting only white neighborhoods to fit with the mission on their website: “There is a race war against whites….”

Wisconsin doesn’t need the KKK for protection; they have the Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities, a “no compromise security force,” in the popular Penokee Heritage Park. Camouflaged, masked commandos are crawling around the popular hiking and camping destination because Gogebic Taconite plans to build “what could become the largest open-pit iron-ore mine in the world,” according to the Sierra Club’s Taconite Mine Web page. They’re likely to succeed because Gov. Scott Walker signed the Wisconsin Mining Act (aka “Bad River Watershed Destruction Act”) that strips any environmental protections Wisconsin. When somebody gets killed, the company can just say it thought it was one of the those environmentalist “terrorists.”

People in Gilberton (PA) are taking action against the infamous Police Chief Mark Kessler, asking the National Guard to disarm the suspended police chief and his followers who call themselves the “Constitution Security Force.” Kessler started by posting online videos of his firing automatic weapons while calling for violence against Democrats and Secretary of State John Kerry. Because the guns used belonged to the borough police force, the Council called a meeting to discuss disciplinary action. Kessler used another video to call on his personal militia to attend the meeting. Although a few brave people faced Kessler and his hundred-plus followers brandishing guns and the insurance threatened to withdraw its policy, the Council only suspended Kessler for 30 days. The state of Pennsylvania sent helicopters to the meeting, but officials may be afraid to fire Kessler.

Protesters at women’s clinics understand how dangerous guns are. This week, anti-abortionists went to the Wichita (KS) City Council asking that the South Wind Women’s Center be closed because it draws gun violence. South Wind is in the same building as Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. Before he was murdered in his church by an anti-abortionist terrorist four years ago, Shelley Shannon, another anti-abortion terrorist shot Tiller in front of his clinic.

The only gun violence will come from the protesters who want to close the clinic. Mark S. Gietzen, chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, made threats toward an escort who makes sure that women can safely enter and exit the facility when he said,

“The way this guy acts, I’m afraid that someone’s going to shoot him. He’s asking for it.”

The danger of gun ownership in the country by all these so-called “responsible” gun owners is their paranoia. Almost 30 percent of registered voters agree with the statement: “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties.” These are the same people who subscribe to conspiracy theories; one-fourth of people in this country believe that facts about the Newtown shootings “are being hidden” and another 11 percent “are unsure.” Connecticut Carry, a pro-gun lobbying group, has accused the father of a child murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School of “profiting off of the tragedy.”

Angry fearmongers foment hatred in the country through their irresponsible statements about public officials and agencies. The widening income inequality results in resentment while the most resentful continue to elect lawmakers who worsen the gap between rich and poor. Their answer is a violent uprising; the rest of us need to use the ballot box and courts to fight back against them.

We need to stop the philosophy of “I’ve got mine and you’re not going to take it, but I’m going to take yours—because I have lots of guns.”

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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