Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Year in Politics and Sports

2012 had the distinction of being, it seemed a year where the worlds of politics and sports collided. While both keep score, they are normally isolated from each other, unless Congress decides to get into steroid use or corruption of the integrity of some favorite pastime or some sports star decides that his sports skills translate well in the body politic.

First, a look at the dead and wounded in the world of politics. We lost a mountain of political heavyweights this past year, from Watergate’s Charles Colson to political leaders George McGovern, Daniel Inouye, Warren Rudman, and Arlen Spector. Those who triggered political changes included Robert Bork – one of the first major Supreme Court nominee challenges, Rodney King who put a face on police violence and Philip Vannater who, at the OJ trail brought sloppy police procedures to the spotlight. The interactions of the political world were observed for us by titans Mike Wallace and Gore Vidal along with the often truth-free Andrew Breitbart. And of course, from America’s shadow government of the 2000s – President Bartlet’s secretary…Mrs. Landingham — Kathryn Joosten.

Wounded, by circumstances both external and self inflected…the Tea Party. From their cheers to the question “Let him die” during the Republican primary debates to the rejection of Tea Party candidates throughout the Republican race. Michelle Bachmann, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Allen West. And with Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks only winning 24% of  their Tea Party backed candidates their $40Million investment failed. Doubling down on Armey was Karl Rove, whose American Crossroads PAC spent $390Million in the 2012 election…and the only thing to show for it was a live broadcast meltdown at his safe harbor, FoxNews on election night.

Even more telling, due to the realities of the 21st Century both tax Scrooge Grover Norquest and the leadership of the NRA are facing extreme political pushback from their core political supporters, unheard of even six months ago.

And of course the choice of the Republican Party…Mitt Romney whose tone-deft campaign, isolating and insulting nearly every constituency except affluent white voters came up with just 47%…ironically the same percentage number of Americans he insulted when he thought there were no cameras. That loss, made much more acute by fatally flawed echo chamber predictions that he would win, no matter what the rest of the political world was predicting.

It seemed this year that the national stage and its ever present political shadow overwhelmed much of the news. The Presidential election, and Barrack Obama’s second presidential victory may have been THE story of the year but violence in America, and more specifically in public places caused an endless staccato drumbeat of breaking news, each story fracturing the public psyche more than the last. Mass shootings in restaurants and cafes, at the workplace and home, in churches and temples, at malls and hospitals, theaters and finally the catalyst that brought the frustration of a nation to a boil…our schools. Oh, and over 500 have been killed by murder just in Chicago…and we only know the name Nathaniel T. Jackson because he was the ceremonial murder Number 500, killed two weeks after the shootings at Sandy Hook.

But the world is not just politics…sports had an outstanding run in 2012. Eli Manning and the New York Giants beat Bill Belichick’s hoodie and the NE Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI – where the Roman numerals make it important and we saw the bearded San Francisco Giants sweep the World Series. In tennis we watched the retirement of Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters, swimming saw Michael Phelps and his cache of medals on his last podium, Pat Summitt and Jim Calhoun retired from coaching, and seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher retired for the second time. But maybe what we remember most was Lance Armstrong having the titles taken away for his seven consecutive Tours de France and Bob Costas, just 12 days before Sandy Hook using his Sunday Night Football halftime slot addressing the murder/suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and the culture of guns.

Also this year we watched Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond ‘chute into the extremely successful London Olympics, no matter the negative professional assessment of Mitt Romney. We watched the United States win 104 medals, we watched McKayla Maroney not be impressed and we watched most all of the London Olympics in time delay to make the broadcast for convenient for NBC’s ratings and so we could listen to the ever rambling Bob Costas fill time as they skipped through the parts not involving Americans.  Most of the American audience was with McKayla…we were not impressed with NBC.

In Kentucky sports and politics collided this year. Republican Lt. Governor candidate Richie Farmer, formally University of Kentucky Wildcat “Unforgettable” lost the election, his unemployment claim after his term as Agriculture Commissioner expired, his wife and his house. Only his mustache seems to have survived.  And in other news of the Big Blue Nation…UK won its eighth NCAA National Championship and put six members of the championship team in the NBA Draft, including Numbers 1 and 2. Also, UK superfan and sometimes actress and wife of three time Indianapolis 500 and four time Indycar champion Dario Franchitti Ashley Judd is being considered to run for the US Senate in 2014 against 30 year Senate veteran Mitch McConnell.

At the end of the year there is the Budget Bowl, in sudden death overtime with 4th and long and it looks like Congress and the President are executing their versions of a goal-line defense, each running often seen plays, the Xs and Os familiar to everyone who has watched either politics or Wile E. Coyote.  But I am not sure they realize the folks in the stands are not cheering…except for an occasional, but ever growing Bronx cheer.

2013 looks to be anything but boring. Tebow that it is better than 2012.

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Gun Violence: Facing Responsibility

Variations of the word responsibility come up often in the conversation about gun rights, gun control and gun violence. It is used to describe the “99% of gun owners who are responsible.” It is used by those demanding gun control to “make gun owners, gun manufacturers and the NRA responsible for their actions and policies.” It is used to question just what the responsibility of gun owners should be. And, unfortunately it is demanded, by the people to the judicial system to make those responsible for gun violence and death pay.

And then there is this…

In October 2008, in Massachusetts  EIGHT year old Christopher Bizilj, while shooting a fully automatic Micro UZI submachine gun blew himself away. He was at the Westfield Sportman’s Club at an event put on by the Pelham police chief, Edward Fleury. Christopher’s father Charles was fiddling around with his video camera when the incident occurred.

Those are the basic facts. The follow-up over the next three years defines “responsibility” in gun deaths. While not nearly as many deaths occurred as in Sandy Hook, and there was no flurry of media covering the story 24/7, it should be at the heart of any gun violence discussion.

In any incident like this the prevailing next step is lawsuits and charges…getting down to just who is responsible for such an egregious loss of young life…so the legal battles began.

Charles Bizilj sued the suppliers of the gun and ammunition they leased at the expo. They settled for $700,000.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed charges of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of furnishing machine guns to minors against Edward Fleury, police chief of Pelham and organizer of the C.O.P. Firearms and Training Machine Gun Shoot.

At the 2011 trial Edward Fleury was found innocent of all charges.

After Fleury’s trial the charges were dropped against Carl Giuffre and Domenico Spano, subcontractors to Fleury’s Machine Gun Shoot.

The 15 year old range supervisor who was the “handler” for Christopher’s shooting experience testified that he twice suggested the boy’s father pick a less powerful weapon for the boy to shoot. The father insisted.

It bears repeating…THE FATHER INSISTED

Back to responsibility…who was ultimately responsible for this very senseless act?

  • The Westfield Sportsman’s Club?
  • C.O.P. Firearms and Training owner Police Chief Edward Fleury?
  • Carl Giuffre and Domenico Spano, subcontractors to Chief Fleury?
  • Fifteen year old Michael Spano, son of Domenico Spano?
  • The insistent Charles Bizilj?

Apparently the answer is NOBODY. It, like hundreds of other “firearms accidents” that happen each year will be blamed on nobody except very poor luck. And there-in lays the problem in a world where nobody is adjudicated “responsible” for an EIGHT year old boy’s ability to play with firearms that were too powerful for his untrained mind and body. And he paid the price.

If gun owners and the NRA want to contribute to this conversation on gun violence, this is a really easy place for them to start. And for those who want to regulate guns, this example of avoidance of responsibility by society is a good place to begin to work at the edges of the gun violence problem.

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Gun Violence Part 5: My Thoughts on My Thoughts

Over the past two years I have gone over the issue of gun violence time and again…and referenced those headline grabbing stories from Congresswoman Giffords to Sandy Hook to the more common, more frequent, more deadly stories of children picking up their parent’s gun and killing themselves or others to the man who kills his entire family because he is paranoid about an uncertain future. I tend to write as a systems analyst, looking pragmatically at all sides of the issue, all causes from access to guns to the mental health and stresses that cause folks to go just that far over the line.

Now to a personal view… MY observations and solutions that I make from a position of being a long time gun owner and target shooter [over 50 years since I first learned to shoot and 40 years as a gun owner] AND a supporter of the need to solve the problems of gun violence.

The very first element of my solution is to honestly define the problem.  That means looking at everything that is in the swirl of the violence and what it will take to actively reduce the body count.  It also means not disrespecting the tens of millions of gun owners who are not violent, not unstable…not part of the problem.

This missive addresses gun issues ONLY, please refer to other articles to address the multitude of causes of violence that need to be addressed to diffuse the other side of a shooter’s actions.

Personal Responsibility

Starting at the foundation means addressing personal responsibility to remove from the equation the senseless deaths of kids with their parent’s weapons and the 200,000 guns stolen per year that end up outside the system, more likely to be involved in crime.  That means a requirement to stow your weapons and further to maintain liability if your gun is stolen.

Stopping the ability of gun owners to buy/sell firearms without a paper trail must be addressed if a continuation of liability is to be achieved.

Government Intervention

From the perspective of regulations, I believe that a ban on 30+ magazines is reasonable.  They serve little purpose in the many legitimate uses of a semi-automatic rifle.  I do not believe a ban on future sales of semi-automatic assault weapons will work to solve the problem, it is more kneejerk than solution.

Chicago is looking at putting a tax on ammunition to pay for their ever escalating gun wound costs at their ERs.  While it affects the 99% of gun owners who do not contribute to the problem of gun violence, a reasonable tax on types of ammo has merit.

At some point there needs to be an enhancement of background checks at the point of purchase to insure that nobody who should not own a weapon slips through the cracks.  That means requiring states to include mental health evaluations into the NICS.  It will be costly, intrusive but can weed out some buyers.

Right now many prisons are revolving doors…those with violent tendencies are out well before their sentences demand.  We have to fund prisons to address convicted violent people and not let them back on the streets to get one of the many underground guns that are so available.

There are too many loopholes in current regulations, and many are not enforced due to budget considerations.  Among them, closing a loopholes that allows strawman purchases, that allows undocumented buy/sell of guns.

Will this stop gun violence…NO.  Will it  – along with addressing the causes that make a shooter pick up a gun – slowdown the gun violence and deaths…YES.

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Gun Violence Part 4: Missing the Target

In this new gun rights debate, triggered by 12 incidents of mass murder in 2012 we have seen, rather than the two polarized sides starting to come together we are seeing  an entrenching of position.  On the pro-gun side – the problem is everything except the guns, on the gun regulation side – the problem is nothing except the guns. Both positions are dead wrong – though each could provide an element of a comprehensive solution.

The pro-gun side of the conversation came out, after a week of reflection with an argument that declared that moving towards a police state, arming every school and teacher would solve the problem…reflective in their long standing view that we are in a dystopian society…flawed, crumbling and full of bad guys to the point that only armed response is the solution.

On the pro-regulation side the argument was stated from day one…it is only guns that are the problem, not mental healthcare issues [they are too complex], not desensitization by movies, TV or video games, not bullying, workplace stress or domestic violence — or gang violence.  Their solution was just access to guns by those who want to do harm.

Looking at both sides – yes, guns are the common denominator in the violence but no, they are not the cause…they are the very last domino in a long line.  But with modern weapons that have high capacity magazines that will deliver nearly 100 rounds of 223 ammo travelling 3200 feet per second with a muzzle pressure of 1500 foot pound of force all with two magazine changes or less, that last domino is an extremely potent, convenient, efficient killing machine.

So we have to look at the rest of the dominoes…and also look at the gun owners themselves. From that we get an extremely complex problem that doesn’t have a simple solution, from either side.

I have covered the rest of the dominoes repeatedly, and they are very well documented…mental health issues are a factor in the violence as are bullying, stress in the workplace and home. Movies, TV and video games have a provable desensitizing effect [a couple of studies can be found here and here ] Ignoring studies that prove those links by the pro-regulation folks is as disingenuous and damaging to their position as ignoring the mountain of studies that show guns can be a problem by the pro-gun folks.

If my message has not been clear enough over the past 60 days…let me boil it down. THE ANSWER LIES IN THE MIDDLE.  It is neither of the two polarized, opposing position.  And to get to a solution that serves a purpose beyond political posturing or confirmation of their previous position, both sides are going to have to co-operate and compromise.

As much as the NRA statement was a tone deaf, self serving response, so was the publishing of legal gun permit holder’s names and addresses in Westchester County, NY.  It was a lazy, irresponsible action that attempted to paint ALL gun owners [that 99% who are not criminal and never will be] with a single, very biased brush. Nether act served a purpose of moving the conversation forward; both were self serving to their positions.

Further to that point blogs, websites and media that are only willing to publish biased information, avoiding looking at solutions that distract from a preconceived “solution” damage their cause – nobody in that very large middle are willing to only listen to one side…one side that only offers pat, oft-repeated solutions that have fatal flaws.

To those two sides…Christmas is over.  If you didn’t get your biased, polarized solution for Christmas…it ain’t happening. It’s time to pony up to the table and get ready to do some very hard, complicated work to find a solution.

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“Yippee-ki-yay, Motherf…” – John McClane

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The question is unbelievably simple…”Why does everyone believe that THEY would have saved the day with a gun?”

John McClane.  The everyman hero from the Die Hard series who, no matter the problem, the odds, how beat down he was, we knew he would rise to the occasion.

“If only one person with a gun had been there, this tragedy would not have happened”.  We heard it after the theater shootings in Aurora, the volume has increased after Sandy Hook.  Everyone who argues the anti-regulation side of the gun violence debate says…declares…demands “if only one person with a gun…”.  Because with John McClane, as long as he had a gun he ended the violence of those with bad intentions. When asked why he does it he says:

“[I do this] because there is nobody else to do it right now. Believe me if there was somebody else to do it, I would let them do it. There’s not, so [I’m] doing it. That’s what makes you that guy.” – Live Free or Die Hard

And that is what guys are taught from the time they are old enough to play…to be “that guy”.  To be the guy who will step up.  And there is nothing wrong with that…NOTHING.  But, when you add in an element that guns are a big part of the solution it changes. Psychologist Abraham Maslow said in his book The Psychology of Science, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”  It is the Law of the Instrument.  And with those defending the gun culture, the gun is that hammer.  The point of the Law of the Instrument, use the BEST tool for the job, not just the one in which you are most familiar.  When addressing gun violence creeping into public venues…there are many tools to address the problems – NOT just the gun. And certainly those with an interest in protecting the gun culture do their best to make the gun the best tool, the only tool in which to solve the problem.

John McClane is a simple guy…he has simple solutions. And he has stunt men, staged fights and a script that guarantees that, in the end, though bruised and beaten, he is still the victor. That philosophy of the everyman hero, and the desire to emulate him has not changed since John Wayne in the 1950s and Dirty Harry Callahan in the 1970s.

“If only one person with a gun had been there, this tragedy would not have happened”.  But history says no.  At Columbine there were experienced, trained, armed guards at the school. By the time the one responding guard was at a point to engage the shooting had already begun.  And he didn’t stop the shooters…they stopped themselves when they were done.

History points to the four fully armed, fully trained cops in Lakewood WA in November of 2009 who were, while at work killed by a single gunman. Or the FIVE cops who have been killed by gunfire SINCE Sandy Hook, just nine days ago or the other 250 cops killed by gunfire in just the past five years. They were all armed, on duty, trained…DEAD.

At the shooting rampage at the Tucson Congressional Meet and Greet where there were six killed and 13 wounded, including a US Congresswoman there was that guy, the “one person with a gun” – Joe Zamudio.  But there were a couple of problems.  As he came around the corner to intervene he saw a man with a gun.  Zamudio demanded he “drop the weapon”.  Problem was the man with the gun had just taken it from the shooter who was now on the ground.  Besides not being EXACTLY in the right place at the right time he very nearly killed the man who disarmed the shooter.

Sometimes the right tool for the job is the gun…sometimes arming teachers or installing guards at ever door of every school is the right answer.  But history, and the ever growing pile of evidence shows that it is not the only solution.  Besides looking at reactive solutions [a guard, teacher, or concealed carry civilian waiting to react] we have to go to the roots of the problem.  The roots are many…they include addressing mental healthcare, bullying, workplace violence, domestic violence and external stimuli such as First Person Shooter video games…AND, specifically that one common denominator in all of these mass murders…the gun.

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfu…

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Shooting Off Inside an Echo Chamber.

I have been working on the issue of gathering a national conversation about gun violence since January of 2011 when Congresswoman Giffords was gunned down at a Tucson Congressional Meet and Greet. Since that day this country has had 12 events that meet the FBI definition of mass shooting – four victims [not including the shooter].  Of those, EIGHT were with variations of the AK-47 or AR-15, civilian semi-automatic versions of either the Russian military AK-47 or the M16/M4 that the US military and police use. In those 12 mass shootings 99 people were killed and another 102 were wounded.

Since that time I have actively engaged in conversation, from obviously liberal gun control fora to, on the other side many of the gun fora that populate the internet.  I have done so for a couple of reasons…first, to glean the opinions and “pulse” of the various groups, second to enter the conversations and have constructive, often hard open dialog with the participants and third, to enter the idea that, for a realistic solution that both fully addresses the proliferating gun violence but also respects the rights of the 99% of gun owners who are not part of the problem compromise will be required.  In all cases on various fora I introduced a very simple cut and pasted suggestion [written January 12, 2011] so that I would insure that my intent was clear.

What is it going to take for the national debate to begin in earnest to address gun violence that is permeating our culture?  Is it going to take the rising middle of America, those neither wed to the hard-line dogma of the two opposing sides – those demanding absolute gun control or libertarian freedom from all regulation – to shape this argument?  And what event will it take to trigger that middle to demand change? An assassination? Another Columbine type school shooting?  Another Luby’s Cafeteria or McDonalds restaurant shooting? A disrupted sporting event?

The two sides of the debate have to be willing to come together, to compromise to a 21st Century solution that is constrained by violence on one side and an 18th Century philosophy on ownership on the other. If they don’t the middle of the bell curve, that very wide middle made up of non-committed Americans will force the politicians to act.  THEY will write the solution, not those with vested interest.

It seemed simple enough…it seemed to lack offense, it seemed to be neutral in the questions that it asked. Boy, was I wrong.  From this simple opening I have been called a Socialist, socialist, communist, gun-grabber, gun nut, murderer, libtard, moron, and assailed by both sides with “you can’t fix STUPID”.  Yes, both sides used the exact same phrase, including capitalization as a response to defense of that paragraph.

With just one exception I was either banned from the forum, asked to leave, defriended, blocked, told that I was a troll, edited or simply assaulted with a Tourette’s level of juvenile obscenity laced vitriol from the members – without a single instance of the forum moderator asking their majority opined members to “tone it down”.  The irony of being banned from a firearms forum, attempting to void my 1st Amendment rights in order to protect their 2nd Amendment rights was not only humorous but has provided a oft used example of the irrational lengths folks will go to defend dogma.

BUT, I sure got my answer.  From both sides I saw a complete intractability to changing their position, willingness to compromise, to even hearing views that did not dovetail exactly with theirs. Even more scary I saw many forum members articulate the common observation “[fill in the blank group] morons don’t have a clue as to what they are talking about.” In other words, their opinion was valid, had merit and backed by overwhelming evidence and the opposition was dumber than a box of rocks.  And by “their opinion” I mean both sides.  Both gun control liberals and pro gun conservatives.

So, besides having a set of disparate causes to gun violence, whether it is mental health issues, bullying issues, video games, violent TV or job stress or domestic strife all tied together by access to guns we have to look at extreme polarization in the national conversation.  More to the point…how do two sides come to the table when both think those on the other side are F’ing Morons™?

To add to the list of causes of gun violence…let’s add extreme obstinance…the unwillingness to even consider the opposite view of a problem.  This problem will never go away as long as the two fringe positions refuse to act like responsible adults.

The lesson I learned from this…shooting off in an echo chamber is deafening.  But I also learned much of how to frame the national conversation on gun violence.  Unfortunately it involves ignoring the fringes and looking to pissed off Middle America that is tired of their workplaces, restaurants, malls, streetcorners, theaters, churches and schools being places of violence.  They come from the conservative, moderate and liberal pools. They will define the parameters of the issues and they will push the politicians past their lobbyists toward a package of solutions.

And maybe that’s not so bad.

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Lawyers, Guns and Money

As the conversation heats up regarding the spread of gun violence back into our schools, malls, restaurants, theaters, there will be two voices in direct opposition on the subject…On one side the folks who support the need to look at regulations, to consider whether all types of weapons really make since in a 21st Century reality and, on the other side gun owners who don’t want complications in the pursuit of their hobby and the big dog in the argument – the Gun Lobby. In the past 13 years the Gun Lobby has spent $73MILLION dollars in lobbying to Congress.

Many of the same folks who so quickly give to the NRA and the GOA are the very same folks who line up against lobbying of the financial sector, automobile manufacturing sector, Wall Street.

The gun lobby is usually thought of by the general public as the NRA…they are the most vocal.  But behind the scenes there are more organizations that promote the gun culture.  And they have deep pockets.  Let’s review the players.

The NRA

With between 2 and 4.5 million members [depending on which part of the NRA’s website you read], and a leader with a love of the camera, the NRA is the most visible face of the Gun Lobby.

National Shooting Sports Foundation

Less well known is the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the collective of the gun manufacturing industry.  They are the folks who, while much quieter speak for manufacturers and have a vested interest in a wide open gun market. An interesting bit of IRONY…their national headquarters are located just a bit over a mile away from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Gun Owners of America

While the smallest, this group is also the least flexible, representing the most libertarian wing of gun owners. When asked “So how would you use your Second Amendment rights if you didn’t like the way your congressman or senator is representing you? GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt suggested that gun owners should use their weapons when the government steals elections, when “they” define tyranny to mean a position to which they don’t agree.

A Note:

This article is a work in progress, it will change over time as I dig through details of these organization.

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Shooting Holes in NRA’s Post School Shooting Proposal

The response from the NRA today provided a telling view of their position.  They blamed any and everything for the violence that visited Sandy Hook except the reality that guns were there.  They only acknowledged that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  So it is only the response of “more guns” that would have saved the children at Sandy Hook…or Aurora…or Virginia Tech…or Foot Hood…or the Luby’s Cafeteria…the beat goes on.

If only one person with a gun had been there…”

But let’s look at history, the reality of the issue.  And to do that, let’s look at two incidents, though there are more.

In April of 1999 13 people were killed by two gunmen, students at the school.  Could they have been saved by that one guard that the NRA wants us to believe is the solution?  Well, there was an armed guard, a 15 year veteran of the Sheriff’s department.  And he responded, and he returned fire.  He called the Sheriff’s office for backup.  Yet, with both an armed security guard on site and backup coming in by the minute the two shooters, who started their rampage at 11:19am continued until THEY ended it at 12:08 p.m with their own suicides.  They left 13 dead and 21 injured in the wake of that 49 minute attack.

In March of 2005 a 16 year old shooter killed his grandfather, a deputy sheriff, took his guns including two handguns and a shotgun and vest and went to Red Lake High School in his grandfather’s police vehicle.  The first person he killed was one of the school’s two security guards at the door. He went on to kill five students and a teacher at the school wounding at least a dozen more before ending his own life.
The NRA solution 100% in place with 100% failure.

Ten years after Columbine, in a coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington, on November 29, 2009 four police officers were sitting down before starting their shift.  They used the coffee shop as a meeting point prior to their shift and were killed by a single gunman who walked into the coffee shop and executed them while they worked on their laptops at the table.  They were well armed, they were well trained and they had the situational awareness to perceive threats.  Within seconds they were all four dead.

The NRA solution is to place armed guards at schools to “stop” the potential for mass violence.  Yet, in two schools, each employing that very plan the death toll is 23, the injured number over 30.  And when we include the police killings in Washington, four well trained, well armed professionals…the glaring weakness of the NRA’s proposal becomes abundantly clear.

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Gun Violence Part 3: Solutions Beyond Kneejerk

The solutions to the gun violence that is entering everyday America has been in the past defined by the two diametrically opposed anchors of the debate. And with Sandy Hook, we got the expected “solutions” from both of them.  From the gun control side we were handed a proposal to ban all assault type weapons and magazines and from the NRA we received, a week after Sandy Hook a proposal to put armed guards in every school, and, more important a shotgun approach of blaming everyone and everything for the violence except the common denominator – guns.

What is most problematic with the two diametrically opposed solutions is that they required no thought, both were the expected responses from their spokespersons and both were kneejerk reactions to Sandy Hook.  While both have merit, neither solves the complex puzzle.

The KneeJerks…

For a moment, let’s look at the two kneejerk reactions to Sandy Hook.  From the Left came a quick response to only blame guns for the massacre and focus all the solution on removing assault type weapons from the market, removing handguns with magazines that hold over 10 shots from public access.  Will it solve the problem?  NO.  Will it contribute to the solution…absolutely.  But that comes with a caveat.  Any set of laws to limit access does not take into account the millions of those same weapons that are already in the hands of the American public.  To avoid trampling current interpretations of the 2nd Amendment those weapons would, by necessity be grandfathered.  What this means is that while there is an important need to protect the 99% of gun owners who do NOT cross the line to violence, there are also opportunities, under current circumstance for those who want to kill to continue to do so.  Over 200,000 guns are stolen each year mainly from folks who refuse to accept the responsibility to properly STOW their weapons.  Yet, history has shown that there are no ramifications for improperly stowed weapons…the owner is never held responsible.  And this crosses over to the death and wounding of children who find their parent’s guns and play, often with tragic consequences.

To the other side, the NRA took to the airwaves today to promote the solution they derived from their week in the wilderness…well, more likely from perusing previous PR missives in their marketing archives.  But to be clear, they did touch on several important contributing factors to gun violence including the desensitization by violent movies and video games but they did everything they could to obfuscate any responsibility of the gun – the only common denominator in the ever present violence. Their solution – arm all schools with trained security.  It is not a bad solution on the surface but exposes the kneejerk response…it addressed only SCHOOLS.  In 2012 alone we have had mass shootings in churches, spas, hospitals, restaurants, workplaces and theaters…yet this solution ONLY addresses schools.  It reminds us of the TSA requirement to remove our shoes at check-in, because of ONE instance of shoe-bombs.  Kneejerk reactions.

The recommendation by the NRA, to arm schools – the worn out “if only one person had a gun, this would not have happened” does not look at the associated costs. If there is just one guard per school, with 100,000 public schools, that is an annual cost of $3Billion dollars, if each guard is paid just $30,000.  And it assumes that that one guard will happen to be just at the right place to respond when chaos strikes. And further, that response is not just his presence, but a tactical response to hunt and kill – which requires a much more intensive training   But the NRA thinks this is the best solution – and conveniently they offer for profit training.

“And the National Rifle Association, as America’s preeminent trainer of law enforcement and security personnel for the past 50 years, is ready, willing and uniquely qualified to help.”  Wayne LaPierre, 12/21/12.

Never mind that each state has its own tax funded police academes; the NRA believes IT is the preeminent source for training.

Other problems, other solutions…

Yesterday I addressed the multitude of causes to the disparate realities of gun violence, many unique to this country. The most obvious conclusion…there is neither a single cause nor a single solution to resolving the problems of gun violence, certainly not just kneejerk solutions.  To that end here is a look at some solutions and how they reflect on the problems of mass murder, gang violence, family violence and kids harming themselves and others with guns.

Gun Control, as proposed by folks like Sen. Feinstein is the most obvious reflexive solution to the violence.  While it does begin, over time to reduce the total number of weapons on the street, it does nothing to address the 10s of millions of those same weapons that are already in the hands of legal, safe gun owners.  The semi-automatic handgun, with 15-17 rounds that is suggested to be “controlled” is the very same weapon that has been sold to families for personal protection in millions of homes for years.  And therein lays the most striking problem of gun control as a sole source solution.

Loopholes in current gun laws, those which allow guns to be transferred from person to person, without benefit of a criminal background check or paperwork need to be addressed. These steps, along with the stopping of straw buyers will go a long way towards insuring that guns are not sold to those who are not allowed, whether by felony conviction, mental issues or age to own guns.

Responsibility that is associated with the right of gun ownership has few legal constraints…there is little to insure that gun owners are responsible gun owners.  When reading the many gun fora or talking to gun owners on the subject of gun control and safety, without question the one single thing they say is that responsible gun owners are not part of the problem…and each strongly implies that if everyone was a responsible as they are there would just not be problems.  But that assumes that they are correct that every gun owner is a responsible gun owner.  That is not the case.  The over 200,000 stolen guns per year, the number of straw purchases by gun owners to get guns into the hands of those who are not allowed, the over 500 children killed by guns, mostly their parent’s guns prove without doubt that not every gun owner is a responsible gun owner.

What are the solutions to insuring a more responsible gun owner population?  First, close the loopholes, stopping, or at least slowing down the number of guns purchased by those who cannot legally buy.  That also removes the ease in which guns are purchased by straw buyers and resold on the black market to those who are not able to buy on their own.

Proper stowing of weapons provides a relatively easy way to both curtail the theft of weapons from the home, car or business but it also would go toward stopping the killing and wounding of children who die from playing with their parent’s guns, not properly stowed in their homes.  One possible solution is to require liability insurance to follow any guns that are stolen or hold the gun owner responsible for guns that are stolen or that kill their children.  It seems very cold to hold a gun owner responsible for the death of their child, the compassionate simply want to call it a “senseless accident”…but it is not nor should it be treated as such.

Mental health issues and mental healthcare have to be a component of any solution that reduces gun violence.  A review of mass murder statistics shows a very strong indicator that a majority of mass murderers have had previous mental health issues.  To ignore that glaring history is to avoid one of the causes of the violence.  We have to stop defunding mental healthcare, stop attaching a stigma [both by society and the legal system] to folks who get mental healthcare.  Comprehensive healthcare will serve two very different purposes in reducing gun violence…first, getting help to those folks who need it and flagging those who should never, ever own firearms.

Desensitization of violence, whether from playing First Person Shooter video games such as Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty play a role in desensitizing players.

“Note that the concern about first-person shooters and other violent video games is not so much that players will immediately increase their aggression level and become physically violent.  Rather, the concern is what the research shows: that playing such games shifts players’ ideas of what’s normal. Those who play violent video games tend to expect the world to be a meaner place, and they become disconnected and less caring people.” – Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Are video games the contributing factor in mass murder, murder of family member…NO.  Are they a contributing factor…the research says YES.  And this goes further, to the movie and TV industry.  How many people do we see killed on network television series each year…from Criminal Minds to Dexter to NCIS to CSI to Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis movies?  MOST people fully understand they are movies, TV, escape entertainment.  But not all.  Solutions that address this desensitization will require that we confront the 1st Amendment and its rights much like we are doing with the 2nd Amendment.  That is reasonable.  Both Amendments were written in the 18th Century, neither addressing 21st Century America.

Conclusion

Through these three articles we have addressed the history of mass murders in 2012, the rise of anger and frustration as folks counted month after month of violence in their daily lives, from spas to malls to cafes to churches to theaters and finally, the straw…their children’s schools…AGAIN.  We have looked at the disparate issues that cause gun violence and we have looked as SOME solutions to the myriad of problems.  And that is the most important point…this is not a single problem with a single solution, neither kneejerk nor well thought out.  The solutions are going to require long debate and all sides will have to both contribute, to compromise and to accept that no matter the solutions, we will still have some gun violence as long as we have an open country with a 2nd Amendment and over 250 Million weapons in private ownership.  And part of the compromise has to be that those for gun control accept that a vast majority of gun owners are very good, very responsible people.

The funerals from the latest in a long history of mass murders are continuing in this cold December air on the shortest, darkest day of the year.  Next is the very hard work of addressing the problems and defining the real solutions to gun violence.  As a society we have that responsibility and ability.  It’s time to prove it.

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Gun Violence Part 2: Causes by the Numbers

In looking at the more comprehensive picture of gun violence this article will address causes and solutions, a follow-up to Gun Violence Part 1 The Deadly Year in Review . While Sandy Hook drew attention to the broader issue of gun violence, and mass murder in particular, reality shows us that it is not a singular issue and the solutions to it are not singular as well. Besides mass murder the violence ripples through the nation in the form of gang violence, families killed by murder/suicide to protect them from impending doom and kids killed by guns that have not been properly stowed. A single solution such as banning high capacity magazines or “assault rifles” barely touches the other causes.

In reviewing my database of mass murders I chose the past 30 years to analyze. I did that to glean long term information rather than concentrate on just the horrors of the past year.  First, a look at the raw numbers:

Killed: 586

Wounded: 573

Number of Incidences: 81

Number of Guns: 151

Of the guns, 25 were variants of the AK-47, AR-15, plus multiple Uzi, TEC-9, and MAC11s.  49 were either 9mm or 40cal handguns of various brands. On the other side, 10 were either 22 pistols or rifles, though in all but one case, they were from crimes that just barely made the threshold for Mass Murder [four killed].

The shooters ranged from 11 years old to 68 and all were men except one female postal worker.  Of the shooters, 26 were arrested, 15 killed and 39 committed suicide at the scene. One, in Las Cruces, NM in 1990 remains unsolved.

Causes By the Numbers
Three of the causes that are discussed as triggers of this violence are mental health issues, the contribution of television and movies and first person shooter games. After reviewing the raw data I would add job stress, bullying and domestic strife as three others. There are glaring examples of four of these causes in the data but the other two [TV/Movies and video games] show no direct causal link. In other words, we can see instances where mental health breakdown led to events, we have examples of school and workplace bullying and we have examples of folks going off on their families and we have examples of workplace stress…one which gave us the phrase “Going Postal”. And while the desensitization from TV/Movies and video games may exist, that link can’t be proven…54 of the shooters either killed themselves after their crime or were killed at the scene to glean data.

The only common denominator is that they had weapons to use. While many argue that “they would have just used something else”, the data doesn’t show that. Besides examples like Tim McVeigh and Oklahoma City or arson most chose the most convenient, efficient tools for the job.

Of the Top 12 events [10 murders or more] the primary weapon of choice was the Handgun in five, the AR-15 and Uzi made up five more and the remaining were either a shotgun or a Colt 45 semi-automatic.

When talking about gun violence, the subject is not just about mass murder…that gets the headlines but is only a small part of the story. In the 2000s we averaged over 12,000 murders a year and we add to that over 50,000 deliberate and over 23,000 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries. The FBI says that 2/3s of those are firearms related.

Of those “other” deaths per year, gang violence is responsible for between 1000-1300 per year.  Over 500 children under 12 are killed each year, mostly by a family member’s gun not properly stowed.

And then there are the families killed by the father who, for what ever reason believes that there is an impending doom – caldera, financial collapse, government tyranny, pandemic…the list goes on.  To this last category, known contributing factors are media and the internet.  Information shows that those who believe in these prophecies of doom get their information from the internet blogsphere that focuses on that subject, from talk show hosts who promote it as part of their fear, uncertainty and dread mantra against “those in power”, whoever happens to be in office at the time and from the newest reality shows on TV, focusing on doomsday preparation, protection from “them” and a drumbeat of pending  society “without rule of law” [WROL].   Most folks can see that constantly told to them and never take that extra step…there are some that cannot.

A review of what is causing this history of gun violence shows…mental health issues, desensitization by movies and television, first person shooter games, gang activity, paranoia of doom, improperly stowed weapons, domestic violence, job stresses, bullying…and the one common denominator – guns. What this tells us is that the contributors are manifold, the “shooters” are diverse in experience and the solutions to solving this very complex puzzle will be exceedingly difficult. The goals can never be 100% because no solution will arrive at that goal, even if the Constitution was altered and gun ownership was eliminated.  And what that means is that we cannot afford knee-jerk solutions, we cannot afford to walk over the rights of the many to band-aid a solution. BUT, we can look at all the variables, guns included and determine what the best overall solutions are that address the issues that we, as a society have in the 21st Century.

And that takes us to a look at SOLUTIONS in Part 3.

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