Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Sandy Hook Shooting Legacy – Six Months Later

Shot Glass 7

There have been 182 days since America woke up to the mind-numbing violence that erupted on Newtown, Connecticut. Six months have passed since politicians fell all over themselves trying to find the nearest camera, the nearest microphone to extend their deepest, heartfelt sympathies to the families of the 26 victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School and to promise that they would do whatever possible to make sure that the senseless tragedy never occurred again. In that six months many things have happened, most showing the worst side of Americans, our unwillingness to work together to actually do something to reduce the senseless deaths, our willingness to write-off the lives of 10,000 Americans each and every year.

In that six months – just 182 days – we have over 5,000 more dead to add to the Butcher’s Bill, over 5,000 people whose future stopped cold because of gun violence. And this past six months were not exceptionally violent, not a spike in the “normal” course of murder, manslaughter, accidents and suicides. And it is that “normal” that is so appalling. We have, as a society allowed, each year over 10,000 people to die from gun violence and another 20,000 suicides with firearms to become an acceptable reality. And more important, it is the WHY we have allowed it that is so reprehensible.

Flash

When any discussion of deaths, and ways to slow it down bubble to the top of the national zeitgeist Americans tend to step up with great support to do everything in our power to stop, or at least slow down the number of deaths. You cannot begin to count the number of organizations and grassroots groups who fight cancer, to stop its relentless killing. When a disease like Muscular Dystrophy cuts down children, society does everything it can to just make it stop. Since 1952 Jerry Lewis helped raise over $2,000,000,000 [that’s TWO BILLION] for research in MD cures.

When deaths from automobile accidents exceeded 50,000 per year in 1966, the public, government, and industry began to work on solving that deadly problem. They enacted legislation to require seat belts, to install collapsible steering columns, remove steel dashboards, make interiors of cars safer, redesign frames and bodies of cars to burn off the energy from a crash, rather than push all that energy to the occupants. As a result, with a population that has added 120 million, we have reduced deaths to under 33,000 per year and dropping. That success occurs as Americans now drive over 3,000,000,000,000 [THREE TRILLION] miles per year…three times what was driven in 1966. Further, because of the actions of MADD, deaths from drunk driving have fallen from over 60% to just over 35% in a 30 year period, due to a determined legislative and public perception campaign to stop drunks from killing on the highways.

MADD Drunk Driving Deaths crop

But the attitude about deaths from gun violence is strikingly different. Many Americans don’t react the same way to these thousands of deaths per year. They quickly respond “it happens” or “it is the price for freedom” or “guns don’t kill people, people do” or “gun owners are responsible”…all an attempt to rationalize that they care more about their hobby than they do about 30,000 lives a year being lost to gun violence. Now, they will scream Second Amendment to the top of their lungs but it boils down, by the end of each debate that they just don’t want changes to the status quo, don’t want to be inconvenienced by that additional 10 minutes required to do a background check on ALL weapon sales. They argue that gun owners are responsible, never mind that responsible gun owners have over 240,000 guns stolen from their homes and cars each year which end up in the black market; that hundreds of children a year are killed or wounded by guns that they fail to properly stow. And more irrationally they argue that their guns are to defend against a tyrannical government, and that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, though they would be really happy if you would kindly ignore that whole “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” part of the Second because it really, REALLY throws a curve ball into their argument.

Slate 5000

It has been a hard six month as we look at gun violence. Included in the over 5,000 killed by gun violence are attacks at 10 schools including Lone Star State and the University of Central Florida, and we have had spree killings throughout the country including Orange County, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Nevada.

Besides the two headline grabbing types of gun violence, 2013 has seen multiple deaths from multiple instances of domestic violence and family shootings. But the ones that seemed to hit the public hardest, those that were easily the most preventable involved kids picking up guns that their parents failed to stow. In April a six year old was shot and killed by a four year old in New Jersey – just two days after a four year old in Tennessee finds a deputy sheriff’s “unloaded” gun and kills the deputy’s wife. On May first, in Kentucky a two year old died from his brother’s “first gun”. One month later, tragedy was in Rusk, Texas. And in between a 15 year old is killed in Oklahoma when her little sister dropped her mother’s pistol on the kitchen counter top.

Those are seven instances of children dying from gun violence in the past six months. If I wanted to be thorough I would provide links to the 268 teens who have been killed or the 94 children under 12 who have died since Sandy Hook.

The response from those who support the intractable National Rifle Association’s position on guns are always the same…”It happens”, “Guns don’t kill people…” and the most appalling…”It is the price of freedom”. It is embarrassing that, in a 21st Century society we still have people who have such a disregard for life, that prefer a selfish, narcissistic approach that THEIR hobby is more important than the lives of 10,000 cut down by gun violence each year.

We as a society are better than this. We are better than the callous folks who just blow off unnecessary deaths because of their inconvenience and in reality an endless propaganda machine that is the NRA. The NRA has so brainwashed many of these folks with their constant “they are coming to get our guns” that the supporters simply kneejerk and parrot their responses rather than realize that the NRA is winding them up to get more and more money from them, to support their lobbying efforts for the gun industry.

NRA-Grip-on-Congress

In six months, Congress has done nothing. That’s not exactly true. Congresspersons have taken in millions of dollars from the NRA and its PAC the NRA/ILA for their re-election campaigns, monies supplied by the gun industry and members.

What they have not done, however is provide comprehensive, bipartisan solutions to begin to reduce the number of deaths from gun violence. As supporters of the NRA will tell you, gun deaths are down, and they are. What they won’t tell you is the drop began as the Brady Bill and later NICS were implemented. But, much like that annoying “well regulated Militia…” clause in the Second Amendment, facts get in the way of a good dose of fear and paranoia.

The Rise of Grassroots Action

And one last thing that seems to be very important in this past six months. While our Congresspersons have failed America, failed to build consensus solutions to save lives from gun violence, the public has shown that they have had enough. Grassroots campaigns and social media groups have banded together to push for solutions. When folks who support sensible gun laws lost one battle in April, where Congress could not even pass a simple bill to strengthen background checks so felons and the mentally ill can’t buy guns a funny thing happened.  They didn’t fold…in fact they strengthened and grew. From groups like Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns to Jim Brady’s Brady Campaign to Gabby Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions to the very grassroots Occupy the NRA and It Can Happen Here and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the voices are getting louder, more organized, more united.

The voice is clear…We as a society are better than this. We will not stop until solutions are in place.

Previously Published 6/14 on LiberalAmerica.Org and ItCanHappenHere on Facebook.

______________________________________________________

McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip


UPDATE: Santa Monica Shooting Spree – Four Dead, 1,300 Rounds of Ammo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Yesterday we covered the breaking news story of a gunman loose in Santa Monica California, moving from scene to scene wreaking havoc and chaos with an assault rifle. More details of yesterday’s Santa Monica spree killings came at today’s 2:00 news conference. The best news was that the number of those killed by the shooter has been downgraded to four [plus the shooter], though the Santa Monica coroner has said he believe the number will rise do to severity of wounds of at least one other victim.

The Santa Monica shooter had 1300 rounds of ammunition…most of them .223 rounds loaded in 30-round magazines and were enough to start a small war, or at least kill dozens if not hundreds of people had he not been stopped just 13 minutes into his killing rampage by responding Santa Monica College and Santa Monica police officers.

Santa Monica 1300

He came prepared…rifles, at least one pistol and a couple of dozen of the loaded 30-round magazines. And it wasn’t cheap. 33 magazines cost about $1,000.00, the rifles $600-1200.00 and the ammo was another $780 for the PMC Bronze 55gr. Full Metal Jacket rounds shown at the Santa Monica Police Department press conference. In other words, he brought to bear over $3,000 worth of guns and ammo to the fight.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
He also brought to the fight years of stress and mental illness. Neighbors defined him as a “useless human” who was abusive toward his mother. Others said his family was torn apart by a divorce many years ago.

A law enforcement source told CNN on Saturday that the gunman had suffered mental health issues. He was hospitalized for treatment after talking about harming someone.

So now we have to start reviewing this from a view point, not of the tragedy that was unfolding but of how we can reduce the number of instances of senseless murder.

The most glaring issue is that this man, who would have turned 24 today had a history of mental illness. He had been committed at least once, though the details of by whom and for how long are not clear. In any circumstance, his name and condition should have been on a database that defined him as someone who should not be allowed weapons – or at least get a second look.

That brings us to three issues. First, we have continued to reduce the amount of money spent on mental health issues every year since Reagan. We can’t expect those with mental health issues to respond positively to more and more limited options.

Second, the question of universal background checks comes into play. Would a comprehensive safety net, one that included mental health data have stopped this shooter? If he had been required to undergo a check for the purchase of his weapons, would he have passed? If he had been required to go through the five minute check before buying 1,300 rounds of 223 assault rifle ammunition, would he have passed?

Third, if a flag had been raised based on both his mental health issues AND his intent to buy, would he have been able to prepare and execute this murderous rampage?

He may have run through the tests without a hitch, able to buy as much has his credit card would allow…but, on the other hand, he may have been stopped. Today he might have been sharing birthday cake with friends rather than laying in a morgue.

Opponents of universal background checks tend to kneejerk the answer “it wouldn’t help.” But they do that without knowing that it wouldn’t help, they do so because they don’t like regulations, not because of the rational requirements of providing a safer society. Those victims of mass murder, of spree killings, of domestic violence might just have a different answer than “it wouldn’t help.”

__________________________________________________

McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.


Spree Killing In Santa Monica…Four Reported Killed, Shooter Also Dead

Santa Monica shooting

Spree killing…it is the rolling, disorganized cousin of mass murders. It is usually a single shooter who moves from place to place shooting both intended victims and those just in the way as he works through the mission in his head, usually ended when he and a superior law enforcement presence end the spree.

Today it is in Santa Monica and an event that, as we type this spree killing has spread from a home to the streets to a bus to the library at Santa Monica College. Two hours into this spree the shooter, a white, male wearing a ballistic vest and carrying multiple weapons including an AR-15.

The shooter began at what is reported to be his father’s home and killed both his father and brother then setting the house on fire. He continued on the street, carjacking a car after shooting into several of them. From there he left the car, opened fire on a municipal bus and then headed to campus where he was met by SMC and Santa Monica police and was killed in the library.

It is, at this time unknown how many people have died. The count is known to be four but the Santa Monica police chief said “as many as half a dozen” plus the shooter.

In February, just 25 miles southeast of Santa Monica in Orange County another spree killing occurred, killing four and injuring three before the shooter turned the gun on himself.

The week before the Orange County event Chris Dorner, fired LAPD cop committed a spree killing over a week’s time.

On May 26th…less than two weeks ago Marine Esteban J. Smith, 23, stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina carried his murder spree from a hotel outside the camp by killing his wife and ended it in Texas by killing two and wounding five others with an assault rifle before being killed by a Texas State Trooper and a Texas Game Warden.

This article will update as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: From the 8:30pm PDT Santa Monica Police press conference, the number killed now stands at four plus the shooter rather than six plus the shooter.

_______________________________________________________

McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.


Child Killed Every Other Day By Negligent Gun Owner’s Gun

Child shot Channel 18

The headline on Thursday said “Two year-old child finds gun, shoots himself in the face, is dead.” He was staying at his Rusk, Texas great-grandparents’ home because he had been taken away from his own parents for neglect and abuse. His great-grandparents were given the children by the Texas Child Protective Services so they would be safer. It did not work. His great-grandfather’s inanimate 9mm handgun got in the way.

Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell says “it was an accident.” Aren’t they all?

An extremely weak, but prevalent argument when discussing victims of gun violence is that they must have been in a gang, it must be drug connected, it is “those people”, but that really is not the case. It is not always criminals who are the participants in these murders – and that is what they are. The family says “we kept the guns locked up and today was no different” – well, yes it was – a two year old managed to break their cunning security plan, managed to get into the “locked bedroom” with an open door and to find the 9mm handgun sitting on the nightstand. These are the responsible gun owners who say again and again that they are not responsible for the gun violence that kills 10,000 and injures 10-20X that each and every year. But they are.

In researching this article I went to the database provided by Slate to see just how many children have been killed this year…and the number is 81 children from age 12 and under from January 1 – May 29, 2013. To put that in perspective, there were 112 “accidental” deaths by firearms from age 18 down in 2012.

If this year’s trend continues, the number of UNDER 12 will out pace last year’s UNDER 18 by 44%.

And that brings me to the point…with all the media attention that began after 20 kids were killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School less than six months ago, with the media highlighting gun violence more than they previously have, with stories of kids being killed by their daddy’s gun on the media every other day – why has the message not been clear? Why have gun owners simply ignored the daily drum beat of examples of poor gun ownership and continued to leave their guns unlocked? Why have gun owners decided by  their actions that they have no need to be responsible, that “they” aren’t the problem.

Put more simply – why have gun owners answered the call to be the responsible gun owners that they say they are with case after case after case of negligent ownership that results in kids being killed at a rate of one every other day. Are these gun owners really that stupid or just so arrogant that they think that they could never, ever have this problem?

So, let’s take a look at the children under 12 years-old who have died this year, died from negligence by the gun owner in the home to properly stow their weapons or died by the hand of a parent to “protect them” from the future.

Children 12 and under killed in 2013 by gun violence

Date Name Gender Age City State
1/4/2013 Jonah Mendoza M 0 Ocala FL
1/4/2013 Kevin Hannah M 10 Tollhouse CA
1/8/2013 William Parris M 12 Pleasant Valley AL
1/9/2013 Jacob Ball M 5 Cambridge OH
1/12/2013 Steven Curtis M 12 Breckenridge MO
1/14/2013 Alexandra Brown F 10 Henry County OH
1/16/2013 Taylor Jade Cornett F 12 Hazard KY
1/19/2013 Angelina Griego F 2 South Valley NM
1/19/2013 Jael Griego F 5 South Valley NM
1/19/2013 Nevaeh Benson F 6 Cleveland OH
1/19/2013 Zephania Griego M 9 South Valley NM
1/21/2013 Travin Varise M 2 Baton Rouge LA
1/21/2013 Maximillian Walters M 5 Boulder City NV
1/22/2013 Trinity Ross F 4 Kansas City MO
1/23/2013 Jamarcus Allen M 4 Akron OH
2/1/2013 Tmorej Smith M 3 Greenville SC
2/2/2013 Mario Zavala M 11 Boynton Beach FL
2/2/2013 Austin Hughes M 11 Erwin TN
2/2/2013 Eduardo Zavala M 12 Boynton Beach FL
2/2/2013 Whitney Hughes F 12 Erwin TN
2/6/2013 Erick Perez M 2 Denver CO
2/6/2013 Nevaeh Morales F 6 Denver CO
2/9/2013 Braydion Scott Matlock M 3 Paducah KY
2/11/2013 Joshua Johnson M 4 Memphis TN
2/11/2013 Devin Aryal M 9 Oakdale MN
2/15/2013 Courie Cox F 12 Bazine KS
2/18/2013 Sebastian Swartz M 9 Decatur OH
2/20/2013 John O’Brien M 3 Garland TX
2/20/2013 Stefan Zuniga M 11 Miami FL
2/24/2013 Jaiden Pratt M 4 Houston TX
2/26/2013 Ashton Perry M 0 Preston CT
2/26/2013 Alton Perry M 2 Preston CT
2/27/2013 Tacari Danielle Briggs F 1 Newport AR
3/2/2013 Michael Richard Leland Easter M 3 Liberty MI
3/6/2013 Sharlea King F 11 Saginaw MI
3/11/2013 Jonylah Watkins F 0 Chicago IL
3/14/2013 Adam Bass M 0 Nashville TN
3/20/2013 Gabrielle Menefee F 3 Jefferson County AL
3/20/2013 Skyler Richardson M 10 Frostproof FL
3/21/2013 Antonio Santiago M 1 Brunswick GA
3/22/2013 Christian Velez M 12 Lake Nona FL
3/23/2013 Nazario Boykins M 2 Birmingham AL
3/23/2013 Michael Ayers M 2 Barree PA
3/24/2013 Christopher Stanlane Jr. M 10 Lumberton NC
3/26/2013 Scarlett Porter F 3 Tallahassee FL
3/28/2013 Joan Plumb F 11 Pinal County AZ
3/30/2013 Rahquell Carr F 4 Miami-Dade FL
3/31/2013 Roderick Paige M 4 Prichard AL
4/5/2013 Ryker Petersen M 0 American Fork UT
4/8/2013 Brandon Holt M 6 Toms River NJ
4/9/2013 Qui’ontrez Moss M 3 Sumter SC
4/12/2013 Gavin Brummett M 7 Salina KS
4/14/2013 Shayla May Shonneker F 9 Oregon City OR
4/15/2013 Dylan Samuel Peters M 1 Brooklyn NY
4/17/2013 Michael Bisbee M 8 Lapwai ID
4/20/2013 Cody R. Hall M 4 Donald OR
4/24/2013 Bradley Ralston M 1 Manchester IL
4/24/2013 Nolan Ralston M 5 Manchester IL
4/25/2013 Dalton Taylor M 10 Marengo OH
4/30/2013 Caroline Starks F 2 Burkesville KY
5/1/2013 Darrien Nez M 3 Yuma AZ
5/7/2013 Jadarrius Speights M 3 Tampa FL
5/7/2013 Shasta Miller F 4 Shingletown CA
5/7/2013 Shelby Miller F 8 Shingletown CA
5/8/2013 Kinsler Allen Davis M 2 Corsicana TX
5/11/2013 Jason Haley M 5 Denton TX
5/12/2013 Jarvan Jackson M 11 Lake City FL
5/13/2013 Brandon Vu M 10 Houston TX
5/14/2013 Sawyer Simpson M 5 Dacusville SC
5/14/2013 Carly Simpson F 7 Dacusville SC
5/17/2013 Gywan Levine, Jr. M 12 Jersey City NJ
5/18/2013 Elvira Campos F 10 Sacramento CA
5/18/2013 Gwyan Elijah Levine M 12 Jersey City NJ
5/19/2013 Gage Wilkinson M 12 Dayton NV
5/21/2013 Marcus White, Jr. M 1 Pittsburgh PA
5/21/2013 Maggie Hollifield F 10 Crozet VA
5/24/2013 Carter Scott M 1 Baltimore MD
5/24/2013 Keshawn Carter Davis M 12 Greenville TX
5/29/2013 Trenton Mathis M 2 Rusk TX
5/29/2013 Asher Lesyshen-Kirlan M 9 Stagecoach CO

Data by Slate and ShootFromTheLeftHip

McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.