Tag Archives: Sandy Hook

The Sandy Hook Shooting Legacy – Six Months Later

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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.

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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.

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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

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Columbine: 5,000 Days Later

Today is the 5,000th day since Columbine High School erupted in violence and murder and 13 innocent children were killed, another 21 injured. As well, the two shooters, aged 18 and 17. 5,000 days, nearly 14 years have passed. Today is also the day the US Senate is taking up the subject of “What Should America Do About Gun Violence?”

In the nearly 14 years since Columbine we have had 157,500 murders by gun. 32,000 of those were gang related where most were using stolen guns or guns illegally purchased.  125,500 were NOT gang related [numbers from FBI Uniform Crime Reports].

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As you can see from the FBI chart, a definite, well defined drop came after the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994

Since Columbine we have had seven multiple murder school shootings in Red Lake High School, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, Bart Township, PA, Chardon High School, Oikos University, and Sandy Hook Elementary School. In every school shooting except Bart Township, Chardon and Sandy Hook there were armed, trained guards on the scene, as there was in Columbine. 103 Killed – 96 Wounded.

In that same 14 years over 84 Million guns have been sold in the US according to the BATFE’s NICS background check system.  We also know that between 3.5Million and 5Million guns have been stolen in that same period. And through SourceWatch we know that the NRA has spend over $50Million in lobbying and election contributions, $24.28Million – $16.83Million through its Political Action Committee, plus $7.45 million through its affiliated Institute for Legislative Action during the 2012 election cycle alone, along with another $2,205,000 in lobby action alone.

Each morning, moms and dads across the country get 64,000,000 children ready for school to learn, be with friends and develop as human beings.  Each morning those parents think about Sandy Hook, about Columbine, about the school shootings that have grown in numbers in the last 14 years. They don’t care about politics, they don’t care about the 2nd Amendment, they don’t care about someone’s right to own what ever gun the market can present for sale. They care about the safety of their children; they care whether they are at school, at the playground, on the bus.

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 resided in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst. His grandfathers helped organize the coal fields of Eastern Kentucky and his father was a career long butcher and union representative.


Gun Violence: Enter the Kneejerk

As the gun violence debate continues, and legislative sessions in both Washington and state legislatures come back from the holidays we are beginning to see proposed laws that amount to kneejerks. On both sides of the discussion they make for poor starting points.

It took Sandy Hook and little kids getting blown away for that very large middle of America to turn away from Honey Boo Boo, American Idol and the latest antics of Kim Kardashian and look at our gun laws and how they relate to the gun violence that permeates our culture. This left the fringe left and fringe right to go to their previously established trenches and begin to lob volleys. That big middle just doesn’t care what either fringe has to say. They know that we need 21st Century solutions to gun violence that was not ever conceived in the 18th Century when the 2nd Amendment was written by Madison.

The first volley came from Diane Feinstein and a kneejerk declaration to reintroduce the Assault Weapons Ban. The second, a week later came from the NRA in the form of a tone-deft pronouncement from the NRA. BOTH tailored a response that focused on the Sandy Hook type of gun violence…and both ignored the fact that Sandy Hook type mass shootings only account for less than ONE PERCENT of shooting deaths each year.

But, from those two volleys the conversation was framed.

Now, we are beginning to see a flood of responses from legislators, left and right that “solve the problem”…they don’t. In just the past three days we have seen:

In Illinois a Senate committee introduced legislation that would “ban the possession, delivery, sale and transfer of semiautomatic handguns and rifles.” That would, unless modified include everything from Ruger 22 rifles [used by the Boy Scouts to teach marksmanship] to nearly every handgun currently on the market. It has already been removed from consideration.

In Connecticut a measure has been forwarded to publicly name all gun owners. This follows the Westchester County Journal News that published an interactive map of all gun permit holders in the county…including retired cops and judges.  This action, to me has two fatal flaws. First, it treats all gun owners like criminals, like publishing a sex offenders list. The second reason becomes evident the first time an ex cop is killed because bad guys now know where he lives…

Also in Connecticut a bill is moving forward to limit access to ammunition. “A gun without ammunition is only a club. We really need to restrict access to ammunition,” Looney said.

From the other side, newly minted Kentucky Congressman Tom Massie has proposed to Congress a bill that would erase a 23-year-old federal ban that makes it a crime to carry guns near schools. It is interesting in that he proposes ending the Gun Free Zones Act that that was supported as late as 1999 by the NRA.

We think it is reasonable to support the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act.” Wayne LaPierre, May 27, 1999

In South Carolina the State Legislature is considering a bill that would nullify Federal gun laws. Senate Bill 85 (SB85) states that, “A personal firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in South Carolina and that remains within the borders of South Carolina is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce.”

I believe South Carolina proposed similar anti Federal legislation that started the Civil War 152 years ago.

In Maryland their legislature is considering a bill that would put armed guards in schools while other legislation in the same house looks to ban assault rifles. The plan for armed guards is to be paid to local school districts from the fund that is supposed to go to education.

These TEN examples are just a few of the bills that are being pushed through legislatures. In nearly every case they are a kneejerk “solution” to a Sandy Hook style shooting. They, in no circumstance provide a framework for a solution to the 15,000 average murders that occur each year…68% of which are committed with firearms. Nor do they address the 200,000 plus injuries by firearm. They only address, at best ONE PERCENT of deaths.

What this means…the focus is flawed, in some cases intentionally away from the conversation of GUN VIOLENCE to one that is based on the threat and PERCEIVED threat to our public places, our restaurants, bars, churches, theaters, malls, workplaces and schools. While 2012 gave us headlines that reflected all of those, they made up less than 100 of the 12,000 homicides from this year. It is time to focus on the comprehensive problem…and do something about stopping kneejerk reactions to real problems.

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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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