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Again! Gun Violence in America (Updated, Again)

I wrote this in March 2018 for the Urban News.

(I’m reposting this article after the mass shootings in El Paso, Tx and Dayton, Oh. I think that I’m more depressed after these shootings than the others listed below.  As Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out in a country of over 300 million, we lose Americans every day. He was roundly criticized for his callousness. These people, in El Paso and Dayton, died needlessly, senselessly. In trauma, we call them preventable deaths. I just feel that our country can’t fix problems any more.

Another massing shooting in Texas. This time it is in Odessa.)

Earlier this month, 17 Americans at a Florida high school were shot and killed. Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school became infamous. Yet, as you take in the immense sadness of this shooting, please understand that school shootings are becoming commonplace. In one 24-hour period in January, there was a school shooting in Italy, Texas (one injury), another in Gentilly, Louisiana (no injuries from gunfire), and the following day another one in Benton, Kentucky (killed 2 and injured 18).

Never again … and again and again

Do you remember the never again event that took place at Sandy Hook elementary school in which 20 schoolchildren between the ages of 6 and 7 were killed, along with six adults? Remember? This was the event that was going to change our gun policy. We had a president who was deeply moved by the incident. We had parents pushing for legislation. We had a mentally ill gunman who used an AR-15-type semiautomatic military weapon (Bushmaster XM–15).

Remember the sadness and the grief? This was a textbook case for gun control. We could easily pass legislation that would stop this type of carnage from ever happening again. Polls showed that 91% of all Americans wanted stronger laws. Ban assault weapons. Pass legislation that mentally ill Americans cannot own guns. And, after pushback from the National Rifle Association, Congress did nothing.

Before Sandy Hook there was Virginia Tech in 2007. Again, this was our never again event. This was another deranged gunman with a tenuous hold on reality. Using two guns and a well-thought-out plan, this gunman walked through campus starting at the West Ambler Johnston Hall dorm. He returned to his dorm room, cleaned out his computer. Changed his clothes, then proceeded to the Norris Hall where his shooting spree continued. This time, 32 people were killed and 17 others were wounded. We had deep national sadness. We had an empathetic president. Congress passed a law to strengthen the national criminal background check system. That was it.

35,000 every year

Please understand that our debate has been stagnant for more than 20 years. Yet, as we throw clichés at each other, Americans are dying. Approximately, 35,000 Americans die from gun violence every year. The entire population of Americus, GA, gone in one year. Another year, Lewiston, Maine. Or Newport, Tennessee. Plainview, TX. Laurinburg. Seneca Falls. Dodge City. An entire city’s worth of people wiped out, every single year.

The majority of the gun violence is from suicides—20,000 to 25,000 a year. Approximately 10,000 to 15,000 more Americans die every year from homicides—that is, people getting killed by somebody else using a gun. These statistics are vastly improved from the late 1980s and early ’90s when gun violence ruled the nightly news. Yet, all of these deaths are preventable.

We must not get distracted and get pulled into the mental health debate. We need more money because we don’t have enough mental health facilities throughout the United States. We need more psychiatrists and more psychologists and more mental health workers. Yet, all of this is not going to prevent some mentally disturbed person from doing unspeakable things, because a mentally ill person can still go to a gun show and buy a gun. Believe me, it happens, and it is going to happen again. We don’t live in the movies. This is not Minority Report, the 2002 movie starring Tom Cruise. We do not have the ability to accurately predict a particular person’s future behavior.

The Second Amendment

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This is the only amendment that is written oddly. The wording is weird. What is a well-regulated militia? Are we talking about the Army? Are we talking about the National Guard? For over 200 years constitutional scholars have interpreted the Second Amendment to mean that some Americans can have some guns. It is only recently that the Second Amendment has been interpreted by some conservative scholars to mean any American can have just about any gun.

The idea of amending the Constitution is nostalgic but unrealistic. With Right and Left being so polarized, it’s near impossible to get the majority of Americans to agree on anything. There is simply no way in the climate that we have today that we can all agree on a change to the Second Amendment. So this idea is dead. What is clear, outside of the Second Amendment, is that no constitutional right is absolute. The best example is that you cannot yell fire in a crowded theater if there’s no fire. This is in spite of the fact that we have the right of free speech.

Ignore Stupidness

Currently, there’s lots of craziness being discussed in the media. Please ignore it. Our president, along with lots of others, has suggested that all we need to do to fix violence at schools is to have teachers armed with guns. This is an idea supported by The National Rifle Association, which wants to put guns in the hands of every American. (Approximately half of the NRA’s funding comes from gun manufacturers, through grants, advertising in NRA publications, and even one manufacturer paying the NRA a royalty each of one type of its guns bought by a member.)

Yet we know this is a bad idea. We know that humans, even well-trained humans, can freeze at the moment of truth. We have seen it in sports. We know it happens in war, and many other life-and-death situations, including civilian life.

We know that in the downtown Dallas shooting, several police officers who had opportunities did not shoot at the perpetrator. They froze. The media is currently focused on a security guard who didn’t run into the Parkland school building when the shots were being fired. I don’t blame that security guard, and I will not vilify him. (According to some reports, he was following his department protocol in a situation where details were uncertain.)

We also know that just because you don’t freeze does not mean that you have the steely eyes of Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. As you recall, in the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting a “good guy with a gun” emptied his clip and did not hit the perpetrator once. There was the famous University of Texas shooting in 1966 in which two off-duty police officers stormed the tower where the shooter had barricaded himself. One of these police officers emptied his revolver at relatively close range and hit nothing. We must not forget the Fort Hood shooting in which an Army major, a psychiatrist no less, killed 13 people and injured 30 more. On an Army base. Where nearly everyone has a gun!!

I think we can all agree that arming teachers is a bad idea.

Focus on Solutions

Please understand that some politicians are completely focused on doing as little as possible. Therefore, they will propose something that sounds good but will have little impact on the gun violence in the United States. Here are my thoughts:

  • No automatic or semi-automatic weapons should be sold to the public in the United States. (The tricky part will be confiscating the ones in circulation. This must be done.)
  • There should be no armor-piercing bullets sold to civilians.
  • No person diagnosed with a mental illness should own a gun. We can argue over the definition of mental illness later.
  • You are responsible for your gun. If someone takes your gun and kills someone you are responsible.
  • Americans convicted of domestic abuse lose their right to own a gun, forever.
  • Concealed handguns should be restricted to law enforcement.
  • Finally, we begin to embrace smart technology. A gun that will only fire if it recognizes you could help prevent a lot of these suicides.

The carnage must stop. We must pressure our state and federal representatives to pass legislation that will reduce the number of guns.

By |2019-09-01T00:25:13-04:00August 5th, 2019|Domestic Issues, Mass Shooting, Trump administration|Comments Off on Again! Gun Violence in America (Updated, Again)

No Collusion, now what?

The Mueller report is in. Attorney General Barr has released a summary. Basically, the recent court finds there was no collusion between Donald Trump or any of his campaign associates and the Russians. Secondly, the summary clearly outlines that the Russians did interfere with the 2016 election. This is something that Donald Trump has repeatedly denied. Thirdly, this summary briefly deals with the question of obstruction. In a very interesting sentence the report states, “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.” This is interesting.

I still have a few questions. Did Manafort really give the Russians polling data? Why did Flynn lie about meeting the Russian ambassador? Why was Comey fired if Trump wasn’t trying to obstruct justice? More to come.

Daily Kos has more.

By |2019-03-24T17:01:16-04:00March 24th, 2019|Domestic Issues, Trump administration|Comments Off on No Collusion, now what?

Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban – Update

In my opinion, the best lie is the one that is just a little bit tainted with truth. Those lies are the best lies. About two weeks ago, President Donald Trump (yeah, it still does not sound right) signed an executive order which asked for increased scrutiny of persons wanting to immigrate to this country from several lands. I say “several lands,” because if you actually read his executive order; first of all, it is kind of a headache, as it is long and nonspecific. The order does not actually specify Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. So, let us actually read what the order says I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

Now, this whole thing quickly gets complicated. It appears that President Trump’s executive order refers to the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.” This bill was tacked onto the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. So, it is kinda hard to say that this was an Obama administration initiative. The bill was actually written by former Congresswoman Candice Miller, a Republican. To make matters even more confusing, this bill, HR 158, simply canceled the Visa Waiver Program. So, essentially, what this did was force travelers from Syria and Iraq to get visas the old-fashioned way, through interviews at the American consulate. So, President Obama had the choice of signing this huge, omnibus spending bill into law, allowing our government to continue to operate (or to veto it), because of this bill’s being tacked on by Congresswoman Miller. You tell me, does this sound like an Obama program?

So, because this is not confusing enough, Donald Trump said, “My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.” Um, this is not exactly true either. So, in response to the May 2011 arrest of two Iraqi refugees on terrorism charges in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Obama Administration decided that immigrants from Iraq warranted increased scrutiny. This was not a ban. It was increased scrutiny. So, on one hand, Donald Trump was right. President Obama did do something in 2011, and his policy was relatively similar… kind of, but not really.

This is not the kind of thing you should NOT be arguing over at the water cooler. It is simply not worth it. There are tons of details. For the most part, when you are arguing over at the office water cooler, nobody knows the details. The reason I bring this up is that I heard the argument in the emergency room. Two doctors were going at it. One was accusing the other of hypocrisy because “Obama did the same thing.” No, Obama did not. Go back and read. While it is important to engage our fellow Americans, it is not important to discuss the details of a ban that is an actual ban; verses Obama’s ban, which was not, in reality, a ban. Got it.

Finally, I think that the President has the power to control who is coming into this country. I think that’s in the Constitution. I don’t think we can argue that. Instead, the argument is what kind of convoluted nonsense Trump put in his executive order.  Oops. I just got an email from my (our) constitutional scholar Linda Monk. I was wrong!!! Article I gives the power of immigration to Congress and NOT the president.  Article I, Section 8 – The Congress shall have Power to establish as uniform Rule of Naturalization. There it is in black and white.  Article II deals with the President. It says in Section 2 – The President shall be Commander in Chief of the  Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States. The president’s powers, with regard to immigration, are implied. So, Congress needs to pass a law restricting immigration from those 7 countries. That would be lawful!