Thursday, July 23, 2015

At Least Four Mass Shootings In A Week, And What Is The Pro-Gun Response? Vigilante Justice, And More Guns, Of Course.

(UPDATED -- See below)

The daily carnage from gun violence in America is absolutely heartbreaking to me.

Yet another mass shooting.
As I sit down to write this, I overhear on CNN that there had been yet another mass shooting.  This time it was in Lafayette, Louisiana, where a man stood up in a crowded movie theater and opened fire, killing 2 innocent people, injuring at least ten others, and then killing himself.  Details are still emerging, but the shooter is described as a "drifter" with a previous arson conviction and severe mental health problems and far-right, anti-government views.  How does a nutcase get guns like this?  Another day in America.

It was only 6 days ago that another movie-shooter, James Holmes, was ruled "Guilty" for the shooting in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 and injuring 70.  Did today's lunatic NRA supporter of the day fancy himself as notorious as Holmes?

And yesterday, in Georgia, there was also a murder/suicide shooting at a home, claiming five lives.
Mass shooting victims Jacob and Jared Smith (source)
  Two of the victims were young boys, ages 8 and 9, Jacob and Jared Smith.  The father shot his wife, her father, the two sons, and then himself.  I'll bet you didn't hear about that one, either. Shootings like this are "wallpaper" in our nation, so common that it's immediately forgettable by many.

In the past week there have been at least two other mass shootings that I'm aware of (I was helping my Mom move last week, so it's possible I missed others).  One was in Maine, where a convicted sex offender shot five people and then went on the run before getting caught.  Two of the victims died.  That mass shooting hardly made national news; we have so many shootings in our nation that you probably didn't notice it.  Remember the shooting at a church in Charleston just last month?  It has already fallen from the national consciousness.  Chances are you've already forgotten the names of the shooter and victims.

The other mass shooting today made all the national papers.  Another mentally ill young man, of Jordanian descent, armed with an AK-47 automatic assault rifle, shotgun, and handgun, opened fire on a military recruiter office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, firing at the door from his car.  Luckily no one was injured.  He then drove to a Marine and Navy reserve station, rammed through a gate with his car, and opened fire again.  Police responded.  There was a shootout.

When the bullets stopped flying, four Marines lay dead, a police officer was wounded, and a Navy sailor was critically injured.  The shooter was killed.  The Navy sailor later died from his injuries.

The dead military members were identified as Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells, of Cobb, Georgia; Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, of Hampden, Massachusetts; Sgt. Carson Holmquist, of Polk, Wisconsin, and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, of Burke, North Carolina; and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith.

Some of these Marines and Sailors were veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Some were decorated, including one who had two Purple Heart medals.  It's a sad statement that they should survive tours of duty in a foreign war zone only to be shot to death here in America by a deranged citizen.

As always, statements were made by the politicians, including our President, by families of the victims, by gun violence prevention organizations, and even by the family of the shooter.  Prayers were made.  A "hero fund" was establishedFlowers were placedA city mourned.  Flags were ordered to half-staff.  And the victims were memorialized and buried.  But as sentimental and valid as these actions are, NONE of these actions will do anything to keep guns out of the hands of the next deranged killer.

The gun guys had their own ideas of solutions though.  Naturally, those solutions have nothing to do whatsoever with keeping guns out of the wrong hands.  Their solutions:  be vigilantes, and more guns!

It's like a broken record.  They cry that everyone should be armed, like them. The NRA led the way, calling for the military to allow recruiters to arm themselves.
"It's outrageous that members of our armed services have lost their lives because the government has forced them to be disarmed in the workplace," said Chris Cox, the leader of the NRA's legislative and political shop.
Pro-gun politicians soon chimed in.  But they seem to forget that the Department of Defense itself, in charge of our military, made a policy against this back in 2011, In DoD Directive 5210.56.  In their expert opinion, it isn't reasonable to arm all servicemen in all places.  We aren't in a state of war within our borders, and we don't have enemies at our gates.  One Army recruiter has some sage advice:
Scott Rogers, who worked as a US Army recruiter in Wisconsin from 2008 to 2011, has a different take on the subject.
“Soldiers are the best at what they do, but not all are trained to handle weapons on a daily basis,” Rogers said.
“What many people fail to realize that not all soldiers are combat soldiers. In fact I would venture to say a majority of them are not,” Rogers said.
“What many people fail to realize is that unless you are in a combat arms occupational specialty…you only qualify with your weapon once a year and for many soldiers they do not even do that. I retired in 2012 and had not fired a M-16 since 2007 because of my time as a recruiter.”
Perhaps, too, the DoD was concerned about the vets themselves, given the staggering rate of veteran suicides.  22 U.S. military vets commit suicide a day.  70% are by gun, and 85% of attempts are fatal (compared to only 5% by other means).

But for all those gun guys shouting that the military members should have been armed... Surprise!  Two of them were armed and shot back at the shooter

A Navy officer and a Marine fired their sidearms hoping to kill or subdue the gunman who murdered five service members last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, according to multiple military officials familiar with internal reporting on the tragedy.

But call for arming the recruiters wasn't enough for some pro-gun extremists and "militia" members.  They decided to become vigilantes and "stand guard" in front of recruiter stations with openly-carried rifles, in various locations across the U.S.

There was one here today, in my home town of Eugene.  An old man who looks to be about 90,
Vigilante "guard" at Eugene military recruiter station
wielding an AK-47 with dual magazines and sporting a super-cool set of eye-dilation sunglasses. There is also a news report that the extremist III% militia group (which the article calls a "club") had armed members standing outside a recruiting station in Portland.

Others in many other states were doing the same, responding to the call of extremist, insurrectionist militia groups like the Oathkeepers and the Three Percenters.  They don't care that the recruiters want them to leave.  Nor do they care that they are scaring people.  From an article:

“I can’t see why any red-blooded American wouldn’t want to be out here,” Fitzpatrick, a member of a local militia, told the paper. “Our troops go overseas and fight to protect us and then they can come home and get butchered on our U.S. soil? That’s unacceptable. So until these places get their own protection, I’ll be it for them.”
Well, I'm a red-blooded American, and I can say that I can see plenty of reasons for him to go back to fondling his guns in his own home.

For one thing, having a yahoo like him, with unknown background, motives, or training hanging out with his finger next to the trigger of an assault rifle represents to me an accident waiting to happen, at best, or an outright mass murderer in the making, at the worst.

The military itself thinks the same as me.  The Army sent a notice to its recruiters telling them to treat these "guards" as a security threat.

Recruiting center and hole left by gun extremist (source)
And then it happened.  Today, one of these armed "guards," named Christopher Reed, was standing outside a recruiter station in Ohio, assault rifle in hand, when he unintentionally fired the weapon.  Oopsie!  Perhaps this is the "security threat" that the Army was talking about?  Luckily, the round he fired only hit the asphalt, leaving a distinct hole, and no one was injured -- this time.  Don't worry, gun guys, it's only a misdemeanor.  His gun was only taken away temporarily.  In a few weeks he'll be free to have more accidents with it, thanks to our loose gun laws.

Doubt me? Well, surprise!, this isn't the first time he's had an accident with his gun!  From an article:

Reed was convicted of the same offense in 2013, and was fined $50, court records show.

That's right, he was only fined $50.  A slap on the wrist.  Naturally, this self-described unemployed "gun enthusiast" downplays this most recent endangerment of the public, as if it were no big deal at all:

Reed said he is not a military veteran. He described himself as an active gun enthusiast who makes a living working side jobs.

He downplayed what happened. “It is what it is,” he said. “Nobody got hurt.”

This time...

Well, "it is what it is" all right.  What "it is" is a nation with incredibly lax gun laws and too many guns in dangerous hands... like those of Christopher Reed.

Just moments ago, an hour after sundown as I finished this blog post, I heard a series of gunshots ring out within just a few miles of my home.  Let's hope it isn't yet another shooting.  What has our nation come to?  Even if vigilantism were the answer, the gun guys can't stand vigil at every home, every movie theater, every school and military recruiter.  More guns is not the answer.  Our leaders need to do something, and do it now, to keep guns out of the wrong hands!

UPDATE (7/24/15):  The Marine Corps and the Department of Defense have also issued a statement saying that they do not support armed individuals "guarding" recruiters, and the Navy put out a statement that if any armed yahoos show up outside, their recruiters will leave the office for other duties until those people leave.  How many ways can they say "Go away!" to these gun loons?

Also, HERE is more on the Lafayette shooter, John Russell Houser, 59, and his long history of radical, far-right extremism, mental illness, and threatening and criminal behavior.  HERE is additional information on his unstable, far-right views, including his admiration of Hitler and the KKK, his Obama-hatred, and his belief that America is "the enemy of the world."

UPDATE (7/28/15):  We are averaging one mass shooting EVERY DAY in 2015!!  From an article:
The Mass Shootings Tracker, a crowd-sourced tally of mass shootings maintained by the GunsAreCool subreddit, shows that we haven't gone more than eight days without a mass shooting in the U.S. since the start of 2015 -- that doesn't leave a lot of time to grieve and regroup between shootings. We've averaged exactly one mass shooting per day since the start of the year. Forty eight days saw more than one mass shooting take place. On 18 days there were at least 3 shootings. On three days this year -- April 18, June 13 and July 15 -- there have been five shootings.
Addendum (9/1/15):  HERE is another article pointing out that we average a mass shooting every day in America..