Friday, September 28, 2012

Too Many Walmart Shootings

UPDATE: There is now a blog dedicated to Walmart shootings and gun violence at their stores.  Please visit the Walmart Shootings blog site:

This year it seems like I've been reading about a lot of shootings at Walmarts around the nation.  Shootings happen in all sorts of locations and types of retail stores.  And yet, for some reason, Walmart seems to bear the brunt of them. 

So I started cataloging them.  Even I was surprised at the number of shootings that have occurred just this year on Walmart property.  55, at last count, so far in 2012!  That's more than one a week.  See the list below.

Reports of shootings involving shoplifters.  Police responding to conflicts.  Drug deals in the parking lot.  Road rage and gang shootings.  Even suicides.  That number doesn't even include armed robberies, gun thefts, or any other gun crimes where shots weren't fired.

Why are there so many?  Is it just because there are a LOT of Walmart locations around the country?  And yet, other than one or two sporadic reports, you don't hear about so many shootings at Kmart stores, or Target, or Costco.  Is it because Walmart sells guns and ammo, and those others don't?  As far as I can tell, Target never did.  Kmart stopped selling guns and ammo in 2009.  Costco in 2006.  

Is Walmart's pro-gun stance a factor?  Does it make people feel justified in taking their guns to Walmart and settling disputes in a violent manner?  

In 2006, Walmart stopped selling guns in two-thirds of its stores, but resumed sales of rifles, shotguns, and ammunition in 2011.  They even sell assault rifles.  It would be interesting to do a study of shooting incidents before and after they resumed sales.

Walmart's motto these days, is "Save money. Live better."   If this is what they mean by living better, I think they might want to re-think their pro-gun stance, or perhaps get more security guards.

There is now a blog devoted entirely to shootings and other gun crimes at Walmart stores:  called Walmart Shootings.  You can find a review of 2012 Walmart gun incidents at the Walmart Shootings blog post, HERE.

So here are the Walmart shooting incidents that I am aware of (where shots were fired):

December 24, 2012 -- Martinsville, Virginia:  Two drivers engaged in a road rage incident pulled into the Walmart parking lot and started attacking each other.  One used an aluminum bat, hitting the other several times.  The other used a gun, wounding the "batter" in the upper leg.

December 18, 2012 -- Beaufort, South Carolina:  A man was wounded, shot in the arm, after a dispute with two other men in the Walmart parking lot.  The two suspects escaped.

December 7, 2012 -- Castle Rock, Colorado:  Two men shot a gun multiple times in the Walmart parking lot, hitting at least one vehicle.  Luckily, no one was injured.

December 7, 2012 -- Houston, Texas:  An off-duty sheriff's deputy, working as security, confronted two female shoplifters.  When they tried to drive away, he shot at them, killing one.

November 26, 2012 -- Blairsville, Pennsylvania:  A 40-year old man saw a 10-point whitetail buck run through a Walmart parking lot, on the first day of hunting season, so he pulled out his rifle and shot it to death, firing multiple rounds and pursuing it across the street before it died.

November 23, 2012 -- Tallahassee, Florida:  In what appears to be a dispute over a parking space, two people were shot and wounded.  The shooters fled, and the victims were treated at a local hospital.

November 14, 2012 -- Laurel, Maryland:  A man robbed the local Walmart store, then took a 28-year old store employee outside, shot him once in the chest, then fled, lighting a car on fire after ditching it.  The employee was taken to the hospital and treated.

November 10, 2012 -- Louisville, Kentucky:  In an apparent domestic dispute, a 46-year old woman, Michelle Hahn, came out of a Walmart and was putting groceries her car in the parking lot when a 44-year old maleCharles R. Fickentsher, shot her to death.  He then fled the scene, but was found shortly after at a nearby park with a fatal, self-inflicted wound.  Fickentsher had a history of domestic violence.

October 29, 2012 -- Kernersville, North Carolina:  Justin Ross Murphy, 20, opened fire inside the Walmart, shooting three times in the Electronics Department.  Motive is unknown.  Luckily, no one was harmed, and Murphy was captured later by police.

October 26, 2012 -- El Paso, Texas:  A man was driving in the Walmart parking lot when he noticed he was being followed.  He pulled over, and the other driver got out and shot the man three times, shattering bones in his leg and his ankle, then beat the man with his gun, rendering the victim unable to support himself.  The suspect and motive are unknown.

October 13, 2012 -- Fredericksburg, Texas:  A Walmart employee was shot in the arm in the Walmart parking lot.

September 25, 2012 -- Stockbridge, Georgia:  Three men got into an argument in a Walmart parking lot.  One pulled out a gun and shot another in the abdomen.  The victim survived.  The other two men fled the sceen.

September 21, 2012 -- Margate, Florida:  Terrell Kennith Johnson, 22, was caught stealing a packages of women's undergarments.  When loss-prevention employee Lewis Jhon, 49, tried to stop him at the entrance, Johnson pulled out a handgun and shot Jhon, killing him.  Johnson ran, but was later found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

September 11, 2012 -- Chattanooga, Tennessee:  Desi Arnez Lawrence left his keys on a Walmart counter.  A man, Christopher Goins, and his female companion found the keys, then went into the parking lot and found the vehicle by using the key fob.  They were about to drive away in the vehicle when Lawrence came out and found them, then fireda gun at the car thieves.  It's not clear if he hit them or not.  Lawrence was not charged.

September 3, 2012 -- Salem, Oregon:  41-year old Salem resident Mark Edward Brown was waiting outside the door to Walmart for Bryan John Lee Knorr, 28.  When he saw Knorr, he approached and the two got into an argument.  Brown then pulled out a handgun and shot Knorr, killing him.  Brown was later arrested.

August 23, 2012 -- Jackson, Tennessee:  Wallace Jimmerson followed his wife to her job at Walmart after fighting with her, then tried to run her over in the parking lot.  He then opened fire on her, hitting her twice in the arm and the leg.  He was captured later that day.

August 20, 2012 -- Eastlake, Ohio:  A man had just parked in the Eastlake Walmart when 27-year old Joshua Baughman allegedly robbed him at gunpoint, then shot him in the chest.  The victim survived.  Baughman then fled the scene.  Days later, however, he was found dead.

August 20, 2012 -- Stanford, Kentucky:  An 71-year old man, Jackie Murphy, was caught shoplifting sandpaper and chased out of the Walmart, then exchanged gunfire with police outside.  The shoplifter was hit four times.

August 19, 2012 -- Cedar Park, Texas:  Soloman Onwukaife, 18, got into an argument at a party, so he and the others met to fight at a Walmart parking lot.  Onwukaife then shot and injured four people, all of whom were 18 or 19 years old.

August 15, 2012 -- Knoxville, Tennessee:  Travis Cozart, 37, a former football player, was shot and injured at a local Walmart parking lot.  Cozart has a long arrest record, including for drugs and robbery and for allowing his baby to ingest cocaine.

August 12, 2012 -- Hartselle, Alabama:  A man was reported as intoxicated at a Walmart gas station.  When police arrived to investigate, the man pulled out a handgun and shot himself to death.

August 6, 2012 -- Albany, Georgia:  A man shopping in Walmart with a loaded handgun was asked by another shopper about his gun. He then prepared to hand the gun to the other shopper when he unintentionally fired the weapon. Thankfully no one was injured.

July 23, 2012 -- Dallas, Texas:  Todd Canady, 23, discharged his concealed .40-caliber handgun while waiting in the checkout line.  He injured himself in the ankle with debris, and shrapnel injured two children and their mother waiting next to him.  Canady panicked and fled, and was later arrested.  He claimed it was an accident, despite the fact that the gun had two safety switches.  Canady had a concealed handgun license.

July 19, 2012 -- Tulsa, Oklahoma:  A group of people were kicked out of a bar.  The group took to their cars, and one tried to run another off the road.  The fight ended in a Walmart parking lot.  The suspect fired at one of the cars in the parking lot, then the suspect ran into the Walmart before being arrested after a search.

July 13, 2012 -- Pittsburg, California:  A man on a bicycle and the occupants of an SUV got into an argument in a Walmart parking lot.  The man on the bicycle then rode away, but the SUV followed him and theyopened fire on him, wounding him.

July 5, 2012 -- Bradenton, Florida:  Undercover police went to the local Walmart parking lot to arrest some people for selling narcotics.  The driver of a vehicle attempted to flee and ran over one of the policemen.  Another policeman fired two shots at the driver, missing, and the driver got away.  Two other suspects were arrested.

July 2, 2012 -- Greeley, Colorado:  In what appears to be a gang-related incident, a man shot another man in a Walmart parking lot.  The victim went inside the building, while the shooter fled police outside.  He holed up in an apartment briefly before being arrested.

June 25, 2012 -- Opelousas, Louisiana:Eric Winbush, Jr., and Kerry Guillory, 26, got into an argument at a Walmart just outside the entrance.  Guillory then pulled out a .38-caliber handgun and shot Winbush in the abdomen.  Guillory fled, but later turned himself in to police.

June 19, 2012 -- Woodhaven, Michigan:  39-year old Charles Brown Jr. and a female companion were caught shoplifting at the Walmart.  When police responded and approached them in the parking lot, Brown threatened them with a screwdriver.  When told to drop the screwdriver, he then jumped into his car and tried to run over the police, at which point they shot and killed him.  The woman was apprehended.

June 15, 2012 -- Warsaw, New York:  A man in a Walmart parking lot committed suicide by shooting himself there.

June 6, 2012 -- Sand Springs, Oklahoma:  A suicidal man behind a Walmart shot his gun into the air twice when confronted by police, but police diffused the situation.  The store never closed.

June 2, 2012 -- Savannah, Georgia:  Shots were fired in the Walmart parking lot, and two cars sped off in opposite directions.

May 25, 2012 -- Houston, Texas:  Two men met at a Walmart parking lot in what was supposed to be a sale of a shoes advertised on Craigslist.  Instead, the supposed seller pulled a gun and tried to rob the intended buyer.  The man who was supposed to purchase shoes was shot twice and injured, once in the back and once in the chest.

May 12, 2012 -- Fulton, Missouri:  A domestic argument started at a bar and then moved to a Walmart parking lot.  When one person tried to leave in a vehicle, a person in another vehicle fired at least two shots into the other person's car.  No one was injured.

May 9, 2012 -- Tucson, Arizona:  Two groups of people got into an argument in a Walmart parking lot.   This turned into a fight between two men, one from each group.  One of them, age 20, pulled out a gun and shot the other, a 25-year old man, who died at the scene.  The shooter fled but was apprehended by a security guard from a nearby apartment complex.

May 6, 2012 -- Lawrence, Indiana:  Two men were shot in a vehicle in a Walmart parking lot by a white female.  They drove a short way before a relative called 911 for them.

April 30, 2012 -- San Antonia, Texas:  An off-duty security guard unintentionally shot himself in the leg while unholstering his handgun and getting in his car in the Walmart parking lot.

April 21, 2012 -- Morgantown, West Virginia:  Larry Mitchell, 54, wasn't happy with his son's soon-to-be ex-wife, Shannon Stafford.  He surprised her at a Walmart gas station and shot her several times while she was in her car and as she exited.  Stafford died from her wounds.  Witnesses captured Mitchell and held him until police arrived.

April 20, 2012 -- College Station, Texas:  Michael Bradshaw, 47, was caught shoplifting.  A loss-prevention employee escorted him to the office.  There, Bradshaw pulled out a handgun and aimed it at the employee and a struggle ensued.  The gun went off, but only hit a filing cabinet, and the employee was able to wrest the gun from his hands.  Bradshaw then attacked the employee with a knife, at which point the employee shot Bradshaw to death his the gun.

April 17, 2012 -- Sacramento, California:  An armored car was parked in front of a Walmart entrance, and the guards were unloading money.  That's when a man tasered the guard in a robbery attempt.  The guard chased the man and shot him in the leg.  Another robber in a getaway vehicle tried to run over the guard.

April 15, 2012 -- Tampa, Florida:  Two men, Dylan Iwan Landvreugd, 19, and Travis Gray, 20, got into an argument in Walmart.  Gray tried to leave, and Landvreugd followed.  Just outside the entrance, Landvreugd pulled out a 9mm handgun and shot Gray twice in the torso.  Landvreugd then fled, but was later arrested in New York.

April 9, 2012 -- Phoenix, Arizona:  As two Walmart employees were moving money into a cash register, a man robbed them.  When a store manager, 47-year-old Peter Marquez, tried to stop the robber just outside the doors, the robber shot him and killed him.  The shooter escaped.

April 8, 2012 -- Lynchburg, Virginia:  Two men got into an argument in a Walmart parking lot.  One pulledout a gun and fired on the other, wounding him.

April 8, 2012 -- Shreveport, Louisiana:  A man was backing his car out of a Walmart parking spot when he was narrowly missed by two women in another car.  An argument ensued, then one of the women pulled out a gun and shot several rounds into the man's car.

April 6, 2012 -- Austin, Texas:  Brandon Montgomery Daniel, age 24, was reported as being intoxicated in Walmart.  Police officer Jaime Padron responded.  When Padron approached Daniel, they got into a fight, then Daniel pulled out a gun and shot Officer Padron dead at point-blank range.  Two Walmart employees then tackled Daniel and held him until more officers arrived.  Padron was the father of two children.

April 2, 2012 -- McAllen, Texas:  25-year-old Aaron Solorzano was shoplifting a grocery cart full of merchandise when two employees tried to stop him.  He turned and shot one of them in the hand, then cut the other employee in the hand.  He escaped and may have fled to Mexico.

April 2, 2012 -- Thomasville, Florida:  17-year-old Johnathan Brown shot and robbed a man, Mark Sbarra, multiple times in the parking lot of Walmart, then stole a van.   While fleeing, he crashed the van.  Brown was wanted on a number of other crimes, including another shooting.  He was captured and confessed to the crime.

March 27, 2012 -- Avon, Massachusetts:  A marijuana purchase went bad between two groups of people in the Walmart parking lot.  Shots were fired by both groups.  One of them, 18-year-old Keenan Hart of Brockton, was injured.

March 7, 2012 -- Columbus, Ohio:  Two men were suspected of shoplifting at a Walmart and were in a getaway car driven by a woman.  Officers attempted to stop them, then the woman rammed her car into the police cruiser and ran over the foot of one of the officers.  The officer opened fire, wounding the woman in the leg.  She continued to drive off, but was caught when stuck in traffic.

February 22, 2012 -- Dinwiddie, Virginia:  33-year-old Melvin D. Taylor, Jr. "just didn't seem together" the day he showed up for his job at a Walmart distribution center.  After his lunch break, he walked to the back of the building and opened fire, injuring 40-year-old Wynette Starks, a manager at the facility, in the leg.  He then exited the building, where police were arriving, and had a shoot-out with them.  Taylor then committed suicide.

February 21, 2012 -- Jackson, Mississippi:  Two men, Thomas Wansley and Jeremiah Wilson, had a dispute. Wansley pulled up in his car next to Wilson's car and opened fire despite other shoppers nearby.  Wilson was struck three times.  An off-duty police officer responded. Wansley pointed his gun at the officer, and the officer fired but missed. Wansley then surrendered.

February 2, 2012 -- Albuquerque, New Mexico:  An argument broke out inside a Walmart store and spilled out into the parking lot.  There, one man was shot in the stomach.  The victim was armed, as well, and police say it was likely a gang-related shooting.

January 23, 2012 -- Port Orchard, Washington:  Three police officers responded to a suspicious person report at the local Walmart.  When they arrived, they confronted a man and a teen girl.  The man, 31-year-old Anthony A. Martinez, then ran from the officers and opened fire on them, hitting two of the officers and wounding them.  The third officer then shot and hit Martinez as well as the girl.  Both Martinez and the girl died.

January 9, 2012 -- Sheboygan, Wisconsin:  Four young men were in the parking lot of Walmart when a fifth man fired a gun at them.  One of the victims died, another was critically injured.

January 2, 2012 -- Modesto, California:  Two groups got into an argument in a Walmart parking lot.  Shots were fired.  Luckily no one was hurt.  One person involved ran into the Walmart and was found to have legally-obtained ammunition on him, which he had purchased there.

ADDENDUM (11/3/12):  According to an article, two assault rifles were stolen from a Summerville, South Carolina Walmart, and another two assault rifles were stolen from a Walterville, South Carolina Walmart.

Friday, September 21, 2012

International Day of Peace - 2012

Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace.  It is a day for opponents, whether they be nations or individuals, to put aside their differences and find ways to solve them constructively and without malice.

I'm happy to live in a town (Eugene, Oregon) which promotes peace and non-violence in so many ways.  Here there are many organizations which promote these goals.  In addition to Ceasefire Oregon, there is also Million Mom March, Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC), Women's Action for New Directions (WAND), Women in Black, the Democratic Party of Lane County Peace Caucus, Veterans for Peace, the Eugene Peace Team, and Beyond War.  There are also religious organizations, including the local Mennonite Church, the Unitarian Church, and Church Women United.  These organizations and others march in the annual Million Mom March Mother's Day walk, and in the Eugene Celebration Parade (where we are in the Peace Train).

Prosperity is not possible without peace.

Our town has just broken ground on a new Nobel Peace Park, which is being put in next to the DeFazio bicycle bridge at Alton Baker Park.  The Nobel Peace Park is the first park in the nation dedicated to winners of the Nobel Peace Prize from the United States:
Between $160,000 and $170,000 has been raised by the Nobel Peace Laureate Project to construct the park, according to the nonprofit group’s development director, Roger Durant. Paddock Construction of Eugene is taking the lead in building the park, which should be completed and ready for viewing in around 90 days, Durant said.
Stretching across two acres north of the park’s duck pond and next to the DeFazio Bike Bridge, the park-within-a-park will showcase a “Peace Path” surrounded by freshly planted trees and a serpentine wall featuring plaques of all 24 American winners — 21 individuals and three groups — of the Nobel PeacePrize.
“A lot of donors are anxious,” Durant said. “They donated over the last three, four, five, six years and we have had to go through the process of getting permits. But we finally have attained our goal.”

Part of the organization's efforts is also to name a Nobel Peace Laureate Park Project’s 2012 Teacher of the Year.  This year the award went to Clair Wiles, a school teacher at North Eugene High School who teaches a curriculum of peace.  An Iraq war veteran, Wiles understands that peace cannot be attained through violence, and that violent means have violent effects that continue to radiate long after the last bullet is fired.
“We were just sort of dreaming,” Wiles said. “And we said, ‘What if we had a class that was called the Humanities Academy for Peace, Justice and Human Rights?’ And so our entire curriculum was focused on a chronological study, but it was all focused on nonviolent movements and the effectiveness of nonviolent movements.”
History courses, as Wiles likes to say, “tend to march between wars,” leaving gaping holes at the points on the timeline when guns were left holstered, bombs un-dropped. She and McCarty sought to change that, presenting freshmen students with primary source documents and engaging in deep conversation about nonviolent movements and how to respond to genocide.
As a poster on her classroom wall says, “War doesn’t show who’s right, just who’s left.”
So what can you do to celebrate the International Day of Peace?  Peace has to start with the individual.  Start with yourself.  Make yourself a vessel of harmony.  Then spread that harmony to others.  Support peace and non-violence organizations such as Ceasefire Oregon or those I linked to above.

One way I intend to celebrate is to spend time on the United Way annual campaign that I lead for my company each year.  The United Way works to help the community come together in a wide range of ways through coordination of numerous social welfare organizations, helping people with mental health issues, or helping with prescription medicines for the poor, or helping young and lower-income families with daycare, etc.  Keeping weapons out of the hands of those who would mis-use them is important, but just as important is addressing the issues that lead to deviant behavior:  poverty, mental illness, drug abuse, and hunger.  The United Way and similar organizations are at the forefront of such efforts.

Just two days ago, the United Way of Lane County had an annual Day of Caring where they partnered with volunteers and companies all over the area to help with volunteerism efforts:

"We hope to make the Day of Caring a year of caring, year round and hope lots of people in the community get involved," said 2012 United Way Campaign Chair.
"It benefits everyone in our community. Those who need the help and even those who may not need the help. Because you never, know, one day, we may be in need. We're all better off if we share our prosperity and help eachother out," said Gray.
Several businesses and community groups volunteered their time at non profit agencies including: FOOD for Lane County, Cascades Raptor Center, Relief Nursery, Laurel Hill Center and many more.
Businesses including EWEB, Siuslaw Bank and the City of Eugene were volunteering at Food for Lane County. "I like to get out and volunteer. Especially with FOOD for Lane County. I love what they do out here in the community and it's fun to get together with my colleagues to do something for those in need," said Jen Connors who was volunteering with EWEB.

I'll leave with a meaningful quotation from a hero of peace and nonviolence, Mahatma Ghandi, which I direct toward those pro-gun advocates who wrongly insist that arming everyone is the way to peace:

"Violent means will give violent freedom."

ADDENDUM:  One national organization that promotes this day is Peace One DayHERE is their Facebook page.  HERE is a similar Facebook page for the International Day of Peace.  HERE is yet another Facebook page.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Survivor Story: Joseph B. Jaskolka

Today we have a survivor story from guest blogger Joseph B. Jaskolka.  Just after midnight on the morning of January 1, 1999, he was 11 years old when he suffered a gunshot wound from celebratory gunfire in Philadelphia, as he describes below. For years after, he had therapy five days a week.  He eventually helped with the original Million Mom March.  He is now 25 years old and still has the bullet in his head (as you can see in the x-ray).  Here is his survivor story....

What goes up, must come down. That’s the sad truth behind my situation!

An x-ray of Joseph B. Jaskolka and the bullet still lodged in his head
Hello, my name is Joseph B. Jaskolka, and I am a gun-violence survivor. Back on New Year’s Eve 1998~into~New Year’s morning of January 1st, 1999, I changed the trend of gun-violence victims that give-up their struggle to exist. What makes my story “unique” is that I was just 11 years old at the time of my shooting (which is often considered a relative death sentence by my Doctor’s and Nurses’ at that time period.)

I was your typical athletic, video game playing, outdoors type child that loved playing with my neighborhood crew (friends) and sports with my classmates. In my school, I loved to play sports, mainly football and basketball. Then, the buck stops there…

It was New Year’s Eve of 1998, and as a tradition set by my late Grandfather, everyone would travel from all-over on the east coast and try with all their power to attend that traditional family gathering. By going to that party, I was afforded the opportunity to talk with distant cousins who didn’t live close-by.

As the clock struck midnight, and as normal people do in our “civilized” nation, my parents rang in the New Year by banging on pots and pans.  I had no idea that people would be firing their guns into the midnight sky, but that is the often painful re-occurrence that people partake in doing. It’s an over 300 year-old tradition dating back to colonial days when William Penn helped to establish the city of Philadelphia, or the city of brotherly love, and sisterly affection?!

A couple cousins and I were heading to go see one of the local Mummer’s string bands warm-up, or as they're most famously called by my two parents, The New Year shooters.  I thought that title was pretty odd at the time, now I have more common-sense!

Being the son of a Vietnam veteran (father) and a Navy brat (mother) I never really was ever taught to “admire” firecrackers/works.  My dad always taught me that they were dangerous, and also saying, “If you want fireworks, go in the service.” Which before my shooting I was preparing myself for.

Against popular belief, I wasn’t walking to see the fireworks at Penn’s Landing in Center-city Philadelphia, I was enjoying the family-festivities in my Grandmother’s split-level row-house in South Philadelphia. Here come the irony…

I got maybe a half-block away from my Grandmother’s home before a “Celebratory bullet" pierced my skull. Better yet, when my cousin Jeff ran back in the house to report to an adult to call 911, “Joe’s just lying on the ground, everyone must have thought I was joking”, but a child with a bullet-hole in the top of his cranium, when my parents (and aunts, uncles, and fellow cousins) were all trying to figure out what happened to me, crazy scenarios started to be heard.

When police searched the rooftops in a few block radius a day later, they found over 700 spent bullets!

When everyone at the party figured out my condition, they along with the medical staff at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) must have all figured I was dead.  You know you’re a dead man when the hospital has a priest sitting with your parents in the Emergency Room to wait for bad news.

Because the city was basically broke at that time, they only had enough funds to pay for ambulances for crowd control in Center-city, so with my family's frantic 911 call, all the city could afford was to send me a fire truck to a shooting scene in South Philadelphia.  Even better yet, the dispatcher next sent us a police wagon!

So, they loaded me in the wagon and off we went to Jefferson Hospital, my first hospital, then after that I was flown to CHOP where doctors and nurses there saved my life.

Fast-forward to the present state of our country...  I can’t understand where the argument exists between whether gun-violence is an urban problem or a residential one.  The way I will always see it, it’s a bleak and scary American issue. Both of our presidential “Hopefuls” are remaining silent on the issue because they both think gun-control is a losing issue among voters, but funny thing is they’re both not losing a thing by remaining silent, just the American people keep losing their lives.


ADDENDUM (from Baldr):  If you wish to combat celebratory gunfire, I urge you to visit and support the Bullet Free Sky website and Facebook page, which was formed by the family of 12-year old Diego Duran after he was also shot by celebratory gunfire.  You can also visit and support the "Citizens Against Celebratory Gunfire and Senseless Gun Violence" Facebook page.  Bullets don't know when to stop.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Remembering Guy Parsons, and National Suicide Prevention Week

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week.  It is a time for us to reflect on the tragedy of people who feel so desperate and depressed that they feel life isn't worth continuing.  Maybe they feel bullied.  Maybe they are chronically ill.  Maybe they have lost a loved one.  Whatever the cause, the end of their suffering, sadly, is the extension of pain to those who survive them.

According to the CDC, almost 57% of violent deaths in America are due to suicide.  Firearms are used in just over 50% of suicide attempts (71.7% in males, 46.4% in females).  More than 90% of attempts using firearms are successful, far exceeding the success rate by any other method.

From one source:

More than 90% of suicide attempts using guns are successful, while the success rate for jumping from high places was 34%. The success rate for drug overdose was 2%, the brief said, citing studies.
"Other methods are not as lethal," a co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, Jon Vernick, said.

I have lost a friend to suicide.  When I was 15 years old I had a friend named Guy Parsons, who was a couple years younger than me.  I didn't think I had any pictures of him and me together.  Then, the other day, I was digging around for something in my attic and found an old Middle School yearbook.  There, in a group picture of the Science Club, Guy and I were both in the group.  Guy is the one with the red arrow.  I'm the one with the green arrow.

Guy Parsons, age 13
Guy was a rambunctious teen, always quick with a joke and very active.  We were in the same Boy Scout troop (his great uncle was our scout master), camping and running crazy in the woods.  But Guy was a bit awkward, socially.  He was overweight.  He was hyper.  He had problems fitting in.

Then one day, not long after that Science Club picture was taken, I learned he had gotten hold of his family's Colt .45 revolver.  His sister came home to discover him with a fatal, self-inflicted wound the head.  The gun had been bought for self-protection.  Obviously, his father failed to secure the gun or consider the consequences of having it in the house, and he didn't think about the possibility that his son might use it.

As we say at the Kid Shootings blog, "Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult."

I went to Guy's funeral and saw the overwhelming sadness in a room that was packed with the many people who loved him, many standing because there weren't enough seats in the largest room the funeral home had. 

Afterward, the name of Guy Parsons rarely came up around me.  People didn't want to think about who might be at fault, who might have missed the warning signs, or relive the sadness that it brought.  As far as I could tell, his family didn't realize Guy was suicidal.  The tragedy of suicides is extremely personal.  That's why you practically never see news reports on suicides, even though they outnumber murders or shootings of any sort. 

Unfortunately, the silence is itself deadly.  If we don't talk about the problem -- if we pretend it the danger doesn't exist -- the deadly cycle will continue.

But it doesn't have to be this way. 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is an excellent source to learn about suicide prevention and warning signs.  There are many risk factors.  Here is what they say about warning signs:

Warning signs of suicide include:
  • Observable signs of serious depression:
    Unrelenting low mood
    Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
    Sleep problems
  • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
  • Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
  • Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
  • Making a plan:
    Giving away prized possessions
    Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm
    Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
  • Unexpected rage or anger

If you know anyone who is suicidal or severely depressed, there are steps you can take.  Here are some of them:
  • Take any threat of suicide seriously, no matter how "jokingly" or briefly it is presented. 
  • Be willing to listen to them, at any time. 
  • Be a friend and a shoulder to cry on.  Be there for them.  Try to stay optimistic, for their sake.
  • Find your local suicide hotline and give it to them to post by the phone. 
  • Don't leave them alone if the threat is imminent.
  • Urge them to seek psychological help.
  • Urge them to remove any weapons or unnecessary and dangerous medicines from their home.
  • Alert other close friends and family to be there as well.

Some of these steps may seem imposing in some manner, and may require you to go the extra mile, but those small sacrifices are better than losing a friend or family member, and they will thank you later.

We can all work together to reduce suicides in America.  Let's make a new trajectory for our community away from gun violence.

RELATEDHERE is a link to the "Stop Teenage Suicide" Facebook page.

ADDENDUM (9/17/12):  HERE is an informative fact sheet for youth suicide.