Monday, December 31, 2012

A year of Walmart Shootings: 2012

(This is a cross-post from the Walmart Shootings blog, HERE.)

(image from Per's Decent Blog)
When I started the Walmart Shootings blog, it was to chronicle what has become a sad fact: the retail giant Walmart, the number one retailer of guns and ammo in the United States, and possibly the world, has a higher rate of shootings and gun crimes on its properties than any other “big box” retailer in the nation.

As I have chronicled on this blog, Walmart had 53 shootings reported in the media in 2012.  That’s more than one a week, on average.  HERE is a listing of those incidents.  Though I didn’t look carefully until recently, I also found 21 other gun crimes where shots weren’t fired.  That’s at least 74 incidents in at least 28 states. 

Crimes and shootings included armed robberies, customers angry at each other, shoplifters (including of assault weapons!), road rage, law enforcement encounters, drug deals gone wrong, and even suicides.  Twice there were accidental shootings, both times by gun owners with legal conceal carry permits.

I found 8 homicides, 25 attempted homicides or aggravated assaults with guns, 2 gang-related incidents, 3 drug-related events, 18 armed robberies, 11 shoplifting incidents, 2 accidents, 10 law-enforcement related incidents, and at least one murder/suicide (some of these categories overlap).  There were also two plots for mass murders at Walmarts.

48 incidents were in the parking lots.  24 were inside the stores.  2 were at Walmart gas stations attached to the parking lots. 

In 2005, a movie was released entitled “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices.”  You can see on YouTube, embedded below.  For their abysmal record on shootings and assaults, watch timeframe 1:16:11 - 1:25:06.  At timepoint 1:19, note that Walmart did their own internal study and found that 80% of assaults happened in their parking lots.  When they posted a roving guard in the parking lot, incidents dropped to nearly zero.  And yet, Walmart squashed the study and did not change their national policy regarding policing of their parking lots other than additional security cams.  No surprise, then, that here at Walmart Shootings we found that there is nearly twice the rate of incidents in the parking lots than inside stores in 2012.

It leaves you wondering.  Why Walmart?  What is it about Walmart stores that attracts gun crimes?  Is it their lax policy toward guns (they allow conceal carry in all stores, complicit with state gun law, are the number one retailer of guns in America, and even sell assault rifles).  Other retail giants, like Target, Kmart, and Costco almost never have gun crimes occur on their properties, so the issue isn’t just related to number of stores.  Or is it something about the clientele that Walmart sells to?  I don’t have an answer to these questions – seeking the answers is why this blog is here.

In the meantime, as we go into 2013, shop carefully if you go to your local Walmart.  There might be a Walmart Shooting coming to a store near you.

Walmart.  Save money.  Die faster.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Celebratory Gunfire" Kills. Watch For It This New Year's

Every year, I hear reports of people shot, injured, or nearly hit by bullets fire on New Year's and other holidays (4th of July comes in second, when I last blogged on the topic).  For instance, HERE is one from last New Year's, where a 14-year old boy was wounded in Illinois.

Another from last New Year's was a 12-year old boy in Florida (the "Gunshine State"), Diego Duran.  He was sitting outside watching fireworks with his family when a bullet struck him in the head.  He went into a coma for a while, but survived and has recovered, though with memory damage and a shunt in his head.  From an article:

As 2011 turned to 2012, Diego and his family were celebrating the New Year by watching fireworks from their yard; their home is an oasis of peace, surrounded by acres of solitude. Within the first few minutes of the New Year, Diego suddenly fell to the ground, bleeding. A bullet, fired into the sky from possibly miles away, found him and changed his life forever. Somewhere out in Ruskin, his assailant remains unknown and unidentified, someone who fired a gun into the air in celebration without giving thought to the fact that the bullet that emerged from the barrel did not simply disappear into the night sky. It came back down and struck a child. Intent or deliberation are not factors because the thoughtlessness of such an act is little different from a direct shot at a child; the end result was the same. A child was struck in the head by a bullet and instantly began fighting for his life. Until that moment, the young family rightfully thought they were safe in their own yard, celebrating the New Year together at home. But celebratory gunfire knows no boundaries. No one is safe from it. 
Over the past year, Diego has endured repeated surgeries, gains and setbacks. He never stopped fighting for his life and is now on the road to recovery. And now he is fighting for the lives of others.
 “Diego continues to improve overall,” Sandy said. “He still has a shunt to help drain his cerebral spinal fluid and he is on blood thinners due to a constricted artery in his brain. Still, he seems to be just great! If anyone was to see him in person, they would not even have a clue of what he had been through since January 1 of this year.” 
Upon meeting him it is clear that Diego is an intelligent, polite, creative and sensitive young man. His struggle to recover and his fight to prevent this from happening again have garnered worldwide attention. He is still coping with memory loss but is improving thanks to the dedication of his family, teachers and therapist.

Diego and his family now work hard to try to fight this phenomenon through an organization they started, called Bullet Free Sky.  Here is a link to their website:  They also have a Facebook page.

From that previous article:
“We are doing our best to educate people regarding the dangers of celebratory gunfire, a very irresponsible use of a firearm,” Sandy said, referring to Bullet Free Sky. “We have had booths at events leading to the New Year. We’re working on a public service advertisement to air on television and are planning on educating students in schools.” 
You can help their efforts by visiting the Bullet Free Sky website at There, you can find free posters, banners and flyers in both English and Spanish to download and display at businesses or anywhere they can be seen by the public. On the website, there are also t-shirts, wristbands and medallions for sale, with all of the money earned going back into the nonprofit organization and used to help fund current and future activities to help keep the skies over South Hillsborough and America bullet free. 
“You can help create awareness without even saying a word,” Sandy said of the t-shirts, wristbands and medallions. One person can make a big difference. One person may save a life.”
My friend, Joe Jaskolka, previously wrote a "survivor story" here at New Trajectory, describing how, at age 11, he was hit in the head by a celebratory shooting.  He still has the bullet in his head, and has endured 40 surgeries.  Now he and his father, Greg, work hard to prevent further celebratory shooting.  Here they are, featured in a Philadelphia news article on the topic (click to watch):

Another friend of mine, Henry Louis Adams, also works hard to reduce celebratory shootings, administers a Facebook page (Citizens Against Celebratory Gunfire and Senseless Gun Violence), and recently wrote an article on the topic:

Every year, the names of the injured and fallen will continue to grow, Celebratory Gunfire is increasingly even more a dangerous, irresponsible, and intrusive activity. Many victims were in their places of safety such as inside of their homes, churches, or simply watching fireworks from their own doorsteps on New Year’s Eve night when their lives were altered by a celebratory bullet. 
As our heart is still healing from one of the most gut wrenching gun massacres in U.S. history, let us remember the long fight ahead to a safer America. I believe that education is the key in combating celebratory gunfire. I have talked with lots of people over the years and so many people simply cannot understand how someone can be severely injured or killed during this activity. Even more shocking is that everyone that participates in this activity often will never know that they may have pulled the trigger that took the life of a innocent child or adult miles way.

It only takes one bullet to kill the party, as this Miami program against celebratory gunfire advertises.  If you or someone you know is thinking of shooting a gun in celebration, think again.  Every bullet comes down somewhere, and there may be people and property there.  Stick to fireworks.

ADDENDUM (12/31/12):  Check out the interesting comments on the article by Henry Louis Adams.  Also, here is a related article, also featuring Joe Jaskolka, with Philly police pleading with citizens not to shoot for New Year's Eve.

UPDATES (1/1/13):

HERE is dramatic audio of the shots fired over Atlanta at New Year's.

A 10-year old girl was shot and is in critical condition, by celebratory gunfire, in Pennsylvania.

Henry Louis Adams, cited in this blog post, shared on Facebook the sounds of Dekalb County, Georgia, at midnight on New Year's.  It sounded like a battleground.  Here is an article about the violence there this New Year's, with Henry featured in it.  Here is one article illustrating the danger, where two men were nearly hit by a bullet that, luckily, richocheted off a window crossbar instead of hitting them inside their apartment:

Another Dekalb County woman spent part of the evening in her husband's bulletproof gear.

HERE is another report, this one of an elderly lady in Los Angeles hit in the foot.

Five people were arrested in Saginaw, Michigan.  Read there for individual stories of victims.

A woman and an 8-year old boy were injured from celebratory gunfire in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the hand and the foot, respectively.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Another Shooting Survivor Comes Out In Favor Of Gun Violence Prevention

After years of working to reduce gun violence, I've noticed a pattern: by and large those people who survive shootings come out in favor of tighter gun regulation.  Other than myself, take for example Colin Goddard, survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre, or Joseph Jaskolka, who survived a head wound from celebratory gunfire, or Stephen Barton, who survived the Aurora theater massacre.

I greatly enjoy talking with the public about gun issues.  The vast majority agree with me on the various gun violence prevention measures, such as requiring background checks for private gun sales.  In my conversations, I all-too-common come across people who have either been in shootings or have loved ones or friends who have been in shootings, some of whom died.  Not one of these people supported the sort of rhetoric spouted by the NRA or the gun guys.

Here's another one, Carl M. Hay, who just survived the Clackamas mall shooting here in Oregon.  He just had a letter to the editor published in the Oregonian, along with a number of other moving letters advocating for stronger gun control.  Here is Mr. Hay's letter:

As a survivor of the Clackamas Town Center shooting, I have a few thoughts about gun control. 
1. We cannot expect a "magic" solution that will stop these shootings. Watch out for arguments that say gun control cannot stop them, so we should do nothing or we should arm more people. 
2. Time is crucial. Anything we can do to slow the rate of gunfire will save lives. Smaller ammunition clips, for example, make a lot of sense. 
3. Access to assault weapons has to be limited by bans, stricter purchase laws, mandatory trigger locks, barrel locks or gun safes. 
4. If a weapon is stolen and used against people, and the owner has not protected it from theft, the owner must be held responsible. 
Anyone who has been in the direct line of fire coming from one of these assault rifles knows the incredible killing power that they have. That power, in my opinion, must be regulated. 
Southeast Portland

There have been a very few instances, I've found, where gun guys will say they have been victims, but when I press it, they typically either refuse to say what the situation was, or they admit to having drawn their weapons first because they felt "threatened."  Almost never were they actually at the wrong end of a barrel at the start.  Yes, there are examples, but they are few and far between.  

Gee, I wonder why that is?  If we were like the gun-totin' advocates, shouldn't our experiences have made us paranoid of the "monsters" who "walk among us every single day" (as Wayne LaPierre recently said in his let's-militarize-our-schools presentation) and echo the NRA's "Circus of Fear?"

No.  Instead, it forces us to realize a very basic fact: the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to keep him from getting that gun in the first place, and to limit the killing power available to him.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Myth Of The Conceal Carry Hero: Coming To Your Kids' School?

It's been a week, now, since the horrible mass murder of 20 young children and 7 adults in Newtown, Connecticut.  Adam Lanza, armed with a .223 Bushmaster AR-15 semi-auto assault rifle, multiple 30-round high-capacity magazines, two pistols, and a bullet-proof vest, first shot his mother to death in her sleep, then stormed the Sandy Hook Elementary School, murdering 6 adult staff members and 20 children, ages 5 and 6, before killing himself. 

It's been a week of worldwide shock, a week of mourning, a week of burials, and a week of nationwide discussion about gun violence like we haven't had since the Columbine massacre.

It's also been a week of discussion about what could be done to reduce the danger, by keeping guns out of the hands of madmen before they can act.  The President, for instance, suggested strengthening background checks and banning assault weapons again, visited the mourners in person, and appointed Vice President Biden to form a task force to find solutions.  There have been so many articles written from so many good viewpoints, about what could be done, that I've hardly had time to read even a fraction of them.  If anything good has come of this horror story, it's that the country has finally opened their eyes and ears to the overwhelming problem of guns getting into the wrong hands.  It's a shame it took the death of 20 innocent elementary kids to do it, but now is the time to discuss the problem.

It's also been a week of cowardly silence from the NRA and the NSSF (National Sport Shooting Foundation) which has its headquarters in Newtown, ironically!).  The NRA even shut down its Facebook page during that period, and silenced its Twitter feed.  It's like they stuck their fingers in their ears, shut their eyes tight, and hollered, "Lalalalalala!"  After all, the death of innocents is too inconvenient for their "more guns in more places" rhetoric. 

And the NSSF?  When they finally recover from the shock I wonder if they will still claim, as they do on their website, that "groups wanting to ban these rifles have for years purposely or through ignorance spread misinformation about them to aid their cause."  If by "misinformation" they mean our claim that assault rifles are purpose-made for killing large numbers of people quickly, making them unnecessarily dangerous for civilians to own, then I think the bodies of 20 small children and seven adults at their doorstep should be enough to validate our claim.  Will this make them admit it, finally?  "CONSIDER YOUR MAN CARD RENEWED," reads a disgusting ad for these weapons.  Apparently Adam Lanza's "man card" is very active.  Bushmaster must be so proud.

Bushmaster ad
And so, after a week of shameful silence, the NRA's finally unveiled what they consider a plan to help reduce shootings on school campuses.  Basically, it boils down to this:  put armed guards on every school campus across the nation, and the problem is due to "gun free zones," the old scapegoats of violent movies, music, and video games -- Oh, and it's the media's fault, too.  The problem doesn't have anything to do with guns and their availability, apparently.  Don't believe me?  HERE is a transcript.  An excerpt:

LaPierre:  Now, the National Rifle Association knows there are millions of qualified and active retired police, active, Reserve, and retired military, security professionals, certified firefighters, security professionals, rescue personnel, an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained, qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every single school. 
We could deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer, relying on the brave men and women in America’s police forces. The budgets -- and you all know this, everyone in the country knows this -- of our local police departments are strained, and the resources are severely limited, but their dedication and courage is second to none. And, they can be deployed right now.
That's right, you read it correctly.  The NRA wants more people with guns to solve the problem.  Shocker!  And they weren't willing to take any media questions, either (no surprise, given that they blame the media for not towing the line of their propaganda).

Nowhere in their "plan" is strengthening of background checks, or getting rid of assault rifles, or mandatory safe storage of guns.  And nowhere in their "plan" is there any mention about guns being too easy to get into the wrong hands.  The problem couldn't possibly be guns!  Guns are just inanimate objects no more dangerous than staplers, right?

He then pulled out one of the NRA's top lapdogs from mothballs, former Congressman Asa Hutchinson from Arkansas, to lead their "plan, " who added:

Whether they’re retired police, retired military, or rescue personnel, I think there are people in every community in this country who would be happy to serve if only someone asked them and gave them the training and certifications to do so.

And, according to Hutchinson, these "watchdogs" will be 100% volunteer!

That's right.  In other words, they're going to get citizens with conceal carry permits to voluntarily carry guns around schools, looking for someone suspicious.  Sorta like George Zimmerman did for his apartment complex.  I think we all know how that turned out.

This isn't the first anyone has suggested this.  Other politicians have as well in recent days.  In fact, the extremist group here in Oregon, the Oregon Firearms Federation, has suggested the same thing in an alert entitled "Time To Arm Teachers":

Training in classroom lock-down techniques is valuable, but passive. Classroom lock-down procedures alone fail to protect the children and adults who continue to be murdered before the police arrive. A police officer in every school is not the answer; a police officer would be the first target of a shooter and the cost would be prohibitive for most school districts. .... Lives would be saved by stopping the shooter. Seconds count when the police are five minutes away. It would be simple, inexpensive and enable immediate response after the first gunshot in a school was fired if two or three volunteers in every school (administrators, staff members or teachers), were encouraged to obtain additional training and practice in the use of firearms and were encouraged to have a firearm concealed on their person or locked in their desks. .... In short, having armed and trained personnel in every school would enable immediate response with lethal force if and when the lives of our children and teachers were endangered by a mass murderer.  
If this procedure had been implemented, the number of children killed in every school massacre from Columbine to Sandy Hook would have been greatly reduced.

Did you catch that?  They don't want police.  They want to arm teachers and school staff.  Because, you know, it's not enough that they teach our children all day for minimal pay.  They should be school security, too!  For free, no less!

After the Aurora massacre, I posted about the pro-gun fantasy of the "conceal carry hero."  Pro-gun guys, like Ted Nugent and Glenn Beck, were sputtering on about how they wished they had been in the theater, to take on the (armored, assault weapon-armed) bad guy with their little concealed handguns.  It's a common fantasy of the gun guys.  They always consider themselves to be more cool-headed and better aiming than the police or the bad guy, no matter what the odds.  Now they want to extend that fantasy to classrooms, too.

Never mind that ...

Just because someone has a conceal carry permit doesn't make them sensible, well-trained, or safe (here in Oregon, for instance, you don't even need to fire a single bullet to qualify for a permit).  And stepping onto school grounds won't magically change basic human failings.

Reaction to the NRA statement was swift and negative
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele called the NRA's remarks "very haunting and very disturbing." 
"I don't even know where to begin," Steele said on MSNBC after the NRA's statement. "As a supporter of the Second Amendment and a supporter of the NRA, even though I'm not a member of the NRA, I just found it very haunting and very disturbing that our country now that are talking about arming our teachers and our principals in classrooms. I do not believe that's where the American people want to go." 
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told reporters in Newark Friday morning he doesn't agree that placing armed guards in schools would effectively deter violence, according to a Bergen Record report
"In general I don't think that the solution to safety in schools is putting an armed guard because for it to be really effective in my view, from a law enforcement perspective, you have to have an armed guard at every classroom," he said. "Because if you just have an armed guard at the front door then what if this guy had gone around to the side door? There's many doors in and out of schools." 
Christie said his comments were not specific to the NRA's proposal as he had not yet seen the statement. 
Outspoken gun-control advocate New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the statement "a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country." 
"Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe," he said. "Enough. As a country, we must rise above special interest politics." .... 
Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut and husband to former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was seriously injured in a shooting in Tuscon last year, expressed disappointment in the NRA's remarks in a post to his Facebook page. 
"The NRA could have chosen to be a voice for the vast majority of its own members who want common sense, reasonable safeguards on deadly firearms, but instead it chose to defend extreme pro-gun positions that aren't even popular among the law abiding gun owners it represents," Kelly said.
But what about the people of Newtown?  How do they feel?  After all, this horror occurred in their town.  Given that their town is also home to the NSSF, surely they feel armed guards in every school is a good idea, right?  Nope.  From one article:

Democratic congressman and senator-elect Chris Murphy, whose congressional district includes Newtown, tweeted a sharp reaction from Connecticut after the group's comments: "Walking out of another funeral and was handed the NRA transcript. The most revolting, tone deaf statement I've ever seen."

“How dare they?” fumed Elizabeth Murphy, 42, who lives in [Newtown]. “We are all still grieving. This is the wrong time to discuss their goal of putting more guns on the street . . . The bodies haven’t even all been buried yet.”

Also, the parents of one of the slain children in Newtown, Chase Kowalski created a fund in their son's name, which will be used to foster gun control, after his mother had a vision of her son visiting her (bolding added):

Becky takes a deep breath on Wednesday in the funeral home and says, “Okay, the best day of my life started on Sunday morning when my son came to me in a vision. He came to tell me to explain to my husband that the scope of this event was so large and that there were so many people around the country and the world we were touching. I felt that my son was here in this vision to tell me that the not-for-profit scholarship organization that we are starting in Chase’s honor will save lives, change building codes, demand gun and ammunition control, and that in Chase’s name I would like to bring God back to America. These are the first starting goals of the organization.”

And the American people want gun control.  Poll after poll have shown very high support, even among gun owners and NRA members, for gun control measures such as mandatory background checks, mandatory training and certification, assault rifle bans, and waiting periods.  They've started 32 petitions for gun control on the White House's "We The People" site, which have garnered nearly 200,000 signatures. And the President has responded to this huge outpouring of support: 
I am also betting that the majority -- the vast majority -- of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I'm willing to bet that they don't think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas -- that an unbalanced man shouldn't be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone's criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown -- or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.

Teacher organizations, too, are quickly releasing statements against this NRA "vision."  From one article:
The American Federation of Teachers called the suggestion "irresponsible and dangerous," while the National Education Association described it as shocking and based on the "delusional assumption that everything other than guns contributes to these tragedies."

One of the CodePink protesters
Wayne LaPierre should have gotten his first clue about the negative reaction to his statement when, twice during the speech, he was interrupted by protesters from CodePink, one of which held a sign stating, "NRA KILLING OUR KIDS" and another saying "NRA BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS."

Sorry, Wayne, but militarizing our schools isn't the answer to gun violence.  More guns doesn't equal less crime.  If it were true, we would be the safest nation on earth.  Unfortunately, the opposite is true.  Instead of some cynical response to arm teachers or conceal carry "volunteers" on school grounds, let's focus on the root of the problem:  the ease by which the wrong people are able to get their hands of guns.  Only then can we make a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

ADDENDUM (12/31/12):  Occasionally you hear the pro-gun guys give an "example" of a conceal carry hero stopping a mass shooting.  But the cases they mention aren't valid.  Here are the examples they give, and the truth behind them: 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Music Video: "Sandy Hook"

"Sandy Hook"
Written by Ali and Kelley Klassen
Sung by Ali and Michael Klassen

Sunday, December 16, 2012

President Obama Visits Newtown And Consoles Mourners

The president speaks to mourners at Newtown
For the fourth time in his presidency, President Obama has visited the site of a mass shooting to comfort mourners.  

The parents and other relatives of those 20 small children and 6 adults, gunned down by a madman with an assault rifle and multiple 30-round high-capacity ammo clips, were present in the audience.  All the victims were shot with the assault rifle carried by Lanza.  From an article:
The unthinkable bloodshed might even have been worse. Gov. Dannel Malloy said Lanza shot himself when he heard police coming. Authorities said they found multiple 30-round magazines and hundreds of bullets at the school, enough ammunition on him to carry out significant additional carnage. 
"There was a lot of ammo, a lot of clips," State Police Lt. Paul Vance. "Certainly a lot of lives were potentially saved.".... 
Lanza had two handguns, a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm, and a Bushmaster rifle. Police also found a shotgun in his car. 
All the victims at the school were shot with the rifle, at least some of them up close, and all were apparently shot more than once, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver said. There were as many as 11 shots on the bodies he examined. .... 
Asked how many bullets were fired, Carver said, "I'm lucky if I can tell you how many I found."

As before, President Obama said he was shocked and saddened, that the nation mourns, and that he and others would pray.  But this time things were different.  This time, he indicated that real changes were coming to regulate guns in the coming days.  And for the first time, I believe.  

As Sarah Brady wrote, the time for debating is over -- we need action:
NRA leaders are hunkered down, fully expecting the American people to move on when the media furor dies down. I implore you not to let that happen this time. In this great nation of ours, six- and seven-year-olds shouldn't be shot multiple times at school. Teachers shouldn't die trying to save them. Frankly, no one should be killed with firearms in the U.S. No one.
It's sad that it took this horrible, horrible act to finally wake up America, the President, and other leaders.  84 deaths a day weren't enough.  The near-death of a congresswoman wasn't enough.  An attack on a Sikh temple wasn't enough.  The slaughter of a movie-theater full of people wasn't enough.  16 mass shootings in 2012 weren't enough.  Will the massacre of 20 little children and six adults be enough?  

I think so, finally.

So today the President visited Newtown, Connecticut and gave his speech.  HERE you can find the full video of his moving speech to the mourners and the nation.  HERE is the transcript for his speech and prayer.

The excerpt from his speech in which he calls for action:

We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims. 
And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose -- much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time. 
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.
We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this. 
If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try. 
In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine. 
Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? 
Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

Thank you, Mr. President.  I and the rest of the nation are ready to help enact changes to finally bring a new trajectory for our nation away from gun violence.

Lyrics: "There But For Fortune"

Reposted from a blog posting by Beth Kotkin, HERE.

"There But For Fortune" original words/music by Phil Ochs
updated lyrics written by Beth Kotkin

"Show me a playground, show me a park
Show me the classroom wall where the bullets made their mark
And I’ll show you a young child, with so many reasons why
There But For Fortune may go you or I

Show me a woman who leaves on the run
Show me an angry man who is grabbing for his gun
And I’ll show you a young wife with so many reasons why
There But For Fortune may go you or I

Show me a veteran who knows no one cares
Show me the trembling hands pull the trigger in despair
And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why
There But For Fortune may go you or I

Show me a country where guns are in style
Show me the families who have lost their dearest child
And I’ll show you some young lives with so many reasons why
There But For Fortune may go you or I"

The mp3 music file for this song can be found at the original posting.

Poem: "Massacre Message" by Madeleine Begun Kane

Shared from Madeleine Begun Kane's website:

Massacre Message (Limerick)
by Madeleine Begun Kane

Mindless murder and mayhem in schools.
U.S. mall assaults -- gun wielding ghouls.
We seek a solution,
But hear: "Constitution!"
We need leaders -- not NRA tools!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

President Obama speaks about the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre

(this is a repost from Kid Shootings blog)

Today, President Obama gave some remarks about the massacre of 20 young children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, by a lone gunman, Adam Lanza.

Below is the video and transcript of the President's remarks:

This afternoon, I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller.  I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation, and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families. 
We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.  And each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would -- as a parent.  And that was especially true today.  I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.  
The majority of those who died today were children -- beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.  They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.  Among the fallen were also teachers -- men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.  
So our hearts are broken today -- for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.  Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.  
As a country, we have been through this too many times.  Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.  And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics. 
This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another.  But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight.  And they need all of us right now.  In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans.  And I will do everything in my power as President to help. 
Because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need -- to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours. 
May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.
Thank you, Mr. President.  Now let's change our pain and anger into action to stop this from happening again.

UPDATE (12/16/12):  President Obama visited Newtown today, to offer word of condolence in person.  HERE is the full video of his speech there.  In his words:
"What choice do we have?" Obama said. "Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?" 
In a vigil for the fallen, in a moment of grief that spread around the world, Obama conceded that none of his words would match the sorrow. But he declared to the community of Newtown: "You are not alone."

I have a feeling that there will actually be action behind the words, this time.  The American people demand it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

State Legislators Will Sponsor Bill To Ban Assault Weapons In Oregon

An announcement from Ceasefire Oregon:

On December 14, a day of national tragedy, and a day when Oregon was still mourning the victims of the Clackamas shooting and preparing a vigil in their honor, a group of Oregon legislators came forward to take a stand against assault weapons.

Ceasefire Oregon volunteers went to the Capitol today in search of legislators who would sponsor a bill to ban the sale of military-style assault weapons—weapons whose only purpose is to kill as many people as possible very quickly. Twelve Oregon legislators stepped forward today to sponsor such legislation in the 2013 session.

The first to step forward were Representative-Elect Jeff Reardon and state Senator Rod Monroe, in whose district the Clackamas Town Center is located. Joining them in support of legislation to get assault weapons off our streets were Senators Ginny Burdick, Jackie Dingfelder, Mark Hass, Chip Shields, and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, and Representatives Peter Buckley, Lew Frederick, Mitch Greenlick, Tobias Read, and Carolyn Tomei.

Senator Ginny Burdick, long a leader of the fight against assault weapons, has already prepared legislation to ban the oversized ammunition magazines that make these weapons so horrifically deadly. In the coming months, Ceasefire Oregon will work with the sponsoring legislators to craft a bill that will also ban assault weapons. 

All of our work today was conducted under a shadow of shock and profound sorrow as news of the Newtown massacre began to filter in to the legislative offices. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Newtown.

We salute the legislators who stepped forward today, and we expect that many more will join them in the coming weeks, as we all begin the long, difficult task of bringing our nation out of this unending nightmare.

Anatomy Of Another "Law-Abiding" Gun Owner Turned Mass Murderer

This Tuesday, December 11, just before 5PM, around ten-thousand men, women, and children were shopping and socializing at the Clackamas Town Center mall, near Portland, Oregon.  Santa had a line of children with shy gift wishes.  A woman was shopping for a hat for her young son.  A man was setting up a business kiosk.  A teen girl was socializing with friends.  Throngs hustled through the corridors, looking for just the right Christmas present.  It was a moment reflected in thousands of malls and shopping centers all over the country.  The holidays were on their minds, not thoughts of gun violence or the 84 people lost to guns every day in America.

But that changed in an instant.

Jake Roberts, another "law abiding" gun owner --
until he wasn't
By all accounts, 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts was a fun and pleasant young man.  One acquaintance had only good things to say about Roberts:

An acquaintance of Roberts (who just wanted to go by her first name, Brittany), said she remembers the young man as jovial, popular and nice to classmates at Milwaukie High School. She said he loved skateboarding. 
She saw no indicators of any problems in high school, nor in seeing recent updates of him on Facebook. 
“I am as astonished as anybody. I would have never, ever, ever thought this would happen,” she said. “As far as I knew, he was happy.” 

She said Roberts was never a loner and never showed any signs of violence. She said she had a couple classes with him toward the beginning and middle of high school, but lost track of him by senior year. 

"He was a popular guy. Lots of people liked him, loved him. He was really nice,” she said. “He had so many friends."....
"It's just weird," said Ken Hargove, who partied with Roberts. "Four days ago we were hanging out with the guy. We had a drink with him, were laughing and having fun, you know, and then all of a sudden we heard this happened."

His mother described him as "loving and caring."  A co-workers said of Roberts, "He seemed fine. ... He's always a very even-keeled kid." A friend of Roberts' boss said, "He was always just joking around with customers. ... I've never seen him act out of hand or poorly toward anyone."  Neighbors and friends described him as happy, nice, and normal.  Officials at his old high school said of him, "He was known as a soft spoken and polite young man who was often eager to be helpful."  His ex-girlfriend said of him, "Jake was never the violent type.  His main goal was to make you laugh, smile, make you feel comfortable."

But while there seemed to be no obvious warning signs, Roberts was aimless and adriftAccording to his mother, Roberts had failed to enter the Marines after high school due to a foot injury, then changed his demeanor and quit talking to her.  After the injury, "[E]verything kind of fell apart for him," according to a family friend.  At the end of November, he abruptly quit his job at a sub shop.  According to his roommate, Roberts sold nearly all of his belongings and announced that he would be flying away to Hawaii, citing an inheritance.  But they never saw the plane tickets or any sign of an inheritance.
Screencap of a photo from Jake Roberts' Facebook page

The only odd moment Riley could recall came about six months ago when she and her boyfriend were at Roberts' apartment "and he was pulling out guns and showing them to us." 
She recalled seeing two handguns and what might have been a .22-caliber rifle. 
Still, Riley didn't find it alarming. Roberts said he used them for target practice out in the hills, she recalled.
Eshbach said Roberts had bought a pistol about a year ago, and used to shoot it in the woods when he went camping. 
"A lot of people are thinking he was fixated on things like that. That couldn't be further from the truth," Eshbach said.

Screencap from Jake Roberts' Facebook Page
Roberts' Facebook page didn't really fixate on guns or extremism.  Just a weird profile header suggesting "cancelled" dreams, a mention of "shooting" as an interest, and a single picture of him doing target shooting with a handgun.

But this fateful Tuesday, there was an unfortunate juncture of Roberts' aimlessness and his interest in shooting and guns.

There were few warning signs, even at the end.  His roommate said he left with "a weird look on his face."  A neighbor said he was carrying a guitar case and tore out of the driveway in his 1996 green Volkswagen Jetta. 

Roberts then, according to his roommate, stopped by his best friend's home:

"He came in and hung out for a minute and told him that he had to go and that he didn't want to," she said, and added that he gave her brother a bracelet that he always wore, and hugged him. "He told him he was just going somewhere south, somewhere warm and not to tell me or my boyfriend that he had left until the next day."

Kristina Shevchenko, age 15, wounded
Jake Roberts:  An aimless young man with an interest in guns, with no job and no future, sells off all of his things, makes wild statements about going away somewhere exotic, and then gives away a precious gift.  Sounds to me like a person about to commit suicide.  Why didn't anyone wonder this?

Obviously, he had more in mind than just suicide. 

And inside that guitar case, apparently, was an AR-15 semi-auto assault rifle that he had stolen from someone he knew.  I wonder:  Was the gun legally obtained by that other person? How was it secured? Had they bothered to keep it locked?  Was the theft reported to the police?  Did they notice it missing at all?

Why are such weapons even legal at all?

And then Roberts arrived at the Clackamas Town Center mall, donned a hockey mask and load-bearing vest filled with multiple ammo clips, and loaded his assault rifle.  He then walked into Macy's, proclaimed "I am the shooter," and opened fire, going store-to-store and through the food court. (HERE is a chronology)

When the shooting had stopped, and ten thousand panicked shoppers had cleared the building, the sad results were clear:  Steve Forsyth, 45, a kids' sports coach, father of two, and owner of a marketing business had been setting up a business kiosk and was shot to death. Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, a hospice care professional who had a wide network of friends, had been shopping for a hat for her 13-year old stepson.  Despite the best efforts of medical professionals who were in the crowds, she died from her wounds.  And a 15-year old girl, Kristina Shevchenko, who had been socializing with friends, was shot in the chest and critically injured with a punctured lung.  Luckily, it appears she will survive.

The only thing that seemed to have stopped the carnage was that his gun jammed.
Steve Forsyth and Cindy Ann Yuille, killed

And Jake Roberts, who had just a short while earlier said his last goodbye to his best friend, ran through some back corridors, then shot himself to death.  Law enforcement found him dead 22 minutes after the first 911 call.  It was an inglorious end to an aimless life.

Today, the blood is cleaned up and the Clackamas Town Center will re-open.  A candlelight vigil will be held.  The bullet holes will be filled.  The NRA will refuse to comment, while sympathetic pundits will repeat NRA talking points about arming everyone as a "solution."  And, with the exception of four families broken with grief, society will move on, trying to forget about the other 81 people who died from gunfire that day ... until the next aimless, suicidal gun owner commits the next shocking mass murder.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ceasefire Oregon Seeks State Legislative Sponsors For Assault Weapons Ban in Oregon


Ceasefire Oregon will go to Salem on Friday, December 14, to seek legislative sponsors for a measure to ban the sale of assault weapons in Oregon. Ceasefire Oregon’s objective is to have Oregon join the seven states and the District of Columbia that have enacted laws banning assault weapons (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York).  

The Oregon Legislature is scheduled to convene for a one-day special session called by Governor John Kitzhaber to pass a corporate tax bill for Nike. “We’re hoping to find a legislator in Salem with the courage to sponsor a bill banning the sale of assault weapons in Oregon,” stated Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon.

In the immediate aftermath of the Clackamas Town Center shooting on Tuesday, December 11, the group issued a renewed call for enactment of an assault weapons ban. On that day, shooter Jacob Tyler Roberts killed two mall patrons and injured one before killing himself. Authorities say Roberts carried an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle and was wearing an ammunition-loaded vest. Reportedly, the weapon jammed at one point, lessening the death toll. Ceasefire Oregon issued a similar call for a ban on assault weapons following the massacre in Aurora in July 2012.

Okamoto noted that state Senator Ginny Burdick’s proposed legislation to ban oversized ammunition magazines represents a major step in the campaign to stop the mass killings associated with semi-automatic weapons. “We need more legislators like Ginny Burdick. Congress has failed to act, and the President has failed to lead. The Oregon Legislature needs to show some courage and protect our citizens from these weapons. Next time, the gun might not jam,” said Okamoto.  

At the end of the day, Ceasefire Oregon will issue a statement identifying legislators who have agreed to sponsor a ban on assault weapons in Oregon.

For more information, call Ceasefire Oregon at 503.220.1669 or visit