Reflections on shootings past present and future

As I reflected on the beauty of a light snowfall this morning, I was reminded by a news story that today was a day to remember momentous shootings. There are so many that it is too easy to forget what happened on this day in other years. We have paid so much attention to the present chaos over COVID and the 2020 election results which continue hour by hour, that we forget important things. That is the point of a President and a party who don’t want us to remember tragedies and past mistakes so we can learn from them and move forward to better solutions.

Today is the “anniversary” of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The country experienced a shock on November 22nd, 1963 as we watched the repeated video of our young President as he slumped over into his wife’s lap while the car sped away to the hospital where he died of his gunshot injuries. One shooter; one gun; many bullets; one U.S. President’s life snuffed out in seconds; the shooter shot by another unhinged man on live T.V.; the country mourned; stronger gun laws passed:

It had been floating around Congress for several years. [Discussion] really began after the JFK assassination; there was a strong sense that people shouldn’t buy guns through interstate mail, because Lee Harvey Oswald did through an ad that appeared in a NRA magazine. Congress held hearings, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Now in 1968, the country is facing rising urban rioting. In the mid-to-late ’60s, crime begins to increase. There’s greater concern about guns and easy accessibility to guns. Martin Luther King is assassinated in April. In June, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and that was really the final push that brought the law back and got it through Congress.

What are the most important things the law changed?

It banned interstate shipments of firearms and ammunition to private individuals [and] sales of guns to minors, drug addicts and “mental incompetents.” This is the first time you have in law that mentally unbalanced people ought not to be able to get guns — also convicted felons. It also strengthened the licensing and record-keeping requirements for gun dealers, and that was significant because gun dealers were subject to virtually no systematic scrutiny up until this time, although a 1938 federal law did establish a fee they paid to government to be a licensed dealer. It banned importation of foreign-made surplus firearms, except those appropriate for sporting purposes.

Since then, one other important gun violence prevention law passed in 1993 in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan- the Brady Background Check law. The Brady Background check law has prevented over 3 million prohibited people from getting their hands on guns.

As a side note, I recently completed the book-Mrs. Kennedy and Me written by Clint Hill, the security agent assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy. I learned from his reflections, about the horror in the immediate seconds after the President was shot. How can we understand the horror of what a shot person looks like when a bullet tears through their brain, or heart? We can’t. Maybe if we could better understand the consequences we would be quicker to want to prevent shootings.

Today is also the 6th anniversary of the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice. Tamir was walking around with a toy gun when police found him and mistakenly assumed he had a real gun. This is the problem with so many guns around. No one knows who is armed and who is not. But it’s also the problem with the quick response from law enforcement when a black person has a gun or is perceived to have a gun or is perceived to be armed or is just perceived to be trouble. Here is an article written by Tamir’s mother earlier this year as she reflected on the shooting death of her innocent son:

If Tamir was alive, he’d probably be doing something with sports. That little boy was so athletic at an early age. I’m not sure what kind of athlete he would have been. We didn’t really have a chance to have a lot of those conversations. He would be 18 and have graduated high school by now.

That day Tamir was murdered I received a knock at the door and it was a neighborhood kid saying my son had been shot by police. I said, “What are you talking about?” I was in denial and shock.

No parent should have to endure something like this.

As I arrived on the scene, my 14-year-old was in the back of a police car. Tamir was laying on the pavement in a gazebo with police surrounding him. My 16-year-old was surrounded by police officers as well. Basically, police told me to calm down or else they were going to put me in the back of a police car. They gave me an ultimatum to stay at the scene of the crime, or to go with Tamir in the ambulance.

The day was very horrific for me. I was enraged by the way he was killed, murdered, assassinated, lynched, whatever they may call it. Nobody bothered to look at this man’s record before he became a Cleveland police officer. He had a horrible report. Nobody in Cleveland did their job, and that’s why I have a dead son today.

No. No parent should have to endure this. No sister. No brother. No mother or father. No child. No one. And yet, over 100 Americans a day die from gun violence. The nation is enduring a public health epidemic now in the midst of an actual public health pandemic.

COVID restrictions have changed our world. Since last March, when the country shut down, many schools have been doing distance learning. This fall, when the school year began again, schools struggled with how to educate our children safely. Some opened completely. Some chose the hybrid model and some chose all distance learning. This largely depended on how the spread of COVID was occurring in the communities where schools are located. My own grandchildren are now learning from home while their parents work from home. It is not the way our kids should be educated but here we are.

There have been no school shootings since COVID started spreading in our country. I came across this report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) about school shootings that confirms what we really already know:

We examined school shootings and found:

Half were committed by current or former students

Suburban and rural, wealthier, and low-minority schools had more school-targeted shootings; such shootings were the most fatal and most commonly committed by students

Urban, poor, and high-minority schools had more shootings overall and more motivated by disputes; these shootings were often committed by non-students or unknown shooters

More shootings happened outside, but those inside schools were usually more deadly

We found no empirical research from 2009-2019 that directly examined the link between school discipline and school shootings.

There have been few mass shootings in public places either. People aren’t gathering as much in public now. There was one two days ago though in a Milwaukee suburb mall leaving 8 innocent people injured and none dead. Malls are still places where people are allowed to gather in larger numbers. It seems that where people gather in larger numbers, there are opportunities for mass shooters to take out some sort of angry rampage on people they don’t know. And easy access to guns along with weak gun laws lets this all happen.

Don’t get me started on the weak response to the actual pandemic. During the pandemic the sale of guns has gone up. How do we explain this? I don’t think we do. It’s a gun culture that no other country where COVID is also spreading experiences. It’s the weak gun laws.

We are experiencing unprecedented turmoil due to the pandemic. The stress of worry about losing a job, kids being at home, working from home, getting COVID and now the lunacy of a sitting President who refuses to admit he lost the election, is leading to fear and paranoia. It is not a good time to be locked and loaded. It is not a good time to be carrying a gun around in public where there are rallies and protests.

We know how that worked out in Kenosha when there were protests there after the shooting of a black man by police. Two people were shot and killed by a 17 year old who bought his gun in a straw purchase since he was too young to own or carry an AR-15. But carry he did. He was arrested.

The lunacy of what we are experiencing in America is that the said 17 year old shooter has been bailed out by none other than the “pillow guy”- friend to the current occupant of the White House and actor Ricky Schroder.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Where is common sense?

Everyday shootings have continued apace. According to Gun Violence Archive, 38,526 Americans have died from gunshot injuries so far this year. It will likely reach 40,00 before the end of the year.

This number included suicides. An increase in gun suicides in the age of COVID should not surprise us. Access to guns and suicide go together. Gun suicides have been on the rise anyway. But now we are seeing more evidence that times of stress and anxiety can lead to more suicides. Guns make it easy. A New York Times article has this to say:

Ms. Torp has reason to worry. Gun violence kills about 40,000 Americans each year, but while public attention has focused on mass shootings, murders and accidental gun deaths, these account for little more than one-third of the nation’s firearms fatalities. The majority of gun deaths are suicides — and just over half of suicides involve guns.

According to national health statistics, 24,432 Americans used guns to kill themselves in 2018, up from 19,392 in 2010.

People who kill themselves in this way are usually those with ready access to firearms: gun owners and their family members. Gun owners are not more suicidal than people who don’t own guns, but attempts with guns are more likely to be fatal.

Now, nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, unleashing a tide of economic dislocation and despair, experts are bracing for a rise in suicides. Gun sales have risen steadily since March, and as shutdowns aimed at containing the virus have disrupted lives and led to social isolation, studies have shown an increase in anxiety and suicidal ideation.

We are in perilous times now. More deaths from COVID and still rising to numbers that are incomprensible; a feckless, unfit and unhinged President turning his back to the American people; a major party refusing to stand up and insist that we proceed with the transition to the next President Joe Biden; armed people on our streets; conspiracy theories pushed by right wing extremists, including the President that will only make the threats of violence more likely; weak gun laws that allow for so many people to have instant access to guns that could result in a tragedy. Election officials have been threatened as have people who have spoken out against the President’s lunacy.

There is NO VOTER FRAUD. Time to move on to a more peaceful and safe country.

I look forward to President Joe Biden for many reasons. The daily chaos will decrease or disappear. We will have a sane approach to combating COVID and distributing what looks to be a successful vaccine. There is hope that the economy can recover and our kids can get back to school. And there will be a common sense approach to reducing and preventing gun violence.

I look forward to a peaceful and calm, but quiet, Thanksgiving and holiday season as a time of reflection on things past, present and future. I wish we could spend it with our kids and grandkids but not this year. Enjoy your quiet and tune out the loud noises out there.

One thought on “Reflections on shootings past present and future

  1. Thank you so much for your reflections. The assassination of President Kennedy is the first event in my life for which EVERYONE REMEMBERED where they were. I was in the back of my eighth grade classroom. Big windows were behind me and Miss Caudill (our teacher of Civil War History) at her desk in front of the class. She was from Kentucky and she kept us a bit in the dark as to whether she might have had southern leanings in the war between the states. My school was in Cambridge Mass and Very Yankee. Someone came in and whispered to Miss Caudill, she told us the news and I think we all started to cry.
    How could we all have become so blaise about deaths since then….

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