April- shooting anniversaries and an important birthday

April foolEvery April, some families have to stop what they are doing and remember an awful anniversary. The country also remembers certain April dates as those of mass shootings and violent events that we can’t forget:

April 13- Thomas Jefferson’s birthday

April 15- Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shooting of one of the perpetrators and eventual capture and shooting of the other

April 16- Virginia Tech shooting

April 19- Oklahoma City bombing by gun rights extremist

April 20- Columbine shooting

April is a cruel month according to poet T.S. Eliot:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
This of course refers to the spring weather which has been particularly cruel in Minnesota this year. We are one day wearing winter coats and boots and shoveling and the next sitting outside in short sleeves and enjoying the spring sun.
But for the victims of these now famous shootings and attacks, April is unforgettable. How can we forget the 32 shot dead at Virginia Tech? How can we forget the first big school shooting that left 12 dead and the country reeling? How can we forget the Oklahoma bombing that left 168 innocent people dead. The man who committed this heinous act was a gun extremist and had anti-government sentiments. The Boston Marathon Bombing did end with shootings and left 3 people there to watch the finish of the race dead.
And what does Thomas Jefferson’s birthday have to do with any of this? Let’s take a look at this article that dispels the myths associated with some of his quotes that are used by gun extremists and far right political extremists:
Saul Cornell, a professor at Fordham University, said some quotations may need context, especially those from the “losing side” of debates. He added that he believes both sides of the gun conversation tend to oversimplify the Founding Fathers’ historical intent.
“Without being too professorial about it,” he said, “depending on what theory of the Constitution we use, you can get very different interpretations of the Second Amendment.”
Cornell, who is the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at the school, said the Constitution incorporates lessons learned while the nation was under the Articles of Confederation. He said the turmoil of Shays’ Rebellion stirred up fears of mob rule among many leaders.
He also compared the militias of early America to a form of taxation, saying that citizens had what Jefferson referred to as a “right and duty” to be armed. That is, they were required to buy weapons in addition to being allowed to possess them. Militia membership was often compulsory, Cornell said.
He questions whether the Founding Fathers would have welcomed the idea of people taking up arms against their newly hatched constitutional government instead of using governmental procedure to settle differences, which sometimes is referred to as the “ballots vs. bullets” debate.
The quote that has sometimes been used by extremists is: ” The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” So what does that mean? From this article in the Huffington Post by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:
Those who hold the belief that the Second Amendment gives them an individual right to take violent action against our government should it lapse into “tyranny” have isolated Jefferson’s “tree of liberty” quote in order to justify a radical ideology. The truth is that Jefferson’s views on private rebellion were far more thoughtful and nuanced. While scholars like Saul Cornell have acknowledged that Jefferson affirmed an individual right to keep arms for private purposes, he never described disorganized or spontaneous insurrection as a right. Jefferson instead envisioned“a universally armed citizenry organized into well-regulated militia units based on a system of ‘ward republics’” as a deterrent against “usurpers” and a key guarantor of a healthy republic.
In today’s hyperbolic and sometimes even violence-prone political environment it is important to understand that armed Americans ready to fight against their own government or for a particular candidate is not a democracy. We use ballots- not bullets- and hopefully common sense, to change our leaders. Our Founding Fathers wanted it that way. I doubt that they envisioned armed Americans ready to fight their own government or use their guns to intimidate and bully other Americans.

Some wonder if April has some significance when it comes to violence. This article explores that idea and comes to the conclusion that in America, at least, mass shootings occur in any and every month and we know that shootings happen every day of every month to the tune of 90 a day.

For my family August was a cruel month. For others it was December when 20 first graders and 6 educators were shot dead by a young angry mentally disturbed man who should not have had access to guns.

Gun violence is cruel and devastating. In American it is particularly and uniquely so.It doesn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t be thinking about certain months or certain dates in light of violent events that took place then. Too many families hate the anniversaries of the shooting deaths of their loved ones or friends.

It’s past time to change the conversation and do something. Today a petition with 200,000 signatures to ask Congress to repeal the PLCAA law was delivered. A protest outside of the hotel where the NSSF was meeting also happened. The National Shooting Sports Foundation opposed the Senate background check bill in 2013 much to the great consternation of gun violence prevention activists and victims. It is located in Newtown, Connecticut where the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

April is a busy month for activists whose mission it is to call attention to our American public health epidemic and ask our leaders to do something about it. The month starts out with April Fools’ Day. We will not be fooled by the false and deceptive rhetoric of the corporate gun lobby. And we can’t let our elected leaders be fooled either. It is no joke to have a loved one’s life cut short by a bullet. And that is why we are acting today, this month and every month.

Check out the Facebook page of Newtown Action Alliance and the Twitter feed of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for photos showing the activists working for victims. This is what change looks like. Let’s keep going and make it happen.

Virginia Tech remembered – and other April shootings

Virgina TechAs poet T. S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month.” It’s true. It’s so disturbing that the month needs to be remembered for so many shootings:

April 2, 2014- the second Fort Hood shooting that killed 4, including the shooter and injured 16 more.

April 14, 2003- John McDonough High School shooting where a 15 year old student was shot and killed by 2 men with an AK47. 3 others were injured.

April 15, 2013 -The Boston Marathon bombing, of course, killed 3, injured many and caused terror to many. But it also did involve several shootings when one of the bombers shot and killed a police officer and the other suspect was shot and injured by law enforcement authorities after a long search that terrorized the Boston area for days.

April 16, 2007- The Virginia Tech shooting victims will be remembered again today on the 8th anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in America. 32 were left dead and 17 others injured after the shooter, a severely mentally ill student who obtained a gun legally, opened fire on fellow students and professors before he shot himself.

And then, of course, we shouldn’t overlook the Oklahoma City bombing by gun extremist Timothy McVeigh on April 19, 1995 that killed 168 and injured 680. McVeigh was a gun rights extremist and militia member who was anti-government. In an interview with McVeigh years after the terror attack he admitted to the same rhetoric we hear from today’s gun rights extremists:

Once the Branch Dividian siege began in Waco, Texas, McVeigh became convinced that the government was the ultimate bully, trying to take away people’s guns.

McVeigh even drove to Waco during the siege.

“You feel a bond with this community. The bond is that they’re fellow gun owners and believe in gun rights and survivalists and freedom lovers,” said McVeigh.

Dan Herbeck: “The ultimate thing that sent him toward Oklahoma City was Waco with the Branch Dividian people being killed and he told us from that day forward he decided he was going to become a terrorist.”

McVeigh believed he and the Militia Movement were now at war with the U.S. government.

Sometimes these beliefs turn into action and unfortunately, that is what happened in Oklahoma City in 1995.

April 20, 1999- Two students obtained guns from a friend who bought them at a gun show with no background check, shot and killed 13 people and injured 21 at Columbine high school in Littleton, Colorado. This school shooting propelled a lot of Americans into action about gun safety reform and is still remembered today because it was the first school shooting in modern memory with so many victims and marks the beginning of an era of school shootings not seen in any other country in the world. You can see the list in this article, stunning because of the continued carnage and lack of action to prevent more of them.

April 25, 2003- Pittsburgh area junior high student shot his school principal and then himself at his school. The 14 year old carried 3 loaded handguns to school that day. The guns came from his own home.

This, of course, is just one month of 11. In America, we speak of school shootings and mass shootings as if they are just part of the landscape. That is the sad truth and it should be a shameful truth. But our elected leaders continue to ignore the facts about gun violence and vote with the corporate gun lobby instead of standing up for the victims and survivors.

Where is common sense?

Today we remember the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. Tomorrow- others- and the next day and the next day and the next day……..

We are better than this. It’s past time to change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. We can do something to reduce and prevent shootings. But we are not and that’s the American tragedy. Every day in America, another Virginia Tech happens when 32 Americans are killed in gun homicides. And that is only some of the 80 Americans who die daily from gunshot injuries. We have to get this right- lives depend on it.

Remembering:

Ross Abdallah Alameddine

Jamie Bishop

Brian Bluhm

Ryan Clark

Austin Cloyd

Jocelyne Couture-Nowak

Kevin Granata

Matthew Gwaltney

Caitlin Hammaren

Jeremy Herbstritt

Rachel Hill

Emily Jean Hilscher

Jarret Lane

Matt LaPorte

Henry Lee

Liviu Librescu

G.V. Loganathan

Partahi Lumbantoruan

Lauren McCain

Daniel O’Neil

Juan Ortiz

Minal Panchal

Daniel Perez Cueva

Erin Peterson

Mike Pohle

Julia Pryde

Mary Read

Reema Samaha

Waleed Shaalan

Leslie Sherman

Maxine Turner

Nicole White

I will also remember some friends I have met through my gun violence prevention work- the brother of a victim, the mother of a survivor and a survivor of the shooting.