The blame game or who can we blame for mass shootings?

I have been in a nonsensical “discussion” on a Facebook posting of a local TV station about the mass shooting in Indianapolis. In a ridiculous series of comments, which I must conclude come out of ignorance or political adherence to the destructive and dangerous views of the corporate gun lobby and Fox news, President Biden was blamed for the mass shooting. Yes. You read that right. Oh, and also the Democrats.

Here are a few of the comments to which I replied copied from the Facebook page:

  • ” I would like to know…let’s say in the last ten years…how many of these mass shooters were on Doctor prescribed medication?
  • “It’s almost daily now… 🤦🏼‍♂️And all they want to do is take away our guns so we can’t defend ourselves from these crazy people. Think about that…”
  • ” Funny how there’s always mass shootings when Democrats are in office…. weird….”
  • ” Let me guess its the guns fault not the person using it.”
  • “To many f’n nutjobs running around. Primary reason that I have my CCW. I hope it never happens, but I just might be the guy in line behind one of these nutjobs and you can rest assured that I will take him out long before he starts shooting!!!”
  • ” Funny how every single time the dems push for more gun control, there ends up being a bunch of shootings to support their agenda.”
  • ” You can’t carry at fedex while you’re working. Gun free zone gun control failed.yet again. Sad for all the families.”
  • “Why is it sense Biden and the democrats took the office,, were getting alot more shootings,,mmmm”

mmmm. You get the idea.

Why not blame everything but the American gun culture and the millions of guns that can be accessed by private citizens? Why not blame the Republican lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby for their refusal to act to save lives in the face of a national public health epidemic? Why not blame the NRA whose leaders have stood in the way of any kind of gun safety reform legislation that might actually allow most of us to be free from daily gun violence? Why not blame the outrageous lies and myths perpetrated by the corporate gun lobby over the last few decades such as ” the guys with the guns make the rules” or “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” or guns will be taken away from law abiding gun owners and not criminals if we pass a national background check bill to require background checks on all gun sales?

I have responded to this stuff for so long it is not necessary to do it again. It’s exhausting to tell the truth in the face of lies. The thing is, most Americans want stronger gun laws. Most Americans don’t carry guns around. Most Americans don’t even own guns. Most Americans understand who is to blame.

According to the article quoted above, this shooting could have potentially been prevented if we had Extreme Risk Protection Orders in place in all 50 states and by requiring background checks on all sales. The shooter had his gun removed by law enforcement a year ago at the request of his mother. So where and how did he get this gun? We don’t know yet. From the article cited above:

There have been reports in various news sources that the shooter used an AR15 style rifle for the shooting. Another person reported that an employee went to his car in the parking lot and got a gun out but the shooter shot that person. If true, so much for having a gun to prevent mass shootings and protect oneself.

Long before the shooting, Hole had been known to law enforcement. Last spring, after his mother reported her fears that he would attempt “suicide by cop,” he was questioned by authorities, and the police temporarily detained him for mental health reasons, FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said.

With Hole’s shotgun seized and not returned, it was unclear how he had obtained the rifle used Thursday night.

And then there is this satire, which sometimes is the only way to make a point in a ridiculous discussion blaming everything but the proliferation of guns in America, from The Onion:

“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said Nebraska resident Andrew Clark, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

Let’s just look at the real problem. This Washington Post article writer gets to the facts and the truth about our American national tragedy played out on an all too regular basis:

Earlier this month, Biden announced limited measures to tackle gun violence that included a crackdown on self-assembled “ghost guns.” But more stringent measures face an uphill battle in a divided Congress, where Republican lawmakers have long opposed any new gun limits.

Nearly 20,000 Americans died last year as a result of gun violence, not including suicide – 25% higher than in 2019, and more than in any other year in at least two decades, according to figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is those decades that many of the gun violence prevention organizations and individuals have been working hard to stop and prevent the gun violence that we now see elevated to numbers not seen since many of us began this work. In 1992 when my sister was murdered, the number of gun deaths were in the 40,000 plus range. Then the numbers came down during the late 1990s. In 1993 the Brady law was enacted requiring a background check system to be established called the National Instant Check System. Under that system, in place since then, over 3 million people have been prohibited from buying guns at federally licensed gun dealers. But the law left a big gap allowing for the private sales of guns with no background check required. 1 in 5 gun sales go without a background check. What if we allowed 1 in 5 people to drive without a driver’s license or training or 1 in 5 doctors to treat patients without getting their medical degree and the training required? What if allowed 1 in 5 passengers to board planes without going through the TSA checkpoints? Or what if allowed just anyone to teach our kids?

So what next? President Biden understands common sense. He understands that gun violence in America. From the article quoted above:

“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence,” he said. “It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation. We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives.”

Later on Friday, Biden said U.S. firearms deaths are a “national embarrassment” and called on Congress to ban military-style “assault” firearms.

“This has to end. It’s a national embarrassment,” Biden said at a White House press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

It is more than an embarrassment. it is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes every day. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of shootings of all kinds. This is what has happened so far in 2021- there have been 148 mass shootings so far and including all forms of gun violence, 12, 515 American souls have died of gunshot injuries. When we study methods of death in our country, if that many people had died so far to this date, we would be demanding that something be done. We have been. But nothing is happening.

Ignoring these deaths, these victims, these numbers, this terrible tragedy is just not sustainable. Blaming everything but the truth does nothing of course. That’s the point. If we do nothing, the bodies will pile up. It could be your loved one or friend next. So many are dying that it’s inevitable that all of us will be directly affected by gun violence. For sure all of us suffer from the PTSD and exhaustion of stories about gun deaths in the news.

On the 14th anniversary of the shooting of 32 at Virginia Tech, we now also have an anniversary of the 8 shot in Indianapolis. On April 20th, we will remember the 12 victims of one of the nation’s first mass school shootings- Columbine. We are all to blame that we have done virtually nothing to protect our kids and our citizens from suffering from shootings.

We are all to blame.

In memory and honor with action:

Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.

Conspiracies and connections

conspiracyA lunatic conspiracy theory promoted on the internet brought a North Carolina man with an AR-15 into a popular Washington DC pizza restaurant to check it out for himself. Naturally it didn’t go well.

 

 

 

Police say the conspiracy theory led to violence Sunday when a North Carolina man fired a rifle in the restaurant as he sought to investigate the accusations. No one was injured, and the man was arrested.

Flynn Jr., who has accompanied his father to presidential transition meetings inside Trump Tower and lists the presidential transition website as part of his Twitter bio, tweeted Sunday night that, “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story.”

Trump’s team had no immediate response to questions about the conspiracy theory or the younger Flynn’s role in the presidential transition.

Hmmm. How is all of this connected? During the Presidential election there were more conspiracy theories appearing in fake news sights and shared on social media than in past elections. Is it a coincidence that most of them came from the right wing of our country? And is it a coincidence that some of President-elect Trump’s advisors have engaged in writing them, tweeting them, sharing them and promoting them to others?

It was just a matter of time before a lunatic with a gun would connect the dots and react to a fake news conspiracy theory. This could have been much much worse.

But what could possibly go wrong with a gun nut internet troll, a ridiculous and dangerous conspiracy theory pushed by even those in the “mainstream” and easy access to AR-15s? Let’s see what the latest is from this Washington Post article:

She understands freedom of speech, Ousmaal replied in an email, but “derogatory libelous and hateful blogs and emails should not and cannot qualify.”

The officer replied once more, suggesting she ask the other owners if they knew who was behind the “disruption.”

“I don’t have anymore options to give unfortunately,” he wrote.

Ousmaal couldn’t believe it. She feared her family or staff could be harmed.

“Literally,” she said, “death threats.”

This should not be the new normal. But I fear it is. The connection between the hateful election rhetoric, stirred up by the far right and their very own candidate and now President elect Donald Trump, is the connection. The gun lobby is connected to the far right and now to the Republican Congress and our next President. There is no mistaking that. If this is what they have in mind, get ready for a tumultuous and dangerous 4 years. It will not be pretty.

When the free press is threatened by people with guns whose anger is fomented by the man at the top and his advisors, we are not a democracy any longer. The connections are real. Subscribing to conspiracy theories is dangerous and they are not real. But when fact becomes fiction and fiction becomes fact as I wrote about in my last post, this is what we have. Is this what we want? I know I don’t and I know the majority does not. But the majority apparently didn’t care about this when voting for Donald Trump. Or did they even understand that this was the world we would inherit after Jan. 20, 2017? I doubt it.

Dana Milbank wrote this for the Washington Post this morning:

There was a time when threats against journalists, like threats of any sort of political violence, were exceedingly rare. But in Trump’s America, such threats are neither rare nor idle.

If you doubt that, consider the events in recent days at Comet Ping Pong, the family pizza place in Northwest Washington I’ve been frequenting with my daughter ever since she was a toddler a decade ago. Lately, the owner and staff at Comet — and those of other businesses on the block — have been getting death threats, spurred by radio host Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist with close ties to the president-elect. (…)

Trump is not directly responsible for every violent word or action of his followers. But he foments violence. As The Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, has noted, when Trump refers to journalists as “the lowest form of life,” “scum” and the enemy, “it is no wonder that some members of our staff [at The Post] and at other news organizations received vile insults and threats of personal harm so worrisome that extra security was required.”

Trump, during the campaign, fantasized about Clinton and her judicial nominees being assassinated. He boasted that “I bring rage out” in people, and his violent rallies proved it. Since the election, Trump has falsely accused the media of inciting violence. At his speech in Ohio last week he denounced the “dishonest” media no fewer than six times. (…)

Now we are beginning to see the consequences of the rage and paranoia Trump has encouraged: A disturbed man fires an assault weapon in a place where tots play ping-pong. The only “crime” of the owner, James Alefantis, was to be a Clinton supporter who had, the WikiLeaks hack exposed, discussed with Clinton aide John Podesta the possibility of hosting a Clinton fundraiser.

Frightening.  Dangerous.  Outrageous. Deplorable.

We are living in a new world full of guns, violence and threats by people with guns. It is not the world of our founding fathers who saw fit to add the Second Amendment to our Bill of Rights. Those founding fathers did not anticipate the types of weapons now on our streets. The connection between the meaning of the second amendment to the reality of everyday life has been hijacked by those who want profit and control.

Let’s take a look , for example, at the connection between the sale of high powered handguns and an increase in these kind of guns found at crime scenes?:

Data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and obtained by The Trace, shows a sharp uptick in the number of high-caliber guns recovered by police in just the last few years. From 2012 to 2015, the number of 9mm and .40-caliber weapons found by police at crime scenes and during investigations grew by 30 and 39 percent respectively. Those were greater increases than any other commonly recovered kind of guns. While .22s are still the second most frequently recovered pistol, the quantity of these guns confiscated by police stayed virtually flat.

Criminals are obtaining powerful, higher capacity weapons in greater numbers for the same reason as police and legal buyers, says David Hureau, a SUNY-Albany sociologist who studies the illegal firearms market.

“Demand is shifting because supply is shifting,” Hureau says. “Bigger, badder guns are just more available on the secondary market.”

If you build them, they will buy them. Did the supply come first or the demand?

Why do we need “badder” guns again? Why did the man who walked into the DC pizza restaurant need that AR-15 again? Self protection? Insurrection? Lunacy? Intolerance of others? Taking care of business himself? Taking the law into his own hands?

And do I need to mention again that these type of guns and weaponry are available to anyone who wants them because we do not require Brady background checks on all gun sales?

This is the “new normal” in America. Is this what we bargained for when we left the corporate gun lobby to write our policy laws about guns and gun violence? There is a connection between the ties of the gun industry to the gun lobby and to lapdog politicians who did and do their bidding.

We are not safer now. We ought to be scared enough to be ever vigilant and to hold our leaders responsible when we see the connections to violence perpetrated by weakening gun laws, bad policy and a gun culture that is out of control.

If a free press is threatened by our leader at the top, the outcome will not be a good one. If a restaurant owner is threatened and harassed by gun nut trolls the outcome will not be a good one. When more and more high powered guns are encouraged in more and more public places, the outcome will not be a good one.

Join me and others who are working on gun violence prevention and who will remain vigilant and active in promoting common sense.

For surely what I have written about above flies in the face of common sense and of the public good. The American people have a right to be protected from insidious and dangerous people who would do them harm based on false conspiracy theories and dangerous rhetoric from the NRA and our leaders. If our own leaders will not keep us safe from devastating shootings and violence, who will?