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“Yes, It’s The Guns”: Charleston Is More Proof America Needs To Fix Its Shameful Gun Laws

Hillary Clinton is right. As she told Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston last night in response to his question about taking action after Charleston, “Let’s just cut to the chase. It’s guns.”

Damn right, it’s the guns. In Newtown and Oak Creek and Aurora and Charleston and Columbine. In churches and schools and movie theaters and hospitals and police stations. In homes where one-year-old Braylon Robinson was accidentally shot to death by a 3 year old. In a nation where 300 million guns result in a mass shooting every two weeks.

And in an historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, called Mother Emanuel, where worshipers took a diffident stranger into their midst in Jesus’ name to pray with them. And he killed them for their kindness and the color of their skin.

Other countries have virulent racists and the mentally unbalanced. We’re the only developed country with unfettered access to deadly weapons and an unwillingness to do anything about it nationally. Australia enacted strict gun laws after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. Both gun homicides and gun suicides declined sharply, and they haven’t had a mass shooting since.

After Aurora, Colorado was one of the few states to pass gun safety laws. Colorado State Rep. Rhonda Fields, whose own son, Javad Marshall Fields, was shot to death in 2005, sponsored the background checks bill. Anyone who doubts the racism of gun nuts didn’t see her email or the #copolitics Twitter feed during those votes. The barrage of vileness directed at the Colorado women legislators who sponsored the bills, including explicit threats of sexual and physical violence, are something I’ll never forget or forgive.

Victim families from three different massacres – Columbine, Aurora and Newtown – helped get Colorado’s gun laws passed. Arapahoe County Coroner Mike Doberson, whose office received victims from two of them, concluded simply, “Please pass these bills. I’m tired of taking bullets out of kids.”

Three state legislators lost their seats over Colorado’s attempt at sanity – two by recall, one by resignation. And every year, Colorado Republicans have attempted to overturn the laws.

Jane Dougherty is a bridal alterations consultant in Littleton, Colorado. Her older sister Mary Sherlach was murdered at Sandy Hook, after running at the gunman to protect the children. So for the two springs since, as the days of March and April warm to the weddings of June, Jane has returned to the legislature to fight for the laws she helped pass in Mary’s name. She calls it “guns and brides season.”

As the president has pointed out, it is shameful that federal legislators lack the courage to do the same. How are former Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., feeling about voting against gun reform measures these days? Pryor voted against background checks in a vain hope of saving his seat. The NRA spent $1.3 million in ads against him anyway. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., lost too, but at least one of her parting gifts was voting the right way. Republicans are utterly worthless on the issue.

I’m all for love and peace and tears and atonement, anger and grief in equal measure. I’m also for passing some serious gun control laws and telling members of the NRA what they can go do with themselves. Dear public officials: There’s a side. Pick one. Because it’s the damn guns.

 

By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and Wrold Report, June 19, 2015

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Emanuel AME Church, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Not About Mental Illness”: The Big Lie That Always Follows Mass Shootings By White Males

I get really really tired of hearing the phrase “mental illness” thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like “toxic masculinity,” “white supremacy,” “misogyny” or “racism.”

We barely know anything about the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina, atrocity. We certainly don’t have testimony from a mental health professional responsible for his care that he suffered from any specific mental illness, or that he suffered from a mental illness at all.

We do have statistics showing that the vast majority of people who commit acts of violence do not have a diagnosis of mental illness and, conversely, people who have mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

We know that the stigma of people who suffer from mental illness as scary, dangerous potential murderers hurts people every single day — it costs people relationships and jobs, it scares people away from seeking help who need it, it brings shame and fear down on the heads of people who already have it bad enough.

But the media insists on trotting out “mental illness” and blaring out that phrase nonstop in the wake of any mass killing. I had to grit my teeth every time I personally debated someone defaulting to the mindless mantra of “The real issue is mental illness” over the Isla Vista shootings.

“The real issue is mental illness” is a goddamn cop-out. I almost never hear it from actual mental health professionals, or advocates working in the mental health sphere, or anyone who actually has any kind of informed opinion on mental health or serious policy proposals for how to improve our treatment of the mentally ill in this country.

What I hear from people who bleat on about “The real issue is mental illness,” when pressed for specific suggestions on how to deal with said “real issue,” is terrifying nonsense designed to throw the mentally ill under the bus. Elliot Rodger’s parents should’ve been able to force risperidone down his throat. Seung-Hui Cho should’ve been forcibly institutionalized. Anyone with a mental illness diagnosis should surrender all of their constitutional rights, right now, rather than at all compromise the right to bear arms of self-declared sane people.

What’s interesting is to watch who the mentally ill people are being thrown under the bus to defend. In the wake of Sandy Hook, the NRA tells us that creating a national registry of firearms owners would be giving the government dangerously unchecked tyrannical power, but a national registry of the mentally ill would not — even though a “sane” person holding a gun is intrinsically more dangerous than a “crazy” person, no matter how crazy, without a gun.

We’ve successfully created a world so topsy-turvy that seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon whose only purpose is committing acts of violence. We’ve got a narrative going where doing the former is something we’re OK with stigmatizing but not the latter. God bless America.

What’s also interesting is the way “The real issue is mental illness” is deployed against mass murderers the way it’s deployed in general — as a way to discredit their own words. When you call someone “mentally ill” in this culture it’s a way to admonish people not to listen to them, to ignore anything they say about their own actions and motivations, to give yourself the authority to say you know them better than they know themselves.

This is cruel, ignorant bullshit when it’s used to discredit people who are the victims of crimes. It is, in fact, one major factor behind the fact that the mentally ill are far more likely to be the targets of violence than the perpetrators–every predator loves a victim who won’t be allowed to speak in their own defense.

But it’s also bullshit when used to discredit the perpetrators of crimes. Mass murderers frequently aren’t particularly shy about the motives behind what they do — the nature of the crime they commit is attention-seeking, is an attempt to get news coverage for their cause, to use one local atrocity to create fear within an entire population. (According to the dictionary, by the way, this is called “terrorism,” but we only ever seem to use that word for the actions of a certain kind — by which I mean a certain color — of mass killer.)

Elliot Rodger told us why he did what he did, at great length, in detail and with citations to the “redpill” websites from which he got his deranged ideology. It isn’t, at the end of the day, rocket science — he killed women because he resented them for not sleeping with him, and he killed men because he resented them for having the success he felt he was denied.

Yes, whatever mental illness he may have had contributed to the way his beliefs were at odds with reality. But it didn’t cause his beliefs to spring like magic from inside his brain with no connection to the outside world.

That’s as deliberately obtuse as reading the Facebook rants of a man who rambled on at great length about how much he hated religion and in particular hated Islam and deciding that the explanation for his murdering a Muslim family is that he must’ve just “gone crazy” over a parking dispute.

Now we’ve got a man who wore symbols of solidarity with apartheid regimes, a man who lived in a culture surrounded by deadly weapons who, like many others, received a gift of a deadly weapon as a rite of passage into manhood.

He straight-up told his victims, before shooting them, that he was doing it to defend “our country” from black people “taking over.” He told a woman that he was intentionally sparing her life so she could tell people what he did.

There is no reasonable interpretation of his actions that don’t make this a textbook act of terrorism against black Americans as a community.

And yet almost immediately we’ve heard the same, tired refrain of “The real issue is mental illness.”

Well, “mental illness” never created any idea, motivation or belief system. “Mental illness” refers to the way our minds can distort the ideas we get from the world, but the ideas still come from somewhere.

One of the highest-profile cases of full-blown schizophrenia in history is that of John Nash, who, unlike the vast, vast majority of mentally ill people, really did develop a whole system of delusions entirely separate from reality. And yet even then the movie A Beautiful Mind whitewashes what those beliefs actually were–when he came up with an all-powerful conspiracy that was monitoring his every move, that conspiracy by sheer coincidence was a conspiracy of the world’s Jews.

Was it just sheer bad luck for Jewish people that a random genius’ random fertile imagination made them into demonic villains? Or did he get that idea from somewhere?

Misogynistic rants that exactly match Elliot Rodger’s are just a Google search away, if you have a strong stomach. So are racist threats that exactly match Dylann Roof’s. Are all those people “mentally ill”? And if so is there some pill you could distribute to cure it?

Dylann Roof is a fanboy of the South African and Rhodesian governments. As horrific as Roof’s crime was, the crimes that occurred over decades of apartheid rule were far, far worse, and committed by thousands of statesmen, bureaucrats and law enforcement officials. Were all of them also “mentally ill”? At the risk of Godwinning myself, John Nash wasn’t the only person to think the Jews were a global demonic conspiracy out to get him–at one point in history a large portion of the Western world bought into that and killed six million people because of it. Were they all “mentally ill”?

Even when violence stems purely from delusion in the mind of someone who’s genuinely totally detached from reality–which is extremely rare–that violence seems to have a way of finding its way to culturally approved targets. Yeah, most white supremacists aren’t “crazy” enough to go on a shooting spree, most misogynists aren’t “crazy” enough to murder women who turn them down, most anti-government zealots aren’t “crazy” enough to shoot up or blow up government buildings.

But the “crazy” ones always seem to have a respectable counterpart who makes a respectable living pumping out the rhetoric that ends up in the “crazy” one’s manifesto–drawing crosshairs on liberals and calling abortion doctors mass murderers–who, once an atrocity happens, then immediately throws the “crazy” person under the bus for taking their words too seriously, too literally.

And the big splashy headliner atrocities tend to distract us from the ones that don’t make headline news. People are willing to call one white man emptying five magazines and murdering nine black people in a church and openly saying it was because of race a hate crime, even if they have to then cover it up with the fig leaf of individual “mental illness”–but a white man wearing a uniform who fires two magazines at two people in a car in a “bad neighborhood” in Cleveland? That just ends up a statistic in a DoJ report on systemic bias.

And hundreds of years of history in which an entire country’s economy was set up around chaining up millions of black people, forcing them to work and shooting them if they get out of line? That’s just history.

The reason a certain kind of person loves talking about “mental illness” is to draw attention to the big bold scary exceptional crimes and treat them as exceptions. It’s to distract from the fact that the worst crimes in history were committed by people just doing their jobs–cops enforcing the law, soldiers following orders, bureaucrats signing paperwork. That if we define “sanity” as going along to get along with what’s “normal” in the society around you, then for most of history the sane thing has been to aid and abet monstrous evil.

We love to talk about individuals’ mental illness so we can avoid talking about the biggest, scariest problem of all–societal illness. That the danger isn’t any one person’s madness, but that the world we live in is mad.

After all, there’s no pill for that.

 

By: Arthur Chu, Salon, June 18, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Emanuel AME Church, Mass Shootings, White Men | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If Not Now, When?”: Charleston Church Massacre Is Yet Another Wake-Up Call For Gun Control

This will be short. I am tired of politicians and pundits telling us after horrible gun tragedies that now is not the time to confront our “gun problem.”

Many of us remember when John F. Kennedy was murdered with a mail-order rifle; Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by an easily-bought Remington .30-06 rifle; and Robert F. Kennedy was killed with a cheap handgun. That was a half century ago.

We have watched as gun violence has continued to consume us as a nation. And yet, our leaders do not act; our culture does not change. The National Rifle Association and other groups, pardon the expression, have a gun to our heads.

When threats to our society confront us we act: Trans fats are banned because they have harmful health effects; smoking is prohibited on planes, in restaurants and in public places; air bags and seat belts are mandated because they save lives; billions are appropriated to combat terrorism, which is deemed a threat to our nation.

But where is the courage to embrace control of guns? Where are the common sense solutions that nearly every other civilized, developed nation has put in place? Why have we not responded to this threat, to this reality? If not now, when?

We can grieve and act at the same time. We can mourn and call for solutions to our gun problem, to our racial problem, all at the same time.

In 2013, the Congressional Research Service determined that there were 78 incidents of mass shootings over the past thirty years killing 547 people – incidents such as occurred at Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and now in Charleston.

That same year, Pew Research Center reported that 37 percent of American households have guns, and that there were between 270 and 310 million guns in the United States, nearly one for every man, woman and child.

We acted in 1968 to pass gun control legislation. We acted under President Bill Clinton. But not nearly enough time, effort or courage has been exhibited by our leaders or our citizens to confront this problem.

We are terrorized by our own love affair with guns. It is long past time to get over it. It is time to recognize that acts like the Charleston massacre should change attitudes and change laws. The longer we wait, the more people will die.

 

By: Peter Fenn, Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, June 19, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Emanuel AME Church, Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Longer May It Wave!”: If It Were Up To Me, This Emblem Of Treason And Racism Would Be Pulled Down, Permanently

So there’s a reason for the grotesque fact that even as the US and South Carolina flags were lowered to half-mast in recognition of the murderous terrorist attack on Emanuel AME Church, the Confederate Battle Flag in front of the Statehouse continued to fly at its full height (per Schuyler Kropf of the Charleston Post and Courier):

Officials said the reason why the flag has not been touched is that its status is outlined, by law, as being under the protected purview of the full S.C. Legislature, which controls if and when it comes down.

State law reads, in part, the state “shall ensure that the flags authorized above shall be placed at all times as directed in this section and shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.”

The protection was added by supporters of the flag to keep it on display as an officially recognized memorial to South Carolinians who fought in the Civil War.

So it would take a full act of the legislature to bring the Confederate flag down.

I tell you what: If I were in charge of the Statehouse grounds, I’d be real tempted to bring down that flag to half-mast and defy anyone to do anything about it. But then if it were really up to me this emblem of treason and racism would be pulled all the way down, permanently, and consigned to a museum. We’ve just witnessed another deadly data point for burying the Lost Cause beneath a mountain of opprobrium so high and so heavy that it will be no more acceptable an emblem for gun-toting “loners” and “drifters” than a swastika.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is demanding that step as a small token of historical honesty in the service of long-delayed justice for African-Americans. I’m demanding it even more basically as a gesture of southern self-respect. No, we cannot ensure that people like Dylann Roof won’t find inspiration in the Confederacy for the evil in his heart. But we can deny him respectable company. That’s particularly important in South Carolina, where the disastrous moral and material failure of the Confederacy began.

UPDATE: WaPo’s Justin Moyer adds two details to the flag story: (1) the law protecting the Confederate Battle Flag stipulates that it can only be repealed by a two-thirds vote (!); and (2) the flag on the Statehouse grounds is not raised and lowered daily on pulleys, but is permanently affixed to the flag pole.

This doesn’t move me much. Just as the flag was attached to the pole at some point, it can be unattached, and if the whole rig doesn’t allow for half-mast displays, the people of South Carolina can do without a Confederate Battle Flag for a few days or weeks.

As for the law: again, who’s going to enforce it if Nikki Haley orders the flag down? There’s also something inherently screwy about legal protections for a symbol of rebellion and lawlessness.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Emanuel AME Church, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Continued Tragedy Of Gun-Free Zones”: Clearly, This “Christianity” Stuff Is A Threat To The Second Amendment

You knew this argument would emerge the moment the news broke of a terrorist gun massacre in Charleston. Wonkette is all over it:

That was fast! It only took a few hours for Fox to toss up an editorial explaining that the best explanation of why six women and three men were shot to death in their church Wednesday night is that nobody in the church was packing heat like they should have been.

Professional gunhumper and FoxNews.com columnist John R. Lott explains:

The horrible tragedy last night that left nine people dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., probably could have been avoided. Like so many other attacks, the massacre took place in a gun-free zone, a place where the general public was banned from having guns. The gun-free zone obviously didn’t stop the killer from bringing a gun into the church.

It has the look of a ready-made editorial that, like a prewritten obituary for an aging celebrity, was just waiting for the next mass shooting — because in U.S. America, there’s always a “next mass shooting” on the way. The Charleston massacre is mentioned only in the first and last paragraphs, and the rest is boilerplate about how Bad Guys always choose “soft targets” where they know no one will be shooting back at them. There’s not a single word about the fact that it was allegedly a white racist murdering people in a black church. If the shooting had taken place at a school or a mall, everything else in the editorial would be identical, explaining that until it’s legal for everyone to carry a gun everywhere, we can look forward to more mass killings, and also the liberal media never covers the brave heroes with concealed weapons who do stop mass shootings all the time. (Since he could only find a few examples, he had to link to the same incident in at least two different spots in the editorial.)

Now the idea that we need to encourage people to bring instruments of deadly force into churches consecrated to the worship of the Prince of Peace, who taught loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek to the hateful, is one that used to be considered a mite strange. Not any more. Next door to South Carolina, in Georgia, a law was recently passed that our friends in the gun lobby considered a bit of an impure compromise, stipulating that churches and bars could choose to permit concealed weapons on their properties. The gun lobby has been thwarted, even in Georgia, in extending this “right” to schools. But I’m reasonably sure if Republican rule in the South continues, eventually a ban on “gun-free zones” will be made universal. Because guns don’t kill, it’s their absence that is lethal. And clearly, any lilly-livered Christian minister who doesn’t keep a roscoe close at hand during services needs to be discharged. After all, you never know when some Christian-hater like Dylann Roof will show up seeking to deny worshipers their religious liberty.

Clearly, this “Christianity” stuff is a threat to the Second Amendment.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Charleston SC Shootings, Christianity, Emanuel AME Church | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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