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“The Same Sick Story Over And Over”: We Simply Sit And Wait For The Next Massacre

Such troubled young men.

This is what we call them instead of nuts with guns, and they are a dreaded modern American cliché. Every time there’s a newsflash about another mass shooting, we now expect the culprit to be revealed as a “troubled young man.”

The murders at a Louisiana movie theater on Thursday were unusual because the gunman was in his 50s. The typical mass killer is much younger.

His family is always stunned by his crime. So are the few friends he has. And in the days following the massacre we always learn more about his loneliness and disillusion, and of course the ludicrous ease with which he was able to arm himself.

The story has become, after so many horrid tragedies, a fill-in-the-blank exercise.

In the hours after 24-year-old Mohammod Abdulazeez killed five U.S. servicemembers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the media frothed with speculation that he was working under the jihadist direction — or, at least, inspiration — of ISIS.

Now it appears he was a messed-up kid who drank too much booze, smoked too much weed, and spent too much money. Oh, he was also depressed.

FBI agents believe Abdulazeez began exploring Islamic radicalism as his money problems worsened, and his mental condition frayed. Shortly before his shooting spree, he searched the Internet for guidance as to whether martyrdom would absolve a person’s sins.

Evidently he found a website or a chat room that seeded this loony brainstorm, and sent him down the path of mass murder. Getting the firepower was, as always, no problem.

Ironically, the day Abdulazeez died after shooting four Marines and a Navy sailor, a jury in Denver was deliberating what to do about another troubled young man.

His name is James Eagan Holmes, age 27. In July 2012 he shot up a packed theater during a Batman movie, killing a dozen people and wounding 70 more.

His lawyers insisted Holmes was insane, which is certainly true. Jurors went ahead and convicted him of all 12 murders, of which he is certainly guilty.

Holmes has Phi Beta Kappa intelligence — a degree, with honors, in neuroscience — but was also deeply disturbed from a young age. Some described him as obsessed with the topic of murder, and speaking openly of wanting to kill people.

And kill he did, first loading up on heavy-duty firearms at Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shops — two Glock pistols, a Remington “tactical” shotgun, and a Smith & Wesson assault-style semiautomatic rifle. The 6,000-plus rounds of ammunition Holmes purchased online.

See, he passed the background checks. So don’t look for any blood on the hands of the retailers that armed him.

The gun laws being what they are in this country, the transition from “troubled” to “homicidal” is a breeze. What feeble screening there is can’t be counted on to stop young men on bloodbath missions.

Dylann Roof, age 21, shouldn’t have been able to buy the .45-caliber handgun he used to murder nine black people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month.

A federal background check should have flagged him, because Roof had been arrested on felony drug charges and had admitted to possessing a controlled substance. The FBI has three business days to check if gun buyers have criminal records or drug issues, but the time expired while the agency was trying to gain access to the police report on Roof.

Because of a loophole in the law, the gun store was able to sell Roof the weapon because the three-day waiting period ended without an FBI response. “We’re all sick this happened,” FBI director James B. Comey said.

Sick is the word for it. Thousands of ineligible applicants for gun ownership have bought weapons over the counter, thanks to that loophole. Big surprise — some of those weapons were later used in violent crimes, according to the Justice Department.

So, Dylann Roof, eccentric loner and budding white supremacist, took his 21st birthday money and got himself a Glock, with which he executed nine innocent persons.

But not before posing for a photo — the gun in one hand, a Confederate flag in the other. The image tells much about this pathetic, unraveled soul.

Even if the gun shop had refused to sell Roof that pistol, he could have gotten another. Black-market weapons are available on the streets of Charleston, as they are in all American cities.

For a troubled man, young or old, finding kinship for your hate is only a mouse-click away. Finding guns is just as easy. It’s the same sick story over and over.

And all we do is wait for the next one.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 28, 2015

July 29, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Elected Officials Have Failed To Lead On Gun Regulation”: How Many Must Die In Mass Shootings For Lawmakers To Act?

The alleged perpetrator of yet another mass shooting — this one in a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater — had been “involuntarily committed” by his family, and reportedly had a history of domestic violence and mental illness. Why was he able to get a handgun? Because elected officials have failed to lead on gun regulation.

At a Thursday night screening of the comedy Trainwreck, the 59-year-old man from Alabama, identified as John Russell Houser, shot and killed 33-year-old Jillian Johnson and 21-year-old Mayci Breaux, and injured nine other people, seven of whom remain hospitalized.

The suspected shooter used a .40 caliber handgun and had an additional magazine, which he used to reload, firing one round to kill himself inside the theater, Lafayette police chief Jim Craft told reporters Friday.

Police found 13 shell casings in the theater, Craft said. State police and FBI agents are also investigating the shooting, according to MSNBC.

Houser was denied a pistol permit in 2006 while he was living in Alabama, the New Orleans Advocate reports. According to The Associated Press:

Court documents from 2008 say family members of the theater shooter petitioned the probate court to have him involuntarily committed “because he was a danger to himself and others.”

A judge issued the order, and John Houser was taken to a hospital in Columbus, Georgia.

The wife and other family members of [Houser] … asked for a temporary protective order in 2008 against the man.

Court documents seeking the order said John Houser, “exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements.”

The documents said even though he lived in Phenix City, Alabama, he had come to Carroll County, Georgia, where they lived and “perpetrated various acts of family violence.”

Houser “has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder,” the filing said.

The filing says Houser’s wife, Kellie Maddox Houser, “has become so worried about the defendant’s volatile mental state that she has removed all guns and/or weapons from their marital residence.”

The protection order was at least temporarily granted.

Law enforcement officials have not yet reported how Houser obtained the handgun used in the theater shooting. But based on the earlier court records, it seems clear Houser should not have been in possession of a firearm.

In a BBC interview earlier this week, President Obama said “his failure to pass ‘common-sense gun safety laws’ in the U.S. is the greatest frustration of his presidency.”

“If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands,” the president said.

So, what will it take for U.S. political leaders to pass common-sense gun regulations?

The killing of two women and wounding of nine others in a Louisiana movie theater?

Perhaps the recent shooting of four Marines at a Chattanooga, Tennessee military recruitment office, or the killing of 12 people and injuring of eight at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013?

Maybe, the racially motivated murder of nine parishioners in a Charleston, South Carolina church, including a state senator? The South Carolina legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, a symbolic act to honor those killed by a white supremacist, but gun control was never even up for debate.

How about the 2012 killing of 12 people and injuring of 58 in another movie theater, this one in Colorado? The shooter has been convicted and awaits the sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty, but what has been done to limit future mass shootings?

Surely, the gunning down of 20 children and six adults in an elementary school (after the shooter killed his mother at their home) in Connecticut would spur elected officials to action. President Obama even visited the town and gave an emotional speech appealing for stronger gun regulations. But, no, the 24/7 news cycle, the American people, and Congress moved on.

How about shooting a United States congresswoman, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in the head? That shooter killed six people and injured 12 others. Giffords’ congressional colleagues were still not moved to act. She lived and has become a vocal advocate to prevent gun violence, but no longer in office, she won’t achieve reform by herself.

According to Mother Jones, more than three-quarters of the guns possessed by the killers involved in mass shootings in the United States since 1982 were obtained legally. It’s doubtful common-sense restrictions, background checks, and waiting periods would have allowed all these gun sales to go through.

Nearly 600 Americans have been killed and 500 injured in mass shootings in the last three decades, and “active shooter events have become more common in recent years,” according to The Washington Post.

A U.S. president hasn’t been shot since Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt in 1981. Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated while in office in our nation’s history by men with guns.

Even if the commander-in-chief was shot and killed by a person with a gun who shouldn’t have had one — in the 21st century — that would likely still not motivate officials to enact policies that decrease mass shootings by taking guns out of the hands of extremists, those with criminal histories, and those living with mental illness.

The problem is these armed killers may act alone, but they have far too much company when it comes to people with undue access to firearms. If current legislators continue to fail to protect their constituents from the dangers of gun violence, and don’t even pass laws that would limit the potential for mass shootings, then perhaps voters need to find other lawmakers who will.

 

By: Matt Surrusco, The National Memo, July 24, 2015

July 26, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“There Must Be Some Logical Explanation, Right?”: Republican Doublethink On Mass Shootings; Scott Walker Edition

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who recently joined the Republican primary carnival in an “official” way, says the government should reauthorize the Patriot Act in response to the murder of four Marines in Chattanooga, Tenn., by a 24-year-old gunman.

And he suggested that changing a policy that stops military personnel from carrying weapons in certain civilian areas would have prevented the attack. Those policies “are outdated,” Mr. Walker said on Fox News, because the United States is “at war and radical Islamic terrorism is our enemy.”

After a career criminal who had illegally entered the United States killed a San Francisco woman on July 1, Bill O’Reilly demanded that Congress pass a law that would impose mandatory sentences on people who repeatedly enter the country illegally and members of the right-wing Republican caucus in the House eagerly responded.

The idea was that such a law, along with another proposal to strip cities of federal funds if their police are not required to turn over all undocumented people to the federal government, would prevent shootings like the one in San Francisco.

This leaves me a little confused.

After any highly publicized killing – like the murders in Charleston, or Newtown, or in any number of other places — advocates of gun control call for greater restrictions on the sale and use of firearms. And people on the right, like Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Walker, reliably respond by saying that no law could have prevented those killings.

So, which is it? Can no law stop a determined person from killing another human being? Or can laws do that? It would be inconsistent, if not hypocritical, to take both positions, so there must be some logical explanation.

Mr. Walker and the Fox host Megyn Kelly tut-tutted about the fact that President Obama did not immediately call the Chattanooga killer a Muslim terrorist. They had no idea at the time whether that was true, but the point of the exchange was to attack Mr. Obama. They used it to revive another favorite talking point – that the president did not quickly label the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi as a terrorist attack (even though he actually did).

Oddly enough – or maybe not oddly at all – Mr. Walker called the murder of nine African Americans in a Charleston church a “racist” and “evil” act, but neither he, nor any other Republican candidate or public figure that I can find called it an act of terrorism, which is precisely what it was.

Senator Lindsey Graham, another Republican presidential poser, called it “racial jihadism,” but that was mainly to deflect attention from the real motivations for the murders and toss that “jihad” word out there.

I’m sure there is a logical explanation for that, too.

 

By: Andrew Rosenthal, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, July 17, 2015

July 18, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Mass Shootings, Scott Walker | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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