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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

“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

“An Act Of Terror On Flight 9525”: When Someone Kills Himself And 149 Others, It Is Not A Suicide

We don’t need to know the political or religious views of Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Günter Lubitz to call his crashing of a crowded airliner into a mountainside an act of terrorism. And we don’t need any further evidence to recognize a cruel irony: Legitimate fear of potential terrorist attacks apparently made this tragedy possible.

Imagine the final moments of Flight 9525 as it hurtled toward oblivion. Passengers were screaming. Some, I am certain, must have been praying. According to French prosecutor Brice Robin, the pilot, who had stepped out of the cockpit for a moment, was pounding on the door, trying desperately to get back in.

But, according to Robin, Lubitz, 27, who had been regarded as a rising star at the airline, refused to open the door — and it was impossible for the pilot, identified by German media as Patrick S., to break it down. “The door is reinforced according to international standards,” Robin said Thursday, using the wrong verb tense. He meant “was” reinforced. The door is now in bits and pieces, along with the rest of the Airbus A320, scattered among the crevices of the French Alps.

In the post-9/11 era, the cockpit doors of airliners are made to be impregnable. This is to ensure that terrorists cannot force their way inside and seize the controls — a logical precaution that probably has saved many lives. Terrorists may still attempt to smuggle explosives aboard commercial aircraft, but they know that invading the cockpit and crashing the plane would be all but impossible.

The deterrent is effective, however, only if nobody can open a locked cockpit door under any circumstances — not the passengers, not the flight attendants, not even the captain. Some sort of hidden latch or override switch would defeat the purpose, since terrorists could learn the secret. So the Germanwings plane was safe from terrorists — until the trusted co-pilot, in Robin’s account, committed a grotesque act of terrorism.

Officials involved in the investigation have been rejecting the word I just used. “There is no reason to suspect a terrorist attack,” Robin said, echoing the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders. I disagree.

What they mean is that there is no known link to terrorists or any known group such as al-Qaeda. Indeed, no such connection was immediately apparent from the sketchy outlines of Lubitz’s life that began to emerge Thursday. He reportedly had dreams of becoming a pilot since he was a teenager and belonged to a flying club in his home town about an hour from Frankfurt. He started working for Germanwings, Lufthansa’s budget airline, in September 2013 and amassed 630 hours of flight experience. He was regarded as talented and full of promise.

Surely we will soon learn another side to this picture. Normal, well-adjusted young men do not commit terroristic acts of mass murder.

As Lufthansa’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr, noted, “When someone kills himself and 149 others, . . . it is not a suicide.” If Lubitz wanted to kill himself in a plane crash, he could have gone to any small airport on his day off, rented a Cessna and flown it into the terrain of his choosing.

According to the prosecutor, Lubitz decided instead to make his exit by killing a jetliner full of travelers heading from Barcelona to Düsseldorf. There was a group of high school students. There were two singers who had just performed at Barcelona’s grand opera house. There were three American tourists.

Terrorism is often defined as violence committed for a political or religious purpose, and no one can say yet what the pilot had in mind. But no one does something like this without intending to make a statement. We may not yet know what it means — and I suppose it’s possible that we may never know. Murder of this kind, on this scale and in this chilling manner is terrorism.

It’s possible, I suppose, that Lubitz was profoundly delusional. But if this were the case, how could he have passed the airline’s annual medical exams? How could he have worked in such close quarters with fellow pilots, flight attendants and others, day after day, without anyone noticing behavior that suggested a problem?

It looks as if Lubitz wasn’t just trying to end his life because he was depressed. He apparently decided to end 149 other lives as well because he wanted to tell us something. Tragically, this is precisely the kind of thing that terrorists do.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 26, 2015

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Andreas Gunter Lubitz, Flight 9525, Terrorism | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“HO, HO, NO!: The NRA’s Twisted List For Santa

You might have heard that the U.S. Senate last week finally voted to confirm the president’s nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy.

You also might have wondered what all the fuss was about. The vote on America’s top doctor was held up for nearly a year, thanks to a campaign by the National Rifle Association. Dr. Murthy was endorsed by the medical community, but the NRA’s lobbying machine turned his nomination into a political battle. All because Murthy believes that gun violence, which kills an average of 86 Americans every day, is a public health issue.

For most of us, acknowledging that America has a gun violence problem is stating a fact. For the NRA’s leadership, it’s heresy.

The gun lobby’s goal is to expand its customer base—and boost gunmakers’ bottom lines, no matter the risk to public safety. So a new surgeon general committed to reducing gun violence isn’t what the gun lobby wanted for Christmas.

The NRA’s wish list looks more like this:

• Guns for felons. The NRA has fought for the rights of felons to buy and own firearms. That means successfully restoring gun rights to convicted murderers, robbers, rapists, and people guilty of transferring explosives to international terrorists.

• Guns for terror suspects. The NRA has opposed efforts to block terror suspects from buying guns. Today the FBI can stop terror suspects from boarding a plane, but not from purchasing firearms.

• Guns for domestic abusers. The NRA objects to restraining orders that require domestic abusers to give up their guns. This year, six states—including Scott Walker’s Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana—defied the gun lobby and enacted laws that will help keep guns out of the hands of abusers.

• Guns for the mentally ill. The NRA opposed a new California law that will help prevent gun deaths, homicides and suicides both. Police and family members now can present evidence to a judge, who can order temporary custody of a mentally ill person’s guns for a brief, emergency period.

• Gun gag orders. The NRA objects to doctors asking patients basic questions about gun ownership. For example, before Congress repealed it in 2012, an NRA-authored gag order barred doctors and military officers from talking about guns with service members at risk of suicide.

• Guns on campus. The NRA has pushed for “campus carry” laws—despite near unanimous opposition from college presidents, law enforcement, and parents—and for arming educators in K-12 schools.

• Guns in bars. The NRA has pushed to allow guns in bars—despite the fact that 40 percent of people convicted of homicide had been drinking alcohol at the time of their offense.

Guns in restaurants and grocery stores. The NRA supports the open carry of guns in cafes, burrito shops, and the produce aisle. They reiterated their position in June, after a staffer first made the mistake of calling open carry demonstrations “weird” and “scary.”

• Gun lawsuits. The NRA wants the ability to sue local officials for passing laws that protect public safety. They push for so-called “preemption” bills in statehouses—which allow them to file expensive lawsuits against towns, cities, and even mayors and city commissioners.

• Guns for everyone, no questions asked. The NRA opposed Washington State’s gun-sale background checks ballot measure this year. The measure passed with 59 percent of the vote. Like background check laws across the country, it will help keep guns out of dangerous hands, reduce gun crime, and save lives.

That’s the gun lobby’s wish list for America—more guns for everyone, everywhere, anytime.

The new surgeon general certainly has his work cut out for him. But in 2014, numerous states passed common-sense public safety laws, showing that the momentum for gun safety is building. And just like Dr. Murthy’s confirmation, that’s bad news for the NRA.

 

By: John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety; The Daily Beast, December 23, 2014

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Gun Lobby, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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