Thursday, December 10, 2015

After San Bernadino, Take a Look in the Mirror

What do the following incidents have in common?

Dec 14, 2012 – Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, CT, lone shooter, 20 year white male kills 26 people (20 children & six adults) with a gun purchased legally by the shooter’s mother

June 17, 2015 – Emmanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC, lone shooter, 21 year old white male kills 9 people (6 men, three women) with a legally purchased gun

October 2, 2015 – Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, OR, lone shooter, 26 year old white male kills 10 people and injured 7 more with a legally purchased gun

November 27, 2015 – Planned Parenthood Clinic, Denver, CO, lone shooter, white male, 59 year old white male, kills 3 people, injures 11 others with a legally purchased gun

December 2, 2015 – Inland Regional Center, San Bernadino, CA, two shooters, husband, age 28 and wife, age 27 of Pakistani descent, killed 14 people and wounded 17 with legally purchased guns

All of these tragic incidents involved 1 or 2 individuals, all but one under the age of 30, shooting into a crowd of innocent people with a legally purchased gun. Yet only one is called an “act of terror.” The other four are referred to “active shooter incidents.” 

In 2013 the FBI published a study of “active shooter incidents” between 2000-2013. During that time there 160 incidents involving “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area” where 3 or more people were killed. In those 160 "active shooter incidents" 486 people were killed and 557 people were wounded. The number of these incidents have accelerated since this study, and all of them had characteristics just like ones listed above.

Over the past several days I have been trying to wrap my head around the insanity not only of these mass shootings, but the way we talk about them. All of them are tragically sad. All of them involve innocent people dying needlessly violent deaths. Two things stand out to me.

First of all, by calling San Bernadino and not the other shootings an “act of terror” we encourage demagogues like Donald Trump to get air time saying travel restrictions on Muslims coming into the country. Statistically we would do better to detain white males already citizens of this country under 30 if we want to save lives.

Second, President Obama in his speech last Sunday night is right when he says we need to make it difficult for people to legally purchase assault style rifles. It only makes sense. All the people injured or killed would be alive were it not for legally purchased guns.  Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz called Pres. Obama’s statement “political” but a day after the San Bernadino shooting Cruz held a rally at an Iowa gun range saying we stop ‘bad guys” by using our own guns; so who is using the shooting for political gain? At least President Obama was proposing action by Congress to restrict access to the kind of guns used in these mass shootings.Ted Cruz seems to be proposing a mass shootout.

Then of course, we have Jerry Fallwell, Jr, president of Liberty University, a conservative Christian school, propose to his students they start bringing guns to school [Note to self: Steer clear of the unlikely event of being invited to speak or visit large university in Lynchburg, VA]. We have Wayne La Pierre, executive vice president of the NRA who proposed following the Sandy Hook killings that armed police be present in every school and teachers be trained to use guns. We have many states like Florida and Texas that pass laws allowing individuals to “conceal and carry” their guns in public places. Yes that makes sense, let’s just make it easier than it already is to bring guns into public places with lots of innocent people to shoot at.

Because so many of these mass shootings have occurred in educational settings, I have been forced to think about how I would handle a shooting incident in my school or classroom. My first thought would be to get people to safety as quickly as possible, and then the second thing would be to get the gun out of the hands of the shooter. So I find myself wondering, why do we make it so easy for the gun to get into the hand of the shooter in the first place?

Are we so blind as a nation that we cannot see that WE are our greatest security threat, not ISIS. Recently the New York Times published a report, detailing how all of the shooters in these mass shootings secured their guns through legal means.  Interestingly in the FBI study mentioned above the fact that guns were obtained legally is not even mentioned, it is assumed. 

If we are so concerned about terrorism, first of all let’s not use a euphemism like “active shooter incident” when white people commit the crime but terror when it happens to be someone who practices the Islamic faith. A few weeks I visited the memorial to the Oklahoma City Bombings in 1995. At that time our "sworn enemy" was Libya, so it was assumed the bombing was done by a Libyan "terrorist." Turned out it was Timothy McVeigh and a bunch of other white guys who pulled it off. Islam isn't our enemy, self-styled killers are, regardless of ideology, religion or ethnicity.

Secondly, then let’s make it more difficult for people to legally obtain weapons. If you want to stop a killing and you know a clear consistent fact, it only makes sense to work to prevent the easy access to guns. This just  makes sense - why is that so hard to grasp?

Third, let us take a look at ourselves and the cowboy, shoot-em-up culture we have created that is so out of step with the rest of the civilized world. There are more killings in any metropolitan area in the U.S. than occur in  any other country in the world. The Second Amendment may give people a right to bear arms, but it is not a right without restrictions. Moreover, our movies, our gaming industry, our militarism, our way of viewing what strength and machismo look like all support this violent culture of ours. We have reaped the seeds of our own inner turmoil and external violence. The madness starts at home. It starts by looking in the mirror.

I haven’t got a lot of answers to my questions, but these things seem clear.

1 comment:

Gimenez5 said...

The sad reality is race is playing a role in how we view this issue. I've asked myself a question how many people have to die in order for us to understand there is a problem. It doesn't help when someone proclaims on a College campus that all students need to be armed. The truth is there is a sense of denial because white males who kill randomly are somehow seen different than any other act of terrorism. How many white kids have to buy a gun and kill people. How many illegal gun purchases and deaths in the inner cities have to occur before we truly understand that America we have a problem.