A Real American Horror Story

Connecticut School Shooting

According to the FBI, mass murder is described as “a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involved a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims in an ongoing incident.”

The week started with the shooting rampage in a suburban Portland, Oregon mall with Jacob Tyler Roberts using a stolen AR-15 semi-automatic to kill two people and wound a third seriously.

Roberts would not qualify as a mass murderer. His is a shooting spree. The families of his victims could hardly care less.

Mass murder in America seemed to culminate with the Columbine killings in 1999 which left 12 dead.  Then came the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre where Seung-Ho Choi gunned down 32 and wounded 15 others and reset the body count meter until today’s gruesome events.    The timeline of death since Columbine to Newtown is a long and bloody one.

The United States averages 20 mass murder events a year but surprisingly though this is a violent country, it is not as violent as it once was. This is a fact worth noting.

But oh, when we do kill, we kill with purpose, we kill with passion and we kill in big numbers.

We will search for the meaning in the midst of madness. We will say we must delay a debate on guns until the dead have been counted and buried and a respectful interval has passed, but in truth, there is no debate and the issue has largely been settled in this country. Guns are popular. Restrictions on guns are not.

The Columbine victims: We’ve been here before.

We’ve had a debate about guns in America.  Guns won.   Everyone else lost.

The defenders of guns will trot out their time-tested lines about how guns aren’t the problem; people misusing guns are.   They will point to another act of school violence that occurred the same day in China where a madman with a knife wounded 22 children and one adult.   The difference is none of those children died as opposed to the 20 children, six adults, plus the gunman who perished in Newton, Connecticut.

The NRA would sooner see a shooting spree every day before they would support legislation limiting the right to own any damn guy you want.

Something must be done. This is insane. We’re gunning down little boys and girls and their teachers as they try to defend them.  If our youngest and most innocent are not safe from mindless violence none of us are. What that something is, nobody seems to know.    Or if they do, nobody has the courage or the will to take on the gun lobby.

The spark of the holiday spirit was not burning brightly in me before the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Now it has been extinguished entirely.

The world is a beautiful place. The people on it? Not so much.



Living and Dying In the Country of the Gun

This is the face of insanity. The insane love of guns.

A friend wrote on Facebook: My thoughts on the shooting in Aurora, Colorado: For the most part, we seem to be a nation of broken people who are lost in our things, our success, our technology, our pain, our isolation, our wants.

Senseless acts such as these are committed by broken, lonely, angry people, who desperately want attention. The shooting last night in a public movie theater was no doubt committed by a young man with serious mental health issues. That is where our focus and analysis needs to be. Not on new gun laws or on taking arms from the people. The time has come for us to STOP making excuses for people like this–people like the ARMY Major in Texas that killed his fellow soldiers in a rant. Or the many other incidences where we see a lone gunman “go off” and kill innocent people. These people were time bombs, just waiting to go off.

While I concur with my friend’s sympathies, I’m not as quick as she is to play the 2nd Amendment card. The problem is not just crazy people getting their hands on guns. It’s also that organizations like the NRA make it easy for crazy people to get a gun.

Take away James Holmes’ weapon and substitute it with a knife. The body count goes down, not up. The connecting cord between Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Gabrielle Giffords shootings and the daily slaughter on the streets of Chicago and other urban areas is the GUN.

I don’t want to ban guns. Far from it. People have a right to protect themselves, but I’m waiting for the first yahoo to say, “Well, if only someone was legally carrying a gun they could have returned fire.” In a darkened, crowded theater with families? Please! They would need dump trucks to haul away all the bodies caught in the middle of a fire fight.

In the wake of the massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead and 58 wounded, there will be investigations into how it happened, discussions about the mentally ill, and conversations on how to stop a future James Holmes from carrying out a similar deadly attack (we can’t).

We will have all kinds of conversations about what happened in Aurora.  All except the conversation we need to have.  The one about the all-too-easy access to guns and why nothing will be done about it.

The battle over gun control is over and gun control lost.  The NRA won.   President Obama won’t take on the gun lobby.   Mitt Romney won’t take on the gun lobby.  A few in Congress will introduce legislation and maybe even hold hearings into placing limits on guns, but nothing will come of it.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said,   “In this case he had a hundred rounds,” she said of James Holmes, the lone suspect in the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting. “He didn’t have to stop to reload. There was no chance for people to try to overpower him or to escape and I don’t believe that these military-type weapons and these magazines should be out on the streets of America.”

All talk, but no action.

“There is no reason why you have 100 rounds of ammunition. That is just an assault weapon killing machine and I personally believe these magazines should be banned. They serve no purpose, but to kill people, so why in the world are we allowing this,” Maloney added.

But Romney predictably said there is no need for new laws and reaffirmed his belief in the Second Amendment (as if anyone doubted it).

“I’m a firm believer in the Second Amendment and I also believe that this is — with emotions so high right now, this is really not a time to be talking about the politics associated with what happened in Aurora,” Romney said, “This is really a time, I think, for people to reach out to others in their community that need help or a comforting hand. Let’s do that for now and then we can get on to policy down the road.”

Ah yes.  The predictable “this is really not the time” to have meaningful discussions on issues that actually mean something.   Romney doesn’t want to talk about the politics behind the free-flowing access to guns and ammunition.   So what if Holmes had stockpiled 6,000 rounds of ammo and booby-trapped his apartment into an IED with wall-to-wall carpeting?   Let’s talk about something else.  Anything else but some psychopath armed to the teeth on a mission of mass murder.

Not that Obama is any better.  In some ways he’s worse.  White House press secretary Jay Carney says the president is committed to preventing gun crimes with “existing laws.”

Existing laws?  There was an existing law that banned the AR-15 assault weapon Holmes used to kill innocent moviegoers but it was repealed in 2004.    A surly New York Daily News editorial railed against the men who would be president and their weak-kneed empty platitudes to the dead and wounded while offering no new attempt to limit the unfettered access to guns.

The police chief in Aurora, Colo., said he is confident that massacre gunman James Holmes acted alone. The police chief was dead wrong.

Standing at Holmes’ side as he unleashed an AR-15 assault rifle and a shotgun and a handgun was Wayne LaPierre, political enforcer of the National Rifle Association.

Standing at Holmes’ side as he sprayed bullets and buckshot into a crowded movie theater were Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, a President and a would-be President, who have bowed to the NRA’s dictates and who responded to the slaughter Friday with revolting, useless treacle.

 Standing at Holmes’ side as he murdered 12 and wounded 59 were the millions of zealots who would sooner see blood flow and lives end than have to check a box on a gun registration form.

In a vain claim of innocence, the fanatics will say Holmes is a monster and a maniac, that he fired and fired and fired as a man possessed. Each protestation clamps their fingers with his around the trigger.

Because they made sure that virtually everyone, Holmes included, has unfettered legal access to heavy weaponry. And they made sure he was permitted by law to drive to the kill scene with a fully loaded arsenal.

Such is the conscienceless extremism of America’s gun lovers that they accept wholesale slaughter as akin to a fatal highway pileup. Accidents happen, in their grotesque view, and so do mass killings by firearms.

There will be no profiles in courage from the president or his challenger.  The race is too close and the stakes too high for Obama or Romney to risk it.  The NRA is too formidable an opponent for Obama to take on.  A handful of states will decide the winner of the presidency and Romney pledging anything less than total loyalty to gun rights or Obama coming on too strong against the millions of weapons already in the hands of law-abiding citizens is enough to tip a blue state into the red.

Damn sorry about your loss, but don’t expect me to DO anything..

There will be no debate.  The matter is closed.  With the exception of a few editorial boards and irrelevant blogs such as this one, the anguished cries and the pitiful screams of the dead and wounded in Aurora will go unheeded.   Human life is precious, but in America, the gun is sacred.  Neither Obama nor Romney will be heretics.

We will hear there is no way to predict or deter madmen like Holmes.   It might be helpful if there were some system in place to monitor the stockpiling of deadly arsenals by disturbed people, but means talking about privacy rights, unwanted and massive governmental intrusion, gun confiscation and the forcible treatment of the mentally ill, just to name a few hot buttons that would be pushed.

The United States of America is the most heavily armed country on the planet with 90 guns for every 100 citizens. A free society that cannot protect children from being shot down in a movie theater isn’t free at all. It’s lost its damn mind with its crazed lust for weapons. The bigger the firepower the bigger the body count. Nobody needs 6,000 rounds of ammunition. NOBODY.

James Holmes killed and wounded 70 people in less than four minutes. Constitutional rights don’t mean a damn thing if you’re too dead to enjoy them.

Senseless acts of violence may not be preventable, but allowing bloodthirsty psychopaths free and unfettered access to guns, ammo, and explosives is preventable.

The flip side of freedom and law and order is anarchy and chaos.  And madness.   This is a gun-crazy country and we are so crazy about our guns if a 6-year-old girl is shot down by a madman, that is an acceptable loss.

America has a love affair with the gun and that love is literally killing us. We need to break up.

Thinking about the Unthinkable.

Sit. Stay. Aim. Shoot. Reload.

There’s what you hope to be true and then there’s what you know to be true and what you hope doesn’t always win the day over what you know. 

Last night I was getting  ready for work  and I heard gunshots in the alley behind my house. 

I knew they were gunshots.  For a  moment I entertained the vague hope that it might be firecrackers.   Might be despite Memorial Day having passed four days earlier and the Fourth of July one month away.   I really and truly wanted to believe this was only the sound of firecrackers going off way too early way too late at night, but I knew better. 

My wife was in the kitchen, my son in the living room and my daughter on the computer.   They all heard the sound that wasn’t firecrackers..  

There is one bad house two doors down that has repeatedly  been a magnet for misfits during the 14 years I’ve lived  here.   Apparently where the gunfire was coming from.  But I’ll get back  to the Neighbors from Hell.    This is just the latest in a series of events leading me to believe I need a dog.  Or a gun.  Or maybe a dog that knows how to use a gun.   

  • Last month my wife and I were driving to lunch we had to move over for a fire engine tearing down the street headed in the direction we had just come from.   When we returned  home we passed a house which had burned in the front but there was yellow police tape all around it.   Come to find out later some kid had been shot and killed when he opened the door.  Then the house was set on fire to cover the shooting.   He was only there because he was house-sitting.   I never found out if he was the killer’s target or just happened to be in the wrong place in the wrong time.
  • Coming home in the morning after work, I couldn’t take my normal route.   A block in all directions was closed with police cruisers blocking the intersection.   On the evening news an unemployed man had gone to an ATM sometime in the wee hours of the morning.  He was shot and robbed.  He didn’t make it.
  • It was 7:00 am on a Sunday morning when I passed a gas station where there were at least  four cops cars around parked in the lot and yellow tape all the way around it.  I  never did find out what that was about.

These are all random acts of urban crime and there is no connecting thread.  Except that I’m a lot more aware of what is going on around me and I can’t say I much like it.  Little by little and bit by bit, my sense of security is chipped away just a little bit more. 

Back to the bad house on the block.   Last year the police arrested a thief known as “the Shotgun Bandit” because that’s how he rolled.   He lived in that house and was arrested there after ripping off a store.  Detective were there all night hauling crap out of there.  There were at least ten other idiots including their kids who seemed to be crashing in the place at one time or another.   

I've seen way too much of this lately.

When those losers were evicted the property owners allowed some new losers to move in.  My next door neighbor who moved out last month said he was sure they were dealing drugs and I don’t doubt it.   When they first moved in there was one beat up, busted down junker of a car that used to pull up, the driver would go in and come back out ten minutes later and take off.    This crap car had a busted muffler so I always heard it long before I saw it.   This went on every weekend, all weekend.  

Last  February my wife parked her van overnight in front of their house.    The next morning two tires on her van decided to commit suicide by slashing themselves.   ce?   No way.   That was an expensive lesson learned to not park anywhere around these assholes .   Can I prove it was them?  Nope.  Do I believe it was them?  Yup.    

Fast forward to tonight.  The paddy wagon rolled past the house, went around the alley and came back to park in front of the assholes house.   I wasn’t the one who called the cops.  Not this time.  

The thought has entered my mind  that I might want to buy a gun.  Maybe.   It doesn’t seem like a completely crazy idea.    It sure seem like less of a crazy idea than it did, oh say 14 years ago. 

Am I afraid?  No, I am not.   Does the possibility of a vicious home invasion or walking in on a burglar fill my heart with fear?    Not at all.    On summer nights I sit on my porch (though I might back off even that since the assholes two doors down like to sit on their porch and smoke).    For the most part I feel safe if not totally sound.  

I haven’t used a gun since I was in the military and that came to an end 32 years ago.    I haven’t even touched a gun since a friend of mine let me hold his probably 20 years ago.   But I’m not afraid of guns.   From what I remember I liked holding one.   I’ve just never felt the need to own one.    If I ever did buy a gun I wouldn’t buy some big-ass hand cannon.  I’ve seen Dirty Harry, but I have no wish to be Dirty Harry.  

  If  the day  comes that I want to be strapped to the max I’d treat buying a gun the same way I’d approach buying a car.   I’d do my research, wouldn’t choose form over function, understand exactly what the weapon can and cannot do and treat it with respect, keep it in top condition and keep it locked up when I’m not using it.    I’m not anti-gun.  I’m pro-responsibility.   With extra big helpings of preparation, caution and common sense on the side. 

Not saying that I will, but I’m not saying I won’t either.   The wife and kids are already totally unthrilled at my making noises about buying a dog.  “We’re all too old for a damn dog so why do you want one now?” is what they’ve said.    I can only imagine what they will say to me buying a gun.   They’d probably prefer I adopt a pack of dogs before I do that.  

I don’t know if I will ever buy a gun.  I’m not the bravest man in the world and the courage a gun gives you is false.   I’d rather walk a dog and have to pick up Fido’s droppings than ever fire a pistol at another human being.   

But I can see myself changing my mind.  Especially if I keep hearing gunshots in the night way too close to home.   It doesn’t matter if  the shots have anything to do with me.   Bullets make mistakes  and especially when they’re fired in anger because somebody gets pissed off at somebody else.     Make no mistake about it; I don’t think a gun will make me safer.   It’s just a concession that things ain’t like they used to in the old neighborhood and because they aren’t I have to make the proper adjustments to that change. 

Which might include a gun.   I’m start to think seriously about something that was once unthinkable.