Tag Archives: gun violence

Tightening criminal records checks: It’s a start

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn deserves an “A” for effort in trying to crack down on a tragic flaw in the nation’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

He has announced a bipartisan bill that seeks to strength the federal background check of individuals seeking to buy firearms. The legislation comes in the wake of the Sutherland Springs, Texas, massacre that killed 26 people at First Baptist Church. The gunman, an Air Force veteran, slipped through the USAF’s criminal records system when the Air Force failed to report to the FBI that the gunman had been convicted of domestic assault; he was given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force.

According to the Texas Tribune: The Texas Republican’s bill, known as the Fix NICS Act, tries to ensure federal and state authorities accurately report relevant information, including criminal history, to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

“For years, agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Cornyn said in a statement.

The Tribune reports: The NICS database is maintained by the FBI and used to determine if a prospective gun buyer has a criminal record or is ineligible to purchase a firearm. The database became the focus of national attention earlier this month after a man fired an assault rifle at a small church during Sunday morning services, killing 26 people and injuring scores others.

Read the Tribune story here.

I fear this legislation might be too little, though, to have a significant impact on the huge numbers of guns already available for anyone to buy — legally or otherwise.

The bill under consideration has the support of leading senators from both parties, which suggests at least a smidgen of bipartisan outrage over the flood of firearms.

It’s a start.

Mr. President, what about that ‘American carnage’?

Donald J. Trump is fond of trumpeting his own real (or imagined) skills.

The night that he accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Trump proclaimed that “I, alone” can solve the nation’s problems. Then he ran a successful presidential campaign, got elected, put his hand on a Bible and took the oath of office this past January.

The brand new president then delivered a dark speech that didn’t speak to the nation’s ideals, but instead recited a grim litany of heartache and alleged failure. The only line many of us can remember from that speech goes like this: “The American carnage is going to stop … right here and right now.”

Where am I going with this?

A president who boasts that he “alone” can fix any problem needs to explain why he hasn’t stopped “the American carnage.”

Case in point: In just the past few months, we have seen nine people killed when a terrorist ran over them with a rented truck in New York City; a madman opened fire on a Las Vegas crowd, killing 59 of them; another lunatic then walked into a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church and killed 26 more people.

The American carnage that Trump said he would stop has continued.

What has been his solution to any of it? What has he proposed to protect people from gunmen or international terrorists? Has the president produced any legislative remedies? Has he articulated the need to act to stem this violence?

I know full well that presidents cannot act alone, even though the current president said he can and promised he would. And that brings me back to my point.

If Donald Trump is able to do the myriad things he has boasted he could do, then isn’t it time he delivered the goods?

The man needs to spend more time, devote more attention and deploy his self-proclaimed immense intelligence to things that really matter — and stop wasting his time tweeting about football players’ protests and whether he did enough to bail three young basketball players out of jail.

Does gun control doom 2nd Amendment? Um, no!

I believe we can start debating gun legislation now in the wake of the Sutherland Springs, Texas massacre. Correct?

It has commenced and there now appears to be some indication of public support for stricter gun laws.

A Gallup Poll reveals that 51 percent of Americans now favor increased regulation on guns purchases. Wow, man! Imagine that. Most Americans, according to Gallup, think the nation needs to legislate some remedy to keep guns out of the hands of madmen, such as the guy who opened fire at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

Most want gun control

I am acutely aware that this is a complicated problem that requires a finely nuanced legislative solution. I am a supporter of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; I also own firearms. I need no lecture on how the Second Amendment has been interpreted by the courts.

The Sutherland Springs tragedy also brings to mind a monumental failure by the U.S. Air Force to report the gunman’s criminal history to the FBI, which could have prevented him from getting the weapon he used to slaughter those people in the church sanctuary.

The complications, of course, become evident when bad actors acquire guns from family members, or friends, or some fly-by-night gun seller looking to make a few bucks. I do not know how you prevent those crackpots from obtaining guns.

Is there a legislative solution that remains faithful to the Second Amendment? I believe one can be found. Somewhere. By someone. Somehow.

If the Gallup Poll is accurate — and I tend to believe it is — then our elected representatives have been given a chance to do what they’ve been unwilling to do in the wake of other horrific tragedies.

Of course, it would be a no-brainer were it not for the existence of that political powerhouse called the National Rifle Association.

They’re going to church this Sunday

Tragedy quite often can beget courage.

Such is the case in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a tiny community near San Antonio that is reeling from the monstrous act of evil that killed 26 people and injured 20 others. Some of the victims were children; one was an infant; yet another was an unborn child.

First Baptist Church was rocked to its core. The community is in utter grief.

The gunman walked into the church and methodically murdered about 7 percent of Sutherland Springs’ population.

But here’s the courageous element: They’re going to have church on Sunday. The First Baptist Church family will gather in another location; its sanctuary is uninhabitable and well might have to be destroyed and rebuilt.

This is one measure of how courage in the face of unspeakable tragedy and evil presents itself.

May the congregants feel the love of an entire nation as they gather to worship.

Military must face a ‘systemic’ problem

Congress is weighing in on an important issue that appears to have been a primary cause of the Sutherland Springs, Texas, massacre.

The monster who opened fire this past Sunday at First Baptist Church was able to purchase the weapon he used because of a failure by the U.S. Air Force to log his criminal background.

There’s this statement from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican: “News that the Air Force failed to notify the FBI of (the shooter’s) military criminal record is appalling. … Furthermore, I am concerned that the failure to properly report domestic violence convictions may be a systemic issue.”

And The Hill reports this: “The Senate Armed Services Committee will conduct rigorous oversight of the Department’s investigation into the circumstances that led to this failure,” committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement. “It’s critical that each of the military services take the steps necessary to ensure that similar mistakes have not occurred and will not occur in the future.”

Read The Hill story here

The shooter was given a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force. His exit was due to his assault against his then-wife and her infant child. The Air Force failed to notify federal authorities of the charge, enabling this bastard to purchase the assault weapon he used to murder 26 parishioners at First Baptist Church.

It appears to be a long-standing failure by the military. The issue is drawing considerable attention by lawmakers.

It’s too early to tell whether they are doing enough, or certainly whether they will do enough to crack down on the carnage that is erupting across the land.

I hope Congress and the president will do more. At least, though, we have begun a discussion about one element of gun violence.

Community not likely to ever recover from tragedy

The Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre seems significantly different from other such tragedies.

It involves the size of the community. The town has about 400 residents. That’s it. The Sunday morning shooting killed or wounded 46 people. That’s about 10 percent of the entire town’s population.

I am not belittling other cities’ tragedies. Las Vegas, Orlando, Charleston all have suffered terribly, too. Family members in those larger communities terribly, just as they are in Sutherland Springs.

I am inclined to believe, though, that Sutherland Springs’ collective grief will last forever, or at least until the final surviving community member passes from the scene.

I have swallowed hard several times as I’ve watched the news reporting from Sutherland Springs. What is most heartbreaking is to hear from those who knew the victims and to hear from them how “everyone knows everyone” in Sutherland Springs.

Three generations of a single family, eight people, died in the shooting. The 14-year-old daughter of the First Baptist Church pastor and his wife also died. An 18-month-old infant was among those who died at the hand of the monster who opened fire.

Just how does a community recover from this degree of madness?

Too many communities already have been tagged with a title none of them ever welcomes: the place where gun-related violence erupted. The larger cities do have the opportunity to move farther away from their collective pain.

The tiny town of Sutherland Springs — with a single blinking traffic light — likely has seen its identity changed forever.

It is all simply heartbreaking in the extreme.

Air Force messed up on shooter’s record

More than two decades ago, the 1995 Texas Legislature considered a concealed handgun carry bill. I opposed it with great passion.

The Legislature enacted it. Then-Gov. George W. Bush signed it into law. Over the years, I grew to accept the law, although I never have totally endorsed it.

But get a load of this: The Texas concealed handgun carry law did its job as it regards the Sutherland Springs shooter while the U.S. Air Force failed to do its job.

The loon who killed those 26 worshipers in Sutherland Springs was denied a concealed carry permit in Texas because of a criminal record check the state performed on him when he made his application.

Air Force misfires

But the U.S. Air Force, which sent him packing with a bad conduct discharge, didn’t tell the National Criminal Information Center about a court martial conviction in connection with an assault charge against his wife and her child. That failure to report enabled the shooter to purchase legally the rifle he used to massacre those First Baptist parishioners, including several children.

I’m not going to brag about Texas’s concealed carry law. I still am not a huge fan of it. Still, it hasn’t produced the kind of street-corner violence that many of us — including yours truly — feared would occur.

I am a bit heartened, though, that the state law worked. Texas denied this madman a permit to carry a gun under his jacket.

If only the Air Force had done its job, too.

Maybe it could have prevented this tragedy. Just maybe …

Guns and mental health both played a part

Donald Trump believes the hideous massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is a “mental health issue,” not a “guns issue.”

I’ve been trying to process the president’s statement, which he delivered in Japan. I am coming up empty with that notion.

You see, I happen to believe the lunatic shooter who killed 26 people at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs had no business packing the weapon he used to commit the carnage.

In other words, “mental health” and “guns” aren’t mutually exclusive issues as they relate to this horrific episode in our nation’s history.

The shooter was an Air Force veteran who received a bad conduct discharge after he assaulted his wife and young child. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has pointed out that the gunman applied for a concealed handgun permit, but was denied the permit because of his criminal record.

And that begs the question: How did this sicko get his mitts on an assault rifle? And, yes, I expect to hear the argument that will come forth that bad guys will obtain guns no matter how many laws we have on the books.

The debate on this hideous deed will commence fully in due course. The nation will grieve and a community will bury its victims. I don’t want to wait too long before this debate gets under way.

The president can lead that debate by acknowledging what I believe is painfully obvious about what has transpired. It is that guns need to be part of the discussion topics, right alongside the issue of mental health care.

These issues are not mutually exclusive.

Shooting decimates S. Texas town

Leave it to The New York Times to put the Sutherland Springs, Texas, massacre today in perspective.

The newspaper notes that the unincorporated town had a population of 362 according to the 2010 census. With an estimated 25 people killed today by a gunman who opened fire at First Baptist Church, the town is likely to have lost about 7 percent of its population in one despicable act.

I am going to refrain from identifying the shooter by name, as has been this blog’s policy for some time. He’s dead. It’s not known if the police shot him or if he took his own life. My reluctance to identify him is because I choose instead to focus on the deed and the victims.

Texas Department of Public Safety officials have said he is a Texas resident.

Texas town is shattered

What now?

Federal, state and local police are going to sift through the gunman’s history to learn about him and try to ascertain why he would launch a Sunday morning church service rampage that reportedly took the lives of several children. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, sent his love and prayers from Japan, where he is attending meetings with foreign leaders. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is en route to Sutherland Springs. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has offered support from his office to aid in the probe of this terrible event.

And, yes, the minute we know about this lunatic’s motivation, we can expect the debate to recommence on ways to curb gun violence of this horrific type.

I welcome the debate when it occurs as soon as is humanly possible.

The immediate reaction — as in how we must respond during this calendar day — must center on prayers and love sent from all over the world to a tiny Texas town that is shattered by an all-too-common form of grief.

Have we lost our collective minds?

I have refrained over many years from lamenting about the state of our national sanity when monstrous acts of evil explode before us.

Sadly, I am thinking we have flipped. We’ve become certifiably mad as a nation. Our nation has been gripped by the vise of mourning, grief and tragedy.

Another massacre occurred today in Sutherland Springs, a small town east of San Antonio. As I write these few words, I am hearing that at least 20 people are dead and many more are wounded in a shooting at a Baptist Church. The shooter is dead; it’s not clear whether the cops got him or he offed himself.

My goodness, I am utterly at a loss to explain this.

The litany of massacres has become too gruesome to bear. Newtown, Littleton, Aurora, Orlando, Charleston, Las Vegas and now Sutherland Springs. OK. I’ve missed some. But you get the point.

These communities now will be identified forever by the tragedy that has befallen them — and the rest of us.

And yes, the debate will erupt yet again over the cause of this monstrous act once we learn the identity of the shooter.

I am officially afraid for our nation