Tag Archives: gun violence

‘I want gun control!’

I am going to stand with the mother of a young man who died this week at the hands of a gunman who opened fire at a Thousand Oaks, Calif., nightclub.

Susan Schmidt-Orafanos says she doesn’t want “thoughts and prayers. I want gun control!”

Then she said “no more guns!”

Her son, Telemachus, had survived the Las Vegas massacre a year ago. He didn’t survive the Thousand Oaks tragedy.

As the victim’s father noted, according to BBC: “It’s particularly ironic that after surviving the worst mass shooting in modern history, he went on to be killed in his hometown,” his father told the Ventura County Star.

Mrs. Orafanos’ plea for “no more guns” isn’t likely to gain much traction in the halls of Congress or perhaps in the state capital in Sacramento.

However, she spoke for many Americans who also have grown tired of expressions of “thoughts and prayers” from public officials, whose declarations are sounding more like platitudes in the wake of every such tragic event.

Does reasonable “gun control” mean dismembering or repealing the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment? Of course not! It means, for instance, that universal background checks of anyone seeking to purchase a gun can weed out those who might be predisposed to commit the kinds of acts that erupted in Thousand Oaks.

“Law-abiding” citizens need not worry about their “right to keep and bear Arms” being abridged in any form.

Another massacre, more heroes emerge

Ron Helus went to work Wednesday expecting to come home at the end of his shift.

Then gunshots burst in a nightclub in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was talking to his wife when he got the call to respond. He told his wife he had to go, said he loved her and then rushed inside because the deputy sheriff was trained to respond in that manner.

Sgt. Helus, who engaged the gunman in a firefight, died a hero. He is among other heroes who have emerged in the hours after the latest mass shooting. Twelve people were slaughtered by the individual who walked into the country music bar and opened fire.

He was dead when police found him.

I heard this morning of male customers standing between the shooter and potential victims, providing human shields. These men, according to witnesses, were willing to sacrifice their lives to save those of others.

Sgt. Helus has delivered yet another example of first responder heroism. He was a 30-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department … and was scheduled to retire in just a few weeks.

Sgt. Helus is survived by his wife and an adult son.

This event, dear reader, provides yet another horrifying example of the sickness that has infected our society.

What in the world will it take to find a cure?

Sickening.

Gun control, gun-owners’ rights: not mutually exclusive

When the shooter blasted his way through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day, the debate over gun control erupted.

When another shooter massacred those worshipers at Tree of Life synagogue just the other day, the gun control debate has barely scored a blip.

What’s up here? Don’t tell me the issue is dead and buried. It’s not.

The Tree of Life loon opened fire with an AR-15 semi-auto rifle, killing 11 Jewish congregants in what’s being called a hate crime. It is similar to an M-16 military rifle, with this exception: The M-16 has a switch that can make it a fully automatic machine gun; the AR-15 doesn’t have it.

I happen to believe in the Second Amendment, the one that says a citizen’s right to “keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” That all said and understood, I do not believe that the right to keep and bear arms precludes reasonable gun control legislation that keeps faith with the Second Amendment.

I few gun control legislation and gun owners’ rights the same way I view the biblical theory of creation and the theory of evolution. Neither the biblical version of Earth’s creation or Charles Darwin’s evolutionary notion are mutually exclusive … if you conclude — as I do — that Earth wasn’t created in six calendar days.

The Second Amendment has wiggle room within it, I believe, to allow for legislation that makes it more difficult for criminals or those with emotional or mental issues to acquire a firearm. Those so-called impediments to “law-abiding citizens'” rights need not apply if the legislation is applied and enforced strictly.

Yet the gun-owners-rights lobby argues that the Second Amendment, as it was written in the late 18th century, is sacrosanct. It is virtually the holy word, much like the Bible. Don’t mess with it in any fashion, they say.

I will argue that if there is a sacrosanct amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it isn’t the Second … it’s the First Amendment. Religious freedom, the right to express one’s views and a free press must not be trifled with.

The Second Amendment doesn’t take into account the evolution of weaponry since the time that the founders wrote it.

I am never going to call for the abolition of the Second Amendment, I continue to believe it can be amended, improved and made more reasonable — while keeping faith with its pledge to permit firearm ownership to U.S. citizens.

‘American carnage’ continues

This must be said: The most memorable line from Donald John Trump’s inaugural address didn’t appeal to our highest ideals, but instead it spoke to one of the scourges that plagues our society.

The president said on Jan. 20, 2017: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

Now, to be fair, he was referring to the scourge of drugs and gang violence. The law-and-order candidate who became president vowed to end the violence associated with that activity.

However, the “American carnage” that continues to plague us has spilled more blood, caused more heartache, shed more tears, delivered more grief to the nation.

Eleven worshipers at a Pittsburgh, Pa., synagogue were gunned down early Saturday. Four police officers were injured. The cops arrested a man in connection with the slaughter at the Tree of Life temple.

He reportedly is a virulent anti-Semite. He has committed the worst attack on the Jewish American community in U.S. history. The suspect faces charges associated with hate crimes.

The American carnage is continuing. There appears to be no sign of an end to it. The president is demonstrating — to the absolute non-surprise to millions of Americans — a jaw-dropping inability to comfort a nation in mourning.

Admittedly, this latest spasm of bloodletting isn’t “this American carnage” to which the new president referred in his inaugural speech. Nevertheless, it is an American carnage that needs the nation’s undivided attention.

Pittsburgh now joins the roster of communities stricken by mass murder: Littleton, Aurora, Orlando, Springfield, Charleston, Parkland, Orlando, Newtown, Blacksburg, Killeen, Santa Fe, Sutherland Springs … my goodness, I simply cannot remember all of them.

They all have been victimized by the “American carnage.”

Mr. President, you have work to do. Get busy.

Half-staff flags becoming more of a U.S. norm

I ran an errand a few minutes ago and noticed something along Stacy Road, a busy thoroughfare between Allen and Fairview, Texas.

It was the sight of flags flying at half-staff. Several business owners along the south side of Stacy had lowered the flags in front of them, no doubt because of the tragedy that erupted in Pittsburgh, Pa., this past weekend when an anti-Semitic gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 congregants.

Flags all across the land have been lowered to half-staff.

It makes my wife and me wonder: Is this becoming the new normal in this country?

We seem to be lowering flags and displaying them at half-staff at least as often as we fly them at the top of the flagpoles. I understand that’s probably not entirely accurate, but the sight of those lowered flags serve to remind us of yet another tragedy.

I am not naïve enough to think we’ll ever rid our society of these events. It’s just that they seem to be occurring with such increasing frequency.

This is such a sad thing to see.

What if we had armed guards at the temple?

I feel like playing out a hypothetical situation that today sounds shockingly relevant.

What if there had been armed security guards posted Saturday morning at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., when the gunman opened fire, killing 11 congregants? The suspect is a known anti-Semite. He reportedly bellowed anti-Semitic statements as he was mowing down his victims, committing the worst known attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.

Three of the individuals who were wounded by this moron are Pittsburgh police officers who, I can assume with supreme confidence, were carrying sidearms.

What does stop any idiotic son of a bi*** with a death wish, someone intent on committing “suicide by cop” by exposing himself to law enforcement’s firepower?

Will police or private security guards armed with, say, shotguns or rifles or pistols prevent someone from opening fire in this horrifying manner? I do not believe he — or she — would be deterred.

Donald Trump introduced the element of putting armed security around houses of worship while he was offering otherwise wholly appropriate remarks in response to the Pittsburgh massacre.

I happen to disagree with the idea the president has put forward.

Armed guards at the Tree of Life might have stopped many — if not most — of the deaths during the carnage. But not all of them. Thus, are we now going to quantify the pain we suffer by the number of people who die in such a senseless and hateful manner?

Let’s not go there.

No, Mr. POTUS, no guns at houses of worship

Donald J. Trump calls the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., an “assault on humanity.”

The president is right. We need to treat this hideous tragedy as a hate crime. Eleven people were killed because they were Jewish. They were gathering at Tree of Life to celebrate Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath.

What does the president suggest as a possible response? He thinks putting “armed security guards” at houses of worship would stop this kind of carnage. Really? No sir. That is the wrong idea.

If we armed guards at the doors of sanctuaries where people go to worship whatever deity they choose to worship, where do we stop? Where do we draw the line on places that attract groups of people, sometimes large crowds of people?

Shopping malls? Grocery stores? Athletic events? Schools? Public parks?

The president suggests an armed society would deter those who commit evil acts.

I don’t accept that. The solution has to be more nuanced. It must require us to talk candidly and openly to each other. It must include a serious lowering of the volume and the temperature — and that volume and temperature adjustment must come from the top of the political food chain.

Armed guards won’t cut it.

Pittsburgh mayor speaks out

Why stay mum on shooters’ names?

I declared my intention recently to no longer identify mass shooters by name when referring to these tragic events in this blog.

A reader of High Plains Blogger than wondered: Why refer to people such as Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray and Lee Harvey Oswald by name?

Fair question. I’ll take a stab at answering it.

First of all, these men all killed notable public figures and officials. Sirhan murdered Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Ray gunned down the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Of the three of these shooters, only Sirhan is alive; he is serving a life term in a California prison.

Their names were thrust into the public domain the way, say, John Wilkes Booth’s name has been in that domain since he murdered President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

All these men changed the course of history. Thus, I have felt justified in referencing them by name whenever I felt like commenting on the incidents to which they all are linked forever.

These latest string of murderers don’t ascend to that level. They have sought publicity. Thus, I have taken a vow to keep their names off this blog for as long as I am writing it.

I even have acted retroactively, back to 1966, when the madman opened fire from atop the University of Texas Tower. I used to refer to him by name; no longer. He now joins the lengthy — and tragically growing — list of lunatics who have sought to make names for themselves through hideous acts of violence.

One more point: Even the loons who die, either by their own hand or by law enforcement, in the commission of their heinous deeds will not be ID’d in this blog with their name.

That’s my story. I am sticking to it.

Did they arrest the wrong guy? Oh, probably not

The man accused of five counts of capital murder and an assortment of other felonies today pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Let’s see: The Annapolis Capital Gazette became a killing ground when a gunman opened fire in the newsroom. Four of the victims were journalists, the fifth was a sales assistant.

The shooter was captured by Maryland police within about an hour of the tragic incident. He refused to cooperate with law enforcement.

I get that the U.S. Constitution gives everyone the right to a legal defense. I get that citizenship protects criminal defendants from kangaroo courts, or from prejudgments.

However, I feel compelled to ask: Did the cops nab the wrong guy immediately after the shooting? I doubt it. Strongly!

As The Hill reported: Emily Morse, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, told Reuters that Ramos was identified through facial recognition technology. However, she disputed previous news reports that said Ramos had damaged his fingers to avoid identification through fingerprinting.

This guy’s defense will be an interesting spectacle to watch.

Time to rethink ‘stand your ground’? Um, yep

You’ve seen the video.

A man shoves another man to the ground; the fellow who does the pushing is unarmed. The guy on the ground, pulls out a pistol and shoots the other man in the chest. The first gentleman then staggers into a convenience store, collapses in front of his son, and then dies at a local hospital.

The Clearwater, Fla., authorities, though, say they won’t charge the shooter because, they explained, he acted in accordance with the state of Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

The law needs a careful re-examination. Indeed, it needs to be rewritten, in my humble view.

The man who died was Markeis McGlockton, who was at the store with his 5-year-old son and his girlfriend. The victim’s girlfriend, apparently had been hassled by the shooter, Micheal Drejka, because she was parked in a handicapped-only zone.

McGlockton saw the confrontation, then ran to defend his girlfriend. That is when he pushed the other fellow to the ground.

This constitutes a “stand your ground” incident? I don’t get it!

I mean, good grief, McGlockton was walking away from Drejka when he got shot! How in the world does that present a clear and present threat to the shooter?

As CBSNews.com has reported: Criminal defense attorney Anthony Rickman says the fact that McGlockton backed up after the shove raises concerns.

“The question is, at that point in time, was there the possibility of imminent serious bodily injury or death of Drejka that justified the use of deadly force? And after watching that video, I don’t think so,” Rickman said.

We’ve had this national debate already. The Florida statute came into play when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin to death after he spotted the youngster walking through a neighborhood that Zimmerman was patrolling as a private security officer.

Michael Drejka has emerged as yet another embodiment of a law that gives license to individuals to shoot first and … well, the consequences be damned!