Posted tagged ‘Guns’

Beyond The Watch List

June 15, 2016

ETA: As Botsplainer relates in this comment to the mirror post over at Balloon Juice, there is already federal law on gun ownership and domestic violence:  if you’ve been convicted of misdemeanor or felony domestic violence, you can’t own a gun. In certain circumstances and in some states that applies to those under restraining orders.  The law is far from comprehensive, though. For example, partner violence in a couple that hasn’t lived together/shared a child falls through its cracks.

Current law also depends on some basic functions at the state level that don’t always happen, including proper updating of lists of domestic violence convictions/restraining orders so as to invoke the federal ban when an offender sets out to buy weapons.

To be clear: I erred in my first pass at this, caught up in my generalized anger, and I apologize for the mistake.  At the same time a deepened, broadened and intensified approach to the new law that is needed and the application of existing law around guns and domestic violence is absolutely needed.

Back to a corrected version of your previously scheduled program:

I’ve my doubts whether this time will be different, but there are some signs that the Orlando massacre will persuade some (I hope enough) of the GOP of the need for the first baby steps towards a useful gun control regime.

But denying guns to those on the terror watch or no-fly lists — and even a much-less-likely assault weapon ban — will still leave an enormous gateway to murderous violence to be dealt with:

When Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, analyzed F.B.I. data on mass shootings from 2009 to 2015, it found that 57 percent of the cases included a spouse, former spouse or other family member among the victims — and that 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.

It is, as always, important to note that correlation does not equal cause. As


Reporter Amanda Taub writes,

There are, of course, a tangle of factors behind every murder, especially terrorism inspired by foreign groups. But research on domestic violence hints at a question that often surrounds seemingly inexplicable events like Mr. Mateen’s massacre of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub — what drives individuals to commit such mass attacks? — and sheds light on the psychology of violence.

That is, as Taub argues:

Terrorist attacks and mass shootings garner attention and frighten the public much more than episodes of domestic violence. But domestic violence has a much higher death toll in the United States.

According to the Violence Policy Center, 895 women in the United States were murdered by their current or former intimate partners in 2013 (and this does not include those killed amid mass shootings). That single-year tally is more than nine times the 92 people the New American Foundationhas counted as killed in jihadist attacks on American soil in the past decade.

But there are striking parallels between the intimate terrorism of domestic violence and the mass terrorism perpetrated by lone-wolf attackers like Mr. Mateen. Both, at their most basic level, are attempts to provoke fear and assert control.

Most chilling, this informed speculation:

Paul Gill, a senior lecturer at University College London who studies the behavior of lone-actor terrorists, said that violence was, in a sense, a learned psychological skill: “Having a history of violence might help neutralize the natural barriers to committing violence.”

From that perspective, domestic violence can be seen as a psychological training ground for someone like Mr. Mateen to commit a mass attack.

Read the whole thing — and for a lagniappe, check out Nancy LeTourneau’s gloss on Taub’s piece over at The Washington Monthly.

Here I just want to add to minimal list of necessary gun control measures: full enforcement and extension of federal law prohibiting access to guns — including seizure of weapons already in possession* — not only for convicted domestic abusers, but also and urgently for anyone subject to a restraining order.  As noted in the correction at the top of this piece, there are gaps in the current legal and enforcement system that helps deepen the misery of our existing domestic partner violence.  (See, e.g., this story.)

This shouldn’t be controversial:  if the threat you pose has risen to the level that a judge is willing to bar you from your home and partner and/or family — then the threat is too high to leave you with such ready means to kill.

*this is one of the areas of concern in current law.

Image: David Remeeus, Portrait of a lady with a gold chain and pistol-shaped charm 1597.


They Are Who We Thought They Were: Gun Nuts/Domestic Terrorism Edition

June 1, 2016

Via TPM, we learn that Larry Pratt, former executive director of the organization Gun Owners of America has…predictable…view of what’s at stake in the coming election.

[He] said a Democrat taking the White House and replacing the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would pose “great peril” to gun rights.

Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts (1657-1683), Trompe l'oeil med pistoler, 1672

Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts (1657-1683), Trompe l’oeil med pistoler, 1672

And what should happen in the face of such peril?  Another…interesting…take on the concept of constitutional review:

“At that point, we would have to come to an understanding, which we’ve been sort of taught, it’s been taught out of us, that the courts do not have the last word on what the Constitution is,” Pratt said on the show, in remarks first flagged by RightWingWatch.

And who, pray tell, does have that last word?  You’ll never guess:

“And we may have to reassert that constitutional balance, and it may not be pretty,” he continued. “So, I’d much rather have an election where we solve this matter at the ballot box than have to resort to the bullet box.”

Sedition, thuggery, a clear threat of political violence in the face of democratic decision making.  Pretty much a perfect defintion of domestic terrorism.

One more reason to consign Brother Trump to the outer darkness, I’d say — and his wretched claque of enablers and enablees along with him.

Image: Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts, Trompe l’oeil with pistols, 1672

I’m Not Saying Guns Are A Problem…

April 23, 2016

…But yeah, I am.  Guns are a huge f**king problem.



Two officers are in stable condition, with one in surgery, and the suspect is dead following a shooting Saturday at a Walmart in suburban Phoenix, authorities said.


Bell was found shot dead with another woman, Sacorya Renee Reed, at a home in the 2600 block of Ridgecrest Drive, The Flint Journal reported.

A one-year-old child, who was unharmed, was also found in the home and turned over to child protective services, but police did not confirm whether the child was Bell’s….

The case is slated to continue, with a representative to be appointed to represent Bell’s child.


A man who shot and killed five people during two separate shootings as part of a domestic dispute in Georgia was found dead in his home early Saturday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said…

The daughter of Georgia man suspected of shooting five people to death before killing himself says her father was a “ticking time bomb.”

Lauren Hawes told The Associated Press Saturday that she and her 1-year-old daughter hid in a neighbor’s house while her father, Wayne Anthony Hawes, went on a shooting rampage that killed five people, including her grandmother and cousin.

And, not that it’s a competition, perhaps ghastliest of all, Ohio:

All the victims were shot in the head, “execution-style,” and none of the deaths appear to be suicides, he said. DeWine said it appears the killings took place overnight while the victims were in bed, with one woman killed with her “four-day-old right there.”

These are just four reports of four wretched events — crimes — over the last couple of days, all gleaned from a single news site (Talking Points Memo).  As such, they’re just the gun miseries from Friday and today that rose to some kind of web prominence.  There are, certainly, many, many more lurking below that threshold of media attention.

All of these crimes, all of this woe, were done in their own contexts, their own sequence of events.  The guns didn’t decide to shoot themselves — I get that.

But the litany, the daily butcher’s bill, tells another story, alongside the too-common and too-comfortable one of “people kill people.”  People kill a lot fewer people when it’s harder to do.  Firearms make it easy.

Res ipsa loquitur.

Image: Utagawa Kuniyoshi, The Actor, before 1861.

Now Is Not The Right Time. It Is The Only Time

October 9, 2015

Two campus shootings in a single day.


First up, Northern Arizona University, where a gun in the hands of an 18 year old student dispatched bullets into the bodies of four human beings.  One is dead.

G. T. Fowler, the chief of campus police, said that Steven Jones, a freshman, had opened fire after two groups of male students were involved in a confrontation. The police were able to take Mr. Jones into custody after he stopped firing the weapon and “everything calmed down for a few minutes,” Chief Fowler said.

This was, as Charles Pierce pointed out earlier today, not some deranged son of satan spinning out of our collective id.  Rather…

This is an ordinary Thursday night campus brawl that escalated to homicide only because one of the participants had a gun which, I guarantee you, he did not have to work hard to obtain. Maybe we should look into why these things happen.

Travel now to Texas Southern University where…

A gunman killed one person and wounded another on the campus of Texas Southern University in Houston on Friday, the second shooting at the university this week.

This one is not likely to remain a mystery either, as “The Houston Police Department said a possible suspect in Friday’s shooting was in custody.”

Note, please the lagniappe in the Times write up on the TSU murder, that “second shooting” line:

On Tuesday night, a person was shot and seriously wounded while walking across the Texas Southern campus. There was no indication whether that shooting was linked to the one there on Friday.

Guns do not create the impulse to violence. They merely ensure that the consequences of just about anything can be fatal.

Most of all, guns destroy freedom.  They erode the freedom of assembly.  They make it scary to walk across a college campus at night.  They make you wonder if saying that, say, the GOP field is a bunch of ammosexual nuts might line you up on the wrong side of a nine held by some cultist in the church of the holy firearm who takes a hard line on blasphemy.

Guns fix their owner in a state of permanent fear — how else to describe the claim of a threat so constant that going strapped is the only rational response? — and impose that fear on all the rest of us.  Guns slaughter their own, as 20,000 + gun suicides attest.

An armed society is not a civil society.  It is one that rewards not our aspirations, but our night terrors.

But we all know this.

Guns. Need. To. Be. Caged.  It’s as political — or rather it needs to be — as Social Security, for our side as well as the NRA’s.  No politician from here forward gets my support unless they are gun control absolutists.

I don’t pretend anything I want will happen anytime soon.  But I do believe that at some point the massacre of the innocents will shock enough consciences to make change possible.

Rant over.

Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1556-7

Guess The Complexion Of The Shooter

January 18, 2015

Here’s all you need to know:

A Sentinel, Okla., man on Thursday shot the town’s police chief four times and was then released from custody after questioning.

All lives matter and I’m glad no one was killed in this bit of 2nd Amendment insanity — but if after Martin and Brown and Rice and Crawford you still somehow wondered if white privilege were a thing, just give it up.


More detail:

Sentinel Police Chief Louis Ross was shot in the chest three times and once in the arm Thursday morning after breaking down the front door and entering a house at 205 S 4, Sentinel Mayor Sam Dlugonski said.

The chief was wearing a bulletproof vest that was loaned to him by a sheriff’s deputy minutes before the raid on the home. He survived the shooting, and authorities said the vest saved his life.

Dlugonski and a neighbor on S 4 both said the man detained in the shooting was Dallas Horton, who lives at 205 S 4. Investigating authorities did not release the man’s name.

Agents with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said the man who shot the chief was released after hours of questioning when they determined they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him.

“Facts surrounding the case lead agents to believe the man was unaware it was officers who made entry,” OSBI wrote in a news release.

Well, yes.  But then there’s this:

Chief Ross said Washita County 911 received two calls from a man who identified himself as Dallas Horton, and claimed to have a bomb inside the head start school….

Chief Ross told News 9 he called for county back up before entering Horton’s home.

Up to this point, Horton claimed he never knew any officers were in his home.

“Don’t know what he heard or didn’t hear screaming from five officers of the law announcing our presence, requesting to see hands,” said Chief Ross.

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and state (a) it’s amazing, just flat out gobsmacking, that anyone could shot a cop four times and not face a gazillion bullets coming the other way; and (b) that I simply cannot imagine the circumstances in which a non-white cop-shooter who did survive the initial event would be back on the street the same day.

That conclusion could just reflect my biases.  It certainly involves an inference beyond the facts known to me as I write this.  Still, American history and our recent past seem to tell a pretty consistent story to me:  African Americans, and especially black men, face the threat of violence under the cover of law to a degree that a middle class white guy like me cannot begin to fathom.  So I’m prepared to make the leap that the color of the shooter here made a difference in his treatment by law enforcement.  I certainly could be wrong:  any individual case can be an outlier in any direction.  But if I had to bet…

Again, I want to repeat something really important:  it’s a great thing that neither the police chief nor the suspect are dead.  That’s what we would want to see come out of moments of crisis in law enforcement.

I’m just noting here that I want that outcome for all those confronting the sudden presence of armed cops:  toy wielding shoppers, kids on a playground, young men walking, anyone.   Such happy endings shouldn’t be reserved only for a gun nut who can be distinguished from those less fortunate individuals by — among other things I’m sure — the fact that he happens to be white.

Image:  John Singer Sargent, Graveyard in the Tyrol, 1914-1915.


Annals of Responsible Gun Ownership, Part (n)

February 24, 2014

To paraphrase how my co-religionists limn the Reconstructionist movement*….

…There is no god, and Darwin is his prophet:

A Michigan man fatally shot himself in the head while he was teaching his girlfriend gun safety, according to The Detroit Free Press.


Police said that the man, whose name was not released, had been trying to show his girlfriend gun safety with three pistols. He put the first two guns to his head and pulled the trigger. When the man pulled the trigger on the third pistol the gun went off.

In the least surprising contextual note in the history of stupidity,

The man’s girlfriend said he had been drinking throughout the day while he was showing her the guns. (Via TPM)

I don’t want to make light of the core of the story: someone’s son, lover, sibling — perhaps — and friend is dead before his time and for even less reason than usual.  My sympathy to all those burdened by this loss.

The only point I’ll draw from this stranger’s death is that guns are designed to deliver deadly force and they do.  Most folks have been known to such back one too many cold ones at least occasionally.  And that is one of the reasons why even the most responsible gun owners are so until they’re not…

…at which point, someone dies.

*The actual line goes, “There is no God and Mordecai Kaplan is his prophet,” but you kinda had to be there.

Image: Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, The Suicide, c. 1836.


Well, this is awful

January 8, 2014

A North Carolina teenager suffers from schizophrenia. His family calls the cops for help during an episode.  The first officers on the scene taser and restrain the boy, Keith Vidal, 18 years old. Another car rolls up, and, according to the boy’s parents, Mark Wilsey and Mary Vidal, the new officer on the scene decides to handle the situation his way:

“We don’t have time for this,” Wilsey recalled one of the officers saying before he fired in between the two officers who were holding the teen down.


You can guess what comes next:

The Boiling Spring Laes Police Chief has cleared his officers of any wrong doing at the scene. Chief Brad Shirley says an internal review shows his officers did not break any laws.

That may not be the last word. The local prosecutor is investigating:

DA Jon David offered few new details other than that the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) had been called in to investigate. He said that it would take time to determine if a crime had been committed…

…but the parents have their doubts:

the family said that they were not invited to attend….Outside the press conference, the family held signs, demanding justice for Keith Vidal.

It is early days, of course, and the lawyer for the cop suspended after the incident says his client will be seen to be innocent, which is the presumption until a jury says otherwise.  All the usual disclaimers apply.

But on the facts established so far (like this one: “The first unit on scene reported a confrontation in the hallway, but told Brunswick County Dispatchers several times that everything was OK.”), this looks very bad indeed.

And even if there are mitigating circumstances that come to light, still, this is what happens when guns are the first tool you reach for instead of the last.

That’s the deep problem with American gun (nut) culture.  There are just too many guns out there, available to anyone “responsible” or not.  The reality, of course, is that there are lots of situations where guns are inappropriate and lots of people for whom guns are just a really bad idea.

Some of those people are cops.

The last full measure of the misery of this story?  The same couple whose kid  was just gunned down in front of them just lost their daughter to a car wreck.  I can’t imagine…

I hugged my son extra hard when I got home last night, I can tell you.

Image:  Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Triumph of Death, c. 1562.