Passing a New Rubicon on Gun Violence and Terrorism

by Frank Vyan Walton –

pulse nightclub

This has been quite a week.  Truly.  It feels almost as if the country is in the midst of an upheaval, one almost as great as the change and trauma we endured following the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.  As great, if not greater, than what we survived following the bombing of the Boston marathon.

We do live in interesting times.

I do not believe I can fully summarize all that has occurred in the last 7-8 days completely. I do not believe I can fully expressed all the emotions this weeks has generated, but I do feel a need to at least try to talk about some of the highlights, and the lowlights, and attempt to make some sense of it all and offer, humbly, a bit of commentary and suggestions.

The first thing I want to point out is that I find the human response to these events quite amazing and astonishing.  Yes, many of the victims of the shooting at Club Pulse were LBGT individuals but despite that, or perhaps because of the positivity, acceptance and love expressed by that community, we have seen something we really have not quite seen in many of the other mass shootings incidents that have occurred over that last several decades.

Here’s one example.

In the days since the tragic terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, we’ve seen some beautiful instances of compassion and unity which have helped us remain hopeful in the wake of such a horrible event. One such story is what happened aboard a JetBlue flight bound for Orlando.

Yesterday, Kelly David Karas, a flight attendant with JetBlue, was part of a crew on a flight that was carrying the grandmother of Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo (known as Omar to his friends and family), one of the victims of the Orlando shooting. Omar’s distraught grandmother was headed to be with family in the aftermath of the tragedy. Kelly and her fellow flight attendant, Melinda, wanted to do something special for Omar’s grandmother to show their support during such a difficult time. So they passed a paper around the plane for the passengers to sign with a note of condolence.

But once the paper began circulating, something amazing happened. The passengers wrote pages and pages for Omar’s grandmother, and when the flight was over, every single person aboard the plane stopped to talk to her personally and tell her how sorry they were about her grandson.

Every person on that plane wrote not just a simple signature as Flight Attendant Kelly Karas had initially intended, they wrote paragraph after paragraph of heartfelt condolences to her and to her lost grandson.  Then when deplaning they all, person by person, spoke with Luis grandmother to continue to express their emotions about the loss of her grandson.

That’s not normal.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I think it’s awesome, but it’s not how we normally process or respond to a mass shooting like this.  Something is different.

We can see that difference in how Anderson Cooper challenged Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on her previous demonization of LGBT citizens, and whether she can be considered a “champion” of their rights and lives now.

VIDEO of @AndersonCooper grilling @PamBondi. “Do you really think you’re a champion of the gay community?” https://t.co/DOFTxJOPuh

— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 14, 2016

Bondi later complained that CNN inappropriately edited the video leaving out their initial discussion of phony charities that were scamming a ripping off those people who were trying to contribute to the victims and that’s a legitimate point, but then again so was the issue raised by Cooper.

“The fact is that Attorney General Bondi signed off on a 2014 federal court brief that claimed married gay people would ‘impose significant public harm,’” he said. “Ms. Bondi is championing efforts to help survivors, but the very right that allows gay spouses to bury their loved ones. That’s a right that wouldn’t exist if she had her way. I think it is fair to ask about that.”

I think that with the exception of a few homophobic nutballs the outpouring of positivity and support for the victims of these tragedy and their families has been almost universal, and I strongly suspect that Ms. Bondi efforts in support of these victims are legitimate and heartfelt, however she and so many long-term gay bashers largely in the GOP have done quite a bit to damage to their relationship with the LGBT community that I’m not even sure they fully understand.  Yes, of course, not agreeing with whether an LGBT person should have the right to be married after 69% Florida voters modified the state constitution to prevent it and her office is duty bound, but not absolutely required, to defend that modified constitution is quite different from standing idly by as her fellow Floridian are brutally gunned down in cold blood.

I mean, yeah, those aren’t the same thing but can you really blame LGBT people for being highly skeptical of Bondi’s sincerity after her office claimed gay people getting married would “impose significant public harm” in court?

Still there are some former GOP LGBT bashers who have turned a corner with events of this week.

Utah’s Republican lieutenant governor surprised many with his speech at a vigil for victims of the Orlando shooting on Monday, where he apologized for his previous attitude and actions against LGBT people,KSL.com reported.

Addressing a crowd mourning the 49 people who were shot early Sunday morning at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox acknowledged that as a straight, white, Republican man, he was not the most obvious choice to speak at the vigil.

But Cox said he was extremely moved by the event and felt the need to apologize, KSL reported.

“I grew up in a small town and went to a small rural high school,” he said, according to the news site. “There were some kids in my class that were different. Sometimes I wasn’t kind to them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know now that they were gay. I will forever regret not treating them with the kindness, dignity and respect — the love — that they deserved. For that, I sincerely and humbly apologize.”

So that’s new.

And how seriously and sincerely are we and our LGBT brethren supposed to take the inane and insane blatherings of Donald J. Trump?

In his remarks after Orlando, Donald Trump took this standard of discourse, set light to it and stamped on it.

First, he appeared on Twitter, his favoured medium for rash, unreflective pronouncements, to claim the attack as evidence of his correctness in having called for more aggressive policies and to thank all those he claimed had congratulated him for his prescience.

In interviews and most of all in a speech in the hours that followed, he reiterated his pledge to impose a total ban on Muslims entering the US. He blamed “political correctness” for allowing such attacks to happen. He highlighted the decision to allow the Orlando shooter’s Afghan parents to enter America as the root cause of the threat.

He warned Muslim Americans of “consequences” unless they co-operate with “us” by turning over the terrorist sympathisers [sic] in their midst, suggesting that they “know where they are”. He asserted (inaccurately) that refugees and asylum seekers were admitted to the US without background checks, and that his opponent Hillary Clinton favoured admitting hundreds of thousands more Muslim incomers on this basis.

Most outlandish of all, he mused aloud that President Obama might himself be in sympathy with the terrorists. And when it dared to report and parse his semi-coherent remarks, the Washington Post then had its credentials for access to the Trump campaign revoked.

I mean seriously.  He still claims that his “Total, Complete Ban” of Muslims coming to America would somehow have made a difference when the shooters parents came to the U.S. over 30 years ago during the Reagan Administration and yet somehow that is Barack Obama’s fault.

He claims that “people knew and they said nothing” even those people did say something that’s why the FBI had previously investigate the shooter for claiming he was a member of Hezbollah and making threats back in 2013.  There is a Grand Jury investigating his wife to see if she should be charge for not reporting his desire to do “jihad”, although she was also being physically and mentally abused by him so at a certain level her reticence to induce his anger can be understood.

He claims that if only someone in the club had been armed and was “firing back at the shooter” things would have turned out differently while completely ignoring that the guard at the door was armed, exchanged fire with the shooter and immediately called for backup bring at least two other officers to the scene and that all three of them exchanged fire with the suspect ultimately forcing him to take cover in the bathroom.  Even with three armed officers on the scene this man still killed 49 people and wounded 59 — so yet again, Donald’s blather just makes no damn sense.  We don’t yet know all the ballistics but it’s even possible some of the victims were hit by bullets fired by the officers, just imagine how much worse that situation could have become if untrained and uniformed persons inside the club were armed and began shooting.  They could have mistakenly targeted each other rather than the shooter, or become an additional hazard to law enforcement just as armed students at the Oregon State College shooting felt they could become.

That man is a disgrace.

What’s worse is that his spokesmodels like Kayleigh McEnany continue to support this bullshit particularly when it comes to the term “Radical Islamic Terrorism.”

As i’ve previously written in detail about “Radical Christianity” the call to kill unbelievers isn’t unique to Islam, it actually comes from the 1st and 2nd Commandment…

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Thou shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

And is also in Deuteronomy.

If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.

The fact is that after the Crusades, the Conquistadors, the purge of the Knights Templar and the subsequent Spanish Inquisition as well as the rampage of the terrorist group known as the KKK, the Bombing of the Atlanta Olympics, gay nightclubs, women’s clinics and violent assaults on Planned Parenthood, American Christians really don’t have perfect innocence when it comes to the issue of religiously inspired violence.

Still, things are different now.

We can see that difference in how Senator Chris Murphy staged a 15 hour filibuster over the background check loophole and an assault weapons ban which has been endorsed by both the President and Hillary Clinton.  Although I’m encouraged by this effort and also the fact that both Gretchen Carlson and Bill O’Reilly have come out in support of an assaults weapons ban I have some reservations that such a ban would make that much difference.

Carlson said this.

“Do we need AR-15s to hunt and kill deer? Do we need them to protect our families?” she asked on Tuesday. “Can’t we hold true the sanctity of the Second Amendment while still having common sense?”

On her Wednesday broadcast, the Fox News host admitted that she had “startled many and pleased tons of others by saying I believe the assault weapons in this county, the ban should be reinstated.”

“I said I was still in favor of the Second Amendment and even concealed carry,” she explained, adding that she expected comments calling for her “whiney ass” to be fired.

And O’Reilly said this.

There is too much gun crime in the USA, and high powered weaponry is too easy to get,” O’Reilly said. “That’s the fact. So let’s deal with it. We all have the right to bear arms, but we don’t have the right to buy and maintain mortars — even if you feel threatened by gangsters or a New World Order. No bazookas, no Sherman tanks, no hand grenades. That’s because the Second Amendment clearly states the government has a right to regulate militias, made up of individuals. They have that right in the name of public safety.”

Gun dealers all across America should be required to report the sale of certain kinds of guns — heavy weapons — directly to the FBI,” O’Reilly said. “Not handguns, not talking about that, but other weapons that would be defined by Congress. That is a sane approach, and would make it a lot tougher for the Omar Mateens of the world to get the weaponry to kill, although as ‘Talking Points’ has stated many, many times, no society will ever stop all gun crimes, especially in a country which has hundreds of millions of guns already in circulation.”

I’m skeptical on the effectiveness of an assault weapons ban because of the following deadliest mass shootings.

1) 49 killed – June 12, 2016 – Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, opens fire inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando, Florida. At least 49 people are killed and more than 50 are injured. Police shoot and kill Mateen during an operation to free hostages officials say he was holding at the club.

2) 32 killed – April 16, 2007 – Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. A gunman, 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho, goes on a shooting spree killing 32 people in two locations and wounds an undetermined number of others on campus. The shooter, Seung-Hui Cho then commits suicide.

3) 27 killed – December 14, 2012 –Sandy Hook Elementary School – Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza, 20, guns down 20 children, ages six and seven, and six adults, school staff and faculty, before turning the gun on himself. Investigating police later find Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, dead from a gunshot wound. The final count is 28 dead, including the shooter.
4) 23 killed – October 16, 1991 – In Killeen, Texas, 35-year-old George Hennard crashes his pickup truck through the wall of a Lubys Cafeteria. After exiting the truck, Hennard shoots and kills 23 people. He then commits suicide.
5) 21 killed – July 18, 1984 – In San Ysidro, California, 41-year-old James Huberty, armed with a long-barreled Uzi, a pump-action shotgun and a handgun shoots and kills 21 adults and children at a local McDonalds. A police sharpshooter kills Huberty one hour after the rampage begins.
6) 18 killed – August 1, 1966 – In Austin, Texas, Charles Joseph Whitman, a former U.S. Marine, kills 16 and wounds at least 30 while shooting from a University of Texas tower. Police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy shoot and kill Whitman in the tower. Whitman had also killed his mother and wife earlier in the day.
7) 14 killed – December 2, 2015 – Married couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik open fire on an employee gathering taking place at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, killing 14 people.
8) 14 killed – August 20, 1986 – Edmond, Oklahoma, part-time mail carrier, Patrick Henry Sherrill, armed with three handguns kills 14 postal workers in 10 minutes and then takes his own life with a bullet to the head.
9) 13 killed – November 5, 2009 – Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan kills 13 people and injures 32 at Fort Hood, Texas, during a shooting rampage. He is convicted and sentenced to death.
10) 13 killed – April 3, 2009 – In Binghamton, New York, Jiverly Wong kills 13 people and injures four during a shooting at an immigrant community center. He then kills himself.
11) 13 killed – April 20, 1999 – Columbine High School – Littleton, Colorado. 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold kill 12 fellow students and one teacher before committing suicide in the school library.
12) 13 killed – February 18, 1983 – Three men enter the Wah Mee gambling and social club in Seattle, rob the 14 occupants and then shoot each in the head, killing 13. Two of the men, Kwan Fai Mak and Benjamin Ng, are convicted of murder in August 1983. Both are serving life in prison. The third, Wai-Chiu “Tony” Ng, after years on the run in Canada, is eventually convicted of first-degree robbery and second-degree assault. He is deported to Hong Kong in 2014.
13) 13 killed – September 25, 1982 – In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 40-year-old George Banks, a prison guard, kills 13 people including five of his own children. In September 2011, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturns his death sentence stating that Banks is mentally incompetent.
14) 13 killed – September 5, 1949 – In Camden, New Jersey, 28-year-old Howard Unruh, a veteran of World War II, shoots and kills 13 people as he walks down Camden’s 32nd Street. His weapon of choice is a German-crafted Luger pistol. He is found insane and is committed to a state mental institution. He dies at the age of 88.
15) 12 killed – September 16, 2013 – Shots are fired inside the Washington Navy Yard killing 12. The shooter, identified as Aaron Alexis, 34, is also killed.
16) 12 killed – July 20, 2012 – Twelve people are killed and 58 are wounded in a shooting at a screening of the new Batman film. James E. Holmes, 24, is taken into custody outside of the movie theater. The gunman, dressed head-to-toe in protective tactical gear, set off two devices of some kind before spraying the theater with bullets from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one of two .40-caliber handguns police recovered at the scene.
17) 12 killed – July 29, 1999 – In Atlanta, 44-year-old Mark Barton kills his wife and two children at his home. He then opens fire in two different brokerage houses killing nine people and wounding 12. He later kills himself.
18) 10 killed – March 10, 2009 – In Alabama, Michael McLendon of Kinston, kills 10 and himself. The dead include his mother, grandparents, aunt and uncle.
19) 9 killed – October 1, 2015 – Gunman Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer shoots and kills nine people, injuring another nine, at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The shooter dies after a gun battle with police at the college. Six weapons were recovered at the school; another seven were recovered at Harper-Mercer’s home.
20) 9 killed – June 17, 2015 – Dylann Roof, 21, shoots and kills nine people inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, South Carolina. Eight die at the scene; a ninth dies at a hospital. Roof is arrested the following day; according to police, he confesses and tells investigators he wanted to start a race war.
21) 9 killed – March 21, 2005 – Red Lake High School, Red Lake, Minnesota. 16-year-old Jeff Weise kills his grandfather and another adult, five students, a teacher and a security officer. He then kills himself.
22) 9 killed – August 10, 1991 – Six monks, a nun, a monk in training and a temple worker are found shot to death at Wat Promkunaram, a Buddhist temple in Waddell, Arizona. Johnathan Doody, 17, and Alessandro Garcia, 16, are later convicted of the crime and receive multiple life sentences.
23) 9 killed – June 18, 1990 – In Jacksonville, Florida, 42-year-old James Pough, angry about his car being repossessed, opens fire at a General Motors Acceptance Corp. office, killing nine people. Pough takes his own life.
24) 8 killed – October 12, 2011 – Eight people are killed during a shooting at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, California. The suspect, Scott Evans Dekraai, 41, of Huntington Beach, is arrested without incident as he is trying to leave the scene. The eight dead include Dekraai’s ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, 48. He was armed with three guns — a 9 mm Springfield, a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, and a Heckler & Koch .45 — and was wearing body armor during the shooting rampage.
25) 8 killed – August 3, 2010 – Manchester, Connecticut – Omar Thornton kills eight co-workers at Hartford Distributors before turning the gun on himself. Thornton had been asked to resign for stealing and selling alcoholic beverages.

Besides the fact most of these events were not “Radical Islamic Terrorism” in all of these mass killings the only ones that were performed with assault rifles were Orlando, San Bernadino, Sandy Hook and Aurora Co., all the rest including Columbine, Ft. Hood, Charleston, San Ysidro, the Buddist Temple and Virginia Tech were done with handguns or in a couple of cases a shotgun was used or a hunting rifle, so as a result I’m not really confident that banning assault weapons is going to solve this problem.  It could help with the number of casualties in some cases, but it’s not nearly enough. Generally speaking handguns are used to kill much more frequently (79% according to the BJS, while another 11% use shotguns) rather than assault style weapons.

The second point is the issue of banning people from buying guns when they are on the terrorist watchlist or no-fly list.  That’s also problematic because it violates the 4th Amendment due process and probable cause requirements.  Just because a police agency or the FBI decides to investigate someone doesn’t mean that they are actually guilty of anything, yet.  [I contacted Senator Feinstein’s Office and she has introduced a redone version of a bill originally crafted by the Bush Administration which includes an appeal process for persons who are denied a gun due to their inclusion on the watchlist, I also contacted Senator Schumer as he is introducing, along with Sens. Booker and Murphy, the new background check bill].  Even when buying guns over the internet a background check is still performed by an authorized dealer upon picking up the weapon, but there is still the gun show loophole and issue of professional straw purchasers who cross state lines with weapons in order to avoid local gun laws.

There is however another option.

In California following the mass shooting in Santa Barbara the legislature passed aWeapons Restraining Order bill

This bill would authorize a court to issue a temporary emergency gun violence restraining order if a law enforcement officer asserts and a judicial officer finds that there is reasonable cause to believe that the subject of the petition poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself, or another by having in his or her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm and that the order is necessary to prevent personal injury to himself, herself, or another, as specified. The bill would require a law enforcement officer to serve the order on the restrained person, if the restrained person can reasonably be located, file a copy of the order with the court, and have the order entered into the computer database system for protective and restraining orders maintained by the Department of Justice. The bill would require the presiding judge of the superior court of each county to designate at least one judge, commissioner, or referee who is required to be reasonably available to issue temporary emergency gun violence restraining orders when the court is not in session.
This bill would additionally authorize a court to issue an ex parte gun violence restraining order prohibiting the subject of the petition from having in his or her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving, or attempting to purchase or receive, a firearm or ammunition when it is shown that there is a substantial likelihood that the subject of the petition poses a significant danger of harm to himself, herself, or another in the near future by having in his or her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm and that the order is necessary to prevent personal injury to himself, herself, or another, as specified. The bill would require the ex parte order to expire no later than 21 days after the date on the order and would require the court to hold a hearing within 21 days of issuing the ex parte gun violence restraining order to determine if a gun violence restraining order that is in effect for one year should be issued. The bill would require a law enforcement officer or a person at least 18 years of age who is not a party to the action to personally serve the restrained person the ex parte order, if the restrained person can reasonably be located.

Many of the persons in the previous list made threats, or had been kicked out or were under special supervision in school for having made threats — such as Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech, Jared Lee Loughner who shot Rep. Gabby Giffords and killed 6 others — yet law enforcement wasn’t notified by the school of their status and no legal actions were taken to contain or restrict them.

This bill could be nationalized and could be used to block access to weapons by person who issue all sorts of threats against their significant others, their own life, their family and co-workers regardless of what their specific motive might be.  Because it is an order issued by a judge it wouldn’t violate the 4th Amendment, and it could be issued against any individual if there is probable cause to believe they might be a danger whether the source of that danger is terrorism or not.

This wouldn’t just block someone from purchasing a firearm, any firearm including an assault weapon, it would block them from keeping and retaining any firearm they already have, so unlike either the assault weapons ban or the watchlist ban it would allow law enforcement to take and hold any current weapons the target might currently possess for the length of the court order.

This could even be issued in a manner similar to gang injunctions which have been used to restrict the movements and activities of known and documented gang members, so it doesn’t have to be just done in an individual case-by-case basis but it could be used against anyone who pledges allegiance to ISIS or is a member of a violent white supramacist group or a violent anti-abortion anti-gay organizations like the Army of God.

If we’re truly going to make a difference on gun violence, especially in the are ofsuicides which are the vast majority of gun killings, then perhaps we need to stop chasing the shiny objects and keep our eyes on the real ball.

We stand at a moment in time where things are different and that difference could potentially be lasting.  Let’s make it count.

Senator Schumer 322 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 Phone: (202) 224-6542 Fax:  (202) 228-3027

Senator Corey Booker 359 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Phone: (202) 224-3224 Fax: (202) 224-8378

Senator Feinstein 331 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510 Phone: (202) 224-3841 Fax: (202) 228-3954

Senator Chris Murphy 136 Hart Senate Office Bldg. Washington, DC 20510 P: (202) 224-4041 F: (202) 224-9750

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos