Friday, February 16, 2018

El Paso and Dayton: My thoughts on mass shootings updated

The horrors of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton have been so difficult to watch on TV that I felt a need to re-examine my views on gun legislation. What can be done to stop future carnage? No single approach will work because there is no single cause motivating shooters. It will take a multi-pronged approach. What techniques employed in recent mass killings involved the use of weapons of war; that is what those shooters had in common, so I will focus on that one commonality, knowing that was the most obvious factor: easy civilian access to weapons of war provided the enabling hardware.

Do I need to re-examine my prior thoughts on the issue of sensible gun legislation? I have gone back to my February 2018 posting inspired by Parkland and updated my thoughts in bold italics. I have not addressed Donald Trump's role in inspiring the El Paso shooter or the commercials running those paint immigrants as an invasion, invoking racial tropes, because in these two incidents over the weekend the motivations of the shooters appear to be quite different.

What was very striking was that in the two incidents, shooters used weapons of war and had the ability to kill so many so quickly. Weapons of war are what put "Mass" in the death toll and tagged the designation of the two events as"mass shooting". In his initial response to the weekend carnage, President Trump ignored the obvious. In condemning white nationalism, the left has not ignored the obvious. Weapons of war are the tools of both the emotionally disturbed and terrorists of any ideological stripe.

For sure, we cannot end racism, the core culture of white nationalists, but we can dim the voice of the inspirers and enablers with political pressure and elections. Cracking down on "domestic terrorism" does give the FBI more human and legal resources and tools to prevent ideologically motivated wannabe mass killers. Every bit of that will help. The problem is more widespread than just domestic terrorism, but every bit of harnassing FBI attention to domestic terrorism may be a positive outcome of the El Paso tragedy.
To reexamine my views on sensible gun legislation, I added comments to a blog posting published on 2/16/18 in which I reported on a dialogue I had with a gun rights advocate. The original posting is in regular type and my updates this August 2019 are in italics, bold. I tackle the NRA's slogan answer to mass shootings that guns do not kill people, people kill people. the second amendment, and putting guns in the hands of good guys to stop bad guys.

The addition and changes to the 2018 facebook and blog posting debate between a gun rights advocate and me:
"...any answer I give will change no minds of those who believe otherwise, but I could not help myself but engage. The Parkland, Fla massacre was my inspiration. Perhaps it might help if you are at a loss for words, but here it is, reproduced from Facebook.(Clarification added later in parentheses)

Gun rights advocate: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” That similar phrase often used by the NRA was invoked by Pres. Trump in response to the El Paso and Dayton mass killings when he tried to put the blame on mental health and divert attention to other methods of mass killings. The use of fertilizer to bring down the Oklahoma City federal building in that domestic terrorist attack and pressure cookers in the Boston Marathon attack are valid examples, but both were later curtailed by requiring or encouraging or crime solving when sales of those items got the attention of law enforcement. Sensible gun regulation legislation on the federal level has not resulted in any action and in many states. A federal approach is needed to deal with states that have taken no action and to eliminate the alternative of going to a permissive state if a person's home state has taken action.

Me:..semi automatics kill people more, better, is the weapon of such peoples' choice because it is a machine geared for killing lots of people at once. I am tired of the slogan " guns don't kill people;people kill people". It is an ignorant and deceptive one. Yes people kill people and they use a weapon that should not be in their hands...or any other civilian's.

Gun rights advocate:Guns don't work unless someone is holding it, aiming at people, and pulling the trigger with intent to kill.

Me: And it enables them to kill without much skill and without much reloading quickly. (or much aiming, either) Get real. If you do not intend to kill a bunch of people...why have them?  To show your weapon is bigger than someone else's?  To help the gun manufacturer's make more money?  To keep gun control from going down a slippery slope?(semi automatics are unique and easy to define and control; we did it already a couple of years ago)

Gun rights advocate: There are other methods to kill a bunch of people. Guns are not the problem.

Me:They are the ones that appear in nearly every mass killing since the assault rifle ban was lifted. The numbers of mass killings have accelerated at a huge pace since then.AR-15 style rifles were used during mass shootings in California, Connecticut, Florida, Oregon, Texas and Colorado and Las Vegas. And now add many more...including El Paso and Dayton. I have lost count.
The Dayton shooting produced some astonishing statistics: Law enforcement brought down the shooter in 39 seconds, yet using an assault rifle, nine people were killed and over 40 shell casings were found. He had the capacity for many more rounds and we can imagine the death toll if he made it into the bar itself. We will never ever see a law enforcement response any faster than the one in Dayton because enforcement was already in the immediate vicinity. The problem is a hardware problem and whether white nationalists inspired by the internet and a pandering president or inspired by something else, including mental health issues, suicide by cop, soul-eating hatred of a sibling or a lover, or loss of job or life's disappointments, the weapon provides the mass destruction without the skill of aiming.

To protect the 2nd amendment? Even a Supreme Court justice..a conservative..believes you do not have an unlimited right. From the Heller decision, Justice Antonin Scalia:: “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

The late justice also more generally offered the belief that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

..Your last picture of a warning on a school that those inside are armed to deter wannabe shooters is a strategy rejected both by school administrators and law enforcement because it would catch innocents in the crossfire and would make it impossible for the first responding to know who the bad guy was if everyone was carrying a weapon. Friendly fire is not friendly. It is as deadly as a bullet from the bad guy.

Gun rights advocate: Ok so let's just let the guy keep shooting until he runs out of ammo. Great idea.

Texas is an open-carry state and friendly to concealed weapons. During the event in El Paso, there was a fear that those civilians who carried weapons might be mistaken for the shooter himself...but small arms turned out to be no well as no deterrent... and the shooter lived to tell his story.

Another commenter:  When President Reagan was nearly assassinated, he was surrounded by professional sharpshooters. They couldn't stop the assassin. You think you can?

Me, later: (Better idea, gun rights advocate: Stop sales of assault rifles, semi-automatics and their large clips of ammo.) No change in my thoughts about this as the result of El Paso and Dayton. Mental health services might help, but in the wake of the Aurora Colorado theatre shooting, the shooter had been under the care of a psychiatrist who did flag him, but restrictions kept anyone from acting. My psychologist friends (I am a supporter of mental health system improvements and access to counseling through a faith-based organization) tell me even then they have only a 50-50 chance of predicting which of their patients will carry out mass shootings or kill someone. Mental health is a factor, but in courts of law, the insanity plea is rarely successful. Should we improve our mental health services? Yes. Every little bit will help, but it is not a panacea or even a major deterrent. Without red flag laws permitting reporting of people may be a threat and without universal background checks, improved mental health access still hamstrings the ability for mental health professionals to prevent mass killings.

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