Another Mass Murder

It seems to me….

In general, those who resort to mass murder on a collective scale always put forward the justification that they acted on behalf of the nation.” ~ Taner Akçam[1].

Another mass shooting. This time, the attack on a nightclub in Orland in the early morning of 12 June 2016 has now become the worst such incident in U.S. history. It unfortunately is only the latest attack and, in all probability, will not long retain its claim to having been the worst on record. Now is the time to offer our condolences and sympathies to the relatives and friends of the victims but to then once again ask those questions which never seem to be answered.

When will such senseless violence end?
Where will it end?
How will it end?

Haven’t American citizens had enough? Isn’t it time for meaningful gun legislation? The National Rifle Association (NRA) and weapons industry’s argument that the best defense against such attacks is a well-armed citizenship is counterintuitive. Regardless of such suppositions, the facts are that the commonality of such attacks in the U.S. results directly from the ready availability of such weapons. It is well-past time when it should be apparent that such claims are of benefit only to weapon’s manufactures and their NRA public-relations spokespersons.

That many of the weapons used in these attacks were legally purchased only indicates how easily these weapons can be obtained. Though a life-long gun owner, I strongly believe a distinction must be made between weapons used for sport and those whose primary purpose is to kill people. No one needs an automatic or semiautomatic weapon for hunting. No one needs that type of weapon for self-defense. Their primary purpose is to kill other humans and it is time for their availability to be restricted. Weapons developed for battlefield combat haven’t any justification for private non-military ownership.

It normally is only a large number of shooting victims that is considered newsworthy. Four or more casualties is a far broader measure than “mass shootings,” which are commonly defined as the killing of at least four people, not including the attacker[2]. As horrific as the number of victims in this latest attack might be, it pales in comparison to the almost daily occurrence of mass shootings – the vast majority of which do not involve assault-type weapons. It is not in the nightclubs, churches, schools, or movie theaters where most mass shootings occur, it is in the neighborhoods where the majority of people live ordinary lives.

There were at least 358 armed encounters nationwide last year – nearly one a day, on average – in which four or more people were killed or wounded, including attackers. The toll: 462 dead and 1,330 injured, sometimes for life, typically in bursts of gunfire lasting but seconds. Nearly 11,000 deaths and roughly 60,000 more wounded are attributable to firearms each year.

It is somewhat amazing just how easily lives are shattered when a firearm is readily available – in a waistband, a glove compartment, a mailbox, or garbage can that serves as a gang’s gun locker. News accounts document the mayhem spawned by the most banal of offenses: a push in a bar, a Facebook taunt, the wrong choice of music at a house party. They tally scores of unfortunates in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The racial aspect of such weapons-related violence also is obvious to all who care to look. F.B.I. statistics show that African-Americans, who constitute about 13 percent of the population, make up about half of both gun homicide victims and their known or suspected attackers. Most shootings occur in economically downtrodden neighborhoods. These shootings, by and large, are not a middle-class phenomenon. The fewest occurred while another felony, such as a burglary, was underway. Domestic violence shootings were nearly as infrequent but were among the deadliest. Researchers say the single strongest predictor of gun homicide rates is the proportion of an area’s population that is African-American but they also say race is merely a proxy for poverty, joblessness, and other socio-economic disadvantages that help breed violence.

Protests are common when a white police officer shoots an unarmed black man but when the violence is black on black, it typically is accepted as the way of life. Many of these cases are never solved as they involve killings involving gangs, drugs, and witnesses with criminal backgrounds who are wary of talking to the police. A life unnecessarily lost affects family, loved ones, and friends similarly regardless of race.

The high U.S. gun ownership rate resulted from gun manufacturer’s successful publicity campaigns intended to increase weapon sales. Guns were only considered basic tools necessary for farming and hunting until the early 1800s but when sales began to decline, manufacturers desired to increase sales to those who did not need them. They financed the NRA and other similar organizations for that purpose and have been very successful – at least in the U.S.

Contrary to gun-advocate beliefs, the unrestricted right to own any type of weapon is not Constitutionally guaranteed. It wasn’t until June 2008 that the Supreme Court broke with 200 years of precedent and in a 5-to-4 decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia created an individual right to gun ownership that has made common-sense regulation of guns considerably more difficult. In his powerful dissent in that case (District of Columbia v. Heller), Justice John Paul Stevens pointed out that Scalia’s opinion was an act of extreme judicial activism. For two centuries, federal courts had recognized that the government had the power to regulate the sale of firearms and that the Supreme Court, in particular, had for at least seven decades consistently affirmed that interpretation. Given the increasing frequency of occurrence of these incidents, it is time for that decision to be reviewed.

It also is long past time to re-enact meaningful gun control legislation. Bring back the Brady Bill. Ban assault-type weapons. Close the gun-show loophole. Restrict weapon sales to individuals on federal watch or No Fly lists. 85 percent of the public – including large majorities of both Republicans (79 percent) and Democrats (88 percent) – are in favor of making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks[3]. There also is substantial bipartisan support for laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns. 85 percent of Democrats (but just 55 percent of Republicans) support a federal database to track gun sales. And while 70 percent of Democrats favor a ban on assault-style weapons, only about half of Republicans (48 percent) do so.

If it once again proves impossible to enact meaningful gun control, perhaps it should be considered a competitive sport by moving the daily account of such shootings from the news section of our current events pages to the sports section showing the daily scores tallying the total “kills” from the previous day. What will it take to end this senseless violence?

That’s what I think, what about you?

[1] Altuğ Taner Akçam is a Turkish-German historian and sociologist.

[2] LaFrantere, Sharon, Daniela Porat, and Agustin Armendariz.   Untold Damage: America’s Overlooked Gun Violence, The New York Times, http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/untold-damage-americas-overlooked-gun-violence/ar-BBtl7qC?li=BBnbcA1&ocid=edgsp, 22 May 2016.

[3] Fingerhut, Hannah. 5 Facts About Guns In The United States, Pew Research Center, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/05/5-facts-about-guns-in-the-united-states/?utm_source=Pew+Research+Center&utm_campaign=e2124accef-Weekly_Jan_7_20161_7_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3e953b9b70-e2124accef-400092341, 5 January 2016.

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About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in African-American, African-American, American Rifle Association, Assault, Assault-type, Automatic, Brady, Brady Bill, combat, FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Firearm, Florida, Gun, Homicides, Homicides, John Paul Stevens, Justice Antonin Scalia, Loophole, Mass Shooting, National Rifle Association, NRA, Poverty, Race, Semi-automatic, shootings, Show, Supreme Court, Violence, Weapon and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Another Mass Murder

  1. Yes, you are right. The war is an internal one which seems to go on forever. Gunmen versus everyone within shooting range. It is not freedom.

    • lewbornmann says:

      Without effective gun control none of us can feel secure. Gun advocates always demand THEIR freedom to own weapons but where is our freedom to feel safe from fear. Politicians express their condolences to victims but then refuse to approve any meaningful gun legislation — condolences have never saved anyone’s life. Isn’t it time for this lunacy to end?

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