Archive for August, 2009

The Sad List Continues

Posted in The Gun Problem on August 8, 2009 by lylede

High schools. College campuses. Office buildings. Churches. Post Offices. Factories. Civic Associations. Printing plants. Law offices. Fast food restaurants. Refinery inspection stations. Firehouses. Hotels. Car washes. Internet consulting companies. Real estate firms.

Not only does the sad list of places where people have opened fire with guns continue to grow monthly, it is equally pathetic how long these shootings have been taking place in America.

One of the earliest 20th century mass, public shootings occurred in 1949. A deranged war veteran named Howard Unruh, armed with a Luger pistol, shot and killed 13 people in about 13 minutes on the streets of Camden, New Jersey.

A more infamous shooting occurred on August 1, 1966 when a student at the University of Texas, Austin, named Charles Whitman perched himself atop a 27-story tower and opened fire with a high-powered rifle. He killed 14 people and wounded 31 others before police officers shot and killed him.

The article Rise in mass shootings linked to societal changes (The Salt Lake City Desert News/LA Times, 4-22-07) points out how the Whitman shooting marked a turning point and such massacres started to increase after that deadly day in Texas. Now there are “about 20 mass shootings that occur each year in the United States (a subset of the two dozen or so mass murders). A mass murder is defined as an event in which four or more people are killed in the same episode.”

Twenty mass shootings each year is a horrifying, pathetic statistic. It’s close to two mass shootings every month. The article cites five main factors responsible for the increase of these violent acts. The shooters have shown a “diminished ability to cope with life’s disappointments.” They’ve also complained that other people never gave them a fair chance and the shooters didn’t have any emotional support from friends or family members.

Another major factor the article points out is that since 1966 weapons have become more powerful and that “today, semiautomatics are all too easily accessible.”

That was sadly demonstrated back on July 18, 1984. On that terrifying day James Huberty walked into a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California ready to go to war. He brought a long-barreled Uzi, a pump-action shotgun and a handgun. After 77 minutes of carnage 21 people, including grandmothers, children, teenage restaurant employees and an infant, lay dead. A police sniper finally picked off Huberty with a shot through his heart (see Slaughter at McDonald’s changed how police operate – cnn.com, 7-24-09)

So what have we learned in the 25 years since this horrible act of extreme violence? Obviously not much. Congress did act semi-wisely once (and amazingly not for the benefit of their campaign contributors in the NRA) and banned assault rifles in 1994. Unfortunately though it was a pathetically weak law and only lasted for ten years. In a stroke of Rovian double-speak President George W. Bush said he would extend the law if it came across his desk – while being fully aware, oops I mean being told by Karl Rove, that the then GOP-led Congress would never send it to him. Unfortunately this ban is no longer in effect.

And speaking of the NRA and campaign contributions, I want a legislator to show me where in the Constitution it says that special interest groups can buy legislation, or prevent laws from being passed. In an attempted show of muscle during the recent confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor the NRA, which saw the now-confirmed Judge as “hostile” to gun ownership, threatened to knock down its favorable ratings of politicians who voted for Sotomayor (see NRA threatens Sotomayor backers – The Associated Press/NorthJersey News, 8-2-09).

And regarding the Constitution, please don’t give me the lame Second Amendment / right to bear arms argument. For more on that see: “The right to bear arms” While Arming Mexican Drug Cartels (scroll down past the newer posts until you get to this one.)

As for more recent shootings in public places, on June 10 an evil man full of hatred walked into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC intent on slaughter. James von Brunn fatally shot security guard Stephen T. Johns and was looking to kill more people before other guards shot him. Mr. Johns was only 39 and nicknamed “Big John” for his tall height. According to Grief, Shock After a ‘Gentle Giant’ Loses His Life in the Line of Duty – The Washington Post, 6-11-09, “friends recalled the security guard’s constant courtesy and friendliness.” A museum statement said he was “an outstanding colleague who greeted us every day with a smile.” Mr. Johns left behind a wife and young son.

Unfortunately we can now add another public place to the list of these heinous shootings: fitness center. Two months after Mr. Johns’ tragic death, on August 4, loser George Sodini walked into an aerobics class in a gym outside of Pittsburgh, switched off the lights and opened fire. He had four guns with him. He pulled two out of his duffle bag and fired 35 times. Sodini killed three women and wounded nine others before shooting and killing himself. One of the wounded women, 26-year old Mary Primis, was 10-weeks pregnant. She was shot twice but doctors said her unborn baby was not harmed.

Shootings like the several pointed out in this post don’t happen in other countries simply because it’s so much harder to buy guns elsewhere. And please don’t tell me all of those people all over the world are living in police states as a result of strict civilian gun ownership laws because it’s simply not true. We have a lot of problems in this country. And the fact that there are so many guns out there is definitely near the top of the list.

Additional reading:

For frightening compilations/summaries of school, places of worship, workplace and other shootings click on Emergency & Disaster Management, Inc.