Insanity Extends Beyond the Shooters

by Walter Brasch

During this past week, in Scranton, Pa., a 16-year old put two bullets into the head of a taxi driver and then stole about $500 earned by the cabbie that evening.

The teen, who showed no remorse when arrested a few hours later, mumbled a few words about his reasons. He said he murdered the cabbie “‘Cause that’s what I do to people that don’t listen.” The teen thought the cabbie was taking too long to get him to his destination. The driver was a 47-year-old man with a wife and two children. The gun was an unlicensed 9-mm.

A few days later, in Payson, Ariz., a three-year-old boy found a loaded semi-automatic gun in the apartment of family friend, began playing with it, and accidentally killed his 18-month-old brother. Police recovered several other weapons from the apartment.

In Homestead, Fla., a 28-year-old man, who admitted he was drinking and using cocaine, was showing off an AK-47 at a picnic. His six-year-old nephew picked up the gun when no one was watching, played with it, and accidentally killed his own grandfather.

In Isla Vista, Calif., a 22-year-old man with a history of mental problems, stabbed his three roommates, and then drove near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. In about 10 minutes, he murdered three more students and wounded 13 more before committing suicide.  Police say the killer had three 9 mm. weapons and about 400 rounds of ammunition, all of it purchased legally.

The father of one of those killed, to a standing cheering crowd of 20,000 at a memorial service, called for an end of gun violence. “How many more people are going to have to die in this situation before the problem gets solved?” he demanded.  He accused politicians of having “done nothing” to stop the mass murders. He had previously told journalist Anderson Cooper that politicians had called him to express their sympathies.  But the father said he told the politicians, “Don’t tell me you’re sorry about my son’s death until you do something.” At the football stadium, the father, who had carefully prepared his speech, declared his son’s murder, and those of five other students, and those of thousands a year who were killed by gunfire, “died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.” The grieving father said, “Too many people have died, and there should be not one more.” The crowd picked up on his words, and began chanting, “Not one more!”

More than 2,300 miles to the East, Samuel Wurzelbacher, forever known as “Joe the Plumber” after he became the darling of the extreme right wing during the 2008 presidential campaign, again crawled out of a hole to defend what he believed was his God-given right to defend gun rights. In an open letter, he pretended to be sympathetic to the families of those murdered, but declared, “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.” With mangled grammar, he then told a grieving nation, “The proliferation of guns, lobbyists, politicians, etc.; will be exploited by gun-grab extremists as are all tragedies involving gun violence and the mentally ill by the anti-Second Amendment Left.”

After the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, that left 26 dead, including 20 children between the ages of six and eight, America seemed determined to finally act against irresponsible purchase and ownership of guns. But, politicians with spines of Jello went into the fetal position before the financially-lucrative NRA support, and refused to improve laws about background checks for gun sales, whether from a dealer, at a gun show, from companies that advertise in any of several dozen gun magazines, or on the Internet; they refused to ban assault weapons; and they refused to restrict the size of gun magazines.

A CBS poll revealed about 85 percent of all Americans, including gun owners, support federal legislation to require thorough background checks on all persons planning to buy a gun. Apparently, the NRA leadership, far more reactionary than most of its members, believes hunters and those protecting their houses from burglars or the “jack-booted thugs” the NRA leadership once called federal law enforcement agents, need military-style assault weapons with a 100-round magazines.

Just as politicians crave NRA money, the NRA knows it has millions of dollars of funding from gun manufacturers. Last year, American gun manufacturers earned about $12.6 billion from the sale of more than 5.5 million firearms, about half of them handguns. About 60 percent of the sales went to civilians, according to the Department of Justice. Another three million guns were imported. There are more than 310 million firearms in civilian possession, according to the FBI. The United States has one of the highest rates for gun violence in the world.

Joe the Plumber and NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre, significant blemishes upon the Constitution and the principles of the Judeo-Christian philosophy, will continue to get media exposure. Their names will continue to be known. Their paranoid rants will continue to draw praise from hundreds of thousands who don’t know much about the Constitution, and believe President Obama-whom they know to be a Kenyan socialist Muslim-is secretly plotting to seize every one of their guns and turn the United States into a dictatorship.

Within a few weeks, as other murders are committed, we will forget the names of those killed this past week.  Their names will no longer be important; how they were killed will no longer matter. But before we develop mass amnesia, and begin to believe that murder is just a part of the American culture, let’s take a few moments to remember. In Scranton, the 47-year-old cabbie, a mechanic who had slightly more than a month earlier changed jobs, is Vincent Darbenzio. The grandfather in Florida is Juan Manuel Martinez Sr. In Isla Vista, the students killed were George Chen, 19 years old; Cheng Hong, 20; Katerine Cooper, 22; Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20; Weihan Wang, 20; and Veronika Weiss, 19. (Chris’s father, Richard, is the one who publicly called out politicians and the NRA.)

During the week they and the 18-month-old in Arizona died, there were about 200 more deaths from firearms, according to the FBI. Few of those deaths made anything more than a two-column newspaper headline, the story usually confined just to local news. During this year, more than 32,000 will be killed by firearms; about 2,000 will be children.

The NRA leadership and the few extremists it protects mouth the mantra of the gun culture-“guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” They screech the paranoid fear that all guns will be registered and then confiscated. These juveniles trapped in the bodies of adults ignorantly bleat that if they or their children had been armed, the only one killed would be the person who committed the mass shootings. What they don’t acknowledge is that even the better-trained, better-armed police were unable to kill the shooter. They say there needs to be better laws against those with mental illnesses having guns. That part is true.

But also true is that the lack of sane gun laws, which protect all people-including gun owners-is because the insanity is not just those who commit murder, but many who wrap themselves in the Second Amendment, ignorantly proclaiming, with no legal knowledge, they have a right to keep whatever arms and ammunition they want, and any gun law violates whatever they think is their ego-inflated divine inspiration.

[Dr. Brasch is author of 20 books; the latest ones are Fracking Pennsylvania and Collateral Damage in the Marcellus Shale. He is also a semi-active trap shooter.]


Pawlowski Announces For Third Term

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski announced his campaign yesterday for a third term but refused to talk about  a possible bid for Governor in 2014.  Instead the press inquiries were met with the standard “I’m concentrating on this race.”  He didn’t answer my question whether or not he’d serve a full term as Mayor if re-elected amidst many rumors he wants to run against Gov. gasbag next year.  I interviewed him following his speech and asked what Billy Joel might say about his city if he visited it now.  Allentown is building a civic center and the Mayor mused that perhaps the entertainer would come to Allentown.

We also spoke about the scourge of drug violence and guns.

If We Treated Gun Rights Like Abortion Rights…

What would this country be like if we treated gun rights the same way we treat abortion rights?  Women’s right to abortion is no less than than the rights to guns so what if we begin enacting laws restricting guns the way we’re enacting laws restricting abortion rights?  Maybe we should consider these laws:

People are limited to buying guns only between certain hours of the day, say between 7 AM and 3 PM

Ammunition costs $100/bullet and are sold only 10 at a time

Only two gun stores are allowed per state

Guns would be taxed at a rate of $500 apiece

Buyers must use cash for all gun and ammunition purchases

Any other ideas?

Killing Cops & Kids

I’ve written repeatedly about the danger gun ownership brings to our children and law enforcement people.  How many more cops and kids have to die so others can own their guns?  First we witnessed the massacre of twelve people in Binghamton and dozens more wounded.  Then a man in Pittsburgh turned a fight with his mother into the execution of three police officers.  Then another deranged person killed his five children because his wife was leaving him.

Why do gun rights trump the rights of these people to live?  Why do I have to keep asking this question?

The Pittsburgh man apparently believed the NRA fueled rumor that Barack Obama is going to take everyone’s guns.  I think the gun industry created this one to increase sales because it sure has accomplished that goal.  I’m sure the families and loved ones of those cops appreciate the unusual sales practice.

Right wing radio, blogs and newspapers have been going absolutely crazy with conspiracy theories and this man swallowed them whole.  Richard Mellon Scaife’s Pittsburgh Tribune fueled his fantasies by writing an article claiming this recently.  There are serious consequences to such irresponsible journalism.  

I listened to a few gun maniacs on Sirius claiming the solution is to arm everyone.  Of course this warped logic flies in the face of the reality that societies which do not allow gun ownership are the safest in the world.  Instead we live in a modern day version of the old west where we have gunfights in our streets and no one is safe from stray bullets.

Responsible hunters who own long guns (not assault rifles) and enjoy going out in nature aren’t the problem.  The problems are these fanatics who think their right to own guns and shoot anyone they want trumps your rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Every person who perpetuates conspiracy theories has a responsibility for these deaths.  I hope they weigh heavily on their consciences, especially Scaife’s, but I doubt they will.