Photo courtesy of The Atlantic
Saving our Kids from Well-Armed American Boogeymen
This is a letter written by John- age 6, to his best friend Jack- also age 6:
You are my best friend.
We had fun together.
I will miss you.
I will talk to you in my prayers.
I love you Jack.
Jack was among the 20 slain children, at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14th, 2012.
John is his best friend who made it out of Sandy Hook alive.
One year ago today- Jack was killed by a very real American boogeyman; (another) madman with a gun.
Many of us tried to comprehend the Newtown families’ suffering, and many of us tried to put ourselves in their unbearable shoes. Many of us allowed ourselves to feel their loss; to imagine in our own lives- our own 6 and 7-year-old sons’ and daughters’ brilliant light being violently snuffed out by the dark, their growing arms that would never be able to hug us again, the Spring or Christmas program this year, for which there will be 20 missing voices and 20 empty spaces. 20 children and the 6 adults who tried to protect them, suffered violent and unspeakable deaths, at the hands of a well-armed, mentally ill, angry and hatred-filled gunman who was able to own and have access to assault firearms, legally.
If we knew this could happen in our community, we would do ANYTHING and would take whatever measures we could to protect the lives of the innocent from a boogeyman with a machine gun, wouldn’t we? If we knew this event would happen, we would do whatever it took in policy, in prevention, in law enforcement, in conscience to stop a madman from legally buying and owning a gun, right?
Even after the murders of all these children, and all the others since, including yet another tragedy in Colorado just yesterday, Dec. 13th-2013 in which another mad-not-yet-a-man armed with a shotgun, entered his high school to kill his debate teacher. He did not make it to his intended target, but shot two other children, then took his own life. MANY other children murdered since Sandy Hook by the hand of individuals (even their parents ) who should have never been able to legally own a firearm.
The stories of these children are unheard by policy makers. Their stories fall upon deaf ears, as the anti-government and fear-mongering noise generated by the NRA is drowning them out.
Americans would say (perhaps only by our own standard) that America is the most civilized country in the world. “These things happen in other parts of the world.” we tell ourselves. But it’s happening….right here.
In gaining evidenced-based perspective, according to the CDC, Greg Miller, Addicting Info writes:” There are more children under the age of 12 murdered by their own parents with a gun in the United States than all the murders across the entire continent of Australia(30). The U.S. has more gun deaths in children under the age of 12 than the total number of murders in England (41), Finland (24), France (35), Ireland (21), Israel (6), Japan (11), Jordan(26), South Korea, (14) and Lebanon (31) combined.”
Even after the pleading of the families from Sandy Hook, victims of mass shootings in Chicago, other victims’ families and the entire country for change, most policy makers refuse to acknowledge the victims of these mass murderers, and side with a madman’s right to own and to have owned a semi-automatic firearm of mass murder, and the accompanying 100-round magazine ammunition instead, choosing the NRA’s money over the victims’ rights to have lived.
Why aren’t ANY of our nation’s policymakers able to do ANYTHING meaningful at the present time to stop this from ever happening again?
The gridlock of those who stand in the way and voted against Manchin-Toomey appear to be MORE frightened of losing the NRA’s money to fund their campaigns than they are of losing more innocent lives; having sided with a madman’s right to buy automatic weapons and the accompanying 100 r0und magazine ammunition; choosing the NRA’s money over victims’ right to have lived.
ABC News reports: “The CDC conducted gun violence research in the 1980s and 1990s, but it abruptly ended in 1996 when the National Rifle Association lobbied Congress to cut the CDC’s budget the exact amount it had allocated to gun violence research.”
“President Obama may have ended the 17-year ban on gun violence research at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but even if Congress restores research funds, experts say the damage runs deeper than funding cuts.” Greg Miller, Addicting Info- Dec. 13th, 2013
Gun violence tragedy is the price paid for turning the other cheek, for unlimited and unchecked third world solution-2nd Amendment rights. Essentially, the NRA and the politicians they fund, have removed most of the stop signs in our arms policies for their own financial gain.
Our streets need stop signs. Our firearms policies need them too.
There are MORE traffic laws than arm’s regulations.
These ever-growing tragedies are not signposts of a civilized society. A civilized society is not overrun by third-world barbarianism and anarchy-like weapons policy.
A civilized society is not a perpetual militia state. It would be one thing if our “militias” and all our semi-automatic weapons protected us from “the bad guys” but they don’t.
Feb. 4th 2013-Washington, DC—“Guns are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes” according to the new Violence Policy Center (VPC) report Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use.
The report analyzes national data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).”
VPC Executive Director and study co-author Josh Sugarmann states, “The idea that ordinary citizens need access to extraordinary firepower to adequately defend themselves against criminals has become the default argument against a federal assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines. This new data exposes the fallacy of such arguments and clearly demonstrates that the frequency with which guns are used in self-defense in the real world has nothing in common with pro-gun assertions that firearms are used millions of times each year to kill criminals or stop crimes. In fact, a gun is far more likely to be stolen than used in self-defense.”
Key findings of the 19-page study include the following:
Firearm Justifiable Homicides by Private Citizens Occur Rarely
In 2010, across the nation there were only 230 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the FBI. That same year, there were 8,275 criminal gun homicides. Using these numbers, in 2010, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 36 criminal homicides. This ratio does not take into account the thousands of lives ended in gun suicides (19,392) or unintentional shootings (606) that year.” Violency Policy Center
There’s nothing civilized about legally enabled mass murder and it is up to the best of this country to restore and replace barbaric acts of violence (and equally barbaric and mostly irrelevant explanations of it: Sen. Marco Rubio’s oxy-moronic statement on April 21st, 2013-Meet the Press: “We don’t have a gun problem, we have a violence problem (in America)”.
We MUST resolve these differences. We must hold our policymakers’ feet to the fire and hold them accountable for making obtuse and smoke-screen statements such as these. We owe it to our growing children to set our differences aside and choose them, over everything else; Even our love for guns.
We must rescue Resolve, as if it were a living breathing person; so that it can rescue them and at the very least, decrease the number of letters like the letter written by 6-year old John, who survived the bloody fury of an American boogeyman, to another 6-year old, Jack- who did not.
In April of this year- 2013, Manchin/Toomey was voted down by senators from both parties. They looked the Newtown families as well as the other families that have lost innocent children to American boogeymen with guns and U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot point-blank in the head by a madman with a gun, in the eye, and ignored their undeserved and unimaginable losses and pain, as they cast their “No” votes against Manchin/Toomey Universal Background checks that would lay the groundwork to protect others like them in the future.
Here, in her own words as an Op-Ed for The New York Times- A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip- By Gabrielle Giffords:
A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip- By Gabrielle Giffords
“SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.
On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.
Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.
I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.
People have told me that I’m courageous, but I have seen greater courage. Gabe Zimmerman, my friend and staff member in whose honor we dedicated a room in the United States Capitol this week, saw me shot in the head and saw the shooter turn his gunfire on others. Gabe ran toward me as I lay bleeding. Toward gunfire. And then the gunman shot him, and then Gabe died. His body lay on the pavement in front of the Safeway for hours.
I have thought a lot about why Gabe ran toward me when he could have run away. Service was part of his life, but it was also his job. The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.
They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.
They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.
This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.
Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.”
Gabrielle Giffords, a Democratic representative from Arizona from 2007 to 2012, is a founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, which focuses on gun violence.
Opponents of any new gun legislation said that Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is an unreliable source to defer to, as she’s too “emotional” and too subjective.
ANYONE who has been ever been shot point-blank in the head or who has lost an innocent loved one in an act of gun violence perpetrated by a madman who IS NOT emotional about this issue, please come forward. Please enlighten the rest of us on how NOT TO be emotional and angry that a group of obstructionists care MORE about their campaigns and unlimited 2nd Amendment rights (make note: the 2nd Amendment contains the “well-regulated militia” clause) than they do about the innocent lives of Americans gunned down by American boogeymen (past and future-this will happen again when no one does ANYTHING to stop it.)
Many say that Manchin/Toomey would not have done that much.
So we do nothing? Why is doing nothing better than doing something? This bill WOULD HAVE SAVED ONE LIFE. It would have at least stopped ONE MADMAN from being able to LEGALLY buy 100 round clip-firing automatic weapons of mass murder.
Madmen, gunmen, boogeymen with guns are ugly words used often in this article but such is this new reality- the new normal that we find ourselves in.
Harsh and repetitive language MUST be used.
I, speaking in first person and stepping outside my writer box, am of the mindset that unless you have solutions, you may not waste others’ time complaining about a problem.
So I offer the beginnings of a baby step solution.
Bridging the Communication Gap- A Baby-Step Narrative and Solution as an Alternative to Universal Background Checks
As a society, we CAN do more to stop mass murderers. YOU can report dangerous individuals to police, but often times do not. Doctors and psychiatrists CAN report homicidal ideation to authorities, but often times do not. Even when psychiatrists report such ideation, it doesn’t mean anything meaningful is done to investigate- James Holmes’ psychiatrist, of Aurora Co, reported him to campus police and they did not report him law enforcement, approximately a month prior to the Aurora Colorado Movie theater mass shooting. This is a communication gap that needs to be addressed and resolved through the Federal courts.
It is widely known that sharing a psychiatric diagnosis is in breach of HIPAA laws. I propose a system through the federal government (meaning that unlike the ACA, EVERY STATE has to comply) that would NOT breach confidentiality and would protect those who report a dangerous individual.
This system would develop an “Investigative Firearms Flag”
An Investigative Firearms Flag (an I.F.F.) would work within HIPAA confidentiality interests while alerting authorities of dangerous people.
No diagnosis would have to be provided upon a report from medical/psychiatric staff, accompanying an Investigative Firearms Flag; The flag itself would serve as a mechanism for further investigation should an individual who has been flagged apply for a gun permit or wishes to buy a gun AND particular types of ammunition (100 round magazines, for instance). The rudimentary idea of this flagging system would be that citizens of good faith, and those working in the medical, psychiatric, or law enforcement fields could anonymously report homicidal ideation of patients/law breakers with a history of violence and mental illness including violence, to local law enforcement, privately and in a protected manner. State by state, a contained and efficient, independent program working inside the department of Homeland security would be set in place for this purpose, independent of existing programs.
If a said individual’s name has been flagged within this system, it will only “ping” when he or she attempts to buy firearms, 30+ round magazines. The dealer/retail employee is NOT permitted to sell firearms or ammo until an investigation has taken place.
There would be a local to state, state to federal database, organized through a new branch of the Homeland Security congruently with the FBI. To buy firearms and ammo, ID must be shown, verified and registered. In ALL purchases, online, everywhere.
A flag would NOT be accompanied by a diagnosis (which again would be in violation of HIPAA) but could be accompanied by charges-past and current, especially restraining orders. A flag WOULD NOT DENY a flagged individual his or her 2nd amendment rights, it would however require a psychiatric review (case history investigation) to take place before being able to own (or to continue to legally possess) a firearm and to purchase excessive ammunition, and particular clips of ammunition. The process to get and keep a gun permit should be just as extensive as obtaining and renewing a driver’s license. If there has been a restraining order served, the firearm permit of that individual MUST be evaluated immediately. ALL assault rifles-including handguns that can be made into a semi-automatic firearm (if not banned) AND high-capacity magazines MUST be regulated by federal and state governments; Meaning that the manufacturing, distribution, and purchase of assault weapons MUST be monitored by the federal government along with the compatible clips of ammunition. If these things are not banned, they MUST BE REGULATED and available through transparent routes.
In addressing illegal firearm and ammunition sales
Most importantly above individual rights balanced against regulation, any activity outside these legal parameters must be dealt with in federal court, and those who distribute/manufacture assault weapons/high-capacity ammunition unlawfully will be charged with being an accessory to the crimes committed with these weapons. No exceptions. If citizens know they can be charged as an accessory to murder, robbery, etc. if they sell weapons to criminals, it may make them think twice before they do it.
It has been said, and I agree, that enforcement of existing gun laws needs to be broadened, and that may be enough. However, when a portion of this country has become profoundly anti-government and vows to “fix” government (with lots of encouragement through politicians and scary-talkers with microphones (This Glenn Beck anti-government conspiracy sums it all up) what they really intend to do is to neuter it, rendering it useless and unable to provide the protection and services we have taken for granted.
In Boston, MA- the city, state and federal governments’ response to what was perceived, at the time to be a possible international terrorist plot, was nothing short of legendary; Almost impeccable. Why, then, is there not an equally ferocious response to policy and public pressure, to domestic terrorism done via machine guns?
Image courtesy of the Associate Press
Firing ranges are proper places to find/buy/use 100 round magazines, not the internet-as gunman James Holmes-from the Aurora, CO did nor is Walmart;
After being turned away from one Walmart, when he tried to buy excessive ammunition, he went to another Walmart, Said of Loughner by a Walmart employee who sold him the ammunition he used in Aurora, CO before opening fire upon a crowded movie theater:
He was described as friendly as he inquired whether there was a limit on the amount of ammunition he could purchase.
“And then I guess he asked for six boxes, seven boxes,” an employee said. “Rang them up. Checked his ID. Wasn’t any problem. So I double-bagged it for him”.
Backdoor, unmonitored, under the table and sales of firearms – with extra provisions surrounding semi-automatic firearms/and high-capacity ammo clips need to be banned and made a federal offense. You will see a shift in new firearms distribution if you hold the manufacturers and distributors responsible for crimes borne of their greed and inability to follow the law.
Legit Arguing Points Acknowledging 2nd Amendment Rights:
Law-abiding citizens should have 2nd Amendment rights to hunt and to protect themselves. Criminals do not follow laws.
Read here, a very well-written blog criticizing current gun-control measures:
A Single Question:
Why make it easy from criminals to break the law at the expense of innocent lives? (The law, in this case-is murder.)
These hypothetical solutions to policy change would begin to address some of the malicious, unlawful and unethical issues surrounding firearms.
Do something. Anything. But not…..nothing.
When choosing to reject this current dystopic vision for America; An ever-growing economic disparity between the investor class vs. working classes (many realizing that their upward mobility has been severely limited, if not impossible) We MUST see the connection between violence of every kind (especially gun violence) and poverty. To address the needs of the profoundly intellectually, physically, and economically impoverished in America, so they do not have to resort to crime to survive, we are in fact, advancing our own self-interests.
Outside of firearms protections, investing in community cultivation, across the board that empower and provide resources to families – which teach empathy to our children; Bringing to them necessary knowledge and cultivating self-sufficiency skills instead of creating policies that isolate and hang them (our children and families) out to dry, we move toward ensuring that our children are not alone, that they have the tools to become productive citizens, and not the criminals who rob our houses, who kill one another (or, one of us.) Impoverished criminals who don’t care for humanity, cannot reciprocate care, they haven’t any.
Many say parents must teach their children humanity and empathy. Absolutely. How can they when humanity (our American society) has not cared for them, when it counted?
Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and Jared Loughner were not economically impoverished. They are psychiatrically impoverished.
The criminally insane are often avoided, and feared, until as we’ve witnessed it’s too late. Jared Loughner’s parents knew he was capable of such violence, and tried to stop him, but they, presumably, understand now that their efforts were not enough as they DID NOT involve law enforcement and did not have him committed. Even if they had, depending upon state laws, an adult can check him or herself out of psychiatric care after 72 hours, unless it is determined by a physician or law enforcement that he or she presents an immediate danger to society or him/herself. Even at that point, there are limitations on how long an institution can hold and give treatment for the mentally ill. In striking a balance, in this free country where people have a choice to do the right thing or to sit by and do nothing, if given the choice to devote resources to seriously address the needs of the mentally ill, state by state, or, equally importantly to devote resources to the Department of Children’s Services, they typically choose to opt out, stating “Individual rights and choice” or in the case of children having been removed from their homes, and the state government cannot afford to continue providing those children and family services so the state government uses words like “reunification” to put children back into the homes (despite several prior neglect/abuse charges)- it’s all in the name of “individual rights” that the state sometimes opts out of invest in the holistic safety needs of children within the system, after creating the conditions that perpetuate generational crime and poverty.
Inside the walls of juvenile placement facilities, are the stories of both types of children, mentally, dangerously unstable and impoverished children who have seen, experienced, and repeated this cycle (sometimes to survive, sometimes because the voices told them to) that they, acknowledge others might never understand. Those who have never heard voices, had obsessive and violent thoughts, have never been brutally abused, been hungry, truly hungry and starving, lived in homes in which one or both parents are in jail and/or substance dependent do not understand why it is possible for human beings to even think to do some of the ugly things many of these kids have done. These children have learned criminal and maladaptive behaviors TO SURVIVE.
But more often than not, many of these kids are generationally impoverished, they simply cannot afford the bootstraps for which they are supposed to pull themselves up.
The children within these walls and sometimes do and say things that scare those who work with them, but instead of completely avoiding a child who has made such threats, connecting with that him (or her) is the ONLY way to save them from one day walking out of their facility, if nothing changes, and being able to legally buy a 100 round magazine clip, a semi-automatic assault rifle; becoming one of the well-armed American boogeyman that I am writing about.
I work with such a population in my classroom.
Showing and teaching them empathy may stop them, in the future, from doing the unthinkable.
Doing something is better than doing nothing to save our kids from well-armed (and presently government-enabled) American boogeymen (or to stop them from becoming one).
To learn more about the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary, their families, and each of the causes the live on in their names, please visit: www.mysandyhookfamily.org