Want To Know Why 50 People Died In Orlando? It Wasn’t Terrorism – It Was A Gun.

Here we go again.  Another act of ‘domestic terrorism,’ and this one left over 100 people injured or dead. The shooter, 29-year old Omar Mateen, broke the old record set by James Holmes, who shot 72 people in a Colorado movie theater in 2012, of whom 60 survived. And Holmes broke Seung-Hui Cho’s 2007 record of 49 victims at Virginia Tech, and on it goes back to Charlie Whitman, who gunned down 49 people from his perch in the Texas University Tower in 1966, although only 16 lost their lives.

There’s an unemployed academic out there pretending to be a researcher named John Lott, who actually tried to ‘prove’ that at least ten other countries have higher death rates from mass public shootings than what we experience here in the U.S.A. Which is not hard to do if a country has a fraction of our population and one mass shooting takes place.  But any rational, normal and semi-intelligent person who actually believes that mass shootings are an everyday fact of life anywhere but in the United States is either hopelessly delusional or is simply trying to burnish his shopworn credentials as an NRA flack.

ar            The bottom line is that there have been three horrendous shootings in the last seven months (Umpqua, San Bernardino, Orlando) which together have resulted in the loss of 74 lives, and I’m not even bothering to count the little mass shootings – a few bodies here, a few bodies there – which take place all the time. Our friends at the Gun Violence Archive count 25 shootings with at least 4 victims each time over the last – ready? – three weeks!

Maybe we haven’t figured out what to do about this seemingly unstoppable carnage, but what does seem to be emerging from the unending slaughters is a convenient way of ignoring the use of guns.  Because the problem isn’t the gun, after all, it’s the person who uses the gun, and that person is now invariably described as a ‘domestic terrorist,’ which I guess means someone who is somehow tied to some kind of terrorist organization but happens to permanently live and was maybe even born in the United States. Back in the old days, meaning before the 2016 presidential election cycle, the term ‘domestic terrorist’ was usually applied to an American who had actually been in contact with a terrorist organization, or had received or planned to receive training in terrorist activities, or in some other way was directly involved in terrorist behavior of some sort. In 2014, two young Americans from Minnesota were killed fighting with ISIS in Somalia and Iraq; home-grown terrorist bomb plots have recently been thwarted in Wichita, Boston and New York.

Of course depending on what political gains can be made from the anguish and fear that any mass shooting evokes in the general population, the presumptive Republican candidate, Street Thug Trump, wanders back and forth between condemning ‘domestic terrorism’ and ‘radical Islamic terrorism,’ but let’s leave Street Thug alone, because he’s incapable of understanding what the real issue is all about.

And the real issue runs like this.  Omar Mateen was young, he was stable enough to hold down a job, he was socially isolated and alienated but he was, and this is very important, he was able to get his hands on a gun.  And the gun he chose to carry into Pulse was what has become the weapon of choice for young men who want to kill lots of people in one place – an AR-15.

So it doesn’t matter whether this shooter was a ‘domestic terrorist,’ or a ‘radical Islamic terrorist,’ or a homophobic maniac or whatever else he was or claimed to be.  He walked into a gun shop and bought some guns.  And that’s the real reason that 49 patrons at the Pulse are now dead. It’s the gun stupid, it’s the gun.

Don’t’ forget to donate to the Orlando Pulse fund.  I just did.

 

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What To Know Why Trump Has To Be Stopped? Here’s Why.

On July 22, 2011, a home-grown Norwegian terrorist, Anders Breivik, shot and killed 69 people at a labor union retreat on the island of Utoya, having earlier that day killed 8 people by detonating a homemade bomb in downtown Oslo. The attack sent shockwaves through Norwegian society, especially when the first group of court-appointed psychiatrists declared Breivik mentally unfit to stand trial.  A second team of doctors then re-examined the prisoner, found him fully cognizant of what he had done, and the ensuing trial resulted in a guilty verdict and loss of liberty for the next twenty years.

trump2           The conflicting medical opinions about Breivik inaugurated a heated debate in medical circles about the adequacy of psychiatric diagnoses in criminal cases which is still going on.  The most recent contributions appeared in March and raised once again the issue of whether Breivik was truly crazy or not.  And what I mean by ‘crazy’ was whether his decision to plan and execute the killings of more than 75 people was based on a rational series of decisions which he could have controlled.

As everyone is aware, the line between how well people understand what brings them to commit the most fiendish and savage acts of violence is often very thin and may or may not really exist at all.  But in case you didn’t know it, the United States has a true expert in this area who happens to be an almost-candidate for President named Donald Trump. Because it was back in August, 2015, that Trump assured us that the killing of two media reporters in Virginia could not have been prevented because it was caused by too many ‘mentally ill’ people wandering around in the streets.

Now you might believe that Trump’s incisive analysis of the connection between mental illness and gun violence is based on his thorough knowledge and profound understanding of something that the entire medical profession still hasn’t figured out.  But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: The real reason that Donald Trump is able to speak with such assurance and readiness about gun violence and mental illness is that he exhibits many of the self-same mental traits that both psychiatric teams observed when they examined the man who holds the record for shooting the most people in a single place.

Incidentally, I have not only read the forensic reports on Breivik, as well as the peer-reviewed studies that have subsequently appeared.  I have also read the 1,500-page prolegomenon explaining his political philosophy that Breivik sent to 700 people with whom he connected through his Facebook page. And there are aspects of his political philosophy and historical analysis that also parallel things that Trump has said. Stay tuned – that’s a subject for a separate blog.

The clinicians who evaluated Breivik agreed that he exhibited ‘pathological grandiosity.’  They also found that he had a ‘severe narcissistic personality disorder’ combined with ‘pathological lying.’  Are persons suffering from these disorders delusional?  No.  Are they able to distinguish between ‘right’ and ‘wrong?’  In most instances yes, but what drives them to commit their violent acts is the absolute conviction that their ideas and their state of mind must be defended at all times.

Now let’s take a dispassionate view of the behavior of one Donald Trump. Is he pathologically grandiose?  Is New York a city?  Is he severely narcissistic?  Have you ever seen another politician who spends so much time talking about himself? Is he a pathological liar? I mean, give me a break. And when was the last time Trump was caught defending his ideas in angry and aggressive ways?  The last time he opened his mouth.

This is a guy who bragged that he could test the loyalty of his supporters by shooting someone dead in the street.  What would drive Trump to conjure up the image of gun violence during a political campaign? The same demons that swirled inside Anders Breivik’s head.

Okay GVP – don’t forget what you have to do November 8th.

Was Colorado Springs The Work Of A Terrorist? According To West Point It Was.

There is simply no getting away from the fact that the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs may mark a turning-point in the debate about gun violence.  And I don’t mean a positive turning-point either.  Because like it or not, the assault by Robert Lewis Dear was a classic example of domestic terrorism, in particular the type of terrorism directed at human targets that has been significantly increasing since a certain you-know-who started living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008.

murrah              If anyone wants to place the Colorado Springs episode in its proper context, I suggest you read a very detailed study and report on American terrorism that came out of the West Point Combating Terrorism Center in 2012. This report covers nearly 4,000 terrorist attacks on American soil between 1900 and 2012, of which more than 1,600 occurred after 2008.  The report only deals with Far Right terrorism, but that’s because Far left terrorism, which was endemic during the Viet Nam War, particularly after Nixon was elected, fell off and then basically disappeared following the Paris peace accords in 1973.  Far Right terrorism, on the other hand, has a long pedigree beginning with the Ku Klux Klan prior and particularly during Reconstruction, gaining strength again during the Civil Rights era and once again emerging in the recent Obama years.

The authors of this report break terror activities into three basic but related strains: racist terrorism, anti-federalist terrorism, and fundamentalist terrorism, the last often associated with racist ideologies and behaviors, but also aimed at attacking abortion providers and eliminating abortion rights.  The most notorious abortion attacker was the survivalist Eric Rudolph, who bombed two abortion clinics before his deadly assault at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. The other fatal abortion attack took place in Wichita, KS, when a physician who was not a PP provider but ran his own abortion clinic, was shot dead in his church.

A majority of American terrorist acts are not, as it turns out, directed at human targets but at property, which ranges from graffiti on the side of a synagogue to burning down a Black church, although it’s not really clear whether some of those Black churches burned during the Clinton Administration were actually White churches, rather than Black. But even though attacks against property still comes out ahead of attacks against persons in all terrorist activity, there has been an alarming increase in terrorism aimed at individuals since the beginning of the Obama years, with 700 human targeted events between 2008 and 2011, as opposed to 425 human attacks during the administration of George Bush.  The good news, if you can call it good news, is that attacks against mass populations, such as Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in 1995 are the rare exceptions, with mass attacks accounting for less than 3% of all terror incidents since 1991.

On the other hand, the report notes that “contentious and conservative political environments as well as the political empowerment are positively associated with the volume of violence; thus, it is not only feelings of deprivation that motivate those involved in far right violence, but also the sense of empowerment that emerges when the political system is perceived to be increasingly permissive to far right ideas.”  And let’s be honest folks.  This report wasn’t written by a bunch of lefty do-gooders sitting at Harvard or Yale.  It came out of West Point which, the last time I looked, promotes a pretty traditional view of things; i.e., left, center or right.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not accusing anyone of fomenting attacks on anyone else.  But the bottom line is that Robert Lewis Dear fits the profile of the American terrorist perfectly: a white male, loner, head filled with fundamentalist ideas and, it goes without saying, access to a gun.  Now if fundamentalism and gun ownership isn’t the sine qua non of Red political rhetoric these days, want to tell me what is?

 

 

Is It Possible That Unarmed Good Guys Stopped A Bad Guy With A Gun?

This past week, what could have been a horrifying terrorist act was thwarted by the immediate response of three young Americans who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Of course I’m talking about the incident on a high-speed train that was an hour out of Paris coming from Amsterdam in which a 26-year old Moroccan, already known to authorities as a possible terrorist threat, began shooting an AK-47 but was taken down and subdued by the quick actions of Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, who just happened to be vacationing together and had made a last-minute decision to board the train.

france                The three first met in a California middle school and have remained close friends ever since.  Sadler was getting ready to return for his senior year at California State University; Skarlatos and Stone are military personnel, Skarlatos having just finished a nine-month Afghanistan deployment, Stone was on leave from Lajes Air Base in the Azores where he serves as a medical tech. The trip to Europe had been planned since May – eating, drinking, tourism was on the agenda, stopping a heavily-armed terrorist was not.

The train was carrying 500 passengers and the gunman had 300 rounds for his AK.  He also was carrying a Lugar pistol and a razor-knife cutter, although it is reported that he denied he was planning any kind of terrorist attack.  Maybe he was just hoping to sell the AK-47 to someone else on the train, but the bottom line is that he shot and wounded one passenger, shot out a window with another round, and had enough ammunition to kill several hundred people if three young Americans, along with a Brit and a Frenchman, hadn’t gotten in his way.

Everyone, from President Obama on down, is celebrating the bravery and pluck of these three young men.  In a ceremony at the Elysee Palace, they were awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Hollande, who said, “Your heroism must be an example for many and a source of inspiration,” thoughts that have been echoed everywhere else.  Except in one place.  And the one place that has been conspicuously silent since the events on the train occurred is the building at 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA, which just happens to be the headquarters of the NRA.

The NRA usually goes out of its way to posture itself as the organization which celebrates American courage, heroism and resolve.  They drape themselves in patriotism every chance they get; the organization’s website has endless references to the military as well as their new tactical line of clothing and other crap.  And let’s not forget the monthly recitation of all those events when armed citizens stopped someone from committing a crime.

Whoa.  What did I just say?  Armed citizens?  Is that what I said?  There’s not a peep out of the NRA or any of their dopey armed-citizen promoters who are always ready at a moment’s notice to remind us about the virtues and values of walking around with a gun.  Know why?  Because Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler didn’t have a gun.   

Last year the FBI released a detailed analysis of 160 shootings between 2000 and 2013 in which the gunman killed or wounded multiple victims.  The definition of these events, known as ‘active shootings,’ was that the shooter “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.”  The FBI found that exactly one of these active shootings ended when an armed civilian opened fire with a gun.  But 21 of these shootings came to an end because unarmed civilians intervened.

Want to show me any place that is more confined and populated than a high-speed train?  If that gunman had been able to shoot up the train we’d be hearing nothing but endless “I told you so’s” from the NRA.  But not a word out of them when three young Americans, two of them active military, got the job done without using a gun.  Frankly, the silence is refreshing.

 

Wayne LaPierre Wasn’t The Only Person At Nashville Talking About Guns.

Now that the NRA annual big deal has come and gone, there will be the usual post-mortem as to whether the show was the biggest and the best, which Republican candidate gave the best speech and, of course, whether the Donald is still looking for that birth certificate.  You can get a taste of all this and more on the NRA website where most of the celebrity speeches have been posted, but what I found interesting was a comment made by Wayne-o in his annual attempt to scare gun owners into buying more guns.

The appeal to fear first started with Wayne’s predecessor, Harlon Carter, who ran the NRA from 1977 until 1985. It moved into high gear when Charlton Heston was featured in a series of anti-crime television ads that showed the former Hollywood liberal walking down back alleys in Washington, D.C. while saying that the streets were “ruled by criminals” and that criminals should be “banned” rather than guns.

moms logo                Unfortunately for the NRA, the problem with using crime as a rationale for owning guns is that violent crime in the United States keeps going down.  For that matter, so does the percentage of older, White men, who just happen to be the demographic that buys and owns most of the guns.  So sooner or later, if these trends continue, the NRA is going to have to craft a new message and find a new reason for all those guys and gals walking around armed.

They began to take a new approach last year before the mid-term elections with a series of cable ads that featured the “five million NRA members” standing up for honesty, truth and various so-called core values, while at the same time swiping at you-know-who in  the White House and the elitist culture that is undermining everything we hold dear.  The problem with this ad campaign, however, is that it doesn’t do what the NRA has been most successful at doing for the last twenty years, namely, ginning up fears about something that can only be overcome if you go out and buy a gun.  But Wayne-o and his PR staff have evidently come up with their latest scare technique, which came at about the 4th minute of his speech to NRA members when he mentioned that “terror cells” were operating in cities all across the United States and that a major terrorist attack was about to take place.

At last year’s meeting Wayne-o told the audience that terrorists were just one of a large group that were threatening America, a group which included home invaders, drug cartels, campus killers, airport killers, power-grid destroyers – it was quite a list.  This year he got his act somewhat more focused, pulled the ‘terror cells’ out of his hat, and then reminded his listeners that only a national CCW law and every NRA member renewing their dues would truly make Americans safe.

Meanwhile, outside the NRA meeting, Shannon and the Moms held a rally to promote a different idea about whether guns make us safe.  Immediately after the rally, various pro-gun bloggers went out of their way to assure their readers that the small attendance at Shannon’s rally showed that the anti-gun forces would never be a match for the NRA.

I have gone to more than 20 NRA meetings and for people who like guns, the exhibit hall is a cross between a swap meet and a Scout jamboree.  As for core values, just wander into the sales area and see how much the NRA charges for a t-shirt or a hat.  In all the years I went to the annual meeting, the only person demonstrating outside the hall was some old guy with a ‘Prey To Jesus’ placard, and not the Moms who have chapters in all fifty states. The NRA’s attempt to use terrorism as a bogey-man to sell more guns is a new riff on an old strategy that sooner or later will wear out.  Shannon and her Moms are truly new, different and here to stay.