I’ve heard many people lament that mass shootings where a stranger opens fire on a public place seem to be the hardest ones to prevent. Someone “goes postal” and no one saw it coming. He (or she) was a good guy with a gun, until he wasn’t. Nothing you can do about that! Just the price we have to pay for freedom, right?
Well, no. Let’s drill down a bit: Adam Lanza was mentally ill as fuck, yet mom hoarded guns and he had access to them. Not too bright, Nancy Lanza! One wonders if mom didn’t have a dozen guns in her basement, would Lanza have acted out his twisted anger in this way?
Christopher Harper-Mercer had 14 guns, all legally obtained through a licensed dealer. His mother was another Nancy Lanza-type, a “gun enthusiast” who hoarded guns and ammo in the apartment.
What, really, does anyone need 14 guns for? Shouldn’t that kind of hoarding be a red flag to anyone with a lick of common sense?
And then we have the San Bernardino shooters, in what is increasingly looking like an ideologically-motivated terror attack. This is chilling:
In a press conference, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan detailed the stockpile. The couple had 1,400 .223-caliber rounds and 200 9-mm rounds of ammunition either on their person or in the SUV in which they were both eventually shot by SBPD officers. Investigators also found 2,000 9mm rounds and 2,500 .223-caliber rounds at their home in a later raid, Burguan said.
In total, the San Bernardino shooters had more than 6,000 ammunition rounds at their disposal, according to Vocativ’s calculations. And while it’s a huge amount of ammunition, capable of causing death on a massive scale, the total price-tag for the ammunition would be less than $2,000 at average prices.
The shooters reportedly used two assault rifles and two handguns in the attack on Wednesday, killing 14 people and injuring 21. The four weapons were all legally obtained, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Thursday. The assault rifles were a .223-caliber DPMS Model A15 and a Smith & Wesson M&P15. One of the handguns was manufactured by Llama, and the other by Smith & Wesson, authorities said, The New York Daily News reported. The DPMS rifle is mentioned on a list of firearms prohibited in California in 2000. DPMS advertised the gun as part of its Black Friday sale on November 28. The company has not tweeted since the shootings, and their website’s stores is currently “unavailable due to site maintenance.”
Stockpiling weapons and ammo should not be allowed, period. There is no argument for this, except the right-wing’s “Red Dawn” fantasies about taking on a tyrannical government. This is ridiculous, of course. The U.S. military is the world’s largest; the Pentagon’s budget is over $850 billion. But yes, do tell me about how the dozen AR-15s you have in the basement are going to take on the world’s most powerful military, complete with drones and nukes. I’m all ears.
Let’s be clear: the only war being waged by gun hoarders is against innocent civilians. Or, to put it another way:
Let’s stop this stockpiling. Put a limit on it, two guns per customer or something, and then if you want more than that, you must get a collector’s license, for which you must be subjected to additional scrutiny. And then, let’s tax the fuck out of ammo and put that money toward gun violence research. So, that’s two things we can do.
So, what about other shootings? This New York Times piece tells us that the guns used in 15 recent mass shootings were all obtained legally. But were they all “good guys” who “just snapped”? No. In every case one can look back and, in hindsight, see how these individuals should not have been allowed to buy weapons. In fact, according to the New York Times piece, in eight of the 15 cases,
the gunmen had criminal histories or documented mental health problems that did not prevent them from obtaining their weapons.
So let’s look at a few of them. Dylann Roof was a white supremacist with two prior arrests. He shouldn’t have been allowed to buy a gun but did because of a breakdown in the NCIS system. But even if human error was to blame for the background check failing, a simple change to federal law still could have prevented the Charleston church shooting:
Under the law, the FBI has three business days to deny or approve a purchase. If a decision is not made in that time frame, the law permits the dealer to complete the sale.
Well, that’s a law we can change! If the FBI needs more than three days to clear you for purchase, you have to wait. Go cry like a baby about that. Failure to do that simple thing killed innocent people at their Bible study, so stick a cork in it.
Robert Dear was an anti-abortion, fundamentalist Christian with a history of domestic abuse and rape. The rape was never prosecuted because the only other witness refused to testify, which itself is a miscarriage of justice — police and prosecutors are pretty awful at handling rape cases in general. The victim’s husband said,
“We had to let go and let God take care of it.”
That certainly worked out well.
I still haven’t heard anything about the weapon Dear used or how it was obtained. Until we know that, it’s hard to say what could have been done to prevent the Planned Parenthood shooting, other than something like California’s new mental health law, which has yet to go into effect.
John R. Houser, who killed two and wounded nine at a Lafayette movie theater, bought his gun, legally, in Alabama. He was denied a CCW permit because of past issues with domestic violence and arson. He was also violent and mentally ill, and had been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. Seems like all of those should have been sufficient reasons to deny him a handgun purchase. Too violent to concealed-carry? Then maybe you’re too violent to have a gun at all. So that’s something we can change.
Fifteen-year-old Jaylen Ray Fryberg used his dad’s gun to shoot up his high school cafeteria. But dad should never have had a gun in the first place: there was a permanent domestic violence order of protection against him. Yet the gun was obtained from a gun shop, not the black market, after Fryberg lied on the federal form. The permanent order of protection had not been entered into the system because it was issued by a tribal court, not a state court. From the link:
Had the protection order been filed in a state court instead of the tribal court, it would have been entered into a criminal records database and would have surfaced during a background check when Raymond Fryberg purchased the gun. But the order was never entered into any state or federal criminal databases because of a flawed reporting system between tribes and outside authorities.
So, that’s something we can fix. Right?
So, that’s just a few examples of things we can do, above and beyond what’s already been discussed — universal background checks, etc. Mass shootings don’t have to be an everyday part of American life. They just don’t.
Of course, our cowardly Republicans in Congress won’t do any of these things, because they’re wholly-owned by the NRA. They made that clear yesterday when they crushed two very logical, not exactly tyrannical gun control measures in the Senate.
So none of this will happen until Republicans are made a minority in Congress. That’s the bottom line.
How do we do this? Beyond the usual GOTV for gun control candidates, etc? Stay tuned …