The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defined a “mass murderer” as someone who “kills four or more people in a single incident, typically in a single location” and not including the killer who takes their own life. The federal government has never defined “mass shooting” as a separate category. There is no federal crime definition of the term. Although there is no official or number as the threshold that distinguishes a mass shooting from other violent crimes involving a firearm, the common approach by the media and law enforcement is to adopt the FBI’s criteria for a mass murderer setting casualty threshold of 4 fatalities by firearm, excluding the offender or offenders.
TWO MASS SHOOTINGS WITHIN 24 HOURS
On Saturday, August 3, 2019, at least 20 people were shot and kill, 2 later died of their injuries, and 26 were seriously injured at an El Paso, Texas Walmart when a man armed with a military style assault rifle went into the packed store and opened fired. The 21-year-old man was arrested without incident and identified as Patrick Crusius from a suburb near Dallas, Texas. He was taken into custody without incident and is considered as a white nationalist.
It is believed by law enforcement that the gunman planned and carefully selected the Walmart store because it was filled with Hispanic families and and shoppers from Mexico. Authorities reported that they found a “manifesto” purportedly written by Patrick Crusius, perhaps even in the hours before the shooting attack. His social media activity showed support and sympathy for Trump’s white nationalist agenda. According to one report, the shooter allegedly professed his white nationalist ideology and his belief that Texas is under a “Hispanic invasion” and advocating building Trump’s border wall.
On Sunday, August 4, 2019, within hours after the El Paso shooting in the early morning hours a shooter in body armor wearing a mask and carrying extra magazines opened fired in a popular nightlife area of Dayton, Ohio. Nine were killed killing and dozens injured in the attack before the shooter was slain by police. Police patrolling the area responded in less than a minute to the shooting, which unfolded Sunday morning around 1 a.m. on the streets of downtown Dayton’s Oregon District. The suspect was identified as 24-year-old Connor Betts, of Bellbrook, Ohio. Betts used an assault-style rifle, a .223 caliber weapon with high capacity magazines and wore body armor during the shooting. Multiple law enforcement officials told CBS News there is not a hate crime nexus yet in the Dayton shooting. However, the shooter reportedly kept lists in high school of people he wanted to kill and girls he wanted to rape. Speculation and unsubstantiated rumors on social media is that Betts was enraged that his sister was dating a black man and that is why he killed her along with the others who were black.
Sunday’s shooting in Dayton is the 22nd mass killing of 2019 in the U.S., according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern University mass murder database that tracks homicides where four or more people were killed, not including the offender. The 20 mass killings in the U.S. in 2019 that preceded this weekend claimed 96 lives. For a time line of the most recent mass shootings in the United States see:
TRUMP’S CALL FOR STRENGTHENING GUN LAWS, AGAIN
On Monday, August 5, 2019, President Trump condemned the weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio as “barbaric” attacks and crimes “against all humanity” as he called for bipartisan cooperation to strengthen the nation’s gun laws.
Trump said he has directed the FBI to examine steps to identify and address domestic terrorism and said he wants legislation providing “strong background checks” for gun users, but he provided no details.
Trump pointed to a mental illness problem in the United States, calling the shooters “really very seriously mentally ill” and said the problem has been going on “for years and years [and] we have to get it stopped.”
If this sounds familiar from Trump, it’s because it is and Trump reneged on his promises before after meeting with the National Rifle Association (NRA).
On February 21, 2018, President Donald Trump met in the White House with over 40 people including the teenage survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that killed 17 as well as the parents of those children killed in other school shootings. Demands were made that politics needs to be set aside and solutions found to stop the scourge of gun violence in the United States.
One suggested solution was to raise the minimum age required to purchase rifles to age 21, including assault weapons such as the AR-15, arguing that if you cannot buy a beer at 18, you should not be able to buy an assault weapon at 18. Another suggestion was to strengthen background checks to keep guns from the violent and the mentally ill.
President Trump told the group his administration would be looking very strongly at the suggestions made including allowing concealed weapons in schools to be carried by trained teachers who would volunteer. The very next day after his meeting with the group, Trump said he stood by his recommendation that teachers should be armed and even given bonuses to carry guns.
After the Trump meeting at the White House with the victims and parents, the NRA met with Trump and came out in opposition to the 21 age provisions and any other gun control provisions again arguing the problem is not with guns but the criminals who are using the guns and law abiding citizens’ rights under the second amendment should never be infringed upon. Trump did an about face and has done absolutely nothing.
GOVERNOR LUJAN GRISHAM CALLS FOR SUMMIT
During the 2019 legislative session, two gun control bills passed and were signed into law by Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham. Those measures were background checks on all gun sales and a law prohibiting the possession of guns by convicted domestic abusers. The background check law was strenuously opposed by Republican lawmakers and most New Mexico sheriffs to the point that they initiated a lawsuit to have the courts set it aside. Some elected County Sherriff’s went so far as to say they would not enforce the laws prompting the Attorney General to issue a stern warning that they were required to enforce the law.
On August 6, 2019 Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, announced that she will invite top state law enforcement officials and legislative leaders from both political parties to take part in a summit on domestic terrorism in Santa Fe. The summit will include a closed-door briefing from FBI officials and could lead to new state policies and legislation. The Governor suggested that gun-related legislation may be drafted in advance of next year’s 30-day session.
In a statement announcing the summit, Lujan Grisham had this to say:
“It is too easy for dangerous, violent and mentally ill individuals to obtain an instrument of mass death in this country, and hateful rhetoric can directly lead to destructive and heinous acts. … In New Mexico, we will be on the front foot, and I look forward to this discussion.”
Discussions of gun-related legislation in New Mexico have been taking place before the El Paso and Detroit mass shootings. A coalition of New Mexico sheriffs is working with state Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, on the possibility of compromise “red flag” legislation. Legislation sponsored by Ely that would have allowed courts to order the temporary taking of guns from someone deemed an immediate threat passed the House of Representatives during this year’s 60-day session. But the proposal commonly referred to as a “red flag law,” failed to make it through the Senate before the 2019 legislative session ended. Opponents of the red flag bill say it failed to include adequate legal safeguards to protect the rights of gun owners.
HISTORY OF MASS SHOOTINGS IN THE UNITED STATES
The on line publication Mother Jones has compiled a database of mass shooting from 1982 to the present. The data base is broken down by location, date, summary of the facts, the number of fatalities, and the number of injured.
The Mother Jones data base list 114 mass shooting that have occurred from August 20, 1982 to the August 4, 2019 Dayton, Ohio shooting of 9 killed and 27 injured. You can review the entire Mother Jones data base here:
From 1995 to June 13, 2019 the United States has had 97 mass shootings. 11 of the largest mass shootings in American history have now taken place in the United States in just the last few years.
The mass shooting with semiautomatic guns in the include: Orlando, Florida (49 killed, 50 injured), Blacksburg, Va. (32 killed), San Ysidro, Cal (21 killed), San Bernardino, (14 killed), Edmond Oklahoma (14 killed), Fort Hood (13 killed), Binghamton, NY (13 killed) Washington, DC (12 killed), Aurora, Colorado (12 killed), Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn (21 children and 6 adult staff members killed) Las Vegas, Nevada with at least 59 dead and at least 515 wounded, the Parkland/Stoneridge High School shooting that resulted in 17 children’s deaths and now El Paso, Texas, 22 killed and Detroit Michigan, 9 killed.
A list of the worst mass shootings in the United States in the last 4 years has been compiled by the Los Angeles Times. You can read the facts and details of each one of the mass shootings at the below Los Angeles Time story link:
HISTORY OF CONGRESS TAKING ACTION ON GUN CONTROL
History shows that there was a time congress would take action on gun control to curb crime and gun violence.
In 1934, responding to the rise of organized crime and the MAFIA, Congress enacted the National Firearms Act which heavily taxed machine guns, among other things.
In 1968, after the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the Gun Control Act was passed that grew the list of those people who could not purchase guns expanding it to more convicted felons and mentally ill people.
In 1986, with the rise of gang and drug violence on city streets, Congress enacted the Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act, which outlawed armor-piercing bullets.
In 1994, after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan and a spike of workplace shootings, Congress passed “The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act” that implemented a waiting period for handguns and a national instant background check.
James Brady was the White House Press secretary who was shot in the head and almost died during the attempted assassination of President Reagan by John Hinckley, Jr. who was found mentally ill and institutionalized for a number of years.
The 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act temporarily banned assault weapons.
There has been no major gun control legislation since 1995, which is about the same time the National Rifle Association (NRA) became very politically active in congressional races.
In 1990, the NRA created a foundation to “raise millions of dollars to fund gun safety and educational projects of benefit to the general public” which has translated into the NRA getting involved with congressional elections by donating millions to candidates running for office and who oppose any form of gun control.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
After so many mass killings, it is difficult to refute that something needs to be done about semi-automatic and automatic guns such as the AR-15, assault style weapons or the type used in all the mass shootings and that are the weapons of choice for mass murderers. It’s clear the NRA controlled congress, especially the Republican Senate, does not want, nor is it willing to take, any action on gun control. Republican US Senate Majority Leader “Massacre” Mitch Mc Connell of Kentucky refuses to allow bi-partisan legislation enacted in the US House of Representatives advance to the Senate floor for a vote of any kind.
There are many legislative proposals, albeit too controversial for many running for office and who hold office to stomach, that should be considered at Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham’s summit. On the federal level, there are many more.
In New Mexico, our legislature should consider:
1. Repeal the New Mexico Constitutional provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms. This would require a public vote and no doubt generate heated discussion given New Mexico’s high percentage of gun ownership for hunting, sport or hobby.
2. Prohibit in New Mexico the sale of “ghost guns” parts. Ghost guns are guns that are manufactured and sold in parts without any serial numbers to be assembled by the purchaser and that can be sold to anyone.
3. Requiring in New Mexico the mandatory purchase of “liability insurance” with each gun sold as is required for all operable vehicles bought and driven in New Mexico.
4. Enact a gun violence restraining order and extreme risk protection process to temporarily prohibit an individual deemed by a judge to pose a danger to self or others, from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition and allow law local law enforcement to remove any firearms or ammunition already in the individual’s possession.
5. Restrict and penalize firearm possession by or transfer to a person subject to a domestic violence protection order or a person, including dating partners, convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.
6. Mandate the school systems and higher education institutions “harden” their facilities with more security doors, security windows, and security measures and alarm systems and security cameras tied directly to law enforcement 911 emergency operations centers.
On a federal level, congress needs to consider:
1. Implementation of background checks on the sale of all guns.
2. Close the “Charleston loophole” or “delayed denial” where federally licensed dealers can sell guns if three business days pass without FBI clearance.
3. Call for the update and enhancement of the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NCIS).
4. Institute mandatory extended waiting periods for all gun purchases.
5. Implement mandatory handgun licensing, permitting, training, and registration requirements.
6. Ban future manufacture and sale of all assault weapons and regulate existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act of 1934, and initiate a federal gun buyback program.
7. Impose limits on high capacity magazines.
8. Prohibit firearm sale or transfer to and receipt or possession by an individual who has: (1) been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor hate crime, or (2) received from any court an enhanced hate crime misdemeanor sentence.
9. Institute mandatory child access prevention safe storage requirements and prohibit the sales of handguns with “hair triggers”.
10. Provide more resources and treatment for people with mental illness.
11. Enhance accountability of federally licensed firearms dealers.
12. Implement micro stamped code on each bullet that links it to a specific gun.
13. Produce ‘x-mart guns’ with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) or biometric recognition (fingerprint) capability.
14. Limit gun purchases to one gun per month to reduce trafficking and straw purchases.
15. Prohibit open carry of firearms.
16. Digitize Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire (ATF) gun records.
17. Require licensing for ammunition dealer.
CLOSING COMMENTARY: THE SOUNDS OF SILENCE
After the El Paso and Detroit mass shootings, we will now go through the three-week news cycle of outrage, mourning and demands for gun control action. We will endure the news accounts of the funerals and eulogies given of the dead. We will hear the interviews of the survivors and witnesses of the shooting, with some interviews done in hospitals of those recovering from their gunshot wounds. We will hear the newscasters warn “the images you are about to see may be too graphic, so you may want to turn away” from your TV set.
We will hear how survivors who were shot will have to endure a life time of pain, suffering and physical infirmity from their wounds. We will hear from the psychologists and psychiatrists about post-traumatic stress disorder that the survivors will need to be treated for with counselling given on how to cope with death and loss of their loved ones. We will hear the news accounts of the heroes and first responder’s reactions during the shooting and of those who lost their lives and of the lives they saved. We will hear of the background and life of the troubled shooter and the mental illness he endured and what a broken person he was.
We will hear how easy it was for the killers to get the guns. We will hear about the killer’s FACEBOOK posts or YouTube videos that gave hints about what they were about to do.
We will hear once again how the shootings can only be described as an act of “pure evil”. We will hear the El PASO killer’s manifesto of hate and racism read aloud. We will hear about the killer’s arraignment, the charges he is facing with the likelihood he will be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in prison or in a mental institution. We will hear from the prosecutors that this is the very type of crime that the death penalty is deserved to be imposed. We will hear corrections official declare that the defendant has been placed on a suicide watch or that he has attempted suicide.
We will hear calls for congress to enact responsible gun control laws and restrictions such as extensive background checks, outlaw gun shows, prohibit the manufacture and sale of the the AR-15, prohibit the sale of firearms to anyone 18 or younger and outlaw the manufacture of high capacity clips. We will hear from those trying to look “presidential” take advantage of the tragedy and making all sorts of promises to end gun violence by enacting gun control.
We will hear the National Rifle Association (NRA) orchestrate opposition to any and all kind of gun control and campaign against anyone who advocates for gun control. We will hear again the mantra “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” We will hear again if you take away guns from the law abiding, only the criminals will have guns. We will hear about the influence the NRA has over elected officials and hear about the millions of campaign contributions given to those running for office, both on a national and local level.
We will hear congressional leaders say this is “no time to talk about gun control” and that we need to have that discussion later and then condemn those who do try and talk about gun control as “politicizing” the tragedy saying they have no respect for the dead and injured. We will hear the names of the elected US Senators and US Representatives who have accepted millions in campaign donations over years and claim how the contributions do not affect their votes.
We will hear again, and again and again gun owners and gun advocates say the only way their guns will ever be taken away from them is when their gun is “pried from their cold dead hands”, even the high capacity magazine rifles designed only to kill people or used by the military to inflict as much death as possible.
We will hear the President’s words when he travels to El Paso console family members, go to the cite of the shootings and take a tour, visit the wounded but hear no condemnation from him of the NRA. We will hear Donald Trump say that his inflammatory and racist speeches at his campaign rallies have nothing to do with the mass killings and hear him proclaim “I am the least racist person in the world” in interviews and campaign rallies
We will hear the reduced news coverage as we move on to yet another crisis created by a Presidential tweet attacking critics and people of color. We will hear in a few weeks or months of another mass shooting in the United States. We will hear the “Sound of Silence” again with nothing done to prevent further mass shooting tragedies and hear once again the failure of congress to enact reasonable gun control measures.
We will hear the gun advocates and the NRA to continue to bow and pray to the “neon gun gods” they have made.
There are many components to America’s mass shooting epidemic. We need more mental health treatment facilities, more parental involvement, better educational systems, early childhood intervention to prevent child abuse and to identify and get help and counseling to emotionally and violent children and more to secure our schools.
Unless congress does something to enact reasonable and responsible gun control, all we will hear is the sounds of silence of political rhetoric followed by the scenes and screams of terror and death from yet another mass shooting in a few more months.
We also need a President who is not a racist, and who does not stoke and inflame racism and who encourages violence and white supremacy with his attacks on minorities and people of color.