The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines 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. There is no federal crime definition or penalty for “mass shooting” as a separate category.
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 a casualty threshold of 4 fatalities by firearm, excluding the offender or offenders.
The sure number of people murdered and killed in mass shootings during the last four years in the United States is staggering, yet the United States Congress refuses to act. In August there were 38 murdered, 70 injured by AR-style weapons: in El Paso, 22 murdered, 26 injured, in Odessa/Midland, 7 murdered, 22 injured, in Dayton, 9 murdered, 22 injured. It could easily happen in Las Cruces, Albuquerque or Santa Fe, or any city in New Mexico during a public event such as the Balloon Fiesta or the New Mexico State Fair.
A detailed chronology of mass shootings in the United States can be reviewed in the poscript to this article below.
FIRST STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
During the 2019 New Mexico legislative session, laws mandating background checks on gun sales and a law prohibiting the possession of guns by convicted domestic abusers passed and were signed into law by Governor Lujan Grisham.
Governor Lujan Grisham’s August 13, 2019 Domestic Terrorism Summit was a success by all accounts. After the summit, major proposals were announced including:
1. Increase hate crime penalties. The criminal penalty for those convicted of hate crimes would be increased. Currently, if a criminal defendant is proved to be motivated by the victim’s race, religion, age, gender or sexual orientation, the jail sentence can be enhanced by one year.
2. Expand the State’s mental health system. This has been a major priority of the Governor given her longstanding positions on mental health over the years.
3. Create a new anti-terrorism law enforcement unit. This no doubt will be the responsibility of the Department of Homeland security to implement and coordinate state wide law enforcement efforts.
4. Improve data-sharing about potential threats. The state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department will start enrolling all 33 county sheriffs in a data-sharing program so that individuals deemed a potential risk can be flagged and monitored.
5. Extending background checks on private gun sales to sellers of firearms.
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 is also clear that the National Rifle Association (NRA) controls congress, especially the Republican Senate and Republican President Donald Trump, who the NRA donated $33 Million to get elected President in 2016.
Congress and Trump do not want, nor are they willing to take any action on gun control. Congress needs to enact reasonable and responsible gun control measures by banning all assault weapons, but it never will happen as long as the Senate is controlled by the Republicans and Republican Trump is President.
Enough already with the United States Congress. With Congress refusing to act, New Mexico on its own must to act before a mass shooting happens here. It’s no longer hoping that such a mass shooting will not occur in New Mexico, but we must start expecting when it will happens at soft targets such as the International Balloon Fiesta, the State Fair or any number of public events.
COMPREHENSIVE DOMESTIC TERRORISM AND GUN VIOLENCE ACT
The 2020 New Mexico Legislature needs to enact a Comprehensive Domestic Terrorism and Gun Violence Act. It needs to include:
1.A Ban in New Mexico the manufacture, sale and distribution to the general public of semi-automatic firearms, AR-15 style rifles, assault weapons, semi-automatic pistols, semi-automatic shotguns and weapons to the general public in New Mexico.
2. Enact “red flag” legislation for a violence restraining order and allow for an “extreme risk protection process” to prohibit an individual deemed by a judge as posing a danger to themselves or others, from the purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition and allow law local law enforcement to remove firearms and ammunition in the individual’s possession.
3. 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.
4. Require 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.
5. Expand restrictions on firearm possession by or transfer to a person subject to a domestic violence protection order or a person convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.
8. Allocate funding to the school systems and higher education institutions to “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.
9. Introduce a Constitutional Amendment repealing the New Mexico Constitutional provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms. This would require a public vote. There is no doubt such action would generate heated discussion given New Mexico’s high percentage of gun ownership for hunting, sport or hobby, but it’s a discussion that should be made.
Until congress acts, there will be more mass shootings at soft targets such as schools, movie theaters, malls, department stores, state fairs, festivals and other major public events. The mass shootings will be followed by a cycle of news coverage, more outrage, more candle light vigils, more funerals, more condolences, more pseudo rhetoric demanding action. In the end, nothing will be done by congress with no ban of assault weapons. Comprehensive gun control legislation needs to be enacted by all state legislatures.
Until the US Congress acts, New Mexico needs to do what it can to stop mass shootings by enacting reasonable and responsible gun control legislation because it’s now just a matter of time before it happens in New Mexico.
Let New Mexico be the “gold standard” of responsible gun control legislation in the United States.
Following is a chronology of the mass shooting in the United States in the last 4 years:
August 30, 2019: Seven people were killed, ages 15 to 58 years old, in Odessa and Midland Texas. A gunman started shooting indiscriminately with an AK-15 style weapon at cars, bringing the number of victims of mass killings by firearms to 53 for the month of August alone.
August 4, 2019: Dayton, Ohio, 9 dead: A gunman killed nine and injured an estimated 27 people near Ned Peppers Bar in the historic Oregon District of Dayton after opening fire with a .223-caliber rifle.
August 3, 2019: El Paso, Texas, 22 dead: A man armed with a rifle went on a rampage at a Walmart popular with Latino shoppers on El Paso’s eastside that left 22 dead.
May 31, 2019: Virginia Beach, Virginia, 12 dead: DeWayne Craddock, 40, a civil engineer for the Public Utilities Department in Virginia Beach, opened fire inside a municipal building adjacent to City Hall, killing 12 people before being fatally shot by police.
February 15, 2019: Aurora, Illinois, 5 dead: Gary Martin, a 45-year-old factory worker in Aurora, Ill. killed five co-workers at the Henry Pratt Co. manufacturing plant in suburban Chicago during a meeting in which he was fired. Martin was killed in a shootout with police.
November 7, 2018: Thousand Oaks, California, 12 dead: A former U.S. Marine burst into the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks on a night when it was jammed with dancing college students, tossed a smoke bomb into the space and proceeded to open fire with a .45-caliber handgun. Twelve died in the attack and 18 were injured. The gunman, Ian David Long, 28, killed himself at the scene.
October 27, 2018: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 11 dead: Robert Bowers, 46, a Pittsburgh truck driver with a history of posting anti-Semitic material on social media, entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in the city’s quiet Squirrel Hill neighborhood and killed 11 people and wounded six others. He was armed with an assault rifle and three handguns and wounded a total of four officers before being shot and taken into custody.
June 28, 2018: Annapolis, Maryland, 5 dead: For years, Jarrod W. Ramos, 38 had obsessively harassed journalists at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., for publishing a story that outlined the ways in which he had criminally harassed a woman who had rejected his advances. On June 28 , 2018, he burst into the paper’s offices with a 12-gauge shotgun and killed five staffers. Ramos was arrested at the scene.
May 18, 2018: Santa Fe, Texas, 10 dead: They had just picked up their caps and gowns and were days away from graduation, but some of the victims wouldn’t live to claim their diplomas. At 7:30 a.m. on a Friday, a 17-year-old junior named Dimitrios Pagourtzis entered Santa Fe High School, in the suburbs of Houston, and proceeded to kill 10 people and injure 13 morewith a shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver . Pagourtzis was arrested at the scene.
February 14, 2018: Parkland, Florida, 17 dead: Nikolas Cruz, 19, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. for disciplinary reasons. He returned to the campus armed with a semiautomatic rifle and killed 17 students and staff members — seven of whom were only 14. In the process, he wounded at least a dozen others, some seriously. The attack surpassed the 1999 Columbine High School shooting as the deadliest shooting at a high school in U.S. history and sparked a national movement known as
November 5, 2017: Sutherland Springs, Texas, 26 dead: Worshipers had just filed in for Sunday services at First Baptist Church in this rural San Antonio suburb when Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, an Air Force veteran with a history of domestic violence, pulled up wearing a bullet-resistant vest and carrying an AR-15-style assault rifle. He killed 26 people ranging from 5 to 72. After being shot in the leg by a bystander, Kelley fled the scene, turned a gun on himself and died.
October 1, 2017: Las Vegas, Nevada, 58 dead: In a meticulously plotted attack, Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on spectators at the Route 91 Harvest music festival from his suite on the 32nd story of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He killed 58 people and wounded more than 500. Investigators later found a cache of 23 weapons in his hotel room, including 14 firearms that had been modified with bump stocks, which allow a shooter to fire more rounds at a rapid pace.
June 5, 2017: Orlando, Florida., 5 dead: After being fired from his job at a Florida awning factory, John Robert Nuemann Jr., 45, a U.S. Army Veteran, returned to the cavernous Orlando manufacturing site with a semi-automatic pistol and killed five people. He then killed himself.
January 6, 2017: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, 5 dead: Esteban Santiago, 26, a U.S. Army veteran based in Anchorage, who had complained that the government was controlling his mind, drew a gun from his checked baggage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and proceeded to kill five people and wound eight.
September 23, 2016: Burlington, Washington, 5 dead: The plan had been to ambush moviegoers who had gathered at the Cascade Mall theater in Burlington to watch “The Magnificent Seven.” But Arcan Cetin, a 20-year-old fast-food worker, had to abandon that idea when the theater door he had propped open was discovered by someone and closed shut. Instead, he used the semiautomatic Ruger .22 rifle that he had stolen from his stepfather’s closet to shoot five people at close range inside a Macy’s department store. Cetin was found dead in his jail cell of an apparent suicide.
June 12, 2016: Orlando, Florida , 49 dead: It was Latin Night at the Pulse, a gay dance spot in Orlando, when Omar Mateen, 29, entered the nightclub with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and launched an attack that left 49 people dead and 58 injured. At one point, Mateen took 30 clubgoers as hostages. Just after 5 a.m., a local SWAT team moved in and opened a hole in a wall with an armored vehicle; less than an hour later, Mateen was dead. Among the motives attributed to Mateen were racism and homophobia.
December 2, 2015: San Bernardino, California. 14 dead: Before the massacre happened, it was a holiday potluck for county workers. Government health inspector Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, had attended the event at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino with his co-workers. He then left the party and returned with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 29 — bearing combat rifles and handguns. Together, they killed 14 people and wounded 22 others.
October 1, 2015: Roseburg, Oregon, 9 dead: Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, 26, entered his Writing class at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, the only the second time the class had met. He began firing and killed 9 people and injured another 9, before killing himself during a gunfight with sheriff’s deputies.
July 16, 2015: Chattanooga, Tennessee, 5 dead: Armed with an assault rifle, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on two military centers more than seven miles apart in Chattanooga, resulting in the deaths of four U.S. Marines and a Navy petty officer. He was finally killed by police.