No this isn't a story about those who have died in the wars initiated by George Bush and Dick Cheney. That can wait for a different date. No this is to remember the deaths of ten people who were gunned down in Alabama only last year by a lone gun man who murdered both family members and people he did not know.
Here are the names of the deceased for whose deaths this one man with access to an arsenal of weapons was responsible:
Corrine Gracy Myers - 18 mos.
Andrea D. Myers- 31 yrs.
Lisa White McLendon - 52 yrs.
James Alford White - 55 yrs.
Tracy Michelle Wise - 34 yrs.
Dean James Wise - 15 yrs.
Virginia E. White - 74 yrs.
James Irvin Starling - 24 yrs.
Sonya Smith - 43 yrs.
Bruce Wilson Malloy - 51 yrs.
The gunman who authorities said launched a shooting rampage over three south Alabama towns, slaying 10 people in his path before killing himself, was once a police officer in Samson, the small town hit hardest by the deadliest crime in the state's history. [...]
"Evidence collected does indicate his reasons -- what the reason are I can't get into right now," said Lt. Barry Tucker of the Alabama Bureau of Investigations. "He was somewhat depressed about job issues, but the information we have does not specify [the motive] was job-related."
Coffee County District Attorney Gary McAliley told the newspaper in nearby Dothan that McLendon likely planned the rampage for a while. He said investigators have found dozens of ammunition boxes, military and survival gear and medical supplies at McLendon's Kinston home.
Mass killings by people "exercising their right to bear arms" happen so frequently in the United States, that I suppose every day we could run a story like this one. We are a nation with an unholy obsession with guns.
The commonest argument I hear is that we need fewer gun laws to protect us from criminals. Well, until Mr. McClendon decided to go on his killing spree he was considered reliable team-leader" by his most recent employer and a "quiet" person who had been trained to be a police officer until he failed hi physical. No one who knew him in the small town in which he lived expected him to go on a killing spree:
Many who knew Michael McLendon said he appeared well adjusted. Samson Mayor Clay King coached McLendon in Pee Wee and Little League baseball.
"He was always very respectful, did what he was asked to do," King said. "He was kind of quiet, but not to the point that you would consider it abnormal."
Yet he murdered in cold blood his his mother,his 74 year old grandmother, his uncle, his cousin, and a 15 year old nephew. he also murdered the wife of a local police officer and her 18 month old toddler. He then killed, seemingly at random, three other people on the road to a nearby town, people who had no known connection to him. He shot at many more people who fortunately were not killed, though one child was wounded but survived.
Michael McClendon had no known criminal record or history of violence. One thing we do know, however, is that he had an obsession with guns and gunfights:
Evidence collected from the McLendon home indicates he had an obsession with shooting and gunfights. Coffee County Sheriff’s and District Attorney investigators recovered about 40 DVDs dealing with firing weapons in combat situations. Among the titles of the DVDs were "Move! Shoot. Learn to survive a gunfight", "Shooting at and from moving vehicles", "Advanced guide to Combat Shooting and Gunfight Survival" and "Rapid Firepower — Submachine Guns ... Assault Rifles ... The Urban Battlefield."
We also know that he was granted a concealed carry handgun license by the the local Sheriff's office, and that he liked to carry his guns around in public.
"Everywhere that he went that he could tote a gun, he would," Mr. Knowles said. On Tuesday he was armed with a handgun, two assault rifles and a shotgun.
This was just one incident out of many. There are more guns in the hands of individuals in America (90 guns per every 100 people) than in any country in the world. Every day in America someone dies from gun violence. Some are killed by people with lengthy criminal histories, but many are not.
I have no grand solution for our nation's history of gun violence and its perverse obsession with owning and using firearms. I also know, however, that no political figure with any real power in our country has a solution for this problem either, nor do they want to tackle the problem. They are more afraid of losing their jobs due to opposition from the NRA, than they are interested in finding ways to reasonably regulate firearms ownership in this country.
As for those who may think I am picking on Alabama, or or one incident in which a white man in the South went on a killing spree, or gun owners in general, let me remind you that we have so many loopholes in our national gun laws that Mexican drug lords routinely purchase their weaponry, not in their own country, but in mass buys in the United States.
... George Iknadosian, will go on trial on charges he sold hundreds of weapons, mostly AK-47 rifles, to smugglers, knowing they would send them to a drug cartel in the western state of Sinaloa. The guns helped fuel the gang warfare in which more than 6,000 Mexicans died last year.
Mexican authorities have long complained that American gun dealers are arming the cartels. This case is the most prominent prosecution of an American gun dealer since the United States promised Mexico two years ago it would clamp down on the smuggling of weapons across the border. It also offers a rare glimpse of how weapons delivered to American gun dealers are being moved into Mexico and wielded in horrific crimes. [...]
Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because the gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and they cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons.
The ease with which Mr. Iknadosian and two other men transported weapons to Mexico over a two-year period illustrates just how difficult it is to stop the illicit trade, law enforcement officials here say.
The gun laws in the United States allow the sale of multiple military-style rifles to American citizens without reporting the sales to the government, and the Mexicans search relatively few cars and trucks going south across their border. [...]
... Some of the smuggled weapons are also bought from private individuals at gun shows, and the law requires no notification of the authorities in those cases.
"We can move against the most outrageous purveyors of arms to Mexico, but the characteristic of the arms trade is it’s a ‘parade of ants’ — it’s not any one big dealer, it’s lots of individuals," said Arizona’s attorney general, Terry Goddard, who is prosecuting Mr. Iknadosian. "That makes it very hard to detect because it’s often below the radar."
Let me also add, for those who are concerned about Islamic terrorists coming to our shores to kill Americans , that Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist and radicalized fundamentalist Muslim who shot and killed 12 people and wounded 30 more at the Ft. Hood Army base in Texas, purchased the weapons he used to kill and maim his fellow soldiers legally under American laws.
Sources tell ABC News that in August 2009, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan walked into the Guns Galore gun store in Killeen, Texas, and legally purchased the FN Herstal tactical pistol that authorities believe was used to massacre soldiers at Fort Hood.
Guns Galore. An ironic name, but also an apt one, for we are a nation of guns galore. Under our laws very few people in America cannot get their hands on semi-automatic firearms which are good primarily for killing people (how many folks really take semi-automatic handguns and assault rifles to go hunting?) if they are determined to do so. Criminals, the mentally unstable, even people under investigation for possible terrorist connections can easily acquire weapons in this land of the free and home of the brave. And few politicians will lift a finger to stop this tragic farce.
How many people, young and old, out of fear or desire for things that go boom own guns? How many people own guns and keep them in their homes or their cars where small children can get access to them? I know of grandparents who own handguns that they probably will never need who have grandchildren who visit them frequently, or for whom they baby sit.
I know of parents who purchased hand guns out of the fear drummed into them by Fox News and conservative talk show hosts that President Obama was going to make gun ownership illegal. That was a lie, but even though these people bought them anyway out of fear. Many of them have no real need for a handgun and little experience in using them or keeping them safe from those in their own homes (much less those who may visit their homes and discover these weapons) who don't understand the risks to life and limb that they pose.
And so tragedies like the mass murder a year ago of 10 people in Alabama will continue. And when they happen we as a country will stand by and bemoan the terrible slaughter and the senseless loss of life and the horrible pain of the victims' family members and friends. And then we, collectively as a nation, will do nothing to make such tragedies less frequent. We collectively as a society, will continue to allow these shootings and massacres and rampages and terrorist acts to continue right here in America, the greatest nation on earth, as we like to remind ourselves.
So this is the reason for my post about a killing spree by one unhappy, gun obsessed individual one year ago. Because while we as a society may do nothing, while our politicians sit on their hands in deathly fear of the NRA and the Gun lobby, I can at least remind us all of the cost of that choice to sit idly by while the gun deaths mount.
The cost to all of us is counted in human lives cut short. Lives that experienced the same joys and sorrows as we the living experience. Lives that brought happiness to others, and people who no doubt enjoyed the same pleasures we do. Lives of children who never got to become adults before they were killed by a bullet. Lives of people who were loved and who loved, and now are missed.
Today, let us remember them, and mourn them. That is the least that we can do.