In the last few days since the shooting at Newtown cut short my post election afterglow I've had mixed emotions.
I'm not shocked. I'm not heartstruck. I'm not sickened by what occurred at Sandy Hook. It's not that I don't care, it's because I'm a little angry.
"This time is different" everyone says.
I know why that is. I know why they say that. I understand it intellectually, but I've seen this sad sick movie before, too many times. This happens everyday. It's another day of more dead Americans. More dead American Kids. We lost 20 this time, but on an average day we lose about 40. 40. Every. Day.
I'm sorry everyone, but the real tragedy is that it's not that different. Not at all.
I suppose my perspective is not average. I grew up in the Open Shooting Gallery that is South Central L.A, you get used to death there. Almost 15 years ago I wrote a song that predicted Columbine and supposed what might happen afterward if the teenage/young adult shooters were to survive, then go to trial and face execution themselves.
It wasn't hard. I'm not prescient. I was just paying attention. In the months prior to Columbine there was an epidemic of this type of thing.
- March 24, 1998: Jonesboro, Arkansas Four students and one teacher killed, ten others wounded outside as Westside Middle School emptied during a false fire alarm. Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, shot at their classmates and teachers from the woods
- April 24, 1998: Edinboro, Pennsylvania One teacher, John Gillette, was killed and two students wounded at a dance at James W. Parker Middle School. Andrew Wurst, 14, was charged.
- May 21, 1998: Springfield, Oregon Two students killed, 22 others wounded in the cafeteria at Thurston High School by 15-year-old Kip Kinkel. Kinkel had been arrested and released a day earlier for bringing a gun to school. His parents were later found dead at home, shot to death by their son
- June 15, 1998: Richmond, Virginia One teacher and one guidance counselor wounded by a 14-year-old boy in the school hallway
- May 19, 1998: Fayetteville, Tennessee High School Senior Jacob Davis shot and killed eighteen year-old Robert "Nick" Creson in a dispute over a girl. He then lay down his rifle and waited with his head in his hands for the police to come. He was convicted of First Degree Murder and is serving life in prison.
- December 10, 1998: Detroit, Michigan One professor killed by a graduate student
It wasn't hard to see some serious shit was about to go down. It was just in the air, and it has never completely gone away.
I could hear it in the Pearl Jam song "Jeremy" which was about a school suicide by gun. Children growing up lonely confused and resentful with absent self-absorbed parents, too busy chasing earnings to actually be parents. There's a reason that song resonated, it accurately describe so many people of that generation and their internal emotional turmoil. Take some ADHD and Ritalin with a chaser of high-powered psychotropic drugs just to make Jonny sit still during class, then a little Paxil and Xanax for Children and Teenagers, toss in some despair, alienation, a pinch of flat-out mental illness and dash of high caliber weaponry, then let stew for 15-20 years.
It was bound to happen. Then happen again. And again after that.
I supposed back then that someone reaching that level of empathic deficit disorder would be if anything, defiant and angry to the end as Timothy McVeigh was. Fortunalely very few of them have survived or turned out to be a cold-bloodedly matter-of-fact and deliberate in the years afterward as McVeigh.
So I wrote the song and recorded it. First time we performed it Live, which was just days after Columbine, was something - chilling. I'll never forget it.
But I've seen a lot of death. And old boyfriend of my mother's was shot and killed trying to close a deal for a little marijuana when was I was a teenager. Driving home from the AM/PM in my 20's my pal spotted someone laying dead in the street, he turned out to be an undercover police officer. I've had to help LA CSI retrieve video from my place of work's surveillance video showing a teenager being shot in back by his Gang-affiliated friends, allegedly for being an "informant". It happened about 20 feet from where I often sit day in and day out, I was just off work that day. Across the street from that same seat is the Motel that the Shotgun Murder that Crips Gang Leader Tookie William's was executed for took place. On my way with my wife to see an TV Association Meet and Greet for The X-Files at the Director's Guild in Hollywood - we had to walk right over a chalk outline on the ground just yards from Sunset Blvd and all the television personalities inside including all the shows stars, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and creator Chris Carter.
The Death was literally right under their noses as they dined on catered canapes.
A few months ago I met the mother of Kendrick McDade, a teen who was mistakenly shot by police who thought he might have had a gun, because someone else who been robbed lied claiming that it was at gunpoint just so that the Police would take the complaint seriously and respond quickly.
I've put together graphic designs for more Memorial R.I.P T-Shirts than I can even count. People use them to help pay for the funerals they never expected to have, for people who died far too soon.
When you look at the Brady Campaign's Stats it starts to become overpowering.
In one year on average, almost 100,000 people in America are shot or killed with a gun.Nearly 100,000 people? 32,000 dead? Per Year! That's almost eight times the number of soldiers we lost in Iraq. More than that for Afghanistan. And the worse part is that we've been doing this to ourselves.
In one year, 31,593 people died from gun violence and 66,769 people survived gun injuries (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)). That includes:
12,179 people murdered and 44,466 people shot in an attack (NCIPC).
18,223 people who killed themselves and 3,031 people who survived a suicide attempt with a gun (NCIPC).
592 people who were killed unintentionally and 18,610 who were shot unintentionally but survived (NCIPC).
For those who claim that all you need to protect yourself from Gun Violence is to "Get a Gun of your own". Erm, not so much.
A Gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide (11x), criminal assault or homicide (7x), or unintentional shooting death or injury (4x) than to be used in a self-defense shooting (Kellermann, p. 263).How often are armed civilians able to successfully intervene against an armed aggressor? About 20 times a year, against over 10,000 people who those criminals kill.
The numbers have always been staggering. The human toll has always been mind-boggling and heart wrenching.
But now it's different.
Because these victims were so young. So innocent.
It triggered something in us. A deep atavistic dread, particularly for parents. Dead babies. It's unthinkable.
It's the same thing that was triggered when Jon Benet Ramsey was murdered. When Casie Anthony was killed. It's the same thing that's been driving John Walsh for 30 years when his son Adam was kidnapped and killed. That fostered actors like Wynona Ryder to speak up after the murder of Polly Klaas.
I've never had children, my wife had two miscarriages and a dangerous ectopic pregnancy that threatened her own life before we settled in to reality. I have a grown step-son and he's like fantastic. My best friend in the world.
I get it. I do.
I just feel that the death of all children, of all people, is a tragedy - it's always a sad loss of future potential. Teenagers who die as a result of urban gun violence are not suffering a lesser crime than a 5-year-old pageant queenlet from Colorado.
But that's is exactly how we treat them. As lesser. As commonplace. Inevitable. As something we can do nothing about.
It shouldn't have taken this - after all this time - for people to notice how completely Fucked Up we are about Guns. Apparently it did.
We couldn't get movement on extended clips after the Tucson shooting that put a bullet into Rep. Gabby Gifford's Brain. We couldn't get any real measures to address the mentally unstable getting guns after Virginia Tech even with dozens of the survivors and their family lobbying for it.
But Now it's different.
Ok, fine. At least this latest horror might ultimately have a positive result.
Or will it?
No, I'm not talking about the political difficulties. Or the NRA, or the paralyzed GOP. I'm talking about Heller.
On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Heller v. District of Columbia. The Court of Appeals had struck down provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 as unconstitutional, determined that handguns are "arms" for the purposes of the Second Amendment, found that the District of Columbia's regulations act was an unconstitutional banning, and struck down the portion of the regulations act that requires all firearms including rifles and shotguns be kept "unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock." "Prior to this decision the Firearms Control Regulation Act of 1975 also restricted residents from owning handguns except for those registered prior to 1975.Heller was the NRA's Roe. The court establish gun ownership as a personal right independent of the "Well Regulated Militia".
The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.So the District of Columbia which has a terrifically high hand-gun death rate was unable to ban those weapons, and unable to require trigger locks to keep those weapons from unauthorized use.
The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment. The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition – in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute – would fail constitutional muster. Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.
And we think it's going to be a cakewalk to re-instate the Assault Weapons Ban or limit extended ammunition clips, universal background checks, tracking of secondary sales, manditory reporting of lost or stolen weapons and have it survive This Court??
I'm not so sure of that.
We may now have a crack in the Political NRA damn, one that has even moved some A-Rated NRA Republicans like Joe Scarborough to talk about "re-thinking" the issue. Ok, that's good.
But will it stick? And what's it going to take - what even worse horror will be required to shift not just the public and current politicians, but also the Court back to into rationally reality too?
I'm not looking forward to finding out. God willing it won't come to that.
Like I said, mixed feelings.
8:53 AM PT: Just for the record I don't have any problem with the Second Amendment as it was originally constructed, within the confines of a "Well Regulated Militia" as administered by the states. I think as a part of gun ownership people should be required to be a licensed member in good standing with your State Militia, which can be handled in exactly the same way that licensing for Plant Protection Officers or Security Personnel is already being done. For about 2 years I worked for the California Department of Consumer Affairs on their database which holds all their licensing data - the largest most complex portion of their data was the portion that held this information. I personally charted the schema that identifies exactly what weapons each PPO has been authorized and qualified to carry. In other words we already do this if you work for a Security firm, you're job requires you to carry a weapon or even install an alarm system. But we can't do it for every private gun owner even though the Constitution says we should?
I'm not against the 2nd, I just think Heller was wrongly decided because the 2nd really isn't about stopping burglars, it's about protecting the country from invasion and despotism. As long as their are sufficient 4th Amendment Firewalls in place, I have no problem with letting people have just about any weapon - as long as they follow state safety regulations and reporting requirements.