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Monday, June 13, 2016

A Reading of Our 'PULSE'

[NOTE:  Orlando is not something about which one has a great desire to write, but then again, it is difficult to avoid.  This is a profoundly sad and tragic moment, and my sympathy, thoughts and prayers are directed toward surviving families of victims of this inhuman act.  I cannot hope to fathom the depth of despair and anger that they are feeling at this moment.  So, my hope is that the vivid and heartfelt responses of thousands throughout this country and the world will be of some comfort to them in their sorrow]

What happened yesterday, June 12, 2016, in a nightclub in Orlando Florida is the largest single shooting massacre ever in the history of the USA.  That fact alone has engendered  reactions that are ever-growing, ever-expanding, ever-fearful as more facts come to light. Here are just a few brief reactions I want to mention from what I observed:
  • the reaction of an off-duty policeman who exchanged fire with the shooter and also got some people to safety
  • the brave and professional handling of the situation by local, state and federal first-responders who thereby saved hundreds of lives
  • of course, the immediate reaction of medical staff of the trauma center to the necessity of treating a large number of wounded people
  • the outpouring of empathy and sympathy throughout this country and the world
  • the examples of heroic and healing actions taken by certain patrons in the midst of chaos and in what followed
  • the despair of those parents and others who were looking for their loved ones
  • the reactions of politicians and office-holders, particularly the chief of Orlando Police, and the Mayor. 
  • the President responded to this tragedy in a somber and frustrated manner, appearing worn down by this senseless violence; this was reported as the fifteenth time in his Presidency that he had the burden of addressing the nation about such shootings
  • the differing tones taken by the presumptive candidates for President; Trump, as usual, felt it necessary to denigrate both the President and Hillary Clinton
That last reaction brings me to a point of needing to say some things that must be said.  But first, let me bring to you a timeline of  similar incidents of mass shootings that we have experienced in the USA since Columbine. The descriptions are as brief as possible, and contain little detail. (To qualify as "mass shootings" the federal guideline is that at  least three people  must have been killed -- Please see for a fairly definitive listing; others like 'A Timeline Of Mass Shootings In The US Since Columbine' , Dec 14, 2012  have also been used here to bring this summary to the present date in 2016).

June 12, 2016.  Orlando, FL. 50 killed, 53 Injured Orlando LGBT Nightclub Massacre largest shooting massacre to occur in USA.  Omar Mateen, was the shooter, perhaps a sympathetic ISIS follower 
September 27, 2012. Minneapolis, MN. 5 killed 3 injured
36-year-old Andrew Engeldinger at Accent Signage Systems went on a rampage after losing his job
August 5, 2012. Oak Creek, WI. 7 killed 4 wounded
40-year-old US Army veteran Wade Michael Page opened fire in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek.
July 20, 2012. Aurora, CO. 12 killed. 58 wounded
 24-year-old James Holmes opened fire in a crowded theater
May 29, 2012. Seattle, WA. 6 killed 1 wounded
Ian Stawicki opened fire on Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle, WA,
April 6, 2012. Tulsa, OK.  3 killed
Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, shot black men in shooting spree in Tulsa.
April 2, 2012. Oakland, CA 7 killed 3 wounded
43-year-old One L. Goh killed people at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college 
February 27, 2012. Chardon, OH 3 killed 3 wounded
Fellow students killed by Thomas “TJ” Lane in a rampage at Chardon High School
February 22, 2012Norcross, GA.  5 killed
Jeong Soo Paek, 59, shot up a Korean spa from which he'd been kicked out after an altercation 
October 14, 2011. Seal Beach, CA 8 killed 1 wounded
Shooting at Salon Meritage hair salon in Seal Beach, CA. involved 41-year-old Scott Evans Dekraai 
September 6, 2011. Carson City, NV 5 killed 7 wounded
Eduardo Sencion, 32, was the shooter at an IHOP restaurant in Carson City, 
January 8, 2011. Tucson, AZ.  6 killed. 13 injured
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head when 22-year-old Jared Loughner opened fire on an event she was holding at a Safeway market in Tucson, AZ.
August 3, 2010. Manchester, CT.  9 killed. 2 injured
Omar S. Thornton, 34, gunned down Hartford Beer Distributor in Manchester; caught stealing beer
November 29, 2009Parkland, WA. 9 killed 2 wounded
Maurice Clemmons, 37, on bail for child-rape charges, shot four police officers in a coffee shop.
November 5, 2009. Fort Hood, TX 13 killed  29 wounded
Forty-three people were shot by Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan at the Fort Hood army base
April 3, 2009. Binghamton, NY  13 killed  4 wounded
Jiverly Wong, 41, opened fire at an immigration center in Binghamton, New York
March 29, 2009. Carthage, NC.  8 killed  3 wounded
At the Pinelake Health and Rehab nursing home. 45-year-old Robert Stewart shot his estranged wife
June 25, 2008Henderson, KY.  6 killed  1 injured
Wesley Neal Higdon, 25, shot up Atlantis Plastics factory after argument with supervisor.
February 14, 2008. DeKalb, IL  6 killed 21 wounded
Steven Kazmierczak, 27, opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University
February 7, 2008. Kirkwood MO  6 killed  2 injured
Charles Lee Thornton, opened fire during a public meeting after being denied construction contracts. 
December 5, 2007. Omaha NE  9 killed  4 wounded
A 19-year-old Robert Hawkins, used stolen rifle to kill others and himself at the Westroads Mall. 
October 7, 2007Crandon, WI.  6 killed  1 injured
Off-duty sheriff's deputy Tyler Peterson, 20, opened fire inside apartment after argument at party 
April 16, 2007. Blacksburg VA  33 killed  23 wounded
Virginia Tech  the site of the deadliest school shooting in US history; shooter Seung-Hui Choi, 
February 12, 2007. Salt Lake City UT  5 killed 4 injured
In Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square Mall, people were shot by 18-year-old gunman Sulejman Talović
October 2, 2006. Lancaster PA  6 killed  6 injured
Charles Carl Roberts, 32, shot 10 young girls in a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Bart Township,  
March 25, 2006. Seattle WA  7 killed  2 injured
28-year-old Kyle Aaron Huff in a shooting spree through Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA
January 30, 2006Goleta, CA  8 killed 
Former postal worker Jennifer Sanmarco, 44, shot a neighbor and employees at mail processing plant
March 21, 2005. Red Lake MN  12 killed 5 injured
Teenager Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather and students  Red Lake Senior High School.
March 12, 2005. Brookfield WI  10 killed  4 wounded
Members at Church meeting gunned down by 44-year-old Terry Michael Ratzmann.  
December 8, 2004Columbus, OH.  5 killed  7 wounded
Nathan Gale, 25, shot former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell & others at a Damageplan show
July 8, 2003. Meridian MS  8 killed  7 wounded
Doug Williams, Lockheed Martin employee, shot up plant in Meridian in racially-motivated rampage
February 5, 2001.  Melrose Park, IL. 5 killed 4 injured
 Fired employee William D. Baker, 66, opened fire at his former Navistar workplace
December 26, 2000. Wakefield MA  7 killed
Edgewater Technology employee Michael “Mucko” McDermott shot and killed coworkers 
December 30, 1999.   Tampa Fla  5 killed  3 injured
Hotel employee Silvio Leyva, 36, gunned down coworkers at the Radisson Bay Harbor Inn 
November 2, 1999Honolulu, HA  7 killed
 Byran Koji Uyesugi, 40, a Xerox service technician, opened fire inside a building with 9mm Glock
September 15, 1999. Fort Worth TX  8 killed  7 injured
Larry Gene Ashbrook opened fire on a Christian rock concert and teen rally
July 29, 1999. Atlanta GA 13 killed  13 injured 
Mark Orrin Barton, 44, murdered wife & two children; then shot up two Atlanta day trading firms 
 April 20, 1999. Littleton CO  15 killed  24 wounded
In the deadliest high school shooting in US history, teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot up Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. They killed themselves after the massacre
I realize only too well that this list is long and arduous to run through, but it is necessary for bringing us to some conclusions and opinions that perhaps deserve your consideration. Besides, the very existence of that long list is indicative of the depth of our problem with violence; particularly with gun violence.  The Mother Jones website has done some analysis of such shootings, and its report is of distinct value.  Their recent analysis includes attacks dating from January 2013 in which three or more victims died. Excerpts from their original analysis, which covers cases with four or more victims killed from 1982-2012, appear below. The cases they  have documented since then reaffirm their major findings, which include:
  • Since 1982, there have been at least 80 public mass shootings across the country, with the killings unfolding in 33 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Forty-three of these mass shootings have occurred since 2006. Seven of them took place in 2012 alone, including Sandy Hook.
  • A recent analysis of this database by researchers at Harvard University, corroborated by a recent FBI study, determined that mass shootings have been on the rise.
  • Of the 143 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally. The arsenal included dozens of assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns with high-capacity magazines
  • More than half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (12 and 20, respectively); the other 30 cases took place in locations including shopping malls, restaurants, and religious and government buildings.
  • Forty-four of the killers were white males. Only one was a woman. (See Goleta, Calif., in 2006.) The average age of the killers was 35, though the youngest among them was a mere 11 years old. (See Jonesboro, Ark., in 1998.)
  • A majority were mentally troubled—and many displayed signs of mental health problems before setting out to kill.
  • Mass shootings represent only a sliver of America's overall gun violence
To begin to get a grasp on the economic toll, Mother Jones turned to Ted Miller at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, an independent nonprofit that studies public health, education, and safety issues. Miller's approach looks at two categories of costs. The first is direct: Every time a bullet hits somebody, expenses can include emergency services, police investigations, and long-term medical and mental-health care, as well as court and prison costs. About 87 percent of these costs fall on taxpayers. The second category consists of indirect costs: Factors here include lost income, losses to employers, and impact on quality of life, which Miller bases on amounts that juries award for pain and suffering to victims of wrongful injury and death.
In collaboration with Miller, Mother Jones crunched data from 2012 and found that the annual cost of gun violence in America exceeds $229 billion.
  • Direct costs account for $8.6 billion—including long-term prison costs for people who commit assault and homicide using guns, which at $5.2 billion a year is the largest direct expense. Even before accounting for the more intangible costs of the violence, in other words, the average cost to taxpayers for a single gun homicide in America is nearly $400,000. And we pay for 32 of them every single day.
  • Indirect costs amount to at least $221 billion, about $169 billion of which comes from what researchers consider to be the impact on victims' quality of life. Victims' lost wages, which account for $49 billion annually, are the other major factor.
Let me now add to this analysis, my own observations, opinions and thoughts as to other considerations we ought to bear in mind as we contemplate and debate what is happening in our nation.
  1. The shooters vary in many ways, including age, motive, mental state, and ties to groups.
  2. On the one hand, we are not being besieged by thousands of ISIS terrorists.  Therefore,  allowing an abject fear to be our primary motivator in our politics and in everyday life in America is not a healthy nor helpful approach
  3. On the other hand, there are enough lone-wolf ISIS sympathizers to require law enforcement, intelligence agencies and individual citizens to be wary of their activities, monitor their movements  and to be vigilant in reporting circumstances that are suspicious
  4. Politicians who use mass shootings as fodder for demeaning other candidates, blaming the President, or furthering their own agenda are not worthy of anyone's vote.
  5. On the other hand, inaction on gun violence and mental health treatment and funding in regard to these multiple and tragic incidents is inexcusable.  Legislatures at all levels are responsible for law-making to solve or resolve problems in society.   Ignoring or obstructing such problem-solving is not acceptable. 
  6. Ordinary citizens are responsible for communicating their concerns to their legislative representatives and protest is a right and responsibility placed upon us by our foundational documents.  Citizens have a constitutional right to a "redress of grievances" and to ultimately make their voices heard by VOTING. 
  7. Perhaps most apropos is the fact that legislators are responsible for providing resources to combat problems, meet needs, attend to emergencies, defend our nation, to resolve persistent problems and to provide for the General Welfare.  If Congress fails to provide adequate funding for FBI agents, Intelligence officers, and federal Department of Justice personnel, and local and state legislatures fail to fund adequate numbers of  first responders, how can we expect to address violence and terrorism in any meaningful way?  We have been kept in Limbo too long.
  8.  There is a pervasive atmosphere, passive acceptance and active encouragement of violence in our culture.  The very fact that this many mass shootings have occurred since Columbine in 1999 is evidence enough that our culture has been corrupted by approving violence as an acceptable human behavior. What are some of the signs of this cultural strain; I can mention a few: 
  • Evidence is accumulating in schools and other institutions and organizations that bullying, taunting, demeaning of others is too often considered acceptable. 
  • The Republican candidate for President encourages and demonstrates his own affinity for violence as an acceptable and imperative method of governance and power-seeking.  
  • A penchant for War and a movement that organizes hate groups and racist purity groups is  increasing. 
  • Attacks on groups and individuals of different religions, different ethnicities, different cultures, different characteristics from a white supremacist standard promotes division and enmity. 
  • We see and ignore the destruction of Planned Parenthood centers, attacks on doctors, and sometimes violent harassment of patients. 
  • We too often condone the use of military force as a primary means of controlling and reacting to other nations. 
  • We glorify guns and allow the NRA to dictate that second amendments rights are more important to defend than the lives of innocent victims of gun violence. Meanwhile the NRA spends outrageous sums to influence the promulgation of legislation, regulations, and policy, and to influence the outcome of elections in their favor. 
  • We condone rape on campuses made so real by a judge in California who exempted a rapist from jail time as though  the rapist was the victim not the perpetrator of a violent act against a young woman. 
  • We revel in the violence of certain sports.
  •  The media and the arts are not exempt from their contributions to a culture of violence.  Movies of a certain genre are particularly to blame for promoting violence not only as entertainment, but as heroic.
  • And this list of overt violence leaves untold the stories of the covert violence of injustice, massive incarceration, segregation, lack of jobs, lack of services for certain populations.  Underlying  many of our institutions is the violence of racism and discrimination.  
 We are in imminent danger of becoming the most violence-ridden country on the face of the earth simply because we do not recognize that violence and hate are destructive of individuals but also of a society.  We have failed to live up to the ideal that if one person is violated or denigrated or treated unjustly, we are all affected. We have failed to deem all forms of violence as unacceptable behavior and we have failed to act to prevent the violence that we encounter, these mass shootings of innocent people on an on-going and unchallenged basis serving as a prime example.
The Tony award TV show on Sunday evening, June 12th, tried to set a different tone and they are to be commended for that.  The talented host of the Tony show commented that "Hate will not Win."  Unfortunately, it sometimes does win because good people fail to speak out, leaders fail to lead and ordinary citizens fail to protest or to get involved in a persistent and unrelenting manner. 

[Looking for more definitive solutions, try these websites for Ways to Stop Gun Violence:]