Tag Archive: Gun Violence


img_0014By simply turning on the news, one can hear Donald Trump talk about our great country.

“At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.”

If the last ten to twelve days represent our future, have we become a nation that serves its citizens? Are we righteous? And are we lifting up and enhancing schools?

Today, the U.S. “put Iran on notice,” whatever that means. I mean, you Iranians are on notice. Uh, ok. Today’s statement was in response to an Iran missile launch. However, we never laid out exactly what “notice” meant.

Buddhists notice during meditation. But I’m positive this is not the Buddhist version of “notice.” In a broader sense, are we going to take out a big stick and kick ass? Or are we going to just notice. “Ok. Kill as many as you want, but damn it, we’re going to notice.

We’ve also effectively singled out the Muslim faith for the entirety of atrocities committed on U.S. soil. Damn it, Muslims are responsible. The text of Trump’s original executive order noted the “crucial role” the visa-issuance process plays in “detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States.” Fear mongers often raise 9/11 to justify travel ban actions some 17 years later. However, if the public ever performed even some negligible research, they’ve might have found none of the countries impacted by the current administration travel ban was home to any hijackers from the 9/11 attacks. Those 19 came from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Egypt.

For those in the Bible Belt, do you seriously believe that an overseas terrorist is coming to a cornfield near you to detonate a couple hundred feet of corn via suicide bombing? Are you sure a terrorist will set off a shoe bomb as your family participates in a hayride on the Fourth of July? Oops, maybe they’ll blow up a pumpkin durning the fall harvest festival. Wait, that would be cool! Right? Pumpkin detonation is cool.

The coup de grace, has to be today’s speech with Black History Month participants.

We’re going to need better schools, and we need them soon. We need more jobs, we need better wages — a lot better wages. We’re going to work very hard on the inner city. Ben is going to be doing that big league. It’s one of his big things that we’re going to be looking at.

We need safer communities, and we’re going to do that with law enforcement. We’re going to make it safe. We’re going to make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really — you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show. I’m ready to do my part — it’s the only time I can see him. I’m ready to do my part, and I will say this: We’re going to work together.

Ramble. Ramble.

To align my thought of today’s speech with Black History Month participants, I am reminded of a cartoon seen some 20 years ago in the New Yorker about God talking to his Son. In the cartoon, God said, “Now tell me again. What did you you tell them?

I ponder this cartoon as I think of our current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and current nominee for Secretary of Education. Both are complete “dipsticks.” “Surely Mr. President, what are you telling me? This is the best we have?

Other stupid time-wasting executive orders included a plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days, lengthen ban for administrative staff working as lobbyist, authorization of U.S./Mexican Border Wall (otherwise known as the Great Rio Wall), a couple of oil pipelines, abortion ban, U.S. government hiring freeze (unless it’s your son-in-law) and repealing Obamacare.

So for the rest of us, there has been no discussion about bringing jobs to mid-America. No plans for infrastructure repair, healthcare for the poor or how to ensure students in middle America are just as competitive as those in the Ivy League.

We are a great country already, but for the past twenty years, solutions are few. And so far, we’re looking very unrighteousness and significantly shallow.

But look on the bright side, we’re protected from suicide pumpkin bombers.

imageNRA General Counsel Bob Dowlut has been a key architect of the gun lobby’s campaign to basically get as many guns into the hands of ‘Good Guys’ as possible. He helped oversee the NRA’s effort to strike down Chicago’s handgun ban, is the longtime secretary of the organization’s Civil Rights Defense Fund which spends millions assisting gun owners in court. His journal articles have been cited by federal judges and are quoted by pro-gun activists.

So what’s the problem? Well, Dowlut himself killed a woman with a firearm.

As Mother Jones reporter Dave Gilson wrote:

“Two days prior to Dowlut’s confession, Anna Marie Yocum was murdered. She was shot three times, once through the chest and twice in the back, likely at close range as she’d either fled or fallen down the stairs. Two .45-caliber bullets pierced her heart. And after several days of interrogation, Dowlut confessed, led police to the weapon, recovered the weapon and matched the bullets from the victim.”

Prosecutors tried and convicted Dowlut. After serving serving six years of a life sentence, Indiana Supreme Court found police overzealously violated Dowlut’s constitutional rights during the confession. Hence, police denied Dowlut a lawyer despite multiple requests.

Dowlut moves forward in his life, receiving a law degree and becoming the NRA’s General Counsel.

I find it strange how the NRA spokesperson Wayne LaPierre actually has the gaul to say “put more guns in the hands of good guys,” when Dowlut in fact appears to be one of them ‘bad guys.

Life is stranger than fiction.

As Mr. Gilson’s so eloquently poses: “Was Dowlut railroaded or is he a ‘Bad guy with a gun?” Some will claim Dowlut turned his life around, became a model citizen and advocate. And all that may be true. But what of the question I ask, “How about Anna Marie Yocum? How would she feel?” Oh yeah, she’s dead.

Martin Luther King noted:

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate…Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.”

Politik By Other Means

200px-Michael_KalashikovSeveral weeks after his death, the designer of the AK-47, was quoted posthumously as saying his invention had brought him unbearable “spiritual torment” and that torment was unbearable. Designed in the last year of World War II, many would consider the AK-47 a leftover. But the weapon had purchasing power: durability, low production cost, availability, and ease of use. Used by the Russian armed forces for decades, and copied by the Chinese, the weapon is also a favorite of freedom fighters, terrorists, rebels, militants and other non-state actors the world over – featured photo’d in the hands of child soldiers.

But can a designer be responsible for the incredible amount of death worldwide?  Thinking for several days, I’ve come to the conclusion that the issue is too broad for one person’s sole responsibility. There’s a micro and macro level of events that must be parsed over prior to any personal indictment.

On the micro level, I was an 18-year-old post high school graduate when the military plopped an older M14 Sniper Rifle into my hands.  Turns out I was a natural. I could see the wind-blowing via the trees, felt humidity levels and had an eerie ability to calculate distance and wind speed in half a second. I could shoot apples at 800 yards with little effort.

Upon engaging the enemy, there was only God and I. Unless it was night, target acquisition was easy.  Scope to target and variables was calculated, insert the cartridge and halfway through exhalation, the shooter squeezed the trigger. There was always slight recoil, a quick grimace from the target followed by red juice. In less than three seconds, a man’s life ended.

At the macro level, I recall Major-General’s Carl von Clausewitz famous quote, “War is the continuation of Politik by other means.” Technically speaking, a weapon’s designer cannot be responsible for idiocy of leadership.  As Eisenhower said, “… farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” It is true of war as well.

Could any tribunal convict Kalashnikov death by an World War II deigned AK-47 in South Africa when murder received that weapon from a dealer in Botswana, who acquired that weapon from a drug lord in Ethiopia, who purchased that weapon from an arms trader in Lybia, who procured the weapon during a weapons trade one year earlier in Afghanistan who received the weapon from a corrupt military officer in another part of the world? Are not all these traders and buyers equally guilty? And is the rest of world, including you and I just as responsible for turning a blind eye?

Having been in almost every one of the places just mentioned, that murder would have occurred … regardless of weapon of choice.

The longer I live, the more often that question gets into my brain, the deeper I go in my thoughts and guesses about why the Almighty allowed humans to have devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression,” Kalashnikov continued.

The question whether a specific weapon or war is ever justified, and if so under what circumstances, is one which has forced itself upon the attention of all thoughtful men. The objects for which men have fought in the past, whether just or unjust, can no longer be achieved by war itself.  From a personal perspective, from time to time, I am haunted by those last few seconds seen through a scope. I still see the terror and fear.

So I ask you my loyal readers. While I haven’t fired a weapon in the 30 years since leaving the military, I reflect upon Mikhail Kalashnikov comment, “If my assault rifle took people’s lives that means that I, The Unknown Buddhist, … am responsible for people’s deaths?

War is a strange game. Maybe as “Joshua” (War Games 1983 film) said, “The only winning move is not to play.

o-GUN-CONTROL-PSAS-MOMS-DEMAND-ACTION-570For some strange reason, NBC’s “Meet the Press,” decided the nation required the National Rifle Association’s perspective of the recent Navy Yard shooting. And true to form, LaPierre argued recurring themes: (a) The facility “was largely left unprotected;” and (b) there weren’t enough good guys with guns to stop it.

I’m positive that I will be considered some liberal whack job, but LaPierre’s comments seem to say that the only way to stop a disaster is to have more of the very things that helped caused the disaster in the first place.

The suggestion that primary school teachers be armed is idiotic. One teacher couldn’t overcome a sudden attack, so maybe we have the NRA arm the students. Why not make it an elective course? And once schoolchildren are protected, maybe shooters will go nuts in coffee houses. Thus, as an added service, your local brew place can advertise patrons are protected by a 9mm Colt SSP semi-automatic double-action pistol.  Discount shops and big-box stores can follow suit.  Gosh, the USA can become the new ‘old west.’

Stepping aside from LaPierre’s repugnance, the gangs in Chicago that spray city streets with untold violence and death most likely are not legal gun owners. Aaron Alexis had a record of gun violence and a history of mental illness, as did Georgia shooter Michael Brandon Hill, Connecticut school shooter Adam Lanza and Colorado shooter James Holmes. While there is no telling whether increased psychiatric help would have resulted in a different fate for their victims, it’s clear the state of mental health care in the United States needs significant support.

The number of people who have PTSD victims overwhelm the current support system. Returning Veterans and families are overwhelmed. Those suffering from the disease often live in a state of “intense fight of flight.” There appears to be tremendous trouble in diagnosing and treating soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder. Confusing paperwork, inconsistent training and guidelines, and incompatible data systems have hindered the service as it tries to deal with behavioral issues. It’s a crucial issue: after a decade of war, soldier suicides outpace combat deaths.

Rather than focusing on arming everyone, maybe it’s time to discuss specifics such as cuts to mental health and its impact on services. The Washington Post reported states cumulatively cut over $1.8 billion from their mental health services from 2009 to 2011. Another report by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors put the number as high as $4.35 billion from 2009 to 2012. Funding for these other services never quite caught up with the needs of patients who used to be confined to institutions. As a result, the prison system has in many ways become the de facto safety net for the mentally ill. A 2006 Justice Department study found 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners, and 64 percent of local jail inmates suffered from some form of mental health problem. More broadly, more than 60 percent of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder and 70 percent of children were not receiving the mental health services needed, according to a 2011 Kaiser Foundation report.

Personally, it’s obvious America has problems with our tolerance for gun violence. While I am not proponent of eliminating the second amendment, anyone supporting the two following scenarios needs serious mental health care:

  1. The only way to solve or reduce mass shooting is to arm a whole lot people; and
  2. That step number 1 is actually a great idea.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 7.07.54 PMWith a 109-49 count, the Missouri House voted to change Missouri’s motto to the “Shoot Me State.” In essence, the highly conservative Missouri State House overrode Democrat Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of house measure HB 436 (federal gun law nullification).

The latest Missouri measure would declare invalid any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.” Federal authorities who attempt to enforce those laws could face state misdemeanor charges punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Similar penalties would apply to anyone who publishes identifying information about gun owners.

In essence, the legislation:

  • Declares any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” shall be invalid in Missouri;
  • Allows state misdemeanor charges to be brought against federal authorities who attempt to enforce those laws;
  • Allows state misdemeanor charges against anyone who publishes the identity of a gun owner; and
  • Would lower Missouri’s concealed-gun permit age to 19 instead of 21 and allow specially trained teachers or administrators to serve as a “school protection officer” able to carry a concealed gun.

Does anyone really believe it’s a good idea for Missouri or any state for that matter to start declaring which federal laws it believes it has to follow and which ones it doesn’t? Do individual Missouri towns, for example, get to decide which Missouri laws it wants to follow, nullifying any state law it chooses to disagree?

The Missouri legislation goes on to specify some, but not all, of those federal acts which would be “rejected” by Missouri, and considered “null and void and of no effect:”

  • Such federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations include, but are not limited to:
    • The provisions of the federal Gun Control Act of 1934;
    • The provisions of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968;
    • Any tax, levy, fee, or stamp imposed on firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition not common to all other goods and services which could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
    • Any registering or tracking of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition which could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
    • Any registering or tracking of the owners of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition which could have a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items by law-abiding citizens;
    • Any act forbidding the possession, ownership, or use or transfer of any type of firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition by law-abiding citizens; and
    • Any act ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition from law-abiding citizens.

The main problem I see with Missouri legislators and the citizens who elect them is ignorance. Because of personal bias and ignorance, legislators project their fear and turn those who are different into enemies. Politicians know that once you demonize gun control advocates and federal law enforcement, they become less human, allowing one to inflict a certain amount of future pain without guilt or shame.

Politicians who seem to know what they’re doing as they spew contempt, consciously provoking their citizens with fear and hate are enthralled by conflict and power. From a Buddhist perspective, this level of ignorance appears to have a purpose, but ends only by leading to further suffering.

~ “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you.” ~

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche

—————————————– 9:33 PM Update —————————————–

Missouri State Senate fell one vote short of approval.

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