Twenty-six plus nine, plus how many more? Gun violence must be addressed

Three years ago, I wrote a column for Dome magazine decrying an act of domestic terror – the mass murder of 26 children and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. I asked then, “When is enough enough?” The answer came this week from Charleston, S.C., where nine people were gunned down in their own church. Evidently we haven’t had enough yet.

If this mass murder of people of God in a church is not a wake up call and shakes our moral sensibilities to our core, I don’t know what will. I wrote that three years ago, too. What does that say about us?

I hope, again, that doing nothing will no longer be tolerated.

Once again, politicians are debating who is at fault. Let me make it easy for them – we all are at fault.

Once again, we need to call upon our nation’s leaders to take decisive action, on multiple fronts, to address this horror in our midst. If we do not come together now to address this madness, we are giving up on the very soul from which this great nation sprang.

A call to action

Our response needs to be more than another shrug. We need to declaw the National Rifle Association and their nonsense response that people are the problem, not guns.

Guns do kill. David Hemenway, a Harvard University public health specialist, has done significant research, indeed research of the research, on whether guns make us safer or not. He writes, “Of course it's possible to find researchers who side with the NRA in believing that guns make our society safer, rather than more dangerous. As I've shown, however, they're in the minority.”

We must find a sensible policy, law or regulation to keep these weapons off our streets and out of the hands of deranged people. To do so is not a violation of the Second Amendment and does not interfere with the rights of any legitimate gun owner.

Gun ownership for sport, self-protection or collection purposes is not at issue. Sensible people can develop laws that can help reduce if not prevent these mass killings while protecting Second Amendment rights.

We need to challenge and eliminate the culture of violence we tolerate in movies and video games that is corrosive to a healthy and stable society.

When Is enough enough?

When are we willing to recognize that senseless slaughter can be minimized and prevented if we mesh quality mental health services with sensible, enforceable, strong gun ownership laws and a demand that violence is not sold as entertainment?

Our national response must address easy access to guns and appropriate treatment for people with mental illness, at a minimum.

More deaths, more talk. Where is the outrage? The action?

The children at Sandy Hook Elementary School were just 6 or 7 years old when they were murdered. Our leaders promised to act then, and did not. Their failure is killing us.

Congress, Mr. President, stop allowing people to die in vain. As a nation, we are literally dying here. At Sandy Hook we had 20 little reasons to act. Now we can add 9 children of God to the death list.

For God's sake, do something.

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Fri, 06/19/2015 - 3:03pm
You could have 10 Sandy Hooks in the space of two weeks and even that would probably not move the needle with politicians. The gun lobby is too powerful.
Workshop of the...
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 2:39pm
It is pretty clear that we are dealing with the ego deflation of a generation of special snowflakes who enjoyed participation awards in school, but find the real world after school (high school or college) less solicitous. The SC puke was quoted as being 'on a mission' and scoped out three different venues for his 'mission' [mall, college, then the church] The Aurora puke's records with his shrink show the same desire for notoriety as he failed in his post graduate education. The Newtown monster's ego was was being stoked, post school, by his mother, to no avail. All three carefully selected venues where they would not be challenged, so they would achieve the maximum measure of notoriety. Confirmed by the total absence of an escape plan after their actions. Until American society goes back to celebrity based upon achievement, rather than outrageous misbehaviour, losers at the margin of society will have clear incentives to embark on ever more depraved actions. Who today can mention one Nobel Prize winner in the last three years? The Kardashians are on everyone's reading list, though. The mental health community certainly knows aberrant self gratification is driving these losers, but they have painted themselves in a corner elevating unworthy egos. Gun control is a waste of effort and a distraction from the cultural causes of this continuing nightmare.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 9:06pm
Workshop of the Telescopes June 22, 2015 at 2:39 pm Melala 2015 for the education of girls in Afghanistan.
Fri, 06/19/2015 - 5:34pm
While the deaths of these people is truly tragic, any and all gun laws ever enacted by every country in the world could not have prevented what happened.
Tue, 06/23/2015 - 11:32am
Australia stopped mass murders with gun regulation laws. It is not true that laws don't make a difference.
Craig Douglas
Sat, 06/20/2015 - 6:57am
Common sense should tell us what we now do is not working. Tom is right; leaders need to step up and address a range of issues, starting with guns. If not now, when?
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sat, 06/20/2015 - 9:05am
Tom Watkins, I notice you are 'President and CEO of the Detroit, Wayne Mental Health Authority.' I would have thought your comments on this violent issue would tend to zero in on the specifics of the mental health issues underlying it. I would expect you to be more specific about the things you are expert in. But I guess you choose to ignore or deflect attention from your areas of expertise. Instead you write the same thing you wrote three years ago, the same things the mouthpieces of the governments of tyrants have said down through history when they are pushing to disarm their peoples: guns are the problem (not the mental issues of your areas of expertise), we must further disarm the people (22,000 laws already are not nearly enough in your view to handle the same problems these 22,000 were said to handle and were passed to handle.) Maybe the real underlying causes of the issues you highlight have NOT been addressed by you, by these 22,000 gun laws, these multiple incidents, and the media coverage you lavish on each new occurrence, and the attention and money and stress you invite people to invest in this matter. Years ago when I lived in California I began a Scrap Book of media articles on violent crimes like this. I was interested in the issue and wanted to know about it. After a few years I no longer bothered to keep the book. In California, in each of the articles in my book, in the third or fourth or fifth paragraph, there would always be the same thing mentioned, but not listed as the cause. The violence might have been: guns, knives, poisons, beatings, rioting, pillaging, police brutality (Rodney King), gang violence, a racial issue like the Watts riots, domestic violence, suicides, drug overdosing, serial killers (The Hillside Stranger), on and on. But in this little paragraph a little later in the story it said the person had been receiving mental treatment, it said he or she had been receiving psychiatric drugs from a psychiatrist or psychologist or mental health person. My wife was in the Red Cross and worked with people on a larger scale of violence: apartment fires, brush fires with 200 to 300 police and firemen, earthquakes, floods (Bartlesville Texas), etc. The Red Cross is authorized to be first-responders in such events. She told me of psychologists wanting to rush into these disaster areas with trunk loads of drugs and syringes (illegal drugs to give active drug addicts in the area.). I feel the presence of psychologists and psychiatrists and mental health "professionals" just prior to each violent incident, each violent crime, is more pervasive and a more likely cause of, a better predictor of violence in each case than the presence of a gun. Even here, here you are, pointing the finger at others (the NRA), at guns, at personal rights, at nonsense slogans. Since the 22,000 laws, and saturated media attention and billions of dollars spent on one solution (gun control) has not solved the problem, isn't it time we tried something else? Einstein said to do something (He was talking about testing in the science of physics) a number of times and to expect a different result is one definition of insanity. You said, "Enough is Enough!" Indeed it is. Even Hitler (1937 through 1945) was given daily injections (75 mg) of methamphetamine (a stimulant) that is known to cause violence. I do not have to tell you what paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of his headlines had or should have had to say. What I am saying is that if there has been this much attention and money placed on, invested in "guns" as the cause of violence...and that has not reduced or solved the issue, it might be a good idea to take a look at some other possible and likely causes. Like the mind of man and those who have the responsibility to be doing something in their own areas of expertise. I'm just saying.
Sat, 06/20/2015 - 10:55am
Leon, We differ and not likely to agree on a set of facts that allows a sensible solution to spring forth -- there in lies the problem why we don't address issues tearing this country apart Let's agree it is a sad, cowardly act and give prayer and thought to the victims and how we may respond in their memory and the memory of the countless thousands who are murdered by guns each year in this country. Perhaps the Center For Michigan could create a forum where thoughtful solutions to gun violence can be discussed in a respectful and rationale manner to see if there is any "center" to resolving this social cancer in our mist.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sat, 06/20/2015 - 9:23pm
Tom June 20, 2015 at 10:55 am Thanks Tom, for you kind and sensitive reply. I agree, the Forum you envisioned may be helpful. I'm willing. Since the only venue we have right now is here, at Bridge Magazine, on this Commentary, then that will have to do unless, as you say, The Center For Michigan could create a Forum where thoughtful solutions to the issue of Gun Violence can be discussed in a respectful and rational manner to see if there is any "center" to resolving this issue. You said, "We differ and not likely to agree on a set of facts that allows a sensible solution to spring forth — there in lies the problem why we don’t address issues tearing this country apart." I think we could begin by agreeing on a set of facts. You said, "25 plus 9" have died related to this issue. I do not disagree with your body count nor that guns were used, and that this group have the use of guns in common. Barry Stearn said, "almost all of the young men who committed mass murders in the last few years were taking psychotropic drugs." I don't know if that is known for the shooters in your "25 plus 9" group, but let's accept his assumption for now, as one assumption, into our Forum here. Do you agree? We can see if that holds true here when the details are known. We can see if your assumption that guns are the only thing these events have in common holds true also. I said, "it might be a good idea to take a look at some other possible and likely causes." Since you proposed this forum, then I assume you and I agree on this point. I said, "The violence might have been: guns, knives, poisons, beatings, rioting, pillaging, police brutality (Rodney King), gang violence, a racial issue like the Watts riots, domestic violence, suicides, drug overdosing, serial killers (The Hillside Stranger), on and on." So I have accepted the use of guns, and expanded that to include many other acts of violence. So if I can show a common cause for all, or more of these violent things than simply "guns", then that would include "guns" but also possibly lead to a much more widespread solution. Do you mind if I add these violent things from my Scrap Book of long ago, to the discussion? I might increase the number or decrease them if I can not show a common trend. I said, "But in this little paragraph (from the articles in my Scrap Book) a little later in the story it said the person had been receiving mental treatment, it said he or she had been receiving psychiatric drugs from a psychiatrist or psychologist or mental health person." So this is a rough statement of my model, and we might compare this in our discussions to your model which I understand is "guns." Do you accept or disagree? Now if a shooter or "a violent person" had received "mental treatment" with drugs or otherwise, and then became more violent from that treatment and did in fact kill someone, say with a gun. Then we could say that this person meets both our models. But if most or all of the people on my violence list were shown to have had such treatments then my model would more closely model what is happening in society and a solution that fits that model then would have a much wider impact, and impact "guns" as well. Are you willing to accept this to our forum? For example my citation of Hitler as a case being under such care. If this were true and you accepted we could say he certainly directed the use of "guns" but he also directed the use of "gas chambers" to kill possibly 11 million Jews, Catholics, impaired people, and anyone that opposed him in the slightest. You said, "Let’s agree it is a sad, cowardly act and give prayer and thought to the victims and how we may respond in their memory and the memory of the countless thousands who are murdered by guns each year in this country." So, I agree to add this to the forum. Not so much with the "countless thousands." I think the exact numbers published are probably available, and I accept that there would be more. But more to the point, do you agree my more general view also includes "guns" and if found to be true or mostly true, would also include and more likely lead to many times the "countless thousands" you claim for "guns" alone? I am looking forward to your views.And also Barry's and others that wish to join the forum.
Barry Stern
Sat, 06/20/2015 - 12:01pm
Here we go again with mainstream media and so-called pundits not reporting the major story - that almost all of the young men who committed mass murders in the last few years were taking psychotropic drugs. So while race, guns and religious zealotry played a role with many, the one constant has been their use of insufficiently tested drugs. Have you heard this on CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS? Guess which industry pays for 70% of their advertising? I think Mr. Hulett who commented here has a pretty good handle on why these disturbed individuals became killers, as does the article below.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 10:48am
Barry Stern June 20, 2015 at 12:01 pm Thanks for article and comments. - Leon
Kyle Caldwell
Sun, 06/21/2015 - 7:12am
This "debate" while interesting at some level, works insidiously to avoid the most obvious fact-based solutions. I am a gun owner and believe in the right to own firearms for my own legal purposes. I am not under treatment for any mental disease. I believe there are practical limits --even for me-- to own certain guns and that registering to own one is smart. I can't drive a car without a govt. issued ID and training so why should a gun-equally deadly if used improperly-be any different? Truly, we are a country out of control and overly attached to our ability and right to own as many and any kind of weapon. We can look to other countries for examples of how very practical reforms reduced gun violence without abusing the civil liberties of citizens. the dogma and let's get to solutions rather than either throwing our hands up in defeat or pointing fingers at other problems to avoid the hard work of addressing this one.
Ned S Curtis
Sun, 06/21/2015 - 8:03am
Spot on, Tom! is time for action! The US is the only industrialized country in the world with this problem.
Sun, 06/21/2015 - 10:04am
it depends on which "problem" you are referring to, however if it's Gun ownership as it relates to violent crime, adjusted for population, the USA is not even in the top 5
Sun, 06/21/2015 - 9:04am
The issue is not with gun laws; it's with mentally disturbed people that commit the crimes because there are no facilities for them anymore. When all the mental health institutions are closed down, where do you expect them to go? They are on the streets and committing horrendous crimes because they are not being treated. Re-open mental health facilities again and I would bet these types of crimes would go down.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 11:21am
Kim June 21, 2015 at 9:04 am I agree with you Kim the issue is not with the gun laws. Would you care to say how you think the "mentally disturbed people" became mentally disturbed? What or who do you think causes these mental problems?
Sun, 06/21/2015 - 9:36am
Tom: So how do you square your call for background checks with HIPAA and the individual rights groups (including the mentally ill)? We've all seen what giving the mentally handicapped all the rights available to general citizenry has led us. You don't have to be too much of a cynic to believe this will hit (and is in fact aimed at) anyone and everyone who wants to buy a gun.
Sun, 06/21/2015 - 6:54pm
First, the guns we most need to control are those in the hands of the police, the military and the secret agencies that are neither. Getting these guns under control means we make sure the job of these agencies is to serve people, not to oppress them. Just the number of unarmed people openly killed by police agencies far outweighs the number killed in the church in Charleston and all similar events. This does not count the numbers killed by drone attacks on wedding paarties, secret assinations, etc., etc. It's not just the actions of those armed by the state. There's a whole culture - movies, TV shows, ceremonies to honor soldiers and police (some paid for by the Pentagon) - glorifying those armed by the state. When this culture dies out, we'll know we're making some progress controlling state-sponsored violence. Second, if we had single-payer health care which covers mental hospitals, many of the nutty people who act out with guns could be getting treatment instead of shooting people. Whether they were racist or not, an astounding percentage of school/church/theater/crowd killers were on the street and taking taking drugs known to make a significant number of users violent. That's not anything like good treatment, but it is what insurance companies will pay for. Third, if we can get the first two under control, then we will see how much of a problem it actually is for ordinary citizens to own guns. Maybe periodic competency testing, as we do for drivers' licenses, will be adequate. If we focus on the least important aspect of gun violence and let the other two go, then no significant improvement will be made. Of course, police, military, other agencies, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and so on would like us to look at anyone but them. Don't go along with this bull$#!+. As the earlier civil rights movement correctly said, keep your eyes on the prize.
Colleen Turrell
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 10:00am
So many diverse response to a major problem that I personally believe cannot be solved by debate and laws. I believe debate and laws are needed in a society otherwise you would have worse outcomes. I am not up on the statistics concerning how many deaths are causes by the use of a gun I have heard numbers thrown out but do we really have an accurate number? and does it matter the number? when a life is taken by any act of violence isn't that the real issue? Anger, envy, bitterness, offenses, strife, contention foster an environment which can result in regrettable outcomes. Evil thoughts most often lead to evil deeds. I must ask the question of this forum for a person to decide in their hearts to execute another human being for motivations that seem right to them does that make that person mentally ill???? Could it be that those who have committed Columbine, Sandy Hook, U.S. Post Office shootings, etc; are acting on selfish motivation. Full Definition of EVIL morally reprehensible : sinful, wicked an evil impulse: arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct causing harm : pernicious <the evil institution of slavery; marked by misfortune : "Evil." Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 June 2015. . I am not certain how many taking part of this forum are parents; but it has always amazed me to hear about the parents of these individuals and the lack of relationship that exist. In my humble opinion the root problem starts with the foundation of our society which is the family. Parents have an awesome responsibility and we have to figure-out how to engage our children so we can help them work through disappointments, angry moments, etc. I am in agreement that guns don't kill! I do know that guns and knives, are weapons used by people to inflict harm and death and a person who has no moral compass both instruments can lead to death and destruction. I am not looking for agreement in my closing statement; if we as people, regardless to our ethnicity, and social strata do not humble ourselves and recognize our need for repentance and assistance from God we will continue to witness more painful tragedies. As a grandparent now I implore us to turn off the televisions, cell phones, video games and take a walk with your children (family) and find out whats happening in their lives. In so doing you may stop an act of violence, or you may discover we do not need to be turned-on by the world but tuned in to one another. "Families are the bookends that support Society" Blessings
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 11:04am
Colleen Turrell June 22, 2015 at 10:00 am I like your ideas. I like the definition of insanity that goes like this: "Insanity is continuous and active destruction." When a person does that they are insane. I think the worse off a person is the more gentle the treatment has to be. I recommend walks, as you do. I also recommend: Get enough sleep and be well rested. Get plenty of good food. Drink plenty of clean water. Get medical treatment for any underlying medical condition that has effective treatments. [I knew a woman that had her goiter removed in the 1940's. The woman had a violent reaction to the medication for that and never took any medication for it. She had a very sad life.] - Leon
Charles Richards
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 2:27pm
"When are we willing to recognize that senseless slaughter can be minimized and prevented if we mesh quality mental health services with sensible, enforceable, strong gun ownership laws and a demand that violence is not sold as entertainment?" What does Mr. Watkins want: minimization or prevention? Hopefully, he is wise enough to settle for minimization. In that case, what would he consider success? A seventy percent reduction? eighty percent? ninety percent? And a reduction in incidents or casualties? Given that it is not possible, however desirable it may be, to prevent violence from being sold as entertainment, we must rely on stronger gun ownership laws and mental health measures. What does he propose in the way of stronger gun ownership laws? How does he meet the fear of many gun owners that stronger screening and registration is just a prelude to confiscation? To what extent is he willing to strengthen the ability of government to institutionalize mentally ill people against their will? How strict would gun laws and mental health measures have to be in order to be sufficiently effective? You will recall that the gun used to kill the school children was bought for the killer by his mother. And he was not classified as mentally ill, just severely autistic. The young man who killed the people in the church had not been convicted of any felonies when he bought his gun. Would stronger gun laws or better mental health programs have prevented either tragedy?
Tracy Davis
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 4:15pm
Given that gun violence is committed by criminals who have no regard for laws, how do any of you propose that "sensible gun control laws" are even remotely a solution? Confiscation? It seems to me that the problem is PEOPLE. This past weekend in Detroit (with 22 shootings) is a perfect illustration. The response from a so called local Clergy Leader "It isn't the shooters fault, they don't have anything else to do". I am somewhat of a simpleton, but the constitution says "shall not be infringed". If the solution is to infringe, then the constitution needs to be amended. If you cant garner the support for to amend the constitution, then perhaps the gun violence can be chalked up as "the cost of doing business" in a society that got it's roots from intolerance of an oppressive government. I am not personally willing to accept the gun violence, as "the cost of doing business", but I am also not willing to freely give up my 2nd amendment rights. If I do, which Amendment is next? As for the authors assertion that guns do kill; not without 2-4 pounds of pressure from an outside source (people).
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 5:37pm
Tracy Davis June 22, 2015 at 4:15 pm You asked, 'how do any of you propose that “sensible gun control laws” are even remotely a solution? Confiscation?' I do not propose for “sensible gun control laws” or "confiscation" of guns to solve the problem of violence in our society, with guns only, or otherwise. I advocate for simpler mental health measures that are available to all. Not for more mental health laws, not for more mental health facilities or even for more money for mental health. If it costs money to do what we are doing now that is ineffective, then we should cancel that, or rescind if it is law...and move on to something more effective. It is not unusual for someone to say to another that is hurt or offended, "Just walk it off." "Shake it off." What does Jackie Chan do when he receives an injury? He presses on the injury, he shakes his hand, or jumps around a little till the extreme pain gets a little less, a little more bearable. We all could do more of this: We could say to someone, "Walk it off!", "You need to get out more.", "Take a walk." "Kiss the injury like a mother wishing to help a baby or infant.", Offer to let someone just talk it a bit. Suggest someone go to a Confessional. Take responsibility and just confront the person directly, look them in the eye and say, "We need to talk." If someone needs basic medical attention that has an effective treatment, see they do get it. If someone does need to sleep take a little responsibility to see they do. My son and his wife just had a baby, our first grandchild. They live across the country, we went there to help. The labor was induced and still took 34 hours. My son was there every minute seeing she had what she needed. He was soon exhausted and she was more so. My wife and I were in the background making sure things went right, or as well as possible. The babies heart rate flatlines.... My son notices a contact has come off the babies foot [it was 3:00 AM], he gets the nurse in and all is right again. It took a week for my son to get some of his energy back. It took longer for our daughter, at 34 hours they did a C-Section. She was hurting. My son helped. She was tired, my wife and I helped. Each of us can help others in some way, when they need help. Simple, proven mental health measures are more effective than more complicated things that are not effective, and truthfully never were effective. They simply made a lot of money for someone.
Tue, 06/30/2015 - 8:53pm
If you wish to discuss solutions, you could start by leaving out the needless and counterproductive attacks on people who are every bit as committed to public safety as you are. It may be emotionally satisfying to throw rhetorical darts at the National Rifle Association, but a far better approach would be to accept their concerns in good faith. I think you will find that a great many people who you consider “the enemy” in fact share a common goal of making society safer, they simply do not believe your pet solution of gun prohibition will work. Prohibition did not work with alcohol, it has not worked with drugs and it will not work with firearms. Michigan currently has more than 470,000 concealed pistol licensees. Prior to the adoption of Public Act 381 in 2002, that number was 50,000. Despite all these guns “on the street,” Michigan has less violent crime than it did 13 years ago, and some of the biggest gains have been in the City of Detroit. I am not going to go so far as to suggest that the drop in crime was caused by changes to the concealed carry law, but certainly it undercuts the notion that more guns = more crime. The fact is multiple-victim attacks are a global phenomenon and not limited to the United States. One of the other commenters suggested the example of Australia, which imposed severe firearms restrictions after 1996. This has been claimed to have solved the problem. This would come as news to the people killed and wounded in the December 2014 coffee house attack in Sydney. France is not known for lax gun laws, and yet almost the entire editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo was massacred there earlier this year. You may have heard about it. Of course, one does not need a firearm to kill multiple people. Knives and machetes can inflict horrific wounds and have been used in several attacks in China and Japan. In Boston, pressure cooker bombs were the weapon of choice. Guns control is as relevant to this discussion as requiring a permit to purchase cookware. Far more relevant is the role the media is playing in creating incentives for this behavior. After each one of these attacks, the perpetrators become instant celebrities. Their photos are broadcast world-wide and every half-witted utterance or facebook posting is combed for meaning. Do you think the decision to feature one of the Boston Marathon bombers on a magazine cover encouraged or discouraged troubled individuals from undertaking a similar massacre as a means to spread their message? I believe it provides a clear incentive to violence. The lesson being taught is this: If you are mentally ill and want the world to pay attention to you, go on a rampage and your manifesto will be circulated world-wide. Even if you choose to kill yourself, you will die knowing that you have achieved ever-lasting fame. Your solution – trying to hide all the dangerous things – does not work. It has never worked. People bent on violence will achieve their goals and if they cannot obtain a firearm to commit their atrocities, they will use a car, or cookware converted into anti-personnel weapons. If you are serious about engaging in a discussion of this topic, I would welcome the opportunity to engage you. But part of that would be giving people the benefit of the doubt and not assuming that folks with honest and sincere policy disagreements are evil.