Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Guns, hate and intolerance make a bad combination

This post has been updated since first posted.

Only in America. There has been a spree shooting in Kansas City targeting people at a Jewish community center and nearby Jewish facility.  From the article:
"Shots were fired behind the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in a parking lot about 1 p.m., Douglass said. One male died at the scene, another male died at a hospital. The gunman then fled and opened fire at nearby Village Shalom, killing a female, before later being arrested near an elementary school. Two other people were shot at, but the gunfire missed them, Douglass said.
Douglass said it was too early in the investigation to determine if the shootings were hate crimes. The Jewish festival of Passover begins Monday.
“We know it was a vicious act of violence, and we know obviously it was at two Jewish facilities. One might make that assumption,” Douglass said."
Was it a coincidence that the shooting occurred at a Jewish Community Center in the days before the Passover? Perhaps that question will be answered in the course of the investigation. But it seems to be a point of discussion. From this article:
The man accused of killing three people in attacks at a Jewish community center and Jewish retirement complex near Kansas City is a well-known white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader who was once the subject of a nationwide manhunt.
Frazier Glenn Cross, of Aurora, Mo., was booked into Johnson County jail on a preliminary charge of first-degree murder after the attacks Sunday in Overland Park.
At a news conference, Overland Park police Chief John Douglass declined to publicly identify the man suspected in the attacks. But an official at the Olathe jail, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case, identified the suspect as 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Cross, of Aurora, Mo.
Hate, intolerance and guns do not go together. It's 2014. What's going on? Yes, we know that religious and racial intolerance has existed for centuries. We haven't managed to solve that yet. As a Rabbi friend said to me today, "We are all in this together." Indeed we are. Bullets affect us all at one point or another. They know no race, religion, sex or age. The Sikh Temple shooting victims in Wisconsin found that out in 2012. Thousands of people find it out every year in America. But just because we haven't solved it yet doesn't mean we shouldn't try. And we aren't trying hard enough to stop at least some of the violence that is experienced every day in our country.

More from another article:
A white supremacist yelled, "Heil Hitler," after he was taken into custody in connection with the Passover Eve fatal shooting of three at two Jewish-related sites in the Kansas City area.
Three people are dead after a man opened fire at two Jewish-related sites in the Kansas City area Sunday. View pictures from the scenes here.More >
A 14-year-old boy and his grandfather were killed outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. They were apparently inside a car. A female was killed a few minutes later in the parking lot at Village Shalom, an assisted living facility.
The suspect shot at two other people, but the bullets did not hit them, said Overland Park police Chief John Douglass.
A dozen or more shots may have been fired based on evidence at the scenes.
The victims apparently did not know their killer, Douglass said.
Glenn Frazier Cross, 73, was arrested at 1:28 p.m. He is being held by Overland Park police on multiple charges including premeditated first-degree murder, according to online jail records.
Cross, who also goes by Glenn Miller, is a known white supremacist and known for his anti-Semitic thoughts. He is a former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He is a perennial candidate for office, including running in 2006 against then-U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO. He ran against Blunt in 2010 when Blunt was elected to the Senate.
And now we have added yet another high profile shooting to the list of many. More victims. More grieving. More names to add to the already too many. This article quotes the mother of the young boy killed, also the daughter of the man shot, making comments about the shooting:
“I knew immediately they were in heaven,” Mindy Corporon told the crowd of hundreds who had gathered at an interfaith service after the shooting earlier Sunday at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.
She was talking about her father, Dr. William Corporon, and her 14-year-old son, Reat Underwood, who were killed while sitting in their car next to the White Theater at the center here in this suburb of Kansas City.
“And I know they’re in heaven together.”
The crowd cried. You could hear the gasps and the sobs as her words sunk in.
Aren't we tired of the families of victims making statements such as this? Isn't this something we should be working on together so that those every day shootings, as discussed in my last post, become less frequent? Why are we not dealing with this national public health and safety epidemic? The question needs to be asked and answered. And now more families and communities grieving, burying their dead. I like the way the Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign put it in this release:
While the circumstances of Sunday’s heinous shooting remain under investigation, allegations of extremist behavior and hateful intolerance are deeply troubling, particularly as our communities prepare to celebrate Easter and Passover, as well as honor the lives lost to gun violence seven years ago this week at Virginia Tech and 15 years ago at Columbine.
Troubling. Senseless.

Meanwhile, we just celebrated the anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights law. World War II ended many decades ago. And yet, there are people living in the past. What is this about? There had been warnings issued to those in the Jewish communities because of the upcoming Passover celebrations and the April 20th birthday of Hitler which seems to be significant to anti-Semites. Coincidentally, the Columbine shooting happened on April 20th of 1999. That anniversary comes on the Christian Easter holiday this year. Let's hope there will be no more violence. So far, April has not been a good month and in the past has been the month of other mass shootings like Virginia Tech  (April 16, 2007) and though not a shooting, related in some way because of Timothy McVeigh's extreme views about guns, the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995.

Speaking of the Oklahoma City Bombing, White Supremacist groups are on the rise in America:
The number of hate groups operating in the United States continued to rise in 2008 and has grown by 54 percent since 2000 — an increase fueled last year by immigration fears, a failing economy, and the successful campaign of Barack Obama, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The SPLC identified 926 hate groups active in 2008, up more than four percent from the 888 groups in 2007 and far above the 602 groups documented in 2000.15
"Barack Obama's election has inflamed racist extremists who see it as another sign that their country is under siege by nonwhites," said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, a SPLC quarterly investigative journal that monitors the radical right. "The idea of a black man in the White House, combined with the deepening economic crisis and continuing high levels of Latino immigration, has given white supremacists a real platform on which to recruit."16
Hate. Fear. Paranoia. These are home grown terrorists. Maybe we should look to ourselves before we criticize other countries for their terrorist activities. More Americans have been killed in shootings on American soil since 1968 by mostly other Americans than in all of Americans killed in wars in our history. 

It's no coincidence that the election of our first Black President has caused an increase in hate groups and the purchase of guns. You can see where the hate groups reside on a map on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Is it a coincidence that the dots on the map congregate mostly around the red states of the southeastern part of our country? But these groups are found all over our country. This is frightening. And these are the "guys with the guns" that the corporate gun lobby encourages with it's message of fear and paranoia. And our gun laws make it all too easy for these folks to amass arsenals of weapons. Ironically, Kansas is about to bar local governments from making gun laws. Good idea, right? More irony- the folks killed on the premises of the Jewish Community buildings in Kansas City were Christian.


From the SPLC site, an article posted reveals more about the Kansas City shooter:
Miller is a raging anti-Semite who has posted more than 12,000 times on Vanguard News Network (VNN), whose slogan is “No Jews, Just Right.” VNN founder Alex Linder has openly advocated “exterminating” Jews since December 2009. Miller, a close partner to Linder, has called Jews “swarthy, hairy, bow-legged, beady-eyed, parasitic midgets.” Miller is also one of VNN’s largest donors and he printed and distributed thousands of copies of VNN’s newsletter, The Aryan Alternative.
This isn’t the first time a VNN user has been arrested for violence. On January 17, 2011, less than 12 hours after posting on VNN, Kevin William Harpham placed an improvised explosive device concealed in a backpack along a Martin Luther King parade route in Spokane Washington. The lead sinkers in the radio-detonated IED were coated with Warfarin rat poison, evidently intended to increase bleeding.  Had the device functioned, dozens of men, women and children would have been killed or injured. Harpham also distributed The Aryan Alternative.
Our research shows that racist killers are hiding among us in plain sight. A forthcoming two-year study by the SPLC will show that nearly 100 people in the last five years have been murdered by active users on another prominent racist website, Stormfront.org.
Why and how did this man have guns? Good question, right? He was imprisoned on a weapons charge, making him a felon. But it's all too easy to get guns through straw purchases, by stealing them and from private sellers who don't have to perform background checks. This is the gun culture we have encouraged in this country. It just makes no common sense. What kind of a country are we?

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is keeping track of insurrectionists on its' Insurrectionist Time Line. If you weren't concerned before reading this you should be now. This is not the America we want or deserve. Gun violence is devastating to way too many families in communities all over America. Again, The Week-end Gun Report in the New York Times provides us with the most recent reports of the daily carnage due to gun violence. From the article:
According to the Gun Violence Archive4,900 people have been injured by gun violence in America and 2,978 have been killed since Jan. 1, 2014.
This is simply not OK. It's time for a change. How long will it take? What will it take?


It looks like one question I asked is now answered. The shooter got his guns through straw purchases. From this article:
He obtained firearms from a "straw buyer," a middleman with a clean record who could buy weapons legally and then sell or give them to Cross, allowing Cross to avoid federal background checks, a U.S. law enforcement official said. He had three guns when he was arrested Sunday, authorities said.

Last May, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to make straw purchasing a felony crime and to increase penalties for this crime. From the article:
The measure, which addresses a practice known as straw purchasing, passed the committee by 11 to 7; the only Republican to vote in favor was Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa. Mr. Grassley’s nod on the measure, which already had two Republican co-sponsors, was significant because he is the most senior member of the committee. The panel is made up of 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans.
Some Republicans on the committee spoke out against the bill, including Senator John Cornyn of Texas, who said the legislation seemed intended “to show we are doing something,” but in the end would not be effective in halting gun crimes.
Preventing people from buying guns for people with criminal records and others who cannot pass a background check, which also leads to illegal gun traffic across state lines, is but one part of President Obama’s regulatory agenda for guns. (...) 
Most gun safety experts say they believe that straw-purchasing and background check measures work in tandem. A failure by Congress to pass more than a modified straw-purchasing bill would be a victory for the National Rifle Association, which opposes each measure.
Shortly after their vote on the straw-purchasing bill on Thursday, the committee ended its work, apparently to accommodate a classified briefing for some of the members, and completion of its work was postponed until next Tuesday.
Mr. Grassley’s support for the straw purchase bill came in part for an agreement on his amendment requiring a high-level person at the Department of Justice to personally sign off on future “gun-walking” sting operations similar to the Fast and Furious investigation. A gun that was allowed to pass into Mexico during that investigation was later found at the scene of a shootout in which a Border Patrol agent was killed.
The bill is languishing in the Senate and has not seen a floor vote.

The shooter could not have passed a background check. To avoid it, he got someone else who could to make the gun purchases for him. This is illegal. We can make this practice harder to stop these kinds of gun purchases. But we have failed to do so. Three people are dead. Where is common sense?

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