Will We Learn From the Charleston Killings?

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Crime, Opinion, Politics

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Published on June 28, 2015 with 12 Comments

Oil on canvass illustration courtesy Michael D'Antuono.

Oil on canvass illustration courtesy Michael D’Antuono.

By Ralph E. Stone

June 28, 2015

Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year old white supremacist, is accused of murdering nine worshippers at the historic Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C.  President Obama called the shootings “senseless murders” and suggested more gun control is needed in the wake of the tragedy.

But in this violent nation of ours, there seems to be a disconnect between our Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms” and the number of mass killings in this country. Americans with guns kill thousands of fellow Americans each year.  And remember, the right to bear arms is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices.

Incongruous though it might be, while Charleston and the rest of the nation are mourning the dead, at the same time Charles L. Cotton, a National Rifle Association (NRA) member, was blaming one of the slain, Clementa C. Pinckney, a pastor and state legislator, stating, “And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members, who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church, are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”  Does anyone really believe that if the worshippers were “packing heat” at the church, the shootings would have been prevented?

It took the the December 2012 killing of 20 children and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School to reach a tipping point, causing reasonable gun control legislation to be proposed at the federal level. However, Congress failed to reinstate the assault weapons ban.  Other legislation failed to pass, including tougher laws on straw purchases and illegal gun trafficking, efforts to increase school safety, keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, universal background checks, and restrictions on the size of magazines so as to reduce the number of bullets that can be fired before reloading is required.

Will the Charleston killings be another tipping point, providing the impetus for actual passage of reasonable gun control legislation at the federal level?  Certainly, there will again be calls for federal gun control legislation, but unfortunately such efforts will probably be doomed because too many members of Congress are obligated to the NRA lobby, in tandem with gunmakers and importers, military sympathizers, and far-right organizations.

And after all the sound and fury is over, the cycle of killings, hand wringing and mourning will likely continue ad infinitum.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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  1. A new study found that states with higher rates of firearms in the home have disproportionately big numbers of gun-related homicides. The findings suggest that measures to make guns less available could cut the rate of killings, the researchers say. http://www.livescience.com/39754-states-with-more-guns-have-more-homicides.html

  2. We will learn, we’ll learn that “Feeling Safe” because you are in a “Gun Free Zone” is self deception and denial at best, a serious mental and emotional health problem at worst. We will learn that the Government cannot protect everyone and doesn’t even try. We will learn that moral outrage and sharp words are a pitiful excuse for defense in the face of reality. Unfortunately there will be some who don’t survive the lesson.

  3. Another HOAX just like Sandy Hoax. If nothing more just watch the video when the police arrested the so called shooter. If that don’t tell you it was a 100% staged event you have to be dumber then dumb

  4. Re: “tougher laws on straw purchases and illegal gun trafficking”

    How about enforcing the laws they’ve already passed and quit allowing people who use a gun illegally to plea bargain away the illegal firearms offense. The feds are especially guilty of this. Straw purchases and lying on the 4473 form you have to fill out for a background check to purchase a firearm is a felony punishable by 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine – yet in 2010 80191 people failed the background check that were not false positives and the feds prosecuted only 44 of them.

    Most of the gun crime in this country is caused by gangs and repeat offenders, so if you want to help solve the problem, advocate to impose a mandatory death sentence on any recidivist with a violent criminal history that uses a firearm to commit a crime regardless of childhood upbringing, economic impoverishment, mental health, age, IQ or ethnicity.

  5. Re: “Does anyone really believe that if the worshippers were “packing heat” at the church, the shootings would have been prevented?”

    If did in the New Life Church in Colorado in 2007

  6. Re: “number of mass killings in this country”

    According to the CDC in 2010 there were about 11078 people murdered by firearms in the US which works out to about 31 people per day. These are the “word doctored” figures the news media and anti-gun folks like to publicize because people relate to the magnitude of those numbers and it sounds like a lot of people until you realize this is out of a population of 310 million Americans. In that context, it works out to about 1 person out of every 28,000 people being murdered by a firearm. Dwell on the magnitude of your individual significance next time you are in a stadium with 28,000 people. To me, 1 in 28,000 is an acceptable cost to help ensure the security of a free state and the right to own a firearm that has harmed no one. It is also estimated there are 70 million gun owners in the US which means on any given day 69,999,969 gun owners didn’t kill anyone yet because the news media magnifies these relatively isolated and infrequent events to the level of an epidemic, the anti-gun folks answer is to take the guns away from people who harmed no one. The number of gun violence murders will never be zero. So given the fact that deranged individuals and murderers are an intrinsic part of the human race and we currently live in a free society, what number would ever satisfy you to the point you would say “we don’t need any more restrictions on the private ownership of firearms”?

  7. Re: “Other legislation failed to pass, …universal background checks”

    The problem with any of the proposed “private sale” background check bills is that the devil is always in the details. As an example consider the US Senate background check bill (SB-649) that failed to pass in 2013. The title of the bill was word doctored to be innocuous but what was being proposed as part of the background check process was a litany of vague, abstruse and onerous restrictions on friends and family members that could trip them up and subject them to intimidation and entrapment by overzealous and unscrupulous authorities who are aligned with an anti-gun agenda. In addition, the hastily written Toomey amendment was worded in such a way that existing gun laws that currently protect gun owners (like a prohibiting a federal registry) could be circumvented by the President simply having the BATF report to DHS instead of the Attorney General.

    If the totality of what you really want is universal background checks, the answer is simple and easy – give anyone free, anonymous, public access to the federal NICS background check database of persons prohibited from owning firearms and then tell private sellers if you sell or give a firearm to someone and don’t retain a piece of paper that documents you did a favorable NICS check on the buyer, you could be held liable if they commit a gun-related crime. There is no reason to get the government involved any further in the process unless you have other goals in mind like a federal registry of all firearms.

  8. Re: “reasonable gun control legislation”

    In 1934, 1968, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1994 I suspect similar arguments were made for “reasonable gun control legislation” when more restrictive federal gun laws were passed. Since all of the regulations derived from these laws are apparently not enough, maybe you can understand the reluctance of gun owners to entertain the idea of quietly accepting the any more. The problem is the real agenda of the people leading the charge for more gun control is to ban all guns except for the government and governments (unlike individuals) have the track record for killing people that don’t agree with them. This is really just about using relatively infrequent, isolated incidents of gun violence to whip lawmakers into an emotional frenzy to goad them into quickly advancing the agenda of gun control irrespective of any facts in more incremental “progressive” steps in order to set a new baseline and move the goal posts to the point where an unscrupulous government would have the option to do what ever they please.

  9. Stone needs a reality check. All he puts forth is left wing mindless blather. Asinine signs have never stopped criminals and either has gun control. However, armed citizens have been very effective. Stone is nothing but a shill who writes ideology, not facts.

  10. If we did try to control firearms like they do in Europe, we’d probably see an increased overall death rate due to terrorism committed by a few previously law-abiding citizens among the many thus alienated from those whom they used to consider their compatriots. (Many of these will be people who would have been quite happy to see church members shoot Dylann Roof down — thus cutting the massacre short.)

    We’ll probably also see a new wave of white flight, this time affecting entire regions, as people do what they must to escape the growing legions of muggers and burglars, and a deep sense of resentment and hostility even by those who don’t act out violently.

    In the mean time we’ve got to spread the word to other people like Roof, “If you’ve got to commit mass-murder, please don’t use a gun.”

  11. When violence happens people call good guys with guns, the police. Unfortunately they get their after the crime almost always. Mass killing occur in 1-2 minutes or less. Waiting for police is not an option in that tie frame. Having good guys with guns on site is always an option to limit the killing of the perp. Google mass shootings stopped by concealed carry. You will find it works. In Charleston you have sitting ducks due to the lie that no guns zones will stop a killer. Gun free zones are where almost 100% of mass shootings occur. Guns free zones are a killers dream. Gun free zones are an illusion drawn up by brain dead left wing loons.

  12. Short of Banning and confiscating of every firearm in the country which is impossible and unconstitutional. Nothing would have stopped these killings. The 35,000 laws already in place did nothing, the anti gunners did nothing the NRA did nothing. And In reality both sides are wrong. Around 12,000 deaths per year due to gun violence and accidents. The rest of the 32,000 are suicides. Which you cannot blame the method on. So statistically speaking we don’t have a gun problem we have a violence problem. Why are these people perpetrating these acts? Lets get to the root cause of these problems and the violence will fall. It has actually been falling for 20 years already despite more firearms being sold.