something you hope never happens

This is something you hope never happens in your own community, in the place that you call home.” That’s from Vince Niski, the Chief of Police in Colorado Springs, following the mass murder of six people (and the suicide of the shooter) in the early hours of Mother’s Day.

Something you hope never happens in your own community. As if this was the first mass murder in Colorado Springs in Vince Niski’s experience. As if Matthew John Murray hadn’t killed five and wounded five others in a pair of church shootings (one in Colorado Springs, one in Arvada) in 2007 when Niski was just a lieutenant in the Colorado Springs PD. As if Noah Harpham hadn’t killed three random people in the streets of Colorado Springs in October of 2015, when Niski was the Deputy Chief of Operations. As if only a month later, in November of 2015, Robert Lewis Dear hadn’t killed three and wounded ten at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic. I’m sure each time Vince Niski hoped it was something that would never happen again in his community.

Colorado Springs Chief of Police Vince Niski

At this point, they police aren’t releasing the name of Colorado Springs’ newest mass murderer. The Colorado Springs police describe him as ‘the boyfriend of one of the female victims.” Former boyfriend is more likely. Or a boyfriend in the process of becoming a former boyfriend. Or just another angry man who doesn’t feel he’s getting the respect he deserves as a man. Regardless, he drove to the party, walked inside, and began shooting people–including his supposed girlfriend. Then, as happens routinely in these man-angry-at-a-woman mass murders, he killed himself.

As Chief Niski says, this is something you hope never happens in your community. Except it does, all the damned time. Maybe not with such a high butcher’s bill, but it happens all the time in every state in the US. You can hope your fucking heart out, but angry men with access to firearms are going to continue to make it happen. If your community is Colorado Springs–if your community is in a state that doesn’t require a permit to purchase a firearm, it’s more likely that this will happen. If your community is in a state that doesn’t require firearm registration, it’s more likely it’ll happen. If your community is in a “shall issue” state–meaning local sheriffs MUST issue a concealed weapons permit if an applicant meets certain criteria**–it’s more likely it’ll happen. If your community allows people to openly carry weapons without a permit, it’s more likely it’ll happen. If your community allows you to make, possess, or own a ghost gun–a handmade firearm without a serial number–it’s more likely it’ll happen. If you live in a state that has actually banned local communities (with the exception of Denver) from enacting their own stricter firearm safety laws, then it’s more likely it’ll happen.

It’s not Chief Vince Niski’s fault that Matthew John Murray was able to assemble a small arsenal in preparation for his angry man murders–a Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifle and three semi-auto pistols (a Beretta .22-caliber, a Beretta .40-caliber, and a Springfield Armory 9mm). Or that Noah Harpham was able to buy a DPMS Classic 16 semi-automatic rifle and two handguns (a Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum revolver and a Springfield Armory XD-M 9mm pistol). Or that Robert Lewis Dear bought an SKS semi-automatic rifle (and the multiple propane tanks he’d brought to the Planned Parenthood clinic with the intent to turn them into explosives). Niski had nothing to do with it. But he’s been around the block long enough to know that if those three angry men could find the means to kill sixteen people and wound about that same number, it’s no surprise another angry man could find the means to murder half a dozen people at a birthday party. Which, according to Chief Niski, is something you hope never happens in your community.

But if it’s happened four times in the last decade and a half, it’ll probably happen again. It’ll probably happen again because the people of Colorado LET IT HAPPEN. Because they’ve elected people who have refused to take any step to reduce the likelihood that it’ll happen again. Chief Niski’s hope is fucking worthless unless somebody takes action to implement actual reasons for hope.

What happened on Mother’s Day is NOT Chief Niski’s fault. He’s only guilty of voicing the stupid platitudes that chiefs of police are expected to repeat every time something you hope never happens in your own community happens in your own community.


** What are the criteria for being automatically issued a concealed weapon carry permit in Colorado? You have to be a Colorado resident, age 21 or older. You have to attest that you’re not a felon or mentally incompetent. You have to attest that you don’t chronically or habitually abuse alcohol, and that you don’t use (or are addicted to) controlled substances. You have to be free of a civil or criminal restraining order. You have demonstrate ‘competence’ with a handgun. How do you do that? By 1) having an honorable discharge from the Armed Forces within past three years, 2) having proof of pistol qualification in Armed Forces within past ten years, 3) being a retired law enforcement officer with pistol qualification within past ten years, OR 4) completing four-hour handgun training class within the past ten years.

the latest news is not the last

Bah, the latest news, the latest news is not the last.”

I wake up and before I finish making the bed, I hear there’s “a mass murder incident” in Indianapolis. A mass murder incident. You know how the meaning of some terms change over time? Like ‘cheater’ used to refer to an officer appointed to look after the king’s escheats — property that reverted to the State or the King when somebody died without a legal heir — and now means a person who cheats? Well, in terms of mass murder, the original definition of ‘incident’ still applies. An incident is ‘something which occurs casually in connection with something else.’

There was a mass murder incident in Indianapolis this morning — the murder of at least eight people occurring casually in connection with…well, with going to work in a nation that has a small but powerful minority who worship firearms. The incident was described as “the country’s deadliest shooting since ten people were killed on March 22.” That was less than a month ago.

Last night in Indianapolis more people were murdered while casually going to work than were murdered three and a half weeks ago while casually shopping for groceries at a supermarket in Colorado. This is how we measure mass murder incidents now.

The authorities have said the mass murder “wasn’t precipitated by any kind of a disturbance or an argument.” As if ‘a disturbance or an argument’ would actually explain in any way why eight people were shot and killed. The authorities are also trying to “understand the motives” of the shooter. Because if we understood the murderer’s motives, we’d be able to…to what? Do something about it? Nobody, it seems, is bothering to understand the motives of legislators who continue to weaken and erode firearm safety legislation. That might be something we could actually do something about.

It could be anyplace. It could be everyplace.

This is just the latest news, and as Samuel Beckett says, it’s not the last. We’ll make the effort to pretend what happened is explainable, that it’s understandable — but it’s not. It never really is. People call it a tragedy — and it is, and it isn’t. It’s an incidental tragedy, a casual tragedy, a temporary tragedy that will eventually become a passing reference in a news story — ‘the country’s deadliest shooting since eight people were killed at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis.’

“I know my eyes are open,” Beckett wrote, “because of the tears that pour from them unceasingly.” But the problem with unceasing tears is that after a while, they no longer indicate grief. It’s just crying. Some families and friends in Indianapolis will be grieving, but as a nation we’ll go on today and tomorrow as if this is all normal. Which it is. Our boy Beckett understood too.

To go on means going from here, means finding me, losing me, vanishing and beginning again, a stranger first, then little by little the same as always, in another place, where I shall say I have always been, of which I shall know nothing, being incapable of seeing, moving, thinking, speaking, but of which little by little, in spite of these handicaps, I shall begin to know something, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always, the same which seems made for me and does not want me, which I seem to want and do not want, take your choice, which spews me out or swallows me up, I’ll never know, which is perhaps merely the inside of my distant skull where once I wandered, now am fixed, lost for tininess, or straining against the walls, with my head, my hands, my feet, my back, and ever murmuring my old stories, my old story, as if it were the first time.

I shall begin to know something, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always. A FedEx facility in Indianapolis, a supermarket in Boulder, Asian spas in Atlanta, a brewery in Milwaukee — the same place as always. Murmuring the same stories as if it were the first time. The latest news is not the last.

crazy-ass bastards

— That crazy-ass bastard in Colorado.
— Which crazy-ass bastard in Colorado?
— The crazy-ass bastard that shot all those people in the supermarket.
— The one last week? Or has there been a new crazy-ass bastard shooting people in supermarket?
— The one last week. A supermarket, for fuck’s sake. People there just buying bread and tunafish and shit. Now they dead.
— Dead as tunafish.
— I’m thinking about buying me a gun.
— You’re what?
— I mean, you can’t buy tunafish without some crazy-ass bastard shooting you? Fuck that. I’m a get me a gun.
— There it is, right there.
— There what is?
— That’s how they do it. That’s how they keep selling guns.
— They who?
— Motherfuckers who make the guns, that’s who. Look, how many people we got in America?
— Fuck if I know.
— About three hundred and thirty million.
— That’s a lot of people.
— A metric shit ton of people. And how many guns we got?
— Fuck if I know.
— About four hundred million.
— That’s a lot of…wait. We got more guns than we got people?
— We got more guns than people. That’s what people call market saturation.
— Market what?
— Saturation. Like if you selling tunafish and everybody already got a whole damn shelf filled with cans of tunafish, don’t nobody need any more tunafish, right? So how you gonna sell ’em more tunafish?
— Fuck if I know.
— You got to scare ’em.
— How you gonna scare people into buying tunafish?
— You tell ’em tunafish gonna save their lives. You tell ’em tunafish’ll cure cancer and hemorrhoids and mumps. You tell ’em unless they got a stack of tunafish in their cupboard, they gonna get the Covid. You convince folks they absolutely GOT to have tunafish if they want to live.
— But…
— Or you tell ’em that tunafish gonna become scarce. They don’t stock up on tunafish right fucking now, it’ll soon be gone. They’ll never get any more tunafish. Hell, the government probably gonna come right into their kitchen and take whatever tunafish they got.
— That’s bullshit.
— Course it’s bullshit. Don’t matter. Scared people fall for bullshit like they was made of brick. Truth is, if you got yourself a couple of cans of tunafish, you don’t need to buy any more until you ate up what you got. Right?
— I guess. I sorta forgot what we were talking about. Wait…market thingy.
— Market saturation. Same as tunafish. You already got yourself a gun…or even two or three guns…the only way the motherfuckers who make guns are gonna sell more is if they scare you into buying ’em.
— You’re saying gun makers had that crazy-ass bastard shoot up that store in order to get people to buy more guns?
— What? No. Jesus, no. What I’m saying is the motherfuckers who make guns will use gun violence to scare folks into buying more guns. It’s like this. If you make guns, you want to make it easy for folks to buy guns. If you make it easy to buy guns, some crazy-ass bastard will buy one and use it to shoot folks shopping for tuna-fish. And every time some crazy-ass bastard shoots a lot of tunafish-buying folks, the motherfuckers who make guns will say, ‘The only way to protect yourself from crazy-ass bastards who buy our guns is to buy more of our guns.’
— Maybe they should make it harder for crazy-ass bastards to buy guns.
— See, there’s the problem. You mostly can’t tell if a crazy-ass bastard IS a crazy-ass bastard until he starts shooting people.
— So what do we do?
— Make it harder for everybody to buy guns.
— But I want to buy a gun.
— To protect yourself when you need to replenish your tunafish supply.
— Well, yeah.
— Because it’s too easy for crazy-ass bastards to buy guns.
— Exactly.
— There it is, right there.

he is who he is

Look, it’s part of the job. I know, it’s not listed as a duty in the Constitution, but when there’s a national tragedy, folks want — they expect — the president to acknowledge the tragedy with compassion. They want the president to recognize their suffering, their grief, and to share that suffering and grief to some extent. They want the president to understand what they’re experiencing.

All Comrade Trump had to do yesterday was show up and make the day about the victims and the families of the victims of the mass shootings. That’s it. He didn’t have to solve all their problems, he didn’t have to tell them everything was going to be okay, he didn’t have to promise to fix things immediately. He just had to listen, be gentle, show some respect, and actually care about what they were going through.

He couldn’t do it. As always, Trump had to make it all about himself. His grievances, the level of his support, his treatment by others, his popularity. I truly believe he can’t help it. It’s part of his personality disorder. He’s simply incapable of experiencing the world from any perspective other than his own. It would be sad — tragic, even — if he wasn’t such a hateful, malignant person.

No, that’s inaccurate; it IS sad and tragic. But I struggle to feel any compassion for him because he IS such a hateful, malignant person. It’s sad and tragic for him, but it’s really sad and tragic for the rest of us because we can’t divorce ourselves from the consequences of his personality disorder. He’s broken, and as president he’s breaking our nation.

So yesterday, instead of offering solace and comfort to the nation, Comrade Trump further inflamed passions. Instead of quietly grieving with those who are suffering, he turned the trip into what was essentially a campaign event. He mugged and smiled for the cameras, he attacked his detractors, he took selfies, he lashed out at his perceived enemies, he bragged about his popularity and how much respect he was shown, and he pouted when others failed to recognize how popular and respected he was.

I don’t think anybody actually expected Trump would accept any responsibility for fueling the hatred that revealed itself in El Paso. I don’t think anybody expected him to apologize for that, or offer to change his vitriolic tone. Nobody expected him to be suddenly Not Trump. But we hoped (some of us hoped) he’d act like a decent human being. All he had to do was say “I’m sorry for your loss, I’m sorry for your troubles, I’m so very sorry this happened to you and to your community and to our nation.” That’s all he had to do; that and stay quiet. It wouldn’t have been easy, especially knowing that a lot of folks feel he IS responsible for the hatred that manifested itself in the shootings. It wouldn’t be easy, but he’s the president. It’s not an easy job.

In the end, he couldn’t do it. He simply couldn’t meet the very minimum requirements of the job. He couldn’t put aside his own insecurities, his own resentments, his own relentless spite. Not even for the few hours he spent in public. He couldn’t do it. He doesn’t have it in himself to be decent.

He is who he is.

ADDENDUM (8-9-19) — A photo of Comrade and Mrs. Trump, who is holding a baby whose parents were killed by the Walmart gunman, was released on the FLOTUS Twitter account yesterday. It seems none of the victims still in the hospital in El Paso were willing to meet with Trump during his visit. The baby, who’d been released from the hospital, was brought back just for this photograph.

He is who he is.

ADDENDUM 2 — Also, while Comrade Trump was visiting Dayton and El Paso, ICE agents were raiding a few Mississippi chicken processing plants, detaining undocumented immigrant workers (not, coincidentally, the plant owners who hired them). It was the first day of school in Mississippi, which meant a lot of kids went to school and came home to empty houses, not knowing what happened to their parents, not knowing when/if their parents might return, not knowing where they’d get fed or sleep or…or anything. The cruelty and casual disregard for the welfare of those children is as appalling as Trump’s campaign tour of shooting victims.

still the guns

In December of 2012, I said it was the guns. It’s still the guns. All the guns. The easy availability of guns. It’s the goddamned guns.

Do hate and bigotry and prejudice play a part? Sure. It doesn’t help that we have a president who feeds into the hate and bigotry and prejudice. Inadequate mental health care? Yeah, sure, that’s part of it. The entire for-profit health care system in the US is fucked up, and the mental health system is more fucked up than the rest. Economic tension, free-floating anxiety, inchoate rage, fear of change? Sure, all that figures into it.

But basically, it’s the guns. It’s obviously the guns. Other nations have all the social problems that trouble the United States, but they suffer only a small fraction of the mass killings. Because it’s the guns. Guns make all the difference. Guns and high capacity magazines. They make killing easier, they make body counts higher. THIS IS WHAT GUNS ARE SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO DO: KILL THINGS.

Who would this guy in Dayton be without his AR15? Who would Patrick Crusius be without access to an AK-47? He’d be just another angry young white guy with a dodgy understanding of history and the influence of social forces. Just another inadequate person man who wanted so very desperately to believe he had an important part to play in some imaginary racist redemptive narrative.

Who would Stephen Paddock be? Who would Devin Kelley or James Holmes be? Adam Lanza, Nikolas Cruz, Omar Mateen, Robert Bowers — who would these guys be without easy access to guns and high capacity magazines? Without the guns, they’d be…insignificant. These guys think the guns might make them matter.

Sadly, they’re right. It’s the guns.

You want to tell me guns don’t kill people — people kill people? Fuck you. Jumping off buildings doesn’t kill people — deceleration trauma kills people. You want to tell me the majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens and shouldn’t be punished because some asshole misuses a firearm? Fuck you in the neck, life doesn’t work that way. I’m not going to cook meth, but I still can’t buy Sudafed without a huge amount of fuss because some asshole misuses it. You want to tell me you can also kill people with a knife or a baseball bat? Fuck you, you half-witted ballbag. That’s so damned stupid it doesn’t deserve a response. You want to tell me the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun? Fuck you, fuck your whole family, fuck everybody you know. Texas is jammed with ‘good guys with a gun.’ But Crusius was still able to waltz through the aisles of Walmart shooting folks IN TEXAS, walk out unmolested, get in his car, and start to drive away before police officers stopped him. And this asshole in Dayton managed to kill nine and wound a couple dozen more in about 2-3 minutes before he was shot.

I’m going to say it again. It’s the guns. The guns and high capacity magazines and lax gun laws. Patrick Crusius and the Dayton shooter (who hasn’t been publicly identified yet) were both law-abiding citizens until they opened fire. It’s legal in both Ohio and Texas to openly carry long guns. Seriously, you can walk down the street in Dayton or El Paso with an AK or an AR slung over your shoulder, wearing camouflage and tactical gloves, with a pouch containing a few high capacity magazines and it’s absolutely legal (although it wouldn’t be wise to do that if you’re not white).

This morning in Dayton.

I’m going to say it one more time. It’s the guns. Guns, high capacity magazines, and lax firearm laws. You get yourself a semi-automatic rifle and a few 30-round magazines, and you can rack up a high body count in a very short time. Doesn’t even have to be an assault-style rifle, though the military design of those weapons makes them more attractive to would-be mass killers. Any semi-auto rifle would do the job, so long as you’ve stocked up on hi-cap magazines. Gear up, take a walk, and until you open fire, you’re probably acting within the law.

Basically, it’s the guns. It’s the easy access to guns. It’s always been the guns. It’ll be the guns again tomorrow. It’s the goddamned guns.

a conversation between knur and gary

Knur: You are called Listening?
Gary: Negative. Listening is the process by which I attend auditory input. I am Gary.
Knur: Before I die, Gary, I request information.
Gary: I am listening, Knur.
Knur: My onboard televison-o-scope reports many of your fellow beings on a distant island were recently rendered exanimate. I offer comfort and support.
Gary: Your offer is accepted. On Earth we refer to these events as ‘massacres’.
Knur: These mass exanimation events, they are ceremonial? Ritualized?
Gary: Negative. They are unplanned, yet expected.
Knur: Curious. Confirm for me, please. Multiple exanimation events are regrettable, correct?
Gary: Confirmed. We experience sorrow.
Knur: My understanding is limited. This mass exanimation was implemented through the manipulation of a device intentionally designed to rapidly launch multiple projectiles driven by expanding high-pressure gas produced chemically by exothermic combustion of a propellant sealed within a prefabricated cylindrical package. Accurate?
Gary: Accurate.
Knur: Logic suggests the elimination of projectile-launching devices would decrease the incidence of mass exanimation.
Gary: Affirmative.
Knur: Therefore, would it not…
Gary: No.
Knur: And yet…
Gary: No. The elimination of such devices cannot be achieved.
Knur: Explain.
Gary: It is prohibited by the normative rules inscribed and certified by our progenitors.
Knur: Hail the progenitors!
Gary: Hail the progenitors!
Knur: The normative rules are immutable?
Gary: Mutable, but intractable.
Knur: By what manner, then, does your society attempt to reduce mass exanimation events?
Gary: By a twofold process. First, we offer an aim-oriented flow of ideas and associations intended to extend compassion to the victim’s consanguineous groupings and associations. Second, we appeal to an invisible being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. It is anticipated the two processes when combined will lead inevitably to a reality-oriented conclusion.
Knur: …
Gary: Also, the existence of the invisible being is not subject to proof or evidence.
Knur: …
Gary: …
Knur: Ineffective?
Gary: Affirmative.
Knur: …
Gary: …
Knur: That’s fucked up, Gary.

breaks your goddamn heart

— So did you hear about Thousand Oaks? The mass…
— Yeah.
— You hear about the kid who survived the mass murder at Vegas only to…
— Yeah, I heard. Tel Orfanos.
— Is that his name? You see the video of his mother talking to…
— Yeah. Saw it.
— Breaks your goddamn heart.
— Yeah.
— Guns, man. I dunno.

— Thing is, the shooter? He wasn’t mentally unstable enough to be committed. So he could legally buy and own a…
— Just stop.
— What?
— Just fucking stop.
— What?
— Stop with the ‘nobody knew he was that disturbed’ shit. I’m sick of hearing it.
— I’m just saying maybe there should be some sort of law where people who aren’t unstable enough to be committed but are still pretty fucking unstable should…
— There is.
— There is what?
— There IS a fucking law. In California. Right now. A gun violence restraining order law. It allows law enforcement to temporarily disarm somebody who’s shown dangerous behavior, even if it’s not extreme enough to commit them.
— Seriously?
— Yeah. They passed the law after the Isla Vista mass murder.
— Which one was that? I can’t keep track of all…
— Elliot Rodger.
— Why do I know that name?
— He’s the patron saint of the incel movement.
— Aw, fuck.
— Yeah.
— So they…
— Yeah. After this guy went on a killing spree because he hated women California passed a law to disarm angry dangerous people who’ve demonstrated a capacity and a propensity toward violence.
— But they haven’t enforced it?

— No, I guess not. I wonder why. Maybe the law is just unpopular?
— Let’s ask Tel Orfanos’ mother.

keep saying it

There’s too much to say today, and it feels like there’s not much point in saying any of it. We’re dealing with yet another mass shooting, this time a hate-inspired attack on a synagogue. We’re dealing with this just a day after the arrest of a hate-inspired series of bomb attacks on prominent critics of President Trump — which took place just a couple of days after a hate-inspired double murder of African-Americans in a Kentucky grocery store (after the shooter failed to gain entry into an African-American church).

In the face of all this hate, President Trump has once again proven himself incapable of performing the basic functions of his office. Instead of trying to unify the nation against this hate, he’s continued to encourage the anger and resentment of his followers. Instead of showing compassion for the victims of this shooting and offering comfort, he blamed the temple for not having an armed guard at the door. Instead of making a sincere call for unity, he continued to fuel the bitterness and the hate. He has falsely indicted Democrats and the news media for a lack of civility while absolutely refusing to acknowledge that his rhetoric plays any part in the problem.

Many of Trump’s supporters insist that all the hate and violence being inflicted on the public — including this mass murder — is a product of false flag operations conducted by Democrats and the Deep State, intended to hurt Republicans in the midterm elections. Instead of decrying this, Trump has fed into it, insisting that he is a victim of some sort of conspiracy. In doing so, the president has deliberately undermined public trust in many of the fundamental systems of representative democracy — law enforcement, the courts, the news media. And he’s done it purely in the interest of political expediency.

Again, there’s too much to say today. And right now  it feels like there’s not much point in saying any of it. But I still think it’s important to say it. And to keep saying it. Over and over and over. Even if it doesn’t seem to do any good, it’s important to keep saying it.