#NotTakingaGun

I’ve got to run to the market later today. Maybe I’ll also make a lightning stop at a hardware store, I don’t know. But in any event, I won’t be taking a gun with me. Because there’s absolutely no need to.

Also, okay, I don’t own a gun. So realistically I couldn’t take a gun with me even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. I don’t own a gun for the same reason I’m not taking one to the market. I don’t need a gun. I have zero use for a gun.

I’ve no need for a gun, but I rather like them. They’re incredibly efficient tech, they make a loud noise (sometimes I enjoy making a loud noise), they can make a hole suddenly appear in a target a distance away (which is actually sort of cool), and if you fire them at night, you see flame come out (which is very cool). Guns can be fun to shoot. But I don’t have any need for one.

I’ve been in situations where I could justify owning and carrying a gun. I spent several years as a private investigator specializing in criminal defense work. Most folks think that if you’re working to defend an accused criminal, other criminals will like you. Not so. The thing is, defending an accused criminal often means finding and revealing other criminals who may be guilty of the crime. Or they might have information that could implicate them in some way. Information they DO NOT want you to have.

And let’s face it, nobody–not even an innocent person–wants a stranger asking them nosy, impertinent, personal questions. It tends to piss people off. And here’s another thing: criminals don’t keep normal business hours. Which means a lot of the time you end up asking criminals nosy, impertinent, personal questions at their home, or in a bar, or when they’re with friends (who are often criminals as well).

As a PI, I had a concealed carry permit. I considered carrying a gun several times. But I was always concerned that if I had a gun, I’d get too confident. I’d get cocky, take more chances, take more stupid chances–because I’d be carrying protection. I never carried a gun because I know how easy it is to make a really bad impulsive decision. On those occasions where I had to enter a situation where there was a realistic chance I’d get hurt, I took a partner. Reliable guy–he’d been a LRRP in Vietnam and a police detective. He’d be armed, he’d enter the bar before me and take up a position. I’d come in a bit later and do my thing. And if it all started to go sideways, I knew he’d step up. So I felt…not safe, certainly not safe enough to be cocky, but I felt the odds of getting seriously hurt were low enough to risk.

My point, such as it is, is this: I know what it’s like to be afraid that somebody might realistically decide to assault you. Or stab you. Or pull a gun and shoot you. Genuinely afraid. Not-sure-you-can-control-your-bladder afraid. And yet, despite being in those situations multiple times, I’ve never actually had to physically defend myself. Or have somebody else defend me.

So yeah, I can go buy groceries without carrying a gun. And so can you and everybody else.

Some folks will insist that the only way to preserve a legal right is to use it. There’s some truth in that. But the gun-toting folks who make that argument are almost always the same folks who are willing–even eager–to make it more difficult to exercise other legal rights. To vote, to get an abortion, to marry somebody you love, to peacefully protest.

There’s really only one reason to carry a gun: to shoot something or somebody. You don’t have to intend to shoot something or somebody, but carrying a gun indicates you’re prepared to do that. There’s only one genuine motivation for carrying a gun. Fear. You’re either afraid somebody or something may harm you, or you’re afraid somebody or something will harm somebody else.

People who are genuinely afraid to leave the house unless they’re strapped are exactly the sort of people who shouldn’t be armed. You can’t trust a scared person to make good decisions. Scared people are much more likely to make really bad decisions. But I suspect folks who are genuinely that frightened are a very small minority. I suspect the vast majority of people who insist on being armed when they leave home are either fantasists who like to imagine themselves as tough and heroic, or assholes who just want to intimidate other folks. Or they’re both–fantasists who are also assholes.

Regardless of their reason for wanting to carry a gun, the fact is they don’t need to. They’re far more likely to need to carry a flashlight, or an umbrella, or a breath mint, maybe a magnet. I mean, those things actually come in handy sometimes. A gun? Almost never.

I think I’m going to start announcing this on Twitter whenever I have an errand to run. “I’m going to the market for cheese. I’m #NotTakingAGun.” It’s silly, but that’s the point. Taking a gun to go buy cheese is silly.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Okay, I did it. Went shopping, made it home safely. Notified Twitter.

so what the fuck just happened here?

A week and a half ago I wrote, “…don’t be surprised if Rittenhouse walks.” And yet, I was sorta kinda surprised. Because, c’mon…how could this ridiculous doofus illegally buy an assault-style rifle, carry it across a state line, insert himself into a volatile environment, carry it while claiming to offer medical care he wasn’t trained or qualified to give, carry it while claiming to protect property nobody asked him to protect, then using it to shoot three people, killing two of them, and NOT suffer any consequences? It just ain’t right.

But yeah, that’s basically what happened. But WHY did it happen? I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve been around the criminal justice block a few times, and I have opinions. It begins with the Wisconsin law on self defense, which essentially says a person can use deadly force to defend themselves if that person “reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.”

A lot of self-defense laws, including Wisconsin’s, include an exception for provocation and/or criminal conduct. You can’t provoke an attack, then kill your attacker and claim self-defense; you can’t engage in criminal conduct that would cause an attack, then kill your attacker and claim self defense. Makes sense, right? Okay, here we go.

Wisconsin’s self-defense law states: “A person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack him or her and thereby does provoke an attack is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defense against such attack…”

That seems pretty clear, doesn’t it. But it continues: “…except when the attack which ensues is of a type causing the person engaging in the unlawful conduct to reasonably believe that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. In such a case, the person engaging in the unlawful conduct is privileged to act in self-defense, but the person is not privileged to resort to the use of force intended or likely to cause death to the person’s assailant….” So the law says yeah, you CAN defend yourself if you provoke an attack, but LIMITS the amount of force you can use. You can fight back, but you can’t kill your attacker.

But wait. Again, it continues with another caveat: “…unless the person reasonably believes he or she has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm at the hands of his or her assailant.” So even if you’ve provoked an attack through illegal behavior, you can only use deadly force to defend yourself after you’ve exhausted your other options for escape.

What does that mean in the Rittenhouse case? If he’d engaged in unlawful conduct that provoked an attack, he was only justified in using deadly force to defend himself IF he’d exhausted every reasonable means to escape. He DID try to run away before the second killing, but he tripped and fell, then shot Huber and Grosskreutz. That very possibly could fall under the Wisconsin self-defense law–tried to escape, but couldn’t. But in the initial killing, Rittenhouse was running away from Rosenbaum, then stopped, turned, shot and killed him. That seems likely to fall under the unlawful conduct exception, which would prevent him from using the self-defense claim. BUT ONLY if Rittenhouse was engaged in unlawful conduct. Like, say, illegally carrying a rifle.

The judge, remember, dismissed the illegal rifle charge. Which removed the unlawful conduct exception. Which meant Rittenhouse only had to feel his life was in danger to kill Rosenbaum. Hey bingo, he walks.

That’s how I see it. Again, I’m not a lawyer. My reasoning may be flawed. But that’s how I see it. It sucks. It’s wrong. It’s obscene on a number of levels. But that seems to be how the law is written.

There’s a lesson here. If you want to stop vigilante tourism, enact better laws. If you want better laws, vote for better legislators. You want better laws, prevent outside money and outside interests from influencing weak-ass greedy legislators.

Kyle Rittenhouse didn’t walk because he was innocent. He walked because of the motherfuckers who wrote Wisconsin’s self-defense law .

twins

Well, isn’t this a surprise. Kyle Rittenhouse and Travis McMichael are offering twin self-defense arguments. Sure, the circumstances of each killing are different. Rittenhouse had to travel for an hour or so to bring a firearm to a volatile situation on the off-chance that he might ‘need’ it, whereas McMichael only had to travel a few blocks to bring a firearm to a volatile situation on the off-chance that he might ‘need’ it. But each of these guys deliberately armed themselves then inserted themselves into a situation where they might ‘need’ to shoot somebody.

And hey bingo, Guess what? Turns out they both somehow (seriously, who could have guessed something like this might happen?) found themselves in situations where they believed they ‘needed’ to shoot somebody. What a coincidence.

He’s very sorry and cries very sorry tears.

I mean, all they did was 1) arm themselves with a deadly weapon 2) to protect property they 3) didn’t own and 4) which nobody asked them to protect against 5) an unarmed person who 6) may have been on or near that property. Then when they 7) confronted that unarmed person and, 8) brandished their deadly weapon, and that unarmed person 9) was uncomfortable having a deadly weapon brandished, and 10) decided to try to disarm them, they 11) were forced to shoot that unarmed person in order 12) not to become an unarmed person facing an armed person.

It’s logic! An armed person is a threat to an unarmed person, so it was clearly necessary for Rittenhouse and McMichael to shoot an unarmed person before they become armed. You know…in self defense. They’re both very sorry they had to kill unarmed people. They both cried about it. They’ve suffered so much.

He’s also very sorry and cries very sorry tears.

What? You think none of this would have happened if both Kyle Rittenhouse and Travis McMichael had just stayed home and watched Lethal Weapon on television? But then who would have protected that property? What? You say none of the victims dead people were killed near the properties that were supposedly being protected? Doesn’t matter; the issue is self defense. Against unarmed people. Trying to take guns away from patriots selflessly willing to put themselves at risk to protect other people’s property.

Did I get that right?

Jesus suffering fuck.

mel gibson delusions

Kyle fucking Rittenhouse. In a rational universe, I’d feel sorry for this kid. I mean, he seems the sort of kid who grew up loving action hero movies, imagining himself fighting Commies and other monsters, but was always one of the last kids picked when teams were chosen. I obviously don’t know him, but he seems like an inadequate dweeb with Mel Gibson delusions.

K. Rittenhouse — inadequate dweeb with a rifle and Mel Gibson delusions

But we don’t live in a rational universe. That dweeb is currently on trial for murder and has become the chubber-cheeked darling of a warped, right-wing fan club.

Here are a couple things you probably ought to know when discussing the Kyle Rittenhouse trial: 1) it’s not about right and wrong, it’s about the law as it’s written, and 2) the law regarding self-defense in Wisconsin has a lot in common with the Florida law that allowed a jury to acquit George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. We’re talking about Wisconsin Code 939.48, which deals with self-defense and defense of others.

Let me make it even more simple. A lot of the stuff you probably think ought to be important in the case, isn’t going to be important. For example, you may think it’s important to question whether a 17-year-old high school dropout living in Illinois had any legitimate fucking reason to be in Wisconsin, at night, during a violent demonstration, illegally carrying a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle. Right? You may think it’s important that the people who owned the business that Rittenhouse said it was his ‘job’ to protect, never asked him to protect their business. You may think it matters that he described himself as an EMT, when his only ‘training’ came during a youth police cadet program that was canceled due to the pandemic not long after he joined. You may think all that stuff matters when deciding if Rittenhouse is guilty of murder.

But nope. Because Rittenhouse claims he was acting in self defense. None of Rittenhouse’s bad behavior has any bearing at all on whether he believed he was defending himself when he shot Joseph Rosenbaum four times and killed him, or when he shot Anthony Huber and killed him, or when he shot Gaige Grosskreutz in the arm, nearly severing his bicep.

I know, that sounds crazy. But the primary question of law is whether Rittenhouse, at the moment he shot and killed/wounded those people, believed it “was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.” That’s it, that’s the point on which this trial will almost certainly turn. Did this kid think he was about to get the shit kicked out of him? Did he think he was about to die?

Rittenhouse, having fatally shot Huber and about to shoot Grosskreutz

But, wait. What’s this? The Wisconsin law has a ‘criminal conduct’ exception? Why yes, it does. Except that exception is confusing as fuck. Here it is (with my emphases included):

“A person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack him or her and thereby does provoke an attack is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defense against such attack, except when the attack which ensues is of a type causing the person engaging in the unlawful conduct to reasonably believe that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. In such a case, the person engaging in the unlawful conduct is privileged to act in self-defense, but the person is not privileged to resort to the use of force intended or likely to cause death to the person’s assailant unless the person reasonably believes he or she has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm at the hands of his or her assailant.”

So, was Rittenhouse engaged in unlawful conduct? Well, yeah. He was carrying a gun that had been illegally purchased for him by a straw buyer (a crime in Illinois), and he was carrying the gun illegally in Wisconsin, where the crime took place. Wisconsin law says, “any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.” Was that conduct likely to provoke others to attack him? Maybe? Being an asshole is certainly likely to provoke folks. But here’s the key: did Rittenhouse reasonably believe he’d exhausted every reasonable means to escape?

Nothing about this is legal.

Here’s the problem: Rittenhouse was running away at the beginning of each fatal confrontation. He was running away from Joseph Rosenbaum when he heard a gunshot (a ‘warning shot’ fired by a third party). At that point, Rittenhouse turned and aimed his rifle at Rosenbaum, who apparently attempted to wrestle the firearm away…and was killed. He was also running away from Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz, who were chasing him after he’d shot Rosenbaum. When Rittenhouse tripped and fell, Huber hit him in the shoulder with a skateboard; Rittenhouse shot and killed him. Grosskreutz (who actually IS an EMT and was legally carrying a handgun for self defense) apparently pulled out his firearm at that point, and Rittenhouse shot him.

It seems to me that everybody who ran into Kyle Rittenhouse after a certain point, had a reasonable fear for their lives. And that’s the problem with all these ‘stand your ground’ or ‘no need to withdraw’ self defense laws. The only person who gets to take advantage of the laws is the one who shoots first and survives.

This was a clusterfuck. No, that’s not right. It was a series of cascading clusterfucks. Absolutely NONE of it would have happened if Kyle Rittenhouse wasn’t an arrogant, fuckwitted, asshole with Mel Gibson delusions. None of this would have happened if he’d just stayed the fuck home. As far as that goes, none of this would have happened if the Kenosha police hadn’t shot an unarmed Black man seven times.

But legally, none of that really matters. What matters, according to the law, is this: was Rittenhouse legit in fear for his life at the time he pulled the trigger?

The answer is probably yeah, he was. That may be all that matters at the burnt end of this trial. It’s not right, it’s not fair, it’s not anything remotely like justice, but don’t be surprised if Rittenhouse walks. All it takes is one juror who believes the Mel Gibson wanna-be was really and truly in fear for his life. And to be fair (man, sometimes I fucking hate to be fair), I can’t blame Kyle Rittenhouse if he walks. I mean, I completely blame him for killing those people. I completely blame him for stupidly inserting himself into a situation where he didn’t belong. But I firmly believe every accused criminal deserves a fair trial and a competent defense. A competent defense includes using the law to help the defendant.

There’ll be a lot of blame to go around if Rittenhouse walks. Be sure to focus a lot of that blame on the motherfuckers who wrote the law.

a polite society

JaDerek Gray, 19 years old, he’s got himself a motorcycle and a gun. Unnamed motorist, got himself a car with kids and a gun. I mean, this is Texas, right? So yeah, everybody got himself a gun. They both cruising down I-35 on a Friday afternoon, long Fourth of July weekend, right? The guy in the car starts to change lanes, doesn’t see Gray tooling along on his motorcycle, almost pulls in front of him. Gray swerves, the car driver corrects himself, everybody is alarmed but okay.

At this point, all we’ve got is a near accident. A failure of road courtesy. A momentary lapse of situational awareness that could have been ugly–but wasn’t. Happens all the time. Everybody who’s ever ridden a motorcycle or a bicycle on a public road has had this moment. Everybody who’s driven a car on a public road has had it too. It happens, you check yourself as a driver and as a rider, you maybe shout an obscenity, you remind yourself to be more careful and cautious, and you go on. Right?

Except JaDerek Gray is 19 years old and he’s got himself a gun. Except the car driver has a gun too, along with his car full of kids. So what happens? Gray speeds up, passes the guy in the car, slows down, then stops. Stops. Right there on I-35, on a Friday afternoon at the beginning of a long holiday weekend, he stops. He draws his gun. So the driver, he pulls his gun too.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner said Gray died from multiple gunshot wounds.

So now Gray is totally dead. 19 years old, and he’s dead. That’s got to fuck up his family and friends. Instead of celebrating the Fourth of July, instead of grilling burgers and eating potato salad, they’ve got to start planning a funeral. And the driver of the car and those kids, you know they’re fucked up too. Isel Valenzuela, the passer-by who witnessed the shooting, who stopped and turned off Gray’s motorcycle, who applied pressure to Gray’s wounds until paramedics arrived, who watched Gray bleed out and die–his holiday has been ruined as well.

A distinct absence of road courtesy

An armed society is a polite society. You hear gun nuts and Second Amendment jihadists say that all the time. They say it like it’s some sort of holy writ, as if it’s something that might have been said by the Founding Fathers or Charlton Heston. But it’s from a novel by Robert Heinlein, the iconoclastic libertarian science fiction writer.

Heinlein wrote Beyond This Horizon in the early 1940s. It’s one of those Utopian society stories–there’s no poverty, no nationalism, no hunger, no war; genetic engineering has eliminated disease, aging is treatable, and medical technology has made most injuries reparable. So basically everybody is incredibly smart, incredibly healthy, incredibly beautiful. In effect, it’s a society of perfect people, a society of saints.

I suspect Heinlein had studied Emile Durkheim, the Daddy of Sociology. Fifty years before Heinlein wrote his novel, Durkheim wrote this:

Imagine a society of saints, a perfect cloister of exemplary individuals. Crimes, properly so called, will there be unknown; but faults which appear venial to the layman will create there the same scandal that the ordinary offense does in ordinary consciousness.

And that’s what happens in Beyond This Horizon. People get offended over increasingly trivial issues, pissy little shit like slights of etiquette and protocol. They resolve these issues by dueling. Almost everybody wears a sidearm of some sort. A person who doesn’t want to risk getting shot over stupid shit (like a bit of crabshell catapulted onto a neighboring table in a restaurant, which happens in the novel), they had to wear clothing that identifies them as noncombatants (basically dweebs who have lower social status). The actual quote in the novel is:

An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.

It’s NOT meant to be a principle on which to base society; it’s a goddamn plot device. It’s meant to show that even a Utopian society isn’t a Utopian society because people are fucked up beings. It’s not an argument that guns are good; it’s actually an argument against that. It’s an argument that killing each other over trivial stuff is just fucking stupid. It’s an argument that says courtesy enforced by the fear of getting killed isn’t courtesy at all. It’s just fear.

It’s an argument everybody on that Texas interstate highway lost. An armed society isn’t a polite society; it’s a scared and stupid society.

the second amendment, matt gaetz, and the battle of the wabash

This year I was going to avoid writing about Memorial Day. I’ve written about Memorial Day just about every year since I started writing this blog. I’m not even going to bother linking to all those earlier blogs (though if you’re interested, just type ‘Memorial Day’ into the search feature and hey bingo).

But here it is, Memorial Day again, and I’m about to write something that’s not exactly about Memorial Day (well, not about Memorial Day at all), but about cheap-ass pseudo-patriotic feculent cowardly politicians who give speeches during the Memorial Day weekend. And when I say “cheap-ass pseudo-patriotic feculent cowardly politicians” I mean Matt Gaetz.

What happened was I read what Matt (Hey, what’s a little child sex trafficking among friends?) Gaetz said a few days ago at an America First rally.

“For all the fake news media, the Second Amendment is not about — it’s not about hunting, it’s not about recreation, it’s not about sports. The Second Amendment is about maintaining within the citizenry the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government if that becomes necessary. “

Aside from the fact that an America First rally is an awfully nice way of saying “Rally for Fascism Yay!” there’s this: Matt Gaetz is, obviously, a fuckwit. You have to make some allowances for fuckwits. Because they’re fuckwits. So I’ll agree that Matt was correct when he said the Second Amendment isn’t about hunting or recreation or sports. But he’s absolutely wrong in thinking (and I use ‘thinking’ in the loosest possible way) that it’s about the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government. That’s just fucking stupid.

It’s the same sort of cellular-level stupidity that allows gun nuts to simultaneously insist that an AR-15 assault-style rifle is NOT IN ANY WAY a military weapon BUT is still absolutely vital for citizens to own in order to go Matt Gaetz on the US military. You know, if necessary.

Gen. Washington telling the Continental Army to just go home.

Thing is, the Second Amendment was grounded in the deep distrust and suspicion of the Founders regarding a professional standing army. Remember that most of the Founders had a Western European mindset, and Europe had a long history of standing armies, answerable only to a king, imposing the will of the king on the people. I mean, they explicitly denounced the entire concept, stating “standing armies in time of peace are inconsistent with the principles of republican government, dangerous to the liberties of a free people, and generally converted into destructive engines for establishing despotism.” That whole “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” business was about insuring themselves against a professional army acting on the whims and wishes of a supreme ruler (or the army’s own generals).

That’s why, after the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army was disbanded. Gen. George Washington gave a speech to the troops, in which he said (and I’m paraphrasing here):

“Guys, war’s over. Thanks for helping to kick the Brits out. But go on home now. Take your guns and uniforms, put that shit in the closet, and if you’re ever needed again, we’ll let you know.”

Oh, they kept a few troops to guard the arsenal at West Point, because you can’t just leave artillery laying around like lawn ornaments. But that was basically it. The former members of the Continental Army met periodically with other civilians as informal local militias to train or put down the occasional slave rebellion.

But in 1784 problems on the Western Frontier (which at the time was somewhere around Ohio) triggered Congress to approve the creation of the First American Regiment. The problem was settlers versus Native Americans. The settlers were all “We just want to live in peace, and cut down all these trees to create farms where we can grow crops on land that the savages weren’t really even using like god intended, but the savages want to cancel our culture.” Yes, the settlers kept personal firearms to hunt and to protect themselves from attacks by the natives they were displacing. The job of the First American Regiment was to support the locals, secure the frontier, and discourage Native Americans from slaughtering the white settlers. They did this by slaughtering the natives first.

First American Regiment, looking for unruly natives.

You may be assuming the reason the new American government was protecting those settlers was because they were racist assholes who didn’t think of the natives as human. Which would be accurate. But the primary reason was because the new US government didn’t have the authority to impose taxes on its citizens, which meant the government was broke, which meant they needed to generate some serious pocket money, which they decided to do by selling the land the natives weren’t really using like god intended to the invading settlers. So obviously, they had to keep the settlers from being slaughtered by the natives because dead folks don’t buy land.

That policy worked really well. The First American Regiment fought the natives, which allowed local militias to keep the slaves in check. Everything was cool…until November of 1791, when 320 troops from the First American Regiment supported by about a thousand local militia/settlers tried to teach a lesson to a coalition of Shawnee, Miami, Delaware, and Potawatomie tribes. That lesson was rejected. It’s generally called the Battle of the Wabash, but it was more of a rout than a battle. The native coalition kicked ass. Over 800 soldiers and militia members were killed; around 270 were wounded. A quarter of what had been the standing army of the US was wiped out.

“WTF, I’m wearing a snazzy uniform and being killed by a native wearing feathers and a purse?”

Congress responded to the defeat in a variety of ways. They decided maybe a standing army of professional soldiers wasn’t an entirely bad idea after all. They created the Legion of the United States–about 5000 troops–to insure a more effective military force for slaughtering natives. A month of so after the defeat, Congress also passed a lot of amendments to the new Constitution, one of which authorized well regulated militias to keep and bear arms. Five years after that they changed the name of the Legion of the United States to the Army of the United States. Probably because ‘legion’ sounded French.

My point, though, if you can call it that. was that the Second Amendment wasn’t about fighting a rebellion against the US government. It was about arming local groups who could be called upon to fight against local enemies (like slaves who resisted being slaves) freeing up the standing army to fight against regional enemies (like godless natives who resisted giving up their land to decent god-fearing white settlers).

My other point, which I seem to have strayed from, was that Matt Gaetz is a treasonous fuckwit who should be giving his speeches from a prison cell.

this week in responsible gun ownership

May 18Hemet, CA. 1 dead, 4 wounded. A fight broke out among a group of women. One pulled a handgun and opened fire. Four were wounded. Bystander Tamika Haynes, sitting in a car nearby, was killed. She was three months pregnant, a mother to an 8-year-old son.

Oakland, CA. 2 dead, 5 wounded. A party bus carrying young women and girls celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday was fired on by a passing car. The dead were Alayasia Thurston (19 years old, mother of a three-year-old) and Zoey Hughes (16 years old). At least 70 rounds were fired at the bus.

May 20Evansville, IN. 0 dead, 4 wounded. A fight between two people escalated; one man opened fire with a handgun. Four were wounded.

May 21Jersey City, NJ. : 2 dead 12 wounded. A house party broke up after a noise complaint. Some party-goers then attended another nearby party, where violence broke out. Asia Hester, 25, and Kevin Elliott, 30 were killed. Multiple guns and shell casings were recovered at the scene, suggesting more than one shooter (some of whom may have been returning fire). According to police, some of the wounded were released after treatment, “while others continue to fight for their lives,”

May 22Albany, NY. 1 dead, 5 wounded. A drive-by shooting left one man dead and five others wounded.

Minneapolis, MN. 2 dead, 8 wounded. Two man involved in “a verbal altercation” in a local nightclub drew handguns and began shooting at each other. One of the shooters was killed, along with a bystander. Eight were wounded, including the second shooter.

Ft. Wayne, IN. 1 dead, 4 wounded. A group of people drinking and visiting in the parking lot of an apartment complex yelled at 20-year-old Jamarion Thomas for carrying a rifle through the parking lot because children were present. Thomas went into his apartment, then returned outside still holding the rifle. He yelled at the people who’d yelled at him. At that point, another man drew a handgun and pointed it at Thomas, who opened fire with the rifle. 30 spent rifle casings were found at the scene, as well as more than 15 handgun casings of various calibers–suggesting several people had weapons and were shooting. An unidentified woman was killed; four were wounded, including Thomas.

North Charleston, SC. 1 dead, 13 wounded. A fight broke out near a stage that was set up for an unauthorized concert. Multiple people drew handguns and fired on each other. Thirteen were wounded; 14-year-old Ronjanae Smith was killed.

Columbus, OH. 1 dead, 5 wounded. A group of teens on social media decided to gather in downtown Columbus and ride kick-scooters. The event became larger than expected and a fight erupted, resulting in multiple shooters firing at each other. Five teens were wounded and 16-year old Olivia Kurtz was killed.

May 23Paterson, NJ. 0 dead, 5 wounded. A large block party ended in somebody pulling a handgun and wounding five people, whose ages ranged from 26 to 36 years.

Youngstown, OH. 3 dead, 3 wounded. And argument that began inside a bar moved outside. At least two men pulled handguns, including a bar security guard. Police describe the event as involving multiple guns fired by multiple people. Some of the victims were wounded/killed in the crossfire.

Bay Shore, NY. 0 dead, 4 wounded. A gunman opened fire at a group of people gathered near some basketball courts. Four were struck by one shot each.

Norfolk, VA. 0 dead, 4 wounded. Little information is available about the four adults who were shot. They were taken to the hospital suffering non-life-threatening injuries.

Inkster, MI. 2 dead, 2 wounded. Four people were shot (two critically wounded, two fatally) while playing basketball in the street. Multiple shooters were involved. Police are investigating if the murders were related to a pair of May 18th incidents involving the non-fatal shooting of a woman, followed hours later by fatal shooting of the victim’s boyfriend at the same address.

May 24West Jefferson, OH: 5 dead, 0 wounded. Police found three people shot dead inside a building with “at least two more found fatally wounded outside.” No other information is known at this time. “Things like this just don’t happen in West Jefferson, or don’t happen in small towns,” said West Jefferson Police Chief Chris Floyd

That’s 21 dead and 78 wounded in 14 separate incidents of firearm violence in the past week. There’s no universally agreed definition of ‘mass shooting’ or ‘mass murder’ but there are some generally accepted guidelines. Here’s the most common ‘mass shooting’ definition: a shooting at a public place in which four or more people (not including the shooter) are shot in a single episode, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence. Here’s the most common definition of ‘mass murder’: four or more people killed during an event with no “cooling-off period” between the murders, generally in a single location (or close proximity), excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence.

Using those definitions, only one of the multiple casualty events of the preceding week (the killings in West Jefferson, Ohio) MIGHT actually qualify as a mass murder. If the killer in that case turns out to be related to one or more of the victims, it will be disqualified as a mass murder and considered a mere ‘domestic’ crime. Similarly, many of the apparent mass shooting incidents are disqualified as mass shootings because they involve multiple shooters–some of whom were armed bystanders who because reaction shooters.

What we can see from the last week is this: more guns in the hands of more people means more people get shot. Shot because of poor impulse control–and easy access to guns. Shot because of inadequate (or no) training regarding when and how to shoot–and the ease with which people are granted the power to carry concealed guns.

Gov. Abbott loves the guns.

And that brings me to this massively stupid motherfucker in Texas and his massively stupid decision. Gov. Greg Abbott is about to sign a law allowing people to carry handguns without a license, without a background check, and without any training. Why the fuck would Abbott do such an astonishingly stupid thing? Because he says it will allow Texans to better defend themselves in public. He wants Texas to be…and I’m NOT making this up…a Second Amendment Sanctuary State. You know, a place where guns and gun owners can feel safe and secure against…against people who have guns and want to hurt them? Fuck if I know.

It’s been almost 18 days since the last mass shooting in Texas, when Larry Bollin opened fire on his co-workers at Kent Moore Cabinets, killing one and wounding four more (five, if you count the Texas police officer who was wounded trying to arrest him). Gov. Abbott issued a public statement after the shooting.

Cecilia and I are praying for the victims and their families and for the law enforcement officer injured while apprehending the suspect.Cecilia and I are praying for the victims and their families and for the law enforcement officer injured while apprehending the suspect.”

I’m sure that helped. The governor also visited the victims. In an interview on FOXNews, he said:

“Let me tell you something about the shooting in Bryan, Texas, that will answer your question [about firearm safety legislation]. I went to the hospital where the victims’ families were on the night of the shooting. And we hugged and we cried and we talked to them about it. As I was talking to family members of one of the victims, they said: ‘Governor please, do not allow this shooting to strip us of our 2nd Amendment rights.'”

I don’t know…it’s Texas. Won’t require you to wear a mask in a pandemic; won’t require chemical plants to safely store volatile chemicals, won’t prevent lunatics from carrying guns.

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.