Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Sober Reality Check on Gun Violence

So it happened again. We saw yet another shooting yesterday. This time, it hit very close to home.

For years Jim McCarty hid whatever troubles that may have weighed on him behind the rhythms of normalcy.

He lived in a single-story home with his wife and her two children at 2225 La Sombra Street, an aging residential neighborhood. Neighbors say he never missed a day of work as a tractor-trailer driver, leaving each morning at 7 a.m. and coming home at 5 p.m. like clockwork. When he wasn’t at work, they saw him obsessing over his lawn making sure it stayed lush and green despite the dry desert heat. He loved that lawn.

Work and the yard, the “everyman” routine. They were his constants — until Tuesday.

That day, Catrina Garrett, who lives across the street from the family, noticed he missed work. Then, around 3:45 p.m., next-door neighbor Andrew Newkirk heard gunshots. [...]

The Clark County Coroner’s Office identified the first two victims as Jim McCarty’s stepchildren, Bonnie Scherrer, 38, and Robert Scherrer, 41. The third victim, neighbors say, is his wife, Linda McCarty.

It is impossible to know what may have caused McCarty to snap and allegedly shoot his family and then himself, but neighbors who know the family well say underneath his routine was a bleak life.

Believe it or not, gun deaths often occur by way of victims' own guns. Accidents happens. And then in this case, Jim McCarty turned his gun on his own family, then on himself.

This wasn't a topic discussed at yesterday's US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun safety, but plenty of other issues were brought to the table. What was perhaps most chilling about yesterday's hearing was how the typical decorum of a Senate hearing was interrupted by reminders of all the recent bloodshed from epic gun violence. Salon
's Joan Walsh has more.

I’m sure he never dreamed that barely a month later the carnage would claim a 15-year-old majorette who’d just marched in his inaugural parade. Hadiya Pendleton is only one of 42 people to die of gun violence in Chicago this month, the deadliest January in 10 years. And there’s still another day to go.

Nor did he likely envision that a popular school bus driver in rural Alabama would be killed by a man the Southern Poverty Law Center listed as an anti-government “survivalist,” after he tried to stop him from taking two boys off his bus as hostage (he wound up getting one, a six year old who’s still his prisoner.) The rampage after an office dispute in Phoenixis a little more common: Too many “office disputes” are settled by gunfire.

Hadiya Pendleton’s godfather had a searing if unintended rejoinder to LaPierre’s post-Newtown nonsense that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Duane Stewart, a police officer, told the Chicago Sun-Times about his happy honor-student god-daughter: “As usual, the bad guy aims, but he never hits the other bad guy . . . He hits the one that hurts the most to lose. I changed her diapers, I played with her growing up. My heart is broken.” [...]

But the same forces that block sensible gun laws also block action on other social problems. We have too many guns in this country; we also have too much poverty and inequality and mental illness, and they’re all tied together. It’s galling to watch LaPierre and others on the right pretend they care about mental health treatment, for instance. The same political stalemate that’s blocked action on guns has also made it harder to deal with other social problems that fracture us. While Hadiya Pendleton went to a good school and was shot in an upper middle class neighborhood not far from the president’s Chicago home, her assailants are reportedly gang members, and the plague of gang violence —which springs from generations of chronic, festering and unanswered urban poverty and violence –has been ignored for too long because it rarely touches the people deemed to matter in our country.

Durbin mentioned Pendleton during the hearing, noting that her inaugural parade appearance was “the highlight of her young life.” Then she returned to a city “awash in guns,” he said. “The confiscation of guns per capita in Chicago is six times the number in New York City,” said Durbin. “We have guns everywhere and some believe the solution to this is more guns. I disagree.”

Gabby Giffords didn’t mention Pendleton in her moving testimony, but she did talk about children. “Too many children are dying. Too many children,” Giffords said haltingly. “We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

Last night, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) was on "Ralston Reports" last night to discuss a variety of issues. One of them was gun safety. And while noting the unique challenge of tailoring gun laws to Nevada, he nonetheless made clear why President Obama and various Members of Congress are pursuing gun safety reform.

No one is talking about doing what's described in the gun lobby's crazed conspiracy theories. Rather, Congress is debating common-sense gun safety measures meant to protect communities. It's about preventing unnecessary deaths. It's about taking basic steps to stop the slaughter of innocent children.

The New Republic's Walter Kirn is a gun owner himself. He recently wrote about his own experience with guns, and he explained why he and many more gun owners really don't see eye to eye with NRA lobbyists. Are military style assault weapons actually necessary for "recreational shooting" and deer hunting? Are background checks really "unreasonable"? Is gun trafficking truly a "civil right"?

That's all we're talking about. And that's what Members of Congress should keep in mind... That, and the continuing count of people who've lost their lives to gun violence.

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