Commentary: Alarms


On Oct. 27, America turned on the TV to again hear the reporting of yet another mass shooting. Eleven people killed and others injured after a shooting at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburg, Pa. “It’s an attack on everything that we stand for as a country,” said Rabbi Husbands-Hankin. In Charlottesville last year Neo-Nazis chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”

President Donald Trump’s initial response to this mass shooting was to complain at a rally that recent mail-bomb scares and Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting had “stopped a tremendous momentum” for Republicans ahead of midterms.

On Nov. 7, Ian David Long, a tall, medaled, former US Marine dressed in black burst into a Thousand Oaks bar, tossed a smoke bomb and opened fire. Twenty young adults were injured and thirteen were senselessly murdered. They were out in their youthful exuberance to simply enjoy music and dance in the company of others. Haven’t we all felt safe doing the same?

Ventura Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus responded to the call with a Highway Patrol officer. Four minutes after the first 911 call, Sgt. Helus entered the bar, gun drawn, to save lives and his was taken by multiple gunshots from a legally purchased Glock 21.45-caliber handgun with an illegally extended magazine. His wife, son, family, and friends now feel his loss.

USA Today reports this is the latest in 307 mass shootings in 311 days. Thoughts and prayers don’t seem to be stopping the slaughter. Most of us, thank goodness, will never feel the reality of sudden violent death due to a massacre of their loved ones — the aftermath and surreal impact of loss, a loss that will forever haunt all those close to the victims. The shooter is a victim, too. And what action will come of this 307th mass shooting? Guns, wars, and ignored and unattainable mental health needs will allow more of the same.

How can we just give a nod to another shooting without deliberation? No action is simply criminal and dangerous for all of us and our children. President Trump said it would have been a different story if someone at the synagogue had a gun. Many believe more guns equals safety? Listen to those who were there.

Veterans are fighting for us as I compose this commentary. In spite of the President saying, he has “done more for veterans than any other President,” why is it my nephew’s father, a veteran, found no room at a veteran’s rehab when he slid back into drinking because of the shock of his brother’s death?

NYT reports veterans account for 14 percent of the adult population.

But more than a third of the adult perpetrators of the 43 worst mass killings since 1984 in the US, including Persian Gulf veteran Timothy McVeigh killing 168 in Oklahoma City in 1995 with bombs, are veterans.

David Swanson pondered this month, “Training people in the arts of [killing]..., launching wars, and dropping people trained for wars and having suffered through wars into a heavily armed society full of economic insecurity and the industrialized world’s leading lack of healthcare” is a major problem. The combination of training for war and access to assault weapons makes an individual more deadly than they would otherwise be.

Who was Ian? He went from serving his country in the US Marines at age 19 to carrying out one of the deadliest mass shootings in history killing his fellow young Americans. After high school, Ian signed up in the Marines in 2008. Ian was posted to Afghanistan in November 2010, and returned in June 2011, with a Combat Action Ribbon. Pastor Burke served with Ian in his regiment and told CNN his battalion was in Helmand province during intense fighting.

But Burke warned against quickly blaming Ian’s actions on trauma experienced during war. “PTSD doesn’t create homicidal ideation,” Burke said. “We train a generation to be as violent as possible, then we expect them to come home and be OK... We’re doing something to a generation, and we’re not responding to the needs they have.”

In 2013, Ian left the Marines as a Corporal and enrolled in an athletic program at California State University, Northridge, not finishing the program. CNN reports Ian’s mother was concerned about her son...not knowing what to do because he wouldn’t get help.”

Ventura Sheriff Geoff Dean reported Ian had a couple of encounters with deputies as recent as April 2018, when a neighbor called 911. A crisis mental health specialist met with Ian and felt he might be suffering from (PTSD).

A Facebook post believed to have been made by Ian at the time of the attack, according to law enforcement, says, “I hope people call me insane...wouldn’t that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah...I’m insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’.. or ‘keep you in my thoughts’...every time...and wonder why these keep happening...”

FBI recently reported hate crimes have jumped in the US in 2017, largely since President Trump’s election, by more than 17 percent — the biggest annual increase since 2001. The report includes a 37 percent increase in anti-Jewish crimes.

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