Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shootings in Arizona and Alabama Expose Horrific Lack of Good Guys with Guns

Photo courtesy AP
SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- More shootings in Arizona and Alabama on Wednesday exposed what National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called a "horrific lack of good guys with guns." On December 21, LaPierre issued an impassioned plea to arm more Americans, ascribing the recent rash of mass shootings to an under-equipped population. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said. Thorn Havershabe, head of the San Narciso County NRA chapter, called LaPierre "the only hero in America that day. The only man who cared deeply enough to offer honest assessments and real, final solutions." LaPierre, a self-described humanitarian who is deeply concerned about the welfare of the nation's embattled citizens, doesn't believe the country is suffering from a deficit of good guys -- the problem, he states, is that the government hasn't done enough to make firearms and automatic weapons available to those peace-seeking heroes. In fact, the NRA argues, lawmakers must make guns mandatory.

On January 11, after failing to persuade the federal government to place armed security forces at schools or weaponize the teaching staff, the NRA took the bold and generous step of announcing its funding of specialized security training initiatives for the nation's hall monitors -- those student volunteers who are in charge of maintaining order in school corridors. "The position of hall monitor is itself an American institution -- but one that has historically been underutilized to the point of gross impotence."

Citing this program, Havershabe pointed out that "a mad gunman isn't going to curb his behavior or show a hall pass because some nerdy punching bag with an armband asked him to. We need to toughen these kids up. Give them guns. Teach them to defend themselves -- and their peers. Like the Second Amendment says, a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state."

On Wednesday in Alabama, police SWAT teams and hostage negotiators stood off against a 65-year-old retiree, Jimmy Lee Dykes, who killed a bus driver and kidnapped a kindergartener, age six, with whom he retreated into a bunker at his home in Midland City. The Associated Press described Dykes as "a menacing figure who once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for setting foot on his property and patrolled his yard at night with a flashlight and a shotgun."

The bus driver, Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was honored as a hero for giving his life to protect the child. But LaPierre feels Poland's sacrifice was in vain.

"Yes, Mr. Poland is by all counts a true American hero, but at what cost? To what end?" LaPierre told reporters as he attempted to stifle his tears. "Had the government mandated that people like Poland, who are responsible for ensuring the safety of our children, carry guns, this Dykes character would have been splattered all over the windows, floors, lunch pails, and backpacks of the bus. As a man of deeply held conservative principles, I can tell you it would be a fine day to see dead Dykes with a few more holes in them -- for the sake of our youth and wholesome family values."

In another part of the United States on Wednesday, a gunman wounded three people, one critically, at an office complex in Phoenix. Police say the motive remains unclear but believe the shooter was not targeting random victims. Witnesses told authorities that the assailant arrived at the building around 10:30 a.m. local time and got into an altercation with a worker. The situation escalated, at which point he produced a concealed weapon and fired. The incident prompted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) to call upon legislators to take more action toward gun control. Giffords herself was seriously wounded in a shooting two years ago.

Giffords' attacker, Jared Lee Loughner, was tried for 49 criminal counts, including murder and attempted murder, for his alleged part in the January 2011 shooting that targeted Rep. Giffords during a "Congress on Your Corner" rally she was hosting outside an area grocery store. Six people were killed and 13 others injured. At that time, Loughner's attorney described his client as "seriously ill."

The judge declared Loughner competent to stand trial, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

But Loughner's attempt to produce an alibi to clear him of being in the area during the time of the shooting convinced many observers that he was mentally ill. Loughner told Judge Burns he was visiting his niece and her family who live in a dilapidated Victorian mansion on the grounds of a sprawling cemetery. He described the family members as ghoulish, eccentric, and slightly deranged goths, obsessed with the macabre. Loughner also went into great detail about a sentient, disembodied hand that resides in a box and helps the seven-foot-tall butler with various chores. He produced photographic evidence of his niece's children staging elaborate executions with their dolls. Afterward, Loughner stuck a light bulb in his mouth to convince the court that he could generate his own electrical current.

The maneuver, now listed on the books as the "Fester Defense," was chided by legal scholars as "more ridiculous than Twinkie snack cakes leading a government worker to blow Harvey Milk's head off."

Arizona has some of the most lax gun laws in the nation, combined with the toughest immigration laws. Wayne LaPierre praised the state for taking the most action to prevent mass shootings, but blamed federal regulators for interfering.

"Allowing virtually any person over the age of 18 to carry a gun in public, even the mentally ill, is a huge step toward preventing shooting deaths," LaPierre said. "If you've got every frustrated businessman, jilted lover, underpaid teacher, and crazy on the street packing heat, who's fool enough to try and shoot up a theater or a school? Now add tough, almost eugenic immigration laws. Any person who doesn't look American or can't prove citizenship gets the boot. Because these are the villains. It's the illegals taking jobs and squatting and selling drugs that are killing our children. It's immigrant nannies that murder our babies. It's migrant field workers tainting our crops with E. coli. They're all probably getting their resources from Castro. But the big question remains: why did three people get shot in Arizona today, given all these preventative measures? Hard as it is to believe, none of the victims were carrying guns."

LaPierre, Second Amendment advocates say, makes a valid argument. Police also verified that the victims were unarmed.

The NRA says it's prepared to lobby aggressively for mandatory gun ownership.

"The Founders saw this coming," LaPierre noted. "They knew a military police force wouldn't work, because then who would be defending our freedoms by killing terrorists in places like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq? Civilian peacekeeping forces are busy patrolling our borders, enforcing traffic safety, and groping travelers at airports. That's why the Second Amendment, more than fighting for gun rights, is about establishing a well regulated and heavily armed militia. Militias are just everyday folks with available arsenals at home. So if we're really going to save ourselves, the government needs to promote a militia -- a system where we take responsibility for ourselves, our neighbors, and our families."

Uncharacteristically, LaPierre also endorsed tighter regulations surrounding screenings and licensing procedures.

"We're not going to get rid of this unwieldy government, but we can make it work," he added. "Now, the NRA has strong reservations about the current screening rules, but only because they're misguided. For instance, the primary means for verification is a criminal background check. But most of these shooters had no criminal records. Frankly, I'm more comfortable giving a loaded gun to an ex-con. That person already did his time. He paid the price for his crimes, and isn't likely to ever do anything wrong again. His crimes were committed prior to him becoming a criminal. So, logically, the people we need to be scrutinizing are those without blemishes on their records."

LaPierre also suggested including profiling techniques. He cited now infamous killers such as Lee Harvey Oswald, Jared Lee Loughner, and Jimmy Lee Dykes, who perpetrated today's shooting in Alabama.

"All of these men had 'Lee' as part of their names," LaPierre illustrated. "If I'm a profiler worth my salt, I'm going to be a little more apprehensive issuing a gun permit when I get an application from somebody named Lee. Just saying."

Anticipating resistance from gun control advocates, LaPierre scoffed and accused them of having no evidence to support claims that more guns would increase violence, including self-inflicted fatalities.

"These hippies don't have the slightest clue what they're talking about," he said. "I've made my point. Look, there was this song sometime back called 'Hey Man, Nice Shot.' It was based on R. Budd Dwyer's public suicide. He was Pennsylvania's state treasurer. He was convicted on bribery charges. He was a dangerous criminal who defrauded and railroaded the people who trusted him. And what did he do? He played lollipop with a service revolver during a press conference. He killed a criminal -- himself, in this case -- before that monster had another opportunity to hurt others. Good guy with a gun, taking out the trash. And nobody else got hurt. That's my point."

(c) 2013. See disclaimers.

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