Three separate bloodbaths at Russian schools recently are all linked by the teenage attackers 'worshipping' the perpetrators of...
Thursday, November 5, 2015
OUT OF GUN CONTROL
On Saturday morning in a quiet, leafy neighbourhood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a man in a green jacket, armed with a military-style rifle in his right hand and a silver revolver in his left, set fire to his apartment before marching down the street and shooting at whim.
There was no rhyme or reason to the gunman’s motives and anyone who got in his way was fair game. It was 8:45am. The gunman’s name was Noah Harpham. He was 33.
“He walked calmly and collectedly. His demeanour was like he was having a stroll in the park, it was totally random,” one witness told Fox News.
Teresa Willingham, who lived on the street, hid for cover with her three-year-old son when she saw Mr Harpham encounter a bicyclist, 35-year-old Myers. She heard three gunshots, then saw Mr Myers on the bike lying face down on the street, “his legs mangled and still intertwined in his bike”. He died on the kerb.
“His last words were ‘Please God, no’. He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Ms Willingham.
Harpham was able to kill three people before he was shot down by police in a hail of gunfire. One witness reported: “They [cops] yelled, ‘Put the gun down,’ and he [Harpham] turned around, and that’s when they shot at him a good 20 times,” she said. “There was a lot of gunfire.”
Neighbours couldn’t believe it when they discovered that Harpham was the mystery shooter. He seemed like your run-of-the-mill, average guy; a Christian, who worked in insurance with no history of violence. On his eHarmony profile, he described himself as “articulate, funny, genuine and kind”.
“Knock me over with a feather — that guy was just a nice guy. I liked him,” Harpham’s landlord said.
“I couldn’t imagine for a second that he would even have a weapon.”
But inside, Harpham battled alcohol addiction and had posted a series of rambling video blogs about his father and religion. In hindsight, he was a ticking time bomb.
Eric Harris, left and Dylan Klebold, right, are shown in a still photo taken from CCTV during the 1999 shooting rampage at Columbine High School, Colorado. Picture: Jefferson County Sheriff's Dept via The Denver Post
It’s an all too-familiar-story in the United States: seemingly ordinary citizens terrorising communities across America, and taking thousands of innocent lives with them.
And terrifyingly, it’s happening each and every day. Of the 33,636 Americans that are killed by firearms each year in the United States, 11,000 of those are homicides. That means there are more than 30 gun-related murders daily.
“We’re having a mass shooting every day, it’s just happening under the radar,” Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Gun Policy and Research, told news.com.au.
“Mass shootings are terrible tragedies and the hardest gun violence to prevent, but I would argue that that’s what we need to be focused on.
“We don’t have what Australia has, and that’s the political will to act.”
As Australians, it’s difficult to empathise. Since 1996’s Port Arthur massacre called for the National Firearms Agreement and Buyback Program, our rate of homicides by firearm has plummeted dramatically. A 2012 Small Arms Survey revealed just 30 homicides by firearm annually in Australia, in comparison to America’s 2013 rate of 11,208.
But the sheer number of problems gun control faces in America makes a similar buy back scheme difficult to enact. Worse, there’s no exact number of how many firearms are in private hands.
“We’re in such an appalling situation that we don’t even have proper data on guns,” said Mr Vernick.
Mr Vernick explained how a 1986 federal law in the US prohibits the federal government from creating a gun registry and how, shockingly, gun estimates in America are counted using a phone survey.
“The estimated number of firearms in America is about 300 million, but the reason the number of guns is all over the map is the number comes from telephone surveys,” he said.
“We do random surveys and we make them representative of the US population. We extrapolate and that’s how we get our estimate.
Mr Vernick said only a handful of states have a gun registry system under state law, making it difficult to predict an exact number.
“We don’t license gun owners, except in 10 states, so we can’t even count the licenses.”
Furthermore, guns are so accessible in America, they’re available to buy online through sites that bring buyers and sellers together — and no background checks are required.
Ammunition is so under regulated, there’s no limitation on who you are or what you’re buying.
“You could be a violent felon and buy all the ammunition you want, no questions asked, no ID, nothing,” Mike McLively, Staff Attorney at the Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence, told news.com.au.
“The baseline for common sense in America is different to the rest of the world.
“It’s tough because mass shootings are how the American people talk about gun violence. It’s an important issue but the underlying issue of day to day gun violence — the numbers are staggering.”
Mr McLively added that taking into account the number of non-fatal gun-related injuries on an annual basis, the number of victims stretches above 110,000.
“Basically there’s more than 100,00 firearm related casualties every year,” he said.
“It’s a huge number of gun attacks, but to actually do something that would have an impact on crime, you’d have to do something on a larger level that at this point is not feasible.
“I don’t think it’s politically feasible to do what they did in Australia. It would be unpopular politically and there would be constitutional issues.”
But it’s not for lack of trying.
“He said he wanted to start a civil war,” said the former housemate of Charleston Church massacre gunman Dylann Roof, Dalton Tyler. “He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”Source:Supplied
In 2013 after the devastating Newtown school massacre, President Barack Obama’s attempt to introduce a universal background check provision failed to pass the senate.
Crediting polling that showed 90 per cent support for the measure, Obama called it a “pretty shameful day for Washington” and wondered of Congress: “Who are we here to represent?”
The NRA is a powerful ally for the pro-gun lobby. At the time, the NRA’s Chris Cox called the expanded background check proposal “misguided,” following the trend of supporters who believe steps like background checks would fail to reduce crime “or keep our kids safe in their schools.”
“There’s big money and it’s big business, and as a result the gun industry and the gun lobby is very powerful and have been very powerful in the last few decades,” said Mr McLively.
“At the federal level, people are like, ‘after Sandy Hook, why didn’t anything happen in congress?’ The answer is largely because the gun lobby is very good at its job.”
The problem with forcing Americans to turn over their weapons, according to the far right, is that it goes against the Second Amendment and an American’s right to bear arms, severely limiting the control of firearms in the country.
Described by Mr McLively as a “major roadblock” to gun control, the right to bear arms is so protected, the Daily Beast predicted a “civil war could erupt on American soil were the US government to attempt anything remotely resembling what was done in Australia”.
Mr McLively said, “a lot of the things done in Australia would be arguably unconstitutional in the United States”.
For example, New York is generally thought to be a safe place when it comes to guns because of the city’s tighter restrictions to access a firearm. But without federal involvement, a person could travel out of state, buy a gun, and bring it back with them.
In Chicago, where “gun violence is ripping the city apart”, the city’s tougher gun laws are failing because, “it’s not an island, it’s surrounded by other jurisdictions that have weak gun laws”.
Mr McLively explained more than 50 per cent of guns recovered in Chicago come from surrounding states.
“You look at a state like Hawaii that has strong gun laws and some of the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country. The places that are isolated from the country’s policies are doing well with this when left to their own devices.”
There are “gun-free zones” in numerous states, but that hasn’t stopped gunmen with a vengeance before — post offices, schools, community colleges, national parks and government buildings have been a prime target in recent years.
There is some good news. Mr McLively says there’s a shift of momentum in the last five or so years, and groups are becoming more engaged in gun safety.
“A number of states passed reform packages in 2012, many of those have been challenged and for the most part upheld in the courts.
“There’s a middle ground where we can regulate effectively and bring down the gun rate without taking away everybody’s guns.”
But without a driving force behind the campaign, one can only feel a sense of impending dread.
“I’ll post on Twitter about a family shooting, a domestic violence incident where the mother is killed. I’ll have people respond to say, ‘that’s the cost of our freedom’, Mr McLively said.
“It’s pretty sickening and shocking to hear people say that, but they truly believe that.”