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    By Nadin Abbott

    December 18, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--It's not easy to speak of what happened last week at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, where a gunman opened fire. It is harder because this is not the first mass shooting, and probably will not be the last. But with the slaughter of 20 innocent children and 6 adults, we might finally hit a tipping point in how we look at guns and our culture.

    I come at this not just as a gun owner, but also as a former first responder who saw firsthand what a NATO round or a Warsaw round can do to the human body. Mexico, where I worked with the Red Cross, is a place where these weapons are used regularly by the cartels.

    It is a searing experience to have to transport an eight year old to the trauma center, with one or more of these rounds in his little body. It is even more searing when you have to reach for the sheet and cover the now lifeless body.

    I can imagine what those first responders in Newtown found at Sandy Hook Elementary. It was, quite frankly, a war zone.

    So, we all ask, what do we do? I have a series of proposals.

    First, we need to ban all high capacity magazines. So, I have to reload my magazine more often at the range. So what? It also takes a well trained shooter three seconds to change a magazine. That is a valuable three seconds if you are trying to find cover. This has to be a federal ban. It does not work if one state does it and not others. 

    Second, we need to actually look at mandating smart technology on all personally held weapons the moment the technology becomes good enough to be widely deployed. Smart gun technology will do a couple things. If I own a gun, and I whip it out in a self defense situation, and it is taken away from me, it cannot be fired by the person who took it. The Sandy Hook shooter could not have gunned down 26 people with his mother’s guns if the weapons had smart technology. Smart guns will also increase police officer safety and reduce accidental shootings involving children. It may very well reduce them to almost zero if every owner does this. New Jersey already has that law on the books. This needs to be federal. http://sciencenetlinks.com/science-news/science-updates/smart-gun/

    Third, we actually need to start talking about what kinds of weapons we allow in civilian hands. I know this is very controversial, but this must be part of the conversation. Oh and this does not mean I am against hunting, hey, we need hunting... but ten rounds should be more than sufficient to bring down a deer. It goes without saying there are hunting standards that both state and federal officials have when issuing licenses; let's make those magazines legal, and that is that. You want to go target shooting, use your hunting magazines. 

    Fourth, we need to look at the underlying causes for our violence. Video games and movies are a cheap cop out. We have a lot of violence in our society, and a lot of fear. Popular culture is a mirror to that environment of fear and violence that we live in. Poverty is a form of violence, and our lack of access to mental healthcare is a huge problem.  (In Sandy Hook should not  have  been an issue given Adam Lanza's mother did have the economic means)

    We need to realize that commitment of somebody who should be institutionalized is almost impossible. We also have stigmatized mental disease to the point that people fear seeking help. It is, in some cases, a chronic condition, just like diabetes.  It is time we realize that and just treat it that way. 

    Fifth, we need to close the gun show loophole. All guns must have an NCIS background check. Enough of this nonsense where 40% of all guns are sold by private hands with no back groundcheck.  For the record even NRA members want this, it is the leadership that is opposed to it.

    Do we have to have a moment of national self reflection? Yes. Do we need to change as a society? Yes. Why? Sandy Hook was horrible and terrible, but  34,000 Americans die every year from gun violence. That is the national average.The large majority of people who die from gun violence, die from suicide. The correlation between guns and mental illness is clear. 

    This is one of those moments when we truly have reached a fork in the road. Does this fork mean broad confiscation of all weapons? This is just as silly (and some fringe voices have suggested that), as having teachers armed in schools and increasing the number of of loose gun laws, as Governor Rick Perry of Texas suggested today. We as a nation need to find a balance. I think we are quite capable of this. 

    With that, I will leave you with this though. Mass shootings in movie theaters, places of worship and schools have left me with reaching back to the skills I developed way back when I was  a first responder, going to real life shootouts. Looking for cover and being aware of my surroundings is right now the best defense. We should not live in a situation where we need to think of everyday tasks as if we were in a low intensity combat zone, but we are. This is how many in our society have been living for decades in disadvantaged communities. It is now becoming national. 

    Hug your family, and hug your children. We need to do something to stop this senseless violence. If we don't after this now, I don't know when. 

    Nadin Abbott is an award-winning freelance photojournalist and a former emergency responder. The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org

     

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    January 13, 2013 (Washington D.C.)—Vice President Joe Biden will meet today with representatives of Congress to discuss his task force’s proposals for reducing gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. Options may range from limiting access to assault weapons to improving diagnosis and treatment of the mentally ill.

    One intriguing possibility for the future is the use of “smart gun” technology.  “A lot could change if, for example, every gun purchased could only be fired by the person who purchased it," Biden said Friday. "The technology exists, but it’s extremely expensive.”

    Smart gun technology reads fingerprints of whoever tries to fire the weapon. 

    Another interesting technology by ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors to pinpoint the location of gunfire, potentially enabling police to respond much faster. 

    The National Rifle Association (NRA) has vowed to fight any effort to restrict ownership of guns, arguing that gun ownership is protected under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. The NRA has argued for armed guards on education campuses.

    An armed police officer at Granite Hills High School did stop a shooter from killing anyone—but not before he wounded several people.  Armed security guards are also costly  in an era of education spending cuts across the nation. 

    Since 1982, the U.S. has had at least 61 mass murders with firearms.  Mother Jones magazine has tracked those shooting sprees and found that in the majority, killers obtained their weapons legally.

    The U.S. had 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years worldwide.  Moreover the rate appears to be accelerating; 11 of the deadliest shootings in our nation’s nearly 247-year history have happened in the past five years.

    States with stricter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths. Those restrictions include bans on assault weapons, trigger lock mandates, and requirements for safe gun storage.

    Despite these facts, the majority of Americans oppose gun control laws, according to repeated Gallup polls. With Republicans in charge of Congress, any effort to enact gun control legislation is apt to meet with stiff resistance.

    Another area of concern is the proliferation of psychiatric drugs, some of which can cause homicidal and suicidal tendencies.  At least 11 school shooters were under the influence of psychiatric drugs—including the Columbine High School killings and locally, the Granite Hills High School shootings.  There may be more, but medical privacy laws prohibit the public from knowing the medical histories of most suspects, unless drug usage is revealed as evidence in court or voluntarily by family members.

    In addition, since the Reagan-era shut down of mental health inpatient facilities, even families who seek out help for potentially violent individuals often find very limited options; often the answer parents seeking help for emotionally troubled teens is to call the police.

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    January 17, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – As ECM reported earlier, President Obama has announced a package of reforms aimed at stemming gun violence in the wake of numerous mass shootings.   Initial media reports were unclear on which actions were done as executive orders by the President for immediate implementation, and which actions require Congressional approval.  So ECM contacted the White House. 

    “I am providing you with two things that might help your readers understand the President’s announcement yesterday," Brian Lepow with the White House press office responded. “ THIS LINK will take you to the President’s transcript from yesterday.  I have also attached a fact sheet and executive summary on the package of proposals to reduce gun violence and a list of gun violence reduction executive actions.

    Congressional approval of new legislation are needed to require background checks for all gun sales, reinstate a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, renewing and strengthening a ban on assault weapons, outlaw armor-piercing bullet sales, beef up penalties for gun traffickers, fund a $4 billion proposal to keep 15,000 police officers on the streets, and more.

    But many other steps aimed at reducing gun violence were taken with the signing of 23 Executive Actions taken unilaterally by the President.  The actions are far-ranging, from encouraging mental health professionals to report threats of violence to loosing medical privacy constraints, improving school safety, and improving database access for background checks of gun purchasers.

    Below are the 23 executive actions taken to reduce gun violence:

     

    Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions

     

    1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

    2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

    3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

    4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

    5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

    6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

    7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

    8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

    9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

    10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

    11. Nominate an ATF director.

    12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

    13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

    14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

    15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

    16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

    17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

    18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

    19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

    20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

    21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

    22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

    23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

     

    For additional details on these actions, as well as more information on proposals requiring legislative action, click on the links at the top of this article.

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    January 20,2013 (San Diego)—Both of California’s U.S. Senators are strongly supporting actions to restrict assault weapons and protect the public from mass shootings, though members of San Diego’s Congressional delegation are divided in their views toward President Barack Obama’s plan for reducing gun violence.

    California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) has confirmed she intends to introduce legislation to reinstate a ban on assault weapons this week. A U.S. Department of Justice study found the prior assault weapons ban authored by Feinstein resulted in a 6.7 percent drop in the murder rate nationwide. Find details at http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/assault-weapons.

     “The assault weapon is developed for military purposes to kill in close combat. In doesn’t belong in the streets of our cities,” she said adding that it does not belong in the hands of people who can walk into a mall, a movie theater or a school intent on killing.  The bill would also subject grandfathered weapons already owned to licensing and trigger locks. It would ban about 100 weapons by name and others by description.  She would also ban clips that enabled the Sandy Hook elementary shooter to fire off over 100 rounds, killing many children.

    For California Senator Barbara Boxer (D), gun violence is personal.  She recalled the loss of a friend’s son, murdered by a gunman who killed eight people in San Francisco back in 1993. 

    “The slaughter of innocents must stop,” Boxer said in a press statement.  She noted that in 2009, 31,347 people died from gun violence in our nation. That’s 87 people for every day of the year. Another 73,505 people were injured by firearms.

    “Here is what I think we must tackle – and we can do it without violating gun rights,” Boxer stated, adding, “First, we must take weapons of war and high-capacity clips off our streets. Second, we must ensure that local law enforcement is involved in reviewing conceal and carry permits. Third, we must close the gun show loophole so background checks are conducted. Fourth, we must keep all guns out of the hands of the mentally ill – and get them the help they need. And finally, we must keep our schools safe by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal.”

    Boxer said Congress has “failed our children,” noting that since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, 203 students and teachers have been killed and 175 students, teachers and others have been wounded due to gun violence at our schools.

    “We have to stop worrying about our political skins. There is more to life than that. There are judgments that will be made about us while we are here and after we are gone,” Senator Boxer concluded, “Let us pull together and show our children we love them and we will protect them by taking clear and common sense steps together.”

    Among San Diego’s House of Representatives delegation, newly elected Congressman Scott Peters (D) has announced his support for a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence.  “In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown—and Aurora, Columbine, and Tucson before that—there is just no way we cannot do those things in our power to prevent these massacres,”

    Peters said in a press statement issued Thursday.  “We must have a rational and nonpartisan discussion that leads to lower rates of gun violence.”

    Specifically, Peters said he supports better enforcement of existing gun laws and background checks on all gun purchases to prevent guns from falling into hands of criminals and those prone to violence, “reasonable” restrictions on types of guns and ammunition originally intended for military, more attention to mental health awareness and treatment, and tools for law enforcement o keep schools, families and neighborhoods safe. 

     He added that he supports the Second Amendment and the right of individuals to own guns for sporting, collection and self-protection, but agrees with law enforcement that “there’s no reason for civilians to have weapons of war which end up on our streets and in our neighborhoods.”

    But Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) , who represents rural East County, questioned whether 23 executive actions taken by the President “would have done a single thing to prevent past incidents,” U-T  San Diego reports.

    The major components of the President’s plan, such as banning assault weapons and large rounds of ammunition, would require Congressional approval. Hunter did not address those points but has in the past been an opponent of gun controls.

    Rep. Juan Vargas (D) representing the southeast portion of the County, voiced support for one key element of the President’s plan.  “I agree with Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama that we ought to ban these assault weapons,” he said, citing the need to protect our nation’s children, U-T San Diego reported.

    Rep. Susan Davis (D), she voiced support for “sensible and effective laws to keep our people safe and protect constitutional rights.”

    As for Rep. Darrell Issa (R) , he has voiced “concerns about insufficient Justice Department efforts” to enforce existing gun laws that provide criminals access to firearms, Southern  California Public Radio (KPPC) reports.   (Issa’s stance is ironic given that he was arrested in 1972 on illegal firearms possession, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and has also been accused of intimidation with a gun, Media Matters reported: http://mediamatters.org/research/2011/01/11/report-media-ignore-rep-issas-alleged-criminal/174997. )


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    San Diego social services centers closed through Friday as precaution after attacks

    By Miriam Raftery

    Updated December 3, 2015 with additional information on the shooters.

    December 2, 2015 (San Bernadino) – Suspects armed with assault weapons, wearing body armor and masks opened fire inside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, a a government facility that provides services to the developmentally disabled.

    At least 14 people are dead and 17 more are wounded, National Public Radio reports. Some of the victims were attending a holiday party in the building. The suspects also planted three bombs strung together that a robot was deployed to destroy. 

    Suspects fled the scene in a black SUV.  Later a police pursuit ended in a firefight and the fatal shooting of two suspects outside a residence in Redlands. One was a man identified as Sayed Rizwan Farook, 28, a U.S. citizen born in Chicago.  The other was his wife,Tashfeen Malik, 27, who was born in Pakistan and recently lived in Saudi Arabia.  A third individual attempted to flee and has been detained.

    Farook, a U.S. citizen, has been described by family as a devout Muslim who met his wife online while she was living in Saudi Arabia.  The couple left their six-month-old infant with a grandparent before the massacre. Farook worked for the County Health Department as a restaurant inspector, attended a holiday party for the depatment in the building and left abruptly, returning to open fire later on. Coworkers have described him as quiet and said they had no reason to be suspicious of him. Authorities have said his job was not in danger and he recently took paternity leave as a new father.

    Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, at a news briefing Wednesday stated , “Obviously, at a minimum, we have a domestic terrorist-type situation that occurred here” though it is not yet known whether the massacre was orchestrated by any domestic or foreign terror organizations. By Thursday morning, authoriteis still had no motive and said the couple left no note, though terrorism or workplace violence are both being examined as potential motives.  The Council on American Islamic Relations has denounced the shootings.

    10 News reports that all five Regional Center locations in San Diego and Imperial Counties  will be closed until Friday as a precaution.  The San Diego center’s spokesman, Ron Plotkin, voiced “shock and horror” at the tragic mass shooting, adding “Our hearts are open with supportive prayers to those in the cross-hairs of this senseless, horrific event.'' 

    The shooting bgan about 11 a.m., with employees sheltering in place while police searched the premises for the gunmen.  Some texted family members.  A shutdown of businesses nearby and surrounded streets took place as a  massive law enforcement contingent of local, state and federal agencies responded. Schools, government buildings and courthouses were placed on lockdown during the search.

    Some shooting victims were transported to Loma Linda Medical Center, where doctors continued treating patients despite a bomb threat,  and others to a medical facility in Arrowhead.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan asked those gathered for the lighting of the National Christmas tree to pause for a moment of silence.

    But others  contend that action, not since or prayers, is what’s needed to stem the tide of violence. The San Bernardino massacre was the 355th mass shooting in the past year.

    President Barack Obama reacted to the tragedy by calling for firearms reforms.  “We have a pattern of mass patterns now in the United States that is unparalleled anywhere in the world,”  he said early this afternoon, when shooters’ identities were not yet known. 

    The President said there are “steps we could take” to make such shootings less likely in the future including  "common sense gun safety laws" and "stronger background checks," as well as barring people on the no-fly list from buying firearms.  Obama urged lawmakers to come together on a bipartisan basis to implement these reforms.

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    June 15, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) — Major media outlets have characterized the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, which killed 50 people, as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. But some historians have now stepped forward to criticize that statement.

    While Orlando may have had the most deaths caused by a single shooter in a single incident, there have been other massacres with higher death tolls when mob violence, riots, or military massacres on U.S. soil are included. Here are some of the other incidents in which hundreds of people died of shootings as a result of mobs, militias, riots, U.S. soldiers, racial tensions, and suppression of Native Americans.

    In 1919, an estimated 200 to 800 African-American people were killed in a race riot in Elaine, Arkansas. Black sharecroppers seeking better pay attended a meeting at a church of the Progressive Farmers and Households Union of America.   Accounts vary on who fired the first shots that night, which killed several people including a white security officer for the railroad and three black guards around the church. The next day, the Sheriff sent out a posses and a mob of up to 1,000 armed white people to quell what was termed an “insurrection.” The Army later sent in troops.  Over three days, hundreds of black people were killed by a mob of armed white supremacists and at least two were killed by the military and by some accounts, many more in what some witnesses said was cold-blooded murder. Yet only blacks were arrested and charged with murder; many of those convictions were later overturned, including a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.   Read more: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/race-riot-elaine-arkansas  and http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1102  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaine_race_riot

    In 1890, 200 Sioux Indians were killed at Wounded Knee, South Dakota by U.S. l.  Originally described as a “battle” in official accounts, it later came to be described as murder or genocide.   The hostilities also resulted in deaths of 25 Cavalry members. Some historians have suggested that soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the spiritual Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians. Read more: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/01/01/truth-about-wounded-knee-massacre-162923  and http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/wounded-knee

    In 1868, a massacre in Oppalousa, Louisiana killed as many as 150 people, by modern estimates.  Also known as the Oppalousa Riot, the hostilities occurred after some black people tried to join a racist political group.  After an inflammatory article was published in a newspaper and the author left town, black were falsely accused of his death.  Thousands of armed white supremacists marched on the group and opened fire, killing many black people and chasing others into the swamps.   Read more: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/opelousas-massacre-1868

    In 1864, the Colorado Territorial Militia opened fire on an Indian encampment of about 500 people at Sand Creek, Colorado, killing 165 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians.  Over half of the dead were women and children.  Two chiefs had set up camp outside Fort Lyon, the Army’s military base, flying an American flag and seeking to broker a truce in U.S.-Indian hostilities. The massacre was ordered by Army Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist minister, after a night of heavy drinking.  Despite the tribal leaders raising a white flag, the killings continued.  The attacked was widely condemned as an atrocity and the site at Sand Creek is now protected by the National Park Service. Read more: https://www.nps.gov/sand/learn/historyculture/massacre.htm  and https://www.nps.gov/sand/learn/historyculture/massacre.htm

    In 1857, 150 pioneers in a westward-bound wagon train were slaughtered in Mountain Meadow, Utah.  Some versions of the story claim one settler threatened to kill the Mormon church leader after being denied supplies at a store; others have claimed the settlers were falsely blamed for poisoning water and killing cattle.  The attack was organized by Utah militiamen who originally planned to blame the carnage on Native Americans and coerced the Indians into participating. But a surviving witness told the truth.   Read more: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/09/the-mountain-meadows-massacre?lang=eng

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-mass-shooting-20160614-snap-story.html


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    By Nadin Abbott

    December 18, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--It's not easy to speak of what happened last week at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, where a gunman opened fire. It is harder because this is not the first mass shooting, and probably will not be the last. But with the slaughter of 20 innocent children and 6 adults, we might finally hit a tipping point in how we look at guns and our culture.

    I come at this not just as a gun owner, but also as a former first responder who saw firsthand what a NATO round or a Warsaw round can do to the human body. Mexico, where I worked with the Red Cross, is a place where these weapons are used regularly by the cartels.

    It is a searing experience to have to transport an eight year old to the trauma center, with one or more of these rounds in his little body. It is even more searing when you have to reach for the sheet and cover the now lifeless body.

    I can imagine what those first responders in Newtown found at Sandy Hook Elementary. It was, quite frankly, a war zone.

    So, we all ask, what do we do? I have a series of proposals.

    First, we need to ban all high capacity magazines. So, I have to reload my magazine more often at the range. So what? It also takes a well trained shooter three seconds to change a magazine. That is a valuable three seconds if you are trying to find cover. This has to be a federal ban. It does not work if one state does it and not others. 

    Second, we need to actually look at mandating smart technology on all personally held weapons the moment the technology becomes good enough to be widely deployed. Smart gun technology will do a couple things. If I own a gun, and I whip it out in a self defense situation, and it is taken away from me, it cannot be fired by the person who took it. The Sandy Hook shooter could not have gunned down 26 people with his mother’s guns if the weapons had smart technology. Smart guns will also increase police officer safety and reduce accidental shootings involving children. It may very well reduce them to almost zero if every owner does this. New Jersey already has that law on the books. This needs to be federal. http://sciencenetlinks.com/science-news/science-updates/smart-gun/

    Third, we actually need to start talking about what kinds of weapons we allow in civilian hands. I know this is very controversial, but this must be part of the conversation. Oh and this does not mean I am against hunting, hey, we need hunting... but ten rounds should be more than sufficient to bring down a deer. It goes without saying there are hunting standards that both state and federal officials have when issuing licenses; let's make those magazines legal, and that is that. You want to go target shooting, use your hunting magazines. 

    Fourth, we need to look at the underlying causes for our violence. Video games and movies are a cheap cop out. We have a lot of violence in our society, and a lot of fear. Popular culture is a mirror to that environment of fear and violence that we live in. Poverty is a form of violence, and our lack of access to mental healthcare is a huge problem.  (In Sandy Hook should not  have  been an issue given Adam Lanza's mother did have the economic means)

    We need to realize that commitment of somebody who should be institutionalized is almost impossible. We also have stigmatized mental disease to the point that people fear seeking help. It is, in some cases, a chronic condition, just like diabetes.  It is time we realize that and just treat it that way. 

    Fifth, we need to close the gun show loophole. All guns must have an NCIS background check. Enough of this nonsense where 40% of all guns are sold by private hands with no back groundcheck.  For the record even NRA members want this, it is the leadership that is opposed to it.

    Do we have to have a moment of national self reflection? Yes. Do we need to change as a society? Yes. Why? Sandy Hook was horrible and terrible, but  34,000 Americans die every year from gun violence. That is the national average.The large majority of people who die from gun violence, die from suicide. The correlation between guns and mental illness is clear. 

    This is one of those moments when we truly have reached a fork in the road. Does this fork mean broad confiscation of all weapons? This is just as silly (and some fringe voices have suggested that), as having teachers armed in schools and increasing the number of of loose gun laws, as Governor Rick Perry of Texas suggested today. We as a nation need to find a balance. I think we are quite capable of this. 

    With that, I will leave you with this though. Mass shootings in movie theaters, places of worship and schools have left me with reaching back to the skills I developed way back when I was  a first responder, going to real life shootouts. Looking for cover and being aware of my surroundings is right now the best defense. We should not live in a situation where we need to think of everyday tasks as if we were in a low intensity combat zone, but we are. This is how many in our society have been living for decades in disadvantaged communities. It is now becoming national. 

    Hug your family, and hug your children. We need to do something to stop this senseless violence. If we don't after this now, I don't know when. 

    Nadin Abbott is an award-winning freelance photojournalist and a former emergency responder. The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org

     

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    January 13, 2013 (Washington D.C.)—Vice President Joe Biden will meet today with representatives of Congress to discuss his task force’s proposals for reducing gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. Options may range from limiting access to assault weapons to improving diagnosis and treatment of the mentally ill.

    One intriguing possibility for the future is the use of “smart gun” technology.  “A lot could change if, for example, every gun purchased could only be fired by the person who purchased it," Biden said Friday. "The technology exists, but it’s extremely expensive.”

    Smart gun technology reads fingerprints of whoever tries to fire the weapon. 

    Another interesting technology by ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors to pinpoint the location of gunfire, potentially enabling police to respond much faster. 

    The National Rifle Association (NRA) has vowed to fight any effort to restrict ownership of guns, arguing that gun ownership is protected under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. The NRA has argued for armed guards on education campuses.

    An armed police officer at Granite Hills High School did stop a shooter from killing anyone—but not before he wounded several people.  Armed security guards are also costly  in an era of education spending cuts across the nation. 

    Since 1982, the U.S. has had at least 61 mass murders with firearms.  Mother Jones magazine has tracked those shooting sprees and found that in the majority, killers obtained their weapons legally.

    The U.S. had 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years worldwide.  Moreover the rate appears to be accelerating; 11 of the deadliest shootings in our nation’s nearly 247-year history have happened in the past five years.

    States with stricter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths. Those restrictions include bans on assault weapons, trigger lock mandates, and requirements for safe gun storage.

    Despite these facts, the majority of Americans oppose gun control laws, according to repeated Gallup polls. With Republicans in charge of Congress, any effort to enact gun control legislation is apt to meet with stiff resistance.

    Another area of concern is the proliferation of psychiatric drugs, some of which can cause homicidal and suicidal tendencies.  At least 11 school shooters were under the influence of psychiatric drugs—including the Columbine High School killings and locally, the Granite Hills High School shootings.  There may be more, but medical privacy laws prohibit the public from knowing the medical histories of most suspects, unless drug usage is revealed as evidence in court or voluntarily by family members.

    In addition, since the Reagan-era shut down of mental health inpatient facilities, even families who seek out help for potentially violent individuals often find very limited options; often the answer parents seeking help for emotionally troubled teens is to call the police.

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    January 17, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – As ECM reported earlier, President Obama has announced a package of reforms aimed at stemming gun violence in the wake of numerous mass shootings.   Initial media reports were unclear on which actions were done as executive orders by the President for immediate implementation, and which actions require Congressional approval.  So ECM contacted the White House. 

    “I am providing you with two things that might help your readers understand the President’s announcement yesterday," Brian Lepow with the White House press office responded. “ THIS LINK will take you to the President’s transcript from yesterday.  I have also attached a fact sheet and executive summary on the package of proposals to reduce gun violence and a list of gun violence reduction executive actions.

    Congressional approval of new legislation are needed to require background checks for all gun sales, reinstate a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, renewing and strengthening a ban on assault weapons, outlaw armor-piercing bullet sales, beef up penalties for gun traffickers, fund a $4 billion proposal to keep 15,000 police officers on the streets, and more.

    But many other steps aimed at reducing gun violence were taken with the signing of 23 Executive Actions taken unilaterally by the President.  The actions are far-ranging, from encouraging mental health professionals to report threats of violence to loosing medical privacy constraints, improving school safety, and improving database access for background checks of gun purchasers.

    Below are the 23 executive actions taken to reduce gun violence:

     

    Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions

     

    1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

    2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

    3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

    4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

    5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

    6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

    7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

    8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

    9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

    10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

    11. Nominate an ATF director.

    12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

    13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

    14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

    15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

    16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

    17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

    18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

    19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

    20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

    21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

    22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

    23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

     

    For additional details on these actions, as well as more information on proposals requiring legislative action, click on the links at the top of this article.

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    January 20,2013 (San Diego)—Both of California’s U.S. Senators are strongly supporting actions to restrict assault weapons and protect the public from mass shootings, though members of San Diego’s Congressional delegation are divided in their views toward President Barack Obama’s plan for reducing gun violence.

    California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) has confirmed she intends to introduce legislation to reinstate a ban on assault weapons this week. A U.S. Department of Justice study found the prior assault weapons ban authored by Feinstein resulted in a 6.7 percent drop in the murder rate nationwide. Find details at http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/assault-weapons.

     “The assault weapon is developed for military purposes to kill in close combat. In doesn’t belong in the streets of our cities,” she said adding that it does not belong in the hands of people who can walk into a mall, a movie theater or a school intent on killing.  The bill would also subject grandfathered weapons already owned to licensing and trigger locks. It would ban about 100 weapons by name and others by description.  She would also ban clips that enabled the Sandy Hook elementary shooter to fire off over 100 rounds, killing many children.

    For California Senator Barbara Boxer (D), gun violence is personal.  She recalled the loss of a friend’s son, murdered by a gunman who killed eight people in San Francisco back in 1993. 

    “The slaughter of innocents must stop,” Boxer said in a press statement.  She noted that in 2009, 31,347 people died from gun violence in our nation. That’s 87 people for every day of the year. Another 73,505 people were injured by firearms.

    “Here is what I think we must tackle – and we can do it without violating gun rights,” Boxer stated, adding, “First, we must take weapons of war and high-capacity clips off our streets. Second, we must ensure that local law enforcement is involved in reviewing conceal and carry permits. Third, we must close the gun show loophole so background checks are conducted. Fourth, we must keep all guns out of the hands of the mentally ill – and get them the help they need. And finally, we must keep our schools safe by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal.”

    Boxer said Congress has “failed our children,” noting that since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, 203 students and teachers have been killed and 175 students, teachers and others have been wounded due to gun violence at our schools.

    “We have to stop worrying about our political skins. There is more to life than that. There are judgments that will be made about us while we are here and after we are gone,” Senator Boxer concluded, “Let us pull together and show our children we love them and we will protect them by taking clear and common sense steps together.”

    Among San Diego’s House of Representatives delegation, newly elected Congressman Scott Peters (D) has announced his support for a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence.  “In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown—and Aurora, Columbine, and Tucson before that—there is just no way we cannot do those things in our power to prevent these massacres,”

    Peters said in a press statement issued Thursday.  “We must have a rational and nonpartisan discussion that leads to lower rates of gun violence.”

    Specifically, Peters said he supports better enforcement of existing gun laws and background checks on all gun purchases to prevent guns from falling into hands of criminals and those prone to violence, “reasonable” restrictions on types of guns and ammunition originally intended for military, more attention to mental health awareness and treatment, and tools for law enforcement o keep schools, families and neighborhoods safe. 

     He added that he supports the Second Amendment and the right of individuals to own guns for sporting, collection and self-protection, but agrees with law enforcement that “there’s no reason for civilians to have weapons of war which end up on our streets and in our neighborhoods.”

    But Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) , who represents rural East County, questioned whether 23 executive actions taken by the President “would have done a single thing to prevent past incidents,” U-T  San Diego reports.

    The major components of the President’s plan, such as banning assault weapons and large rounds of ammunition, would require Congressional approval. Hunter did not address those points but has in the past been an opponent of gun controls.

    Rep. Juan Vargas (D) representing the southeast portion of the County, voiced support for one key element of the President’s plan.  “I agree with Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama that we ought to ban these assault weapons,” he said, citing the need to protect our nation’s children, U-T San Diego reported.

    Rep. Susan Davis (D), she voiced support for “sensible and effective laws to keep our people safe and protect constitutional rights.”

    As for Rep. Darrell Issa (R) , he has voiced “concerns about insufficient Justice Department efforts” to enforce existing gun laws that provide criminals access to firearms, Southern  California Public Radio (KPPC) reports.   (Issa’s stance is ironic given that he was arrested in 1972 on illegal firearms possession, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and has also been accused of intimidation with a gun, Media Matters reported: http://mediamatters.org/research/2011/01/11/report-media-ignore-rep-issas-alleged-criminal/174997. )


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    San Diego social services centers closed through Friday as precaution after attacks

    By Miriam Raftery

    Updated December 3, 2015 with additional information on the shooters.

    December 2, 2015 (San Bernadino) – Suspects armed with assault weapons, wearing body armor and masks opened fire inside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, a a government facility that provides services to the developmentally disabled.

    At least 14 people are dead and 17 more are wounded, National Public Radio reports. Some of the victims were attending a holiday party in the building. The suspects also planted three bombs strung together that a robot was deployed to destroy. 

    Suspects fled the scene in a black SUV.  Later a police pursuit ended in a firefight and the fatal shooting of two suspects outside a residence in Redlands. One was a man identified as Sayed Rizwan Farook, 28, a U.S. citizen born in Chicago.  The other was his wife,Tashfeen Malik, 27, who was born in Pakistan and recently lived in Saudi Arabia.  A third individual attempted to flee and has been detained.

    Farook, a U.S. citizen, has been described by family as a devout Muslim who met his wife online while she was living in Saudi Arabia.  The couple left their six-month-old infant with a grandparent before the massacre. Farook worked for the County Health Department as a restaurant inspector, attended a holiday party for the depatment in the building and left abruptly, returning to open fire later on. Coworkers have described him as quiet and said they had no reason to be suspicious of him. Authorities have said his job was not in danger and he recently took paternity leave as a new father.

    Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, at a news briefing Wednesday stated , “Obviously, at a minimum, we have a domestic terrorist-type situation that occurred here” though it is not yet known whether the massacre was orchestrated by any domestic or foreign terror organizations. By Thursday morning, authoriteis still had no motive and said the couple left no note, though terrorism or workplace violence are both being examined as potential motives.  The Council on American Islamic Relations has denounced the shootings.

    10 News reports that all five Regional Center locations in San Diego and Imperial Counties  will be closed until Friday as a precaution.  The San Diego center’s spokesman, Ron Plotkin, voiced “shock and horror” at the tragic mass shooting, adding “Our hearts are open with supportive prayers to those in the cross-hairs of this senseless, horrific event.'' 

    The shooting bgan about 11 a.m., with employees sheltering in place while police searched the premises for the gunmen.  Some texted family members.  A shutdown of businesses nearby and surrounded streets took place as a  massive law enforcement contingent of local, state and federal agencies responded. Schools, government buildings and courthouses were placed on lockdown during the search.

    Some shooting victims were transported to Loma Linda Medical Center, where doctors continued treating patients despite a bomb threat,  and others to a medical facility in Arrowhead.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan asked those gathered for the lighting of the National Christmas tree to pause for a moment of silence.

    But others  contend that action, not since or prayers, is what’s needed to stem the tide of violence. The San Bernardino massacre was the 355th mass shooting in the past year.

    President Barack Obama reacted to the tragedy by calling for firearms reforms.  “We have a pattern of mass patterns now in the United States that is unparalleled anywhere in the world,”  he said early this afternoon, when shooters’ identities were not yet known. 

    The President said there are “steps we could take” to make such shootings less likely in the future including  "common sense gun safety laws" and "stronger background checks," as well as barring people on the no-fly list from buying firearms.  Obama urged lawmakers to come together on a bipartisan basis to implement these reforms.

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    June 15, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) — Major media outlets have characterized the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, which killed 50 people, as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. But some historians have now stepped forward to criticize that statement.

    While Orlando may have had the most deaths caused by a single shooter in a single incident, there have been other massacres with higher death tolls when mob violence, riots, or military massacres on U.S. soil are included. Here are some of the other incidents in which hundreds of people died of shootings as a result of mobs, militias, riots, U.S. soldiers, racial tensions, and suppression of Native Americans.

    In 1919, an estimated 200 to 800 African-American people were killed in a race riot in Elaine, Arkansas. Black sharecroppers seeking better pay attended a meeting at a church of the Progressive Farmers and Households Union of America.   Accounts vary on who fired the first shots that night, which killed several people including a white security officer for the railroad and three black guards around the church. The next day, the Sheriff sent out a posses and a mob of up to 1,000 armed white people to quell what was termed an “insurrection.” The Army later sent in troops.  Over three days, hundreds of black people were killed by a mob of armed white supremacists and at least two were killed by the military and by some accounts, many more in what some witnesses said was cold-blooded murder. Yet only blacks were arrested and charged with murder; many of those convictions were later overturned, including a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.   Read more: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/race-riot-elaine-arkansas  and http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1102  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaine_race_riot

    In 1890, 200 Sioux Indians were killed at Wounded Knee, South Dakota by U.S. l.  Originally described as a “battle” in official accounts, it later came to be described as murder or genocide.   The hostilities also resulted in deaths of 25 Cavalry members. Some historians have suggested that soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the spiritual Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians. Read more: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/01/01/truth-about-wounded-knee-massacre-162923  and http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/wounded-knee

    In 1868, a massacre in Oppalousa, Louisiana killed as many as 150 people, by modern estimates.  Also known as the Oppalousa Riot, the hostilities occurred after some black people tried to join a racist political group.  After an inflammatory article was published in a newspaper and the author left town, black were falsely accused of his death.  Thousands of armed white supremacists marched on the group and opened fire, killing many black people and chasing others into the swamps.   Read more: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/opelousas-massacre-1868

    In 1864, the Colorado Territorial Militia opened fire on an Indian encampment of about 500 people at Sand Creek, Colorado, killing 165 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians.  Over half of the dead were women and children.  Two chiefs had set up camp outside Fort Lyon, the Army’s military base, flying an American flag and seeking to broker a truce in U.S.-Indian hostilities. The massacre was ordered by Army Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist minister, after a night of heavy drinking.  Despite the tribal leaders raising a white flag, the killings continued.  The attacked was widely condemned as an atrocity and the site at Sand Creek is now protected by the National Park Service. Read more: https://www.nps.gov/sand/learn/historyculture/massacre.htm  and https://www.nps.gov/sand/learn/historyculture/massacre.htm

    In 1857, 150 pioneers in a westward-bound wagon train were slaughtered in Mountain Meadow, Utah.  Some versions of the story claim one settler threatened to kill the Mormon church leader after being denied supplies at a store; others have claimed the settlers were falsely blamed for poisoning water and killing cattle.  The attack was organized by Utah militiamen who originally planned to blame the carnage on Native Americans and coerced the Indians into participating. But a surviving witness told the truth.   Read more: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/09/the-mountain-meadows-massacre?lang=eng

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-mass-shooting-20160614-snap-story.html


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    By Nadin Abbott

    December 18, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--It's not easy to speak of what happened last week at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, where a gunman opened fire. It is harder because this is not the first mass shooting, and probably will not be the last. But with the slaughter of 20 innocent children and 6 adults, we might finally hit a tipping point in how we look at guns and our culture.

    I come at this not just as a gun owner, but also as a former first responder who saw firsthand what a NATO round or a Warsaw round can do to the human body. Mexico, where I worked with the Red Cross, is a place where these weapons are used regularly by the cartels.

    It is a searing experience to have to transport an eight year old to the trauma center, with one or more of these rounds in his little body. It is even more searing when you have to reach for the sheet and cover the now lifeless body.

    I can imagine what those first responders in Newtown found at Sandy Hook Elementary. It was, quite frankly, a war zone.

    So, we all ask, what do we do? I have a series of proposals.

    First, we need to ban all high capacity magazines. So, I have to reload my magazine more often at the range. So what? It also takes a well trained shooter three seconds to change a magazine. That is a valuable three seconds if you are trying to find cover. This has to be a federal ban. It does not work if one state does it and not others. 

    Second, we need to actually look at mandating smart technology on all personally held weapons the moment the technology becomes good enough to be widely deployed. Smart gun technology will do a couple things. If I own a gun, and I whip it out in a self defense situation, and it is taken away from me, it cannot be fired by the person who took it. The Sandy Hook shooter could not have gunned down 26 people with his mother’s guns if the weapons had smart technology. Smart guns will also increase police officer safety and reduce accidental shootings involving children. It may very well reduce them to almost zero if every owner does this. New Jersey already has that law on the books. This needs to be federal. http://sciencenetlinks.com/science-news/science-updates/smart-gun/

    Third, we actually need to start talking about what kinds of weapons we allow in civilian hands. I know this is very controversial, but this must be part of the conversation. Oh and this does not mean I am against hunting, hey, we need hunting... but ten rounds should be more than sufficient to bring down a deer. It goes without saying there are hunting standards that both state and federal officials have when issuing licenses; let's make those magazines legal, and that is that. You want to go target shooting, use your hunting magazines. 

    Fourth, we need to look at the underlying causes for our violence. Video games and movies are a cheap cop out. We have a lot of violence in our society, and a lot of fear. Popular culture is a mirror to that environment of fear and violence that we live in. Poverty is a form of violence, and our lack of access to mental healthcare is a huge problem.  (In Sandy Hook should not  have  been an issue given Adam Lanza's mother did have the economic means)

    We need to realize that commitment of somebody who should be institutionalized is almost impossible. We also have stigmatized mental disease to the point that people fear seeking help. It is, in some cases, a chronic condition, just like diabetes.  It is time we realize that and just treat it that way. 

    Fifth, we need to close the gun show loophole. All guns must have an NCIS background check. Enough of this nonsense where 40% of all guns are sold by private hands with no back groundcheck.  For the record even NRA members want this, it is the leadership that is opposed to it.

    Do we have to have a moment of national self reflection? Yes. Do we need to change as a society? Yes. Why? Sandy Hook was horrible and terrible, but  34,000 Americans die every year from gun violence. That is the national average.The large majority of people who die from gun violence, die from suicide. The correlation between guns and mental illness is clear. 

    This is one of those moments when we truly have reached a fork in the road. Does this fork mean broad confiscation of all weapons? This is just as silly (and some fringe voices have suggested that), as having teachers armed in schools and increasing the number of of loose gun laws, as Governor Rick Perry of Texas suggested today. We as a nation need to find a balance. I think we are quite capable of this. 

    With that, I will leave you with this though. Mass shootings in movie theaters, places of worship and schools have left me with reaching back to the skills I developed way back when I was  a first responder, going to real life shootouts. Looking for cover and being aware of my surroundings is right now the best defense. We should not live in a situation where we need to think of everyday tasks as if we were in a low intensity combat zone, but we are. This is how many in our society have been living for decades in disadvantaged communities. It is now becoming national. 

    Hug your family, and hug your children. We need to do something to stop this senseless violence. If we don't after this now, I don't know when. 

    Nadin Abbott is an award-winning freelance photojournalist and a former emergency responder. The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org

     

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    January 13, 2013 (Washington D.C.)—Vice President Joe Biden will meet today with representatives of Congress to discuss his task force’s proposals for reducing gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. Options may range from limiting access to assault weapons to improving diagnosis and treatment of the mentally ill.

    One intriguing possibility for the future is the use of “smart gun” technology.  “A lot could change if, for example, every gun purchased could only be fired by the person who purchased it," Biden said Friday. "The technology exists, but it’s extremely expensive.”

    Smart gun technology reads fingerprints of whoever tries to fire the weapon. 

    Another interesting technology by ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors to pinpoint the location of gunfire, potentially enabling police to respond much faster. 

    The National Rifle Association (NRA) has vowed to fight any effort to restrict ownership of guns, arguing that gun ownership is protected under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. The NRA has argued for armed guards on education campuses.

    An armed police officer at Granite Hills High School did stop a shooter from killing anyone—but not before he wounded several people.  Armed security guards are also costly  in an era of education spending cuts across the nation. 

    Since 1982, the U.S. has had at least 61 mass murders with firearms.  Mother Jones magazine has tracked those shooting sprees and found that in the majority, killers obtained their weapons legally.

    The U.S. had 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years worldwide.  Moreover the rate appears to be accelerating; 11 of the deadliest shootings in our nation’s nearly 247-year history have happened in the past five years.

    States with stricter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths. Those restrictions include bans on assault weapons, trigger lock mandates, and requirements for safe gun storage.

    Despite these facts, the majority of Americans oppose gun control laws, according to repeated Gallup polls. With Republicans in charge of Congress, any effort to enact gun control legislation is apt to meet with stiff resistance.

    Another area of concern is the proliferation of psychiatric drugs, some of which can cause homicidal and suicidal tendencies.  At least 11 school shooters were under the influence of psychiatric drugs—including the Columbine High School killings and locally, the Granite Hills High School shootings.  There may be more, but medical privacy laws prohibit the public from knowing the medical histories of most suspects, unless drug usage is revealed as evidence in court or voluntarily by family members.

    In addition, since the Reagan-era shut down of mental health inpatient facilities, even families who seek out help for potentially violent individuals often find very limited options; often the answer parents seeking help for emotionally troubled teens is to call the police.

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    January 17, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – As ECM reported earlier, President Obama has announced a package of reforms aimed at stemming gun violence in the wake of numerous mass shootings.   Initial media reports were unclear on which actions were done as executive orders by the President for immediate implementation, and which actions require Congressional approval.  So ECM contacted the White House. 

    “I am providing you with two things that might help your readers understand the President’s announcement yesterday," Brian Lepow with the White House press office responded. “ THIS LINK will take you to the President’s transcript from yesterday.  I have also attached a fact sheet and executive summary on the package of proposals to reduce gun violence and a list of gun violence reduction executive actions.

    Congressional approval of new legislation are needed to require background checks for all gun sales, reinstate a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, renewing and strengthening a ban on assault weapons, outlaw armor-piercing bullet sales, beef up penalties for gun traffickers, fund a $4 billion proposal to keep 15,000 police officers on the streets, and more.

    But many other steps aimed at reducing gun violence were taken with the signing of 23 Executive Actions taken unilaterally by the President.  The actions are far-ranging, from encouraging mental health professionals to report threats of violence to loosing medical privacy constraints, improving school safety, and improving database access for background checks of gun purchasers.

    Below are the 23 executive actions taken to reduce gun violence:

     

    Gun Violence Reduction Executive Actions

     

    1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

    2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

    3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

    4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

    5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

    6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

    7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

    8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

    9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

    10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

    11. Nominate an ATF director.

    12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

    13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

    14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

    15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

    16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

    17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

    18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

    19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

    20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

    21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

    22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

    23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

     

    For additional details on these actions, as well as more information on proposals requiring legislative action, click on the links at the top of this article.

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    January 20,2013 (San Diego)—Both of California’s U.S. Senators are strongly supporting actions to restrict assault weapons and protect the public from mass shootings, though members of San Diego’s Congressional delegation are divided in their views toward President Barack Obama’s plan for reducing gun violence.

    California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) has confirmed she intends to introduce legislation to reinstate a ban on assault weapons this week. A U.S. Department of Justice study found the prior assault weapons ban authored by Feinstein resulted in a 6.7 percent drop in the murder rate nationwide. Find details at http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/assault-weapons.

     “The assault weapon is developed for military purposes to kill in close combat. In doesn’t belong in the streets of our cities,” she said adding that it does not belong in the hands of people who can walk into a mall, a movie theater or a school intent on killing.  The bill would also subject grandfathered weapons already owned to licensing and trigger locks. It would ban about 100 weapons by name and others by description.  She would also ban clips that enabled the Sandy Hook elementary shooter to fire off over 100 rounds, killing many children.

    For California Senator Barbara Boxer (D), gun violence is personal.  She recalled the loss of a friend’s son, murdered by a gunman who killed eight people in San Francisco back in 1993. 

    “The slaughter of innocents must stop,” Boxer said in a press statement.  She noted that in 2009, 31,347 people died from gun violence in our nation. That’s 87 people for every day of the year. Another 73,505 people were injured by firearms.

    “Here is what I think we must tackle – and we can do it without violating gun rights,” Boxer stated, adding, “First, we must take weapons of war and high-capacity clips off our streets. Second, we must ensure that local law enforcement is involved in reviewing conceal and carry permits. Third, we must close the gun show loophole so background checks are conducted. Fourth, we must keep all guns out of the hands of the mentally ill – and get them the help they need. And finally, we must keep our schools safe by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal.”

    Boxer said Congress has “failed our children,” noting that since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, 203 students and teachers have been killed and 175 students, teachers and others have been wounded due to gun violence at our schools.

    “We have to stop worrying about our political skins. There is more to life than that. There are judgments that will be made about us while we are here and after we are gone,” Senator Boxer concluded, “Let us pull together and show our children we love them and we will protect them by taking clear and common sense steps together.”

    Among San Diego’s House of Representatives delegation, newly elected Congressman Scott Peters (D) has announced his support for a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence.  “In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown—and Aurora, Columbine, and Tucson before that—there is just no way we cannot do those things in our power to prevent these massacres,”

    Peters said in a press statement issued Thursday.  “We must have a rational and nonpartisan discussion that leads to lower rates of gun violence.”

    Specifically, Peters said he supports better enforcement of existing gun laws and background checks on all gun purchases to prevent guns from falling into hands of criminals and those prone to violence, “reasonable” restrictions on types of guns and ammunition originally intended for military, more attention to mental health awareness and treatment, and tools for law enforcement o keep schools, families and neighborhoods safe. 

     He added that he supports the Second Amendment and the right of individuals to own guns for sporting, collection and self-protection, but agrees with law enforcement that “there’s no reason for civilians to have weapons of war which end up on our streets and in our neighborhoods.”

    But Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) , who represents rural East County, questioned whether 23 executive actions taken by the President “would have done a single thing to prevent past incidents,” U-T  San Diego reports.

    The major components of the President’s plan, such as banning assault weapons and large rounds of ammunition, would require Congressional approval. Hunter did not address those points but has in the past been an opponent of gun controls.

    Rep. Juan Vargas (D) representing the southeast portion of the County, voiced support for one key element of the President’s plan.  “I agree with Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama that we ought to ban these assault weapons,” he said, citing the need to protect our nation’s children, U-T San Diego reported.

    Rep. Susan Davis (D), she voiced support for “sensible and effective laws to keep our people safe and protect constitutional rights.”

    As for Rep. Darrell Issa (R) , he has voiced “concerns about insufficient Justice Department efforts” to enforce existing gun laws that provide criminals access to firearms, Southern  California Public Radio (KPPC) reports.   (Issa’s stance is ironic given that he was arrested in 1972 on illegal firearms possession, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and has also been accused of intimidation with a gun, Media Matters reported: http://mediamatters.org/research/2011/01/11/report-media-ignore-rep-issas-alleged-criminal/174997. )


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    San Diego social services centers closed through Friday as precaution after attacks

    By Miriam Raftery

    Updated December 3, 2015 with additional information on the shooters.

    December 2, 2015 (San Bernadino) – Suspects armed with assault weapons, wearing body armor and masks opened fire inside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, a a government facility that provides services to the developmentally disabled.

    At least 14 people are dead and 17 more are wounded, National Public Radio reports. Some of the victims were attending a holiday party in the building. The suspects also planted three bombs strung together that a robot was deployed to destroy. 

    Suspects fled the scene in a black SUV.  Later a police pursuit ended in a firefight and the fatal shooting of two suspects outside a residence in Redlands. One was a man identified as Sayed Rizwan Farook, 28, a U.S. citizen born in Chicago.  The other was his wife,Tashfeen Malik, 27, who was born in Pakistan and recently lived in Saudi Arabia.  A third individual attempted to flee and has been detained.

    Farook, a U.S. citizen, has been described by family as a devout Muslim who met his wife online while she was living in Saudi Arabia.  The couple left their six-month-old infant with a grandparent before the massacre. Farook worked for the County Health Department as a restaurant inspector, attended a holiday party for the depatment in the building and left abruptly, returning to open fire later on. Coworkers have described him as quiet and said they had no reason to be suspicious of him. Authorities have said his job was not in danger and he recently took paternity leave as a new father.

    Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, at a news briefing Wednesday stated , “Obviously, at a minimum, we have a domestic terrorist-type situation that occurred here” though it is not yet known whether the massacre was orchestrated by any domestic or foreign terror organizations. By Thursday morning, authoriteis still had no motive and said the couple left no note, though terrorism or workplace violence are both being examined as potential motives.  The Council on American Islamic Relations has denounced the shootings.

    10 News reports that all five Regional Center locations in San Diego and Imperial Counties  will be closed until Friday as a precaution.  The San Diego center’s spokesman, Ron Plotkin, voiced “shock and horror” at the tragic mass shooting, adding “Our hearts are open with supportive prayers to those in the cross-hairs of this senseless, horrific event.'' 

    The shooting bgan about 11 a.m., with employees sheltering in place while police searched the premises for the gunmen.  Some texted family members.  A shutdown of businesses nearby and surrounded streets took place as a  massive law enforcement contingent of local, state and federal agencies responded. Schools, government buildings and courthouses were placed on lockdown during the search.

    Some shooting victims were transported to Loma Linda Medical Center, where doctors continued treating patients despite a bomb threat,  and others to a medical facility in Arrowhead.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan asked those gathered for the lighting of the National Christmas tree to pause for a moment of silence.

    But others  contend that action, not since or prayers, is what’s needed to stem the tide of violence. The San Bernardino massacre was the 355th mass shooting in the past year.

    President Barack Obama reacted to the tragedy by calling for firearms reforms.  “We have a pattern of mass patterns now in the United States that is unparalleled anywhere in the world,”  he said early this afternoon, when shooters’ identities were not yet known. 

    The President said there are “steps we could take” to make such shootings less likely in the future including  "common sense gun safety laws" and "stronger background checks," as well as barring people on the no-fly list from buying firearms.  Obama urged lawmakers to come together on a bipartisan basis to implement these reforms.

     


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    By Miriam Raftery

    June 15, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) — Major media outlets have characterized the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, which killed 50 people, as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. But some historians have now stepped forward to criticize that statement.

    While Orlando may have had the most deaths caused by a single shooter in a single incident, there have been other massacres with higher death tolls when mob violence, riots, or military massacres on U.S. soil are included. Here are some of the other incidents in which hundreds of people died of shootings as a result of mobs, militias, riots, U.S. soldiers, racial tensions, and suppression of Native Americans.

    In 1919, an estimated 200 to 800 African-American people were killed in a race riot in Elaine, Arkansas. Black sharecroppers seeking better pay attended a meeting at a church of the Progressive Farmers and Households Union of America.   Accounts vary on who fired the first shots that night, which killed several people including a white security officer for the railroad and three black guards around the church. The next day, the Sheriff sent out a posses and a mob of up to 1,000 armed white people to quell what was termed an “insurrection.” The Army later sent in troops.  Over three days, hundreds of black people were killed by a mob of armed white supremacists and at least two were killed by the military and by some accounts, many more in what some witnesses said was cold-blooded murder. Yet only blacks were arrested and charged with murder; many of those convictions were later overturned, including a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.   Read more: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/race-riot-elaine-arkansas  and http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1102  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaine_race_riot

    In 1890, 200 Sioux Indians were killed at Wounded Knee, South Dakota by U.S. l.  Originally described as a “battle” in official accounts, it later came to be described as murder or genocide.   The hostilities also resulted in deaths of 25 Cavalry members. Some historians have suggested that soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the spiritual Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians. Read more: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/01/01/truth-about-wounded-knee-massacre-162923  and http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/wounded-knee

    In 1868, a massacre in Oppalousa, Louisiana killed as many as 150 people, by modern estimates.  Also known as the Oppalousa Riot, the hostilities occurred after some black people tried to join a racist political group.  After an inflammatory article was published in a newspaper and the author left town, black were falsely accused of his death.  Thousands of armed white supremacists marched on the group and opened fire, killing many black people and chasing others into the swamps.   Read more: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/opelousas-massacre-1868

    In 1864, the Colorado Territorial Militia opened fire on an Indian encampment of about 500 people at Sand Creek, Colorado, killing 165 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians.  Over half of the dead were women and children.  Two chiefs had set up camp outside Fort Lyon, the Army’s military base, flying an American flag and seeking to broker a truce in U.S.-Indian hostilities. The massacre was ordered by Army Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist minister, after a night of heavy drinking.  Despite the tribal leaders raising a white flag, the killings continued.  The attacked was widely condemned as an atrocity and the site at Sand Creek is now protected by the National Park Service. Read more: https://www.nps.gov/sand/learn/historyculture/massacre.htm  and https://www.nps.gov/sand/learn/historyculture/massacre.htm

    In 1857, 150 pioneers in a westward-bound wagon train were slaughtered in Mountain Meadow, Utah.  Some versions of the story claim one settler threatened to kill the Mormon church leader after being denied supplies at a store; others have claimed the settlers were falsely blamed for poisoning water and killing cattle.  The attack was organized by Utah militiamen who originally planned to blame the carnage on Native Americans and coerced the Indians into participating. But a surviving witness told the truth.   Read more: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/09/the-mountain-meadows-massacre?lang=eng

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-mass-shooting-20160614-snap-story.html