A three part series by Liberty Speaks
Violence and Blame
Part Three: Hypocrisy
In the wake of these shootings, where do we go from here? Which path do we take to escape such unsolicited gratuitous evil?
Who or what do we blame for the actions of an individual that disrupts our society in a manner that is contrary and hostile to our beliefs?
How do we survive and prevent future Loughners, Hyde’s, wounded police officers, and devastated families? How do we prevent another Newtown?
In order to answer these questions, like any malignancy that plagues us, we first must realize we have a problem. The answer does not lie in the fact that there are guns, whether they are revolvers, shotguns, AR-15’s, or pistols.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A DERANGED WEAPON.
A gun is a tool like any other inanimate object, and after all, a hammer is just a hammer until someone picks it up and has the intent to use it against their fellow-man as a weapon.
No. The first thing we must understand with mass shootings such as these is that all were committed by those who suffer from acute mental illness.
This is not to say that all homicides in the US are committed by the mentally ill. Only about a 1000 homicides a year can be attributed to those with an acute mental disorder. However, when talking mass shootings such as Tuscon, the Hyde murders, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Newtown, mental illness is at or above a 95% affliction rate in these offenders. This is where we begin to answer those questions. What we can do and what we should not do.
Recognizing one problem: Untreated mental illness
An individual with severe mental illness, when diagnosed and treatments and medications have been put into place, can live and function with relatively normal lives just like the rest of us.
Some illnesses require more intense treatment than others, some only therapy sessions, others with medication, however, there are approximately 3.5 million mentally ill in the United States who go untreated.
One segment of the population that see’s its share of mental illness and criminal activity is the homeless. Out of our nations homeless population, 1/3 suffers from mental illness.
Sargent Carol Oleksak, now retired from the Albuquerque Police Department, understood too well even before being shot by Duc Mihn Pham; how mental illness affects those especially the homeless.
Olesak spent most of her career working in some of the toughest areas of the city. Though she did not know Pham before he shot her, she had contact with many of Albuquerque homeless many of whom are mentally ill.
From the PoliceOne.com article:
“I always wanted to work in the worst part of town,” Oleksak said. She had arrested many people like him: mentally ill transients who were arrested over and over, only to be released after they were found incompetent but not dangerous.
After Sgt. Oleksak was shot and after a long recovery, not only did she find a new cause in her heart but she came to forgive her attacker.
Knowing individuals like Pham needed help, Sgt. Oleksak began a campaign to advocate for the mentally ill in New Mexico even winning through N.A.M.I (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) the Sam Cochran Compassion in Law Enforcement award for her efforts in opening up a conversation on the homeless and mental illness. She believed the system had failed Pham and others like him and wanted to help change that system so she advocated for the inception of Kendra’s Law in New Mexico.
The law, which originated in New York, allowed for courts – after extensive due process – to order a certain group of narrowly defined individuals with serious mental illness who already have a past history of multiple arrests, incarcerations or needless hospitalizations to accept treatment as a condition for living in the community.
Before Kendra’s Law, the law required people so ill they refuse treatment to become dangerous before they can be required to accept treatment. Families felt the law should prevent dangerous behavior, rather than require it. However, the law was struck down after a ruling that the ordinance, “pre-empted current New Mexico State Law requiring consent from either the patient or a guardian before treatment could be given.”
Oleksak said the state needs some version of the law, tailored specifically to New Mexico’s needs and dealing only with people who are found to be a danger to themselves or others. –PoliceOne.com
Though Sgt. Oleksak is now retired and enjoying life on her ranch, she still stays involved with N.A.M.I. helping the mentally ill. Oleksak says, “It’s not that they’re criminal, they need to have some sort of help.”
Agreement: New gun laws will not stop violence
It has been nearly 8 years since John Hyde went on his rampage killing five people, including two Albuquerque Police officers. If there was a group of people in our society who think would be screaming for gun control and tighter restrictions it would be our law enforcement, but you would be wrong.
Ironically, those on the front lines who respond to acts of violence, overwhelming understand, that legislating new restrictions and gun bans will not prevent future Newtowns nor prevent those with bad intent from getting a hold of guns, or any other deadly weapon for that matter.
PoliceOne, an online resource for Law Enforcement officers with over 400,000 members, conducted the most comprehensive survey ever in March of this year utilizing 15,000 verified law enforcement professionals. The survey, focused on gun control, gun violence, gun rights, officer safety and mental illness. The results, it likely came quite as a shock to legislator’s and anti-gun advocates alike.
The take away from the survey was this:
- 95 % say that a federal ban on manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds would not reduce violent crime.
- 71 %— say a federal ban on the manufacture and sale of some semi-automatics would have no effect on reducing violent crime
- 85 % of officers say the passage of the currently proposed legislation would have a zero or negative effect on their safety
- 91 % of those polled support concealed carry by honest/screened citizens. (overwhelming belief that the best defense against gun crime and mass shootings is an armed citizenry.)
- 35 % agreed that there should be improved screening to determine mental wellness of gun purchasers and more aggressive institutionalization of mentally ill persons’
Another surprising fact that caught the attention of lawmakers, specifically before the vote on April 17th for the Manchin-Toomey enhanced background checks Amendment failed to pass in the Senate, was this:
- 45-50 % of Law Enforcement professionals either approve with not enforcing new gun laws or would join in with the many Sheriffs and Chief’s of police across the country who have stated that intention.
These are the men and women in our society that even through high emotions after the killing of their own, or witnessing the deaths of children by the hands of a deranged individual, still believe an armed society is a free one.
They still believe that what can prevent future Newtowns, is the ability for an individual to protect themselves and their families.
They have not fallen under the narrative, “it is the gun to blame”for acts of violence, and not the responsibility individual who committed the heinous act.
They overwhelmingly believe, “a legally armed citizen at the Newtown incident could have reduced or eliminated casualties.“
Hypocrisy is never helpful
“Honest Discussions-even and perhaps on topics about which we disagree-can help us resist hypocrisy and arrogance. They can also help us live up to the basic ideals, such as liberty and justice for all, on which our country was founded” –David E. Price
On the second anniversary of the Tuscon shootings, former Representative Gabriel Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly launched Americans for Responsible Solutions.
The program had the intention to open a “national conversation” on gun violence and prevention and, “encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them.”
I personally thought that Gabriel Giffords would be the perfect spokesperson for the discussion on Mental illness and violence. Like Sgt. Carol Oleksak, the similarities of the acts of violence and their aftermath were eerily mirrored. Sgt. Oleksak even appeared on video a couple of days after the Tuscon Shooting expressing her understanding of what Rep. Giffords was enduring.
After all, Rep. Giffords was apart of the Blue Dog Coalition in the House and was something of a pro-gun pragmatist.
She voted for a National Cross State Standard for conceal carry-permit holders H.R.197 & S.845 as well as signed a bill commending the National Rifle Association for developing the Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program and teaching 23,000,000 children its lifesaving message.
Though neither bill was signed into law, the intentions were honorable and remained in the spirit of the 2nd Amendment. Rep. Giffords even stated in a PolicyMic article regarding the launch of her and her husband’s new organization:
“As a Western woman and a Persian Gulf War combat veteran who have exercised our Second Amendment rights, we don’t want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home,”
Well, like the quote above, ‘The road to Hell is paved with good intentions’.
It was within days of the launch that the intentions of Gifford’s and Kelly’s new organization were revealed not to protect the 2nd Amendment, but to attack the NRA and its members. The NRA was singled out as an “ideological fringe” in a USA Today Op-ed and accusing the NRA of being “unsympathetic” to the incident in Newtown. In this same op-ed mental illness was mentioned a whopping ONE time.
Where was the “conversation” and “solutions” to gun violence? They were nowhere to be found in the attacks and rhetoric coming out of the Giffords camp.
What was emerging was a hypocrisy that was going to haunt Mark Kelly and Gabriel Giffords. On March 7, 2013, Breitbart news received a very enlightening tip regarding a visit Mark Kelly made to gun store in Tuscon:
Mark E. Kelly, made purchases which included an AR-15–sometimes described as an “assault rifle”–at 3:30 pm on the afternoon of March 5 at Diamondback Police Supply, 170 S. Kolb Street, Tucson, AZ. Kelly reportedly bought the AR-15 and a 1911-style semi-automatic pistol as well as high-capacity magazines.
Americans for Responsible Solutions was also contacted regarding the purchase.
Start up the Potomac two-step music, because here comes the backlash.
On a Facebook posting Mark Kelly stated:
Looks like the judiciary committee will vote on background checks next week. I just had a background check a few days ago when I went to my local gun store to buy a 45. As I was leaving, I noticed a used AR-15. Bought that too. Even to buy an assault weapon, the background check only takes a matter of minutes. I don’t have possession yet but I’ll be turning it over to the Tucson PD when I do. Scary to think of people buying guns like these without a background check at a gun show or the Internet. We really need to close the gun show and private seller loop-hole.
Within a day of this revelation, hundreds of comments condemning the hypocrisy were placed on Mark Kelly’s timeline. I know, I was one of them. This was my response:
“Captain Kelly, I must write this note to you. I respect your work with NASA and the service to our country. After your wife, Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford’s was shot i wrote this note that I have linked below. I applaud your strength and support of your wife through her recovery. It is a wonderful example of what a loving marriage can endure. However, Captain I can not on good conscience except your explanation regarding the purchase of the AR-15. It seems to me that if it were your intention to purchase it just to turn it over to the Tuscon PD, you would have announced that intention immediately. Instead, you do it after the purchase and after it became known to the media that you purchased it. I am sorry Captain, it is like stealing a cookie, getting caught by your mom red-handed, and saying to your mother “well I took it to give to you”. You have a constitutional right to buy and own that weapon. You followed the law with a background check. You did what all law-abiding citizens across this country every day. Should have issued that statement sir, and made your point that way. It would have been the honorable path to take.”
*NOTE: I have tried to find on Mark Kelly’s Facebook page the exact exchange, however, there are now over 7,000 comments on the photo in question.
Mark Kelly ended up having a really rough time for a few weeks after this information was leaked. Here are the links to the timeline of events:
The backstepping these two did in a period of one month is astonishing. Rep. Giffords and Mark Kelly managed to muddle their intentions for a national conversation on gun violence prevention and turn it into a hypocritical nightmare.
They were given the chance to address the real problem behind her shooting and the shootings that took place in Aurora and Newtown: Mental illness and the reporting of it, the ability to make a connection in a background check when buying a gun to individuals who have been deemed by police, medical professionals, and immediate family member’s of a high risk for violence.
Most importantly they had the chance to address this fact: Mentally ill individuals still being able to purchase a gun because current background checks allow for it.
In conclusion, this country needs to take a step back from the emotions following incidents like Newtown and ask some tough questions.
Who and what is truly to blame for these mass shootings?
The individual who pulled the trigger is. Just like in a rape we blame the offender, and in a DUI resulting in death, we blame the drunk.
We do need solutions to the problem of mass shootings. Here are a few of mine:
- Reviewing Kendra’s Law and how it can be connected with current background checks that are already in place.
- Look at the reporting structure within the educational systems, mental health facilities, and contacts between law enforcement and individuals who are showing violent tendencies or who are “decompensating” on a psychological level.
- Allow states funding to improve Out-patient mental health services to their community through either private or public funding.
We need to realize that knee-jerk reactions to evil events do not solve the issue of violence.
You can’t legislate your way out of this to any meaningful conclusion that doesn’t infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
I will say again – There Is No Such Thing As a Deranged Weapon.