As the tragedies mount up, I just want to bury my head. It is hard to remember the joy I felt less than two weeks ago. Waiting for me when I returned from my travels across the country and back, had been boxes containing the November-December issue of Women & Guns magazine. Only a few days after we had been together in Dallas for the Gun Rights Policy Conference, my editor had emailed me saying she thought I would be pleased with the issue. That was one powerful understatement.
The magazines were upside down when I opened the box, so it was a jolt when I turned the top one over and saw a picture I had submitted with my column. We had discussed the possibility, but when I left Texas it was conclusive that the photograph did not have sufficient resolution to be expanded for the cover. However, genius Keeva Segal managed to do the impossible, and there was my subject and her turkey! “Giddy” is a feeling I now understand. I was doing a mental Snoopy dance for days waiting for the magazines I had sent to Laurelai to arrive so that her family could have the same surprise.
For decades I have been an activist supporting the basic human right of self-defense. We spent three and a half days in Dallas, immersed in gun talk, surrounded by like-minded Second Amendment protecting people. It is a tonic, especially for someone who splits her time between California and southern Maine, in neither of which surrounded by like-minded folks.
The euphoria was shattered Monday morning when we awoke to the news of the Las Vegas slaughter. Gradually, as the days passed it seemed we were heading toward some kind of acceptance of the totally unacceptable, unfathomable demon’s mind of a killer. At least we were going far enough away from the moment that those of us who were not within the inner circles of involvement could think of other things.
For instance I could be excited about my magazine, and for a few days, many of my friends and associates were happy with me. Then, a madman entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and almost decimated a town. The original toll was 26 men, women, and children dead in a town, according to the last census, of 362 inhabitants. This killer was stopped by a barefoot man who grabbed his rifle when he heard the intense shooting and ran to defend his neighbors, and a second man who drove by with a truck, took him aboard, and gave chase. It is the kind of place where a driver would stop and pick up a barefoot man with a rifle.
Because these killers both died immediately, we do not know their precise motives. We can only surmise, and normal people cannot understand what could ever make a person act as those men had. But, that is always the case when people take multiple lives because it is completely outside the realm of normal thought.
We also had a terrorist attack in New York City where a man intentionally drove a rental truck along a bike path killing 8 and wounding 11. As horrible as this is, it only enters my story to explain that it is not a part of my story. The NYC terrorist’s acts have no bearing on my life, other than the general tragedy of needless pain and loss of life. No one will be trying to do things that will affect my life because of that similarly senseless, horrible act.
But, immediately after the shootings in both Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs people started clambering to constrain my rights.They began trying as they always do in these situations to make the issue the tool that was used, and not the person who acted. There are bills in Congress right now to ban or limit or otherwise infringe upon the Constitutional rights of normal, law-abiding Americans. Because of the actions of two obviously deranged individuals. Thus it is and thus it has been.
There was a method that could have stopped the man who destroyed the congregation of his estranged mother-in-law’s church. The FBI has the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in place. Whenever a person attempts to buy a firearm at a store or almost every gun show, a NICS search is performed. If there is a reason the FBI has deemed that person unfit to buy or own a gun, the sale will be denied. Many of the NICS checks turn out to be ‘false positives’, but the sale will not go through. Fixing wrong information in the NICS databank is a lengthy process that the wrongfully accused must protest and pay a lawyer to fix.
The Sutherland Springs shooter was sentenced to approximately one-year confinement due to a court-martial conviction for domestic violence. He had a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force, which is slightly less harsh than a dishonorable discharge. A dishonorable discharge would have necessitated the Air Force to notify the FBI. A dishonorable discharge is a reason to be denied the right to buy or own a gun. So is a domestic violence conviction, but because he did not have a dishonorable discharge the Air Force did not notify the FBI of that, either.
He had other things in his past but lied about them on the NICS form, and the domestic violence conviction that should have been relayed was not. He was able to legally buy two guns each in Colorado and Texas. There were no shady street sales; no ‘loophole’ to go through. Simply, government ineptitude. No one in the Air Force made a mistake or forgot or ignored something they were supposed to do. The Air Force’s protocol is not to report such information unless, possibly, it is connected to a dishonorable discharge.
Yet, domestic violence, like animal cruelty, is one of the forerunners of wider spread violence.
Still. Today, all we gun owners and human rights activists are at increased danger of having our rights further eroded because of the actions of two deranged men and the failure of our legislators to understand that the single cause of mass shootings is violence. Not guns. Violence.