Two nights ago (October 1, 2017), Stephen Paddock, a retired accountant, son of armed robber and companion of Marilon Danley, opened fire on a crowd of over 200,000, who were in Las Vegas for (or attending) a country western music festival. Fifty-nine have died thus far, with over 500 wounded, making this the worst mass shooting in US history. Evidently at least one of the 23 weapons Paddock brought to his room had been modified to fire on automatic. The Islamic State has taken credit for the incident, but there is no indication that Paddock had any ties to that organization or was a practitioner of Islam.
The text between the below banner and map images is from a CNN article published on June 17, 2017. 49 killed – June 12, 2016 – Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, opens fire inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando. At least 49 people are killed and more than 50 are injured. Police shoot and kill Mateen during an operation to free hostages officials say he was holding at the club.
32 killed – April 16, 2007 – Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
A gunman, 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho, goes on a shooting spree killing 32 people in two locations and wounding an undetermined number of others on campus. The shooter then commits suicide.
27 killed – December 14, 2012 – Sandy Hook Elementary School
– Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza, 20, guns down 20 children, ages six and seven, and six adults, school staff and faculty, before turning the gun on himself. Investigating police later find Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, dead from a gunshot wound.
23 killed – October 16, 1991 – In Killeen, Texas, 35-year-old George Hennard crashes his pickup truck through the wall of a Luby’s Cafeteria. After exiting the truck, Hennard shoots and kills 23 people. He then commits suicide.
Congress has been working on a law to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from adding a veteran to the National Instant Criminal Background Check system without involving a judge or other “due process” step. A group of senior officers from all services (united in an organization called “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense”) oppose the bill.
Officers like the ones testifying thought it was too risky for many contractors to carry a firearm in Iraq in the mid-2000’s. DOD hadn’t done a good job of establishing a status of forces agreement, so there was no legal response for a contractor misusing a firearm. Rather than fix the status of forces agreement, many contracts simply denied employees access to a weapon. Problem solved, except for the contractors who were seized and beheaded due to this policy. I worked under such a contract and chose to return to the US after spending six months “at risk.”
The generals and admirals are asserting that a concerned mental health professional or VA bureaucrat should have the authority to revoke a veteran’s 2d Amendment rights, in the event the bureaucrat thinks the veteran can’t manage his own finances or is otherwise mentally unstable. The argument: such issue reveals a veteran is “mentally defective” and shouldn’t be allowed a firearm.
I have been witness to senior officers talk about “priviledges,” not “rights,” in many cases addressing activities that private citizens cannot be denied without due process. While I agree a health professional who believes a patient is at risk to him/herself or others, should be able to initiate an efficient process to remove such risk, revocation of a right isn’t a trivial step. A magistrate MUST be involved, whether the patient is a veteran or not, whether care is received from VA or not.
I’d argue the reason for our high suicide rates among service and former service members isn’t ready access to firearms. What is the reason, you ask? The existing law (called Uniform Code of Military Justice) gives too much authority to the military bureaucracy, much as these officers are suggesting for the Veterans Affairs here. Due process means people are treated with an objective of fairness under the law, not bureaucratic convenience or “needs of the unit.” Common sense does not cavalierly disregard hard earned freedoms for the very men and women who gave up many of those freedoms to defend us.