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Orlando: What YOU Can Do

You — Yes, You — Can “Do Something” about Mass Killings. A good friend of mine posted this yesterday, after he heard about the 49 murders at a “gay night club” in Orlando, Florida, overnight. The gunman was killed in a shoot-out with police.

My buddy posted:

Orlando…. Don’t pray. Don’t “think good thoughts”. Don’t post things like “our thoughts are with you”. Words today are cheap and meaningless. Instead: DO SOMETHING. This kind of hatred must stop. Lip service doesn’t count.

Particularly if you’re in a position of leadership or authority, stop pandering and instead take clear and decisive action and take a stand that says this type of hatred and intolerance is unacceptable in a modern society.

No, I don’t know what I will do, but do something I will. Certainly something more than a pithy post on social media. This has to stop.

Most Are At a Loss about what they can “do” — what something can help? But I think you can help: you can make a difference, and you don’t have to be “in a position of leadership or authority” to make an impact. But first, we have to know what the actual issue is. As usual, some are pointing at guns, but that’s not the real issue, as I’ve argued in the past (so I’m not going to cover it again). It’s a symptom, not the problem. So what is?

Nightclub's Facebook post

The nightclub’s Facebook post as the shooting started. The post time shown is related to MY local time, not Florida’s.

In past terrorist actions, I’ve seen calls for “moderate Muslims” to condemn the attacks — as if they haven’t been doing so. Indeed yesterday, within hours of the news breaking from Orlando, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy issued a statement strongly condemning the Orlando massacre, calling the gunman and others like him “Islamist savages.” Not just savages, but Islamist savages, tackling the issue head-on. “The LGBTQ community has always been at the forefront of so many fights for human rights — including the fight against anti-Muslim bigotry,” they wrote. “Every human being deserves to live safely, as they are, and without fear for their safety. Tragically, the LGBTQ community has long been a primary target of radical Islamist networks and governments across the planet.”

I’ve noticed recently that there aren’t many calls for such condemnation by “moderate Muslims” because, I think, of two reasons: 1) it can be shown that indeed such condemnations are quick and clear, like this one — and 2) those calling for them really don’t want to hear them: they hate all Muslims, whether they’re peaceful “moderates” or not.

And that, I think, is the underlying problem: hate. There’s hatred of Muslims. There’s hatred of gays. There’s hatred of blacks, Latinos, the transgendered, and pretty much everyone that’s not exactly like the hater. It’s not just shootings, it’s not just bombings: consider the screams of “MURDERER!” at women going into Planned Parenthood to get …a pap smear. No matter who the target, no matter what the weapon used against that target, the common denominator is hate.

If you’re one of the haters, you need to know that you are aiding and abetting violence. If you’ve agreed with someone saying queers should die, you’ve given terrorists power. If you seethe in anger over other people’s lifestyles, you’re part of the problem.

Because you know what? It’s none of your damned business, so stop pretending it is. You personally think homosexuality is “bad”? Fine: don’t do it. But it’s none of your business if someone else chooses to. It’s none of your business if others use birth control. It’s none of your business if someone is an atheist. It’s none of your business, so put your energy toward something positive, building others up, rather than tearing them down and creating more hatred in the world.

And if you’re one of the majority who is nodding and saying “Right!” — that’s still not enough. In the past eight years, I’ve seen a growing tolerance for racism and, by extension, other hatreds, which I tie directly to a petulant reaction to Obama’s election and, especially, his decisive re-election. It’s one thing to disagree with his policies and ideas; it’s another thing entirely to rail against him because he’s black: that just means the whiners can’t come up with anything real to argue about.

The “Us vs Them” of America against foreign terrorists has become the “Us” of one side of just about every issue and the “Them” of the other side — American vs. American ugliness that is fueled by hatred of your own neighbors. Hatred feeds violence and creates divisions that is tearing this country apart.

DO SOMETHING.So what can you do about it? We all have to say stop — out loud. When you hear or see racism, you need to take a stand: “I see that as racist, and I don’t like it.” If they don’t stop, break your connection with them and, if you can, tell them why. When you hear or see gay bashing, take a stand: “I have friends who are gay, and they’re good people. I don’t want to hear that again.” If they don’t stop, break your connection with them and, if you can, tell them why. If you hear or see someone bashing a religion — or the lack of religion — take a stand: “I know atheists/Jews/Muslims/Christians who are not like that, and lumping them all together as evil is wrong. Stop it.” If they don’t stop, break your connection with them and, if you can, tell them why.

Haters are increasingly coming out into the open because they’re not being condemned by their friends and family, and sure enough, the murderous attacks are getting worse. It’s up to us to say it’s not right. Maybe you can change their minds, and maybe you can’t, but all of us need to stand up and say “That’s wrong. Stop it.” Yes, that’s a job for every one of us, because that’s the only thing that can turn the tide against more victims of that growing hatred. Their victims are not just “gay” or “queer” or “Muslim” or “Mexican” or whatever other label we put on them: they’re people with families and friends, parents and children. The cop-out of “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” is still hate, and that’s fueling murder. Stand up against it, and help stop it.


There’s One Other Thing I want to bring out about these horrible mass murder scenes. You probably know I’m a volunteer medic; I sometimes write EMS Stories in my blog to educate the public about the real inside stories of EMS, vs the tripe of most TV shows. So I want to acknowledge the first responders who society pays peanuts to go help clean up after the hatred, particularly the police and medics. Even with years of street experience, I can hardly imagine the horror of having to sort through a hundred bodies trying to find those who are still alive to get them out. But consider: medics have a higher incidence of PTSD than soldiers, in large part because medics serve longer.

If you’re a long-time reader, you might know that I first got into EMS in the 1970s, thanks in large part to the TV show Emergency! But I quit the business in the 80s, before answering a plea 20 years later to return to help out again in my rural area. I’ve never said why I left in the first place: I burned out after a particular call left me with PTSD. It took me a long time to get past it.

I can’t imagine having to be present in a mass murder scene — worse if children are involved. I returned knowing that there’s a risk that I could be called to such a scene. Imagine being a cop or medic in Orlando: the sights, the smells, the emotions. And then add this 21st century twist: there’s certainly not an eerie silence. Pretty much every body has a cell phone on it, ringing incessantly as loved ones call and text to ask, “Are you OK?” Such a scene takes hours and hours to gather evidence, and “process” everything. Those happy-sounding noises will ring in the heads of the cops, firemen, medics, deputy coroners, and other emergency workers for months — and in many cases, years. So, to my brothers and sisters who have been there and have those flashbacks: may you find peace soon. You are not alone, so please ask for help if you need it.

The Ghosts of EMS by Canadian Paramedic Paul Bagley, published with permission.

The Ghosts of EMS by Canadian Paramedic (and photographer) Paul Bagley, published with permission. Click to see larger.

 


June 14 (Flag Day) Update: I Rescind this Addendum:

P.S.: There’s One Addendum to my previously published thoughts on guns: The Terrorist Screening Center, a division of the FBI, maintains what’s colloquially known as the “terrorist watch list.” The Orlando gunman was on that list on two different occasions. The FBI dropped him off both times. But even when he was on the list, he could still legally buy guns! That’s ludicrous: when anyone is being investigated as a potential terrorist, they should not be able to buy guns in the United States! The same goes for the mentally ill. We need a “do not buy list” more than we need a “do not fly list.”

What Changed My Mind? Tiffany in Tennessee’s very brief argument (in the comments, below). It was actually just two words: Due Process. She’s right: I let emotion get in the way of the brilliance of our Constitution. Yes there are people who abuse the rights guaranteed in the Constitution, but we punish them after they are proved to have done it, not before. I plead being human, but I’m not going to dig in when I’ve been proven wrong. It was an ill-thought-out last-minute addendum, and further reflection shows it was wrong.

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37 Responses to Orlando: What YOU Can Do

  1. Anne, California June 13, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    I was trying to imagine what the first responders could possibly be feeling as they responded to the scene in Orlando. Hadn’t thought about the cell phones ringing. It had to have been hell to be there, sorting things out. Thanks for the comments.

    Re the terrorist watch list — I’ve read some people say that people on the list should still be able to buy guns because the list isn’t perfect. To me, that’s an argument for fixing the list and having a good appeals process if you end up on it; it’s not a good reason to let everyone on the list buy guns, in my opinion.

  2. Leo, Washington June 13, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

    “… break your connection…” — aka ostracize. It’s a technique that society has used for millennia to great effect.

    And yet, I was thinking about it, and I can’t help but wonder if that doesn’t run the risk of making things worse, particularly today in our hyper-connected society. Those we choose to sever ties with will continue to hate, often retracting into a more limited set of like-minded connections. They’ll continue to live in their own private echo chamber where they continue to be rewarded for their hateful thinking.

    Don’t get me wrong — I agree with the sentiment, and indeed have a couple of friends “on the bubble”, so to speak. Should the situation arise I will challenge them — that’s by far the most important step. But then to ostracize … I may. I’ve done it before. But I’m not sure it’ll really help. Continued exposure to people who don’t hate would seem a different solution that cutting ties would prevent.

    How do you change someone’s mind? How do you change what is often someone’s core belief?

    I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s a huge problem, and huge problems require huge solutions.

    A female friend told me this story recently:

    I am straight, but my best friend is a lesbian, and I have many friends who are gay and lesbian, and I have a relative who is a lesbian, and another one who is gay.

    Many years ago, a friend called me, very upset, saying she used to think the world of another friend but found out that friend was a lesbian. I said to her, “What difference does that make? You have known her for fifteen years. Nothing about her has changed; the only difference is that you now know her sexual orientation. Big deal. You’re not in her bedroom at night, so why would you care with whom she sleeps?”

    There was a long, long silence, and I thought she was going to hang up on me, but instead she said, “You know, I never thought about it that way. You are absolutely right. There is nothing different about her. She’s still the person I always thought the world of. I’m so glad I decided to call YOU about this. Thank you.”

    THAT is how you change minds: by offering perspective and disagreeing with the hate. It certainly doesn’t always work, but it can work with those who are willing to listen to someone they respect. -rc

  3. Olivia, Florida June 13, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

    This was a great post up to the point where you painted all mentally ill people with the same brush. There are many different types of mental illness and not all of them should prohibit you from owning a gun. Should my mother who was phobic of bridges and saw a therapist be denied the right of owning a gun because she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder? How about the man down the street with OCD who washes his hands excessively? There are mental illnesses that should prohibit ownership of guns, but please don’t lump all mental illnesses together.

    I agree, but cannot cover every detail of every angle in every essay, or they’d all be book-length. Especially when it comes to a “P.S.”! And I think most people understand what I’m saying — including you. -rc

  4. Simon, South Africa June 13, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    I hope you don’t lose any subscriptions because of this post. Can’t really afford it, but I’ve upgrading to Premium just in case.

    Thanks, Simon, but if I do, then they’re the sort of people I don’t want around me anyway. -rc

  5. Ian, Camberley, UK June 13, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

    As an outside observer (in the UK), I won’t comment on the guns issue, although I do like to think I at least have some understanding of the arguments on all sides.

    As far as the rest of it goes, the whole world should pay attention. At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, my near family includes people of three different faiths and of none, and people of five different nationalities, and my circle of friends includes representatives of most of the possible sexual and gender profiles. To me they are all just “people”.

  6. Michelle, Florida June 13, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

    That picture……..I can relate to it so well. I worked EMS for 14 years and still have my EMT license.

    It is not our place to judge the lifestyles of others, we are commanded to love one another. Nowhere does it say to show hate.

  7. Michael, Texas June 13, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    I think the memories of those cell phones would haunt me almost as much as the sight of those dead girl’s eyes do — and that was twenty years ago. Some things never go away.

  8. Art, Virginia June 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

    Each day, each one of us can combat hatred. Just reach out to someone, someone different, racially, ethnically, religiously, politically or whatever. No one should feel despised, powerless or alone.

  9. Keith, Reading, UK June 13, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    I don’t always agree with you, but when I don’t you always state your case in a way that makes me think, not just a knee-jerk rejection. In this case, you really have hit the nail on the head. Thank you.

  10. Mike, Pompton Lakes, NJ June 13, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

    I usually agree with your comments but I have to disagree with one thing you said: “when anyone is being investigated as a potential terrorist, they should not be able to buy guns in the United States!”. While that sounds like a good idea it is too open to abuse. If the FBI (or someone else in authority in the gov’t) wanted to stop someone from being able to buy a gun they could “ask” the FBI to add them to that list, then keep them on that list indefinitely, even with no viable justification.

    If we could be sure that being on that list wouldn’t be abused in this manner then I’d be all for your idea. But not until then.

    As with the No Fly List, I agree with the federal court decision that says there must be a reasonable appeal process. Since this has to do with a Constitutional right, there should be significant penalties — yes, even for government agents — who abuse it. -rc

  11. Joe, Wisconsin June 13, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

    I see my concern about gun rights is addressed. What about botching an investigation? I do think that a person who is being investigated, buying a gun, should raise a red flag, if he bought the gun from a licensed firearms dealer. Why are we submitting to background checks, if the government isn’t going to follow through? I have read a few stories about how many times background checks have stopped criminals from getting guns, but those criminals are never arrested, even though it is a punishable offense, for a banned person, to even try to buy a gun.

  12. Art, Penn. June 13, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

    It’s terribly ironic that this deed follows so closely the loss of Mohammed Ali, a man who believed Islam prohibits the killing of other people. And he paid a price for standing up for that belief.

  13. Nick, Michigan June 13, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    This may have been the first newsletter issue I didn’t finish with a smile on my face. And thank you for that, Randy.

    I trust you got a few smiles in the first half (the stories). -rc

  14. Nick, Michigan June 13, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

    Yes! Of course I laugh but half the time I’m fired up. Those school ZT ones are the ones that really get me. The Haiti flag one! Wow.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, man. You do so much more than make people laugh.

    The first half of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. Glad to succeed. -rc

  15. Jay; St Pete FL June 13, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

    I can think of one serviceable reason why being on that watch list might not prohibit you from buying a gun: if they did that, then you would know you were on the list, when you tried to buy a gun and failed, and it’s possible that the fact you are on the list is itself Secret.
    If people are going to find out that they are on that list, while they are in a store full of guns is probably not the best place.

    An interesting thought to be sure. If that’s the case, the fact they’re buying guns should be transmitted to the FBI. -rc

  16. Marcos, Spain June 13, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

    Couple of points, if you don’t mind: Homosexuals do not “choose” to be so.

    Religions, like any other ideas, can and should be bashed. We only manage to find out what ideas are valid or not by criticism.

    (And this idea of mine should be subjected to the same criterion.)

    I didn’t say being homosexual was a choice, and have indeed gone into this point previously, but indeed one chooses whether to engage in such activity, which is clearly the context here. -rc

  17. Dan, Denver June 13, 2016 at 7:39 pm #

    What do you think of the idea that extremist religion is aided and abetted by moderate religion? Moderates may condemn an interpretation of their holy books that encourages killing those with different lifestyles, but their books do contain this message and many moderates subscribe to other parts that include unbelievable stories. Moderates still hold their books in high regard and fail to see them as the flawed works of humans. Since we have no moderate followers of Zeus, anyone claiming Zeus ordered them to kill others would clearly be insane. But we do have moderate followers of Jesus, Allah, and Jehovah, which allows cover for the extremists. Without religious moderates, we would still have hatred, but would hatred have fewer places to hide?

  18. Dustin, Ohio June 13, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

    As Jay stated the problem with making the watch list also a ban list is that if you are investigating someone you may not want them to know. And if a ban list is truly just, particularly if you could get in trouble for attempting to purchase as Joe suggests, it needs to inform the people on it that they are on it. Pretty hard to avoid violating the list’s prohibitions or appealing your position if you’ve no idea you are on said list.

    So I think it is rather imperative that there be a separate list that is just a Guns Prohibited list which would just be a list of anyone denied the right to bear arms, such as felons for example. It would keep things simple since the feds could decide whether they want the person they are watching to be alerted and denied if they try to buy a gun, or if they just want a silent alert, thus letting the gun purchase go through, so that they can watch the suspect closer without tipping their hand.

    Since I am not sure if hate would ever end I tend to think teaching folks not to react violently to emotional stimulus is rather important. Just cause you don’t like someone doesn’t mean ya should put a cap in’em. Of course that is my rather pessimistic view. That doesn’t necessarily mean I think it is useless to speak out against it, folks can change after all. Just that I doubt it will get rid of hate and that with human nature being what it is it may just drive folks further down their hate hole. And the further down they are the more likely they are to become violent. After all if they have already lost all their friends/jobs/etc due to ‘those damn people’ what more do they have to lose?

  19. Dan, Fergus Ontario June 13, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

    A note on a perceived contradiction. On one hand, you are known for opposing zero tolerance yet in this blog you seem to be advocating zero tolerance on a ‘do not fly’ list and extending it into a ‘do not buy’ list. Isn’t that the line of thinking that went into many school’s zero tolerance rules?

    Yes, something should be done, and yes, shooting is much more serious than most breaches in schools, but zero tolerance is zero tolerance and should not be advocated (least of all by you) anywhere.

    A more ‘reasonable’ approach would be to advocate more Government investigation into people who for one reason or another are put on the ‘do not fly’ list — and if necessary that can be extended into a ‘do not buy’ list as per the Brady Bill. The further investigation can also totally excuse the person from both lists.

    “We need a ‘do not buy list’ more than we need a ‘do not fly list.'” is hardly “advocating zero tolerance on a ‘do not fly’ list”. Let’s keep a little perspective here. You — and several others — are losing the big picture by overanalyzing the minutiae. -rc

  20. Ken, Citrus Heights, CA June 13, 2016 at 9:11 pm #

    The murderer had also beaten his wife; isn’t domestic violence a disqualifier?

    What You Can Do: The problem is guns; when you need one, you don’t HAVE one. The Pulse is a designated “Gun Free Zone”, so even though Florida is a “shall issue” state for concealed carry permits, no patrons would have been allowed to be armed — and the murderer KNEW that. He’d scoped the place out. Florida’s CCW law prohibits carrying concealed firearms into bars. That’s generally a good thing; booze and guns don’t mix well. But in this era when terror is coming to the home front, this may need to change. Why doesn’t Florida modify their CCW law to allow “designated drivers” to carry their firearms? And perhaps bartenders (with background checks and training) should be allowed to keep a gun behind the bar?

    Criminals are generally less afraid of a cop than they are of a citizen with a concealed weapon. Citizens who bother to go to training, fill out the paperwork and go through the CCW permit process are rarely the killers that the media presents. (This murderer DID have a CCW permit, which proves that not even close screening will detect all evil intent.)

  21. Phil in Gilford, New Hampshire June 13, 2016 at 9:34 pm #

    You note that Mateen was investigated twice by the FBI. In both cases, they were unable to find anything they could charge him with or even keep him on the list for. It’s also come out that Mateen had a security officer’s license and had worked for a private security contractor for ten years. That license was conditional on a background check.

    The point is very clear: if two FBI investigations and a background check could not show anything incriminating in Mateen’s background, what would have? What becomes the criterion for getting on that “do not buy” list — or for staying off it? How squeaky clean do you have to be?

    The no-fly list is a terrible model to use in any case. Not only can you not determine when you’re on it, even if you believe you may have been added to it in error or have merely been confused with someone who is on the list and with whom you share a name, but there exists no procedure to get OFF it. (Unless, of course, you’re Ted Kennedy or someone similarly privileged and influential. Then all it requires is a quiet word, and an hour later, you’re off the list with a profuse apology.)

    I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with you on the idea of a no-buy list. (Besides, we already nave a National Instant Check System. Mateen passed it.) The lesson we should be learning from Orlando is that NO gun control law, current or proposed, will stop mass shootings, when the shooter could be a security officer or a police officer as easily as a disgruntled worker or a mental patient.

    (For the record, I am 100% with you on the rest of the post.)

    Your point (“lesson”) is a good one. Still, it seems pretty crazy that someone being investigated for terrorist proclivities — which in this case, the suspicions seem to have been proven correct — is allowed to buy guns seems rather crazy. -rc

  22. Tiffany, Nashville, TN June 14, 2016 at 3:19 am #

    “Your point (“lesson”) is a good one. Still, it seems pretty crazy that someone being investigated for terrorist proclivities — which in this case, the suspicions seem to have been proven correct — is allowed to buy guns seems rather crazy. -rc”

    Randy, the whole point here is DUE PROCESS. You CANNOT deprive someone of a basic human right without it. It’s why our legal system says “Innocent until PROVEN guilty.”

    The Terror Watch List is notoriously, and dangerously, flawed. If there is enough evidence to deprive someone of their rights, then there’s enough evidence to convict them of a crime. Anything else sets a dangerous precedent for denial of any/all rights.

    OK, that makes total sense to me. See update at the bottom of the post. Thanks, Tiffany. -rc

  23. Mark, Shelton WA June 14, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

    A few points on the issue of religion and terror. When you put the words radical and Islam together it should be hyphenated, radical-islam is not the same as Islam. The radicals have co-opted a religion to create a cult of hate.

    If you have read the bible carefully you will know that there are a great many places where objectionable ideas are expressed. The radical right uses some of these all the time to bash LGBT people. Most Christians have no idea that the Koran has many of the exact same ideas and prophets (including Jesus) as the bible. Muhammad was not an original thinker and he considered Jews and Christians to be “children of the book”. The radicals (cult) have edited out all of the good leaving only evil that they have weaponized, this is not the same as Islam.

    If we insist on condemning Islam we should force ourselves the remember the long list of cult leaders that have co-opted the bible to further their own personal goals.

    rc I really enjoy the way you make me think.

  24. Anne, California June 14, 2016 at 3:27 pm #

    I admit I do disagree with Ken, that having more people with guns in a bar would have helped the situation. The bouncer was an off-duty cop who had a gun and who fired at the shooter; that was appropriate. But in the panic that must have been ensuing, I think there were very few people who could have responsibly shot only the bad guy in this event. More likely, there would have been “friendly fire” casualties. (and, of course, there may have been “friendly fire” casualties from the cops shooting as well; we don’t know yet.)

    I do agree the Terror Watch list has flaws; one of those being no obvious appeal process. However, I still think the solution is to fix its problems; not to let people who are on it purchase a gun.

    But in this case, it wouldn’t have mattered; the guy wasn’t on it.

    The main thing that could have reduced the carnage — maybe — is to not have had such a powerful weapon for sale that he could buy legally.

  25. Tiffany, Nashville, TN June 15, 2016 at 5:33 pm #

    To rebut Anne in California, I’m quoting someone else that laid out the argument so I didn’t have to.

    Pete Stephenson “The ‘Assault Weapons Ban’ of 1994-2004 banned firearms by name (e.g. ‘Colt AR-15 Sporter’, etc.) and if they had two or more features (e.g. a connector for attaching a bayonet, a pistol grip that ‘protruded conspicuously beneath the action’, a “barrel shroud” that completely encircles the barrel, etc.) that didn’t actually have any effect on legality.
    Take for example, the Ruger Mini-14, a common ‘ranch rifle’. In its traditional, wood-bedecked configuration it’s not covered by any ban and isn’t an “assault weapon”. However, add a black plastic stock and a few cosmetic features and it becomes one. See https://i.imgur.com/0cb5ZMC.jpg — those are literally the same rifle, with the same internal mechanisms, firing the same cartridge at the same velocity.

    The AR-15 is much the same way, only it never really had a ‘traditional’ configuration. During the 1994-2004 AWB (assault weapons ban), manufacturers simply removed the offending features and kept selling the same rifles, as they were now no longer ‘assault weapons’. See http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v474/cgv69/Colt-BanVsNonBan_zps7ba5190f.jpg — the top rifle is not an ‘assault weapon’ under the ban, while the lower one was. Both are otherwise identical, and have the same internal mechanisms.
    Lastly, all the guns I’m talking about are semi-auto only. They fire one (and only one!) shot for each pull of the trigger. They’re not machine guns. Machine guns, which true “assault rifles” are classified as, are regulated under a different, much more strict set of laws that date back to the 1930s.”

    Now, to add my own 2 cents, the difference between the two rifles in the above pic are:

    1. The Bayonet lug has been removed. I haven’t used a bayonet in 26 years.

    2. The Collapsible Stock has been pinned, so that it is no longer adjustable for length, making this rifle suitable only for smaller shooters.

    That’s it. That’s the difference between what the Media and the Bloomberg organization call an “Assault Weapon,” and one they don’t. The only difference is in a feature that most AR-15 owners probably don’t use anyway, and another feature that makes the rifle more customizable and comfortable for the shooter. Absolutely NO difference in action, caliber, or damage potential.

    It’s not the weapon that’s the problem. I and my husband have “AR-15s” of our own, and they have never been used to kill anything animate (though we would like to maybe try feral pig hunting, these are uniquely suited to hunting this invasive species.)

    If anyone here REALLY wants to read up on what the cosmetic features are that turn a gun into an “Assault Weapon,” Michael Z. Williamson has a very in-depth article here. http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/index.php?itemid=219

  26. Guy, Big Rock, TN June 16, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    Disclosure first: I am a convicted felon, from a case in 1995. I am also an advocate for limited gun control (no one in the sporting community “needs” armor piercing, or “cop killer” ammo.)

    The majority of people refuse to think! They think that because I am prohibited by Federal Law from owning, or being in control of a firearm, that I cannot get one. I can! Gun shows (I have heard) do not perform background checks, nor do private sales. And what prevents me from having a friend purchase a firearm for me? Nothing, unless I get caught with it. (Then, they also face prison time.)

    So, gun control laws are in place only to keep honest people honest. They do nothing to keep the gun out of the hands of a person who really wants one.

    I want to add that I fully agree with your comments about the tragedy in Orlando, and about the PTSD that Rescue workers endure after responding to something like this. I’m retired as an Army Nurse and worked in the Burn Unit (at Fort Sam Houston, TX) and in ER’s. As well as holding a nursing license, I also held an EMT license in 1976, and rode in Denver. My brother is a retired Firefighter/EMT-i Florida. We both suffer PTSD from what we have experienced on the job.

    In my case, no gunshot wounds, but Jonestown, Guyana will remain in my mind forever. ‘Tain’t no fun.

    The background check at gun shows issue depends on the state. You definitely can’t buy at a gun show without a background check in Colorado. I don’t know statistics for other states. -rc

  27. Dave, Prairia Home, MO June 16, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    I admit I don’t know much about the terrorist watch list. Is it a list of all persons under investigation or a finalized list of those beyond just investigation now considered always watchable? What are the criteria to be investigated — or — to be un-listed?

    Obviously, there maybe exits available for the listee — the shooter in Orlando was investigated TWICE. He made it off list[?], was investigated again, then on list again[?] It would seem if you are on, you are ON and an additional investigation just continues the original look.

    If the Federal Government could build an accurate up to date list, with methods of correcting/deleting errors, unlike the TSA no-fly-list [which appears to designed by a bag-of-hammers–{as in dumb as a}] then holders of a FFL could access a terminal, decide for themselves to not sell a firearm.

    We wouldn’t need 1000 agents [at 80+ grand apiece] to do paper pushing, we wouldn’t need six pages of information from law abiding citizens to buy a gun. Fifty agents could do the job, you are only logging the bad apples.

    I haven’t studied the so-called “Terrorist Watch List” but it does seem that people are added and dropped over time. Still, it’s likely as rife with errors as the No Fly List — and it’s unclear what the procedure is to appeal being listed on either one. -rc

  28. Lenny, Florida June 17, 2016 at 1:34 am #

    I think you covered many bases with mention to hate, guns, and tolerance. For the record, I am a Vietnam vet and previously sold firearms for a living.

    You talk about intolerance, and you must recognize it is a two-way street. People are targeted, which should not be legitimate, but you have a religion that allows no tolerance for some people because of their sexual preference. This issue may be right about Islam, but Christians also do the same. (It’s an abomination). I don’t agree that it is correct, but I know you can’t change your sexual preference, and why worry about somebody else’s preference?

    Regarding the no fly, no buy list, I see the flaws. Nobody wants to deny rights, but life is too precious to take chances. So, we might have to step on some people’s “Right to bear arms.” I would not want to sell a gun to an abusive person, bully, convicted felon, or anybody else who might hurt someone. But there are myriad ways of getting a gun and criminals won’t worry about legality. Criminal networks make it easy to get an unregistered gun. People buy drugs that are totally illegal. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    FBI checks would be a joke if Mateen were not vetted successfully. But, they are also investigating a presidential candidate, and it has not been fruitful so far. People don’t trust our government to do the right thing or their job correctly.

    Another issue on hate; There few things worse feeling than being accused of hating when you don’t. People use the term disingenuously. I severed an old friendship with a blind friend when he accused me of being a racist. My wife is not white, but he didn’t know that, yet he accused me without basis. I wanted to explain to him, but my wife said: “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” She unfriended him, and I followed suit.

    And, at last, you are arrested and held in jail without being convicted of a crime. You are presumed innocent, without or until trial. But you are held. The same should be for guns. Our laws are one thing, and our practices are another. There are always exceptions and people who will use the law to do illegal things. We are free people, but we have limitations. Humans will always have prejudice and jealousy.

  29. Anthony, Australia June 17, 2016 at 9:43 pm #

    Randy, you pride yourself on thinking.

    Given this, I think you should probably consider the following: to disagree and to hate are not synonyms.

    It’s precisely the failure to notice this that causes so many of these tragedies, and so it’s sad to see you make the same error in your essay.

    I disagree with many people, but hate none of them as a consequence. I disagree with my kids about the amount of time to spend playing computer games, or the amount of dinner they choose to not eat.

    If I happen to believe, on a range of rational and reasonable grounds, that gay marriage is bad not just for those who wish to be in one, but also for wider society, I am not hating them. I may well be wrong. But for me to hold that opinion, and not say anything? That would be hateful. That’s saying nothing while watching someone walk under a bus.

    The key is not to either agree or shut up, but to engage respectfully and attempt dialogue. As others have said above, to ostracise friends…well, that’s not necessarily loving them. If they understand your concern, and then you cut them off, then perhaps — but to just do it without effective communication beforehand is precisely the way we go about disenfranchising and radicalising people.

    More thought required, I suspect.

    You seem to think I haven’t thought about this. I did address the very topic, regarding Obama: “It’s one thing to disagree with his policies and ideas; it’s another thing entirely to rail against him because he’s black.” Is there room for subtlety? Of course there is. But you cannot deny there’s a huge amount of hate flowing around these issues. You’re not here, but even from Down Under you should be able to see “The ‘Us vs Them’ of America against foreign terrorists has become the ‘Us’ of one side of just about every issue and the ‘Them’ of the other side — American vs. American ugliness that is fueled by hatred of your own neighbors.” It would be foolish to think that every single person in the country is buying into that, just as it would be foolish to ignore that many have. -rc

  30. Fr. Tom, Indiana June 17, 2016 at 10:06 pm #

    That picture is the story of my life as a priest working mostly in a college setting, but also elsewhere. Hangings, shootings, overdosings, etc. Stopped some, missed out on many. Won’t ever forget the latter.

    Thanks for the photo. It meant a lot to me.

    All of us who have worked in the field can relate. My Canadian friend illustrated it well. -rc

  31. Chris Georgia (USA) June 18, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    Randy, thank you for posting you had changed your mind. I think that is a hard thing to do and I salute you for it. As a parent, I find I have to tell my kids I was wrong sometimes. Sometimes I do the same at work with a coworker or customer. It is hard to say to someone let alone thousands. Thank you again for being a wonderful example.

    There’s no shame in being wrong. There IS shame in clinging to a point once you know it is wrong. -rc

  32. Shir-el, Eilat, Israel June 19, 2016 at 1:24 am #

    The previous posts have been extremely thoughtful and sometimes touching.

    Nonetheless I think we can’t see the forest for the trees. Dustin from Ohio almost had it: “After all if they have already lost all their friends/jobs/etc due to ‘those damn people’ what more do they have to lose?”

    People: there is no hatred without fear. Repeat: there is NO hatred without FEAR. It isn’t that hatred is becoming more tolerated, but that more and more people are afraid. Of what?
    Change. *There’s a world population explosion that is changing demographics most visibly in Western Europe, where ethnic Europeans have had a negative birth rate for years. *There’s a technology explosion that is changing every industry and that many people can’t keep up with — not to mention being afraid of who’s using it and how. *The climate is changing faster than expected, in ways that are visible to the naked eye. *And the trade-offs between traditional masculine and feminine gender roles are causing major socio-political-economic crises around the world — in the US, China, Japan and India, to name just four.

    All that without even mentioning LGBT issues!

    It all adds up to uncertainty with a capital “U.” Animals in a drastically changed environment become extinct. Humans adapt… but not all humans are willing or able to cope.

    Guy, Big Rock, TN, hit the nail on the head: weapons in one form or another can ‘always’ be obtained.

    And PTSD is not a ‘disorder’ — it is an occupational hazard. There are things that I ‘know’ and things that I ‘believe’. For all who have been touched by PTS: I ‘know’ there are souls, and I know that the kindness, concern and caring you give — even when you fail — is NEVER wasted! God Bless you all and keep you WELL.

    PS If the club was a ‘No Guns’ Zone why didn’t they have metal detectors on the main doors? or arm the bouncers with the hand-held versions? It’s time to step up to the plate.

    The cost of such equipment — and the people to run them — is extremely high. It’s not an inconsequential thing. -rc

  33. Rod, San jose June 19, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    I hope I can express myself accurately here because this post covers heartfelt issues for the vast majority of us.

    I see hate as the common denominator of this tradegy, other shooting tragedies, the curious attraction of Isis, the surprise rise of trump, and deep rooted intolerance of race and sex issues.

    The problem is not guns per se. Soon terrorists and radicals will be able to exploit drones and eventually nuclear weapons. No law will stop this. Limiting availability helps a little. The underlying problem is pent up hatred within some of us that festers to the point of “going postal” as we used to call it. It is not new. And the world is breeding it more than ever.

    Most of us have “issues” that we carry as emotional baggage from our life experiences. PTSD is a fine example, and only now is being understood and treated like the injury it truly is. Hated thrives within these issues. 80% or more of us find ways to shake it off and be happy. Some of us let this internal hatred grow out of control until a mental break occurs. The solution may have more to do mental healthcare.

    A certain percentage of human beings are sociopaths with a depreciated ability to feel compassion for others. Some estimates are as high as 10%. I personally believe there is also an equal or greater number of people who are the opposite extreme and internalize the feelings of others as if it happened directly to them. The rest of us are somewhere between.

    This tragedy reveals a person that showed hatred all of his life. While it seems obvious now in retrospect, it is often difficult to spot someone who is harboring intense hatred. And when spotted, what should our behavior be to relieve this problem or help prevent more terrorist acts.

    1. Avoid these people. We already end to flock together.
     Make Isis memberships illegal or forbidden. Ha.
    2. Put them on a watchlist. And who, exactly, is “them”.
    3. Incarcerate them just in case they might be a risk.
    4. Provide mental healthcare of some kind, hopefully effective.
    5. Prevent them from becoming religious, or worse just some religions.
    6. Educate and promote altruism, philosophy, and religion.
    7. Genetic engineering and selection.

    Obviously some of the above are absurd. But all of the above are in practice. Ideally all of us somehow learn how to expel our inner hate. To some this is easy. But to others it is difficult, and it gets harder as we age and accrue more “issues”.

    As a call to action we must as a race figure out how to defuse hatred. It is becoming easier and easier or a single individual to cause a lot of damage to all of us. What will your contribution be?

    Mental illness is a complex topic and not an exact science. The fact that we can now discuss issues like ptsd without embarrassment is a promising start to addressing problems like hated.

    On the good side, after every tragedy the incredible outpouring of love and solidarity from around the world reveals that we are all of one human race and there is much more love between all of us than hate.

  34. Shir-el, Eilat, Israel June 20, 2016 at 1:47 am #

    “The cost of such equipment — and the people to run them — is extremely high. It’s not an inconsequential thing. -rc”

    Sorry: unacceptable. Every cockamamie retail store has buzzer detectors at the exits to prevent shoplifting — and the technology is NOT that different. Not to mention that with advances in technology snowballing on a daily – sometimes hourly — basis AND high demand for any commodity… prices go DOWN.

    I’m not even thinking of x-ray machines or explosives-sniffers. How much does a simple metal detector cost for beach combers/treasure hunters? Bottom-line: how much cheaper to keep a public venue safer than to risk its destruction?

    Not to mention the cost in human life/injury/anguish/man-hours.

    Orlando should have driven the point home: improved security is the cost of doing business.

    Apples and oranges. Store security systems look for tags attached to every piece of merchandise. Guns don’t have those tags on them. Your suggestion is much more akin to airport security, and if you’ve been in the U.S., you’ve seen the sometimes-hours-long lines that result. And, again, you need people to man the checkpoints. When someone shows up with a gun intent on murder, how are they going to stop him? Ah, now we need armed and trained people at those checkpoints. If you think that’s going to just add a dollar or two to the cost of a nightclub evening, you’re dreaming: think double the cost — or triple or more. Remember that high demand for such people increases cost, not drops it. Now you’re at the point where it’s not reasonable for people to pay the charge.

    And how do we know what venues need it? “Gay bars” were not a target — until now. What about every corner bar: after all, alcohol is “against Islam,” right? How about the corner liquor stores? Why, isn’t every business, school, and church a potential target? Are you certain you’re ready for all of your groceries, clothing, and other needs to quadruple in cost? And by the way, you don’t get a pay raise to cover it. Nope: this isn’t a simple thing at all. -rc

  35. Kirk, Fredericksburg TX June 21, 2016 at 7:03 am #

    “It’s one thing to disagree with his policies and ideas; it’s another thing entirely to rail against him because he’s black: that just means the whiners can’t come up with anything real to argue about.”

    Come on, Randy. I said I wouldn’t enter this debate, but this silly answer is beneath you. I know many people who disagree with Obama’s policies for the last 7.5 years, but all have given me good reasons for their disagreement with him. None have hated him because he is black. That indicates that you haven’t listened to the reasons, or dismiss them out of hand. Fine, that is your opinion. But saying the people who think his policies have damaged this country, are just haters because he is black? That is just an example of resorting to stereotyping, something that you should not engage in.

    You seem to think I’m arguing that everyone who disagrees with Obama is racist, yet my statement says nothing remotely like that. As “everyone” else understands, I’m clearly saying that it’s OK to disagree with him on a policy basis — certainly, I do, on many fronts. But “it’s another thing entirely” to only “rail against him because he’s black” — and that’s true. When one does that, that is, by definition, racism. And there’s has been an awful lot of that coming out of the shadows in the past 7-1/2 years. -rc

  36. Jeff, Michigan June 21, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

    One thing I would just like to point out that people can do. Simply get out and vote. Not just every 4 years but every 2 years. 2014 had the lowest voter turnout ever. A lot of people stayed in congress that should have left and a lot more with some very wrong views were added. Everyone that complains about this and complains about the government not doing anything let 36% of the entire nation make this decision for them. As long as you do nothing then the people that have the power to do something will do nothing.

  37. John, Arkansas June 21, 2016 at 11:57 pm #

    At first glance I was indeed intrigued by your proposal to help stem the tide of violence and drawn in to read your blog. Then after my first read of your proposal, I was appalled. No, incensed. Which is why this reply is coming almost a week later. I have learned that no good comes of reacting while under the influence of a strong visceral emotional response to something.

    Your proposal to cut people off for racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc. just struck me viscerally as wrong. You see, I know a bit about hate. For some years I was the most homophobic, anti-gay, asshole you could know. In that period of time, I was very much hurting. As you already know, and those here who have seen my previous posts might remember, I was a survivor of molestation in my youth. It led me to a dark dark place.

    While I see you have revised in subsequent posts a bit to not cut someone off for just an odd remark here or there or legitimate debate about a topic at hand, I still feel you are short of the mark for what will help end this culture of divisiveness against our neighbors. I fear if everyone or even just a few take your words to heart, and ostracize people who are in the first stage of hate, words, they will be left to commiserate with the like-minded and eventually move on to violence, whether it be with a gun or not.

    Instead of cutting people off that are infected with hate, we should reach out to them. Show them how civilized humans behave. Invite them to gatherings of people different from them. Also, engage them about why they feel X is evil. Find out the root of why they feel that way. And then try to get them help.

    Yes, there is risk here. So, your closeness to the person would have to be considered. Someone you met last week, yea, cutting the tie might be the better idea. Someone you have known for 5, 10, 15 years? Family? Close classmate? Distant acquaintance you once had a class with years ago? Really I don’t think I can draw that line for you. You know them. And if they respect you, you might have a chance to change their thinking. Risk vs. reward. It’s a tough call.

    Just to add some perspective, I am going to tell you a little about my decent into hate. During high school, after my abuse, I became very vocal anti-gay. Westboro, if they existed then (would be the 80’s, did they?), probably would have found me too radical to fit in with them. Fortunately for the most part I was too much of a coward to actually go around gay-bashing or the like.

    But as the years drew on, I graduated, went to college. Managed to flunk out of two different universities. Mostly because I self medicated with alcohol and other drugs. By this time, I had overcome some of my cowardice as I thought of it. I began going to places that gays hung out, and catching one alone and starting a fight. It actually seemed to ease my pain at the time. For the duration of the injuries I received, I could actually go without alcohol or drugs. So long as I felt I came out on top or won.

    During the fights, I actually pictured my abuser being the one I was hitting. Transference I guess. It’s what one of my counselors years later would say. But, things escalated as my behavior began to alienate both my family and friends. Not the fights so much, as I managed to keep that secret from almost all. And, I met a few who had like-minded ideas about gays.

    To make this a bit shorter, I am cutting the details of my final act of violence against gays over 2 decades ago. But, suffice to say, I ended up in the hospital. And to my surprise one of my potential victims and his significant other became my only support system. I went through a change during the months of my recovery and rehabilitation.

    I am not saying it was an easy change, there were bumps. There were times I had to check myself. Times friends had to check me. But, eventually, I let go of hate and claimed my life back. I reconnected with family, friends. I made many new friends through the victim and his now-husband. (They are coming up on their one year anniversary of their ceremony after over a quarter of a century together.)

    And mostly I learned there are no boxes. We try to put people into these convenient boxes to understand them: Gay, Straight, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Jew, White, Black, Hispanic, etc. What I learned that night and the months that followed was the only time we fit into boxes are when we are dead and being buried. And I am still learning. That’s another thing that I learned, education is never over.

    I still have flashes of anger. I still have effects from both the abuse inflicted on me, and the wound I received that night. Both physical and psychological. Indeed, now, over 20 years after this, I may lose my sight from the after effects of that night of gay-hate violence.

    We bounce around this world. We affect one another in both positive and negative ways. A harsh word wounds. A kind word heals. Same for actions. Violent actions hurt and invite more of the same. Not just the one you strike at, but those who share their lives. Kind actions bring joy and invite more kind actions. Again, not just to the person you are kind to, but those in their lives now and into the future.

    So, I hope you understand why I have to say, don’t ostracize except as the last resort. Because, what you are saying when you do this is, this person is not worth saving. And, that is a tragedy. But, I also realize you can’t help everyone. And, some aren’t ready to be helped. And, yes, some may be so damaged none will ever reach through their walls.

    So what is my point here? Hate can be cured. But, it can’t be cured by condemnation without love. So what is the solution? I am not really sure. Love as many as you can? Love as many as will let you? I am not sure where we draw the line. But a blanket zero-tolerance to an emotion as integral to us as hate: the opposite of love and kissing cousin to fear? To my mind doesn’t seem to be a solution but a prescription for more of the same.

    First, congrats on realizing what was going on, thinking about it and realizing you were terribly wrong, and doing something to fix it. That’s fantastic. Second, thanks for sharing your story so that others can SEE that hate can be overcome. And third, your bottom line is “don’t ostracize except as the last resort.” Which indeed is what I said: “If they don’t stop, break your connection with them and, if you can, tell them why.” (emphasis added) Could I have gone into more detail about it? Sure — and I did, in the second comment, posted minutes after the essay went live. Even you note that you were “alienated” from friends and family when you got too over the top — they ostracized you for your behavior — and that was part of your healing; you “reconnected” to them later. Losing connection to friends and family hurts, and you did the work to fix yourself and, thus, your connection with them.

    Note that your comment on this one point is longer than all of the “hate” portion of my essay! (Starting with “Most Are At a Loss”.) I must be succinct so that ever-more-busy people will actually read it. (And yes, I have had protest unsubscribes from those who are not ready to let go of their hatred.) I have little doubt most who even agree with it will skip your comment for that very reason: it’s so long. Yet for those who skipped it and stopped to read this reply, I’ll say: It’s worth it to read John’s “testimony”.

    For what it’s worth, since you brought them up: the Westboro “Baptist” “Church” (they use the word Baptist, but aren’t affiliated with any actual Baptist denomination) started its public anti-gay campaign in 1991. They’re infamous for such outrageous statements as “thank God for dead soldiers,” “God blew up the troops,” “thank God for 9/11,” and “God hates America,” though their preferred slogan is “God hates fags” — their Internet domain. So anyone who buys into “God hating fags” is aligning themselves with ideas like “thank God for dead soldiers” and “thank God for 9/11.”

    Any Christian organization that preaches hate rather than what Christ actually commanded…

    One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31, NIV)

    …and commits violent acts is, in my considered opinion, a terrorist organization worthy of federal prosecution. I would view anyone desiring to join them with the same askance as someone wanting to join ISIS. -rc

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