I don’t understand mass shootings

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty basics, I don’t want to understand mass shootings. But, as a country, I think we need to figure them out. So far, (through March) there have been 146 mass shootings this year, with a death toll of 148 along with 485 wounded. The latest one occurred in South Carolina yesterday when five people, including a doctor, his wife, two grandchildren, and another individual were killed by a shooter who apparently took his own life. No motive has been established.

Do you really need this for self defense? Wikipedia photo.

Many people believe these shootings occur due to easy access to guns, with the emphasis to “access” usually meaning military-style weapons. When I was in high school and junior high school, almost everyone I knew owned guns, as did my family. They were for hunting and target practice. That was 50 years ago, so how we felt about hunting for food is so different from today’s culture, that it would be inaccurate to say, we had easy access to guns and yet there were no mass shootings.

Some people hunted deer, though we never did. These folks used 30-30 and 30-06 rounds in a variety of rifles. Many were bolt action. Some held 3-5 rounds. We owned shotguns for hunting ducks. My grandfather in Illinois hunted pheasants, my wife’s father hunted deer and quail. Almost all of us went fishing. The purpose was always food that wasn’t available at the grocery store.

I cannot compare our access to guns in the 1950s and 1960s with today’s access to guns or with the kinds of guns people are buying, much less the rationale for buying them. So I’m perplexed about the motivation for buying semi-automatic weapons with large magazines. One doesn’t hunt with these. One doesn’t really need them for self-defense.

According to the New Yorker, “The late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger said, in 1991, that the idea that the Second Amendment conferred a right for individuals to bear arms was ‘a fraud on the American public.’ Burger was no liberal, and his view simply reflected the overwhelming consensus on the issue at the time.” This interpretation matches mine, that being that we cannot overlook the part of the Second Amendment that mentions the militia–in today’s terms, the national guard.

The default interpretation today is to overlook the militia component of the amendment and say we all have the right to own all the military-style guns we want. That’s absurd on the face of it. Yet, when solving this problem of mass shootings, I think we need to look more at our culture than simply on access to firearms. Why would anyone bust into that doctor’s house and kill everyone? I’m not sure we know. Perhaps we will never know. If it comes down to, “The doctor pissed me off,” then we’re really not at the core issue of motivation. If you’re the shooter, knowing you will probably end up dead, being pissed off seems very lame as a rationale.

The “why” illudes us. Is it news reporting: copycats who say, “yeah, I want to die like that.” Is it the guns? Is it the fact many people don’t believe in the sanctity of life?

We’re not looking hard enough or deep enough at this problem.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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For those who get too close

Nightbeat Column, by Jock Stewart, Star-Gazer News Service

In addition to a robber’s red bandana face mask, my grocery store costume includes a carpenter’s utility belt with a sign in 18-point Bodoni Bold type that says For Those Who Get Too Close.

COVID-19 oriented, my utilities do not include a hammer, screwdriver, vise grips, pliers, tape measure or T-square because handy as those tools are, they don’t scare huggers, hand shakers, coughers, and sneezers away.

Instead, I have these very practical items:

  • Wikipedia Photo

    TASER: For lone family members at the far end of the aisle who start running toward me sh0uting, “Jock, give me some sugar,” in the belief that being close at home (in some cases) means being close in the store is okay.

  • WASP Spray: Since this comes in long-range spray cans, it keeps White Anglo-Saxon Protestants on their side of the store without having to accept any tracts or lists of Bible verses.
  • Pepper Spray: Keeps hookers from coming up and whispering, “Jock, baby, I need $100 for a roll of toilet paper.”
  • Bowling Ball: If a bevvy of grannies from the neighborhood runs toward me for help carrying their Polident, Fig Newtons, and snuff back home, this can be rolled down the aisle for an easy strike. (I have two balls in case I come up with a dreaded 7-10 split on the first roll.)
  • Smith & Wesson 642 .38 Special Revolver: Keeps the cashiers on their side of the new sneeze screens.
  • Emergency Poster: Printed in 72-Point Bodoni Bold type, this sign says: I ALREADY GOT IT: HOW ABOUT YOU.

Shop only for essentials, be safe, and mainstain social distancing (or else).

“Nightbeat” appears on the Junction City Star-Gazer editorial page as needed

Slanted news isn’t news, it’s propaganda

Those of you who’ve read this blog for years know that I was a journalist and a college journalism teacher as was my father before me. We grew up in another era, one in which opinion in a newspaper was confined to the editorial page. Those who wrote news stories were–as we said back then–supposed to leave their opinions at the door.

These days, it’s hard to find the truth because the major news outlets are biased in favor of Trump or those who oppose Trump. My wife and I–she was a newspaper reporter–have caught news outlets (AKA propaganda sheets) focused on both sides the aisle slanting the news. We watch an event or a speech live, and then the outlet reports it incorrectly, sometimes making up quotes that weren’t in the speech.

We saw on Facebook yesterday and today how damaging skewed news can be. Many of us were debating what appeared to be the taunting of an Indian elder in Washington, D.C. by a group from a Catholic school that was in town to speak out against abortion. Our first impression–based on how the news was reported–was that the school group verbally attacked others and was rather smug about it.

Today we learn that everything about the incident we thought we knew yesterday was wrong. That is, the news report made it appear that the school group verbally attacked the Indian when this was not what happened. In fact, the school group, who was already chanting after the formal end of their march, saw the Indian chanting, and when he came over to them, they thought he was chanting with them. They didn’t realize until they saw the news that the media viewed them as white kids making fun of a well-known Indian elder.

My initial perspective was that the kids had run amok and shouldn’t have been making fun of the Indian. Others used the incident as a springboard to criticizing the Catholic Church, suspecting that taunting the Indian was something the church believed in. Others said that since their kids were supposed to be representing a church school, they should not have worn the MAGA hats because they were in town to protest abortion and not as Trump supporters.

Even though the Catholic diocese has apologized to the elder, the media who put their agenda up as more important than the actual news should be the ones apologizing, both to the kids who were under fire for being white and conservative and to the readers for skewing the story so that it matched their political agenda.

The political arena is volatile enough these days without news outlets published biased reports. They think they are helping the political parties they agree with when, in fact, they are hurting the country. Journalists are supposed to present the facts and allow their readers to decide how they feel about what happened. Today’s media appear not to trust the readers because they hedge their bets by using propaganda rather than truth.

They are discounting all of us.



What’s Your Iran Policy?

“News is a necessity in a democracy, for only those who understand the nature of their world can comprehend the perils and hazards facing them and thus survive the struggle. Men who enjoy a free and open encounter with vital ideas and issues, facts and problems of their epoch can best map their future.” Campbell and Wolseley in “How to Report and Write the News.”

“With Neda’s death, the Iran I know finally has a face. The sequence of her death is the sequence of our nation’s struggle in the past 30 years: The democratic future that 1979 was to deliver collapsing, then trails of blood — that of so many executed or assassinated — streaming across its bright promise. The film of Neda’s death is the abbreviated history of contemporary Iran.” — Roya Hakakian in “Commentary: Pray for Neda

As you watch the protests in Iran on television and read about the importance of Twitter in spreading vital news to those who are otherwise denied access to information, have you formed an opinion about what must be done and developed a policy?

Most often, we are shown only one side of the coin in Iran, and that is of a rogue nation figuratively in bed with North Korea and a long list of other regimes portrayed–and often hunted–like junk yard dogs.

We read of the nuclear threat, of “honor killings,” of rule by divine right, of repression and torture supposedly justified by divine concurrence.

We are busy people, plugged into each others daily lives via Twitter, Facebook, and cell phones, so time and space for Iran on our daily radar scopes is, indeed, quite limited. Perhaps a fleeting glimpse the Ayatollah’s face as we last saw it in a news photograph or a political cartoon, perhaps an image of a nuclear holocaust with stock images out of one of the “Terminator” movies, perhaps an image of protesters marching in the streets.

Understandably, it’s easy for these images to become lost in the great clamor of background noise that is, by the grace of God and circumstance, far away. Even so, you probably have an opinion about it and, perhaps, what our government’s policy ought to be. But your policy, has it reached the drawing board yet?

Some say the U.S. and Israel should, on one pretext or another–whether out of rationalization or a true clear and present danger–attack. Others see this view as absurd.

What then?

Lately, some voices suggested that the U.S. should take care in its statements about Iran’s invalidation of the election and its harsh treatment of the protesters lest the Ayotolla find sufficient “evidence” in our statements to “prove” the protests are being orchestrated by Washington.

In her “Commentary: Pray for Neda,” Hakakian writes that during her first cab ride in the U.S., the driver asked her where she was from. When she said she was from Iran, the driver responded “Eeran … Khomeini?” and then moved his hand across his throat in a knife-slitting gesture.

Hakakian concluded that from this that “2,500 years of civilization was reduced to one vile name and the invocation of a throat being slit. It did not take long for me to learn that between the Iran that I knew and the Iran that Americans knew was a discrepancy as vast as the waters that separated us.”

It’s likely, given our lack of daily attention–especially when Iran is overtly quiet–that our opinion of Iran is similar to that of the cab driver.

And, if we are not among those urging our government to attack, what then is our opinion about our government’s alternatives. Is it “hands off”? Is it “out of sight and out of mind”? Is it wait until “they kill each other anyway”?

In the dedication of her memoir “Escape from the Land of No,” Hakakian writes:

“Between 1982 and 1990 an unknown number of Iranian women political prisoners were raped on the eve of their executions by guards who alleged that killing a virgin was a sin in Islam.
This book is dedicated to the memory of those women.”

From an Iran as a rogue nation perspective, it’s easy to see how you might see the guards full-frame in fron of your face and regard them as vile men who should be shot.

However, Neda’s death and the impact the video of her last moments is having throughout the world represents a potential defining moment in my consciousness and, I suspect, your consciousness as well. The video shows us Neda, NOT the man who shot her. You can see, as I can see, the victim at the other end of the repression, at the bullet’s destination and her eyes are like my daughter’s eyes and perhaps your daughter’s eyes.

Those eyes are an invitation and an opportunity to acknowledge with love and compassion the women the guards raped and executed rather than focusing a powerless hatred upon the guards–or upon the Ayatolla and his like-minded clerics and his soldiers.

May I suggest that while the actions of the Iranian repressors are news, they are not the entire story, and that newspaper headlines and television images that focus only on the rulers at the expense of the victims represent dishonest journalism? How many thousand people, victims with eyes as haunting as Neda’s eyes, do you suppose have gone unseen since the Ayatolla came to power?

Like that cab driver, it has been very easy for us to sweep the oppressed beneath the rug with the rogue nation label on it.

What is your Iran policy today?

Can you look into Neda’s eyes and say, “I love you and your brothers and sisters without condition and count you amongst my extended family?” If so, you will no longer feel the powerless hatred that arises from only staring at the Ayatolla’s image and from only despising the actions of the prison guards. Instead you will see that out of compassion and love, your actions will change and you will become part of a groundswell of news that flows around the world focusing on the struggles and needs and humanity of the Iranian people rather than upon the words and deeds and inhumanity of their regime.

Should the protests be silenced and the headlines fade away, you won’t forget Neda’s eyes will you? You will continue to love her, won’t you, and see to it that you are never silent about the news stories that still need to be told. I hope that will be your policy about Iran.

Copyright (c) 2009 by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of “The Sun Singer” and the upcoming “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.” (This post from my Writer’s Notebook)

What’s your take on the dead Walmart Worker?

On “Black Friday,” word spread quickly via media outlets and the Internet that a Walmart worker in a New York Store was trampled to death by the crowd rushing through the doors for bargains.

People expressed shock, disbelief, anger and sadness.

For the record, the man’s name is Jdimytai Damour. He was among the Walmart employees inside the Valley Stream, NY store forming a human chain to slow down the crowd of some 2,000 people outside the store who were chanting “break down the doors.” At 34 years of age, Damour was 6’5″ tall and weighed 270 pounds, large enough one might think to hold his own against incoming shoppers. Even so, he died of asphyxiation; the EMTs trying to save him were also stepped on by the crowd. Everyone who came into the store–and they did continue to come in–could not have missed the man lying on the floor. They either passed him by or they, too, stepped on him.

People who know about the logistics of such things are saying that there are good ways and bad ways to prepare for the prospective chaos during store openings on Black Friday when extraordinary deals have been well publicized to lure in shoppers. In this case, experts are suggesting that security should have been outside the store rather than inside, and positioned to organize the crowd into orderly lines. Others are noting that those in the human chain had had no experience in crowd control.

There will probably be a wrongful death suit against Walmart as Damour’s family works with police using security tapes to ascertain whether it’s even possible to see who–specifically–tramped him and whether they acted out of negligence or were pushed over him by the people behind them. The store’s ineffective use of barricades and security personnel placement will be discussed. So, too, the crowd control techniques of other stores across the nation that advertised tempting bargains but experienced little or no chaos.

Perhaps justice will ultimately be served, the victim’s family compensated, closure of one kind or another will be found, and retailers and shoppers will learn more about safety and crowd control prior to Black Friday 2009.

I’m wondering, though, what your take is on the frenzy itself. What is it in a person’s mindset that makes Black Friday bargains, deals and prizes so compelling that s/he is willing to become part of a mob in order to get his/her item in a “me first” rush?

What does this event say about the shoppers outside that Walmart? What does it say about all of us, the thousands of people who get up at 3 a.m. to get their places in line (or near the front of a crowd or a mob) for the 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Black Friday store openings?

Why are the deals important enough for this?

NOTE: On December 11th, Shelagh Watkins, creator and editor of the recently published Forever Friends anthology will visit with us to talk about the book. I hope you’ll join us with comments and questions.

Copyright (c) 20008 by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the magical adventure novel The Sun Singer.