• June 21st, 2024
  • Friday, 07:50:10 PM

A Shot in The Dark


Photo: Angel Gonzales Angel Gonzales

 

Angel Gonzales

 

The mass killings on May 24, 2022, which destroyed two respected teachers and 19 precious children at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas allegedly involved mental health disorders, while the massacre of 10 Black Americans on May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York was clearly about racial hatred and white supremacy.

 

Incredibly, while still composing this article about mass shootings, 26 more occurred. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the nation has now experienced 246 mass shootings in 2022.

 

Eleven-year-old student, Miah Cerrillo, who miraculously survived, later described how she smeared herself with blood from a dying friend next to her and played dead to avoid being killed.

 

All that ugliness also dredged up the racial loathing which caused the mass shooting of 46 people on August 3, 2019, in El Paso, Texas in which 23 souls were slaughtered. 45 of those shooting victims were Latinos, as were 22 of those that died. That mass shooting constitutes the greatest massacre of Latinos in modern U.S. history. Afterward the white supremacist killer claimed he came to El Paso, Texas, “to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.”

 

The 21-year-old shooter from Allen, Texas bought his military assault rifle and about one thousand rounds of ammunition legally with little notice under Texas’ extremely weak gun laws.

 

It is also notable that according to the Dallas Morning News, Texas has “the most mass shootings in the nation—a total of 31.” Additionally, that news publisher said that Texas leads the country in the volume of combined gun sales, in the amount of gun dealers, and the number of those killed in mass shootings.

 

Six mass shootings have occurred under republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s watch which have killed nearly 100 people. Yet Abbott’s response last year was just to further strip away all legal permit requirements to carry weapons in Texas.

 

And instead of concentrating on how to prevent more gun deaths, Abbott has directed billions of dollars of the state’s resources in an ongoing bigoted attack primarily against Latinos.

 

It’s well known that Abbott and his Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, are strong supporters of former President Donald Trump and his deceitful policies that falsely blame the Mexicans at the border for the country’s misfortunes largely for political gain. Remember the famous words that got Trump elected president: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists…”

 

Well, those words put a target on the backs of all Latinos regardless of their legal status—including myself. And unfortunately, all Mexicans look alike to those with white supremacist tendencies which has continued to divide this country and has increased mass killings in America, as El Paso will long remember.

 

If the societal tourniquet doesn’t squeeze down hard enough to control the gush of blood the national soul may just bleed out altogether.

 

That despicable reality is confirmed not only by Abbott’s ordering of 10,000 National Guard and Texas State troopers to the Mexican border last year, but also by previously approving SB4, and his own executive order G-37. Suffice it to say that both of those governmental measures have “show me your papers” features that racially profiles and discriminates against Latinos as a general cultural entity.

 

Various public organizations have generally described Abbott’s actions as racist and illegal. As such, all of those acts by Abbott are currently being legally challenged.

 

It was that similar atmosphere of racial hatred, surly looks and lack of proper service in Colorado that compelled me to buy a home in New Mexico, where I live part-time to escape those ongoing indignities. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Colorado has 18 recognized racial hate groups.

 

In the interest of perspective, I first arrived at a labor camp in Colorado as a child where my migratory farm labor family, out of Texas sought a new beginning.

 

But that same racial hostility that also exists in Texas is the reason I can’t drive through Texas today to visit my own family where I was born without fear for my own safety either from militant white supremacists or Texas authorities who could realistically be a blend of both. Based on the latest (SPLC) data Texas has 52 racial hate groups.

 

Despite coming from very humble beginnings, I eventually became a secondary education teacher and later went on to become a senior probation officer with the Colorado State Justice Department with three decades of honorable service.

 

And that’s where I was first introduced to live gun fire and was almost killed in the line of duty. In another incident, I was also trapped by the gun fire. Appallingly, I even experienced a form of a mass shooting just a block from my own home in Colorado last year when a neighbor shot his own neighbors across the street before taking his own life. So, I know on a personal level some of the horror that guns in the wrong hands can create.

 

In the course of my career, I also worked with people suffering from various mental health conditions, as well as those with white supremacist ideologies who were on probation for committing racial hate crimes.

 

Therefore, I will offer my own humble perspective on these issues in an effort to make some sense out of an otherwise senseless situation.

 

Regarding the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, Governor Greg Abbott’s deplorable response merely confirms the depth of his moral corruption and incompetence based on the following events.

 

On May 25, 2022, Abbott lavishly praised all the officers in the aftermath of the Uvalde School shooting for their “amazing courage by running toward gunfire…and…their quick response getting on the scene, being able to respond to the gunman and eliminate the gunman, they were able to save lives.” He and his Director of Public Safety, Steven McCraw, also stated that a school resource officer had confronted the shooter, who was wearing body armor.

 

However, Abbott engaged in a series of staggering lies that were later revealed when his own Director of Public Safety, Mr. McCraw, was forced to admit on May 27, 2022, that police on the scene made “the wrong decision” when they failed to breach the classroom where two esteemed teachers and 19 treasured children were viciously slaughtered by the mass killer. Mr. McCraw also admitted that the school resource officer was missing altogether, and the gunman was not wearing body armor which made him quite vulnerable had the officers acted in a timely manner as required by their sworn duties to “serve and protect”.

 

Outrageously, while 19 armed law enforcement officers dawdled in confusion just feet away, two teachers and 19 innocent babies were methodically butchered alive.

 

Eleven-year-old student, Miah Cerrillo, who miraculously survived, later described how she smeared herself with blood from a dying friend next to her and played dead to avoid being killed. She was then forced to lie among all her dead classmates and teachers for well over an hour in the shadow of the killer still roaming the classroom. She even called 911 to ask why police had not arrived, not realizing that 19 officers were recklessly milling around just feet from her outside the classroom.

 

It’s important to note that Governor Greg Abbott was also dishonest with the mourning victims of Uvalde, Texas at his press conference on May 25, 2022. That was when he sarcastically indicated that California, Illinois and New York State all had higher gun death rates than Texas despite their stronger gun laws and therefore the citizens of the state didn’t need any further gun control laws.

 

In fact, the latest CDC Firearm Mortality records clearly show that all those states have lower gun death rates than Texas. The following numbers also show the extent of Abbott’s corrupt misrepresentations. California registered 3,449 total gun deaths, Illinois had 1,745 fatalities and New York State lost 1,052. Yet Texas, which has very weak gun laws had 4,164 gun deaths overall in 2020. According to the most current U.S. Census data Texas also has nearly 10 million less residents than California.

 

In my estimation, Abbott, who is ultimately responsible as the head of Texas government, and all law enforcement officers in anyway responsible for this heinous incident should resign, be fired or be severely disciplined where practicable. Even Mr. McCraw, the Texas Public Safety Director, admitted to NBC correspondent, Tom Winter, that this was the “Greatest failure in modern American law force history, as it pertains to an active shooter—period.”

 

Incredibly, the NRA then thoughtlessly went on with its own national massacre-type gun trade show in Houston soon after the carnage, eagerly selling military assault weapons similar to the one that had just brutally murdered two valued teachers and 19 revered children.

 

Equally reprehensible, was the heartless presence of the former white supremacist president accompanied by Senator Ted Cruz and other loathsome creatures.

 

And anyone else that was likewise cold hearted enough to attend that massive human butcher’s market while blood, body parts and other ghastly evidence was still being processed at the massacre scene should forevermore be damned. Because it is these brutal deadheads that sustain the gun industry and elect similar minded thugs, like Cruz, and others that control congress at the highest levels that prevent any meaningful assault weapons reform in this blood smeared society.

 

This latest mass killing again raises the repeated question about how to reduce these ongoing massive slaughters. But when we already have a tsunami of about 400 million firearms in this country, we must approach this overall monstrosity in a common-sense multifaceted manner.

 

From my viewpoint, it appears that the blood shed has been ongoing for about the past four decades, but if the societal tourniquet doesn’t squeeze down hard enough to control the gush of blood, the national soul may just bleed out altogether.

 

And the three most critical components to restrict the bleeding must include a combination of the following national laws: A military assault weapons ban much like the one that was passed in 1994 is crucial. An expansion of mental health treatment resources is vital. And domestic terrorism regulations that target the growing threat of violent white supremacists is essential.

 

President Biden was correct, according to PolitiFact, when he stated on May 24, 2022, “When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down. When the law expired, mass shootings tripled.”

 

The U.S. passed an assault weapons ban in 1994 which ended in 2004. Since then, various studies have been conducted which generally show that there was a reduction of killings during that time period.

 

The Washington Post featured a book entitled “Rampage Nation” by Louis Klarevas, with the University of Massachusetts, that offered some enlightening information. Mr. Klarevas did extensive research which clearly showed that between 1984—1994 (a decade prior to the ban), there were 19 mass killings that claimed 155 victims. He then revealed that between 1994—2004 during the weapons ban, there were 12 incidents that killed 89 people. Shockingly, during the decade after the weapons ban was lifted, between 2004—2014 there were 34 mass shootings that killed 302 people.

 

According to the most recent 2020 figures, the Gifford Law Center and the CDC, found that the state of Hawaii has the strictest gun laws and also has the lowest gun deaths in the country (3.4 gun deaths per 100,000 residents). Conversely, Mississippi has one of the weakest gun laws and is also number one in the nation for gun deaths (28.6 gun deaths per 100,000 residents).

 

Thus, based on all the foregoing research, it is clear that had the 1994 assault weapons ban been in place, it’s quite probable that most of the mass killing victims going back to that time period may have been spared.

 

Even if the legal age to purchase a military assault weapon would have simply been 21, that alone possibly would have saved those innocent souls just in the last two mass killings, considering that both shooters were just 18 years of age.

 

In fact, according to the New York Times, “six of the nine deadliest mass shootings in the United States since 2018 were by people 21 or younger…”

 

Essentially, a military assault weapons ban that also restricts large capacity magazines must be implemented in order to reduce mass killings in America, beyond any doubt.

 

Regarding the mental health component, according to the CDC, 45,222 gun related deaths occurred in 2020, based on the most recent information. And the leading cause of those deaths (54%) was by suicide (24,292). Murders were (43%) and totaled (19,384).

 

Sadly, I had to deal with several suicide matters on my caseload involving a weapon and as devastating as that was, I learned without question that had a weapon not been available, those individuals would not have died—period.

 

As the hard facts show, the majority of gun deaths involve suicide which according to two psychiatrists that I personally interviewed is usually related to extreme depression, often accompanied by anxiety. And that connection alone mandates that any gun control measures must incorporate expanded mental health treatment resources and gun safety provisions. The so called “red flag” protocols that remove weapons from those at risk, gun storage regulations, background checks, etc., must all be part of the package.

 

But that will require the general public to demand that mental health treatment in America be on true parity with standard medical care. That means we must have an equal number of hospitals and urgent care centers that treat mental health conditions similar to other medical care.

 

Unfortunately, the Republican majorities in congress cynically use mental health as a replacement for the gun laws that must be implemented if the country is serious about reducing mass gun killings in America.

 

Doing one without the other will not resolve the problem; however, having even one of those measures in place would still be helpful.

 

Regrettably, the greatest barrier of all is the incompetence, the white supremacist ideology, and the general lack of fitness of congressional leaders primarily on the republican side of the aisle who have joined the “personality cult” of Donald Trump. And that, can only be fixed by the people themselves along with strong demands to end the filibuster which is another massive road- block.

 

Perhaps when enough people experience the horror of live gun fire as I have, and lose enough of their own precious children, maybe then they might have the courage to face this national catastrophe before it destroys them in their own Uvalde moment.

 

And the final element in this bizarre circus of death involves the white supremacists.

 

In the course of my career, I worked with a 17-year-old white supremacist female who was placed on probation following a jail sentence for assaulting a Latina classmate involving hate crime elements. Imagine her surprise when she first met me and learned that her probation officer was a Latino with a badge and an attitude.

 

In fact, she eventually became one of my most successful assigns, while we sorted out her fascination with white supremacy through a combination of firmness, understanding and respect. I also demonstrated to her through natural role modeling that people of color were no different from herself. Even after she was successfully terminated from probation and was a young adult, she continued to contact me for advice for a long period of time afterward.

 

And that convinced me that it is critical to reach people at the youngest possible age to interrupt the development of white supremacist ideology. As such, that should be at the core of any domestic terrorism laws, whereby they must incorporate an educational and treatment component that especially targets young people with white supremacist ideations.

 

There is little doubt that the former white supremacist inclined president highly influenced the actions of the young El Paso, Texas killer, based on his own online manifesto. Conversely, the young white supremacist I worked with involved redirecting her behavior toward a more positive future outcome.

 

The other aspects of any domestic terrorism laws should be aimed at disrupting the ongoing expansion of these organizations before they become as embedded as some already have. And that must include a systemic purge of all military, law enforcement and governmental agencies that have also been infiltrated.

 

Finally, it’s critical to note that the conservative right factions of congress that continue to block any significant gun legislation is a true reflection of the dawdling, reckless cops that allowed all those wonderful teachers and 19 beautiful children to die a most gruesome death.

 

What happened in that horrendous tragedy is indeed on them. However, it’s equally on the Texas governor, his legislature, and the two odious U.S. senators out of Texas. But ultimately, this is on all the members of society that elected them as a whole to do their damn bidding.

 

Now, while this may be just a shot in the dark, but I can assure you when those real shots are coming at you like I experienced, perhaps then the irresponsible decision makers will do the right thing. Presuming their situation doesn’t result in a tragedy like one in Uvalde, Texas.

 

 

Angel Gonzales is a former teacher with the domestic Peace Corps and is also a retired senior official with the Colorado State Justice Department.

 

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