Guns, Guns, Guns, Guns…..

The news from Rockford on Tuesday about gun violence did not make the headlines as there was a bevy of reports about COVID, a staggering traffic jam on icy roads in Virginia, and court trials (such as Dane County’s Chandler Halderson murder case) that sets shivers down the spines of even the most jaded among us.

But guns played havoc in communities far and wide causing great angst for the law enforcement community.

Following a shooting at Auburn High School Tuesday afternoon that left two teens injured, Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd made an impassioned plea to parents of violent youth, to end gun violence in the city.

“You all know who the kids are who have the guns, who have access to guns. They’re your kids, your neighbors, and your grandkids,” Redd said.

Stop sitting on your bottoms and doing nothing about it.

Every single day in every state and in multiple communities within each state the number of gun shootings, killings, and injuries mount.

In Chicago for instance, there were more gun-related homicides in 2021 than in any other year on record, according to officials. Cook County’s 1,002 homicides, a total that includes Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, was 121 higher than the previous record from 2020 and almost twice as many as the total from 2019.

Just two days before the Monday announcement by the county medical examiner’s office, Chicago police reported that there were more homicides in Chicago, 797, in 2021 than in any year since 1996. There were 772 killed in 2020, and a much lower total of 498 in the year before, the Chicago Tribune reported.

In New York City a recorded 485 murders took place in 2021, a 4% increase from the 468 tallied in 2020. It needs noting that the surge was driven by a startling surge in gun violence across the city. Last year there had been 1,857 shooting victims in that city.

One can comb through the statistics coast-to-coast and see gun violence shot upwards—sorry for the bad pun–as gun-related deaths among kids and teenagers increased during the pandemic. The reasons for the crime rates over the past two years are being studied as to why it occurred.

But it needs stating that this medical crisis in the United States could have been averted in large part with a fact-based White House in 2020 along with the absence of continual lies aimed at the most gullible within the Republican Party. When the larger social implications of not addressing the virus in a most serious fashion during the Donald Trump administration are examined the deaths due to a host of social ills will need to be cited.

Gun violence, not surprisingly, has most demonstrated its wrath and harsh realities on the poor, Black and Hispanic youth over the past years.

When it comes to guns and protecting our youth from getting their hands on the weapons, as Rockford law enforcement talked about on Tuesday, one does have to place that daunting social problem alongside the pandemic and ask a most basic question.

If people can’t even figure out how to manage to wear a face mask correctly, how in the world do we expect them to manage gun ownership?

This blog continually speaks out for gun control measures at the same time it responds to the latest gun violence that the misinterpreted Second Amendment has unleashed on the nation. My first letter to the editor as a teenager was printed in the Waushara Argus. The reason for my letter concerned the need to bring sanity to the issue of gun ownership.

Four decades later and the problem is worse than ever.

And so it goes.

Michigan Parents Charged In Their Son’s Mass School Shooting

The time for sound legal reasoning, so to stem the tide of school shootings, has arrived.

The parents of Ethan Crumbley, the Michigan teenager accused of killing four students at a local high school, were charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly giving him the gun he used to carry out the shooting spree. I urged this week for such charges to be brought.

Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued if prosecutors believe someone contributed to a situation where harm or death was high. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison. As I wrote this week”… the law must follow the parents right to the jailhouse door and usher them inside.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said that a teacher had observed Ethan Crumbley searching ammunition on his cellphone and alerted school officials. The school tried to contact his mother but could not reach her.

McDonald told reporters that Jennifer Crumbley did not contact the school but instead texted her son: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

There is no disputing the evidence about the role of parents and other adults in school shootings. Not only relating to the tragic aspects of this week’s slaughter but also in cases around the nation for far too long.

Charging parents of juvenile shooters is uncommon, with just four reported instances in which the adult owners of the weapons were criminally punished because they failed to lock firearms fired by a child, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. That’s despite the fact that if children as young as 6 did not have access to guns, well more than half of the country’s school shootings since 1999 would never have happened, The Post found.

“If you look at school shootings, the overwhelming majority are committed by students, and the overwhelming majority of those students have guns that they brought from their homes or a relative’s home,” said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy.

The four known prosecutions of parents did not stem from charges related to negligent-storage laws. The harshest penalty among those cases was a sentence of more than two years in prison for a man charged with involuntary manslaughter after a 6-year-old boy found his gun in a shoebox and killed a classmate.

While I am not a lawyer–though I read John Grisham–it would seem other adults are also absolutely negligent in the handling of this matter. When the obvious hints were discovered as to the violent mind of the 14-year-old law enforcement should have been notified. No waiting for some kinder way to broach the 800-pound problem in the school. The soft-handed attempts to deal with ticking time bombs are ludicrous.

“The morning of the shooting, Ethan Crumbley’s teacher came upon a note on Ethan’s desk, which alarmed her to the point that she took a picture of it on her phone,” Willis said. “The note contained the following: a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointed at the words, ‘The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.’ In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the following words above that bullet: ‘Blood everywhere.’ Between the drawing of the gun and the bullet is the drawing of a person who appears to have been shot twice and bleeding. Below that figure is the drawing of a laughing emoji. Further down the drawing are the words, ‘My life is useless,’ and to the right of those words are, ‘The world is dead.’”

The student’s locker should have been busted open and properly searched. The classroom drawing of violence was not a hint–it was a billboard message!

School administrators failed this child, but not as much as his parents.

And so it goes.

Shooter’s Parents Must Be Legally Accountable For Deadliest School Shooting This Year

Once again the deadly results of guns in our society make for terrible headlines. Once again the refrain from rational adults is a call to common sense and the development of gun control measures that will start to trim back the shootings. At the same time, conservatives chant their trite platitude, ‘thoughts and prayers’.

The layers of possible responses to the carnage left by Ethan Crumbley and the 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting are many. From working on issues in school concerning being bullied to the drowning of the nation in too many guns available for purchase, and the ease that children can get their hands on a deadly weapon. There is no single avenue to address the gravity of the situation.

But when it comes to guns in homes this blog has been consistent and adamant that parents must be held legally responsible when their weapons are not stored and safeguarded correctly. When they are accessible to underage people, and crimes take place with the weapons, then the law must follow the parents right to the jailhouse door and usher them inside.

On Wednesday we learned that the high school sophomore accused of killing four classmates and injuring others will be charged as an adult with a host of felonies, including terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder. The weight of the words from Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said it all.

Evidence shows the shooting was “absolutely premeditated.”

But equally important today was the news that prosecutors are also considering charges against the suspect’s parents. The New York Times reported that when the boy’s parents went to a sheriff’s substation after the shooting, they declined to let investigators question their child. The sheriff told reporters that a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun used in the shooting had been bought four days earlier by the suspect’s father. “He is not talking and neither are the parents,” the sheriff said.

There is appropriate outrage across the nation today as we learn more evidence to show why parents, once again, must be held accountable for actions that their child took, due to a deadly gun made accessible in their home.

This blog has repeatedly stated parents of young people who use guns to shoot, kill, and create violence also need to be held accountable. Some adult was responsible for the fact the shooter was able to place his hands on this weapon. There is no way that any sane person can say parental/adult actions, such as with this shooting, should not be addressed by the law that makes sure there is a responsibility shared by those who help to foster the violent outcomes.

The NRA has plenty of responsibility for the number of guns in our society and the ease with which anyone can get a deadly weapon. But when it comes to children with guns there also has to be a question asked–where the heck was the parent? It might also be a good time to ask if parents are not able to control their offspring then perhaps they should forfeit their children’s tax credits. The rest of society should not have to continually pay the price for bad parenting.

And so it goes.

Fitchburg Parents Need To Be Held Accountable For “Many Weapons Stored Haphazardly Around The House”

I strongly suspect we all took in a deep breath of air in sadness and shock when hearing the news of the shooting death of an 11-year-old child in Fitchburg. I just know many eyes welled up when the newscasts on television aired the sweet photo of Carolanah Schenk who died at a local hospital after the shooting.

No one needs this blogger to underscore the gravity of the shooting, or the sadness that envelops that family, the school where Carolanah and her 15 year-old-brother who was the shooter attended, or the larger community who also grieves over this latest act of gun violence.

I posted a pointed question on Twitter upon learning that a teenager had been involved with the gun.

How does a 15-year-old get their hands on a gun? The question should not seem quaint or silly, as we must stop being desensitized to gun violence and ask basic questions.

Saturday morning the Wisconsin State Journal reported in a front-page above-the-fold story the latest developments. It paints a picture that constitutes not only context to what happened in that Fitchburg home, but also shines a light on what is the case in too many homes where guns and children are in close proximity.

Assistant District Attorney John Rome said the shooting, which occurred around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at an apartment in the 5100 block of Curry Court in Fitchburg, happened after the boy believed he had emptied a gun of its ammunition. But a bullet was still in the chamber when the gun went off. The gun, Rome said, was a “ghost gun,” a gun with no serial number made largely from 3D-printed polymer parts.

Rome said the gun was being stored near a couch in the living room. The boy told police, Rome said, that he had removed the gun’s magazine and was putting the gun down on a table when it went off and struck his sister.

Police searched the apartment and noticed there were “many weapons stored haphazardly around the house,” Rome said. “Some of the guns were secured. Some were not.”

Rome asked that the boy remain in custody because he poses a risk of harm to others. He also questioned whether there was adequate supervision at home. He said police have found Snapchat photos of the boy posing with a gun, including on the day of the shooting, when a photo showed him “pointing a gun that looks realistic at the victim’s head while she was asleep.”

This is not the first time, and sadly not the last, when I will need to post about how children get deadly weapons to ‘play with’ or use to shoot something or someone.

But there is another hard truth that must be addressed.

This blog has repeatedly stated that parents of young people who use guns to shoot, kill, and create violence need to be held accountable. There is no way that any sane person can say parental/adult actions, such as with this shooting, should not be addressed by a law that makes sure there is a responsibility shared by those who help to foster the violent outcomes.

The NRA has plenty of responsibility for the number of guns in our society, and the ease with which anyone can get a deadly weapon.  But when it comes to children with guns there also has to be a question asked…..are the parent(s) or adults making sure all deadly guns in the home are locked up?

At the end of the day maybe this is just another indicator that America is indeed in decline. Because if we can not control gun violence in our own homes we are certainly not going to be able to deal with other larger and more complex matters that face our country.

And so it goes.

Wisconsin Guns, Chicago Crimes

Gun violence in Chicago is often the topic of headlines around the nation. Too often Monday morning newscasts will report on the number of shootings and homicides from the weekend. Even more tragic to learn are the reports which deal with children in the city who are struck by bullets and killed. We do not know the kids personally, but such news rips at us deeply.

Chicago, often based on such news, gets a negative backhand from many who hear of the gun violence tallies. But the Windy City is, of course, not alone in dealing with the gun culture that has totally gotten out of hand. In Philadelphia, as an example, officials are fearing this could be the deadliest year in the city’s history.

But while learning of what is happening in Chicago neighborhoods there must also be an awareness of how Wisconsin plays a role in that gun violence. Recently data was examined which connects the dots of a Glock stolen from a smashed glass case in Superior, Wisconsin, to its recovery during a street stop in Chicago. 

The movement of guns from Wisconsin to Chicago, and the tragic outcomes caused by such weapons, has triggered a likely journalism prize-worthy series in the Chicago Tribune. It truly deserves attention from Wisconsin residents as we are clearly part of the problem.

It was a few hours past midnight on New Year’s Day 2016, a time when the working-class northern Wisconsin town of Superior keeps the bars open especially late.

Police were tied up with two bar fights, one of them a 30-person brawl at a local saloon called the Ugly Stick.

With no cops in sight, the burglar was ready to make his move on Superior Shooters Supply, a gun shop frequented by hunters and hobbyists.

It was just 12 days later, authorities believewhen one of those (stolen) pistols was fired from a car in the southbound lanes of the Chicago Skyway around 97th Street, killing a 25-year-old road manager for a rap group who was driving his new BMW coupe.

The ease with which anyone with a disturbed mind or cruel intentions can make entrance to gun stores and steal deadly armaments is very concerning. In the above robbery, the store owner in Superior noted that the handguns were “stolen from one of her glass display cases”.

The consequences of such brazen thefts are noted in the data.

Guns that end up on Chicago’s streets often come from Indiana and Wisconsin. In 2019, of more than 11,000 guns confiscated by Illinois authorities, 460 were traced back to Wisconsin, which ranked third for states with the most gun traces outside of Illinois, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

We need to re-examine the issues at play that allow for hundreds of guns to leave our state and cause injury and death. Wisconsin needs to implement stricter standards for gun dealers. The reason why is most obvious. 

At the present time, ATF does recommend that all commercial dealers install an alarm system, high-definition security cameras with audio, place bars on all windows, plus sturdy doors with multiple locks at each entrance.

But that is not enough.  Advising such common-sense recommendations is far different from demanding under law the stores act responsibly.  So let us be clear as to what Wisconsin should require.

Simply put, all gun stores need to place all firearms in a safe or vault after business hours to prevent theft.  I also have long felt that these stores would be best served with burglar alarms connected directly to the local police department. These ideas would in no way impede on those who seek to buy and own guns but would make those who sell weapons more responsible members of society.  If stores do not abide we then need to hold gun store owners accountable for shoddy security practices.

Chicago records show that aside from the above Glock linked to 27 shootings in Chicago, the three other guns from that one burglary were tied to more shootings in the city, striking at least 10 people and killing one of them.

In one case a 9 mm Glock 26 was confiscated by Chicago police from a teenager six months after the break-in, and in another, a 9 mm Glock was linked to the shootings of at least eight people including the slaying of Elliott Brown and wounding of his girlfriend.

The burglary at the Wisconsin shop was another episode in what police said is an established connection between Chicago and towns along the western tip of Lake Superior. Drugs often move north from Chicago, officials said, and sometimes firearms head south.

The reasons for the epidemic of gun crimes have long been studied. At this time in the nation, there is a soaring number of gun sales, the ever-more harsh political rhetoric against gun-control measures, and a deep distrust among some towards law enforcement. The list of contributing factors also includes economic forces which ramped up during the COVID crisis, and the long-running federal drug policy which desperately calls for reform.

Stealing deadly weapons from a gun store is also a proven problem which demands a public policy solution.

And so it goes.

Choices in Life: Former Madison Resident Took The Wrong Path, In Vehicle When Police Officer Killed

There are many times we can ponder a newspaper story and try to walk backwards from the events in the article. Whatever the article is reporting we can try to consider what might have happened if one of the subjects in the story had taken only one alternate path in life.

Such was the case this week regarding the tragic shooting of two police officers in Chicago. One of them, 29-year-old officer Ella French was killed almost instantly. The other officer remains in critical condition at the time of this posting.

Emonte Morgan, 21, pulled the trigger last weekend and for all practical purposes ended his life, too. He will spend the rest of his life in prison as a result of first-degree murder. Of a police officer. Perhaps two.

Alongside the shooter was his brother. They were both seated in a vehicle during a traffic stop. Eric Morgan, 22, had resided in Madison until 2018, He is now facing a raft of criminal charges ranging from unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon with a prior conviction, and obstruction of justice.

The gun that was used for the Chicago murder was bought by Jamel Danzy, from Indiana, in what is termed a ‘straw purchase’. Such gun sales are a topic that concerns all those who understand the need for better gun control laws.

In such a transaction paperwork is used with lying on a form so to buy a gun for someone who could make the purchase themselves. And it comes with some irony, too. Straw purchasers have clean criminal records by nature, as that is the point since they are the front person in such crimes. They use their clean records to commit a crime.

Danzy, used his clean public record to so violate federal firearm laws and gain the purchase of a weapon for a felon. A judge released him from custody with a slap on his wrist, terms that included a $4,500 unsecured bond, and supervision by court personnel. During this process, it was reported Danzy admitted he also purchased a gun for his cousin, who he knew was a convicted felon.

So many stand-up characters in this news story.

But is it Eric Morgan my mind keeps returning to, again and again.

Eric Morgan was sentenced in Dane County to three years of probation in June 2019 after pleading guilty to theft as a party to a crime. He was skirting so close to real legal pitfalls and potential problems that would surely pull him down if he did not take corrective measures. Yes, he was initially arrested for armed robbery, and that is a most serious matter, indeed.

But he was young, the world awaited with promises of better days and success if he chose to track in that direction. Was there no one who sternly took his arm and had that ‘come to Jesus’ meeting where it was spelled out in stark terms that the end of the dangerous and reckless behavior had to occur? No one with the force of character or the means to force some changes?

How did Eric wind up alongside someone with a gun that should never have been obtained and then used to kill a police officer, and shoot another one?

We all know in any life there are off-ramps, course changes that can be taken. How is it that this young man did not take any, or have a guiding hand of an adult to prod him–or otherwise–down a new path? There were clear reasons to have headed to the side of the road, and take the turn to something better in life.

That did not happen. It is very sad.

8-Year-Old: “It Was My Second Shooting”

There comes a time in life when it seems nothing can possibly take you aback, stun, or hit way down deep when watching the news. After the past number of years that is certainly how I feel when reading the newspaper or watching the news. But the words from an 8-year-old girl on the CBS News Monday night did what I thought no longer possible.

It made me cringe.

And then remark, “she is just a child!”

Faris Nunn was sitting at the third baseline with her parents and younger brother watching the Nationals play baseball in our nation’s Capital. In that all-American setting, shots blasted the Saturday night serenity. It was after the chaos had settled that she was met by reporters and stated what happened, and how she felt.

“I saw people looking that way. And I didn’t know what was going on until I heard someone say get out, so I just started going under the seat,” Nunn said.

When asked how she was feeling through all of that, she said: “It was my second shooting. So I was kind of prepared … because I always am expecting something to happen.”

The gut-wrenching ease and honesty which Nunn spoke to reporters should unnerve us all.

Too many adults sit back and allow for gun violence to continue in this nation—crimes that are impacting the time young people are to be enjoying childhood. By not calling elected officials, gathering with other like-minded citizens, and demanding gun control measures be enacted we undermine the time young people should have for childhood.

Nunn and all her fellow children should never need to be ” expecting something to happen”. Other than perhaps an ice-cream truck selling a cold delight on a summer day.

I have been dulled, like many others in this land, to the daily news accounts of gun violence. The sincerity of the words from Nunn, however, makes me most aware as to why we must not lose our way in the demands for gun control laws.

And so it goes.

Gun Sales Surge, Murder Rate Up 25%, Biden Takes Action

The news from this gun-soaked nation continues to be alarming.

Though overall crime was down last year, according to FBI data, the murder rate rose about 25 percent and violent crime about 3 percent. Based on the data that has been collected President Biden will impose one slice of a solution this week.

Sturm, Ruger a leading gun manufacturer, reported a 50% spike in quarterly sales and more than doubled its profit, continuing its frenetic sales surge during the coronavirus pandemic. These types of staggering sales are being reported by all the gun manufacturers.

Sadly, there is no government or national database of gun sales, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation keeps track of pre-sale background checks, an indicator that’s been soaring to record highs.

We are aware that more than 2 million of the March background checks were for new gun purchases, according to the National Shooting Sports Federation, the firearms industry trade group that compares FBI background check numbers with actual sales data to determine its sales figures. About 40% of buyers in early 2020 were first-time buyers, according to this foundation.

If there is any ray of sunshine to this madness it is the degree to which a provision of the background check is working.

The number of people stopped from buying guns through the U.S. background check system hit an all-time high of more than 300,000 last year amid a surge of firearm sales, according to new records obtained by the group Everytown for Gun Safety.

The FBI numbers provided to The Associated Press show the background checks blocked nearly twice as many gun sales in 2020 as in the year before. About 42% of those denials were because the would-be buyers had felony convictions on their records.

The Biden Administration has been stymied by the NRA-bought Congress, but will seek to effect change in another manner.

Biden will direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to seek to revoke licenses from gun sellers the first time they are caught willfully selling a weapon to a person who is not permitted to have one, neglecting to run a required background check or ignoring a federal request to provide trace information about a weapon used in a crime. The policy attacks a source of crime guns, which in some instances can be traced to sloppy or irresponsible dealers, experts say.

The type of gun business Biden is talking about could have applied to the one in West Milwaukee that created a plethora of news stories years ago. The business had operated under the names of Badger Guns & Ammo, Badger Outdoors, and Badger Guns. Federal investigators repeatedly found violations at the gun store.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2009 on the highly troubling impact of this one gun store on the larger community.

Badger Guns, and its predecessor, Badger Outdoors, have accounted for roughly one-third of all crime guns traced by Milwaukee police in the past four years, the data shows. No other store in the state comes close to that figure. The next closest, The Shooters Shop in West Allis, accounted for less than 3% of guns traced by Milwaukee police during the same period.

A total of 1,880 crime guns recovered in Milwaukee were linked to Badger between January 2006 and Sept. 1 – or more than one a day, according to a Journal Sentinel analysis.

During the 11-week operation, Milwaukee police:

• Discovered felons use Badger’s shooting range for target practice. In one case, store employees rented a gun to a felon to shoot. Another felon had a shooting “range pass card” in his pocket showing he had shot at Badger previously. Store employees check driver’s licenses but not criminal histories of shooters.

• Seized 12 guns from felons and others leaving the store. They arrested nine felons for possessing guns, seven for carrying a concealed weapon and four on drug charges. Eight people have been charged so far as a result of the sweep.

• Spotted felons frequently going in the store or waiting outside. Felons are banned from possessing guns, but probation agents do not routinely require felons to stay out of gun stores such as Badger. Police and prosecutors say that should change.

Police Chief Edward Flynn said he learned how many guns from Badger were ending up in violent crimes when he became chief nearly two years ago. After the officers were shot, Flynn ordered up a plan to target illegal gun buys at Badger.

I am very glad that Biden will use the power granted to him and work within that framework to impact the gun epidemic in this nation. The danger to the larger society from the guns and their violent owners need to be corralled.