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.

Editorial Cartoons About Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict

The power of these editorial cartoons is obvious. The messages are correctly drawn and presented.

Fallout From Kyle Rittenhouse Verdict, Kenosha Has Race And Vilgante Problems

It was a stunning verdict, at least for the ones still grounded in logic, common sense, and legal reasoning.

A jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse on all counts after deliberating for nearly three and a half days. Jurors in the horrific case found that the then 17-year-old was not guilty of homicide, attempted homicide, or any other charges related to the August 2020 bloodshed and violence in Kenosha.

Much has been written about the foundations Rittenhouse started from that allowed for the teenager to drop out of school, have access to deadly weapons, and clearly not have the reasoning capabilities that many teenage males have at that age. After all, what must have been playing out in Rittenhouse’s thinking process to consider it was a good idea to carry an AR-15 into a city where massive protests were ongoing? Even a weeks-long trial with high-priced defense lawyers could not make that action seem sane to the viewers tuning in around the nation.

Much will be said about the outcome of the trial, the actions of the judge, and yes, the often poorly played hand of the prosecution team. But as civilized citizens, we must accept the verdict, even if we vehemently disagree with it.

As this chapter of Rittenhouse’s life turns a page (pun intended) it seems appropriate to consider another part of this larger story. A part that will find it much harder to pretend everything is back to normal.

I refer to the City of Kenosha.

What started this protracted and bloody story was the afternoon Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times in Kenosha by a police officer. From that event, we have followed the sadness, anger, simmering resentments, misunderstandings, along with an overall sense of utter frustration that is understandable from within the Black community.   

At the time of the multiple shots fired at Blake, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said the police shooting “wasn’t an accident”.

“This wasn’t bad police work. This felt like some sort of vendetta taken out on a member of our community.”

Barnes was correct, as what happened looked like something a rigged police system in some third-rate country would use on some political dissidents.  At the time I stated that It was a ghastly crime that these officers will need to be charged with and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

We know that did not happen as Kenosha officials announced that the officers involved in the shooting would not be charged.

Now, this morning vigilantism was given an absolute pass by a Kenosha jury in the Rittenhouse killings.

The racial split in Kenosha has not mended, and it will be asked in the days to come as a result of today’s verdict, how it is a community can not render appropriate justice for the violent crimes that have consumed it. They seem not to even try.

Meanwhile, the nation is watching Kenosha and asking lots of appropriate questions.

I wonder what the verdict would be in the #RittenhouseTrial if the defendant were a Black seventeen-year-old from another state who killed two people with an illegal assault weapon?” legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin tweeted.

That question just got more biting in light of the verdict.

Meanwhile, at city hall, the question to ponder in light of the events since August 2020 is what new business would wish to locate to a place that defines itself with such low standards?

And so it goes.

Why Did No One Get Kyle Rittenhouse Needed Counseling Before Killings In Kenosha?

Though lawyers have a job to do in making a case for a defendant does not mean that the rest of us need to fall for the twisted concoctions crafted for the courtroom. This week we will read and hear many news accounts about the life and times of Kyle Rittenhouse. A jury will weigh the evidence and render a decision.

And because we hold firm to the belief in the wisdom of a jury we will accept the verdict, regardless of how this trial ends. I certainly have a viewpoint based on logic and morality, but while the jury is hearing the case will not get ahead of their work.

Rather it seems like a good time to ask a question that will likely not make its way into the hearing range of the jury.

How is it that a teenager can exhibit behavior that calls out for help and yet it seems none was offered? How is a teenager allowed to drop out of school, get drawn into a mindset where dressing up like a police officer seems normal, have access to an assault weapon, and smile for photos showcasing this type of behavior?

Granted, in retrospect following the news that Rittenhouse killed two people that behavior is most noticeable. But certainly, those closest to him in the family, or as neighbors, school personnel, even a single friend who witnessed this up close could have spoken out. This behavior did not occur in a vacuum and it needs to be asked why no one pulled the alarm bell when it could have made a difference?

I readily admit, and happily so, that my teenage experiences were vastly different from the defendant on trial in Kenosha this week. I have thought a great deal over the months about the average teenager and how they navigate those years in our current environment. I know it is not easy.

I have watched kids in my neighborhood growing up, head off to college, and am aware of some of the valleys and mountains in that journey. I know of parents who have assisted their child to get counseling so to address issues that need to be dealt with so as to become a sturdy adult. I have offered my personal support and encouragement on that path.

But as I have read about Rittenhouse the environment he grew up in seems almost alien.

My dad drove me each week to the public library in our small town of 500 people for books. It is reported that Rittenhouse’s mother drove her underage son across state lines to a city that was in the midst of protests and violence. Add in the mix an assault weapon and one has to ask how could this scenario not have ended in any other way than bloodshed for Rittenhouse?

As I said, it is hard to grasp the life Rittenhouse led up to his pulling the trigger in Kenosha. But I suggest we need to think about it.

As I have thought more and more about Rittenhouse since last August I have not softened my view on what he did. It was outrageous. I have, however, found myself feeling sorry about his home life. Had there been solid leadership employed he would have been required to stay in high school. There would have been an expectation of receiving counseling for whatever was triggering his fondness for, and reliance on, the imagery of power and strength emanating from law enforcement.

The cast is molded for Rittenhouse. The jury will make their decision in about two weeks.

Parents, friends, and school officials, however, know of other young males who could use guidance, support, strong steering in the correct direction, and the firmness and resolve from an adult that can shape a person to take the path Rittenhouse did not. It seems this trial can be more than passing judgment on this one teenager, and perhaps greatly assist the lives of others. That is my strong hope.

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.