Commentary

American gun killers: Doing a far better job than ISIS or Al Qaeda could ever dream of

Gun-violenceAmerican gun violence — that is to say, domestic murders carried about by Americans using killing machines manufactured. sold and delivered by rapacious corporations abetted by lackey apologists at the NRA and other extremist groups — are occurring with such frequency that we, literally, can’t keep up.

A visit this morning to the website of the good folks at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence reveals the following front page message:

Our Hearts are in Kalamazo

Kalamazoo, Michigan is the latest city in America to experience the shock and horror of senseless gun violence.  On Saturday, February 20th, a 45-year old man went on a rampage killing six innocent people and seriously wounding two others.

Once again we find ourselves facing tragedy.  Since the start of the New Year there have been 42 mass shootings. We are determined to stop this from becoming the new normal.

The devastation inflicted upon this community is tragic and the lives of the victim’s families have been shattered.  We vow to stand in solidarity with Kalamazoo against gun violence and demand that our lawmakers do more to keep our communities safe.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this senseless act of violence. We pledge to take action to #preventgunviolence in their names.

But, of course, the Kalamazoo Uber driver shooting spree is now ancient history as it was almost six whole days ago. Today, our hearts are actually in Hesston, Kansas after another horrific mass shooting.

And what, you may ask, is the response to this insanity from conservative political leaders across the country? In a word, “nonsense.”

At the national level, the GOP presidential contenders are worried about building a wall to keep “terrorists” out. Earth to Trump, Cruz, Rubio, et al: The terrorists are already here. They’ve already perpetrated 40+ mass shootings in 2016 alone! Neither ISIS nor AL Qaeda could ever dream of such success.

Meanwhile, here in North Carolina, our pathetic and cowardly political leadership says it will likely call a special session of the General Assembly to “protect” and assure the “safety” of average North Carolinians from…wait for it…transgender people who want to use public restrooms! These are the same people who just spent vast amounts of precious lawmaking time last year making killing machines even more accessible than they already were.

One truly couldn’t make such an absurd situation up.

Commentary

Terrorism comes to North Carolina

Gun-violenceIt may not meet the definition typically associated with the word these days, but there should be no mistake that “terrorism” came to Lumberton, North Carolina yesterday.

Amazingly, however, it barely made a ripple in the news cycle. Raleigh’s News & Observer devoted all of a 130 words in a few buried paragraphs from A.P. to the genuine horror:

A 3-year-old boy has died after accidentally shooting himself with a handgun he found behind the counter of his father’s Lumberton convenience store.

Police Capt. Terry Parker told local media outlets that officers were called to the store around 11 a.m. Sunday.

Parker said the boy was at the store with his father, Manal Abdelziz of Laurinburg. The boy’s name was not released.

Parker said the boy found the gun under the cash register. He said the father’s attention had been diverted momentarily.

The boy was taken to Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton where he was pronounced dead.

Parker said the Robeson County District Attorney’s Office will decide whether charges are filed. It is illegal to have an unsecured gun in the presence of a child.”

Now, just imagine what the news coverage would have looked like if the child had been killed by someone who met the usual definition of “terrorist” — especially a “foreign terrorist.” There would be people in the street demanding vengeance, missile attacks, strategic bombings and perhaps even a declaration of war.

But, of course, here’s the remarkable truth: Since the end of the September 11 attacks in 2001, roughly 400 Americans have been killed in “terrorist” attacks. (The number balloons, of course, to 3,400 or so if you include the 9-11 horrors.)

During that same period, the number of Americans killed by gun violence is well north of 400,000. That’s more than 133 September 11 attacks! There were 372 “mass shootings” and 64 school shootings in the U.S. in 2015 alone. Gun murders in the U.S. occur at 30 times the rate in the United Kingdom.

Talk about terror. If Osama bin Laden were alive today, he’d no doubt be smiling at these data and the fact that American gun manufacturers and their apologists are taking on so much of the task he had assigned to himself and his followers.

Commentary

Greensboro columnist looks at whether NC is a terrorist hotbed

Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record adds his name this morning to the growing list of observers who have detected a hard and unpleasant truth about terrorists and North Carolina — namely, we’re just as likely to produce them as import them from elsewhere. Here’s Clark:

“Our ugly secret is out.

‘Forget Syria. The most dangerous religious extremists are migrants from North and South Carolina,’ a headline in the online magazine Slate proclaimed Monday.

Author William Saletan noticed a pattern with the arrest of Robert Lewis Dear, the alleged gunman responsible for last week’s shootings at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic. Dear lived in the North Carolina mountains before moving west.

‘For two decades, the Tar Heel State has been a hotbed of religious extremism, fueled by clerics who preach holy war,’ Saletan wrote. ‘The result is a stream of interstate terrorism.’”

Clark goes on to point out that Saletan’s list of North Carolina grown terrorists is actually incomplete, leaving out as it does, the 1979 Klan murderers in Greensboro. But Clark also pivots from this observation to raise a larger and more important point:

“Do these examples prove Saletan’s premise that North Carolina is a ‘hotbed of religious extremism’? No. I don’t think significantly more of these dangerous extremists have come from North Carolina than from other Southern states. I also don’t consider these people to be “religious,” no matter what they might claim. They certainly aren’t all Christian….

Yet Saletan is making a larger point. North Carolina political leaders almost universally reacted to last month’s Paris terrorist attacks by calling for the government to stop the Syrian refugee program until assurances are made that no terrorists will get into the country and our state by that route.

Yet these examples show there are very dangerous people already here — apart from the routine criminals, of whom there are far too many.

Read more

Commentary

Greensboro Thanksgiving event defends refugees, hopefully shames politicians

The Greensboro News & Record has a worth-your-while, front page article this morning about a special kind of Thanksgiving event that took place last night. Here’s the lead:

“What happens when there are more people than chairs at the Thanksgiving table?

In most large families, people just eat standing up. Or they sit in chairs along the wall.

That’s what happened Monday night, as a large and nontraditional ‘family’ held a combination multicultural Thanksgiving dinner and news conference to support Syrian refugees.

About 350 people — elected officials, immigrants and aid workers — showed up for the celebration, where organizers had set places for 250.

No one cared. The evening was more about the message that came before the meal: All refugees, including Syrian refugees, should feel welcome here.

Speakers said America has a moral imperative not to turn them away — as the nation did to about 900 Jewish refugees trying to enter the country on the S.S. St. Louis in 1939.”

Let’s hope that, in addition to bolstering those in attendance, the event went at least a little way toward melting the icy heart of Congressman Mark Walker. This is also from the article:

“Before dinner, representatives from the group held a press conference in which they urged elected officials not to curtail Syrian refugees coming into the community.

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (R-6th) briefly attended the event. Earlier Monday, Walker held his own press conference in which he defended his recent vote to add extra screening requirements for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Several speakers briefly noted his presence at the celebration. The crowd gave unenthusiastic applause to Walker, who appeared uncomfortable at times. He left before the press conference ended.

Speaker Zane Kuseybi, a Syrian-American who is hosting a family of refugees, told Walker from the podium that he is ‘disappointed by your vote.’”

Cong. Mark WalkerWalker (pictured at left) deserves at least some credit for showing up last night, but his public stance on the issue has been as abysmal as most other prominent politicians in the state — a fact made all the more notable by the fact that Walker was only recently elected to office following a career as a Christian minister.

Let’s hope last night’s event forced Walker to think a little harder than he has been about the issue. As one of the speakers told him last night with respect to proposals to deny entrance to Syrian refugees:

“We want you to be the one official out of everyone who says, ‘No, that’s not the right thing to do.’”

Sometimes leadership on issue comes from unusual places. Maybe Congressman Walker will seize the opportunity to provide it here. Click here to read the entire article.

Commentary

Syrian refugees should find a home in NC

The parent organization of N.C. Policy Watch, the North Carolina Justice Center, issued the following statement today in response to Gov. McCrory’s announcement yesterday that he would oppose Syrian refugees coming to North Carolina:

Statement from the NC Justice Center: Syrian refugees should find home in NC

Times of great human tragedy are a moral test for all of us. Currently, thousands of Syrians are fleeing terror and violence from their war-torn home country. They want what we all want: a safe place to rebuild their lives. A home where their children don’t have to fear the constant threat of violence.

A few of these families have received refuge in our state. Every North Carolinian should be proud of this: it stands in the American tradition of accepting the tired, poor, huddled masses who yearn for nothing more than to breathe free.

There are many reasons, practical and otherwise, to be disappointed in Gov. Pat McCrory’s decision to oppose settling Syrian refugees in North Carolina. It ignores our constitutional system, where the federal government sets immigration and refugee policy. It also sends all the wrong signals — both to refugees here, and to people overseas who may perceive this move as hostility toward helping Muslims, even those in the most desperate of situations.

The savage acts of terror in Paris require a determined and vigorous international response. We grieve for the loss of innocent lives, and fight back our nation and the world must. But the enemy is not the Syrian refugee families and their children, struggling for a peaceful life. In fact, the terrorists caused these Syrian refugees to flee their homes in the first place. If we refuse to provide them a new, safe life and opportunity, we add only to their misery, do nothing to enhance our own security, and turn probable friends into possible future foes. We can fight terror without turning our back on our values and constitutional principles. If we turn our back on those values, the terrorists win in a different way.

When we think of how to handle tragedies like this one, we should imagine our own relatives in the position of the refugees. For many of us in this nation of immigrants, this is not especially hard: a few generations ago, it was our relatives in this position.

Like our relatives of a generation or two ago, today’s refugees just need shelter from the storm. They will find it in a place where they can settle, find work, prosper and contribute. Let this place be our nation. Let this place be our state.