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Saturday, September 24, 2016


They still believe nothing can be done

by Tom Sullivan

On Saturday morning there is usually time for a thoughtful (I hope) run back through the week's news. But this morning I cannot get a story published this morning out of my mind.

I have long admired the work David Waldman (@KagroX) has done on Twitter in chronicling the sickening, daily litany of accidental shootings (#gunFAIL) in this country. I don't know how he can stand it. Plus, we've seen this week two more shootings of African-American men by police with itchy trigger fingers. What we rarely get is the backstory of victims of the daily carnage of accidental or intentional gun violence in this country.

On Saturday 23 November 2013, ten children across America, all boys, died from gunshots. In an extract at the Guardian from the soon-published "Another Day In The Death Of America," Gary Younge tells the stories of the shooting deaths of two young boys on that day. He picked the day at random.

Seen in the context of the ordinariness of their lives, their stories are heartbreaking. Younge spent two years piecing their stories together from interviews with their families.

Jaiden Dixon, 9, was getting ready to leave for school with his mother Nicole and his older brother when the doorbell rang. He opened it, thinking it was one of the girls down the street who might need a lift:

Jaiden opened the door gingerly, hiding behind it, poised to jump out and shout, “Boo!” when one of the girls showed her face. But nobody stepped forward. Time was suspended as the minor commotion of an unexpected visitor failed to materialise. Nicole craned her neck into the cleft of silence to find out who it was. She looked to Jarid; Jarid shrugged.

Slowly, curiously, Jaiden walked around the door. That’s when Nicole heard the “pop”. Her first thought was, “Why are these girls popping a balloon? What are they trying to do, scare me to death?” But then she saw Jaiden’s head snap back, first once, then twice, before he hit the floor. “It was just real quiet. It was like everything stopped. And I remember staring at Jarid.” She knew what had happened. It was Danny.
A former boyfriend and Jaiden's father, a man with a violent temper and an actual physical list he'd written of people he wanted to kill. He'd come for Nicole, but shot the first person he saw in the doorway before speeding away. He left his son in a pool of blood with a bullet through his skull. Danny Thornton drove 20 minutes away to the workplace of another ex-girlfriend he had not seen in 12 years. He shot her too (she survived) before committing suicide by cop in a Walmart parking lot.

Tyler Dunn, 11, lived in tiny Marlette, population 1,879, in rural Michigan an hour northeast of Flint. He was staying over on Friday night at the house of a friend, "Brandon." Brandon's father Jerry was a truck driver who sometimes took the boys hunting or sometimes take them along on his day-long delivery runs. But this day they decided not to go, and Jerry left them at the house. That evening before Jerry got home, Brandon called 911:
An officer went inside, where he found a lever-action rifle on the kitchen floor and Tyler on the dining-room floor, in a Mountain Dew T-shirt and sweatpants, with a large pool of blood surrounding his head. There was a huge wound on the left side of his head. The policeman found no pulse, called dispatch, and told them Tyler was dead. As he left, he saw a shotgun lying on the living room couch and four holes in the dining-room window.

Nobody but Brandon will ever know for sure what happened that night, Sheriff Biniecki says. Brandon claims they were playing Xbox when he got a rifle out of Jerry’s closet to show Tyler. He asked Tyler to hold it while he went to get his milkshake from the bedroom. He came back and took the rifle from Tyler, who passed it to him butt first, the muzzle pointing in Tyler’s direction. Brandon was resting it against the wall when the gun got caught on his pocket and went off.
The house contained a small arsenal. Both Brandon and his father faced charges, Brandon in juvenile court.

The effects on both families that lost children were devastating.

Younge writes:
This is not a story about gun control. It is a story made possible by the absence of gun control. Americans are no more violent than anybody else. What makes their society more deadly is the widespread availability of firearms. To defend this by way of the second amendment – the right to bear arms – has about the same relevance as seeking to understand the roots of modern terrorism through readings of the Qur’an. To base an argument on an ancient text is effectively to abdicate your responsibility to understand the present. Adopted in 1791, the second amendment states: “A well–regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” These 27 words have been elevated to the level of scripture, inscribed on a blood-soaked pedestal thwarting all debate, more than 200 years after its passing.

None of the family members I spoke to raised the second amendment. Almost all believed guns were too readily available; none believed there was anything that could be done. But when I told them of other families who had lost children that day, they seemed shocked. It was as though they had lost a loved one in a war, unaware that the same war was simultaneously claiming other lives – indeed, unaware that a war was taking place. As though it were happening only to them, when in fact it was happening to America. Every day.
From Newark to San Jose, eight other children (older teens) died that day: killed by a stray bullet, in a drive-by shooting, in a case of mistaken identity, by accident by a friend or in gang violence.

I still find it hard to believe that, days after Terence Crutcher died at the hands of police in Tulsa, Keith Scott would get out of his vehicle – while surrounded by Charlotte police – with a gun in his hand. His wife insists he did not have one. And the casual way it appears police tossed "something" onto the pavement at Scott's feet suggests the something seen in blurry images was not a handgun. But in a country awash with them, it's not surprising police "see" guns everywhere. Of course, there's the 2nd Amendment, so nothing can be done about that.