Tag Archives: Virginia Tech

There should be no debate: we need to talk about guns

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The AR-15 used by the Parkland school shooter is widely available

This past Wednesday was marked by the convergence of a number of happenings on the same day. Lovers and wannabe’s were celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Western Christianity was marking the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. And at camps in Florida and Arizona, many Major League Baseball teams were opening their spring training.

But for many in America, those happenings were overshadowed by one of the worst school shootings in history which took place at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

A former student, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz, entered the school with an AR-15 in the middle of the afternoon and proceeded to murder 17, including three faculty members and 14 students. Numerous others were injured, many remaining hospitalized today.

Per a piece by Bart Jansen at USA Today, Cruz legally purchased the weapon himself in 2017.

“Cruz lawfully bought the semiautomatic rifle last February, according to Peter Forcelli, special agent in charge of the Miami office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The gun, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223, was purchased at Sunrise Tactical Supply, according to the Associated Press. Federal law allows people 18 and older to legally purchase long guns, including this kind of assault weapon. With no criminal record, Cruz cleared an instant background check via the FBI criminal database.”

In the immediate aftermath, a number of students and others came forward making statements that they were not surprised if such a thing were to happen, that Cruz would be the attacker.

At least three students made reports regarding Cruz to adminstrators at the school, per Max Greenwood for The Hill. According to that report, the attack may have at least partially been set off by jealousy and a fight over an ex-girlfriend.

Cruz’ mother had died back in November, his father years ago. The couple who took him in at the urging of their own son stated per a piece by Katherine Lam for Fox News that, though they knew he was depressed, they never saw this type of outcome.

“We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know,” Kimberly Snead, 49, said. “We didn’t see this side of him.” James Snead, 48, added that he and his wife didn’t know what “everything, everybody seems to know.” “Everything everybody seems to know, we didn’t know,” Snead said. “It’s as simple as that.”

That is actually not very unusual, as Erica Goode, a visiting professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, wrote in a piece for The New York Times.

“Tony Beliz, a consultant to schools and corporations on violence prevention who for many years ran the mental health side of the Los Angeles program, which was started by the Los Angeles Police Department, has noted that parents often have no idea what their children are up to. In more than a few cases, a team visiting a home has found weapons or other indications of deadly intention.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had received a tip regarding Cruz nearly six weeks prior to the shooting. You’ve heard of the public “See Something, Say Something” campaign, perhaps? Well, someone saw something and said something. And the FBI dropped the ball.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) made this very observation as related in a Kyle Feldscher piece for the Washington Examiner:

“We all say if you see something, say something. And Parkland community, we saw people reporting, there were 20 calls to the sheriff’s department, they responded. The FBI received a legitimate, credible tip and it was not followed up upon. What we have seen in three major atrocities is that the system that was in place simply was not followed.”

The FBI had also received a tip on Cruz as far back as last September that the disturbed man had made a threat via YouTube. This per a piece at Townhall by Matt Vespa:

“They knew, folks. The FBI knew and didn’t follow proper protocols on a tip about Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in the recent high school shooting in Florida. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the bureau was still investigating this matter, along with reviewing the processes in which such information from citizens offering tips are analyzed.”


Within hours of the shooting, the usual political battle lines were being drawn. Gun control advocates lined up on one side. Those supporting the 2nd Amendment lined up on the other.

Fingers were pointed in many directions. Of course, liberals pointed at President Trump and the Republican controlled U.S. Congress, demanding that “something needs to be done!” 

Of course, these liberals had no such questions for former President Barack Obama, who had a Democratic Party controlled congress for two full years and never even looked at the issue.

We really need to do a better job at making sure we have strong gun laws in every state in the country, because we are losing our most valuable resource, which is our children, said Jeremy I. Stein, the executive director of CT Against Gun Violence, a nonprofit advocacy group per Lisa W. Foderaro and Kristin Hussey for The New York Times.

I’m a conservative Republican, and unashamedly so. My fallback position is usually to rally around any Republican politician or position that comes under attack. There are many reasons for this, all of which any supporter of any candidate or political party can understand.

However, on this one, I am lost. I worked in law enforcement for nearly three decades. I saw firsthand the devastation that violence on the streets, gun and otherwise, has on our communities.

I am also a gun owner. But I am one who has never been a major public advocate for any particular interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. I believe that individual gun ownership is important. I believe that our Founding Fathers created the amendment for vital reasons.

But, and this is a big “but”, I don’t necessarily believe that every American has the right to keep and bear any weapon that they wish in their homes. I shouldn’t be allowed to have a working cannon in my backyard. Certainly most would agree that individual citizens shouldn’t have a working nuclear ICBM in their backyard.

So where are the limits on what you should own as an individual? Should there be any limits whatsoever? The common sense answer is obvious. 

So now comes the difficult part: what are those limits? Despite the wishes of some on the very far Left, individual citizen gun ownership is here to stay in America. Gnash your teeth all you want, that will never change. Not without a major battle. And I’m not talking just a political or philosophical battle either.

If we are to allow certain high-powered weapons to be owned by individuals, what exactly are the limitations? What, if any, investigations of and controls should there be on individuals who wish to purchase and own these weapons? How should the weapons be handled once an approved owner passes away?

There are many legitimate questions raised by what happened in Parkland this past week. Of course, those questions were also raised many times previously. Most Americans are familiar with what took place at Columbine, Nickel Mines, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, among others.



Fact is, we need to have a national discussion. We need to have it without pointing fingers at politicians and parties. We need to have it regarding every issue surrounding guns: mental health, crime, personal, home, and business security, etc.

I have heard gun owners say things along the lines of “I laid my gun down on the ground and told it took go kill somebody. It just laid there.” These things are said to support the position that guns don’t kill people, that people kill people.

This is very true. People have been killing people since the dawn of mankind. Rocks. Sticks. Fire. Knives. Swords. Bombs. Guns. Nukes. Not only that, but men will continue to kill men. If you take away every lawfully owned gun in America, that will remain the case.

It is also true that a great many murders by firearm are committed by people who did not lawfully purchase the weapon that they used. Criminals will indeed continue to find a way to purchase ‘black market’ firearms if we took them all away.

No, the answer is absolutely not to end lawful gun ownership in America. But there does need to be a better answer for the survivors of Parkland.

What can be done to make it much more difficult to have a repeat anywhere in the country of what happened at their school this past week?

I’ve seen others write pieces that include checklists of things that could allegedly solve the problem. I don’t provide such lists or answers here because frankly, I don’t know the answers. I do believe there are many components, and that the guns themselves are but one.

Despite what some on the far Left have stated, despite what a few emotional Parkland students blurted out this week, prayer is indeed an important component of what needs to be done. We do need to pray for the souls lost, for the ultimate recovery of the survivors, and for our nation as we wrestle with these issues.

We need to talk about the violence that we expose our children to at younger and younger ages in the “entertainment” media. We need to talk about the stability of the American family. We need to talk about mental health care. There are many other issues involved in seriously addressing this problem.

We desperately need to have the conversations. Our politicians need to have them, both among one another and with their constituents. Individuals need to have the conversations with one another, among families and friends.

Most importantly, we need to find a way to have these conversations civilly and realistically. If we cannot find a way to do that, then all that will happen in the end will be the usual nothing. If we continue to make this a partisan political issue on both sides, then nothing will change.



No matter what, there will be more school shootings in America as we move forward. There will be more shootings, period. There will be beatings, and stabbings, and explosions. That will be the case no matter what we do. 

But the idea of the necessary national conversation was expressed eloquently by Jody L. Modeira as published at The Hill:

“Our growing reluctance to talk about firearms and firearm violence doesn’t respect the Second Amendment; it turns it into a club used to bully others into silence and submission. This is the opposite of what the Second Amendment is intended to be — the constitutional provision that, as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia put it in District of Columbia v. Heller, has “protected the rights of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”

We need to talk. We must be able to find a way to make the Parkland’s, the Columbine’s, and the Sandy Hook’s more difficult, and even more rare than they are already. About that, there should be no debate. 

Let’s talk. Not shout one another down. Let’s open our ears, minds, and hearts. Let’s not be afraid to start the conversation. As with most things, we may not end up with everything we want. But together for once, let’s come up with some answers.

Innocence Lost at Sandy Hook

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Flowers placed near Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut

 

The little children of Sandy Hook are angels, as you can see from this picture. It was taken in May of 2011 at the Great Pootatuck Duck Race, just as thousands of yellow plastic rubber duckies were dumped into the Pootatuck River and began their journey along the waterway.

It is exactly the type of event which is a hallmark of the idyllic village of Newtown, Connecticut. The town has been home over the years to celebrities such as athlete Bruce Jenner, actor Anthony Edwards, and “Hunger Games” author Suzanne Collins.

The thought that any of the cherubic faces above may have been attending kindergarten today inside of Sandy Hook Elementary School is heartbreaking. That is because today, the light inside twenty of these innocents was snuffed out when unthinkable horror and evil visited the school.

The son of one of the teacher’s at the school entered her classroom today and massacred the children she had taught. In all, 18 innocent children died in that little classroom. Two more survived initially, were rushed to a nearby hospital, but succumbed to their injuries.

So, in all, 20 innocent children who had not even yet begun their lives, had nothing to do with the shooter, who posed him no threat, who had no knowledge of his existence were dead at his demented hands.

These were, perhaps, the most horrific, but not the only victims. In all, at least six teachers, the 20 children, and the gunman himself were killed at the school.

A few more bodies have turned up at remote locations, including the parents of the shooter at two separate locations. Another brother may be a victim or in some way involved. Authorities are still trying to sort through the madness now, hours later.

This is the second most deadly shooting massacre in American history, behind only the 32 dead at Virginia Tech in April of 2007.

Combined with the shootings inside a movie theater complex in Aurora, Colorado just last month in which a dozen were killed, and two more murdered in a madman’s rampage at a Portland, Oregon area mall earlier this week, it has been a particularly tragic holiday season.

The gun violence which plagues many large American cities has been growing and become almost an expected fact of life in places such as my own home town of Philadelphia. Here, hundreds are killed every single year, and the murder rate is up 23% over last year. Directly across the river from Philly, in crime-ravaged Camden, New Jersey, the murder rate is four times higher than our own violent city.

As much as we don’t like it, as much as it remains a tragedy, the fact remains that such violence has become an expected occurrence in a place as big as Philadelphia.

Not so in places like Sandy Hook. There, it has always been rubber ducky races in the spring, cookouts and baseball in the summer, cheerleading and football in the fall, and then times such as right now, Christmas time for the town.

The peace and joy of the season for the town of Sandy Hook and all their neighbors in the Newtown community, including 20 little children and their families, has been forever destroyed.

There will be no Christmas this year. There will be no more innocence. And there will be no sufficient answer to the question of “Why?

Perhaps just as importantly, there is no answer to the question of “Where will it happen next?” or “How do we stop this from ever happening again?

The fact of the matter is that evil has existed since the time of Satan’s rebellion, and it will continue to exist as long as mankind is in charge of the earth. We are left to pray for as much peace as possible, and to mourn.

Michael Vick Deserves a 2nd Chance

It was one week ago that the Philadelphia sports scene was thrown into a tizzy when the Eagles stole the headlines from the world champion Phillies, not with their efforts on the field in their first exhibition game, but off the field with the signing of quarterback Michael Vick.

For anyone who has been living in a cave during this past week, let’s catch you up on the Vick story.

He first burst on to the scene a decade ago when as a freshman quarterback at Virginia Tech he finished 3rd in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Following his sophomore college season he was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. Over the next six seasons, Vick grew into one of the most dangerous rushing quarterbacks in NFL history, and took the Falcons to the playoffs twice.

Vick became a major sports celebrity for his on-field excitement, but it was something that he was involved with off the field that would define the last few years. It came to light that Vick was not only involved directly in, but was also the financial backer for a major dogfighting operation. The losing dogs in the already vicious fights would usually be tortured and/or executed, often by brutal methods. Vick took an active role in this illegal and immoral activity.

In August of 2007, Vick plead guilty to federal charges that had been brought against him for the dogfighting operation. He was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. He was sued by the Falcons, and a court eventually ruled that he had to repay $20 million dollars in bonus money, some of which Vick had used to help finance the dogfighting. He went on to serve a year and a half in prison, then another couple of months under house arrest, and has filed for bankruptcy.

So a week ago when the Eagles announced the signing of Michael Vick, it wasn’t only an announcement of the signing of a new player, but it was an announcement of the signing of a man who had become a social pariah in recent years. A man who was considered by many to be an outcast from society. Cruel, sadistic, manipulative, and even downright evil.

This was a surprise on a number of counts. First, the talks between Vick and various members of the Eagles operation had been going on for days, perhaps even weeks, with no one in the media having even a hint that it was happening. And second, the Birds have always been considered one of the NFL’s more squeaky clean organizations, with coach Andy Reid in particular as one who did not tolerate bad behavior from players.

Fan and media reaction was immediate and intense. There were cries from fans stating that they would never again support the team. There were charges from radio talking heads that the Eagles had “gone crazy” and that the team was “forcing this on the fans” who now had to choose between loyalty to their longtime beloved team and their own moral convictions.

However, these were just a little more than half of the fan base speaking. About half of the people questioned on the subject believed that Vick deserved, in the spirit that everyone deserves, a second chance. This was my initial reaction, but I wanted to wait a little while until things settled down, and I had an opportunity to listen to others and also assess my own feelings a little more deeply.

For anyone who cares, here is how I see the Michael Vick situation.

I think that every person does indeed deserve that second chance, an opportunity to redeem themselves after a fall. I have personally committed actions during my own lifetime for which I have asked for and received that second chance. In fact, when examining your own lives, every single person reading this has needed or wanted a second chance at some point.

Now, having said that everyone deserves one, does that include Michael Vick? Of course it does. In saying that Vick deserves a second chance, does that mean that what he did wasn’t heinous? Of course not, it most certainly was. Does it mean that I think what he did was right? Obviously not. Does it mean that we simply wipe the slate fully clean and forget what happened? Can’t be done.

Does it mean that he gets away with it? Of course not, Vick served real prison time, lost a financial fortune, lost his personal and professional reputation. His name is now “Mudd” in as strong a way as anyone who has ever worn that label. Face it, Michael Vick has paid a price for what he did. What some people still need to reconcile with is how much punishment is enough, and are there some things in which he should never again participate?

Don’t try to sell me on the worn-out idea that pro athletes are supposed to be ‘role models’ in any way. A role model is supposed to be someone who you look up to, on whom you may even try to pattern your own life direction, who provides you with inspiration. As responsible parents, we should be directing our children towards appropriate role models, not allowing them to drift towards slackers and criminals.

Now it’s possible, likely even, that Michael Vick may indeed have become a role model for some youth of America due to his early career exploits and style. These young people likely would have had no idea of his off-field problematic behaviors, they just loved the player that they saw every Sunday on the field. For these individuals, the ultimate negative situations that Vick found himself in have valuable lessons that can be learned.

I believe that ultimately it is too important an idea to surrender, that idea of recovery, of restitution, of rehabilitation, of revival. I also believe that punishments should fit the crime, and in relation to this incident, I believe that a dog’s life is not as important as a human beings life. I own a dog. I really enjoy my dog. He has been a major part of our home life for the past decade. But he is simply not as important as my wife, or my kids, or my grand kids. Period.

To me, that bottom line difference means that a man should not be sent to jail for life, or be executed, for a crime such as that committed by Michael Vick. I think that all of the punishment that he has been through already fits his particular crime.

So now it comes down to a pair of questions: should Vick be allowed to return to pro football, and if so, should the Philadelphia Eagles be the team that signs him? To the first I say that he should be allowed to return. His crime was not against football directly. He did not bet on the game, or throw the outcome of a game. He is not the first NFL player to spend time in jail and then return to the league.

An electrician, or a plumber, or a lawyer, or a politician would expect to return to work following a drunk driving episode. It happens every day. Vick is a pro football player, he should have the opportunity to return to his profession, if he will be allowed to do so by the league, and if a team will have him.

For any number of reasons, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to give him an opportunity with their organization. For my money from his perspective, there probably is not a better team that he could have that opportunity with than the Birds. He can be mentored, on and off the field, by a true leader in Donovan McNabb. He will be held accountable from here on out by an owner in Jeffrey Lurie and a coach in Andy Reid who will accept no slip ups, and who in fact will expect not only his best behavior, but also will watch for his acts of restitution.

I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and I will obviously remain one. I don’t see me being ‘forced’ into anything by the team. I can support them or not, on various levels with my time and money. I choose to support them. I don’t believe that Michael Vick will get a ton of opportunities as the team’s quarterback, so I believe that the chance that I will have to root for him directly is small. If that time should indeed come, I will root for and cheer the result of any play that helps the Eagles win their games.

And as for Michael Vick, I will hope that he turns his life around. I hope that he truly grows to fully understand the depth of how wrong his previous actions were. I hope that he does everything in his power and then some to make amends to the community of his fellow man by donating time, money, and publicity towards the humane treatment of pets with the SPCA, the Humane Society, and other similar groups. And I hope that from this point forward he commits no further crimes or acts of cruelty.

If he should fail in some way, especially publicly, it will be he who is lessened for that failure, not us for giving him a chance. As a human being who has sinned and fallen and paid a large penalty, he deserves that second chance in my opinion, and I for one am glad that it was my Philadelphia Eagles who are giving it to him.

Radical Islam at Virginia Tech?

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Makeshift memorial to the victims at Virginia Tech University

 

Ismael Ax walked his demented soul out into the quiet early-morning peace of his residence hall at Virginia Tech University. It was just after 7:00 am on Tuesday morning, April 19th, 2007. But that peace which surrounded him was about to be shattered by the evil raging in his own personal hell.

He was about to transfer all that evil into a terror attack of historic proportions. Just a few hours later, 33 people would lie dead at his hand. Many others were injured, and thousands of lives were forever changed.

News reports have and likely will continue to refer to the killer by his legal given name of Cho Seung-Hui. They will refer to him as a student at Virginia Tech who was “disturbed” and that there were “warning signs” preceding the attacks.

But that is not how he wanted to be remembered. A now-infamous explanatory letter sent to NBC news was signed “Ismael Ax” by the killer himself.

Why, considering the climate in the world since the overt terrorist attacks around the world over the last decade, would this demented soul not sign his name, and instead choose one with an obvious Muslim connotation?

Is there any reason to believe that this attack was not just a random one by a single disturbed individual, but instead is yet another example of radical Islam rearing its ugly head?

The name he chose, Ismael, is a uniquely Arabic spelling for the grandson of Abraham, the son of Isaac, who became father to all the Arab peoples, just as Jacob/Israel became the father of all the Hebraic (Jewish and Christian) peoples.

These attacks occurred on Holocaust Remembrance Day. One of the professor’s who was killed is a Jewish holocaust survivor. The killer has at least one tattoo in Arabic writing. These are only the beginnings of the potential radical Islamic ties.

The killer’s father lived in Saudi Arabia as a young man. His sister works for a contractor to the State Department that controls billions of dollars worth of aid to Iraq.

The killer wrote what he considered “plays”, the contents of which are now available on the internet. These were rants regarding what he sees as American and western decadence in which he takes swipes at institutions as varied as McDonald’s, the NFL, and the Catholic Church.

Finally, his family had settled in Fairfax County, Virginia. The town is home also to a 29-year old Virginia Tech graduate student from South Korea named Yong Ki Kwon, recently convicted of terrorism as one of the “paintball jihadis”, a group which practiced massacres with their paintball guns.

Fairfax County…Virginia Tech…South Korean…terrorism…jihad…coincidences all?

Taking all the “coincidences” listed here individually might be considered by some as playing into the concept of a “six degrees of separation” game between every major incident that occurs and radical Islamic terrorism. As a law enforcement professional, it is my opinion that taken together they add up more closely to the concept of “probable cause.”

The FBI and other investigators are no doubt beginning to look into these ties. There is reportedly much more on the tapes and in the personal writings of Ismael Ax than has been released to the public at this stage.

My guess is that we will learn much more in the coming days and weeks that will thrust the issue of radical Islam and it’s involvement as either a direct or indirect cause of this attack into the public debate.

One fact that is not up for debate is that once again sin as evil has reared it’s ugly head, whether or not it has once again taken one of it’s more favored recent forms of radical islam or not.

Paul in his letter to the Romans spoke of sin:

When I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self. But I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

The Reverend Billy Graham wrote in his work “Angels” referring to Lucifer, originally one of the greatest of all angels, the Angel of Light:

Lucifer became Satan, the devil, the author of all sin; and it is sin that has always deceived, disturbed, betrayed, depraved and destroyed all that it has touched…Satan and his demons are known by the discord they promote, the wars they start, the hatred they engender, the murders they initiate, the opposition to God and His commandments. They are dedicated to the spirit of destruction.”

This “spirit of destruction” is everywhere you look on the news today. It can be found particularly in the results of the most recent work of sin in the life of a man who called himself Ismael Ax.

This particular sinner was obviously a disturbed and depraved individual, yet another tool chosen by Satan to use as a destroyer of human beings.

Radical Islam is the root cause of much sin, and of many recent terror attacks. We may soon learn that it once again has reared its ugly head, this time on the campus of Virginia Tech in the form of Ismael Ax.