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    Friday, September 22, 2023

    There’s no place like America for gun violence

    It was perfectly legal for the racist killer of three Black people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday to buy and possess the Glock handgun and AR-15-style rifle he used in the shootings, officials said.

    A laptop belonging to Ryan Christopher Palmeter, the white 21-year-old killer, was filled with racist screeds. Officials said he had been briefly held for an involuntary psychiatric evaluation in 2017.

    Two days before the Jacksonville massacre, Jason and Melissa Dunham and their three children aged 15, 12 and 9 were found shot to death in their Lake Township, Ohio, home in an apparent murder-suicide. The handgun used in the shooting belonged to Jason Dunham, police said, but it wasn’t yet clear whether he was the shooter. He and his wife both had permits to carry concealed weapons.

    A day before that, retired Ventura police sergeant John Snowling shot his estranged wife and eight other people at Cook’s Corner, a roadhouse in Trabuco Canyon in Orange County. His wife, Marie Snowling, survived but three others died. Police shot the gunman to death. The killer lawfully acquired and possessed the .380 pistol, .38 revolver, .25 pistol and shotgun that were recovered at the scene.

    A few days earlier, Orange County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ferguson pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife, Sheryl Ferguson. He is charged with shooting her to death in their Anaheim Hills home during an argument. His lawyer said it was an accident. Law enforcement officers recovered 47 other weapons and about 26,000 rounds of ammunition from the judge’s home, all of which were apparently acquired and owned lawfully, although one rifle is unaccounted for.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Americans’ right to possess, carry and conceal weapons cannot be curtailed by laws that are not rooted in practices that existed in the late 18th century, when the 2nd Amendment was drafted and ratified. Gun advocates argue that the right to carry weapons makes Americans safer, and that any bad guy with a gun is now more likely to be stopped by a good guy with a gun — someone presumably like an armed parent, retired police officer or judge.

    The targeted racist slayings understandably loomed larger in the news than the family violence. President Joe Biden said, “We must say clearly and forcefully that white supremacy has no place in America.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, said, “Targeting people because of their race has no place in the state of Florida.” Former Vice President Mike Pence, also running for president, said, “There is no place in America for racially inspired violence.”

    They are wrong and they know it. The American people, their politicians, their courts and their culture have made this nation the planet’s preeminent place to target people for death because of their race — or for any other reason, such as their familial relationship, differing beliefs or reasons indiscernible to the rest of us. This country is exactly the place for hateful, murderous, suicidal gun violence, because this is the place for millions upon millions of guns, and the bizarre American delusion that the more of them we have, the safer and freer we are.

    Pence added that his solutions include an “expedited federal death penalty for anyone engaged in a mass shooting.” It’s difficult to grasp how quick executions would alter the behavior of the Jacksonville killer, who shot himself to death. Or whichever member of the Dunham family pulled the trigger, the deranged Ventura cop who died at the scene or the judge who claims to have shot his wife by accident.

    Firearms are the leading cause of death of juveniles in the U.S. Biden recently unveiled a plan to increase access to mental health care, including in schools, in part to address the causes of gun violence.

    The far-right organization called Moms for Liberty said, in effect, don’t you dare. Mental health care “has NO place in public schools,” the group said in a social media post earlier this month.

    At a special session of the Tennessee Legislature called in response to the slaying of three children and three adults at a Nashville elementary school in March, lawmakers last week rejected gun control proposals and instead introduced measures to allow more guns in schools.

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