Sunday, January 26, 2014

Another weekend, another mall shooting

This one was in Maryland, as the Baltimore Sun reports: Jean Marbella et al, 19-year-old identified as gunman in Columbia mall shooting 01/26/2014. In this case, the shooter attacked and killed a man and a women that he apparently did not know personally and then killed himself:

Police still did not release a possible motive of the gunman, who was found just outside the store on the mall's second floor above the food court. Police K-9 units were going to search the entire mall overnight, police said.

"We have not been able to verify any type of relationship between him and our victims," Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon said, adding that police are still actively looking for connections and a motive. Aguilar lived near victim, Benlolo, but McMahon didn't know if they knew each other.

Surveillance video showed that Aguilar arrived at the mall at about 10:15 a.m. in a cab and walked into the upstairs entrance near the mall carousel. He then walked downstairs before he came back upstairs. Police report shots fired about an hour after he arrived.
The killer was not using a semiautomatic assault rifle, often the weapon of choice in public mass shootings. He was armed with a shotgun and two crude bombs, according to the Sun's report.

After I saw the first stories about the shooting, I posted this little rant on Facebook:

Maybe malls and grocery stores and churches and schools and movie theaters and political rallies in public and stuff are just becoming quaint relics of the past. As long as the only freedom that matters is the freedom of anyone to get guns of all kinds and ammunition for them and to carry them around loaded anywhere and everywhere is the only freedom that matters, we'll all just have to adjust. We can do shopping and church and school classes all online so that the NSA can keep a permanent record of even more of our lives. And of course there's homeschooling, which I guess can function if you teach the third graders to all shoot immediately at any stranger who wanders in or the homeschoolers can all afford teams of armed guards around the house. Freedom isn't free, I guess. Yeah, I know, massive gun proliferation has nothing at all to do with events like this, but there sure seem to be an awful lot of people making Bad Choices to gun down people in public places these days.

I actually do wonder if the number of mass-murder attacks in public against strangers using semiautomatic assault weapons will start to affect retail zoning and architecture.

Obviously real and exaggerated fears of drugs and violence have affected how many schools are run since a while, so that in some places we actually have a school-to-jail pipeline going. As horrible as they are, mass public shootings are still rare enough occurrences that most people on a given day could rationally assume there won't be somebody at church or the mall that will kill them at random. Being a victim of a regular mugging is statistically far more likely.

Yet the very same thing is true about terrorist attacks. And since 2001, we've made the War On Terror central to US foreign policy, we've had two full-blown wars and are sending Special Forces to dozens of countries over it, and we have increasingly militarized urban police forces to the point that even small cities are buying combat vehicles that they will almost surely never have any real use for.

So there really could be some point where significant numbers of customers start factoring into their shopping habits the idea that a traditional shopping district along a city street is a less inviting target for people looking to celebrate the second half of the 2nd Amendment by staging a mass murder than a mall would be, because they don't produce the same kind of crowds in as much of a closed space as a mall does.

I don't know if that's really true about street shopping districts being less conducive to mass murder attempts. But people don't make entirely rational calculations about these things.

There has been a tendency in many states to re-urbanization, in which there has been a tendency to move from suburbs to cities. And this has affected the popularity of "big box" stores, whose "natural" environment is suburban shopping centers with enormous parking lots. This was a factor in the demise of the Borders bookstore chain.

I can picture a concern over mass-casualty attacks contributing in some way to a move away from big box stores and malls more toward street shopping districts. With this kind of gun violence, we have several reinforcing trends that are in many states making mass-casualty attacks in public spaces. We have a successful gun lobby that has made the American manufacture of semiautomatic assault weapons legal. And a firearms industry whose largest profit margins come from that type of weapon and the various kinds of bling that are available as accessories to them.

One consequence of the end of the federal assault-weapons ban during the Cheney-Bush Administration has been that American arms manufacturers have been able to sell massive quantities of guns to Mexican drug cartels. This isn't legal, but with current loophole-ridden laws and the impediments to the enforcement of even those, it can be and is accomplished in practice through straw buyers in the United States.

Only in the propaganda of gun proliferation advocates like the NRA does flooding an area with weapons not contribute to violence. In parts of Mexico, it's not an exaggeration to talk about the development of failed-state conditions, in no small part due to massive gun proliferation. In the Mexican state of Guerrero, vigilante law-enforcement groups have apparently established themselves as law-enforcement bodies in some towns against violent drug gangs as a result of the failure of established government institutions to adequately deal with the problem. (Grupos de autodefensa toman ocho comunidades en México Público/EFE 25.01.2014) The effective loss of what is somewhat imprecisely called a "monopoly of violence by the state" is a hallmark of the failed-state condition.

Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur report on that story in Armed Vigilantes vs Drug Cartels In Mexico - It's Bad And Getting Worse The Young Turks 01/18/2014:

That's not the case in the United States. But it is the condition that the NRA and other gun-nut groups advocate as an ideal, without of course calling it a "failed state" situation. But these groups literally propagate the idea that having at least every adult, and not just adults, carrying around loaded guns all the time would be good thing. To pretty much anyone who is able to process that kind of talk as more than a tribal identifier for "conservative," that condition would be identical to "urgent reason to move" or even "urgent reason to emigrate to a less dangerous country."

We also have the Republican Party and its associated media supporters from FOX News and the hate radio network passively accepting and often amplifying the gun proliferators' messages, which also include the encouragement of reckless behavior: carrying around loaded guns; showing up at political rallies with assault weapons displayed, including showing up with them at anti-gun proliferation events to intimidate the participants; bragging about the guns they own (in normal life, it's an invitation to burglary to shoot off your mouth about the guns you keep at home because guns are relatively easy and profitable to fence); weakening the laws against murder, e.g., the Stand Your Ground/Kill At Will laws.

Charlie Pierce in Florida's Nutty New Gun Law Esquire Politics Blog 01/21/2014 reports on how the NRA is pushing for Florida to weaken its laws against using guns to commit felonies. Something to recall whenever NRA spokesmen say that we don't need new gun laws, we just need to enforce the ones on the books.

Pierce also often comments in relation to the far right and to mass shootings of the supposedly "lone nut" variety that we have a lot of people in the US lighting a lot of fuses right now.

Many weapon choices are available legally for gun collectors and aspiring mass murderers. This Guns and Ammo video helpfully notes for potential buyers of the Ruger SR-762 that "it's not designed to be a hunting rifle, it's not really designed to be a bench rifle, it's designed for the tactical market, you know, battle rifle."


No comments: