Letters to the Editor: Umpqua Community College shootings

For Oct. 7

I feel devastated as I sit down — once again — to write a letter about guns in this country.

The shooting in Umpqua, in which at least ten people died, was the 295th mass shooting in the U.S. this year. A mass shooting is defined as one in which four or more people were shot, but not necessarily killed.

The tragic event Thursday was also the 142nd shooting event in schools or colleges since the Sandy Hook tragedy less than three years ago.

In total, about 10,000 Americans are murdered with guns every year. That adds up to almost 30 people per day, and does not include suicide deaths.

Surprisingly, membership in the National Rifle Association soared 62 percent after Sandy Hook, as American re-asserted their right to bear arms. Our founding fathers could never have even imagined the havoc that would be wreaked on American citizens as a result of that outdated second amendment.

NRA executive pay and bonuses run into the millions. That’s before taxes, of course, but the NRA is a non-profit organization that does not pay taxes. Total revenue earned by the NRA in 2013 was a third of a billion dollars. Their CEO, Wayne Lapierre, earned a million dollars last year.

It seems to me that the more Americans slaughter each other with guns, the more profit the NRA collects! It’s time to pull their teeth. Let people keep their hunting rifles and small arms. But let’s get those semiautomatics off our streets and campuses. When is enough enough?

Data gathered from Marketwatch.

Wendy Best, Parkdale

I wish I could forget December 14, 2012. What happened that Friday, as staff and students at Whitson Elementary looked forward to Christmas vacation, returns to me each time I hear of another school shooting.

Privately the news circulated among the staff. There had been another shooting. This time 20 children and six adults were fatally shot, with one shocking difference. It was in an elementary school: Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn.

I remember having conversations with staff members throughout that day. We shared our shock and disbelief and then returned to our classrooms, intent on shielding our students from the horrendous news of the day that we knew would seep into their lives soon enough.

In the following week, I sat at my computer, drawn to the articles that offered details of why or how such an act could happen. None of the details made sense of it, but I kept reading, hoping to find something that would relieve my despair. Instead of finding solace, I wept. I read the accounts of the teachers who gave their lives for their young students, who tried unsuccessfully to shield and protect them, who quieted their classes as they hid in closets while hearing the surrounding gunfire, who did their best to calm and soothe the frightened children in their care. I wept for their unbelievable bravery, both the staff and the children. I wept wondering if I’d be brave enough to do the same. It was heartbreaking and it remains so today.

Our country is saddled with an undeniable epidemic that continues to take the lives of children in our schools. We should be outraged that schools in America, which are diligently working to provide an exemplary education for all students, now need to include the protection of children’s lives from threat of attack as part of their daily responsibilities. There are no simple solutions to the problem of gun violence in our country. I suggest we remember the painful heartbreak and sorrow, use it as a catalyst for change, work relentlessly to find answers and demand that our elected officials do the same.

Michelle Mayfield, White Salmon

Last week, an alleged mentally ill man slaughtered students and a teacher at Umpqua Community College. On one side, there’s cries for more gun control; on the other, cries for better access to mental health facilities.

Five or so years ago, Mercy Hospital in Roseburg closed its mental health unit due to lack of funding. It was the only unit in Douglas County with the possible exception of the Vets Hospital. Douglas County is nearly broke and didn’t support its indigent citizens who needed mental health resources. It’s the same all over our state, a dramatic lack of funding for mental health. There’s also the poor to non-existent civil commitment laws which prevent doctors from sheltering those who need to be off the street. Add all that to a society that insists on allowing nearly anyone to possess, buy and sell all the weapons they want and you have a problem.

There is no silver bullet or panacea for this, just us re-examining what we’re doing and finding better solutions.

Rob Brostoff, Cascade Locks

If guns make us safer, the US should be the safest country on the planet, says an Internet meme that is painfully funny because it’s not true. The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. It also has one of the highest rates of gun death per capita, according to a statistical study in Business Insider. Only Mexico is higher. Yet every time there is a mass shooting, firearms and ammunition sales go up, lip service is paid to poor surviving families, outrage is tracked and rebutted, and nothing happens to change this trajectory.

Meanwhile, events are becoming more frequent.

Oregon is once again famous for a mass shooting. I am angry that so little is being legislated to counteract this threat, while an industry-funded lobby, which has less to do with hunting and more to do with sales, smothers my voice. More U.S. citizens have died through gun violence than lost their lives in 9/11. While there is no quick fix to this seemingly endemic American problem, we must take steps yesterday to reduce the likelihood that mentally unbalanced gunmen can murder so many innocents on their way to media fame and the grave.

I have looked at my Republican representative’s records and find them sadly lacking. Some examples according to votesmart.org are: Chuck Thomsen voted no to prohibiting weapons on school grounds and the bill failed 14-15. He also voted against Oregon’s new background check law, as did Mark Johnson, according to NRA-ILA. Greg Walden voted twice to prohibit the District of Columbia from implementing firearms restrictions, and voted to decrease waiting period for a background check from 3 days to 1. Other countries have legislated gun restrictions that have reduced gun violence. We need to do the same.

Jennifer Ouzounian, Hood River

Echoing Kirby’s opinion piece: Since assassins crave publicity, here’s how to slow down and hopefully stop mass shootings. The media should not mention the name, show the photo, or give the history of the fame-seeking killer. No name, no picture, no history … less incentive to load and reload.

Bill Davis, Hood River

I can no longer watch the morning news. Friday morning I was on the verge of tears during updates on Thursday’s events in Roseburg. We are no longer surprised to hear such stories. The location changes but not the details. I am suddenly reminded of the daily body counts broadcast from Viet Nam in the 1960s. I don’t know how we can stop this from happening and that saddens me all the more. Increased background checks are a start, if the gun lobby will admit saving just one life is worth the inconvenience to law-abiding citizens. Those will not protect us from spree killers who steal the guns they use, nor people whose mental health issues have never been documented. The authorities always want to know, “Why?” The answer to that question will not make sense in most of these cases. I don’t know how we can stop this trend.

Please join me in the search for a solution and intercede if you think someone you know is headed down that path.

Tom Hart, Hood River

So for the 294th time this year, this country will bear witness to the senseless slaughter of innocent human beings by an insane individual with guns. The merchants of death will tell us this would never happen if everyone was armed to the teeth and wearing flack jackets. This would be an extremely profitable for them, but I’m not sure that most of us would care to live a “World of Warcraft” existence.

If the horrors we have already experienced are not enough to bring about sensible gun laws, then I don’t see them ever happening, at least not until the metal detectors and armed guards are removed from the halls of Congress and the Supreme Court.

I’ve been thinking about what we can do now to change things and I think there is something. The thing that all of these twisted individuals from the, to me, nameless and faceless individual who shot President Kennedy to the nut job de jour in Roseburg is they all want to be recognized in the full glory of the horror they create. This is something we do have the power to deny them. We can choose on our own not to read or repeat their names, look at pictures of their faces, or read their insane writings and web postings. We could decide collectively to not publish these things, to take possession of their remains and inter them in an unknown desolate place in a crypt with the simple nameless carved word “COWARD.” We could take their writing, possessions, and posting on a thumb drive and toss them in their casket with them. We can choose not to watch the tape loop and to not listen to the pointless prurient news content.

I believe we can properly grieve the victims of these events, hold them in the light of our hearts and prayers without acknowledging the dark void that sucked their lives away. They are where the energy and focus of our attention should reside.

Ben Seagraves, Hood River

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