I will be lecturing and holding a signing at the Shepard's Center in Richmond on November 5th from 11:00 to 12:00. This week I will be concentrating on Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo E. Powell having broken the law in handling the appeal of the jury verdict in the Pryde and Peterson lawsuit against Virginia Tech.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
It is hard to sit by while ego-centric, virtuous Virginia lawyers distort the truth about the judicial and legal systems in the Old Dominion. Here is my letter to the editor in response to one:
I am responding to an Irvington lawyer’s 29 October Open Letter to the citizens of Lancaster County criticizing a candidate for Commonwealth’s Attorney.
He wrote he “cares deeply about the integrity of our courts” and by inference the judicial system. If so, he would not have turned his back on the family of a Virginia school-shooting victim.
Following the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law, we sought legal council to answer questions such as why did the school president reject female faculty members request for campus security saying, “Oh you women and your hormones, it will be ok, nothing will happen.”
Within weeks, three were killed and three wounded. We wanted to know why the mother of our oldest grandchild was allowed to bleed to death when the hospital was less than 10 minutes away driving 30 m.p.h.
In a phone conversation, the Irvington lawyer disregarded my questions.
We found a Maryland lawyer, but his colleagues warned him not to take the case because the Virginia Bar might call the Maryland Bar suggesting it is time to make life difficult for him.
In the research for my books on the Virginia school shootings I have found little dignity in the Virginia legal or judicial systems. I found lawyers from the Virginia Attorney General’s office who told parents of the dead Virginia Tech students that unless they settled with the state, the hospital bills of the wounded would not be paid.
I found a Virginia Supreme Court Justice introduced false evidence into the decision reversing a lower court’s jury verdict--apparently in order to protect the Virginia Tech police chief. The introduction of any false evidence violates the law.
The Irvington lawyer’s words ring hollow for those of us who have dealt with the Virginia legal system.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
A critical part of the multifaceted approach needed to solve this nation’s gun violence—particularly school shootings—is greater emphasis on mental health care.
Unfortunately, The National Review could not resist distorting the facts and demonizing those with whom they disagree. In a recent editorial the magazine wrote, “The common thread in these tragedies is not the killer’s choice of weapons, but his unhinged state of mind.” That is true, right on National Review! It would sound as if the influential conservative magazine is throwing its editorial weight behind expanding and improving mental health care.
Unfortunately that’s not the case.
The magazine could not resist lambasting liberals. The next sentence reads, “Liberals pushed the ‘deinstitutionalization’ movement of the 1960s that made it almost impossible to keep mentally ill people safely locked up.” The National Review is distorting the facts. Large state and federal run mental health facilities existed well into the 1980s.
Both liberals and conservatives played roles in closing mental health facilities—a policy that has had led to the plummeting of mental health care.
New Jersey and Virginia, the two states I am familiar with, have closed mental health hospitals with disastrous results. Both states have privatized mental health care and the result has been a marked decline in the quality and amount of mental health treatment.
What a shame a major national magazine couldn’t resist trying to score points on the bodies of students, staff, and faculty.
In the final analysis, we don’t need to waste time and energy arguing whose fault it is that our mental health care system is underfunded and so woefully inadequate.
We need to stop blaming each other for past mistakes and turn our attention to the gun violence crisis.
We need liberals and conservatives to stop pointing fingers at each other and come together in the common cause of ending the epidemic of school shootings.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The November-December 2015 issue of Mother Jones has a lengthy article analyzing school shootings. The magazine article contains some interesting and valuable investigative journalism. Perhaps the most disturbing is the copycat effect of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s rampage in the section entitled The Columbine Effect. Here are some of the statistics:
The overall death toll in the 51 attacks was 89; the number wounded was 126; 9 shooters committed suicide.
Males made up 94% of the plotters.
Males made up 94% of the plotters.
The average age of the killers or would-be killers was 17.
In 12 of the cases, the plotters goal was to surpass the Columbine body count.
Fourteen of the attacks were planned for the anniversary of Columbine.
Fourteen of the attacks were planned for the anniversary of Columbine.
Friday, October 9, 2015
For 13 years I have been analyzing and writing about mass shootings; for 13 years I have been hitting my head against a stonewall.
Mass slaughter on school grounds, in theaters, in churches, and in shopping malls may be the most serious and complex problem in this nation’s history. Solving the problem will take careful and deliberate thought, but thinking is hard work, that is why so few people do it. Those few who do propose actions are met with a fusillade of reasons why their ideas won’t work.
Misguided Second Amendment proponents come up with an endless list of reasons as to why this or that proposal is bad, why this or that proposal violates individual rights. Second Amendment proponents are people you go to when you want to be told, “This or that idea is no good” or “that violates the Constitution.” They have no ideas or counter proposals, all they have is criticism. The main staple of their vocabulary is “no.”
We, as a nation, seem paralyzed. Every time legislation is proposed, Second Amendment advocates decry it as a violation of Constitutional rights to bear arms. Nowhere do they mention the Constitutional rights of the dead and wounded victims.
The Constitution was written when mussel-loading muskets were the firearm of the day. The founding fathers did not imagine rapid-fire assault weapons. There were no six-chamber pistols, nor were there AK-47s. There were no multi-bullet magazines that mow down or wound large numbers of people in just a few minutes.
The problem of gun violence in this country has reach epidemic proportions and it is getting worse. From Columbine, to Grundy, to Blacksburg, to Aurora, to Charleston, to Roseburg, to Northern Arizona on it goes. The bodies are piled higher and higher, and we take no action to end the carnage.
There is no easy solution. The causes are numerous: lack of mental health care, failure to recognize these shootings are a male-related crisis (97% of the mass shootings are done by males), no universal background checks for people buying guns, and politicians who have sold out to gun manufactures and the NRA.
The sharp rise in gun violence can be pinpointed to the states’ cutting back mental health care services and facilities. In many instances people who are a threat to themselves or others have no place to go. In Virginia the mental health care system is so dysfunctional that when state Senator Creigh Deeds tried to get his son committed for treatment, he was told there was no bed available. In fact beds were available. Within 24 hours of being denied treatment, Deed’s son seriously wounded his father and then killed himself.
There are no cheap fixes to the problem of gun violence. It will take time and money—lots of both. It will take mandatory background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those who are a threat to themselves and others as well as terrorists, domestic abusers, and convicted felons. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that any of these groups has a right to own and keep firearms.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
I will give two lectures on Virginia Tech shooting and hold book signings at the Shepard's Center Open University in Richmond, Va. The first is October 29th and the second is November 5th. Both are at the First Presbyterian Church, 4602 Cary Street. Both will be from 11:00 a.m. until noon. You can call for more information at (804) 355-7282.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Just when you think the gun manufacturers and National Rifle Association (NRA) have sunk about as low as they can go, they come up with something even more outrageous: Make victims families pay court costs of any legal action.
The gun makers and NRA have long engaged in nefarious lobbying activity that has undercut public safety, now they have persuaded politicians to adopt laws making the victims of gun violence pay the legal fees for challenging their sacrosanct position in society.
In September 2014, the Brady Center announced a lawsuit on behalf of Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, accusing Web site companies of negligence for selling weapons to the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter, James Holmes. The Phillips daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the shooting. The lawsuit charges the companies with negligence for selling weaponry (including ammunition, body armor, tear gas and other equipment used in this assault) to someone as obviously unstable as Holmes. Holmes ended up killing 12 and wounding 70 others on July 20, 2012.
Senior U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch of the District of Colorado dismissed Sandy and Lonnie Phillips’ suit against four Web sites because Colorado and federal laws shield firearms and ammunition sellers from liability based on a customer’s wrongful acts. Phillips et al. v. Lucky Gunner LLC et al., No. 14–cv–02822, 2015 WL 1499382 (D. Colo. Mar. 27, 2015).
Both federal and Colorado laws protect gun makers and sellers from being held responsible for selling arms to people who are a danger to themselves and others, but Colorado has taken this outrage a step further, requiring plaintiffs to pay the court costs.
Lucky Gunner and Sportsman Guide (two of the companies selling to Holmes) have already filed motions for $220,000 in legal costs. According to press reports, another arms dealer, BTP Arms, wants another $33,000. BTP Arms request will probably fail because the law does not cover the two tear gas grenades Holmes bought from BTP Arms or the four pieces of body armor from bulletproofbodyarmorhq.com.
The Phillips lawsuit underscores not only this country’s lax gun laws, but the fact that U.S. laws protect gun makers and sellers, the average citizen has virtually no recourse against weapons manufacturers or the gun lobby.