Saturday, July 25, 2009

NM State Policeman Sgt. Joe Harris Killed in the Line of Duty out of Albuquerque New Mexico reports on the tragic death of one of their State Policemen.

Sgt. Joe Harris was killed during a July 16 stakeout in the Jemez Mountains. State police say the 46-year-old Harris and Deputy Theresa Moriarty were in a cabin when Joseph Henry Burgess, known as the "Cookie Bandit," came through a window.

Burgess was handcuffed after a short scuffle, but state police say he was able to pull a .357 revolver from the small of his back and shoot Harris. The sergeant, despite being wounded, shot and killed Burgess.

It's hard to believe that Harris could have made such a terrible mistake as not disarming the suspect, a mistake that cost him his life as well as that of his prisoner.

An interesting aspect of the story is that the gun was traced.

State police said Thursday that the gun Burgess used belonged to David Eley.

According to the FBI, Eley was reported missing in July of 2006 when his family called authorities concerned they hadn't heard from him.

After the missing person's investigation revealed nothing, it was presumed Eley had died accidentally in the mountains. He and Burgess were frequent visitors to various campgrounds in and around the Jemez Mountains.

Now it is believed that Burgess killed Eley and took his gun. This is not only classic "gun flow," but it illustrates one of the great problems with people arming themselves supposedly for protection. In too many cases these people, who think they're making themselves safer by carrying a gun, are doing a disservice to themselves and to society at large. Many times the criminal ends up with the gun, to everyone's detriment.

I say guns are not the answer, at least not for regular people. There are exceptions, people who are highly trained, or who live or work in remote or dangerous places, of course these people would need serious training too. Shooting a few bullets at a paper target once in a while probably is not sufficient for the average person to benefit from having a gun.

Owning a gun for protection should be the rare exception to the rule, not something recommended for everyone and anyone.

What's your opinion? When we talk about DGUs are we considering all the times the gun is taken away by the criminal and used on the owner? I don't hear much of that, but I'll bet it happens. What kind of training do you think is necessary to make someone a responsible gun owner? Isn't it more than just gun-handling? Isn't there a mental aspect, a psychological makeup that many people just don't have? Considering that they're possibly going to face hardened criminals like Burgess, wouldn't this be an important part of it?

What do you think?

Reluctance to Execute

Pennsylvania AP News posted a fascinating article on the death penalty in their state.

Since the commonwealth reinstated the death penalty in 1978, three inmates have been executed; all had dropped their appeals. At least seven times that number have passed away, most of natural causes such as cancer or heart failure, while awaiting execution, according to an informal Corrections Department tally.

To find a Pennsylvania inmate unwillingly put to death, you have to go back almost half a century to the last use of the electric chair.

There are several possible explanations for this.

"I think it is indicative of a split — people want the death penalty but don't want a lot of executions," said Richard Dieter of the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.

Supporters of the death penalty attribute the recent dearth to resistance in the courts.

"It would be ironic to repeal the death penalty, if the people believe it's an appropriate punishment in a very small number of cases, merely because opponents of the death penalty have tried to frustrate its operation," Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Ronald Eisenberg said.

Opponents take a different view.

Defense attorneys say there's good reason for the modern reluctance, given recent high-profile exonerations of death row inmates. Last year, Nicholas Yarris, freed from Pennsylvania's death row in 2004 after 23 years behind bars on murder and rape convictions, reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the county in which he was prosecuted.

"When you look at some of the people who have been exonerated, it's quite a frightening thing to know that we could have been executing an innocent person," said Charles Cunningham of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. "It's bad enough to put an innocent person in jail, but to take that person's life, it's horrifying."

What's your view? Is the killing of innocent people every once in a while a small price to pay for the great benefits we derive from the death penalty? It's quite similar to the gun question isn't it? About guns we ask, is the gun violence a small price we must pay for the continued right for the vast majority of law-abiding gun owners to exercise their rights? About capital punishment we ask, is the occasional anomaly a small price we must pay for the continued benefits to society of executing these guys? I say "no" and "no." How about you?

Please leave a comment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Gov. Corzine Intends to Trace Guns reports on New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's intentions to trace crime guns.

Gov. Jon Corzine says recent deadly shootings in Jersey City and Newark show "we must do everything in our power" to stem the flow of illegal guns into New Jersey.

Corzine made the remarks Wednesday as he and Attorney General Anne Milgram announced the indictments of 12 people for owning or selling firearms later used in crimes. The governor credited the weapons trafficking charges to a two-year-old federal, state, local gun-tracing partnership.

The shotgun blast that killed Jersey City Detective Marc A. DiNardo came from a weapon stolen in North Carolina and trafficked to New Jersey, authorities say.

In a related matter, Corzine said he would sign a bill limiting handgun purchases to one a month within a week.

Why are pro-gun folks so critical of governors like Corzine? Isn't it perfectly laudable what he wants to do?

What does, "the indictments of 12 people for owning or selling firearms later used in crimes" sound like? Is this an exercise in shared responsibility and an attempt to make those peripherally involved in crime pay for their part? That's what it sounds like to me. And I say it's a sensible approach.

About the one-handgun-a-month law, when we discussed it before none of the comments sounded very convincing to me. Several people mentioned that this is an infringement which goes contrary the 2nd Amendment. But aren't there already any number of "infringements" in place, for example the definition of "arms." Most people accept that it does not include heavy military weapons, missiles and rockets, and such.

Others suggested the problem with a one-gun-a-month law is that this is only the beginning and if we allow this next there'll be a one-gun-a-year law and eventually total confiscation. I say that's paranoid nonsense.

What's your opinion? Do you think with these initiatives New Jersey could improve its ranking in the Brady Campaign list? Currently number 2, I think Gov. Corzine is going for it.

What do you think?

Darryl Thomas Kemp - 3 Times Sentenced to Death

The Los Angeles Times reports on the incredible story of Darryl Thomas Kemp.

July 17, 1959: Darryl Thomas Kemp is linked to the killing of Marjorie Hipperson. He killed again a few months after being paroled in 1978.

Kemp was convicted of murdering Hipperson. The jury found him sane, in spite of tremendous evidence to the contrary, and gave him the death penalty. He was sentenced to death in February 1960.

Almost immediately, he was sent to the State Mental Hospital where he was treated until December 1968. In February 1969, doctors said Kemp had regained his sanity, but before he could be returned to death row, the California Supreme Court was forced to reverse his sentence because of a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court decision on improperly excusing prospective jurors over their views on the death penalty.

In May 1970, jury selection began to determine whether Kemp should once again be given the death penalty. By now, much of the evidence had been destroyed, several witnesses had died or disappeared and some of Kemp's statements were no longer admissible because of the Miranda rights, which had been introduced after he was convicted. Two months later, despite these challenges, Kemp, now 34, was again given the death penalty for killing Hipperson.

Kemp spent two more years on death row. Then in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned California's death penalty. Kemp was among 102 men on death row who became eligible for parole when their sentences were converted to life in prison. He was paroled to Pleasant Hill, Calif., in July 1978.

On Nov. 14, 1978, Armida Wiltsey, the 40-year-old wife of a Kaiser Steel executive, went jogging on a popular trail around the Lafayette Reservoir, off California 24 between Berkeley and Walnut Creek. A search for her began after she failed to pick up her 10-year-old son from school and a police dog found her body about 60 feet off the running path. She had been raped and strangled after putting up a terrific fight, judging by traces of the killer's blood found under her fingernails.

Much later DNA testing would tie him to this killing. In the meantime, Kemp had moved to Austin, Texas, and in 1983, he broke into the home of six university students and raped and choked them, drawing a life sentence.

Brilliant investigative instincts in working the cold case of Armida Wiltsey led to Kemp. He was brought back to California and on Dec. 3, 2008, at the age of 73, Darryl Thomas Kemp was sentenced to die -- for the third time.

Some folks say this case is an argument for the swift execution of convicted killers. Others say very simply, people like Kemp should not be let out of jail.

What's your opinion?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Concealed Carry Reciprosity - Not This Time

The Brady Blog reports on the good news.

The National Rifle Association leadership suffered a major defeat in the U.S. Senate today, losing a key vote on a bill that would have radically weakened rules governing the concealed carrying of firearms around the country.

Gun violence prevention advocates across America worked day and night contacting their Senators, convincing them to defeat the gun lobby's dangerous proposal. Today, all their hard work paid off as Senators voted to protect American communities and reject gun lobby threats.

Considering what's been pointed out many times around here, that the anti-gun movement has no grassroots support, this vote is particularly significant. Maybe now's the time for the gun lovers to really start worrying.

My friend Mud_Rake said it best. "A gun owner in Vermont could carry his weapon onto the streets of New York City because Vermont allows it. The weird world of the wacky right-wing!"

Thank goodness this will not become the law of the land.

After today's victory, I am hopeful that our Congress will begin to address proactive measures to reduce gun violence in this country by doing things like requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, particularly at gun shows.

We've heard a lot about gun rights so far in this Congress. Now is the time to talk about gun responsibilities.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Philadelphia - Man Kills Girlfriend, Police Kill Man

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on a bizarre domestic shooting, and much more.

After mortally wounding his former girlfriend and then confessing that he had caused the deaths of two of his children, the 29-year-old son of a Chester City patrolman was shot and killed by police, Delaware County authorities said yesterday.

Aaron Michael of Chester was killed shortly after midnight outside the house he shared with his father, Officer John Michael, who was away on vacation.

The shooting was the culmination of a deadly series of events that began about 11:30 p.m. Monday, when Aaron Michael confronted Andrea Arrington in Ridley Township. Arrington, the mother of Michael's 2-year-old son, Aaron Jr., had come home from work and was walking on Constitution Avenue to pick up her son from a babysitter.

The story illustrates one of our arguing points: gun availability makes domestic violence deadly. Andrea Arrington had already lost two children in suspicious circumstances, had taken out a restraining order against Michael, and was then confronted by him with a gun. According to Detective Sgt. Scott Willoughby of the Ridley Township police, she was shot 11 times with a .40 caliber handgun and she died later in the hospital. Is such a thing possible? Does it mean he shot her in the legs and arms to torture her? Certainly several bullets in the head or torso would induce quicker death, would they not?

But there's more. The gun belonged to his father.

Michael shot Arrington with a .40-caliber Heckler & Koch semiautomatic pistol that was his father's duty gun, according to Willoughby.

Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green said that the gun Aaron Michael used had been stolen from a locked room inside the home in Chester, but that he wasn't sure it was the father's service gun.

The police officer father, with whom the 29-year-old Michael lived, I suppose due to being estranged from his girlfriend and one living child, was left home alone with a gun inside a "locked room." Does that sound like responsible behaviour to you?

In the end Aaron Michael retreated back to the house, claimed responsibility for the deaths of the other two kids, an ambiguous statement to say the least, and committed what to me seems like suicide by cop.

What's your opinion? Does the fact that Philadelphia has the same kinds of problems as Newark NJ, mean anything as far as the states' respective gun laws are concerned? Often people say the New Jersey violence is proof that gun laws don't work. What about Pennsylvania?

Do you think it was irresponsible for the father to leave such easy access to the gun? Not only the obviously disturbed son was able to get it, but any break-in artist worth his salt would have too. Is that an example of shared responsibility?

If Aaron Michael had not gotten his hands on a gun, do you think he would have beaten his ex-girlfriend to death? He's already been accused of "pushing and choking" her. Did the gun availability make a difference?

Please tell us what you think.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Trouble in Newark - Mayor Booker Speaks Out reports the latest spate of shootings in the frequently beleaguered Newark.

But on Monday, a spasm of violence jolted the city in daylight shootings that took the lives of three people, including a mother of two described by authorities as an innocent bystander. Seven other people were injured in the three episodes of gunfire.

One of two men killed Monday was awaiting trial in a slaying last year but had been freed when his bail was lowered because of a "witness issue," according to Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

Yesterday, Mayor Cory Booker said there is no indication any of Monday's three shootings are related.

Police director Garry McCarthy said there was no evidence of gang involvement, which is interesting. I thought any inner-city shootings were considered gang related.

"There appears to be no common thread except for the proliferation of firearms," he said.

Mayor Booker decried the number of firearms coming through the city and said the flow is driving the violence. He cited one of Monday's shootings in which two brothers fired upon each other.

"It's a great example. They were illegal guns. They didn't buy them in a store. Too many people here have access to too many guns," said the mayor, who called for tougher enforcement of gun laws.

Why do the pro-gun guys disparage the opinion of mayors of large cities who make these claims? Wouldn't these men have a lifetime of experience in dealing with municipal problems? Wouldn't their opinion be a valuable one?

Why do the pro-gun guys disparage the opinion of police chiefs and directors of large cities who make these claims? Aren't these generally men who have come up through the ranks, men with a lifetime of experience in dealing with municipal problems? Wouldn't their opinion be a valuable one?

Do you think the fact that there is gun violence in a state like NJ which has strict gun laws proves those laws do not work? Or do you think the never-ending violence in places like NJ proves there is gun trafficking from out of state?

Please leave a comment.

Marvallous Keene Receives the Maximum

The Associated Press reports on the execution by lethal injection in Ohio of Marvallous Keene, known as the Christmas Joy Killer.

A man who went on a 1992 Christmas holiday killing spree that left six people dead, including an 18-year-old mother gunned down at a pay phone, was executed Tuesday, the state's second execution in two weeks and the 1,000th lethal injection in the U.S. since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

Marvallous Keene, 36, who was convicted in five of the murders, chose not to file a late appeal over his death sentence.

He died by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville — seven days after Ohio's last execution. It was the fastest turnaround since the state executed two inmates in six days in 2004.

He was 20 years old when he committed his crimes. Wouldn't life in prison without the possibility of parole accomplish the safeguarding of society? They say that costs even less than bringing a man to execution, which in this case took 16 years. Costs could be further defrayed by letting the pot smokers and white collar criminals out.

My ideas are, of course, based on the thinking that deterrence doesn't work and vengeance has no place in the legal system. To determine what's best for everyone concerned, including the government, is what we need to do.

What's your opinion? Does deterrence work? Is vengeance a valid motive in sentencing? Do you think capital punishment is good for society?

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bullock and Swearengen Fight - S2 E1.

That was good, but the best I've ever seen is Viggo. How about you?

Beale Street, Memphis Tennessee

Tennessee recently passed a law which allows concealed carry permit holders to wear their guns in bars and restaurants. Nevertheless, as reports, the Beale Street Merchants have decided to ban guns.

Sunday on Beale it was fun in the sun. Where the drinks flow and the where the food comes either dry or wet.

But this weekend visitors are noticing new signs on this famous street. Tourist Joe Bazan says, "It should be up to the business owner to decide which way they wana run with that."

On Beale, the signs say it all: “Firearms are Prohibited.”

This weekend was the first weekend security and regulations were in place to enforce a new mandate banning guns on Beale. Executive Director of the Beale Street Merchants Association Onzie Horne says the security checks were in place and each night went off without a hitch, "The crowds that came to the street were happy that we instituted these measures and they were patient with us as we learn the process."

Not everyone agrees with this.

Larry Tanner says, "I think if you have a permit to conceal carry that shouldn't be allowed I believe in the 2nd amendment the right to bear arms."

Supporting the restaurant carry law they say it should be up to the patron - not the business.

Tanner says, "Were carrying legally you think that's gonna stop folks that don't have a concealed carry anyway from bringing a gun on Beale I don't think so."

What's your opinion? Is there no gun owner honest enough to admit that some people who possess the concealed carry permit get themselves in trouble around alcohol? Is it so difficult to admit that these are the people the Beale Street Merchants are trying to safeguard against? It has nothing to do with the fact that criminals don't obey the law, as Mr. Tanner says. It has everything to do with the fact that some of the law-abiding gun owners are dangerous - "some" not "most" and certainly not "all."

What do you think? The Beale Street Merchants Association is probably made up of life-long business owners who know much more about how people act in bars and restaurants than your average gun owner. Don't you think they should be able to decide?

Please leave a comment.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Concealed Carry Reciprosity - Part III

In discussing this issue, here and here, I don't think we made much progress really. There were accusations of lying, poisonous snakes were brought into it, basically it was I against the commenters, business as usual. One of them said we shouldn't be attempting to license a right anyway, and another made the obligatory comparison to cars.

Today The Gun Guys posted a press release by the Violence Policy Center.

The study, Law Enforcement and Private Citizens Killed by Concealed Handgun Permit Holders--An Analysis of News Reports, May 2007 to April 2009, finds that during the two-year period reviewed--

  • Concealed handgun permit holders have slain seven law enforcement officers resulting in criminal charges or the suicide of the shooter. All of the killings were committed with guns. An additional three law enforcement officers were injured in these incidents.

  • Concealed handgun permit holders have slain at least 44 private citizens resulting in criminal charges or the suicide of the shooter. All but one of the killings were committed with guns. An additional six private citizens were injured in these incidents.

  • In six of the 31 incidents (19 percent), the concealed handgun permit holder killed himself, bringing the total fatality count to 57.

I'd like to mention that this list of 31 incidents is not supposed to be comprehensive. So, unfortunately, it cannot be divided by the total number of license holders to ascertain a percentage of wrongdoers. It's just not that simple.

Because most state systems allowing the carrying of concealed handguns in public by private citizens release little data about crimes committed by permit holders, the VPC reviewed shooting incidents as reported by news outlets.

Another factor is these news-worthy stories involved loss of life. When you consider the woundings as well as the brandishings and incidents of threatening behaviour which are sometimes done by armed men, even supposedly responsible ones, you've got a large problem on your hands.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.

Released Murderer Kidnaps Family in NC out of Charlotte North Carolina reports on a man accused of kidnapping who had already received the death penalty back in the 1980s.

Details are not clear as to his motive, but apparently Jerry Case, 52 years old, took a family of four Friday afternoon from the Belmont, N.C., area and drove them to Cherokee County in South Carolina. While pulling over for gas, police say Case got distracted, and the family got away and called 911.

Court documents show Case was originally sentenced to death in 1986 for the first-degree murder of a taxi driver. He and another man kidnapped the driver in Tennessee, drove to Gaston County and murdered him by stabbing him seven times. He was retried in August 1992, when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the crime and saw his sentence reduced to life in prison. He also received 30 years for a guilty plea of second-degree kidnapping.

One thing stands out is that 25 years ago he used a knife, this week he used a gun. Do you think that's an example of the criminal progression some of our commenters talk about?

The most obvious thing is that a man like Jerry Case should never have been released from prison. Does anyone doubt what the fate of that North Carolina family would have been had they not escaped? After 22 years in prison, Case had been rehabilitated so little that within a year of his release, he did almost the same crime that put him there in the first place.

The problem is how to distinguish between the criminals who serve their sentence and can be safely released and those who continue to be dangerous and should not get out. It's a similar dilemma we have when trying to assess the difference between your average gun owner, who is safe and responsible, and the ones who are not, and should not have guns in the first place. In both cases we want to protect the public without unfairly inconveniencing the innocent.

In both cases I'm afraid we have to err on the side of caution and prudence. Violent criminals who are truly changed, the ones who find Jesus or who get involved in substance abuse programs in jail, may have to serve longer sentences in order to keep the hardened, unchanged criminals behind bars longer. In a similar way, lawful gun owners, the ones who never were a danger to anyone may have to be inconvenienced with stricter gun control laws, less flexibility in the way they buy and sell their firearms and total bans on certain types of weapons. These measures would result in the lessening of gun availability which would result in a proportional lessening in gun violence.

What's your opinion? Do you think stricter sentencing guidelines for violent criminals combined with stricter gun control regulations might be the solution? Or do you think this is just part of the price we have to pay? Most men who serve 22 years for murder don't immediately repeat their crimes when they get out. Just like most gun owners don't become criminals. The ones who do, we just need to accept, is that what you think?

Please leave a comment.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Real Brady Bunch

Here's a walk down memory lane thanks to Dr. Zibbs.

Tony Alamo Denies the Charges

Tony Alamo is in the news again. Last September we discussed his case when his compound was raided and he was taken into custody for child sexual abuse. Now, in response to testimony in his trial he has released a statement, basically saying the FBI coerced some of his women to lie. Included in the statement is also a fascinating description of his world view, which to me seems like exactly the kind of admission the prosecution was looking for.

The legal age of marriage is puberty. Webster’s Dictionary states childhood is the “state or time of being a child; state or time from birth or infancy to puberty or maturity.”

Webster’s definition of puberty is “the age when one becomes capable to bear children, which is marked by maturing of the reproductive organs, with the onset of menstruation in the female; the period at which sexual maturity is reached.”

The Bible says this as well. God’s Word, the Bible, never condemns a man for having more than one wife!

When we talked about the case of Warren Jeffs, I became convinced that he and his men were hiding behind their so-called religious beliefs in order to justify lustful abuse of women and young girls. To me, Tony Alamo seems to be even worse.

What's your opinion? Do you believe that in 21st century America, a man can be sincere in claiming that the proper age for marrying in young girls is the onset of menstruation? Do you think this is something the government should stay out of?

What about polygamy in general? Is there a place for that in society? Does it always have to involve underage girls? Can it sometimes be among consenting adults?

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Family Squabbles in Tenn. / Ala. - 6 Dead (updated)

UPDATE as pointed out by several commenters, there was no mention of his using a gun. And in fact further reports confirmed none was used.

A man accused of fatally stabbing and bludgeoning six people in Tennessee and Alabama was targeting his wife and first killed her father and brother so they couldn't stop him, authorities said Tuesday.


Yahoo News reports on the latest high profile shooting, this one in Tennessee and Alabama.

A 30-year-old man was charged with homicide Saturday in the slayings of six people, most believed to be from the same family, in two communities about 30 miles apart in Tennessee and Alabama.

Investigators said the victims were four adults and two juveniles, but their names and ages were not being released until they are identified and next of kin are notified.

Five people were found dead in two neighboring rural homes near Fayetteville in southern Tennessee Saturday, and a sixth body was discovered at a business in Huntsville, Ala., authorities said.

Jacob Shaffer of Fayetteville, who officers found sitting on the front porch of one of the homes, was taken into custody and charged with homicide. He was jailed without bond in Lincoln County, which borders Alabama.

The story contains few details except that "the motive of the killings is domestic." Unfortunately there was no mention of the weapon or weapons used or whether Shaffer was already a prohibited person.

What's your opinion? How could we keep guns out of the hands of people like this without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens? Is such a thing possible?

Please leave a comment.