Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Aurora, Colorado Shooter and Shall Issue Regulation

Cross posted from Penigma

It has now come to light that the college psychiatrist who had been treating the (alleged) shooter in the Aurora, Colorado theater showing the latest Batman movie had alerted law enforcement that James Holmes presented a danger to others weeks before the shooting.

Under 'may issue' practice, law enforcement can be more responsive to known dangers presented by the mentally ill acquiring firearms, and deny them permits.  Under 'may issue' regulation, denial of permits can be challenged, and law enforcement then has to demonstrate that they had a reasonable and justifiable basis for the denial.  There has not been a problem with may issue regulation abuse of authority in denying permits to individuals who are stalkers, domestic abusers, criminals, drug users, or who have known patterns of behavior that are violent as part of mental illness.  Under shall issue, law enforcement cannot prevent dangerous mentally ill individuals or other known violent individuals who have made threats to others from acquiring weapons.  Under 'shall issue' the requirement is a court proceeding, which is far less common and which can take a very long time to occur, and where the level of danger required for a decision is much more demanding and difficult to prove.
In the case of Jared Loughner for example, his college required him to withdraw, and not return unless he had obtained a psychiatric clearance that he was not a threat to himself or others.  Loughner withdrew rather than submit to a psychiatric examination.  Law enforcement had been made aware of the threat presented by Loughner, including sending not one, but two law enforcement officers to deliver the letter from the college to Loughner and his parents.  However, law enforcement could not prohibit Loughner from firearm ownership despite their knowledge of his presenting a danger to himself and others.

And of course, the NRA has made it a priority that the large capacity magazines favored by most mass shooters cannot be prohibited either.
Between January 8, 2011 when Jared Loughner shot and killed 6 unarmed, innocent people, and wounded another 13 in Tucson, Arizona and the shooting in Aurora, Colorado (allegedly) by James Holmes in July 2012, there were 60 mass shootings. Many of those involved assault style weapons, expanded capacity magazines, accumulations of arsenals of weapons, body armor, and large quantities of ammunition, and individuals known to law enforcement to present a danger to others who law enforcement was unable to prevent legal acquisition of the weapons used in the mass shootings.
Both ordinary citizens and law enforcement are often the victims in those mass shootings by the dangerously mentally ill, as in the case of the shootings on New Years day 2012 where Benjamin Colton Barnes in Washington state shot multiple people at a party, and then subsequently shot and killed a park ranger and injured three others.  Barnes had been the subject of a restraining order, which included notifying the court that he was dangerously violent and had shown signs of PTSD.  Barnes had a personal arsenal of weapons, including multiple military assault-style weapons, large quantities of hand guns, ballistic protection. 

Law enforcement under shall issue permitting is unable to prevent that acquisition.
In May 2012, Ian Stawicki, who had a long history of mental illness, and who was known to law enforcement to be dangerously violent, shot and killed five people in Seattle, Washington, and shot but only injured another, before committing suicide.  Stawicki had accumulated, legally, six hand guns prior to the shooting, including a high ammunition capacity pistol he used in the shootings.
An article below describes the frustration of those who know dangerously mentally ill people, but are unable to get them treatment when they resist that treatment as part of their illness.  It also describes how law enforcement is often aware weeks, months or even years in advance of mass shootings of the deterioration of the mental states of these people. 

It is ridiculous that law enforcement has their hands tied by NRA-pushed laws from preventing these obviously dangerous people from acquiring firearms legally - often the most lethal possible firearms, like assault rifles or high powered semi-automatic handguns with large capacity magazines that allow them to shoot a lot of people before stopping to reload.
from (97.3 FM) on Stawicki and other dangerously mentally ill people; the title is as true of law enforcement as it is of the families of the mentally ill.:
Families of mentally ill forced to deal with 'ticking time bombs'
For Ian Stawicki, years of mental illness ended when he took his own life on a quiet sidewalk in West Seattle. He had just carried out a shooting rampage that left five dead and one in critical condition.
Over the years he had become increasingly violent and prone to fits of rage, according to family members who saw the warning signs but felt there was nothing they could do. A police report from 2008 seems to signal the start of his deteriorating mental state.According to the documents, Stawicki had given his girlfriend a bloody nose and destroyed most of her personal possessions.
"The victim thought that sometime in December the suspect suddenly changed his personality," the police report states. "Although the suspect always 'had a temper,' he began breaking the victim's belonging when he flew into his rages. This behavior frightened the victim and she resolved to call 911 if it continued."
But while those closest to Stawicki knew he was in desperate need of help, he refused to accept it.
"I know it can feel for people as if there is no help out there, and they have tried things and they haven't worked," said Karin Rogers with Sound Mental Health in Seattle. "And that is very frustrating and very scary."
Rogers said families often struggle for years to get through to loved ones, often to no avail.
Julia, who wished to have her last name withheld, has a sister who has struggled with mental illness since the two were children. She understands all too well what the family of Ian Stawicki must have gone through.
"I wonder how many of us thought, 'Yeah. Yeah, that would be my loved one,'" she said of Wednesday's massacre at the hands of Stawicki. "I can't even imagine how difficult it must be for them [...] They're not the only family."
Julia's sister has lived with bipolar disorder for years, she said. While the family was hesitant to accept that she had a mental illness, it became clear when she threatened to kill strangers.
"As much as I knew she had problems, I didn't realize they were that extreme," Julia said of her sister.
While the family convinced her to agree to a 72-hour psychiatric hold, the stay did nothing to improve her mental state. Julia's sister refused further help and refused to take medication.
"We can't make her do anything," she said. "Our resources are exhausted. We don't know what else to do."
It is all Julia can do now to protect herself and her family. She does not allow her sister to keep guns in her home, out of fear that she is capable of murder.
"If she was armed, we would all be gone," Julia said. She called her sister a "ticking time bomb."
It is the same way the family of Ian Stawicki must have felt. His younger brother, Andrew Stawicki, told The Seattle Times he could see the bloodshed coming.
"It's no surprise to me this happened," he told the newspaper. "We could see this coming. Nothing good is going to come with that much anger inside of you."
His father, Walter Stawicki, told The Times on Thursday he regrets the family didn't do more to intervene, even if it meant lying to get him committed.
These mass shootings don't come as 'a surprise', although the pro-gun crowd likes to feign both alarm and astonishment.  People know there are problems with dangerously mentally ill people in advance, often including law enforcement.  However there is usually nothing they are able to do legally about that knowledge.  That includes law enforcement being unable to prevent the dangerously mentally ill from legally acquiring firearms, under shall issue - people like Stawicki, Barnes, Loughner, and Holmes.
Shall issue is deficient and badly defective; pro-gun advocates look at these mass shootings, have it called to their attention the purchases of weapons and other gear were legal, and they try to blame everyone but the legislation they push through for shall issue.  They try to blame the mental health care system, which their right wing politics hamstring with inadequate funding.  They try to blame law enforcement, as they attack their public unions, and whom they hamstring with shall issue, putting law enforcement in direct danger when they have to confront these armed people as a result of these mass shootings.  They blame everyone else, but the real blame falls on the pro-2nd Amendment gun advocates for the shall issue rather than the may issue regulation.  They make it possible for the legal acquisition of these firearms by the dangerously mentally ill and others. 
Blame the NRA and blame ALEC, and blame the right wing politicians they buy and conservatives who blindly support them and vote for them.  Follow the money when looking to assign blame and responsibility; every time shootings like this occur, gun sales and ammo sales go up. That profits the gun manufacturers, and gun retailers like WalMart. They broke a system that worked, 'may issue', and replaced it with one that was more dangerous, but more profitable for them as a special interest.
Now it turns out that the psychiatrist at the college in Colorado had also alerted law enforcement that there was a very real danger to others and himself from James Holmes, prior to the period of time during which he legally purchased the ballistic protection, assault style rifle, expanded capacity magazine, Glock hand guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, gas mask and other equipment used in the attack and in rigging his apartment to explode.
Lynne Fenton, James Holmes' Psychiatrist, Contacted Police Allegedly Before Aurora Shooting
James Holmes' psychiatrist contacted police before the Aurora shooting, according to ABC News report
The psychiatrist treating James Holmes told a University of Colorado police officer that she was worried about her patient weeks before he allegedly killed 12 people in an Aurora movie theater.
The allegation that Dr. Lynne Fenton warned authorities about Holmes' potential to harm others -- reported by ABC News -- is the second time she told others he was possibly dangerous.
Fenton, a member of the university's threat assessment team, reportedly told other committee members that Holmes, a Ph.D neuroscience student potentially jeopardized campus safety.
Though ABC's anonymous sources said Fenton took her concerns to the university officer "several weeks before" the July 20 rampage that wounded 58 others, it's unknown how the cop handled the tip.
Fenton talked with several members of the Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment team, too, but the full committee never launched an investigation into Holmes because the 24-year-old dropped out of the doctoral program about six weeks before the attack.
Doctors in Colorado can break confidentiality rules with patients if they become aware of imminent risks to others, Reuters reported.
read the rest of the article here
When events follow a pattern, over and over, and when one group or one special interest area of business benefits over and over after these mass shootings, and when they make it possible for these events to happen the way they do, it cannot be considered a coincidence or accidental that we have these mass shootings occurring so often.  It happens for a reason, and that reason is profit. That ignorant and easily manipulated conservative voters are deluded into helping this happen is the shame and failure of their political ideology.  This is not a bi-partisan phenomenon. It is a conservative-authored problem.


  1. Even in a shall issue state, if a doctor, lawer, judge, medical professional, police officer, neighbor, family member can inform the state that a person has become unstable and the state WILL INVESTIGATE! No one will if they are not reported to the state.

    The problem is not shall issue licenses, its no one does any reporting. You can even inform the state about someone even if they dont have a license. If they try to get one, they get flagged. Here again, the problem is not informing the right people.

    The reporting cant be hearsay, it has to be first hand contact of the person that needs to be reported. Shall issue or may issue is the same way.

    So instead of attacking shall issue, your focus needs to be about why are these persons NOT being reported to the proper authorities.

  2. What the hell are you talking about? May-issue and shall-issue refer to carry licenses only. Mass killers don't get carry licenses with the intention of murdering lots of people. Why would they? They intend to commit a Class A felony. There is no license for that, and denying licenses doesn't prevent that from happening.

    Your side seems to believe that if only you could deny carry licenses to people, no one would carry a gun. That's magical thinking.

    But I'll try to sort out your conflation. There are only a few states that require licensing to own a firearm. Is that what you're going on about? We just recently won Wisconsin over to the shall-issue carry licensing system. States are going our direction on all their gun laws. Do you really believe that states will made a sudden reversal and require a license just to own a gun?

    You can blame the NRA and ALEC and Wal-Mart and any other boogy-man you want, but voters decide who gets into office. American voters in most states elect politicians who won't touch gun control. We're winning, and you're begging us to surrender. It ain't gonna happen.

  3. In my evolving understanding of what gun control laws we really need, I see now that "may issue" for gun ownership itself is necessary.

    1. You mean that you're finally telling more of the truth? You've been pushing this for years--you just called it other things. Fortunately, what's necessary in your fantasy world doesn't translate into reality. You have your way in a few states. That's all you'll ever get--until we take that away. Get used to it.

    2. "In my evolving understanding of what gun control laws we really need, I see now that "may issue" for gun ownership itself is necessary."
      You mean like in Italy?


    3. No, Moon, I'm talking about the US, as you god damned well know.

      I picture you sitting before a panel of three, maybe the local police chief, the mayor and a psychologist, they interrogate you thoroughly as to why you think you need to own guns. Depending on your answers, they vote yea or nay. The decision is final.

    4. So two politiicians and a pseudoscientist? Under your system, donors to campaigns will get guns. Celebrities will get guns. Ordinary citizens won't. But criminals won't bother to visit your tribunal and will have all the guns that they want.

      This will not happen in America. We won't allow it. Our rights are not subject to the whims of the people that you name.

      I'm still waiting for your answer to how any of your proposals would work in a country with more than 300,000,000 privately held firearms. What you want would create a massive black market. I have several guns with no paperwork. Now I like them and want to keep them. But how many gun owners do you imagine would resist an offer of many hundreds to thousands of dollars for an unregistered and untraceable gun, if your fantasy world became a reality?

  4. Again, nothing about the Big Pharma drugs these people had taken. Why everyone wants to ignore this piece of the puzzle is in itself a puzzle.
    orlin sellers

  5. No one in the control freak community here is saying anything about the recent ruling from Judge Legg in Maryland that declared that state's may-issue system for carry licenses to be unconstitutional. That case is one example of many of how a may-issue system is abused by those in power. California's issuance to celebrities and Dianne Feinstein, but not to the good citizens of Los Angeles who are merely ordinary is another. Jim Crow laws in the south that either issued licenses to whites or gave them a pass is a third.

    It should disturb you that the rich and powerful can get licenses, while ordinary citizens cannot in may-issue states. You've expressed support for the Occupy movement, but that's exactly the kind of thing that those people are protesting--power being concentrated in the hands of a few. You'd at least earn credit for consistency if you favored a no-issue-to-anyone law. Of course, then Dog Gone couldn't have received her carry license.

    Rights for me and not for thee...

  6. So DogGone, are you chanelling Jade, or do you really know that the Aurora dirtbag had a carry license?

    This sounds like more Brady nonsense.

    VATech: "We must close the gunshow loophole!". Even though the shooter didn't buy his guns at a gunshow.

    VaTech: "We must force background checks!" Even though the shooter passed two background checks.

    Tucson: "Allowing concealed carry is the problem!" Even though the nut didn't have a concealed carry license and there is no reason to believe that if it were required, he would have bothered.

    Shikh Temple: "We must ban assault weapons!" Even though no assault weapons were used.

    Now with Aurora its "We must make carry licenses 'May Issue' so a government bureaucrat can dole them out as he sees fit!" Even though we don't know that the nut had a carry license or that it would have mattered to him to get one.

    And still you wonder why no one listens to the control freak's ramblings anymore.

  7. I thought it was pretty clear FWM. In the cases -- ALL the casses I mentioned -- where a person was clearly identified to law enforcement as being dangerously crazy, BECAUSE of 'SHALL ISSUE', instead of 'May Issue' regulation, where 'shall issue' is much more lenient than 'may issue', they had to let the shooter buy assault style weapons etc.

    Has nothing whatsoever to do with carry licenses, it has to do with dangerously crazy people getting exceedingly lethal weapons.

    In the case of VaTech, a dangerously crazy person was a known threat. He passed a background check only because law enforcement had to let him do that, because of a lack of information. In the cases I mentioned, law enforcement DID know the individuals were dangerously crazy --- and they still could not legally prevent them from getting firearms. May issue allows for much greater flexibility on the part of law enforcement.

    The Va Tech gun man was a problem because Va did not provide the names of their dangeously mentally ill people to the NICS data base -- or any other names of prohibited people. Now they do, which helps. But MOST states only provide few if any names of prohibited people; and that is because it was the NRA that made providing names optionalfor states instead of required. We also know that gun shows are a large source of the problem firearms, and that requiring backgound checks on all gun show sales and on all private sales would pretty effectively shut down a majority of the problem gun sales, while still permitting the legitimat sales. We also know that could be done without transferring private sales firearms to FFL, in order for them to run background checks, as you once tried to float here.

    In the case of the Sikh temple a person who was affiliated with hate groups and a less than honorable discharge from the military should have been scrutinized before a gun sale; he wasn't. He DID use an expanded magazine weapon. MOST mass shootings use either an assault style weapon and/or an expanded capacity magazine. Prohibiting both of those would reduce mass shootings as well -- and have reduced them in the past by more than 60%.

    We should return to may issue for purchase AND for carry. You are misrepresenting the issue here FWM -- can't you read better than that for comprehension? If the dangerously crazy can't buy the weapons, they can't kill people with them. It's not about carry, it's about NOT allowing dangerous people to be BUYING in the first place -- understand?

    1. dog gone whined..."requiring backgound (sic) checks on all ...private sales would pretty effectively shut down a majority of the problem gun sales..."

      So, uh, what would compel the black market sellers to comply with NICS checks on their sales? I'm not asking about safe storage laws or about owners securing their firearms, I want to know what will compel criminals to comply with your proposed law.

    2. Let's say that some "system" actually makes it impossible for a soon-to-be spree killer to purchase any firearm. A determined killer has three easy options:
      (1) Purchase desired firearms illegally (black market).
      (2) Make a simple zip gun, ambush an unsuspecting law enforcement officer, and then use his/her high-capacity service handgun and rifle.
      (3) Make a simple zip gun, ambush an unsuspecting citizen, and then use his/her high-capacity handgun and/or rifle.

      If criminals can acquire weapons in prisons, determined criminals in free society can acquire any weapon they desire. I don't see how your "solution" is going to stop any determined spree killers from doing anything.

      The only thing that stops a determined killer is an equally determined citizen or law enforcement officer with the force to overpower the killer.

  8. Does it NOT bother you FWM that law enforcement KNEW that Jared Loughner, James Holmes, and multiple other mass shooters were dangerously mentally ill WELL BEFORE they bought the weapons they used.

    Does it NOT bother you FWM that most of the weapons used in mass shootings by individuals KNOWN to be dangerous were LEGALLY purchased?

    There is something wrong when we LET known dangerously mentally ill, or dangerously violent people, go ahead and legally buy assault weapons.

    THAT is a broken system, put in place by the NRA, benefitting the gun manufacturers and reatil outlets like WalMart selling the guns and ammo.

    EVERY damned time there is a mass shooting, THEY make money hand over fist from it.

    1. Dog Gone, you're the one who was being confusing. May-issue and shall-issue are terms that relate to carry licenses, not purchase. But it's typical of you to be sloppy in your language and then to criticize us for not following what you say.

      More than that, I'm glad that the NRA and other civil rights groups have made gun buying easy. I don't want the police to have discretionary powers. They shouldn't have discretion to say, we don't like this guy, so he doesn't get a permit to march down Main Street. They shouldn't have discretion to pull over someone who is driving while black. In the same vein, they shouldn't have discretion to deny a gun purchase or a carry license to someone who has no criminal record and no record of being a danger to others--an actual danger, not some theoretical thing that you think is dangerous.

      In the case of the Tucson shooter and others, there may have been a way to put those crazies into a hospital sooner. But as far as I'm aware, the only sign the guy in Wisconsin gave was belonging to a group that you don't like. That's a far more dangerous reason to deny rights than he ever was.

  9. "We should return to may issue for purchase AND for carry. You are misrepresenting the issue here FWM -- can't you read better than that for comprehension? If the dangerously crazy can't buy the weapons, they can't kill people with them. It's not about carry, it's about NOT allowing dangerous people to be BUYING in the first place -- understand?"

    How can we "return to may issue for purchase" when we have never had it in the first place? I think you have the reading and comprehension problem. I also don't think you know the difference between a carry license and a form 4473.

    If law enforcement truly knew that those nutjobs you listed where all psycho's as you claim, then why did they not take the necessary steps to get them committed and judged mentally ill? Police officers and the courts can do that you know. That would have stopped them from buying their guns legally.

    You can rant and rave about things you obviously know very little about but it really doesn't matter. We are not going to allow your silly totalitarian control schemes.

  10. But tell us, Dog Gone, didn't it feel better when you needed a carry license and a gun, knowing that you could get one without having to beg?

  11. To return to an earlier discussion, have a look at this:

    The Real West: The Guns that Tamed the West.

    The talk is so so throughout, but note the many photographs that show a variety of methods for carrying a handgun in the 1800s.