Debate Magazine

The Aurora, Colorado Shooter and Shall Issue Regulation

Posted on the 08 August 2012 by Mikeb302000
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 MyNorthwest.com (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. From the HuffPo and Reuters: 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.


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