Burns (Malheur WR) Occupation – A New Begining

Now that the last of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupiers has gone into federal custody, it is gratifying that no more lives were lost.  It seems the FBI has learned important lessons from Waco and Ruby Ridge, and did an admirable job of restraint in dealing with this tense situation.  Whether or not the same can be said for the death of LaVoy Finicum remains to be seen.

Now the rest of the story begins.  All occupiers have been arrested and charged with federal crimes which carry significant prison time.  Most will probably do some.  Some may get probation, but no one will get a pass.  That includes Cliven Bundy, the father of the Bundy sons occupiers, who has now been indicted for his 2014 Nevada actions for which he was previously given a pass.  His need to insert himself into the Burns occupation caused the feds to charge him – something which may not have happened had he stayed away.

It is nearly impossible to successfully defend against a charge of conspiracy in federal court.  Many have tried, few have succeeded.  Particularly in this case, since the events have been so widely reported, and the attitude of the occupiers so antagonistic, future jurors are sure to have knowledge of at least some of it, and what they know will not greatly assist the occupiers in their defense.  The philosophy the defendants adhere to is not likely to fare well in federal court, as federal jurors tend to be mainstream, and generally do not look kindly upon those who take the law into their own hands, destroy taxpayer property, and threaten law enforcement.  The unique interpretation of the US Constitution by the occupiers will also not likely be adhered to by future jurors, particularly as the presiding judge will instruct them that the law of the land is interpreted by the SCOTUS, rather than a band of armed cowboys.

I regret that this happened, as it sets the plight of Western stockmen back ever so many years.  They have legitimate concerns about the way in which they are treated by the dictates of agents managing federal grazing leases.  The have legitimate concerns about the way in which the national government is intent on acquiring more Western lands and, particularly, water rights.  But since they eschew the legal system and attempt to make their own, those concerns and legitimate complaints are overshadowed by the lawless destruction and flaunting of the laws which occurred at Malheur.  As the Chinese say, “They have but one enemy.”

I have urged before that the Western grazing lease-holders use the court system.  Now they will, if not willingly.  None of their protest issues will be addressed here, however; only their illegal acts which, if they are convicted, will carry them to more federal property which they will occupy for a period substantially longer than the occupation of Malheur.  See the sad tale of the Diamond Bar Ranch  Here.

At least now the folks of Harney County can set about patching things up.  Perhaps the division which has caused such community tensions will subside and life will return to normal.  People can go about their daily business, children can return to school, law enforcement can get some sleep and, in time, the scars will fade if not disappear altogether.  Perhaps the indigenous people whose heritage has been damaged will repair and forgive.  Perhaps life will go more smoothly now that the occupation is over.

One would hope that the take-away from Burns is that peaceful protest and working within the system which we have established to redress wrongs is the way we do things in the US, and save others from the life-changing futures the occupiers are facing.  Similar protests could occur again, but the whole free world knows the outcome at Malheur, and all but the wing-nuts will reflect upon this outcome, and perhaps decide that one has a highly limited ability to change the world by unlawfully occupying public lands, or from inside the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Namaste

LawyerChuck

 

The Burns Oregon Fiasco

Western stockmen and their supporters occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near Burns Oregon for several weeks.  Apparently four remain in the refuge today.  I hope they are permitted to leave peacefully, but I doubt they will be allowed to leave without being arrested or killed.   One, Mr. LaVoy Finicum, was killed at a roadblock on his way to a meeting at John Day.  He said he would rather die than be arrested, and the LEO’s at the roadblock accommodated him.

The protesters are not new.  Many of the Western men present have been in similar protests before.  Until now, they didn’t involve the loss of life.  Waco and Ruby Ridge are entirely different events, having nothing to do with the issues at Burns, which are about federal management of grazing leases and allotments.  The Bundy sons were present with their father, Cliven Bundy, when he confronted the feds in Nevada.  He refused to pay grazing fees for his cattle on federal lands, so they took them.  He was not prosecuted, at least not yet, and his sons and others were emboldened by the pass the feds gave him.  So, unfortunately, were many others who are not from the area, are not ranchers, have an agenda different from the Bundy’s, and who mostly swiftly disappeared after the shooting of Mr. Finicum.

The truly sad part is this has all been done before, and the outcome of such protests is predictable.  One has only to look at the Diamond Bar Ranch case, about which I have written before, (link below the fold) to find out that the federal government owns the majority of the West, that it controls the use of lands which it owns, and those who don’t comply will be removed – peacefully or otherwise – but removed.  The sad story of the Laney’s is repeated more than 15 years later, as a cattleman without cattle is lost, and the larger question of who owns and controls federal lands has been legally settled.  It is the United States government, right or wrong.

The United States Supreme Court (and other federal courts) is tasked with the job of interpreting the Constitution.  Not the Bundy’s, the militia, the posse comitatus, your average cowboy, or you or me.  We can disagree with any interpretation, and have our own opinions, but at the end of the day whatever the SCOTUS says is the law of the land.  Living in a democracy requires one to live with rules, regulations, laws and edicts which one does not like.  One is always free to leave and live elsewhere, but living here requires adherence to the law of the land whether one likes it or not. Protest is protected if properly done, opposing views can still be aired, we are still free to disagree with each other as we so often do, but we are not free to take action which is contrary to the law of the land.  We are a nation of laws.  Most of us have no problem with that, unless we get caught doing something illegal.

So, the occupation at Malheur is about over.  Feds one, protesters jail or dead.  Such a shame.  The matter of federal control of federal lands must be litigated each time issues arise.  Past attempts to apply eminent domain principles to federal grazing lands have been predictably unsuccessful.  That does not mean, however, that the federal government is wholly right and the Western protesters wholly wrong.  There is a great deal of improvement to be made by agents of the BLM, USFS, USF&WS and other regulatory bodies, and the stockmen have issues which should be carefully listened to and remedied.  But the ownership of those lands, and the grazing fees imposed upon them, are here to stay, and the idea that ranchers somehow acquire title to those lands by having used them for years or generations is never going to fly. Read the opinions in the Diamond Bar case.

The federal government owns about 50% of Western states’ lands.  They are everywhere.  Our national parks comprise much of this, but the vast majority is land not totally suitable to many endeavors other than cattle raising.  Of .course natural resources and wildlife must be protected, and cattlemen must learn to operate in ways which protect those resources/wildlife, but a systemic attack through the legal system is the only way anything will be accomplished which does not turn out as has the Malheur protest.  I mourn the life which was lost.  All lives are important.  As importantly, I mourn the tragedy which has befallen the families of Harney County and elsewhere, including the families of the protesters, and I fervently wish the remaining occupiers to leave peacefully.  There may be arrests, but arrest trumps death where I live.

Whichever side you are on, I wish you well, and I hope you will attempt to redress your grievances in the court system.  That’s what the Constitution requires.

Namaste

LawyerChuck

Find a report of the Diamond Bar case Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gun Control Madness

One of the most frustrating and infuriating aspects of our culture is our relentless rush to attack symptoms rather than causes.  This proclivity is evident in our pill-popping for whatever ails us, and by masking the symptoms so we can keep on plowing, working or doing something other than taking care of ourselves, while ignoring the fact that we sometimes get sick and avoiding sickness is more important and effective than popping pills.  But, of course, there is no money in wellness.

The strident calls for gun control, whatever that means, are simply more rants against the symptoms of a sick society, and a focus on those symptoms rather than a rational evaluation of the causes and how to change them.  All I hear is the “NyQuil” approach, which won’t cure a cold, but which will numb the body and mask the symptoms.  Eliminating the cough will not eliminate the cold; burdening the millions of law-abiding gun owners, hunters and others by targeting guns will not end the mass violence which prompts the discussion.  It is too late for this approach; there are too many guns and it is too easy to get one on the street.

It seems to me the best evidence that many confuse the symptoms with the causes is seen looking back 25 years or so.  There were just as many guns per capita then as now, but mass shootings were relatively rare, and mostly took the lives of less people.  Depending upon whose figures you like, there are 200-300 million firearms in the US, and there were about that many 25 years ago.  Even if there were less back then, there were also less people, so the per capita ratio was essentially the same.

Growing up in Wyoming, it was rare to see a pickup without a rifle or two in the rear window.  There was also a handgun in the glove box, and perhaps another under the seat.  I never saw a gun used against another human (of course there was the occasional drunk cowboy shooting,) and the most recent mass shooting occurred at Casper College in central Wyoming when a man entered and killed 2 with a bow and arrow.  Wyoming appears to have more firearms per capita than other states, and less shootings, although hard numbers are hard to come by.  There are two reasons for this:  the first is that children are taught firearm safety at home and in some schools (I used to teach it in elementary schools,) and the second is that a gun in Wyoming is looked upon as a tool to protect livestock from predators, to take game animals, and to dispense roadside beer cans (and sometimes mail boxes.)  Everything I am aware of that many Wyoming children are taught is aimed at no one getting shot, no one getting hurt, and all efforts exerted to the safe handling and use of firearms.

City kids on the other hand mostly do not get this.  What they do get is superbly demonstrated in the first 15 minutes of “Born on the Fourth of July,” where the young boys are encouraged to play “war” with toy guns.  They shoot at each other, play dead, play war, go home.  They play paintball with guns, cops and robbers, cowboys and indians.  Toy guns are everywhere.  How many boys were given toy weapons this Christmas?  Look around you.  As we give dolls to girls so they will later handle babies, we give toy guns to boys so they will later fight our wars.  Is it any wonder, then, that we have a culture of violence in which guns are misused to inflict injury and death by those who are the cause?  We support and approve it in our young people, to say nothing of the violence of movies and television which surround us 24/7.

The tragic killing of Tamir Rice in Cleveland shines as an example of what we teach our children.  A toy gun took a human life.  It’s difficult to blame the police, although police training needs great improvement, as the toy gun this child had looked like a real one (no red tip on the barrel) and the officer had only  a second or two to decide what to do.  I do not judge nor blame, I just cry.  A child is dead; an adult has to live the rest of his life knowing he killed a child.  The child was innocent, but had a toy gun which looked real, and had it in our culture which approves giving children toy firearms and then wonders why, later on, there is real gun violence.  Hear this:  it was the toy gun which killed this child.  Had it not been present, there would have been no shooting and no death.

I am as committed as anyone to ending gun violence.  I do not want anyone to be killed, most of all family and friends.  I do not want guns to be used to assault society by those who blame people they haven’t met for problems they don’t take responsibility for.  But I am convinced that NyQuilling the symptoms will not produce the desired result.  That will take a cultural paradigm shift, especially in the way we deal with mental health.  We must remove the stigma stamped upon those who seek mental health treatment, be ready to be proactive if we see something which is worrisome in another, pay attention to those communicating in whatever way an intention to do harm to others, and act when action is warranted.

I believe in closing the gun show and informal individual transfer of firearms loop holes, and all efforts to keep firearms away from the mentally challenged.  But we will do this in part, I suggest, by changing our culture of violence so that mental health is advocated, promoted and provided, rather than residing in our tunnel vision of firearms, and thinking if we control guns we control gun violence.  The thing about guns is, it’s just too late.  They’re there, and if not one gun was sold from today forward, there are still 300 million or so around, and all one wants available on the black market.

We need to toss the NyQuil and take care of ourselves.

Namaste

LawyerChuck

 

 

STOP THE MURDER!

There have been 74 multiple shootings/killings since those at Sandy Hook in New Town. I have closely studied each one, as each tells a story of mental illness, and the intent of the shooter to make others pay for his/her misery. Recently, however, a school shooting hit closer to home, as my grandson was in the Troutdale school near Portland OR when a shooter showed up 2 days ago, shot another and himself, and injured scores emotionally – perhaps permanently.  My grandson is physically fine, and was protected by a brave and quick-thinking custodian who shoved him into a classroom and out of the line of fire.

As a crusader for the individual right to bear arms under Amendment Second, I have previously addressed the school shooting problem because I do not believe that Amendment protects the mentally disturbed who possess firearms.  See https://lawyerchuck.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/columbine about the Columbine Highschool shootings and https://lawyerchuck.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/columbine-and-the-aurora-theater-massacre/about the Aurora Theater shootings.  In each of all 74 shootings, there was an indication of mental disturbance of some nature (well-adjusted people do not often kill others,) and the shooter’s mental condition was frequently revealed to others who took no action.  It seems no one wants to be involved in attempting intervention when someone is acting/posting/speaking in a dangerous and/or irrational manner.  That, of course, is not true of the San Diego parents who desperately tried to get help before their son started shooting, but found none.  Part of the reason is the disdain society and law enforcement hold for the mentally ill (suck it up and get over it,) part of it is the societal prohibition against seeking psychological or psychiatric counseling (man up and get going), and part stems from the reduction in civility and the reduced values which are part of human over-population.  “I just don’t want to get involved” is a common stance in our over-crowded society.

I got my first firearm at age 6.  So did my friends, including some girl friends.  It was a single-shot .22 rifle, and over the years I shot many an elusive and rare beer can with it.  My son shot it; my grandson will when he’s ready.  Coming of age in Wyoming, I didn’t know any boy who didn’t have a .22.  They were, as in my case, passed down in the family, and some have been around for 4 or more generations.  That would be mine.  On any given day in Laramie WY in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s you could find 30-40 pickups with a gun rack in the rear window and 2-3 guns in it.  That’s just how things were.  Firearms were tools, used to hunt game and dispatch varmints and beer cans, and everyone knew how to handle them and most knew how and what to shoot at.  On any given Saturday night at Woods Landing, a roadhouse 25 miles from Laramie, the cowboys, loggers and football players would gather to drink and dance, pretty much the same as today.  Fights, however, were common place, and if you wanted your face punched Woods Landing on a Saturday night was just the place for you.  There were ever so many cowboys ready to oblige for any or no reason, and you might just get into one even when you didn’t want to.  And that was every Saturday.  I attended my share of dust-ups at Woods Landing, had a couple of my own, and witnessed scores over the years.  Scores.  And, the same pickups seen in Laramie during the week were seen at Woods Landing on Saturday night, with the same gun racks and the same rifles in the same rear windows.  You see the relevant question (as I once told a NY Times reporter) is not “Do you have a gun in there?” but rather “How many guns do you have in there?”  That’s the Cowboy Way.

The Cowboy Way also prevented anyone from going for a firearm.  Period.  I didn’t think about it at the time, but that was also the code of the West.  You want a fight, roll up your sleeves and follow me.  Bring your best game, and someone will have to be carried home.  But a gun?  I never saw one drawn during those fights, nor did anyone else, as it just wasn’t done.  Were these cowboys better people?  No, they just wouldn’t bring a gun to a fist fight.  Not the Cowboy Way.  We unfortunately live in a different time now, and although the mentally ill have always been with us, they are with us in ever-increasing numbers as our population expands exponentially out of control.  We simply cannot allow the mass shooting to continue.  We will, of course, not stop them all, but if we stop but one we will have accomplished something of real value for someone – perhaps someone, as in my case, close to you.  We MUST do something.

A good place to start is universal background checks for purchasers of firearms bought in retail stores, gun shows, and private sales.  Yes, I can hear the NRA calling me now, but although I have been a long-time member of that organization, they are irresponsibly wrong on this issue.  The NRA is afraid of background checks because it believes that will lead to national registration of firearms.  And, of course, it could, so I am clearly against registration and fully in support of the NRA on this issue.  But registration is not the issue.  The purchase of firearms by someone who has no business possessing one is.  If you study the cases carefully, you will find that the majority of firearms which were used, to the extent their sources could be discovered, were purchased legally, although in same cases they were obtained by theft from family members.  The point is that many of the firearms used by the mentally disturbed to accomplish these 74 shootings were purchased legally, as there is no effective background check at the present time.  One fills out a form (ATF 4473) when purchasing a firearm which has this question:  “Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective (which includes having been adjudicated incompetent to manage your own affairs) or have you ever been committed to a mental institution?”  That’s it.  That’s the present background check for mental illness.  The form asks the purchaser if s/he has ever been nutty; s/he says “no,” and that’s it.  Nothing more.  Unless the purchaser is standing on his/her head and spitting cotton burrs, the purchase goes through without a hitch.  That is just not enough.

I’m not sure I know what is enough, but I am pretty sure I know that background checks for mental illness past and present must be expanded and the resources created to do so.  A national data base is probably the only thing which would work, as more burden cannot be placed upon the firearms sellers who have enough paperwork to worry about as it is.  Today the dealer will call NCIC (National Crime Information Center) to find out if you have been convicted of a felony or are otherwise disqualified from firearm ownership.  Creating a similar database for those with a history of mental illness would not be a giant step, and perhaps the NCIC database could be expanded to include that information as it is already in place and has been working for many years.

This won’t keep those who are mentally ill from acquiring a firearm if they are sufficiently determined as most seem to be. There are an estimated 300 million guns in the United States.  Getting one shouldn’t be a problem.  Getting one legally, however, is a problem if someone has a history and the dealer can access it.  Of course all the privacy protections should remain in place, and they could.  You cannot access my record at NCIC if I have one, and I cannot access yours either.  So, the public would not have easy access to someone’s personal history.  Those who know the potential shooter, however, can and should intervene and damn the consequences.  The Columbine shooters even made YouTube uploads of their diabolical plans, but no one cared.  No one paid attention.  No one intervened.  12 young people died as a result, and scores of families were distraught and must now live forever with their losses.

I do not claim to have the answers.  But I do claim a determination to keep the conversation going until we collectively find the answers.  If we all do deep, serious and collective thinking, we will find our way out of this Dantesque horror film in which we are living, wondering if our children or someone we love will be the next school shooting victim.  A good start would be to teach our children the Cowboy Way about firearms, as they are not the problem, but the people who misuse them are.  Every shooter was someone’s child.  You can do your part to ensure it isn’t your child or one you influence who shoots or is shot.  Sound people don’t shoot other people.  That’s the Cowboy Way.

 

Columbine and The Aurora Theater Massacre

LawyerChuck

The Century theater shooting was 13 miles from Columbine 13 years after 13 people were killed.  12 were killed at Aurora.

Mass killings are rising world-wide, and will increase as population increases.  There are evil people, and although we do not understand their evil actions, people have been murdering forever.

We go into national shock over mass murder, but hardly notice a single murder on page 3.  Apparently we feel more vulnerable when many people die, as we consider we could have been there, but do not when we do not relate to the vulnerability.

That guns are frequently used in the United States brings a hue and cry for bans on high-capacity weapons and large quantities of ammunition.  The Aurora shooter had 6,000 rounds, thought to be unusual.  But it is not unusual for a competitive shooter to fire 3000-4000 rounds per week.  It is also not unusual for …

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Columbine and The Aurora Theater Massacre

The Century theater shooting was 13 miles from Columbine 13 years after 13 people were killed.  12 were killed at Aurora.

Mass killings are rising world-wide, and will increase as population increases.  There are evil people, and although we do not understand their evil actions, people have been murdering forever.

We go into national shock over mass murder, but hardly notice a single murder on page 3.  Apparently we feel more vulnerable when many people die, as we consider we could have been there, but do not when we do not relate to the vulnerability.

That guns are frequently used in the United States brings a hue and cry for bans on high-capacity weapons and large quantities of ammunition.  The Aurora shooter had 6,000 rounds, thought to be unusual.  But it is not unusual for a competitive shooter to fire 3000-4000 rounds per week.  It is also not unusual for  shooters to buy large quantities when ammunition is on sale, just as shoppers buy “on sale” items at the grocery store.

Quantity, however, begs the question of capacity.  Trap shooters fire 2 at a time, from a firearm with a total capacity of 2.  Although there is no need for a trap or skeet shotgun to have a large magazine, there is a need for military firearms to have high capacity.

Is there, however, a need for civilians to be able to acquire high-capacity magazines and assault rifles?  The answer is a resounding “no.”  Reasonable restrictions on the availability of these firearms are not only sensible but necessary.  A ban on such firearms was enacted during the Clinton Administration.  The “Clinton” restrictions should be re-enacted and made permanent.  No citizen needs a semi-automatic firearm capable of discharging 100 rounds per minute with a magazine loading 100 rounds in response.

It is naive to believe directing our attention to the means of human destruction will reduce the fact of human destruction.  We have 300 million firearms in the U.S. –  surely ample to keep the killing going.  If we could confiscate those weapons, the evil behind Columbine and Aurora would continue, and that evil would copy the mass killers of the Mid-East who favor bombs.  Ted Kaczynski, the “Unibomber” did. If evil people determine to kill, they will use bombs, poisons, poison gasses, structural failures, and others.  It is, then, the culture of evil upon which we should focus, not the means by which it is perpetrated.

We need to change the culture and reduce the violence.  We need to change our conversation and social contract.  And, we need to do this one person at a time.  We are not going to change TV news when violence sells; we are not going to change the genre of movies when violence sells; we are not going to change the culture when we allow incivility to rule.  We can change the culture of violence and evil only by changing the way in which we interact with each other.

We must do so by leading by example, speaking by example,  being kinder than necessary, recognizing everyone is carrying a heavy load, being kind and respectful in the face of rudeness and insult, practicing random acts of kindness in large and small ways on a daily basis, and changing our conversation from negative to positive as a commitment to how we live.  As the Navajo culture teaches, we must “Follow the beauty path.”

This takes conscious effort.  We must be mindful of our actions and determined to change the world around us, knowing our example will influence others.

All human actions begin with a conversation.  We must begin the conversation of kindness and civility as a commitment to leading by example.  We must begin the process of changing the culture of evil, one word, one action, one thought at a time.  Let us do no harm and follow the Beauty Path.

IN THE SHADOW OF COLUMBINE – THE AURORA THEATER MASSACRE

Ironically, the Century theater multiple shooting was but 13 miles from Columbine high school, and just 13 years later.  13 people were killed at Columbine, and 12 at Aurora, although the final body count is not yet in.  I suspect at least one of the critically injured will not survive, and will not be surprised if 13 is the final total dead in this most recent mass killing.

Mass killings have been on the rise world-wide, as has the global population, and we can expect more separated by less time as time passes and population increases.  More people means more disturbed people – the kind who perpetrate this kind of carnage.  There are evil people in the world, and in our towns and cities, and although we do not understand the source of their evil and the impetus for their actions, we do understand that people have been murdering people since time began, and that such is not likely to stop anytime soon.

Although popular belief appears to be that one person dying in a plane crash is not as bad as a whole plane load, to the survivors of the person who died the tragedy is not diminished by the lack of numbers.  So, also, is it with murder.  We go into national shock in the face of mass murder, but hardly notice when a murder somewhere else is posted in a few lines on page 3, and often not reported on the evening news, at least nationally.  Apparently we feel personally more vulnerable when many people are killed, as we consider that we could have been at that place at that time, while we have no such feelings of risk when we hear of a ghetto killing, as we do not relate to the setting or the vulnerability.

That guns are frequently used in the United States, and less frequently used in the rest of the world, always brings a hue and cry following Aurora-type events for more controls and less access by shooters to weapons of mass capacity (100 round magazines) and large quantities of ammunition.  It is reported that the Aurora shooter amassed 6,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibers, which is thought to be unusual.  Actually it is not that unusual for a competitive shooter to have 6000 rounds on hand at any given time, as I frequently fired off 3000-4000 rounds per week when I was trap shooting competitively.  It is also not unusual for regular shooters to buy in quantity when ammunition is on sale, for the same reason that shoppers stock up on “on sale” items at the grocery store.

Quantity, however, begs the question of capacity.  While I touched off several thousand rounds each week, I did so no more than 2 at a time, with a firearm having a total capacity of 2.  Although there is no need for a shotgun (the trap shooters firearm) to accommodate a large magazine, and indeed such would be too cumbersome to handle, there is a need for military firearms to have high capacity magazines for reasons which should be obvious.

Is there, however, a need for civilians to be able to easily acquire high-capacity magazines for tactical assault rifles such as was the case at the Aurora theater?  In my mind the answer is a resounding “no.”  Although I have made a living defending the Second Amendment for many years, and although I have been and am a member of the National Rifle Association for as many years, I believe that reasonable restrictions on the availability of high-cap firearms are not only sensible but necessary.  I was in favor of the ban on such firearms enacted during the Clinton Administration, and I am in favor of them now.  No citizen has a legitimate need for a semi-automatic firearm capable of discharging in excess of 100 rounds per minute with a magazine capable of loading 100 rounds in response.  So, if the “Clinton” restrictions are introduced in response to Aurora (and they surely will be), I support those restrictions and suggest they should be made permanent rather than having a sunset provision as was part of the previous law.

Having said this, it is naive to believe that directing our attention to the means of human destruction will have much to do with the fact of human destruction.  We have 300 million firearms in the U.S., so those already in circulation are surely ample to keep the killing going.  If we could somehow confiscate all those weapons, the evil behind Columbine, Aurora and others such events would still be with us, and I suspect that evil would take a page from the mass killers of the Mid-East who favor suicide vests and car bombs to carry out their works.  Ted Kaczynski thought so. If evil people determine to kill, they will find a way in the form of bombs, poisons, poison gasses, structural failures, and so it goes.  It is, then, the culture of evil which we should focus upon, not the means by which it is perpetrated.

We need to change the culture.  We need to reduce the violence.  We need to change our conversation and our social contract to reduce the resort to mass killing.  And, we need to do this one person at a time.  We are not going to change TV news when violence sells; we are not going to change the genre of movies when violence sells; we are not going to change the culture when we allow incivility to rule.  We can, however, change the culture of violence and evil by changing the way in which we interact with each other.

I suggest that we must do so by leading by example, which includes speaking by example, and which, among other things, means being kinder than necessary, recognizing that everyone is carrying a heavy load, being kind and respectful in the face of rudeness and insult, practicing random acts of kindness in large and small ways on a daily basis, and changing our conversation from negative to positive as a commitment to the way in which we choose to live our lives.  As the Navajo culture so aptly teaches, we must commit to “Follow the beauty path.”

This takes conscious effort.  We cannot be unconscious and cause any change.  We must be mindful of our actions, living in the present moment, and determined to change the world around us, knowing that the example we set will influence others even when we don’t know the others are aware.  We need to overhaul our thinking about and institutions of mental health, also, but I leave that discussion for another time.

All human actions begin with a conversation.  Let us begin the conversation of kindness and civility, as a commitment to leading by spoken example.  Let us monitor ourselves and each other, and begin the process of changing the culture of evil, one word, one action, one thought at a time, knowing that all change is accomplished in such manner.  Let us do no harm, both physically and verbally, and let us follow the beauty path because it is the right thing to do.

In memory of those who died and those who are suffering as a consequence of the evil at Aurora and throughout the world.

Namaste