Special Report: Orlando Mass Shooting

by David Samuels
This column appears in the June 16 – 23 edition of the Hartford News…
Community Party Radio on So-Metro Radio
Commentary on urban issues from a grassroots perspective. First, third and fifth Tuesday of each month. 8:00 PM Eastern Time 7:00 PM Central 5:00 PM Pacific. Tune in! Replays on the Tuesdays that we’re not on live and every Wednesday, same time. Next show: June 21. Co-host: Mary Sanders. Guests: Josh Elliott, a Bernie Sanders supporter who is running for a seat in the Connecticut General Assembly. Independent Hartford rap artist Protigee. (both rescheduled from May 31). Mary and I will discuss the Orlando mass shooting.  http://sometroradio.com/  Check out our No Sellout blog for info on the rest of our Community Party Media lineup, including False Choice: the Bipartisan Attack on the Working Class, the Poor and Communities of Color. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/community-party-media-3/
Community Party Radio Podcasts
Josh Elliott, Candidate for State Representative
Check out CP’s No Sellout blog Election 2016 Candidate Tracker for a profile provided by Josh Elliott, a Bernie Sanders supporter who is running for a seat in the Connecticut General Assembly. Includes info on making a donation to his campaign. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/election-2016-candidate-tracker-josh-elliott/
Community Update
Congratulations to Hartford residents who succeeded in keeping Martin Luther King School open. This is an important victory for supporters of public schools… We will keep an eye on the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office investigation of excessive use of force by Hartford Police officers. June 4th a stolen car chase began in Hartford and ended in West Hartford. According to multiple reports, a West Hartford police cruiser dash camera showed an HPD officer kicking or stomping a handcuffed suspect.
Analysis of Orlando Attack
Between 1982-2015 44 out of 72 mass shootings were initiated by white shooters. source:
“If you want to stop terrorism, stop participating in it.” ~ Noam Chomsky
Last November Robert Lewis Dear fatally shot a police officer and two civilians, while wounding five officers and four people during a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado. Donald Trump, who claims to support law enforcement, immediately blamed the shooting on Dear suffering from mental illness. Trump ducked the question about how right-wing rhetoric about Planned Parenthood could have played a role in pushing Dear (who has been declared mentally incompetent to stand trial) to commit mass murder. The ex-wife of Orlando spree killer Omar Mateen described him as violent, clearly mentally ill, yet Trump has immediately labeled Mateen as a Muslim terrorist. Trump is demonstrating that there is no depth too low for him to sink, in order to be elected President of the United States. Trump will blow off a mass shooting that includes cops among the casualties, and exploit another spree killing that fits his racist narrative about Muslims.
Meanwhile, the terror that was inflicted on the LGBT community has been relegated to a footnote by the corporate media. Last Sunday, a heavily armed man who was on his way to the Los Angeles gay pride festival was stopped by police. Violence against transgender individuals nationwide is rampant. Mateen was active on gay dating apps and had patronized Pulse nightclub frequently; his ex-wife said Mateen may have been struggling with his sexuality, and was called gay in front of her by Seddique Mir Mateen, Mateen’s homophobic father. Mateen denounced his son’s actions during an interview with Russian news channel RT, but added that God would punish gay people. The Courant reported that gay pride events in Hartford will take place as scheduled. Organizers met with the Hartford Police to discuss security measures.
There has been plenty of pontificating on social media about Orlando and gun violence. In Australia, there hasn’t been a mass shooting in 20 years, and gun violence has decreased by 50%. Monday Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman interviewed international arms control advocate Rebecca Peters.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to what happened in another country after a massacre like we’ve seen—actually, not as many people killed. As the U.S. struggles to make sense of yet another mass shooting, we’ll end the show with a look at one country that fought to change the culture of gun violence and won. It was 20 years ago, almost exactly, April of 1996. A gunman opened fire on tourists in Port Arthur, Tasmania, killing 35 people and wounding 23 more. This is Australia. Just 12 days after the grisly attack and public outcry it launched, Australia’s government responded by announcing a bipartisan deal to enact gun control measures. Totally amazing, a gun-loving country. The pact included agreements with state and local governments. Since the laws were passed—now 20 years ago—there’s not been a mass shooting in Australia, and overall gun violence has decreased by 50 percent.
We’re joined by Rebecca Peters, an international arms control advocate, part of the International Network on Small Arms, led the campaign to reform Australia’s gun laws after the Port Arthur massacre.
Rebecca, welcome back to Democracy Now!
REBECCA PETERS: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what took place in April of 1996. We only have about five minutes to go.
REBECCA PETERS: Well, we had had a campaign for about 10 years at that time to reform the gun laws, which were weak in some states, and it was a patchwork across the country, as it is in the U.S. In April of ’96, this tragedy occurred, where 35 people were killed. And at that moment, our prime minister said, “This is the time. After all this prevaricating, we’re going to do something.”
AMY GOODMAN: Now, just to explain the context—
REBECCA PETERS: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —I mean, would you describe Australia’s culture as a gun-loving culture of hunters?
REBECCA PETERS: Sure, yeah. Australia is a very—you know, the self-image of Australia is often sort of an outdoor guy on a horse with a gun type of thing, not too dissimilar from the traditional image of Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: Not too distant.
REBECCA PETERS: And hunting is very popular, and—but there were—there just were too many guns, and guns of a type which were assault weapons, which were not really suitable, not necessary for hunting. And it was known that that was the case, but it had taken—governments had continually fobbed it off, said, “Now’s not the time. Wait ’til a better moment.” And so, at that moment, the prime minister stepped up and said, “This is it,” and he called together all the states and territories, and put to them a plan which had been endorsed by the public health community, which had been endorsed by many hundreds of groups across the country who had been campaigning for a long time.
And that was the—one of the most important aspects of that law, of that set of laws, was a ban on assault weapons, on semiautomatic weapons, which are weapons designed to kill lots of people. And not surprisingly, as we’ve seen in Orlando, a weapon designed to kill lots of people kills lots of people. And so, the laws say those weapons cannot be owned by civilians.
And one of the other most important aspects of the laws, which is very applicable here, is that the background check system in the new laws is very comprehensive. You know, in America, the background check consists of, usually, looking at a computer to see if someone has a criminal conviction. That’s not a background check. I mean, you know, in New York City, if you want to apply to rent an apartment, if you want to apply to go to university, there’s a background check. People talk—the authorities talk to people who know you. They ask their opinion of you. And similarly, in Australia and most other developed countries, a background check consists of asking for references—your family doctor, talking to your spouse or your previous spouse, asking, “Is there any concern?”
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is key, given what his ex-wife, Mateen’s ex-wife, said, that he beat her, that he was violent, that he had an obsession with guns, wanted to be a cop, always wore that NYPD T-shirt, and ended up as a security guard.
REBECCA PETERS: Exactly. And relying on a computer list, which is subject to so many problems, whether local jurisdictions have put in information, whether there are even word processing errors—I mean, you have to use your brains.
AMY GOODMAN: What was the response of the equivalent of the NRA in Australia?
REBECCA PETERS: The gun lobby was very unhappy in Australia at the time and had lots of protests, and in fact very irresponsibly urged people not to comply with the new laws, which also—
AMY GOODMAN: They were passed within two weeks?
REBECCA PETERS: Well, the agreement—the agreement was made within two weeks, and then the laws had to be passed in each state, because the laws are state laws. Within one year, all the states had modified their laws. And we’ve seen gun violence decrease by 50 percent in that time.
An overlooked element of the terrorism debate: blowback. The United States government’s pursuit of global dominance, carried out through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that kill civilians, proxy wars in Syria and Libya, and the U.S. sales of weapons throughout the world. Saudi Arabia is the biggest customer. Israel uses U.S. weapons to oppress the Palestinians.
The attack in Orlando is NOT the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States. Black Agenda Report commentator Margaret Kimberley set the record straight.
“Contrary to press reports, the killing of 50 people at a gay club in Orlando, Florida is not the worst mass shooting in American history. Where to begin?

On December 29, 1890 the U.S. army killed 150 Lakota at Wounded Knee, in South Dakota. On April 13, 1873 between 62 and 153 black men were shot to death in Colfax, Louisiana. But wait. There’s more. On November 29, 1864 between 70 and 163 Cheyenne and Arapaho were killed by the Colorado militia at Sand Creek. On May 31, and June 1, 1921 between 55 and 300 black people were killed by a white mob in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There are more atrocities like these, but I thought of these first.”

Worth noting amid the Islamophobic hysteria surrounding the mass shooting in Orlando: Friday, June 17 is the one-year anniversary of the Mother Emanuel terror attack in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine Black people, including state senator Clementa C. Pinckney, were fatally shot by Dylann Roof, a white supremacist.
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and world news headlines. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1 Check out my Facebook page for daily news commentary. https://www.facebook.com/david.samuels.948   Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm and So-Metro Radio the first, third and fifth Tuesday of each month at 8:00 PM for commentary on urban issues http://www.sometroradio.com/  Check out our No Sellout blog (https://hendu39.wordpress.com/) for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s archive for selected columns (http://www.northendagents.com/). Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com  
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