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Guns Are on the Minds of Folks in Kansas City

Guns have been much on the minds of folks in the greater Kansas City area for the last several weeks.

Since early in March, someone had been shooting at moving vehicles on highways around the area, likely from within another moving vehicle. Police had specifically linked a dozen of these shootings, with another eight or so others considered as possibly linked. Thankfully, there had been no fatalities, just several injuries. Several drivers didn’t even realize their cars had been shot until they got home and found a bullet hole. On Thursday night, the police arrested a suspect, Mohammed Whitaker, and at his home they found (among other things) the gun that fired the bullets recovered from eleven of the shootings. No motive has been announced, and police are continuing their investigation to see if the other shootings are connected.

In the midst of the turmoil around the area (more than a few people I know seriously asked themselves “Should I stay off the highways?”) came the shooting last Sunday at the Johnson County Jewish Community Center and a nearby Jewish retirement home in suburban Overland Park, Kansas. The shooter was F. Glenn Miller, Jr, an avowed anti-Semitic white supremacist. Miller killed three people in his shooting spree last Sunday — and in a sad slap at Miller’s ideology, all three were Christians, active in their local parishes, and not Jewish at all.

In both cases, though, a big outstanding question is “where did they get their guns?”

For Miller, the question is very disturbing, as he pleaded guilty to felony possession of hand grenade in 1987 after he and a group of rightwing paramilitary racists were arrested with a cache of weapons. Thus, his right to legally own a firearm was gone. So where did he get his guns? Did he steal the shotgun and handgun he used on Sunday? Did he borrow them from a friend? Did he buy them from a gun store and somehow avoid a background check? Did he pick them up at a gun show? Did he get someone to buy the guns for him? Lots of questions, but so far, few answers.

Whitaker, on the other hand, appears not to have done anything in the past that would disqualify him from owning a firearm. Indeed, the public picture so far does not give any clues as to why he would go off on this kind of shooting spree. Still, it appears clear that he did it, carefully and methodically, night after night after night. This was not a one-time crime of passion, but an ongoing project of violence.

Meanwhile, us folks in Kansas City look west and see the guns being waved at the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada, with a 20 year courtroom standoff over unpaid grazing fees being turned into a gathering of militiamen and other gunwavers, cheered on by the likes of Sean Hannity and anxious to create martyrs out of their wives and children in furtherance of Their Cause — the freedom to freeload on land they do not own.

The stories of Whitaker, Miller, and Bundy all share a common thread: the use of firearms to bend their world to their will.

I get that we are a nation filled with folks who have strong political opinions. Anyone who’s been reading me over the last however-many-years I’ve been writing at FDL knows that *I’m* someone with strong political opinions. This is not a problem. The problem comes when we add firearms to this volatile political stew.

What will it take, I wonder, for the sportsmen and sportswomen to stand up against the NRA’s unthinking opposition to rational legislation to curb the use of guns in crimes like these? How about police officers and members of the national guard? How about local leaders in big cities, suburban villages, or rural small towns?

How many drivers and cars need to be shot on the highway? How many teenage actors going to open auditions need to be killed in parking lots? How many law enforcement officers need to be threatened or killed for trying to enforce a waist-high stack of court orders? How many elementary schools need to be turned into shooting galleries? How many theaters need to become live-action killing fields? How many federal judges and member of Congress need to be attacked and killed?

What will it take to end the stranglehold that the blind worship of guns has on our culture?

I’ve made my thoughts on guns clear in the past here at FDL, as well as my thoughts on certain rightwing TheoCon preachers who think the answer is more prayer in schools and more teachers preaching hellfire and damnation in the classroom. Sorry, but no. I don’t have any new answers, but the questions are becoming more and more pressing.


Photo h/t to David Ohmer for the provocative photo

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.