The recent Kansas City shooting which killed four people was a horrific crime, but it should be discussed as what it was — a horrific crime — rather than the latest outbreak of a “health crisis,” as some are attempting to frame it.
“I continue to be frustrated that these mass shootings and killings occur with regular frequency,” Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement released Sunday about the shooting which occurred in the early hours of that morning at the Tequila KC bar in Kansas City, Kansas. “Our nation has an obligation to address this ongoing public health crisis.”
Kelly’s comments echoed those of President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges David Skorton in an opinion piece published last month in USA Today, a (much larger) publication now owned by the same parent company as this newspaper following a recent merger. Skorton repeatedly refers to gun violence as a “health crisis” and an “epidemic” in the piece.
“An epidemic is not political,” Skorton writes.
“While I do not view gun violence as a political issue, political decisions are adversely affecting the health care community’s ability to focus on prevention, the most effective approach to any medical challenge.”
Skorton goes on to propose legislation to fix a problem he has framed as apolitical.
“There are, of course, other steps that lawmakers can and must take to reverse the epidemic: passing universal background checks, reinstating an assault weapons ban, promoting extreme risk protection orders that identify at-risk individuals, and broadening safe storage laws that protect children from accessing guns,” he writes.
With all due respect, I beg to differ with Skorton’s characterization of gun violence. Medical professionals, of course, play a vital role in treating victims of gun violence. But the very fact that we refer to gun violence victims as victims should give away the rhetorical game being played here.
Similarly, Kelly in her statement says that “(w)e’ll continue working with law enforcement officials to bring those responsible to justice.” Law enforcement? Justice? Unless you’re talking about a case such as a stabbing, a hit-and-run traffic collision, or someone intentionally infecting others with HIV, you would rarely expect to hear about law enforcement or bringing a responsible party to justice for anything that could be considered a medical issue. And in all those cases, what you would really be talking about bringing someone to justice for would be the same as in the case of gun violence — a crime.
In the case of the suspects in the recent Kansas City shooting, a better job could have certainly been done of holding them responsible for recent past crimes prior to their even more recent killing spree.
Javier Alatorre, who was apprehended Sunday, was reportedly released on his own recognizance last month despite Jackson County, Missouri’s assistant prosecuting attorney Stephanie Sang filing a motion opposing the reduction of his bond “for a range of crimes … on the grounds that he was a flight risk with a habit of skipping court appearances and a danger to the community.”
Similarly, the second suspect, Hugo Villanueva-Morales, who was still at large Thursday, was reportedly arrested in August, while already on probation, for allegedly punching an off-duty Jackson County sheriff’s deputy in the face at another Kansas City nightclub.
Unless he was perhaps using brass knuckles, of course, this would be a lesser form of assault, one not involving an “assault weapon,” to use Skorton’s phrase. Obviously, when I say a “lesser form of assault” I am not necessarily talking just yet about the law or the Constitution, just as obviously as when Skorton talks about “an assault weapons ban” he is not talking about a ban on knives, bricks, golf clubs, baseball bats or rocks. For all I know, Villanueva-Morales knows karate and his hands could be considered a deadly weapon.
But Skorton is talking, of course, about (scary-looking, black) semi-automatic rifles. Well, maybe. Considering Skorton views gun violence as a health crisis, first and foremost, who knows? Maybe we will find him trying to redefine the already ridiculous and redundant term “assault weapon” to include handguns, knives, and various blunt objects soon enough.
Perhaps I have digressed. I don’t really know where I’m going with this. It just bothers me that people fall for this kind of rhetoric. And needless to say, I don’t agree with Skorton that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention needs dedicated taxpayer funding to study gun violence. How about you find that cure for cancer, doc, and then get back to me.
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” in the immortal words of Rahm Emanuel. “And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”
The recent deaths of Francisco Anaya-Garcia, Alfredo Calderon, Ebar Meza-Aguirre, and Martin Rodriguez-Gonzalez were a terrible tragedy, a crisis, even — but one that would not have been stopped by any peer-reviewed article in a medical journal or a new-and-improved ban on gun murder. Those promoting such supposed solutions, using whatever phrasing, clearly have a pre-existing agenda.
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." How’s that for rhetoric?