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Christine Conetta   |   October 12, 2015    9:39 AM ET

SYDNEY, Australia – Most Australians would remember where they were when they first heard something bad was going on at Port Arthur.

I was walking through the common room at my university residential college and there was a group glued to the old picture­ tube television in the corner -- strange for daylight hours.

Scraps of information were seeping out from the wind­swept historical site on the southern shore of Tasmania, not far from the bottom of the world and already stalked by the ghosts of its brutal penal colony past.

No one was Tweeting. Social media barely existed. Mobile phones were a luxury and spots as remote as Port Arthur had no coverage anyway.

A gunman was on the loose. Five, ten, 15 people shot. Preposterous numbers that just kept growing.

Local police scrambled down the narrow road in, unaware what horror they approached. In the end the toll from ‘the Port Arthur Massacre,’ as it’s etched into Australian vernacular, was 35 dead and 23 injured.

April 28, 1996. Twenty years next year.

It’s sometimes cheap to say an event changed a nation -- but Port Arthur changed Australia.

A whole generation of young Australians is now coming of age having never borne witness to a mass shooting in their own country.

They don’t remember Port Arthur because they weren’t born when a 28­-year-­old with a low IQ stalked through a tourist attraction picking off innocent men, women and children with high-powered weaponry for reasons none of us will ever fathom.

Young adults who have graduated high ­school, can vote, drive and legally drink alcohol (in Australia the drinking age is 18) have never walked on to campus fearing the weirdo from their economics tutorial might turn out to be a gun nut with a death wish.

That’s freedom.


Eighteen- and 19-­year-­old Australians have a luxury they don’t even recognize. Huffington Post Australia spent time on the campus of Sydney University asking about the threat of gun crime.

The responses (see above video) speak for themselves.

Tim Jackson, 21, summed it up: “It hasn’t happened in Australia now for nearly 20 years so to me I don’t think there’s a particular risk of it happening to any of us.”


As the full­-scale horror of what had unfolded at Port Arthur dawned on shocked Australians a refrain Americans would be well­ familiar with rang out -- ‘never again’.

The gunman -- to this day holed up in a Tasmanian prison serving 35 life sentences ­ had used two semi­-automatic rifles, which he claimed to have bought from a dealer with no license.

John Howard had only very recently been elected Prime Minister, leading a coalition government with the conservative rural National Party. Ask him now what he considers the greatest achievement of his 11-­year administration, he invariably answers ‘gun control.’

With the passing of nearly two decades it might start to appear radically overhauling Australia’s gun laws was easy.

It wasn’t.

The legal administration of guns in Australia was a state, not federal, issue. The new prime minister had to corral the premiers of six diverse states into banning the military-­style weapons not considered crucial to the agricultural sector.

The debate reached its climax when Howard appeared at a rally in rural Victoria wearing what appeared to be body armor under his jacket.

john howard vest

In a nation where the PM’s ‘motorcade’ is a single trailing sedan, the image shocked many and offended others -- not least the participants at the rally who felt unfairly maligned.

Howard has said since it was the wrong decision to wear it, telling an interviewer last year, “I never actually felt frightened... it sent the wrong signal.”

But grasping the momentum of ‘never again,’ The National Firearms Agreement banned semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and pump-­action shotguns, and brought in rigid licensing arrangements. An amnesty was declared and the federal government spent $AUD 500 million ­­-- paid for by a special levy -- ­­on buying back weapons suddenly ruled illegal for their market value.

Nearly 1 million guns were purchased by the government and destroyed.

All firearms in Australia must be registered to a licensed owner and stored under strict conditions, separate to ammunition. Obtaining a gun license is onerous, and requires background checks that can take months.

john howard gun

The Queensland premier Rob Borbidge paid with his career. The conservative then-leader of Australia’s most conservative state put his political neck on the line for gun safety and lost government at the next election.

In 2013, he told John Oliver: “I was prepared to face the political consequences and we delivered gun control. We paid a high political price but we did the right thing.

“There are Australians alive today because we took that action. How much is a life worth?”

No laws are perfect. The Australian Crime Commission estimates there are probably 250,000 illegal long­-arms in Australia, and 10,000 illegal handguns.

The pump­-action shotgun used in the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney was believed to be one of them.

You can never really say ‘never.’ But you can envy those 18- and 19-­year-­olds roaming university campuses across Australia never having had to contemplate they might be next.

Video produced by Amber Ferguson and Christine Conetta in the U.S. and Tom Compagnoni and Josh Butler in Australia.

Why Does a Minority Always Win in the Shoot Out Over Gun Control?

David Ropeik   |   October 12, 2015    8:11 AM ET

Our thoughts and prayers aren't enough, we are told. Our sorrow and anger are not enough. We express them after every mass shooting, but nothing changes.

Why aren't these repeated outpourings of emotion and public opinion overwhelmingly in favor of reasonable gun safety laws, enough to get things to change? In a word: fear. The people who fight so fiercely for unfettered gun rights are more afraid than the people who want reasonable gun control.

Yes, fear. Ask yourself one question. How worried -- seriously, personally worried -- are you that you will be shot to death? As sad as you may be about the tragic mass murders in Oregon last week and all the other mass murders-by-gun that have made headlines over recent years, and as angry as you may be that American democracy has been hijacked by extremists who took over the leadership of the NRA in a coup in the '70s to use the gun issue to pursue an absolutist libertarian agenda, how really scared are you, personally, that you will be killed by somebody else with a gun? Probably not all that much.

Statistically this makes sense. In 2013, the chance of being murdered by a gun for the average American was 0.0000035. And, of course, gun murders occur more frequently in certain areas and under certain conditions, making the risk for the "average" American even lower than that.

Psychologically, this lack of worry makes sense, too. We all go about our daily business under the comfortable deceit of what is known as Optimism Bias. Unless a threat is staring us right in the face, we blithely tell ourselves -- subconsciously, of course -- "It won't happen to me." So we may feel sad at the tragedy of these murders. And we may be angry. But we are not personally worried that we are in serious danger. We're not scared enough to get active enough to really press for change.

On the other hand, the few fierce radicals of the gun rights movement are scared, deeply scared. Of what? They say they feel threatened by criminals, terrorists, illegal immigrants, and most of all by 'big government'. They say they need guns to protect themselves from all those threats.

But what these extreme libertarians actually fear runs much deeper than that. These are people who want to live in a society that allows the individual maximum freedom of choice. Yet the government tells them what to do in all sorts of ways, and the more moderate democratic majority overrules their values on issues like abortion or gay marriage, and they feel powerless, viscerally upset that their freedoms are being denied. As the head of the NRA, Wayne "No Compromise" LaPierre has said of the gun rights issue, "Reduced to its core, it is about fundamental individual freedom, human worth and self-destiny (my emphases).

In essence the extremists fighting for unfettered gun rights feel like the world is taking away their power to control their lives. Such powerlessness is profoundly threatening. Research on the psychology of risk perception has found that lack of control -- powerlessness -- is deeply threatening to anyone's sense of safety. Whether it's sitting in the passenger seat of a car and being nervous because you don't have the wheel in your hand, or suffering as a democratic society tells you what to do and imposes values that conflict with yours, when you don't have control over what's happening to you... it's really scary.

This psychology explains why the NRA wins. Gun rights extremists feel seriously personally threatened. They care more.

Depressing as that sounds, there is hope, and it comes, surprisingly, from the very Supreme Court decision that gave the gun rights movement its most important victory. In his majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote:

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited."
Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. ... the sorts of weapons protected were those "in common use at the time." We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons.

Scalia even seems to invite gun control legislation to work out the details of what the Second Amendment does and doesn't allow, noting that the ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller was just a first step that left a lot to be determined by the democratic process:

... since this case represents this Court's first in-depth examination of the Second Amendment , one should not expect it to clarify the entire field.


We are aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country, and we take seriously the concerns raised by the many amici who believe that prohibition of handgun ownership is a solution. The Constitution leaves the (government) a variety of tools for combating that problem, including some measures regulating handguns.

That is a lot of language, from an arch-conservative paragon, that says all sorts of controls on gun ownership are well within the 2nd Amendment, and that the No Compromise gun rights extremists don't have a legal leg to stand on as they fight any and all reasonable gun safety laws.

But they do have a political leg to stand on, a powerful political leg standing on the deep fears of a small group of people who feel that their freedom to live the way they want ...who feel that their control over their own lives and futures... is threatened. Until the majority of Americans who want reasonable gun safety laws feel that level of passion, the shootings will continue, the bodies will pile up, the professed public sadness/shock/frustration will come and go... and not much will change.

The Constitution Does Not Give 'Crazies' or Republicans the Right to Bear Arms

Alan Singer   |   October 12, 2015    7:13 AM ET

Ben Carson is one of the leading candidates for the Republican Party nomination for President. He does not believe that a Muslim can be President of the United States. He thinks the Holocaust would have been avoided if German Jews carried guns, but does not realize that most of the Jews murdered by the Nazis lived in Poland and Russia. He believes there is an inalienable Constitutional right to own a gun. In a Facebook interview Carson declared "I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away." Apparently he is not that familiar with the United States Constitution, but why should bigotry and ignorance disqualify him or any other Republicans from office. Jeb Bush brushed off the recent mass murder at a community college in Oregon as "stuff happens."

But the United States Constitution does not give "crazies" or Republicans the unrestricted right to own and use guns. The Common Core standards promote close reading of text. Let's take a close look at what the Constitution says.

According to the Preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

At least according to the text, the original intent of the authors of the Constitution was to "insure domestic Tranquility," "provide for the common defence", "promote the general Welfare," and "secure the Blessings of Liberty." The question is whether unrestricted or minimally restricted gun ownership insures domestic tranquility, provides for national defense, promotes general welfare, or secures the blessing of liberty? Mass murders are definitely not tranquil, the mass murderers are the people we need to be defended from, their having guns does not promote anyone's welfare, and allowing them to have guns certainly did not secure the blessing of liberty to those who were murdered.

But does the government have the authority to restrict gun ownership?

Article 1 Section 8, often referred to as the elastic clause, authorizes Congress "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." Apparently the government does have the authority to "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper" to ensure the mandate spelled out in the preamble which includes regulating gun ownership. This clause makes it possible for the government to regulate the Internet, credit card transactions, air travel, and cable companies, technologies that did not exist when the Constitution was written.

Defenders of the unrestricted right to bear arms like the National Rifle Association cite the Second Amendment to the Constitution as the bases for their right to own automatic guns and high-powered rifles.

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.

Gun advocates think they have a strong case here, but they are missing three important things.

1. The point about the militia. Militias are supposed to be "well regulated." Let's return to Article 1 Section 8. Among the enumerated powers of Congress, it is authorized to "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions" and "To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress." Apparently Congress gets to decide who gets what weapons, not individuals.

2. "The right of the people to keep and bear Arms" does not specifically permit every individual to own automatic guns and high-powered rifles. There is no reason Congress cannot restrict the type of arms an individual is permitted to own. Congress already does that. United States law requires a license by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to refine or import nuclear material and arms importation laws limit importing a nuclear weapon. There is no legal way to acquire a nuclear weapon and their should be no legal way for a civilian outside a militia to acquire automatic guns and high-powered rifles. If they cannot control weapons, they certain can restrict bullets. I have no problem if gun nuts run around using their rifles as clubs, just as long as they can't be fired.

3. To me, what is most important is this concept of the "people," whose rights "shall not be infringed." The "people" refers to a collective right to bear arms in the national defense, not an individual right to shoot people. When the Constitution discusses individuals, it refers to "persons." Individual persons do not have the unrestricted constitutional right to own deadly weapons.

Where is Common Core and the close reading of text when it is useful?

The United States Constitution needs to be seen as a guideline for decision-making, not a restrictive 18th century template that prevents all government action forevermore. Rights are often in conflict and they are not absolute. Terrorist threats are not protected speech. They are illegal. It is also illegal for civilians to bring firearms, ammunition, or clips and magazines on an airplane, whatever the 2nd amendment says or means.

My unrestricted right to do anything I want can interfere with the rights of other individuals or society as a whole to live in tranquility. That is why the Constitution mandates action to promote the general welfare and permits restricting the right of "crazies" and Republicans to bear arms.

Ben Carson Proposes Ending Police Violence Against Black Men by Giving All Black Men Guns

Michael Gene Sullivan   |   October 12, 2015    6:07 AM ET

"The only way to stop a bad cop with a gun is with a good Black man with a gun," says GOP presidential hopeful to stunned audience.

After enduring blistering attacks regarding his statement that The Holocaust could have been avoided if Germany's Jewish population had been armed, Republican presidential candidate and wealthy neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson yesterday took his First Amendment position a step further by addressing one of the most pressing issues in today's America.

"Too many innocent, unarmed Black men are being killed every day by brutal, criminal police officers who see Blackness as a crime punishable by death," Carson said to a stunned senior luncheon at the George Wallace Memorial Cafeteria in Jorkie, Alabama. "How can anyone who believes in the Second Amendment deny these men the chance to defend themselves? Since when do Americans stand by and let uniformed murders walk our streets, preying in whomever they wish?" asked Carson. "Our Founding Fathers did not give us the Right to Bear Arms so that we may settle family disputes with bloodshed - they put this right in the Constitution so that we may help our nation defend itself from external threats, and that we may defend ourselves from the violence of brutal authoritarianism!" Carson roared, to the bewilderment of his melanin-deprived audience, but to the delight of Wilson Jenkins, 87, an indentured servant whose family had been bequeathed to the center in 1869. "I thought this Carson was just another crazy, wanna-be-white fool who had taken too many of his own drugs," said Jenkins as he tugged at his ankle chain, "but finally the brother is starting to make some sense."

"We talk about self-defense," continued Dr. Carson, "but we're not talking about the self-defense of those who most need defending. We try to frighten the soccer mom into buy a Glock, or the small town home owner into getting a shotgun. Why? Statistics show that they are more likely to be killed by a friend or a spouse, and often with the very gun they bought for protection. No, if we want to get guns in the hands of those most threatened by the awful violence of relentless, murderous oppression - as the Founders intended - then we must make sure every Black man has a gun at all times, and that he is trained to use it not to settle arguments or commit petty crimes, but to defend himself, his family, and his Liberty! Only then will these most tyrannized of citizens have a fighting chance against the insane violence perpetrated against them by our racist police state."

Reaction, understandably, was mixed to Carson's statement. When reached for comment about this logical conclusion of the National Rifle Association's "defense against tyranny" position NRA president Wayne LaPierre curled up into a small ball under his desk and repeated "No comment" until he lost consciousness. Gun Rights advocate and U.S. Senator John McCain insisted to reporters that he would've loved to answer questions but had unfortunately locked himself in his car and couldn't get out, being "unable to figure out these newfangled doors." Meanwhile police departments around the country expressed trepidation about Carson's proposition. "I don't think that's the best solution to this particular problem," said Chief Glen Watson, of the Chesterville, Michigan police department. "Maybe we could just train our officers better, ya know? Train them to not see every Black man as a problem that can only be solved with a bullet. Heck, it's worth a try." Chief Becky Meyers, of Unctuous, New Jersey feels the real problem would be with the loss of fearful obedience to authority. "If we can't rely on the threat of arbitrary violence how are we supposed to get respect in our communities?" the Chief wondered. "I just don't get it."

When answering questions on FOX and Friends this morning Carson further elaborated on the need for "Revolutionary Self-Defense" against the abuses of what he called "the racist, imperialist police state."

"Blacks were not the first to feel the full, terrible force of American imperialism, and the lack of weapons to resist it," the candidate said as he adjusted his beret. "Our red brothers and sisters, armed with spear and axe, were no match for colonists who robbed and raped them. My African ancestors, dragged from their home continent did not have the benefit of guns to fight off their enslavers, or had enough - due to restrictive gun laws regarding slaves - to rise up and overthrow those who brutalized them once they were here. But today - whether Black, or Latino, Asian, or working-class Whites who have also been oppressed as Capitalists set color against color while profiting from our class disunity - if we apply the Second Amendment we can, if not right past wrongs, at least defend ourselves against current crimes, and resist this unbearable oppression." When host Brian Kilmeade attempted to continue the interview with an innocent joke about Carson's black leather jacket, the doctor interrupted with "What are you laughing at, White Man? You think I don't know where you live?" Carson then glared at Kilmeade with four hundred years of righteous anger, until the narrow-necked host defensively relieved himself on the studio couch. With a heavily-intoned "Death to the Pigs" Dr. Carson stalked out, and Elizabeth Hasselbeck quickly introduced a video segment on zucchini pancakes.

Igor Bobic   |   October 11, 2015    2:59 PM ET

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson defended his controversial comments that the Holocaust could have been prevented if only the Jewish people in Europe had been armed.

"It's not hyperbole at all," Carson said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” "Whether it’s on our doorstep or whether it’s 50 years away, it's still a concern and it’s something that we must guard against. That’s one of the real purposes of having a constitution. I think the founders were really quite insightful into looking at possibilities and understanding what has happened in other places and trying to put together something that would prevent that from happening here."

The famed neurosurgeon said that Hitler's successes in Europe would have been "greatly diminished" if Jews had more guns.   

"I'm telling you there is a reason these dictatorial people take the guns first," he added.

Carson, who is surging in national polls and currently stands in second place behind real estate mogul Donald Trump, again blamed the media for making his comments "into hyperbole and [trying] to make it into controversy."

"But the fact of the matter is when you talk to average American citizens, they know exactly what I'm talking about," he said.

The Anti-Defamation League, which monitors and responds to anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, said these sorts of comments are "historically inaccurate and offensive."

Adam Goldberg   |   October 11, 2015    1:53 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) — Amid the bloodbaths of 21st-century America, you might think that there would be a lot of research into the causes of gun violence, and which policies work best against it.

You would be wrong.

Gun interests, wary of any possible limits on weaponry, have successfully lobbied for limitations on government research and funding, and private sources have not filled the breach. So funding for basic gun violence research and data collection remains minuscule — the annual sum total for all gun violence research projects appears to be well under $5 million. A grant for a single study in areas like autism, cancer or HIV can be more than twice that much.

There are public health students who want to better understand rising gun-related suicide rates, recent explosions in firearm murders in many U.S. cities, and mass murders like the one this month at an Oregon community college, where a lone gunman killed nine people.

But many young researchers are staying away from the field. Some believe there's little hope Congress will do anything substantive to reduce gun violence, regardless of what scientists find. And the work is stressful — many who study gun violence report receiving angry emails and death threats from believers in unrestricted gun ownership.

Most importantly, there's simply not enough money.

Gregory Tung is a sharp young scientist who trained at Johns Hopkins University with some of the nation's leading gun violence researchers. He's fascinated by gun violence, and the mountain of unanswered questions about why it may be surging and how to prevent it.

But he's not becoming a gun violence researcher himself.

"From a self-preservation standpoint, I think about, is there enough funding to support this kind of work? And there's just not," said Tung, who is now an assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health in Denver whose emphasis is issues like youth violence and child abuse.


How did this happen?

U.S. health researchers began to take a hard look at gun violence about 30 years ago, when firearm homicide rates were climbing to what were described as epidemic proportions. During 1986 and 1987, more than 66,000 Americans died from gunshot wounds — a greater toll than what U.S. forces suffered during the entire Vietnam War.

Gun homicides had always been treated as a criminal justice issue, and gun suicides as a mental health issue. But starting in the late 1970s, researchers increasingly saw it as fair game for public health. Scientist had tamed polio, yellow fever and other infectious diseases that had once ranked among the nation's leading causes of death. They also were making strides against heart disease and cancer, thanks to treatment advances and anti-smoking campaigns. They even were having success against another leading killer, automobile accidents. So it was natural to turn next to gun-related homicide and suicide — consistently ranked among the nation's 15 leading causes of death.

Currently, gun-inflicted injuries rank among the top five killers of people ages 1 to 64. In an average year, they account for far more deaths than traditional public health targets like influenza and food poisoning.

"The line is: 'If it's not a public health issue, why are so many people dying?'" said Philip Cook, a Duke University economist who in the 1970s began studying the impact of guns on society.

The Centers for Disease Control, the federal government's lead agency for the detection and prevention of health threats, took an early leading role in fostering more research into violence.

In 1992, CDC received the congressional go-ahead for establishing a National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, where gun violence was an important emphasis. Private philanthropies like the Joyce Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation also began putting money into research aimed at understanding and preventing gun violence.

The number of researchers committed to gun violence rose from a dozen or so in the late 1980s to more 25 or 30 by the mid-1990. And interest was growing not only among public health researchers, but also among scholars in fields like anthropology, criminology, education and sociology, said Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the CDC injury center's director back then.

CDC-funded research — some of it published in the nation's most prestigious medical journals — implicitly questioned the wisdom of having a gun. Studies found that having a gun in the home tripled the risk that someone there would be murdered, and dramatically increased the chance of a suicide occurring as well.

Beginning in the 1980s, the National Rifle Association tried to discredit such studies, accusing the CDC and the researchers the agency funded of incompetence and falsifying data.

In 1995, the NRA and sympathetic lawmakers pushed for the elimination of the CDC injury center, claiming it had embarked on a political agenda against gun ownership. That bid failed. But the next year, Congress took the $2.6 million CDC had budgeted for firearm injury research and earmarked it for traumatic brain injury. Congressional Republicans also included language directing that no CDC injury research funding could go to research that might be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control.

Exactly what that language meant wasn't clear. But CDC officials, aware of how vulnerable their injury research center was becoming, ultimately adopted a conservative interpretation. "They fired a big shot across our bow" that was seen as saying "any hint that you are crossing the line we will take as an invitation to come and take away the rest of your funding," Rosenberg recalled.

NRA officials in Washington did not respond to repeated AP requests for comment for this story.

The CDC ceased to be the main engine driving gun violence research, and the agency's next director dismissed Rosenberg. The agency also began giving a heads-up phone call to the NRA any time a report was coming out that discussed guns — a practice that lasted about a decade until about 2010, CDC officials say. But there haven't been many, mostly reports on injuries or deaths in which gun numbers are packed among the statistics for car crashes, drownings and poisonings.

Quietly, there is some gun-specific research still going on at CDC. In June, the journal Preventive Medicine published a paper from CDC researchers that went into depth on recent gun injury statistics. It noted deaths from gunfire have been holding steady at about 32,000 a year, with nearly half of them occurring in the South. But while the rates for gun murders and unintentional shooting deaths have been falling, firearm suicides — which account for 60 percent of gun deaths — have been rising. And nonfatal shooting injuries have reached their highest level since 1995.

Another CDC effort: At the invitation of Delaware officials, CDC scientists have been researching a gun violence prevention project in homicide-plagued Wilmington. One scientist presented preliminary results last fall at a CDC seminar in Atlanta. But CDC has yet to release the research publicly. The work remains under internal review; the CDC has not yet approved it to be submitted to a scientific journal.

CDC officials say gun violence research is important. "We're ready, if we can get the (Congressional) support to do it," said Jim Mercy, director of violence prevention at the CDC injury center.

But Linda Degutis, who was head of the CDC's national injury center from 2010 until early last year, said she left because she wanted to work on increasing funding for injury and violence research — including projects that might involve looking at firearms. A focus on gun violence research is "not something I ever saw as an option" at CDC, Degutis said.


With the CDC largely out of the picture, gun violence researchers turned to other sources. But there wasn't much. The field withered, with limited funding and not much new blood. In the last decade, funding for gun violence grew so tight that Dr. Garen Wintemute, a long-time national leader in gun violence based at the University of California at Davis, spent more than $1 million of his own money to keep different gun violence research projects going.

Much of the research that has been done has had to be relatively simple — based on small surveys or on what limited federal or state data has been collected on guns and on gun-related injuries and deaths. Wintemute said some of it has over-reached. He noted one study that suggested the more firearms laws a state has, the lower the rate of gun deaths. But there wasn't enough information or analysis to say whether certain law made more difference than others, or to account for other factors, he said.

As state and federal officials debate gun laws or violence prevention programs, it's often not clear how well they'll work. To answer such questions, researchers ideally would like to know the exact number, type, and distribution of guns, as well as who owns them and where people got them. They'd like to know how and where they're stored, and to track what happens after people take different types of gun safety courses.

That's all key data for determining actual risk and what measures best reduce gun injuries and deaths.

But no agency tracks U.S. gun ownership. No one really knows how many guns there are in the United States.

There isn't even a comprehensive data base on victims. In 2004, the CDC started building a national violent death data base that marries information from death certificates with data from sources like medical examiner and crime lab reports. The idea is to give a more complete understanding of each shooting death and the firearms involved. But due to insufficient federal funding, only 32 states are currently in the system.

Researchers have hoped for a turning point; some development that might cause more people to advocate for gun violence prevention research. There were such turning points regarding cigarette smoking and automobile safety in the 1960s, thanks to galvanizing reports from — respectively — the U.S. Surgeon General and consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

But there has been no such galvanizing book or scientific report to hit the gun violence debate. Because there's been limited data and research on the topic, public health experts have wondered if there can be such a turning point where guns are concerned.

Then came the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

One Friday morning in December 2012, an armed 20-year-old man entered the school and used a semiautomatic rifle to slay 20 first graders and six adult school staff members before killing himself. It was the deadliest mass slaying at a school in U.S. history.

"If you were some kind of futurist operating a number of years ago, and you said; 'You know what would be the tipping point for changing gun policy? Someone walking into a school and shooting 20 little kids,' I would have agreed," said Stephen Teret of Johns Hopkins, who is something of a godfather to the field of U.S.gun violence research.

Advocacy organizations focused on stopping gun violence saw a boom in donors and volunteers. And after the urging for more gun violence research from more than 100 scientists, the White House issued 23 executive orders in reaction to Newtown, including one directing the CDC to research the causes and prevention of gun violence. The actions included a call for Congress to provide $10 million to the CDC for gun violence research. The CDC's Degutis asked the prestigious Institute of Medicine to convene a special committee of experts to develop the research agenda.

But Congress did not budget money to the CDC for gun violence research. It didn't strip away the legislative language that had chilled CDC activity on guns, either. The research agenda was not formally adopted by anybody.

Some new funding has emerged, including from advocacy organizations. Everytown for Gun Safety, funded by philanthropist/former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which this year made grants of more than $500,000 to independent scientists.

But such money has a potential downside. Critics — including the gun lobby — might raise questions about how objective research is when it's funded by an advocacy organization, acknowledged Ted Alcorn, Everytown's research director. "To delegitimize researchers," he added.

Perhaps the greatest ray of hope comes from the National Institutes of Health, the federal government's lead medical research agency. In September 2013, NIH announced three new funding opportunities for violence research, including for projects that focus specifically on firearms. The NIH has a budget more than four times greater than the CDC, and some in the gun violence research field are excited. "It's a sea change that the NIH would do this," said Charles Branas, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Injury Science Center.

But so far the NIH announcement has not exactly led to a flood of new funding. Since the violence research announcements, the agency received 136 applications for that funding. The NIH has made nine awards, including only two — together totaling about $600,000 paid out this year — that specifically focus on guns.

Researchers say they've found some encouragement on the state and local level. In August, Seattle's city council approved a tax in gun and ammunition sales in the city to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars annual for gun violence prevention research and programs. The tax is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, but the NRA and other gun rights groups have sued to stop it, saying Washington state law pre-empts municipalities from enacting such ordinances.

It's tough sledding, said Dr. Frederick Rivara, a University of Washington researcher who co-authored several influential gun violence studies through the years. Among all the topics a public health researcher can go into, "I think this is probably the most challenging one," he said.


One month after the Newtown shootings, John Hopkins held a summit on reducing gun violence in America. It got wide notice — Bloomberg was a speaker — and it was webcast and part of it was broadcast on C-SPAN. Daniel Webster, the gun center's director, was about to stand up to give concluding remarks when he glanced at his Blackberry and read a threatening, anonymous email .

"It was very specific about what he intended to do to me. I got up to the podium and I was literally shaking," Webster recalled. There was a voicemail, too.

More than a decade ago, Webster's mentor, Stephen Teret, was so alarmed by a menacing letter he received from a man in the Indianapolis area that he contacted university security. They contacted law enforcement officials in Indiana who told the man not to contact Teret again. Years later, Teret was speaking at a conference at an Indianapolis hotel. Teret had advised conference organizers about the earlier threat, and they had arranged heavy security. In the middle of Teret's talk, the letter writer stood up and started screaming at him from the audience. Security quickly rushed Teret off the stage.

Death threats are relatively rare, but angry phone calls are not. The University of Pennsylvania's Branas told a story about being at a baseball game with a younger researcher shortly after a high-profile gun violence study was released. Someone angered by the paper got Branas' cell phone number and called him during the game.

"Wow," the younger man said. "That's pretty crazy." He's since gone on to study other topics, in part to avoid that kind of vitriol, Branas said.

Other young researchers are put off by the frustration of working in a field where their findings would likely be politicized, and have little impact.

"You can provide some people with evidence until you're blue in the face, present them with the best and fanciest models you can come up with, and they're not going to care," said Cassandra Crifasi, a 32-year-old gun violence policy researcher at Johns Hopkins who owns firearms herself.

Meanwhile, the longtime leaders in gun violence research aren't getting any younger; many are in their 60s and 70s. Younger researchers who are intrigued by gun violence — but worried about ensuring a flow of funding — have to spend much of their time pursuing other topics.

Some, worried that the field may soon shrink through attrition, are working hard to recruit successors.

Dr. Michael Levas, a 35-year-old researcher in Milwaukee, has been working on a grant-funded project to evaluate where a Welsh violence surveillance and intervention system would work in the United States. He's drawn to the field of gun violence, and fascinated by its potential. But he won't commit to it.

"If the climate was right and the funding was there, it would make sense to focus on gun violence prevention. I probably would be tempted to pursue that," he said.

"But right now, it would be a dead end."

Igor Bobic   |   October 11, 2015    9:52 AM ET

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday called for an assault weapons ban in his second straight day of talking about an issue — guns — where he has sometimes deviated from the Democratic Party's consensus.

In a campaign appearance ahead of next week's Democratic presidential debate, Sanders cited two shootings Friday at universities in Arizona and Texas as well as last week's slayings at an Oregon community college.

"Instead of people yelling at each other, we have got to come together on commonsense approaches which, in fact, the vast majority of the American people support," said Sanders, who represents a rural state with few gun laws. He added that there is "widespread support to ban semi-automatic assault weapons, guns which have no other purpose but to kill people."

Sanders supported such a ban along with universal background checks — another measure he called for on Saturday — in 2013, after the massacre at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School. But the self-described socialist has also voted to allow guns in national parks, to shield firearms manufacturers from liability for shootings and against a five-day waiting period for gun purchases. Many expect him to come under criticism for his record at the first debate on Tuesday.

The comments were similar to ones Sanders made in Tucson on Friday. Otherwise, he focused Saturday on familiar themes, decrying income inequality and the political clout of corporations and the wealthy.

Why the Holocaust Has No Place in the Gun Debate

Jonathan Greenblatt   |   October 10, 2015   10:48 PM ET

With the campaign season in full swing, the debate over gun control laws once again has taken center stage. As the candidates reacted to the senseless mass shooting in Oregon two weeks ago, an old meme about guns, Hitler and the Holocaust resurfaced.

The argument goes something like this: If Jews and others had had freer access to more guns in the run up to Hitler's assuming power and had been able to use those guns to fight back against the Third Reich, then there wouldn't have been a Holocaust, or far fewer would have perished. This historical second-guessing is deeply offensive to Jews, Holocaust survivors and those who valiantly fought against Hitler during World War II. It is, in fact, as many historians have previously noted, a distortion of history itself.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson was the most recent to make this outrageous point last week during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. Since then, he's taken a lot of heat, and for good reason. But he's certainly not the first person to make the assertion.

ADL has responded to this talking point countless times since it first surfaced in 2013, when there were a slew of Holocaust and Nazi analogies as part of the gun debate. But it was a fringe idea then -- and it deserves to be relegated to the fringe now, not given the courtesy of a mainstream conversation. These are the facts:

  • Guns or lack of them did not cause the Holocaust. The Holocaust was the product of anti-Semitism and the moral failure and indifference of humans.
  • It is mind-bending to suggest that personal firearms in the hands of the small number of Germany's Jews (about 214,000 remaining in Germany in 1938) could have stopped the totalitarian onslaught of Nazi Germany when the armies of Poland, France, Belgium and numerous other countries were overwhelmed by the Third Reich.
  • Despite the overwhelming military force of the Nazi regime, there were thousands of brave civilians -- Jewish and gentile -- who indeed often resisted with every fiber of their being. Unfortunately, arming every European Jew would not have been enough to stop an evil force that was only overcome by the military might of the Allies.

Americans are entitled to express strong opinions about divisive issues. But Dr. Carson and others should stick to the facts. When you manipulate the history of the Holocaust and use it to score political points, its wholly inappropriate and offensive. Especially for the sake of the victims of the Nazi onslaught and their memory, it must stop.

Mehreen Kasana   |   October 10, 2015    1:31 PM ET

Deer season opened here in Oregon on Saturday, two days after a shooting at Umpqua Community College left 10 dead and nine more injured. Instead of getting dragged into a national dispute over firearms regulations, many of the roughly 166,000 deer hunters in Oregon decamped to the woods. I’m sad not to be joining them.


Sebastian Murdock   |   October 10, 2015   12:28 PM ET

A group of Texas teens are behind bars and one is in the hospital after opening fire on a police officer.

A 34-year-old veteran officer with the Houston Police Department was driving in his personal car Thursday at 11:30 p.m. when he noticed a vehicle tailing his, according to local news station KHOU.

The officer, who was off duty and whom the department has not named, turned to let the car behind him pass, but it stopped instead. A male teen got out with a gun in his hand. Three other male teens were in the car, and police believe they were attempting to rob and carjack the cop.

The officer stepped out of his car, identified himself and told the suspect to stop. Instead, the teen pointed his weapon at the cop, according to KAGS, a local news station.

“At that point in time, a rear passenger got out and began running toward the sergeant; as he went under [the] street light he had arm extended and was shooting pistol directly at the sergeant,” Houston police spokesman Kese Smith told KHOU.

The officer fired back, shooting a 15-year-old male twice. The group of teens managed to get back into the car and flee, but were found ten minutes later by Houston police. 

The officer "is the type that would stand up and turn the tables on everything," a neighbor of his told the station. "We treasure him," she said. 

Police said they arrested three of the teens, aged 16, 17 and 18. The 15-year-old suspect was taken to the hospital in serious condition. 

The attempted ambush comes just over a month after a Harris County sheriff's deputy in the Houston area was fatally shot in the head while filling up his car at a gas station. He was a 10-year veteran on the force. 

Clarification: Language has been updated to specify that the Houston officer who was shot was a deputy with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Crisis-Oriented Mental Health Care is Not the Answer to America's Mental Health Crisis

Mike Mennonno   |   October 9, 2015   10:35 PM ET


It sounds like the opening scenes of a certain wildly popular television drama: on Labor Day 2013 I found myself on a gurney in the ER of Beth Israel in Boston, a perfectly healthy 44-year-old victim of an epic panic attack, who would have a very expensive night of tests to determine if what I was feeling was real. I was released around noon the next day with a clean bill of health, and a delicate suggestion: I might want to find myself a therapist.

There is so much about basic preventative care that's broken in our health care system, mental health is hardly even on the radar. Therapy, while no longer exactly stigmatized, as long as it's in the pop-culture context of self-help or increased productivity, is still very much an add-on. We have no real concept of ongoing mental health that's built into our bare-bones idea of preventative health. Add to this our zero-sum culture's bizarre and harmful view that any stumble in career or personal life is a FAIL worthy of censure and scorn, and it's clear we've built a public culture that fuels a need for ongoing mental health care while simultaneously discouraging those who seek it out.

I had struggled with periods of situational depression for decades, and had negotiated them clumsily by literally moving away from anything that brought them on. I had moved from the Midwest to the West Coast to the East Coast, to Europe for a long stint, back to the Midwest and then the East Coast again, but it was as they say: wherever you go, there you are. I found myself, now in my forties, now constantly on the go, exhausted, unhappy, and increasingly afraid I would not have the energy to outrun this thing forever. So, naturally, I panicked.

While I have been very active in my own preventative care, actually seeing a mental health professional had always seemed like a last resort to me. Most Americans go without mental health care just as many of us go without preventative care in general. We do this for a variety of reasons: because society says we should be able to deal with it on our own; because there's a whole lucrative cottage industry of self-help to "assist" us; or maybe because we believe faith can heal us; because we don't know what "mental health" is or what it entails; we don't know how to navigate the mental health system; we're afraid of the cost of this "secret menu" item in our insurance policy; or a thousand other reasons.

The sad thing is: These are actually all good reasons to avoid our mental health care system, such as it is. I have a very caring Primary Care Physician, with a holistic approach to health, who understands that mental health plays a huge role in our overall health and well-being. But she is not a mental health professional. Neither is your insurance provider. When I finally did decide to go ahead with counseling I received a list of about 20 mental health professionals based on two factors: their being in the provider's network and their geographic proximity to me. Proximity is obviously a factor, but it's not like choosing a bank based on location. I ignored the list, threw caution to the wind and tapped my social network for referrals.

But this was only the beginning. Mental health is a practice, it requires intention and time, and it's not one-size-fits-all. While there are best practices, there's not really a single fool-proof procedure that works for everyone in the case of depression, anxiety, a bad break-up or a death in the family. And you don't really want to be tasked with finding a therapist that's right for you when you're in the middle of a midlife meltdown. But that's where I found myself. I did the best I could negotiating the health care and insurance maze and ended up with a couple referrals for a reputable practice that was near my office and would honor my insurance. I felt lucky: my copay was $20.

My first therapist was nice enough, but rather passive. We met mid-afternoons, right after his lunch break, and I recall many a stifled yawn as, slouched in his big comfy swivel chair, he struggled valiantly to stay awake. The only thing that really pepped him up was whenever I would mention my trials and tribulations with dating apps. He would rally in the last five minutes of our session to give me a little pep-talk, usually only tenuously related to whatever had preceded it, and we would confirm our appointment for next week. This went on for four or five months, until one restless night out of nowhere he popped up on my Grindr app to say hello. Pretty sure I hadn't checked "transference" in my profile settings. I felt it best to just block him and move on.

Unfortunately my next therapist was, in many ways, worse. Openly antagonistic, he often expressed frustration with my analytical approach to my own narrative and would interrupt me often to ask, urgently: "But how did it make you FEEL?" When I attempted to answer and banged on too long, he would interrupt me again, greatly agitated: "Did it make you feel sad? Did it make you feel angry?" It turns out it was not an essay question but a multiple choice, and I got the sense when he told me I had grieved wrong after my dad's death that there was definitely a right and wrong answer for him. We parted ways, after his more and more bizarre attempts to get a rise out of me began to border on criminal malpractice.

But while therapy never clicked for me, that eight months of focusing on whole health was a big step toward discovering a community of support and a path to well-being. I discovered that just like with the gym, where I'd been a regular since high school, mental health starts with intentionality but involves practice.

I began to see therapy not as a magic bullet, but as a kind of weekly workout, with the therapist as trainer. You go to a trainer for a program of exercises that will make your body healthier and stronger, and to monitor and motivate you in your progress. The therapist can't do the heavy lifting for you, but by listening and guiding and giving you some exercises, she can help you develop a regimen to maintain health and wellness in everyday life. It's an oversimplification, perhaps, but for folks without clinical or acute mental conditions, who may yet be battling everyday stress, anxiety, or coping with career issues and life-changes like I was, regular therapy can still have a profound long-term impact on overall health.

The gym isn't a bad metaphor, actually. Look at it this way: over the course of my lifetime, going to the gym and working out has gone from the margins to the mainstream. The number of gym memberships in the U.S. has increased exponentially, from 1.5 million in 1972 to almost 60 million today. Imagine if mental health care were to make the same transition, from something you did when you were "sick" to something you did when you were healthy, to stay healthy. Imagine a whole health culture where talking about mental health wasn't always actually a discussion of the crisis of mental illness.

We're certainly not wrong to focus what meager resources we're willing to put into it on mental illness, but in America today that's more or less all we talk about in relation to mental health care. It's important to remember that mental health and wellbeing are not simply the opposite or the absence of mental illness. Sure, it's understandable in a crisis culture, but the goal of our mental health apparatus should be the fostering of a robust culture of whole health and well-being for everyone, across the spectrum, throughout all stages and phases of life. Even just starting down that path can go a long way toward averting or allaying a mental health crisis in the future like the one we're obviously in the midst of now.

Like physical health, with which Americans are seemingly obsessed, mental health and well-being requires intentionality and daily practice. An optimal people- (rather than system-) centered culture of whole health would focus on ongoing mental well-being and its impact on physical health. The whole health approach has long been embraced by advocates of community-based health care, like pioneering Fenway Health in Boston, where I live. But this option is not available to most Americans. It's time to change that, for the health and well-being of us all.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

GOP Has Gone Completely Off The Rails In Defense Of Mass Murder

Richard Zombeck   |   October 9, 2015    4:16 PM ET

The GOP is heading towards a disaster they may not easily recover from. In the last couple of weeks, they seem to have ratcheted up the crazy to a level beyond their typical insanity. As a good friend of mine put it, "It's like they've all contracted syphilis and have gone completely nuts."

Following yet another mass shooting in Oregon leaving nine people dead and several injured, the GOP has, yet again, turned on the platitude generator, prepared their excuses, and spewed out another plethora of idiotic comments. That shooting was number 264 of the mass shootings in 274 days this year.

In the arena of GOP presidential contenders responding to the shooting, front runner Donald Trump thinks "these things happen"; Jeb!, polling fourth in his own state of Florida, said "stuff happens"; and Ben Carson, who is somehow in second place, thinks that the students and teachers should have rushed the guy who reportedly owned 13 weapons, saying that he would "not just stand there and let him shoot me."

Trump, known more for cheap shots at the opposition actually defended Carson.

Carson also defended his comments later in the week on FOX saying, "But, you know, these incidents continue to occur. I doubt that this will be the last one. I want to plant the seed in people's minds so that if this happens again, you know, they don't all get killed."

See? He's planting a seed so that the next time this is inevitably going to happen, and it will according to the guy who's in second place, people will remember what he said and run towards an insane gunman with an assault rifle that shoots 700 rounds per minute. Apparently it's okay if some of them get killed. That's just the price of freedom.

The AR-15 is the favorite amongst school shooters and second amendment crazies. In 2013, the NRA's president David Keene recorded an interview with the conservative news site The Daily Caller, during which he compared the weapon used in the Sandy Hook massacre to the musket:

This nation was founded as a result of the fact, people, citizens who had a musket above their fireplace grabbed the gun when an emergency confronted them. For four million Americans, the AR-15 is the musket of today.

And for shooters in Oregon and Sandy Hook it's the weapon of choice to mow down innocent people and children while they're attending school.

Following the Sandy Hook massacre, in which 27 students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School were killed, the debate about gun control in the United States was renewed. It included proposals for making the background-check system universal, as well as new federal and state legislation banning the sale and manufacture of certain types of semi-automatic firearms and magazines with more than ten rounds of ammunition.

Despite nearly 90 percent of voters supporting background checks and parents from Sandy Hook watching while the Senate considered relatively modest gun-control measures, the GOP blocked all efforts.

So, it makes perfect sense that John Boehner, who recently purportedly quit his job after talking with the pope, would blame Democrats for mass shootings.

According to an article in Huffington Post Boehner puts the onus on the President and his party:

We've seen far too many of these. In '09 and '10, we had Democrat majorities in the House and Senate. We had a Democrat president. And this clearly was not a priority for them. The president can rail all he wants.

Boehner was referring to President Barack Obama's denunciation of Congress' failure to address the issue and, one can only assume, pointing out that the Republicans shouldn't be expected to do much of anything when it comes to the welfare and safety of their constituents -- that's up to the Democrats.

Bobby Jindal, who has also been rumored to be running for president, dug deep into his bag of lunacy and declared that the father of the shooter "owes us an apology." Seriously, he really said that.

In a vacuous and long winded blog post published on his presidential campaign website Tuesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) claimed the father of Oregon gunman Chris Harper Mercer was a "complete failure."

Jindal wrote:

This killer's father is now lecturing us on the need for gun control and he says he has no idea how or where his son got the guns. Of course he doesn't know. You know why he doesn't know? Because he is not, and has never been in his son's life. He's a complete failure as a father, he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public. He's the problem here.

Jindal didn't stop there. Why would he? You don't stick a knife in someone without giving a good twist or two. He continues:

He brags that he has never held a gun in his life and that he had no idea that his son had any guns. Why didn't he know? Because he failed to raise his son. He should be ashamed of himself, and he owes us all an apology. When he was asked what his relationship was with his son, he said he hadn't seen him in a while because he lived with his mother. Case Closed.

He then goes on to call out "shallow and simple minded liberals" for blaming "pieces of hardware for the problem."

Right. Guns don't kill people. People kill people. Crazy and mentally unstable people. Incidentally, the GOP has actively blocked any legislation that would help find out anything about those crazy people. Congress, and in particular the GOP, has been against such a study since the late 1990s.

Boehner was responding to a question about whether or not Congress should reconsider barring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence as a health issue, as Republicans have repeatedly argued that addressing mental illness is the way to prevent mass shootings.

So, while it would be nice to have some idea about the correlation between mental illness and people suffering from mental illness getting ahold of guns as Boehner says, his party, at times under his leadership, has made it impossible to find that out. They actually passed a law banning health agencies from researching gun violence. In fact, gun violence is so prevalent in America that Surgeon General Vivek Murthy considers it a national health issue. During an interview with NPR in April, Murthy said, "Violence of all kinds is a public health issue. When you have large numbers of people dying from preventable causes, that's a health care issue. That's a public health issue."

And Murthy was such an issue to the NRA and other gun nuts that they spent millions lobbying to block his nomination to the post.

In the meantime, we're left with it being the fault of the democrats, or the Republicans, or the parents, or the teachers, or the mealy-mouthed cowards who didn't have the balls to band together screaming, "He can't get all of us," and rush a crazy guy carrying a small arsenal, and stuff will continue to happen -- as Jeb! and The Donald see it.

We live in a country in which gun deaths are more prevalent amongst preschoolers than they are amongst police. A country in which school children leave for school and parents wonder if they'll see their kids that evening. A country that can't, despite the staggering numbers of people who want to see stricter gun laws, sit down and come up with a reasonable solution to end these indiscriminate and brutal slaughters of people.

Gun proponents argue that laws won't do anything. They argue that it would be a waste of time and taxpayer money and that the end result will not yield any change.

Here's an idea: Let's do it any way and see what happens.

Read more at Now it Counts and Liberals Unite

Mehreen Kasana   |   October 9, 2015    2:36 PM ET

HOUSTON (AP) — One person was killed and another wounded during a shooting at a Texas Southern University student housing complex on Friday, and the Houston campus has been placed on lockdown, university and police officials said.

The shooting was reported around 11:30 a.m. at University Courtyard Apartments. Houston Police tweeted early Friday afternoon that a possible suspect had been detained. The tweet also said one person died in the shooting, and another person was wounded.

University spokesman Kendrick Callis said the campus is on lockdown and classes have been cancelled.

Houston and campus police didn't immediately return messages seeking comment. Police and emergency vehicles were at the scene, though no additional details were available.

The incident occurred just hours after another shooting near the same housing complex. The university said in a statement posted on its website that the earlier shooting occurred early Friday morning, and that the school was increasing police presence on campus. No other details were immediately available and it's not clear if the shootings are linked.

The university has about 9,700 students.


The Cause of School Shootings: We're Missing the Mark

Stephan Said   |   October 9, 2015    8:43 AM ET

Everyone's off-target. Another horrible shooting, another young shooter. Eighteen years of death since West Paducah, Kentucky first warned of an epidemic. Finally, there's invigorated debate about gun control and mental health care. But, there's a glaring problem.

Guns and mental illness are merely attributes of these shootings, they are not the reason why numerous kids are killing people. It is time we stopped fooling ourselves and started asking why our youth are so disaffected that they're lashing out, murderously, at the world we've given them.

While increased regulation and improved mental health may decrease the number of deaths from these tragedies, to suggest they are solutions to a society-wide epidemic of youth killing people is a logical fallacy: Guns don't cause people to kill, and one individual's illness does not create a nationwide epidemic of unprecedented killings.

Our children are disaffected because they are angry, and have every right to be, and no one's listening to them. Why, because, we have raised them in a society that is in blatant moral contradiction of what we teach them, and yet we deny it. We tell them "do unto others," to live equally, and in peace, while everything we do proves otherwise.

As a musician and poet, it's my job to take the pulse of my country and world and express it in service to the betterment of humankind. From the day that Michael Carneal walked into Heath High School on December 1st, 1997, I knew something was terribly wrong. Something bigger than guns or individual illness.

I immersed myself in the issue of school shootings, and toured the country singing to and speaking with thousands of youth the same age as the shooters, would-be killers. In my song "West Kentucky" about Carneal's rampage, I reflected as a southern boy reared in gun culture aware that in this disaffection, something horrifying was at our doorstep:

"Now this young boy is charged with murder
And not one tear flows from his eyes
When they asked him for a reason
All he says is I don't know why...
I myself am from Virginia
And one thing I know is clear
Regardless of a reason
This did not used to happen here."

Immediately after the Columbine shootings occurred, I wrote my song "The Darling Son," a song based on an ancient ballad called 'Edward' or 'The Twa Brothers,' in which a mother questions her son who has killed his brother and fails in his attempts to falsify his story.

In my song, the mother confronts her son who has just killed his classmates, shortly before he kills himself:

"Where, oh where did you get that gun? Son, please talk to me.
I got it from your husband, mom, who rarely talks to me.
But where did you learn to be so cruel? Son, please talk to me.
I learned it in the books at school that taught me history.
But where did you learn to kill my son, son please talk to me.
I learned it from this great, great land, that kills across the sea.
Oh, where will you go, my only one? Son, please talk to me.
I'm going far beyond the sun, where no one's eyes can see."

The thousands of high school and college student that you hear in this live recording, all the same age-group as our school shooters, are cheering each word because the song is giving voice to what is bothering them, to something they live with everyday that is making them angry, but that no adult has ever admitted to them.

Everywhere I've gone, youth have come up to me after shows, often in tears, thanking me, asking if they can hug me, telling me I'm the first adult who's ever talked to them about the truth of their world, thoughts they say they're afraid to express openly to adults they think are not receptive.

Our children are not stupid. Armed with the internet, they have access to more information than prior generations could ever imagine. As much we may like to ignore it, we cannot pull the wool over their eyes as though it were 1975.

We have given them a world in which they know millions have been killed or made refugees in a war waged over oil that is causing global warming, voted for by politicians bought by corporate interests, while their own parents, many of whom are divorced, work day and night to make ends meet, unavailable to them, while pop culture sells unprecedented wealth, debauchrery and violence to them daily. And we act as though the problem is guns and mental health.

We have created a society that is morally bankrupt, and the victims are our children who have lost faith in authority due to our moral duplicity. This is the cause of school shootings.

By failing to engage our youth in honest conversation about their world as they see it, we sentence the most sensitive, already neglected, but often most gifted, inquisitive of our youth, to despair. If we continue this denial, we will have more of these children pushed to the point of breaking, regardless of gun control.

Every child of ours could become a killer, or a changemaker. It is up to us to give them the necessary moral consistency, inspiration and support to become the latter.

But, in the 18 years since the dawn of school shootings, I have yet to see our politicians or mainstream media respond to one of these tragedies by asking the youth themselves what it is they are angry about. Now's the time to start.

We need a campaign to listen to our youth. We need to work with and inspire them to channel their justified feelings into groundbreaking work for good before it festers in them unresolved and explodes. I'm prepared to dedicated myself to the effort.

In the meantime, if you want to read about feasible means to beneficial gun regulation, check out Nick Kristof's excellent piece. If you prefer to contemplate mental illness and improving health care, check out John Oliver's biting response.