Today, The National Memo brings you an excerpt from The Last Gun: How Changes In The Gun Industry Are Killing Americans And What It Will Take To Stop It by Tom Diaz. Diaz a former congressional staffer who was once a proud member of the NRA and a gun rights supporter, until his work led him to interview victims of gun violence while drafting gun legislation. Now he is a gun safety advocate and up until recently a senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center. A timely read, The Last Gun aims to expose how the gun lobby has deceitfully influenced society and created a political environment where any type of gun legislation, even something as widely accepted as background checks, won’t stand a chance.
Our Daily Dead: Gun Death And Injury In The United States
Nobody knows what happened within Michael E. Hance’s interior life between 1978—his senior year of high school, when he was chosen Most Courteous because of his “consideration and good manners toward everyone”—and about eleven o’clock on the morning of Sunday, August 7, 2011, when he took deliberate aim with his recently bought Hi-Point 45 caliber semiautomatic pistol and shot eleven-year-old Scott Dieter below the terrified boy’s right eye. Scott Dieter was the last of seven people whom Hance, armed with two handguns, calmly hunted down and shot to death in the archetypical white, middle-class suburb of Copley Township, Ohio. An eighth victim, Rebecca Dieter, Hance’s longtime girlfriend and Scott’s aunt, was severely wounded; she was hospitalized but survived. A policeman shot Hance dead moments after he killed young Scott Dieter. The entire episode from first shot to last took less than ten minutes.
“Unclear in all of this is the motive for these killings,” Summit County Prosecuting Attorney Sherri Bevan Walsh noted in her report clearing the police officer of wrongdoing in shooting Hance.
What is not “unclear” is that in spite of Hance’s long-term and increasingly bizarre public behavior, his angry interactions with his neighbors, the judgment of several members of his family that he had severe mental illness, and a 2009 incident report by Akron police that concluded he was a “signal 43,” or, as a police lieutenant later explained, “basically . . . crazy,” Hance was easily and legally able to buy from a pawn shop the two handguns with which he fired more than twenty rounds at his fleeing family and neighbors. In addition to the Hi-Point pistol, which he bought five days earlier from Sydmor’s Jewelry, a pawn shop in neighboring Barberton, Hance used a .357 Magnum revolver that he bought in 2005 from the same store. He also bought several ammunition “reloaders” that he carried with him.
In the days between the time he bought the Hi-Point pistol and the morning that he unleashed his fury on his family and neighbors, Hance visited a local shooting range several times to familiarize himself with his new gun and practice shooting it. Hi-Point asserts on its website that it “offers affordably-priced semi-automatic handguns in a range of the most popular calibers,” and that its guns “are very popular with recreational target shooters, hunters, campers, law enforcement and anyone seeking an affordable, American-made firearm.”
Events like that Sunday morning in Copley Township have become quintessentially American. They are damning proof that modern guns not only kill people, they kill many people quickly. Variously called a “shooting spree,” “shooting rampage,” “mass shooting,” “mass killing,” and “mass murder,” such carnage has become so common that a pattern of breathless but ultimately feckless ritual emerges from the news media’s reporting.
The ritual starts with a “breaking news” alert (that often misstates both the circumstances and the actual number of deaths and injuries). “And, as we deliver the information to you, it is quite shocking,” said a CNN news reader on the afternoon of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, in which thirty-two victims were shot dead and seventeen wounded. “Because, when we first started reporting this, this morning, it was simply a shooting on campus. We didn’t know if anyone had been injured.”