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Thursday, October 27, 2016

The alleged perpetrator of yet another mass shooting — this one in a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater — had been “involuntarily committed” by his family, and reportedly had a history of domestic violence and mental illness. Why was he able to get a handgun? Because elected officials have failed to lead on gun regulation.

At a Thursday night screening of the comedy Trainwreck, the 59-year-old man from Alabama, identified as John Russell Houser, shot and killed 33-year-old Jillian Johnson and 21-year-old Mayci Breaux, and injured nine other people, seven of whom remain hospitalized.

The suspected shooter used a .40 caliber handgun and had an additional magazine, which he used to reload, firing one round to kill himself inside the theater, Lafayette police chief Jim Craft told reporters Friday.

Police found 13 shell casings in the theater, Craft said. State police and FBI agents are also investigating the shooting, according to MSNBC.

Houser was denied a pistol permit in 2006 while he was living in Alabama, the New Orleans Advocate reports. According to The Associated Press:

Court documents from 2008 say family members of the theater shooter petitioned the probate court to have him involuntarily committed “because he was a danger to himself and others.”

A judge issued the order, and John Houser was taken to a hospital in Columbus, Georgia.


The wife and other family members of [Houser] … asked for a temporary protective order in 2008 against the man.

Court documents seeking the order said John Houser, “exhibited extreme erratic behavior and has made ominous as well as disturbing statements.”

The documents said even though he lived in Phenix City, Alabama, he had come to Carroll County, Georgia, where they lived and “perpetrated various acts of family violence.”

Houser “has a history of mental health issues, i.e., manic depression and/or bi-polar disorder,” the filing said.

The filing says Houser’s wife, Kellie Maddox Houser, “has become so worried about the defendant’s volatile mental state that she has removed all guns and/or weapons from their marital residence.”

The protection order was at least temporarily granted.

Law enforcement officials have not yet reported how Houser obtained the handgun used in the theater shooting. But based on the earlier court records, it seems clear Houser should not have been in possession of a firearm.

In a BBC interview earlier this week, President Obama said “his failure to pass ‘common-sense gun safety laws’ in the U.S. is the greatest frustration of his presidency.”

“If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands,” the president said.

So, what will it take for U.S. political leaders to pass common-sense gun regulations?

The killing of two women and wounding of nine others in a Louisiana movie theater?

Perhaps the recent shooting of four Marines at a Chattanooga, Tennessee military recruitment office, or the killing of 12 people and injuring of eight at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013?

Maybe, the racially motivated murder of nine parishioners in a Charleston, South Carolina church, including a state senator? The South Carolina legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, a symbolic act to honor those killed by a white supremacist, but gun control was never even up for debate.

How about the 2012 killing of 12 people and injuring of 58 in another movie theater, this one in Colorado? The shooter has been convicted and awaits the sentence of life imprisonment or the death penalty, but what has been done to limit future mass shootings?

Surely, the gunning down of 20 children and six adults in an elementary school (after the shooter killed his mother at their home) in Connecticut would spur elected officials to action. President Obama even visited the town and gave an emotional speech appealing for stronger gun regulations. But, no, the 24/7 news cycle, the American people, and Congress moved on.

How about shooting a United States congresswoman, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in the head? That shooter killed six people and injured 12 others. Giffords’ congressional colleagues were still not moved to act. She lived and has become a vocal advocate to prevent gun violence, but no longer in office, she won’t achieve reform by herself.

According to Mother Jones, more than three-quarters of the guns possessed by the killers involved in mass shootings in the United States since 1982 were obtained legally. It’s doubtful common-sense restrictions, background checks, and waiting periods would have allowed all these gun sales to go through.

Nearly 600 Americans have been killed and 500 injured in mass shootings in the last three decades, and “active shooter events have become more common in recent years,” according to The Washington Post.

A U.S. president hasn’t been shot since Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt in 1981. Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated while in office in our nation’s history by men with guns.

Even if the commander-in-chief was shot and killed by a person with a gun who shouldn’t have had one — in the 21st century — that would likely still not motivate officials to enact policies that decrease mass shootings by taking guns out of the hands of extremists, those with criminal histories, and those living with mental illness.

The problem is these armed killers may act alone, but they have far too much company when it comes to people with undue access to firearms. If current legislators continue to fail to protect their constituents from the dangers of gun violence, and don’t even pass laws that would limit the potential for mass shootings, then perhaps voters need to find other lawmakers who will.

Photo: gunsnews2012 via Flickr

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  • David

    You are so right!!! It’s the guns that are killing people. You only thought that they are inanimate objects. No…they have an innate proclivity for EVIL!!!

    • stcroixcarp

      David, David , David! The sole purpose of a gun is to kill. It is designed and manufactured to be a tool of death. Guns have no other purpose than to kill.

      • David

        Really? Guess what? I have many weapons loaded in my home, in my truck, and at my office. I’ve had them there, loaded, for many years. I can truly tell you that, during that time, not one of them has decided to shoot somebody. They are well behaved.

  • Lynda Groom

    I’m afraid to say it, but up to and until some of the lawmakers becomes the victims of the national disease nothing much will happen in the way of addressing weapon violence. Besides of course the usual hand wringing and finger pointing at the ‘other.’

    • ikallicrates

      “. . . until some of the lawmakers becomes the victims of the national disease nothing much will happen in the way of addressing weapon violence. . . ” Ever hear of Gaby Giffords?

      • Lynda Groom

        Well yes, but I get your point. Did you get mine? Gaby was one case and a horrible one at that. It obviously will take more…hence the pural ‘lawmakers.’

        • ikallicrates

          How many more? Or don’t you count presidents as lawmakers?

          Four American presidents have been shot and killed by guns: Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy. Other American presidents have been shot and wounded (Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan) or shot at (Andrew Jackson, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford). Numerous other American government officials have also been shot and killed (Attorney General Robert Kennedy) as well as shot and wounded (Gaby Giffords).

          I get your point. Do you get mine?

          • Lynda Groom

            Indeed over our history politicians have been shot and killed. That is not what the article was addressing, or I. What I was talking about is the apparent increase in such ‘mass’ shootings and no action even being discussed let alone death with.

            According to the FBI ‘active shooting situation’ report of the period of 2000-2013 the trend is indeed upward. The first 7 yrs of the report show 6.4 such incidents per year. The second 7 years show 16.4 such incidents per year. That is what I referring too as well as the idea being asked in the piece.

            By definition an active shooting situation is ‘an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.’

            BTW, I’m not saying that dead presidents or the shooting of Gaby should not push ‘lawmakers’ to act. It is obvious that none of the above have yet to move them off the status quo.

          • Allan Richardson

            Statistically, the Presidency is one of the most dangerous civilian jobs in America: 10 percent rate of death on the job so far (well, 10 percent as of Reagan, about 9 percent today).

      • Allan Richardson

        The Baker Act was passed in response to the attempted killing of President Reagan and the permanent paralysis of his chief of staff.

        Republicans took a temporary pass from the NRA party line to pass that, because he was one of their own. When a Democrat is nearly killed, they cry crocodile tears but no legislation results, while the Baker Act is weakened from disuse.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Look, more gun control laws have not worked. It’s time for the government to cut off the head of the snake…This isn’t rocket science. It’s a simple matter of controlling how many guns can be manufactured in the US every year.

    USA Today has done a terrific study on guns in the US. Here is what the study panel,
    headed by Meghan Hoyer, found:

    Of the last decade of mass shootings, 94% were committed by white males.
    Of those killings, the majority were done with handguns, not as the media often portrays, with military style weapons. Only 3% of the mass murders were by military style weapons.

    Of the decade of mass murders, 80% were killed by guns acquired “legally.”
    Another interesting fact in most of the last decade of mass murders is that many were related to “family” issues that sparked anger in a family member.

    One other very interesting fact, of the legally acquired guns, more than half were purchased online, at gun shows and from pawn shops.

  • Landsende

    The only way repubicans in Congress will go up against the NRA is it a gunman walks in either the Senate or House and starts shooting and there are multiple deaths and injuries. Then maybe we can have sensible gun legislation.

  • ikallicrates

    People who believe in a just and benevolent god are sometimes asked “Why didn’t god answer my prayers?” The believers reply “God did answer your prayers. His answer was NO.”

    If you pray that our just and benevolent political leaders will pass common-sense gun regulations, then I say unto you that they have answered your prayers. Their answer was NO.

  • willieoneboy

    The only people needing these weapons are the police and military.

  • David

    I agree! We should all wait patiently for the police to arrive to protect us. How dare we propose to defend ourselves and our families from idiots!

  • susan.thomas32