//They Are The Ones Killing Us

They Are The Ones Killing Us

By I. smiley G. Calderón | smileygcalderon@gmail.com

In this Fresno Flyer summer guns series, we’ve discussed the complicated American firearm issue from different viewpoints. In July, we focused on illegal guns like ‘ghost guns’ and semiautomatic weapons. First, let’s clarify: of course, semiautomatic weapons are not illegal in our country, but maybe that’s the problem. Mass shooters are often legal gun owners, having legally purchased guns and ammunition from lawful gun stores. But legality is not the issue right now—availability is. In some states, it is incredibly easy to purchase and own these weapons of mass destruction. However, we can all agree that certain people should not be able to own these kinds of weapons.

Maybe no one should. 

The bottom line is that access to these weapons needs to be curtailed—for our country’s sake. The same thing goes for ‘ghost guns,’ too. As we discussed in July, these are guns that buyers make themselves at home with a gun kit purchased online. With just some minor assembly, these gun kit owners become de facto gunsmiths as they’ve constructed new untraceable guns—with no serial numbers and no background checks. Anyone could buy these gun kits and fly under the radar of accountability. They have become a severe problem. Those who cannot legally purchase or own guns, like felons, have loved this gun loophole because they can evade the law—until very recently. Thankfully, just days ago, in late August, President Biden’s proposed gun regulations from April regarding these ghost guns went into effect. Now, just like California and other states which already require ghost gun buyers to register their new guns – the Feds have made it official that they’ll treat ghost guns the same as traditional firearms. The frames and receivers of ghost guns—the critical components of the ghost gun kits—must now be issued serial numbers. And buyers must undergo and pass federal background checks before purchasing such kits. Loophole closed.

This is a crucial move by the Biden administration in this war against gun violence.

Attorney General Merrick Garland recently said about the new ghost gun rules: “These guns have often been sold as build-your-own kits that contain all or almost all of the parts needed to quickly build an unmarked gun. And anyone could sell or buy these guns without a background check—That changes today. This rule will make it harder for criminals and other prohibited persons to obtain untraceable guns… It will help to ensure that law enforcement officers can retrieve the information they need to solve crimes. And it will help reduce the number of untraceable firearms flooding our communities.”

In August, we focused on the new Gun Safety Bill that Congress passed and President Biden signed into law at the beginning of summer.

We acknowledged that guns don’t kill people all by themselves—people need access to them first. This is why Congress needed to address the longstanding ‘boyfriend loophole’ of gun ownership. So now, if you are a domestic abuser, you don’t have to be married to or live with your victim to have your gun ownership rights revoked. This simple adjustment in the law took decades for Congress to agree on and pass, but it will still save many lives. 

Let’s face it: guns make it easy to kill people.

And easy access to guns makes it easy to kill people. If we didn’t have access to guns as we do, fewer people would be murdered. And, not because there would be less hate in the nation, of course, but because it would just take too much damn energy and skill to kill more than one person at a time, to be honest. People are lazy, and guns make murdering a breeze— like playing a video game or going on a hunt. But unfortunately, even those we’ve entrusted with guns, like law enforcement, show us every day just how easy, irresponsible, and deadly gun use can be. 

About 1,000 people are killed each year by police in America.

Some would say that police are trigger-happy. Of course, some officer-related casualties are warranted. Still, many don’t seem to be—or at least are very questionable. Take, for example, the Fresno PD shooting of 16-year-old Isiah Murrietta-Golding on April 15, 2017. Isiah, unarmed, was running away from police, jumped over an iron fence, and ran about eight steps before he was shot in the back of the head by one of the chasing officers through the fence. A neighborhood camera captured the execution. One of the officers on the scene told Sgt. Ray Villalvaz, “Good shot.”

Before the video emerged, Officer Villalvaz reported that he “feared for his life” when he shot Isiah. Fresno PD backed him up and said the shot was “justified” and “within department policy.” Yet, fast forward four years to 2021, and the City of Fresno pays Isiah’s family the most significant legal settlement in Fresno City history: $4.9 million. One of the attorneys representing the family said: “This tragic shooting of a child was totally unnecessary and sickening to anyone who saw the video. The city of Fresno did the right thing by paying Isaiah’s parents….” But unfortunately, no amount of money could ever bring Isiah back.

However, imagine if there was no video. This tragedy would have simply been “justified” and “case closed.”  

So, even the ‘good guys’ can do bad things with guns.

American political and policy researcher Dr. James Zogby says our gun obsession is a cultural disease. He sees it like this: “From cradle to grave, Americans are fed a steady diet of guns and violence. From cartoons, westerns, or cop shows to video games… ‘bullet and blood fests,’ guns, shooting, and killing are ingrained into America’s ‘deep culture.’ Like homemade apple pie, guns have become part of what America is as a nation.”

Guns have caused many problems for people and have gotten many in trouble with the law, too. Take, for example, Isiah’s mom, Christina Lopez. Just months after she received her huge settlement, she was arrested last October for 22 charges, including gang and conspiracy counts related to gun trafficking. Allegedly, she spent thousands of dollars of her settlement on guns which she provided to her teenage son and other gang members for criminal activity, including multiple murder plots. This story was shocking, but it represents the complex issues surrounding not only the use of legal guns, but also the world of illegal guns. Nevertheless, what happened to Isiah was horrible, and his mother’s crimes do not take away from his unjustified killing by police. These tragedies are mutually exclusive but connected by one common theme – guns.

Gun tragedy befell Isiah’s family again in early June, just a few months ago. While Noah Golding, Isiah’s brother, was helping his girlfriend in a street fight gone terribly wrong, a gunman came up on them and killed them both. This was a teenage street fight—Noah was 17. It should not have ended his life or his girlfriend’s. Yet, in one way or another, gun violence has been at the center of this family’s core—a bonafide American family, some could argue.

How many other American families have similar stories of lives cut short by guns, whether justified or unjustified?

The cycle of gun violence has gotten so crazy in the U.S. that even Rockstar Ozzy Ozbourne has announced that he’s leaving because of it. In a recent interview, he said, “I’m fed up with people getting killed every day…God knows how many people have been shot in school shootings… it’s fucking crazy.”

Indeed, there’s no place in the world like the U.S.  Any given place or time in America can be ripe for a mass shooting. In the first installment of this series in July, we noted that we’ve had about 250 mass shootings in the U.S. (remember that a ‘mass shooting’ is defined as a shooting with four or more firearm-related injuries or fatalities, not including the shooter. There have been many more shootings involving fewer victims). Now, at the beginning of September, we’ve had over 450.

The titles for each article in this gun series so far have been: The Guns Are Killing Us; We Are The Ones Killing Us; They Are The Ones Killing Us—all are true.