Lapointe: Mass shootings, the Surgeon General, and the Supreme Court

Gun Rights

When they took the kids to the splash pad that hot mid-June day, the grownups of Oakland County didn’t expect the splash to come from bullets that drew blood.

But that’s just what happened in Rochester Hills when a paranoid man who owned an arsenal of weapons opened fire with one of them at the water park. He wounded nine people before dropping that gun and heading home with another gun to kill himself.

And when an Oakland County detective tracked a stolen car into Detroit at night a week later, he didn’t expect an ambush from as many as three men leaping from the vehicle with guns blazing. But that is what happened to deputy Bradley Reckling.

He died due to bullet wounds to the head, neck, and chest. His funeral was Friday. The nine-year veteran leaves behind three young daughters and a pregnant wife. Referring to both shootings at a news conference, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said: “Things like this are soul-crushing.”

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They were part of a blur of mass shootings across metro Detroit and the United States that greeted a heat wave, a summer solstice, and a full moon like holiday fireworks exploding in the night sky. Oh, but let’s not overreact.

The National Rifle Association has taught us that gun violence cannot be solved with an “attack on the Second Amendment.” Of course not. That’s because this ambiguous, 18th-Century ad-on to the Constitution amounts to holy writ with people who profit and otherwise benefit from the gun culture’s fear, paranoia and bloodshed.

In other words, the gun dealers and the paranoid right-wing demagogues. So a different idea came last week from the Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, who urged Americans to regard gun deaths not as an issue of constitutional “rights” but rather as a “public health crisis.”

In the manner of tobacco warnings on packs of cigarettes, he suggested guns come with labels about their dangers. Perhaps they could pacify the gun lobby with a passive construction like: “WARNING: Proper use of this constitutionally legal and profitable product often results in cessation of human life.”

“There are solutions here, we don’t have to live like this,” Dr. Murthy said on CBS. “This is an issue that has infiltrated the psyche of America. People are scared.”

He also called for a ban on civilian use of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

“Firearm violence is an urgent public health crisis that has led to loss of life, unimaginable pain and profound grief for far too many Americans,” Dr. Murthy said in a public statement. His philosophy is catching on around Michigan, where a few straws in the wind suggest a shift in public mood.

One big clue came earlier this year in Oakland County when Prosecutor Karen McDonald successfully convicted the parents of Ethan Crumbley for involuntary manslaughter. Their son is serving a life sentence for killing four fellow students at Oxford high school in 2021.

His folks were his gun groomers. Another hint is how Michigan’s “red flag” law won support even in the U.S. Supreme Court in a Texas case when it ruled, 8-1, in favor of a law that allows for temporary seizure of firearms from people under restraining orders regarding domestic violence.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel saluted that decision.

“The right to bear arms is not unlimited,” she told Fox 17 in Grand Rapids. “Common-sense gun laws are consistent with the Second Amendment . . . We don’t have to live the way we’ve been living.”

Her opinions dare to challenge the radical extremism of the “originalist” philosophy of Justice Clarence Thomas, who believes no law can contradict what the Founding Fathers had in mind way back when in the musket era.

And Thomas knows what they were thinking because he enjoys frequent séances at the Heritage Foundation with Founding Father James Madison.

“The Court and the government do not point to a single historical law revoking a citizen’s Second Amendment rights based on possible interpersonal violence,” Thomas wrote in his glib, one-person dissent.

This is the same Justice Thomas who sees nothing wrong in accepting, from rich men, gifts worth millions of dollars. Although his wife was an active participant in former President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” lie and insurrection, Thomas refuses to recuse himself from cases stemming from Trump’s violent coup attempt.

This is also the same Justice Thomas who wrote gleefully the 6-3 majority opinion in the case forbidding the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from banning bump stocks, the firearm toys which turn regular semi-automatic guns into de facto machine guns.

Thomas found a convenient technicality pushed by the gun industry.

“Nothing changes when a semiautomatic rifle is equipped with a bump stock,” Thomas wrote. “Between every shot, the shooter must release pressure from the trigger and allow it to rest before re-engaging the trigger for another shot.”

Bump stocks like these helped a gunman kill 58 people and wound more than 500 others in Las Vegas in a 2017 massacre. To override even the Trump administration, which opposed bump stocks, Thomas no doubt consulted Founding Father Alexander Hamilton on the Ouija board.

No, wait. Hamilton died in a gun fight despite no bump stocks. However, modern historians speculate that Hamilton chose dueling pistols equipped with “hair triggers,” uncommon in 1804. This may have helped Founding Father Aaron Burr get off the killer shot. Justice Thomas would have approved.

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