‘Americans are allowing the insanity of gun violence’

(Deutsche Welle) A mass shooting struck another school in America, this time a community college in Oregon. Jonathan Metzl, an expert on gun violence and mental health, says school shootings are on the rise in the US.

More than two years have passed since 20 children and six adults were massacred by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Americans were shocked and horrified. There was a push by President Barack Obama to pass stricter gun control laws. But those efforts failed over the opposition of a powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association. In the United States, though most Americans support some form of gun control, there’s a constitutional right to own firearms.

Since the Newtown massacre, there have been at least 141 school shootings in the United States, according to the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. That’s nearly one school shooting a week.

On Thursday, it happened again. A gunman opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. According to local authorities, at least nine were killed and seven were injured. Earlier reports had put the number of injured as high as 20.

Deutsche Welle spoke with Jonathan Metzl, an expert on gun violence and mental health, at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

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Could the Virginia TV shooting have been prevented?

The shooting of two journalists in Virginia raises issues of race, mental health and guns. Could the tragedy have been prevented by stricter gun control? Spencer Kimball reports from Chicago.

Vester Lee Flanagan, by his own admission, was a disturbed individual.

“Yeah I’m all f—– up in the head,” Flanagan, 41, wrote in a 23-page document that he faxed to broadcaster ABC after shooting dead two journalists on live television in Virginia on Wednesday.

A former reporter at the local news station WDBJ in Roanoke, Flanagan had been reprimanded by his superiors for “lashing out,” using “harsh language,” and having “aggressive body language” that made “co-workers feel threatened or uncomfortable.” He was told to seek medical help or risk termination. The internal memos detailing Flanagan’s issues at work were obtained and published by “The Guardian.”

In 2013, WDBJ fired Flanagan, who had gone by Bryce Williams on television. Police had to escort him off the premises because he refused to leave.

In the document faxed to ABC, Flanagan described his state of life and mind before shooting Alison Parker, 24, Adam Ward, 27, and ultimately killing himself. A gay black man, Flanagan claimed to have been a victim of racism and harassment. He filed a lawsuit against WDBJ over his dismissal, alleging discrimination. A judge dismissed the case in July.

But Flanagan pointed to the killing of nine black people in a Charleston church by white supremacist Dylann Roof last June as the “tipping point.”

“The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

A powder keg who was able to purchase a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol, one who was inspired by the Virginia Tech and Columbine High School massacres.

“Also, I was influenced by Seung–Hui Cho. That’s my boy right there,” Flanagan wrote, referring to the Virginia Tech shooter. “He got NEARLY double the amount that Eric Harris and Dylann Klebold got…just sayin.”

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US officials target social media, encryption after Chattanooga shooting

Did “IS” propaganda inspire the Chattanooga shooter? There’s no evidence to back the claim, but some officials are already calling for access to encrypted messages and social media monitoring. Spencer Kimball reports.

It’s not an unusual story in America: A man in his 20s with an unstable family life, mental health issues and access to firearms goes on a shooting spree, shattering the peace of middle class life.

This time, the shooter’s name was Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a Kuwaiti-born naturalized US citizen, the son of Jordanian parents of Palestinian descent. And he targeted the military.

Abdulazeez opened fire on a recruiting center and naval reserve facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee last Thursday. Four marines and a sailor died in the attack.

But the picture that’s emerged from Chattanooga over the past several days is complicated, raising questions about mental health, substance abuse, firearms, religion and modernity.

Yet elected officials have been quick to suggest that events in Chattanooga were directly inspired by “Islamic State” (also known as ISIL or ISIS) Internet propaganda, though there’s still no concrete evidence to back up that claim.

“This is a classic lone wolf terrorist attack,” Senator Dianne Feinstein told US broadcaster CBS. “Last year, 2014, ISIL put out a call for people to kill military people, police officers, government officials and do so on their own, not wait for direction.”

And according to Feinstein, part of the solution is to provide the government with greater access to digital communications.

“It is now possible for people, if they’re going to talk from Syria to the United States or anywhere else, to get on an encrypted app which cannot be decrypted by the government with a court order,” Feinstein said.

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Violence, poverty and militarized police in America

(By Deutsche Welle) US police have been accused of adopting military-style tactics and equipment. Some say, however, a failure to address violence and poverty has put law enforcement on the defensive. Spencer Kimball reports.

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray and most recently Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell. The deaths of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of local law enforcement has ignited protests and riots from Missouri to Maryland, exposing deep fault lines of race and class in the United States.

The police responses to both the protests and the riots that emerged after the deaths have inflamed already boiling tensions. Many Americans were shocked to see armored vehicles originally designed for the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq patrolling the streets of a Midwestern city like Ferguson, Missouri.

Under a Defense Department program called 1033, law enforcement can procure surplus military equipment free of charge. They only have to pay for the transport and maintenance. Perhaps the most infamous example is the MRAP, an armored vehicle that can withstand improvised explosive devices.

This week, President Barack Obama issued an executive order limiting the program. Tracked armored vehicles, vehicles outfitted with weapons, .50 caliber firearms and ammunition, grenade launchers, bayonets and camouflage uniforms have been prohibited. Wheeled armored and tactical vehicles, aircraft, riot shields and batons, explosives and breaching devices among other items will also be subject to greater control.

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