Gun Control Advocates Demand New Regulations After Michigan School Shooting

In Oxford, Michigan, funerals have begun for the four students who were killed in a gun attack by their classmate at 15 years old. The attack also left seven others injured. Ethan Crumbley was charged with first-degree murder and terrorism, while his parents were also charged with involuntary killing for allegedly giving Crumbley access to a firearm while he showed obvious signs that he was considering violent crimes. We’re joined by Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, prompting her to found Sandy Hook Promise; and Kris Brown, president of Brady, one of the oldest gun violence prevention organizations in the country. “We have an epidemic of gun violence in this country,”says Brown. “This was an absolutely preventable act of violence,” adds Hockley, who also discusses her organization’s anonymous reporting system called “Say Something” for students to use if they see a classmate who is at risk of harming themselves or others.

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AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.orgThe War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. The funerals for the four students who were killed last week in an attack by a 15-year-old classmate have begun in Oxford (Michigan). Six other students and a teacher were also hurt in the attack. After a meeting with his parents and school administrators, the gunman was allowed back to class shortly after the shooting. The student was charged for terrorism and first-degree killing.

Authorities have also charged James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley with voluntary manslaughter. After a dramatic manhunt they were captured Friday. They were arrested hiding inside an artist’s studio in a Detroit warehouse over the weekend. James Crumbley and his son, along with their son, went to purchase the gun used in the massacre days before. Both parents are accused of having given their son access to a firearm while he displayed clear signs that he was thinking about committing a USA crime.

Republicans responded to the school shooting with refusing to pass gun control measures. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley voted against a bill to expand background checks on gun purchases. He claimed the bill was “hostile toward lawful gun owners and lawful firearms transactions.” Meanwhile, Republican Congressmember Thomas Massie of Kentucky is facing widespread criticism after sharing his family’s holiday photo which shows Massie and his family brandishing military-style rifles in front of a Christmas tree. Massie posted the photo on Saturday, four days after the Michigan school shooting. He included a caption reading, “Merry Christmas! P.S., Santa, please bring ammo.”

Two guests are joining us now. Nicole Hockley, cofounder CEO Sandy Hook Promise. Nicole is the mother for Dylan, a six year old first grader who was shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. This happened almost nine years. Kris Brown, an attorney and president of Brady, a gun violence prevention organization that dates back to the beginning of the nation, is also here. We are pleased to welcome you back. Democracy Now! Thank you both for being here.

Kris Brown of Brady was my first choice. Now, you have a situation where a pro-gun control president is a Democrat. Both the Senate and House are Democratic. They have a majority gun control senators and congressmembers. NRA It is at its weakest ever point. How is it possible they can’t get gun control legislation passed? What kind of gun control legislation do YOU think is necessary at this moment?

KRIS BROWN: I think it’s a very good question. This country is plagued by gun violence. Each year, we lose 40,000 Americans. Another 80,000 are also killed each year. The Michigan tragedy demonstrates the devastating personal toll that gun violence takes on too many families. Congress must pass a wide range of policies, enforce the law more effectively, and reaffirm the importance of responsible gun ownership.

To answer your question, the House has a majority that prevents gun violence. The filibuster is a Senate rule that is killing us. You need 60 votes to get cloture in the Senate and we don’t have, unfortunately, a 60-vote majority around gun violence prevention. That is why we need to end the filibuster if we’re going to get commonsense laws like the Brady Law expansion that Senator Grassley held back for reasons that defy any sense of logic through and save lives.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicole Hockley, I can’t even bear to go to you, it is so painful, your loss nine years ago next week, losing your little boy in the Sandy Hook massacre. What age would he be today?

NICOLE HOCKLEY: He would have turned 15 today, but he will remain six forever because that is when his father was killed.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m going to ask you the same question. Sandy Hook was almost nine years ago when 20 children were killed. Do you see any improvements? It would be great if you could comment on what you saw unfold in Michigan. The parents of the shooter were charged with involuntary killing, which is not common in this case. His father had given him the gun. When they had the school meeting the day that he opened fire in his school, hours before his parents said they wanted him in class, they didn’t tell the administrators — not clear that the administrators asked — that he had a gun or he had access to a gun. It’s not clear if they knew it was in his backpack. And this horrifying text from his mother to him — “LOL. I’m not mad at you, the only problem is you got caught,” when talking about the teachers turning him in for looking for ammunition on his phone and having pictures of a bloodied body and expressing real alienation and horror when talking about his own pain.

NICOLE HOCKLEY: This is an awful example of the kind of activity that Americans are seeing all too often. Sandy Hook Promise teaches children, as well as adults, in schools across the country, how to recognize warning signs that someone is at risk of harming themselves or someone else. We also teach how to intervene and take action. I think between what the parents did, what the — there’s potentially a systemwide failure here when we look at what the investigation is going to be showing, what might come to light.

It is heartbreaking to realize that this was an entirely preventable act. This was a child in desperate need of help. He should not have had deadly firearms at school that day. His posts on social media were enough to make other students afraid to go to school that day. I think much more action should have been taken and, certainly, the parents — this is not something that you take lightly. This is how tragedies happen. Everyone needs to be alert and take action immediately. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened in Michigan. There was significant loss of lives and irreversible mental and physical health challenges that will impact the community forever.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicole, how do you think they could’ve stopped this?

NICOLE HOCKLEY: Where do I begin? They could have stopped him when he started to display warning signs. They could have stopped it by not allowing a 15-year old to have access to a firearm similar to this. They could have stopped by searching him, by asking, “Do you have your gun on you?” Searching the backpack. He was taken out of school and given the assistance he needed. I also have an issue with — I understand that there’s a strong gun culture in America and I respect responsible gun owners who keep their firearms safely stored with the ammunition kept separately. The boy was able access the firearm and took it to school. Parents can use this as a bonding exercise. I get that. Perhaps bonding over firearms is a better option for a child who is clearly struggling with behavioral issues.

AMY GOODMAN: It is astounding that on Tuesday, a teacher found on Ethan Crumbley’s phone a drawing that showed a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop, help me.”

NICOLE HOCKLEY: Yes. That’s a cry for help. That’s a cry for help! This is a boy in need of help. He had a plan of action to either hurt himself, or hurt others. He chose to hurt other people. This is a very obvious warning sign. This is a serious warning sign. It should have been taken seriously and taken immediate action to ensure he did not continue with his plans.

AMY GOODMAN: They didn’t have to figure out it was a threat. It was a drawing of a bullet with the words “blood everywhere” written above it. The bullet and the gun were drawn. A person is bleeding from the wounds of two shots, according to the prosecutor.

NICOLE HOCKLEY: Yes. That’s a blatant threat. There’s a lot of threats that are much more covert and hidden and sometimes you just have to react to your gut reaction that something is not right here, that someone needs help. However, the shooter was clearly displaying signs of imminent violence. This makes this even more unconscionable and heartbreaking.

AMY GOODMAN: Kris Brown, it’s amazing to think of 100 people being killed by guns per day in this country with another 230 injured and shot. The number of school massacres is just as shocking. This is something that no country in the world has ever seen. Can you speak about the U.S. gun policy and how isolated it is?

KRIS BROWN: I can tell that the U.S. policy regarding guns is more lax than any other industrialized nation. We also have more gun violence per capita than any other industrialized nation. It is unconscionable that the government is not taking greater action to address the problem when we look at the 100 people per day who are killed and the 200 additional who are injured. Nicole says that gun violence can be prevented in all circumstances.

We need stronger policies. We must ensure that a Brady background check is conducted before any gun is sold in the country. This bill is currently pending in Congress. This is just one example of what we need to do. We need a director of the ATF. Joe Biden made one, but it was rejected by the NRA With senators doing their bidding. David Chipman would have made a great director. ATF history. Why do we need it? Because ATF hasn’t had a permanent director in decades in the position, and the enforcement function that they perform to protect Americans across this country is huge.

We must also ensure that guns are properly stored in the home. This country has more guns than people, with more than 400 million guns. Five million kids are in homes today with loaded, unsecured guns and we see the impact of that, not just in school shootings — 75% of school shooters get their gun from a home where there is not safe storage — but also in the rising rates of suicide across this country, especially with teens and the eight kids a day who are killed or injured with guns in their own home. We must take this seriously, and move forward as a society with laws and enforcement to save our fellow citizens.

AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to refer to a critical gun rights case that took place last month. In a lawsuit purchased by an, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments. NRA-affiliated group called New York State Rifle & Pistol Association. They claim that New York State has gun restrictions which violate the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court ruling could have implications for gun control throughout the country. This is Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, asking about illegal firearms on New York City’s subway.

JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO: A lot of armed people on the streets of New York and in the subways late at night, right now, aren’t there?

BARBARA UNDERWOOD: I don’t know that there are a lot of armed people.


BARBARA UNDERWOOD: There are people with illegal guns if that’s what you’re referring to.

JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO: Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.


JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO: How many illegal firearms were seized last year by the New York Police Department? Do you have any ideas?

BARBARA UNDERWOOD: I don’t have that number, but I’m sure it is a substantial number.

JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO: But all these people with illegal guns, they’re on the subway. They’re walking around the streets. But the ordinary, hardworking, law-abiding people I mentioned, no, they can’t be armed.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s New York Solicitor General Barbara Underwood being questioned by Justice Samuel Alito. Kris Brown, talk about this and the significance of it. NRA. It has the issues of bankruptcy, the issues of corruption, at its lowest ebb and still Democrats and Republicans alike cower, just the thought that they would take aim at them, which clearly it doesn’t look like they can at this point?

KRIS BROWN: It’s a very good question. The NRA Wayne LaPierre led the building of its reputation. There was a struggle at the NRA In the 1970s. Wayne LaPierre won. Ever since that time, he has been promoting really a “guns everywhere” view of the Second Amendment.

Justice Alito’s questioning is the logical following of that false notion about the Second Amendment. There were many laws in the colonies. In fact, all amicus briefs provide historical precedent for the types of regulations that existed regarding guns stored in homes and gun carrying in public places. It was assumed the state, or the government, had an interest to protect public safety by making sure that no one could have a gun in any public place. This is the case at stake. It’s a century-old New York state permitting system that only stands for the notion that gun owners in public should provide a reason. If they don’t have a good cause, the state can review the request and object.

This is extremely concerning as it could mean that all existing permitting systems in this country could be overturned. They restrict who, when, how and where guns can be carried in public. As someone who is often out in public in states without strong permitting systems, I can tell you that it is extremely concerning to be next to someone with an AR-15 fully loaded and ready to talk. That’s not an America I think any of us want.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicole Hockley, what can you tell us about Dylan Next week will mark the ninth year since the Sandy Hook massacre. Would you be willing to share information about Sandy Hook Promise’s anonymous reporting system, Say Something, for students of troubled persons?

NICOLE HOCKLEY: Thank you so much for asking about my son. Two of my children are the love of my life. Dylan was shot and killed in his first-grade classroom. He is the reason I helped launch Sandy Hook Promise. I work hard to create a safer tomorrow for my son and all children, because that is what I believe they deserve. They don’t deserve to be shot in their classrooms or live in fear in their homes or communities.

Sandy Hook Promise works with Brady to support gun safety, mental health legislation, enforce behaviors, and provide access to and responsibility. But we also do behavioral change on the ground. We visit schools to teach students and their families how to recognize warning signs. The Say Something anonymous reporting system is one way that students can report warning signs. Schools can access all of our programs at no cost.

We currently have about 5,000 schools and can reach about two million students. If they see any warning signs or disturbing behavior, such as violence, self-harm, substance abuse, or dating violence, they can submit an anonymous tip. Our 24/7/365 trained crisis counselors triage the tip and work with local school teams or local law enforcement to ensure that help is given and that action is taken. We have prevented numerous suicides and many school shooting plots. This is the work I do to honor my son, Sandy Hook, who was killed in a shooting plot.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicole Hockley, I would like to thank you for being here, cofounder of Sandy Hook Promise and mother of Dylan, a first-grader who was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre. Kris Brown, an attorney, is the president of Brady, a gun violence prevention organization that dates back to the 1980s. It was named after Jim Brady who was shot in his head during the assassination attempt on President Reagan. He was Reagan’s press secretary.

Next, we will examine how the Pentagon covered up a massacre that occurred in Syria when a secretive special operation unit killed dozens more children and women in an airstrike. Keep following us.