Sandy Hook and Peshawar

A couple of news items that struck me recently

* Two years after the Sandy Hook massacre, a US Federal Appeals Court has ruled that people with a history of mental illness have a constitutional right to gun ownership.

* In the immediate aftermath of the Peshawar massacre, a Pakistani judge granted bail to the alleged planner of the Mumbai massacre, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, a leading figure in the (military-backed) Lashkar e-Taibi terrorist group.

Obviously, these decisions were neither aberrational nor the product of a legal system divorced from any social context. Rather, they reflect deeply ingrained views in the societies from which they emerged. Beyond that point, I don’t have a lot to say, but I’ll be interested to read the views of others.

89 thoughts on “Sandy Hook and Peshawar

  1. I can’t see how anyone could possibly read into the discussion so far that anybody suggests “the police intended to kill the hostages”.

    The possibility that police were careless as to the deadly consequences of their actions, perhaps. But not “intended”.

    There is plenty of room for speculation. There is also room for discussion about the known facts.

    As I’ve said, I watched the last hour or so live on TV. So there are some things we know:

    1. Ambulances, about 20 or so, began rolling into the area near Martin Place shortly before the shooting began – the media filmed/broadcast this and reported it at the time.

    2. The police went in with guns blazing and “stun grenades” flying.

    3. The manufacturers of “stun grenades” warn that their use, especially in confined spaces such as rooms, can cause heart failure.

    4. The Barrister died of heart failure, not gunshot wounds – in fact there is no suggestion that she had any gunshot wounds at all.

    5. Therefore, at least one person most likely died at the hands of the police – two if we assume that they also killed the hostage taker Monis.

    6. The café manager also died and several other people were injured as a result of gunfire.

    7. Monis was known, all day long, to have been armed with a shotgun – and several hostages had escaped over the previous hours who would have confirmed that to police.

    There was a military style raid at about 2am (just in time for a gory News Ltd front page to be printed and wrapped around the next day’s paper- which happened).

    Expert police negotiators don’t give commands. They do their job and report to their superiors, but every tactical decision is made higher up. Therefore, regardless of whether any negotiators were involved in the situation, the decision to go in with guns and grenades blazing was taken at a higher level.

    As I’ve already said, I believe that this situation could have been resolved – as so many others have been previously – without any deaths or injuries through experienced professional police negotiators. That of course is speculation, because the establishment media and authorities are blanketing out information, as they so often do.

  2. The police chief claimed. “Well, at this stage I understand there were a number of gunshots that were heard which caused officers to move to an EA, an emergency action plan, and that caused them to enter.”

    Thus the police claim (as officially as we have it at this stage) is that a weapon was fired inside first “a number” of times.

    The police assault, as near as I can judge it now, after viewing more footage, involved at least 40 or 50 shots. And the footage shows at least three flash grenades being thrown inside during the assault. The room was in darkness, lit only by the flashes of guns and flash grenades. Was a firm visual on the target possible in these conditions? Were more than silhouettes visible? If the shots had been well aimed at the known target, would more than 5 to 10 shots have been required to bring down the target? Why were 40 to 50 shots at least fired? Were the police uncertain of the target and firing wildly?

    There should be a Royal Commission into all aspects of this assault.

  3. @jungney

    What I wrote was that I think the activities of the police should be subject to critical external scrutiny and that they probably aren’t subject to sufficient critical external scrutiny. That’s the opposite of your suggestion that I have faith in the police. Why would you want to misrepresent me in that way?

  4. @Megan

    What is the basis for your belief that this situation could have been resolved by experienced professional police negotiators without any deaths or injuries?

  5. @Ikonoclast

    What is the general principle underlying your view that there should be a Royal Commission in this case? For example, is it your view that there should be a Royal Commission into every incident in which shots are fired by police and people are killed?

  6. @J-D

    Yes, it is certainly the case that Australia needs a Royal Commission into the rate of deaths caused by police in this country today. It is certainly the case that Australia also needs a Royal Commission into t-rist policing powers in this country.

    The general principle underlying my view is that every civilian death in Australia caused an act of human commission ought to be mandatorily tried before jury as a possible case of manslaughter or murder. This would include all deaths caused by police as an act of commission in the official line of duty.

    Is that clear enough for you?

  7. Pr Q said:

    Obviously, these decisions were neither aberrational nor the product of a legal system divorced from any social context. Rather, they reflect deeply ingrained views in the societies from which they emerged.

    The Parable of the Young Man and the Old

    So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
    And took the fire with him, and a knife.
    And as they sojourned, both of them together,
    Isaac the first-born spake, and said, My Father,
    Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
    But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
    Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
    And builded parapets the trenches there,
    And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
    When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
    Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
    Neither do anything to him. Behold,
    A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
    Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
    But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
    And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

    Wilfred Owen 1920

  8. As to the barbarous slaughter of children in Pakistan, a diligent search threw this up at OpenDemocracy:

    …the Taliban have used the element of barbarity as part of a larger effort to destabilize the Pakistani military by attacking their families directly. Children and teachers with military backgrounds were singled out, either to be burnt alive or decapitated. By hitting at the military’s soft underbelly through a dastardly attack inside the garrisoned city of Peshawar, Taliban militants confronted the military leadership with a situation in which retaliation is inevitable as the only option.

    I hope that advances understanding.

  9. @Ikonoclast

    You suggested that there should be a Royal Commission relating specifically to the Martin Place siege. I asked you whether this was based on the general principle that there should be a Royal Commission into every similar incident. Now you suggest a Royal Commission into the rate of deaths caused by the police. One Royal Commission into the general phenomenon of deaths caused by the police is not the same thing as a separate Royal Commission into each incident in which deaths are caused by the police; which are you advocating, or is it both?

    As the law stands it is not the case that every instance in which one person is killed by the act of another constitutes a crime, and that’s as it should be. As the law stands, it is not the case that every instance in which one person is killed by the act of another must proceed to a jury trial; in some cases a magistrate decides at a committal hearing that there is not enough evidence to justify a jury trial; in some cases a prosecutor decides that there is not enough evidence to bring charges; it would be a mistake to eliminate all such possibilities in favour of jury trials in every case.

  10. @J-D

    Truth. You deliberately nitpick to annoy people. My substantive views were plain and they substantively answered your question. Of course, you were free to agree or disagree with my susbstantive points. Instead you chose mainly to nitpick. You do this to almost every other commenter too. Clearly, your intention is to nitpick to annoy and then you are gratified when you get the angry response you desire. Pettifog means to quibble about petty points. You do this do troll for angry responses. So, identifying you as a pettifogging troller is accurate.

    You put out three baits in a row to three different people. I was the fool who got hooked: more fool me.

    You made an interesting point on the debate about MMT. I thought there was hope for you to rise above your pettifogging. Clearly I was wrong.

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  12. In Peachtree City in the US, the Chief of Police managed to shoot his wife while sleeping with a gun in his bed. Assuming that it was not intentional, then we have a Chief of Police who decided to sleep with his 9mm Glock service pistol in bed with him. This is a pistol that has no external safeties. This means that if the trigger is pulled and there is a round in the chamber the gun will fire. So the Chief of Police apparently decided to sleep with a loaded pistol in his bed, with a bullet in the chamber, with a weapon that is the type that will fire if the trigger is pulled. So a person who has gone through police training, had years of police experience, and was deemed mature and responsible enough to be made Chief of Police for a city of 34,000 people, decided to engage in an activity that anyone with even a modicum of gun safety knowledge would know was completely reckless.

    It appears that in the US even the best of the best can perform the stupidest of stupidities. But I should not single out Americans because we are all decended from the same hominid stock and we all instrinsically stupid when it comes to assessing risk. For most people it takes a lot of training to overcome this. But it appears to me that the culture in America fails to prepare people to sensibly analyse the cost/benefit ratio of private gun ownership. Perhaps they need an, “If you sleep with a gun you’re a bloody idiot,” campaign.

    Now it is possible that this event wasn’t an accident but was actually an attempted murder. But in that case we’ve just gone from US Police Chiefs can’t be trusted to carry out basic gun safety to prevent innocent people being shot, to US Police Chiefs cannot be trusted to not use their guns to attempt to murder family members. In either case it displays the disutility of letting Police Chiefs keep loaded pistols in their homes.

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