Santa Fe

I got up on the morning of Friday, May 20 and went downstairs and turned on the TV. My wife had left earlier in the morning for work and I was home with the dogs. When I turned it on, I was surprised that scheduled programming had been replaced by local news about an unfolding incident at the high school in Santa Fe, a community some twenty-three miles from me. There were reports of a shooting with possible deaths but details were sketchy. Aerial shots taken from the TV station helicopters showed ambulances and helicopters parked on the school parking lot.

I had no idea there was a Santa Fe, Texas until one May afternoon in 1994 when I stopped for supper at a Cajun restaurant just off of I-10 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I’d been to Houston many times in my job as a corporate pilot and now I was on way there to start a new life. The young waitress and I were chatting and after I told her I was on my way to Houston, she said “I’m from Santa Fe.” I thought she meant Santa Fe, New Mexico but she told me no, she meant Santa Fe, Texas and said it’s a community south of Houston. As it turned out, my new home in Clear Lake was only a few miles from Santa Fe and I’d soon meet people from there, including the president’s secretary at my new place of employment. I soon learned that Santa Fe has a large population of people of Czech ancestry. That was almost a quarter century ago. Since then I found a new wife and eventually a new home on the southwest side of Houston. My wife and I often drive through Santa Fe on our way to and from Galveston and have stopped for breakfast at the local McDonalds (the worst in the world!) and have visited the Haak Winery. We are familiar with the high school, which sits right off of Texas 6. In short, Santa Fe has become a familiar place and I was shocked to learn there was an incident at the school.

Most of the local affiliates had little real news but I found that the local FOX outlet was in contact by text message and phone with teenagers who had been at the school but had managed to leave the school grounds. Some had actually been in the classroom where the shooting took place. They said the shootings were in the back of the school building in the art department and that the shooter had used a shotgun and a pistol. They also revealed that people had been killed and wounded, at a time when ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates still had no information. When news teams started interviewing “victims,” their subjects were people who had been nowhere near the actual shootings, which caused considerable consternation among those who were. As the day drew on, more information became available and the toll of dead and wounded grew. The final toll was ten dead and thirteen wounded.

Something stood out about the Santa Fe shooting in comparison to the recent shootings that captured the attention of the nation, particularly the media – there were no “assault-style rifles” involved. Instead, the shooter, Dimitrios Pagourtzisa, 17-year old student at the school, used a common shotgun, a Remington 870 pump-action commonly known as the Wingmaster, and a .38 caliber revolver, both owned by his father. The barrel of the shotgun was allegedly sawed-off but whether it was a special version of the famous shotgun designed for military and law enforcement use has never been revealed. (The only difference between the sporting and military/law enforcement versions are semantics. Military versions have a longer magazine tube and can accommodate more shells. The sporting version holds four shells in the magazine and one in the barrel.) The shooter was reported to have worn a long overcoat, apparently a military-style duster, and combat boots. However, although the coat allowed him to conceal the shotgun, he was known to have worn similar dress on a regular basis.

Now, let me state that I grew up with firearms in the house. Some of my earliest memories are of shooting my dad’s .22. I started hunting at age nine and received my first shotgun, an Ithaca 20-gauge pump, as a present when I was eleven. I hunted with my dad’s 12-gauge automatic and single and double-barrel shotguns as well. I also hunted with his .22. I also had a Daisy pump-action BB gun and knew the difference between an air rifle and a firearm in terms of killing power. I have no problem whatsoever with children, especially teenagers, having access to firearms as long as they are experienced. Experience with firearms is common in rural areas such as that surrounding Santa Fe.

Of course, as soon as word of the shooting became public knowledge, gun control advocates began blaming the young man’s access to firearms as the cause of the shooting. However, as anyone with any knowledge of firearms knows, they are merely tools. The common axiom, “Guns don’t kill, people do” is true. But there is another factor present in the Santa Fe shooting, a factor that was also present in the Parkland, Florida shootings and in other shootings at schools, particularly high schools. There was a girl involved – and she was obviously the young man’s principal target. According to her parents, 16-year old Shana Fisher had publically embarrassed the shooter two weeks before his actions.

Just what the girl said to the boy or where or how she said it has yet to be revealed, but based on her parents’ accounts, it was in the presence of others and her words caused embarrassment so great that the girl believed he would kill her as a result. They had not been dating, as was the case in the Parkland and Great Mills, Maryland shootings. According to her parents, the boy had been pestering her for several months to go out with him but she had refused. Her mother claims that she refused because the boy had recently broke up with one of her friends and she didn’t believe she should a friend’s boyfriend. Fisher’s parents claim Pagourtzis pestered Fisher for four months before she unloaded on him, apparently in a public setting. It is possible that the story about the two teenagers is a fabrication. His closest friends said he was “shy around girls and never had a girlfriend.” However, Shana Fisher was reported to have been the first victim and Pagourtzis evidently wanted to make sure she was dead. According to reports, when he came into the classroom, he pointed the shotgun at one student, apparently Fisher, and shouted “I’m going to kill you!” At least one witness said that after he started shooting, he turned the gun on one girl who had already been shot and was lying on the floor and shot her twice more in the head. Fisher’s mother told reporters the girl’s body was so disfigured she was unrecognizable.

Much has been made of the “Born to Kill” T-shirt Pagourtzis posted an image of on his Facebook page and reportedly wore under his trench coat on the day of the shooting. Some claimed “Born to Kill” is an alt-right slogan but in fact, it’s an old term going back to World War II, at least. There was a 1947 movie called Born to Kill. The term was used frequently during the Vietnam War as soldiers and Marines wrote it on their helmets or even had it tattooed on their arms. Pagourtzis is reported to have said he wanted to be a Marine.

Pagourtzis claimed after the shooting that he had no memory of the events (which is likely true) and his lawyer claimed he had no knowledge of the situation with Fisher. Very little has appeared in the media, even the local Houston-area media, since right after the shootings and there have been no published accounts from students of the confrontation between the two teenagers. Some students did claim, however, that Pagourtzis had been bullied, by adults as well as fellow students. The school district denied bullying by coaches, as students alleged.

In regard to bullying of students who went on killing sprees, a Federal study conducted after the Columbine, Colorado shootings found that shooters had been bullied in 70% of cases. On the other hand, one “journalist” who wrote a book about the Columbine shootings claimed that bullying wasn’t a factor. However, a close friend of one of the shooters, who wrote his own book, said they were definitely bullying victims. There is no doubt that Nikolas Cruz, who carried out the Parkland shootings, had been bullied for most of his life. Cruz had also suffered a broken relationship with a girl, apparently at the girl’s mother’s insistence, shortly before he decided to carry out a Valentines Day massacre. Great Mills, Maryland High School student Austin Rollins shot his former girlfriend, Jaelynn Willey, with a Glock pistol and wounded another student then shot himself after engaging with a security officer. There was another shooting earlier this year in Italy, a small town near Dallas, involving two students who had briefly dated. It appears that boy-girl relationships are a frequent factor in high school shootings.

Needless to say, the Santa Fe shootings attracted the media as well as gun control advocates. Local Houston media lost no time in interviewing Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and police Chief Art Acevedo, even though neither has any jurisdiction in Santa Fe and Galveston County. Acevedo’s outrageous comments that students should vote for gun control advocates led to condemnation by the National Rifle Association. Acevedo, a Cuban immigrant who grew up in California, is notorious for his leftwing political views. He was on the verge of being fired from his job as police chief in leftwing Austin when he was hired by the (equally leftwing) city of Houston. Attempts by the notorious Parkland, Florida antigun students and other antigun crusaders to get involved were rebuffed by the local community. A handful of Santa Fe students spoke at a press conference organized by a Houston gun control group but it was held in West Houston, over fifty miles from Santa Fe.

Since there has been no statement from the authorities regarding Pagourtzis’ motive, I don’t know what to think, other than that the shootings seem to have somehow been the result of his insane anger at Shana Fisher.


Guns – As American as Apple Pie

3006 (2)I grew up with guns – literally. One of my earliest memories is of my dad holding the barrel of his .22 against the head of a cottontail he had caught in his rabbit gum and letting me pull the trigger instead of whacking it on the head with his pocketknife or tapping it with a ballpeen hammer. I’d get up early and go with  him to the woods hunting squirrels then when I was nine years old, I started hunting with a 20-gauge shotgun that belonged to my aunt. Two years later Daddy came home one day with an Ithaca 20-gauge pump shotgun of my own (I still have it.) Oh, I’d had a BB-gun for awhile but I was hunting with a shotgun at a very young age (although not as young as my younger brothers,) By the time I was in my teens, I had become a rifle purist and would only hunt squirrels with a .22 and try to “bark” them by hitting the tree next to them and knocking them out of the tree so the bullet wouldn’t spoil the meat. Daddy had an old military blanket box that he kept in a closet that was full of .22 cartridges an 12-gauge shotgun shells that he had bought right after World War II when I was still little. The ammunition was getting old and he told me to shoot it up – I did. My “bible” (I had a Holy Bible too) was a US Army marksmanship manual that Daddy kept from his time in the Army. I read it cover to cover time after time and practically memorized everything in it. When I was my teens, one day my younger brother and I were out behind the barn shooting a .22 at a target set against the dirt on a tree trunk that Daddy had pushed up with a bulldozer. Our neighbor down in the hollow called up complaining. He claimed he could hear the bullets whizzing over his head. He couldn’t. We were shooting in the opposite direction from where he lived and the bullets were going into the mound of dirt around the uprooted tree. Daddy told him we were practicing to kill communists. As it turned out, I killed quite a few communists but I didn’t do it with a rifle.

Me and Patrick

I also grew up reading; reading anything I could find about anything. A lot of my reading material was historical, particularly about pioneer times and the military from the Civil War to World War II. I read nearly everything Alfred Leland Crabb and Robert Ruark wrote, and I read about the Founding Fathers and people like Francis Marion, Daniel Boone and David Crockett. I also read the US Constitution and its amendments, the first ten of which are called the Bill of Rights.

 Now, the Bill of Rights are just that, amendments that establish definite rights for American citizens, not for the states. In fact, the Bill of Rights was added because without them, the new Constitution wasn’t going to be ratified by the people of Virginia. The first of those amendments guarantees freedom of religion, speech and the press and the second guarantees the right of the people to “bear arms”, meaning to carry arms. It read thusly – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Now, many modern journalists, antigun activists and some legal scholars attempt to associate the amendment with the present-day National Guard because of the comment about a “well regulated Militia,” but this is untrue. The National Guard did not exist prior to 1916. Prior to that time, each state maintained its own “militia” which under Federal law was made up of all able-bodied men of a certain age. (The National Guard came about as a result of the Dick Act of 1902 which gave the War Department more authority over state militias. Although it is often advocated as being the result of problems that arose during the Spanish-American War, the real reason for the act was to deprive states of having their own “private armies” and were really aimed at preventing another civil war.) Militias were called up to protect against Indian attack, for law enforcement, to put down insurrection (riot) and to serve as the source of manpower for the Federal Department of War. But there was also another – the main – reason for the Second Amendment and that was for the people to have the means to resist a tyrannical government. After all, when the Second Amendment was written, the former British colonies had just come through a period of armed rebellion against a the British Crown, which colonial rebel leaders considered tyrannical. The Second Amendment gives “we, the people” the right to keep and bear arms to insure the security of the “free State.” It’s purpose is not for recreational shooting, for hunting or for sport, but to maintain an armed population with the ability to resist the government when it becomes tyrannical.

From the time of its inception, young Americans with skill with firearms have proven beneficial to the United States. “Overmountain Men” from western North Carolina, later Tennessee, defeated a British force under Major Patrick Ferguson at Kings Mountain, an action that directly influenced the decision by the British to retreat to Yorktown where they were defeated by French artillery and agreed to surrender to Washington. A  regiment of Tennessee sharpshooters halted the British advance at Chalmette Plantation outside New Orleans and guaranteed the departure of the British from what is now US soil in 1813. Southern sharpshooters took a heavy toll on the Union Army during the War for Southern Independence. In the Army manual I read from cover to cover to many times there is a statement from a German officer in World War I. The man said “God save us from these Americans, they shoot like devils.”

For the past half century or so, there has been an organized movement to disarm the American people. It began gathering steam in the 1980s after John Hinckley made an attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan – with a small caliber .22 revolver – and hit White House Press Secretary Jim Brady in the head, permanently disabling him. Brady and his wife became ardent gun control advocates and turned their back on the conservative principles of the man who employed him. Ironically, although Hinckley used a .22 revolver, the main target of gun control advocates has become “military-style assault rifles,” which they take to mean any rifle that can be fire simply by pulling the trigger. While some 9-10,000 Americans are killed each year with firearms, only some 5% are killed with rifles. The other 95% are killed with handguns. (These numbers don’t include suicides, of which some 50% are by some kind of firearm, mostly pistols because it’s difficult to kill yourself with a rifle or shotgun.) Yet it is the “assault rifle” that gun-control advocates want to ban. In fact, when they talk about gun “control,” what they actually mean is confiscation.

One of the sources of ammunition (pardon the pun) for gun-control advocates is the so-called “school shooting.” In reality, there have been very few shootings in schools over the past few years and nearly all of those have been at colleges and universities. In October 2014 a high school student in Washington State killed himself and seven of his friends in the high school cafeteria. The Newtown shooting in Sandy Hook, Ct took the lives of 28 people, most of them elementary school children, but it was the only shooting in a primary or secondary school that took the life of more than 1 person since 2005. Since Newtown, there has only been one “mass” shooting in a secondary school. The most recent primary/secondary school mass shooting before that was the Columbine HS shooting in 1999. In reality, although schools have been the scene of shootings since the 1760s when renegade Indians attacked a school in Pennsylvania and killed the headmaster and 10 children, they have been conflicts between students, conflicts between teachers and students and conflicts between someone at the school with someone outside it. During the Civil War, Union soldiers sometimes amused themselves by taking potshots at school children. However, most school shootings in the United States have been students killing other students or their teachers, usually over some kind of squabble. One of the deadliest school shootings occurred at the University of Texas in Austin on August 1, 1966 when an ex-Marine with a brain tumor named Charles Whitman killed 17 people and wounded 31, mostly with a high-powered rifle, before he was shot and killed by a police officer. Only two weeks before Whitman’s rampage, Richard Speck killed eight student nurses in Chicago – and he didn’t use a firearm at all. He used his bare hands and a knife. He stabbed and strangled them after raping some, if not all, of them. The largest mass murder in US history occurred in 2007 at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA when a student killed 33 of his classmates and wounded 25. As was the case with most other school shootings, he used pistols.

The most recent “school” shooting was at a community college in Oregon where a student at the school killed nine of his classmates and himself and wounded seven. The true circumstances of the shooting aren’t fully known other than that he used one or more pistols in the slayings. However, he appears to have been a member of the writing class in which he first shot the teacher then killed eight students.

Here is a list of school shootings in the US –

Although shootings on elementary, high school and college campuses attract the most attention, there have been other shootings where several people were killed. However, in nearly every case, the shooter knew the victims and killed them for some reason. A few shootings for a time were in post offices. (Back in the 60s an 70s there was a spate of airline hijackings, mostly by black activists who demanded they be taken to Cuba.) A recent headline-making shooting took place in Charleston, SC in June where Dylan Roof shot nine people in a church. Roof is white and the victims were all black. However, Roof’s friends and he indicated that his original plan was to kill people at the College of Charleston. However, evidently since it was summer and school wasn’t in session, he changed his plans and went to the church. Like most other shooters, Roof used a pistol.. There have been a couple of shootings in movie theaters, notably one in the Denver area and a more recent one in Louisiana.

Every time there’s a shooting, there’s a clamor for more gun legislation. However, except for criminal-related shootings, in nearly every case the weapons used were purchased legally. While some shooters were depicted – after the shootings – as having mental health problems, they had notpreviously been identified as such. Law enforcement was never able to identify a motive for the Newtown shootings although there has been a lot of conjecture, mostly by people who don’t have a clue as to what happened. The shooters are often claimed to have a fascination with firearms, although such a fascination often only dates back for a short time before the shootings. (Some also seem to have had a fascination for computer games.) Yes, firearms aficionados occasionally kill but its usually in a fit of passion. I had a friend who loved guns. He eventually killed his wife then shot himself. However, Johnny was a little bit whacky anyway. He didn’t kill his wife because he loved guns, he killed her because of some kind of family situation that escalated.

If one looks closely at the numbers of shootings, it becomes obvious that they’re really nothing new. We humans have been killing each other since Cain slew his brother Able because of jealousy and we’ve used every kind of weapon imaginable to do it, from the rock that Cain used to atomic bombs.

It is commonly believed that the United States leads the world in murders. Actually, the US is ranked as 14th out of 86 nations in numbers of murders and 43 out 86 in numbers of murders per one million population. It is ranked 1st out of 170 in the number of firearms owned per 100 residents (this number is an estimate.) The US is number 10 in murders with firearms per capita with South Africa heading the list. It shouldn’t be surprising that the United States ranks high in most statistics since, after China and India, it is the third most populous in the world. As of 2013, the population of the United States was over 316 million. By comparison, the UK’s population was only 63.8 million. The population of Mexico, which has a high crime rate, is less than half that of the United States with 116.2 million people.

A major factor in the public belief that there is an epidemic of “school” and “mass” shootings is deliberate dishonesty in reporting and definition. Gun control advocacy groups such as Everytown, the group founded and funded by former New York Mayor Blumberg, identifies a “mass” shooting as any in which more than one person is killed. Another group identifies a mass shooting as any when more than one person is attacked. The problem is the definition of “mass” which by normal definition refers to “a large number.” Gun control activists are redefining the word to suit their own purposes, which is to give government, particularly at the Federal level, complete control over all firearms and the elimination of the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear” arms.