Saturday, December 20, 2014

When "liberals" kill

Was Rockne Newell's killing spree political -- or just another day in gun-crazy America?

When "liberals" kill

But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow you head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?"

-- "Dirty Harry" Callahan, as portrayed by Clint Eastwood in 1971's "Dirty Harry."

I guess "lucky" is a relative term. Technically, you could say a room full of terrorized citizens in Ross Township, Pa., were lucky to have heroes like Bernie Kozen, director of the township parks department, and bystander Mark Krash around when a deranged man now carrying a .44 Magnum came back hoping to shoot more people in a room where he'd killed three men seconds earlier. Kozen and Krash tackled the killer -- Rockne Newell -- and shot him in the leg with his own powerful gun. But no one was truly lucky in upstate Monroe County last night, site of America's most recent mass murder.

This one struck a little closer to home, not just because it took place in Eastern Pennsylvania but because one of the survivors of the horrific shooting is a talented young journalist that I once worked with -- Chris Reber of the Pocono Record, a former Daily News intern and Temple journalism grad. This was the very first Ross Township meeting that Reber had ever covered, and he found himself in the middle of a nightmare.

Why did Newell go off? Was it his politics? Newell has been described as "a liberal" and it's hard to quibble a lot -- he reportedly bashed Mitt Romney and voted for President Obama but wrote he was disappointed that "Barry" didn't close Guantanamo (gosh, this sounds familiar...). I'd only quibble a little in that he was arguably more of "a libertarian" -- and a fanatical supporter of 2nd Amendment gun rights. “The Second Amendment: When they tell you don’t need it, that’s when you really need it," he wrote in one online screed against gun control.

But his real beef -- and the one that seems to have triggered his murderous rampage -- was nothing ideological but his long-running dispute with Ross Township where he had lived. For roughly two decades, officials cited Newell for junk and unsanitary conditions on his property and sheriff's deputies even said in 2009 he was defecating in buckets because of a lack of a septic hookup. Finally, he was evicted from the property and ended up living in his car. None of that is any kind of excuse for the barbarity of Newell's rampage or the senseless heartache he inflicted on three families last night.

But after one mass shooting after another after another, we still have a system where individuals who are known to the local authorities as in the least disturbed, like Rockne Newell, nonetheless manage to fall through the many, many cracks in the mental health system. And we also have a system where that same man was essentially barred from living in Ross Township, Pa., but wasn't barred from walking into a shop and legally purchasing "the most powerful handgun in the world" as well as the Ruger Mini-14 rifle that he used to blast through a wall and kill three innocent people.

And we also still have a country that cried over Newtown, cried over Aurora and dozen of similar, senseless shootings like this -- and yet has done absolutely nothing in response.

That's not "liberal," "libertarian," or "conservative." It's just a national embarrassment.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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