I was listening to a top-of-the-hour news report on KROQ yesterday morning, and one particular story caught my attention. Not so much for the actual story in and of itself, but a sound bite that they played.
Here's the news article. (OK, apparently, the full story is only available on the first day of publication without having to register.)
Unfortunately, news of shootings are entirely too common nowadays, but it doesn't make them any less tragic, especially when lives are lost.
Quoted from the article: "In late January, a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit Mr. Thornton had filed against Kirkwood and its officials. He contended that they had violated his free speech rights by prohibiting him from speaking out at meetings."
OK, this is one of those things that irritates me, people who don't understand the First Amendment. In this case, at least it is actually about a government entity. Usually, people mistakenly scream violation of First Amendment rights when it comes to other private citizens. But even still, people seem to think that the First Amendment gives them the right to say ANYTHING they want, ANYWHERE they want, ANYTIME they want. NO!!!!!! That's not what it protects. If you're being disruptive or not following what's set out to happen, then they can stop you. You can't wander into any courtroom and just start talking about anything, citing your First Amendment rights, when they're in the middle of proceedings. I can't wander into my local city council meeting and expect that they're going to let me start complaining about the people at work who insist on knocking on my door to get my attention when I'm already staring right at them, waiting for them to tell me what they want.
Quoted from the article: "In an interview with a local television station, Mr. Thornton's mother said that Kirkwood officials had kept after her son, 'giving him tickets for everything they could.'"
And if he kept doing things that were violations of the law, they were perfectly within their rights to keep citing him. What, did she think that if her son committed the same infraction 2 or 3 times, they'd stop citing him because he obviously knows what he's doing, so no use in telling him again? If I know that a police officer sits at a particular location, and every day, I speed past him going 10 miles an hour faster than the speed limit, am I allowed to be pissed off if he gives me a speeding ticket EACH AND EVERY DAY?
Quoted from the article: "She said she never suspected that her son would be violent but described the events as 'an act of God, just like a storm or a tornado.'"
This is the sound bite that I heard. And it just infuriated me. A storm, a tornado, a hurricane, an earthquake - those are all acts of God because they are things people have no control over. You can try to safeguard against them, but no one can do anything to stop them. In this case, her son decided to go out and kill people and managed to kill five of them. In this case, someone *could* have put a stop to it - her son. God had nothing to do with killing those five people. Her son has that responsibility all on his own. How dare she blame God for what her son did.
Here's another article about the same story, which doesn't require registration to see.
Quoted from the article: "There was the name calling, the arrests, the lawsuit. But Thornton wasn't going to back down — not when the city was telling him that he was working without the proper permits, or parking his truck and construction equipment in the wrong places.
He wasn't going to be 'treated like a slave,' a friend said."
He's working without the proper permits and parking his equipment in the wrong places, but he wasn't going to back down. And then yes, let's pull out the slave card, shall we, because that's always a convenient thing to wield, even when it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ISSUE AT HAND. There are rules for doing things, and these rules apply to EVERYONE. They weren't rules that were put in place specifically for him, but he apparently felt that he was special and should not have been subject to those rules. How dare the city have the nerve to tell him what he could and couldn't do. He was a free man, and he could do anything he damned well pleased.
Quoted from the article: "'He's not a person who truly understood the court system,' said his brother, Gerald Thornton. 'He was learning as he went along and apparently he had gotten enough.'"
Great, so he didn't understand how things worked, but before he'd learned enough, he decided to give up, and if he couldn't be bothered to be governed by the same rules that are in place for everyone else, he just decided that using a gun was a much better solution.
Quoted from the article: "He claimed his First Amendment rights had been violated with "repetitive, personal, virulent attacks" by city officials. A federal judge rejected the claim, saying that the city could restrict public comment for certain groups and topics that were on the agenda."
I've already talked about people unclear on the First Amendment concept, but I'm just quoting this section since it had more of an explanation.
Quoted from the article: "Back in 2006, city leaders became so fed up with Charles Thornton's verbal badgering that they discussed banning him from meetings. They quickly decided such an action would be inappropriate but decided to place a time restriction on all speakers."
So they could have taken action against just him, but they decided that was wrong and did not do it. Instead, they made a rule that would affect everyone. They *could* have made it personal, but they didn't.
Quoted from the article: "Anne Bell Thornton called what had happened terrible, but said her son was provoked by the city.
'No one should kill,' she said. 'But people shouldn't drive people to kill.'"
This comment infuriates me even more than the sound bite I heard. What happened wasn't "terrible", like some minor mishap. It was tragic and devastating to the families and friends of the five people that he murdered, not to mention the trauma inflicted on the people who survived his rampage. And in the end, she places all the responsibility on the city. He just couldn't help himself. It wasn't his fault. They made him do it. BULLCRAP!!!!!! He was violating the rules, and he was being called on it. He decided that he was above the law and should be able to do anything he wanted. When told otherwise, he didn't bother to actually learn how things are supposed to go. He just decided to finish it off with violence and death, and damnit, people were going to pay, and pay hard, because he didn't understand. Lots of people run into problems, even bureaucratic nightmares, but their solution is not to take out a gun and start shooting. I understand that a mother might have a hard time with the fact that her son did this horrible thing, but to actually absolve him of responsibility, twice in these two articles? I think that adults have to take responsibility for their own actions, but in this case, I'm going to put partial blame on her for what he did. Yes, he's the one who ultimately pulled out the gun and shot and killed five people, but with the attitude expressed by her in the aftermath, I would expect that this is the attitude she held and conveyed to him. If she taught him that you can't control yourself and you didn't have to follow the rules and if someone upsets you, you are perfectly justified in doing anything you want to retaliate because they've made you do it, then if that's what he learned all the while growing up, that's a difficult attitude to kick, and she's a contributor to how he chose to end the situation.
As much as her excuses infuriate me, I can't imagine how the families and friends of the five dead people would feel about them. My thoughts and prayers go out to them and those who survived his shooting spree.